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The Brigham Family. [continued from Vol. III., no. 3.]

At a meeting of the Somerville Historical Society in the spring of 1904, I read a paper entitled ‘Thomas Brigham, the Puritan—an Original Settler,’ which was published in the issue of Historic Leaves for October, 1904. The statements therein confidently made were based on the alleged result of researches said by Morse to have been made at the instance of the late Peter Bent Brigham. This I followed Mr. Morse in accepting in good faith.

At the meeting to which I have referred, some suggestions by that sterling investigator, Charles D. Elliot, caused me to doubt the accuracy of the Morse account; and the result of my own researches, presented herewith, proves beyond question that the Brigham Family for generations has been weeping at the wrong shrine. As a matter of historical fact, since ascertained with substantial proof, Thomas Brigham, the emigrant, lived and died, in comfortable if not affluent circumstances, on what of late ears has been known as the ‘Greenleaf place,’ in the rear of and adjoining Radcliffe College, and recently purchased by that institution for educational purposes. There is no doubt in my mind that Thomas Brigham lies buried in the old Cambridge Cemetery, although his grave, like the graves of some others of his time, cannot be identified. In view of the foregoing circumstances, I feel that the indebtedness of the Brigham Family, indirectly to the Somerville Historical Society and directly to Messrs. Elliot and Thomas M. Hutchinson, is very great.

W. E. B.


‘Brigham Farme on ye Rocks.’

William E. Brigham in ‘the History of the Brigham Family.’

In 1648 there was laid out by the town of Cambridge to Thomas1 Brigham ‘72 acres on ye Rocks on Charlestown line.’ In view of the important error of Rev. Abner Morse, the first Brigham genealogist, in locating upon this plot the homestead in which Thomas died in 1653, the place has borne a distinction in Brigham family history which is unwarranted by its actual position as a Brigham possession. Morse, mistaking the well-known ledges of Clarendon Hill for ‘ye Cambridge Rocks,’ declares that the last habitation of Thomas was in Somerville. Having done this, he easily draws a graphic picture of the Brigham Farm as it might have appeared in the last days of its owner; and he even goes so far as to offer the baseless conjecture that Thomas was buried in Medford.f

The ‘Cambridge Rocks’ were, as Morse says, a well-known ancient landmark, but they were not where Morse places them. They begin in Cambridge on the Watertown line, at a point which is now the corner of Pleasant Street and Concord Avenue, Belmont. They skirt the western boundary of Pleasant Street to the corner of Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, where the public library now stands. This site was originally the corner of the old Watertown road. Thence they cross Massachusetts Avenue, and, following the line of the present Water Street, extend to Fowle's Mill Pond, and thence northwesterly along the mill pond and brook, and northerly across the brook to the Charlestown Line. (This brook, Sucker Brook, was originally Alewife Meadow Brook, and should not be confounded with the present Alewife Brook, flowing out of Fresh Pond, originally the Menotomy [a] River. ‘The Rocks’ continued along the Charlestown Line to a point near the present Lexington and Arlington Line. The territory to the west— Lexington since 1713—was originally known as Cambridge Farms.

It was colloquial to refer to the grants in this immediate vicinity as the ‘small farms’; hence the item in the inventory [88] of the property of Thomas1 Brigham, ‘a small fare at Charlestown line, £ 10.’ The ancient use of the term ‘farm’ did not imply that the land was under cultivation.

It will thus be seen that all the present Arlington Heights, also the well-known Turkey Hill (which is half an inch lower), was included in what was anciently known as the Cambridge Rocks.

Of the seventy-two-acre grant to Thomas1 Brigham, it may be said, in modern terms, that it is now in a northwest part of Arlington. While originally bounded on the north by Charlestown Line, a change in the line at the incorporation of Winchester (originally Woburn) in 1850 left a trianglar piece in the northwest corner lying in Winchester. Turkey Hill is near the centre of the grant. Forest Street runs across the property, less than a mile from Massachusetts Avenue, where one leaves the electric car.

The forty-eight-acre grant of Nicholas Wyeth, which adjoined that of Thomas1 Brigham on the northwest, later passed into possession of Henry Dunster, first president of Harvard College, and was held by his descendants many years. In a bill of sale of the Dunster piece given by John Steadman, county treasurer, to Thomas Danforth, in 1674, the lot is described as bounded ‘n. (n. e.) by Woburn line. . . e. (s. e.) by a small farm layed out to Thomas Brigham.’ The Brigham grant also adjoined, on the Charlestown Line, a 300-acre farm of Increase Nowell, and also the 480 acres of ‘Squa Sachem,’ which the colony reserved to her when settlement was made with the Indians for the territory comprising Charlestown and Cambridge. The familiar Indian monument on the Peter C. Brooks place in West Medford was erected by Mr. Brooks in memory of the son of Squa Sachem, Sagamore John.

