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Scituate 3
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An Historical Sketch of The Town of Scituate, R.I

 
JOHN HULET, GOV. WEST, AND HUNTING GRAND OLD FURNITURE

As the land was being cleared, with here and there, at irregular places,
a clearing made or commenced,
"Where not a habitation stood before,
Abodes of men irregularly massed."

One of these, whose chimney smokes were illuminated by the morning sun in the woods of Scituate, in its early settlement, was John Hulet and Berenice, his wife, who, about 140, resided in the north-western part of the town.  His grave is pointed out in a pasture back of the house of John Harris, Esq., a short hillock, marked by two walnut trees, and lying on the westerly side of the most northern one.  Two rough moss-covered stones, one at each end of the grave, and without inscription, designate the last resting place of one who owned large tracts of land in the vicinity, but now sleeps unnoticed and unknown by the living generations about him.  His transactions in deeds were numerous, and run from 1743 to 1763.  In 1744 he bought one hundred and fifty acres from Stepehen Hopkins for three hundred pounds, land commonly called "Oystershell Plain."  We find him, among others, taking the oath against bribery, Aug. 15, 1747, an example which might be followed at the present day for the advantage of the country.

Benjamin Gorton, of Warwick, married John Hulet's daughter Avis, July 18, 1762.  His son Mason married, the year following, Oct. 23, 1763, Elizabeth Mathewson, of Johnston.  Elder Reuben Hopkins performed the marriage service on both these interesting occasions.  Mason Hulet removed to Vermont and settled at Wallingford, on the Otter Creek, and has left numerous descenants in that State.  John Hulet, March 1761, sold to Col. Wm. West the farm of two hundred acres which he bought of Stephen Hopkins.  He sold it for forty thousand pounds, a price not to be accounted for, except, we admit, the great depreciation of the currency.  Mr. Hulet was appointed, with Thomas Angell, pound keeper, in 1747.  He is called "Captain" in his appointment of fence viewed in 1750.  He was undoubtedly a man of considerable property for those days, and quite a dealer in lands.  He sold to Boylston Brayton, of Smithfield, May 28, 1763, two tracts of land, -- one lying in Glocester, according to the deed, "the half of a farm whereon Ralph Wellman did formerly live, and bounded as in deed of William West to Eliphalet Eddy, Feb. 16, 1760, and also more particularly by the said Eddy to me, the said John Hulet, containing three hundred acres, more or less.  The other tract is in Scituate, and is my homestead farm, and the same whereon I now dwell, and contains about two hundred and fifty acres, bounded northerly on land of James Wheeler, easterly on land of the same, and on land belonging to Capt. John Whipple, southerly on land of William West and westwardly on land of Charles Hopkins and Barnes Hall, and on land belonging to heirs of Joseph Wilkinson."  This homestead farm would seem to have been very near to the place of his burial.  We find him buying at the same time of Benj. Anthony, of Swanzea, for 1800 Spanish milled dollars, 229 1-2 acres of land, where Thomas Knowlton once dwelt in Scituate, in part bounded by territory of heirs of Joseph Wilkinson.  Mr. Hulet must have died soon after these last transactions, as we find no further mention of him in the town records.  He is said to have died of fever after a very short illness.

Lieut.-Gov. West, who purchased the old homestead with Gov. Hopkins sold to John Hulet, had for some time previous to 1761, been living in Scituate, and had resided a little west of said farm, where his son John afterwards lived.  He removed from North Kingston to Scituate, and was chosen Deputy.  He was also elected to represent the town in a General Convention held at East Greenwich, Sept. 26, 1786.  In the appointment by the Governor in 1775, of Eseck Hopkins to be General of troops to be raised for the defence of the shores of the Narragansett, Col. West was placed second in command.  We find him very active in two affairs during the Revolutionary war.  In May, 1777, he was made chairman of a committee to ascertain the number of effective soldiers still wanting to complete the Continental battalion, then raising by the State.  He was several times chosen as Moderator of the town, and was a man of intelligence and enterprise, infusing energy and courage in the people.

