Principals of the Company included men such as James Bowdoin, soon to be president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and later governor of Massachusetts; James Pitts, a merchant and patriot, who was instrumental in getting British troops removed from Boston after the Boston Massacre; and David Jeffries, town treasurer of Boston and the deacon of Old South Church
There are over 200 words in his hand
The Pilgrims came to Massachusetts in 1620 as part of a joint-stock investment company formed not only to settle new lands but to return a profit to the investors in England. They soon looked to become involved in the fur trade and eventually built...
There are over 200 words in his hand
The Pilgrims came to Massachusetts in 1620 as part of a joint-stock investment company formed not only to settle new lands but to return a profit to the investors in England. They soon looked to become involved in the fur trade and eventually built several trading posts in what are now Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine. Of all such posts, the one at Cushnoc (in Maine) proved most successful and by 1644, the Pilgrims had discharged their original and subsequent settlement debts. Trade afterwards, however, slowed, and in 1661 the Pilgrims had sold their trading patent and Cushnoc post to some investors. But settlement and trading activity was dormant, and remained so for close to a century.
The descendants of the men who purchased the property in 1661 did not forget their potentially-valuable inheritance, and on September 21, 1749, these heirs met to devise means of opening the land to settlers. An organization was formed under the name of the Kennebec Company (sometimes also called the Plymouth Company), and from these Kennebec proprietors the settlers of many areas in Maine received the titles to their estates. This was not just a business boon to the investors, but also served the interests of the Province of Massachusetts (of which Maine was then a part), which was interested in expanding its influence in the area, and severing the ties between the Native American tribes there and the French in Quebec.
John Adams was a successful attorney before the American Revolution. He began representing the Kennebec Company in 1769, and their last payment to him was in 1778, just before he left for France to represent the fledgling United States abroad. Adams knew the Kennebec Company’s leading men well, and his diary includes references to dining with them. In 1771-2, they included James Bowdoin, a wealthy merchant, scientist and political figure, who was president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and was later governor of the state; James Pitts, a merchant and patriot, who was instrumental in getting British troops removed from Boston after the Boston Massacre; David Jeffries, town treasurer of Boston and the deacon of Old South Church; and Dr. Sylvester Gardiner, agent of the Kennebec Company, who lived part time on the Kennebec River and was thus the Company’s man “on the ground”.
One Stephen Haselton of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, bought some land from the Company, but then defaulted on the payments. Adams, as the Kennebec Company’s lawyer, prepared a writ ordering the sheriff of Middlesex County to attach Haselton’s goods and estate to the value of £160. Autograph (and partly printed) document signed, Boston, November 28, 1772, stating: “James Bowdoin, James Pitts, and Silvester Gardiner, Esquires, and David Jeffries, Gentleman, all in Boston in said County of Suffolk, in a Plea of Debt; for that the said Stephen at said Boston on the fourth day of May Anno Domini 1762, by his obligation of that date, under his hand and seal, duly executed and in Court to be produced, bound himself (by the name and additions of Stephen Haselton of Pownalborough in the County of Lincoln and Province of Massachusetts [now Maine] in New England, Yoeman, to the Plaintiffs by the names and additions of James Bowdoin of Roxbury, James Pitts of Boston, in the County of Suffolk and Province of Massachusetts, Esqs., and Silvester Gardiner physician and David Jeffries, Gentleman, both of said Boston in the county aforesaid, in the full and just sum of one hundred and sixty pounds of lawful money to be paid upon demand, for the use of the Proprietors of the Kennebec Purchase from the late Colony of New Plymouth; yet the said Stephen tho requested had never paid it, but detains it.” Very typically for his legal documents, the future president has signed “Adams” on the verso. This is attested to by Ezekiel Goldthwait, a merchant who spent most of his life in public office. From 1740 to 1776 he served as Suffolk County registrar of deeds, and, for two decades beginning in 1741, he was simultaneously the town clerk for Boston.
In response, also on the verso, the sheriff of Middlesex County, Joseph Butler, states that he did “attach a house and land in Chelmsford in said county reputed” to be Haselton’s.
This is a particularly interesting Adams legal document associating him with the powerful and influential Kennebec Company that helped settle Maine, giving a clear view of the caliber of clients he represented, and containing over 200 words in his hand.
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