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Samuel Phipps

An early resident of Somerville territory

By Capt. George A. Gordon
(Read before Somerville Historical Society December 20, 1905.)

The presence of so many friends, acquaintances, and fellowcitizens is encouraging, as well as complimentary. I must regret that so many will be disappointed,—not finding in the theme of my paper this evening, or in its treatment, the interesting relation hoped for.

I come not before you this evening to give instruction to you, whose object and aim is the acquisition and dispensing of local history; but I beg to call to your minds that, at the dates covered by the theme of my paper, Charlestown and Cambridge were contiguous in territory, with a common boundary reaching from Miller's river to Burlington, Charlestown bounded with Lynn on the northeast, and with Boston on the Mystic river, as Chelsea was early a part of Boston. This most ancient town of Middlesex County was the third settlement in the limits of Massachusetts, outside of Plymouth plantation. The first Court of Assistants was held at Charlestown. In every line of business and commerce Charlestown held prominence.

Phipps is a contraction in speech of Philip, unknown in England before the Conquest, and one of many forms indicative of the popularity of the fifth apostle. The Phipps were seated in the shires of Gloucester, Worcester, Warwick, and Northampton. They bore arms and were esteemed among the gentry. The immediate family, whence the Phipps of Charlestown derived issue, were of Wiltshire, where various members of the race are on record as sheriffs. [78]

Samuel Phipps, town clerk of Charlestown, and his neighbors dwelt within the present limits of Somerville, about 200 years ago, on Mt. Benedict. A portion of his homestead came within that part of the ploughed field which included the location of the Ursuline Convent of 1830. ‘Dead men tell no tales’ is a well-known proverb; but allow me to deny it and to caution you regarding its acceptance. In my own case, I feel better acquainted with Solomon Phipps, carpenter, Samuel Phipps, the register, and Samuel Phipps, the town clerk, with Thomas Danforth, treasurer of the colony, and Francis Foxcroft, recorder, than I do with any considerable number of my fellow-citizens and neighbors. I know their handwriting at a glance, and have a clear and intelligent conception of their careers. The quality of the listening ear modifies the voice of the departed. ‘They who have ears to hear, let them hear.’

Solomon Phipps, the first of the family in New England, was in Charlestown as early as 1640. He was a Wiltshire man, a carpenter by trade. His business was prosperous, and, in 1645, he took an eighth in the new mill which was established at what has since been known as the Mill Pond. Mill street, now extending from Main street to Rutherford avenue, is a survival of the original way to the mill. The rails and grounds of the Eastern freight track, Boston & Maine railroad, now occupy the site of the mill. Mr. Phipps held the property to the last, and divided the same, by his will, between his boys. At this mill Mr. Phipps prepared his lumber for his enterprises. The houses he built were of wood. Some were one, some two stories in height, with low studding, plastered inside, the beams overhead exposed, a large chimney in the centre, and that of the kitchen with a capacious oven beside it. Fuel was plenty, and large amounts were piled in the yards every winter. The homes were plain, built within frugal means, destitute of architecture, and rather evident of poverty of imagination and dearth of culture. The wealthiest inhabitants of Charlestown were the distillers, and the most numerous the bakers. Those who lived beyond the Neck kept horses and wagons, and went into town, usually on horseback, to what is now City square, for the necessities they did not [79] raise on their lands. No butchers', milk, fish, grocers', or coal teams made regular daily calls at those remote homesteads. How marked the change to-day! Solomon Phipps, the emigrant, died while his son, afterward the register, was in college. His grave can be shown in the old cemetery in Charlestown. It is in the front row, northwest of the gate, among his neighbors, Greene, Ryall, Peirce, Adams, Kettell, and Bunker, of which the most recent date is 1702. The hard-slate headstone, inscribed 1671, is of a texture likely to last for ages.

