Shattuck (1835) [1/3]

CHAPTER XVII.

HISTORY OF BEDFORD.

General History. — Ecclesiastical History. — Description. — Miscellaneous Notices.

Bedford lies northeasterly from Concord, and, as has already been stated, belonged originally in part to that town. [*1] The inhabitants of the Winthrop Farms, which were included in this territory, with others in Billerica, petitioned the General Court, in 1725, to be erected into a separate parish or town. [*2] An order of notice passed on this petition, but being opposed by Billerica it was unsuccessful. The following petition fully explains the motives which originated it, and met with more success.

“To the gentlemen the selectmen, and other inhabitants, of Concord in lawful meeting assembled; the petition of sundry of the inhabitants of the northeasterly part of the town of Concord humbly sheweth.

“That we your humble petitioners, having, in conjunction with the southerly part of Billerica, not without good advice, and we hope upon religious principles, assembled in the winter past, and supported the preaching of the gospel among us, cheerfully paying in the mean time our proportion to the ministry in our towns, have very unanimously agreed to address our respective towns to dismiss us, and set us off to be a distinct township or district, if the Great and General Court or Assembly shall favor such our constitution.

“We therefore the subscribers hereunto, and your humble petitioners, do first apply to you to lead us and set us forward in so good a work, which we trust may be much for the glory of Christ and the spiritual benefit of ourselves and our posterity. Our distance from your place of public worship is so great, that we labor under insupportable difficulties in attending constantly there as we desired to do. In the extreme difficult seasons of heat and cold we were ready to say of the Sabbath, Behold what a weariness is it. [*3] The extraordinary expenses we are at in transporting and refreshing ourselves and families on the Sabbath has

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added to our burdens. This we have endured from year to year with as much patience as the nature of the case would bear; but our increasing numbers now seem to plead an exemption; and as it is in your power, so we hope it will be in your grace to relieve us.

“Gentlemen, if our seeking to draw off proceed from any disaffection to our present Rev. Pastor, or the Christian Society with whom we have taken such sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company, then hear us not this day. But we greatly desire, if God please, to be eased of our burdens on the Sabbath, the travel and fatigue thereof, that the word of God may be nigh to us, near to our houses, and in our hearts, that we and our little ones may serve the Lord. We hope that God, who stirred up the spirit of Cyrus to set forward temple work, has stirred us up to ask, and will stir you up to grant, the prayer of our petition; [*4] so shall your humble petitioners ever pray, as in duty bound, &c.

“We humbly desire our limits may be extended from Mr. Stephen Davis’s to Mr. Richard Wheeler’s and to the river, the line to extend so as to include those two families.”

This petition was dated Concord, May 1, 1728, and signed by Joseph French, Joseph Dean, John Fassett, Samuel Merriam, Stephen Davis, Daniel Cheever, Thomas Woolley, Joseph Bacon, Benjamin Colburn, Nathaniel Merriam, Zachariah Stearns, Andrew Wadkins, Jonathan French, David Taylor, Daniel Davis, Richard Wheeler, and James Wheeler; all belonging to Concord.

Concord gave them liberty to be set off; and the General Court passed an act, September 23, 1729, incorporating them as a town by the name of Bedford. The boundaries of the town, as described in this act, were nearly the same as they are at present, excepting the farm of Edward Stearns, which was set off from Billerica and annexed to Bedford by a special act, passed in 1766.

The first town-meeting took place October 6, 1729. The first town officers were, Samuel Fitch, Town Clerk; Jonathan Bacon, Samuel Fitch, Nathaniel Merriam, Nathaniel Page, and Daniel Davis, Selectmen; Israel Putnam and Stephen Davis, Constables; John Fassett, Town Treasurer; Job Lane and Samuel Merriam, Surveyors; Daniel Cheever and Josiah Fassett, Tithing-

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men; Obed Abbot and Benjamin Colburn, Fence-viewers; James Wheeler and Jonathan Bacon, Hog-reeves; John Lane, Sealer of Weights; [*5] and Thomas Woolly and John Whipple, Field-drivers. [*6] *1

After the first organization of the town, there is nothing of peculiar interest to distinguish its civil history anterior to the revolution. It furnished its share of men and money in the intervening French and Indian wars; but the particulars I am unable to obtain. Several of its inhabitants held commissions.

