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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 3


Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0016-0010

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1763

[Town Officer, 1761–1765]

Now become a Freeholder I attended the Town Meetings, as a Member, as I had usually attended them before, from a Boy as a Spectator. In March1 when I had no suspicion, I heard my name pronounced in a Nomination of Surveyors of Highways. I was very wroth, because I { 279 } knew no better, but said Nothing. My Friend Dr. Savil came to me and told me, that he had nominated me to prevent me from being nominated as a Constable: for said the Doctor, they make it a rule to compell every Man to serve either as Constable or Surveyor, or to pay a fine. I said they might as well have chosen any Boy in School, for I knew nothing of the Business: but since they had chosen me, at a venture, I would accept it in the same manner and find out my Duty as I could. Accordingly I went to ploughing and ditching and blowing Rocks upon Penn's Hill, and building an entire new Bridge of Stone below Dr. Millars and above Mr. Wibirts. The best Workmen in Town were employed in laying the foundation and placing the Bridge but the next Spring brought down a flood, that threw my Bridge all into Ruins. The Materials remained and were afterwards relaid in a more durable manner: and the blame fell upon the Workmen not upon me, for all agreed that I had executed my Office with impartiality, Diligence and Spirit.
There had been a controversy in Town for many Years, concerning the mode of repairing the Roads. A Party had long struggled, to obtain a Vote that the High Ways should be repaired by a Tax, but never had been able to carry their point. The Roads were very bad, and much neglected, and I thought a Tax a more equitable Method and more likely to be effectual, and therefore joined this party in a public Speech, carried a Vote by a large Majority and was appointed [to] prepare a By Law to be enacted at the next Meeting. Upon Inquiry I found that Roxbury and after them Weymouth had adopted this Course: I procured a Copy of their Law and prepared a Plan for Braintree, as nearly as possible conformable to their Model, reported it to the Town and it was adopted by a great Majority.2 Under this Law the Roads have been repaired to this day, and the Effects of it are visible to every Eye.
In 1763 or 1764, The Town voted to sell their Common Lands.3 This had been a Subject of Contention for many Years. The South Parish was zealous and the middle Parish much inclined to the Sale, the North Parish was against it. The Lands in their common Situation, appeared to me of very little Utility to the Public or to Individuals: Under the care of Proprietors when they should become private Property, they would probably be better managed And more productive. My Opinion was in favour of the Sale: The Town now adopted the { 280 } Measure, appointed [Mr.] Niles, Mr. Bass and me, to survey the Lands, divide them into Lots to sell them by Auction and execute deeds of them in Behalf of the Town. This was no small Task. We procured our Surveyors and Chainmen and rambled with them over Rocks and Mountains and through Swamps and thicketts for three or four Weeks. Having made the Division and prepared the Plans, a day was appointed for the Vendue. We handled the Mallett ourselves as Vendue Masters and finished all the Sales in one Night: the Deeds were made out, the Bonds for the Money executed and the whole reported to the Town at the next Meeting. Of the original Purchasers I bought two Woodlotts in one of which is Hemlock Swamp and a Pasture in which is Rocky Run, and I should have bought much more, if the awfull Prospect of publick affairs had not discouraged me.
1. Presumably in 1761, but see the Diary entry of 3 March 1761 and note 1 there, which applies also to the next paragraph in the Autobiography.
2. This report, adopted 21 May 1764, is printed in Braintree Town Records, p. 397.
3. Actually 5 March 1765 (Braintree Town Records, p. 400). For the reports and proceedings of the committee see same, p. 401–402, 406–407.

