Early Prose and Verse

Harper & Brothers

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Harper & Brothers
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Dec 31, 1893
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 In reverent and affectionate retrospective view of the influences and conditions which had power and made mark upon the settlement of New England, we are apt to affirm with earnest sentiment that religion was the one force, the one aim, the one thought, of the lives of our forbears. It was indeed an ever present thought and influence in their lives; but they possessed another trait which is as evident in their records as their piety, and which adds an element of human interest to their story which their stern Puritanism never could have done; with them their neighborliness, was as ever present and as sincere as their godliness. Hence the establishment of an hostelry,—an ordinary it was usually called,—for the entertainment of travellers and for the mutual comfort of the settlers, was scarcely second to their providing a gathering-place for the church.

The General Court of Massachusetts at an early date took decisive measures with regard to houses of common entertainment. No one was permitted to keep without license “a common victuallyng house,” under a penalty of twenty shillings a week. Soon the power of granting licenses was transferred to the County Courts, as the constant increase in the number of ordinaries made too constant detailed work for so important a body as the General Court.

Consideration for the welfare of travellers, and a desire to regulate the sale of intoxicating liquors, seemed to the magistrates important enough reasons not only to counsel but to enforce the opening of some kind of a public house in each community, and in 1656 the General Court of Massachusetts made towns liable to a fine for not sustaining an ordinary. Towns were fined and admonished for not conforming to this law; Concord, Massachusetts, was one of the number. The Colonial Records of Connecticut, in 1644, ordered “one sufficient inhabitant” in each town to keep an ordinary, since “strangers were straitened” for want of entertainment. A frequent and natural choice of location for establishing an ordinary was at a ferry. Tristram Coffyn kept both ferry and ordinary at Newbury, Massachusetts; there was an ordinary at Beverly Ferry, known until 1819 as the “Old Ferry Tavern.”

Great inducements were offered to persons to keep an ordinary; sometimes land was granted them, or pasturage for their cattle, or exemption from church rates and school taxes. In 1682, Hugh March, of Newbury, Massachusetts, petitioned for a renewal of his license to keep an ordinary, saying thus: “The town of Newbury, some years since, were destitute of an ordinary, and could not persuade any person to keep it. For want of an ordinary they were twice fined by the county, and would have been a third time had I not undertaken it.” In 1668 the town had persuaded one Captain White to “undertake an ordinary” on high moral grounds; and it is painful to record that, though he did so unwillingly, he found the occupation so profitable that he finally got into disgrace through it.

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