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Chapter 7 - Pages 114-128

HISTORIC REHOBOTH. 114

EX-GOVERNOR LITTLEFIELD, OF RHODE ISLAND.

I would not forget that I am in the good old Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and within the bounds of the ancient town of Rehoboth.

After listening with the deepest interest to the eloquent address of the orator of the day and other gentlemen who have told us what this town was and is at present, I am reminded of attending, a few years ago, the twelfth annual reunion of the Army of the Potomac in the city of Hartford, in our sister State of Connecticut. On that occasion many distinguished generals were present. At the grand banquet given in the evening a number of sentiments were offered and responded to. Among the number was this one, "Our Country," to which a citizen of Rhode Island was called upon to speak. He commenced his short address by saying it was both fitting and appropriate that Rhode Island should be asked to respond to this sentiment, for without Rhode Island our country would be very small, both in territory and population. So, Mr. President, I may be allowed to say on this occasion, after learning how large a portion of the territory of the State of Rhode Island was taken from the town of Rehoboth, had it not been for this town, Rhode Island must have been

 
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looked upon as a small state, and somewhat limited both in broad acres and in the number of her honorable citizens.

As ii look around me to-day, I am forced to the conclusion that nearly all of my distinguished fellow citizens first saw the light of day in this goodly town. I congratulate the people of this old town upon its honorable history; I congratulate them in having this beautiful hail in which they may gather from time to time and look upon so many relics of past generations ; I congratulate you, Mr. President, that your Society has such pleasant rooms in which to hold its meetings and to deposit the antique articles you shall gather in the days to come, and add to the already large collection of the Rehoboth Antiquarian Society.

I am sure, Mr. President, you would not have us understand from the interest your Society has taken in the dedication Of this hall, that you think the gentleman to whom the citizens of Rehoboth are so largely indebted for this building, shows any signs of being antiquated. We look upon him in the new city of Pawtucket as a young man. No citizen can be found more ready for any new enterprise that shall build up the business of the city than the Hon. Darius Goff. What he has done for his native town may be but a beginning of what he may do in the days to come.

I join most heartily in all that has been said in praise of this old-time town to-day. I do not see my friend from Boston. I am sorry he has been obliged to leave the hail. However, I feel safe in assuring you that it will be but a short time before he will remove the office of publication of the Educational Journal, over which he presides with such marked ability, from Boston to Rehoboth, and I have no doubt the President of Brown University will

 

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commence farming in Rehoboth soon after that institution is closed. The Reverend gentleman from the historic town of Lexington has told us how much he has enjoyed staying here, and I am sure he will soon make this town his home. In view of the prospective demand for land I would advise the farmers to advance the price of corner lots. I do not think I should like farming after learning from one of the speakers this morning that the regular hours of labor were from four in the morning till nine in the evening. I do not enjoy early rising or many hours of labor. Mr. President, I am very glad to be with you today. It has been a most delightful occasion. ‘fhe descendants of the founders of this town, gathered here to day, have a right to feel proud of her more than two hundred and fifty years of honorable history. "He called the name of it Rehoboth, and he said, for now the Lord bath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land."

As my closing word, pardon me for saying in this presence, that Roger Williams passed this way as he journeyed on to settle the first state founded on the enduring principles of soul liberty.

REV. S. L. WOODWORTH, OF EAST PROVIDENCE.

Mr. PRESIDENT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN—This is a great day for ministers. I am proud to be a successor of Rev. Samuel Newman. This is glory enough for one day. There is one trouble; you have set a bad example. Every pastor will now want a memorial hall. I think I shall have a memorial annex to our chapel at Luther’s Corners, in Seekonk ; one hears many kind words spoken in his praise, besides having his picture hung up in the hall,

 
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I am glad for the good words spoken of my Brother Tilton ; he deserves every one of them; he is not the kind of a man to be puffed up by deserving words of praise; they won’t hurt him one bit. I have summered and wintered with him I know the kind of material he is made of. He is a true man, and w 3rthy of every word that has been spoken. It will be a consolation to him, in the weary, discouraging hours of his pastorate, to think of this day, with all its precious memories. His joy is my joy. It is not all so pleasant and easy to be a country pastor as it may seem ; there are many discouragements, many cold, hard rides in winter. The people are not given to over much enthusiasm in the Lord’s work. They are perfectly willing that the pastor should do it all.

