Sunday, December 6, 2009

Jacob Bailey - Youth and Education

This blog has recently picked up a reader who lives in Massachusetts but is a native of Maine. When I got to thinking about these two places in conjunction with Annapolis Royal I realized that there were a significant number of historical connections. Both in war and peace the inhabitants of these colonies (and later states) have had a lasting influence on the development of Annapolis Royal. Whether we are discussing events like the conflicts of the 17th century, the capture of Port Royal in 1710, the arrival of the Loyalists at the end of the American Revolution or the exodus of local sailors in the 1890s to work in the ports of New England out histories are linked. In fact, anyone shopping at a local Frenchies store today quickly realizes that the clothing comes from New England.

I have chosen one prominent Annapolitan to tell some of the story of the connection between Maine, Massachusetts and Annapolis Royal. Since the story of Jacob Bailey is fairly lengthy, I will break it into several posts over the next few days. Unless otherwise stated, any quotes come from William Bartlett’s 1853 biography The Frontier Missionary.

Jacob Bailey “can scarcely be said to be eminent in his generation. But both his character and his career were somewhat remarkable; he lived in eventful days; and left behind him a singular abundance of those manuscript memorials, which bring the manners and men of any period so visibly before the eyes of posterity”. Very concisely this paragraph from the preface of captures the essence of Bailey’s enduring legacy.

Jacob Bailey, the second child of David Bailey and Mary Hodgkins, was born in Rowley, Massachusetts on April 16, 1731. As a typical farmer of his era, David Bailey was a generally respected man within his community but not among the social elite of the colony. To supplement the family’s sometimes meager income, Bailey worked as a weaver making cloth and lace, and even knitting stockings. In most ways his son Jacob was also an ordinary child of his time, spending most of his time in school or working with his father. From an early age what makes Bailey different from his peers is his ravenous desire to learn and write.

Writing of his childhood Bailey remembers, “I was constrained to labor with the most constant and unwearied diligence, and had scarcely time allowed me for needful recreation…. I used to redeem an hour every evening from the small portion that was allotted for my sleep. This, for want of books, I usually spent in scribbling, so that I composed matter upon a variety of subjects, sufficient, I suppose, to have filled several volumes”.

Bailey’s desire to write led him to a future that neither he nor his parents could have foreseen. "It happened, one evening, after I had, as usual, been employed, just before the hour of repose, with my pen, that I was suddenly called away upon some urgent occasion. In the hurry of rising I dropped the paper that I had been using, so that it was taken up the next morning by a person of no small curiosity”. This paper was soon shown to various local residents and eventually was brought to the attention local parson, Jedidiah Jewett. Reverend Jewett was so impressed with the quality of the writing that he immediately went to Bailey’s house, where he quickly offered Jacob a year of private instruction at no cost. This chance dropping of a piece of paper soon sent young Jacob’s life in a new direction.

Under Jewett’s instruction, Jacob would spend the following years preparing for the Harvard University entrance exams. Apparently, his desire to improve his circumstances did not sit well with everyone in Rowley. Bailey complained “… if one happened to make advances in knowledge beyond his neighbors, he was immediately looked upon as an odd, unaccountable fellow, was shunned by every company, and was left to drink his mug of flip alone on lecture-day night.”

At the age of 21, much older than the average entrant of this period, Jacob Bailey began his career at Harvard University. Reverend Jewett once again provided aid by arranging financial assistance for his former pupil’s tuition. Students at this time were ranked by the prestige of their families rather than by their academic achievement. In a class which included John Adams, the second President of the United States, and John Wentworth, future Governor of New Hampshire and Lt. Governor of Nova Scotia, Bailey was consistently ranked last. Despite his social standing, Bailey was accepted by his peers and graduated in 1755, receiving his Masters degree three years later.

In the next post on this topic we will see Jacob Bailey's conversion to the Church of England and the progression of the American Revolution in Pownalborough, Maine.

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