The Hastings Family of Mendon: 1796-1848
“For those to whom much has been given, much is expected.”
Seth Hastings and his family had been blessed with wealth, academic ability, professional sophistication, social rank, and political influence. Though they were well-to-do, they readily gave service to their local, state, and national government. They also gave generously to their town and church. Many would regard their lives as enviable. They were part of Mendon’s nobility. To the Hastings family, much had been given, and from themselves much was expected. Yet, throughout their lives there were lingering episodes of tragedy and sadness. In spite of their stature in the community, there were prevailing reminders that they were mortal.
The Hastings family was regarded as one of the most distinguished families in town. Seth graduated from Harvard University in 1782, passed the bar exam, and established a law practice in Mendon. In 1796, he married Chloe Davenport. He built a law office in 1820, and in 1825, he became president of the town’s first bank. He was also the owner of a bakery. His son, William Soden Hastings, also graduated from Harvard and was admitted to the bar in 1820. Another son, Charles C.P. Hastings, graduated from Brown University in 1825, became a lawyer and joined the family business. His daughter Mary, married Attorney Caleb Hayward, and the four barristers practiced law in the small brick building at 13 Main Street.
Seth Hastings’ devotion to public service was exemplary. He became town treasurer in 1794 and a member of the first school committee in 1796. He worked on a committee to create Hartford Turnpike and made sure that it went through Mendon, as had Middle Post Road, the interstate roadway that it replaced. He defended the town against law suits by Bellingham and Uxbridge. In addition, he was elected to two terms in the U.S. Congress and later as a senator in the Massachusetts State Senate. He was chief justice in the Worcester County Court of Sessions. He donated the land and a generous amount of money for the construction of the Unitarian Church in 1820. He was an extraordinary public servant.
Following the fine example of the father, the sons also devoted their lives to the service of others. William served as postmaster in the family law office from 1825-1836,and at the same time managed to be a state representative, then a state senator. He moved to Virginia in 1836 and was elected there to three terms in Congress. Brother Charles and Caleb Hayward served on the school committee, road commission and a committee to create a house for the poor. Their devotion and energy were most commendable.
In spite of all their achievements, the family had to endure many sorrows and periods of grief. Seth and Chloe lost their fifteen month old son Seth in 1807, when he stopped breathing due to a piece of apple being lodged in his windpipe. The following year, Chloe died of consumption at age 34, leaving Seth and several small children. Daughter Hannah died four years later at age 12. Daughter Chloe died at age 19. William died at age 44 as did Charles. Charles’s wife Anna was so distraught that she and her four children moved out of their 7 Maple Street home to 6 Hastings Street. Mary’s husband Caleb died at age 37 and her daughter died at age 15. Their devastation was unimaginable.
The members of the Hastings family made use of their numerous talents to improve the lives of others. Instead of simply basking in the wealth of a prestigious private law firm, they used government as a means to carry out their good will. Coinciding with their benevolence was an ongoing bereavement that pervaded their lives as one tragedy after another took place. Perhaps their strength in dealing with their sorrow was the source that fueled their uncommon enthusiasm to public service. Mendon Village Center was essentially a family compound for the Hastings-Davenport family in the early 1800’s, and today the village is their living tribute. Perhaps Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem, “First Fig”, might offer a summary of the lives of this highly respected Mendon family.
“My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night.
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends,
It gives a lovely light!
Hastings Family — Births, Marriages, Deaths (Info found by Jack Hodgens)
Seth Hastings – born April 8, 1762…….married Chloe Davenport – June 8, 1796……died Nov. 19, 1831
Chloe Davenport – b 1774…….married Seth Hastings——June 8, 1796……..died Nov. 5, 1808
Marriage took place at 133 North Avenue. Chloe died at age 34.
William Soden Hastings – b June 3, 1798 died June 17, 1842 (age 44) (in Virginia)
Hannah Hastings – b Nov. 3, 1799 died Feb. 1, 1812 ( age 12)
Mary D. Hastings – 1802….m Atty. Caleb Hayward Oct. 31, 1822…d July 26, 1861
Charles Coatsworth Pinckney Hastings – b Dec. 8, 1803 m Anna Allen 1838 died September 25, 1848 (age 44)
Seth Hastings Jr. – b Nov. 25, 1805 – died Feb. 11, 1807 (age 15 months) (choked on apple)
Chloe Hastings – b March 15, 1808 -died April 12, 1827 (age 19)
Seth and Chloe bought farm house from Calvin Smith in 1802. They may have lived there earlier. It was at the corner of Emerson Street and Hastings Street. Seth sold house to Jonathan Russell in 1818.
Charles C.P. and Anna lived at 7 Maple Street until his death in 1848. Anna and children moved to 6 Hastings Street, a house designed by Dr. John Metcalf, a family friend.
Atty. Seth Hastings built brick law office in 1820. Law firm included William, his son, and Caleb Hayward, his son in law. Charles C.P. was still in college at that time. He later joined the firm.
Bank President Seth Hastings built brick bank in 1825. He hired his son in law’s brother, Ebenezer Hayward, as cashier. He built a house at 7 Hastings Street.
Atty. Caleb Hayward and Mary lived at 38 Maple Street. Their china closet in parlor served as a temporary bank vault in 1825 until the construction of the bank was completed.
Unitarian Church was built in 1820 on land donated by Seth Hastings. (13 Maple Street)
Bakery owner, Seth Hastings, built a bakery at 2 Hastings Street around 1815.
Seth Hastings moved the Hill Inn from 10 Hastings Street to 26 Maple Street. He inherited it from Innkeeper John Hill in 1806. Seth built a brick apartment building on the same foundation site as the Hill structure in 1821. He added a bakery by 1827. Foundation site goes back to 1660’s — Joseph White.
Seth Hastings or a relative built house at 24 Maple Street as a family guest house.
A member of the Davenport family lived at 11 Maple Street in the 1820’s – 1830’s.
Atty. Alexander Allen lived in Fred Phipps’s house at 22 Maple Street. His sister, Anna, was married to Charles C.P. Hastings, and they lived across the street.
James Cunnabel was married to ___ Allen, a sister of Anna and Alexander.
Jabez Aldrich, storekeeper at 1 Maple Street, was married to ____ Allen, sister of Anna and Alexander.
Other dignitaries in this small village center included Atty. Richard George at 24 Main Street, Dr. John Metcalf at 5 Hastings Street, and Atty./Ambassador Jonathan Russell at 1 Emerson Street.