A Stated Meeting of the Society was held in the Hall of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on Wednesday, 17 February, 1897, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the Hon. John Lowell, First Vice-President, in the chair.
The Records of the Stated Meeting in January were read and approved.
The Corresponding Secretary reported that the Council, acting under Chapter IV., Article 2, of the By-Laws, had elected Mr. Edward Wheelwright President of the Society, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Dr. Gould, and Mr. Philip H. Sears an Executive Member of the Council for the unexpired term of Mr. Edward Wheelwright.
Judge Lowell then appointed Dr. Henry P. Qutncy and Mr. Samuel Johnson a Committee to escort the President-elect to the chair.
President Wheelwright then took the chair and delivered his Inaugural Address: —
Gentlemen of The Colonial Society of Massachusetts: —
In accepting the position to which I have been elected by the Council, I cannot but regret that some other member of the Society had not been selected to assume its duties.
I can truly say that the mention of my name in connection with the office was wholly unexpected by me. I cannot avoid being deeply conscious of my unfitness; but since the Council has, in its wisdom, and by a unanimous vote, decided to overlook my manifest deficiencies in view of certain qualifications which they claim to have discovered that I possess, it would be ungracious in me to insist upon this point and to call in question the correctness of their judgment. I thank them most sincerely for their good opinion of me and will do my best to justify it.
From one great difficulty which usually besets a “President-elect,” and which is now causing great embarrassment to the gentleman who is shortly to be inducted into high office at Washington, I am happily relieved, — I shall not have to appoint a Cabinet. My slate is made up for me by our Constitution, which, in the board of Councillors, has provided a body of able advisers, of tried experience whose recommendations and suggestions I can follow with implicit confidence. To them, more than to me, will be due whatever success may attend “this administration.”
I shall look, too, for guidance and inspiration to the example of my predecessor, the illustrious first President of our Society. The dignity and courtesy with which he presided over our deliberations and the keen wit and genial humor with which he enlivened our social hours I cannot hope to imitate; but I can at least keep in view his high aims for this Society and aid in carrying out his plans for its present and future prosperity. I shall especially bear in mind his definition of its purposes, as expressed at what he termed its “Inaugural Meeting” 15 February, 1893, almost exactly four years ago to-day.
“We are associated,” he said, “to render, so far as in us lies, our grateful homage to the memory of these our ancestors [the men of Plymouth Colony and Massachusetts Bay], to commemorate their good deeds, to investigate the influences and agencies which brought them here, to examine the true character of the actions for which they have been criticised or censured in later days; but, above all, to draw inspiration from their example and devotion at the same time that we hope to aid in perpetuating the remembrance of their virtues and lofty deeds.”218
Among Dr. Gould’s most cherished plans for the Society there was none for which he was more enthusiastic than that of forming at least the nucleus of an Endowment, — of a Fund or Funds upon the income of which we might securely rely for the cost, first of all, of our annual Publications. Such a Fund, he thought, would also enable us to enter with confidence, and undeterred by the cost, upon fields of research which lie unexplored all around us and whose capabilities have often been pointed out, not only by our honored late President, but by our learned Corresponding Secretary and other of our associates. Hardly a meeting has passed without these topics being eloquently dwelt upon. Their importance has, indeed, been fully realized by the Society, and at the last Annual Meeting a vote was passed authorizing the appointment of a Committee to take the matter in hand. The Committee was not appointed at that meeting, our late President wishing to take time to select the persons best fitted to serve upon it. He had, however, before his death, prepared a list of those whom he proposed to appoint at the December Meeting; and it only remains, in order to complete the action of the Society, to name the Committee as drawn up by him.
No more fitting monument to the memory of our late President could be erected by us than such a Fund as he proposed. Out of gratitude to him and in recognition of his eminent services, if for no other reason, every member of the Society should feel bound to contribute to it, in the measure of his ability.
And now, Gentlemen, once more thanking the Council for the honor they have done me, and craving your kind indulgence for any errors or short-comings on my part as your President, I propose that we proceed with the regular business of this meeting.
Mr. Henry H. Edes called attention to the fact that the full name and antecedents of Pierre Boucher de la Broquerie, who led the French and Indians in the attack made upon Wells in the summer of 1693, had apparently been hitherto unknown to our American historians, not excepting our late associate Mr. Parkman; indeed, so little appears to have been known of La Broquerie by our American writers that they have obscured his identity under various misspellings of his titular appellation.
Mr. Edes then communicated the following correspondence which he had with John G. Bourinot, D.C.L., Honorary Secretary of the Royal Society of Canada, during the preparation, by our associate, Mr. Lindsay Swift, of the Index of the first volume of the Publications of this Society: —
Ottawa, 20th May, 1896.
Dear Mr. Edes:
The Royal Society is in active session, and I am not able for a day or two to go fully into the La Brognerie question. I know, however, it is a misprint for La Broquerie, one of the names of the Boucher family. I shall let you know all about it later.
J. G. Bourinot.
Henry H. Edes, Esq.
House of Commons, Canada.
27th May, 1896.
Dear Mr. Edes:
I have obtained the enclosed information respecting La Broquerie from Mr. Benjamin Suite, F. R. S. O, the author of “Les Canadiens Français”.(8 vols. 4to.), and the best informed man in Canada on such subjects. I thought it best to have my own opinion corroborated by the best authority in Canada. His letter should be used.
J. G. Bourinot.
Henry H. Edes, Esq.
Pierre Boucher de Grosbois, Governor of Three Rivers, was the father of Pierre Boucher de la Broquerie, born, Three Rivers, 1653, married, Quebec, 25th October, 1683, to Charlotte Denys de la Trinité. La Broquerie lived at Boucherville. He is the officer of 1693 mentioned by Mr. Edes in his letter of the 15th May, 1896.
His father, Pierre Boucher de Grosbois and Boucherville, lived from 1668 until 1717 on his Seigniory of Boucherville, and was known by the name of Mr. de Boucherville.
After 1717, Pierre Boucher de la Broquerie, being the eldest son, took the name of Boucherville and the Seigniory; he died there 17th August, 1740.
Joseph, son of the latter, called also La Broquerie, did good services during the wars of 1744–60. In 1756 he built ships on Lake Ontario; we have a map of that Lake by him, 1757. He died at Boucherville (of which he was the Seignor) 28 February, 1762.
24th May, 1896.
Engraved for The Colonial Society of Massachusetts from a pastel in the possession of Winckworth Allan Gay. Esquire
Voted, That the Vote of the Society at its last Annual Meeting authorizing the President to appoint a Committee of five members to consider the subject of increasing the permanent Funds of the Society is hereby amended so that the Committee shall consist of seven members, of whom the President shall be one.
The Chair then named the Committee, which Dr. Gould had selected, as follows: The President, ex officio, Samuel Johnson, David E. Whitney, William Endicott, Jr.,219 Charles F. Choate, Robert N. Toppan, and Nathaniel Cushing Nash.
President Wheelwright exhibited the original Commission, signed by Governor Hutchinson, of Martin Gay as Captain of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, and his invitation to dine with the Governor and Council on Election Day. Mr. Wheelwright then left the Chair and read the following paper: —
These letters are now the property of Mr. W. Allan Gay, of West Hingham, Mass., a grandson of their authors. He has kindly lent them for exhibition to the Society and has allowed copies to be made of them, which are herewith presented.
The letters are interesting, inasmuch as they bring us almost into personal contact with people who were living in Boston more than a hundred years ago, and one of whom saw, from a safe distance, the battle of Bunker Hill. They may help us to enter into the feelings and to appreciate the perplexities of those who, from misreading the signs of the times, were induced to attach them-selves to a losing cause. Also, taken in connection with the notes by which they are here supplemented, they illustrate the methods adopted for dealing with the confiscated estates of Loyalists, or, as they were then styled, “Conspirators and Absentees,” as well as some of the devices resorted to by their families and friends to save at least a portion of these estates for their original owners. Here follow the three Letters in the order of their dates: —
Boston 8 July 1775
I received yours of the 20 Ulto. tis from a presumption that you may receive this, that Induses me to write by this Vessel, which is bound to the river St Johns, in order to procure fresh provisions, but in Case of a desapointment there; tis probable will go to Cumberland before she returns here, if so this will be handed to you by Mr Sampel who is (as I understand) part owner, and has the Consignment of the Cargo, I hope it will be in your power to afford him any assistence he may have occation for, bouth as to buying & selling, and I must beg of you to send me as much fresh provision of all kinds as you Can Conveniantly spare and Can be admitted to ship by this or any other Vessell bound here
My Son Martin & Mr Anderson’s son are pasingers in this Vessell to St Johns, my design in sending Martin there, is, that he may go from thence to Quebeck, where I hope, with Mr. Anderson’s220 Interest & Influence to fix him an apprentice to some good man in the Mercantile way, where I trust he will be Clear of the Confution & horrour that attend this place, which is a perfict Garrison serrounded with a Rebell Army, not the lest communication from or to the Country, deprived of all the necessarys of life, which we used to have from thence, the only thing, we Can have to eate that is fresh, is fish, which is a great support to the Inhabitence, and troops in this town, without which our sittuation would be Intolarable.
the Victory obtained by about two thousend regular troops Commanded by Genl. How, over a large body of the Country Rebels (tis said about six thousend) on the heights of Charlstown, the 17 Ulto. was a remarcable Action, it proves that nothing the Emmies to Great Britton Can do will daunt the Courage of Brittish troops, the Rebels had Intrenched themselves on the top of a high hill with two Cannon Mounted in the Redoubt, besides severall field pieces, on the hill which is but about a quarter of a mile from Charle’s Riever, in approching which, the troops had to brake through stone walls and other difficultys which gave the Enimy every advantage they Could wish for, however after a most violent hot fire, the brave solders forsed the Intrenchments, to the Joy of all the Spectaters, (myself being one) and others on this side the riever, who are friends to their King & Country, emediatly on the Kings troops appearing on the top of the Redoubt, the Rebels ran of in great Confution leaving their Cannon, Intrenching tools and a large number of their dead and some wounded, the loss was great on bouth sides, the action lasted about an hour & a quarter; we have reason to lament the loss of so many Valluable brave offercers & men of the Kings Army who were kild on the field of Battle, & since dead of the wounds they recd.; I have not seen any account of the transaction of that day made publick by authority, therefore will not pretend to say which sufferd most in the loss of men, will mention one on the Rebell side, the famus Doctr Worrin, who has for some year[s] bin a sturer up of Rebelion was kild in the action, had some others of his disposition which I Could name ben there, and meet the same fate with him, it would made the Victory of that day the more Glorious; soon after the action begun the town of Charlstown was seat on fire in several places by fire balls from a battery on this side which Continued burning till all the buildings in it were Consumed, except a few houses at the Extreem part, near where a body of regular troops are now Incamped, & well fortified against any attack that may be made against them tho the Rebels meet with a shaemfull defeat, they still Continue in their opposition, in fortifying hill and other places near this town, I am not apprehencive of their ever being able to take or distroy this town, but tis a malincoly Consideration to be in this sittuation which must in time prove fatell to this town & province; if not soon preven . d by that allmighty being whose providence preserves & Governs the world & all things in it.
I dont now write to Samuell as tis uncortin wheather this will reach you, if it does tell him I received his letter, which gave me pleasure, give mine & the family Love to him, I hope he wont fail to wright by every opporty., tis now near a month since I have received any advise from our friends at hingham, they were well at that time.
I remain as useall your affectionate
Brother Martin Gay
Boston July 27 1775
I have only time to acnowlidge the recept of yours of the 13 Inst. and regard the Contents, but tis not in my power to send you any of the articles you mentiond, as they are for the present absolutely prohibited, since the above letter was forward. d nothing metteriall has taken place, Except the burning of houses & barns on the Islands in this harbour, and this day week, the light house was bunt by a party of the Rebels I am making new lamps for it. it will be soon in repare.
I am &c.
