Chapter IV





"Write this for a memorial in a book." Exodus XVII:14



In the autumn of 1635, William Pynchon, with two scouts, John Cable and John Woodcock, sailed up the Connecticut river in their "great shallops"1 and concluded an exploring trip at the confluence of the Agawam and the Connecticut rivers, where, as related by Edward Johnson in 1654, they found a district "fitly seated for a beaver trade."2 It is quite possible that the scouts had viewed and chosen the land on a previous excursion and that Pynchon's visit was to give his final approval to the selection.

Nothing contributed so much toward the lure for the exploration and settlement of North America as the quest for the beaver. Interest became quite pronounced early in the seventeenth century. Bartholomew Gosnold voyaged hither in 1602, trading incidentally for furs with the Indians. In 1603, Martin Pring coasted along the New England shore and reported seeing animals "whose furs may yield no small gain to us." In 1614, Captain John Smith, of Pocahontas fame, reported that "With eight or nine others, ranging the coast in a small boat, we got for trifles, near eleven hundred beaver skins." English merchants, who financed various colonizing enterprises, urged the emigrants to devote their energies to such commercial activities, rather than to agriculture. At times, the shipment of beaver skins totaled as high as 200,000 a year, which, eliminating Sundays, would average around 650 a day.

The question naturally arises, what use was made of such vast quantities of skins? Were European women in need of that number of fur coats and neck pieces? The answer is decidedly in the negative for the skins were put to a much more prosaic use: the manufacture of felt, primarily for making hats. All which takes the story back to much earlier beginnings.

Hats are a variety of the ancient cap and bonnet and were early made of velvet, silk and other rich materials. Formed of felt and assuming a certain firmness of fabric, hats began to be manufactured in England about 1510 and we hear of them superseding caps and softer headgear, in the reign of Elizabeth. Wool was the material first employed in forming felt hats, but wool was scarce and in great demand for the weaving of cloths.

St. Clement, the patron saint of the hatters, is credited with first producing felt. It is said that when on a pilgrimage, he put carded wool between his feet and the sole of his sandals and found at his journey's end that the wool was converted into cloth. Regardless of tradition, it is a fact that if carded wool is thus continually trodden and at the same time moistened, it will become felt and all the manufacturer's processes of felting are but modifications of such treatment. It is merely taking advantage of the natural tendency of hairs to interlace and cling to each other.

As trade with America developed, the fur of the beaver was adopted, being finer and softer than wool and of lesser cost. Hence the term beaver, as synonymous with hat, came into use. For more than two centuries, fine beaver hats formed the head covering of the higher classes of Great Britain.

As American colonies became established and more and more grew the need Drawing of 17th century shallop with textfor protection to the merchants and bankers who financed those enterprises, the English parliament, in 1638, passed an act prohibiting the making of hats from any material other than "beaver stuff and beaver wool." Great impetus was thus given to the trade and so was created a monopoly that virtually existed for two hundred years.

On their arrival at Agawam in 1635, the three explorers encountered a little band of nomad Indians, eighteen families in all, under the leadership of two natives whom Pynchon designated as "Commucke and Matanchan, ancient Indians of Agawam."3 Had Pynchon arrived a year earlier or a year later he might not have found a single Indian there, but the English happened to come in 1635 and there this little band of gypsies just happened to be.

Probably the natives had little comprehension of what was meant by land ownership in the English sense and they certainly had no knowledge of what obligations land sales entailed. But Pynchon was not a free agent. His associates had cautioned that "if any of the savages pretend right of inheritance to all or any part of the lands granted in our patent, we pray you endeavor to purchase their title that we may avoid the least scruple of intrusion."4

Therefore, Pynchon presumably assured the natives that the land which they occupied was theirs, and that he proposed to buy it from them. A tentative bargain was made, the Indians eventually receiving for their domain eighteen fathams of wampum, eighteen coats, eighteen hatchets, eighteen hoes and eighteen knives, in addition to which an Indian called Wrutherna acquired two extra coats, the reason for which is suggested by the fact that the composition of his name indicates that he was a prince in embryo.5

