• Early MA Journal: Legislator Theodore Dean, Taunton Iron Works, Evils of Liquor, Religion

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    THEODORE DEAN was born in Raynham, MA, on December 31, 1809. He received an education at Bristol Academy in Taunton, MA, and at 18, began teaching. Dean was reared a farmer and a manufacturer of iron. He continued in business with his father until 1848 when he purchased his father’s interest in the old iron forge at Raynham, one of the first in America, and a very profitable business.  He was the last owner of Taunton Iron Works. Dean represented Raynham as a Republican in the state Legislature, served as a director of the Bristol County Bank and was later chosen as its president.  He was a director in various manufacturing interests in the United States and abroad.  He and his wife Lydia had three children. (Research included)

    In this 6 ½” x 8” personal journal, dating from 1828 to 1831, with about 60 pages filled, Dean has provided a narrative of his travels through New England and New York, his swearing in by Massachusetts Governor Levi Lincoln Jr., his experiences as a teacher and his strong sentiments against liquor as he quotes from a speech he attended on July 6, 1827, before the School Committee’s instructors at Pembroke, MA. He wrote: “In the next age, Intemperance, one of the leading sins and greatest scourges of the present may become a subject of so general abhorrence that no apology founded on the circumstance of intoxication will be admitted …There will be, we hope, so general a diffusion and correct sentiments that unprincipled wretches will be unable to discover any advantage in attempts to hide guilty countenances…”

    Dean expresses serious concerns about the legitimacy of Christianity and offers an investigation into its legitimacy in a disbound section of the journal. In very small part, he writes “…the ignorant & astonished world are called upon to yield an unqualified credence to the mysterious dogmas of this mysterious religion…Many are unfortunately destitute of what they call a saving & supernatural faith be it our task to inquire into the truth or falsehoods of these declarations. The inquiry shall be made without reverence to any other principle other than that of truth or any other effect than that of the happiness of mankind…How absurd and contradictory are the principles & the doctrines of this religion…In every moral point of view, the world is infinitely worse…Yet this was the man who was to do away with sin & bring in an everlasting righteousness…The infinite gods have labored in vain & their united efforts have not been able to rescue mankind from endless torments…Faith is an arrest of the minds to the truth of a proposition supported by evidence. If the evidence…is sufficient to convince the mind, evidence is the necessary result; if the evidence is insufficient, belief becomes impossible…Must we then renounce the justifiable exercise of all our faculties, in order to be happy. To attain felicity, is it necessary that we believe in contradictions? Must we deem cruelty one of the attributes of divinity?”

    On June 2, 1830, Dean visited Boston and stopped by the famous Bunker Hill Monument: “Went to Boston week before last...to theatre saw Mr. Placide perform Chas X II King of Sweden, an excellent performance…Went to Bunker Hill up into the monument which is now about 35 feet high…next into the Cupola of the State House into the Representatives Hall, the House being in session. Also visited the Navy Yard…”

    July 4, 1830, “Independence Day. Cornelia Allen is in town today, came from Bridgewater yesterday in the Stage. She is attending school at the academy in B. Seth Dean Hale House was raised yesterday afternoon…”

    Jan. 15, “I have now been 4 weeks in Wareham. A violent N.E. snow storm which commenced at 9 oclock this morning, appears to continue unabated…As I have no books, I now take pen in hand by way of amusement to pass away the dull hours of a long evening…I have been very well pleased with my school. I have about 45 scholars, all boys. The school is large and there is a school of about 40 girls in the same house taught by Miss Haskill…”

    Feb. 22, 1830, “I reached home Sunday evening from Raynham where I have taught school for 9 weeks & boarded at Capt. J. Pratt’s. Wages $20 per month. I started from Wareham on Sunday morn at 9 oclcok in the Stage and arrived…at 1 ½ pm. Left and at ½ past 2 walked home 6. Snow about 2 feet deep…”

    Dean had a strong affinity for women as evidenced in the following:

    March 1st to 5th, 1831: “Left Raynham with Bea Dean in a sleigh, passed through West Bridgewater to Capt. Ruth’s. There…walked to Mr. Studersants. The passing was very bad…Finally spent the evening at Judge Whitman’s. Found quite a party at the Judge’s…Cornelia was attended by Josiah Natch vulgarity…Mr. Geo Briggs much of a favorite with her. Wednesday evening went to Singing School with Cornelia…Mrs. S. came up with a wagon load of ladies, viz Miss Mary C, Anna C & her sister, Miss C. Turner. Very miserable party indeed by Pembroke ladies…feel safe in this cave. Yes with Stutevant for a pilot there are but few ladies in Pembroke who would hesitate among navigating the Falls of Niagara. Hence…judge of his popularity with the ladies. He is now 34 years of age and his mother told me he still enjoys the society of young ladies...”

    “My Election of 1831[to the state Legislature] went in the [MA] House of Representatives where Gov. Lincoln administered the oath to the members…Election sermon at Old South [church, which is still in existence].”

    Dean heard the Honorably Francis Baylis deliver a poem and likely an address, possibly at the Massachusetts State House.  He called the delivery “a capital production & which was very highly spoken of…was listened to by about 100…He lashed lawyers, doctors, ministers, merchants, politicians…in fact every class of men of every age & country excepting Aaron Burr whom he called a second canine and who put an end to the life of the great man [Alexander Hamilton] ever reared...”

    October 31, 1831, “…At 12:00 started for Providence in the splendid Steamer Presidents for New York…had a very rough passage…arrived at New York 8 next morning. Went 2 nights to the Parke Theatre (where I saw Burke) and once to the Bowery…which brought me to Saturday when having transacted all my business I left at 4 o’clock in the Chancellor Livingston for Providence. After a few hours it began to blow very heavy from N.E. and continued with an unabated fury…”

    “Sunday, Dec. 4, 1831, “Fine sleighing this [day]. Have been to the Leoggetts’ Meeting today in a sleigh—snow about 6 inches & it might continue snowing at 3 o’clock violently. Thanksgiving passed off early this year. Did not attend any Ball or Parties…

    Some scuffing to boards and binding, toning and expected foxing to the pages, but a very nice example of early 19th century journaling by a renowned individual in teaching, business and public service. Sixty pages filled with many other pages blank.

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