From Daniel T.V. Huntoon's 

History of The Town of Canton, Massachusetts (1893)

CHAPTER XXI

THE WAR OF THE REVOLUTION (continued)

 

The first notice that the people of ancient Stoughton received that hostilities had actually begun between the king's troops and the patriots, was on the afternoon of the 19th of April, 1775. It was lecture-day, and Parson Dunbar was exhorting his people and preparing them for the next Sunday's service, when suddenly the door was thrown open and Henry Bailey marched up the broad aisle and said there was a'larum. In an instant, all was confusion. A small boy, Lemuel Bent, seized the bell-rope, and soon the jangle-reached the ears of the neighboring farmers. Israel Bailey conversed for a moment with Capt. James Endicott, and then the captain said, "Take my colt that is fastened outside, ride through the town, and warn the company to meet at May's tavern with arms and ammunition ready to march toward Boston at a moment's notice." Captain Endicott returned to his home, obtained his accoutrements, and started down the road toward Boston, leaving his company to follow as soon as they could be collected.

And so from the towns which composed ancient Stoughton, stalwart men, with sturdy sons, left their homes at the sharp clang of the alarm-bell, or the hurried words of the orderly, "To arms! To arms! The war has begun," and hastened to the rallying-place. These minute-men marched directly to the coast, and their fellow-townsmen followed them with provisions and supplies. Abel Puffer, Roger, John, and Isaac Billings, Ebenezer and William Shaller, Abner Crane, Jonathan Kenney, Israel Bailey, and Lemuel Davenport did all they could to make them comfortable.

1 See Appendix XX

James Endicott, captain of one of the companies that marched from Stoughton at the first alarm, was born in Stoughton in 1739, and died in Canton, April 4, 1799. He was the son of James and grandson of Gilbert Endicott, one of the first settlers. March 5, 1761, he was married by Rev, Samuel Dunbar to Abigail Puffer. During the war, Captain Endicott was several times called into active service; on the afternoon of the 4th of March, 1776, he went to the assistance of the Continental troops when they fortified Dorchester Heights. They made a lodgement on the ground unmolested, but were drenched with a most dreadful storm of rain. Endicott led his company to Ticonderoga, and in 1778 was again in the service at Roxbury, nor were his patriotic services confined to the field only. In 1778 he made frequent journeys to Boston to enlist and muster soldiers into the Continental army. By order of the town, he employed Hannah Endicott to weave thirty-seven yards of blanketing and to spin thirty-two skeins of yarn. Mrs. Lemuel Stone, Mary Goodwin, and Mrs. Deborah Patrick were also employed in making the soldiers comfortable. In 1780 Mr. Endicott was chosen Representative to the General Court, but refused to serve, although he accepted the trust during the years 1784, 1785, 1786, and 1790. He served the town as its treasurer two years before his death. From ancient documents in the possession of his descendants, it would appear that he was commissioned by John Hancock, Feb. 11, 1785, as justice of the peace for the county of Suffolk, and on Sept. 24, 1793, as one of the judges of the Court of Common Pleas for the county of Norfolk. He was a very prominent man in town affairs, and was universally respected. He occupied a house which formerly stood on the spot where the Endicott homestead now stands, but which was destroyed by fire, Oct. 29, 1806.

When the captain, afterward known as Judge Endicott, left his home to join his company at the time of the Lexington alarm, his son John - born Feb. 4, 1764, died Jan. 31, 1857 - was in his twelfth year. The following day, this lad started with a supply of food for the support of the company, all the able-bodied men being in service. In time, he reached Roxbury with his load of provisions; meanwhile his father had been ordered in the direction of Cambridge. Not discouraged, the lad proceeded after him, and delivered the provisions at the encampment at Prospect Hill. So successful was this enterprise that in after years, during the continuance of the war, he was sent on expeditions to a greater distance, to Hartford and Norwich in Connecticut, and other places. In the winter of 1780, when John Endicott was only sixteen, the roads being obstructed by snow and the cold intense, he started for Boston with an ox-team loaded with wood, and entering on the Neponset, which was hard frozen, at Milton Mills, he followed the course of the stream down, and crossing over the harbor near William Castle, now Fort Independence, entered the town near the point where Craigie's Bridge was afterward erected. Discharging his wood, he thence crossed over to Cambridge and took a load of damaged gunpowder, which he was to carry to Canton, to be worked over at the powder-mill then in operation here. On his return over the Neck, such was the condition of the road that he repeatedly overset, - four times, he said, and was obliged to re-load. He reached Roxbury near midnight, where he stayed until next morning.