In 1775 he put up the largest and most showy house that had ever been erected in Scituate.  Mr. Welcome Arnold, who died some twenty years ago, was at the raising of this house, and used often to speak of the great gathering and interest of the occasion.  Liquors of all sorts were furnished, but while rum was very plentiful there was a choice kind of wine, of which the people were only permitted to take a little.  This house is on the Providence and Hartford turnpike, three miles west of the village of North Scituate.  It is a gambrel-roofed house of two stories as it fronts the road, and of four stories on the end opening to the east, including the basement and the attic story.  The rooms in the house are very spacious, and the attic seems as large as many meeting houses, it being all in one room.  It was quite a museum, with old fashioned looms, spinning wheels, chests of drawers, and other articles, when I saw it.

A very interesting historical place is this home, built by Lieut. Gov.  William West, coeval with our centennial year and it is a very pleasant coincidence that one of our committee lives in the house with his brother-in-law, Mr. Richard A. Atwood.  I rather think that not a few rebels were quartered there at times in the Revolution and seditious conversation indulged in, and even rebellion openly talked of, and schemes devised against the British troops and vessels.  I don't see why that house, built on the premises where Gov. Stephen Hopkins and Commodore Eseck Hopkins were born, should not be placarded, these centennial days, with the noble and patriotic words of Rhode Island statesmen and heroes as is the case to-day with the Old South Church in Boston, and flags and streamers displayed upon it.  The old house was raised and built by patriotic men who knew how to handle the musket and the sword, and doubtless did, most of them, serve in the American army and navy.  If the old folks have gone to their reward in heaven they have left us a memorial of their day, in this edifice and may it stand a century longer.

Gov. West was quite a farmer and kept a great many cows.  He would often set off with a load of cheese to sell, valued at $1,500.  He married Ellen Brown; his children were William, Charles, John, Samuel, Hiram, Elsie, Olive, Ellen, Sally and Hannah.  Job Randall married two of his daughters -- Ellen for his first wife, and Sally for his second.  Jeremy Philips married Elsie West, and Hannah married Mr. Gideon Smith, father of Mr. Russel Smith, who resides in North Scituate village.
The going down in value of continental money ruined Gov. West financially, as it did many other patriots of the Revolution who trusted the government, and made his last years afflictive.  This was one of the sacrifices our fathers made for us, that we might enjoy freedom and prosperity.  Mr. West died about sixty years ago.  Elder Westcott attended his funeral.  He was a man rather above the middle height, a bony, sinewy man, long favored, with a prominent nose.

As an illustration of the spirit of the town of Scituate, in the Revolutionary war and as evidence of confidence in their townsmen, are many votes on record.  Here is one! -- "At a Town Meeting held April 28, 1777, it was Voted that Col. William West be appointed to use the utmost of his endeavors and abilities, by giving directions to his under-officers, as well as using his influence other ways, to raise soldiers by enlisting the number of men assigned to be raised in this town, by act of Assembly aforesaid."  May 5, following, he was chosen chairman of a committee "to prepare and divide into classes the male inhabitants of the town, liable to bear arms."  How ready the town was to hear its proportion of war expenses, see the following vote of September 23, 1779:  "Voted that the town will raise their proportion of the $20,000,000 recommended by the Hon. Continental congress, L5,329,2s,8d being said town's proportion.  The collector of taxes is directed to pay the same, when collected, into the Loan Office in this State, taking Loan Office certificates of the same."

