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t slowly, so that in two years, they had not three houses built there,
and he whom they had called to be their minister, left them for their delays."
It appears further by the records of the General Court 1. 8. 45 (Oct. 1645,) that “upon the petition of the undertakers for the plantation at Nashaway, the Court is willing, that John Gill, Sergeant John Davies, John Chandler, Isaiah Walker and Matthew Barnes, or any three of them shall have power to set out lots to all the planters belonging to the said plantation, provided that they set not their houses too far asunder; and the great lots to be proportionable to men's estates and charges; and that no man shall have his lot confirmed to him before he has taken the oath of fidelity.” These men, however, did nothing to forward the plantation. The General Court felt still unwilling to give up all effort to advance the growth of the place, as appears by the record of a subsequent session : I will recite it, trusting that I shall not be thought too minute in the early, and most interesting portion of the history of the town. It is as follows, viz:
“ 27, 8, 1647" (Nov. 7,1647, N. S.) “Whereas the Court hath formerly granted a plantation at Nashaway unto Jonathan Chandler, &c. and that Gill is dead, Chandler, Walker, and Daviesg bave signified unto the Court, that since the same grant, they have acted nothing as undertakers there, nor laid out any lands, and further have made request to the Court to take in the said grant, manifesting their utter unwillingness to be engaged therein, the Court doth not think fit to destroy the said plantation, but rather to encourage it; only in regard the persons now upon it are so few, and unmeet for such a work, and are to be taken to procure others, and in the
This does away the imputation in Rev. Mr. Harrington's century sermon, that the minister left them by the instigation of such of the proprietors as disliked removing, or else by his own aversion to the place. Winthrop noted down events day by day, as they occurred. He is distinguished for his accuracy. Mr. Harrington's relation probably was derived from tradition in town. Winthrop's Jourual remained in manuscript, till 1790, I believe ; of course Mr. Harrington had not access to a correct account of the matter, as his discourse was preached in 1753.
+ The same probably who distinguished himself in the Pequot war, 1637. 2. Mass. Hist. Col. VIII. 147 ; and went against the Nianticks, Hubbard 465, and was sent as one of the commissioners to the Dutch in New York. Ibid,547.
# To speak with more accuracy, the present difference between the Julian and Gregorian year, is twelve days. Before the year 1800, it was eleven days. That year by the calendar of Gregory XIII, the intercalary day was omitted, making the difference twelve days as above stated. Before the calendar was reformed, the year began on the 25th of March, Lady Day, or Annunciation.
$ These names I have not met with, excepting in the above extract from
mean time to remain in the Court's power to dispose of the planting and ordering of it."
It appears, by what has been related, that many circumstances combined to retard the growth of the plantation. All the associates, excepting Prescott, refused to fulfil their contract, though they chose to retain their interest. Linton and Waters* returned to Watertown, where I trace them in 1646, and again to Lancaster in the spring of 1647. Prescott preceded them, and must be recorded as the first permanent inhabitant in Lancaster. This is a clear inference from Mr. Harrington, (p. 11.) John Cowdall of Boston, in his deed, 5. 8 mo. 1647, of a house and twenty acres of land, at Nashaway, made to Jonathan Prescott, calls him late of Watertown. Others soon followed, viz. Sawyer, Atherton, Linton, Waters, &c.
This is as full a sketch of the history of the plantation, prepi. ous to 1653, as can be obtained after employing no little diligence.
At that time, the number of families had increased to nine, and on the eighteenth of May of the same year, the town was incorporated by the name of Lancaster. As this was the first town in the County, in the order of time, it may not be improper to recite some of the provisions of the act of the General Court. They say, " In answer to the petition of the inhabitants of Nashaway, the Court find, according to a former order of the General Court, in 1647, that the ordering of the plantation at Nashaway is wholly in the Court's power."
“Considering that there are already at Nashaway, about nine families; and that several, both freemen and others, intend to go and settle there, some whereof are named in this petition, the Court doth grant them the liberty of a township, and order that henceforth, it shall be called Lancaster, and shall be in the County of Middlesex.”
The next provision is to "fix the bounds of the town according the records of the General Court. I do not feel sure that they belong to Laocaster, and on the other hand, have no evidence that they belong to any other plantation. James Savage, Esq. the learned editor of Winthrop, informs me, that this potice in the records is claimed for Weston.
Lawrence Waters dwelt in Watertown, as far back as 1635.
† At this early period there were no formal acts of incorporation: the course was as in this instance to grant a plantation the liberty of a township, on certain conditions; as making suitable provision for public worship,&c. and when these conditions were complied with, “ full liberty of a township according to law," was granted. It is sufficiently correct, for common purposes, to say, that Lancaster was incorporated May 18, 1653, 0. S.
$ This petition, and the names, are, probably, not in existence.
to Sholan's deed, beginning at the wading place, Nashaway river, at the passing over to be the centre; thence runniug five miles north, five miles south, five miles east, and three miles west, to be surveyed and marked, by a commissioner. Six of the inhabitants, viz. Edward Breck, Nathaniel Hadlock, William Kerley, Thomas Sawyer, Joho Prescott, and Ralph Houghton, or any four of them whereof the major part are freemen, to be prudential managers of said town, both to see to the allotments of land for planters, in proportion to their estates, and to manage their prudential affairs, till the General Court are satisfied that they have able men, sufficient to conduct the affairs of the plantation ; then, to have full liberty of a township according to law.” And further, it was permitted all the old possessors, to remain, provided they took the oath of fidelity.