On the opposite side of the street from the May tavern, in the house built by John Withington, Jr. lived one Armstrong, a tailor, who had recently taken an apprentice, named Henry Perley, to learn the trade. The young man came from Boxford, and was a steady and industrious youth. As he beheld from the shop-window the uniforms and bristling guns of the patriots, a desire seized him to go with them; and business being dull, with no prospect of improvement, his master consented, whereupon the young-hero, approaching the officer in command, said to him, " If you will get me a gun, I will go with you." The supply of guns being limited, the officer was not able to furnish him with one like those carried by the soldiers, but gave him what was called an "Indian gun." Perley made preparation and started with two companions toward Boston, the company being an hour in advance. On the way down, they met a gentleman in citizen's dress, riding a beautiful horse, and followed by a servant, also well-mounted. No sooner had this gentleman passed our three friends than one of them said to the others, " That was a British officer." Simultaneously they turned, followed, and overtook him, and ordered him to dismount and surrender. The officer inquired in forcible language: "Who in hell are you, banditti? " " We'11 let you know who in hell we are," said the recent apprentice, and forthwith began to pull the officer from his horse. The servant, seeing this, immediately drew his pistol from his holster, and was in the act of cocking it, when a well-directed blow from the butt-end of Benjamin Bussey's queen's-arm sent him sprawling on the ground. Deeming discretion the better part of valor, the young Englishman gracefully surrendered, and the twain were escorted to Boston in triumph, - Bussey on the officer's horse, Dickerman on the servant's, while Perley, with the Indian gun, marched as rear-guard. The arrival of the prisoners created a sensation among the troops encamped in the vicinity of Boston, and praise was showered upon the three raw recruits.

Henry Perley was soon lost sight of. He served faithfully throughout the war, and that was all that was known of him. About the year 1825, a stranger entered the village store at Canton Corner. His form was bent, and his hair silvered by the snows of many winters. Around the stove were gathered, as was usual fifty or sixty years ago, all the men in the neighborhood, - some smoking, some drinking, and some talking of the crops, the state of the farms, the political situation, and such topics as were in vogue before the daily newspaper entered every household. After looking around for a moment, the venerable stranger approached Joseph Downes and said to him," I have lived down in Maine almost all my life, and I am getting to be a very old man; but I thought before I died I would like to return and see some of my old comrades that were with me in the army, and so I have come back to Canton to see them. Where is Jim Fadden?"

" Oh ! " said Mr. Dowries, " he died forty years ago." "And where is Bill Currill? " "Oh, he has been dead over twenty years." And so the old man went on enumerating the names of those who, half a century before, had assembled with him, to fight for liberty; but of all the early companions whose names he could remember, not one was left. Death had ushered them into the hereafter, and this weary old man now stood alone upon its threshold. He was turning sadly away, when one of the idlers suggested that he might know Elijah Crane. "Yes, yes," said the veteran with enthusiasm, "take me to him ! " The next morning he was taken into the presence of the general. "Do you know me? " said the stranger. " You are Henry Perley," replied the general. " Thank God ! " said Perley, while the tears trickled down his cheeks ; "I am paid for coming."

Benjamin Bussey, one of the young men mentioned in connection with the exploit of Henry Perley, was in due time to be remembered as one of the most distinguished philanthropists of his time.

