Updated: Dec 1, 2022
On October 31, 1774, Rev. Stephen Williams of Longmeadow wrote in his diary, “this day, my son Samuel set out on a journey for Boston (designing to get an Apprentice Boy)…” Samuel returned to Longmeadow on Nov. 9 and Rev. Williams recorded that “in the Evening my Son, returned home in safety – has had a comfortable journey…My Son has brot home a little Boy, ye Lord help us to do our duty to him and make him a comfort & blessing to us.”
This little boy was 5-year-old Oliver Blanchard. According to the records of the Boston Overseers of the Poor, on May 26, 1774, “received into the House Oliver Blanchard a Child of Margarett Thorps 5 yrs. old March 24th 1774.” Unfortunately, we do not know more about Oliver's parents. Oliver lived in a Boston almshouse until he was indentured to Samuel and Lucy Williams on November 3, 1774 and brought to Longmeadow on November 9. The archives of the Longmeadow Historical Society contain a copy of his indenture, a portion of which is shown above.
In the fall of 1774, Samuel and Lucy Williams had six daughters and a newborn son. The family lived in the Longmeadow parsonage (where the Community House is located today) with Rev. Stephen Williams and his wife; this must have been a full household indeed. Rev. Williams mentions young Oliver frequently in his diary and these references provide a glimpse into his life as an indentured apprentice.
Oliver's tasks included helping Samuel Williams with farm work. In doing so, he learned skills which he would need to be a farmer. He must have proven trustworthy for, even as a young boy, he was given a great deal of responsibility for the family’s livestock. On June 27, 1777 (when Oliver was 9 years old), Oliver successfully brought oxen from Somers to Longmeadow by himself. Rev. Williams wrote “I was much concerned for Oliver who was alone – (i.e., without any human person) bringing ye oxen, from J. Bumstead – but God was with & preserved ye child, so that he was not so much as wet, being at Jonathan Burts in ye time of ye Shower…” On four other occasions, the diary refers to Oliver’s tending of the farm’s horses and cattle.
The Williams family cared for Oliver when he was sick with the measles in 1778 and when he was injured in January, 1782: “Oliver Blanchard fell down from ye Hay loft in ye Barn, upon ye colt, and was Hurt – considerably…” Two days later, Oliver was still in pain, so “his master took him in a sleigh & carried him up to Dr. Pynchon who gave advice and direction…” The next morning, he had improved: “Oliver is better – blessed be to God.”
Per the terms of his indenture, Oliver was to receive 13 pounds, 6 shillings, eight pence at the end of his indenture in 1790. This payment was designed to provide Oliver with some capital so that he could make his way as a productive citizen of the community and state.
And, Oliver did just that. In 1793, Oliver Blanchard was established enough so that he could marry a local girl, Clarinda Cooley. By 1798, he was one of the wealthiest citizens in town, according to the tax valuation.
How did this enterprising young farmer earn his money? The archives of the Longmeadow Historical Society include the account books of Erastus Goldthwaite and Asa Colton and our president, Dr. Al McKee, has examined them for clues to Oliver's financial success. These books list business transactions with Oliver and, from these, we can tell that he grew hemp (used for making rope and other products), wheat, corn, rye and tobacco. The Blanchards also probably had an apple orchard and raised sheep.
Page from Account Book of Erastus Goldthwaite
Oliver Blanchard joined First Church and, in 1803, was elected to a position of authority within the church - tythingman.
Oliver and Clarinda were not blessed with children, but Clarinda’s brother, John, honored him by naming his son born October 4, 1808 after him – Oliver Blanchard Cooley. Shortly afterwards, on October 31, 1808, Oliver Blanchard died. The inscription on his headstone notes that "he was an affection husband, kind neighbor and a valuable citizen."
Longmeadow Cemetery Photo by Al and Betsy McKee
Longmeadow Historical Society archives
Diary of Rev. Stephen Williams
The Eighteenth-Century Records of the Boston Overseers of the Poor, Eric Nellis & Anne Decker Cecere, 2007
Massachusetts, U.S., Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988
Massachusetts and Maine Direct Tax, 1798
Contributed by Elizabeth Hoff, LHS Board Member Originally published December 2, 2021