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Chapter 2: civil History.

  • The New Town selected as fit for a fortified place.
  • -- General agreement to erect houses. -- several Assistants fail to do so. -- controversy between Dudley and Winthrop. -- earliest inhabitants. -- Canal. -- Palisade. -- arrival of the Braintree company. -- Common pales. -- division of lands. -- highways
    The purpose for which Cambridge was originally established as a town is stated by two of its projectors, Winthrop and Dudley. “The governor and most of the assistants,” had “agreed to build a town fortified upon the neck,” between Roxbury and Boston, Dec. 6, 1630; but, for several reasons, they abandoned that project, eight days afterwards, and agreed to examine other places. On the twenty-first day of the same month: “We met again at Watertown, and there, upon view of a place a mile beneath the town, all agreed it a fit place for a fortified town, and we took time to consider further about it.” 1 Dudley, describing the events of 1630, in his letter to the Countess of Lincoln, says, “We began again in December to consult about a fit place to build a town upon, leaving all thoughts of a fort, because upon any invasion we were necessarily to lose our houses when we should retire thereinto. So after divers meetings at Boston, Roxbury, and Watertown, on the twenty-eighth of December, we grew to this resolution, to bind all the assistants2 (Mr. Endicott and Mr. Sharpe excepted, which last purposeth to return by the next ship into England), to build houses at a place a mile east from Watertown, near Charles River, the next spring, and to winter there the next year; that so by our examples, and by removing the ordnance and munition thither, all who were able might be drawn thither, and such as shall come to us hereafter, to their advantage, be compelled so to do; and so, if God would, a fortified town might there grow up, the place fitting reasonably well thereto.” Johnson describes the original design and its partial accomplishment, in his characteristic manner: “At this time, those who were in place of civil government, having some [7] additional pillars to underprop the building, began to think of a place of more safety in the eyes of man than the two frontier towns of Charles Towne and Boston were, for the habitation of such as the Lord had prepared to govern this pilgrim people. Wherefore they rather made choice to enter further among the Indians than hazard the fury of malignant adversaries who in a rage might pursue them, and therefore chose a place situate on Charles River, between Charles Towne and Water Towne, where they erected a town called New Town, now named Cambridge, being in form like a list cut off from the broad-cloth of the two forenamed towns, where this wandering race of Jacobites gathered the eighth church of Christ.” 3

    Notwithstanding it was agreed that “all the assistants” should build at the New Town in the spring of 1631, it does not appear that any of them fulfilled the agreement, except Dudley and Bradstreet. Governor Winthrop indeed erected a house;4 but he subsequently took it down again and removed it to Boston. This led to a sharp controversy between Dudley and Winthrop, which was at length decided by the elders in favor of Dudley.5 There may have been good and sufficient reasons why Winthrop should prefer to remain in Boston rather than to remove to the New Town. But it is much to be regretted that he should claim to have substantially fulfilled his obligation, or “performed the words of the promise,” by erecting a house, though he immediately removed it. This is scarcely consistent with his otherwise fair fame as a gentleman of singular ingenuousness. It would seem that Sir Richard Saltonstall intended to build a house, and [8] a lot was assigned to him for that purpose;6 but he went to England in the spring of 1631, and did not return. Nowell remained at Charlestown; Pynchon, at Roxbury; Ludlow, at Dorchester; and Coddington, at Boston. Endicott and Sharpe were originally free from engagement.

    Dr. Holmes says, “the Deputy Governor (Dudley), Secretary Bradstreet, and other principal gentlemen, in the spring of 1631, commenced the execution of the plan.” 7 No list of inhabitants is found until after the “Braintree company” arrived in the summer of 1632, except this memorandum on the title-page of the Town Records: “The Towne Book of Newtowne. Inhabitants there—Mr. Tho. Dudly Esq., Mr. Symon Bradstreet, Mr. Edmond Lockwood, Mr. Daniell Patricke, John Poole, William Spencer, John Kirman, Symon Sackett.” 8 But this Book [9] of Records was not commenced until 1632, several months after Dudley and Bradstreet performed their promise “to build houses at the New Town.” Whether more than the before named eight persons, and indeed whether all these resided in the New Town before the end of 1631, I have not found any certain proof. The number of inhabitants in that year was doubtless small; yet there were enough able-bodied men to be specially included in an order of court passed July 26, 1631, requiring a general training of soldiers in all the plantations.9