Many facts in relation to the part Bedford acted in the revolution have already been detailed in the history of Concord. Such others as more immediately relate to the proceedings of the town, will now be given.

In March, 1768, the town voted “to encourage the produce and manufactures of this province, and to lessen the use of superfluities.” [*7] A town meeting was held March 1, 1773, to take “into our most serious consideration the melancholy state of the British colonies in North America in general, and this province in particular,” when, “after solemn prayer to God for direction,” the subject was referred to a committee, consisting of Deacon Stephen Davis, John Reed, Esq., John Webber, Doctor Joseph Ballard, Mr. John Moore, Mr. Joseph Hartwell, and Mr. Hugh Maxwell. At an adjourned meeting, 23d May, they made a long report, which was unanimously accepted, expressing sentiments similar to those given in the History of Concord.

*1 The following were the taxable inhabitants in Bedford in 1748.

South List. — Samuel Bacon, Stephen Davis, James Dodson, Joseph Fitch, Zachariah Fitch, Peter Fasset, John Fasset, Benjamin Fasset, Stephen Hartwell, Joseph Hartwell, Henry Harrington, William Hastings, James Housten, John Merriam, Amos Merriam, Samuel Merriam, Nathaniel Merriam, John Moore, Joseph Meeds, Walter Powers, Paul Raymond, William Raymond, Edward Stearns, James Rankin, David Taylor, Thomas Woolly, Jonathan Woolly, Thomas Woolly, Jr., Richard Wheeler, Samuel Whitaker.

North List. — Obed Abbot, Josiah Bacon, Josiah Bacon, Jr., Benjamin Bacon, Michael Bacon, John Bacon, Thomas Bacon, Jonas Bowman, James Chambers, John Corbet, Samuel Dutton, Benjamin Danforth, Cornelius Dandley, Benjamin Fitch, Jeremiah Fitch, Josiah Fasset, Jonathan Grimes, Benjamin Hutchinson, Timothy Hartwell, Benjamin Kidder, Deacon Job Lane, Colonel John Lane, Captain James Lane, John Lane, Jr., Job Lane, Jr., John Lane, 3d, Timothy Lane.

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In March, 1774, it was voted not to use any tea till the duty was taken off; and on the 30th of June following the inhabitants of the town entered into a solemn covenant “to suspend all commercial intercourse with Great Britain till the said act should be repealed,” — not to “buy, purchase, or consume, or suffer any person by, for, or under us, to purchase or consume, in any manner whatever, any goods, wares, or merchandise, which shall arrive in America from Great Britain,” and to break off all “trade, commerce, or dealings” with those who do it, and to consider them as enemies to their country. This covenant was offered to all the inhabitants of the town for their signatures. Those who did not sign it were to be treated as enemies. At this meeting the first committee of correspondence was chosen, consisting of Deacon Stephen Davis, John Reed, Esq., Mr. Joseph Hartwell, John Webber, and John Moore.

A minute-company being formed, the town voted, 6th March, 1775, to allow 25 men “one shilling per week till the first of May, they exercising four hours in a week, and two shillings to be allowed to officers, they to equip themselves according to the advice of Congress.” Jonathan Wilson was Captain of this company, and was killed on the retreat of the British from Concord on the 19th of April, in the 41st year of his age. He was a brave and meritorious officer.

The town voted, June 17, 1776, that “we will solemnly engage with our lives and fortunes to support the colonies in declaring themselves independent of Great Britain.”

Bedford, like the neighbouring towns, contributed “her lives and fortunes” to obtain the independence of America. Though I cannot give a full view of what was actually done, a few facts taken from the town records, in addition to what has already been given in the History of Concord, will present the most favorable view of her patriotism.

November 24, 1777, the town raised £377 3s. 3d. to pay the following bounties to soldiers for services performed that year, as reported by a committee.

For the Continental soldiers’ hire£23610s.0d.
For the bounty to the Rhode Island men22100
For the bounty to the men who went to Bennington4800
For one man to guard the Continental stores600

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For three 30 day men to join the Continental army2400
For allowance for hiring the Continental men4110
For fire-arms, lead, and flints for a town stock35123
£37733

November 16, 1778, the town allowed the accounts of the military officers and committee for hiring soldiers, amounting to £1746 16s. 3d. The following bounties for services the year previous were also allowed.

