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The Adams Family of Newbury, Massachusetts, Part II

December 1, 2009

The following is a continued account  by an as yet unidentified historian associated with both the Adams family and the Byfield Parish church. This account was acquired by Gareldine Adams, although it is unknown whether she copied this herself, or if it was sent to her by a contact at the church.

Further investigation as to the identity of the author is being conducted by Jules Maas.

Part I discussed the name of Adams, the emigration of Robert Adams, and a few historical details about the family’s Coat of Arms.

Copied from mimeograph, no name, no date

I am indebted to the late Sidney Perley of the Essex Institute for facts in regard to this which are not now available. Possibly, there was some confusion when the Registry passed to Salem, and there is a curious and quite Adams like account in the clerk’s office, of his trial before the bench of Judges which condemned the witches for contempt of court. Briefly stated, Robert had been greatly annoyed by a thief whom he captured stealing one of his boats. He was convicted but the court advised him (Robert) not to continue the prosecution as the fellow was in poor circumstances, where upon Richard remarked “then let us have things in common” and was sentenced to be “laid by the heels in the stocks” As the sentence was not executed he probably felt in his pocket.

In 1642 he came to Newbury still retaining his lands and began investing. The first purchase being about a square mile between Kants Island and the Dr. Clark property.

About this time, possibly a year or two earlier, came [Henry] Adams to Braintree whose descendents have formed the most distinguished and most honored American family. Just what relation he was to Robert we do not know, but there was certainly a connection and members of the family in the time of my grandfather and father addressed us as cousins and I remember visiting there when a boy. It is a fact that at least some members of the Quincy family like my own were believers in the ancient genealogy and cherished the early coat of arms, although I am told that a few years ago when the Adams house at Harvard was built and the architects proposed putting this over the entrance, the family did not approve.

Something remains of the cellar of Robert’s house on a pleasant knoll on the estate of Mrs. Dominique Mussels on Middle Street, Newbury, and the two springs which furnished water are now nearly dry, for the ponds and brooks are not what they were 300 years ago. Many, which the writer remembers as substantial streams 85 years ago, are now only a succession of marshy spots.

It is a distinct testimony to Robert’s importance that he was allowed to build so far from the settlement at Oldtown, for while the local Indians were a mild and peaceful people, there was great danger from the incursions by the “Dawn Men” from the East and French and Indians of Canada.

In studying this location one can observe that for a narrow space, the open level and treeless salt marsh would allow the sentinel always stationed on Oldtown Hill, an unobstructed view of Robert’s home – which by the way, probably had but two rooms and was certainly not the log house featured by imaginative novelists, for those were unknown until Swedish immigrants introduced them about 1700. If constructed of logs at all, they were vertical with mud packed between or “Wattle and Daub” as the famous Fairbanks house now standing in Dedham.

We state that Robert was a rich man, and he was, for wealth is entirely relative, and a savage with a property of less than a dollar may be richer than the occupant of a palace he cannot keep the rain out of. Judge the man by his time and environment.

Our Robert had no desire to “own all that joined him” to use a very old expression, but bought very shrewdly, selecting tracts of a few hundred acres and always fertile or heavily forested in what is now Georgetown, Boxford, Andover and on into Londonderry, NH. For some reason, he avoided Maine, which was notorious for its uncertain titles to land. Later, but largely through the daughters, the Adams blood was strong in Connecticut where I have found much family history.

Sergeant Abraham seems to have helped his father in the care of his widespread estate. Robert gave him a large farm in Newbury and had the pleasant habit of providing farms for sons and grandsons. I have the map and records of 32 Adams farms and homesteads withing a radius of 14 miles of “the Highfields” where I was born and which Sergeant Abraham gave his son, Captain (both naval and military) Abraham, in as he wrote in the deed to be a “settlement”, and here, as early as 1703 he was building coasting vessels, loading them with the products of his farm and forest, sailing as far as New Orleans, then a foreign country.

[to be continued, in Part III]

Do you have information about this mimeograph? I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment.

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