Boston 24 June 1786
My Dear Mr Gay
my Last of the 8 instant Containing the Melancholy acount of the Death of my father, I make no Doubt you have Rec’d; in that I also informed you that the House was to be Sold th 15 of this Month wich was Done acordingly, pounds Mr Walley Choose to bid it of and Brother timothy bought it at 380 he paid 129 Dollars Earnest money the Rest is to be paid in 6 Weeks I wish you Cou’d Setle your affairs so as to Come Home before the time is up Mr Walley has sent you the acount of the Sale properly authentic and has Directe them to be Left at Mr Pike’s at Halifax. Do Come Home as Soon as you Can. our friends unite with me in Love to you and the Children father Gay has got quite well faney is with me and Desire[s] her Duty to you Love to her Brothers and Sister bleve me to be
your tender Affectionate
Wife R Gay
From Mrs Gay June 1786
London 7 July 1788
I acnowlidge the receipt of your Esteemed favour under date the 1th of March last, inclosing a list of Books &c. which I do assure you Sir, I received with particular pleasure, and am happy to have it in my power to fulfill your orders, with my best endeavours in the purchase of them at the lowest rate with the Cash, the trunk Containing the articles for you, is addressed, with other small matters to Mrs Gay, by the Brig Nathanl, Capt Downe. the bill of Cost inclosed, you may pay when & how as it will be most conveniant. I which them safe and hope they will meet your approbation
Your ob’iging letter brought me the first intelligence of the “ratification of the federal Constitution by the Convention in your Commonwealth”, the great & happy Consequences you have mentiond, that are to follow may, perhaps, strike the Europian nations with admiration, and give occasion for greater exultation then ever to the “Citizens of Massachusetts” in being independent and free from the Tirony of Great Britain; be it so, and leat them Injoy that satisfaction, which I am persuaded they may do without being envied their happiness by this Country.
The death of Mr Linclon,221 is an affecting Instance of mortality and the uncertainty of all temporal Injoyments, under the most favourable prospect of their long Continuance
among the list of Candidates for Lieut Govr you favoured me with, you think, “Warren222 stands an equil Chance of success”, but it is my opinion Lincoln223 is the man succeeded to that Honbl and lucrative Post, the faculty of pleasing all partys, and the great abilities he has Display’d in Supporting and Suppressing Rebelions have no doubt recommended him to his fellow Citizens in preference to others.
I cannot pretend to say when my affairs will admit of my return to America, by a late act of parliament a final settlement will (it is sayed) be made with the Loyalists within a few months I must wait with patience this important event, then prepare to leave this both wonderfull & Delightfull Kingdom, and return to my family & friends in my native Country though an Alien wdien in it
please to make my respectfull regards to Mr Gannet224 & lady with great Esteem, I am Sir your
Humle Servt Martin Gay
To Mr E. James of Cambridge 7 July 1788
Martin Gay, the writer of two of these letters, was a son of the Rev. Ebenezer Gay, of Hingham, Massachusetts, and was born in that town 29 December, 1726. He married first, 13 December, 1750, Mary Pinckney,225 by whom he had seven children, several of whom are mentioned in the letters. After her death he married for his second wife, about 1770, Ruth Atkins. By her he had only two children, — Ebenezer, baptized 24 February, 1771, of whom mention is made later; and Pinckney, who died in infancy. Mrs. Ruth (Atkins) Gay died in Hingham 12 September, 1810, œt. 74 years. She must therefore have been born in 1736, and was about thirty-four years old at the time of her marriage. Her husband was about ten years her senior. In the History of the Town of Hingham,226 from which most of these genealogical data are taken,227 he is said to have “carried on the business of a brass-founder” on Union Street, Boston, but in the documents cited in this paper, wherever his calling is mentioned he is usually styled “copper-smith.”228 In the Inventory of his personal estate, however, one of the items is “a founder’s mould.”229 He derived the title of Captain, commonly given to him, from his having been commissioned as “Captain in the Antient & honorable Artillery Company,” under “Hand and Seal at Arms” of Thomas Hutchinson, Captain-General and Governor, &c., 5 June, 1773.230
The original commission has been preserved, and is in the possession of Captain Gay’s grandson, Mr. W. Allan Gay. By his permission it is here exhibited. It was accompanied, when delivered, by a slip of paper which has been preserved with it. The paper is without signature and reads as follows: —
“The Committee of Council prefent their Compliments to the Commission officers of the Antient & Honble Artillery Company and ask the favour of their Company to dine with the Governr and Council on the Election day at Concert Hall.
“To Capt Martin Gay.”
On the back is written, —
“fr The Committee of Councell
At the same time with this military commission, Martin Gay held what would now perhaps be thought the somewhat incongruous position of church deacon. He was elected to that dignity in the West Church, in Lynde Street, in what was then called New Boston, as appears by the Church Records, in August, 1773; but only in October following, and “after due consideration, concluded to accept the office, tho’ not in all respects agreeable to his own inclination.” He was perhaps troubled by the seeming incompatibility of the religious duties sought to be laid upon him with those pertaining to his military capacity. The pastor of the church at the time was the Rev. Simeon Howard, who subsequently married for his second wife the new Deacon’s sister Jerusha.
On the thirtieth of April, 1775, shortly after the Battle of Lexington, Deacon Gay, with Deacon Jones, was “requested to take care of the plate, &c, belonging to this church and Congregation.” The church and congregation were at this time dispersed, and their meeting-house occupied as a barrack by British troops. The pastor, though well known to be a firm and zealous friend of the patriot cause, was inclined to go to Nova Scotia, where he had reason to believe he could obtain a temporary settlement as a minister, and suggested that such of his people as were so disposed should go with him. This plan was in fact carried out, at what precise time has not been ascertained, but it was evidently before the evacuation of Boston by the British forces. Dr. Howard himself returned after an absence of fifteen months. It was under these circumstances that Deacon Gay, as one of the custodians of “the plate & linnen, . . . from an apprehension that they would be unsafe if left behind, carried them to Nova Scotia whither he went with the British Troops when they evacuated the town.” He appears to have signified, soon after, his desire to return them, winch seems to have been done as soon as it was judged feasible “without danger from the enemy.” Long years after, in 1793, when Martin Gay had at length resumed his residence in Boston, the church adopted the following resolution: —
“1793. August 4. . . . Capt Gay having for several years officiated as deacon of this chh till the Society was dispersed by the war which occasioned the Revolution, and having taken care of the plate belonging to the chh while the town was in the hands of the british troops, and when it was evacuated;
Voted, that the thanks of the Chh be given to him for his Service in that office and his attention to their interest.”
