Lemuel Shattuck, Author of "The Descendants of William Shattuck"

In his biography Lemuel Shattuck (1793-1859) tells us that he "never had the benefit of much public instruction." (p. 302 "Descendants") By the time he died in 1859 he had five major publications under his authorship, and was a force in public education, public health and vital statistics, and a respected author of two historical publications. Perhaps it is the lack of a formal education that gave him the ability to quickly absorb the essentials in the fields he entered, recognize what was important in them and ultimately "disrupt" them, to use a contemporary term describing how he transformed the fields he entered.

Despite his lack of a formal education, from 1818 to 1822 he became a teacher in Troy and Albany New York and at the frontier outpost of Detroit, Michigan Territory at a Lancastrian School. Leaving that profession, in 1823, in order to give himself the funds to pursue other interests, he became a successful merchant in Concord. But he did not leave education behind. He joined the Concord school committee and pushed through a reorganization of public schools, introducing school registers and annual reports on schools.

His lifelong interest in history, which would eventually inspire his book on the history of the Shattucks in America, resulted in his membership in the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1830, and his election to the American Antiquarian Society in 1831.

In 1833 he moved to Cambridge, then Boston in 1834, where he became a publisher and bookseller, a member of the city council, a justice of the peace, and a member of the State Legislature. His presence in the halls of power was soon felt. It is possible he had begun his project to document his ancestors, given his election to the American Antiquarian Society and the fact he published a history of Concord in 1835. He had retired from business at the age of 46 in 1839 which gave him the time to pursue his more academic interests. In that year he helped found the American Statistical Society.

As the result of the deficiencies he encountered in public vital records while writing his history of Concord, he campaigned to change the Massachusetts census to include better vital information, including births, deaths and marriages. He overcame bureaucratic resistance and in 1842 his recommendations were accepted and implemented. There must have been colleagues who ducked into their offices when he was seen coming down the hall. In 1849 he was invited to Washington as a consultant for the design of the 1850 U.S. census as the Massachusetts census had become the model for censuses in all U.S. states. Contemporary American genealogists have a deep debt of gratitude to Lemuel Shattuck for helping to make the paper trail to the past a lot easier to follow.

In 1844 he helped found the New England Genealogical Society and was the its vice president for five years. He was probably working on the book that was eventually published in 1855 as "Memorials of the Descendants of William Shattuck, the Progenitor of the Families in America That Have Borne His Name" printed by Dutton and Wentworth in Boston in 1855. As a scholar of Shattuck history he not only researched paper trails back to the ancestors, he also corresponded with their descendants and passed on an oral history of the Shattucks in his book. The book's accuracy and detail still form the solid foundation of early American Shattuck genealogy until this day.

Genealogists studying other American immigrants owe a deep debt of gratitude to Lemuel Shattuck (1793-1859). He played a significant role in the design of the U.S. census beginning with the 1850 census.

Lemuel Shattuck had an amazing ability to master subjects and see through to the essentials. Lemuel Shattuck's surname appears on the Frieze of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine because of his contribution to public health. Here is what that institution writes about his contribution:

"In 1849 the Massachusetts State Legislature appointed a Sanitary Commission 'to prepare and report to the next General Court a plan for a sanitary survey of the State', with Shattuck as Chief Commissioner and ultimately the author of its report. The report met with an enthusiastic reception from the New England Journal of Medicine but otherwise its recommendations were ignored.

Twenty years later the Secretary of the Board of Health of Massachusetts based his plans for public health on Shattuck's recommendations and found that they needed little updating. By that time Shattuck had died and thus did not witness the vindication of his organizing abilities."

Lemuel Shattuck was born in America and lived most of his life before the Victorian age began in 1837. But in every respect his mastery of disparate subjects and pioneering work in the fields he conquered makes him an early example of the self-educated Victorian gentleman who knew no boundaries and impediments to his restless mind.

In His Own Words

In the Descendants Lemuel tells the story of his life in his own words (pp. 302-312). He speaks of himself in the third person.

