Thursday, August 14, 2014

Joshua Freeman A Tavern ans Some Dirty Dancing

In 1766  Freeman's tavern stood on the corner of Fish, now Exchange, and Middle streets. The people of the province of Maine were far from being so strait-laced in their notions as the Plymouth folk, still there was a law in Falmouth against dancing in places of public resort. The "quality," as they were styled, occasionally had dancing parties in Freeman's tavern. For this they and their wives were indicted in 1766. Theophilus Bradbury, one of the party+, a lawyer of note, got them out of the legal trap under the plea that the room in which the dance took place was hired by private individuals for the season, consequently could no longer be considered a place of public resort, but a private apartment, and that the persons there assembled had a right to meet and dance in their own room. The plea was sustained by the court. Very likely the honorable justices were wont to take part in the dances. (Centennials of Portland, Charles Parker Ilsley)
At April term 1766, Samuel Waldo, Theophilus Bradbury, Esquires, Doctors Nathaniel Coffin and Edward Watts with their wives, Nathaniel Deering and wife, John Waite and wife, and several other ladies and gentlemen (I believe 18 in all) were indicted for dancing in the house of Joshua Freeman, innholder, on the 9th of December 1765, being a tavern, and a licensed house, contrary to law, and in evil example, &c. The record informs us that the said Theophilus Bradbury, for himself and his wife, and all the rest, by said Bradbury, their attorney,' come and say that the said Joshua Freeman, on the first day of December A. D. 1765, demised to the defendants the northeasterly chamber in his house, mentioned in the bill of presentment, to hold to them, for their sole use, whenever they should have occasion therefor, for the space of three months from the same day, and for so long afterwards as both parties should please; into which chamber they entered, received the keys, and full possession thereof, and held the same accordingly until this day; and being so possessed, they, in their said chamber, on the ninth day of the same December, did dance, as they lawfully might do, which is the same dancing mentioned in the bill of presentment, and this they are ready to verify—wherefore, &c. And Mr. David Wyer, attorney for our sovereign Lord the King, comes, &c. and says that the plea aforesaid of the said Samuel Waldo and others, and the facts therein stated, are not a sufficient answer in law to the bill aforesaid, wherefore, &c. Joinder in demurrer. The court adjudged the plea a sufficient answer, and that the defendants go without day." (An Address to the Members of the Cumberland Bar: Delivered During the Sitting of the Court of Common Pleas, at Portland, June Term, 1833)
Here s the story told by Sylvester in New England Magazine 1892