Deacon Gay’s connection with the West Church appears to have been renewed, though not in any official capacity, immediately upon his return home. When, in 1805, the Proprietors were invited to subscribe to a loan for the purpose of erecting a new House of Worship, he responded with a subscription of two hundred dollars, afterward increased to three hundred. He was at that time proprietor of Pew No. 31 in the old Meeting House. On the completion of the new building, which was first opened for worship on Thanksgiving Day, 1806, he became proprietor of Pew No. 105 in the new edifice231 and continued to hold it until his death on the third of February, 1809.232
Beside these two honorable offices, the one military the other ecclesiastical, Martin Gay held several others, of a civil nature, to which he was elected by the votes of his fellow-citizens.
From an examination of the Boston Town Records, as printed in the sixteenth and eighteenth Reports of the Record Commissioners, it appears that he was yearly chosen one of the two Assay Masters from 1758 to 1774, inclusive, a period of seventeen years, with the possible exception of the year 1760, when there was no report of the election of any one to that office. Also, in the years 1767, 1768, 1772, 1773, and 1774 he was chosen one of the sixteen Firewards of the Town, in which office he had as associates such men as John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Adino Paddock. His staff of office as Fireward, a slender rod, painted red, five and a half feet in length, has been preserved.
In 1771 he was chosen one of the twelve Wardens of the Town; and in 1774 he was one of fifty-five gentlemen, beside the Representatives of the Town, the Overseers of the Poor, and the Town Treasurer, who were invited to accompany the Selectmen to visit the Public Schools.
The holding of these offices, of considerable importance in those days, indicates the esteem in which he was held by his fellow townsmen. After 1774 he was not elected to any town office, owing, doubtless, to his public avowal of Loyalist sentiments. In June of that year he was one of the signers of an Address presented to Governor Hutchinson, on his retirement, by “one hundred and twenty of the merchants and principal gentlemen of Boston, of very reputable character.”233
Before leaving Boston with the British troops, our worthy Copper-smith, Captain, and Deacon was to receive one more token of the high estimation in which his character was held by persons of both political parties and of differing religious denominations. By a letter dated Boston, 24 February, 1776, addressed by Thomas Oliver, who had recently become Lieutenant Governor, to the Rev. Dr. Henry Caner, Rector of King’s Chapel, Col. Jonathan Snelling, Major Adino Paddock, Capt. John Gore, and Capt. Martin Gay, those gentlemen were authorized and required to take possession of “the House commonly called the Green Dragon, and prepare it as a Hospital for the Reception of such Objects as shall require immediate Relief.” The “Objects” specially contemplated in this order of the Lieutenant Governor were those who were in distress occasioned by the long “blockade” of the Town by the Provincial forces. For the benefit of these distressed persons, and especially of “the Widow and the Orphan, the Aged and Infirm,” who “soonest and most severely feel the Effects of Scarcity,” a subscription had been opened, headed by the Lieutenant Governor with a contribution of 50 Dollars = £15. 00. 00. Of the fund thus to be raised the Rev. Dr. Caner and Messrs. Paddock, Gore, Gay, and Snelling had been appointed stewards, — Martin Gay had himself subscribed 10 Dollars = £3. From a paper in Dr. Caner’s handwriting, dated “Halifax, May, 1776,” it appears that the proceeds of this subscription amounted to £139. 19. 6., of which £46. 4. 6. had been expended for relieving the Poor, leaving a balance of £93. 15. 0 in the hands of Capt. Martin Gay and Col. Snelling.234 Capt. Gay had by that time left Boston. What became of the above balance is not stated. No doubt the Captain-Deacon’s stewardship in this case was as faithful as in that of the West Church communion plate.
Within a month after performing this last service of beneficence to the Town which had so long been his home, Martin Gay was on shipboard, bound for Halifax in company with the British troops whom he so fondly thought to be invincible, but who were now flying from the despised Continentals. In the “List of the inhabitants of Boston, who on the evacuation by the British, in March, 1776, removed to Halifax with the army,”235 is the following: —
“Gay, Martin. . . . . . . 3.”
The figure 3 placed after the name seems to indicate that Martin Gay was accompanied in his flight by two other persons, making, together, a party of three. According to the family tradition these companions were his daughter, Mary, who afterward married the Rev. William Black of Halifax, N. S., and his son Martin. He also took with him “his man London.” Martin Gay, the younger, as we have seen by his father’s letter of 8 July, 1775, was a passenger to St. John in the vessel by which that letter was sent. If it were he who accompanied his father to Halifax, he must have returned to Boston in the interval. In the List of Loyalists in the Memorial History of Boston (III. 175), are the names of Martin Gay and Samuel Gay.
Leaving Boston in March, 1776, with the British troops, Martin Gay remained in Nova Scotia during the whole period of the Revolutionary War. In 1787, four years after peace had been declared, he appears to have made a visit to Boston, and in the autumn of 1788 he went to England, apparently with the hope of obtaining from the British Government an indemnity for his losses as a Loyalist. He remained there two years. In 1792 he returned to Boston “to remain permanently,” and continued to reside there until his death.
The first letter in the series was written by Capt. Martin Gay to his brother Jotham, seven years his elder. Jotham Gay had been an officer of the Provincial forces in the Old French War, and in 1755 had taken part in the expedition against Nova Scotia under Gen. John Winslow. He had afterward settled in the Province which he had helped to conquer from the French, and at the date of this letter he had been for more than ten years a resident of Cumberland, Nova Scotia. The letter, though inscribed “a Coppy,” is in the undoubted handwriting of its author, and is signed in two places with his usual signature. It is probably the first draft of the letter actually sent. It is chiefly noteworthy as containing a mention, — it is hardly more, — of the Battle of Bunker Hill by an eye-witness. Written just three weeks after the event, it adds nothing to our knowledge and only repeats the rumors that were circulating before any authentic account was published. The writer’s loyalty to his “King and Country” is very apparent, as well as his detestation of all Rebels and especially of the “famus Doctr Worrin,” whose name he curiously, though phonetically, misspells. The “son Martin” mentioned in the letter was a youth of fifteen years, who, three years later, was accidentally shot by a friend while gunning near Windsor, Nova Scotia.
