“Our hearts were adjudged as dark as our complexions”: The 1805 Murder Accusation of the John London Kelley and Susannah Prince

In the spring of 1804, 26 year old farmer and laborer John London Kelley struck a deal with Kilborn Whitman to rent the 21 acre Lindsay farm and orchard on Oldham Street in Pembroke. Whitman, recently retired from the Pembroke ministry and now a judge and lawyer, agreed that John London Kelley’s rent would total $30 for the year, consisting of $15 cash due at the end of the year, and $15 worth of farm labor on Whitman’s behalf during the summer.


In 1804, John London Kelley and his wife Susannah Prince lived on the “Lindsay Farm” (the former homestead of Ephraim Lindsay/Lindsey) on Oldham St., Pembroke, Mass., which they rented from Kilborn Whitman. In the 1831 Map of Pembroke, African American/Mattakeeset Indian Martin Prince lived on the farm. Map courtesy of the Boston Public Library.


Kilborn Whitman. Image courtesy the Pembroke Historical Society.

John London Kelley found the terms agreeable, and settled his new young family on the farm, including his common law wife, 19 year old Susannah Prince, and their infant daughter Sarah. John London Kelley was the son of former Bridgewater slave, Kelley/Calley London Brewster and Margaret Stewart (likely of African and Mattakeeset Indian heritage), who settled in Hanson after the Revolutionary War.

John London Kelley was baptized by Rev. Gad Hitchcock in the Hanson Congregational Church on 29 April 1786, along with several of his siblings.


29 April 1786 Baptism of siblings Hannah, Charles, and John, children of Calley and Margaret. They were baptized by Rev. Gad Hitchcock in the Hanson Congregational Church.

Susannah Prince had been born in Maine in 1785, the probable daughter of Pembroke “mulatto man” Sylvester Prince and his wife Rhoda Caesar (the daughter of a Marshfield slave father and Wampanoag Indian mother), who returned to the Hanson/Pembroke area during Susannah’s childhood. Summer arrived, and John London Kelley brought in the harvest to support his family, as well as Kilborn Whitman. Grain, root vegetables, and apples lasted the family into the winter.

One cold night in January 1805, an acquaintance, Benjamin Bates of Hanover, appeared at their door. Bates had overdue debts and had recently heard about a job opportunity to work as a sailor aboard a ship. Bates perhaps drunkenly heard about the job at a Pembroke or Hanover tavern, because he apparently did not inform any relatives or friends about his sudden money-making intentions. Benjamin Bates was welcomed into John London Kelley and Susannah Prince’s home, where Bates asked to exchange some of his old clothes for food to take on his journey, then immeditately left for Plymouth or Boston port. Within several days, Bates’ friends began to speculate where he was, and rumors began to circulate throughout Pembroke and Hanover. It quickly became apparent that Benjamin Bates had last been seen at the Kelleys’ home on the “evening of his departure.” The Kelleys later reported that “suspicions were excited against [us], that [we] had murdered the said Bates and concealed his death; popular prejudice being excited against us, it was but a short period before we began to experience some of its distressing effects.”

On 7 February 1805, several Pembroke constables forcibly took the Kelleys from their home and brought them before a Plymouth magistrate, who deemed it suspicious that Bates had suddenly disappeared, was last seen at the Kelleys’ home, and that they had some of his clothes. They claimed they had no knowledge of any foul play, but the judge ruled that they should be imprisoned at the Plymouth jail until a trial. Plymouth’s jail at the time was a small wooden building on Court Street, and prisoners were required to provide their own supplies during their stay. The Kelleys were imprisoned for four months “in that cold and inclement season, without money and without friends to soften the rigors of our confinement.” Their juried trial was held in May 1805, in which the judge and jury determined that there was no legal evidence against the Kelleys. Since there was no proof of Benjamin Bates’ death, the Kelleys were released from prison.

Upon returning to Pembroke, however, they discovered that Kilborn Whitman had rented the Lindsay farm to another African American-Mattakeeset Indian, John Wood alias Pero, and his family. Whitman also then immediately sued the Kelleys for not paying their remaining part of the rent, for damages totaling $50 (much more than the agreed upon and partially paid $30 rent). Whitman won his case, and John London Kelley was forced to default on the payment. As John explained, he and Susannah experienced physical and mental strain during their imprisonment, due to lack of food, clothing, blankets and support: “weakened & debilitated by [our] long confinement [we] were rendered incapable of earning [our] bread by [our] industry, and have suffered many & great hardships in conveyance of said confinement, & have not been able to this day, to do that quantity of labor, [we] easily performed before : [we] feel [our]selves poor & depressed.”

Although now free, the Kelleys could not lift the cloud of suspicion their neighbors held. “It was in vain we solemnly declared our innocence; in vain did we attempt to prove, we came honestly by the cloths that once belonged to Bates, by saying we had exchanged them; we were accused and therefore were not believed; we were people of colour, and our hearts were adjudged as dark as our complexions.”

