The Hastings Family of Mendon: 1796-1848
Seth Hastings and his family had been blessed with wealth, academic ability, professional
sophistication, social rank, and political influence. Though they were well-to-do, they readily gave
service to their local, state, and national government. They also gave generously to their town and
church. Many would regard their lives as enviable. They were part of Mendon's nobility. To the
Hastings family, much had been given, and from themselves much was expected. Yet, throughout
their lives there were lingering episodes of tragedy and sadness. In spite of their stature in the
community, there were prevailing reminders that they were mortal.
The Hastings family was regarded as one of the most distinguished families in town. Seth
graduated from Harvard University in 1782, passed the bar exam, and established a law practice in
Mendon. In 1796, he married Chloe Davenport. He built a law office in 1820, and in 1825, he
became president of the town's first bank. He was also the owner of a bakery. His son, William
Soden Hastings, also graduated from Harvard and was admitted to the bar in 1820. Another son,
Charles C.P. Hastings, graduated from Brown University in 1825, became a lawyer and joined the
family business. His daughter Mary, married Attorney Caleb Hayward, and the four barristers
practiced law in the small brick building at 13 Main Street.
Seth Hastings' devotion to public service was exemplary. He became town treasurer in 1794 and a
member of the first school committee in 1796. He worked on a committee to create Hartford
Turnpike and made sure that it went through Mendon, as had Middle Post Road, the interstate
roadway that it replaced. He defended the town against law suits by Bellingham and Uxbridge. In
addition, he was elected to two terms in the U.S. Congress and later as a senator in the
Massachusetts State Senate. He was chief justice in the Worcester County Court of Sessions. He
donated the land and a generous amount of money for the construction of the Unitarian Church in
1820. He was an extraordinary public servant.
Following the fine example of the father, the sons also devoted their lives to the service of others.
William served as postmaster in the family law office from 1825-1836,and at the same time
managed to be a state representative, then a state senator. He moved to Virginia in 1836 and was
elected there to three terms in Congress. Brother Charles and Caleb Hayward served on the
school committee, road commission and a committee to create a house for the poor. Their
devotion and energy were most commendable.
In spite of all their achievements, the family had to endure many sorrows and periods of grief. Seth
and Chloe lost their fifteen month old son Seth in 1807, when he stopped breathing due to a piece
of apple being lodged in his windpipe. The following year, Chloe died of consumption at age 34,
leaving Seth and several small children. Daughter Hannah died four years later at age 12.
Daughter Chloe died at age 19. William died at age 44 as did Charles. Charles's wife Anna was
so distraught that she and her four children moved out of their 7 Maple Street home to 6 Hastings
Street. Mary's husband Caleb died at age 37 and her daughter died at age 15. Their devastation
The members of the Hastings family made use of their numerous talents to improve the lives of
others. Instead of simply basking in the wealth of a prestigious private law firm, they used
government as a means to carry out their good will. Coinciding with their benevolence was an
ongoing bereavement that pervaded their lives as one tragedy after another took place. Perhaps
their strength in dealing with their sorrow was the source that fueled their uncommon enthusiasm
to public service. Mendon Village Center was essentially a family compound for the Hastings-
Davenport family in the early 1800's, and today the village is their living tribute. Perhaps Edna St.
Vincent Millay's poem, "First Fig", might offer a summary of the lives of this highly respected Mendon
"My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night.
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends,
It gives a lovely light!
For some years this was the home of the Seth Hastings
family. In 1818, it was sold to Jonathan Russell.
Seth Hastings purchased the Keith Inn from John Hill in
1806. Under his ownership, it was used as a residence
Mendon Bank 1825, Atty. Seth Hastings, president
Now, the Mendon Historical Museum
Law Office - 1820
Atty. Seth Hastings
Atty. William Soden Hastings
Atty. Caleb Hayward
Atty. Charles C.P. Hastings
Gravestone of Seth Hastings
in Old Cemetery in Mendon.