Lemuel Shattuck, s. of John, (p. 172,) was b. in Ashby, Oct. 15, 1793; removed with his parents, before completing his first year, to New Ipswich, N. H., and resided there and in the adjoining towns during his minority and until 1815, as a farmer, manufacturer, and school teacher. In 1817 he resided in Troy and Albany, New York, and in 1818 to 1822 in Detroit, Michigan, as a teacher; in 1823 to 1833, in Concord, Massachusetts, as a merchant; in 1834 in Cambridge, as a bookseller; and since 1834, in Boston, as a publisher and bookseller, until his retirement from a regular business. He never had the benefit of much public instruction. The common school in the district to which his father belonged was at a considerable distance from his dwelling-house, and was generally very imperfectly taught, and continued only a part of the year. He seldom attended more than five or six weeks in one season. The chief educational privileges which he enjoyed in his youth, were in the school of mutual instruction, composed of his elder brothers and his sisters, kept in intervals of leisure in an industrious and a laborious early life-time, in his father's own household. Two quarters in the academy completed his public education. Whatever knowledge he has possessed besides has been acquired almost entirely in his private study, by his own unaided efforts, at such times as could be spared from active labor and business, or from sleep. And he has great satisfaction in stating as the result of his own experience, that any person, by having a judicious plan for saving the odd moments of life and appropriating them to reading good books or the acquisition of useful information, may obtain a large fund of knowledge, which will be a qualification for greater usefulness in any station, and be the source of great gratification and happiness in more mature and declining life.

If he was to allude to the events of his life some reader might perhaps consider it as savoring too much of egotism, which is as distasteful to him as it can be to any one else; and yet there may be many of his kindred with whom he is not personally acquainted, who may desire to know something more of the author of these Memorials than the mere mention of his existence and connections. And since his name has been intimately associated with several printed works, and with some measures of general interest, he hopes to be justified if he should briefly refer, for this purpose, in these Family Memorials, to a few only of those which have attracted the most public attention. Several other works, the production of his pen, and some measures which he originated, or with which he has been connected, less publicly known, will be passed unnoticed.

Besides other offices to which he has been chosen, he was a member of the City Council of Boston for 1837, and the five subsequent years, until he declined a reelection. He has held a commission of a justice of the peace, and has been several years a representative from Boston in the State Legislature. In 1830 he was chosen a member of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and about the same time a member of the American Antiquarian Society; and he was one of the original founders both of the American Statistical Association and of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. He has also been a member of various literary, benevolent, and other associations. In all the public positions in which he has been placed, he has never shrunk from the performance of any labor that seemed to be required, with or without emolument; and he never hesitated to propose new measures, or a modification of old ones, if in his judgment, after being maturely examined, they promised to be of utility. In carrying these measures into execution he has often been a laborer for the public, and sometimes to the sacrifice, perhaps to too great an extent, of his own personal interest. He has often sowed the seed, cultivated the field, and reared the fruit for others to harvest. He has been willing to do good for the sake of doing good; and if others appropriated his labors to themselves, and any honor or profit that might be attached to them, he has seldom complained. He would never stoop to intrigue for, or solicit office, how well soever he might be qualified for it by natural endowment, or educational capability, or how much soever it might be merited by personal services already rendered. In this respect he has differed from many others. He has looked with great disapprobation, and not without apprehension for the future welfare of our country, upon the corrupt practices by which unworthy men and unworthy measures have often been pushed by unworthy means into public favor.

In 1818, he organized at Detroit the first Sabbath School ever opened in Michigan; and superintended it during the four subsequent years of his residence in that city. He afterwards organized and superintended for many years a similar school in Concord.

