« PreviousContinue »
tor, January 16, 1794. He is a grandson of the first baptist in Middleborough, and hath two brothers in the ministry elsewhere.
A few General Remarks. Our fathers began the plantation of New England in the poorest part of it. The land between Plymouth and Wareham, and between Sandwich and Falmouth is so barren, that a number of deer run wild in the woods there, to this day. And there are very few men in any part of the old colony of Plymouth who are very rich, but the people are more upon a level than in most parts of our country. And as it was first planted by a religious, prudent, and industrious people, their posterity retain so much of those excellent qualities, that capital crimes are less known here, than in many other places. There has not been any person hanged in Plymouth county, for above these sixty years past. Neither were the courts interrupted in this county, in 1786, as they were in many other parts of the land. The goodness of God, and not the goodness of men, ought to have all the glory.
As our new plantations have been extended amazingly since the peace of 1763, I conclude that there are as many people now in other places who have sprung from Middleborough, since that peace, as all who are now in the town. This may appear partly from the numeration of the people. For when they were numbered by authority, in the summer of 1776, there were four thousand four hundred and seventy-ninc souls in Middleborough,; and the next winter they numbered the males, of sixteen years old and above, and found them to be one thousand and sixty-six, of whom there were but five Indians and eight negroes. And in 1791, there were but four thousand, five hundred, and twenty-six souls in Middleborough, which is but forty-seven more than there were fifteen years before. And it hath generally been healthy in the place, and families have increased as fast as in former times. And it is well known that a large part of the towns of New Salem and Shutesbury, in the county of Hampshire, and of Woodstock in the state of Vermont, sprang from Middleborough ; and some from hence are scattered through all New England, and into many other parts of America.
These things, collected from printed books, church records, other writings, and intelligent persons, are presented to the Historical Socisty, by their humble servant,
ISAAC BACKUS. Ihddleborough, February 20, 1794.
Postscript. I have often wondered that historians should be so incorrect in their Jates of important events, as many of them have been. The beginning of Rhode Island colony hath often been set in 1634, or 1635; whereas the town of Providence was not planted until 1636, nor Rhode
Island till 1638. And in your third volume, p. 5, a gentleman says, " In 1637, New Haven was planted ; about the same time, Windsor, Guilford, and Milford.” But Windsor was planted in 1635, Hartford in 1636, and New Haven not till 1638.*
A TOPOGRAPHICAL DESCRIPTION OF NANTUCKET. BY WALTER
ETWEEN 69° 56' and 70° 131 SITUATION AND EXTENT.]
west longitude. Between 41° 13' and 41° 22' north latitude. 15 miles in length. 11 miles in breadth.
BOUNDARIES.) It is bounded on all sides by the ocean, being about eight leagues to the southward from Cape Cod.
CLIMATE, Soil, SEASONS, AND WATER.] The climate of Nantucket is mild, when compared with the neighbouring country, owing perhaps to its being situated in the ocean. The air is not so hot and sultry in summer, nor so cold in winter, as it is on the main. The inhabitants enjoy a cool sea breeze, which for the most part makes it healthy.
The soil of Nantucket is for the most part light and sandy, if we except some part of the land where the town now stands, and some part of the east end of the island, which is a loamy and rich soil.
There can be but little said of the waters, except that the island is well watered with ponds and springs, but as to their medicinal quali. ties, if they have any, they have not been discovered. The waters of many wells in the town are impregnated with an earthy and saline substance, which renders them disagreeable to those who are not accustomed to them.
Bars, &c.] There is but one bay of any note, and that is formed by a long sandy point, which runs from the east end of the island to the north and westward (on which stands a lighl-house, erected by the Massachusetts state, in 1784) and the north shore of the island, as far as Eel Point. This makes a fine road for ships, except with the wind at the N. W. when there is a heavy swell.
The harbour is a basin within the bay, the entrance of which is obstructed by a sand-bar, on which there are no more than seven feet and a half of water at low water, and in some places no more than three feet and a half; but within there are twelve and fourteen feet of water.
Animal Productions or SEA AND LAND.] The sea produces many kinds of fish, such as cod, hallibụt, sturgeon, shad, herring, bass, eels, and a number of other kinds.
*Winthrop's Journal, pages 86, 92, 96, 98, 101, 151. VOL. III.
On the land are horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs, which are not very different from those of the neighbouring country
POPULATION, INHABITANTS, MANNERS, AND CUSTOMS.] According to an enumeration taken in 1790, Nantucket contained males above sixteen years of age eleven hundred and pinety-three ; males under sixteen years ten hundred and sixteen ; females two thousand three hundred ; blacks of all ages and sexes, not including Indians, one hundred and ten ; total of males two thousand two hundred and nine; the whole number of inhabitants was four thousand six hundred and pineteen.
The inhabitants are for the most part a robust and enterprising people, mostly seamen and mechanicks. The seamen are the most expert whalemen in the world : for a proof of which one need only consider the efforts that France and England have been making to draw them away, for the purpose of conducting their fisheries.
One reason perhaps of the Nantucket-men's being so dexterous in killing the whale is, that they have but little opportunity of going in any other service. The boys, as soon as they can talk, will make use of the common phrases, as townor, which is an Indian word, and signifies that they have seen the whale twice ; and as soon as they are some years older, they are seen rowing in boats for diversion, which makes them expert oarsmen, a thing that is requisite in taking the whale.
The inhabitants are mostly ingenious in using mechanical tools. It is no strange thing to see the same man occupy the station of a mer. chant, at other times that of a husbandman, of a blacksmith, or of a cooper, or a number of other occupations.