After concluding his preliminary negotiations with the Indians in the autumn of 1635, Pynchon returned to Roxbury for the winter, preparing for the exodus of his associates in the spring.6 Cable and Woodcock remained and it is apparent that they had with them both cattle and swine, for when Pynchon returned in the spring of 1636 he found that the future of his enterprise had been sadly jeopardized. Not only had the livestock so ravaged the native planting grounds that the Indians "demanded a greater sum to buy their rights in said land"7 but they also insisted that if similar damage was done in the future the English were to "pay as it is worth."8 All prior plans were thereby set at naught for the basic intent of the settlement contemplated the full use and occupation of the Agawam meadows. Fencing such a tract being out of the question a complete removal to the east side was the only alternative.8a There, on May 14, 1636, gathered eight men, "being all the first adventurers and subscribers for the plantation," to organize their body-politic.9 In view of the changed conditions due to this enforced removal, the question of provision for their cattle loomed large in their minds, and of the fifteen by-laws adopted, four were related to the control of the remaining pastures, "The cow pasture to the north of end brook, lying northward from the town; the pasture called Nayas toward Patuckett on the side of Agawam, lying about four miles above in the river, and the long meadow called Masacksic." It was agreed that "the long meadow called Masacksic, lying in the way to Dorchester (Windsor), shall be distributed to every man as we shall think meet, except as we shall find other conveniency for some for their milch cattle and other cattle."10 The long-meadow was thus early recognized as being too valuable to be divided without full consideration of the benefits to all.

On July 15, 1636, the Indians affixed their marks to the formal deed, which included three specific tracts.11 For the Agawam Meadows, on the west side of the Connecticut river, five-ninths of the compensation was given. Two-ninths of the total was given for the land now occupied by the city of Springfield and extending north to the Chicopee river. The final two-ninths purchased the "long-meadow." As Pynchon put it in his deed, "The said ancient Indians do, with the consent of the other Indians and in particular with the consent of Machetuhood, Wenepawin and Mohemoos, truck and sell the ground and muckeosquittaj (muk-kosqut-aug "meadow land") and grounds adjoining called (massa-auksic, "the great land") for four fatham of wampum, four coats, four hatchets, four hoes and four knives." For posterity John Holyoke, the recorder, when he entered the deed on the records in 1679, added the notation that "Masacksic is what the English call the Long meadow, below Springfield, on the east side of Quinecticot River."12

In 1647, Pynchon charged on his ledger to each of the forty-two inhabitants, based on the quantity of land owned by the individual, a pro rata share of the value of the articles delivered to the Indians in exchange for their land, the total being £30, a present day value of perhaps $600.13 Thus the Agawam meadows cost him approximately £16; the Springfield site £7, and the long-meadow also £7. The acre-value is indicated by the charge against Benjamin Cooley, who then owned 40 1/2 acres, his assessment being eleven shillings and two pence, or a bit over three pence (six cents) per acre. This was his total expense for securing a partnership in the community enterprise, including title to that amount of land and the right to participate in future land distributions.

This 40 1/2 acres comprised the four acre home-lot on the town street, together with the adjoining six acres of wet meadow and woodland on which he established his first home in Springfield. Included also was the first division or "dividend" of five acres "in the Neck over the river" as well as the second division of five acres "over Agawam river." Such dividends always accrued to a home-lot, even though the dividends were declared prior to the actual granting of the home site itself. The long-meadow grant of nine acres in 1645 brought his total grants to thirty-nine acres, while actual measurements apparently provided an "overplus" of an acre and a half additional.14