While a member of the School Committee in Concord he reorganized the public schools in that town, introduced a new system for the division of the public school-money, and prepared and printed a new code of school regulations. One of these regulations required that school registers, prepared under such forms as he prescribed, should be furnished to the teachers at the commencement, to be returned at the end of each successive school term; and another, that the committee should make written reports annually to the town concerning the schools; and in 1830 he prepared, presented, and published their first report. These measures were original with him ; and, so far as his knowledge extends, this was the first Annual School Report of that description ever presented in a public town meeting in Massachusetts. Before that time it had not been considered one of the duties of such committees to make a report of their doings concerning the matters entrusted to them. A similar regulation was subsequently introduced in Cambridge, Northborough, and other places; and it operated so well that at his suggestion, while a member of the Legislature, the law of April 13, 1838, requiring its adoption throughout the State, was passed. And it may with perfect confidence be said, that no measure, aside from the establishment of the Board of Education itself, has done so much for the improvement of the public schools of the State. In preparing some articles relating to the important historical incidents for which Concord is celebrated, for the newspaper then published in that town, he met with so much matter, not only of local but of general interest and value, that he conceived the idea of preparing a separate work on the subject. And this idea was matured in his publication, entitled—

" A History of the Town of Concord, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, from its earliest settlement to 1832; and of the adjoining Towns, Bedford, Acton, Lincoln, and Carlisle ; containing various notices of County and State History not before published. Boston : Russell, Odiorne & Co., 1835. 8vo. pp. 400."

This work was one of the pioneer histories of its class; and in plan and execution had some original features.* It was prepared in hours snatched from active business and from sleep, during the last four years of the author's residence in Concord. While making the investigation necessary for the preparation of this volume he became acquainted with the condition of the public records in many towns, and learned to his regret that the registration of births, marriages and deaths, was generally neglected; and that comparatively few public or private registers of the kind were made. Viewing it as a matter of general interest and importance, he called public attention to the subject by communications in the newspapers ; and in 1841 published a wwork under the title:—

"A Complete System of Family Registration. Part First, containing charts, forms, and directions for registering, on a new and simple plan, the birth, marriage, and death of the several members of the family, and for ascertaining and exhibiting their connections, relative situation, heirs at law, ancestors, descendants, and generation. Part Second, containing forms and suggestions for registering other particulars, proper or useful to be retained in remembrance, relative to any member of a family." 4to.

After several editions of this work had been published the stereotype plates were destroyed by fire. Another work, upon a new and more simple plan, has been prepared, and will soon appear, under the following double title:—

"Blank Book Forms for Family Registers, devised and constructed upon a new, simple, and comprehensive Plan, and designed for genera] Use in every Family; including Suggestions and Directions for an improved System of Family Registration." 4to.

The page following this general title contains another title, partly blank, for a specific family, to be filled out by the name of the one who may use it for its own records, thus expressed:—

"The Family Register of the Ancestors, Connections, and Descendants of -------------, first compiled and arranged by --------------, and continued by ---------------."

The registration laws of the State were first brought under the consideration of the Legislature at the request of Mr. Shattuck, and resulted in the passage of the act of March 3, 1842. He furnished some of the materials for the First and Second Reports under this act. The Fourth Report, on a new plan, was prepared entirely by him; and the Appendix contained some general views on the subject, also published in a separate form, entitled:—

"Letter to the Secretary of State on the Registration of Births, Marriages, and Deaths in Massachusetts." 8vo. pp. 42.

While a member of the Legislature in 1849, a revision of the laws was made agreeably to his recommendations as chairman of a committee, in his report, entitled:—

"Report of the Joint Special Committee of the Legislature of Massachusetts, appointed to consider the expediency of modifying the Laws relating to the Registration of Births, Marriages, and Deaths, presented March 3, 1849." pp. 58. House Document, No. 65.

At the special request of the Secretary of State he designed and prepared the blanks to carry this new law into execution, and wrote the pamphlet entitled:—

"Instructions of the Secretary of State to Town and City Clerks, Registrars, and others, relating to the Registration of Births, Marriages, and Deaths, embracing the Laws of the Commonwealth on the subject." 8vo. pp. 32.

The plan of the Reports made under these new regulations was devised by him, though the execution of this plan, having been intrusted to others, has not been entirely such as he desired. He also originated the plan, and drew the ordinance, which was passed by the city of Boston, for carrying the laws into operation in that city, and for creating the office of City Registrar.