Samuel Gay was an older son, who graduated at Harvard in this same year, 1775. Why he was not at this time taking his degree at Cambridge, at the College Commencement, which in those days was always held in July, is explained by the fact that, owing to the disturbed state of the times and the quartering of American troops in the College buildings, no public Commencement took place that year. Samuel Gay became a permanent resident of New Brunswick, and, according to the History of Hingham, above cited, was for several years a member of the Provincial House of Assembly for Westmoreland County and Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. He died 21 January, 1847, in his 93d year.236
The second in date of these letters, dated Boston, 24 June, 1786, is from Mrs. Ruth Gay, second wife of Capt. Martin Gay, to her husband, then at Halifax. Mrs. Gay’s maiden name, as already stated, was Atkins. It appears237 that she was the daughter of Thomas and Sarah Atkins of Boston. Thomas Atkins, a bricklayer by trade, was a well-to-do citizen, his real estate having been appraised at his death, in 1785, at £1,696 13s. 4d. He, with his eldest son Timothy, adhered to the patriot cause, but his second son Gibbs Atkins, a cabinetmaker, was, like his brother-in-law Martin Gay, an Absentee.238 So were families divided in “the days that tried men’s souls.”
The “faney” spoken of in this letter must have been Frances, Martin Gay’s youngest daughter by his first wife. She was baptized at the West Church in April, 1763, and was now about 23 years old. She had remained with her step-mother in Boston. The “Brothers & Sister,” to whom she sends love were Samuel and Mary (children of Martin Gay), and the husband of the latter, the Rev. William Black, of Halifax. Martin, another brother, as we have just stated, died in Nova Scotia eight years previous.
The most interesting part of this letter, however, is that which refers to the sale of the “House.” This house has a curious history. It was included in the estate purchased in 1760 by Martin Gay, in part from the descendants of the four daughters of Hannah Bradford, who had inherited it from her father, John Rogers, of Swanzey,239 and in part from Samuel Valentine of Freetown, Bristol County, as shown by the following conveyances240: —
13 May, 1760.
Gay to Gay,
30 September, 1760
Godfrey to Gay,
30 December, 1760
Valentine to Gay,
20 June, 1760
By each of the three first-named of the above conveyances Martin Gay acquired an undivided fourth part of the estate bequeathed by Hannah Bradford to her four daughters. Further search would probably show that the remaining fourth part was included, with additions or improvements, in the premises conveyed by the deed of Samuel Valentine. All the premises conveyed by these deeds are described as situated in Union Street, Boston, but no boundaries nor measurements are given, excepting of that purchased of Samuel Valentine, which actually bordered on the street, where it measured seventeen feet, and was bounded northerly (it should read southerly) on a passage-way. This passage-way, called in subsequent deeds “the great entry way,” was included by implication in all the undivided portions purchased. As the whole front, including the passageway, is described in subsequent deeds as measuring forty-four feet, it must have been twenty-seven feet in width. This width was afterward reduced, at the entrance, to ten feet five inches by the prolongation of the shop fronting on the street, or its reconstruction on a larger scale.241 It was on the portion purchased of Valentine that Martin Gay’s “front shop” stood. There was an entrance through it to the dwelling-house in the rear.242
The sale mentioned by Mrs. Gay took place under the provisions of Several Acts of the General Court (1777–1780) for the disposal of the estates of “Conspirators and Absentees.” In some respects these estates were treated as those of deceased persons.243 Thus on the twenty-seventh of March, 1779, a warrant was issued by the Probate Court to Giles Harris, Jonathan Brown, and Jacob Cooper to —
“set off to Ruth Gay, wife of Martin Gay, an absentee, for her use & Improvement during the absence of her Husband, one third part of the Real Estate whereof her Husband, the said Martin Gay, was seized & possessed at his departure from this State,” etc.244
Pursuant to this warrant, the above-named persons report, 2 April, 1779, that after examining the premises and notifying persons interested —
“We Divide & Sett off to the said Ruth Gay, as her third part in said Real Estate, The two middle tenements (of the house in Union Street, Boston) with the cellars, chambers and upper rooms to the same belonging as the partition now stands and the land under the same. Also the shop fronting on Union Street and the land under the same, with the liberty to go through the great entry way into the said shop with the use and improvement of the Yard Well, Pump and Privy.”245
According to the family tradition this assignment of “the two middle tenements to Mrs. Gay,” as “her thirds” of the real estate was made at her request, or by her choice, as a shrewd means of retaining for herself, and eventually for her husband, the whole of the property. Naturally it would be difficult to sell or to lease the two ends of a house so divided and with the middle taken out. So it appeared to the creditors of the estate, and accordingly an Appeal to the Governor and Council against the action of the Probate Court was taken in their behalf by John Lowell, who had been appointed “Agent” of the estate.246
In a paper dated 16 April, 1782, and preserved in the Probate Files,247 he gives his reasons for the Appeal as follows: —
“2d, That the dower aforesaid is assigned in a manner very injurious to the residue of said estate and the creditors therein interested by diminishing the value and rendering the same unsaleable; whereas the said dower without injustice to the Widow248 may be sett off in a manner more convenient to the whole estate & less detrimental to the creditors.”249
Nothing further seems to have been done in regard to this Appeal, and the matters in dispute appear to have been finally settled by the sale at auction of the residue of the estate — less the portion reserved to Mrs. Gay as dower-to her brother Timothy Atkins, 15 June, 1786. Mr. Timothy Atkins evidently “bid in” the house for the benefit of his sister. He was abundantly able to do this, as he had, meantime, become entitled, as the eldest son, to a double share of the estate of his father, Thomas Atkins (d. 1785), of which he and his mother, Sarah Atkins, were administrators.250 Mrs. Gay may also have contributed a portion of the purchase money out of her share of her father’s estate. The amount stipulated to be paid, 380 pounds lawful money, was probably sufficient to satisfy the creditors and to prevent them from prosecuting their Appeal. It was also doubtless more than any one else would have paid for the property under the then existing conditions. The amount paid down at the sale as earnest money, according to Mrs. Gay, was 129 dollars. How large a proportion this was of the whole price, and how much the whole price amounted to, it is difficult to ascertain, as there were so many kinds of money in use at the time as to cause great confusion and uncertainty.251 The balance was to be paid in six weeks. It was, at all events, paid before the execution of the deed of conveyance, on the ninth of December following. Mr. Thomas Walley appears to have acted as auctioneer at the sale, and was also one of the witnesses to the deed. He, like Capt. Gay, belonged to the West Church, and his name frequently occurs in its early records. According to Mrs. Gay, he sent an account of the sale, properly authenticated, to her husband at Halifax.