Samuel Phipps, the son, was graduated at Harvard College in the class of 1671, the last class under President Chauncy, and the only one in twenty consecutive years to consist of more than ten members. The illustrious member of the class was Samuel Sewall, the judge, who was on the bench at the witchcraft trials, whose diary, long since in print, is of immeasurable value, historically. Proceeding to the degree of Master of Arts, Samuel Phipps assumed the mastership of the grammar school in Charlestown, and taught it ten years. At one time he had fifty-three scholars. At the close of his school he was elected a constable at the town meeting, which he refused. The town insisted. Phipps appealed to the governor, claiming that, as Master of Arts and a grammar school master, ‘it was unreasonable and not customary to choose persons so qualified and improved.’ The government excused him, but the town still resolved not to comply with the order. Notwithstanding this breeze, Phipps served against his will, and, in the succeeding year, was town treasurer, and afterward town clerk, selectman many years, and again constable. In 1689, Samuel Phipps was elected county clerk, and served to 1723, and register of probate, 1692 to 1702, and register of deeds, 1693 to 1721. He represented Charlestown in the general court of 1692, the first under the new charter of William and Mary, which erected the colony into a province, with a royal governor. Ten other years Phipps served as representative. In 1704, he was a captain of the foot company at Charlestown.

Captain Phipps was three times married. First, in 1676, to Mary Phillips, a daughter of Henry and Mary (Dwight) Phillips, [80] the butcher of Dedham and Boston; second, to Katharine Brackenbury, a daughter of John and Annie (Anderson) Brackenbury, of Charlestown; and, third, to Mary Bradley, an Englishwoman from Staffordshire, and the widow of Joseph Lemmon, a shopkeeper of Charlestown. Captain Samuel Phipps died at Charlestown, August 7, 1725, in his seventy-fourth year.

In the last years of the expiring colony, while Samuel Phipps was a selectman of Charlestown, some lovers of old English sports and customs had erected in Charlestown a maypole for the ordinary May festivities. It was cut down. Directly another and bigger pole was erected, and a garland hung upon it. This was not to be endured. Increase Mather called it an abominable shame, a piece of heathenism. Selectman Phipps ordered the town watch to cut the pole down. In the resulting disturbance, the selectman and the captain of an English vessel in the port, the frigate Kingfisher, came to blows. The sailor captain promptly entered a complaint before the magistrate, and the selectman was put under bonds to the next court. The case never came to trial.

Charlestown ‘beyond the Neck’ included the elevated land on the river side of the present Broadway and seat of the Ten Hills Farm, which had long been in private ownership, the ‘stinted commons’ being on the southerly side of Broadway, and extending to the Cambridge line, ‘stinted’ meaning bounded by defined limits. That was done in 1637. These commons lay between ‘the Neck, Menotomies river, and the farms of Medford and Mr. Winthrop,’ the ground being reserved for such cattle as ‘milch cows, working cattle, goats, and calves of the first year.’

By the time of the three Samuel Phipps, the commerce which lingered at the port of Charlestown had tended gradually to improve the condition of provincial life. While the country folk were yet content with the wooden plates, bowls, knives, and pewter spoons of the Colonial period, and sanded their floors from the inspiration of cleanliness, the town inhabitants had pewter ware, some crockery and glass. The chair-makers developed an industry in the high-backed, split-bottomed frames, [81] which succeeded the stools and benches of their grandfathers. In their best rooms were solid chairs and tables, and a few books on shelves. This growth in comforts we learn from the inventories of the estates of the deceased, preserved in files of the county probate court. The domination of the godly was disappearing. The captain or lieutenant of the village was not always the deacon at the meeting house. With the advent of the province came the officials of royal authority, came commissions to the judiciary and the military, came a larger liberality in the thoughts and views of the population. The fisheries brought Spanish dollars or an exchange of commodities from foreign markets, in memory of which, to-day, the codfish hangs in front of the speaker in the people's general court. The settlers were, up to this time, purely English; so much so that the isolated individual of other British races was dubbed the Scotchman, the Irishman, the Welshman. Because they were English, they succeeded. Our annual orators on Forefathers' Day tell us the colonists succeeded because they were Puritan. I crave permission to dissent. I tell you nay. It was the stubborn nerve and fibre of the Englishman from Wiltshire, from Staffordshire, from Devonshire, from Yorkshire, from Essex, and from Sussex, which earned subsistence out of the hard soil, which on the high sea gathered the abundant fish, and, on shore, won an equal distinction and profit in New England rum, ships' masts, and hoop poles. The result is the same in Canada and in New Zealand, in India and in Cape Colony. Mark the contrast with the establishment of the Latin race in the fertile and fruitful zones of the equator. To-day the descendants of the English are building the canal, for the commerce of the world and the blessing of mankind, through the territory the others have held in possession four centuries.

