Records

CHAPTER XXVIII.

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Records — Town Officers — Justices of the Peace —
Town Valuation of 1771 — Census Items.

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In some towns the annals are incomplete, — portions having been lost by fire or other calamities, — but in Bedford the records are continuous from the beginning of the town.

In the early years there was some laxness on the part of certain families in the returns of births, marriages and deaths, but this defect is corrected in a measure by the record kept by Rev. Nicholas Bowes. His record of baptisms often enables one to supply a deficiency in that of births kept by the clerk of the town. The almost universal custom of baptizing an infant on the Sabbath following the birth makes it possible to fill some blanks with comparative certainty. Where both church and town records fail, a gravestone often furnishes the record of a person whose life was spent in the town. The first record of the church was kept in a

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Sarah (Clark) Bacon.

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book the pages of which are six inches by eight, and bound in vellum or parchment, which has become very loose, and several of the leaves containing records are missing, viz.: In the record of baptisms all between Sept. 29, 1745, and Jan. 20, 1751, also between Sept. 27, and Nov. 1, 1741, are lost.

Rev. Nathaniel Sherman, the second minister, continued the record in an alphabetical manner.

The characteristics of Rev. Joseph Penniman are seen very distinctly in his records, and they are not as reliable; but his successor, Rev. Samuel Stearns, kept a perfectly reliable record in a thoroughly systematic manner. The record of deaths kept by Rev. Nicholas Bowes shows that during the first quarter of a century there were one hundred and seventy-three deaths in all, the average for a year being seven. The largest number in any one year was twenty, in the year 1749. There were fifteen in 1750 and sixteen in 1754. (By referring to the chapter on epitaphs it will be seen that this great mortality was among the children; it covered the years when the throat distemper thwarted the skill of physicians.) [*1] The smallest number in any one year was two, in 1732; there were four in 1751.

The town records are in a good state of preservation, but still remain in the form of manuscripts, and are thus liable to be lost, as only the original copy is possessed, with the exception of the first book of births, marriages, and deaths. A copy of this has been made by the accurate hand of Mr. George Tolman, of Concord, and presented to the town.

Brevity of entries is a very general defect in early records; a mere statement of a fact becomes blind indeed after those who participated in the event have passed away. [*2] Another great defect arises from the absence of reports of committees. Records were made of cases of importance, being referred to a committee, and later the committee having reported, it was accepted, and ordered on file; but those files have doubtless been lost sight of in the attics of early clerks before a place of safety was provided. This defect is most noticeable during the years of the Revolutionary War.

It is due to the memory of Samuel Fitch, the first town clerk, to record in this connection, that his wise forethought in recording the doings of the meetings during the organization of the town has enabled us to obtain much that is of interest in those early days. The entire records will com-pare favorably with those of towns that we have examined during the preparation of this brief history. The student of manuscript records learns very early in his research that a great


benefit is derived from years of continuous service of the same clerk. This town has been fortunate in that respect, as will be seen by the following statement:—

Town Clerks.— Samuel Fitch, 1729–31, 1733–37; John Fassett, 1732; Israel Putnam, 1738–45; John Whitmore, 1746–48; Stephen Davis, 1748–60, 1766–72, 1775; John Reed, 1761–66, 1773–75; John Webber, 1776–79, 1783–93; William Merriam, 1780–82, 1794–1804; William Webber, 1805–29; [^1] Reuben Bacon, 1830–44; Joel Fitch, 1845 (died in service, and the year was completed by Joseph Brown, Jr.); Thomas Stiles, 1846–63; William Albert Stearns, 1864–71 (died in service);* Charles A. Corey, 1871 (still in service).

Selectmen, beginning with the year 1830 (as a full board consists of three, that number will be found under each year): Reuben Bacon, 1830–33; Amos Hart well, 1830–36, 1843–47; Joel Fitch, 1830; Joseph Brown, 1831; Timothy Page, 1832–33; Albert Bacon, 1834–35, 1843–44; John P. Reed, 1834–37, 1840–42, 1845–48, 1857; Liab Lee, 1836–38; Elbridge Bacon, 1837; Oliver R. Abbott, 1838–39; David Rice, 1838–39; Jonathan Bacon, 1839, 1845–47; Nathaniel C. Cutler, 1840–41; Michael Crosby, 1840–42; Amos B. Cutler, 1842–44, 1850–51; Thomas Stiles, 1848–56; Isaac P. Bacon, 1848–49, 1874–76, 1880; Benjamin J. Davis, 1849; Phinehas W. Chamberlin, 1850–55; Charles Spaulding, 1852–56; William M. Ashby, 1856–65; William A. Stearns, 1857–65; Samuel Sage, Jr., 1858; Oliver J. Lane, 1859–65, 1868–73, 1877–78, 1881 (still in service); Henry Bacon, 1874; Thomas B. Hosmer, 1874; Aaron H. March, 1875–76; Eleazer P. Davis, 1875–76; Charles H. Clark, 1877–79; Samuel W. Huckins, 1879; Calvin Rice, 1880; William R. Hayden, 1880; Willard Ladd, 1881–82; Nathan B. Smith, 1883–90; Albert P. Sampson, 1883; Edwin H. Blake, 1884–90; Irving L. Hodgdon, 1891; Dudley Hartford, 1891.

* Resolutions adopted by the town after the death of William A. Stearns, who died while in the position of clerk and treasurer:—

Whereas God in his mysterious providence has suddenly removed by death our friend and townsman, William A. Stearns, clerk and treasurer of the town, a citizen of unblemished and of upright character, faithful in the discharge of the various offices intrusted to him by his constituents, one who deserved and retained the confidence of his associates,—

Therefore we feel it a duty to express our appreciation of him as a kind neighbor and Christian friend, and of his valuable services in behalf of the town, committed to him, and that we deeply sympathize with his bereaved and afflicted family in their deep sorrow.