During the fall of 1805, Benjamin Bates “returned from sea, visited his friends, and confirmed by his declaration, all [that] we had said in our defence.” It was a bittersweet moment for the Kelleys: “thus we are relieved of the horrid epithet of Murderers, which has often assailed our ears & wounded our hearts; and which we must probably have borne in the minds of some, at least, if Bates had been lost on his voyage.”

With their names finally cleared, the Kelleys still faced debts owed from their period of imprisonment, and they turned to the Pembroke selectmen for support. Towns at that time were required to support any impoverished residents, of any color, who had been born there. But despite the fact that both John London Kelley and Susannah Prince had both been raised in Hanson (then Pembroke), neither had technically been born there, so the selectmen refused. However, the selectmen had recently heard that former slaves or children of slaves could sometimes receive support from the state, since it was the Massachusetts government and judicial system that had deemed slavery to be illegal at the end of the Revolutionary War. This tactic didn’t always work, and often the towns or former slave owners in Massachusetts who petitioned the Massachusetts government were denied and ordered to pay for the support of their elderly or impoverished former slaves themselves. This may have happened with the Kelleys’ case, which was withdrawn by the Pembroke selectmen shortly after submitting it in early 1806.

Feeling abused by their Pembroke neighbors, the Kelleys left Pembroke and moved to Maine for several years, where a son Charles was born. They then returned to Plymouth County, where John and Susannah were officially married in Hanover in 1810, and had several more children. They later found more welcoming neighbors in Plymouth, and on Betty’s Neck in Lakeville, which both had Native American and African American communities.


Sources: Harvard’s Antislavery Petitions Massachusetts Dataverse, “House Unpassed Legislation 1806, Docket 5794, SC1/SERIES 230, Petition of John London Kelley”; MA Vital Records; Plymouth Court Records Whitman v. John London Kelly; Plymouth County Deeds 101:42 Whitman to Pero.

Researched by Mary Blauss Edwards.

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Object of the Month: January 2017: 1773 Pembroke Letter Supporting Massachusetts Abolition

In November 1772 Boston patriots formed a Committee of Correspondence and encouraged others towns throughout Massachusetts to do the same. This provided a powerful voice to the Patriot cause at a vital local level – the town meeting. The first publication of Boston’s Committee was a list of grievances against Britain and a request for endorsement of those beliefs. The town of Pembroke [which also included the town of Hanson] formed their own Committee of Correspondence in response to this letter. On 28 December 1772 the town elected John Turner, Abel Stetson, Jeremiah Hall, and Seth Hatch to Pembroke’s Committee of Correspondence “to support the cause of liberty & property; and so subscribe ourselves hearty friends and well-wishers in the cause aforesaid.” The town then voted to support the pamphlet published by Boston’s Committee and they agreed to publish their own pamphlet in response, known as the Pembroke Resolves. [Boston Evening Post, 11 Jan. 1773, p. 2.]

In January 1773 Felix Holbrook, who had been enslaved for over two decades by Boston schoolteacher Abiah Holbrook, petitioned the Massachusetts government on behalf of all Massachusetts slaves to abolish slavery in Massachusetts. Felix and his supporters were emboldened by the creation of these Committees of Correspondence which publicly discussed revolutionary ideals. Felix’s first petition, however, was framed using religious and moral arguments, rather than patriotic language. The petition was denied, but the discussion generated during the session gave Felix “a high degree of satisfaction.” Therefore, on 20 April 1773, Felix Holbrook and three other slaves – Peter Bestes, Sambo Freeman, and Chester Joie, again petitioned the Massachusetts government to abolish slavery in Massachusetts. This time their arguments strongly paralleled the Patriots’ own arguments defending the right to break free from Britain’s “enslavement” of the colonists. Felix and the others “expect great things from men who have made such a noble stand against the designs of their fellow-men to enslave them.” Felix’s first petition had generated much discussion and complaints at the Massachusetts Assembly about the financial losses of slave-masters if slavery was abolished. The petitioners acknowledged “we are very sensible that it would be highly detrimental to our present masters, if we were allowed to demand all that of right belongs to us for past services,” and so argued that if abolition were granted, “we are willing to submit to such regulations and laws, as may be made relative to us, until we leave the province, which we determine to do as soon as we can from our joynt labours procure money to transport ourselves to some part of the coast of Africa, where we propose a settlement.”

Boston’s Committee of Correspondence was favorable to this petition. On 17 May 1773 Pembroke held its town meeting to elect a Representative to the Massachusetts Assembly. They chose their town clerk, John Turner, and also voted that Turner should read aloud a series of instructions elected by the town, because they held it vital “In this time of general danger and distress, when our Civil Rights are torn from us by peacemeals, and Acts of the British Parliament still enforced, which are manifestedly inconsistent with our character, and as we think directly contrary to a fundamental principle of the British Constitution.”

Pembroke included a favorable response to Felix Holbrook’s April petition and argued that God himself might grant white colonists their freedom from England if they themselves granted freedom to their slaves:

“We think the Negro Petition reasonable – agreeable to natural justice and the precepts of the Gospel, and therefore advise that in concurrence with the other worthy members of the Assembly; you endeavour to find a way in which they may be freed from slavery without wrong to their present masters or injury to themselves – and that a total abolition of slavery may in due time take place; then we trust we may with humble confidence look up to the Great Arbiter of Heaven and Earth, expecting that he will in his own due time look upon our Affliction, and in the way of his Providence deliver us from the insults, the grievances, and impositions we so justly complain of.”

