Joshua Hempstead Gets His Hearing Back

In August 1756, Joshua Hempstead was a prominent citizen of New London, Conn., who, at 77, was haying, mending fences and gathering apples. He had lived in the same house in New London all his life, a house his grandfather built before he was born. His father, Joshua, was a wheelwright; his mother was named Elizabeth Larrabee.

Joshua Hempstead House

Joshua Hempstead House

Born Sept. 1, 1678, he had been a surveyor, carpenter, gravestone carver, lawyer, local official and — always — a farmer.   Around 1698 he married Abigail Bailey of Long Island. They had nine children. Abigail died a few days after the birth of their last child, and five days later their oldest son died at age 17. Joshua Hempstead never remarried, but reared the children with the help of relatives and women hired to help with the housework.

Later in life, he lived in the house with Adam Jackson, a slave, some of Jackson’s children and two grandsons. He built an addition for his son Nathaniel and his family to live in. The Hempstead family lived in that house until 1937.

Hempstead maintained a diary for 47 years to keep track of his many business activities. He also took note of the weather, baptisms, engagements, deaths, military trainings, court sessions, ship traffic, town meetings, thanksgivings, fasts, feasts and his travels. His diary is an important source of information about colonial life, according to the Connecticut Historical Society.

Joshua Hempstead on Aug. 20, 1756, recorded a trip to the doctor in his diary:

fryd 20 fair. In the foren(oon) I rid out & Joshua to John Stubbins’s & Wm Manwarings & there had Doctor Wm Hough to Try to help me in hearing. he Seringed my Ears & drew out a Large gob of Ear wax out of my Right Ear & then I could heard my Watch click which I could not before. Chappel & adam finish Stacking the last hay att the Lowerend of the Lot.

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