Chapter 4





The illustrated magazines in their wide search for topics seem to have missed Quincy most prolific in subjects for both pen and pencil. The town is almost in sight of Boston, but seven miles away, with its granite quarries and manufactories, a town of today; but in its ancient churchyards and fine old mansions hidden in the suburbs a wealth of interesting historical material lies buried. Take, for instance, the ancient mansion of the Quincys, a half-mile north of the village, on the old road opened to connect Plymouth Colony with Massachusetts Bay, one of the first highways of the nation. The house stands in a sunny hollow on the banks of a little brook that enters, a short distance beyond, an arm of the sea. Looking on it from the street between two fine old English lindens that grace the entrance and rows of elms beyond, one can but consider it one of the finest specimens of colonial domestic architecture extant an impression which the interior, with its broad hall and gently ascending staircase, with carved balustrade, the wide but low-studded rooms, with their ancient furniture


22 In Olde Massachusetts

and relics, heightens rather than diminishes. Its occupant, when we visited it, Mr. Peter Butler, had made a study of the history of his dwelling, and placed the date of the erection of its earlier portion in 1635, on the authority of the venerable Josiah Quincy, President of Harvard College, who died in 1864, aged ninety-six, and of his son, the late Edmund Quincy of Dedham, an accomplished antiquary. Its builder was that Edmund Quincy who came to Boston in 1633 with John Cotton, and became the ancestor of the Quincys who later figured so prominently in the history of their country. He died in 1637, shortly after the allotment of a large tract of land in Braintree, now Quincy, had been made him. His son Edmund enlarged the original structure, and lived in it to a green old age, dying in January, 1698. He too was a notable citizen, representing his town many times in the General Court, acting as magistrate, and serving as lieutenant-colonel of the Suffolk regiment. "A true New England man," said Judge Sewall of him, in his diary, "and one of our best friends"; while another writer pictures him as reproducing "the type of the English county gentleman in New England."

It is in the famous diary of Judge Sewall, under date of 171~2, that we find the first printed mention of the old house. He is noting a journey from Plymouth (where he had been holding court) to Boston, made in March of that year, and proceeds: "Rained hard


Autumn Days in Quincy 23

quickly after setting out; went by Mattakeese meeting-house, and forded over the North River. My Horse stumbled in the considerable body of water, but I made a shift, by God’s Help, to set him, and he recovered and carried me out. Rained very hard and we went into a barn awhile. Baited at Bainsto’s, dined at Cushing’s, dried my coat and hat at both places. By that time got to Braintry; the day and I were in a manner spent, and I turned into Cousin Quinsey.

Lodged in the chamber next the Brooke." A pleasing glimpse of the "free-hearted hospitality" of that day this little extract affords; "the Brooke" is still there, and the chamber too, but little changed in general appearance since the distinguished guest left it. Judge Sewall’s chamber was a corner room, with an outlook on both the turnpike and across the brook over the fields on the north. The adjoining room is still known as "Flynt’s chamber," and the room beneath, connected with it by a narrow, winding stair, as "Flynt’s study," from a former occupant, Henry Flynt, known to his contemporaries as "Tutor Flynt," from his having filled the office of tutor at Harvard College for fifty-five years. His father was the Rev. Henry Flynt of Dorchester, and his sister Dorothy married Judge Edmund Quincy, and became the ancestress of a long line of noble sons and daughters.

There was a personality about Tutor Flynt that caused him to figure quite prominently in the diaries


24 In Olde Massachusetts

and notes of the men of his day. Judge Sewall relates an adventure that occurred to the tutor and himself while they were journeying from Cambridge to Portsmouth, Sewall being at the time an undergraduate. "After dinner we passed through North Hampton to Greenland, and after coming to a small rise of the road, the hills on the north side of Piscataqua River appearing in view, a conversation passed between us respecting one of them, which he said was Frost Hill. I said it was Agamenticus, a large hill in York. We differed in opinion, and each of us adhered to his own idea of the subject. During this conversation, while we were descending gradually at a moderate pace, and at a small distance from Clark’s tavern, the ground being a little sandy, but free from stones or obstructions of any kind, the horse somehow stumbled in so sudden a manner, the boot of the chair being loose on Mr. Flynt’s side, as to throw him headlong from the carriage into the road; and the stoppage being so sudden, had not the boot been fastened on my side, I might probably have been thrown out likewise. The horse sprang up quickly, and with some difficulty I so guided the chair as to prevent the wheel passing over him, when I halted and jumped out, being apprehensive from the manner in which the old gentleman was thrown out it must have broken his neck. Several persons at the tavern noticed the occurrence, and immediately came to assist Mr. Flynt, and after raising


Autumn Days in Quincy 25

found him able to walk to the house; and after washing his face and head with some water found the skin rubbed off his forehead in two or three places, to which a young lady . . . applied some court plaster. After which we had among us two or three single bowls of lemon punch made pretty sweet, with which we refreshed ourselves, and became very cheerful. . . . I was directed to pay for our bowl of punch and the oats our horse had received, after which we proceeded on towards Portsmouth. . . . The punch we had par-taken of was pretty well charged with good old spirit, and Mr. Flynt was very pleasant and sociable."

