Stephen Badlam of Dorchester Lower Mills, MA.

Stephen Badlam was born on May 7, 1751, in Stoughton now Canton, MA. His parents were Deacon Stephen Badlam who worked as a part time cabinetmaker and as a tavern keeper and his wife Hannah (Clapp) Badlam. They had four children, Hannah, Eliza, Stephen and William. Stephen’s mother Hannah died on March 16, 1756 when he was just 5 years old. His father married again but he died soon after. This left Stephen and his siblings with a challenging childhood. He was essentially orphaned. At the age of 15, he moved to Dorchester to live and work with his older brother Ezra. Stephen was trained at an early age as a surveyor and as a cabinetmaker. In 1773, the two brothers formed a furniture making partnership and settled in the Lower Mills section of that town.

Stephen was a patriotic man, he answered the Lexington Alarm as a sergeant in Captain Daniel Vose train band company. He joined the American Army in 1775 and served honorably during the Revolutionary War. First commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant, he was promoted quickly to 1st Lieutenant and then to the rank of Captain in the same year. In military service, he met Washington, whom he admired greatly. He also met Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette, who presented him with a sword. Badlam’s regiment was ordered to Canada, and he sailed up the Hudson River in command of the artillery. At this time he was made a Major. On July 4, 1776, he took possession of a rise of ground opposite Fort Ticonderoga, and on July 18th, he named it Mount Independence, a name subsequently confirmed by General Gates. A serious illness forced him to resign from the army and Stephen returned to Massachusetts. In 1777, he and his wife Mary settled with a newborn daughter, Polly, in Dorchester’s lower Mills. They had six other children: Stephen, Abigail, Nancy, Lucretia, John and Clarissa. After the war, Stephen was was made a General in the Massachusetts militia. By 1785, he re-established his cabinetmaking career. It is now thought that he did very little hand work. His role was to keep his employees busy and ran the day to day operations of the shop. An advertisement placed on March 3, 1785, advertised “Mahogany Desks, Tables, Bureaus, Chairs, Bedsteads, and Cabinet Work of various Kinds, made and sold on reasonable Terms, By Stephen Badlam, of Dorchester near Milton Bridge, when any person may be supplied with good Work for shipping or other use, and have it delivered at any Place required.” He soon built up a substantial business. He also provided turnings for other cabinetmakers in the neighborhood and sold picture-frame materials and window glass. A number of pieces of furniture have been found with his cabinetmakers stamp. We also know that he made clock cases of the finest design for Simon, Aaron and Ephraim Willard. He also sold them to a number of their apprentices which included William Cummnens and Elnathan Taber. His Dorchester home became a center of current discussion and served as a school from 1793-1799. He was active in civic affairs and was also appointed Justice of the Peace in 1791. He opposed the annexation of Dorchester Neck by the City of Boston. In 1798, Elizabeth Turner became his second wife. Stephen died in 1815.

Stephen Badlam’s estate was valued at over $24,000 in 1815. In contrast, it is said that the average labor earned about $30 a year. This was a considerable sum for the time and is an indication of the position he enjoyed. Today, Badlam’s furniture is recognized by collectors for its fine quality and is eagerly sought out.