William L. (William Ladd) Chaffin.

History of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) online

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by William E. Gould, Esq., and printed in the Portland " Weekly Advertiser,"
December 21, 1883. The records of the Massachusetts State Prison at Charlestown
show that on October 7, 1818, at Portland, this thief was convicted of "robbing the
Portland Bank " and was sentenced to twelve years' imprisonment. He was par-
doned March 5, 1829.

The reader will not fail to note the surprising and painful fact, that this Mr.
Gould is the man who recently proved to be a bank defaulter in Portland. See Bos-
ton " Globe," September 20, 1SS6, and other Boston papers of about the same date.


to pay treble the cost of the handkerchief (eighteen shillings) and
"to receive ten stripes on his naked back, well laid on." As he
could not pay the fine, he was bound out to serve Mr. Leonard
" the full and compleat space of time of fotir years and six
vwnths ! " He had enlisted for three years' service in the Re-
volutionary War only eighteen months before, and had been
discharged. His sister Judith had stolen a quilted petticoat
from Daniel Alger's house, and was sentenced to pay treble
damages and cost of prosecution ; but having nothing to pay
with, she was bound out to serve Mr. Alger ^ve years. ^


The Boston papers of the last century have numerous refer-
ences to the existence of slavery in New England. There are
notices of arrivals of slaves who are for sale, advertisements of
runaways with their description and the offer of a reward for
their capture, and announcements also of young negro children
to be given away, their owners wishing to avoid the expense
of bringing them up, because their speedy emancipation was a
foregone conclusion. The first notice of slaves in Massachusetts
is one concerning their importation from Tortugas in 1637. A
stringent law was passed in 1641, prohibiting any "bond slave-
rie, villinage, or captivitie among us." But the law quoted con-
tained a qualification which practically nullified it; namely,
•'unless it be lawfull captives taken in just warres, and such
strangers as willingly sell themselves, or are sold to 21s." We are
not therefore surprised to find that soon afterward, in 1654, there
were 4,489 slaves in Massachusetts (including Maine).

Easton was once a slaveholding town. The first authentic
record of the existence of slaves here is found in the inventory
of the estate of Elder William Pratt, the first man who served
the people at the " East End of Taunton North-Purchase " as a
minister. Among other items was this: "two young negroes,
;^50." He probably brought them with him from Charleston,
S. C. These young negroes were named Heber and Hagar, a
boy and a girl. They became the property of Mr. Pratt's widow,
and lived with her until she gave them their freedom. This she

1 Records of the Court of Sessions, at Taunton, vol. from 1777-1801.


did in February, 1722; and in a deed bestowing upon them a
portion of land she speaks in high terms of them. When we
consider that these slaves, valued when young at £$0, were now
adults and might have been sold for a large sum of money, this
act of Mrs. Pratt in manumitting them, and providing them with
a homestead of their own, is seen to have been a very kind and
gracious one, and confirms the truth of the high estimate of her
character given by the Rev. Mr. Short. The deed runs thus :

To all people to whom these presents shall come, greeting : Know
ye that I, Elizabeth Prat, widow, living in the East End of taunton
north-purchase, in the county of Bristol, in the Province of the niassa-
chusetts Bay, in newengland, for & in consideration of the good and
faithfuU service of my negro man-servant, whose name is heber, and
of my Negro maid-servant, whose name is hagar, — both Now dwell-
ing with me in sd. East End of Taunton north-purchase, — in considera-
tion of their tender and Dutifull affection towards me, & their Ready
& willing &: faithfull service done for me in my age &: widowhood, &
for their Incouragement in well doing, have given, granted, aliened,
conveyed, & confirmed, & by these presents do fully, freely, clearly,
& absolutely give, grant, alien, enfeoff, convey, & confirm unto my
abovesd negro servant, mr. heber and hagar, one tract or parcel of land,
scituate, being, and Lying in sd East End of taunton North-purchase,
containing by Estimation ten acres, be the same more or Less, which
Land I purchased of Daniel owen. Long since the Decease of my
honored & Beloved husband william pratt, of sd East End of taunton
North-purchase, Being part of the home Lott of the sd. Daniel owen,
as by his Deed of sd Land to me may appear. [Here follow the

This twenty-eighth day of febuary, in the year of our Lord one

thousand seven hundred and twenty-two.


Signed, Sealed, & Delivered in presence of ELIZABETH E Prat.

