JOHN SAMUEL PRESCOTT HISTORY CHAPTER TWO GROWING UP Rough Draft -Please read introduction chapter first One

of the most frustrating experiences of researching the history of John Samuel Prescott has been trying to find out where he was really born. The Prescott Memorial says John Samuel Prescott was born on Jan. 7, 1809.1 He was the son of Samuel Prescott and Frances Johnson who lived for at least part of their married life in Keene, New Hampshire. However, they were married in Manlius, Onondaga County, New York. A newsclipping in a Keene newspapers stated: “MARRIED” At Manlius, N. Y. Samuel Presscott, Esq. Of Chesterfield, Attorney at Law, to Miss Frances Johnson, daughter of Mr. Moses Johnson late of this town.”1 A researcher who did some work for us some years ago discovered that Moses Johnson, John's maternal grandfather, had moved from Keene to Onondaga County, New York and was first mentioned in land records there in 1805.2 John's father, Samuel Prescott, was mentioned in land records there in 1808.3 This would seem to indicate that Samuel had left Keene prior to the birth of John. New York did not keep birth records at this time and I have been unable to find any record there of John's birth. New Hampshire towns often keep vital statistics in their town records, but Keene has no record of John's birth. Samuel Prescott was born and raised in Massachusetts, which also keep fairly good records of births in their town records. I checked the records for several towns there where Samuel's family had lived but could find no record of John's birth. I have been unable to establish for sure where his father was living at the time of John’s birth in 1809. By the time the 1810 census was taken, the family was living in Keene, New Hampshire. The household consisted of 1 male under 10 (John), 1 male 26-44 (Samuel), 1 female under 10 (John’s sister Sarah), and 2 females 16-15 (Frances and an unknown female).4 The 1850 census lists John’s birthplace as Connecticut.5 The 1860 census lists John's birthplace as New York,6 as does the 1870 census.7 Census records and death certificates of his children give other, inconsistent variations of their father’s
W illiam Presco tt, The Prescott memorial, or, A genealogical memoir of the Prescott families in America : in two parts (Boston : Henry W. Dutton & son, 1870), Part I:152, #1134. 1 Married, New Hampshire Sentinel, 20 April 1805, 2
3 1

Prescatt, Sam’l, 1810 U.S. Census, Chesire County, New Hampshire population schedule, Keene, p. 62. John S. Driggs household, 1850 U.S. Census, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin population schedule, Town of Fond du Lac Dist. No. 9, p. 516, household 199, family 199. 6 Jno. S. Prescott household, 1860 U.S. Census, Dickinson County, Iowa population schedule, Okoboji township, p. 74, dwelling 128, family 74. 7 Jno. S. Prescott household, 1870 U.S. Census, Clarke County, Mississippi population schedule, 2 Dist, p. 712 (stamped), dwelling 890, family 846.


