Excerpts from the diary of Matthew Patten of Bedford NH
specifically related to guns and ammunition
These are selected entries from 1754 up through the outbreak of the Revolutionary War
Some spelling, punctuation and capitalization has been updated for the modern reader.
Matthew Patten was 35 years old when theses excerpts begin.
The analysis of this diary is a work in process. Patton was a man of many talents, but what we are focusing on here is his career as a backwoods gunsmith in a small New Hampshire town. The diary entries below specifically relate to his activities as a gunsmith, but also include mentions of militia musters, purchases of shot, lead and powder, hunting and how his family is directly affected by the American Revolution.
July 25, 1754 Sold my gun to Sam’ll Martain for twenty pounds new tenor on demand with interest paid and got John Maclaughlin’s gun on trial
Here Patten sells one gun to someone else, and accepts another from a 3rd party to try out. We never seem to find out if he kept the Maclaughlin gun or not because Patten doesn’t seem to mention giving it back or paying specifically for it.. It is important to keep in mind that all transactions were recorded and it could be years before something as simple as borrowing a few sheets of paper is paid back, but both parties had a notation of it somewhere in their “day books”. Generally, people would catch up with each other and go over their books once a year to be sure everything checks out, but a debt could go on for years unpaid just as long as it was acknowledged. Some debts were simply owed, while others specifically had an interest rate noted.
August 29th, 1754 Had my gun new buss’t & a new worm from Sam’ll Woods
This may be the gun that Patten got from John Maclaughlin on July 25th. In the 1903 printing of Patten’s journal, the word “buss’t” is spelled with a pair of “S”s in the middle, but his handwritten journal may have meant “buffed”. It was stylish in the 18th century to use the “long s” that is typically seen in print throughout the era and the person who transcribed it in 1903 may have made a mistake. Alternately, Patten may have meant “bushed”. Heavy use in a flintlock musket wears away the metal barrel around it’s vent hole and sometimes the worn vent could be relined to bring the hole down to it’s original size. The metals used for gun barrels were much softer than what we are used to today.
The “worm” Patton got from Samuel Woods is a gun cleaning accessory. A worm is a corkscrew shaped iron part that attaches to the rammer of the musket and is used to clean the dirty bore. Tow, a byproduct of the linen production process that is similar in appearance to dried lawn clippings, was wrapped around the worm, wet down with water, and used to scrub the bore of the gun. It was one of the few muzzleloading gun tools that have a historic precedent. Cylindrical button jags as we know them today are not found in period references and seem to be a 19th century invention.
September 9th, 1754 Surveyed 2650 feet of boards for John Bell Jun’r from Eleazar Wells. Took more than half a day and pieced the stock of gun for James Boyes Jun’r of Londonderry and charged twelve shillings and he paid me eighteen pence toward it
In this entry, Patton manages to squeeze a gunstock repair into an already busy day. The Boyes gun likely had a simple broken stock that Patton was able to glue and probably pin together because he makes no mention of any other repair parts. Once more, credit is involved. The bill for the repair was 12 shillings, so it was most likely “old tenor”. The value of money was adjusted to account for the inflation that came from wartime debt and old tenor currency was worth significantly less than new tenor currency. After paying 18 pence, Boyes would still owe Patten 11 shillings and two pence. This would usually be written as 11/2 or 0-11-2.
September 12th, 1754 Finished stocking a gun for John Anderson Jun’r of Londonderry and charged him three pounds five shillings old tenor for it
Unfortunately, Patten has many entries where he mentions finishing the stocking of a gun, but rarely mentions beginning the job. This one does state how much he charged Anderson for the work and specifies that it is in old tenor.
September 17th, 1754 Finished the looking glass frame and Benj’n Linkfield went to Londonderry to the training and to fetch from Widow Greggs one bar of iron, one set of cart boxes and two grave stones for my father’s grave and sent 3L to pay for the carting and to buy 3 pounds of lead.
Here Patten is buying assorted items from a widow, possibly she was selling off some of her late husband’s property. It is equally as possible that she earned the title “Widow Greggs” when her husband died and the name that reflects her marital status stuck with her forever, or at least until she married again. Of interest to us here is the 3 pounds of lead that Patten bought. It may be for casting bullets or it could be for numerous other uses. For the sake of this paper, let’s assume that he intended to use it for casting bullets or shot.
Note also that he purchases two stones for his father’s grave. In this era, it was still common to have a head stone and a smaller foot stone.
December 25th, 1754 I fixt in a gun lock for Robt. Giffin and charged 5s/ and made a side to my timber sledge and John Burns Junr. brought a gun of John Karsons to be stocked
In this entry, Patten says that he “fixed in” a gun lock. At first glance it may look like is repairing a gun lock, but it is more likely that he is talking about installing a lock into an existing gun. The entry also makes note of John Burns Jr. bringing in John Karsons’ gun to be stocked. This may mean that Mr. Burns just dropped it off for Mr. Karsons, but it is also possible that there was a separate transaction between Burns and Karson, and that Burns is having Karson’s gun restocked in payment of a dept to him.