The women are thought to be handsome. They make good wives, tender mothers, kind and obliging neighbours. The inhabitants live together like one great family, not in one house, but in friendship. They not only know their nearest neighbours, but each one knows all the rest. If you should wish to see any man, you need but ask the first inhabitant you meet, and he will be able to conduct you to his residence, to tell what occupation he is of, and any other particulars you may wish to know.
VegetABLE PRoDuCTiONs.] Before we treat of vegetable productions, it may be necessary to inform the readers that the land is beld in common; that is, the island is supposed to be divided into twenty seven shares (except some part of the east end of the island, known by the name of Squam, and some few other pieces, which are held as private farms.) Each share is entitled to a certain portion of land, which the owner may take up in any part of the common land and convert it to what use he thinks proper. Each share is subdivided into lesser parts, called cows' commons, which give the proprietor a privilege to turn out as many cows or other cattle, as he owns of such parts in common or other stock, in the proportion of one horse or sixteen sheep to cwo cows' commons; which stock feed on any part of the land that is not converted into a field. All the cows feed together in one herd, to the amount of about five hundred. All the sheep feed in one pasture, and each man knows his own by marks made in the ears by cutting them in different forms. In order to shear them, they are all driven into one large yard, where each man goes, picks out his own sheep, and shears them, which commonly takes up two days, and is performed about the 20th June ; at which time and place most of the inhabitants assemble for the sake of diversion. The proprietors commonly plant about twenty five acres of corn to a share, which are six hundred and seventy five acres for the whole twenty seven shares, which are in one field, and will produce on an average twelve bushels to the acre ; that number multiplied by six hundred and sevenly five, gives eight thousand one hundred bushels. The next year the same land is sowed with rye and oats ; about eighty one acres with rye. The produce about six bushels to an acre, is four hundred and eighty six bushels. The remainder, five hundred and ninety four acres, is sowed with oats, which produces about fourteen bushels to an acre, that is eight thousand three hundred and sixteen bushels. On the private farms there are about two hundred acres planted with corn, which will yield twenty bushels to the acre, and as many acres for rye and oats.
It may be remarked, that the island is continually wasting on each side by the seas washing the shores.
There have been many times found at the bottom of wells, at the depth of forty and fifty feet, and after digging through several strata of earth, such as clay, &c. shells of the same kind as are now found on the shores of the island ; and in all, at the level of the sea; is found the same kind of sand as is on the shores. In many it has the appearance of bav. ing been once the boundary between the the sea and land, by its declin. ing from a horizontal level.
Nantucket, May 21, 1791.
A SHORT JOURNAL OF THE FIRST SETTLEMENT OF THE ISLAND OF
ing, the 13th day of the tenth month, in the year 1641, at New York ; and that by the said Mayhew nine tenths of it were conveyed to nine other proprietors, named below, the 2d day of the seventh month, in the year 1659.
The first meeting of the proprietors was held at Salisbury, the 2d day of the seventh month, in the year 1659, in order to take in their partners.
First, the partner of Thomas Mayhew was John Smith ;-of Tristram Coffin-Nathaniel Starbuck of Thomas Macy-Edward Starbuck;
of Richard Swain-Thomas Look of Thomas Barnard_Robert Barnard (of Peter Coffin-James Coffini z of Christopher Hussey, Robert Pike ;-of Stephen Greenleaf-Tristram Coffin, junior ;-of John Swain-Thomas Coleman. William Pile sold his whole tenth to Richard Swain.
At the same meeting, the above named persons agreed to have ten other partners, who should each have half as much land as themselves, called for that reason half share men. They also agreed that John Bi. shop should have two of the said hálf shares. And after they came to Nantucket, they granted the following rights :--To Thomas Macy one half share in the year 1663 ;atto Richard Gardiner two ditto, in 1666 ; to Joseph Gardiner one ditto, in 1667;to Joseph Coleman one ditto, in 1665 ;-to William Worth two ditto, in 1662 and in 1674; to Peter and Eleazer Folger two ditto, in 1662 ;-to John Gardiner two ditto, in 1672 ; to Samuel Stretor one ditto, in 1669 ; to Nathaniel Wier one half of a sort of a poor one, in 1667. Which in the whole make twenty seven shares. But at this time there are near three hundred proprietors of the island. One share is limited to keep seven hun. dred and twenty sheep. Sixteen sheep are reckoned equivalent to one. horse ; and eight sheep, to one ox or cow. The property is very linequally divided, varying from one sheep commons right to fourteen hundred sheep commons right, Clerks of the sheep yards are appointed, who on their books credit each proprietor with his rights, and make him debtor for his cartte, horses, and sheep. About the 20th of the sixth month, the sheep are driven to the yards, to be sheared. At this time each proprietor gives in to the clerks the number of his sheep, cattle, and horses, that he may be charged with them on the books. And if they be more than he is entitled to by his rights, he hires of his neigh: bours who have less. But if the proprietors all together have more than their number, the overplus are either killed or transported from the island. Beside the commons, there are sundry lands, swamps, and saltmeadows, which are divided among the proprietors in proportion to their shares, and are made use of for house lots, mowing land, and pastures. A proprietor may keep his sheep either on the common, or on the said tots and pastures, as suits him best. But he is not allowed, when he has more than his number, to remove the overplus from the commons to the pastures : because by the agreement, a share is entitled to keep no more than seven hundred and twenty sheep on the whole commons and pastures taken together.
Of the first coming of the English to Nantucket. In the ycar 1659, Thomas Macy removed with his family from Salisbury, in the county of Essex, to the west end of the island, to a place called in the Indian tongue Madakit Harbour. Thither came. Edward Starbuck, James Coffin, and one Daget, from Martha's Vineyard, for the sake of gunning, and lived with him as boarders. At