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2 birthplace. John's father, Samuel Prescott died Nov. 13, 1813.8 He died in Keene, New Hampshire, which seems to indicate that he either never left there, or moved back after a short stay in New York. “Died In this town, on Saturday evening last, after an illness of seven weeks, SAMUEL PRESCOTT, Esq. Attorney at Law, aged 33. Seldom have we noticed the death of a man whose loss was more universally lamented than the one we now have the painful duty of recording –The death of Mr Prescott is not only a loss irreparable to his family, but society is deprived of a member by whom much good has already been done, and much yet was expected. So pleasing were the distinguishing traits in his character that it was impossible to know and not esteem him. Not fully confiding in his own abilities, he never was anxious to attempt any thing but what he could accomplish, and seldom accomplished any thing but what was meritorious. He did not strike terror nor creat disgust by an haughty overbearing dispositon, but mild and unassuming he conciliated the affections upon the slightest acquaintance, and possessed talents that commanded respect. Active and intelligent in business, he was in the character of a lawyer, an useful and distinguished citizen. In him were many things worthy of imitation and but few that ought to be forgotten. He was a very indulgent husband, a tender parent and an honest but unfortunate man. He died, as he lived, resigned to the will of his Maker. The resignation he manifested in his dying words must give consolation to mourning friends.”9 We know nothing of the childhood of John. He would have been only four years old when his father died. How did his mother support the family? He had only one sister who lived beyond infancy, Sarah Elizabeth, who was two years older than John. The first record John left of his life was at Harvard University. John Samuel Prescott was listed as coming from Reading, Massachusetts in Catalogue of the Officers and Students of the University in Cambridge10 page 17 for the year 1825-26. John seems to have been born with a permanent case of "foot-in-mouth" disease. He seemed to have acted or spoken before he thought, often to his regret. At Harvard, he had his first encounter with controversy. In May of 1826, an explosion occured on campus, followed by other mischief. The records of Harvard tell the story something like this: "May 24, 1826...It also appeared that immediately after the explosion several of the College Officers repaired to the rooms and that while there one of them received gross indignity by water being thrown upon him by Crowninshield. Wherefore voted that Crowinshield be rusticated for one
New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947 database and images,FamilySearch: accessed June , 2011. entry for Samuel Prescott, died 14 No vember 181 3 ; citing Death Record s, FHL film 1001099 ; New Ham pshire Bureau o f Vital R ecords and H ealth Statistics, Co ncord, N ew H amp shire. 9 Died, New Hampshire Sentinel, 1813-11-20, 10 Catalog ue of the O fficers an d Stu den ts of the U niversity in Cam bridg e, 17 NEED PUBLICATION INFO–NOT IN FHL CATALOG © 2009, Beth Davies AG®. Perm ission is gra nted to copy for persona l, non-co mmerical use.