During the closing quarter of the first century of Charlestown's history, that portion of her territory now Somerville had sparsely settled on its two highways, the road to Cambridge and Boston, now Washington street in our city, and the road to Medford and Woburn, now Broadway. A few farmers dwelt on the road to Cambridge, while quite a cluster of dwellings stood [82] on the higher ground, through which the Medford road ran. Among these was the residence of Samuel Phipps, town clerk of Charlestown, who died suddenly in February, 1731. He was a grandson of Solomon Phipps, the carpenter, and a nephew of Samuel Phipps, the recorder. His father was a son of the carpenter, Joseph Phipps, and his mother, Mary Kettell. Samuel was born 1696, town clerk 1726, and died 1730-1, leaving a widow, Abigail, and five children, Abigail, Joseph, Samuel, Elijah, and Solomon. The widow married Joseph Whittemore, Jr., and died in 1734. Mr. Phipps' real estate lay in three parcels, within the limits of present Somerville, or, as it was then expressed, ‘in Charlestowne without the neck.’ An appraisal rehearses and values it, viz.:—

Homestead, 7 acres, 21 rods on the highway leading from Charlestown to Medford, bounded by lands of widow Mary Rand, of Captain Eben Breed, by land of William Hoppin and Meriam Fosket, and by rangeways, at £ 55 old tenor per acre£3924s4 1/2d
Meadow, 4 acres, 54 rods, on same highway, and bounded by lands of Joseph Frothingham, Samuel Hutchinson, Nathaniel Frothingham, and rangeway, at £ 66 old tenor per acre£2665s6d
Pasture, on highway leading from Charlestown to Cambridge, and bounded by land of Michael Brigden and a rangeway, at £ 35 old tenor per acre£2034s4d

The children being young, the estate remained unsettled till the death of the widow, when Samuel Danforth, of Cambridge, the judge of probate, and a kinsman of the family, took charge of and divided the estate, giving a double portion to the eldest son, as was common and legal in those days. His computation is entered at large on the back of the report of the committee on appraisal, and, as it affords a curious example of arithmetic, as then written, we copy the major portion of it. He first foots the several items of the appraisal, £ 861 14s 21d, deducting the sum of £ 14 13s 1/2d for accrued expenses, among which is given the [83] following, probably an account of disbursements by the mother, viz.:—

Betty Phips for a paire of Briches and Stockins£110s0d
do for altering seaverall things£012s0d
Mrs. Austin for altering a Gound for Abiagail£05s0d
Doct. Greaves when Sollomon Phils Was Sick£116s0d
Esqr Danford when took Gardenship15s

The judge divides the residue, reduced to pence, into six parts, thus: crossing each digit in the dividend as he divides, which mark we omit:—

(111( 22

This is readily explainable, though it has an intricate appearance. We leave it for the solution of the reader, as the exercise will contribute to his enjoyment. Such system of ciphering has long since passed out of use and into oblivion.

