Chapter 14: civil History.
Although Cambridge was early abandoned as the seat of government, it maintained from the beginning a prominent rank among the towns in the Colony. It was designated, before the establishment of counties, as one of the four towns in which Judicial Courts should be held. Having until that time exercised the whole power of the Colony, both legislative and judicial, the General Court ordered, March 3, 1635-6, “That there shall be four courts kept every quarter; 1. at Ipswich, to which Neweberry shall belong; 2. at Salem, to which Saugus shall belong; 3. at Newe Towne, to which Charlton, Concord, Meadford, and Waterton shall belong; 4th, at Boston, to which Rocksbury, Dorchester, Weymothe, and Hingham shall belong. Every of these Courts shall be kept by such magistrates as shall be dwelling in or near the said towns, and by such other persons of worth as shall from time to time be appointed by the General Court, so as no court shall be kept without one magistrate at the least and that none of the magistrates be excluded, who can and will intend the same.” 1 And when the Colony was divided into counties, May 10, 1643,2 the courts continued to be held in Cambridge, as the shire-town of Middlesex. As “the business of the courts there is much increased,” it was ordered, Oct. 19, 1652, that two additional sessions should be held for that county in each year, both at Charlestown. These courts were continued for many years, and a court house and jail were erected in that town. At a later date, courts were established and similar buildings erected in Concord, and also, at a comparatively recent day, at Lowell. All these places were regarded as “half-shires” ; but the County Records were never removed from Cambridge, as the principal shire, except as follows: During the usurpation of Sir Edmund Andros, he appointed Capt. Laurence Hammond of Charlestown to be Clerk of the Courts and Register of Probate  and Deeds, who removed the records to Charlestown. After the revolution and the resumption of government under the forms of the old Charter, Captain Hammond denied that the existing courts had any legal authority, and refused to surrender the records which were in his possession. The General Court therefore ordered, Feb. 18, 1689-90, “that Capt. Laurence Hammond deliver to the order of the County Court for Middlesex the records of that county; that is to say, all books and files by him formerly received from Mr. Danforth, sometime Recorder of that County, as also all other books of record, and files belonging to said county in his custody.” 3 A year afterwards, Feb. 4, 1690-1, the Marshal General was directed to summon Captain Hammond to appear and show cause why he had not surrendered the Middlesex Records; and on the next day, he “peremptorily denying to appear,” the General Court ordered the Marshal General to arrest him forthwith, with power to break open his house if necessary.4 The records were at length surrendered. Again, at a town meeting, May 11, 1716, an attempt was made to reclaim missing records: “Whereas the Register's office in the County of Middlesex is not kept in our town of Cambridge, which is a grievance unto us, Voted, that our Representative be desired to represent said grievance to the honorable General Court, and intreat an Act of said Court that said office may forthwith be removed into our town, according to law, it being the shire-town in said county.” 5 By the records of the General Court it appears that on the 8th of June, 1716, Colonel Goffe complained that no office for the registry of deeds was open in Cambridge, being the shire-town of Middlesex; the Representative of Charlestown insisted that his town was the shire; and a hearing was ordered.6 A week afterwards, June 15, “upon hearing of the towns of Cambridge and Charlestown as to their respective claims of being the shire-town of the County of Middlesex, resolved that Cambridge is the shire-town of said County. Read and non-concurred by the Representatives.” 7 The case between the two towns being again heard, June 13, 1717, it was resolved by the whole court, that “Cambridge is the shire-town of the said county;” 8 and on the following day it was voted in concurrence “that the public office for registering of deeds and conveyances of lands for the County  of Middlesex be forthwith opened and kept at the shire-town of Cambridge.” 9 This order was immediately obeyed. I have not ascertained when or where the house was erected in which the judicial courts were first held in Cambridge. It seems to have been burned in 1671. In the Court Files of that year, is a document commencing thus: “At a County Court held at Cambridge, 4 (8) 1671. After the burning of the Court House, wherein was also burnt the Court Book of Records for trials, and several deeds, wills and inventories, that have been delivered into Court before the fire was kindled,” etc.10 The Court afterwards passed this order: “Upon information that several Records belonging to this County were casually burnt in the burning of the house where the Court was usually kept, this Court doth order that the Recorder take care that out of the foul copies and other scripts in his custody he fairly draw forth the said Records into a Book, and present the same to the County Court, when finished: and that the Treasurer of the County do allow him for the same.” 11 The first Court House of which we have any definite knowledge, was erected, about 1708, in Harvard Square, nearly in front of the present Lyceum Hall.12 It appears by the Proprietors' Records that “at a meeting of the Proprietors of Cambridge, orderly convened, the 26 day of January 1707-8,—Voted, That the land where Mr. John Bunker's shop now stands, with so much more as will be sufficient to erect the Court House upon (to be built in this town), be granted for that end, in case a Committee appointed by the Proprietors do agree with Andrew Bordman and John Bunker for building a lower story under it . . . . Deac. Nathaniel Hancock, Jason Russell, and Lieut. Amos Marrett, were chosen a committee to agree with said Bunker and Bordman about building under the said house.” The Committee reported, Feb. 9, 1607-8: “Pursuant to the aforesaid appointment, we, the subscribers above mentioned, have agreed with and granted liberty unto the said John Bunker and Andrew Bordman to make a lower room under the said  house (which we apprehend will be about thirty foot in length and twenty-four foot in width), the said lower room to be about seven or eight foot stud, betwixt joints, with a cellar under the whole of the said house; the aforesaid lower room and cellar to be for the use of the said John Bunker and Andrew Bordman, their heirs and assigns forever, excepting an entry through the middle of the said lower room, of about six foot wide, and a stairway for passage into the said Court House, or chamber, as the committee for building the same shall see meet; the remainder of the said lower room and the whole of the said cellar to be for the use and benefit of the said John Bunker and Andrew Bordman, their heirs and assigns, forever, as aforesaid. It is the true intent and meaning of this agreement, that the said