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I had a chance to copy the probate file of my ggggg-grandfather Reuben Gassett at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston last month.  NEHGS has many microfilm reels of Middlesex County probate records.  I wanted case number 8929 from 1822.  I copied the 47 pages onto a flash drive.  I am related to Reuben in the following way:  my grandfather Miles E Baldwin – his father Miles E Baldwin -Edward Baldwin – Eli Baldwin – Lucy Gassett – Reuben Gasset (1754-1822).

Cover of the probate packet 8929, Reuben Gassett, 1822

Cover of the probate packet 8929, Reuben Gassett, 1822

Before examining the file in depth I researched Reuben’s family more thoroughly. Reuben was the son of Daniel and Hannah (Walker) Gassett, born 1 Sep 1754 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts.  “Vital Records of Townsend, Massachusetts”  (transcribed and edited by Henry C. Hallowell, Boston: NEHGS, 1992) has birth records for Reuben’s 10 children (p. 251), and records Reuben’s entry into Townsend around 1777 from Northborough (p. 443).  The 1777 marriage of Reuben to Cate Witt is found on page 120 of “Vital Records of Northborough, Massachusetts” (Worcester: Franklin P. Rice, 1901).  Some marriage and death records were not hard to find, although the wife, Cate, is a continuing challenge.  From some dependable sources I pieced together Reuben and Cate’s children:

  • Sybil Gassett 1778-1859 m. James Adams
  • Daniel Gassett 1781-1850 m. Betsey Spaulding
  • Lucy Gassett 1780-1841 m. Abiel Baldwin
  • Joel Gassett 1783-1820
  • Submit “Mitty” Gassett 1785 – 1870  m. Eliphas Davis
  • Jonas Gassett 1786 – ?
  • Nahum Gassett 1788-1842 – perhaps never married
  • Elizabeth “Betsey” Gassett 1790-1864 m. Timothy Snow
  • Catherine Gassett 1795-1863  m. Joseph Winn
  • Walker Gassett 1797-1878  m. Betsey Hall

One thing I learned during the research of this branch was that the youngest son, Walker, and Lucy’s second oldest son, Minot Baldwin, married sisters, Betsey and Sophronia Hall.

What was in the probate packet

The packet provides solid evidence of a successful agricultural life.  I notice that my southern New England ancestors were doing much better around 1800 than they were by 1900.

Cate asked Judge Samuel Fay to appoint her son, Jonas Gassett, as administrator of the estate.

Cattey Gassett her mark

Cattey Gassett her mark

The appointment of Jonas Gassett was also requested by “we being the children and heirs of Reuben Gassett late of Townsend deceased.”

James Adams, Abiel Baldwin, Timothy Snow, Joseph Winn, Walker Gassett

James Adams, Abiel Baldwin, Timothy Snow, Joseph Winn, Walker Gassett

[page 2] “Reuben Gassett, yeoman, who has dwelt in said Townsend, within three months last past died intestate possessed of goods & estate remaining to be administered, having a widow & several children…”

[page 5] “The following is An Inventory of the estate of Reuben Gassett late of Townsend in the county of Middlesex yeoman deceased, appraised upon oath by the subscribers … “

  • “(Viz) The homestead of said deceased estate in Townshend aforesaid containing about 75 acres with the buildings thereon”    $900.00
  • About 25 acres of plain land so called    175.00

Personal estate

  • Live stock
  • 1 pair of oxen $55.oo one cow $16.00
  • 1 old cow $13.00
  • 1 farrow cow $13.00
  • 2 calves $9.00
  • three swine $12.00

Produce of the real estate0952

  • Hay on the north scaffold    $18.00
  • ” & husks in the bay  $30.00
  • ” on the south scafford  $3.00
  • ” and stalks in the shed  $4.00
  • 50 bushels of Indian corn  $33.50
  • 20   ”  ”  oats  $7.00
  • 12 ”  ”  rye  $9.00
  • 2 ”  ”  white beans  $1.75
  • 50   ”  ”  potatoes  $10.00

Farming Utensils

  • [here are listed chains, fetters, plows, traces, shovels, hay fork, hay knife, rakes, wheelbarrow, ox bows, ox cart, ladders, harrow, sythes, axes, measures, wedges]

Household furniture

In north room

  • one bed, bedding, stead & cord  $15.00
  • 2 bed quilts  $3.00 / 8 1/2 yds cotton & linnen cloth  $2.83 / 20 1/2 yds woolin cloth  $11.25
  • 1 1/2 yd cloth $0.25 / 8 towels $1.00  /  4 new sheets $3.50
  • 8 old sheets  $2.20 / 10 pillow cases $1.50
  • 3 table clothes  $1.00  /  3 woolen blankets  $1.50
  • 1 chest with drawers  $0.75  /  1 trunk  $0.50
  • 1 looking glass  $1.50  /  3 windsor chairs  $1.25
  • 1 Arm chair  $0.50  /  1 table  $2.50
  • Crockery & glass ware in closset  $1.75
  • 1 Pr of hand Irons & trammel