    Although the Governor and Assistants generally did not perform their agreement to make the New Town the place of their permanent residence, they seem to have regarded it as the prospective seat of government, and not long afterwards, as will appear, commenced holding the general and particular courts there. Several orders, passed during the year, indicate such an expectation and intention. For example: June 14, 1631, “Mr. John Maisters hath undertaken to make a passage from Charles River to the New Town, twelve foot broad and seven foot deep; for which the Court promiseth him satisfaction, according as the charges thereof shall amount unto.” 10 On the fifth of the following July, provision was made for the payment of Mr. Masters, when it was “Ordered, That there shall be levied out of the several plantations the sum of thirty pounds, for the making of the creek at the New Town,” —but no portion of this sum was assessed upon the New Town. Again, Feb. 3, 1631-2, “It was ordered, That there should be three score pounds levied out of the several plantations within the limits of this patent, towards the making of a pallysadoe about the New Town; viz. Watertown, VIII.l. the New Town, III.l. Charlton, VII.l. Meadford, III.l. Saugus and Marble Harbor, VI.l. Salem, IV.l. x. s. Boston, VIII.l. Rocksbury, VII.l. Dorchester, VII.l. Wessaguscus, v.l. Winettsemet, XXX.s.” 11 [10]

    Six months later, there was a considerable accession of inhabitants, by order of the General Court. The order does not appear on the records of the Court; but Winthrop says, under date of Aug. 14, 1632, “The Braintree12 Company (which had begun to sit down at Mount Wollaston), by order of court, removed to Newtown. There were Mr. Hooker's Company.” 13 Before their arrival an order was adopted by the inhabitants, in regard to the paling around the common lands; the contemplated assignment of proportions, however, was not made until several months afterwards, when new inhabitants had arrived and had received grants of the common property. The date of this order, which is the first recorded in the town records, is March 29, 1632:—

    An agreement by the inhabitants of the New Town, about paling14 in the neck of land. Imprimis, That every one who hath any part therein shall hereafter keep the same in good and sufficient repair; and if it happen to have any defect, he shall mend the same within three days after notice given, or else pay ten shillings a rod for every rod so repaired for him. Further, It is agreed that the said impaled ground shall be divided according to every man's proportion in said pales. Further, It is agreed, that if any man shall desire to sell his part of impaled ground, he shall first tender the sale thereof to the town inhabitants interested, who shall either give him the charge he hath been at, or else to have liberty to sell it to whom he can.

    In the list which follows, evidently according to the preceding order, though not immediately succeeding it on the record, I preserve the original orthography, together with the number of rods, indicating the relative shares in the impaled ground. [11]

    Common pales divided as follows:—

    John Haynes, Esq.70 rods.Steven Hart8 rods.
    Thomas Dudly, Esq.40 rods.William Wadsworth7 rods.
    Mr. Symon Bradstreet20 rods.George Steele6 rods.
    John Benjamin50 rods.Richard Goodman6 rods.
    John Talcott36 rods.John Bridg.6 rods.
    Mathew Allen45 rods.Symon Sackett6 rods.
    William Westwood30 rods.Richard Butler6 rods.
    James Omstead25 rods.Capt. Patrike5 rods.
    Daniell Denison25 rods.Richard Web5 rods.
    Samuell Dudly25 rods.John Masters4 rods.
    Andrew Warner20 rods.Antho. Colby4 rods.
    William Goodwine16 rods.John Clark3 rods.
    John White15 rods.Nath. Richards3 rods.
    John Steele14 rods.Richard Lord3 rods.
    Edward Stebinge12 rods.Abraham Morrill3 rods.
    William Spencer12 rods.William Kelse3 rods.
    Thomas Hosmer10 rods.Jonath. Bosworth2 rods.
    William Lewis10 rods.Tho. Spencer2 rods.
    Hester Musse10 rods.Garrad Hadon2 rods.
    Joseph Readinge2 rods.Edward Elmer2 rods.
    Thomas Heate2 rods.Jeremy Addams2 rods.