Thomas1 Brigham died December 8, 1653, leaving this seventy-two-acre grant, with all his other property, to his widow and five children. In 1656 the General Court gave the overseers of his will the right to sell all his real estate. It would appear that this ‘Brigham Farm,’ as many ancient deeds refer to it, was bought for £ 16 by Hon. Thomas Danforth, an executor [89] of the will, although no deed of the property is recorded. In 1695 the farm on the Rocks figures in the suit brought by the children of Thomas Brigham to recover, apparently, all the property which the overseers of their father's will had sold. In the formal ceremony of claiming the ‘Brigham Farm,’ as quaintly attested the witnesses in the chapter on ‘Thomas Brigham the Emigrant,’ it will be noted that the ‘ffarne’ is described as ‘upon the Rocks within the bounds of Cambridge.’

Settlement was reached apparently in 703, when on February 26 Thomas2, Samuel2, and John2 Brigham quitclaimed ‘that tract or prcell of land commonly called or known by ye name of Brighams farme: Scituate, lying and being on ye Rocks neer Oburn line within the Township of Cambridge . . . containing by Estimation Seventy Two acres be the same more or less. . . .,’ to Francis Foxcroft, Esq., Samuel Sparhawk, and Daniel Champney, joint executors of the will of Hon. Thomas Danforth. This deed was given ‘in consideration of the Sum of Sixteen Pounds pd to ye Children of Thomas Brigham late of Cambridge Dece'd by Thomas Danforth Esq. and Thomas Fox called Overseers of ve Estate of sd Thomas Brigham Dece's: and Thirty pounds in money to us in land etc.’ From tins document, and others affecting the other properties, it might be inferred that the suits grew out of the dissatisfaction of the children of Thomas, now of age, with the disposition of their property while they were yet minors.

In 1706 the property was bought by Thomas3 Prentice for £ 68. It was then bounded ‘N. E. by Charlestown line, N. W. by Nathaniel Patten Senor and John Carter of Oburn, W. by Walter3 Russell E. and S. E. by the land of Jason Russell.’ Thomas3 Prentice was a brickmaker, and resided on what is now the west side of Garden Street, opposite the Botanical Garden. He died December 7, 1709 and the inventory shows: ‘72 acres, Brigham's Farm, £ 68.’ In the distribution of his property, the Brigham Farm went to his son, Rev. Thomas4 Prentice (b. 1702, H. C. 1726, d. 1782), who made his first sale, of nine acres, in 1724, as if to aid him through Harvard, to Andrew Mallet, whose relative, John Mallet, built the Old Powder [90] House in Somerville. A second purchaser, of twenty acres, was Deacon John Bradish, a celebrated real estate trader of his day. He always styled himself, even in his deeds, ‘glazier of Harvard College,’ and he held this unique position for forty years. By 1753 Rev. Thomas Prentice had disposed of more than seventy acres of the original grant for £ 443. Much of the property remained within the Prentice family.

In 1773 Johns Hutchinson, whose descendants at the present time own all but about ten acres of the original grant, made his first purchase from the Brigham tract, paying Henry Prentice, an uncle of the Rev. Thomas, £ 50, 13s. 4d. for nine and one-half acres ‘on 1Turkey Hill’—the first mention of this name in the deeds. John Hutchinson owned and occupied the Nowell-Broughton-Gardner farm of about seventy acres adjoining on the Charlestown side of the line, and at his death in 1783 had acquired, also, some forty acres of the Brigham place. In 1817 his son Thomas6, to whom the farm later descended, bought twenty-two and one-half acres more, twenty of which were ‘Brigham land,’ of Daniel Reed, of Charlestown, making all but about eight acres, on the southwest side, of the original grant. At the death of Thomas6 in 1863, the property was divided among his six children, and most of it is still held by their heirs. No building ever has been erected on the land originally owned by Thomas Brigham. It is now partly tilled. The Hutchinson homestead, on the original Charlestown side, on the old Nowell farm, and replacing the buildings erected in 1743–'45, and burned a few years ago, stands on the corner of Ridge Street and Hutchinson Road (Fruit Street), Winchester. It is occupied by Mrs. Mary A., widow of Thomas7 O. Hutchinson, a daughter, Miss Mary A., and a son, Thomas8 M. Hutchinson, the well-known antiquarian, to whose generosity and exhaustive researches, covering many years, the writer is indebted for many of these authenticated facts relative to the ‘Brigham Farme on Ye Rocks.’

1 In olden times this was a favorite sighting point for vessels making Boston Harbor, as it was heavily wooded and Arlington Heights was not.

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