While you have been rejoicing over this beautiful new building, I have been thinking of Seekonk. She has been robbed until only a narrow strip of land remains. If she has not fallen among thieves, she has among barn burners. Without a town hall, without a meeting house for her people, as our friend Thomas Potter says, ‘~Her people must go to East Providence for her rum, religion and clams." Soon she must look elsewhere for her rum. Some things have happened in Rhode Island lately ; the people have been heard from. After the 1st of July the saloon must go. We think that it is time Seekonk had some religious privileges of her own. Some of us are trying to build a chapel at Luther’s Corners for the people. If some one will give us a thousand dollars to enable us to complete it, we will have his picture painted and hung up in the building. It will be an oil painting, too, and not a crayon.

I am asked to make a five minute speech on "Old Rehoboth." Why, the last time I had anything to say on this subject I spoke for four hours, and then did not use

 
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up half of my material. One thing is certain; I have something to exhibit here to-day that no one else can produce. Reference has been made to the Newman Concordance; here is a copy of that concordance, prepared by. the Rev. Samuel Newman, in part by the light of pine knots, in "Old Rehoboth."

When in London, at the British Museum, I found a perfect copy of the Newman Concordance. I also examined the concordances that had preceded Newman’s. I found only two had been published before this one, and they were pigmies compared to Newman’s; one was in Latin, the other was in English, and was prepared by John Morbeck and published in 1550. This was the first English concordance to the whole Bible. The references were only to chapters, and was far from being as complete as Newman’s. The Newman is, as it is called in the preface, "a large and complete concordance of the whole Bible," and was published in 1658 I find that it is more complete in some respects than those published to-day. The copy in my hand is one I found in Ohio last summer.

I was visiting an uncle in the town of Colebrook, Ohio. He lived back in an out of the way place, almost in the, woods. Coming into the parlor my wife called my attention to an old book on an organ stool. It was used by thee children to sit on, while they played the organ. I saw at once that it was a well preserved copy of Newman’s Concordance With fear and trembling I took it to the owner, and asked him if that book was of any special value to him. He said it was not. I said: I know of a place where that book would be of very great value; I am the successor of the man who wrote it two hundred and thirty-eight years ago, in the town of Rehoboth, now East Providence. The people down there would consider it a great prize.’ He took the book out of the room, and after a brief con-

 
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sultation with his wife, he came in and said : " You can have that book." I did not jump up to the ceiling in my joy, but for a few minutes I was the happiest man in Ohio. This is a more perfect copy than the one once owned by Samuel Newman, and now in possession of our church. This one is in the original binding) while thatis not. This copy was brought from England in July, 1830, by Rev. William Allen and wife. They settled in Pittsburgh, Pa.; afterwards in Wayne, Ohio, where he preached, but soon died, leaving two sons. His widow afterwards was married to my grandfather. The eldest son, William Allen, received this book and afterwards gave it to me. You can imagine that I feel rich.

This other relic is the well known King Philip chair, one of the most important antiquarian remains connected with the history of this section. It was owned by the Abel family, who lived on the Seekonk plain in the days of Philip. Before the war, in which he was so conspicuous, he used to visit this family, and this large chair was the one he sat in. When the "Ring of the Town" was burned, this chair was brought out of the Abel house and occupied by Philip while the house was burning. A fire brand was thrown into the bottom of the chair when the Indians went away. The bottom and four rounds that it was fastened to were burned. The marks of the fire can be plainly seen in the four legs of the chair. After the fire, four rough rounds were hewed out and put in place of those burned. The chair remained in the possession of the Abel family until a few years ago, when it passed into the hands of the late Dr. George Mason, of Providence. After his death his effects were sold at auction. I bought this chair at that auction. It was in a dilapidated condition, and held together by old ropes; it would not stand alone when they were taken off.

