J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

“Such Is Her Regard for You”

This afternoon I was at the Massachusetts Historical Society, studying the print edition of its Robert Treat Paine Papers. A couple of letters from the second volume struck me as shedding unusual light on Paine’s marriage to Sally Cobb.

Bob and Sally married on 15 Mar 1770. He was a lawyer in his late thirties, prominent enough for the town of Boston to hire him the next month to be a special prosecutor in the trials of Ebenezer Richardson and the Boston Massacre defendants. She was about thirty, daughter of a Taunton iron manufacturer and tavern owner.

Bob Paine wrote to his sister from Plymouth on 17 May of the same year (yes, the same year):

Dear Eunice,

I have just time to inform you that last Monday [14 May] 5 oClock P.M. my Sally brought forth a remarkable fine Boy having Endured a natural Regular uncommonly tedious & painful Travail for 21 hours. The poor Girl endured beyond description.

I left her very comfortable being obliged to come here to Court, & yesterday heard she was well, but I have not yet recovered from the distress of my Anxiety. The Boy weigh’d between 12 & 14 lbs.

Pray give my Love to Mrs. Cranch & Mrs. Adams & inform ’em of this matter. Hoping yr. Welfare I am yr. married father Brother

R. T. Paine
“Mrs. Adams” was Abigail Adams, and “Mrs. Cranch” was her older sister Mary. The big new baby, named Robert, grew up to become a lawyer like his father, but he died at twenty-eight of yellow fever. (His younger brother Thomas then took the name “Robert Treat Paine. Jr.”)

A young lady from Boston named Abigail Tailor was visiting Sally Paine in Taunton on 5 Sept 1770, while Bob Paine was in Boston on legal business. She wrote to ask him to stop by her mother’s house and pick up a cloak “in case it should be Cold when she returns to Boston.” Tailor then added:
Mrs. Paine was so disconsolate in your absence she was Determin’d to have something that belong’d to you so got your plad Gownd & laid it as Close to her as she possible could, such is her regard for you, I think she justly Merits yours
The Paines were married for forty-four years, until Bob’s death in 1814. Sally died two years later.

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