January 1st, 1755 Finished stocking of a gun for Robt. Mack
January 8th, 1755 Pieced a stock of a gun for Will’m Mack and charged him 1-0-0 which he paid
By Patten’s use of the word “pieced” and his failure to mention supplying any other parts, it is clear that he is simply repairing a broken gun stock. Typical 18th century repairs could include hide glue, pins, screws, and sometimes wire or sheet brass reinforcements to a broken area. The one pound price of the repair seems fairly high, so Patten may have had to perform extensive repairs on Mr. Mack’s musket.
January 22nd, 1755 Went to Maj’r Goffes and sawed two sticks of cherry tree which made 4 plank and two boards and one maple log which made three planks and two boards and had 1/2 a mug of flip and one jill of rum
The cherry and maple planks may be for building gunstocks. Note that Patten sees a difference worth mentioning between a “plank” and a “board”. Cherry and maple are common species of wood used for gunstocks in New England.
Flip is a common alcoholic beverage of the 18th century that is made with beer, rum, sugar and sometimes egg that is mixed together and heated with a hot iron rod that is put into the liquid. The hot iron causes the sugar and egg to froth. A jill or gill is a liquid measure equal to a quarter of a pint.
February 17th, 1755 Paid John Worthly 6-10-0 being 2s/ toward the wild cat’s skin over the rest of the fur & James Kennedy brought his gun to be stocked and writ a letter to Mr. Robt. Willson and sent for 1/8 of a hundred of sugar and 1/4 yd spotted yarn by Hannah Barnett to Boston for which I have her 2 dollars and set out with Capt. Chamberlin and went to Goffes and Starks Town to apprehend counterfeit money makers, travelled all night and got to MonterLoney by morning
In the midst of this busy day of fur-trading, letter writing and travelling with the intent of arresting counterfeiters, Patten manages to take in Mr. Kennedy’s gun to be restocked. Among other trades, Patten appears to be a pretty active fur trader in his part of New Hampshire, often buying pelts from friends and neighbors and sending them to Boston to sell. Presumably, the 1/4 yard of “spotted yarn” is polka dotted woolen fabric as opposed to a 9” piece of yarn.
March 8th, 1755 Finished stocking Noah Thayers gun. Carried 8 knots to Charles Kinersons to be turned into dishes and bought 3 sable skins from Cap’t Perham and 4 mink skins from his son for 2L silver money and one mink skin from James Peters and Benj’n Kidder for 15s/ our money and endorsed the back of the writ for Maj’r Goffe to fill up to seize Sam’ll Martains cow at Cap’t Perhams
Another month, another musket. This one is for Noah Thayer. Elsewhere in his journal, Patten mentions receiving shoes and a furs from Thayer. The eight knots Patten takes to Kinerson would more accurately be called burls. A burl is a swirled-grain growth on a tree that is generally caused by some injury to the tree. These were turned down on a lathe to wooden bowls.
March 14th, 1755 Dr. Thornton paid me 11 dollars and a pistol which he borrowed of me in January last on the 25th day and finished stocking of James Kennedys gun
Patten took in Kennedy’s gun on February 17th, roughly a month before. The restocking job itself would have taken about a week to complete. The Dr. Thornton mentioned would be Matthew Thornton, one of the NH representatives who signed the Declaration of Independence. He also drafted the New Hampshire Constitution.
April 25th, 1755 Set out for Litchfield to get 12 bushel of corn from Mr. Peter Rusell but got none but gave him 8-10-0 for 4 bushel of corn and 2 of rye and got 1 1/2 bushel of oats from Sam’ll Gibson for what he owed me in the remainder of stocking a gun for him
Here we have a search for grain at a time of year when supply is running low after a long New Hampshire winter. At the very least, a bushel and a half of oats were received in payment towards the work of stocking an otherwise unmentioned gun for Mr. Gibson. Gibson may have owed this debt for some time, as he Patten is noting payments (in grain) towards a debt from Gibson the previous fall.
June 16th, 1755 Finished stocking John Rickey’s gun
June 17th, 1755 He got her away and charged him 5 pounds for stocking her and a false lock which he did not pay down
Not much is said about Mr. Rickey in Patten’s journal. Just over a month before this entry, we find Patten in Litchfield auctioning off “Mr John Rickeys place” for “the Rev’d Mr. Parker and widow Parker”. Perhaps archives in Litchfield could shed some light on what that was all about, but Patten gives us no hints. It would be hard to say for sure, but it almost seems like Rickey absconded with the musket without paying for it. Patten’s tone in his statements that “he got her away” and “he did not pay down” seem frustrated.
March 4th, 1757 Was a training at James Walkers. Said to be a want of arms
Throughout Patten’s journal, he keeps track of “trainings”. These are regular militia musters. All male residents of eligible age would be required to show up for inspection and practice in that arts of military style gun handling and marching. In 1757, the last of the French and Indian Wars is well underway and it is not surprising that weapons for the militia are in short supply. Regular uniformed military units were provided with arms by the Crown or the Province, but militia units and other irregular military units would generally have to provide their own gear, clothing and weapons.
