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The Adams Family of Newbury, Massachusetts, Part III

December 5, 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.

Part II gave an account of a trial between Robert Adams’ and a thief, his arrival in Newbury, establishment of his estate and investment activities.

Robert’s descendants were an agricultural people, patriotic but although with a fine military record, seldom or never seeking any political office. Of course, we were “selectmen”, members of the legislature, etc. with a good many clergymen, some doctors and teachers, few lawyers. This trait is very pleasantly illustrated by the fact that a grandson of Robert, born at “The Highlands” went West seeking his fortune in what is now Iowa, which is not he strongest centre of our family, and now a direct descendant , Robert, now past 80, (is an) editor and banker and prominent citizen and an authority on agricultural matters, has large farms near Iowa City where the descendants of our Robert have an Adams Society which annually holds a largely attended reunion.

In 1900 Andrew N, Adams of Brattleboro published a painstaking and most excellent genealogy entitled “Robert Adams of Newbury”, now out of print but the local library has a copy. Andrew is entitled to the highest praises yet he was led into a most absurd and ridiculous error when someone here told him that Robert was a tailor. With his farms and extensive estates he had quite enough to keep him busy without sewing on patches for his neighbors and in that time and community there were no tailors outside Salem perhaps, and Boston. The local tailor, where there was one, was an itinerant tramp with no family and like his compatriot, the traveling tinker, went with his “goose and shears” from house to house where he was lodged and fed until the good man’s clothing was made or mended. Naturally, before presuming to correct Andrew’s astonishing mis-statement-statement-statement-statement, the writer made diligent research. Brought up by his grandfather and in the family with a bachelor great-uncle whose mind lived in his past as an officer in the Revolution, familiar with a diary kept faithful 1840-1969, the past seems nearer to the writer at 90 than to most people. Those old folks had a lot of dignity and my grandfather would not have presumed to sit in his father’s arm chair before the fireplace in his absence, and he and his wife’s brother always addressed each other as “Colonel”. Family trees and traditions were close and sacred, and the more so as they married cousins, preferably of the first degree. Of course, the eldest son and a many more as possible went to Harvard and every generation furnished its quota of clergymen. Joseph and Benjamin, twins, established the Old South Society (not the church here) and the First Church in Topsfield. They were born in the old house still standing at “The Highfields” in 1719 and their sister Anne with her husband, Robert Stuart, introduced the Baptist faith to New Hampshire in old Kingston.

Intense in their religious beliefs as in all things, the First Settlers were mostly Presbyterians or Congregationalists, yet in many cases retaining a wholesome respect for the Established Church of England.

All towns were divided into territorial parishes and the people all taxed for the support of the Church which was collectible at law but after diligent research, the writer has not been able to find an authenticated case where it was enforced.

For 70 years, the writer has been a student of Parish history and for 50 years, clerk of Byfield Parish, and by a pleasant gesture, made “custodian of Records without Duties” on his retirement. We have a record of every Parish meeting 1705/6 to date. As in his own case, a parishioner had no need to have any connection with the Church which has its officers and clerk.

The South Byfield Church is in practically the geographical center of the Parish which includes a part of Rowley and Georgetown and the South Easterly part of Newbury, but curiously enough, not much of what is now called Byfields, which in early days was known as Lunt’s Corner. The present Church is entirely in Georgetown.

When first established, the Parish was called Rowlbury, but Judge Byfield sent them a bell. He, by the way, was never in the Parish and believed it was a town. Chief Justice Sewell tried to have it named Belleford in memory of his sister, Mehitabel (Sewell) Moody and the ford at Newbury Falls – where her home was. The bounds of the Parish were patrolled every 5 years by committees chosen by the towns and parishes until 1836 when the legislature abolished all territorial parishes, so now Byfield has no legal existence but remains very decidedly a state of mind.

We read a good deal of slush about the bigotry of our Puritain First Settlers, but however harsh with themselves personally they may have been, consider this from the original “certificate” and record in our archives –

The first Roman Catholic to appear in Byfield was a small farmer named Walter Bogin, who quite naturally disliked to be taxed for the support of a Protestant Church. His case was considered and on the theory that all paths lead to the same place, he was told that if he would produce a certificate from a church that he ‘had contributed to its support’ his tax would be abated in the future. The roads were bad so Walter walked all the way to Boston in search of a priest and found Chevras who became the famous Bishop who gave him a card, now on file, that freed him from all future tax.

The First Settlers had few roads and there were many gates and barways. A curious law stood for many years to the effect that anyone “going to meeting” could cross any enclosed land or through any crop.

To the First Settlers the burial yard was common ground and no “lots” were sold, so when a few years ago the writer wished to enlarge his lot, he simply took a vacant space and when an attempt was made to find someone to pay, no one has been found who could take the money. Probably (1880) the last case of this kind.

Each family of the First Settlers did its work and did it well, a solid and upright people, pious, as illustrated by one family who during the experiment of growing rice, diked a meadow at expense of labor and money, but feeling that if God had intended this flooding he would have done it Himself, tore down their work. We have said little about their development of other towns for much has been better written “and their works do follow them”, also, they have many descendants of most honorable distinction. Not all the names appear on the memorial at Oldtown, but much work is being done by the Society.

Attention has recently been called to the fact that change of language has translated Feullevert to Greenleaf, DeReveiari to Revere and DeViparti…should be remember and Leonard Morrison who did more for the Byfield part of Newbury than any man before or since should not be forgotten.

In order to condense, references to records have occupied little space here as all stated as fact is easily proven, but any person interested in details on small items would be welcome to interview and criticize.

[to be continued, in Part IV]

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

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