Material Culture

One of the best ways to learn about a family’s economic circumstances and material surroundings is by reviewing wills and probate inventories, the latter of which involve  lists of a deceased person’s belongings taken by court-appointed appraisers—often neighbors of the decedent—for the purposes of settling estates and debts (Benes and Benes, 6). Elizabeth Cadman White did not leave a will because she predeceased her husband, but the wills of George and Hannah Cadman and of William White—which  were discussed in the initial research report—certainly provide some insight into the family’s possessions and as well as into their authors’ wishes for distributing their personal property. (A note on the identities of the witnesses of these wills appears below.) Had a probate inventory been taken following William White’s death, it would have been extremely helpful in providing a picture of the contents of the Cadman-White-Handy House during his and Elizabeth’s residence. For whatever reason, however, one does not appear to have been made, and William’s estate was not probated until after the death of his and Elizabeth’s son, William junior, in 1780.7 As a result, the probate inventories taken following the deaths of George and Hannah Cadman—and of William White junior, who inherited the Cadman-White-Handy House and who at some point may have lived there with his family—become even more important to analyze. Transcripts and discussions of these inventories follow; items of particular interest or value appear in boldface.


George Cadman’s Inventory (1718 estate valued at £2,282)

*housing and lands, £1,700

*silver plate, £22

*silver money & books, £13

*bills of credit, £33

*debts owed him, £33

*cattle, horses, sheep, & swine, £186

*cart, plows, chains, & “other implements for husbandry,” £10

*wearing apparel, beds, & bedding, £108

*brass & pewter, £12

*iron wear, £24

*gun, £2

*“riding furniture,” £11

*[paper torn] other provisions, £17

*[paper torn], £8

*rum cider with case & bottles, £4

*tobacco, £2

*new cloth & wool, £17

*chest of drawers, cupboard, tables, chairs, & other moveables, £22

*table linen, £3

*sundry sorts of lumber, £7

*corn & hay, £40



Hannah Cadman’s Inventory (1749 estate valued at £1717)

*wearing clothes, £132

*silver plate, £203

*money & bonds, £649

*beds & bedding, £269

*brass & iron ware, £105

*table linen, £12

*books & pewter, £39

*case bottles & earthernware, £4

*looking glasses, box & goods therein, £6

*[?] woodenware & chests, £14

*curtains, flax & cotton wool, £7

*Bell[oses?] & sundry other goods, £3

*chest, chairs, & bedsteads, £16

*saddle & bridle, £10

*horses, cattle, sheep, & hay, £176

*a cupboard & a gun, £27

*farming tools, £11

*rent, £25

*¼ of a old stable, £2


At the time of George Cadman’s death, most of his wealth lay in his housing and lands. His estate did include additional objects of value, such as silver, brass, pewter, and high- quality beds and bedding, and it is likely that he and Hannah had earlier given Elizabeth certain items to furnish her own household. At the time of George’s death in 1718, his  and Hannah’s  home likely would  have been considered  comfortably furnished  by the standards of the day; later in the colonial period, certain luxury items like clocks and pictures would become more readily available. (Note the looking glasses mentioned in Hannah’s  inventory.)  The  2004 Westport  archaeological  survey notes  that,  “Early proprietors of the town settled near coastal waterways and along both branches of the Westport River to insure passage from one community to another in the period before extensive road networks,” and that this strategic pattern of settlement served the residents well when “the import and export of goods, known as ’coasting,’ became extremely popular” in Westport  during the eighteenth century (66).


The inventory taken following Hannah’s death indicates that she had preserved much of the estate and wealth that had been entrusted to her. Not only had she managed to keep the farm operating, but she had evidently functioned as a successful businesswoman, collecting rent and engaging in financial transactions indicated by the money and bonds on hand at the time of her death. By not remarrying after George’s passing, Hannah had maintained both her independence and control over the property. Her inventory contains  a number of items that suggest refinement: expensive beds and bedding; brass, pewter, and iron ware; and exceptionally fine clothing, which Elizabeth inherited and which, unfortunately, was not itemized. (Note the inventory of William junior’s clothing, valued at only £17, below.) Conspicuously missing from both George’s and Hannah’s inventories are such items as drinking glasses, teapots, coffeepots, and punch bowls— although some of these items may have been grouped under the heading “pewter.”