3 men, 2 months to Rhode Island, May 1, 1777,no bounty
8 men, 3 1/2 months to Bennington, August 21, 1777, £15 each [^1]£1200s.0d.
8 men, 30 days, “to take and guard the troops,” September, 1777, £2 each [^2]1600
5 men, 3 months, “to Boston with Captain Farmer,” February 1778, £12 each [^3]6000
8 men, 3 months, “to Cambridge with Captain Moore,” April 1, 1778, £11 each [^4]8800
John Reed, to Rhode Island900

The next year, in November, 1779, the following bounties were allowed.

1st tour of duty to Rhode Island, 2 men, £39 each£780s.0d.
2d to Rhode Island, 2 men, 48 bushels of corn, £9 per bushel each86400
3d to North River, 3 men, 2 of whom to have £300 each60000
The other to have £138 in cash, and 51 bushels of corn at £9 per bushel58700
4th to Boston, 2 men, £22, 10 each4500
5th to Claverick, 6 men 1 1/3 month, £80 per month64000

In September, 1780, the town raised £550 to pay for hiring soldiers in the United States’ service for the two last campaigns. In June previous, seven men, John Johnson, Rufus Johnson, Nathan Merrill, Jonas Bacon, Cambridge Moore, Jonas Duren, Cesar Prescott, had been hired to go to the North River 6 months for a bounty of 120 bushels of corn each; and 8 men, Joshua Holt, John Webber, Ebenezer Hardy, Amos Bemis, Jonathan Wilson, Andrew Hall, Isaac Simonds, and Israel Mead Blood, were hired for 3 months to Rhode Island for 90 bushels of corn each.

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By the resolve of December 2, 1780, Bedford was required to furnish 8 men. One was hired by the town for $200 in silver; and the town was divided into 7 classes to procure the others. Captain John Moore was chairman of the first class, Moses Abbot of the second, Thaddeus Dean of the third, Christopher Page of the fourth, John Reed of the fifth, William Page of the sixth, and Stephen Davis of the seventh. The first five classes paid “20 head of horned cattle at 3 years old each,” as a bounty; the 6th paid $250, and the 7th $220, in silver!

Daniel Hartwell Blood went to Rhode Island in June, 1781, and received £19 10s. in silver; and Nehemiah Wyman, Moses Abbot, Stephen Syms, Timothy Crosby, Joseph Merriam, and Israel Mead Blood went to join General Washington’s army at West Point, and received £19 16s, each. The town was divided again in March, 1782, into three classes to hire 3 men for the war.

When it is recollected that the town then contained only about 470 inhabitants, it is truly wonderful that they could submit to so frequent and so heavy burdens of pecuniary and personal service.

In September, 1776, the town voted, that the General Court might form a constitution, but they must furnish a copy to the town before it was enacted. In May, 1779, voted, 34 to 1, not to have a new constitution formed at this time. The constitution formed that year was approved by the town, after considering it at three successive meetings, by 25 to 1. In 1820, the town unanimously voted to instruct their representative to vote in favor of calling a state convention to revise the constitution. On the question of adopting the new constitution, articles 2d, 3d, 6th, 7th, 8th, 11th, 13th, and 14th, had no votes against them; the 1st had 3; the 4th, 5; the 5th, 30; the 9th, 14; the 10th, 55 (all that were cast); and the 12th, 13.


SOURCE TEXT


EMENDATIONS

  1. £15 each ∨ each £15
  2. £2 each ∨ £2
  3. £12 each ∨ £12
  4. £11 each ∨ £11

ANNOTATIONS

  1. “Bedford was incorporated, Sept. 23, 1729, . . . after having belonged to Concord about 100 years, without opposition from the mother town.” (p 74)
  2. Henry A. Hazen suggests that Shattuck is mistaken here.
    cf. Hazen’s “History of Billerica” (1883) p 218 (footnote)
  3. cf. KJV’s Malachi 1:13
  4. cf. KJV’s 2 Chron. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-3
  5. “Sealer”: seal-affixing examiner
  6. “Field-drivers”: stray-animal impounders
  7. “superfluities”: needless items

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