Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Despite the testimony given about the damage done farmland and the bridge
by the overflow from the dam, the jury found in favor of the Iron Works. There
are two reasons why the jurors might have made this decision. The first and
less sinister reason could have been that they felt the company had been fair
with my ancestor Adam Hawkes in their previous settlements and that Adam
was too eager to go to court every time the dam overflowed. The other, less
honorable reason was that the Iron Works was a power and  had made Lynn
an important town in the still young Massachusetts colony, even if it had not
been very profitable as yet. 

By now, Adam Hawkes was in his sixties and the struggle with the Iron Works
passed on into the hands of the next generation, to my 9x great grandfather
John Hawkes. John was more inclined to taking direct action rather than
going through the judicial system. Ironically, he ended up there anyway in 1663.
I ran into a bit of a roadblock here, because the volume of Essex County Court
Records his case appears in was only available as a snippet view on Google Books:

"John Hawkes, sr., and Moses Hawkes; trespass, for that John Hawkes, sr., was
the only plotter, contriver and secret manager of the cutting or breaking of the
great dam at Hamersmith or the Iron works in Lin"-Records and Files of the
Quarterly Courts of EssexCounty, Massachusetts , Volume 9

Luckily I was able to find more details in a genealogy of a related family:

"Evidently there no attempt was made to draw off the water, and in the face of
tardy justice the Hawkes family probably had taken down a part of the dam, since,
in 1663, suit was brought against John Hawkes, Sr., and his brother Moses, by
Samuel Appleton and his son Samuel, in an action of appeal from the County Court
at Salem to the Court of Assistants in Boston. Judgment was given in favor of the
plaintiffs for .£30 damages, and "the defendants shall make vp the great dam as Good
as before in twelue months time next ensuing or pay £250 "and costs. John Hawkes
appealed ; and on March 4, 1663, "the Jury brought in their verdict they found for
the plaintiff [Hawkes] Reuersion of the former Judgment & costs of Court nine pounds."

-Lora Altine Woodbury Underhill Descendants of Edward Small of New England, and the
Allied Families, with Tracings of English Ancestry , Volume 2 (Google eBook)
Priv. print.
at the Riverside Press, 1910 p570

This was a reversal of more than just a court case. The Iron Works had not proven
profitable and in fact the company wasn't paying its debts. Some of the company officers
were even jailed or fugitives. Apparently things really reached a head in 1671:

"The Iron Works for several years were carried on with vigor, and furnished most of the
iron used in the colony. But the want of ready money on the part of the purchasers, and
the great freedom with which the company construed the liberal privileges of the court, caused their failure. The owners of the lands which had been injured, commenced several suits against them, and at last hired a person to cut away the flood gates and destroy the works. This was done in the night, when the pond was full. The dam was high, and just below it, on the left, stood the house of Mac Callum More Downing. The water rushed out, and flowed into the house, without disturbing the inhabitants, who were asleep in a chamber. In the morning, Mrs. Downing found a fine live fish flouncing in her oven. The works were much injured, and the depredator fled to Penobscot. 

The suits against the Iron Works were protracted for more than twenty years. Mr. Hubbard says 'that instead of drawing out bars of iron for the country's use, there was hammered out nothing but contention and law suits.' The works were continued, though on a smaller scale, for more than one hundred years from their establishment. But they have long been discontinued, and nothing now is to be seen of them, except the heaps of scoria, nearly overgrown with grass, and called the 'Cinder Banks.'
  Alonzo Lewis The History of Lynn: Including Nahant (Google eBook) Samuel N. Dickinson, Boston 1844 p154

It doesn't say who the perpetrators of that second breach of the dam were, but given the
past history of my Hawkes ancestors and the Saugus Iron Works, it wouldn't surprise me
in the least if there were a Hawkes or two involved that night!

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