January 6th, 1758 James Kennedy drawed a rod for me and welded it to a bit to bore for gun rod places in stocks
Mr. Kennedy is one of the local blacksmiths whom Patten has regular dealings with. In this case, Kennedy fashioned a long, thin drill bit for Patten to use in drilling the ramrod channel in a musket stock. The drawn rod would be of wrought iron and the cutting bit would be steel. The rod would have started as a thinker piece of iron, but was heated up and “drawn” out thinner and longer by skilful hammering, then the steel bit would be welded to it by heating both parts up to a high temperature in the forge, applying a flux to clean out any impurities, then hammering the parts together causing them to fuse into a solid piece.
April 15th, 1758 James Kennedy hooped a pot for me and drawed gun stick bit rod anew for me and writ a letter of recommendation for Mr. James Underwood to the Governor for a Coroner and got 17L of sheep’s wool and 1/2L of pepper from James Little which he brought from Boston for me for which I sent 5 dollars 27s/6 pennies and a pistereen. The wool was 11s/ per L, the pepper was 10s/, I rec’d no change
Three months after the first one, blacksmith Kennedy made another rammer channel drill bit for Patten. It may also be that he made a new iron shaft for the existing bit for whatever reason. Perhaps the old one wasn’t long enough for a project, maybe it had been bent or broken.
April 19th, 1758 Was training in Bedford and I beat for John Parker for soldiers and I writ 2 deeds, one from Thos. Gregg to Will’m Moor of Londonderry and took the acknowledgement and charged 1-4-0 old tenor not paid, and another from ben’r Hackett to George Addison paid, and drawed a complaint and warrant for Alex’r Parker of Litchfield against John Moor the 3rd of Londonderry unpaid. Bought a double pistol from Joseph Cochrane for paper money unpaid and caused John Taggart to be apprehended for breach of the peace on James Mathies and appointed him to meet me the next morning at 8 of the clock
We’ll never know where Joseph Cochrane got his hands on a double pistol, but Patten wasn’t about to let it get away and struck a deal with Cochrane to buy it with paper money, but it was left unpaid and Patten would owe it to Cochrane. Double barreled pistols are rare in America, but several are known to have surfaced in New Hampshire. They were usually French in origin.
April 26th, 1758 Was a training
April 27th, 1758 Was a training and I went to it in the evening and rec’d a dollar for my trouble and complaint and warrant and writing 2 depositions concerning James Mathies case and J Taggart, Will’m Moor, Dan’ll Moor and Rob’t Giffins
This training is unusual in that it takes place over two days.
January 5th, 1759 Finished piecing John Little’s gun stock
August 5th, 1761 I began to mow in the Little Meadow & I borrowed a quart of rum from my bro’r and rec’d 3L old tenor from Eleazer Rabins being the remainder of the price of stocking his gun and 2s/6d old tenor over towards some tow my wife let him have
Mr. Rabins doesn’t seem to show up elsewhere in Patten’s journal, so we will never know the full price he paid for having his gun stocked.
August 30th, 1762 George Pearsons wife paid the remainder of the meal he borrowed the 28th of last July and I hunted pigeons. I got 40 and shot six times
Forty pigeons with six shots? No, it wasn’t trick shooting because it was possible. In colonial America, there were tremendous numbers of migrating pigeons. These aren’t the grey “rock doves” that we see in our cities today, these are “passenger pigeons” that were hunted to extinction. They could be shot, netted, or even just knocked out of the sky with clubs as they flew by in massive flocks. The last known living passenger pigeon died in 1914 in a zoo. It was shipped to the Smithsonian and stuffed. The closest living relative to the passenger pigeon is the mourning dove.
May 7th, 1763 I went to Litchfield and spent the day at Deacon Kenndalls on Parkers and Mathies case. I adjourned it until next Thursday at ten of the clock to the same place and I rec’d 40L from Ensign Hobart and 45L from Major Blanchard on account of my surveying this last winter at Pemitchwasett and I got 1/2 of pepper from Mr. Lutwyche and I paid him for it and for 1/2 a L of powder and 2L of shot I had from him this spring on credit the 23rd of last April and I got 2 bushel of oats from Mrs Russell and I am to go to her next Thursday to run lines for her to pay for them
On this trip to perform legal work, Patten picks up some supplies including powder and shot. The 1:4 ratio of powder to shot is a little unusual, his normal purchase would be two parts lead to one part powder by weight.
September 17th, 1763 I bought 7L of sugar from James Tyng and paid him 1-7-6 for it and I bought at Gordon’s 3 cotton romalls at 13/6 each and 1L of ginger 7/ and 3L of shot at 3/ per L and a quire of writing paper at 9/ and I paid of them thing 1-2-6 and the rest I am trusted for and I got 2 cakes of chocolate at Mr. Lutwyches on credit being 18/ and I got a bushel of wheat from Mr. Gearfild and I am to give the common market price for it when I pay it and I got the 4 bushel corn ground at Capt’ Chamberlins and I had the total
On this trip to Massachusetts, Patten bought various supplies such a 3 pounds of shot that cost 3 shillings per pound. In a later entry, he mentions getting some flour to thicken his chocolate and rice. Presumably, it is to make some sort of rice pudding. In the 18th century, chocolate was usually consumed as a drink and a well-to-do household would have a separate chocolate pot along with the more common coffee pot and tea pot.