William Bussey, the first of the name, was an early immigrant. Here he found his sweetheart in the person of Olive Jordan, and on the 6th of June, 1728, they were married. We hear no more of him for some years ; he probably followed the sea. He conveyed land near the present Turnpike in 1731. In 1756 he built the little house now standing near Reservoir Pond, which he sold to Dr. Crosman in 1763. His son, Benjamin Bussey, born in 1734, bought twenty acres of a farm at Ponkapoag, originally owned by Elias Monk, but at that time unoccupied, its owner, Shubael Wentworth, having died in 1759. Bussey received the deed from Philip Liscom, Jr., in 1760. He also bought at the same time one acre from Eleanor Shippy adjoining his Wentworth land, " with an old dwelling-house upon it." This was the rear part of the house that was burned, Nov. 5, 1882. Deacon Samuel Andrews built it in 1711.

Benjamin Bussey, the rich Boston merchant, was not born in this house, but here he spent his early life, from the age of three to that of nineteen, when with his knapsack on his back, he stood on the step and bade good-by to the mother he was never to see again. While he was fighting for his country, the cold form of the loved one was borne by tender hands through the narrow doorway, a victim to that scourge of those days, the small-pox. To this house, in the days of his wonderful prosperity, Bussey returned. It was old, low-studded, and forlorn, but he did not want it destroyed.

In 1802 Benjamin Bussey repaired the old house and placed in front cf it an addition more in keeping with the architecture of the new century. The rooms were high-studded, which was then the fashion ; the stairs ran at angles, with landings, through an ample hall. The woodwork was ornamented, and sufficient room provided for a small family. The front door was protected by a wooden canopy with iron supports, curiously wrought. Trees were planted ; side fences that came down from the corners of the house to the front fence were built; and here was laid out a "front yard," the pride of the farmers' wives, planted with bouncing Bet, London pride, peonies, and old-fashioned roses. Then, good son that he was, he gave the house to his father and his father's wife, that they might enjoy the remainder of their lives with no fear lest the wolf should come to the door. But the old-time gentleman lived only six years to enjoy his son's kindness. On the 15th of August, 1808, having lived nearly three quarters of a century, he was laid in the Canton Cemetery.

Colonel Benjamin's first wife, the mother of Benjamin, who died at Jamaica Plain, was Ruth, daughter of Deacon Joseph and Mary (Tolman) Hartwell, and was born Sept. 3, 1738, on what is known now as the Kollock farm. Her sister Elizabeth married Roger Sherman, Nov. 17, 1749. Ruth was married to Bussey, Nov. 26, 1755, and died Dec. 5, 1776. Colonel Bussey's second wife was Ruth, daughter of Zebediah Went-worth, who was born in 1751, and died Dec. 31, 1839. She was the last of the name that occupied the Bussey house, and many who read these lines will remember her.

The property was sold to Zachariah Tucker the famous school-master, and in 1829 post-master at North Canton, as Ponkapoag was then called during the old lady's life, but provision was made for her maintenance. From his possession it passed through the hands of Elisha Mann, Sr., and Jr., into those of Josiah Broad, and has sometimes of late years been known as the Broad house.

