Edward Devotion (1668-1744) was not a particularly wealthy man, but he nevertheless is an important person in Brookline's history: he made the largest gift to the Town of Brookline in the 18th century.
Devotion had no children, so when he died, he left several bequests, including sufficient funds for his wife. He then directed that the rest of his property be used for a school in the center of town.
When such a school was built, it seemed natural to name it after him and today we still have the Edward Devotion School in Brookline.
Yet this history is more complicated, because part of Devotion's wealth in property included an enslaved person. We believe that person was a healthy young adult man, based on his listed value in Devotion's will. We do not know how Devotion's property was liquidated, so we do not whether the Town – or his widow - sold this man.
Will and Property of Edward Devotion
b. 1668, d. 1744,
his gift toward building a school:
In the name of God Amen.
I Edward Devotion of Brooklyn in the County of Suffolk and Province of Massachusetts Bay, in New England, Yeoman being aged and infirm, Do make and order this my Last Will and Testament in manner and form following:
Principally and first of all I give and recommend my soul to God . . . My Body I commit to the Earth to be decently buried at the discretion of my Executors hereinafter named. And as for my temporal Goods and Estate I will that they be Employed and bestowed in manner following:
I give and bequeath to my beloved wife . . .
I give to my beloved friend . . .
I give to the grandchildren of my brother . . .
I give to Deacon Edward Ruggles . . .
I give to the Church of Christ in Brooklyn . . .
In case my estate prove to be sufficient to pay my just debts and legacies . . . . then my will is and I hereby authorize to the Town of Brooklyn toward building or maintaining a school as near the center of the said town
Property inventory at death:
15 acres £310
7 acres £ 105
1 Negrow £ 30
1 cow £ 14
household goods £ 105
(note: Household goods included "waring apparel, beds and bedding, tables, chairs, puter, iron, brass, iron bar")
In addition, Devotion owned a much larger property which his friend Solomon Hill had bought with a mortgage. Several years after Devotion's death, the property reverted to Devotion, as Hill was unable to keep up the mortgage. As per Devotion's will, the property was turned over to the Town for sale - along with other portions of Devotion's property - in order to support public education. Town Meeting Records, 1744-1762. An image of his gravestone is to the right.