In this part of the town, where Col. West lived, are preserved some articles of furniture of great antiquity, heir-looms of families.  Mrs. Farnham, who lives on the road to the West House -- a little east -- the only surviving child of the late Hon. Elisha Mathewson, has in her possession the veritable looking-glass brought to Scituate by her first ancestor, John Mathewson.  It is small --the plate only seven inches by nine -- of hard wood frame, stout, and of good repair, save that the quick silver has come off in a good many small spots.  The same lady has other centennial articles, -- one is a solid mahogany table of an oval form, three feet in length, an old fashioned tea table.  This table was brought from England.  It belonged to Mrs. Farnham's grandmother, the wife of Richard Smith, whose maiden name was Lydia Clarke, daughter of Judge Joseph Clarke, who was driven off in the Revolutionary war to Pawtuxet.  Several ancient chairs are also the property of the venerable lady, who is still living.  The backs are about four and half feet high, with leather bottoms and backs, with brass nails and carved work on the top.  These were brought from Newport, and came from the same family as the table, and were made in England.  An old cane of her grandfather, Thomas Mathewson, with round top and brass ferrule and bottom, is also preserved by this lady.  John Harris, Esq., had an oaken arm chair, rush - bottomed, made by his grandfather, John Aldrich, during a great snow storm and the time subsequent, in all three weeks, that the people were kept from traveling.  The chair commemorates a fall of snow unparalleled in Rhode Island history, and probably dates back to the remarkable snow storms of 1716 or 1738.  A silver cup, holding about a pint, and reaching back to Jonathan Harris, great-grandfather of John, is in preservation to be handed in due course to Stephen Harris, son of John, now in California.  This cup was originally left as a legacy to be thus transmitted from generation to generation.

Mr. George Brownell left several articles of antiquarian value.  A table of curled maple, three feet across at the top, with slanting legs crossing each other, once the property of his grandfather, Samuel Aldrich, who came from England and settled in Smithfield.  It came subsequently into the hands of his son John, and his grandson James who settled in Scituate.  There is a pewter soup platter of the same hereditary origin, twenty inches across, very heavy, marked with the initials of three generations -- J. for John Aldrich, S. for Samuel, E.  for Elizabeth, wife of John, J. for Jane.

Simeon Arnold came from Smithfield, and purchased about two hundred acres of land, including the farm on which his grandson, Simeon C. Arnold, now lives; he died about ninety-six years ago, occupying the premises until his death.  His son Dexter was born, lived and died on the same farm, living as did his father to the age of about eighty years.  His son Simeon, now upwards of fifty years old, has known no other home.  He and his wife are the sixth generation from Roger Williams.
Other families have more or less of tables; chests of drawers, and chairs of ancient patterns, many of them still in use.  The quanitity of pewter is considerable, and parts of antiquated China sets are found here and there.  Looking-glasses, a few large and handsome ones, of great age, are to be found.

The spinning wheels, large and small, of former generations are placed away in garrets, or stored in old and dilapidated outbuildings.  Their busy hum is heard no longer, but silent, as these who once used them in commendable skill and industry, we may imagine them as wearing away life in indolent musings of the past, and perhaps wonder if the wheels of fashion wil ever bring them again into favor.  How many pleasant hours are associated in the past with these now neglected wheels.  The spinning by them of wool, cotton and flax was esteemed an honorable and indispensable avocation.  The young daughters of a household soon learnt with pride to survey the skeins of yarn they had spun, and many a charming day-dream was born in the monotonous buzz of the spinning wheel, and many a sweet song was sung by youth and beauty:

"Noise sweetens toil, however rude the sound,
All at her work the village maiden sings,
Nor while she turns the giddy wheel around,
Revolves the sad vicissitude of things."

Every newly married couple must have a spinning wheel to commence life with, and the solitude of the new settlements was broken by the cheerful sound of the buzzing wheel.  The old ladies solaced many a weary hour of the live-long summer day at this employment, the door thrown open, and the cooling breeze sporting with the rolls they were spinning into useful threads.

Considerable interest is attached to the table, platter and bureau, handed down from Samuel Aldrich, which have been mentioned, from the following anecdote, showing how they were saved from destruction:  Mr.  Aldrich, one of the first settlers of Smithfield, had an Indian servant in his family.  Several strange Indians came along one day and had a talk with this servant in the Indian language, the purport of which he made known to his master after the strange Indians had gone away.  He told Mr. Aldrich that King Philip had proclaimed war, and he advised him to remove immediately.  Accordingly, they went to work, digging holes to bury their heaviest and most bulky articles; and the most light and portable they took with them, the whole family proceeding in all haste to Providence.  They were not any too swift, for on arriving at Tracy's Hill, in Johnston, they saw their house in flames, kindled by the Indians.  They passed some armed Indians in their flight, but Mr.  Aldrich's Indian, pointing to his master, said:  "That man is my master; you must not kill him."  Mr. Samuel Aldrich was a Quaker preacher.