InIn any consideration of the adequacy of the payment to the natives it must be remembered that they had an almost limitless domain at their disposal to which they could and later did retire. So anxious were the natives for the advice, counsel and protection of the whites as neighbors, that certain groups had earlier even expressed a willingness to pay the English to settle in the Connecticut valley.15 Moreover, by the deed of sale by which the Indians transferred their title, they reserved to themselves about everything that was of value to them--the right to fish on the entire premises, to hunt deer, to gather walnuts, acorns, sasachiminesh (cranberries) and to "have and enjoy all that cottinackeesh (kitkanakish, "plantation ground" or ground that is now planted"16--the cultivated fields on which they raised their tobacco, corn, beans, pumpkins and squashes. For a time thereafter, their lives were but a dream of peace and indolence. Their miraculous white neighbors guarded them against their ancient enemies, the Mohawks (literally, "they who eat animate things"), and their newly acquired English tools made their daily tasks mere pastimes as compared with former days.

Small wonder that they lingered on to enjoy these benefits.

In the deed, the description of the land is most inadequate. Of that on the east side of the Connecticut, but one bound is given; the Chicopee river at the north. The Connecticut was of course the westerly bound and the easterly limits were later construed to be five miles from that river. The southerly bounds apparently were understood to be at Raspberry Brook, at the lower end of the long-meadow, for eventually it was so determined.

The northerly part of this tract was claimed by Menis, Wrutherna and Naponpenam and the southerly part by Matchehood, Wenepawin and Mohemoos, but just where the division was between them is not shown in the deed. The northerly part included Nayasset (nai-es-et, "where the corner is") and Usquaiok. John Holyoke, in 1679, said that "Nayasset is the lands of Three Corner Meadow and of the Plain. Usquaiok is the Mill river with the land adjoining."17 Usquaiok was Pynchon's phonetic rendition of iskwai-auk, "the last land" or "the end of the land." There is nothing in the composition of the phrase even suggestive of "river" and it referred purely to a boundary--the land between Mill river and Pecousic brook.

Europeans usually bounded lands by mountain crests, to include entire valleys on both sides of a river. The Indians, however, bounded them at the river--a defensive barrier to people who relied so much on bows, the strings of which were not friendly to water. Moreover, the river bounds were always at points where the character of the land showed a distinct change. No meadow brook (except when small tracts were later sold) was ever designated as a boundary. In Longmeadow, neither Cooley Brook nor Wheelmeadow Brook would have been so designated, for conditions there were identical on both sides of the streams. But at Raspberry Brook, the meadow terminated and up the hill to the south were the great plains where Enfield now is. At the north, the long-meadow ended at the narrow pass below the misnamed King Philip's Stockade, just easterly of which Pecousic (pecou-es-ic, "where the valley widens") separated Masacksic from Usquaiok. There the hill fell so abruptly to the river that the road from Springfield to Longmeadow, completed in 1647, was from necessity on the very bank of the river. When in 1656 John Lombard received a five acre grant of the most northerly bit of the meadows then remaining, it was a triangular piece of land, the point of which intruded itself into the narrow pass. So limited was the area that the grant was made with the proviso that the highway should always be allowed for, "whatever the river may eat out."18 Today, the railroad tracks completely occupy the restricted area. It was an ideal Indian ambush point and there is where John Keep was slain in 1676. As in the minds of the Indians, the long-meadow ended northerly at Pecousic, so it also did in the minds of the English and when, in 1713/14, Longmeadow became a separate precinct, the division was made at Pecousic.19 It so remained until June 2, 1890, when, in order that contemplated additions to Forest Park might be included in the Springfield area, the present division line was established. Many writers have been misled in their conclusions by a lack of understanding of these facts.

When the eight pioneers gathered at Agawam on May 15, 1636, to establish their town, the committed their plans to a writing that they severally signed. Following the preamble, was an affirmation of their intention to establish a church "as soon as we can."

Then followed this most significant clause:

"We intend that our town shall be composed of forty families, or, if we think meet after, to alter our purpose, yet not to exceed the number of fifty families, rich and poor."20

Rich and poor; masters and servants; gentlemen and yeomen; peers and commoners. That is exactly what was envisioned. And so the choicest lands, the present Main street, from Court Square to Cypress street, were reserved for the gentlemen, while the home-lots of the yeomen stretched away southerly to the Mill river.