Mathew Short, mark.

Daniel Owen.

Mrs. Pratt, it will be noticed, " makes her mark." She may
have been too sick at the time to write.

It is probable that Heber and Hagar were married, as this
land is given to them both in one deed. Evidently Heber fol-
lowed the good examples of Elder and Mrs. Pratt, for he got the
name of Heber Honesty, or Honestman, — this being the name




by which he is several times referred to in the North-Purchase
records and in old deeds, and it shows the estimation in which
he was held. He is always spoken of as a " free Negro man."

This grant of land was just north of the Littlefield road, and
not very far east of the Bay road, — the Littlefield road being
part of the " way" leading through the town from the old meet-
ing-house to the Selee place. If Hagar was Ileber's wife, she
must have died previous to 1735, as June 26, 1735, he married
Susanna Cordner, of Bridgewater. He had a son Adam, born
December 23, 1736. In 1740 Heber appears to have sold his
place to Josiah Pratt, of Norton.

There are various incidental allusions that assert or imply
the existence of slaves in Easton in the last century, though the
number seems to have been quite small at any time. Thus
among the recently discovered Leonard papers is one in the
handwriting of Thomas Leonard, the town clerk of the Taunton
North-Purchase, as follows: ** June ye 30, 1721. Then lent to
Edw. Hayward of T. N. P. ten pounds in money, he then going
to buy a negro and some sheep's wool." James Leonard by his
will gave to Eliphalet, who settled in Easton, " my negro woman
and the child born of her body, which I value at thirty pounds."
He also willed to his son Stephen a negro girl then in Stephen's
possession. Stephen was not of Easton, but Eliphalet was ; and
he no doubt had with him here the two slaves thus bequeathed
him, and perhaps others. In the inventory of the estate of Thomas
Manley was "one negro, ^38." In his will, made in 1743, we
read : " And further my will is that my negro boy George shall be
at the disposal of my executrix and executor, as other movable
estate." In the inventory of the estate of John Williams, dated
1757, a "negro woman" is valued at forty pounds. Her name
was Affaba. In the town valuation of 1771, Joshua Howard and
Matthew Hayward are each credited with a " servant for life,"
between fourteen and fifteen years old. Five years afterward the
servant of the former gave birth to an infant that was found dead
under suspicious circumstances. The following death-record
will explain it: "Jan. i. Lieut, Joshua Hay ward's [Howard's]
Negro child, a servant, Deceased January ist Day, 1777, a Jury
passed & agred it was over Laid in the night, it Being found
Dead in the morning." The slave owned by Matthew Hayward




took his master's name, and was known as Antony Hayward,
though he was usually called Antone. He enlisted in Capt.
Macey Williams's company in 1775, for the Lexington alarm.
Sometimes masters offered slaves their liberty if they would
enlist in the Continental service. Antony Hayward returned to
Easton and lived here. He died sometime previous to 1803,
and his wife Abigail became a town charge. Another Antony,
who lived northwest of Mrs. Francis E. Gilmore's house, at a
place now called Antony's Acre, was a black man who moved
here from Stoughton. The tradition that he was an Indian
arose from the fact that one of his wives was an Indian ; the
other (Margaret) was a negro. He himself was a negro, and
his grave and those of his two wives are numbered 31, 32, and
33 of the numbered graves in the Pine Grove Cemetery.

John Dailey, the first of that name in town, was the owner of
at least one slave. Daniel Manley, Jonathan Hayward, and
others were slaveholders also. In the old church records, under
date of Jan. 31, 1773, the Rev. Mr. Campbell notes the fact that he
" baptized London, a negro servant, who owned the covenant."
He was the property of Capt. Benjamin Williams, who refers
to him in his will as "my negro man, London." London, com-
monly called " Lonon," died September 6, 1776, not long after
the death of the master whom he loved and served.

Jones Godfrey states that his grandfather Joseph used to
come up with his slaves from Taunton and cultivate his lands in
summer in the south part of the town near the Bay road, and
then take them back with him to spend the winter.

