« AnteriorContinua »
into a township, alleging as a reason therefor, that they could not enjoy advantages for schooling and religious instruction, and that being a minor part of the town, they did not enjoy equal rights in other respects. Dedham at first opposed the separation, but at last consented to it, on the condition that the petitioners should be confined to less territory than was demanded. The legislature however granted the full prayer of the petitioners, as to territory, against the limitation of Dedham.
1715. The town granted fifteen pounds for schooling. This sum had been granted several years before this time, and was afterwards voted. This amount in the depreciated currency of this time, must have come far short of an adequate support of schools. Indeed the bad writing, the bad spelling in the records, the disorders in the town meetings, the quarrels in the church, fully denote the want of sufficient education of the people at this time.
1718. The town vote that any inhabitant who shall either leave or sell houses or lands to strangers, without first obtaining leave of the selectmen, or shall entertain them, without leave, shall forfeit twenty shillings for every month the unlicensed stranger shall remain in town. And every person residing here contrary to this provision, shall pay the like sum of twenty shillings.
May, 1719. Bellingham is set off from Dedham.
1720. The province taxes are called country taxes in the assessments until this time. The name provincial, might be odious, and on that account not used.
1721. The town being notified that its share of the fifty thousand pounds of bills of credit, was ready to be delivered, vote to accept it, and thereupon make a number of by-laws for regulating the loans to townsmen.
I conclude from the frequent attention of the town to this subject, from the number of meetings, and some disputes, it found itself a very badly organised body to become a banking institution.
January, 1722. The small pox is in town, and the inhabitants have public worship in a private house for fear of the contagion.
The inhabitants in the south part of the town pray to be set off into a town, or precinct. Those in the west part present a similar petition. Neither of them are approved by the town at this time.
April, 1723. Five of the principal inhabitants are directed to endeavor to hire a coach to bring the body of the reverend Joseph Belcher, who died at Roxbury, into Dedham, and forty pounds are voted to defray the expenses of his funeral.
1724. Voted to give Jarvis Pike twenty shillings for keeping the boys in order at the pulpit stairs. Walpole is get off from Dedham.
1725. Voted that the grammar school shall be kept half the time near the meeting house, and half the time in other places appointed by the selectmen.
1726. The town voted this year to unite with other towns to form a new county. The same vote was again passed in 1731, and 1734.
1727. March 4. A town meeting is held all day, a town clerk and first selectman only were chosen ; adjourned to next day. Then a debate arose about the qualification of voters; two more selectmen were then chosen. The meeting then adjourned to the 7th of March. On the third day of this meeting the town voted to have a new annual meeting on the fourth day of April. On this last day, a new set of town officers are chosen. To this last election there is a formal protest entered on the town books by many of the inhabitants.
September 22, 1728. The town vote that if some inhabitants in Stoughton will unite with those in the south part of the town, in a petition to be made a parish, it will consent thereto.
November, 1730. The second parish is incorporated.
March, 1729. The town vote to raise forty pounds by tax, for the purpose of contributing to the support of an agent in Britain. This measure had become necessary in consequence of the governor's refusal to sign the law for taking a sufficient sum from the province treasury. The. vote sufficiently denotes the party which the town supportted in the contests with governor Shute and Burnet, in relation to the matters concerned in that
agency. September, 1735. The town authorises a committee to commence a law suit for the recovery of the school farm, in Needham, of three hundred acres, and vote thirty pounds to support the suit. This land had been given to support schools, by the original proprietors of the town. A subsequent generation, having less regard for education, ordered the land to be sold to pay the ordinary expenses, and promised the agents indemnity for making the sale.
1736. The Clapboardtrees parish, or third parish, is incorporated.
The number of persons in town taxed this year, is 259 In the first parish,
129 66 second
52 During the last fifty years, the inhabitants must have endured great hardships, and enjoyed few of the comforts of life, now within the reach of their posterity. They were continually employed in clearing and subduing their lands, planting orchards, making roads, building fences and houses. In their situation, they derived only a bare subsistence from the fruits of their labor. The remainder went to enrich posterity. They were nearly all husbandmen; they had in the last fifty years extended their settlements six or seven miles from the village, which was now abandoned except by a few farmers. For all these people, amounting to about fifteen hundred souls, there was only one minister, and one school master, employed only a few weeks in one place. The people therefore must have been very imperfectly instructed. There was here in this period, one physician, a few mechanics, no traders, no artists or manufacturers. The strong and steady love of religious and civil liberty, which distinguished their ancestors, had now become a mere blind passion; it had no objects abroad to concentrate and excite its force. It was not elevated by any high motive, for the quarrels with the royal governors, after the charter was vacated, could not much interest the people. There were no such men as Lusher and Fisher to direct and controul popular opinion. The love of liberty therefore began to prey on itself, and there is much evidence that society was then disturbed by rough and uncivil manners, by high, hard and opprobious epithets frequently bestowed.