    Of these forty-two persons, it is certain that at least one half were not of the Braintree Company, as many have supposed.15 Precisely how many of the other half were of that company, I have no means to determine; but from whatever place they may have come, the number of inhabitants so increased that in about a year there were nearly a hundred families in the New Town.

    The division of lands and the establishment of highways were among the first necessities. The house-lots were laid out compactly in the “Town,” and in the “West end,” the tract bounded by Sparks, Wyeth, and Garden streets, Harvard and Brattle squares, and Charles River. For cultivation, lands were assigned in the impaled “Neck,” and afterwards elsewhere. [12] The original assignment is not found; but the work was commenced before the “Braintree company” arrived; for Winthrop alleged, as early as August 3, 1632, that Dudley “had empaled, at Newtown, above one thousand acres, and had assigned lands to some there.” 16 So much of the impaled land as lies northerly of Main Street was so divided, that the divisions are easily traced. The westerly part of what was denominated “the Neck,” was allotted in small portions. First came the “planting field,” afterwards called the “Old field,” which was bounded westerly and northerly by the common pales, easterly by Dana Street, and southerly by Main and Arrow streets; this contained about sixty-three acres, and was assigned in small portions for separate use. Next to this field was the “Small-lot hill,” which was bounded southerly by Main Street, westerly by Dana Street, northerly by the common pales, and easterly by a line extended from Somerville, near the northern termination of Fayette Street, to a point on Main Street about one hundred and thirty feet east of Hancock Street. This tract contained about forty-six acres, and was divided into eighteen narrow lots extending from Dana Street to the easterly line. Eastwardly from “Small-lot hill” the land was divided into large lots, which were assigned in the following order and quantity: Samuel Dudley, 22 1/2 acres; Thomas Dudley, Esq., 63 acres; Richard Goodman, 6 acres; William Westwood, 27 acres; John Talcott,. 32 acres; Daniel Denison, 22 1/2 acres; John Haynes, Esq., 63 acres; (these lots severally extended from what is now Main Street to Somerville line; the following lots bordered southerly on the Great Marsh): Widow Hester Mussey, 9 acres; Matthew Allen, 27 acres; John Talcott, 45 acres, bordering eastwardly on the marsh, and another lot, wholly marsh, 50 acres; Atherton Hough, 130 acres of marsh and upland, embracing “Graves his neck,” or East Cambridge.

    At a later period, another planting field was enclosed by a common fence, and was called the “West field,” and sometimes “West-end field.” It was bounded northerly by Garden Street, easterly by Wyeth Street, southerly by Vassall Lane, and westerly by the Great Swamp, or Fresh Pond meadows. There was also the Pine Swamp field, whose bounds I cannot trace; but it was in the vicinity of the intersection of Oxford Street with Everett and Mellen streets.

    Such were the principal planting fields in early use. The marshes and meadows were in like manner assigned in severalty. [13] The principal fresh meadows at first divided were those which adjoin Fresh Pond, called the “Fresh Pond meadows.” The marshes on the northerly side of Charles River received distinctive names. The tract lying westerly of Ash Street was called “Windmill-hill-marsh” ; between Ash Street and College Wharf was “Ox-marsh” ; the name of “Ship-marsh” was applied to the tract extending from College Wharf to the point where the river sweeps around to the south; and the narrow strip between this point and Riverside was called “Common-marsh.” “Long-marsh” extended from Green Street between Bay and Vernon streets to the river below Riverside, and probably to “Captain's Island,” at the south end of Magazine Street. The marsh between Captain's Island and East Cambridge was called the “Great Marsh.” Its name will appear the more appropriate, when it is considered that almost the entire territory easterly of a line drawn from the junction of Pearl and Allston streets to the point where the Grand Junction Railroad crosses Miller's River (excepting the high land in East Cambridge), was then one continuous unbroken marsh. A small tract, indeed, lying southeastwardly from the junction of Main and Front streets, was upland, and was an island at high water, afterwards called “Pelham's Island” ; and a few other small parcels of dry land appeared on the easterly side of the line before mentioned, but they were more than counterbalanced by tracts of marsh on the westerly side.