One of the goals for the secondary stage of research was to determine whether the silver Hannah distributed in her will had been passed down from her own mother or grandmother. Unfortunately, however, neither Sarah Cooke Hathaway nor Sarah Warren Cooke seem to have left a will, and the probate records for Hannah’s great-grandmother, Elizabeth Warren of Plymouth, have yet to be located. The fact that the value of the silver listed in Hannah’s inventory is worth almost ten times as much as that included in George’s—£203 versus £22—however, supports the idea that much of the silver came from her side of the family, since the appraisers who inventoried George’s estate would not have evaluated these pieces under such circumstances. Moreover, it is highly unlikely that Hannah would have purchased such a great deal of silver in her widowhood.


It is unclear what Elizabeth’s daughters Sarah and Susannah did with the silver they inherited from Hannah. (Elizabeth’s daughter Elizabeth predeceased Hannah, and her daughter Hannah was given cash, not silver.) Susannah seems to have died intestate, but perhaps a will may be located for Sarah, who died in Tiverton in 1795.


The inventory taken following William junior’s death in 1780 is much more extensive than either George’s or Hannah’s, but the overall value of his estate was worth only about a third of George’s and less than half of Hannah’s because it does not include his land or housing, which was to be inherited by his son Jonathan. Despite its additional detail, however, William junior’s inventory, like George’s and Hannah’s, likely did not include everything in the household at the time of his death: some items would not have been counted by the appraisers because they failed to notice them, found it difficult to calculate their market value, or considered them not worth recording, or because the items constituted bequests or belonged to other members of the family (Hawley, 24–27; Sweeney,  37).

William White, Jr.’s Inventory (1780 estate valued at £753)

*silver worth £22: a tankard, a cup, 6 large spoons, & 6 small ones [Does this include the silver cup and spoon William inherited from Hannah Cadman—and, perhaps, the silver tankard and spoon Elizabeth inherited from her?]

*pewter worth £6: 3 large & 1 small platter, 4 large & 6 small plates, 7 porringers, 3

basins, & some “old Puter … [&] a Copper Tea Kittle”

*books worth £6: the “Great Bible” his grandmother HC had given him & a “Haddon’s[?] Arithmetick” [“Rudimentary Arithmetic” by James Haddon? Such a book may have assisted him in all the measuring he had to do in his work as a blacksmith.]

*clothing worth £17 (a great coat, two broadcloth coats, an old serge coat and britches

trimmed with plate buttons, a linen coat and britches, an old beaver hat, silk and linen handkerchiefs, two old linen shirts, two pairs of worsted stockings and three pairs of yarn stockings, a pair of worsted gloves and a pair of yarn mittens, shoes, & silver shoe buckles)

*cattle, oxen, a horse & half of a “riding beast,” pigs, hogs, & 27 sheep worth £172

*paper money in “Continantal bills” worth £10 & “Sword in hand bills” worth £29

*£377 in “Hard Cash

*promissory notes worth £27 on three people, including Christopher White

*numerous feather beds, bolsters, sheets, etc. worth £46

*kitchen linens, cloth/yarn, 2 oval tables, a square table, a tea table, a joint stool, a case w/ bottles, a couch frame & bed, 12 “banister backed” chairs, 6 “old chairs,” 2 great chairs worth £16

*a candle stand, a low case of drawers, a foot wheel(?), a cheese tub, 4 china cups &

saucers, 4 cracked drinking glasses, 3 cracked coffee bowls, 14 drinking glasses, a glass cream pot, 12 Delft plates & 2 Delft punch bowls (one old & cracked), an earthenware punch bowl, old earthenware, a pewter teapot, a sugar pot & cream pot, a high case of drawers & an old desk: £8

*a large cupboard, 3 powdering tubs, a mortar & pestle, an old warming pan, 6 old …(?), 2 trays, a piggin, 2 sugar boxes, 3 cheese molds, a colander, a tin funnel, a pepper box, a grater, a coffeepot, 2 milk pans, 3 old pails, a large looking glass: £10(?)

