William L. (William Ladd) Chaffin.

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

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Hopestill answered evasively that he had " tipped them up," and
being pressed for exact information as to where he had " tipped
them up," he angrily named a locality where goods of that de-
scription would speedily be converted into smoke.

Bunn at one time, it seems, essayed to be a householder, as
would appear from the following : —

Easton, Nov. 22, 1776.

These may certify that I the subscriber have sold and do by these

Presents sell unto Edy Benoy my hous standing on the common land,

at what is cauled Rocky Playin, for a consideration of Twelve shillings,

for his own Proper use for Ever. As witnes my hand.


Deborah X Higgins.^
Attest : Samuel Guild. mark

This place was on the east side of Randall Street, just south
of the ancient cartway that ran from behind the old Bay-road
Cemetery past the Macomber place to Lincoln Street, near
the Spring. There is now no vestige left of this old dwelling-
house, which was hardly more than a shanty, and had no cellar.

On page 240 of this History we have a record of the enlist-
ment in 1 78 1 of Bunn under the name of Benjamin Eddy, and
he is there said to be forty-four years of age. His two sons also
enlisted, and they were all allowed the very large bounty of three
hundred dollars in silver. The record of the ages of the sons
presents a difficulty. Benjamin, Jr., is stated as twelve, and
Oliver as fourteen years old, which if true would show that one
was born in 1767, and the other in 1769. But sons of the same
names were brought with him from Raynham to Easton in 1759.
Either the record is incorrect or, what is not wholly improbable,
the first sons may have died and others born later may have been
given the same names.

The nine hundred silver dollars do not prevent the family
from becoming paupers as early as 1785. The town refused
to provide for their maintenance, whereupon Bunn makes a

1 First Town Book of births and deaths, p. 378.


figure in the General Court of Massachusetts, as we see by
the following : —

"Benjamin Edy petitioned the General Court that the Overseers
of the Poor in Easton be authorized and directed to take charge of
the said Benjamin, his wife and children, the same as though they
were the poor of Easton. Passed, and sd. overseers directed so to
provide, and present their accounts for the same to the General Court
for allowance and payment." '

This was passed June 27, 1785. The town does not appear
to have presented any bill of expenses on Bunn's account to the
State, as it did of other State paupers living here. Two years
afterward, however. Dr. Edward Dean was allowed £'j \6s. M.
" for medicine and attendance on account of Benjamin Eddy and
family, poor of the State, from September 5, 1785, to May 18,
1787." 2 At this date the Bunns vanish from sight.

THE devil's visit TO EASTON.

Easton appears to be the only town in New England that has
no " Devil's Den." This is not because it has no place romantic
or beautiful enough for his resort, — the loveliest nooks and dells
being usually christened with his name. The deficiency noted
would indicate a sterility of imagination in our ancient residents,
were it not that they have left us a genuine story of a visit of
the character aforesaid to our town. The following is an old
lesrend that has been handed down from our Easton ancestors.
It was condensed into this interesting narrative by Mrs. F. E.
Gilmore : —

In the days when the Devil amused himself with " going to
and fro upon the earth and walking up and down in it," his
travels brought him, so our traditions tell us, to the spot known
as the Great Cedar-Swamp, lying in the southern part of
Easton. Tradition assigns no motive for his acts ; but we may
infer the " Devil had business on his mind," for the legend states
that he set to work picking up the stones lying about till he had
filled his apron, and then continued his travels northwaid.
About two miles north of the swamp, on one of the farms of

1 Massachusetts Resolves, vol. vi. pp. 344, 345-

2 Ibid., vol. vii. p. 387.



Easton, there is, or was, a barren field formerly called the " Hop
Field." We are told that this field, lying directly in the Devil's
way, attracted his attention, and he took pains to hop completely
round it : hence the name and the barrenness.

Still on business intent, the Devil turned his steps a little
more to the west, and we hear of him next in the neighborhood
of Easton Centre, where the prints of his hoofs, we are told,
may be seen in the solid rock to this day. In the field belong-
ing to the Town Farm and known as the "ox-pasture," may be
seen two rocks, one near the eastern side of the field and the
other near the western side, with the plain print of a cloven
hoof deeply imbedded in each. The legend tells us that when
the Devil reached that spot, and as he was stepping from one
of the stones that bears the print of his hoof to the other, his
apron-string broke and he dropped all the stones. Discourage-
ment must have seized upon him then and there, for we have no
further account of him or his travels. But the stones and the
footprints remain to this day to prove the truth of this story.

