Revolutionary War Historical Article

The Journal of Nathaniel Perkins Jr.
A Revolutionary War Hero

by Donald N. Moran

Editor's Note: This article was reprinted from the October/November 1998 Edition of the The Liberty Tree Newsletter

It is a rarity that we have a first person account of a 18th century common citizen but such is the case with Nathaniel Perkins, Jr.

Mr. and Mrs. Clinton Argotsinger, descendants of Nathaniel Perkins, Jr. have as a treasured possession, a journal originally written by Nathaniel. There are 18 pages in his own handwriting. There were once an additional 12, which have been cut out.

The manuscript was inherited by Archibald Clark (1792-1881), a descendant, who used those pages to write business account information. We should not fault Archibald as paper was extremely scarce at that time but those missing pages would have added much to our knowledge of the life of Nathaniel Perkins, Jr.

According to a footnote in the transcription of Nathaniel's Journal, the line of inheritance is as follows, although we don't know from which of his three daughters they descend: Deborah married Asa Clark, Tabitha married Jesse Clark (it is doubtful that she had any children as she died at age twenty, and in said journal, her father does not mention that she had children, which, based on the detail of his narrative regarding her death he surely would have) and Thankful married Jonathan Clark.

Archibald Clark was the son of one of these couples. He married Lucy (Laura) Briggs, and had Eunice Clark who married Thomas Wetherbee. Their grandson, Burton Argotsinger had a son Clinton Argotsinger, who is in possession of the journal.

This Journal has never been published before.

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Nathaniel Perkins, Jr.

His Book of Memorandum Containing Some Memorable Voyages of His Life

(corrections have been added in brackets)

"Who was born January the first day on Tuesday in the year of our Lord 1740, on Littlerest Hill, in South Kingston in the County of Kings (now Washington) and State of Rhode Island. Who was the son of Nathaniel Perkins, who was the son of Abraham Perkins, who was the son of David Perkins of Bridgewater in the Massachusetts Government.

It hath been my lot to experience abundance of rich mercy and loving kindness from God through Jesus Christ in my pilgrimage not with standing my unworthiness of any, for which I desire to bless and praise His Holy name. I can say He hath brought me in a way I knew not; where afflictions and consolations are mingled and are working the self same end (i.e.) God's glory and my soul's good as I humbly trust.

I was brought up in my father's house, had common letter learning and that from my infancy, and was taught by my father rules in several mechanical arts. That which I followed at the twentieth year of my age was blacksmithing. This same year I contracted marriage with Mary Record, who was born the 20th of February, 1740. We were married October 9th, 1760, on which change of my condition I also changed my calling to that of a house carpenter. On the 4th day of June 1761, we had one daughter born named Elizabeth. On the 12th of March following it struck my fancy to see the western county and accordingly set out in company with my cousin George Crandal and one more. We proceeded to Reignbek [Rheinbeck] in Dutchess County in the State of New York, where I continued at work at my trade the following summer to good advantage until sometime in October following, when I was visited by my father-in-law, John Record, with a request from Elder James Rogers from Rhode Island who was then at Poughkeepsie for me to meet him there and engage in business for him on which I left my business there. I met him at the place and entered with my family into his employ where we continued from November 1761 to February 1762 in which time he got one hundred and forty dollars of my money into his hands which was all my earnings from being a house builder. The following May, Rogers made his escape from the sheriff and left me with six pounds to buy a cow and one old stifled horse to get my living in a strange country.

On the sixth day of July following, we had a son born called Nathaniel, born on Wednesday in the year 1763. , This was a year of great trouble of mind for the loss of my interest and on hearing of my father's sickness. I resolved the following spring to remove to Rhode Island again where we landed in the month of April 1764. We went to my father's house and dwelt the remainder of that year in which time I contracted with my father for fourteen acres of land on which to erect a small habitation and followed my trade to enable me to pay for the land. In process of time, I happily did so with the assistance of thirty dollars only from James Rogers on the behalf of his father.

Our second daughter, Deborah, was born on Wednesday, October 30th, 1765. My father, after two year's tedious illness, died on the 17th of February, 1766 in the 56th year of his age. He left one hundred acres of land to be equally divided between six sons when the youngest should come of age, reserving the rents and profits to my mother during her life, for which the brothers compounded with her and made division so that my division and my brother Abraham's which I bought, consisted of about fifty acres of land.

Our third daughter, Mary, was born on Monday, November 9th, 1767 about the time I being somewhat infirm and not able to go out two day's work at carpentering. I dropped that business and resumed my former calling, that of a smith, about which time I was induced to turn fisherman and join Dr. Benjamin Weight and Co. in building two boats and a wooden seine for the purpose of taking the horse mackerel, but the project not succeeding I sold my part to John Weight, his brother.

