By Daniel T. V.  Huntoon

From Potter’s American Monthly, July 1876, vol. 7, no. 55, pgs. 24-26


The territory now known as Norfolk County , in Massachusetts , was until 1793 embraced in the county of Suffolk , and a small township in this county, now called Canton , was until 1797 known as Stoughton .


This town of Canton claims the enviable distinction of having within its limits an ancient mansion in which was held the first meeting in the Province of Massachusetts Bay to oppose the tyranny of Great Britain .


                This old house is situated at the foot of Blue Hill, the highest elevation in Eastern Massachu­setts . The attention of the traveler is at once di­rected to the house by its quaint and old-fashioned appearance. It stands modestly back from the " Taunton old road," in former days the king's highway between Boston and Taunton . It strikes one as a house that has a history of its own.' Above its old-fashioned gambrel roof rise two chimneys of huge proportions, and its narrow windows serve to remind us of pre-revolutionary times, of its better days, and we would fain listen to the stories it might tell, could it speak.


                It was originally owned by a man who was pro­minent in the affairs of Town, County, and State. Captain John Shepard built it about the year 1737. He was a resident of Stoughton before it was incorporated as a town, and he received from his fellow townspeople every office it was in their power to bestow. For seven years he was a member of the Board of Selectmen, and their chairman for four years. For nine years he was called to preside over the annual town-meeting; he was guardian of the Ponkipog Indians, and his Majesty's justice of the peace, and until he entered military life was known as " Squire," a title much honored in provincial days.    He rose by his own ability through the subordinate grades, and was appointed Major in the militia. In 1745, during the ad­ministration of Governor Shirley, when the French fleet "computed to consist of half the naval force of France," under the elegant and accomplished Duke d'Anville was hovering on our coast, Major Shepard took command of his regiment, and marched toward Boston, in the vicinity of which he encamped. In 1753 he was chosen to represent his town in the " Great and General Court," and again the following year, but was expelled from the House at the June session, notwithstanding which he was again reelected by his constituents as a rebuke to the House for their action the previous year, and as a testimonial of the confi­dence and respect of his fellow-citizens. In his later years he became poor; the old house, un­doubtedly a model in its time, was allowed to go to decay. In the ninety-second year of his age its builder passed away, unknown by the generation among whom he moved, a stranger in his own land. The old house passed into other hands.


                One hundred years ago it was a famous hostelry, celebrated for its good cheer. Here could be found entertainment for man and beast. The proprietor was jovial Tom Doty, known among more quiet and sedate persons as Colonel Thomas Doty. He it was who kept the best viands, and could mix the best glass of grog of any landlord in all the country around. No stage -driver so ignorant as not to know where Doty's Tavern was. His inn was the centre of all gossip; around his capacious hearth were wont to congregate on winter evenings, the village wiseacres, and discuss over pipe and bowl questions pertaining to Town and  Province.    John Adams tells us that there were many such taverns in his day, and that the landlords exercised a potent political influence in their immediate vicinity. Without doubt "mine host" Doty was a man of some pretensions to political knowledge; certain it is that he was known at the time of which we write to be highly indignant at the treatment the provinces had lately received from the mother country, and he favored the embryotic movement soon to burst into open rebellion. The time had come when the people of the Province of Massachusetts Bay had become enraged at the blind policy of George III. and his Parliament; bold patriots resolved that through­out the thirteen Provinces, "Congresses," so called in order to obviate the provisions of the Regulating Act, which forbade town-meetings except by permission of the Governor, should be held in the several counties, and in this matter Suffolk County took the lead. After it was decided to hold such a congress, the grave question which presented itself to the patriots in Suffolk County was, "Where shall we hold it?" "At what town shall it convene?" In the first place, the spot should be central, yet retired. Neither Boston nor Salem possessed these requisites, and Samuel Adams, *ho expected the gravest results from this assembly, strenuously desired that some inland town should be selected, where, free from inter­ference, the congress might meet, with none to molest or make them afraid. This desire was communicated to Doctor (afterwards Major-Gen­eral") Joseph Warren, and it was agreed that a congress should be held as soon as practicable; and the town of Stoughton being by its geographical position central and Doty's Tavern of good repute, it was decided that the meeting should take place at the town and tavern aforesaid.