1773 Pembroke Instructions.jpg

Boston Gazette (Boston, Mass.), 14 June 1773.


John Turner wore many hats in this process – as town clerk, selectman, and head of Pembroke’s Committee of Correspondence, he wrote the list of instructions he presented at the Massachusetts Assembly following his election as Pembroke’s Representative. However, the Massachusetts Assembly again denied Felix Holbrook’s petition. Additional petitions to abolish slavery were presented to the Massachusetts Assembly throughout the Revolutionary War. Although each petition was denied by the electorate, it generated a great deal of discussion and disagreement among Massachusetts’ politicians and general populace. General support for abolition grew throughout the decade, and in 1783 a series of Supreme Court judicial rulings led to the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts.

Recently, the Pembroke Historical Commission has held lengthy and ongoing discussions concerning the possible preservation of John Turner’s house, derelict and located behind a gas station on the corner of routes 53 and 14 in Pembroke, as a new fire station is slated to be constructed on the Turner lot.


John Turner House, 2013, Photograph Courtesy of Deborah Wall.

And what became of Felix Holbrook? He married Lusanna Cato of Scituate, daughter of an enslaved father Caesar Cato/Torrey and Massachuset Indian mother Sarah Wapping, in Scituate’s First Church in 1772. He was manumitted by Abiah Holbrook’s widow, and his family removed to Providence, where he was a founding member of the Providence African Union Society which planned, but never executed, an expedition to bring former slaves to Sierra Leone.


[Written by Hanson Historical Society Curator Mary Blauss Edwards]

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Object of the Month: April 2015 – April 1775 Muster Roll of Hanson Soldiers who Marched on Marshfield

240 years ago, the “shot heard ’round the world” launched the famous battles of Lexington and Concord. Less well-known is a battle that almost came to pass at Marshfield, Massachusetts, where Plymouth County soldiers gathered to fight in the aftermath of Lexington and Concord.

Word of the fighting at Lexington and Concord had reached Plymouth County via messengers on horseback by the afternoon of April 19th, 1775. The majority of towns in Plymouth County, including Pembroke (whose west parish later became Hanson) had Patriot sympathies, and many of them immediately gathered their local militias in response. But Lexington and Concord, thirty some-odd miles away, was not the main concern of Plymouth County residents. They had a threat much closer to home: Three months earlier, in January 1775, Marshfield, the only Loyalist center in the area, had invited a British regiment of over one hundred soldiers to lodge in the town. This was in part due to events which culminated in the fall of 1774, when a mob said to include more than 2,000 Plymouth County Patriots gathered in Marshfield to protest Loyalist Nathaniel Ray Thomas. Thomas escaped to Boston in advance of the mob, narrowly missing a possible attack on his life and estate. Marshfield therefore held the unique position of being the only town in Massachusetts, besides Boston, to be occupied by British troops for a substantial period of time before the Revolutionary War began. The presence of the British soldiers in Marshfield, led by Captain Nesbit Balfour, only served to increase tension in Plymouth County between January and April 1775.

Plymouth’s Theophilus Cotton led the Plymouth County patriot regiment. He gathered the various town militias at Duxbury, allowing both the 19th and 20th to pass without direct action against Marshfield, hoping to either allow more time for additional town militias to gather, or to allow time to see if the British soldiers would simply return to their larger force at Boston. On April 21st, Cotton led the Plymouth County soldiers near the British garrison at Marshfield, and it was estimated by noon on that day that Cotton had 500 soldiers compared to Balfour’s 100. But still Cotton waited. Kingston’s Captain Peleg Wadsworth “greatly dissatisfied by the delay”, drew his men within firing range of the garrison, but felt his numbers were too small to fire on the British.

With additional Plymouth County soldiers gathering around the British garrison, the dramatic siege quickly ended when it was revealed that Capt. Balfour and his soldiers were picked up by boats and brought to Boston. It was later rumored that Balfour claimed “that if he had been attacked, he should have surrendered without a gun”. Although Capt. Wadsworth and many of the Plymouth County soldiers were ready for a fight, no blood was shed at Marshfield that day, compared to the battles at Concord and Lexington in which the colonists suffered the deaths of 49, wounding of 39, and five who were missing, as well as the British who lost 73 soldiers, and had 174 soldiers injured and 26 missing.

49 men from the West Parish of Pembroke gathered under the leadership of Captain James Hatch of Pembroke and joined the march on Marshfield. They served from April 19th until the 29th of April, a total of 11 days. After the hasty departure of the British soldiers from Marshfield to Boston, they left behind supplies which the Plymouth County soldiers confiscated. Patrols were then established to determine that the British would not be returning to their garrison, located on the Nathaniel Ray Thomas estate in Marshfield (later purchased by Daniel Webster). Below is a transcription of Captain James Hatch’s muster roll for his men’s service. The Hanson men were not provided a salary for their service until almost a year later, on 14 March 1776, just as the siege of Boston was coming to an end.