The system of public registration here described, though it at first met with some opposition, has since become generally popular, and is now considered a necessity. Similar systems have more recently been introduced into other States, and are likely to become general throughout the whole Union. If faithfully carried out, henceforward the rights of property will be more securely guarded, the natural history and laws of human life will become more generally known, and genealogists and biographers will have a more easy and sure pathway to the information they may desire.

In 1837 he devised the plan for arranging, printing, and preserving the "Documents of the City of Boston, printed by order of the several Departments of the City Government," which was begun in 1838, and has since been continued in one or more annual volumes upon the same plan. And he then introduced a resolution, which was passed, providing for exchanging such documents for those of other cities, intending that they should form a nucleus for the commencement of a city library. At the same time he collected and caused to be bound a few sets of such documents as could be found of the four previous years, which had been printed without system, and left to chance for their preservation. He also prepared a "Municipal Register, containing the Rules and Orders of the City Council, recent Ordinances and Laws, and a List of the Municipal Officers of the City of Boston for 1841." This was the first publication of its kind, and has since been continued annually, under the same general title, and upon a similar plan. He also obtained the passage of the Resolve by the State Legislature of April 25, 1838, providing for international exchanges of State documents and publications, for those of other states and governments. In 1849, as a member of the Legislative Library Committee, he wrote the Report, (House Document, No. 71,) recommending a modification of the plan for enlarging and managing the State Library.

During his connection with the city government of Boston he labored with others to reduce the public debt, and to secure an economical administration of its affairs; and the condition of the finances in 1842 and the three following years, as compared with the then previous and the now existing debts, will show with what results. When the great question of introducing water into the city was discussed, honestly believing that the specific measure then proposed for the acceptance of the citizens would not be expedient, he wrote, at the request of others, two pamphlets in opposition to it. The first was entitled:—

"Letter from Lemuel Shattuck, in answer to Interrogatories of J. Preston, in relation to the Introduction of Water into the City of Boston Boston: Samuel N. Dickinson, Printer, 1845." 8vo. pp. 40.

The second, which appeared anonymously, was entitled:—

"How shall we vote on the Water Act ?" 8vo. pp. 24.

These pamphlets were extensively circulated among the people, and the defeat of the measure was attributed mainly to their influence. Another act, less objectionable, was afterwards passed and accepted by the city, without opposition. Among various other matters which received his careful examination while connected with the city government, were the then existing Bills of Mortality. The result of this examination appeared in his publication, entitled:—

"The Vital Statistics of Boston, containing an Abstract of the Bills of Mortality for the last twenty-nine years, and a General View of the Population and Health of the City at other periods of its History. Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard." 8vo. pp. 36. Extracted from the American Journal of Medical Sciences for April, 1841.

In 1845 he was employed to superintend the taking of the census of Boston ; and he then originated and introduced, for the first time in this country; a new plan for the enumeration—that of taking the name and description of every person enumerated; and among other characteristics specifying the birthplace of each, and thus distinguishing the native from the foreign population. The elementary facts thus obtained were afterwards abstracted in a variety of statistical tables and statements, giving much new information of value which had not and could not be obtained under the old method of taking a census before in use. The result of his labors appeared in a volume entitled:—

"Report to the Committee of the City Council, appointed to obtain the Census of Boston for the year 1845, embracing Collateral Facts and Statistical Researches, illustrating the History and Condition of the People, and their Means of Progress and Prosperity. Boston: John H. Eastburn, City Printer, 1840." 8vo. pp. 280, with Maps and Plates.

This report has been highly commended; and it served as a model for similar reports in Charleston, S. C. New Orleans, and other cities.

As Chairman of the Legislative Committee he wrote their report, recommending for the State census a modification of the plan followed in Boston, entitled:—

"Report on the Subject of the State Census of 1850, by the Special Committee of the Legislature of Massachusetts, presented April 7, 1849." 8vo. pp. 46. House Document, No. 127.