May 3rd, 1764 I went to Mr Gordon’s Shop and I paid the shopkeeper a dollar I owed 2-3-0 Bay old tenor and I got 1/2L of tea, 1L of brimstone, 6 sheets of cartridge paper, 5L of sugar, 1 dozen cups and saucers China. The whole came to 6-14-6. I paid 2s/ of it in the dollar I gave more than what I owed before and I came by the way of Hollis and lodged at cousin Wm. Pattens
This entry is interesting in that Patten purchases paper that is specifically for rolling cartridges. Unfortunately, it gives us no information as to why this paper was different than any other paper. In the 18th century, musket cartridges were made of paper, rolled into a closed bottomed tube and tied at the bottom with string. Inside was a musket ball, some loose shot, or a combination of the two called buck-and-ball. In addition to the projectile, there would also be a premeasured amount of gunpowder. The top of the paper tube would be folded over so the powder would not spill out. The completed cartridges were carried upright in a cartridge or “cartouche” box that consisted of a wooden block with a series of holes drilled in it. The block was protected by a flap or pouch of leather and either worn on a waist belt or shoulder strap.
Surviving original musket cartridges from the 18th century are made of newspaper, old letters, pages from books etc.. In short, whatever paper could be had was used.
To load the musket, the user would bite off the end of the cartridge, use some of the powder to prime the pan of the musket, pour the rest of the powder down the barrel and ram down the ball, complete with it’s paper wrapping. A skilled soldier could load and fire a musket as quickly as four times a minute using this method.
March 8th, 1764 I got 4 bushel of rye from Gauin Riddell and 2 bushel of Indian corn and a bushel of rye on Rob’t Morrials account and the 4 of rye and 2 of corn is on account of the stack of hay he had of mine last winter and I got one bushel of rye from Morrial himself. This and the bushel I had from Riddell on his account pays (with what he and Thos. Mathies wife reaped for me) the stocking his gun
This complicated piece of book keeping shows how interconnected the finances of typical colonists were. Morrial owed money to Patten for stocking a gun. In total, it looks like Patten was paid 6 bushels of rye, two bushels of corn, and some reaping labor both by Morrial and Thomas Mathie’s wife for the gunstocking work plus a stack of hay. Some of this in-kind payment came directly from Morrial, some came from others on his behalf, no doubt for debts they owed to Morriel. Considering the typical value of the grain commodities and the average gunstocking job, the amount of goods that changes hands here makes the stack of hay appear to be a valuable commodity all by itself.
If ever you are frustrated trying to balance your checkbook, consider yourself lucky that you didn’t have a revolving account with nearly everyone else in town. For historians, the complicated financial arrangements of colonial America are great study tools because it meant that all purchases were recorded by somebody at some point and a shopkeeper’s day book can give us a colorful picture of the affairs of a whole town.
November 28th, 1764 Arrived home about the middle of the day. I was absent 6 weeks and 3 days. We spent about a week in hunting and we catched 5 beaver and a sapple while I was at Peezumsuck River. I sold my traps to John Lahhe for a gun and a pair of silver buckles and papuss beaver skin, which I got and took his note of hand for 12 saple skins on their face value in money to be paid on demand with interest at 10 percent per annum until paid, which note I left with Maj’r Toplin of Coos to receive for me when Lahhe came in. Our entertainment at Col. Bayleys and what provisions we carried out with us came to 2-3-6 lawful money being 7 1/4 dollars which he advanced to us on an order from Col. Goffe which account was settled and signed a receipt on the back of the order to the amount of 2-2-0 lawful money and brought a bill from under his hand of the charge
Patten had been away to the north on a surveying trip and while travelling in the wilderness, did some trapping along the way. Instead of carrying his traps all the way back to southern New Hampshire, he trades them away for his stock in trade: another gun.
By “sapple”, Patten probably means a sable. Sables are furbearing mammals related to the mink, but are not common in New Hampshire, so he probably is calling minks by the wrong name.
December 1st, 1764 I carried some worsted and woolen yarn to Mrs. Marston in Derryfield to be wove which she promised to weave in 5 weeks and I got 14L of tallow from James Patterson, I am to have it at the price it is at Boston & I got a worm for my gun from John Gillmor which he gave me
Since Patton says that Gillmor “gave” him the worm, it sounds like a gift more so than a purchase.
December 3rd, 1764 Returned Col. Goffe his gun that I had out into woods and spent the day waiting on him concerning the discovery we made of the township we went to view
The Goffe family is legendary in southern New Hampshire. There were several generations of Goffe fighting men who were frontiersmen in the classic sense. John Goffe’s sawmill still stands today, it is used as a gift shop for a hotel in Bedford, NH. Patten accompanied Goffe as a surveyor.