Muster Roll of a Company in Minute Men that Marched from the West Parish of Pembroke to Scituate and Marshfield, on the Alarm of 19th of April, 1775.

Length of service 19 April to 29 April, 11 days.

Captain [£6 per month]. James Hatch.

Lieutenants [£2.8 per month]. Consider Cole, 1st Lieutenant[£4 per month]. Eleazer Hamblin, 2nd Lieutenant [£3 10 s per month].

Sergeant [£2.4 per month]. Caleb Howland, Thomas Fuller, Nathaniel Thomas, Seth Phillips.

Corporals. Daniel Crooker, Samuel Howland, Ephraim Briggs, Lyons Tsar.

Musicians. Ezekiel Bonney, fifer. Isaac Wade, drummer.

Privates [£2 per month]. Increase Robinson, Isaac Beals, Seth Perry, William Cox Jr., Isaac Moore, Isaac Phillips, Christopher Phillips, John Stutson, Isaac Bonney, Reuben Clark, Elijah Cushing 3d, Daniel Child, Eleazer Bisby, David Beals, Leonard Hill, Benjamin Munroe, Thomas Lincoln, Lot Phillips, Ephraim Lindsy, Abraham Josselyn Jr., William Bonney, William Gould, Benjamin Guilliam, Seth Cox, Africa Hamblin, Alexander Soper, Daniel Garnet Jr., William Hayford, Richard Baker Jr., Hezekiah Pearce, Samuel Harden, Jonathan Bonney, Abijah Levett, Gershom Ramsdall, Samuel Gorham, Charles Jewett, Tilden Crooker.

Citation: R. G. Carter, “Muster Roll of a Company in Minute Men that Marched from the West Parish of Pembroke to Scituate and Marshfield, on the Alarm of 19th of April, 1775”, Putnam’s Monthly Historical Magazine and Magazine of New England, Vol. 4 No. 1 (January 1896): 23-24.

1775 Hanson Muster Roll 1

1775 Hanson Muster Roll 2

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Object of the Month: July 2014 – Pembroke’s Copy of the Declaration of Independence



Centuries before the 24/7 news cycle and instant access to global events, do you know how the American colonists came to learn that independence from England had been declared by the Continental Congress? On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to declare independence and formed the new nation of the United States of America. The Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson and edited by Congressional members, was written to provide an explanation for why Congress chose to vote for the revolutionary decision, and the document was ratified two days later on July 4, 1776. After its ratification, Congress ordered the publication of a broadside containing the text of the declaration and arranged for its distribution throughout the colonies. Since the date published on the broadside was July 4, 1776, that date came to represent Independence Day. John Adams, however, wanted July 2nd – the date of the vote – to represent the celebration of Independence Day.


The broadsides were distributed far and wide by messengers on horseback and copied in newspapers in all thirteen states. John Hancock sent a broadside to George Washington, who read it to his army at New York on 9 July 1776. The news distributed throughout the newly formed states during the month of July and reached England by August 1776.


Massachusetts Provincial Congressman Richard Derby Jr. ordered the following directive for the Declaration of Independence’s distribution in Massachusetts:


Ordered that the Declaration of Independence Be Printed and a Copy Sent to the minister of Each Parish of Every Denomination Within this State and that they Severaly [sic] Be Required to Read the Same to their Respective Congregations as Soon as Devine Service is ended in the afternoon on the First Lord’s Day after they shall have Received it and after such Publication thereof to Deliver the said Declaration to the Clerks of the Several Towns or Districts who are Hereby Required to Record the Same in the Respective Town or District Books there to Remain as a Perpetual memorial thereof in the name and By order of the council.


From Pembroke, Massachusetts' copy of the Declaration of Independence. From Pembroke Town Meeting Minutes. Originals held at Pembroke Town Hall. Image courtesy of Family History Library.

From Pembroke, Massachusetts’ copy of the Declaration of Independence. From Pembroke Town Meeting Minutes. Originals held at Pembroke Town Hall. Image courtesy of Family History Library.


Richard Derby Jr.’s order that the Declaration of Independence be sent, read, and recorded by each Massachusetts town ensured that each community gathered together to learn that they were no longer British colonists, but citizens of the United States of America. Derby’s father, Richard Derby Sr. also played a major role in the distribution of news throughout the Revolutionary War. Derby Sr. was a merchant ship owner from Salem, owner of the schooner Quero which was sent to England immediately following the Battle of Lexington and Concord to offer the patriot version of the battle, which arrived two weeks in advance of the heavier and slower brig Sukey that carried the British army report. Derby’s ships then brought back to America the first news of London’s response regarding the start of the Revolutionary War. Derby’s ships also later brought the news to America detailing the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War in 1783.


At a town meeting held at the Pembroke Meeting House on Monday the 29th of July 1776, the Pembroke town clerk John Turner recorded the Declaration of Independence in the town records. At the time Pembroke also included the area which later became the town of Hanson, Massachusetts.


