In this closing year of the century, after much labor, I am able to place within the reach of those who are interested in the history of Springfield, however widely scattered over the country, the conluding volume of the official transactions of the town during the first hundred years of its existence.
This publication has grown out of a desire to make accessible the facts upon which the town government was formed and developed during each stage of its history. Such record must, of necessity, include much that to the casual reader seems of little importance; but however trivial the every-day transactions and perfunctory records may appear, they are necessary to complete the picture of the past. It was a realistic age, full of action that concerned material conditions. The romance which has in these later days been woven around the doings of the beginners of the New England settlements, had not touched the people, nor even the leaders, in the founding of a new scheme of government. Their ideals were based upon necessity and duty, and they builded from rude conditions. They are admired for their firm adherence to those principles which have brought to their successors a realizing sense of the vast responsibility and the wisdom of those who went forth as pioneers in thought an action.
The official transactions of Springfield from the beginning in 1636 must remain as the foundation upon which the future historian will reach conclusions and he will write, not from the doings of a single central figure, nor from a few, but from the whole, all of whom were an integral part of the doings and opinions of the community in its founding and advancement. New discoveries of important facts must henceforth come, if at all, from without, - from the State archives - or from investigations in England, whence our ancestors came.
In the early pages of this volume are specimens of various handwritings found in the records, and of seventy autographs, reproduced for this work. The individual character of the writers and their degree of training in penmanship are revealed in these as they could be in no other way. These specimens of writing convey to the mind through sight an impression that could not be otherwise obtained, and are an interesting feature in the history of an ancestry of whom we really know so little. In the extracts from the records we have the handwritings of William Pynchon, Henry Smith, Elizur Holyoke, Henry Burt, Lieut. Thomas Cooper and John Pynchon.
After the extracts from the Town Records will be found facsimiles of two interesting papers in the vigorous handwriting of Deacon Samuel Chapin. One is a deed, dated May 21, 1667, by which Deacon Chapin gives certain lands in Springfield to his son, Japhet. This deed was found many years ago among the papers of the late Dormer Chapin of Chicopee Street which went after his decease to his grandson, Edmund M. Chapin of Granby. Mr. J. W. Hersey of Springfield, whose wife was Ellen Chapin, remarked to the latter that this deed, together with many other papers of like character and origin, should be preserved in some public place. Mr. Chapin subsequently gave them to Mr. Hersey for that purpose and the latter, although strongly urged to dispose of them to private individuals, presented them to the Springfield City Library.
Prior to that time not a single scrap of the Deacon's handwriting had been found in Springfield. Within a few weeks the editor of these volumes has found in the Pynchon account books several of his autographs signed to statements of indebtedness to Pynchon, and an agreement drawn by Deacon Chapin, between John Pynchon and Elizur Holyoke, in which the former takes the latter's interest in the mill and lands to satisfy a claim of £121 18s 8d. A reproduction of this agreement will be found in this volume, accompanying the deed referred to. These two
papers throw a new light upon the education and training which Deacon Chapin must have received before he came to this country. It is clear that he and also Henry Burt had been trained to a certain extent in legal matters before coming to New England, and that both had been employed where their livelihood came from the use of the pen. That Samuel Chapin could draw in accurate language a legal document, and that Henry Burt filled for many years the office of Clerk of the Writs, are evidence that both had received instruction in England under those who were skilled in the law.
While Deacon Chapin's writing appears obsure to one not skilled in the chirography of his day, a careful study of it shows that he was a most skillful penman. The apparent illegibility is due to the use of certain ancient characters, which even in his time were being abandoned. Conspicuous among these are the small "e," "h," "r," and "s," which resemble those used in German script, the "h" being made sometimes with loops both above and below the line, and sometimes with the loop below the line only. The capital "S" is also peculiar, and there is an abbreviation for "and" which is constantly used. Having regard to these peculiarities, the handwriting will be found of a strikingly regular character and fairly easy to decipher.
The portion of the Town Records printed in this volume covers pages 49-518 inclusive, being the transcript of the contents of Vol. III of the original manuscript. The time which it covers is from December 30, 1664, to May 14, 1736, a period of nearly 72 years. This lapse of time had witnessed the growth of the little "plantation" by the Connecticut to a town of substantial size, preserving, nevertheless, the simplicity of daily life and customs which had marked its conditions in the days of its first settlement. The germ of the city of today, which represents so much that is high and noble in education, science, and humanitarian purpose, was steadily unfolding, and the seed that the fathers had planted was giving promise of a rich fruitage in the future.
The maps in this and the preceding volume show the location
of the lots granted to the early settlers. Those in the Cow Pasture, at the North End, now Brightwood, were granted in the same order as were the homelots in the center of the town; that is to say, those at the South End, above Mill River, had the first lots granted above End Brook.
From page 519 to the end of the volume will be found personal sketches of the founders of Springfield, with a genealogical record of three generations, in so far as it has been possible to obtain data. Intermarriage among the families of the first settlers, such as will be noted upon examination of these tables, was the rule here as in all the early New England settlements. Thus it came about that there was perpetuated a community of interest and opinion, and inasmuch as the immigration during the first century of New England history was almost wholly confined to families of English birth, the New England stock become a thorough embodiment of the Anglo-Saxon character, modified solely by the influences of new surroundings, without the influences that would have come from a mingling of other races. Hence we have the typical New England character, which has made this little section of America so influential wherever New England's sons and daughters have gone. Our emigrant ancestors were not Cavaliers, but were of the sturdy yeomanry of England, who, while guarding the privileges of religion, cherished likewise the sacred truth, "To labor is to pray."
Henry M. Burt.Springfield, January 2, 1899.
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First Court House in Springfield Erected in 1723.
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The Parish Church, Springfield, England.
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Interior of Parish Church, Springfield, England.
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