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!

    Richard Grady
    Mendon, MA

                                                       Mendon Menu       


    For some years this was the home of the Seth Hastings
    family. In 1818, it was sold to Jonathan Russell.

    Seth Hastings purchased the Keith Inn from John Hill in
    1806.  Under his ownership, it was used as a residence

Mendon Bank 1825, Atty. Seth Hastings, president

Now, the Mendon Historical Museum

                    Law Office - 1820

    Atty. Seth Hastings
    Atty. William Soden
    Atty. Caleb Hayward
    Atty. Charles C.P. Hasting

Gravestone of Seth Hastings in Old Cemetery in Mendon.