Per Derby’s instruction, the Declaration of Independence was read at the First Congregational Church by Rev. Thomas Smith, and at the Second Church in the Pembroke West Parish (today the Hanson Congregational Church) by Rev. Gad Hitchcock. Just two years prior, Rev. Hitchcock had delivered the patriotic election sermon in Boston’s Old South Church to an audience including the controversial Massachusetts Governor Thomas Gage. Hitchcock pointedly sermoned from Proverbs 29:2 “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” It was said that Hitchcock later joked that his election sermon was a “moving discourse, inasmuch as it moved many of the [Loyalist] congregation out of the house”. The Declaration was perhaps also read at the Pembroke Friends Meeting House at a gathering of Quakers.


Since Pembroke town clerk John Turner recorded the Declaration at a town meeting on Monday, it was probably publicly read either the day before at the various churches on Sunday, July 28th, or the previous Sunday, July 21st. It was read aloud to the public in Boston at the State House on Thursday, July 18th.


The Pembroke town meeting on July 28, 1776 included the important work of recording the Declaration of Independence as a “perpetual memory” with two other items on the agenda. 10 men had enlisted in Pembroke to serve in the Revolutionary War on a mission to attempt to gain control of Quebec. The state offered a seven pound bounty reward to every soldier who enlisted, so the citizens of Pembroke voted to raise £80 through a tax on the town to provide an additional town bounty for £8 per man “making a bounty of 15 pounds in the whole”. Pembroke citizens also voted to raise £120 to repay the money hired by a committee for a bounty paid to Pembroke men who were sent to New York the previous year.


Below are the pages from the town meeting minutes of the reading of Pembroke’s copy of the Declaration of Independence, as recorded by town clerk John Turner. It must have been an incredible moment for Turner, who headed the Pembroke Committee of Correspondence which wrote the “Pembroke Resolves” in 1772 calling for the separation from Great Britain.


First page of Pembroke, Massachusetts' copy of the Declaration of Independence. From Pembroke Town Meeting Minutes. Originals held at Pembroke Town Hall. Image courtesy of Family History Library.

First page of Pembroke, Massachusetts’ copy of the Declaration of Independence. From Pembroke Town Meeting Minutes. Originals held at Pembroke Town Hall. Image courtesy of Family History Library.

Second page of Pembroke, Massachusetts' copy of the Declaration of Independence. From Pembroke Town Meeting Minutes. Originals held at Pembroke Town Hall. Image courtesy of Family History Library.

Second page of Pembroke, Massachusetts’ copy of the Declaration of Independence. From Pembroke Town Meeting Minutes. Originals held at Pembroke Town Hall. Image courtesy of Family History Library.

Third page of Pembroke, Massachusetts' copy of the Declaration of Independence. From Pembroke Town Meeting Minutes. Originals held at Pembroke Town Hall. Image courtesy of Family History Library.

Third page of Pembroke, Massachusetts’ copy of the Declaration of Independence. From Pembroke Town Meeting Minutes. Originals held at Pembroke Town Hall. Image courtesy of Family History Library.


[Posted by Mary Blauss Edwards, Hanson Historical Society Curator]

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Object of the Month: June 2014 – An Unidentified Object

The Hanson Historical Society’s photograph collection includes an unlabeled photograph of this interesting object, and we are hoping to use the power of crowd sourcing to identify it!


Here is the unidentified object:
Unidentified Object

Does anyone know what this object is, sitting upon a table? The letters “N” “W” are inscribed along the top. ID’ing the object might also help to date this image as well. Thanks, history detectives!

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Object of the Month: May 2014 – Lloyd S. Josselyn and His Bicycle


Lloyd Sumner Josslyn, 82 years old, in South Hanson after a ride from Hingham.

May is Bicycle Month, so this month’s object is a wonderful photograph of Lloyd Sumner Josselyn and his bicycle.

Lloyd was born in Pembroke on 8 September 1859, the son of David A. and Sophronia F. (Keene) Josselyn. He married in Boston on 6 August 1902, Elizabeth Weston Drake, and they settled in Hanson.

This photograph shows 82 year old Lloyd Sumner Josselyn in South Hanson, Mass. ca. 1942. He had “just returned from a bicycle trip to Hingham”.

His bicycle was a “52 inch wheel, completely nickel plated, ball bearing equipped and with a patent brake arrangement. It cost $150”.

The photograph was donated to the Society by Roland Josselyn on Dec. 27, 1973.

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Object of the Month: March 2014 – Maud Gilbert (Brewster) Bodell Gorham Collection

In honor of Women’s History Month, March’s Object of the Month will focus on a photograph collection of former Hanson Historical Society member Maud(e) Gilbert (Brewster) Bodell Gorham. Our archives contain a wonderful small collection of photographs and tintypes of the family members and friends of Maud(e) Gilbert (Brewster) Bodell Gorham of Hanson (1891-1978), which have been digitized and are available on the Hanson Historical Society’s Flickr.

Early records list her name as Maud (including her birth and first marriage records), later records list her name as Maude (including her second marriage and death records). Maude was born and raised in Hanson; she married twice and had two children. The Hanson Historical Society also has another collection of the Maude Gilbert (Brewster) Bodell Gorham Family Papers, the majority of which is documentation regarding the death of her son Brandon Brewster Bodell, age 31, during World War II, including his Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals.

