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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 2


This note contained in document ADMS-01-02-02-0008-0001-0001
2. In what is now Quincy Bay, though the name “Moon Head” is confusing and has been much disputed. There was and still remains a “Moon Head” on Moon Island off the tip of Squantum, the peninsula that encloses Quincy Bay on the north. But this Moon Head could not have been accessible by foot and is thus ruled out as the place from which JA embarked. Family and local tradition in Quincy long designated a low eminence on the shore near Norton Quincy's house and just opposite Half Moon Island as the spot, but when some antiquarian-minded friends sent CFA a sketch of the ground in 1877 he declined to interpret what JA meant by Moon Head and in effect declared the problem insoluble (Cyrus Woodman to James Baxter, 10 Aug. 1877, enclosed in Baxter to CFA, 13 Aug., Adams Papers; CFA to Baxter, 15 Aug., LbC, Adams Papers). Two bits of evidence, hitherto overlooked, settle the question where JA embarked from, though not why he called it what he did. The first is in a letter from AA to John Thaxter, 15–18 Feb. 1778, in which she says that her husband and son “embarked from this Town, the place you well know, Hofs Neck” (MHi:Waterston Coll.). The second is a passage in JA's Autobiography that was not published by CFA: “In our Way [from Norton Quincy's house] We made an halt of a few minutes at the House of Mr. Seth Spear on Hoffs neck, where some Sailors belonging to our barge had been waiting for us.” He then relates the conversation that passed between him and Mrs. Spear, who predicted an unfavorable voyage. Clearly, then, the party embarked from Hough's Neck, the southern extremity of Quincy Bay. This point was directly on the way to Nantasket Roads, where the Boston was anchored. Capt. Tucker's logbook (see the following paragraph) has this entry for 13 Feb. 1778: “I haveing Some Capital business at Brantre Send my boat on Shore to Georges Island [in Nantasket Roads] and brought { 271 } off a Pilot to Conduct me their att 10 AM Proceeded their finisht my business and Returned on board by 5 PM.”
The original logbook of the Boston, a 24–gun Continental frigate, is in the Samuel Tucker Papers (MH) and forms a valuable supplement to JA's record of this voyage; it is printed with reasonable fidelity as an appendix to Sheppard, Tucker, p. 261–327. Tucker prepared what he called “An Abstract of a Journal Kept ... on Board the Contl. Frigate Boston,” and presented it to JA in 1791 (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 342). The “Abstract” differs in many details from the logbook, a fact which accounts for the variations between material quoted from the log in our notes and quotations attributed to it in notes by CFA, who used the “Abstract” when editing JA's Diary (JA, Works, 3:95 ff.).
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/