It’s still about the apples for Mary Rice in late 18th century Massachusetts. That’s fortunate because her insistence on keeping the fruit of her apples for the duration of her natural life left me with with a genealogical clue that did not require too much peeling.

The apples are mentioned in two deeds recorded consecutively in Middlesex County, Massachusetts in 1788.

The one I found first was the one recorded second.

Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Deed Book 97, page 459-460, Jonathan Puffer, Yeoman, and Jamime Puffer (his wife) and Matthias Rice, Yeoman, and Mary Rice (his wife), all of Sudbury to Luke Brooks, Yeoman, of Stow–dated 3 July 1788.

The land is described as follows:

…Tract of Upland lying in the Town of Stow aforesaid containing Eight Acres by Estamation be the same more or less and is bounded as follows Northerly on the highway Easterly by land of Decn Stephen Gibson as the fence now stands, Southerly on said Gibsons land as the fence stands still Southerly by Land of Joseph Gardner as the fence stands and Westerly by the land of John Connant as the fence Stands [??] to the highway aforesaid Reserving to the aforesaid Mary Rice all the Apples that may be annually in the old Orchard that is fenced in during her natural life

The previously recorded deed starting on page 458 is for the same piece of property–with the same date. This deed transfers the property from Simon Puffer, Yeoman, and Mary Puffer (his wife) of Stow to Luke Brooks, of Stow.

The legal description of the property in the Simon Puffer deed is the same. However, the “reservation of apples is styled differently:

Reserving for Mary Rice the said Puffers mother all the Appels[sic] in the Old Orchard that is fenced in during her nateral[sic] life

It would have been very easy to miss the key phrase “the said Puffers mother” as the rest of the description is the same. The image of the deed is somewhat difficult to read it would have been faster to assume they were the same, copy the text from the more legible deed, and move on.

That would have been a mistake. That “mother” reference is a clue.

The acknowledgement of the deed from Simon and Mary Puffer was witnessed by Silas Brooks, [Lolly?] Brooks, Jonathan Wood and was done before Justice of the Peace Jonathan Wood. The Brookses are likely relative to Luke Brooks who purchased the property.

Jonathan Puffer and Mary Rice acknowledged their deed on 1 July 1788 before witnesses Francis Faulkner, Lucy Faulkner, Mary Rice, Johnathan Puffer, and Joseph Daby Puffer with Francis Faulkner functioning as Justice of the Peace. Matthias Rice acknowledged the deed on 4 July 1788 before Justice of the Peace Jonathan Wood. Joseph Daby Puffer’s presence is a clue as well.

It pays to see who the witnesses were, if only as “proof” of their being alive on a certain date.

The mother clue suggests (but does not prove) that the Puffers are selling Mary Rice’s property–but the presence of the other Puffers suggests that it was originally owned by someone other than Mary.

Stay tuned.

Reserving the Apples: Part I

Reserving the Apples: Part II




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