July 3rd, 1765 I got John Mclaughlin Jr.’s horse and I went to Londonderry and I brought home the 4 bushel corn I left in Haverhill on the 18th of June last. Rob’t McMurphys John brought it to their house and he ground it and I left 2 bags and 6-6-0 Mass old tenor with him to send to Haverhill to buy corn for me and James Patterson brought me 2 hats from Mr Nehemiah Rand and he paid him 3 dollars and he brought me 1/4 pound of rice, 1/2 L of pepper, a quire of paper, a bottle of snuff, 1 1/2L of powder and 3L of shot. The beaver I sent brought 11L Bay old tenor and 55/s Bay old tenor I sent by him in cash which money bought the several articles and the dollar he paid Mr Rand and 2/9 Bay old tenor over
Another complicated day of shopping. Of particular interest to us is the pound and a half of powder and three pounds of shot.
Patten uses “November Stamp Act” as a chapter heading in 1765 instead of just “November”. It may be that the idea of the Stamp Act really annoyed him, or it may just a reminder that all legal documents had to bear the tax stamp in order to be legally binding as of November 1st, 1765. The stamps were required on legal documents, newspapers and pamphlets, playing cards, and dice. The money raised by the sale of the stamps was supposed to help defray the costs of the Seven Years War and the increased expenses of the British government who now had to rule over the territories won from the French during that conflict. The Stamp Act was approved by Parliament, but since the colonies didn’t have representatives in Parliament, the Stamp Act was taxation without representation and this was felt to be a violation of the British Bill of Rights. The Stamp Act was a major contributor to the political dissent that led to the American Revolution.
The stamps were to be paid in British Sterling, as opposed to the myriad of colonial currencies that were in circulation. As you can see by reading these few select entries from Matthew Patten’s diary, it is relatively rare that actual cash changes hands in a transaction, and even more rare that British currency is directly involved in a deal. This was seen as restrictive by the colonists, who were used to their own methods of book keeping and trade as opposed to paying for purchases with coins that were officially minted by the government over on the other side of the Atlantic.
November 11th, 1765 I went to Goffestown and run the lines round Blodgets farm and I got half a pound of powder and a pound and half of shot and a paper of pins up in part of my pay they come to 18/6 Bay old tenor and there is 26/6 Bay old tenor coming to me yet for my service
Another gunpowder and shot purchase. This time the powder and shot were received in partial payment for surveying work and valued in Massachusetts Bay “old tenor”.
May 12th, 1766 I went a fishing in the morning to Seborns ponds and I catched 13 pickerel and I went to Goffes Town and I got from Old Mr Blodget one pound of powder at 18/ and a paper of pins at 5s/ and a pound and a half of shot at 4/6 Paid me up the remainder of what was due to me for running lines for his cousin Sam’ll last fall and a shilling over and I paid him two coppers back toward the shilling. The above prices are in Mass old tenor.
More powder and shot. This time the prices are given in Massachusetts Bay Colony “old tenor” money.
October 17th, 1766 I sowed a bushel and almost two quarts of wheat by the well and between the house and barn and I went to Blodgets farm in Goffestown and measured a piece of land that Tweed cleared and I got two papers of pins and 3 pound of shot from Mr Blodget toward my service
Three pounds of shot, but no powder this time, and no value given.
November 28th, 1767 I carried a bushel of wheat to Ensn. Moor’s mill and I got it ground and I got 2 bushel Indian corn from him to be paid by stocking a gun
Two bushels of corn seems like a small price to pay for the 40 man-hours it takes to stock a gun given modern corn prices, but in the 18th century, farming was much more labor intensive thus the commodities raised were more expensive. Compare this transaction to the March 8th, 1764 transaction in which Patton received grain for stocking a gun. In that transaction, we see the 2 bushels of corn, but also 6 bushels of rye and labor, minus the value of a stack of hay.
June 19th, 1770 I put a piece on the stock of Squire Underwood’s gun
June 25th, 1770 I settled with W’m Goffe for what shoes he made for me last fall and I fell 2s/ Bay old tenor in his debt and I gave him 5s/ Bay old tenor what work he did for me came to 5-7-6 Bay old tenor and I paid him a dollar in money and vamps for a pair of shoes and seven lasts came to 5-5-6 bay old tenor and I made the hoops of 3 sugar boxes and I got 2 quills for Squire Underwood’s gun from John Gillmor and I finished mending his gunstock
We may never know what happened to Squire Underwood’s gun. Judging by the repairs listed, it appears to have had damage to the forestock. The “quills” mentioned by Patten are what we would call rammer thimbles today. This is purely speculative, but perhaps Squire Underwood had burst his muzzle, shattering the forestock. It could also have started it’s service life as an older French military musket that would have had barrel bands, and thus would not originally have had rammer thimbles since the barrel bands also serve that function. Many surviving locally produced muskets are pieced together from old military parts.