The younger Benjamin Bussey was born near Reservoir Pond in Canton, on the 1st of March, 1757, and died at his residence in Jamaica Plain, Jan. 13, 1842. He began life in poverty. His father gave him but the rudiments of an English education. He was fond of reading, had a retentive memory, and gathered a vast fund of information. At the age of eighteen, he enlisted as a private soldier in the War of the Revolution. He joined the company of Captain Stow, of Dedham, and went to Ticonderoga, and at nineteen became quartermaster of the regiment. The following year he accepted the same position in the regiment of Col. Benjamin Gill, of Stoughton, and joined the troops who marched to arrest the progress of General Burgoyne. He was at the battles of Saratoga and Bemis Heights, and in the successful discharge of his duties met the approval of his commander and officers. At the termination of the war, he learned the trade of silversmith from a Hessian soldier, and began business in a small shop at Ponkapoag, Aug. 24, 1780. Being then twenty-two, he was married to Judith Gay. He opened a little shop in Dedham, and at length acquired so much credit as to warrant him in removing to Boston in 1792, where he enlarged and extended his business. By steady gains he became very wealthy, and retired from business. By his will, his property, which, by accumulation, in 1861 amounted to $413,000, passed to Harvard College, to be held, one half " for instruction in practical agriculture, in useful and ornamental gardening, in botany and in such other branches of natural science as may tend to promote knowledge of practical agriculture, and the various arts subservient thereto and connected therewith." A portion of his vast property he devised to be used for the support of the Law and Divinity schools of the same University. The trustees erected in 1870, upon what was his farm in West Roxbury, a building containing class rooms and laboratories for professorships in " Farming,"

"Applied Zoology," "Agricultural Chemistry," " Horticulture," "Botany," and " Entomology." This is known as the "Bussey Institution."

There has been preserved a diary kept during the early period of the war, by Ezekiel Price, Esq., Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas and Sessions, and for many years chairman of the selectmen of Boston, who came to the Doty tavern before the 1st of May, 1775, and remained during the occupation of Boston by the British troops. The following extracts are especially interesting, as showing the daily excitements and alarms, the rumors and conversations, which took place at the old tavern during the troublous times of the Revolution :

"June 2, 1775. A company of soldiers from Freetown, on their away to Roxbury, stopped here all night.

"June 5. Col. Gridley called, from the army at Cambridge. He confirms, in part, the account relating to the boats being taken, and the arrival of the powder.

"June 8. A company from Tiverton, R. I., passed this morning.

"June 15, 1775. Quite a cool morning. Miss Becky and Miss Polly Gridley called here on their way to Dr. Sprague's, and went up with Mrs. Price and Mrs. Armstrong to the top of Blue Hills. Miss Becky, on her way down, killed two small snakes. Mrs. Sprague, Jr., with Miss Becky and Polly Gridley, spent the afternoon here.

"June 16th. Heard of a new choice of officers in the Continental Army. Colonel Richmond, from the Congress, says that Dr. Warren was chosen a Major General; that Heath was not chosen to any office.

"June 17. In the forenoon, the report of cannon heard. In the afternoon, sundry messengers passed, sent to alarm the country to muster to arms at Roxbury. The firing of cannon continually heard, and very loud. In the evening, saw a great light towards Boston ; the country people marching down ; the firing of cannon distinctly heard till after eleven o'clock.

" June 18. The morning and forenoon, and towards sundown, heard the report of cannon. Some of the people who went down return from Cambridge. Reported that the town of Charlestown was burned by the Regulars that had landed there, and forced the Continental Army out of their entrenchment on Bunker Hill; that the engagement was hot and furious on both sides, but the ammunition of the Continental Army being spent, they were unable to oppose any longer, and the Regular Army then jumped into the entrenchments, and made considerable slaughter among the Continental Army. The loss is uncertain either side. It is supposed that great numbers are killed on both sides. Dr. Warren is said to be among the slain. Col. Gridley wounded in the leg.

"June 19. Stopped at Col. Gridley's. They had received no certain account of his wounds. Further reports relating to the unfortunate action at Charlestown.

"June 21. It is said that a frost happened last night. Mrs. Price and Polly went to the top of Blue Mountain.

"June 27. Mrs. Gridley and Miss Becky called upon us on their way home from Col. Gridley. They say the Colonel's wounds keep him confined so that he cannot move out of his bed, but that he is in a good way to be cured of it. Heard of the appointment of Generals Washington, Lee, and Schuyler.

"June 29. It rained all of last evening and the whole night, and continued to rain very moderately all the forenoon. A soldier passed. Says he heard a number of cannons fired this afternoon since he left Roxbury.

"July 1. A pleasant morning. Assisted in cocking the hay. In the afternoon, assisted in getting the hay into the barn. No news from camps.

