THE NARRAGANSET TOWNSHIPS, GRANTEES ANDCLAIMANTS
IT will be remembered that when, on December 10th, 1675, the forces of Massachusetts Colony were mustered on Dedham Plain, to march against the Narraganset fort, a proclamation was made to the soldiers, in the name of the Governor, that, "if they played the man, took the fort, and drove the enemy out of the Narraganset country, which is their great seat, they should have a gratuity of land, besides their wages." We find that after they had so valiantly performed the service, and the war was long past, the soldiers were not forgetful of their claim, nor the colony unmindful of its obligations.
On June 4th, 1685, the following petition was presented to the General Court, then in session at Boston. The body of the petition, which was for the grant of land which had been promised, is not given here, but only the names contained upon the document:
To this petition the Court made the following answer:
In ansr to the petition of Wm Basset, Jno Lynsey, Robert Porter, Senr, & twenty-two more inhabitants of Lyn, Jeremiah Swayne, Samll Damon, Saml Lambson, Wm Robbins, James Pyke Jun., James Nicholls of Reading, Wm Raymond & 5 more of Beverly, & Samuel Lyncolne & three more, of Hingham, as on ye peticon on file, the Court Judgeth it meet to grant the peticoners a tract of Land, in the Nipmug country, of eight miles square, for their encouragement & others that were serviceable to the country in the late Indian warr, to a competent number, who shall see meet to joyne themselves to them in order to the making of a plantation or township, provided it be laid out so as not to interfere with any former grants, & that an orthodox minister, on their settlement of thirty families, be settled within the space of fower years next coming.Mass. Colonial Records, vol. V. p. 487.
There seems to have been little further action in regard to the settlement of this grant, and few of those entitled to land ever settled. The place was remote from the Massachusetts settlements, and the conditions demanded actual settlers in such numbers and with such limitations, as to prevent, rather than encourage, settlement. In the following years there were many interests nearer home; and it was not until nearly forty years had elapsed, that the interest in this old matter was revived. The colony of Massachusetts had then absorbed that of Plymouth, and together these constituted the "Province of Massachusetts Bay."
July 1, 1727, a petition of Samuel Chandler and Jacob Wright was presented to the General Court of the Province, in behalf of themselves and a great number of other persons, recalling the action of the General Court of the Colony, in 1685, "which grant was not pursued to effect," and now "for as much as the Petitioners were either personally present at the Fort and Fight at Narraganset, or descendants from those that were, or in the strictest alliance with them;" "therefore, praying that a Grant may be made them of such vacant Lands as may serve the Petitioners for Settlement, under such Restrictions & Limitations as this Court shall Judge fit."
In the House of Representatives, in answer, it was resolved, "that Major Thomas Tileston, Capt. John Alden, Mr. Edward Shove, Mr. Samuel Healey, of Newton, and Mr. Samuel Chandler of Concord, be a Committee, fully authorized & impowered to survey and lay out the Contents of eight Miles square in some of the unappropriated lands of this Province, and that the said lands be granted and disposed of to the Persons (whether officers or soldiers) belonging to this Province, who were in the service of their Country in the said Narraganset War, or to their legal Representatives, as a Reward for their publick Services, and is in full satisfaction for the Grant formerly made them by the Great and General Court."
It was also voted that the Committee "give public notice in the News Letter or otherwise, six months, at least, before their meeting, when and where they intend to meet, so that every Officer and soldier, who served in the said War or the lawful Representatives of such as served and since deceased, may have an opportunity to enlist their Names with the said Committee," etc.
When the Committee have completed the lists, the Grantees are to meet "as soon as may be and select a committee to regulate the affairs of the Propriety."
The Grantees are to be obliged "to settle sixty families thereon, with a learned Orthodox Minister within the space of seven years." Failing to fulfil these conditions the grantees forfeit all their rights under this grant.
When the enlisting had proceeded some time, it was found that the number of claimants was much larger than at first supposed, so that the committee was instructed to lay out "two Tracts of lands for Townships of the contents of six miles square," etc. The same conditions were imposed as in the first order.
The next year, May 29th, 1728, an order was passed that public notices be posted in every town in the province, as well as given in the News Letter. The following is the notice posted in the towns:
These may certify to whom it may concern.
That the General Assembly of this Province, at their Session begun and held the 29th. of May 1728, passed a Resolve for granting two Tracts for Townships of the contents of Six Miles square each, to the persons, whether Officers or soldiers, belonging to this Province, who were in the service of their country in the Narraganset War; And all such Officers and Soldiers now surviving, and the legal representatives of those that are deceased, are desired to give or send into the Secretaries office Lists of their Names and Descents, to be laid before the General Court at their next Fall Session.
