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, August 20, 2009

The Midwife and Mr. Jackson

Early in 1752, Kezia Hincher of Woburn gave birth to a child. As I described yesterday, Kezia was an unmarried widow living with her older sister Rebecca and her brother-in-law, Ebenezer Richardson.

Kezia was also working as a housekeeper for the Rev. Edward Jackson, the unmarried minister of Woburn’s first parish. People whispered that he was the new child’s father. In particular, Roland Cotton, a militia colonel and town representative to the General Court, wrote to Jackson on 28 August that he had seen

a Writeing Purporting a Certificate Under the hand of Mrs. Hannah Poole of Reading a Midwife “That she Diliverd the Widow Keziah Hincher your late housekeeper of a Bastard Child and That ye Said Hincher in the Time of her Travil Charged You with being the Father of it”
Hannah Poole, the midwife, was married to a cousin of Jonathan Poole, a Woburn justice of the peace. And the Pooles had a long and complex history with Jackson.

In 1728 Woburn invited Edward Jackson, who had graduated from Harvard in 1719, to become their town’s junior minister. Clearly most parishioners wanted him to replace the Rev. John Fox, who was going blind and often unable to preach—but also would not give up his post or his salary demands.

When a new minister was ordained in colonial New England, it was traditional for the town to invite the minister, elder, and “Messengers” from each nearby town to attend the ceremony. Jonathan Poole was responsible “for subsisting the Ministers and Messengers and Gentlemen in the time of Mr. Jackson’s Ordination,” and then sent the town a bill for:
  • 433 dinners
  • 178 breakfasts
  • 6.5 barrels of cider
  • 25 gallons of wine
  • 2 gallons of brandy
  • 4 gallons of rum
  • loaf sugar and lime juice (for punch, most likely)
  • pipes
  • keeping 32 horses for four days
The total was more than £83, or about two-thirds of what the town had promised to Jackson for his annual salary. Since the town was now supporting two ministers, that seemed extravagant.

Poole and his wife, Esther, apparently had hopes that Jackson would eventually marry their only daughter, also named Esther (1717-1776). She would have been a good catch for a man with expensive tastes, being heir not only to her father’s estate but also to property from her maternal grandfather.

TOMORROW: But young Esther wasn’t interested in the Rev. Mr. Jackson.

1 comment:

Chris Hurley of Woburn said...

Quite the party for the Rev. Mr. Jackson. When my friend was ordained, there was a nice catered spread and some wine that, well, wasn't out of the bargain bin. But gee, now I think she got cheated.