3 year. May 3l. Mr. Crowninshield having made a petition that the case of his son be reconsidered. Present--The President Dr. Hedge, Dr. Popkin, Prof. Willard. Prof. Farrar, Prof. Channing. Mr. Otis, Mr. Fessenden, Mr. Hayward, Mr. Ripley, Mr.Noyes. Voted that the Faculty see no reason for revising the sentence but are willing to hear any further evidence which may be offered on the subject. Voted that the students be informed that unless the Faculty are made acquainted without delay with the authors of the explosion, legal measures will be taken to ascertain the fact. June 7: At a meeting of the Faculty/ all present but Dr. Hedge and Mr. Otis/ the Committee to communicate with the Solicitor General respecting the explosion in No. 4 Mass on Tuesday 23d May reported that he consented to act in the case and would come to Cambridge tomorrow to ascertain more particularly the nature of the offense and the testimony and to receive the names of the witnesses and issue the summons to the same with a view to bringing the case before the grand jury which is to set at Concord next Monday at the session of the Court of common pleas. It was proposed to inform the class this day that the names of persons to be witnesses could be given to the Solicitor General tomorrow. A student of the Class had made inquiry of the President whither the offender should he come forward would be punished with any other than College Punishment--and whether he should be held by the Faculty to answer before the magistrate. He was told that he would not be so held by the Faculty. Soon after this answer was given a paper was handed in by John Samuel Prescott--owning himself to be the sole person concerned in the explosion stating that he used a bottle half full of paper the other half containing powder to the amount of one pound--that he did not mean mischief --but a joke to make the students and tutors turn out and create a little bustle. It was voted that he be required to leave college forthwith and that he be told his punishment will be considered. Adjourned to 7 1/2 o'clock in the evening. Met and voted that Prescott be rusticated for 3 years. Voted that in consequence of the confession of John Samuel Prescott respecting the explosion in May 23d Thacher be considered as acquitted from the first alternative of the charge upon which he was punished. June 12: Voted that Stephenson, Southworth, and Cox, Prescott 2nd, Devereaux 2nd, Cutler, Hancock, Crowninshield, Devereaus III and Miriam, be informed that they will be summoned as witnesses in regard to the assault upon Dr. Popkin to appear before the next session of the grand jury in this county. Voted that they be informed that the Faculty may find it necessary to recommend to the corporation to suspend the degrees of the above Seniors until the trial take place. At a meeting of the Faculty on Tuesday the 20th June 1826 it appeared that Crowninshield had made a confession in the morning of the offence with which he was charged and for which he was punished on May 24th. A motion was made and seconded for changing his punishment from
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4 rustication to dismission but only one gentleman voted in favor of it."11 Perhaps John's actions won't seem quite so extreme when you understand the times he was living in. In History of Harvard College (written in 1848), Samuel A. Eliot, notes that 1810-1828 period is one with discipline problems as society began to relax its hold of the old upon the young.12 According to History of Harvard University, by Josiah Quincy: "The principle of classifying students in divisions according to their proficiency had been introduced contrary to the opinion of a majority of the College Faculty, and its application became the occasion of serious discontents and disorders among the Undergraduates, and led to repeated and severe punishments. In June, l826 the visiting committee of the Overseers expressed in their report to the board, their regret "at these instances of insubordination and resistance to the classification according to merit and proficiency."13 It would appear from the school minutes that John was about to graduate when he was "rusticated". Whether he ever received his diploma is unknown. He does not appear on any list of Harvard graduates. What John did for the 3 years of his forced absence from school is also unknown, but he was back in school in 1829. John Samuel Prescott was a student of the Harvard Medical School at Boston during the l829-30 academic year.14 According to the archivist of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Countway Library, Harvard Medical School, he signed the enrollment book on Oct. 21, l829. His residence was in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and his instructor was William Johnson Walker of Boston.15 He was also a medical student in 1830-31.16 Harvard Medical School was the first separate school at Harvard. The earliest donations for it were given in 1772 and the first professor appoint in 1783. Dr. Warren, first professor of Anatomy and Surgery resided in Boston and gave a portion of his lectures in the city. Others who lived there followed suit. In 1814, a grant was used to erect the medical College on Mason Street in Boston. A new building near the hospital was later erected. "Degrees are given to those who, after attendance on two courses of lectures, one of which must have been in this school, shall be found upon examination, properly qualified. A dissertation on a medical subject is required from each student who is a candidate for a degree. The fees charges are $3 for matriculation, $80 for the full course of lectures, and $20 for graduation."17

Samuel A. E liot, A sketch of the history of Harvard college. And of its present state (Bo ston: C. C. Little and J. Brown, 184 8) NEED PAGE # 13 Josiah Qu incy, The history of Harvard University (Cambridge [M ass.] : J. Owen, 1840) NEED PAGE # 14 Catalog of Students Attending Medical Lectures at Boston NOT AT FHL 15
16 17


Catalog of Students Attending Medical Lectures at Boston, ( ) 11. Eliot, A sketch of the history of Harvard college. And of its present state NEED PA GE #.

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5 In Harvard University Quinquennial Catalogue of The Officers and Graduates 1636-1930, I checked the list of graduates of both regular school and medical school and found no John Samuel Prescott. There was no John Prescott listed in the index, and no Prescotts at all graduated between 1828 and 1844. 18 Later in his life, John Samuel Prescott used the title of Dr., but he never practiced medicine. Instead, his first vocation seems to have been that of a lawyer. R. A. Smith in History of Dickinson County, Iowa says, "He was educated by his parents for a physician, but disliking the profession went into the practice of law in Ohio, in which he was very successful." 19 At the end of the 1830-31 school year at Harvard, John would have been 22 years old.


Harvard University Quinquennial Catalogue of The Officers and Graduates 1636-1930 NOT AT FHL

OR BYU R. A. Smith, A history of Dickinson County, Iowa : together with an account of the Spirit Lake massacre, and the indian troubles on the northwestern frontier (Des M oines [Iowa] : Kenyon Print. & Mfg., 1902 ) NEED PAGE #. © 2009, Beth Davies AG®. Perm ission is gra nted to copy for persona l, non-co mmerical use.

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