History of Kingston Massachusetts

By Rev. Josiah Peckham

For more than a hundred years, Kingston was “The North End” of Plymouth. Twice it narrowly escaped being the most famous locality of the Old Colony. The day after the company from the Mayflower first landed, a party went, some by land, and some in the shallop, to look out a more desirable place for settlement. They reported ”a great liking to plant” at Jones’ River, but after prayer and reflection “the most voices” fixed upon Plymouth. In March, 1635-6, a project was set on foot, and was earnestly advocated by a viewing committee of the Court, consisting of some of the chief men in the Colony, to remove from both Plymouth and Duxbury, and to unite in a new town at Jones’ River; but after long debating, and a reference to the two churches for a final decision, the matter was silently dropped. Though at the time of the landing, all the region about was temporarily deserted of the natives, two burial-grounds, one where the Patuxet House now stands, and the other, in the ridge north of the Evergreen. Cemetery, together with the frequent discovery of arrow-heads, mortars and hearth-stones show that Kingston was a favorite resort, if not residence, of the Indians. The last one of the tribe dwelling here, as handed down by the “oldest inhabitant,” was a woman, whose wigwam was at Blackwater, and who was famed the country around, for her superior cooking.

The earliest road from Plymouth to Duxbury, was nearer the shore than the present one, crossing Jones’ River at the “Wading Place,” near the Almshouse, and thence, passing over Abraham’s Hill, through Stoney Brook, meeting another road which started near the Plymouth line, and crossed the river, at its mouth, by a ferry. Later, the main road passed by a bridge near Mr. Edward Holmes’ fish-house. The present highway and bridge were opened in 1708. Both the ancient ferry and bridge were subjects of frequent legislation. At one time Capt. Standish was ordered, by the Court, to repair the bridge, even if he had to press men into the service. For a time Gov. Bradford had his residence in Stoney Brook, near the dwelling of the late Francis Drew. The cellar of his house is still visible. His son, Deputy Gov. Bradford, lived, and died upon the same spot. A “High-Top Sweeting,” the last tree of the orchard, set out by the son, is still standing by the lane leading to Dea. Foster’s. Mr. Henry Colman speaks of it as “planted in 1669, and as bearing in 1838, thirty bushels of good fruit.” If this account of its age is true, it bids fair soon to enter upon its third century. Joseph Bradford, another son of the Governor, settled a little south-east of the Landing. Isaac Allerton, for several years the Governor’s sole Assistant, and afterwards the enterprising agent of the Pilgrims, and his son-in-law, “that precious servant of God,” Elder Thomas Cushman, whose wife Mary, was the last survivor of the Mayflower band, lived a few rods north-east from the house of “Grandfather Cobb,” who died in 1801, aged more than 107 years. John Rowland and Elizabeth, his wife, ended their protracted pilgrimage, at the Nook, near the road to the old ferry. Samuel Fuller, the “beloved physician,” and the deacon of the church, and Francis Cooke, the progenitor of an extensive race of Cooks, dwelt near Smelt Brook. Francis Billington, the discoverer of the “Sea,” has left his name to the rocks in the bay near the town line, and Edward Gray, “the merchant,” who came some years later, settled a little to the north of where his descendant and namesake now resides. Thus, if Kingston cannot claim to be a Pilgrim town, it has within its borders many Pilgrim memorials.

Deputy Gov. Bradford was a Major, in King Philip’s war. The house of his son John, who was doubtless in the service with him, was at the Landing; but, for the protection of his wife, to whom -he had just been married, he temporarily removed to the guard-house, at Plymouth town. One day as he was returning to his house, with several soldiers, for the purpose of taking some of the goods he had left, he discovered it to be on fire, and saw an Indian, standing on the brow of Abraham’s Hill, stationed as a sentinel to warn his comrades of the approach of the white man, waving his blanket and crying,” Chockway, Chookway,” (the white men are coming) but so intent were the Indians on plundering, that they heeded not their sentinel’s cry, and were not aware of their danger, till Bradford rushed among them. They instantly fled, and made their way into a dense swamp at the foot of Abraham’s Hill, and were pursued by Bradford, who fired at one of them, and supposed him killed, as he saw him fall. On reaching the spot he was greatly surprised at not finding the body of his enemy. He was at a loss how to account for this circumstance, till after the war, when an Indian made the fact known to him that he was the one fired at, giving evidence of this by the marks of’ the bullet shot through his side, and declaring that he had crept behind some logs to escape the notice of his pursuer. After the war, Mr. Bradford re-built on the same spot, and the house is now known as the Sampson house, in which for a long time was preserved his Grandfather’s manuscript his-tory of New Plymouth; but which, a short time before his death, in 1736, he loaned to Thomas Prince, who kept his library in the steeple of the Old South Church, in Boston. The manuscript, with other books, was carried to England, during the Revolutionary war, and lodged in the Fulham Library, where, till 1855, it was concealed from the public, and for many years was supposed to be irrecoverably lost. It has since, been published by the Mass. Historical Society, and is a most authentic and valuable contribution to the history of the first settlement.

The North End of Plymouth was incorporated as a precinct in 1717, and as a town, in 1726. The greater convenience in the worship of God, and the better ordering of the schools, appear to be the reasons for the division. During the war of Independence, Kingston was thoroughly patriotic, furnishing its quota of men, paying in some in-stances, for less than six months’ service, of a single soldier, more than ten thousand dollars of the currency of the times. Gen. John Thomas, who commanded at Roxbury, and subsequently succeeded Gen. Montgomery in Canada, where he died, was a prominent citizen of this town, as was also Maj. Seth Drew, who was an officer in the battles of Trenton, and Monmouth, and at the capture of Burgoyne. Gen. Peleg Wadsworth, commanded a company of minute men from Kingston, in the early part of the war.

