Friday, July 16, 2010

Captains of Shockley Hill

Shockley Hill, which rises above Long Pond and Lake Assawompsett in Lakeville and which was earlier known as both Shingle Hill and Alden's Hill, was home to three families of New Bedford sea captains during the nineteenth century which occupied a farm near its summit. Though this farm, located on the east side of Highland Road, is better remembered for its later owner, Morgan Rotch of New Bedford, it had an equally fascinating history during its ownership by Rotch's immediate predecessors.

In 1798, Captain Christopher Hammond (1753-1825) of New Bedford acquired 85 acres situated at the top of Shockley Hill from Joseph Whelden, a mariner of New Bedford. The property, which had been owned the previous century by Nathaniel White and his grandson, Abiel White, included a Cape Cod style farmhouse which was located upon a large rock near the road. The house faced north towards Lake Assawompsett and from its front door, a view could be had over the nearby ponds.

Hammond was a ship's captain, who was affectionately known as "Captain Kit." He had a large family, including two sets of twins, and was one of a number of mariners making their home in what is now Lakeville at the time.

In November, 1810, Hammond's wife, Desire (Tobey) Hammond died and was laid to rest in the Pond Cemetery near the base of the hill on Bedford Street. Eventually, Captain Hammond moved to Nantucket, selling his farm to his eldest twin sons about the time of their marriages. The first son, Elisha Hammond (1787-1858) married Sally Macomber of Middleborough, April, 1812, and eight months later bought half his father's farm, including a half share of the house, barnyard, cornhouse, orchard and fields. His brother, Samuel, who followed in his father's footsteps as a mariner, purchased the remaining half of his father's homestead, July, 1813, just prior to his marriage to Betsey Spooner of Middleborough.

The Hammonds, with the sea in their blood, were forever a restless family; neither Elisha nor Samuel remained long on their father's farm. Samuel, after just two months, sold his portion of the farm to his cousin, Joseph Shockley (1789-1863) of New Bedford, and moved first to Lund's Corner in New Bedford and later to New York's Mohawk Valley. Elisha sold his share to another family relation, his Uncle Shockley's father-in-law, Captain Humphrey Alden (1763-1844), and relocated to Rochester where he died in 1858.

Alden, also a sailing captain, was well remembered in his last years by his grandson, Andrew J. Shockley (1834-1911), who recalled Alden as a "strong, stocky man who wore knee britches and a wide black felt hat, winter and summer, turned or pulled according to the weather."

Ultimately, in 1821, Alden sold his half of the farm to his son-in-law Joseph Shockley, who had wed his only daughter Sally, in 1811. Alden retained a life estate in the property, living out the remainder of his days there. He is buried in the Pond Cemetery, alongside his wife, Mary (Lord) Kettel Alden, who had fled Boston during the Revolution because of her Loyalist sympathies.

Joseph Shockley was a shipwright by occupation, and he continued to pursue maritime interests while working the farm. In 1817, he, with twenty-six others, leased a New Bedford shipyard in order to construct a whaling vessel. Later, Shockley was part owner of a number of New Bedford vessels, including two barks - Jasper and Peri, and two ships -Liberty and Saratoga. Much of Shockley's time must have been devoted to travel between Lakeville and New Bedford, aand correspondence with his business partners.

Shockley, like his uncle, Captain Hammond, had a large family, and he raised a two story addition to the back of the house to accomodate his fifteen children, all of whom were said to be at least six feet in height, including his seven daughters. One of the sons, Andrew J. Shockley remembered his sisters' Sunday ritual and the problems created by the large number of children: "The first of [my] sisters to get dressed for Church, looked pretty well, but by the time the seventh girl was ready, she was likely to be dressed pretty shabby." Nonetheless, the Shockleys, with their height and dark features, must have made an impressive sight as they filed into the Pond Church at the base of the hill.

Five of the Shockley sons, with their Hammond and Alden ancestry, were inevitably drawn to the sea. Three became captains. Eldest son, Joseph, Jr., served as master of his father's barks Jasper and Peri. Second son Humphrey Alden Shockley was a part owner of the ship Roman, and master of her, as well as master of Two Brothers, William Hamilton, and Lucas, and is said to have circumnavigated the world eight times. Third son, William, also became a whaling captain, and wed, as his second wife, the daughter of one of the builders of the Charles W. Morgan. Sons Ephraim (who was lost at sea) and Andrew also led seafaring careers. It is from Andrew that the Lakeville Shockleys descend.

Joseph Shockley died during the war in 1863, and the farm was left to his unwed daughters - Mary F., Almy J. and Averick T. Shockley - and to his youngest child, Benjamin Shockley, who had been born blind in 1843, and also never married. They sold the farm to their brother Charles in 1869, who continued to farm the property for an additional twenty years until 1889 when he sold the property to Rotch. The Hammond-Shockley farmhouse was destroyed by fire shortly after the turn of the century, and with it one of the last tangible reminders of the sea captains who occupied Shockley Hill.

It is from Shockley and his descendants who lived on the farm until 1889, that the hill, once known as Shingle Hill, and later Alden's Hill, took the name Shockley Hill.

Joseph Shockley gravestone, Pond Cemetery, Lakeville, MA, photograph by Michael J. Maddigan, September, 1997


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