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William E. Bolles

In February of 1906, Willam E. Bolles sat down and jotted down some of his memories of being a boy and growing up in Mattapoisett. Harriet M. Hammond's name is written at the top of this transcript, it is unknown if she typed it for William or if he scribbled her name down for an unknown reason.

Map of Mattapoisett in 1879 showing the center of town
1879 map of Mattapoisett


William E. Bolles

February, 1906

I will be 80 my next birthday, in July. I remember when there were two houses in Cannonville. I expect one was built about the time my father moved here from Sconticut Neck, Eben Cannon built one there on the corner where Abram Paine lived. Eben Cannon failed when he built the barque Willis. ‘Squire Willis bought the barque and named it the Willis. Eben Cannon built the house before he failed, I do not remember when, I was not here. I was about four when we moved here, remember over 70 years here.

There was one house, not in Cannonville exactly, but on the path or lane that went to the Light House, (that was long before the lighthouse was built), Paine kept the poor down there on the Light House road (where C.S. Hamlin’s farm-house now stands). Captain David Randall lived there before Paine, the house was built before I remember.

Once Price Bolles killed a rattle-snake, coming home from Fairhaven, nine rattles; that was long before he was married, perhaps he was 14 years old.

I think Captain Randall built a house on Cannonville Hill, there I think where Prince Hiller lives now. If Hiller built it, Captain Randall lived there, he has a son David Randall in New Bedford. I think that house was built after the road was cut from R.L. Barstow’s (the present highway to Cannonville Hill).

A blacksmith shop stood where Mrs. Means’ house is, the shop was close to the water, and the road was between the street and the shop.

The Log Cabin was built for an oil shed, Wilson Barstow used to store his there. When they had the Log Cabin times in Van Buren’s day, they had a meeting there and always called it the Log Cabin afterwards. That was 90 feet long, and the cooper shop (only about 10 ft away) was built by Prince Bolles. The first cooper shop he had when he came here was right in front of the Levi Snow house; when my father worked there, there was but one house on that whole square from Church St. clear around Mechanics and North St., one house and a barn, Martin Hall’s house (corner Water and Mechanics Sts.) The barn was where the Bird house is, and belonged to Wilson Barstow. Those were the only buildings on that whole square.

Meigs’ shipyard begins about ten feet from the old Hovey house that Resolved Bowles owned on Water St. The saw-pit was in the corner close to the road (just east of the Hovey house, one wall is still standing) and five or six feet from the house. The Meigs yard went to the back of uncle Harlow, to a abutment that used to be there right southwest of the cooper shop.

Uncle Harlow was a tithing-man, looked after the boys that were out playing Sundays; used to dig clams almost every tide when he could get any. Used to make beer. He was father of Abner Harlow and Wm. Harlow, and there was another brother in Stonington. I remember Abner sent down to his brother to get some fish lines for a lot of young fellows here in the place fishing, and Lem LeBaron, his partner, found a good deal of fault, they cost so much; he got them here and they cost two shillings apiece, and they lasted about a week, everybody wanted one; these were extra stout.

After that there was a shop moved from up in the village somewhere down Cannonville.

The next house to Cannon’s, I forgot who built it, but I think Noah Sturtevant either built it or bought it, I know I worked there for him when I was a boy; after that there was a shop nearly as large as a cooper shop, was moved right up the corner, Mrs. Foster’s house was right on the corner by Bacon’s land, this shop was on the opposite corner. Bacon moved or tore down the Foster house. Right up to the end of that road, as you go up the hill, what was his name, his son died at sea, Macy Bowman, built a house, and over on the other side, I think a man named Bacon built, Ben Bacon’s father. Then there was another house built right on the corner beyond that on the same street, I do not know who built that, but Prince Snow lived there for a number of years, then he traded with somebody and bought that house right up in front of where father used to live.

Prince Bolles, my father, built his house on North St. when I was about nine years old, about 70 years ago, and at that time a man named Malachi Ellis lived across the street (where Mrs. Clara Sherman lives).