1. Maud(e) Gilbert Brewster was born in Hanson, Plymouth, Massachusetts, 12 June 1891, daughter of Henry Gilbert and Florence Eveline (Tirrell) Brewster.[[1]] She died in Pembroke, Plymouth, Massachusetts, 22 September 1978.[[2]] She married first in Kingston, Plymouth, Massachusetts, 17 August 1911, by H. S. Kilborn, James Gray Bodell.[[3]] He was born in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 27 June 1889, son of Franklin and Hannah (Gray) Bodell.[[4]] He died in Grafton State Hospital, Grafton, Worcester, Massachusetts, 1957.[[5]] From at least 10 April 1930 until 1935 he was a psychiatric patient at the Taunton State Hospital, Taunton, Bristol, Massachusetts, and in 1940 until his death was a patient at the Grafton State Hospital.[[6]] At the time of their marriage, Maude Brewster was a clerk residing in Hanson and James Bodell was a conductor residing in Plymouth. In the 1914 Hanson directory, James G. Bodell was listed as a conductor for the Brockton and Plymouth Railway, boarding with his family in a house on Main Street near Pleasant Street in South Hanson.[7] They probably were divorced or separated by 5 June 1917, when James listed his marital status as “single” for his World War I Draft Registration and was residing in 18 Davis St., Plymouth, working as a cloth examiner at Standish Worsted Company in Plymouth, described as medium height, medium build, dark blue eyes, dark brown hair.

She married second, as his second wife, in Hanson, 21 July 1927, by John E. Berry, Hubert Aubrey Gorham.[[8]] He was born in East Harwich, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, 31 October 1872, the son of Ephraim A. and Marietta (Rogers) Gorham.[[9]] He died of cancer in Hanson, 16 February 1940.[[10]] At the time of their marriage, Hubert was a cranberry grower, and Maud was a telephone operator, and both were listed as divorced from their former spouses. He married first in Hanson, 30 June 1898, by Ezra N. Smith, Annie T. Damon.[[11]] She was born in Hanson, 11 February 1874, the daughter of Elijah Damon and Phoebe S. Besse.[[12]] At the time of Hubert and Annie’s marriage, he was a laborer and she was a teacher. Annie was formerly a teacher at Primary Schoolhouse #4, now the  headquarters of the Hanson Historical Society [see the Hanson Historical Society’s Primary Schoolhouse #4 exhibit]. Hubert was initiated into the Phoenix Lodge of the Massachusetts Masons on 18 September 1919, and remained a member until his death.[13]

Maude G. Bodell (28, divorced) was enumerated 20 January 1920 in Hanson with her father, Henry G. Brewster (owns home, 59, farmer) and mother Florence E. Brewster (66), with children Brandon B. Bodell (6) and Gertude E. Bodell (4 years, 3 months) and uncle George W. Brewster (56, farm laborer).[[14]]

Maude G. Gorham (38) was enumerated 11 April 1930 in Main St., Hanson with husband Hubert A. Gorham (owns house, has $6,000 in real estate, 57, superintendant of a cranberry bog), and children Brandon Bodell (16) and Gertrude E. Bodell (14).[[15]]

Maude G. Gorham (48, widow, owned home worth $4000, high school graduate) was enumerated 18 April 1940 in Main St., South Hanson.[[16]]

Children of James Gray and Maude Gilbert (Brewster) Bodell, b. Hanson:

i.   Brandon Brewster Bodell, b. 11 Aug. 1913; d. near Metz, France, 29 Sept. 1944. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a surveyor prior to the war. He enlisted as a soldier for World War II in Boston on 19 March 1942. At the time of his enlistment, he was 72” tall and weighed 191 pounds. He was a first lieutenant, in 558th FA Bn, C Battery, army service no. 1170656. Gilbert Hahn reflected on Bodell’s death in The Notebook of an Amateur Politician: And how He Began the D.C. Subway: “We stayed outside of Metz for this forty-five day period. During that time, some of my pals, the other lieutenants in the battalion, took their guns for direct lay missions on the various forts around Metz. My friend Bryce Bowmar, in a heroic episode, fired into those forts at one thousand yards. (He is mentioned in Stephen Ambrose’s book Citizen Soldier.) My other friend who did the same thing, Brandon Bodell, was killed. The concept of the direct lay missions was not ideal, because with separate loading ammunition, a shell from a machine gun or mortar could explode the powder bag (that had to be kept at the gun), so it was highly dangerous”.

ii.   Gertrude E. Bodell, b. 21 Sept. 1915. She married several times and was a beautician.



