(1731 - 1779)
Samuel Blackman, Jr.
(1759 - 1837)
Referred to in the history books as a “true patriot”--the inscription on his gravestone--Samuel Blackman Jr.’s life followed in his father’s footsteps in many ways. Shortly before his namesake’s birth, Samuel Sr. served in Major Stephen Miller’s Regiment out of Stoughton and at Crown Point, a narrows on Lake Champlain and the state border between New York and Vermont, during the French and Indian War. Later when father and son were simultaneously of an age to participate in the fight for this country’s independence from Britain, they both answered the Revolutionary War call after the Lexington alarm. Their names are listed amongst the other soldiers serving our country from the towns now known as Stoughton, Sharon, Canton and Foxboro. Blackman Sr. continued to lend his support to the cause serving on a committee formed by the town in late 1777 whose purpose was to “provide for the families of those who are now in the Continental service.” The elder Blackman would die shortly thereafter at only forty eight years old.
Life in late 18th century New England was vastly different in many ways from our modern lives and perhaps no better example of this was the ubiquitous existence of public stocks and a livestock pound in seemingly every town. As Samuel Blackman, Jr.’s surname appropriately indicated his trade as blacksmith, it was with those skills that he furnished the irons for Canton’s replacement stocks in 1775; records indicate that these stocks replaced those weathered and worn from 1759, which had earlier replaced ones dating back to 1737. Both stocks and pound existing to serve a purpose punitive as well as public, they commonly stood near one another in a public place, typically close to the meeting house and school.
It was the same blacksmith’s shop, south of Aunt Katy’s brook and near to the road named for the family, that Samuel Jr. abandoned at a moment’s notice when in 1798 tensions between the Republican and Federalist parties came to a head on that Fourth of July. While political differences had revealed themselves for years in animosity between neighbors and also within families, a public occasion provided an opportunity for “vigorous” language to fly.
With the Federalists planning to celebrate the Fourth at the meeting house complete with speakers and a planned appearance of cavalry, the incensed Republicans organized a march on the event and picked up both speed and sympathizers along the way. From manufacturer to tannery, forge to farm, up hill, by the schoolhouse and to the church green, the heroes of the revolution joined ranks and made their presence known. While the successful disruption of the Federalists’ celebration pleased them, the ringleaders were shortly thereafter charged with creating a disturbance according to the Riot Act of the times. The presiding judge was relatively unfazed by the July Fourth disturbance however and concluded the entire escapade with the admonishment “don’t sing quite so loud next time”, which leaves one to wonder precisely which side the judge favored.
While New England of the late 1700’s and early 1800’s included the newfound freedoms of independence from British rule, it was also tempered by the hardships of everyday life. Though death in infancy and early childhood was not an uncommon occurrence, a gravestone in Canton’s oldest burying ground--the Proprietor’s Lot portion--sadly but clearly spells out the particular struggles of the Blackman family: “In memory of four children of Mr. Samuel Blackman and Abigail his wife”, it lists Julia at 15 yrs., Winthrop at 5 months, Sarah at 14 days and Samuel III at 2 days old. While the couple did have surviving children, these losses certainly inform us of the harsh reality of the times.
There are nearly 150 names on the petition for the incorporation of Canton dated April 17, 1795, including that of Samuel Blackman. While Samuel Jr. would live to the age of 77 thus outliving his father by three decades, it appears that in the case of both men independence and service to cause and country were matters of action rather than mere words.
Huntoon, Daniel Thomas Vose. History of the Town of Canton,
Norfolk County, Massachusetts. Canton, Massachusetts: J. Wilson and Son, 1893.