At that period more than one American community was projected by men of wealth and influence who planned strict control of its life, providing a little principality for their own ends. Saybrook, at the mouth of the Connecticut river, was sponsored by Lord Saye and Sele, Lord Brook, Sir Matthew Boynton and other titled persons who proposed settling there, provided the General Court would allow for two classes of citizenry in New England. When their plans were frowned upon and set at naught, they lost all interest in the enterprise.

Unlike later settlements such as Westfield, Brookfield, Brimfield, Enfield and Suffield, which were the results of a reaching out by land-hungry farmers, Springfield was designed to be an industrial community. For its support a certain amount of agricultural activities were imperative for subsistence, but these were merely incidental. The life of the Springfield enterprise was intended to be based on the fur trade. Pynchon projected a self-supporting community, serviced by its own builders, carpenters, brick masons, tailors, weavers, smiths. In his original plans he had provided the nucleus of such a body. When "many fell off for fear of the difficulties"21 due to the enforced removal to the sterile lands of the east side, a less stout hearted person would have been utterly discouraged. Of the eight men who signed the organization agreement of May 14, 1636, Pynchon and his son-in-law, Henry Smith, alone became permanent settlers.

However, Pynchon brought his persuasive powers to the task and in 1639 there were fourteen settlers. In 1641, nineteen were established; in April 1643, twenty-two. The master-mind was a resourceful one. Through agents in England he secured young men, indentured to served him for a term of years. Thus Samuel Terry came to Springfield. In 1650 the Terry indenture was assigned to Benjamin Cooley who was obligated to impart to his protege the "art and mystery" of linen weaving. Terry grew to be an important citizen and the ancestor of a large family among whom were the successful Connecticut clock makers. Through his own scouts Pynchon drew recruits from other towns. In 1643 he wrote, "the Lord hath added some three or four young men out of the river to us lately."22 These were Thomas Cooper, John Harmon and Roger Pritchard, from the "river towns", Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield. As today a movie-talent scout roams the country in search of new material, so young John Pynchon visited the nearby towns. Under date of 1646, John wrote in his father's ledger, "Nathaniell Browne came to my father's the 21: of Aprill at night: He came from Hartford. I agreed with him at Hartford for £4, 15s for 6 months, viz, the 6 summer months from the 21: of Aprill to the 22 of October, 1646."23

Nevertheless, admittance as an inhabitant was a privilege not lightly acquired. Only those were admitted who could contribute something of value to the community--the financial ability to pay others to work; the ownership of merchandise needed by the townsmen; abilities and talents helpful to the growth of the town. Strangers who slipped in were warned out of town. In case of doubt concerning a desirable applicant, a bond was required. Even sons of such a prominent citizen as Deacon Samuel Chapin were admitted only on these conditions. When, in 1660, Henry Chapin who married Bethia Cooley) was admitted, the deacon gave a bond of £20 "to secure the town from any charge which may arise" and in 1663 he gave a similar bond when Josiah Chapin became an inhabitant.24

About 1643-1645, a determined effort was made to recruit the artisans and tradesmen necessary to make Springfield independent of outside sources of supply, and at that period the population practically doubled. Then arrived John Matthews the cooper, Griffith Jones the tanner, and Hugh Parsons the brick maker. Many other needs were similarly care for, but even as late as January 8, 1645/46 "George Colton and Miles Morgan were appointed to do their best to get a smith for the town."25 Apparently their efforts bore fruit, for on September 4, 1646, a contract was made with "Francis Ball for a shop for a smith."26

Probably equal efforts were made to secure a competent weaver--a worker of both wool and linen. Ample raw material was then available but the skill and equipment to make use of it were lacking. In 1633 Governor Winthrop recorded that "John Oldham and three with him went to Connecticut (river) to trade. They brought back hemp which grows there in great abundance and is much better than the English."27 By 1647, flax-growing in Springfield had become so extensive that the retting of it in the town brook was judged so "noisome and offensive" that the practice was prohibited.28 Here were the requirements for the clothing needed by the townsmen, but the skilled hand of the weaver was wanting. Sheep were then few, but when time provided a weaver, Pynchon provided ample flocks. There can be little doubt that Benjamin Cooley became an honored member of the Springfield community at the request and behest of William Pynchon after searching inquiry as to his ability and personality.