The conveyance to Timothy Atkins is recorded with Suffolk Deeds, Lib. 161, Fol 240. It recites that Richard Cranch, Samuel Henshaw, and Samuel Barrett, a Committee appointed to sell the Estates of Conspirators and Absentees in the County of Suffolk, had sold at public auction to Timothy Atkins of Boston . . . Brick-layer, for 380 pounds lawful money, a certain part of a certain real estate, late the property of Martin Gay, an Absentee.
The estate is described as consisting of a brick dwelling-house, shop, stable, and other Buildings in the Town of Boston, bounded Easterly on Union Street 44 feet, &c. (then follow the other boundaries), all which is conveyed to said Timothy Atkins by warranty deed —
“excepting and reserving, for the future disposal of the Commonwealth, all that part of said premises which was set off to Ruth Gay, the wife of said Martin Gay, viz., the two middle tenements . . . [Here follows a description identical with that contained in the extract from the Probate Records cited above] as will more fully appear by reference to the Record in the Registry of Probate’s Office for said County,” i. e., in Suffolk Probate Files, No. 16,842.
The deed was acknowledged 12 January, 1787, before “Wm Wetmore, Jus. Pacis.”
Prior to this sale, during the years 1779 and 1780, Mrs. Gay paid rent “for part of the Mansion House” (i. e., the part not set off to her as dower) to John Lowell, Agent of the Estate. The stable and the work-shop were also leased to other parties.252
Four years after the date of the conveyance to Timothy Atkins, i. e., 10 June, 1790, another transfer of the property took place.253
“in consideration of . . . five shillings . . . and for and in consideration of the love & affection he bears to Ruth Gay and Ebenezer Gay [her son] doth bargain, sell, &c, to Christopher Gore of the same Boston, Esquire, all that real estate in Union Street, Boston, which he purchased of Richard Cranch, Samuel Barrett & Samuel Henshaw, a Committee, &c. [Then follow the boundaries as in the former deed] . . . To have and to hold all the aforesaid premises [excepting all that part of the estate which was set off to Ruth Gay as Dower and which is subject to the future disposal of the Commonwealth] to the use and behoof of Ruth Gay, wife of Martin Gay . . . for and during the term of her natural life, and in case she shall survive her son, Ebenezer Gay, and be in full health at the death of her said son . . . then to the use and behoof of her, the said Ruth Gay, her heirs and assigns forever; but in case said Ebenezer Gay, son of said Martin and Ruth, shall survive and overlive her, the said Ruth Gay, then from and after the determination of that estate, viz., the estate of said Ruth Gay, for and during the term of her natural life, —to the use and behoof of the said Ebenezer Gay, his heirs and assigns forever.
Ebenezer Gay was the youngest son of Martin Gay and the only surviving child of his second wife. He graduated at Harvard College in 1789, practised law, and was a member of the State Senate. At the date of the above mentioned instrument, he was about nineteen years of age. He became the father of Mr. Winckworth Allan Gay, the artist, the present owner of the letters.
Christopher Gore, one of the parties to the above Indenture, afterward (1809) became Governor of Massachusetts and held many other high offices in the State and Nation. He was at this time a young man of thirty-two (born in 1758), and was the son of John and Frances (Pinkney) Gore. Frances Pinkney, his mother, was daughter of John and Elizabeth (Gretian) Pinkney. They had another daughter, named Mary, born 7 March, 1729, who was very probably the first wife of Martin Gay.254 If so, she would have been between twenty-one and twenty-two years of age at the time of her marriage, 13 December, 1750. If the above conjecture is correct, young Gore was nephew by marriage to Martin Gay, and the transaction may be said to have been “all in the family.”255
The effect of this instrument was to assure to Mrs. Gay through Christopher Gore, her trustee, and in case of her death to her son, control of the two end portions of the estate, of which she already controlled the middle portion by virtue of her right of dower, but only for her own life. In order to secure this middle portion to her son in case of her death, it was necessary that she should obtain an absolute estate in it; in other words, that she should acquire what is called the remainder, which was still vested in the Commonwealth. This was finally accomplished. Martin Gay himself, on his return from his long exile, having apparently resumed his rights of citizenship, petitioned the Massachusetts Legislature to giant to his wife Ruth the “remainder, after the death of said Ruth,” in the estate in Union Street, Boston, in which she still held her right of dower, said “remainder” being then in the Commonwealth. The Petition was granted, and on the twenty-seventh of February, 1807, a Resolve was adopted by the General Court directing John Read and William Smith, Esqrs., to convey to Ruth Gay all the interest of the Commonwealth in the Union Street estate “for such sum of money as, under all the circumstances of the case, may be thought just and reasonable.”256
Accordingly, on the twenty-third of June, 1807, the above mentioned John Read and William Smith did, in consideration of $1,680, convey to Ruth Gay, her heirs and assigns, —
“all that part of the estate which formerly belonged to the said Martin Gay . . . which was assigned and set off to the said Ruth Gay as her third part of said estate by the Judge of Probate for said County of Suffolk, on the second day of April, 1779,”consisting of the “two middle tenements,” etc., so often mentioned. By this conveyance257 Ruth Gay acquired an absolute estate in fee simple of that part of the Union Street property which had been originally set off to her as dower, and the other two thirds of this property being held by Christopher Gore in trust for her and her son Ebenezer, she had become virtual owner of the whole.