Silas Williams, Jr., was the owner of at least one slave. This
was Kate, who just after the death of her master, and when five
years old, was baptized. The baptism was September 23, 1764.
It is to be noted that slaves were admitted to the full privileges
of the church. Kate served her mistress six years following the
date just given, when she was sold to James Dean, and we are
indebted to the antiquarian instincts of Edward D. Williams for
the preservation of the bill of sale. The bill of sale for a slave
in Easton is a valuable curiosity. The following is a copy : —

This Bill of Sail, Made this first Day of September, A. D., 1770,
Witneseth that I, Lidiah Williams, of Easton, in the County ot Bristol,


Wedow, for an in Consideration of thirty Pounds lawful money to me

in hand Paid by James Dean of sd Easton, in the County aforesd,

yeoman, the Recept Where of [is hereby acknowledged], I the sd.

Lidiah Williams Do Set over and Convey to him, the sd James Dean,

a Certain Negro girl, a Slave about Eleven years of age. Named

Gate, to him the sd Dean, his heirs and assigns, for ever. And also

Warrant her to the sd. Dean against the lavvfuU Clams and Demands

of any Parson or Parsons Whatsoever. In Witness Whereof I have

set my hand and seal the Day and year above mentioned, being in the

tenth year of his Majestes Reign.

Lydia Williams.
Signed, Sealed, and Delivered in presence of

Nathl. Perry,

Mathew Hayward.

Kate remained the property of James Dean as long as slave
property could be legally held. By a decision of the Supreme
Court of Massachusetts in 1783, the Declaration of Rights, that
" All Men are born free and equal," was so interpreted as to
make slavery illegal. Kate, however, had a pleasant home, and
did not care to seek another ; she therefore continued to live
with Mr. Dean until his death. In his will of March 2, 1790,
he directs that his executor shall " free and discharge my negro
woman Cate from all future service to me, my heirs and assigns,
forever. I also give to the sd Cate all her wearing aparil ; also the
bead she has generally lain on, with furniture for sd bead sofi-
cient for Summer and Winter. It is also my will that my execu-
tor Pay & Deliver to the sd Cate out of my estate a number of
Sheaps, to the value of five dollars."

The will was probated March 30, 1803. Her freedom Kate
was entitled to by law, and could long before have claimed it ;
but she had all the freedom she cared for. The settlement of
this provision of the will was made by Edward Dean, the son
of James and the executor of the will. The following is a copy
of his discharge : —

Know all Men by these presents, that I, Cate Dean, of Easton, in
the County of Bristol, Spinster, a Black Woman, have received of
Edward Dean, Executor of the last will and Testament of Deacon
James Dean, late of Easton, Deceased, all my wearing apparil ; also,
the Bed that I have usually lain upon, together with Furniture for said
Bed Sufficient for Summer and Winter, and a number 'of Sheep, to



he value of five Dollars, and all other Articles and Things in Full as
jiven or Bequeathed to me in and by said last will and Testament ;
\nd two Chests and two Dollars in Money, in full of all Demands
igainst said Deceased's Estate, and in full of all Demands against said
Executor as Such, or of or from him in said Capasity or any other,
[n witness Whereof, I have hereunto Set my hand and Seal the Ninth
lay of May, Anno Domini, 1S03.

Jignecl, Sealed, and Delivered in presence of CatE -|- DeaN.

Elijah Howard, mark.

Elisha Dean.

In the Lieut. John Williams grave-yard, near Daniel Wheaton's
md in the west row of graves, may be seen to-day the grave of
he last slave in the town of Easton ; and it cannot but be re-
garded as an object of peculiar interest. The gravestone is in
jood preservation, and is inscribed with the name of Catherine
Vliller, who died January i, 1809, forty-nine years old. She
lever married. She died at the house of Edward Johnson, a
:olored man in Easton.


The growth of the temperance sentiment of this country is
»n]y about half a century old. Previous to that time it was con-
idered proper to furnish liquor for social occasions, for all fes-
ivities, and even for ordinations and funerals ; and it was almost
tniversally used. No person lost caste by being occasionally
a little the worse for liquor." It was not considered hospitable
mless the decanter of spirits was offered to callers and visitors.
Ministers sometimes fortified themselves for long sermons by a
:ood potation, endeavoring to supply the defect of the spiritual
y the use of the spirituous. The Rev. Solomon Prentice, it
riW be remembered, was thought to have been a little too happy
n a training day, and the Rev. Mr. Campbell's wife to have
een so free with the bottle as to create scandal, and finally
be enslaved by her appetite. An Easton resident writing
rom a neighboring town reports that the minister of that town
^as away on exchange, and " at noon the preacher's wife, as was
he custom, set some spirits before him and invited him to drink,
diich he did to such an extent that he could not preach in the