The guardian's account reads:—

The Acct of What I have paid for the Childeren of Samll Phipps Lait of Charlestown Desead

To paid to

Mr Storer of Boston for Cloathing£318s2d
Capt Johnson for triming, part for Joseph, part for Samll£15s9d
Mr Josepg Sweatsur for maiking cloaths and finding£24s4d
Mr Rand for three hats and deying Stockings 7-6 and pr Gloves 2£017s6d
Mr. Skotto for maiking cloaths and finding£512s9

Of Samuel Phipps' children, Joseph became a baker, married Elizabeth Webb, dwelt in Charlestown, and died there in 1795. He was a surety on his mother's bond as administratrix.

Elijah married in 1750, and died in 1752 of smallpox. By [84] order of the selectmen, his body was buried at midnight, for fear of infection.

Samuel died at the age of twenty-one.

Abigail became wife to John Blaney in 1741, and was a widow in 1746.

Solomon was a joiner, married Elizabeth, daughter of Abraham Hill. He died in 1740-42, leaving a widow and three children, Solomon, Elizabeth, and Martha.

Betty Phips, who supplies the ‘Briches and Stockins,’ was an aunt to the children, a sister of the deceased town clerk.

Mrs. Austin, who ‘altered the Gound,’ was a widow. She made her will July 4, 1745, bequeathing a slave, Chance, and £ 60 to four children, viz.: Thomas, a barber; Josiah, a goldsmith; John, a carver; and Rebecca, who married (1) Joseph Sweetser, (2) Samuel Waite, of Malden.

Dr. Thomas Greaves was the village apothecary, and one of the physicians. He died in 1746, leaving widow, Phebe, and daughter Katharine, wife to James Russell, and daughter Margaret, wife to Samuel Cary.

Of his neighbors, or, at least, his abutters, Mrs. Rand was the widow of John Rand, the maltster, and was born Mehetabel Call, of a well-known Charlestown family. She was the mother of Jonathan Rand, the hatter and dyer, who supplied the hats, stockings, and gloves mentioned in the guardian's account. He was born in 1694, and married Milicent Esterbrook, born in 1699, a daughter of Joseph. They had thirteen children. Jonathan died in 1760, and his widow married, in 1764, John Chamberlin. From 1725 till death Jonathan lived on the lot, now the east side of Thompson square, described as a mansion with seven smokes, a hatter's shop and barn. It extended from Main to Back (now Warren) street.

Captain Eben Breed was a retired master mariner, who gave his name to the elevation on which the battle of Bunker Hill was fought. He was a son of John Breed, who had been a soldier in King Philip's war, and was father to John Breed, the distiller. Breed's Island, northeast of East Boston, takes its name from this family. Captain Breed died in 1754, leaving a large estate, [85] appraised at £ 5,647 16s 1d. His will speaks of his son John, resident at Surinam, S. A., and that one's son Ebenezer.

William Hoppin was a rigger, who died a very old man in 1773. The late Rev. Dr. Hoppin, of Christ church, Cambridge, was a great-grandson.

Samuel Hutchinson, the shoemaker, lived on the road to Winter Hill.

Miriam Fosket, born in 1665, Miriam Cleveland, was widow of Thomas Fosket, a brother of Jonathan, who once owned the windmill, which he sold to John Mallet, on the southeast of the range called ‘Captain Carter's draught.’ Miriam was widowed in 1694, and died in 1745. She left a landed estate of thirty acres to son John, daughter Miriam, wife to Matthew Leaky, and daughter Abigail, wife to Thomas Powers. The Fosket family have disappeared from Charlestown, and have not been known there for a half-century. Descendants are in Worcester and Berkshire counties.

Joseph Frothingham, hatter, and Nathaniel, painter, were sons of Nathaniel Frothingham, the joiner, who married Hannah Rand, and left her a widow in 1749, with good estate. Their posterity have been among the most notable citizens of Charlestown.

Michael Brigden was a blacksmith, and a deacon in the First church. He died in 1767. His estate suffered a loss of $500 in the burning of Charlestown by the British in 1775.