Among the people of that region the footprints have always
been called the prints of the Devil's foot ; and within the memory
of the " oldest inhabitant " the belated cow-boy, if forced to drive
his herd by the " ox-pasture " after dark, or when the " shades
of night were falling," would urge the luckless cattle on at as
mad a gallop as Tam O'Shanter's mare Meg took past " Allo-
way's auld haunted kirk," with a kindred terror of " Agld Nick,"
of whose visit to that place there was such visible proof.^


No New England town history is complete without a witch
story. Fortunately the writer does not need to invent one, as

1 These so-called " footprints " are still plainly visible. On one large rock in the
pasture behind Charles H. Reed's house there are two such footprints several
inches deep, one bearing a near resemblance to the impression of a cloven foot. It
has been commonly supposed that these deep concavities were hollowed out by the
Indians to be used as mortars in which to grind corn. That they were thus used is
very probable, but there is no sufficient reason to suppose that they were made by the
Indians. By careful search in the same field the writer found similar cavities in
other rocks in positions that could not be made available for human uses. In fact,
there are soft shaley spots in some of these rocks, and natural causes sufficiently
explain the hollows in them. The Indians were very willing to avoid all labor they
could get Nature to do for them.


he finds several ready made, the truth of which is most firmly
believed even to-day. Poquanticut seems to have been the
favorite locality for the operation of the " black art." What is
now called clairvoyance, and all that is akin to it, was at that
time supposed to betoken the possession of familiar spirits from
the nether regions. A century ago Nathan Selee, an able and
worthy man, was supposed to possess something of this myste-
rious power, in which belief he himself devoutly shared. Allu-
sion has already been made to the belief that Satan came at
night to run his saw-mill. He was thought to be ambitious to
delve in the dangerous mysteries of supernatural things. Mr.
Selee was a clairvoyant, and many stories are current of what
he saw and foretold. He was in Stimson Williams's house on
one occasion, and knowing his gifts in that direction, one of
Mr. Williams's daughters asked him to tell her fortune, but he
declined ; and after leaving the house, he said to a man who
came out with him that if she could see what the next week
would bring her, she would not have asked to have her fortune
told. She died the next week.

The story is still believed also, that, having sought long for
a certain book on magic which he thought would perfect him in
the art, the door of his shop opened one day and a stranger
handed him the book and vanished. Directly upon the de-
parture of this strange visitant a wild storm began to rage ; the
winds howled, the hghtnings flashed, the thunders roared, and
destruction seemed to impend. Mr. Selee took the book and all
other books of the kind that he possessed, and threw them into
the fire; and then going to the door and looking out he saw the
sun shining, and everything beautiful and peaceful. This deter-
mined him to have no more to do with the dangerous subject.

His sister Thankful (Selee) Buck was reputed a witch, though
there is no tradition of her having done anything especially
wicked. She is said to have performed her incantations at mid-
night with her daughters, one of whom inherited her name and
reputation, by pouring water from one pan into another. Loads
of hay were sometimes stopped in front of her house, and could
not move until she gave the signal, when a black cat was seen
to come out from under the hay and glide away. She once sent
her husband to some distance to get a certain kind of wool she


particularly desired. He failed to procure it, and on his return
found it impossible to enter his own door ; nor could he do so
until he had returned and procured the desired wool. A neigh-
bor was said to have caught a black cat doing some mischief, and
to have given her a severe beating on the head ; the next day
it was observed that Thankful Buck had lost an eye. Why she
did not use her magic power to save her eye is a question only
a carping sceptic will ask.

The above are samples of numerous stories that are told, and
which the writer has ample evidence are by some persons still
believed, concerning the magical powers and even witchcraft
exercised in Poquanticut many years ago. It is not improbable
that in Easton as elsewhere, when hanging was no longer to be
feared by witches, some shrewd persons practised upon the
credulity of others, and enjoyed the sense of power which the
reputation of being a little uncanny gave them.


At different times in the history of the town rewards were
offered for killing crows and blackbirds, which were supposed to
be very destructive to corn. In the town treasurer's accounts
there are occasionally entries of payments of bounties for these
birds. In 1793, for instance, the town voted to give sixpence a
head for crows killed before the first of July.

