In 1785 John Rogers was indentured out by the “Selectmen and Overseers of the Poor in Gloucester” to Francis Low to be taught the trade of a mariner. An orphaned boy of 14, he was to be taught to read, write and cipher, as well as being given room & board, clothing, and medical care until the age of 21. This process of apprenticing out orphans or children of the poor from a community ensured that they would be taken care of and not put out to work at the local poor house/farm. In fishing communities, where sailors’ children could be left destitute when a father did not return from a voyage, this was a somewhat common circumstance.
This Indenture Witnesseth That John Low, Esqr. John Somes, James Pearson, Junr. Joseph Procter, Merchants, and Stephen Haskell and Caleb Poole, Yeomen1, and James Day, Trader, all of Gloucester in the County of Essex and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in their capacity as Selectmen and Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Gloucester aforesaid within the said County of Essex, by and with the assent of two Justices of the Peace for said County – Have and hereby do put & bind John Rogers, the son of John Rogers deceased2, an Orphan & one of the poor of said town to be an Apprentice unto Francis Low of Gloucester aforesaid, Taylor (sic) and with the said Francis Low after the Manner of an Apprentice to dwell3 & serve from the day of the date hereof, until he shall arrive at the age of Twenty‐one years – being about Seven years & four months next ensuing and fully to be compleat (sic) & ended ‐‐‐
And the said Francis Low, for himself, his heirs, Executors, Administrators & Assigns4 doth covenant5, promise and agree to & with the said Selectmen & Overseers of the Poor aforesaid & their successors in said office in behalf of said Apprentice, in manner & form following. Viz. that he will teach said Apprentice or cause him to be taught the Mariner Art and to read and write a legible hand6 & to cipher7 to and thro (sic) the Rule of Three, and the Art of Navigation, if said Apprentice be capable to learn – and further will find & provide for and unto said Apprentice good and sufficient Meat, Drink, Apparel8, Physick9, Washing & Lodging fitting for an Apprentice during said term and at the end thereof to dismiss said Apprentice with two Suits of Apparel for each part of his Body, One for (the) Lord’s days and the other for Working or common days.
In Testimony whereof the Parties to these present Indentures have here interchangeably set their hands & seals, this thirteenth day of May, Anno Domini10, One thousand seven hundred & eighty five, and in the ninth year of our Independence.
Signed, Sealed & interchangeably Delivered in (the) Presence of
1 Yeomen = farmers
2 Deceased = died
3 Dwell = live
4 “Heirs,executors,administrators & assigns” = representatives
5 Covenant = agree
6 Legible hand = read ‐ able handwriting
7 Cipher = do math
8 Apparel = clothing
9 Physic = medicine
10 Anno domini = “in the year of our Lord”
John Rogers, Indenture (1785). Gloucester Archives, Gloucester, MA.
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