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Browsing: Early Diary of John Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-02-01-02-0004-0001-0022

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1753-06-29

29 Fryday.

At Colledge, a Clear morning. Heard the valedictory oration, pronounced, By Oliver.1 2 o Clock set out for Boston, Designing to go from thence home.
1. Attendance at exercises being required of all students other than those in the graduating class until 1 July, and senior sophisters not being allowed, while preparing for their “sitting solstices” or oral examinations, to leave Cambridge between 21 March and 1 July (MH-Ar: Corporation Records, College Book No.7, Meeting of 21 May 1753), the last recitation day before 1 July became the appropriate time for a meeting in Hall. On this occasion, attended by the Presi• { 49 } dent and Fellows, speakers from the senior class, including a valedictorian chosen by his classmates, would perform (Morison, Three Centuries of Harvard, p. 119). Between this precursor of “class day” and commencement (in 1753 on 18 July) there seem to have been no regular recitations, though the formal summer vacation of six weeks did not begin until after commencement day.
Thomas Oliver (1734–1815), identified by JA as valedictorian for his class, also received Faculty appointment as orator at the morning exercises of commencement in 1753 (MH-Ar:Theses and Quaestiones, 1753, handwritten notation). On him see Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates, 13:336–344, and an article by Oliver Elton, Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns., 28 (1935):37–66.