The whole number of men furnished in the late war of the Rebellion, by this town, is one hundred and fifty-four. The following have died in connection with the service, viz: Wm. O’Brien, Thomas Mullen, George Sampson, Melzor A. Foster, Lieut. Win. Holmes, Allyn Holmes, jr., Nathaniel Washburn, jr., Waldo Peterson, George D. Beytes, E. Lyman Richardson, George F. Stetson, Harvey O. Pratt, Edward A. Pratt, also. Ensign Henry L. Ransom, of the Navy.

Kingston, at the time of its separation, probably contained about 300 inhabitants. By the census of 1865, the population was 1626, and 354 voters. Upon Jones’ River and its branches, there are at the present time, eighteen mills, of different descriptions. It is a pleasantly located and healthy town, and according to population, is the richest in the county. The soil is mainly of the diluvial, or drift formation; or as Rev. Mr. Willis says “a red loam, intermingled with sand, gravel, and round stones in various degrees.” It has a basis of granite or gneiss, which crops out, both in valley and hill, and there are occasionally found veins of volcanic trap, thrown up in the ledges, so regular in their structure as to have the ‘appearance of walls of masonry. Specimens of this may be seen in the “cut” on the Rail Road, and the “Devil’s Stairway” in the fishing rocks at the Nook. Kingston has three churches, (Unitarian, Baptist, and Trinitarian Congregationalist), a boarding school for boys, and eight public schools. The town abolished its school districts in 1866, and voted to erect a High Schoolhouse, which is nearly completed. It is a two story building, containing three rooms below and four above, together with the entries. When finished and occupied, few towns will have better facilities for good schools than Kingston.

The College Graduates, natives of Kingston, are:

Hon. William Sever, H, 1745, John Sever, M. D., sons of Nicholas, H, 1749

Harvard Graduates
Gen. John Thomas, M. D., H, 1765
Crooker Sampson, H, 1771
William Sever, H, 1778,
Commodore James Sever, H, 1782,
John Sever, sons of William, H, 1787
Hon. Thomas P. Beal, Lawyer, H, 1806
Wm. R. Sever, son of John, County Treasurer, H, 1811
Col. James W. Sever, son of James, H, 1817
Winslow W. Sever, son of John, H, 1818
Rev. Caleb Stetson, H, 1822
Joseph S. Beal, Lawyer, Clerk O. C. E. P., H, 1835
Col. C. C. Holmes, M. D., H, 1837
Paul L. Nichols, jr., M. D., H, 1845
Rev. Winslow W. Sever, son of James N., H, 1858
Joseph A. Holmes, son of Alexander, H, 1854
George C. Burgess, H, 1858
Albert Stetson, Prof. Normal School, Illinois, H, 1861

Brown Graduates
Hon. Bezor Bryant, M. D., B, 1796
Rev, Oliver Cobb, D. D., B, 1796
Hon. John Holmes, U. S. Senator, B, 1796
Joseph Holmes, Ship Builder, B, 1796
Bartholomew Cushman, M. D., B, 1805
Henry Holmes, Lawyer, B, 1806
Daniel Cook, M. D., B, 1807
John Thomas, son of Hon. John, Lawyer, B, 1813
Rev. Job Cushman, B, 1819
Samuel Stetson, Lawyer, B, 1820
Charles Washburn, Lawyer and Manufacturer, B, 1820
Joseph Sampson, Lawyer, B, 1821
Hon. Ezekiel Holmes, M. D., Editor, B, 1821
Samuel B. Parris, M. D., B, 1821
Samuel Glover, jr., B, 1839

The names of Professional men who have not graduated, natives of Kingston:

Seth Stetson,
Elisha Cushman
Wm. A. Drew, Editor
Martin Cushman
Job Washburn
Joseph F. Lovering
Rev. John D. Sweet, Jr.
Hon. Joseph E. Chandler, Editor, Mem. of Congress, and Minister to Naples, and
Francis and Frederic W. Bartlett, Physicians
Seth Fuller, Jr. Physicians.

Of successful business men, Kingston has furnished:
Hon. Ichabod Washburn, of Worcester
Hon. Edward S. Tobey, of Boston, both men of wealth and widely known for their charitable gifts
Col. John Sever, first President of the O. O. E. E.
Alexander Holmes, late President of the same
Edward Holmes, Ship-builder
Capt. Paraclete Holmes, late President of an Insurance Co., Boston.

The last three, have handsome estates in Kingston, and are sons of Joseph Holmes, who died in 1863, aged 90 years, who built 80 vessels, and was reputed to be the richest man in the county, at the time of his decease.

Nathaniel and Edwin Adams, Master-builders, Boston
Alexander Beal, Furniture dealer, Haymarket square
Hon. F. M. Johnson, and Albert Thompson, Leather Dealers, in Pearl St.
three Burgess brothers in Boston, and two in Portland, besides numerous sea Captains and other successful men who still have their residences in Kingston.

The first American nail-machine was patented by Col. Jesse Reed, then of Kingston. The first reaping-machine was invented by Samuel Adams of this town, while Caleb Bates is already famed for his Stump Lifter and other improvements. The first Captain who sailed with the American flag into the Black Sea, was Elisha Holmes, of this town, and it is said that Capt. Wm. Symmes, has made more India voyages than any other American Shipmaster.

Planted in Marshfield, in 1648, by Peregrine White, the first white child born in New England. For more than two hundred years it has produced fruit nearly every season.

Note. The writer of the foregoing article, Rev. Joseph Peekham, acknowledges his particular indebtedness to Mr. Cornelius A. Bartlett, Dea. James Foster, Edward Gray, Esq., and Dr. Thomas B. Drew.

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