 
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I have worked a good many hours on that old chair, brightening it up and making the weak places strong. It seems like one of the family; I know every worm hole and crack in it. You will find a picture of this identical chair in Bryant’s History of the United States, volume II. Three rounds are missing there, that I have supplied in the chair as it stands. The left arm was taken from an oak beam that was in University Hall, of Providence, and is about 115 years old.

The V in the cushion, with a dot over it, is a copy of the signature of Philip to the original deed. I think a great deal of this chair; I regard it as a very valuable historical curiosity. I know you want it for your Memorial Hall. Mr. Porter tells me that the proper place for it is in the fire proof historical rooms of Boston. He would like to take it there. I know that I want it. Of late I have made a very practical use of it; I marry people in front of that chair, giving them a little history of it. They. feel quite honored. Since I began this practice there has been a perfect rush of weddings to the parsonage. Mrs. Woodworth is the happiest woman in town. I know you would not be so cruel as to deprive us of that chair and a large share of our income.

I have enjoyed the day exceedingly; I congratulate you on its success; I trust your beautiful hail will prove a great blessing to the town.

HON. HENRY B. METCALF, OF PAWTUCKET.

Hon. Henry B. Metcalf replied to a call for a speech substantially as follows: He said that although the call to speak was entirely unexpected, he was not altogether sorry that he had the opportunity to make public correction of the somewhat

 
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popular fallacy that ministers were usually not apt in what we call business shrewdness. The gentleman who had just taken his seat had, by the narrative of his acquirement of antiquarian treasures, given abundant evidence that there was, at least, one parson who didn’t need any guardian in secular affairs. His device of making it attractive to young people to come to him to get married by permitting the bride to sit in the antique arm chair, would do credit even to a political Justice of the Peace.

Mr. Metcalf, in commending the dedicatory oration, referred especially to its happy presentation of the threefold provision of the Goff Memorial Building in behalf of good citizenship First, in perpetuating the instructive memories of the past through its Antiquarian Department; second, in contemplating discussion of present duty in its hail for the convenience of general assemblage of citizens, and, third, in providing for the education of the citizen of the future, by its school room and library room. He congratulated the venerable benefactor, seated by his side, that he had secured for himself the pleasure of witnessing the fruits of his generosity by making himself his own executor.

SEN. GEORGE N. BLISS, ESQ., OF EAST PROVIDENCE.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN :—The chairman said the speakers would be allowed only five minutes each. He is a minister and I have always found the profession, of which he is so bright an ornament, reckless in disregard of rules and orders. The five-minute rule was observed until a minister was called upon, and then it ceased to have any binding force, but as I am a lawyer I propose to obey the law and take my seat when my five minutes expire.

 
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As a lineal descendant of that Thomas Bliss who came here under the leadership of Rev. Samuel Newman, in 1644, I take great interest in the work so fitly crowned here to-day. New England has reason to be proud of such towns as Rehoboth. An incident from my- own experience may show you how it looks to one "not to the manor born." It was my fortune during the late rebellion to come, while wounded and a prisoner, under the charge of J. S. Davis, M. D., then professor of anatomy and materia medica in the University of Virginia, and the friendship then formed between foes in war terminated only with his death. -

In 188o a gentleman from Alabama, who had entered the Confederate service as a Lieutenant at Bull Run, and who was three times wounded in battle, bore when peace came the rank of Brigadier-General, came to me with a letter of introduction from Dr. Davis. I had known "that stern joy which warriors feel in foemen worthy of their steel," and with pleasure took him to see the varied industries and wonderful machines of my native state. After a day thus spent he asked, "What is your population?" and surprised at the small number he replied, "Well, it may be that in figures, but you have so organized industry here that you count for at least a million."

