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The History of the Eddy Homestead

EDDYVILLE 1661-1969

by G. Ward Stetson

Reprinted from The Middleboro Antiquarian, September, 1969.

Middleboro, in common with other towns in the Old Colony, can boast of men in the nation's formative years who contributed greatly to the growth of America by their industrious, pioneering spirit. Various sections of town are still known by the names of these early settlers. This is true of the section in East Middleboro known as Eddyville.

Among the passengers in the "Handmaid" that landed in Plymouth on October 29, 1630 were John and Samuel Eddy. John, thirty-three years of age and his brother Samuel, twelve years younger, were sons of William Eddy, the Vicar of St. Dunstan's, Cranbrook, England, from 1591-1616. John settled in Watertown, Mass. becoming the first Town Clerk and a member of the Board of Selectmen.

Samuel settled in Plymouth. He was admitted as a Freeman in 1633 when but three hundred people were there. Records indicate that he built on what is now Market Street in the center of town. Later with a growing family, he built a second house in the Hobb's Hole section. In England he had been apprenticed to the tailor's trade, which bears out records of clothing he made for soldiers in Plymouth's early battles with the Indians.

His marriage to Elizabeth Savery resulted in the birth of five children. She must have been of a decidedly independent nature as twice she was recorded in a court of law. The first offense was for "wringing and hanging out of clothes on the Lord's Day in time of public exercise., Her second "grievous crime" was that she "walked from Plymouth to Boston on the Lord's Day' - even though it was an errand of mercy to aid an ailing friend.

Soon Samuel evinced a leaning toward purchase and sale of property.  There is an interesting entry of ownership of "four shares with Joshua Pratt and Thom Atkinson in the black heifer which was Henry Howlandes." He bought property in Swansea and is recorded as a founder of the town.

Of primary interest to Middleboro is the knowledge that he is listed as one of the first purchasers of land from the Indians. This was the so-called Twenty-six Men's Purchase in 1661. His share consisted of several hundred acres in the easterly section of Middleboro and a portion of what is now Halifax. At this juncture it might be well to include that in 1930 the Eddy Family Association (org. 1920) dedicated a Memorial Tablet in Brewster Park, near Pilgrim Spring, Plymouth, to John and Samuel Eddy.

As one of the first purchasers, he joins the illustrious company of Pilgrims, -- Francis Cook, John Howland, George Soule and possibly John Alden. Other purchasers, -- Brewster, Mullins, Billington, White and Brown smack strongly of the Mayflower also.

Of course all religious, civil and social life in early Middleboro centered around the First Church at The Green with Rev. Samuel Fuller, its first minister. The first of four church structures was located on the left side of Plymouth Street about a mile from the Green, opposite the present home of Roger Parent. Eddy families were active in this church from earliest days.

With the passage of time, Samuel deeded his large Middleboro holdings to sons, Obadiah and Zachariah, saving a small portion for his own use. Zachariah, eight years later, disposed of his half and moved to Swansea with brother Caleb. The father's stay in Middleboro had been brief before moving to Swansea, where he was buried in 1687.

Obadiah thus became the first Eddy to establish permanent residence in town. His home was in that part of Middleboro (now Halifax) near the Winnetuxet River about two miles from the home of Lieutenant John Tomson -commander of Middleboro's Fort that stood in the rear of the present High School. It was Lieutenant Tomson who ordered Isaac Howland to shoot the Indian across the river on the Indian Hill during King Philip's War.

Obadiah fled with his family to the Fort at that time and later to the safety of Plymouth, remaining there until the close of the war. His home was burned with all others in Middleboro during that terrible war. However, he was among the first to return and rebuild near the site of his first house. He's listed as a soldier in the Fort, as a Freeman in 1683 and as a Selectman and Constable. He was chosen as one of the Jurors to lay out a road between Middleboro, Bridgewater and Boston in 1683. Obadiah died in 1722, aged seventy-seven, leaving seven children.

One son, John, records hoeing in his father's corn field with his musket by his side. He looked up to see a hostile Indian in the distance drawing a dead aim on him. Hastily dropping the hoe to grab and aim his musket, he fired at the same instant the Indian discharged his piece. The Indian dropped dead as his bullet knocked the hammer from Eddy's gun.