Among creditors to the estate we notice the names of Doct. Perkins, Joanna Phillips, Stephen Hall, Edw'd Lutwich, Jerathmeel Pierce, Christfr Blackford, John Smith, Margaret Rush, Dorcas Soley, Margaret Macarty, Jeffs Johnson, John Sprague, Joseph Lemmon, Joseph Stimpson, Dr Thomas Greaves, Doctor Simon Tufts, Meriam Fosket, Jonathan Call, Joseph Frost, Samll Trumbal. Many of these are still represented in the population of Charlestown and its vicinity, as well as those whose names were quoted in the inventory as holding adjacent real estate.

Stephen Hall was a Boston merchant, then meaning an importer who dealt at wholesale. He was a resident in Charlestown, [86] a son of Stephen Hall, the weaver and painter, who married Grace Willis.

Christopher Blackford was a victualler, who had married Sarah Kettell, a niece of Samuel Phipps' mother. Later he sustained reverses in business.

Jeffs Johnson, son of Zechariah and Elizabeth (Jeffs) Johnson, the brickmaker, was a bookkeeper in His Majesty's service. He married Sarah Orne, of Boston, and settled at Weston.

Edward Lutwyche was the landlord of the Bunch of Grapes tavern, at the head of Mackerel lane and King street, now the corner of State and Kilby streets, in Boston. In memory of the famous inn and the many feasts celebrated there, the present handsome edifice bears a pendent bunch of grapes, carved on the lintel at the corner. Long wharf came up to the head of Mackerel lane, now Doane street, in those days. The Lutwyches were English born and true to their birthright. The son, Edward Goldstone Lutwyche, was a scholarly lawyer, who was settled on or near Brenton's farms on the Merrimac river, where he established a ferry. He remained in the province of New Hampshire till the Revolution. He was colonel of the Fifth New Hampshire regiment of militia. At the outbreak of hostilities, he repaired to Boston and joined General Gage. In 1778, he was proscribed by the general court of New Hampshire, and his property confiscated. Dr. Matthew Thornton, one of the signers of the Declaration, and a busy, prominent politician, thrifty in his graft, purchased Lutwyche's farm, and the ferry has ever since been known as Thornton's. Lutwyche went to Halifax with Lord Howe, was in New York after peace was declared, returned to Nova Scotia, and ended his days there.

The father, Edward Lutwyche, came from Radnor, in Wales, and married, in 1727, Thankful Parmiter, who died in 1734. He retired in 1740 to a fine farm of 160 acres in Hopkinton, and died there in 1747.

There were two McCartys in Charlestown at the period under review, James and John, and in 1740 Thomas Maccurdy, a stranger, was buried at the town's expense.

Of Doch Perkins we find no trace. The only men of the [87] name in Charlestown then were shoemakers and blacksmiths, descendants of Abraham Perkins, of Hampton.

Joanna Phillips was the widow of Captain Henry Phillips, merchant, a son of Colonel John and Katharine (Anderson) Phillips, the provincial treasurer and judge. She was a daughter of Hon. Joseph and Sarah (Davison) Lynde. She was twice widowed, having first been the wife of Samuel Everton, captain of the ship, Augustus Galley, 148 tons.

Hannah, daughter of Jerathmeel Bowers, of Chelmsford, married Benjamin Pierce, and (2) Captain William Wilson, of Concord. She had a son, Jerathmeel Pierce, who must be the person referred to, for certainly two mortals could not both bear that name in peace in the same community.

John Smith was perhaps the cordwainer who married Anna, daughter of John Whittemore and Sarah (Hall), who became wife to Joseph Frost, as before stated.

Dorcas Soley was a daughter of John and Dorcas (Coffin) Soley, or the widow herself, who was daughter of Nathaniel and Damaris (Gayer) Coffin, a Nantucket sailor.

Thomas Powers, who married a daughter of Miriam Fosket, was a blacksmith. He died in 1759, leaving an estate of £ 1,057, including a negro woman, named Essex.