In November, 1849, he was invited by the Census Board at Washington to visit that city, to assist in preparing the plan for the National Census of 1850; and the first, second, third, fifth, and sixth (five of the six) blank schedules used in that census, with the accompanying instructions, were designed and prepared principally by him. The act of Congress, also, relating to the census, was passed, with a few modifications, substantially as he drew it.**

In 1849 he wrote the Report of the Committee to whom was referred the Memorials of the Massachusetts Medical Society, relating to a Sanitary Survey of the State, (House Document, No. 66,) and, during the same year, he was appointed by the Governor and Council, Chairman of the Commissioners under a Resolve of the Legislature, passed by the recommendation of this Committee. This appointment was entirely unsolicited and unexpected, and was not accepted without doubt and hesitation. At the request of his associates on the commission, he collected the materials for their report, and it was designed and written entirely by him. It appeared in a volume, entitled:—

"Report of a General Plan for the Promotion of Public and Personal Health, devised, prepared, and recommended by the Commissioners appointed under a Resolve of the Legislature of Massachusetts, relating to a Sanitary Survey of the State, presented April 25, 1850. Boston: Dutton & Wentworth, State Printers, 1850." 8vo. pp. 544. Maps and Plates.***

A copy of this volume was distributed to each town clerk's office, and most of the public libraries in the State. The Appendix to this Report contains various illustrations of its most important principles, and among others three papers relating respectively to Lawrence, Attleborough, and Lynn, embracing an historical view of the population, sanitary condition, and statistics of those places, and their means of health, wealth, and prosperity. They were designed to show the manner in which such reports might be made concerning every town in the Commonwealth. Each of these papers was published in a separate pamphlet, and extensively circulated in those towns, under the following titles:—

1. " Sanitary Survey of the Town of Lawrence. By the Chairman of the Commissioners appointed under a Resolve of the Legislature of Massachusetts relating to a Sanitary Survey of the State. Reprinted from the Report of the Commissioners." 8vo. pp. 24. Maps and Plates.

2. " Sanitary Survey of the Town of Attleborough. By the Chairman of the Commissioners," &c. 8vo. pp. 32.

3. "Annual Report of the Board of Health of Lynn. By the Chairman of the Commissioners," &c. 8vo. pp. 30.

It may be proper to give the titles of two of his other works, which have been useful in the respective places for which they were designed. One is entitled:—

"The Domestic Book Keeper and Practical Economist: Suggesting how to live independently, and how to be independent while we live: Containing Directions and Forms for a new method of keeping an account of the receipts and expenditures of Individuals and Families. Designed for those who are willing to know how they live, and who desire to live better. Boston: 1843." Small 4to. pp. 36, besides blank forms.

The other is entitled:—

"The Scholar's Daily Journal, containing simple Forms for recording each day's Lessons, and for, exhibiting, at one view, the Attendance, Character, and Intellectual Progress, during each Month: embracing Introductory Suggestions and Rules of Behavior for Good Scholars, designed for Public Schools, Academies, Colleges, and Home Instruction. Boston: Published by Lemuel Shattuck. 1843." Small 4to, pp. 12, besides forms for records, &c.

These comprise a part of his publications. All which have borne his name, or which purport to be written by him, have been wholly his own works, and he alone has been their author. None were written by others and assumed by himself as his own. He might specify more particularly the circumstances under which they appeared, and some of their most important contents; but this would be inconsistent with his present purpose. They must be left to speak for themselves. He might also go into further details concerning the history of his somewhat changeable and eventful life—his successes and his failures, his struggles and his achievements; and exhibit some of the incidents and causes which have been influential in making him what he has been, and in placing him in the different positions which he has occupied. Many of these incidents have been topics of interest in the home circle, and among his immediate connections and friends, and might perhaps be so to his other kindred; but if further publicity is given to them, it would be more congenial to his feelings that it should be done through some other medium than in this volume. He has no disposition to make himself too conspicuous even here. Lessons of usefulness might be derived from the history of almost every life, how humble soever it may have been; and in the proper place and at the proper time they should be imparted for the benefit and improvement of others. If any one should consider what is here presented as egotistical and offensive to good taste, let him pass these pages unread. He trusts, however, that no such one will be found among his kindred. They will probably agree with him in believing that the author of these Memorials is as well qualified as any one else to speak of his own labors, and will approve of this brief sketch which he has written concerning some passages of his own history. He might have said more, but, in justice to himself, he could scarcely have said less.