"July 2. Mr. E. Quincy reports that eighteen hundred barrels of powder is arrived at Philadelphia or New York.

''July 3. The plentiful rains that fell yesterday made it exceedingly pleasant this morning; towards noon, very warm. In the afternoon, assisted in raking hay. Reports of the day that Gen. Washington had gone to Cambridge with Gen. Lee and others ; that some Regulars in a boat near Cambridge River, were killed by the Continental soldiers.

"July 5. Assisted in raking hay. Heard that Gen. Washington had visited the camps, and that the soldiers were much pleased with him ; and by the motions of the Continental Army, it is expected that something of importance will soon happen.

"July 13. The firing of cannon heard for several hours this morning. Went to Milton, and there heard that the Continental Army were opening an entrenchment near George Tavern, and that the Regulars were firing on them from their lines. 

"July 14. Warm in the sun, but afresh breeze made it agreeable. Some firing this forenoon from the cannon of the Regulars' entrenchments on Boston Neck.

"July 16. A very pleasant and agreeable day ; the weather warm ; a fine growing season. The Regulars in Boston omit not this day in exercising and disciplining. They were firing platoons on the Common this forenoon, also exercising their artillery.

" July 1 7. Took a ride to Milton, Informed that the Regular Army were entrenching themselves at the bottom of the Common in Boston. A fine shower of rain for an hour and a half, which refreshed the earth, and made it extremely pleasant.

"July 18. An exceedingly pleasant morning. It is said that a party of the Continental Army intend to get on Spectacle Island this night.

"July 20. This day solemnized as a public fast throughout the Colonies, agreeable to a resolve of the Continental Congress. The lighthouse at the entrance of the Harbor of Boston burnt by a party of the Continental Army, who went out in whale-boats for that purpose.

"July 21. A pleasant morning. Further accounts relating to burning the lighthouse; that the party, after burning the lighthouse, brought off four barrels of oil, some cordage and about a hundred-weight of powder; also took seven prisoners. They also fired the barn with the hay in it on the Brewsters, brought away several thousand bushels of grain from Nantasket, two boats, and burnt another. Had two men wounded, and supposed they killed above twenty, as their oars dropped out of the boats.

"Aug. 6. 1775. Heard that Major Tupper had leave to go out of the American lines to converse with Mr. Thomas Boyleston upon private mercantile business.

"Aug. 11. Dined at Randall's at Stoughtonham. Drank tea at Col. Gridley's, and got to our home at Col. Doty's towards evening.

" Aug. 13. P. M. attended worship at Mr. Dunbar's meeting house.

" Dec. 1. Went to Cambridge, visited Col. Gridley.

" Dec. 8. Several soldiers passed from the American camp.

" Dec. 10. The most part of this forenoon, soldiers and minute men from Taunton and several other towns above have been passing to our army, in order to support the lines and forts there.

" Dec. 21. Col. Ephraim Leonard stopt here. The old gentleman had been below, intending to procure a pass to the lines in order to see and converse with his son Daniel now in Boston, but could not obtain the pass by reason of the small pox being in Boston.

"Jan. 7, 1776. Heard report cannon.

" Jan. 12. Mrs. Gridley and daughter Becky stopped here on their way to Cambridge to visit Scarboro Gridley, who they hear is dangerously ill.

"Jan. 21. Not a single traveller has stopped here to day.

"Jan. 23. Major Parks stopped and dined with us. Mr. Parks went up the hill. After dinner they set out for Col. Gridley's. A mill is about being erected in this town for the manufacturing of powder.

"Feb. 5. Mr. Royall came in at noon and says there is now, and for two hours has been, a smart cannonading somewhere or other.

" 7. Great quantities of wood and charcoal and hay going to Rox-bury for the use of our army ; a number of reeruits for the new army passed to Roxbury.

" 8. Soldiers continue passing for the reinforcing of the army.