[1] Maud Gilbert Brewster birth record (1891), 413:561, Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1915.
[2] Maude G. Gorham indexed death record (1978), Massachusetts Death Index, 1970-2003 (www.ancestry.com); Maude Gorham indexed death record (1978), Social Security Death Index.
[3] James G. Bodell and Maud G. Brewster marriage record (1911), 604:205, 604:213, 604:241, Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1915 (www.americanancestors.org).
[4] James Gray Bodell World War I Draft Registration Card (1917), World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (www.ancestry.com).
[5] James Bodell indexed death record (1957) 52:124, Massachusetts Death Index, 1901-1980 (www.ancestry.com).
[6] Taunton State Hospital, 1930 U.S. Census, Ward 8, Taunton, Bristol County, Massachusetts, roll 894, page 8A; Grafton State Hospital, 1940 U.S. Census, Grafton, Worcester County, Massachusetts, roll 1650, page 6B.
[7] 1914 Hanson Directory (www.ancestry.com), 136.
[8] 1927 Hanson Town Report.
[9] Male Gorham birth record (1872), 241:14, Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1915 (www.americanancestors.org).
[10] Hubert A. Gorham death record (1940), Massachusetts, Town Vital Collections, 1620-1988 (www.ancestry.com).
[11] Hubert A. Gorham and Annie T. Damon marriage record (1898), 479:565 and 479:589, Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1915 (www.americanancestors.org).
[12] Annie T. Damon birth record (1874), Massachusetts, Town Vital Collections, 1620-1988 (www.ancestry.com).
[13] Hubert Aubrey Gorham Mason Membership Card, Massachusetts: Grand Lodge of Masons Membership Cards, 1733-1990 (www.americanancestors.org).
[14] Henry G. Brewster household, 1920 U.S. Census, Hanson, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, roll 726, page 8A.
[15] Hubert A. Gorham household, 1930 U.S. Census, Hanson, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, roll 940, page 9B.
[16] Maude G. Gorham household, 1940 U.S. Census, Hanson, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, roll 1638, page 62A.

[Posted by Mary Blauss Edwards, Hanson Historical Society Curator]

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Object of the Month: February 2014 – Pomp’s Orchard

To celebrate African American History month, February’s Object of the Month is a transcribed oral history detailing “Pomp’s Orchard”, the cottage and orchard of Pomp, a former slave of the House family. Pomp was an African American slave owned by the House family of Hanson, Hanover and Whitman (then part of Abington) in the late 18th century. He was a young man when slavery was ruled unconstitutional in Massachusetts in 1783. For a time he continued to live and work for various House family members, including the family of Samuel and Hannah (Cushing) House on King St. in Hanson (then a part of Pembroke). Pomp may have been the free person of color residing in the house of Samuel House of Pembroke (now Hanson) in the 1800 Census. By the 19th century, however, the bachelor Pomp had built a small cottage and cultivated a small farm and orchard “across the fields” from the Samuel House house, on a small dirt road which today is known as Glenwood Place.

Pomp’s orchard was remembered almost a century later as a very picturesque property. He built a small wooden cottage, dug a well for water, and on the surrounding quarter of an acre planted berries and fruit trees. He constructed a stone wall which encompassed the cottage and property, and had a gateway at the entrance of the property along the road. Pomp’s orchard was located along the dirt road which was informally called Jackass Place, in honor of the donkey of blacksmith Robert Thomas who lived at the end of the road and was Pomp’s neighbor. The road later was referred to as Josselyn Place, and today known as Glenwood Place.

In 1827, Pomp, went swimming and drowned in a “pond hole” opposite the road from the Nahum Stetson house on King St. (present-day 305 King St.), which may have been the mill pond, known today as Factory Pond. He was buried on the property of the Samuel House family on King Street. It is probable that this burial site was not marked with a gravestone. Its exact location today is unknown, in part because the Samuel House property was subdivided into several lots throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. However, it is probably located near 274 King St.

Shortly after Pomp’s death, Hanson resident Thomas Pratt purchased a house formerly owned by Benjamin White on King Street in 1834, that “stood on the hill just south of the former home of Samuel House on King Street”. Thomas Pratt “had it moved across the fields” to Glenwood Place and placed it by or on Pomp’s orchard, probably in part because Pomp had already cleared and cultivated the land there. Pratt’s house today still stands, as 104 Glenwood Place. In later years, Thomas Pratt shared the story of Pomp and his orchard to his grandson, Lucius W. Arnold, who in the 20th century told Pomp’s story to Hanson historian Joseph B. White for White’s book History of Houses in Hanson, Mass.

Joseph B. White, History of Houses in Hanson, Mass. (1932), Plan No. 3, Site No. L, Pomp’s Orchard. From the collection of the Hanson Historical Society.

Joseph B. White, History of Houses in Hanson, Mass. (1932), Plan No. 3, Site No. L, Pomp’s Orchard. From the collection of the Hanson Historical Society.

In Joseph B. White’s History of Houses in Hanson, Mass. (1932), Lucius Arnold reported to Joseph B. White “Between the L. P. Bergin place No. 50 Plan No. 3 and the Caleb Arnold place No. 51 Plan No. 3 [on Glenwood Place] was a quarter acres of land all walled in with a gateway as entrance. Inside the wall was a small cottage and a large variety of fruit, berries, etc. and a well. This plot was occupied and cultivated by an old colored man, formerly a slave in the old James House [sic, Samuel House] family on King Street. He was never married, but gave his whole time in the care of his little farm and cottage. In 1827, he was drowned in a pond hole opposite the Nahum Stetson place on King Street, and was buried on the James House farm [sic, Samuel House farm]”.