                On the morning of Tuesday, the 16th of August, 1774 , all was hurry and bustle at the wayside inn. The delegates from the several towns in the county were to assemble here, and landlord Doty must put on his best "bib and tucker;" from the farm-house over the way, which, built in the time of the Indian wars, had for protection its second story projecting over the first, Squire Royall sent his slaves to assist the slaves of Colonel Doty in making preparation for the distinguished guests. Little did those poor Africans imagine, as they cheerfully fulfilled their masters' orders on that summer morning, that this meeting, which would result in bringing emancipation from the tyranny of Great Britain to their masters would necessitate, ere the adoption of the new Constitution in 1780, their being driven by whips Into wagons at midnight, chained one to another, and carried from their old home in Massachusetts to be sold into perpetual bondage at Barbadoes.


                Early in the forenoon the delegates began to arrive. The members from the inland towns came on horseback, while young Dr. Warren with his Boston friends drove up in a stylish berlin, drawn by four horses, with a coachman in livery on the box and a footman on the rumble. From old Stoughton came Parson Dunbar in gown and bands; a stout old soldier he, for things temporal as well as spiritual. He had fought for king and crown in other days, when his Majesty needed help against the French; but the oppressive acts of the British Parliament had forfeited all claims upon his loyalty, and he came, against the advice of many of his friends and his own son, who held a civil office under the crown, to meet with the county congress at Doty's Tavern, and when he arrived and the meeting was organized he was asked to pray, and judging from some specimens that tradition has handed down to us, his prayers were to the point; for example, during the Revo­lutionary war, Mr. Dunbar was informed that the British fleet, under Lord Howe, was off the coast meditating a descent on Boston. He then prayed "That the Lord would put a bit in their mouth and jirk them about, and dash them to pieces on Cohasset Rock;" and again, in a season of great anxiety, that " God would let them speedily return from whence they came, for Thou knowest, O God, that their room is better than their com­pany." The prayer that the Parson gave at the county congress has unfortunately not been pre­served, but one who was present said of it, that " It was the most extraordinary liberty-prayer that I ever heard ; he appeared to have a most divine if not prophetical enthusiasm in favor of our rights." Before this congress adjourned, the following resolutions were passed:                                


                "Whereas, It appears to us that the Parliament of Great Britain, to the dishonor of the king, in violation of the honor of the nation, have,  in direct infraction of the charter of this Province, contrary to Magna Charta, the Bill of Rights, the national and constitutional rights of British sub jects, by an act called the Boston Port Bill, a bill for amending the charter of this Province, and an other bill for the impartial administration of justice, with all the parade and administration of justice, attempted to reduce this colony to an un­paralleled state of slavery.    And,


                Whereas, Several Colonies being justly and properly alarmed at this lawless and tyrannical exertion of power, have entered into a combina­tion for our relief, and have published sundry resolutions which they are determined to abide by, in support of common interest, we earnestly recommend to our brethren in the several towns and districts in this county, to appoint members to attend a county convention to be held at Dedham on the sixth day of September next, to deliberate and determine upon all such matters as the distressing circumstances of this Province may require."


                It would appear that, although all present at Doty's Tavern were unanimous and firm and determined to resist the encroachments of Great Britain, the delegates did not deem themselves especially authorized to negotiate the affairs of a county Congress . They therefore adjourned, and at a subsequent meeting passed the celebrated "Suffolk Resolves," which, drafted by General Warren, were approved by the Continental Con­gress at Carpenters' Hall, Philadelphia, on the seventeenth of September, 1774, and which, in the words of Galloway, "contained a complete declaration of war against Great Britain." During the siege of Boston the old tavern was occupied by refugees, and some of the exiled town-officers sought its secure retreat. Beneath the roof of the Doty Tavern the Mar­quis de Lafayette rested while journeying from Newport to Boston ; it was during the war, and the news spread quickly that the gallant French­man was a guest at the old inn. In the morning, when he had paid his reckoning, and was ready to depart, he found the townspeople gathered in the road before him, who with cheers and good wishes bade him God speed.


                The great man of the town, the first General to fall in defence of his country, the leader of France, the old parson, and the old landlord, have passed away; but the old house still stands under the shadow of Blue Hill, from whose summit the sentry with tinder-box in hand has long since been removed, and the Doty Tavern with its associa­tions and remembrances, must, while it stands, bear an honorable place among the historic man­sions of our country.



The Doty Tavern burned down on December 19, 1888.  

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