November 2nd, 1772 We butchered a hog that weighed 134lb and I took the list and warrants to John Bell and I bought the gun that was David Scobeys that was broke at a training in this town for three dollars from Bell and am to answer to Scobey what is more than he owes Bell on book
November 10th, 1772 I pieced the stock of the gun I had from John Bell and Hepper came to our house to taylor
The David Scobey/John Bell transaction is interesting in that we find out that the gun was broken “at a training”. Fortunately for Patten, it was probably complete and was able to simply be repaired, most likely with glue and pins as opposed to some repairs where he needed to track down new parts.
It is also interesting to note that the taylor came to Patton’s house to work, as opposed to a customer taking fabric to the taylor’s shop. Shoes were made the same way, by itinerant cobblers.
January 8th, 1773 I went to John Bells and took the acknowledgement of the deed from Thos. Mann to John Bell which answers one shilling toward the gun I had from him this fall
The musket referenced here is the David Scobey gun that was purchased by Patten on November 2nd, 1772. Note that in November, part of it was paid in dollars, but now it is being paid for in work valued in shillings.
April 14th, 1774 Was generally observed as a fast through this and the Bay province at the desire of the Committees of Correspondence although Mr Houston would not observe it in Bedford, I and my family kept and I went to Meeting in Derryfield and heard Mr Strickland preach…
This is significant to a student of the outbreak of the Revolution in that the fast was ordered not by the Governor of NH as was traditional each April, but by the Committee of Correspondence. On April 27th of the same year, the province observed the regular fast day as proclaimed by the Governor. Each year, the province observed a fast day in April and a thanksgiving day in November. One must remember that in this time period, America is still very much an agrarian society and thanksgivings for the harvest were an ancient tradition. The Mr Houston who is mentioned in the entry as refusing to observe the Committee of Correspondence’s fast day was later tried as a Tory.
April 20th, 1775 I rec’d the melancholy news in the morning that General Gage’s troops had fired on our countrymen at Concord yesterday and had killed a large number of them. Our town was notified last night. We Generally met at the meeting house about 9 of the clock and the number of twenty or more went directly off from the meeting house to assist them… Our John came home from being down to Pentuckett and intended to sett off for our army tomorrow morning and our girls set up all night baking bread and fitting things for him and John Dobbin.
April 21st, 1775 Our John and John Dobbin and my bro’r Samuell two oldest sons sett off and joined Derryfield men and about six from Goffestown and two or 3 more from this town under the command of Capt. John Moor of Derryfield. They amounted to the no. of 45 in all. Sunkook men and two or three others that joined them marched in about an hour after they to 35. There was nine more went along after them belonging to Pennykook or thereabouts and I went to McGregores and I got a pound of coffee on credit.
The “our John” that Patten refers to here is his son. In these entries, we are hearing about the open days of the American revolution through the eyes of a colonist who chose the Patriot side. The colonists outside of the Greater Boston area were seemingly unprepared for the monumental events that were unfolding. The ladies of the Patten household busied themselves with baking bread and hurriedly sewing up clothes for John and his friend John Dobbin to take with them on the march to the war. This scene was no doubt repeated in countless households all across the area. Safe and secure in our modern homes, we can only imagine what was going through their heads at that moment.
It seems that the Bedford, NH area received word about the British march on Concord roughly 24 hours after it happened. According to this entry, some people marched off to assist the Massachusetts Bay Province militiamen immediately, where others waited until the next day in order to prepare. This entry gives us the impression that the whole community pitched in to help prepare for the militiamen’s trip to the war because the women and girls stayed up baking bread and sewing for the men who would depart in the morning. This being Patten’s daybook as well as a journal, he notes purchasing a pound of coffee in the midst of all of this turmoil.
April 22nd, 1775 I was wakened in the morning by Mrs. Chandlers coming with a letter from the Committee of the Provincial Congress for calling another Congress of the Province immediately and I went with it as fast as I could to John Bell’s but he was gone to our army and both the others also
April 25th, 1775 I went and notified on the River Road to meet at the meeting house in the afternoon on our publick distress and I went to Col. Goffes to ask his advice and met toward evening and acted on what we thought necessary…
April 26th, 1775 I went at the desire of the town to Col. Goffes and Merrils and MacGregores and cautioned them to take special care of strangers and persons suspected of being Tories crossing the river to examine and search if they judge it needful and I got a pound of coffee and nine flints from MacGregore for which I paid him 11/8 bay old tenor
April 27th, 1775 Was the Province Fast by the Governor’s Proclamation
In this group of entries, you can see how the town’s official business has to almost come to a standstill because the town leadership has marched off to support the Massachusetts troops. The Col. Goffe mentioned is an old militia leader from the French wars and a prominent citizen in the town. The warning to Goffe, Merril and MacGregor shows the general feeling of mistrust in the community of anyone who was a potential Tory.
April 28th, 1775 I began to stock Capt’ Blair’s gun and I went and got Jamey Orr to forge me a screw nail for the breech of the gun and I fitted it and cut the screws and he made me a burning iron all of my iron.
