Scituate's First Store

Reprinted from the June, 1961, Scituate Historical Society Bulletin.

In the early days of the settlement of Scituate, a man named Otis came and established a store. This in its early days was merely a trading post where the few settlers bought their supplies of 'West Indian" goods, -namely, rum, molasses, and spices, which had been sent from Boston to Scituate by packet, - these having been brought to Boston from the Caribbean by ships which had skillfully evaded the last of the pirates on the Spanish Main. Friendly braves of the Satuit Tribe also came to Otis to exchange with him their rich booty of black fox, mink, and otter pelts for a mere half-pint of glass beads and a few yards of gay ribbon so eager were they to get them. Many articles of their beadwork are still in existence.

Through the years the little log house descended from father to son and when Ensign Otis, Jr., inherited the store from his father, Ensign Otis, a nephew of the patriot James Otis, he built an addition to the building. Part of this was used as a dwelling and there on January 13, 1784, the poet Samuel Woodworth, the author of "Old Oaken Bucket" was born.

During Ensign Otis, Jr's time, the War of 1812 broke out. History states that because he was an early riser, he had detected an English ship anchoring off the harbor and had given the alarm to the inhabitants of the little village to bury their valuables! This was the ship that Abigail and Rebecca Bates scared away by use of their fife and drum, thus saving the town from invasion.

Ensign Otis Jr., was followed by his son-in-law, George M. Allen and his brother William Paley Allen. These Allen brothers who had married sisters, daughters of Ensign Otis Jr., were from Pembroke, their father being the Rev. Morrill Allen who had preached 40 years there from the same pulpit. William Paley Allen kept the store for fifty years, which afterwards was taken over by his son-in-law, Charles W. Frye. Mr. Frye proved a very capable merchant. The store with the "crockery" department held many an interesting article. Those who are fortunate to own one of his souvenir plates, cups and saucers, shaving mugs, mustard pots, trinket boxes, etc., all decorated with Scituate scenes, have what is now of historical value.

The old building had been twice the Scituate Post Office, once in 1853 when William Paley Allen was the postmaster, and from 1898 - 1914 when Charles W. Frye held the office. With the passing of Mr. Frye the building was occupied for a time by Messrs. H. T. Stenbeck and George Yenetchi as a general store. It was torn down in the early 1900's and its site was taken for a filling station. At that time many of the original timbers of the old building could be seen.