Not very long ago in Scituate, no house was painted, plastered or papered, there were no carpets -- the parlor floors were sanded, and hardly any furniture was in the house, and what was to be seen was simple and rude.  A few ordinary chairs, rush-bottomed, or in the case of the better sort, stuffed with straw and covered with stout leather.  Tables, stoutly made, but rude in construction, and bedsteads equally common and inelegant.  Trenchers, or wooden plates, were in use in most families until the war of the Revolution, and to some extent afterwards.  Pewter plates and earthen mugs, with a little China, appeared after tea drinking came in fashion, with cups and saucers very small.  The Chinaware was considered so choice and genteel that it was placed in a little cupboard over the fire-place, and the glass door or window in it enabled all visitors to see the half-dozen or more ornamented cups.  Old looms, now disused, remain to show how independent the farmer was in those ancient times, wearing his home-made clothes and demonstrating the capabilities of his wife, who often in church on Sundays eyed with just pride her husband's nicely spun and woven clothes, the product of her own hands, and often the cutting and making of them also.

Edwin and his brother John Howland, living on and owning extensive portions of land in the northerly section of Scituate, sold to Jeremiah Smith of Providence, in 1788, one hundred and seventy-five acres for $2,100, who put up on it a one-story gambrel roof house, and died in 1816, aged ninety-two years.  Mr. Martin Smith, his great-grandson, occupied a large two-story house, built by his father in 1817.

Richard Brown, living in Providence, attracted by the fine situation of the land for hunting grounds, precured, so tradition says, at about the cost of laying out and registering, a large tract of land.  Richard Brown, Jr., June 5th, 1765, gave to his son Jesse two hundred acres, saying:  "it is the lot of land given to me by my grandfather, Richard Brown, April 28, 1744, and is on Mosquito Hawk Plain."  Jesse settled on the spot, and also his brother Samuel.  Mr. William Brownell, after him Isaac S. Devereaux, of Providence, bought and lived there.

Richard Brown, the senior, lived to be an hundred years old.  As his century birthday approached, his children and friends made great preparations to celebrate the day by a dance and a feast.  As the old gentleman was still hearty and active, they got him out to dance, and enjoying the sport as well as any one, he exerted himself to comply with the general wish, making much merriment and acquitting himself well.  He did not live long afterwards.

A hunting house, or lodge, was built nearly a century and three-quarters ago, for the convenience of sportsmen from Providence and other places, while hunting deer and other game in that then wild and unsettled region.  These animals used to come to the hunting house brook to drink, and in the thick tangled wood and brush, and tall herbage, they found a covert, and tender grass and berries for food.  Some of the gentlemen who resorted to this place for hunting were Joseph Smith, Richard Brown, Jeremiah Smith, Edward Howland, John Hulet, Joseph Wilkinson, William West, James Aldrich and Gov. Fenner.

A famous squirrel hunt took place about 1784, on a wager between the towns of Glocester and Scituate, as to which should kill the greatest number.  They were to hunt for ten successive days and then bring in the spoils and make the award.  Judges were mutually appointed, consisting of a committee of fifteen.  Ten gallons of rum and the expense of a dinner for the committee was to be the forfeit of the losing party.

The boys turned out as well as the men, and even the women became fired with ardor.  The dogs entered heartily into the work of searching the woods and ferreting out the squirrels.  The squirrels were taken by surprise, at such a general, earnest and murderous onslaught, the object of which they so little understood.  Doubtless, many Revolutionary soldiers, fresh from the battle-fields, condescended to show their skill on this occasion.  At the close of the period allotted for shooting, the company met at the house of James Aldrich, to decide who were the victors.  The piles of the respective combatants were ranged on each side of the town's border line opposite to each other, and consisted of the heads and one of the fore-paws of each of the slaughtered animals.  The heaps were about the size of hay cocks.  Scituate beat Flocester by several thousands.  Mr. Obediah Fenner, of Foster, was present, and related to me these facts.


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