J. WILLARD, Secr.
The committee appointed by the General Court, viz.: John Chandler, jr., Edward Shove, and John Hobson, assisted by Mr. Jonas Houghton, surveyor; with John Bennett, Joseph Wheelock, John Goss, and Stephen Mighill, chainmen, all sworn by Mr. Justice Wilder, laid out and presented a plan of the two Townships. The first was laid out "adjoining the towns of Rutland and Lunenburgh additional grants, and elsewhere adjoining the Province Land," and containing about 23,286 acres. This was Narraganset No. 2, or Wachuset; incorporated as Westminster, April 26, 1770. The second township was laid out on the south side of Souhegan River, the east boundary being about four or five miles from the Merrimac River, westward, containing 24,457, which is 1,417 acres more than the contents of six miles square, but which the committee think ought to be allowed to make up for ponds, etc.
This township became Narraganset No. 3, or "Souhegan West," and was under Massachusetts Government until 1741, when, by the adjustment of the line between Massachusetts and New Hampshire, it was found to fall within the limits of the latter province. It became the town of Amherst, N.H.
April 11, 1729. A committee was appointed by the Court to examine and decide upon the lists of grantees or claimants; and reported the following December 20th. And the Court then accepted the report, and ordered "that the said Claimers or Grantees meet at Boston, if the small Pox be not there; If it be, then at Cambridge, on the first Wednesday of June next ensuing." The small-pox was in Boston at the time set. It was found that the lists were growing larger, but that the claimants were so widely scattered, that much confusion would result without further time and more accurate investigation. The time of meeting was extended to the "next Fall Session."
At that session of the Court, December 30, 1730, a petition was presented by Thomas Tileston and others as a committee on behalf of the grantees and claimants, showing that the lists of the grantees was now so large, that the land already granted would give to each, such small portion, that there would be no object in settling the lots; and praying that the grant be enlarged, and a longer time allowed in which to investigate and adjust claims.
In answer to this petition, the House of Representatives voted to grant an extension of time, and to grant "to each one hundred and twenty claimants, a township of the contents of six miles square," under the above mentioned limitations and conditions.
The Council did not concur with this vote, nor in a similar vote passed in the House upon a petition, the following February, but insisted that the lands already granted in the two townships, was sufficient.
The matter continued thus in disagreement between the two branches, until January 19, 1731, when the House sent up to the Council a very outspoken, earnest and eloquent message, in behalf of the grantees, which, even at its full length, deserves a place here.
A Message from the House of Representatives of the General Court of
In the House of Representatives Ordered, that the following message be sent up to the Honorable Board. Viz. Whereas, There have been several Endeavours, to accommodate the Narrhaganset Soldiers and their Descendants with a sutable quantity of Land for their Settlement as an acknowledgment & Reward of their great Service to this Country which have hitherto failed of the desired Success; This House have thought it might tend to promote a good understanding & Harmony in this Court to lay before the Honorable Board, Wherefore it is resolved that the Representatives have come into the Grant of a tract of Six miles square to Each number of One hundred & Twenty persons which they have made this Session in answer to the Petition of Thomas Tilestone & others a Committee in behalf of themselves & the rest of the Soldiers & their Descendants, who were in the Narraganset War. And one great Reason is that there was a Proclamation made to the Army in the name of the Government (as living Evidences very fully testify) when they were mustered on Dedham Plain where they began their March, that if they played the man, took the Fort & Drove the Enemy out of the Narraganset Country, which was their great Seat, that they should have a gratuity in Land besides their Wages; and it is well known, & our Sitting to hear this petition is an Evidence that this was done; and as the Conditions have been performed, certainly the promise in all Equity & Justice ought to be fulfilled; and if We Consider the Difficulties these brave men went through in Storming the Fort in the Depth of Winter, & the pinching wants they afterwards underwent in pursuing the Indians that escaped through a hideous Wilderness famously known throughout New England to this day by the Name of the hungry March; and if we further Consider that until this brave though small army thus played the Man, the whole Country was filled with Distress & fear, & We trembled in this Capital Boston itself & that to the Goodness of God to this army We owe our Fathers & our own Safety & Estates, We cannot but think that those Instruments of Our Deliverance & Safety ought to be not only justly but also gratefully & generously rewarded & even with much more than they prayed for, If we measure what they receive from us, by what we enjoy and have received from them.