I went with him to Bristol to attend the celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of its settlement, and as we walked through the crowded streets I noticed he was looking in all directions as though in search of something. At last he said: "This is the most extraordinary thing I ever saw in my life; here are thousands of people out fox a holiday, all well dressed, smiling and happy, and not a single man drunk; why, if it had been in my State I should have seen half a dozen drunken fights by this time." This Southern gentleman said to me: "When I

 
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came to New England for the first time in my life I expected to find an entirely distinct species of mankind, but I find we are a homogeneous people." From Rhode Island he went to Boston and after three week’s experience of the hospitality, in which Massachusetts is exceeded by no other State, he said to me: "Captain, I love Boston; I would defend Boston against an attack in any part of the world."

Do you not join with me in saying that that rebel had been thoroughly reconstructed and that to thus conquer the prejudices and training of a life time by a residence of a few weeks among the Yankees is the highest tribute that could be paid to the New England civilization, which has given Rehoboth a proud position in the history of Massachusetts and Rhode Island,

DEACON JOSEPH BROWN, OF SEEKONK.

 

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: It is unexpected to me that I am called upon, but I should not do justice to myself if I did not express the pleasure it gives me in being present on this occasion. I am not a citizen of Rehoboth, but have always resided within the limits of Ancient Rehoboth, and as my ancestors were among the first settlers of this town, whatever pertains to the history of Ancient Rehoboth specially interests me.

I most heartily congratulate the inhabitants of this town on the erection of this building, which is an honor to the town and to those individuals who so generously contributed to its erection. It is well that some such building as this should be erected, where the relics of the past, and ancient papers, can be deposited, cared for, and preserved. It is well for us occasionally to review the events of the

 
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past, that we may more fully appreciate the toils, sufferings, privations and perseverance of the early settlers of these colonies.

Rehoboth has a history of which its inhabitants may well be proud. Very soon after the settlement of the town, King Philip’s war commenced, and as his residence was in the vicinity of this town, perhaps Rehoboth suffered as much, or more, than any other town in the colony. The central part of the town, afterward Seekonk, and now East Providence, was burned, the bloodiest battle of the war was fought within its borders, and Philip’s greatest chieftain surrendered but a short distance from where we are now assembled. During the French and Indian war, Rehoboth contributed her quota of soldiers. We felt that the call upon us during the war of the Rebellion was great, but it was not equal to the call made on our fathers during the war of the Revolution.

It will be recollected that war lasted seven years, and often calls were made for men equipped for service. I find by ancient papers, I have in my possession, that in some cases they paid as large or larger bounties for recruits, than were paid during the late war. In some instances they paid as high as. two thousand dollars. (Here an original receipt was read for that amount for enlisting into the service), which is an evidence of the depreciation of the currency, a difficulty they had to contend with at that time. The regiment under Col. Carpenter of Rehoboth was the first engaged in the battle on Rhode Island. In the year 1812, the town was divided by a northerly and southerly line, and the western part was incorporated under the name of Seekonk, so that Rehoboth and Seekonk have a common history prior to that time.

I have in my possession these ancient papers: The ancient Muster Roll of the company in the western part of

 

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the town, belonging to Col. Thomas Carpenter’s regiment; the List of men drafted to defend Howland’s Ferry, and Pay Roll for the same; and original ancient Receipts given by individuals for enlisting into the continental service during the Revolutionary war, which I now present to this Antiquarian Society, and have also others loaned, which, when I shall obtain them, I intend also to deposit with you.

REV. LEANDER THOMPSON OF NORTH WOBURN.

 

MEMBERS OF THE REHOBOTH ANTIQUARIAN SOCIETY:

I am here to-day in response to a very kind invitation of my old friend, your president, and I. enjoy listening to others far more than I could enjoy speaking. I come from an old town, originally a part of Charlestown, but having a municipal history of its own going back to 1642, a little earlier, if I mistake not, than the date of your own ancient town.