Scarcely two generations ago the custom prevailed of young
men choosing sides, and each side on a given day starting out
and killing all the birds they could. The day chosen was the old
" Election day " so called, the last Wednesday in May, once the
time for the convening of the State Legislature, and which came
to be known as " Nigger 'lection." It was one of the greatest
holidays of the year for the boys. The sides having been pre-
viously chosen, those taking part in the shooting started out at
daybreak and killed as many birds as possible. They usually
met at some appointed place before dinner, to count the birds
and see which side had won the victory. In North Easton, the
rendezvous was Howard's store, now the small house next west
of the railroad bridge on the north side of Main Street, occupied
by Mrs. Pinkham. The understanding was that only harmful
birds should be killed ; but it was easy to include nearly all birds


in this category, because, it was argued, bobolinks and swal-
lows destroyed bees, and robins stole cherries, etc. In some
places the party beaten paid for the dinner and drinks of all,
and oftentimes a large number were engaged in the sport. Now,
the law wisely protects the birds from such thoughtless and
cruel slaughter.


The generally unfenced condition of the early lands in town
made it unavoidable that cattle should run at large. It was
therefore necessary that their owners should have some means
by which to distinguish them and prove their own property.
This they usually accomplished by cropping, slitting, or brand-
ing their cattle's ears, and having the particular marks they
adopted recorded by the town clerk. A few specimens will suffi-
ciently illustrate this custom. The earliest ones in the old town
records are the first two following, to which others will be
added : —

" April ye 20, 1727. — A mare of Samuel Phillipses, of Easton ; of a
mouse-culer black, branded with a P on the Left shoulder ; one white
foot on the near side behind ; a black List on the back ; four year
old ; no eare mark, so described."

"April the 20, 1727. — A redish hors of Joshua Phillipses, of Eas-
ton ; a white strak in the face, branded with a P on the near shoulder;
a bout foure years old ; no ear mark, so described."

" The Earmark that Joseph Pettengill Marks his sheep with is a
Wier in each Ear. Easton, Janawary 22nd, 1768, Recorded by Mat-
thew Hayward, Town Clark."

" The Earmark that Stephen Brigs marks his creaturs with is an Ell
in the left Ear, a small swallos tail in the Right Ear, a halfpenney the
under side of the Right Ear, and a hole through the same. Easton,
May 25, 1767."

''The Eare mark that Ephram Drake eare-marks his creatures with
is a hapeny upon the uper side at the Left, and slit Betwene the head
and the hapeny. Ephraram Drake, Easton, febuary ye nth, 1758."

"Thomas Drake of Easton ear marke wherewith he marks his crea-
turs withall is to cut off the top of the Left ear, and a gad on the uper
side of the same ear. January 23d, 1755-"

" The Eare mark which Seth Williams Earemarks his catel is a hole
thrue each Eare. Easton. July ye 3, i753-"


Animals were sometimes taken up and their description re-
corded in order that owners from whose vicinity they had
strayed might appear and recover them. Samples of such
records are here given: —

"Taken up and impounded by me ye subscriber a white farow pidg
of about 6 month groth. Easton, aprill i6, 1743, Daniel Williams."

" September the 4th 1776. — This Day Taken up a black Ram; the
marks are as followeth : as to the arlifycial marks, it has two half-
penneys on the under side of the left Ear and one the uper side of
the same Ear, and one halfpenney the under side of the Right Ear; and
as to his Natural Marks, the Ram is all over black Except a few white
bars on the End of his Nose, with one Very Short horn. These are to
Request you forthwith to Post the Ram as the law Directs. Pr me,
Daniel Wood. Entered by Matthew Hayward, Town Clark."


The following are quotations from death records kept by dif-
ferent individuals : —

" Joseph Randall son James Deceased April 7, 1 753 ; also said Joseph
R. Two Daughters, Mary and Charity Randall, Dec'd April 8, 1753;
all three Buried in one day &c ! and in one grave."

" Mercy and Content, Both Being ye 2 of his 3 twines, Daughters, yt.
is Mr. William Hay wards, ye deceased, may 7, 1763."

" Mr. Edward Haywards wife Named Zilpha, Deceased by mur-
dering herself as supposed, June 3 day, at 10 or 11 o'clock forenoon,

" Old Mis Mercy Manley Deceased January ye 6, 1777 ; aged about
100 years. The oldest person in Town. Also Mr. Jacob Macomber,
Jr., child, ye third day after it was born. Deceased January 6, 1777.
The youngest person in town. Both died amonday."