    The grazing lands were not divided at first; but the herds of cows, goats, and swine were driven forth, under care of their several keepers, to range over the undivided lands, styled “commons.” The tract embraced between Garden and Linnaean streets and North Avenue was early set apart for the security of the cows at night. It was called the “Cow-common,” and remained undivided nearly a century after it was first so used. Provision was also made for oxen, and the tract lying between the “Common pales” and Kirkland Street, extending from the Common to Somerville line, was devoted as an “ox-pasture;” to which was subsequently added a corresponding tract on the northerly side of Kirkland Street.

    The “Path from Charlestown to Watertown” was probably travelled before the New Town was selected as a place for residence; and it may properly be regarded as the most ancient highway in Cambridge. Its general direction was through Kirkland, Mason, and Brattle streets, Elmwood Avenue, and Mount [14] Auburn Street. The “Town” and all the grounds originally impaled were on the southeasterly side of this path. The “common pales,” so called, were about a quarter of a mile south of the path, at the present Somerville line, and about two hundred yards from it at Gore Hall. Among the earliest of the streets laid out for the use of the Town were four, running easterly and westerly, crossed by four others at right angles. These eight streets, with a single exception, remain substantially in their original location; but many of them have been made wider, and the names of all have been changed.

    Ancient names.present names.
    Braintree StreetHarvard Street and Harvard Square.
    Spring StreetMount Auburn Street.
    Long StreetWinthrop Street.
    Marsh LaneSouth Street, and part of Eliot Street.
    Creek LaneBrattle Square and part of Eliot Street.
    Wood StreetBrighton Street.
    Water StreetDunster Street.
    Crooked StreetHolyoke Street.

    Besides these principal streets were sundry highways. The “highway to Watertown” extended from Brattle Square through Brattle Street to Mason Street; and thence was identical with the “Path from Charlestown to Watertown.” From this highway three others diverged southerly: one, to the ox-marsh, passing near the site of the Brattle Mansion-house; one to Windmill-hill, now Ash Street; and one to Watertown marsh, not far westerly from the residence of Samuel Batchelder, Esq. The first and last of these three highways were long ago closed. Mason Street was early distinguished as the “highway from Charlestown to Watertown.” The original “highway to the Fresh Pond” followed the track of the present Garden Street, Wyeth Street, and Vassall Lane, except that it passed across the common from Harvard Square to its northwesterly corner. As far as to Wyeth Street, Garden Street was called both the “highway to the Fresh Pond,” and the “highway to the Great Swamp;” northwesterly from Wyeth Street, it had the latter name exclusively. An old range-way on the easterly side of the Botanic Garden, now made wider and called Raymond Street, was “the other highway to the Great Swamp.” The “highway to the Common” indicated that portion of North Avenue which led from Harvard Square to the point where the Old [15] Charlestown Path crossed the Common. The other portion of North Avenue was the “highway to Menotomy.” The “highway to Charlestown,” or the “Charlestown path,” as before stated, was the present Kirkland Street. In the impaled land, the principal highway was the “highway to the Oyster Bank,” or the “highway into the neck,” extending through Arrow Street, Main Street, and Pleasant Street, to a point near Cottage Street, and thence diagonally across the present streets towards Washington Square. From Pleasant Street a path diverged westerly, and followed the border of the upland, next to the marsh, and was called the “highway to Captain's Island.” 17 From the junction of Pleasant and Main streets, the highway extended easterly, nearly in the track of Main Street, and at a later day was called the “highway to Pelham's Island.” Between the “old field” and “small-lot hill,” was the “highway to the common pales,” now called Dana Street, the direction of which, however, is somewhat changed, the northerly termination now being several rods more westerly than it was at first. Another branch extended southerly from Main Street to Riverside, originally called the “highway into the little neck,” now Putnam Avenue. From the “town” into the “highway to the oyster-bank” there were two principal entrances: one being a continuation of Braintree (now Harvard) Street, from Holyoke Street easterly, through Harvard Street and the northerly portion of Bow Street to Arrow Street, and indifferently called “Field Lane” and the “highway to the oyster-bank;” the other being a continuation of Spring (now Mount Auburn) Street, or rather branching from a sharp angle in Crooked (now Holyoke) Street, opposite to the site of the printing office, and finding along the higher land above the westerly portion of Bow Street, until it intersected Field Lane at the present junction of Bow and Arrow streets; this was indifferently called “Back Lane,” and “Cow-yard Row.” “Cow-yard Lane,” separating the house-lots from the yards in the rear, extended across the College enclosure, from the Common to the “Old Field,” at the distance of about a hundred feet from Harvard Street, having an outlet into Harvard Street about a hundred feet easterly from the present Holyoke Street; this, like that into which it entered, was called “Field Lane.” Cow-yard Lane and Field Lane north of Harvard [16] Street were discontinued and enclosed with the adjoining lands immediately after “Mr. Hooker's company” removed. The foregoing are all the highways of which I find any trace in the present bounds of Cambridge, prior to 1636. On the south side of the river, however, a highway was early established, called the “highway to Roxbury,” from a point opposite to the College Wharf, in the general direction of the road from Cambridge Great Bridge, through the easterly portion of Brighton to Brookline. Frequent reference is also made, in the early records, to the “highway from Watertown to Roxbury.”