afternoon, and the people had to go home." After ordination
dinners, spirits, pipes, and tobacco were in order, and the clergy
did full justice to them. Ordination expenses nearly always in-
cluded a bill for spirits. Bearers at funerals were invited to
drink ; this was often done within the recollection of many per-
sons now living. Samuel Simpson remembers that when a boy
he was a bearer at the funeral of a child, the daughter of one
of the leading citizens of Easton ; and the young bearers were
taken upstairs by the person in charge of the exercises, and
were shown a table with decanters containing various kinds of
liquor. This person no doubt considered that he took very radi-
cal ground when he offered this caution : " Now, boys, I would
advise you not to take anything stronger than wine."

Even as late as 1826 the Rev. Luther Sheldon, who soon be-
came a strong temperance man, furnished New England rum to
the company of merry buskers who met to husk his corn. At
the same date Oliver Ames, who very soon gave up the practice,
carried a supply of spirits daily to the workmen who were build-
ing the upper dam. Wood-chopping, harvesting, house-raising,
and all work of this kind seemed to make spirits a necessity,
while extraordinary occasions called for more generous sup-
plies. Macey Randall remembers that when the coal-house
east of the hoe-shop was burned, about seventy years ago, a
pail of rum and a bucket of sugar were furnished to those who
had taken part in extinguishing the fire ; and in his account of
it he adds : " As I was the smallest boy there the men nearly
all gave me the sugar at the bottom of their tumblers. My
head soon began to grow dizzy, when I put for home, and after
some lofty circus tumbling over fences and in the road I reached
there ; but I knew nothing about the fire for the next twenty-
four hours."

It is almost superfluous to add that when the sentiments of
the community favored such a free and generous use of spirituous
liquors, intemperance must have been more prevalent than now;
this is known to be a fact so far as the native population is con-
cerned. There is, alas ! considerable drinking at the present
time. Weak and bad men, enslaved by this disgusting and now
disgraceful habit, may be seen sneaking into the three unlicensed
grog-shops and the more than a dozen grog-houses that curse this


town, where rum-selling men and rum-selling women ply their
corrupting traffic. Still, it is true that the sentiment and prac-
tice of the earlier times among our people were considerably
lower than among their descendants now. How many persons
there are in this town who remember that class among our now
departed citizens who were called " old topers," — men who were
steeped in New England rum ! How common it was for what
were called respectable men to congregate at the stores or in the
bar-rooms of the inns where liquor was freely sold, and spend
their time and money together ! This was the case at David
Manley's store, for instance. Some curious scenes have been
described to the writer by the late Martin Wild, who was once
a clerk in this store. He told of a stormy day when neighbors
thus met in the store and drank together, on which occasion
William Manley filled the water-pitcher with gin. They poured
from this pitcher supposing they were diluting their drams, and
were soon so tipsy that they could not get away, and had to be
carried home, — one well-known citizen of North Bridgewater
being stretched upon his wood-cart that had been long standing
before the door.

The misery and degradation caused by these habits are be-
yond description. There is one fact which the writer has often
had occasion to consider in his careful study of the genealogies
of Easton, — and that is the deterioration of certain families con-
sequent upon intemperance and the evils necessarily accompa-
nying it. It would not be proper to publish specific illustrations
of this fact, although many might be given. Intemperate parents
in Easton have bequeathed to their innocent children moral, in-
tellectual, and physical infirmities, predisposing them to the appe-
tite for strong drink, and robbing them in advance of the power
to resist. Partial idiocy has sometimes resulted from the same
cause, and some families have thus died out altogether.

From the earliest times in New England it was necessary to
obtain a license in order to become an innkeeper with the privi-
lege of selling liquor, or to become a retailer. Down to 1749
there was an average of three innkeepers and liquor retailers
in Easton. In those days of bad roads and slow travel these
country inns were a necessity. In 1726, the year after the in-
corporation of the town, and for the three following years, there