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One of the very early records of the town is of a vote to allow the “Law Book” to be passed around among the different families. This book contains the first printed copy of the act of incorporation of the town of Bedford. The title-page is as follows:

“The Charter Granted by their Majesties King William and Queen Mary to the Inhabitants of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England.— Boston in New England. [^1] Printed by B. Green. Printer to the Honourable the Lieut. Gouvernour & Council for Benjamin Eliot and sold at his shop, near the Town House in King’s Street. 1726.”

This volume had been lost many years, when, in 1886, it was forwarded from Chicago, Ill., to the writer of this sketch, with the following letter:—

I send to you an old book that was in the Library of Reuben Bacon, Esq. . . . How it came there does not appear, but may have been left when he (Bacon) surrendered the clerkship of the town and parish. It should be in the archives of the town. . . .

It has travelled thousands of miles, been through the “great Chicago fire,” and existed while nearly five generations of the inhabitants of Bedford have been born and died.

Mrs. Hosmer, in looking over her choice keepsakes, a few days before her death, desired me to forward to you this choice relic, to be delivered to the town of her nativity and love, as a gift to its people.

I now herewith, in accordance with her request, present this volume.

Martha Bacon Hosmer,

By her husband, Joseph Hosmer.

Chicago, Jan. 1, 1886.

Justices of the Peace.— John Reed, Elijah Stearns, Amariah Preston, Thompson Bacon, William Webber, John Merriam, Reuben Bacon, Joel Fitch, Phinehas W. Chamberlin, Amos Hartwell, Thomas Stiles, Amos B. Cutler, Henry Shaw, Marcus B. Webber, Merton Simonds, Elihu G. Loomis, Albert P. Sampson, Charles A. Corey, Edwin H. Blake, Thomas B. Hosmer, Abram E. Brown, George E. Blinn.

The first birth recorded is Abigail Grover, daughter of Thomas and Abigail Grover, Nov. 30, 1739.

The first marriage was on Jan. 21, 1730 | 1: Joseph Fitch and Sarah Grimes, by Rev. Nicholas Bowes. [*3]

The first death was that of Sarah, daughter of Joseph and Rebecca Bacon, Feb. 16, 1730 | 1. [*3]

Earlier records are found, but they were copied from either Concord or Billerica records to complete family registers.

Treasurers beginning with the year 1830: John Bacon, 1830–45; Isaac P. Bacon, 1846–50, 1868–69; Phinehas W. Chamberlin, 1851–67;


William A. Stearns, 1870–71 (died in service); Albert Bacon, 1871–75; Charles A. Corey, 1876 (still in office).

Moderators of town meetings, for fifty years, ending with January, 1890: Amos Hartwell, 3; Jonathan Bacon, 6; George Simonds, 32; George W. Woodward, 9; John Bacon, 1; John W. Simonds, 30; Oliver W. Lane, 1; P. W. Chamberlin, 14; Elijah W. Stearns, 2; W. H. Ropes, 1; Charles Spaulding, 6; Reuben Bacon, Esq., 1; Reuben Bacon, Jr., 3; Francis Coggswell, 1; John P. Reed, 1; Samuel Sage, Jr., 16; Isaac L. Watts, 4; George W. Webster, 1; Joseph Hosmer, 1; Oliver J. Lane, 41; Amos B. Cutler, 2; Cyrus Page, 2; [^3] Marcus B. Webber, 5; Edward T. Tuten, 1; Thomas Stiles, 1; Henry Shaw, 16; Elihu G. Loomis, 3; Thomas B. Hosmer, 1.

The following abstract of the inventory of taxable property and of ratable polls of the year 1771 is suggestive of the changes of time:— [*4]

Ratable polls125
Not ratable3
Dwelling houses and shops adjoining73
Outbuildings, shops and Tan houses1
Mills. 2 grist and 2 saw mills4
Annual worth of the whole real estate, deducting only annual repairs£6842s.6d.
Servants for life between 14 and 45 years of age7
Stock in trade, in goods, wares and merchandise paid for or not£680s.0d.
Money at interest more than is paid interest for£21792s.8d.
Horses & mares three years old and upwards76
Oxen four years old and upwards144
Cows three years old and upwards415
Goats & sheep 1 year old463
Swine 1 year old149
Acres of pasturage1632 1/2
Number of cows kept on pasturage with other feed457
Acres of tillage370
Bushels of grain & corn of all sorts, the same will produce6536
Barrels of Cider, averaged618
Acres of English and upland mowing [*5]335 1/2
Tons of hay cut on same177
Acres of fresh meadow [*6]1162
Tons of hay cut on same735 1/2

In 1871, a century later, the assessed value of real estate was $496,079; personal, $91,258. Valuation of 1890, real estate, $758,929; personal, $119,307.

Items from the United States census of 1890:

Inhabitants1,092
Between 80 and 90 years21
Between 70 and 80 years51
Between 60 and 70 years83
Between 50 and 60 years100
Between 40 and 50 years104

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Soldiers’ widows7
Veterans of the Civil War31
Farms95
Industries15
Dwellings230
Families239

SOURCE TEXT


EMENDATIONS

  1. 1805–29; ∨ 1805–1829;
  2. Majesties ∨ Maejsties
  3. Cyrus ∨ Cryus

ANNOTATIONS

  1. cf. (in this volume) pp 81-93
  2. “blind”: [ archaic usage ]: obscure
  3. Dual dating ended with the Calendar Act.
  4. “ratable polls”: taxable persons
  5. “upland mowing”: high-elevation meadow
  6. “fresh meadow”: low-elevation meadow
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