The people seem to have had a strong dislike to the introduction of new comers into the town. The reason of it is obvious, they might be expensive, and what was a much greater objection, they might occupy the places wanted for their sons, who might thereby be obliged to emigrate into another wilderness. And possibly they might feel that the descendants of such a pure stock as they could boast of,
would be in some danger of pollution by the free introduction of strangers. Hence the inhabitants remained an unmixed race, little affected by intermarriages or emigration, and unimproved by intercourse with other people. From an inspection of the assessors' books in 1736, I recognize the numerous descendants of some of the first settlers, with an extremely small number of new names. The Colburns, the Gays, the Ellises, the Farringtons, the Fishers, the Guilds, the Metcalfs, the Richards, and the Whitings, descendants of men of these names, had branched out into families from eight to fifteen in number, and did then constitute a considerable portion of the inhabitants.
Some of the little blemishes on the character of this generation, have been noticed. These were occasioned by the shades of the wilderness; it would be great injustice not to state the circumstances which in some degree excuse or palliate them. They yielded to the influence of their peculiarly hard situation. The generations of an hundred years had made great impressions on the wilderness, on the hard and stony ground, and on the swamps and meadows, and these in turn must have made a slight impression on the character of the inhabitants. But let us remember that they had substantial virtues. They were hard workers, frugal, temperate, and essentially upright. They were religious, somewhat too rigid it may be confessed for our taste. Upon the whole, they performed well the part assigned them by Providence. Every new country in its progress to more perfect civilization, presents similar traits of character in its inhabitants, although seldom so good in a moral view. Their rough unpolished manners attract more notice than their useful actions. They were far from being accomplished gentlemen, but in the work of building up a great state from a small colony, they had very efficient and able hands. The men of which we speak, possessed not the reputation of those who achieved our independence, but they did that which was necessary to accomplish that great enterprise. They cleared the country, they laid strong the foundation of civil society. If men like these had not struck many hard blows on the wilderness,
their successors could not have given the British armies so many hard knocks in after times. If a frugal father, by hard labor, acquire the sum necessary to build an elegant dwelling house, I protest against the injustice of attributing all the praise to the son, who does nothing more than direct the workmen. It is by such reflections as these, that we are led to do justice to the men of a hundred years past. Here, before my eyes, while I am now writing, the workmen are raising the pillars to an elegant stone court house for the county of Norfolk. Here again must the above reflection guide us, in determining the proportion of praise that should be awarded to each contributor of that edifice. It is not the magistrate who orders it done, nor the architect who furnishes the plan, nor the workmen who smooth the pillars and place thereon the capitals, who should alone be praised; but the men likewise of the present and past generations, who have completed a more magnificent work, that of changing the wilderness into these cultivated towns around us, of erecting therein so many comfortable and elegant dwelling houses and villas, and bringing to such maturity a prosperous society. So that a court house of a Grecian model, with its doric pillars, is an appropriate ornament. So that this community, with far less efforts than those made by them, can now build elegant dwellings, and erect handsome public buildings, and establish large manufacturing institutions. The men too of that age, were all of the productive class, or nearly so; they transmitted to their posterity the benefit of a good example in industry and economy. There were hardly any paupers in those days, and those that were such, had the excuse of inevitable misfortune, and were frequently relieved by the charitable contribution in the church or in town meetings. There was then no need of a poor house or house of correction, to employ the idle and restrain the vicious.
The first settlers in this town we have seen, required a strict scrutiny into every man's character, who was proposed for admission into the town. When a new comer first appeared, a committee appointed for that purpose, inquired of him his motives for being here ; and if the stranger answered, that it was for the purpose of settlement, then these questions were in some form put to him. Who are you, sir ? where did you come from? What worldly substance have you ? Do you approve our church government ? Can you assure us that you will not become a public charge to our plantation? The church was still more critical in its examination of the candidates proposed