With Obadiah's passing, the large Eddy acreage was deeded to his second son, another Samuel, a sergeant in the military company and a wheelwright. He married Militiah Pratt of Plymouth. She was born in the Fort during King Philip's War in 1676. Late in life she used to say, "I can remember when the Indians outnumbered us here ten to one."

This Samuel's first house stood on a knoll north of the present Eddy Homestead. When it burned, he rebuilt on the site of the present Homestead in 1721. He lived on this farm from 1706 until his death in 1752. The house was moved across Plympton Street in 1803 by Captain Joshua Eddy when he built the Homestead for son Attorney Zachariah Eddy. The Samuel Eddy home, though much altered, is now lived in by Mr. Russell Porter.

In the year 1742, Samuel deeded the property to his son Zachariah, a farmer, who was an ardent Whig. Stories of his tilts with Tory Judge Peter Oliver have beer handed down by the family through the years. Zachariah's death by smallpox is readily known -- he being one of nine, including Rev. Sylvanus Conant, who died in 1777 of the dread disease in the "pest house' on Soule Street. His gravestone in the smallpox cemetery there records the loss of a twenty-five year old soldier son of the same name, in the same year, who died *in defense of his country." He and his wife Mercy Morton had twelve children, eight of whom were sons.

The eldest son, John, printed one of the first Almanacs in America prior to 1759. He operated a printing shop in Eddyville. When but twenty-four years old he was killed at Crown Point, New York, in the French and Indian War. Four other sons of Zachariah and Mercy served in the Revolutionary War, including Captain Joshua Eddy.

We are particularly interested in Captain Joshua. His house stands on the corner of Cedar Street opposite the Eddy Homestead. The first home burned in 1820, but he soon rebuilt and lived in this present house until his death on May 11, 1833. His wife was Lydia Paddock, a descendant of Elder John Faunce, the Pilgrim, The Elder Faunce chair was obtained for her in Plymouth by her son, Attorney Zachariah. It was kept by her in this house for many years, until she gave it to her son Morton of Fall River. Morton was the last of Captain Joshua's sons to be living in 1888. Another chair, one that Governor Hancock sat on as he reviewed the Continental troops on Middleboro Green, was cherished for many years in this house by Miss Anna Cady Eddy.

The writer is the proud owner of Captain Joshua Eddy's account books. For some strange and mysterious reason they were found hidden beside the chimney of the Captain's home. Included in the records are his accounts with James Otis, the fiery orator of Faneuil Hall, with Robert Treat Paine, signer of the Declarati6n of Independence, and General Nathaniel Goodwin of Plymouth. He was the "Cap'n Goodwin" whose name appears in one of the many verses of Yankee Doodle.

Cherished also, is the sword carried by the writer's greatgreat-great grandfather as a staff officer under General Washington at the Battle of Monmouth. After training a company of Middleboro men on The Green, he led them into New York State, participating in several battles and taking part in the surrender of Burgoyne. At Monmouth, Captain Eddy was standing near General Washington and heard him reprimand General Charles Lee severely for disobeying orders saying, "Had you taken that position with your command as I directed, we would have captured the whole British Army."

Following the Revolution, Joshua continued active participation in the affairs of the First Church on the Green, serving as a Deacon for many years. He became eminently successful in several fields of business endeavor. While operating a large furnace on Whetstone Brook in the Waterville section, he also held part ownership in furnaces in Plympton and Carver. At one time Joshua built a vessel on the Taunton River at Woodward's Bridge, at the same time conducting his Elarge farm, operating a saw mill, a furnace and a store. In some extraordinary manner he was able to build a sizeable fortune for that day. In spite of his tremendous business activities, he also successfully raised nine outstanding children.

In this way Captain Eddy emulated his father also, by having a large family, including seven sons all over six feet tall. A well-founded legend has it that as each son considered marriage, Joshua offered to build him a house and give him a hundred acres of land. However, he stipulated that the house be near his parents. Five of the seven sons did settle in Eddyville, reasonably accounting for the present village, These men continued operation of their father's enterprises for many years. The village prospered to the point where it supported stores, a post office and nearby railroad station.

