Page images
PDF
EPUB

century of their existence, the death records were entirely neglected, or left to the uncertain care of the minister of the town,—who, on account of his spiritual charge of families and his connection with funerals, was expected to take note of death as a part of his appropriate work. Generally they fulfilled this part of their trust with fidelity. But as their records, after their deaths, were sometimes consigned to the waste-basket,—and as towns were often, for long periods, without a settled ministry,-intervals occurred, oftentimes for years in length, when such important dates and statistics as those which relate to births, marriages and deaths, were wholly omitted in the records of both church and state. For the space of nine years, from the incorporation of Shirley to the settlement of a minister, no such records were made ; or, if made, have been lost. And by some accident the record of deaths kept by Mr. Whitney from 1807 to 1815 has disappeared. Thus, in a little more than one century, there are periods, amounting in all to seventeen years, for which the death-list has been lost, if one was ever made.

The following tables, made up of the dates and statistics kept by the clergymen whose names are prefixed, are believed to present a correct account of the mortality of the town during the years specified:

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

Year. No. 1820—9 1821-25 1822-7 1823–13 1824-10 1825-12 1826-19 1827-18 1828-12 1829-13 1830-11 1831—20 1832-16

Year. No. 1833-8 1834–14 1835-8 1836—19 1837—9 1838–35 1839—15 1840—11 1841– 7 1842—12 1843–17 1844-13 1845-15

Year. No. 1846—11 1847–53 1848-16 1849-29 1850—21 1851—24 1852—15 1853-28 1854—29 1855-21 1856—28 1857—28 1858-17

Year. No. 1859-31 1860-26 1861–32 1862-29 1863—21 1864—19 1865—27 1866-29 1867–19 1868—20 1869—20 1870—35 1871-19

Year. No. 1872—15 1873—27 1874-II 1875-32 1876—24 1877—15 1878—17 1879—27 1880-29

From the above tables we learn that during 112 years, out of the 128 years of the town's existence, there were 1,599 deaths; which make an average of 1374 a year, or a little less.

Now suppose we should rate the nine years previous to Mr. Whitney's settlement, of which no death record has been preserved, with the successive nine years of his settlement, we should have a total of 40 deaths. If, then, we were to rate the death record of the seven years, where the record has been lost, by that of the seven preceding years, we should have a total of 54 deaths. Adding these totals to the number preserved by record, which we have seen to amount to 1,599, and we have a grand total of 1,693, or about an average of 13% per annum, since the incorporation of the town.

By a law of this Commonwealth, passed in the year 1843, town-clerks are to keep a registration of all marriages, births and deaths, in their respective towns ;-a

wise provision that will secure accuracy in future time, and greatly alleviate the labors of future genealogists and statisticians. The foregoing tables show that the smallest yearly number of deaths has been two, and the largest number fifty-three. The serious mortality which was experienced in 1847, swept off at least one-twentieth of the entire population. The diseases most prevalent that year, were scarlatina with children, and dysentery with adults.

CHAPTER VI.

War of the Revolution and its Precursors - Shay's

Rebellion-Wars of 1812 and of the Southern Rebellion.

Although, as has been stated, the early Indian depredations upon the colonies had ceased before the incorporation or even the settlement of Shirley, yet it had become a township seven years before the close of what has been termed the "French war,”—which terminated in the surrender of the Canadas to the English government. Soldiers for his majesty's service volunteered from Groton and from Shirley; and Mr. Joseph Longley, who held the offices of first selectman and town clerk, at the organization of the district, entered and died in that service. The town had, however, previous to the rupture of the colonies with the mother country, assumed larger proportions, and was enabled to take an active and decided part in the controversies and contests that resulted in the independence of the United States. There existed here

no want of a proper measure of the spirit of civil liberty. With their fathers and brethren, the settlers of Shirley were wont to dwell quietly under their colonial subjugation; yet, when the grievances imposed by the king of Great Britain had become too numerous and oppressive to be tamely endured, they were prepared to second every worthy measure to sustain the rights and liberties of the colonies, and to venture their property and their lives in the common struggle for independence. The papers

in relation to British aggressions,-drawn up at the order, and sanctioned by vote, of the town,-are deserving a more conspicuous place of record, and a more extensive notoriety, than they can have while confined to the pages of the town archives. They will be given in this history as they come along, and in their original form.

The first public and formal procedure relating to the independence afterward achieved, was at a town-meeting holden Oct. 18, 1765. It related to the passage of the "Stamp Act,” by the British Parliament. The town unanimously voted the following instructions to their representative then in the General Court of Massachusetts :

" Ordered that Abel Lawrence, Esq., Representative. &c., for us and others in the Great and General Court, have a copy of our views, and is desired to act accordingly. Is it a matter of wonder that every thinking person in the Colonies of North America is greatly alarmed by the late act of Parliament, called the Stamp Act, as it affects the state and liberty of every loyal subject of said Colonies? It is therefore thought by your constituents that, at this critical season, you would not be unwilling to know their minds upon this important affair. We look upon said act, as a burden, grievous, distressing and insupportable; not only likely to enslave the present but future generations. The great and heavy load lying upon us, occasioned by the late war, with its increasing interest, and all other incidental charges at home for the support of government, &c., have sunk us so low already that we are wholly unable to bear the duties imposed upon us by the stamp act,

which, if it take place, must and will immediately prove our certain ruin. With regard to the power of the British Parliament to lay taxes on in such a manner, is, you know, a point that has been disputed with great warmth, on both sides of the question. We are far from saying or acting anything whereby we might be charged with disloyalty, as subjects to the best of kings, or that we have not a proper sense of the British Court, but we do think that our charter privileges, and natural rights, as the free-born sons of Britain, are infringed upon by said stamp act. Our advice, instruction and direction, therefore, to you is, that upon all proper occasions you use and exercise your utmost endeavors, and strongest efforts, in a modest, becoming and respectful manner, to prevent said act from taking place in the government; and that you with a watchful eye, upon every occasion, diligently guard and protect the liberties of your country, to the utmost of your power, against all encroachments and innovations. Likewise we desire you to frown upon every attempt for raising, by way of tax, any sum or sums of money, or consent to dispose of any already raised, without the consent of the people, upon any pretence whatsoever, except for defraying the necessary expenses of government. would signify our dislike of the late act of violence in the town of Boston; and every other act of rage committed against any particular person or private property, anywhere within his Majesty's most loyal and dutiful province of Massachusetts Bay. Finally, your constituents expect, that on all occasions, you will view their interest as closely connected with your own, and at all times endeavor to promote it, and also the interest of the Province generally.

" By order of the Committee.

Also we

" JOHN LONGLEY."

Both the spirit and language of this document evince the loyalty and affection of its authors, as the subjects of

« PreviousContinue »