Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Wednesday. 7th. CFA Wednesday. 7th. CFA
Wednesday. 7th.

Morning clear and weather warm, so that the weather was fine when we started for the purpose for which I came out—Surveying or overlooking a survey to be made of the old farm on Penn’s Hill. My father presuming that I am the only son likely to remain in the State is desirous of giving me information which he never possessed in the same circumstances and of which he felt very much, the want.1 I am therefore induced to consent to the arrangement which breaks up my home considerably.

We started after breakfast, our party consisting of my father, Thomas B. Adams, Mr. Humphreys a Surveyor from Weymouth, two men to carry the Chain, and myself.2 We started from the upper Comer on the old Plymouth Road above the old House, the Birth place of my father and his Father before him. Our Survey was of a lot of land including the two Houses and about one hundred and eight Acres of land.3 The boundaries being rather irregular and a portion of it fresh Meadow, it was quite a slow affair so that it was nearly four before we were thinking of a return home. I obtained some 38acquaintance with this property which I never had before and perhaps attached a little more idea of value to it than heretofore although in truth it is most unmanageable property as to any change to be made of it. But; after all property is but a pure business in this life giving more care than pleasure. And if I could only feel sure of being beyond any want, I should care but little what my father’s pursuits might be. I returned considerably fatigued from the exercise. We of course dined late and though I attempted same kind of conversation with my father it resulted in nothing as we both of us inclined to sleep. I therefore retired early.


After three days in the woods and swamps, JQA wrote that the survey was of “lands which I have owned twenty-six years, without knowing how they were bounded, nor even where some of them were” (JQA to LCA, 11 Oct., Adams Papers).


Lemuel Humphreys was the surveyor, William Spear and one Baxter, the chain bearers (JQA, Diary, 7 Oct. 1829).


The Adams farm, at the foot of Penn’s Hill in Quincy, was established by Deacon John Adams, CFA’s great-grandfather. The house on the northern side was the home of JA’s parents (and is now called the John Adams Birthplace), that adjacent to it on the southern side was the home of JA and AA after their marriage in 1764 (now the John Quincy Adams Birthplace). See JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:15, note, for a fuller account and same, p. 256 for a drawing of the homestead made by Eliza Susan Quincy in 1822; also Waldo C. Sprague, The President John Adams and the President John Quincy Adams Birthplaces, Quincy, 1959. The houses, given to the city of Quincy in 1940 by the Adams family, are in the care of the Quincy Historical Society and are open to the public.

Thursday. 8th. CFA Thursday. 8th. CFA
Thursday. 8th.

Contrary to my expectation this morning, I found the weather very clear but with a cold Easterly Wind which promised to give us a little want of comfort in the continuation of our purpose today. But as it was dry this was of less importance. Having suffered yesterday from my father’s promising to return to dine without due consideration, I took precautions today which proved useful as we did not return until five o’clock. Our party today had lost Thomas B. Adams who had other engagements and was besides quite satisfied with yesterday’s experience, and it had gained Deacon Josiah Adams, one of the elders of the town who from his proximity to the spot and familiarity with the land was of great service to us in ascertaining the limits.1

We this day surveyed a quantity of land amounting to about forty three acres described in the Deeds as Pasture land out which time and neglect had covered with a thick growth of wood. This made our travelling slow and rather heavy, so that it was half past three o’clock before we completed the survey. I think I shall remember the land. After a slight meal upon what we brought with us, we closed the day 39with the examination of a small lot called the Quincy Meadow on the east side of the Plymouth old road containing six or seven acres—At the present price of land in the vicinity quite valuable and much better situated than I had supposed my father’s land to be. This occupied us until sunset. The day had been unpleasantly cold and my father had suffered very severely from one of these Colds which are now prevalent and from which I am myself but just recovering. I was glad to be able to get home, where we found dinner waiting for us, no disagreeable event. I was so fatigued and heated that I could not keep myself awake and so went to sleep early in the evening.


Deacon Josiah Adams (1763–1844) and Deacon Ebenezer Adams (1762–1841) were brothers residing in Quincy (A. N. Adams, General. Hist. of Henry Adams of Braintree , 1:410). Their grandparents, Ebenezer Adams (1704–1769) and Anne (Boylston) Adams, were brother and sister of Deacon John and Susanna (Boylston) Adams, JQA’s grandparents (same; see also Adams Genealogy).

In JQA’s account of the survey, he refers on the two first days to the presence of Deacon Ebenezer, whose lands abutted those of JQA for a distance and who wished to swap lands and open ditches; not until the third day was Deacon Josiah’s aid sought as the party moved over a quite different territory (Diary, 7–9 Oct. 1829).