In the south room0729

  • 1 brass kittle  $5.00 / 1 frying pan  $0.50 / 1 iron pot  $1.00
  • 1 iron pot $0.50  / 1 tea kettle  $0.50  / 1 toast iron  $0.25
  • 1 grid iron $0.50  /  1 dish kettle $0.25  /  1 spider $0.25
  • 2 brass skimmers $0.50  /  1 Pr large hand irons $0.75
  • 1 Pr shovel & tongs $1.00  /  1 hammer & nippers $0.50
  • 1 Pr old shears $0.50  /  1 crane, hooks & trammel $1.50
  • 1 Pr. steelyards $0.75  /  1 handsaw & 1 stave $0.50
  • 1 cane $0.25  /  2 pewter dishes $1.50
  • 2 small pewter plates & one bason $0.40  /  1 lot of tine ware $1.00
  • 1 lot of old crockery $1.00  /  1 morter $0.25
  • 1 looking glass $0.20 18 spoons $0.50
  • old knives & forks $0.75  /  gimblets & awls $0.25
  • 1 bed, bedding, stead & cord $10.00  /  clock & case $7.00
  • 1 Pine table $0.50  /  1 bible $0.50  /  1 Pr sad irons $0.50
  • 1 cheese press $0.50  /  1 foot wheel $1.00  /  2 large wheels $2.25
  • 1 Pr snow shoes $0.35  /  1 Riddle seive $0.25  /  5 old sickles $0.50
  • 1 old saddle & bridle $0.75  /  1 barrell & 2 kegs with vinegar $1.00
  • 13 dry casks & boxes $2.00

In the back room0664

  • 1 bed, bedding, stead & cord $8.00
  • 2 chests $1.75  /  1 warming pan $1.50
  • 7 meal bags $1.33  /  6 butter boxes $1.00
  • 10 milk pans $0.75  /  1 firkin & tub $0.50
  • 2 casks with salt & [p?a?] $0.50  /  9 dry casks $1.12
  • 1 churn $0.25  /  3 small tubs $0.35  /  1 bread trough & 2 seives v $0.50
  • 8 old baskets $1.00  /  4 cheese hoops [?]
  • 1 lot of old iron $0.75

Articles in the cellar

  • 1 barrell & pork $17.00  /  50 lbs beef & barrell $2.50
  • 35 lbs butter & tub $6.00  /  125 lbs cheese & barrell $5.00
  • 9 barrells & cider $13.50  / 4 barrells cider $4.00
  • 3 cider barrells $1.00  /  1 tub of pickles $1.00
  • 8 lbs tallow $1.00  /  1 cask of apples $1.50  8 dry casks $1.00
  • 1 meat tub $1.00  /  1 half barrell $0.25  /  2 pots of lard $3.25
  • 1/2 barrell soap $2.00  /  fresh pork $3.00

Deceased wearing apparrel0728

  • 1 Great coat $2.00  /  2 strait coat $3.00
  • 4 Pr pantaloon $5.00  /  5 vests $3.00  /  3 handk’ffs $0.50
  • 5 shirts $4.00  /  1 Raisor & box 1 Pr spectacles & case $0.50
  • 1 Pr boots & 1 Pr shoes $0.50  /  1 Pr boots $1.50
  • [total]  $482.48
  • Townsend, January 4th, 1822
  • Wallis Little, Wm. W Bancroft, Nathl Cumings, Appraisers

[page 13] “… And having perfected the inventory have set off to Catherine Gassett Wife of said deceased the following parcels, namely,

  • the North end of the house and cellar under the same, beginning at the center of the porch door there in a straight line to the center of the chimney inclining to the north side of the house so as to include the remaining part of the north room and northeast bed room
  • and the chamber and garrett over the same
  • together with a privilege of baking in the oven in the south room when necessary, also a privilege in the south room to enter to pass and repass into her part of the cellar and a privilege in the chamber stairs to pass into her part of the chamber,
  • and a piece of land joining said house bounded as follows …  the road leading from Joseph Wagner to John F. Shepherd’s,  … $55.00
  • and the East end of the barn and barnyard … $15.00
  • a certain piece of mowing and pasture land …  to land set off to the widow Mary Serles as her third … thence southerly on said Mary’s land to Oliver Read’s to land belonging to the heirs of Walter Hastings, thence easterly on land belonging to the heirs of said Walter and Joseph Simonds … $160.00
  • about six acres of pine plain … $43.34
  • about eight acres of [?] land … in the line of land claimed by Wallis Little … with the privilege of passing through the heirs land to the above said lot where it is most convenient, … $85.00

Purchasers’ Names [at auction, Townsend, Massachusetts, Jan'y 21, 1822]