April 29th, 1775 I worked at stocking the gun and the boys planted potatoes
May 1st, 1775 The boys planted potatoes and I worked at the gun. William Barnet gelded 3 lambs and a boar for us. Our John and John Dobbin came home.
May 2nd, 1775 Shed forged a guard and some rods for pinning on the quills and stock on the gun and I attended a meeting of the town on our affairs of the country. Capt. Moor had a training and our John and John Dobbin came home
May 3rd, 1775 I finished stocking Capt’ Blair’s gun and the boys got our dung and planted at some potatoes
Here we have a fairly detailed account of Patten’s gunbuilding project for a Captain Blair. It is evident that Patten’s skills are primarily as a woodworker since he farms out the metalwork to other people, such as a breechplug made by Jamey Orr and a trigger guard & some pins made by Nathan Shed. While Patten is using his skilled labor to build the gun, other people are doing his unskilled work for him, such as planting potatoes and castrating livestock. Even though the future is uncertain because the war has begun, everyday life must continue in an agrarian society. The project takes a week, which is typical for stocking a musket. He makes no mention of where other components for the gun came from, such as the lock and the barrel. Perhaps Captain Blair provided them.
On May 2nd, he mentions that Captain Moor held a training. This would be a militia muster and drill. Throughout this time period, Patten never mentions participating in any of the drills, musters or trainings even though he was still young enough that it would have been compulsory. Perhaps his position as an official of the general court exempted him from having to attend drills and musters.
July 19th, 1775 I worked at stocking a gun for Mr. Baker of Derryfield
July 20th, 1775 Was the Continental Fast and Mr. Cook preached with us in Bedofrd. He preached with us last Sabbath day which was the first preaching we have had since we shut the meeting house doors against Mr. Houston
July 21st, 1775 I almost finished stocking Mr. Bakers gun and Jamey and Bob reaped for Mr. Shedd for which he is to hoe for me
The Baker gun project must have been started earlier, but not mentioned. Patten doesn’t mention finishing it either. Note that it has been several months without any religious services in town since they removed Mr. Houston as pastor for being a Tory. Once again, Patten does the skilled labor while his boys perform unskilled labor for Shedd, the blacksmith in exchange for labor to be performed at a later date. It is likely that someone who owes Shedd for blacksmithing work will actually do the hoeing for Patten.
December 6th, 1775 The town met at the meeting house and there was 12 men turned out and enlisted. There was 7 guns lacking to equip them and the Committee is to procure them my bro’rs Samuel and I borrowed John Maclaughlin’s gun.
December 7th, 1775 I spent the day in going to Lieut. Moors and other places to procure guns for the men that goes out of this town but got none
December 8th, 1775 I went to McGaws to meet our men that listed to go into the army. I got home the latter part of the night. My expenses was a pistareen and I bought and almanac for which I paid six coppers
December 9th, 1775 John set off for the army and Bob went with him as far as Esq’r Lovewells with the horse and Shed upset 2 axes and tempered 2 ex hook for me and Bob brought two L of sugar from McGaw for which I sent 8/10 Bay old tenor
It is now December, the war has been on for eight months and there still aren’t enough muskets to go around to arm the militia. Patten, as a member of the committee, has the task of trying to round up enough muskets for all of the recruits, even if he has to borrow them.
January 1st, 1776 I set out with a slay to go to the army and Bob went with me to tarry a year and we lodged at hardwoods
January 2nd, 1776 We arrived at Woburn and lodged at Esq’r Fowles
January 3rd, 1776 We arrived at the camp and went and viewed the encampment at Cambridge and Prospect Hill and I lodged at Col Starkes Barracks in his bed. This day I rc’d a dollar from Rob’t McCormick that he owed me for running line for and others summer was a year and yesterday I rec’d a dollar and a half from Deacon Gould for my running and new marking the lines of the home lot No. 42
January 5th, 1776 I rec’d a dollar from Calvin Johnson for the use of my gun last summer
January 6th, 1776 I set out from Medford at 11 o’clock and came to Manings and lodged there
On this trip to visit the Patriot army that is encamped around Boston, Patten seizes the opportunity to collect on debts owed to him, both for performing surveyor work and renting out a musket to someone. The Manings he mentions on January 6th is the Mannings Manse, an ordinary inn located in Billerica, MA. The historic building was still in use as a restaurant until the 1980’s when it was lost to a fire.
April 12th, 1776 I writ a letter to John and Bob and sent it by John Dobyn who set off for New York today to join the army
April 24th, 1776 I attended the probate at Amherst and my part of the fees was the proof of the 3 wills that I took at Goffstown and at home and granting Admr. To John Gregg came to 27/ and the register gave me a shilling more than my part and I paid my expenses at Smiths and I bought a pair of plated knee buckles and 5L 10 ounces of lead at Means for which I paid 6-1 1/2. My expenses at Heldreths I did not pay.
April 25th, 1776 I went with Jona. Esqr to Col Goffes and he rec’d the probate books and files which Atherton had sent there to prevent their coming into our hands as I suppose and I bought 1/2 a pound of shot from Mrs Rand for which I paid her -3 1/2 lawful money and I lent Esqr Blanchard 2/8 in cash and I paid our ferriage
Here, Patten is still buying lead and shot. No powder this time, so we don’t know if it is for his own consumption or for trade.
