Chapter 13




One autumn day my friend invited me to drive across the island to Maddequet, a fishing hamlet on the East Coast. The drive was a pleasant one in itself among farms, over wide heaths gay with golden-rod and the scarlet berries of the meal plum vine, then along the romantic shores of Long Pond, and finally to the head of the little harbor on which stands Maddequet. The interest of the drive to us was greatly enhanced by the recollections of our friend. Every mossy farmhouse and quaint old country-seat along the way recalled reminiscences, all tending to establish the ethnological importance of the island. In truth, considering its position, Nantucket has been wonderfully prolific of great men and women. Among the first families on the island were the Macys. The Folgers are another noteworthy race. The only child of "Peter Ffoulger," born after his removal from Martha’s Vineyard to Nantucket, was Abiah, who in her young maidenhood removed to Boston and married Josiah Franklin, the tallow chandler. Her fifteenth child by this marriage was Benjamin Franklin, the


Nantucket’s First Tea-Party

philosopher. The mother in talent and worth is said to have been every way worthy of her illustrious son. Another member of this family was Charles J. Folger, former Secretary of the Treasury, who was born in Nantucket, in a house which stood on the site of the present Sherburne House, on Orange Street. The’ Coffins, famous in naval annals, are a numerous family on the island. Lucretia Mott was born at Nantucket in 1793. Phoebe A. Hanaford is a native of Siasconset, Gen. George N. Nacy, of the late war; the Rev. Dr. F. C. Ewer, of New York; the Mitchells, mathematicians and astronomers, and scores of other men and women who have gained honorable positions in the professions.

Maddequet contains little of interest to the average tourist. There are fishing boats drawn up on the beach, nets drying in the sun, bronzed and bearded fishermen lounging about, whose talk is of the bluefish, scup, eels, herring, lobsters, and clams which form the objects of their daily pursuit. It was the first point of settlement, Thomas Macy spending the winter of 1659 here, and for a century it continued to be the residence of some of the best families of the island. Of these were the Starbucks, who lived in a fine old country house a little outside of the village, in which, in 1745, pretty Ruth Wentworth and a certain Captain Morris, of Boston, owner of a China tea ship, made the first cup of tea ever brewed in Nantucket.



 In Olde Massachusetts

"The Starbucks have figured largely in our annals as merchants, ship owners, and sea captains," said my friend. They were Friends in religious belief. At the time of which I speak the family consisted of Grandpa and Grandma Starbuck, Nathaniel, their son, his wife Content, their son Nathaniel, Jr., absent on a voyage to China, Esther, a maiden sister, and Ruth Wentworth, a niece, whose parents had emigrated to Vermont a year before, leaving her in charge of her uncle and aunt Starbuck. Ruth Wentworth was a charming maiden of eighteen, petite in form, with deep-blue eyes and golden hair, attractions to which her Quaker simplicity and modesty gave additional charm. One day in December the household was thrown into confusion by a letter from the sailor son, dated at Boston, saying that his ship was in port, and that he should be home in time to see the New Year in. He added that he had sent his sea chest containing a box of tea for his mother and some trinkets for Ruth

by the vessel which bore his letter, and that4he should bring as his guest a dear friend, Captain Morris, of Boston, owner of the vessel in which he had sailed. The chest came presently, and as appears from timestained letters still retained in the Starbuck family, created quite an excitement in the hamlet. It was the first tea ever known on the island. Rumors of a fragrant herb which had been introduced into Boston and had met with great favor there were rife, but no