*2 cedar rundlets, an old churn, 6 old tubs, an old tray & candle box, cheese tongs, a frying pan, a large iron pot & kettle, 2 small iron kettles, a small pot, 2 skillets, an iron basin, a [fireplace] spider, hand bellows, a grid iron, an iron cricket [a symbol of good luck], a flat iron, old fire tongs: £4

*a pair of hand irons, 6 table knives, 8 forks, a brass skimmer, small stilliards, a double

hatchel, a slip candlestand and iron candlestick, a pocketknife, a box of iron, spectacles

& a walking stick: £5

*a firelock gun, 4 small baskets, 1½ old saddles, a tin deed case, scales & weights, silver sleeve buttons, an old meal chest, an old iron spit, 3 hogsheads, 4 old casks: £3

*blacksmith’s tools, an anvil a large vise, a hand vise, a stake, 2 sledges, 3 hammers, a beak horn(?), a pair of bellows, 4 pairs of tongs, “other old Tools for smithing“: £16

*farming utensils, a grinding stone w/ iron crank, iron bars, a cap ring & staple, an ox cart & wheels & a plow with clevises & pins, 2 draft chains, 2 harrows(?), a beetle w/ rings & wedges, ½ a hay rope, a set of large traces, 7 harrow teeth, a hay fork: £11

*carpenter’s tools, a broad ax, a handsaw, an iron square, 4 augers, a drawing knife, a

jointer, 2 planes, 3 chisels, 2 gouges, an adze & hatchel, cooper’s & joiner’s tools: £2-6


A Note on the Witnesses of the Wills of George and Hannah Cadman and William White George Cadman’s will was witnessed by his nephew William Cadman, Robert Tripp, and Joseph Tripp. Joseph Tripp, along with Benjamin Tripp, also witnessed Hannah’s will. The Tripps were a large, extended family originally from Portsmouth, who, like George Cadman and others with roots in Portsmouth, settled on the western side of Old Dartmouth, now Westport (Tripp, “Early Tripps in New England”).8

Hannah’s will was also witnessed by Beriah Goddard. There were several Beriah Goddards in Dartmouth/Westport over the years. The first, a “man of considerable prominence” in the region, according to Henry Worth, was born ca. 1696 in Jamestown, Rhode Island, and in Dartmouth became one of the assessors who was jailed in 1723 for refusing to collect taxes for the minister’s salary (“Head of Westport and Its Founders,” 8). According to the Rhode Island Furniture Archive at Yale, this Beriah worked as a joiner and house carpenter until his death in 1781. (Beriah’s brother Daniel (1697-1764), and his wife, Mary Tripp of Dartmouth, had a son John who married into the furniture- making Townsend family of Newport and began the Goddard furniture dynasty). A later Beriah Goddard in 1734 married Eunice West (the daughter of Mercy Cooke and Stephen West), who was Hannah Cadman’s first cousin. A Beriah Goddard also witnessed the will of Elizabeth and William’s son George.

William White’s will was witnessed by William Gifford, Daniel Hathaway, and  Restcome Sanford. This William Gifford may have been the son of Jeremiah, who was born in 1714 and who in 1741 married Elizabeth Tripp, the daughter of Benjamin. Daniel Hathaway may have been the early physician of Dartmouth who died in 1772 (Borden, 681). There seem to have been a number of Restcome Sandfords who came from the Portsmouth and Tiverton areas; perhaps the Restcome who witnessed William’s will was the one of Dartmouth who married Elizabeth Lake in January 1725/6.