There is ample evidence that Cooley was a skilled worker in both flax and wool. In 1650 he took Samuel Terry as an apprentice, agreeing to "teach him the trade of linen weaving." The inventory of Cooley's estate, taken after his death in 1684, includes:29

Two looms, slayds (weavers' reeds) and warping bars 07-00-00
Serge, kersy, say, penistone and linen cloth 20-08-00
Cotton wool and sheep's wool
Crop of flax
Linsey-woolsey, yarns, spinning wheels, tube (dye vats)

Here was a stock of finished cloths alone priced at about $1000 in present day values.

Out of the welter of almost unreadable entries in the Pynchon account books, one can detect that Cooley was concerned with such items as "making three pair stockings; 3 3/4 yards of red cotton; 1 yard of blue cotton; 1 1/2 yards of blue linen; 1 yard of lockram; 14 yards of white tape."30

This would seem to be the source from which John Pynchon obtained material for the two blue coats, the blue waistcoat, the red cotton and the breeches that he gave to the Indian, Umpanchela, in part payment for the land that became the town of Hadley.31 The efforts of Benjamin Cooley as weaver, plus those of Thomas Stebbins and Samuel Marshfield, the local tailors, would seem to have played their part in the bedecking of the Indian chieftain.

Though physical conditions at Hartford, Windsor and Wethersfield were far more alluring than at Springfield, yet the strict church element dominant there left much to be desired. It was that same rigidity that later led to the secession of the people who founded Hadley in 1659. The benign influence of William Pynchon at Springfield is exemplified in the sermons of Rev. George Moxon. Young John Pynchon, as a lad of fourteen, kept a shorthand record of some of the pastor's teachings.32 For nearly three hundred years these remained but an unsolved puzzle, but recently they have been entirely decoded and are most illuminating. The texts were from the next testament; the sermons were of love. "We are in a new country," said Moxon, "and here we must be happy, for if we are not happy ourselves we cannot make others happy." Little of hell-fire and damnation emanated from the Springfield pulpit in those early days. Proselyting in the Connecticut towns by those having at heart the interest of Springfield, proved productive.

Into this atmosphere came Benjamin Cooley. It is fair to assume that he and his wife, Sarah, came in 1643, for at Springfield was born his eldest child, Bethia, on September 16, 1643. Whence he came is not known, but undoubtedly, in common with many others, it was via some one of the Connecticut towns. It could hardly have been otherwise, for all approach to Springfield was then by water. Romanticists love to perpetuate a fable of a Bay Path over which the early settlers are said to have made their way to Springfield, but local records do not even mention such a way until November, 1646. In November, 1645, such an experienced traveler as John Winthrop, Junior, undertook a land journey from Boston to Springfield, but succeeded only after great effort.33 No prospective settler, transporting his worldly possessions, would have undertaken such a journey when frequent and adequate transportation by water was readily available.