One considerable branch in the smith line was riveting saddle trees which my brother Abraham made after the English plan together with the country work I followed until the war broke out in 1775 at which time I engaged with the town of South Kingston to make one hundred firelocks (1) for the equipping the militia company of said town, but before I had accomplished twenty-five, I found the continental money so depreciated that I went no further with him. I was called on to do duty in guarding the shores in three expeditions on Rhode Island (2), but little else could be done till the close of the war at which time, from the high price imported cutlery and hardware bore, I was encouraged to got [get] into that branch of the business. I made bayonets, gun locks and war implements, broadaxes, adz augers, chisels, iron squares, compasses, draw knifes, cooper axes, shovels, sheep shears, hand shears, knives and forks, pen knives, stirrups, and bridle bits. I made all these together with my old business of riveting trees, which on carrying a quantity to Newport to an old customer, I could not trade. To my mind I resolved to return and commence saddlery. I bought nine or ten sides of saddle leather and other utensils and went to making saddles, both men and women's, which business I followed until the year 1789.

During the last five or six years, by the depreciation of the currency and bad rates, I being collector, I lost as much as two hundred dollars. In the Spring of the year 1789, I set myself to to build a wagon, and by the middle of June the same year, I accomplished it. I took the remainder of my family and some goods and steered my course for Batts Kiln (3) in Eastown (4) in this State to visit our children living there, and in search of a home in this western world, it brought to my mind Abraham's Journey. We spent the reminder of that year in visiting our children and friends and realizing the want of a home. We had at one time our land in South Kingston, Rhode Island. The one half of our household goods and tools were with my wife and one child in Poughkeepsie. Myself and four children, with my stock and the remainder of my goods, were at Batts Kiln and so remained until March 1790. At this time, I sold my land in South Kingston and began to draw our effects together again. After abundance of fatigue and expense, we settled in Broadalbin where my wife and myself were really willing to live [out] our appointed time.

But the greatest shock my family had ever yet met was still behind [ahead?]. For on the third day of October the same year, we lost by death our beloved daughter Tabitha, aged twenty years. She appeared to be the flower of our family, and was an early professor of religion and in good measure adorned her profession by a chaste life and becoming deportment in her conversation in the world, the little time she was in it. At sometimes she found herself caught with the vanities of youthful pleasures for which she much lamented. When on her sick and dying bed, the endearing and dutifull expressions to I her parents, the sinable [sinful?] and weighty exhortations to her brothers and sisters and visitors in her sickness, and fervent prayers for her survivors were powerful on all her attendance; and I believe will never be forgotten ill in this world by many of them.

The doctor came in to see her and thought her spirits sunk so low and spoke very cheerfully to her and told her she must cheer up her spirits­- it is a pity so promising a young women should die to which she replied, 'Doctor, I am more afraid to get well again than I am of dying.' At one time when she had a fainting fit and had a little recovered, she thought, as also the spectators thought, that she was dying. She took me by the hand and repeated the following verses:

'Honored parents, fare you well
My Jesus doth me call,
I leave you here with God until
I meet you once for all
Jesus can make a dying bed
Feel soft as downy pillows are,
While on His breast I lean my head
And breathe my life out sweetly there.'

But she revived and lived some days after that and expressed many times a lively faith in the imputed righteousness of Christ to be all her dependence for an admittance into the joys above. I can say I never had greater satisfaction in the departure of any person. May God grant we all make so hopeful an exit.

As I have omitted the births of some of my children in their proper time, I shall here insert our own births and time of marriage. I was born Tuesday, January 1, 1739/ 40. Mary, my wife, was born February 20, 1739/40. We were married October 9, 1760. The births of my children follow: Elizabeth - June 4, 1761; Nathaniel- July 6, 1763 in Poughkeepsie; Deborah - October 30, 1765 in South Kingston; Mary - November 9, 1767 in South Kingston; Tabitha - June 10, 1770, died October 3, 1790; Virtue ­August 13, 1772; Luke - May 5, 1774; John,- May 10,1776; Thankful- September 2, 1778. "

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The balance of the existing pages of his journal are devoted to his religious beliefs and related problems. It is of limited interest and too lengthy for inclusion herein. The last sentence reads: "And by reason of my children's removing to the New Country, they tugged after us which I shall notice in the second part."

Unfortunately the rest of the journal is missing. It would have been most interesting, particularly about reestablishing his home in Broadalbin, New York.

 

NOTES:

(1) - According to the records of the Provisional Government of Rhode Island, the amount paid for each musket was three dollars and fifty cents! (Today a reproduction of a musket is $850.00)

(2) - In the pension files for Nathaniel Perkins, III, Nathaniel Jr.'s son, it states that Nathaniel III served as a substitute for his father, the statement about military service is technically correct, but he apparently did not serve himself.

(3) - Possibly he was referring to the Batten Kill River which runs near Easton.

(4) - Eastown is Easton, Washington County, New York.

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