The matters here noticed came under his consideration incidentally, amid other occupations; and he endeavored to give them, as he endeavors to give all matters entrusted to him, the thought and study which they seemed to require for their full comprehension, and to ascertain their utility in practical life. And he has great satisfaction in knowing that the results of the few measures he has proposed, so far as they have been tested by experiment, have already equalled his original expectations. They relate to the health, education, elevation, progress, and history of man ; and though they may not seem to the superficial observer to be of great importance, nor to have had the temporary popularity of some measures inflated into undue importance often by demagogues for political purposes, yet their permanent good effects will be apparent years hence, when others shall have been forgotten.

He m. Dec. 1, 1825, Clarissa Baxter, b. in Boston, Feb. 11, 1797, dau. of Hon. Daniel Baxter, a native of Quincy, and of Sarah White, dan. of Capt. James White of Weymouth.


* William Lincoln, Esq. in his History of Worcester, says, " The general plan of arrangement has been imitated from Mr. Shaltuck's History of Concord. It would have been greatly desirable that the excellency of this model could have been more generally copied." A favorable review of the work appeared in the North American Review for April, 1836, and in other periodicals.

** See Compendium of the Seventh Census of tlie United States, for 18.50, p. 13. The plan for taking1 the census of the States of New York and Massachusetts for 1835, has been copied substantially from that he prepared for the National Census of 1850.

*** From a printed legislative report, (House Document, No. 212. for 1852,) recommending the payment of the expenses of this Commission, we make the following extracts relating to the value of this work:-

"The report of the Commissioners has been noticed in many of the leading periodical publications, and we infer that no document ever emanated from the State that has been more generally commended. The following extracts from some of the most important medical reviews in other Slates indicate the opinions of those who have read the work and are competent to judge of its merits:—

"The book before us, although under the uninviting' title of a 'report,' is yet, in truth, an epitome of sanitary science. * * * We will not say the duty of the Commission has been well discharged; this would be far too feeble praise; for, although expecting much, the report far exceeds our expectations. * * * We doubt if there has appeared any work for many a year in our country that is of more real interest to the community than this, whether we regard it as

replete with suggestions for the promotion of personal health, or as a great political document intended to show the mode whereby the physical and intellectual powers of a people may be fully developed. Its being' the first of the kind ever published in this country, imparts to it an interest of more than ordinary notice; its being the best of the kind ever published, adds greatly to this interest and to the reputation of the author, and we feel assured that the objects aimed at must ultimately be attained when so presented." —N. Y. Journal of Medicine, March, 1851.

"This report is the result of that enlarged policy which characterizes the action of the legislatures of some of our older States, and which we hope soon to see infused among the western legislatures upon the subject, particularly of public health. * * * It is the fullest document yet issued on this side the Atlantic on the subject of sanitary regulations; it is worthy of the noble State from which it emanated, and the Commission has cause to congratulate itself upon the manner its duties have been performed." —Western Lancet, Cincinnati, March, 1851.

" We have thus given, at considerable length, the substance of this able and valuable report. After all that has been done by the people and governments of some countries of Europe, and after all that has been done by individuals and societies in America, this report is the first approach to legislation from any government in this country. * * * We commend this report with all its plans and details, its facts and arguments, to the careful consideration of physicians and philanthropists, of political economists and legislators, with the confident belief that the condition of man will be improved and the interests of humanity advanced, as well as public and private wealth increased, by its adoption." — American Journal of Medical Sciences, April,


A commendatory review .of the report is contained in the London" British and Foreign Medico-Chimrgical Review" for January, 1852, the leading quarterly medical review of the world.

Reviews, commending this work, appeared also in other medical journals, and in the North American Review. Christian Examiner, New Englander, and in various other periodical publications and newspapers.