(Note: I believe there was an error in transcribing Patten’s diary when it was published in 1903. What appears to be labeled as the month of May, 1776 might actually be July of that year. In Patten’s diary, the entries for May seem to be in order, but after the 31st, it skips ahead to August first. There could be pages missing in his diary, so the following events could have happened in may, June or July. Since he mentions buying a copy of the Declaration of Independence on the 20th, and in the letter that tells him of his son John’s death in NY it says he died on June 20th, it is most likely July)
May? 16th, 1776 I set out for Exeter to attend as one of the Committee of Safety for the Colony and arrived there that night
17th, 18th, 19th & 20th, 1776 I attended on the Exeter on the affair and set out for home the afternoon of the 20th and came to Chester and lodged at Capt. Underhill’s. I left the gown and near 26 yards of fustian at Mr Barkers to Clothiers to be dyed and dressed. My expenses was 13- 4 1/5. I bought 4/ worth of things viz 2L of tobacca, a rub ball for my breeches and a Declaration for Independence
21st, 1776 I came home and went to writing letters to Crown Point for on my journey down I got an account of my John’s death of the small pox at Canada and when I came home my wife had got a letter from Bob which gave us a particular account of it informed us that he was sick of them at Chambike and that they moved him to Isle of Noix where he died on the 20th day of June. The reason of moving him was the retreat of the army which was very precipitate and he must either be moved or be left behind. Whether the moving him hurt him he does not inform us but it seems probable to me that it did. He was shot through his left arm at Bunker Hill fight and now was led after suffering much fatigue to the place where he now lyes in defending the just rights of America to whose end he came in the prime of life by means of that wicked Tyrannical Brute (Nea worse than Brute) of Great Britain. He was 24 years and 31 days old.
22nd, 1776 I writ at letters to send to the army. In all, I writ four. One Col. Stark, one to Major Robert Moor, one to Master Eagan and one to Bob.
25th, 1776 I set out to go to McGregores to meet the post and met McGregores boy coming for me on the post horse and I gave the post four letters for the carriage of which I paid him 4/ and agreed to bring my John’s things except the gun and accoutrements toward his doing it, I paid him 8/ and I had half a bowl of toddy and 2 quarts of oats for the post horse for which and the two L of coffee and 1/2 bowl of toddy I had yesterday I paid 4/1 and Patrick Murfey paid me 3/ and Zechariah Chandler looked the bill and one of them handed the bill to me and I just put it up in my book without looking at it.
26th, 1776 In the morning I found that the bill I took of Patrick Murfey yesterday was a 3L instead of a 3/ and I took after him to overtake him to rectify the affair but he was gone that I could not. I went as far as Col. Moors and got back at 12 o’clock
August 1st, 1776 Col. Kelly, according to orders from the Committee of Safety, published INDEPENANCE in Amherst. One of Amherst Companies under Capt. John Bradford and Lindborough company under Capt. Clark attended under arms. The whole was conducted with decency and decorum and the people departed in peace and good order. The principal gentleman of the county attended but not any who have been suspected of being unfriendly to the country attended. My expenses was 5/. I bought two scythes from Means for which I paid 5/ and I came home in the evening and doctor Nichols and I swore Col. Goffe, Jacob Abbot, Robert MacGregore and Moses Little as justices for this county and John Hogg and Zechariah Chandler as coroners and I paid Ensn. Ames 7-16-0 in cash and 2-10-6. I paid Doctor Gillman for him was the whole of his wages for his attending the General Court in their last sessions except two pence which he gave me whose wages I drawed by his order
July 1st, 1778 I went at William Wallaces desire to MacGaws to give evidence in a case between him and Capt. Chamberlins sons for not training and there was no justice to try the case and I came home in the evening and I filled a deed of Daniell Marrs place to his son James
July 20th, 1778 In the afternoon I went to McGaws to hear the trail of Capt. Chamberlins sons before esq. Underwood. The compt became non suit and they were taken by new warrant signed by Col. Goffe and tried by him. He judged them guilty signed them 20/ each they prayed an appeal but he denied them. My expenses was 2/6. I got home the latter part of the night and we got a washing tub from old Ensn. Chubbock of which I have paid 8/ by writings the inventory of Colens Eaton and Ezra Mirick estate were returned the fees paid 18/
July 15th, 1782 I bought a bell from Joseph Houston for a dollar to be discounted in the services I have done for him. The whole I did for him a vendueing, laying off the land he sold, writing deeds and other services came to 12 dollars and I answered the tax and charge on No. 5 in the 2d Range which amounted to five dollars and four pence. He now owes me six dollars lacking four pence. I took a gun barrel to Mr Shed that weighed 4 1/2L (which I borrowed from John Patten) and am to pay him the weight of it in other iron to get 2 scythes made. Shed is to find the rest of the stuff and I paid him 2 dollars toward them