The next house was old man Holmes’ place, Josiah Holmes’ father owned a farm on the east side of the street. Abner Hall owned the house on the east side of the street. Abner Hall owned the house on the east side next north.

The Ben Barstow house was built long before the Eben Cannon house, was an old house as long as I can remember.

I learned the cooper’s trade and staid here until the time of the war, and then I went my first voyage whaling.

I know at the time the “Bryantites”, they called them, (this Bryant was a preacher, I guess an Avent, and they had trouble in the church and separated, and built what was the old engine house, they called it the Bryantites’) I used to go to Sunday School there, that was when we lived at Elisha Dexter’s, 65 years ago and more. They separated from the Baptist Church, and there was not an Orthodox Church down in the village, nor Universalist Church, then. The “Little Belt”, they called the new church.

Wilson Barstow’s father built the old house and lived there all his days, lived there when we moved here. Wilson lived down in the R.L. Barstow house; he built the Sweat house a short time before he failed. After Captain Zach died he lived down there.

Sarah Carver’s father built the old house where they lived. He was a carpenter, might have built a good many houses.

Wilson Barstow’s family had a house between R.L. Barstow’s and Bruce Shaw’s present residence; I remember the old cellar and Bruce Shaw remembers it. When my father moved here the cellar showed. That little cellar was there for years, half as big as this room. I do not know who owned it then, but I think Hallett Cannon, and came to George Cannon afterwards.

The old house was a little nearer R.L. Barstow’s line.

That house right across the way, Wm. Bowlin’s house, was built by Ezra Washburn, I helped build it. Wyatt Snow, Asa Swift, Washburn’s boy and myself worked on it, that was about 60 years ago I would say.

Prince Bolles’ house was built when I was 10 years old, (my father’s house), Geo. Purrington, Sr. built it, and his father finished off the attic afterwards.

Right above father’s house on North Street was Lot Jones’ and Stephen Snow’s was built before that, and Buell’s and Weeks’ father lived, a little old house, looked a great deal as the old Carver house did; the house stood close to where Weston Howland’s is now. There was no house between that and Wyatt Snow’s place (where Brad LeBaron lives now). Constant Higgins lived in this house where Brad LeBaron lives.

Hammond worked on Long Wharf when Leonard Hammond built it.

Leonard Hammond kept a store close to Eaton Hall. I bought the first steel pen I ever had of Thomas, Leonard Hammond’s son, paid six cents for it.

The Plymouth County House stood over the cellar that Thomas Luce owns (next east of Purrington Hall), a large old fashioned double house, Cyrus White kept tavern there for a number of years; but before that he kept tavern in the old house that Mr. Case has lately bought, when he built the Light House he kept stable and tavern there, in the Case house, Cyrus White did: Woodbridge Howes married one of the daughters.

When the Plymouth County House was almost burned down Leonard Hammond came around next to the barber shop, and when the east chimney fell.

The Orthodox people used to hold Sunrise Meeting every morning, in what is now the east end of the Mattapoisett House, it was then a few feet away from the Mattapoisett House. Mary Atsatt learned her trade of Joles, tailor, in that same building under the hall. You know the stairs that go down from the sidewalk on the east front end of the Mattapoisett House, originally there was a vault where storekeepers put their books nights, Capt. Zach built it. After Joules went away there was a cabinet maker’s place there, and then a man named Slocum made cigars and kept a kind of a restaurant there. Then Palmer Handy kept a hardware store there for a long time.

Josiah Sturtevant and Caleb King and Geo. Purrington, Jr. kept store in Eaton Hall, west side, downstairs. There was a shoemaker’s shop in the back part.

Who was the man Jesse Gifford learned the cabinet maker’s trade of? Was is Walter Hyer?

I think Sam Mendell was brother to Constant Mendell who lived at the Wheel of Fortune. Thatcher Stevens married Sam Mendell’s widow, I think.


We don't know why William stopped writing, perhaps he got distracted or pages lost over the years. William E. Bolles would lose his wife, Fannie Haskell Ames Bolles, at around the same as writing the above transcript.

He would later die in 1920 at the Fairhaven Almshouse, 301 Washington St., where he had lived in the eight years previous to his death.

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