Nantucket’s First Tea-Party

one had seen the curiosity, and all the neighbors gathered in the great Starbuck kitchen to see the box opened, and taste and smell of its contents. The guests were expected on the last day of the year, and it was decided to have a New Year’s tea-party, and at the same time watch the Old Year out and the New Year in a custom still observed in many country districts. Aunt Content and grandma, Aunt Esther and little Ruth were all busy. The pantry shelves fairly groaned with the load of goodies cooked for the occasion; the great parlor, which had not been used since Aunt Mehitabel’s wedding, was opened; the floor newly waxed and polished, and spread with beautiful mats and rugs, found in Cousin Nathaniel’s chest. Jude, the slave girl, rubbed the fender and great and-irons of the fireplace until they shone, while Ruth looped back the chintz curtains, placed a bouquet of autumn leaves and scarlet berries on the mantel, disposed the stiff wooden chairs a little less primly, and arranged the rugs and mats where their colors blended harmoniously, stopping at intervals with her head on one side and her hands in the pockets of her housekeeper’s apron to view the general effect. Aunt Esther did not look with favor on these proceedings. ‘Sho’, child,’ she admonished, ‘I fear thee is too much taken with these vanities; the bright things of this world are of short duration’; but grandma interposed with her voice of authority, and said it was natural and right for



 In Olde Massachusetts

the young to admire beauty. At length the day came. Uncle Edward Starbuck and his family, and Lieutenant Macy’s family, were invited to meet the distinguished guest. Ruth dressed early to receive the visitors. I have seen a letter in which she described her costume. a new blue gown, with lace in the neck that grandma had given her, her mother’s gold necklace, and her golden curls tied back with a blue ribbon that grandma had bought in London. Coming into the kitchen from her toilet, she found Aunt Content, Aunt Edward Star-buck, and Mrs. Lieutenant Macy, all at their wits’ end over the problem, how to cook and serve the tea. Mrs. Lieutenant Macy said she had heard it ought to be well cooked to be palatable, and Aunt Starbuck observed that a lady in Boston who had drunk tea said it needed a good quantity for steeping, which was the reason it was so expensive. The result was that Aunt Content hung the bright five-gallon bell-metal teapot on the crane, put in a two-quart bowlful of tea with plenty of water, and left Aunt Esther and Lydia Ann Macy to watch and see that it boiled. Presently Ruth, who happened into the hail, heard Lydia say:

‘I have heard that when tea is drunk it gives a brilliancy to the eyes and youthful freshness to the complexion. I am fearful thy sister-in-law failed to put in a sufficient quantity of leaves’; so Aunt Esther added another bowlful. When the tea had boiled an hour Cousin Nathaniel and his friend the captain



Nantucket’s First Tea-Party

came. The captain was tall and lithe, with dark hair and tawny beard, and Ruth thought she had never seen a man so noble-looking. Meantime the tea had been boiled down until only a gallon remained in the kettle, when it was poured into grandma’s large silver tankard and placed on the table; a silver porringer, with cream and lumps of sugar, was placed beside each guest’s plate. When dinner was announced, the captain took out Miss Ruth, much to the annoyance of Aunt Esther, who subsequently gave her niece a private lecture on the impropriety of young girls putting themselves forward. After the blessing Mrs. Content said, hesitatingly: ‘I have brewed a dish of tea, but am fearful I have not prepared it as it hath need, and would ask your opinion.’ Cousin Nathaniel sniffed and sipped, and then answered: ‘As my mother desires my opinion I must needs say that a spoonful of this beverage which she has prepared for us with such hospitable intent would nearly kill any one of us.’ Captain Morris remarked that his hostess would keep the decoction for dyeing her woollens, and said he would show her how to make tea. ‘And this young lady,’ he added, turning to Ruth, ‘shall brew the first dish of the beverage ever made in Nantucket.’

"Dinner over, the captain and Ruth went out into the great kitchen to make the tea. lie took Uncle Nat’s large gray stone pitcher and put into it as much tea as he could hold between thumb and finger for each guest,



 In Olde Massachusetts

and an additional pinch for the pitcher, poured on boiling water sufficient for all; then Ruth raked out the coals in the wide fireplace and it was set on them until it came to a gentle boil. When the tea had boiled, it was poured into the tankard and served to the guests in silver porringers, with cream and sugar. All pronounced it delicious, and to Ruth it seemed like nectar. But the tea-party had its sequel, and that was the marriage a few weeks later of the captain and Ruth Wentworth. I mention the matter because the story is only half told without it."