    1 Savage's Winthrop, i. 45, 46.

    2 Winthrop was then Governor, and Dudley Deputy Governor; the Assistants were Sir Richard Saltonstall, John Endicott, Increase Nowell, William Pynchon, Thomas Sharp, Roger Ludlow, William Coddington, and Simon Bradstreet.

    3 Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc., XIII. 136.

    4 It has been said that Winthrop erected only the frame of a house; but he says it was a house inhabited by servants. See next note.

    5 Savage's Winthrop, i. 82, 83. Winthrop says Dudley “complained of the breach of promise, both in the governor and others, in not building at Newtown. The governor answered, that he had performed the words of the promise; for he had a house up, and seven or eight servants abiding in it, by the day appointed; and for the removing his house, he alleged that, seeing that the rest of the assistants went not about to build, and that his neighbors of Boston had been discouraged from removing thither by Mr. Deputy himself, and thereupon had (under all their hands) petitioned him, that (according to the promise he made to them when they first sat down with him at Boston, namely, that he would not remove, except they went with him), he would not leave them:—this was the occasion that he removed his house. Upon these and other speeches to this purpose, the ministers went apart for one hour; then returning, they delivered their opinions, that the governor was in fault for removing of his house so suddenly, without conferring with the deputy and the rest of the assistants; but if the deputy were the occasion of discouraging Boston men from removing, it would excuse the governor a tanto, but not a toto. The governor, professing himself willing to submit his own opinion to the judgment of so many wise and godly friends, acknowledged himself faulty.”

    6 The Proprietors' Records show that what is now called Winthrop Square was allotted to Sir Richard Saltonstall; but when it was ascertained that he would not return from England, the lot was assigned for a “Market Place,” by which name it was known for more than two centuries, though no market-house was ever erected there. Probably like the old Market Place in Boston, it was used for traffic, in the open air, between the inhabitants and such as brought commodities for sale.

