“… poor & unprovided for…” – The Indentured Simonds Children
In the early days of the Commonwealth, children of parents who, for one reason or another, were unable to care for them became public charges. Archives of the Longmeadow Historical Society include indentures for twenty-five children who were wards of Longmeadow and under the care of the Selectmen and Overseers of the Poor. One such family was the Simonds. The indenture contracts in some ways tells just the beginning of the story for these children. What becomes of them after the terms of their service ends is a much harder story to uncover. Curious about what became of them after they were indentured, we traced some of their stories.
Ebenezer and Caroline Simonds settled in Longmeadow and started raising a family. The 1790 U.S. Census shows that the household included one son (John, who died shortly after the census was taken) and three daughters: Clarissa; Cleora; and Asenath. Four more children followed: Luke; Loammi, born in 1794; Sophia, born in 1796; and Anne, born in 1798.
Ebenezer, a blacksmith, struggled to support his growing family and family finances fell further into distress when Ebenezer died on November 4, 1799. The widowed Caroline found it impossible to financially support seven children and she turned to the town for assistance. Town records do not show payments to support Caroline or her oldest four children, so perhaps she was able to care for them using other resources and they were not considered town paupers. But we know that the three youngest Simonds (or Simons or Symonds or Symons) children became town paupers and that at least two of them were indentured outto citizens of Longmeadow so that they would be fed, housed, and raised to be productive citizens of the community. Here is what we know about these children.
On December 21, 1801, Longmeadow Selectmen indentured eight-year old Loammi to Moses Field until he turned 21 years of age in 1815. Loammi was to learn husbandry (or farming) from this established farmer.
Standard indenture clauses required Loammi to: serve his master “well and faithfull”; keep his “lawful commands everywhere at all times readily”; “do no damage to his said master”; “not wast[e] the goods of his said master nor lend them to any unlawfully at card dice or any other unlawfull game he shall not play”;“nor no matrimony contract during said term”; and “taverns ale houses & plases of gaming he shall not haunt or frequent”. While these terms may seem harsh to our ears, New England children in a family unit were generally expected to follow such rules. Loammi was not a party to the contract (as a town pauper, Longmeadow Selectmen signed as his surrogate parents), but he was required to abide by these terms until the age of twenty-one.
For his part, Moses Field promised to teach him to read, write, and cipher, feed and clothe him, and “at the expiration thereof shall give unto him the said apprentice sixty-six dollars and sixty-seven cents lawfull money of said Commonwealth...”
Loammi and Sarah had three children: Clarinda; Simeon; and John. Loammi was a successful farmer, having apparently paid attention to his lessons from Moses Field. He was also a respected member of the community and was appointed to leadership positions at First Church. In early 1868, Loammi died of pneumonia and he was buried in Longmeadow. For Loammi Simons, his indenture period worked exactly as it was designed – he was given a stable upbringing and was taught a useful trade that he was able to practice productively throughout the rest of his life.
Selectman's records show that town residents took care of Sophia during 1802 and 1803 and, since she was a town pauper, they were compensated for doing so. We know that she spent periods of time in the homes of Zadock Stebbins, Israel Colton, and Deacon William Colton and that Gaius Bliss made her a pair of shoes.
When she was seven years old, on December 2, 1803, “Sophia Symonds Daughter of Ebenezer Simonds …whose child is left without support” was indentured to Er Taylor of Longmeadow “to learn the art trade and mystery housewifery after the manner of an apprentice”. The indenture period was to last until Sophia turned age 18. Er Taylor was paid $10.50 to assume this responsibility.
The terms of her indenture were similar to that of her brother, Loammi, but, like most girls, Sophia was not required to learn cyphering (i.e., arithmetic). Also typical for female children, Sophia was not to receive money at the end of her indenture period. These gender-based differences in indenture clauses correlated to the different tasks that were expected of men and women. Cyphering was needed to run a business, which was not an field which women were encouraged to enter. And, women were expected to marry; their husbands would provide for them and they would not need an independent source of funds.
Sophia grew up in the Taylor household in the eastern half of Longmeadow. In 1823, Sophia Simons married Lyman Silcock (or Silcox or Silcocks) of Longmeadow, a stone cutter and farmer. They had two daughters and one son. The 1831 map shows the Silcox family living near the current Longmeadow-East Longmeadow border. By 1855, the family had moved across the street from Ethan Taylor, just north of the East Longmeadow rotary. Ethan was the son of Er Taylor; just six years older than Sophia, they had grown up in the same household and were likely close. As neighbors, it was easy to maintain their friendship.