"Mr. Daniel Keith Deceased on Friday ye 12 Day of November,
A.D. 1779. An Engeanous Bonsetter and other usefullness."

"One man killed in Boston digging a grave august 10, 1796, with

" Beriah Randall kild. with a tree falling, Novr. 11, 1800 ; aged 61."

"Avery, son of Matthew harlow, hung himself July 12, 1805 ; aged

" Mazy howard taken up out of his grave Nov. 2, 1809."
"Jacob Phillips died July 17, 1812 ; Fell of from a lode of hay and
broke his neck."


"Isaac Lothrop fell dead aplowing, may ii, 1815."

"Isaac Shepard kild with a wheel by Isaac Davenport, January 15,

" Samuel Clap kild by a waggon's wheels running over his body,
august 17, 1817; aged :i3."

" Thomas Gushing hung himself at Easton manfactory July 13, 1823 ;
aged 13."

"Joel White blowd up at Leonards, 8th of feb. 1825, and died 18,
aged 24."

" Thomas Frenches Con Drowned in punkypog thanksgiving day,
1827 j aged 14."


The writer's task is now accomplished. He lingers here
only to express a thought that has often occurred to him
during the progress of this work, — that while the true wel-
fare of a town depends as much upon women as upon men,
the former are almost unnoticed in a town history. There is an
apparent, perhaps a real, injustice in this fact. But town his-
tories are largely records of public, or at least of noteworthy,
actions and events, — of war, politics, business, municipal and
ecclesiastical affairs, — and these have not come within the
range of women's hitherto recognized sphere ; for even in the
church, in which she manifests a greater interest than does man,
she has had no vote and no controlling voice. But if this History
were intended to enshrine the memory of private virtues and of
guileless and noble character, half its pages at least would pay
homage to the women of Easton. In the home-life, where are
the real springs of public welfare as well as private blessing,
woman's influence is more potent than man's ; and while town
historians may narrate the deeds and herald the fame almost
alone of man, her praise is written in the grateful affections that
will survive when the printed page shall moulder to dust, and
may be safely intrusted to the Recording Angel who writes for
Eternity as we do but write for time.





[A Sermon of the Rev. Matthew Short, preached in Easton
IN September, 1728.]

THE Lord hath chastened me sore ; but he hath not given me over unto
Death. Open to me the Gates of Righteousjiess ; I will go into them,
and I will praise the Lord. — Psalm cxviii. 18, ig.

THIS Psalm was most probably composed by the royal Prophet,
David, after the Wars and Troubles between the Houses of
Saul and David were ended, and when David was newly settled in
the Kingdom over all Israel, and had newly brought up the Ark of
GOD to his royal City. But tho' this seemed to be the Occasion, yet
there seems to be a further and higher Design in it, especially in the
latter Part of it, which was to carry the Readers' Thoughts beyond the
Type to the Antitype, the Messiah and his Kingdom, who was chiefly
intended in it, which is apparent from the Testimonies produced out of
the new Testament to this Purpose. Matt. xxi. 9 ; Acts iv. 11. But to
consider the Words particularly, — The Lord hath chastned me sore; but
he hath not given me over unto Death. Open to me the Gates of Right-
eousfiess : I will go into them, and / will praise the Lord. These Words
doubtless refer to David, though the latter Part of the Psalm seems ulti-
mately to refer to Christ. The Lord hath chastened me sore, either by
Enemies or by some other great Troubles and Dangers ; but GOD mer-
cifully spared him in those great Dangers, and did not then give him
over unto Death, upon which he said, Open to me the Gates of Right-
eousness : L will go into them, and L will praise the Lord Open to me.


This seems to imply that they had been some time shut against him,
as in Saul's Time, when he was debarred from the publick Worship
and Ordinances of GOD, which he so greatly delighted in. The Gates
of Righteousjiess ; i. e. The Gates of the Lord's Tabernacles, which
might be called the Gates of Righteousness, because there was the
proper and usual Place for the Performance of the Duty here follow-
ing, viz., of praising GOD for his great Mercies, which is an Act of
Righteousness ; and partly because the Rule of Righteousness was kept
and taught there, the Sacrifices of Righteousness were offered there,
and because these Gates were to be opened to righteous Persons, of
which number David professed and proved himself to be ; upon which
Account he looked upon it as his great and just privilege, whereas
those that were apparently unclean and unrighteous were to be ex-
cluded. 2 Chron. xxiii. 19 : And he set Porters at the Gates of the
House of the Lord, that none which were unclean should enter in. The
Lord hath chastened me sore, but hath not given tne over unto Death.
Open to me the Gates of Righteousness : I will go into them, I will praise
the Lord.