"12. Walked abroad and met several small companies of the militia, who had enlisted for two months and going to reinforce our armies below.

" Mch. 3. An express passed by, with a letter to Col. Gill supposed for the militia to go down.

"Mch. 4, 1776. Yesterday afternoon Col. Gill received orders to be with his regiment at Roxbury by this day, twelve o'clock at noon. This forenoon the soldiers of Col. Gill's regiment passed to join the American army at Roxbury. Every preparation is making, and all things necessary near ready at Roxbury, to take-possession of Dorchester Hills this night.

" 7. Fasting. I went to public worship. The militia who went down on Monday are returning home.

" 8th. Pero was at Roxbury yesterday.

" 10th. I went on the hill near Stephen Davenport's and could there see the flashes of their (British) guns which seemed incessant. The reports of the cannon were loud, and continued the whole night and until after daybreak. I went to public worship in the morning.

"17. Reports of cannonade were heard. In the forenoon went to public worship. At noon Mr. Edmund Quincy brought us the most interesting, most important, and most comforting news I have heard since I left Boston (that the British had left Boston).

" 20. In the evening, a great light appeared over the top of the Blue Hill, supposed to be the enemy burning the buildings on Castle Island (so it proved). 

see and converse with his son Daniel now in Boston, but could not obtain the pass by reason of the small pox being in Boston.

"Jan. 7, 1776. Heard report cannon.

" Jan. 12. Mrs. Gridley and daughter Becky stopped here on their way to Cambridge to visit Scarboro Gridley, who they hear is dangerously ill.

"Jan. 21. Not a single traveller has stopped here to day.

"Jan. 23. Major Parks stopped and dined with us. Mr. Parks went up the hill. After dinner they set out for Col. Gridley's. A mill is about being erected in this town for the manufacturing of powder.

"Feb. 5. Mr. Royall came in at noon and says there is now, and for two hours has been, a smart cannonading somewhere or other.

" 7. Great quantities of wood and charcoal and hay going to Rox-bury for the use of our army ; a number of reeruits for the new army passed to Roxbury.

" 8. Soldiers continue passing for the reinforcing of the army.

"12. Walked abroad and met several small companies of the militia, who had enlisted for two months and going to reinforce our armies below.

" Mch. 3. An express passed by, with a letter to Col. Gill supposed for the militia to go down.

"Mch. 4, 1776. Yesterday afternoon Col. Gill received orders to be with his regiment at Roxbury by this day, twelve o'clock at noon. This forenoon the soldiers of Col. Gill's regiment passed to join the American army at Roxbury. Every preparation is making, and all things necessary near ready at Roxbury, to take-possession of Dorchester Hills this night.

" 7. Fasting. I went to public worship. The militia who went down on Monday are returning home.

" 8th. Pero was at Roxbury yesterday.

" 10th. I went on the hill near Stephen Davenport's and could there see the flashes of their (British) guns which seemed incessant. The reports of the cannon were loud, and continued the whole night and until after daybreak. I went to public worship in the morning.

"17. Reports of cannonade were heard. In the forenoon went to public worship. At noon Mr. Edmund Quincy brought us the most interesting, most important, and most comforting news I have heard since I left Boston (that the British had left Boston).

" 20. In the evening, a great light appeared over the top of the Blue Hill, supposed to be the enemy burning the buildings on Castle Island (so it proved).

" Mar. 30. Mrs. Gridley and Scarboro stopped here on their way from Boston.

"April 1, Monday. The militia who enlisted two months ago are returning home, heard very distinctly the report of a number of cannon.

"April 22. In the forenoon visited Mr. Royall, and took leave of him as going from Stoughton. After dinner took chaise and went to Dorchester, first taking an affectionate leave of Col. Doty's family, where we have resided near twelve months, that place being the first we took rest in after leaving our habitation in Boston and flying from the oppressive hand of arbitrary power which governed then our native town.

" May 26. Col. Gridley passed to Boston."

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