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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 1

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Docno: ADMS-01-01-02-0001-0001-0001

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1755-11-18

November 18th. 1755.1

We had a severe Shock of an Earthquake. It continued near four minutes. I was then at my Fathers in Braintree,2 and awoke out of my sleep in the midst of it. The house seemed to rock and reel and crack as if it would fall in ruins about us. 7 Chimnies were shatter’d by it within one mile of my Fathers house.3
1. First entry in “Paper book No. 1” (D/JA/1), which is the first in the series of stitched booklets that make up the greater part of JA ’s MS Diary. MS notations by JQA on the front cover of the booklet indicate that its contents were copied into the “Small Quarto” series of early transcripts of the Diary and that JQA compared the transcripts with the original entries, 22 Sept. 1832.
2. John Adams (1691–1761), father of JA , is usually called Deacon John Adams in order to distinguish him from his son, and he will be so designated in this edition. Farmer, cordwainer (shoemaker), tithingman, constable (tax collector), militia officer, nine times selectman, and for fourteen years a deacon of the North Precinct church, he was “a typical New England yeoman” (CFA2, Three Episodes , 2:715). JA , who paid repeated and very high tributes to his father’s character, said that “almost all the Business of the Town [was] managed by him for 20 Years together” (Memoranda on a copy of Deacon John Adams’ Will, 10 July 1761, Adams Papers, Wills and Deeds).
There is a note on the Deacon’s two houses in Braintree, the birthplaces of the two Adams Presidents, under 17 March 1756, below.
3. This earthquake, a fairly severe one in New England, occurred a little after 4 A.M., Tuesday, 18 Nov., and was one of an intermittent series of seismic shocks on both sides of the Atlantic, the most memorable of which had virtually destroyed the city of Lisbon on the morning of 1 Nov. Besides jolting JA into beginning a diary, the earthquake of the 18th produced a public controversy between Rev. Thomas Prince of Boston and Professor John Winthrop of Harvard that has been engagingly recounted by Eleanor M. Tilton in “Lightning-Rods and the Earthquake of 1755,” NEQ , 13:85–97 (March 1940). JA sided with the scientist rather than with the divine, though he appears to have kept his thoughts on the subject to himself; see his marginalia in Winthrop’s Lecture on Earthquakes under Dec. 1758, below. A very full description of the physical effects of the earthquake on the town of Boston was printed in the Boston Gazette, 24 Nov. 1755.

Docno: ADMS-01-01-02-0002-0001-0001

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1756-01-14

January the 14th. 1756.

At Worcester. A very rainy Day. Kept school in the forenoon; but not in the afternoon, because of the weather and my own indisposition.1
1. JA had come to Worcester “about three weeks after [his] commencement” at Harvard to keep a school. (Commencement in 1755 fell on 16 July.) The circumstances of his appointment are related in his Autobiography. The { 2 } school he kept was the “Center School,” built in 1738 close to the site of the present Worcester County Court House in Lincoln Square, where a plaque now memorializes his brief career as a pedagogue (Daughters of the Amer. Rev., Report of the Committee on Historical Research and Marking Local Sites of the Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter, Worcester, 1903, passim). The town appropriated £75 for the support of its center and several outlying schools in 1755, but part of JA ’s compensation was his keep (“Worcester Town Records,” Worcester Soc. of Antiquity, Colls., 4 [1882]:20).
During a later visit to Worcester JA recorded the names of some of the pupils he had taught at the Center School (entry of 2 June 1771, below).