    7 Coll. Mass. Hist Soc., VII. 7.

    8 Of these eight persons who laid the foundation of the New Town, Thomas Dudley was the most eminent. He was elected Deputy Governor in 1630, became Governor in 1634, and was either Governor, Deputy Governor, or Assistant, during the remainder of his life. He removed to Ipswich, perhaps before May, 1636, when he and Bradstreet were named as magistrates to hold the court there, while others were appointed for the court at New Town. Soon afterwards he removed to Roxbury, were he died July 31, 1653. Simon Bradstreet was an Assistant from 1630 to 1678; Deputy Governor, 1678; Governor, 1679-86, 1689-92. He also removed to Ipswich, probably with Dudley, whose daughter was his wife; was afterwards in Andover for a short time; then in Boston until Sept. 18, 1695, when he removed to Salem, and died there, March 27, 1697. Edmund Lockwood, having the prefix of “Mr.,” was appointed by the General Court, Constable of the New Town, at its organization, May, 1632; and at the same session was selected as one of the two inhabitants of the town “to confer with the Court about raising of a public stock.” He died before March, 1635. Daniel Patrick, also styled “Mr.,” was one of the two captains appointed by the Court, to command the militia of the Colony. Except as a military man, his character does not appear to have been very reputable. In 1637 he had liberty to remove to Ipswich, but seems rather to have gone to Watertown, where he was Selectman, in 1638. He afterwards removed to Connecticut, and was killed by a Dutchman, at Stamford, in 1643. John Poole probably remained here only a few months, as he is not named in the list of proprietors, in 1633. He was of Lynn, 1638, and afterwards of Reading, where he died April 1, 1667. William Spencer, uniformly styled “Mr.” on the court records, was one of the “principal gentlemen.” He was associated with Mr. Lockwood, May, 1632, “to confer with the Court about raising of a public stock;” was Deputy or Representative of the New Town, 1634-1637; one of the first Board of Townsmen, 1635; lieutenant of the trainband, 1637, and a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, at its organization in 1639; he probably removed to Hartford in 1639, where he was Selectman and Deputy, and died in 1640. John Kirman removed to Lynn, 1632, and was a Deputy, 1635. Simon Sackett died here before 3d November, 1635, when administration was granted to his widow Isabell Sackett.

    9 Mass. Coll. Rec., i. 90.

    10 Ibid., i. 88. This canal still exists on the westerly side of College Wharf, from Charles River nearly to South Street. It was a natural creek, enlarged and deepened thus far, from which point, turning westerly, it extended along the southerly and westerly sides of South and Eliot streets, and crossed Brattle Street, where the town ordered a causeway and foot bridge to be constructed, Jan. 4, 1635-36.

    11 Mass. Col. Rec., i. 98. Winthrop says that Watertown objected against the validity and justice of this assessment: and his learned editor says: “To the agitation of this subject we may refer the origin of that committee of two from each town to advise with the court about raising public moneys ‘so as what they should agree upon should bind all,’ under date of May of this year. This led to the representative body, having the full powers of all the freemen, except that of elections.” —Savage's Winthrop, i. 71, note.

    12 Supposed to be so called because they came from Braintree, a town in Essex, about forty miles from London.

    13 Savage's Winthrop, i. 87. Mr. Hooker did not arrive until more than a year later; but the members of his flock, who preceded him, in due time again enjoyed his pastoral care.

    14 The location of the greater part of this fence, or “pale” is designated with tolerable accuracy by the ancient records of possessions and conveyances. Commencing in the present College yard, near the northwesterly angle of Gore Hall, and extending eastwardly, it passed very near the junction of Ellsworth Avenue with Cambridge Street, to the line between Cambridge and Charlestown (now Somerville), at its angle on Line Street near Cambridge Street, and thence followed that line to the creek, a few rods easterly from the track of the Grand Junction Railroad. Commencing again at the point first mentioned, the fence extended southwardly to the marsh near the junction of Holyoke Place with Mount Auburn Street. The kind of fence then erected is indicated in an order passed Dec. 5, 1636: “That the common pales in all places, to be made after this day, shall be done with sufficient posts and rails, and not with crotches.”

    15 Thomas Dudley, Simon Bradstreet, Daniel Patrick, Simon Sackett, and William Spencer were here before August, 1632, when the “Braintree company” removed. Samuel Dudley was doubtless here also. Daniel Denison came here from Roxbury. Anthony Colby, Garrad Haddon, and Joseph Reading, were of Boston in 1630; and John Masters of Watertown, in 1631. John Benjamin, Edward Elmer, William Goodwin, William Lewis, James Olmstead, Nathaniel Richards, John Talcott, William Wadsworth, and John White, arrived at Boston, in the Lion, Sept. 16, 1632, a month after the Braintree Company removed; and John Haynes did not arrive until Sept. 3, 1633. The name of Simon Oakes is erroneously given in Col. Mass. Hist. Soc., VII. 10, instead of Simon Sackett.

    16 Savage's Winthrop, i. 84.

    17 The upland, where the Powder Magazine was erected, an island at high water, was granted to Captain Daniel Patrick, at a very early period, since which time it has always been styled Captain's Island.

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