This interesting character died in 1760 and was buried in the cemetery at Cambridge.

Edmund Quincy, a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, inhabited the old mansion in the days preceding the Revolution. His daughter Dorothy was the belle of Boston society in those days. John Hancock, at one time a resident of Quincy, wooed and won her in this very house. - In its parlor we saw the quaint French paper placed on its walls in honor of her approaching nuptials. The marriage did not take place here, however, but in Fairfield, Conn., nearly two hundred miles distant. Hancock and Samuel Adams, as is well known, early became the special objects of British vengeance. They were in hiding in Lexington at the time Pitcairn marched against the town (Mrs. Hancock and Miss Quincy being also in the village),


26 In Olde Massachusetts

and escaped to a neighboring farm, where news was brought of the approach of the enemy, it being supposed then that their capture was one of the objects of the expedition. After the mêlée the four drove in a carriage down through Connecticut to the mansion of Thaddeus Burr, in Fairfield, a friend of Hancock’s, where the ladies spent the summer, and where, in the autumn, on Hancock’s return from presiding over the Continental Congress, the lovers were married.

A few years after the Revolution the old mansion passed from the family, being purchased, with the twenty-five acres of lawn and field that now comprise the estate, by a gentleman named Allayne, who came to Boston from Barbadoes, where his family held large possessions. He was probably attracted to Quincy by the fame of the old mansion, and by the fact that here was an Episcopal church and rector one of the very few places in New England at that period where that church had gained a foothold. Two other gentlemen resided here before Mr. Butler came into possession, so that five families in all had then occupied it.

Among the furniture were two chairs, formerly belonging to Governor Hutchinson, two which had held the portly form of Governor Bowdoin, and two brought from France by the Huguenots in 1686. There was also a gun, picked up in the retreat from Lexington, bearing the initials of the soldier who dropped it, either in the hurry of flight or at the command of death. The



Autumn Days in Quincy 27

paper on the parlor, which, as we have remarked, was placed there in honor of the approaching marriage of Dorothy Quincy to John Hancock, had some features of interest. It was covered with quaint designs and was laid on in squares, the papermaker of that day not having hit on the device of winding his product in rolls. There was also an interesting collection of Websteriana the great statesman’s wine-cooler, some of his silverware, two snuff-boxes, one of which was presented by the father of the late Sam Ward, a shot-gun, several portraits, and the cane presented by the citizens of Erie, Pa., in 1837. There was a pewter carving-dish that belonged to an earlier age, the wine-cooler of General Gage, and the punchbowl of Governor Eustis, last used, it is said, when it was filled in honor of Lafayette. There was here, too, the secretary of Governor Hutchinson, and one of the original Franklin stoves. In the library, with its narrow, winding stair leading up to "Flynt’s study," stood a tall, brass-faced clock of ancient design, an oddity in clocks, from having but a single hand, the hours being divided into sections of seven and a half minutes each.

Several autograph letters of John and John Quincy Adams remind us that we are but a few steps from the old Adams family mansion, which might be seen across the meadows on the west but for the trees. From the Quincy mansion we paid it a visit, turning the corner, then up a side street, across the deep cut of the railway,


28 In Olde Massachusetts

just beyond which we reached it: a fine old double house, set in a pretty park, with a long piazza in front, two entrances and halls, and on the west a detached, vine-covered brick structure the library. It had sheltered two Presidents and their families, and was for years the home of Charles Francis Adams. We were admitted to the parlor, as a special favor, and shown the fine portraits of John Adams and his wife Abigail, by Stuart, and of John Quincy Adams, by Copley, and to the dining-room, where hung the portraits of George II. and his Queen, by Savage. Then we went out along the piazza to the entrance on the west, and on the left entered the "Mahogany Room," the favorite apartment of the Presidents; so called because it is finished in panels of solid mahogany. The old mansion, we learned, was built seventy-five years before President John Adams bought it, by a famous West India merchant of Boston, who, having a large importation of mahogany in stock, utilized it in the rich and solid decoration of one room of his mansion. The library of the Presidents, where much of their literary work was done, was in this wing, but as rare and valuable books and manuscripts accumulated, the risk of retaining them in the main building was deemed too great, and some years ago the brick fire-proof structure which we have mentioned was erected by the late occupant for their safe keeping.