From hence we may note several Doctrines.

DOCT. I. THE Afflictions or Chastisemetits which the Child?-en of
Men do meet withal, are sent by GOD.

He wisely orders our Afflictions and Punishments, both to the godly
and ungodly, when and how he pleaseth, though in a very different
manner : to the one in Wrath ; to the other in great Love and Mercy, to
purge away their Sins, and to prepare them for himself. But all the
Afflictions that come either on the godly or ungodly are sent and
ordered by GOD. He wisely orders the Kind, Time, Measure, and
Continuance of all the Troubles Men meet withal. Affliction cometh
not forth of the Dust. Job v. 6. Thus in Isaiah xlv. 7, L forfn the
Light, and create Darkness : / make Peace, and create Evil : L the Lord
do all these Things. By evil here is meant only the Evil of Punishment
or Affliction, with which GOD visits the Children of Men when he
pleaseth. Thus in Amos iii. 6, Shall there be Evil in a City, and the
Lord hath not done it ? Which intends only the Evil of Punishment
which GOD justly brings upon a People for their Sins. But I need
not further insist to prove this, but will improve it as GOD shall help.
And —

I. ARE all Afflictions sent by GOD ? Let this forever silence all
Murmurings against GOD under Afflictions. Are they sent by a gra-
cious, wise, just, holy, sovereign GOD, who is holy in all his ways
and righteous in all his Works, and whose way is perfect 1 Let this
forever stop our Mouths against all Murmurings under Afflictions ;



considering also how exceeding vile we are, and deserve to be utterly
rejected by GOD, and are punished far less than our Iniquities have

2. ARE Afflictions sent by a wise and holy GOD? They must
needs then be sent for some wise and holy end, for the infinitely wise
GOD doth nothing in vain. We should, therefore, labour that Afflic-
tions may have a good Effect upon us ; that by them we may be made
more holy and humble, more lively and diligent in all Acts of Duty
and Obedience towards GOD ; and that the Rod and Reproof may
teach us Wisdom ; that we may learn Righteousness by the afflictive
Dispensation of GOD towards ourselves and others.

3. WE may hence see Reason to admire the Wisdom and Goodness of
GOD in causing Afflictions to be so accomodable and serviceable to those
glorious and holy Ends for which he sends them on his people. He visits
them with Affliction to prepare them for special Mercies, and that they
may be Partakers of his Holiness. Heb. xii. 10, 11. And that they
may be prepared for Eternal Happiness. 2 Cor. iv. 17 : For our light
Affliction, tvhich is but for a Moment, worketh for us afar more exceeding
and eternal Weight of Glory.

DOCT. II. THAT the gracious, holy, righteous, sovereign GOD doth
sometimes sorely chastise his own children. Indeed, Chastisements are
common to all GOD'S Children, and there are none of them all ex-
empted. Heb. xii. 6, 7, 8 : For whom the Lord loveth he chastencth, and
scour geth every Son whom he receiveth. If you endure Chastening, GOD
dealeth with you as with Sons ; for what Son is he ivhom the Father chast-
encth not ? But if ye be without Chastisement, whereof all are Partakers,
then are ye Bastards, and not Softs. But though all the Children of
GOD are visited with Afflictions, yet are they not all chastised alike.
Some are more dull and slothful than others in the School of Christ,
and may, therefore, be visited with heavier Afflictions. Others may be
designed by GOD for some special and eminent Services, for the Glory
of his name ; and therefore GOD may purifie them by Afflictions, to
prepare them for it. It might probably be thus with holy David. GOD
designed him for, and improved him in, very eminent Services, for the
Glory of his Name and the good of his People. But before this high
Honour of being improved in very eminent services for GOD, he must
be disciplined a long Time in the School of Affliction, without doubt,
to fit and prepare him for the signal and glorious Services which
afterwards he was employed in. Even David could say. The Lord

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 71 of 78)