Docno: ADMS-02-01-02-0004-0002-0001

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1753-06 - 1754-01

29 [June 1753–January 1754?].1

Sat out from Boston, home where having tarried 7, or 8 Days I set out on a journey together with Mr. Adams to Piscataqua, to which I went By way of Litchfeild, going firstly from Boston over Charlston ferry through Charlestown, Mistick, Menotomy, Lexington, Bedford, Bilerica, Chensford, Dracut to which I passed from Chensford over the river. From Dracut I proceeded to Nottingham, Londonderry, Hamstead, Kingston, Kensington, Hampton, Greenland, Newington where having tarried about a fortnight and vizitted Portsmouth, I returned home and at the appointed time return’d to Colledge where I have been ever since, save that I went home once for a fortnight.2
1. As initially dated by the diarist, this is a second entry for 29 [June 1753], but being actually a collective entry for all the rest of the year, it was of course set down much later than the date left at the head. The latest possible date for its composition would seem to be 2 Jan. 1754, the beginning of the winter vacation mentioned in the next entry in the Diary Fragment. It could, however, have been written as early as 28 Dec. 1753. The chronology appears to be as follows: JA returned to Cambridge at the end of the six-week summer vacation on 29 Aug., remaining there during the rest of this first quarter and during all of the second, i.e. until 13 December. From the Steward’s records it is possible to pinpoint the two-week absence of which JA speaks in the present entry (twenty-one days each half-year were allowed without penalty) as having been taken at the beginning of the third quarter, namely 14–28 Dec., for the assessments against him for commons and sizings during this quarter were only £o 10s. 5¼d. as compared, for example, with £2 16s. o¾ d. during the second quarter (MH-Ar:Steward’s Quarterbill Books).
This collective entry is the first in the Diary Fragment showing the characteristics of JA’s “experimental” handwriting, described and discussed in the Introduction and illustrated by a facsimile page in the present volume. These characteristics persist in the later entries in 1754 and then disappear from the Fragment.
2. Nearly seventy years after he wrote this matter-of-fact and tantalizingly brief entry recording what may have been his first trip of any extent away from home, JA furnished from memory a much more detailed and colorful account of it. This was in one of a series of reminiscences of their undergraduate days at Harvard exchanged in letters between JA and his only surviving classmate, David Sewall of York, Maine, running from Nov. 1821 through Jan. 1822 that are of the highest interest despite the fallibility of old men’s memories. In his letter of 14 Dec. 1821 Sewall enclosed a diverting narrative of a journey from Cambridge to Portsmouth that he had taken in June 1754 (while he was still an undergraduate) in company with the venerable and eccentric Harvard tutor Henry Flynt (Adams Papers; the enclosure, { 50 } filed separately under 1754, was communicated by CFA and printed in MHS, Procs., 1st ser., 16 [1878]: 5–11). In replying, JA wrote:
“Your journey has brought to my recollection one of my own made two or three years [actually one year] before yours. I went with a young preacher Ebenezer Adams the son of that uncle [i.e. JA’s uncle, Rev. Joseph Adams] up through Chelmsford, to London Derry and a place beyond it called Litchfield if I remember right and from thence down through Kensington to Newington and Portsmouth. Either going or returning we visited Parson Whipple whose lady persecuted me as much as she did afterwards father F[lynt]. The lady had a fine figure and a fair face. At dinner I was very bashful and silent. After dinner Parson W. invited us into another [room] where he took a pipe himself and offered us pipes. I was an old smoaker and readily took one. The [word torn away] lady very soon came into the room, lifted up her hands and cried out in a masculine voice, I am astonished to see that pretty little boy with a pipe in his mouth smoking that nasty poisoned tobacco. I cant bear the sight. I was as bashful and timorous as a girl, but I resented so much being called a little boy at 15 or 16 years of age and as stout as her husband, that I determined not to be frightened out of my pipe so I continued to puff away. You may well suppose that I bore no very good will to that lady till I afterward became acquainted with the character of Miss Hannah Whipple who afterwards married Dr. Bracket and gave two thousand dollars to the botanical garden [in] Cambridge. The excellences of that daughter very early atoned for all the severity of the mother and I have long since esteemed her an amiable and intelligent woman though sometimes a little too free with her guests. I recollect nothing more worth recording in my tour except that we called at Parson Bridges at Chelmsford and Parson Fogs at Kensington where we had much conversation respecting Mr. Wibert afterwards my minister then much celebrated for the elegance of his style.” (24 Dec. 1821, FC in an amanuensis’ hand, written on blank pages of Sewall’s letter to JA, 14 Dec. 1821, Adams Papers.)
From JA’s two accounts the itinerary of his vacation trip can be pretty satisfactorily reconstructed. He had left Cambridge on 29 June, “tarried” about a week at home in Braintree, then set out from Boston at the end of the first week in July with his cousin, Rev. Ebenezer Adams (1726–1767), Harvard 1747, to visit JA’s uncle and Ebenezer’s father, Rev. Joseph Adams (1689–1783), Harvard 1710, the veteran minister of Newington, N.H., a village on the south side of the Piscataqua River immediately above Portsmouth. They crossed the Charles River basin by ferry to Charlestown and the Mystic River to “Mistick” (Medford), and went on through “Menotomy” (later West Cambridge and now Arlington), Lexington, Bedford, and Billerica to Chelmsford. Crossing the Merrimack to Dracut in the extreme northeastern corner of Middlesex co., they followed the river through the New Hampshire villages of Nottingham West and Litchfield, where they turned northeast and passed through Londonderry, Hampstead, Kingston, Hampton Falls, and Greenland to Newington, spent a fortnight there, and visited the little maritime metropolis of Portsmouth.
The return journey was by the same or a very similar route, for the only precise date in the trip as a whole that can be established is that of their visit, in returning, with “Parson” Ebenezer Bridge (1716–1792), Harvard 1736, at Chelmsford. Bridge recorded in his Diary on 27 July: “Mr. Ebz. Adams a Preacher and Mr. Adams a Student at Har. Col. visited and dined with me” (MS, MH). The other stops mentioned in JA’s letter to Sewall could have been made “Either going or returning.” At Kensington, they called on Rev. Jeremiah Fogg (1712–1789), Harvard 1730, where conversation about Rev. Anthony Wibird (1729–1800) was natural because JA’s cousin Ebenezer and Wibird were classmates and both preaching at Amesbury about this time. The Little tiff over JA’s smoking occurred at Hampton Falls in the home of Rev. Joseph Whipple (1701–1757), Harvard 1720, whose { 51 } wife, the former Elizabeth Cutts, was old enough to be JA’s mother, which helps explain what JA thought was high-handedness on her part toward him. He was mistaken, however (as Sewall pointed out in a later letter), in supposing that Hannah Whipple, who married Dr. (and Judge) Joshua Brackett in 1760 and became a benefactress of botanical study at Harvard, was the daughter of Parson Whipple and his wife. Hannah Whipple came from Kittery, Maine. (See Sewall to JA, 18 Jan. 1822, Adams Papers.)
Sketches of all the men concerned are included in Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates: of Ebenezer Adams at 12:103; Joseph Adams, 5:502–506; Brackett, 13:197–201; Bridge, 10:17–27; Fogg, 8:710–714; Sewall, 13:638–645; Whipple, 6:415–417; Wibird, 12:226–230. On the two Adamses see also Adams Genealogy.
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/