Samuel House property on King Street in 1830, where Pomp was buried in 1827. He may have drowned in the Mill Pond (today called Factory Pond). From 1830 Map of Hanson, Mass. Original map located at Plymouth County Registry of Deeds. Photograph courtesy of Donald Blauss.

Samuel House property on King Street in 1830, where Pomp was buried in 1827. He may have drowned in the Mill Pond (today called Factory Pond). Pomp’s orchard was not marked on the 1830 map.
From 1830 Map of Hanson, Mass. Original map located at Plymouth County Registry of Deeds. Photograph courtesy of Donald Blauss.

[Posted by Mary Blauss Edwards, Hanson Historical Society Curator]

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Object of the Month: January 2014 – Barnabas Everson’s Safe

Barnabas Everson Safe. From the artifact collection of the Hanson Historical Society.

Barnabas Everson Safe. From the artifact collection of the Hanson Historical Society.

In honor of former Hanson resident Barnabas Everson’s 189th birthday this month, January’s object of the month is a very heavy artifact from our collection which he possessed. Near the entrance to the Hanson Historical Society sits the very large and sturdy safe which belonged to Barnabas Everson in the late 19th century. The front of the safe is personalized with his name, along with a painted pastoral scene, and the following text:

B. Everson

Mosler Safe & Lock Co.

Cincinnatti, O.

Mosler, Gowen & Co., 192 Devonshire St., Boston

The Mosler Safe Company manufactured security equipment, including safes, beginning in 1867. They quickly became internationally known for their high-quality production and strength. The company declared bankruptcy in 2001. Barnabas purchased the safe from a Boston dealer who sold Mosler safes, sometime between the start of their production in 1867, but before Barnabas’s death in 1896. But why did he need such a substantial safe?

In 1888, Barnabas Everson was valued as the 7th wealthiest man in the town of Hanson, and one of Twenty Thousand Rich New Englanders. His assessed value was about $7,700, which would be a value of almost $200,000 today. The sixth wealthiest men in Hanson at the time, in order of wealth, were Joseph White, Elijah C. Thomas, Foster Mills, Nathaniel W. Cushing, Andrew Bowker, and Caleb Barker.

How did Barnabas gain his wealth?

He was born at Hanson on 4 January 1825, the son of Richard Everson (1791-1868), a shoemaker and veteran of the War of 1812, and Mercy Munroe (1794-1880), who lived in a house on the north shore of Maquan Pond. In 1848, he married the widowed Deborah (Bates) Howland (1819-1892). After their marriage, they bought a large farm on Indian Head Street, and they rented out her house on the western shore of Maquan Pond along Indian Head Street. This sparked an interest in real estate, and Barnabas soon began purchasing and selling numerous properties in South Hanson throughout the 19th century. He was also a man of many talents and business interests. According to Representative Men and Old Families of Southeastern Massachusetts, “Barnabas Everson attended the district schools of Hanson until he was sixteen years of age. He then learned the mason’s trade, which he followed for a number of years, later learning shoemaking and following it for a few years. Buying a large farm of about three hundred acres, he did an extensive business in market gardening, sending his products to Abington and Brockton. While conducting his farm he built a large sawmill, which was supplied by lumber from his own land. He cut box boards and manufactured shingles, etc. for a number of years, finally selling the mill to the late John Foster. He continued to conduct the farm up to the time of his death, and was always active, and well known throughout Plymouth county. He was a selectman of Hanson for a number of years, and also served as a road surveyor. In politics he was a Republican. Mr. Everson attended the Baptist Church for many years, but the last few years of his life he embraced Spiritualism”. Everson’s sawmill was located across the road from the South Hanson railroad depot. For additional details about Spiritualism in Hanson, see Mary Blauss Edwards’ article “Hanson’s Clairvoyant Physician: Abbie O. Whitmarsh (1829-1921) in Fall 2013’s Tunk.

Although the original donation record for the safe cannot be located, it was probably donated by Hanson teacher and widow Grace Elizabeth (Hanson) McClellan (1886-1969), who was an original founder of the Hanson Historical Society and the wife of Roderic Cameron McClellan (1882-1962), who was the grandson of Barnabas Everson.

[Posted by Mary Blauss Edwards, Hanson Historical Society Curator]

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Object of the Month: December 2013 – Derailed Snow Plow Trolley

December’s Object of the Month is a photograph of a derailed Brockton and Plymouth Street Railway trolley that was plowing snow off the railroad tracks after a winter snowstorm. The photograph is undated, but was probably taken in the early 20th century, since the Brockton and Plymouth Street Railway was organized in 1900 and reorganized as the Plymouth and Brockton Street Railway Company in 1922. The view looks east towards Bryantville Center, in front of a house on Main Street by the Pembroke town line, later owned by Fred Snow.

Mildred Keene donated the photograph to the Hanson Historical Society on May 28, 1965.

Derailed snow plow trolley at Bryantville, ca. 1907. From the photograph collection of the Hanson Historical Society.

[Posted by Mary Blauss Edwards, Hanson Historical Society Curator]

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