On the sixteenth of November, 1809, — Martin Gay having died in the preceding February, — two deeds were executed:258 by the one, Ruth Gay, widow, now resident in Hingham, conveys to James Davis, of Boston, brass-founder, all that part of the Union Street estate which had been originally set off to her as her dower, to wit, the often mentioned “two middle tenements,” etc., by the other, Ruth Gay, widow, and her son Ebenezer Gay unite in conveying to the same James Davis the other two thirds of the Union Street property which had been bought in by Timothy Atkins at the sale 15 June, 1786, and afterward, 10 June, 1790, conveyed to Christopher Gore in trust.259 The consideration named in the first of these deeds of 1809 was six thousand dollars, in the second nine thousand dollars, together, fifteen thousand dollars, which may fairly be said to have been saved to the family by Mrs. Ruth Gay’s shrewd management.260 Her son, Ebenezer Gay, was now thirty-eight years of age, and married (in 1801) to Mary Allyne Otis, who, as his wife, releases her right of dower in the premises. Less than half of the purchase money was paid at the time by Mr. Davis. For the remainder he gave to Mrs. Ruth Gay a mortgage on the property, payable by instalments in ten years. The mortgage was discharged by Ebenezer Gay, 9 April, 1817, his mother having died 12 September, 1810.261
The subsequent history of Martin Gay’s estate on Union Street has been told by Mr. Samuel T. Snow, Treasurer of the Revere Copper Company, in a paper read by him at a Stockholders’ meeting of that corporation 24 March, 1890, and afterward printed. Mr. Snow has been connected with the Revere Copper Company for more than fifty-six years. He has kindly lent a copy of his beautiful little book which is now offered for inspection.262 Mr. Snow relates that, in the year 1800, Mr. James Davis, the elder of that name, then twenty-two years of age, hired a shop on Union Street and started in business as a brass-founder. He had learned that trade from a Hessian, said to have been a deserter from the British Army, who had been in the employ of a Mr. Crocker,263 a pewterer, to whom Mr. Davis had been bound as an apprentice at the age of fourteen.
Martin Gay, on his return to Boston in 1792, resumed his business as a coppersmith at his old stand, and soon after entered into relations, either as employer or associate, with young Mr. Davis.264
“Mr. Gay subsequently proposed to Mr. Davis to sell him the business, and further to aid him with such pecuniary assistance as he might require in its prosecution. This proposition was finally accepted, but not without some considerable hesitation on the part of Mr. Davis, as he had no security to offer for the indebtedness involved. No security was required nor was any ever given, but the transaction was fully completed by a transfer, and by its ultimate payment without default.”265
After Mr. Gay’s death, in 1809, Mr. Davis, as we have seen, purchased the estate from his widow and his son Ebenezer,
“and the property, as enlarged by several subsequent purchases, still  remains in possession of his heirs.266 . . . He occupied the entire premises with his foundry, shop, and residence for many years, associated with himself his son, Mr. James Davis, Jr., as a partner, January 4, 1828, and finally merged the business into the Revere Copper Company.”267
This Company was incorporated in June, 1828. The original Charter members were Joseph Warren Revere, James Davis, Frederick Walker Lincoln, and James Davis, Jr. They occupied the premises formerly belonging to Martin Gay until 1 June, 1843.
There is a frontispiece to Mr. Snow’s little volume, representing, as he says, the office of the Revere Copper Company in 1840, when that Company —
“occupied so much of the building on Union Street as had previously been devoted by Mr. Davis to a shop, wherein were displayed the wares kept by him for sale, and still earlier had been used by Mr. Gay for the same purpose.”268
Mr. Snow says that this frontispiece was etched from a drawing made by himself from memory. The passageway which is seen on the left is “the great entry way” mentioned in the deeds.
Of the last letter of the series, written by Martin Gay from London, in 1788, there is not much to be said. Mr. E. James, of Cambridge, to whom it is addressed, was undoubtedly Eleazar James, son of Philip James of Hingham, where he was born 6 August, 1754. He graduated at Harvard College in 1778, and was a tutor there from 1781 to 1789. There may be something of irony in what the writer says of the great and happy consequences expected to follow from the ratification of the Federal Constitution, and in his allusion to the “Tirony of Great Briton.” There was at least one “Tirony” to which, Loyalist as he was, he never submitted, — the tyranny of the Spelling Book, under which we all now so servilely bend the neck. One cannot but sympathize with the longing of the exile to return, even as an alien, to the land of his birth, and though his banishment had been of his own choosing. Nor should we blame too severely the man who, in adhering to a losing cause, acted as many a man of conservative tendencies at the present day might have done had he been placed in the same circumstances. At all events, he never raised his hand against his native country. He was an “Absentee,” but not a “Conspirator.” Besides, it should be noted that, in leaving Boston for Halifax with the British troops, he was going to rejoin a considerable portion of his family, already settled in the Provinces, and that a part of his church with its pastor had preceded him thither.
While residing in London, Martin Gay had a portrait of himself done in pastel, which is now in possession of his grandson W. Allan Gay. It represents him as a well-dressed gentleman of the period, with powdered hair, and a shrewd, yet kindly face, which does not belie what we know of his character. “He was the son of Dr. Gay of Hingham,” says the Rev. Charles Lowell, his pastor at the time of his death, “and did not dishonor the name of his excellent father.”269
Martin Gay’s will270 is dated 7 August, 1807, and was proved 13 February, 1809. He was buried in the Granary Burial Ground, in a tomb marked with his name, near the line of the projected new Congregational Building, which will front on Beacon Street.
Mr. Andrew McFarland Davis then said: —
The prolonged contest which was maintained in the eighteenth century, between the Royal Governors of this Province and the House of Representatives, is in some of its aspects familiar to us, although its history has never been adequately written. At times the Council sympathized with the House, but again the character of the claims set up by the Representatives compelled the opposition of the Board. The steady effort of the House was in behalf of self-government, but the claims which they sometimes set up were inconsistent with almost any practical form of government, and were certainly not in conformity with the theory of the Charter. On the other hand, the attitude maintained by some of the Governors was so despotic that self-respect compelled opposition, and acquiescence in their demands would have been humiliation. Such a contest as this, maintained for so long a period, of necessity developed much bitterness of feeling. Arguments upon questions of State often descended to ad captandum criticisms of language, and the principles involved were frequently lost sight of in the attempt to gain some slight advantage in the discussion. Oftentimes the debate degenerated into personalities, and efforts, scarcely veiled by the stilted language of official documents, were made to wound the feelings of the opposing side. The contempt and anger of the contestants might be contained in some simple message or vote, the real meaning of which could be disclosed only by reading between the lines. A request on the part of the House that the Governor should adjourn the General Court as they had no business of importance to transact would seem upon its face to be entirely innocent, but when such a request was made at a time when the appropriation bills had not been passed except in such form that the Governor could not under his instructions approve them, and in reply to an urgent demand on his part that they should relieve him from his embarrassment and provide for the needs of the Province, the innocence of the Vote of the House disappears and it assumes at once a defiant and contemptuous character. Tested by current events and measured by the situation at that time, many Votes and Resolves, which upon their face boar no evidence of malice, reveal the fact that they are connected with this contest and were prompted by the passions aroused in this prolonged conflict.