Unfortunately, the Silcox family was struck with a series of losses. Consumption took daughter Maria Sophia in 1858, and then husband Lyman in 1861. Son Edwin F. Silcox, a surgeon who had served in the 18th Massachusetts Infantry during the Civil War, returned home to practice medicine in Springfield. But, he died shortly afterwards, on Aug. 28, 1864, of typhoid fever. Sophia and her remaining child, Harriet, lived together until Sophia’s death in 1878.
Aware of the challenges that Sophia and Harriet were facing, Ethan assisted his friend. In his will, Ethan Taylor left “One Hundred Dollars to Sophia Silcox, widow of Lyman Silcox late of said Longmeadow...”
While the Taylor family's relationship with Sophia was harmonious, this doesn't appear to be the case for another indentured child of Er Taylor who lived in the household contemporaneously with Sophia and Ethan – William Brumphrey. On April 27, 1815, Er Taylor posted this advertisement in the Hampden Federalist, “Ran away from the subscriber, on the 26th inst. William Brumphrey, an indentured boy, about 15 years of age. All person are forbid harbouring or trusting said boy on my account, as I am determined not to pay any debts of his contracting after this date.”
The youngest Simons child, Anne, was born in December 1798, less than a year before her father died. Around 1804, she was taken in by Lt. Hezekiah Hale of Longmeadow and, on December 18, 1804 Lt. Hale received $15 “to pay him for keeping Anne Simon one of the towns poor since she has been with him also for taking her in future…”. Most likely, Anne came under his care through an article of indenture, like her siblings, but we do not have a copy of this indenture. So, it is possible that Anne was merely "vondued", or auctioned, on a long-term basis to Lt. Hale and that she was never indentured. A vondue placement would not have obligated Lt. Hale to teach Anne to read, write, or learn how to be a housewife, skills that she would need to make her way in the world as an adult.
Why would Hezekiah Hale take on the responsibility of a young child? Possibly both for companionship and because he needed another pair of hands around the house. Lt. Hale had married Miriam Bliss only a few years earlier (in 1799) when Hezekiah was 59 and Miriam was 31. This older couple had no children and it makes sense that Miriam would have wanted a girl to help her with the many chores needed to run a household. In the 1810 U.S. Census, a white girl between the ages of 11 and 16 lived in Lt. Hale’s household, and this girl is probably Anne.
Lt. Hezekiah Hale died in 1813 when Anne was 15 years old. If Anne was indentured to Lt. Hale, his widow, Miriam Bliss Hale, would have inherited his contractual responsibility for Anne and Anne would have remained in Miriam’s household after Hezekiah’s death. Miriam Bliss Hale did not remain a widow for long. She re-married on April 3, 1816 – to Gad Colton of Longmeadow – and an indentured Anne would have moved to Gad's household.
When she was 16, Anne became pregnant. The last definitive documentation that we have for Anne leaves more questions than answers. An entry in the Longmeadow death records states: “April 15, 1816, Symonds (A Child) dead, mother Anna Symonds.” No further information, such as the name of the father, was given. It is easy to imagine the gossip in the close-knit Longmeadow community when an unwed, under-age young woman gave birth only twelve days after the widow (who was likely responsible for her) married.
Anne would have needed both physical and emotional support after suffering this pregnancy loss, but we do not know where she was living or who was available to help her. She was not yet 18 years old (the standard year for girls to end their indentures), so, if she was indentured, she would have been living with newlyweds Gad and Miriam Colton. She does not appear in the selectman’s records as a pauper, so it is unlikely that she was boarded at another home at the town’s expense.
She may have been living with another member of the Simons family. Her mother, Caroline, and brother, Luke, were also living in Longmeadow and we know that the family stayed in touch and supported each other over the years. Census data reveals that Loammi and Sarah Simons took in his widowed sisters; Clarissa (widow of Daniel Hawley) was in their household in 1855 and Sophia and Harriet Silcox were in their household in 1865.
It is unlikely that we will ever know what became of Anne.
-Contributed by Beth Hoff, Longmeadow Historical Society Board Member.
Longmeadow Historical Society Archives
Special thanks to Dennis Picard
Massachusetts, U.S. Wills and Probate Records 1635-1991
Massachusetts, U.S., Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988
Massachusetts, U.S., Death Records, 1841-1915
U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1864-1865
Hampden Federalist, May 4, 1815
Massachusetts Census, 1855 and 1865