With the group arriving about 1643 came also George Colton who during the subsequent forty years was the inseparable companion of Benjamin Cooley. In 1649 they took the oath of fidelity together.34 That same year they were jointly fined for keeping cattle under improper conditions.34 In 1656, Colton and Cooley, with three others, were appointed to dispose of the lands at Woronoco.35 In 1657, Richard Fellows petitioned the General Court for two hundred acres of land in the present town of Palmer and prayed that it be laid out by George Colton and Benjamin Cooley.36 In 1664 a grant of twenty acres of land beyond Freshwater Brook was made to Colton and Cooley "in one piece, for so they would have it and would determine between themselves how they would lie."37 That same year a committee of six, including George Colton, were appointed to lay out a road from Hadley to Windsor. One of the appointees "being not cheerful to attend the work, the town chose another in his room, which choice fell on Benjamin Cooley."38 On April 29, 1668, the General Court appointed Colton a quartermaster in the county troop and at the same session confirmed Cooley as an ensign in the foot company.39 In 1670, Colton and Cooley were members of a committee of six appointed to establish the town of Suffield.40 For years these two men dominated affairs at Longmeadow. These are but a few of many similar incidents. Such a combination of circumstances could hardly have been merely coincidences.

For example, in the early 17th century there lived at Halifax, England, Matthew Mitchell, his wife Susan, and Samuel Butterfield. All three came to New England in 1635 on the ship James. At Springfield, in 1636, Mitchell and Butterfield were assigned homelots in an undesirable section41 and both were next heard of at Saybrook, where Butterfield was shortly after killed by the Indians. Mitchell descendants long wondered why these two men were so constantly associated until parted by death. The reason became apparent when it developed that the maiden name of Susan Mitchell was Susan Butterfield and that she was a sister of Samuel Butterfield. Blood is thicker than water.


1Burt, Vol. I, page 157. Return
2Wonder-working Providence, by Edward Johnson. Return
3Indian Deeds, page 11. Return
4Letter of instruction, April 17, 1629. Return
5Indian Deeds, page 11.Return
6Mass. His. Soc. Coll., Ser. 4, Vol. VI, page 369. Cited in Genesis of Springfield, page 42. Return
7Burt, Vol. I, page 157. Return
8Indian Deeds, page 12. Return
8aMass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, Vol. XLVIII, page 38. Cited in Genesis of Springfield, page 42. Return
9Burt, Vol. I, pages 156-160. Return
10Burt, Vol I, page 156. Return
11Indian Deeds, page 11. Return
12Indian Deeds, page 13. Return
13A List is in Burt, Vol. I, pages 190-191. The individual accounts are in the Pynchon Account Book in Forbes Library, Northampton, Mass. Return
14Book of Possessions. Return
15Winthrop Journal, Vol I, page 61. Return
16Indian Deeds, page 12. Return
17Indian Deeds, page 13. Return
18Book of Possessions. Return
19Longmeadow Centennial, page 182. Return
20Burt, Vol. I, page 156. Return
21Burt, Vol. I, page 157. Return 22Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., Ser. 4, Vol. VI, page 372. Cited in Genesis of Springfield, page 44. Return 23Pynchon Account Book at Forbes Library, Northampton, Mass. Return
24Burt, Vol. I, page 277, and page 309. Return
25Burt, Vol. I, page 183, Return
26Burt, Vol. I, page 185, Return
27Winthrop Journal, Vol. I, page 108. Return
28Burt, Vol. I, page 190. Return
29Hampshire County Probate Records. Return
30Pynchon Account Book at Forbes Library, Northampton, Mass. Return
31Pynchon Account Books at Connecticut Valley Historical Society, Springfield, Mass., Vol. II, pages 214-215. Return
32Original manuscript at Connecticut Valley Historical Society, Springfield, Mass. Return
33Journal of Winthrop, Jr. (Latin), in Library of Yale University. Return
34William Pynchon Court Record Book. Return
35Burt, Vol. I, page 245. Return
36Mass. Colony Records, Vol. IV, page 319. Return
37Book of Possessions. Return
38Burt, Vol. I, Page 140. Return
39Mass. Colony Records, Vol. IV, part 2, page 382. Return
40Mass. Colony Records, Vol. IV, part 2, page 469. Return
41Burt, Vol. I, page 159. Return

SOURCE: The Cooley Genealogy, by M. E. Cooley, pp. 1199; The Tuttle Publishing Company, Inc., Rutland, Vermont, 1941. Pages 60-75

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