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0016-0011

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1764 - 1765

[Marriage and Law Practice, 1764-1765]

In the Winter of 1764 the Small Pox prevailing in Boston, I went with my Brother into Town and was inocculated under the Direction of Dr. Nathaniel Perkins and Dr. Joseph Warren.1 This Distemper was very terrible even by Inocculation at that time. My Physicians dreaded it, and prepared me, by a milk Diet and a Course of Mercurial Preparations, till they reduced me very low before they performed the operation. They continued to feed me with Milk and Mercury through the whole Course of it, and salivated me to such a degree, that every tooth in my head became so loose that I believe I could have pulled them all with my Thumb and finger. By such means they conquered the Small Pox, which I had very lightly, but they rendered me incapable with the Aid of another fever at Amsterdam of speaking or eating in my old Age, in short they brought me into the same Situation with my Friend Washington, who attributed his misfortune to cracking of Walnuts in his Youth. I should not have mentioned this, if I had not been reproached with this personal Defect, with so much politeness in the Aurora. Recovered of the Small Pox, I passed the summer of 1764 in Attending Court and pursuing my Studies with some Amusement on my little farm to which I was frequently making Additions, till the Fall when on the 25th of October 1784 [i.e. 1764] I was married to Miss Smith a Daughter of the Reverend Mr. William Smith a Minister of Weymouth, Grand daughter of the Honourable John Quincy Esquire of Braintree, a Connection which has been the Source of all my felicity, Although a Sense of Duty which forced me away from her and my { 281 } Children for so many Years has produced all the Griefs of my heart and all that I esteem real Afflictions in Life. The Town of Braintree had chosen me, one of the Select Men, Overseers of the Poor and Assessors,2 which occasioned much Business, of which I had enough before: but I accepted the Choice and attended diligently to the functions of the Office, in which humble as it was I took a great deal of Pleasure. The Courts at Plymouth Tau[n]ton, Midd[l]esex and sometimes at Barnstable and Worcester, I generally attended. In the Spring of 1765, Major Noble of Boston had an Action at Pownalborough, on Kennebeck River. Mr. Thatcher, who had been his Council, recommended him to me, and I engaged in his cause, and undertook the Journey. I was taken ill on the Road and had a very unpleasant Excursion. It is unnecessary to enlarge upon the fatigue and disgust of this Journey. It was the only time in my Life, when I really suffered for want of Provisions. From Falmouth now Portland in Casco Bay, to Pounalborough There was an entire Wilderness, except North Yarmouth, New Brunswick and Long reach, at each of which places were a few Houses. In general it was a Wilderness, incumbered with the greatest Number of Trees, of the largest Size, the tallest height, I have ever seen. So great a Weight of Wood and timber, has never fallen in my Way. Birches, Beaches, a few Oaks, and all the Varieties of the Fir, i.e. Pines, Hemlocks, Spruces and Firs. I once asked Judge Cushing his Opinion of their hight upon an Avaradge, he said an hundred feet. I believe his estimation was not exaggerated. An Hemlock had been blown down across the Road. They had cutt out a logg as long as the road was wide. I measured the Butt at the Road and found it seven feet in Diameter, twenty one feet in circumference. We measured 90 feet from the Road to the first Limb, the Branches at Top were thick: We could measure no farther but estimated the Top to be about fifteen feet, from the Butt at the Road to the Root we did not measure: but the Tree must have been in the whole at least an hundred and <thirty> twenty feet. The Roads, where a Wheel had never rolled from the Creation, were miry and founderous, incumbered with long Sloughs of Water. The Stumps of the Trees which had been cutt to make the road all remaining fresh and the Roots crossing the path some above ground and some beneath so that my Horses feet would frequently get between the Roots and he would flounce and blunder, in danger of breaking his own Limbs as well as mine. This whole Country, then so rough, is now beautifully cultivated, { 282 } Handsome Houses, Orchards, Fields of Grain and Grass, and the Roads as fine as any except the Turnpikes, in the State. I reached Pownalborough alive, gained my Cause much to the Satisfaction of my Client and returned home. This Journey, painfull as it was, proved much for my Interest and Reputation, as it induced the Plymouth Company to engage me in all their Causes, which were numerous and called me annually to Falmouth Superiour Court for ten years.
1. This medical incident occurred in April-May 1764. Perkins inoculated JA, and Warren inoculated JA's brother, but which of his two brothers this was is uncertain. JA's letters at this period to his fiancée, Abigail Smith (Adams Papers), give abundant details on the method and regimen of smallpox inoculation before Jenner's discovery of vaccination.
2. On 3 March 1766; see Diary entry of that date, and Braintree Town Records, p. 408.
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/