were only two in town, — one kept by Benjamin Williams on the
Bay road near Norton, and the other by Thomas Manley, Jr.,
south of Lincoln Street, at what is now nearly the extreme
south limit of Flyaway Pond. In 1730 John Williams undertook
the business, his brother Benjamin having discontinued it, and
Daniel Owen who lived near the Harlow place began it also.
In 1732 Eliphalet Leonard was added to the list as a retailer
merely. In 1744 Daniel Williams, of South Easton, who began
a saw-mill at the now Morse place, opened an inn. In 1747
James Stacey, living at the present Simeon Randall place, was
a retailer. Josiah Kingman had a licensed inn close by Eben-
ezer Randall's in 1749; and so also, the next year, had Joseph
Gilbert, on the Bay road near the Stoughton line : the Bay road
was then coming to be a frequented stage route. It is not neces-
sary to complete the list down to the present time, but among
the licensed inn-holders we notice such familiar names as Mat-
thew Hayward, Abiel Mitchell, John Dailey, Henry Howard,
Josiah Keith, James Perry, Isaac Lothrop, Ebenezer Tisdale,
John Pool, Isaac Kimball, Josiah Copeland, Joshua Gilmore,
Charles Hayden, Isaiah Packard, and many others who might
be named. Sometimes as many as eight licensed inn-holders
did business in town at the same time. The following is a
copy of a petition to authorize James Perry to retail liquor: —

To His Majestyes Justicescs of the Court of General Sessiofis of the
Peace Now Setting at Taunton for and within the county of Bristol :
We the subscribers Do apprehend That James Peny of this town
of Easton is a Person of a Sober Life and conversation Suteably
Qualified to Keep a House to Retail Liqurious Spirits, and we Desire
that he may be Licensed for that purpose ; and as in Duty Bound shall
ever pray.

Abial Mitchell, \ Selectmen
Timothy Randell, \ of
Seth Lothrop, ) Easton.

Easton, September 23, a.d. 1773.

It is very curious to note that one was recommended for the
position of a liquor-seller on the ground that he was "a person
of a sober life and conversation."

There was, however, another class of dealers who were allowed


to sell liquor in larger quantities, but were not allowed to retail
it. Thus in 1762 an action was preferred against James Gilmore,
of Easton, a " set-work cooper," " that sd. James did contrary to
law by selling less than thirty gallons of Rum to a single per-
son." The case was not made out, and Gilmore was acquitted ;
but the incident proves the existence of these two kinds of li-
cense. Temperance motives had nothing to do with this system
of license, which was not intended to check the freest use of in-
toxicating spirits. Licenses for the sale of groceries and other
kinds of goods were also required.

Reference has been made to the free use of spirits as late as
1826, at which time there was no real temperance sentiment
existing except what was indicated by the fact that church-
members were sometimes admonished by the church for in-
temperance. Soon after 1826, however, the attention of the
public was called to the folly, wickedness, and disastrous con-
sequences of the drinking habit. Oliver Ames, Jr., and others
took decided ground. The Rev. Mr. Sheldon and Oliver Ames,
Sr., decided not to furnish liquor to their farm-hands and work-
men. The former once at the close of a week's toil called in his
hired men, stated to them his convictions as to the needlessness
and injury of the common drinking practices, and proposed to
add to the usual wages of the men the value of the liquor fur-
nished them if they would abstain from the use of all intoxi-
cants while in his employ. To this they assented ; and they
soon proved to others that there was no necessity for the use of
alcoholic drinks while at work. Oliver Ames adopted the same
plan, and others followed it ; so that this rule came to be es-
tablished in town with farm-hands, and coffee was substituted
in the place of spirituous liquors. Mr. Sheldon and others dis-
couraged the use of liquor at weddings, and reform in that re-
spect resulted. Dr. Caleb Swan became an earnest advocate
of the new movement, as also did Howard Lothrop, Lincoln
Drake, and other good men. Meetings were held, discussions
engaged in, and the whole community was stirred up on the
subject. The first public meeting especially devoted to this
cause was held somewhere between 1830 and 1840, and was
addressed by Charles Jewett. It was a large meeting. At its
close Mr. Jewett presented the temperance pledge, and urged his


hearers to sign it ; but of the large number present only three
persons signed the pledge. These persons were Oliver Ames, Jr.
(probably the first person in Easton to take the total abstinence
pledge), E. J. W. Morse, and a Mr. King who subsequently
moved to Mansfield. In 1840 the school children of Easton
were organized into a Cold Water Army and held a grand pic-
nic in Lucius Howard's grove, marching there with banners,
wearing badges, singing songs, listening to addresses, and having
an interesting celebration.

The effect of the temperance agitation was soon apparent in
the votes of town-meetings. As early as March, 1830, the town
" voted that the selectmen shall not approbate any persons to

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 41 of 78)