Adams Family Correspondence, volume 5



The Reverend William Smith (Abigail Adams' Father) 246[unavailable]

The illustration of the Reverend William Smith that appeared in volume 1 (p. xii, facing p. 81) was reproduced from a small photograph of a painting in Daniel Munro Wilson's The “Chappel of Ease” and Church of Statesmen: . . . the First Church of Christ in Quincy, Quincy, 1890, facing p. 81. Since that time the original portrait has turned up, and it is this that is illustrated here. The painting once was misattributed to John Singleton Copley, but the real artist and date of execution are unknown.

The Reverend William Smith died in September 1783 at the age of seventy-six, leaving his estate divided among his son and three daughters and in trust for his daughter-in-law. (For the division of property see his will, 12 September 1783, below.) He had served as the minister of the First Parish of Weymouth since 1734 and after the death in 1775 of his wife, Elizabeth Quincy Smith, continued to live in the Weymouth parsonage where Abigail Adams and her siblings were born (see vol 1:ix, and illustration facing p. 80).

The death of her father gave Abigail Adams greater freedom to think about joining her husband in Europe. She wrote John: “My dearest Friend—Dearer if possible than ever; for all the parental props which once sustaind and supported me are fallen!” (20 September 1783, below; see also Abigail Adams to John Adams, 19 October, below). Abigail later arranged for her father's slave Phoebe, who was offered her freedom in his will, and her husband to move into and care for Abigail's home in her absence. Although Abigail's inheritance was more modest than that left to her sisters and sister-in-law, her father specifically bequeathed his silver tankard to her. It was the only item singled out among the family possessions for such a personal gesture. It survives to this day among the furnishings of the Adams National Historic Site.

Reverend Smith is buried in Weymouth, the site marked by a monument inscribed by Cotton Tufts: “As a Divine he was eminent, As a Preacher of the Gospel Eloquent . . .” (New England Historic and Genealogical Register, 23 [October 1869]:425). Some of Smith's line-a-day diaries and the official records he kept as pastor of the First Church, Weymouth, are in the Massachusetts Historical Society. (See Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 7:588–591.)

Courtesy of Mrs. Lewis Greenleaf.