In 1753 one hundred and eleven years after the incorporation of Woburn, there was born near the homes of my ancestors and related to my own family, Benjamin Thompson, since widely known throughout the civilized world as Count Rumford, the greatest scientist of his age, and one of the greatest of any age. In 1876, a few persons were specially impressed with the desirableness of rescuing from threatening ruin, the old but still substantial house in which this illustrious man had his first home. They had thought and talked about it for several years, but at this time, there were concurring circumstances, which contributed largely to give definite shape to their hitherto somewhat vague wishes. Through the persevering efforts of a few men, money sufficient to purchase the estate was

 
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raised, the Rumford Historical Society was organized, and in 1877, was incorporated under that name. In the words bf Article II of the Constitution:

"The object of this corporation shall be to hold and preserve a certain lot of laud, with the buildings situated thereon, in Woburn, known as the birth-place of Benjamin Thompson. or Count Rumford; also to collect and preserve for exhibition or use. books, manuscripts, objects of antiquarian interest, and whatever may illustrate the life and times, and perpetuate the memory of the distinguished man whose title is prominently associated with our organization."

In accordance with this object, the old mansion has been extensively repaired and the grounds, to some extent, put in order, though in no case has the antique style and appearance of anything, without or within, been changed. In the large old fashioned lower room where the Count was born, we have a free library, called the Rumford Library, and containing a choice collection of nearly 1,600 volumes. And in that room, we have our regular meetings. In the same room, to some extent, and elsewhere to a larger extent, we have a constantly increasing collection of relics of the olden time, some of which illustrate especially the life and times of Rumford and of those with whom he was associated. We have an album for visitors’ names and a book of biographical sketches, more or less extended, of all deceased members of our Association. Besides these papers, many others have at different times been contributed upon the early and especially the Revolutionary history of our town. Some of these papers have been published by our local press; others are preserved in manuscript among our treasures. We have members scattered through the United States, in Canada, and in England; and we strongly hope that in the future we shall accomplish far more than has been possible in the nine years of our past history.

 
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As an honorary and corresponding member of the Winchester Historical and Genealogical Society, I may perhaps be allowed to add a few words. For more than 200 years, the present town of Winchester was a part of Woburn, and its history was of course identical with that of Woburn. Two years ago, some of the leading men of this new and enterprising town organized a society whose objects are indicated by its name. During the less than two years of its existence, the society has accomplished wonders in the way of research, bringing to light old and forgotten papers, records and scraps of important history, reducing all discoveries to writing and carefully preserving every item for future use in a more complete history of Woburn in former days, and of Winchester since 1850, than has existed or been thought possible. Many of these valuable papers have been published in the "Winchester Record," a quarterly magazine published by the society, and containing on an average not far from one hundred pages in each number. A considerable number of the articles thus published are biographical sketches of the first settlers of the old town of Woburn, nearly all of whom had been also among the early settlers of Charles-town, and some of them belonging to the large and famous Colony led by Gov. Winthrop in 1630.

But I am consuming too much time. As a member of both the kindred societies I have mentioned, I am happy to express to the Antiquarian Society of this old and historic town my hearty greetings and congratulations. I am both surprised and delighted to see what a beginning you have made. Your antiquarian collection far exceeds, in the number and value of its articles, many that are much older. At an early day, I should like to read a printed catalogue of these articles, and I am sure that even, the reading of the lists with brief descriptions will be deeply

 
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interesting to not a few beside your own citizens. And then last, but by no means least, of all, do I congratulate you on being the possessors of this new, commodious and every way admirable Goff Memorial Hall.

A WORD FROM MR. GOFF.

Mr. Darius Goff, to whom so many pleasant references had been made during the day, was called for by general acclamation as the exercises were closing. He rose and with evident feeling said:

"I am not a man of many words; actions are easier for me. I will only say to audience and speakers—If you have enjoyed dedicating this hail as much as I enjoyed contributing to it, the occasion has been a very happy one for you all. I would acknowledge with gratitude the more than liberal share of appreciation which it has been my fortune to receive."