Refreshing and tremendously interesting are stories told and retold by descendants of early Eddys - choice tidbits gleaned during summer visits and vacations to the village of their forebears. One such story concerned Joshua's two daughters who married and lived in Berkeley, Mass. Jane became Mrs. Asahel Hathaway. Lydia married Deacon Barzillai Crane. These good ladies became embroiled in an argument of considerable magnitude. Mr. Fuller, the owner of the general store in Berkley, was an Eddy. The public school teacher was an Eddy from Middleboro. On occasion he corrected his pupils in pronunciation of the word "chaise," stating it should be pronounced "shaz" instead of "shay" as was the custom. This earth shaking statement was carried home by the children, touching off an intense discussion and furor in the village. In due time the matter was brought to the attention of Parson Andros for a decision. He sided with the parents that it always had been and would remain "shay.m This decision resulted in a division within the church and the whole community - siding with Parson Andros, others supporting Deacon Crane and the Eddy group. Harsh words filled the village. One drastic event followed another, resulting in the excommunication of Deacon Crane. Mr. Fuller was forced out of business and moved to Vermont. And as a climax, the Eddy schoolmaster's bright dreams of education success in Berkeley were dashed. He lost his job!

As previously stated, in 1803 Captain Joshua built a home for his son, Attorney Zachariah Eddy, across the street. This is the beautiful house that in 1960 the Eddy Family Association, at its Annual Meeting in Plymouth, voted to acquire and maintain as an historic Eddy Homestead. It is dear to the hearts of Eddys in over forty states and in several foreign countries. With the transfer of ownership to the Eddy Homestead Association, the property will continue to remain in Eddy hands, as it has been since Indian days.

Attorney Zachariah Eddy was one of the foremost lawyers of his day. A warm friend of Daniel Webster, Attorney Eddy tried many cases for and with the famous orator. Perhaps the author of the 1881 genealogy best sums up the feeling generally accepted concerning Zachariah: "He was probably the most distinguished citizen of Middleboro, who by his natural gifts and acquirement contributed so much to the honor and fair name of Eddyville. In the whole ancestral line there is no one who has attained greater distinction for learning the high moral and Christian worth. Of studious habits and capacious memory, he mastered many branches of knowledge and was equally at home in law, literature, theology and government.,

The Eddy Law Office stood, for may years, a few yards east of the Homestead on Plympton Street. Some years ago it was given to the Springfield Exposition and may be seen today as a unit in the village of Storrowtown. Active, too, in the work of the First Church, Zachariah wrote much concerning the early life of the church and his own ancestry. Being very independent of spirit a little story has it that when worshipping by song, if unfortunately interrupted by a sneeze or a cough, he would not try to catch up with the choir but would resume the verse exactly where he had been forced to stop, and so finish the hymn all by himself.

The Homestead passed from Zachariah to his daughter Charlotte, wife of Rev. Francis Pratt and they resided here after his retirement from the ministry. At the time of her death, in 1904, the property came to General Samuel Breck. The General served with distinction in the Civil War and descended from Captain Joshua on both his mother's and father's side, consequently having a tremendous knowledge of the genealogy of his family.

The property was left to his son, Doctor Samuel Breck of Boston. He and his family spent summers and vacations in Eddyville, taking an active and ardent interest in the home and its background. In 1926, Mrs. Louise Eddy Breck and her children became the owners. She was a most gracious lady and charming hostess, tracing her line to Captain Joshua through his son, Ebenezer, so that his son, President George W. Breck of the Eddy Family Association, has three lines back to Captain Joshua Eddy. It was through the wishes of Mrs. Louise Eddy Breck that the Eddy Homestead Association became a reality.

Because of its sustained interest in the growing Eddy family and its origin in Middleboro, the Eddy Family Association in 1934 dedicated a memorial plaque on Eddyville Green to Obadiah Eddy and his descendants. The bronze tablet listed the men who served our nation in the early years for freedom. It may be of local interest that Selectman George W. Stetson, then four years old, with Anne Howe Eddy of the same age, unveiled the memorial on that occasion. Recently, thieves forcibly removed the plaque, which for thirty-three years had reminded visitors of Eddy men who fought and died for the establishment of a free nation. For the few stolen dollars that the bronze might yield, they flaunted all respect for the sacrifices of patriotic, law-abiding, hardworking pioneers.

Not wanting to leave the impression that all Eddys are faultless, we close with a verse written years ago by Dr. Merritt Henry Eddy when eighty-seven years old, and who lived beyond the century mark: 'If you could see your ancestors all standing in a row, there might be some of them you wouldn't care to know. But here's another question which requires a different view: If you could meet your ancestors, would they be proud of you?

 

 
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