If I am not mistaken the extract given below, which is taken from the published Journals of the House, belongs to this class. It is to be found under date of 26 June, 1723. By means of quotations from the writings of contemporaneous authors, and through an analysis of the condition of affairs then existing, I think we can arrive at a fair understanding of what the action of the House meant.
The extract referred to reads as follows:271 —
“The Theses of the Batchelours to be Graduated at the Commencement, to be held at Cambridge the First Wednesday of July next, being produced in the House, and the House observing the dedication thereof not to be properly Addressed,
“Voted, That it is derogatory to the Honour of the Lieut. Governour, who is now Commander-in-Chief of this Province, and the Head of the Overseers of the College, to have the Impression of these Theses go out as they now are,
“Ordered, That the Printer Mr. Bartholomew Green be and hereby is directed not to deliver any of these Theses, ’till they shall be properly addressed.”
Col. Shute was then Governor of the Province. He had left Boston the previous December and was then in London. His sudden departure had produced consternation in the House. The Lieutenant-Governor,272 when asked, was unable to tell the Representatives why the Governor had taken this step. They knew, however, that his presence at Court was a threat to them, and they believed that he was there for the purpose of preferring the charges which he afterwards brought against them. They therefore at once appointed a Committee “to prepare and lay before the House what they think proper to be done in this critical juncture, in their just and necessary vindication at the Court.”273 In their Journal, the Representatives express great surprise at the embarkation of the Governor, and add that it —
“gives this House just ground to suppose that upon his Excellency’s arrival at the Court of Great Britain (if bound there) he may endeavor to charge this House in attempting to encroach upon the Royal Prerogative, or coming into some things they have not a right to, by their present happy constitution.”
In June, 1723, Shute had not as yet shown his hand, but he was doubtless engaged in paving the way for the seven charges of contumacy which he presented the next year. About this time Neal, the author of the History of New England, wrote to a friend: —
“The governor shewed me the printed votes with regard to the dedication of the theses of Harvard college, at which I could not but stand amazed. I see no hopes of saving the country unless the next general assembly will disavow the proceedings of the last.”274
What was there in this punctiliousness on the part of the General Court for the honor of the Lieutenant-Governor that should cause Neal to stand amazed? This attitude towards the presiding magistrate of the Province was not habitual with the House, and one might naturally have expected from a loyalist a welcome for this change of heart, rather than so pronounced an expression of chagrin. If, however, we conceive that the College authorities dedicated the Theses to the absent Governor, and the House took advantage of this to give him a blow, while nominally protecting the rights of the Lieutenant-Governor, who through this absence became the Commander-in-Chief, and the head of the Overseers, we can understand the feelings of Shute and Neal. If we examine the expressions used in the Vote, we shall see that they are in accord with this explanation. It was, then, in all probability, the dedication to Shute that enraged the House.
The language used in the Vote would seem to imply that the essays prepared by the students for their Commencement parts had been printed and were produced in court. No such custom as this ever prevailed. The word “thesis” as used in the record means merely the proposition which the student was to maintain; and that such was the meaning generally attached to it at that time, we may infer from the manner in which Cotton Mather uses the word in the following extract from the Magnalia:275 —
“At the Commencement, it has been the Annual Custom for the Batchelors to publish a sheet of Theses, pro virili Defendendœ, upon all or most of the Liberal Arts; among which they do, with a particular Character, distinguish those that are to be the Subjects of the Publick Disputations then before them; and those Theses they dedicate, as handsomely as they can, to the Persons of Quality, but especially to the Governour of the Patronage, whose patronage the Colledge would be recommended unto.”
If the suggestion has not been made up to this point that the Vote of the House referred to what we should to-day call the Commencement Programme, this extract must certainly settle that question. The only point of interest that remains to be discussed in connection with the Vote is, How did the House obtain jurisdiction?
For an answer to that, and one that upon the whole seems satisfactory, I am indebted to a suggestion made by Mr. Justin Winsor, — to the effect that it may have been an exercise of the power of control of the Press. The licensing of the Press was one of the powers that under the Charter more logically belonged to the Governor than to the House, but it was one of these powers which they would not quietly permit him to use. Mr. C. A. Duniway, of Harvard University, who has made a careful study of the restraints imposed upon the Press in the days of the Colony and of the Province, writes to me as follows: —
“Such action was quite in accord with old Massachusetts precedents for the control of the Press. Before the taking away of the Colony Charter, the two Houses of the General Court regularly enacted measures for the control of the Press, besides electing Licensers. With the appointment of the Executive by the Crown, control of the Press passed to the Governor — until the House successfully resisted (in 1721) Shute’s pretensions to maintain the old prerogative.”
If the printer of the Commencement Programme submitted it to the House for approval, under some requirement of his license, then we have an explanation of the manner in which the House got possession of “the Theses.”
While it may be claimed that this attempted explanation of the curious entry in the House Journal is based largely upon conjecture, it must also be admitted that in the absence of more complete knowledge of the premises such methods are allowable. The test of their acceptability must be the extent to which they explain the conflicting circumstances with which the event is surrounded.
Mr. Robert N. Toppan reported these facts respecting the —
HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF OLD NEWBURY.
This Society was incorporated on 24 June, 1896. Its object is “to preserve and perpetuate the history of Old Newbury, comprising Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury.” Its organization, in 1877, is mentioned in Mr. Davis’s List of Historical Societies in Massachusetts, printed in the Publications of this Society, I. 51.
In behalf of Mr. John Noble, who was unable to remain until the close of the meeting, Mr. Henry E. Woods communicated the following letter respecting the libel suit of Knowles v. Douglass, upon which Mr. Noble read a paper at the Stated Meeting of the Society in March, 1896: —
Privy Council Office, Whitehall, London, S.W.
9 November, 1896.
My Dear Sir:—
In answer to yours of 30th ultimo, I have to say that I have searched our Records and find that the Appeal of
Rear Admiral Charles Knowles
William Douglass (Physician),
was entered on 16 August, 1750, and duly referred for hearing; but the Appeal appears to have been abandoned, as no further steps were taken, and there is no subsequent entry relating to the matter.
Always ready to be of service to you, I am
John Noble, Esq., etc., etc.
Supreme Judicial Court, Boston, Mass.
Mr. Edward Appleton Bangs, of Boston, and Mr. William Coolidge Lane, of Cambridge, were elected Resident Members.