0629

  • Abiel Baldwin
  • William A Bancroft
  • Nathl Cummings
  • Jonas C Davis
  • Catherine Gassett
  • Jonas Gassett
  • Walker Gassett
  • Joseph Haynes
  • Edmund Jewett Jn
  • Henry Jewett
  • Aaron Keyes
  • James Lakin
  • Abijah Lawrence
  • Clough N. Miles
  • David Pitts
  • Daniel Prentice
  • Abner Proctor
  • Oliver Reed
  • Josiah Sawtell
  • Giles Shattuck
  • Henry Shattuck
  • David Shed
  • Joseph Simonds
  • Benjamin Spaulding Jn
  • Quincy Sylvester
  • Benjamin Wallis
  • Fred A Walton
  • Andrew Wilson
  • John Withington

What I learned from the probate file

The neighbors (highlighted in green above, in the descriptions of Cate’s property) are valuable clues to the location of the Gassett property in Townsend.

I have a map from 1856.  In previous reviews of that map I had noticed that “J. Emery” (possibly, Joel or John Emery, sons of my 5th g-grandfather, John Emery) and “D. Spaulding” (possibly, my 4th g-grandfather Isaac Spaulding’s son, Daniel) lived on the road leading south from “Townsend Harbor.”  The location that has some matching surnames, from the property details, is in Townsend Harbor itself, near Harbor Pond.  The names I matched were Searles and Read.  Names in that neighborhood that I recognized from the auction customer list (30 years earlier) were A. Lawrence and N.F. Cummings.

The probate records refer to the property of the “heirs” so there was clearly an effort to keep that property.  Deeds would be needed to tell the story of what happened after that.

Catherine Gassett lost many of her belongings in the auction.

Although her lot may have been cheerfully accepted by Catherine, as she watched neighbors purchase her property, it haunts me.

That day, she bought:0644

  • two calves
  • one grind stone
  • one iron bar
  • 1 butte and 3 wedges
  • one bed bedding stead & cord
  • 2 bed quilts
  • 8 1/2 yds cotton & linen cords
  • 1 1/2 yd cloth
  • 8 towels
  • 4 new sheets
  • 3 table clothes
  • 3 wollen blankets
  • 1 chest with drawers
  • 1 trunk
  • 1 looking glass
  • 3 winsor chairs
  • 1 arm chair
  • 1 table
  • crockery and glassware
  • 1 pr hand irons & trammel
  • one brass kettle
  • 1 frying pan
  • one iron pot
  • 1 tea kettle
  • one crane hooks stramel
  • 20 or all [?] pewter plates & basan
  • col. – tin ware
  • lot old crockery
  • 1 morter
  • 18 spoons
  • old knives & forks
  • 1 bed bedding sted & cord
  • 1 bible
  • 1 pr sad irons
  • 1 cheese press
  • 1 foot wheel
  • 1 furkin & tub
  • 2 casks with salt -op[?]
  • 1 china
  • 3 small tubs
  • 1 bred trough & 2 s[?]
  • 50 lb Beef & barrell
  • 1/2 barrell soap
  • fresh pork

Clearly, her clothing was not part of this sale.   But with a bible, looking glass, beds, linens, etc included in the sale, I wonder if any other personal possessions were exempted.

Many things – perhaps 70% of all items – were purchased by others.  I was surprised she let much of the food go, including potatoes, butter, cheese, cider, apples, and also a looking glass and clock.

Next Steps

  • It would be interesting to follow the deeds for this property and determine its location.
  • Learn more about the rest of Catherine’s life.  I do not even know when she died; I do not see a family in the 1830 census that appears to have her with them; I do not see Jonas Gassett in the 1830 census.  I suspect it may have been Jonas who took over the house, but don’t know; the deeds would tell. Gassett is subject to a variety of spellings, and very poor indexing, so I suspect that is why I have not found a death record for her yet.  A page by page look at the Townsend vital records for the next 10 years should pull something up.
  • Reuben may have served in the Revolutionary War, I will investigate that.
  • Continue to explore the children’s lives.
  • I wonder what caused Reuben and Catherine to move to Townsend in 1777, around the time of their marriage.  I wonder if Reuben was able to purchase property there.
  • Look for more clues that may help me make sense of the many, many payments that were reported in the probate records.  For instance, Reuben has a nice headstone.  Was Shipley & Stevens a firm that may have provided that?  They were paid $116.65.
Erected in Memory of Reuben Gassett who dies Dec 18, 1822 Ae 69. at the Old Burying Ground, Townsend, Mass.

Erected in Memory of Reuben Gassett who died Dec 18, 1822 Ae 69. at the Old Burying Ground, Townsend, Mass.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2013/04/25/reuben-gassett-1822

Illustrations are from Dover 1565 Spot Illustrations and Motifs, Electronic Clip Art.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

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