The inhabitants were ordered to take care, that a Godly minister be maintained amongst them, that no evil persons, enemies to the laws of this Commonwealth, in judgment or practice, be admitted as inhabitants, and none to have lots confirmed to them, but such as take the oath of fidelity.
A similar provision to this last, was common in the incorporation of other towns, and shows the great importance that was placed upon religion, and habits of order; that these were conceived to lie at the foundation of all good government, that they reached the highest, mingled with the humblest, and exercised a controlling influence over the whole character of society. The effect of these things in past and present times, is a fruitful subject of discussion, the effect upon remote generations, permits wide speculation; not however to be indulged in, on the present occasion.
The act of incorporation concludes, with ordering, that the iphabitants remunerate such of the first undertakers, as had been at any expense in the plantation, provided they make demand in twelve months; and that the interest of Harmon Garrett, and such others of them, who had been at great charge, should be made good in allotments of lands ; provided they improve the same, by building and planting within three years after their land is laid out to them. Also that the bounds of the town be laid out, in proportion to eight miles square.” In the fall of 1653, (Nov. 30, O. S.) the Committee or selectmen, as they may be called, proceeded in their duties of laying out land, and managing the affairs of the town. The first division of lands, was between the two branches of the Nashaway to the west; and to the east, on what is called the Neck, lying between the north branch of the river, and the principal stream. To
the north branch, they gave the name of North river; the south branch only, they called the Nashaway; and the main river, after the confluence of the two streams, which is now the Nashaway, they named the Penecook. Each portion contained twenty acres of upland, besides intervale. On the west, the first lot by which all the others on that side were bounded, was laid out to Jobn Prescott, at the place I have before mentioned, where Simonds and King some years before, built the trucking or trading house ; about a mile a little to the west of south of the present church. Then in regular order towards the north, followed John Moore, John Johnson, Henry Kerley, William Kerley, (his own, and one purchased of Richard Smith,) and John Smith. Next, south of Prescott, was the land of Thomas Sawyer. The land on the Neck was divided as follows—first, Edward Breck, on the south east corner of the neck, and very near the house of Mr. Davis Whitman. Then followed in order, towards the north, on the same side of the way, Richard Linton, Ralph Houghton, (his own and one purchased of Prescott,) James Atherton, John White, William Lewis, John Lewis, son of William, Thomas James, and Edmund Parker. Richard Smith's land was a triangular piece, apart from the rest, between the present church and Sprague bridge. Robert Breck's* land was on the west side of the Neck, and from the description, must have been in the middle of the town, by the church.
As soon as the first division of lands was completed, the Inhabitants and others entered into a covenant for themselves, their heirs, executors, and assigns, in substance as follows, viz: after sundry orders touching the ministry, &c. which will be mentioned in the context, they agreed that such of them as were not inhabitants, and who were yet to come up, “ to build, improve, and inhabit, would by the will of God, come up, to build, plant, and inhabit,” within a year, otherwise to forfeit all they had expended, forfeit also their land and pay five pouods for the use of the plantation.
To keep out all heresies, and discourage the spirit of litigation, they inserted the following article, which I will recite, riz: " For the better preserving of the purity of religion and ourselves from infection of error, we covenant not to distribute allotments, or receive into the plantation, as inhabitants any Excommunicant, or otherwise profane and scandalous, (known so to be) nor any one notoriously erring against the doctrine and discipline of the churches, and the state and Government of this Commonwealth. And for
* Edward Breck dwelt in Lancaster awhile. Robert never moved up.
the better preserving of peace and love, and yet to keep the rules of justice and equity, amongst ourselves, we covenant not to go to law* one with another, in actions of debt, or damage, one towards another, in name or estate ; but to end all such controversies, amongst ourselves, by arbitration, or otherwise, except in cases capital or criminal, that some may not go unpunished; or that the matter be above our ability to judge of, and that it be with the consent of the Plantation, or selectmen thereof."
Each subscriber engaged to pay ten shillings towards the purchase money, due to the Indians, &c. That the population might not be too much scattered, the first division of land was made on the principle of equality to rich and poor : but the second, and subsequent divisions, were according to the value of each man's property. Every person was put down at ten pounds, and his estate estimated according to its value. They reserved to the plantation the right of conferring gifts of land on such individuals as they might see fit, as occasion might offer. These covenants were subscribed at different times during the few first years, as follows, viz: Edward Breck,(a) “I subscribe to this for myself, and for my son Robert,
save that it is agreed, we are not bound to come up Robert Breck, to inhabit within a years time, in our own persons.
4, 9 mo. 1654.
Thomas Lechford, the earliest Lawyer in New England, came to Boston, and resided there from 1637 to 1641. Though he wrote himself of “Clement's lon, in the County of Middlesex, Gentleman," he had but little professional business. He seemed to be looked upon as rather a useless appendage to society, under the Theocracy. In his “Plain dealing,” a rare, and curious pamphlet, he observes, that he had but little to do for a livelihood except - to write petty things." He fell under some censure, returned to England, irritated with the colonists, and published his pamphlet, containing, I sincerely believe, many truths. Certainly it is far from deserving the bad character, that was attributed to it by our ancestors. There were some of the profession in N. E. when this town was incorporated, but they were probably not men of much talent or acquirements ; else, their names, at least, would have reached this day. In 1654, a law was passed, prohibiting any usual or common attorney, in any inferior court, from sitting as a deputy, in the general court.