A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 2


From Ephraim Keith, Jr.

2 June 1763

From James Putnam

24 June 1763
To Eunice Paine
RTP Paine, Eunice
Taunton June 13th 1763 Dear Eunice,

I remember wn. I saw you last you desired me to write to you, but exclusive of the promise I then made, I have a sufficient Motive in my mind for the vast safisfaction I take in your Correspondence. It seems but thinking Loud, & my Neglect has arisen rather from my unwillingness to trouble you with my speculations &c. than from any unmindfulriess of you, & I hope you will not question it when I tell you that a Love perhaps too tender & refin'd had hindered me from treating you altogether as a freind; for why should we disclose those perplexitys which cant be relieved, & why should we reduce the mixture of freindly Souls to the Complexion of the worst of them, or spoil the sweetest harmony by touching on Discords; however I am very Sensible the Loss has been my own & can truly say the affection I have always had for you has been fervent & unallay'd; an affection which has resulted from an opinion I have had of you in every respect, an opinion to which the Idea of a Sister could make no addition, a consideration of the Simularity of Disposition & harmony of sentiments respecting the things of this Life & of another, a Consideration which has almost made me regret the acquaintance (strange Philosophy!) from the disadvantageous Comparisons it has formed in my Mind. I intended when I sat out to have wrote very mild that I might not produce the least ruffle on the calm of your mind, but it is not in my power. For the same reason I neglected to discourse with you on my visits as I wanted to do, but I feared the burden of my mind if it once got vent would produce too large a stream, & as one Extream must ballance another, I feared from what was visible to you, you would take that for indifference which was the most consulted Tenderness.


Wenesday Evning Court Week, thus far I had wrote as the date, but interruptions of business hindered my finishing my house proportionable to the largeness of my Porch. I intended to have sent it by Mr. Adams, but tho' he did not come to Court yet I recd. yours1through his kind Care, to which you require answer, & therefore regularly, as I have not time to finish what I began, it should be suppressed, but that such an act would be contradictory to the sentiments therein expressed; I was preparing yr. mind to recieve some observations on the Meloncholly Affair, which I find you have heard; & am highly safisfy'd with the effect it seems to have upon you. Methinks you stand as a spectator between both Worlds & reflect on the affairs of this Life in a view I much long for.

As for perticulars I sent an acct. to the Printers, but it did not get seasonably for last Thursdays paper, but expect it will be in next Mondays,2 but you want perticulars unfit for the public & are intitled to them & shall have them what I can recollect, omitting such as are in the Papers; the fact was Committed on the morning I left you. I heard the news as I entered Taunton, & you may well think was recieved joyfully at the house, wch. I found full of curious Spectators, Confusion, Anxiety & distress. She was living, senseless, next morning Dr. Tobey3 came, & pronounc'd her Wounds fatal, in the Evning she died, the burthen of every thing lay upon me; some things I must omit here till I see you. 5 oClock next morning the Coroner called me to direct the taking the Inquisition. Abt. 4 oClock Bristol who had been taken at Newport came before them, appear'd sullen, denied the fact, was Committed, & has since most penitently confessed to me & many others the fact, neerly as I express in the News paper, & said he never had any anger agt. her, that she never treated him ill & that he was urged to it by McWharters4 negro. On Tuesday she was most decently interred, the largest & best regulated funeral I ever saw in the Country, six schollars her Bearers, I one; there is nothing more perticular that I can recollect amidst the incessant interruptions of Court Week.

The Dr. extreemly affected, but very decent, poor Mrs. McKinstrey, worked up to high Histericks, I was obliged from a principle of Humanity with the assistance of her Freinds to go aside & work up a most laboured Chearfulness to make keep her from fixed Distemper. Why should I assist your lmagination in feeling their Distress; they are tollerably Comfortable. Billey is a most Charming Boy; I beg the next time you come our way you would not contract such as acquaintance for I'm sorely pest-257ered in telling people how you do. 'Tis now late at night. Have wrote at several times the above as it came to mind, & am too much fatigued to make such observations as I intended. I expect to send this in the Morning, & must conclude, with all possible affection yr. ever Mindful Brother &c.


RC ; addressed: "To Miss Eunice Paine Braintree"; endorsed.


Not located.


The Boston Evening Post for June 13, 1763, carried the account of the murder of Elizabeth McKinstry: "From Taunton we have the following authentic Particulars of a most daring and inhuman Murder committed on the Body of Miss Elizabeth McKinstry, a Resident there in the House of Dr. McKinstry her Brother. Very early in the Morning of the 6th Instant, this unhappy young Woman, a little Girl, and a Negro Boy of about 16 Years old, being the only Persons of the Family that were up; the Girl having put the Flat-Irons to the Fire went up Chamber to get a Cloth for Ironing, and was absent about 8 Minutes, when returning to the Kitchen she found no Person there, but observed that one of the Flat-Irons was fallen on its Side; in a few Minutes she heard a bitter Groan, and stepping towards the Parlour, in the Entry Way she perceived a large Quantity of Blood, and immediately at the Foot of the Cellar Stairs saw the deceased laying in a woeful Condition; she called the Doctor and his Wife and many of the Neighbours soon came to their Assistance, upon Examination it appeared that she had received three or four Blows on the back of her Head, by means of which the Skull Bone was split almost across, depressed and fractured, and the left side of her Face was exceedingly burnt; all possible Relief was afforded but to no Purpose, she never spake above a Word or two, but languished till the Evening of the next Day without the least Appearance of Reason and then died: previous to this the Negro Boy had saddled his Master's Horse and hung him at the Door, and before the Neighbours were alarmed was seen riding off on a full Gallop, but was soon after pursued and overtaken at Newport, and is since committed to Goal: The Jury of Inquest found that she was murthered by the said Negro Boy named Bristol, and it appear'd to them from strong Evidence and partly from the Boy's Confession, that he struck her down with the Flat-Iron at the head of the Cellar Stairs, and burnt her Face with it, then drag'd her down to the Bottom and struck her with an Ax. The Boy was an exceeding good Servant, and remarkable for his obsequious Behaviour, nor was there the least surmise of his bearing Hatred to the deceased, or of the least Occasion for it; tho' since this Affair some Things have come to light which shew the maliciousness of his Mind, and the bad Effects of Negroes too freely consorting together. The deceased was a Daughter to the late Rev. Mr. John McKinstry, of Windsor, and had been at Taunton for some time on a Visit to her Brother's, during which by her agreeable, discreet and benevolent Behaviour she gained the entire Esteem of all her Acquaintance. She was preparing to return to her Friends at Windsor when this astonishing Event happen'd, which in an unexpected Moment rendered her the Spectacle of bloody Cruelty, and the Subject of Pity and Lamentation." On Oct. 13 the Superior Court sitting at Taunton sentenced Bristol to death for murder. RTP acting as Bristol's counsel secured a fortnightly reprieve for him on Oct. 9. Bristol was executed at Taunton on Dec. 1, 1763 (RTP, Diary).


Elisha Tobey (1723–1781), a physician of Dartmouth, with reputedly the largest practice in the county (Sibley's Harvard Graduates, 11:311–312).


John McWhorter (d. 1800) was a Taunton merchant with shipping interests (Bettye Hobbs Pruitt, ed., The Massachusetts Tax Valuation List of 1771 [Boston, 1978], 610–611).