Forsaking His Father’s Church

Grandbaby #6, by Wendy Harty, pencil sketch 2009

The worst of the storm was to the west, the land was buried under four feet of snow. The winds increased. Major damage was done to the felled trees, but a high tide on a new moon produced fourteen feet high waves. The tides pounded the Great Beach and swept over the Nauset Spit. The wind built dunes were lowered to low mounds. The marsh was protected as the sand turned over as it was being washed. It was on this night that Joseph Higgins made his appearance into the world howling his anguish above the wind. The birth was March 1, 1734, duly recorded in the Bible of parents Elisha Higgins and his second wife, Hannah Doane Atwood Higgins. Keziah Atwood, had a new half-brother.

The trees felled were harvested for their wood to keep the home fires burning. The farmers of Eastham cleared more and more of the land. From the advent of the Seven Men of Eastham, who came in 1644 nearly one hundred years had passed. The population had continued to grow and grow as was again evidenced by the birth of twin girls, Abigail and Abial December 29, 1740, into the combined family of Higgins and Atwoods. There had also been sadness in the Doane family as their matriarch Dorothy Horton, aged 58, wife of Doc David Doane, mother of Jonathan, Hannah, Keziah and John, died in 1738. Hannah had lost her mother and Keziah her grandmother.

Elisha and Hannah Higgins had some decisions to make. The spit of land that four generations of their family had settled upon would no longer support the population. The trees they relied upon for heating were forested replaced by sea grass on the sandy dunes. Elisha aged 40, Hannah 37 with her children: Stephen Atwood Jr. 18, Keziah 15, Enoch 12, Jerusha 11, his children: Jane 20, Elisha Jr. 17, Enoch 12 and their children: Edward 8, Joseph 7, the twins Abigail and Abial still babies needed to relocate.

They couldn’t go east into the sea so they went west. Hardwick, Massachusetts would become their new home, in the center of the state. They found breathtaking scenery and amazing wildlife and crystal clear waters of the Swift and Ware Rivers. For thousands of years this valley was territory of the Nipmuc Indians who called the area Quabbin or the meeting of many waters. The Nipmuc were decimated by war and disease, and the valley rapidly became settled by the Europeans drawn by the abundance of water and rich farmland. Towns of Hardwich, Greenwich and Quabbin, sprang up about 70 miles from Boston, where soapstone quarrying, ice-harvesting, textile manufacturing and palm leaf hat braiding helped the people prosper.

Overland 180 miles the Higgins family moved to Hardwick which had first been settled just 4 years earlier in 1737. It was here that the family was completed with the birth of Uriah Higgins, May 28, 1742.

For over 100 years since the Pilgrims/Puritans landed at Plymouth they had tied their social and legal systems to their religious beliefs, as well as their English customs. At Plymouth they established their “City on a Hill”. A strong work ethic and moral sensibility was established. Were they truly miserable and wanting everyone else to be miserable? They attached a high value to marriage and strongly condemned sexual relations outside of marriage. These proud Englishmen wanted to set up an English state ran by God. They had annual elections, freemen had the right to hold office and vote. So what happened? People started looking to satisfy their spiritual and emotional needs. There was a growing formality and dampening of religious fervor. There began a splintering of American Protestantism.

Keziah’s mother, Hannah Doane had a brother, Daniel. Hannah and Daniel were both children of Doc David Doane and Dorothy Horton Doane. Daniel Doane was the first to leave Cape Cod and Eastham and forsake the church of his father. Daniel was characterized as self-reliant, independent, with an inquiring mind. He was led to study with Friends (Quakers) who were creating a sensation with a new doctrine. Charmed with their teachings, he united with their meeting house, the oldest or first Quaker meeting house in America, at Sandwich, 40 miles away from his father’s house. In 1696 he and his wife and four young children, the youngest being two, journeyed 700 miles overland to a Friends Colony at Middletown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. They were accepted as members and settled near Newtown, he as carpenter and farmer. In 1709 he paid 70 pounds sterling for 78 acres and acquired another 22 acres in 1713. His investigative spirit led him to study the stars and explore the influence of planets upon one another. Daniel started predicting with astrology and was disowned in 1711 by the Quaker Church and they stated “his wickedness lies upon his own head.” In his father’s will he was mentioned but only left one pound.

Daniel Doane’s death is recorded in a Middlestown meeting: Daniel Doane Senior deceased ye first day of ye ninth month 1743 on ye third day of the week. His will was dated Oct 4, 1731 and probated Dec 31, 1743. To child Daniel Jr. 1687, Ellezer 1691, Elijah 1694, Joseph 1697, Israel 1699, Lydia Stradley 1690, Rebecca Randall, George Randall (son-in-law), Elizabeth deceased 1701. left 5 shillings each. To dear and loving wife Mary Yates (2nd wife) his estate to maintain and educate and bring up her children: Samuel, Mary, Thomas, Sarah and Ebenezer Doane.

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