We need not mention to the Honorable Board the Wisdom Justice and Generosity of Our Mother Country & of the ancient Romans, on such Occasions, Triumph, Orations, Hereditary Honors & privileges all the Riches, Lands & Spoils of War and conquered Countrys have not been thought to great for those to whom they have not owed more if so much as We do to those our Deliverers: & We ought further to observe what greatly adds to their merit that they were not Vagabonds & Beggars & Outcasts, of which Armies are sometimes considerably made up, who run the Hasards of War to Avoid the Danger of Starving: so far from this that these were some of the best of Our men, the Fathers & Sons of some of the greatest & best of Our families and could have no other View but to Serve the Country & whom God was pleased accordingly in every remarkable manner to Honour & Succeed. Of these things the Honorable the General Court of the Late Colony of the Massachusetts in those days was not insensible & accordingly gave to the Soldiers being upward of Five Hundred, about Two Thirds of the Army that went from the Massachusetts, & the late Colony of Plimouth a Tract of about forty thousand acres in the Nipmug Country, this or the value of it these Soldiers would be contented with & take in their Brethren of Plimouth too, tho' that should take away two thirds of what was granted them & would after that have more in value than what they now ask for in all, for every one own that 40000 acres in the Heart of the Country as the Nipmug Country is, is of more Value than five times that quantity remote in the Borders & in Danger if there should be a french War, as is and would be the Case with all the unappropriated Lands of the province, which they now ask for.
It is hoped that the neglect of these petitioners so long or the provinces having disposed of the Nipmug Country to others and so defeated their ancient Grants will not be thought to wear out any more than it rewards their merit. The Grant seems to be made in acknowledgment both of their promise & of their fulfilling the Condition and being well entitled to it, & there is great Reason to fear that publick Guilt would ly upon the Country if we should neglect and continue in the Breach of the promise after it has been made & omitted for above fifty years. As to the late Grant of two Townships to Seven or Eight hundred of these Soldiers; It is so far below the Value of the Land they Conquered, & the Price the province had for it when it was sold, & the money divided to Colonies that carried on the War: It is such a Pittance of what they obtain for us, so exceedingly beneath what the province has defeated them of which was granted to about Two thirds of them in the Nipmug Country, that it is rather mocking and deriding them to offer it. Beyond what has been offered it should be Considered to Grant the present, and give such a quantity of Land as may be worth Settling, & upon Conditions of bringing forward Townships, is much more agreeable to Charter & for the Public Good than to Give away Tracts of Land & suffer & even tempt men to let them ly waste & unimproved, for in the way that has been proposed & in which some Progress has been made, the Lands will be divided into such scraps that they will not be worth receiving.Mass. Court Records, January 19th, 1731.
This message accompanied the renewed petition of Thomas Tileston and others, for the soldiers, upon which action had already been taken by the House, and it was now sent up again to the Council for concurrence, and there finally received favorable action June 9, 1732. Definite action was taken, and it was voted by both branches that every hundred and twenty of those grantees enrolled whose claims have been allowed shall have atownship of six miles square under the conditions formerly stated.
The work of gathering the lists of names, and adjusting the claims was no light task, as appears from the references in the Court Records. There was much confusion in the minds of the people as to the proper method of application, and many of the heirs made application in their own names while the soldier was still alive.
Finally, April 26, 1733, a list of eight hundred and forty grantees was presented and accepted, and it was voted to grant the seven townships necessary to satisfy the demands of this number of grantees.
The grantees were divided into "Proprieties" or companies, according to their present residences, if alive, or their heirs, lawfully claiming. The eldest male heir had the first right, and after him the eldest female heir.
The grantees were ordered to meet as they should be classified, and choose committees to regulate each Township.
On February 11, 1733-4, plans were presented by the Committee of the General Court of two Townships, lying between the Saco and Pesumpscot Rivers, contiguous to each other; each of the contents of six miles square, with allowances for ponds and previous grants to Hill and Tyng. The township next to the Saco was assigned to the "Ipswich Society," so called, which was made up of the grantee residents of Ipswich, Newbury, Rowley, Haverhill, Salisbury, Amesbury, Methuen, Hampton, Greenland, and Berwick. In June, 1732, at a meeting in Boston, they had chosen Philemon Dane and John Gains of Ipswich, and Col. Joseph Gerrish of Newbury, as a committee to regulate the business of this township, which became No. 1.
The following list is alphabetically arranged (initials only) from the lists in the Proprietor's Record Book, as published in the excellent volume of Capt. Wm. F. Goodwin, entitled "Narraganset Township, No. 1."
Different committees had different methods of keeping their records, and since the original list, returned by the Committee to the General Court, was partially lost, the greater part of it, indeed, it has been necessary to gather the lists mostly from the old Township Record-Books. In this Record-Book of No. 1, there are two lists, but the grantees are identical in both, while the two lists represent the first and second divisions of lots, the claimant being different, in some cases, in the two. In such cases I have arranged both claimants, and sometimes three, under the one grantee. Where any relationship is mentioned, I have carried the fact into the space after claimant's name. I have indicated the fact that a new name occurs in the second list, by the mark (2).
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