John Sprague was the gunsmith, son of Jonathan and Mary (Bunker) Sprague. His wife was Elizabeth, a daughter of Ebenezer and Thankful (Benjamin) Austin, the saddler of Charlestown. His father had been a soldier under Maudsley (Moseley) in King Philip's war. He died in 1746, leaving an estate of £ 5,773. His property was a house, land, and cider mill, ‘out of neck,’ house on Main street, smith shop and two tenements on Back street, one-fourth of a pew in the church, etc. His three surviving sons became iron founders. Their descendants settled largely in Malden, where the old soldier of the ‘Long March,’ Jonathan, lived.

Joseph Stimpson was the youngest son of Andrew and Abigail (Sweetser) Stimpson, housewright and shopkeeper. His grandfather Andrew was from Newcastle-on-Tyne, and wrote his name ‘Steauenson.’ To-day it is called Stephenson, Stevenson, [88] Stimson, and Stimpson. Joseph was graduated at Harvard in 1720, became a schoolmaster, studied divinity, was ordained and settled as pastor of the Second church, Malden, where he died in 1752.

Joseph Sweetser, who married Rebecca Austin, was a currier, the only child of Joseph and Elizabeth (White) Austin, a heelmaker in Boston. He died early, leaving two sons, and his widow married Samuel Waite, and died in 1750.

Samuel Trumbull was a tanner, son of the impressed seaman, John, and Mary (Jones) Trumbull. He owned the house of the emigrant grandfather, John Trumbull, captain of the ships Mary and Blossom, other houses, lands, wharves, still house, and tannery. He died in 1759. His son John followed the business of his father, as a tanner; so did James; but Timothy became a distiller, and married Frances, a daughter of Joseph Phipps, the baker.

John Wood, the glazier, was son of Joseph and Mary (Blaney) Wood, and brother of Joseph, who was killed by the Indians at Rutland in 1734. John married Elizabeth, daughter of Deacon John and Hepzibah (Billings) Wood, of Cambridge. He learned his trade of his father-in-law, removed to Newburyport, and died there in 1786.

Samuel Sweetser was a son of the eminent Baptist, Benjamin Sweetser, whose wife was a sister to Rev. Michael Wigglesworth, of Malden, born in 1666, married at Malden Elizabeth, daughter of John and Elizabeth (Stower) Sprague, of Maiden. They dwelt at Charlestown and Malden, where both were buried, she in 1752, he in 1757. Joseph Lemmon was a merchant, and treasurer of the town, son of Joseph and Mary (Bradley) Lemmon. His widowed mother became the last wife to the town clerk's uncle, Samuel Phipps. His wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Captain Eleazar and Ann (Foster) Phillips, a victualler and prosperous business man in Charlestown; owned wharf, slaughter house, warehouse, farms, wood lots, and negroes.

Matthew Leaky was a laborer in Boston, who married a daughter of and was administrator on the estate of the widow Miriam Fosket. [89]

Ab. Bunker was Abigail, widow of Captain Benjamin Bunker, the innkeeper. She was a daughter of John and Anna (Carter) Fowle, the tanner.

Jonathan Call was a baker, son of Thomas and Elizabeth (Croswell) Call. His place was near the Neck, resting on the western slope of Bunker Hill. By his wife, Sarah Boylston, he had a family of sixteen children. He was the fourth generation of Calls in Charlestown who had been bakers, as was his brother, Caleb.

Joseph Frost was a native of Billerica, son of Dr. Samuel Frost. He married the widow of John Whittemore, the turner, who was a daughter of Richard Hall, of Dorchester. She died in 1716, and Joseph married (2) Hannah, daughter of Joseph and Hannah Easterbrook. In 1740 Mr. Frost, with his family, removed to Sherburn.

John Goodwin is indeterminate, there were so many of him: John, the housewright, of Cambridge, Malden, and Charlestown; John, the perruquier; John, called tertius; and John, a sea captain.

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