But the time has come for the festivity to begin. There is a hush in this youthful hilarity that is merged in the bustle incident to the more immediate preparations for a stately minuet or a more rollicking measure still Over all there sounded:
“ The music of a violin. The firelight, shedding over all The splendor of its ruddy glow, Filled the whole parlor large and low; It gleamed on wainscot and on wall," —and revealing the flickering of the homemade “ tallow-dip," it shone into the faces of fair women, only to find a rival warmth in the ruddy glow of their cheeks. It was a dissipation that was kept up into the wee small hours of the morning, if the chronicler of these events is to be believed,—and much to the scandal of the community; for to the Orthodox mind in those days, dancing was a lure of the fiend. In Provincial Falmouth dancing was prohibited by law, in places of “public resort.” The “quality” in town held their dances at Freeman’s tavern, an old-time hostelry of most excellent repute, and on one occasion, as early as the first year of the Revolution, the dancers were indicted.
Among them was Theophilus Bradbury, who afterwards became a distinguished lawyer, and with whom the celebrated Theophilus Parsons studied in after years. Bradbury appeared for the respondents with the ingenious defense that as the dancers had hired the room for the season, it became a private apartment and was not a place of “ public resort.” The court sustained the counsel's view of the case, and the “ quality " danced to their heart's content ever after. Sitting here, with the sound of the fire music within, and the whistle of the robin in the orchard trees without, my hostess told a story connected with the inn, of a couple of not over-hardened gamesters and their experience with the occupant of the Bradley parsonage.
It was on a Saturday night. In this self same room it may have been, that a group of revellers, betwixt their hot toddy, their card-playing and their wooing of the fickle goddess, with a constantly increasing pile of winnings on one side and a constantly lightening purse on the other, grew so oblivious to churchly precept that the game lasted well into Sunday morning. A look at the tall clock in its corner in the hall told them what, with all its loud striking, had gone unheeded, that midnight had come and gone,—a revelation not unmixed with twinges of conscience, that caused the cards at once to disappear. With an extra mug of flip around, they said their good-night.“Alone remained the drowsy squire,
To rake the embers of the fire,
And quench the waning parlor light;
While from the windows here and there,
The scattered lamps a moment gleamed,
And the illumined hostel seemed
The constellation of the Bear, Downward, athwart the misty air,
Sinking and setting toward the sun.
Far off, the village clock struck one."Not all of those midnight revellers took their candles from the narrow mantel to light them to bed along the big hall and up the stairway. Two of the hilarious company, wishing their sleepy landlord a good night's rest, went out into the dark highway that crept past Parson Bradley’s. With uncertain steps they kept the faintly discernible track, down the hollow and up the hill between the inn and the old gristmill brook that went down to the marsh as noisily in the dark as in broad daylight, as if it knew the way so well it had no need of eyes,— which was more than could be said of the two scapegraces who went creeping over it by the help of the sagging handrail of its old bridge.
The nearer they came to the parsonage, the livelier grew their consciences at having trespassed upon the Lord's time. After a brief debate, and not without misgiving, they concluded to call up the par~ son and divide the spoils with him, thinking that by turning into the church treasury a part of their ill-gotten gains, partial absolution might be secured. They plodded along through the dark and over the hill by the Tate house, past its black elms, glancing no doubt at its gloomy windows, as if expecting some uncanny thing, perhaps some old woman's ghost, might be there to cast its glowering eyes upon them,— for those were times when uneasy spirits went abroad o'nights. They kept up their courage by dint of loud talk and an occasional pull at the black bottle, dreading most of all the parson’s scathing rebuke, which would undoubtedly greet their endeavor to make him a party to their unchristian practices. The parson’s slender wicket rattled loudly as they opened it, and they made a furious din with the brazen knocker at the door, whereat the preacher, noted for his dry sayings, his keen satire, and his eccentricities, came to the door to listen to the midnight confession. What they said is not recorded, but hardly had the old man received the silver, when he astonished his callers by his mild acquiescence and the half-approving inquiry:
“Well, gentlemen, why did you not play longer?" Well John Quincy Adams seems to be in favor with Bradbury on the matter:
From John Q Adams Journal November 1786 as recorded by Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society
29th. It snow'd part of the forenoon; then turn'd to rain, and, after making the streets very disagreeable, cleared up in the afternoon. I dined with my brothers at Mr. Bradbury's. We had some conversation upon the subject of Ben Hooper's funeral. I could not agree in sentiment with Mr. Bradbury. I told him that although I abhorr'd the action itself as much as any one, yet after a man was dead to refuse to attend his funeral would only be an insult upon the feelings of his friends, without being any kind of punishment to him. And indeed I cannot but think that laws against suicide are impolitic and cruel, for how can it be expected that human laws, which cannot take hold of the offender personally, should restrain from the commission of this crime the man who could disregard the natural and divine laws, which upon this subject are so deeply imprinted upon the heart? When we consider too how easily such a law may be evaded, how many ways a man might put a period to his own existence without exposing himself to the severity of any law that the human fansy could invent, we can only suppose that these punishments must fall merely upon a thoughtless youth, or upon one ignorant of the existence of such regulations.
Mr. Bradbury*, however, thinks differently and is perhaps in the right. I pass'd about an hour in the evening with Putnam; he then went with G. Bradbury and my brothers into a company of young ladies; and I cross'd the street and sat till nine o'clock with my friend Thompson. Tom lodg'd with me.
30th. I went up to the office in the morning, and sat a couple of hours; but I felt restless and dissipated. I could not study, and therefore walk'd down in town and saunter'd about. Dined with G. Bradbury and Charles at Mr. Hooper's. He is very sanguine in his hopes for the adoption of the Constitution. Pass'd the evening at Mr. Bradbury's. Dr. Smith and all his family were there. We had some music in the beginning of the evening, and afterwards play'd a number of very amusing sports, such as start; what is it like; cross questions; I love my love with an A; and a number more. My opinion of such diversions I have already given, when it was confined to a number of young persons; but that the most inexcusable levities of youth should appear in the garb of old-age is something that calls for more than disapprobation, nor will a grey hair'd trifler excite our pity merely, but must raise our indignation and contempt. Mr. Bradbury,1 however, is a very respectable man; and, as this conduct has here the sanction of custom, it is not him but the manners of the times that I blame.
Mr. Theophilus Bradbury Was apparently fond of a social good time. In 1766, it is said, he and his wife " with several leading citizens of Falmouth " (Portland) were indicted for the crime of dancing at a tavern; but won the case in the courts on the plea that the room was not a place of public resort because hired for private purposes, etc. W. B. Lapham, Bradbury Memorial, p. 89.
 Joshua Freeman (1730-1796) built the house at 25 Granite Street, formerly 210 Deering Avenue.
Dr. Stephen Cummings owned the house from about 1835-1852 and Jeremiah Dow owned it from 1852-1886.
When William S. Denny owned it from the mid 1890s to the early 1900s, he remodeled the home and named it "Bethwood." Maine Memory
Samuel Waldo (1741-1770)
Obit mentioning tavern Joshua 's son in law. Joshua Freeman Weeks Thursday, October 14, 1875 Portland Daily Press (Portland, ME)


  1. Great post, except that the journal must have been John Adams, not John Q. was not born until 1767

  2. Actually is is John Quincy Adams but I should have listed the year 1786 not 1766 which changed THANKS for correction I am going to post the page on my the post Glad you enjoyed story