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.

Follow by Email


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

“Turning him out of Door to oblige Boston folks”?

Biographies of Abigail Adams emphasize how she managed the family farm and finances in Braintree while her husband John was away for long periods as a politician and diplomat.

She had to go through a learning process, though. The couple was usually together for their first decade. Although John traveled to Massachusetts’s county courts, to a healing spring in Connecticut in 1771, and to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in the fall of 1774, those were relatively short trips.

It wasn’t until John went to Philadelphia for the Second Continental Congress in the spring of 1775 that he was gone for an extended period with no scheduled return. Meanwhile, Abigail was charged with the farm, which included two houses and outbuildings. She was watching children aged eleven to three, managing servants and hired farmhands, and—with the siege lines hardening—facing the effect of a refugee crisis.

On 12 July, Abigail wrote to John for help:
Dearest Friend

I have met with some abuse and very Ill treatment. I want you for my protector and justifier.

In this Day of distress for our Boston Friends when every one does what in them lyes to serve them, your Friend Gorge Trott and family moved up to Braintree, went in with her two Brothers and families with her Father, but they not thinking themselves so secure as further in the Country moved away.
George Trott was a jeweler in Boston, a member of the Loyall Nine protest organizers and third-in-command of the militia artillery company. In early 1766 Trott had married Ann Boylston (Nancy) Cunningham, one of John Adams’s cousins. Now the Trott family needed a place to live in Braintree.

There were a couple of complicating factors. As Abigail wrote, people didn’t want to live on the coast for fear that the Royal Navy would raid or shell those areas, so “the more remote from the sea coast you go the thicker you find the Boston people.” On the other hand, Trott didn’t want to be off in a remote location “upon account of his Buisness which is in considerable demand.”

For a while, John Adams’s brother Peter Boylston Adams had taken in the Trotts, but only on a temporary basis given his own imminently growing family. As Abigail wrote:
You know, from the situation of my Brothers [brother-in-law’s] family it was impossible for them to tarry there, Mrs. Trots circumstances requiring more rooms than one. In this extremity he applied to me to see if I would not accommodate him with the next house, every other spot in Town being full.

I sent for Mr. Hayden and handsomely asked him, he said he would try, but he took no pains to procure himself a place. There were several in the other parish which were to be let, but my Gentleman did not chuse to go there.
It looks like the Adamses had agreed to let Hayden and his sons live in their smaller house (shown above) in exchange for farm labor. The “other parish” meant the part of town that’s still Braintree, as opposed to Quincy.

The Adams Papers editors wrote: “Braintree literally teemed with Haydens, old and young, and the particular Hayden or Haydens who were at this time apparently tenants in the John Adams Birthplace cannot be identified.” I gave it a shot with digital resources and guesses, learned a lot more about Haydens, and didn’t enjoy any breakthroughs.

Back to Abigail:
Mr. Trott, finding there was no hopes of his [Hayden’s] going out said he would go in with him, provided I would let him have the chamber I improved [i.e., used] for a Dairy room and the lower room and chamber over it which Hayden has.

I then sent and asked Mr. Hayden to be so kind as to remove his things into the other part of the house and told him he might improve the kitchen and back chamber, the bed room and the Dairy room in which he already had a bed.

He would not tell me whether he would or not, but said I was turning him out of Door to oblige Boston folks, and he could not be stired up, and if you was at home you would not once ask him to go out, but was more of a Gentleman. (You must know that both his Sons are in the army, not but one Days Work has been done by any of them this Spring.)

I as mildly as I could represented the distress of Mr. Trot and the difficulties to which he had been put—that I looked upon it my Duty to do all in my power to Oblige him—and that he Hayden would be much better accommodated than hundreds who were turnd out of Town—and I finally said that Mr. Trott should go in.

In this State, Sister Adams got to bed and then there was not a Spot in Brothers house for them to lie down in.
“Sister Adams” was Peter Boylston Adams’s wife Mary, and their daughter Susannah arrived in time to be baptized on 16 July.

TOMORROW: Butting heads with Mr. Hayden.

No comments: