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[p. 73]

The Indians of the Mystic valley and the litigation over their land.

Hall Gleason, following the research of the late Daniel A. Gleason.
The renowned sachem of the Pawtuckets was Nanepashemit, who removed from Lynn in 1615, and took up his abode on Mystic river where he was killed in 1619. During his short and eventful residence in Medford his house was placed on Rock hill, where he could best watch canoes in the river. So says Medford's historian.

Other histories show him as living in Medford not far from the river or from the pond and on the tops of hills. This eminent grand sachem was the father of Sagamore John of Mystic, Sagamore James of Lynn and Sagamore George of Salem. George finally became sachem of the Pawtuckets. Their chief enemies were the Tarratines on the Penobscot, who at harvest would come in their canoes and reap the fields in this neighborhood. One hundred of them attacked Sagamores John and James August 8, 1631, by night and wounded them and killed seven men. Sagamores John and James died of the smallpox in 1633.

After the death of Nanepashemit, his wife as queen and squa sachem reigned. She married Webcowit, the physician of the tribe, ‘its powow, priest, witch, sorcerer, and chirurgeon,’ but as is asserted, setting a precedent which Queen Victoria followed, he became princeconsort but not prince-regnant. In 1636 a deed is recorded granting a tract of land to Jotham Gibbons of Boston as follows:

Middlesex Deeds, B. I, P. 174

This testifies that I the Sachem which have right & possession of the ground which I reserved from Charlestowne and Cambridge which lyes against the ponds at Misticke; with the said ponds I do give freely to Jotham Gibbons his Heyres Executors and Assignes forever not willing to have him or his disturbed, in the said gift after my death. And this I do without seeking too of him or any of his, though thay have been put upon it many times, but I [p. 74] receiving many kindnesses of them am willing to acknowledge their many kindnesses by this smal gift to their sonne Jotham Gibons

Witness my hand the 10th of the 11. month. 1636

The Squa SachemX mark
WebicowitsO mark


Edmund Quinsey
Entered and Recorded 23 (8) 1656 by Thomas Danforth


This deed implies the transfer of a tract of land to Charlestown and Cambridge of which there is no record.

In 1639 she deeded a tract to Charlestown:

Middx. Deeds B. J, P. 175 apr. 15, 1639

The 15th of the 2d. mo. 1639 We Web Cowit & Squaw Sachem do sell unto the Inhabitants of the Towne of Charlestowne, all the land within the lines granted them by the Court excepting the farmes and the ground on the west of the two great Ponds called Misticke ponds, from the south side of Mr. Nowell's lott neere the upper end of the ponds unto the little runnet1 that cometh from Capt. Cooke's mill which the Squaw reserveth to their use for her life for the Indians to plant and hunt upon and the weare2 above the Ponds they also reserve for the Indians to fish at whiles the Squaw liveth, and after the death of Squaw Sachem shee doth leave all her lands from Mr Mayhues house3 to near Salem to the present Governor Mr. John Winthrop Senr. Mr. Increase Nowell Mr. John Wilson Mr Edward Gibons to dispose of, and all Indians to depart and for sattisfaction from Charlestowne, wee acknowledge to have received in full sattisfaction twenty and one coates nineteen fathoms of wampum & three bushels of cone In Witness Whereof we have hereunto sett our hands the day and year above named the mark of Squa Sachem X the mark of Web Cowet O

Subscribed in the presence off

Jno. Humphery

Robert Feake

This is to testifie that the aforenamed purchase was made at the [p. 75] charges of the Inhabitants of Charlestowne and to their use, and for so much as lyeth within their limitts we do accordingly resign and yield up all our interest therein to the use of the said town according to the trust reposed in us.

Dec. 18, 1639 10th. mo. 18th. 1639

Jno. Winthrop Govrnr

Increase Nowell

Jno. Wilson

Oct. 23, 1656 Entered & Recorded 23th 8 mo. 1656
by Thos. Danforth Recorder.

The last clause of this deed is more fully explained in this affidavit of John Wilson in 1662:

Middlesex co. Ct. Files 1662 Gleason V. Norton & Al

These may serve to certify whomsoever they may concern that whereas I undeawritten together with the Honord Mr Jno. Winthrop & Mr Increase Nowell both deceased have sett my hand unto a certain writing wherein wee resigned up all our interest that wee had in a certaine tract of land comitted to or trust by Squaw Sachem as may more amply appeare in the said instrument reference thereunto being had unto the Towne of Charlestowne I do hereby declare that in that Act of mine I did not nor now doe yield up any part of that Tract of Land that was given unto Jotham Gibbons by the Squaw Sachem, neither doe I think that it was any part of the meaning or intention of either of those Gentlemen that sett their hands to it.

This is the truth as witness my hand this 15th. of December 1662.

John Wilson Sen.

This is owned in Court 17. 10. 62 as signed by Mr Wilson.

The bound for the commencement of the Indian grant was ‘from Mr. Mayhews house to neere Salem’ Affidavits of Edmund Converse, Benjamin Crisp and Joseph Hills used in Gleason v. Norton & al. in 1662 say that Davison lived in ‘Meadford house’ in 1633, and Richard Beers, Benjamin Crisp and Garret Church say that Mayhew lived there in 1636.

On the thirteenth of November, 1639, the squa sachem gave another deed to Jotham Gibbons for the same tract of land as follows:

Middx. Deeds B. I, p. 176

Be it known unto all men by these presents that we Webcowites and the Squa Sachem of Misticke wife of the said Webcowites calling to mind and well considering the many kindnesses and [p. 76] benefits we have received from the hands of Captain Edward Gibons of Boston in New England in part of requitall whereof and for our tender love and good respect that we do beare to Jotham Gibones Sonne & Heyre Apparent of the said Captain Gibones Do hereby of our own motion and accord give & grant unto the said Jotham Gibones the reversion of all that parcell of land which lies against the ponds at Misticke aforesaid together with the said Ponds, all which we reserved from Charlestowne and Cambridge late called Newtowne and all hereditaments and apurtenances thereunto belonging after the death of me the said Squa Sachem To have and to hold the said reversion of the said parcell of lands and ponds and all and singular the premises with the Apurtenances unto the said Jotham Gibones his Heyres and Assignes forever. In Witness Whereof we have hereunto sett our hands and seals the thirtenth day of the Eleventh month in the yeare so declared by Christians One thousand six hundred thirty and nine and in the fiftenth yeare of the Reigne of King Charles of England &c willing that these be recorded before our much honoured friends the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay in New England and the rest of the Magistrates there for perpetual remembrace of this thing.

The Squa Sachem markeX
& a seal
Web-Cowits markX
& a seal

Signed sealed and delivered in presenee of

Robert Lucar

Edmund Quinsey

Robert Gillum

This writing is acknowledged to be the deed of Squa Sachem and Web-Cowites, and the marks and seals thereunto affixed to be their marks & seals and have manifested and explained the bounds of the said grant or deed to be distinct from the land which was given to the Governor Mr Nowell Mr Wilson and Capt. Gibones, Benedict Arnold being interpreter, and that they did not sell it to Charlestowne

In the presence of us

Jno. Winthrop Governr

Jno. Endecott Dept. Govr.

Richard Saltonstall

Thomas Flint

Recorded 3 (6) 1643 by William Aspinwall Recorder Entred &

Recorded 23 (8)1656 by Thomas Danforth Recorder.

The Major Gibbons farm or the Squa Sachem's reservation was a tract of about five hundred acres4 on the [p. 77] west shore of Mystic ponds, reaching along the shore of both ponds, from the stream5 that runs into the pond from the old Fowle and grain mills, north to the point just above the upper pond where the Middlesex canal formerly crossed to the long point (now a part of the Metropolitan park reservation) which reaches out between the upper pond and what is now known as Bacon's.

The squa sachem described that boundary as the south end of Mr. Nowell's land. A witness, in the suit to be mentioned, described the [southern] as ‘the little brook that runneth from Capt. Cook's mill to Mystic pond.’

Col. George Cooke had early built a mill a little above the present site of the old Fowle grain mill and was a man of repute. He returned to England on the breaking out of the Civil War, was made a colonel under Cromwell and was killed in Ireland in 1652. Administration of his estate in this country was granted to Henry Dunster, first president of Harvard, and Colonel Cooke's older brother Joseph in 1653. Some three hundred feet or so above the present dam just where a street [Water street] comes down to the west side of the pond [mill pond] are projections reaching out from each side of the pond towards a small island in the center [part of the old dam] and Judge Parmenter pointed this out as the remains of the original dam to Colonel Cooke's mill.

The reservation extended back from the pond about five-eighths of a mile well up to the crest of the hill (or further) at the north end and narrowed down to the west side of the road at the south end some twenty rods north of the bridge [over Sucker brook].

In 1658 by indenture dated December 3 but signed December 9 Thomas Gleason leased of Capt. Samuel Scarlett acting for his wife ‘the messuage etc. lying and being within the bounds of Charlestowne—commonly known and called by the name of the Major Gibbons farme’ for ten years at a rental of eight pounds a year. [p. 78] This lease and attendant litigation is briefly as follows:

In 1650 the Squa died, according to the deposition of Richard Church in Scarlett v. Gardiner, and Edward Gibbons took possession of the land in behalf of his son. In 1655, 9th of 5 mo. (July 9) Jotham, describing himself as of Bermuda, appointed Thomas Lake and Josh: Scottow general attorneys for many purposes, and among other things to recover possession ‘of the parcell of land belonging unto me sometimes called by the name of Squa Sachem's hill.’ It was mortgaged to Scottow, redeemed by Scarlett in the right of his wife, leased by him to Thomas Gleason who entered under the lease and soon had his hands full of work and trouble.

In the summer of 1659 men employed by Henry Dunster as executor of Colonel Cooke began to mow the grass in the meadow below the mill. Thomas Gleason, assisted doubtless by his brawny sons, set upon the men, drove them off and carried off the hay.

In the County Court held at Cambridge April 3, 1660, Thomas Gleason in behalf of Capt. Samuel Scarlett sues ‘Ri: Gardiner in an accord of ye case for laying claim to a parcell of land belonging to ye farme that was sometimes Maj. Edw. Gibbons of Boston, etc.’ April 23, 1660, the jury found for the plaintiff. In the files belonging to this case are several very interesting documents, and especially the original indenture of lease signed by Scarlett.

But the Charlestown people returned again to the charge: At the County Court held in Cambridge April 1, 1662, Capt. Francis Norton and Mr. Nicholas Davison in the behalf of the Inhabitants of Charlestowne plffs. brought action against Thomas Gleison deft. in an action of the case for witholding their interest in a parcel of land formerly in the possession of Web Cowitt and Squa Sachem with due damages, etc. Upon trial the jury brought in their verdict for the plaintiff an interest in and to three parts of the land in controversie on the west side of mistike ponds and the other part thereof to [p. 79] the defendant as land belonging to Jotham Gibbons and for the defendant costs six shillings and two pence.

At the County Court held in Charlestowne Dec. 16, 1662, Thomas Gleison as plaintiff brought action against Capt. Francis Norton and Mr. Nicholas Davison in an action of review of judgment granted against him as above. But the verdict was against the plaintiff, affirming the former decision. The plaintiff appealed to the Court of Assistants. It may be noted that in the writ in this case we get the name spelled ‘Gleison.’

Data secured by W. H. Gleason

See County Court Records, Vol. 1, page 245:

The attachment was dated March 24, served March 25, 1662.

County Court was held apr 1, 1662 Norton & Davison vs Gleason, verdict gave plaintiff 3 parts defendant one part

In Dec 1662—Gleason brought suit to have the verdict reviewed

See County Court Records, Vol. 1, page 270:

Jury brought in verdict for Deft.: Confirmation of Judgement in April [This was a verdict with costs. W. H. G.]

The Plaintiff—Gleason appealed to ye next Court of Assistants to be held in Boston March Next And in October had a verdict in his favor.

See Volume 4, page 427, Records of General Court:

Second Session of the General Court, Boston, October 20, 1663.

Court Judgement in the Case between Capt Norton for Charlestown and Thos Gleason for Capt Scarlett

In the case now depending between Capt Francis Norton and and Mr Nicholas Davison plaintiffs in the behalf of Charlestown aforesaid and Thomas Gleason aforesaid defendant in refference to a certain parcel of land now in the possession of said Gleason given by Squa Sachem to Jotham Gibbons

The Court in a hearing of the Case and All persons concerned doe finde for the defendant.

Cost of Court forty-four shillings and four pence.

The Johnson affidavit

Edwd Johnson aged 60 yrs. witnesseth that about one or two & twenty years ago This deponent being at the Wigwam of Squa Sachem, there was present Mr Increase Nowell Major Edward Gibbons Ralph Sprague & Edward Converse & some others of Charlestown at which time according to the interpretation of her and her husbands meaning by the above named Major Edward [p. 80] Gibbons they did grant and sell unto Charlestown all their land within the limits of Charlestown, except that on the west side of the ponds called Mystic where their wigwam then stood which they reserved for term of her life & after her decease they did then declare it should come & remain to Jno Winthrop Esqr. Mr Increase Nowell Mr Jno. Wilson & the above named Major Edw. Gibbons & the persons & [illegible] this deponent on his return home did enter into his day book for remembrance thereof This is the whole truth remembered so saith

Edward Johnson Sworn in court 4. (2) 1660

This Indian deed to Winthrop and others was a most unlucky piece of conveyancing. Paige (History of Cambridge) evidently thinks there was another deed from the Indians releasing the lands within the bounds of Watertown, Cambridge and Boston. If so, it is apparently hopelessly lost. From the expression in the first deed to Jotham Gibbons in 1636, ‘which I reserved from Charlestowne and Cambridge’ it seems there must have been an earlier conveyance, probably in 1635, perhaps by the symbolical delivery of turf and twig upon the ground itself. But the decision to give one-quarter only of the reservation to Jotham Gibbons, grantee, is absolutely incomprehensible. The deed is so clumsily expressed as to require explanation. This we get from the Indians in their two deeds to Jotham, and from Governor Winthrop in the Council certificate attached to the second deed to Jotham. Winthrop probably drew this himself and it was only four years after the Charlestowne release. At this time Jotham was only ten years old (baptized October 27, 1633). His power to Lake and Scottow is dated July 9, 1655, soon after he became of age. Edward Gibbons did not sign the memorandum on the Charlestown release, and his acceptance of the gift to his son shows his view of the matter. At the time of making the lease to Thomas Gleason all four trustees except John Wilson were dead, and his affidavit tells what he understood, and shows that the gift to the

Gibbons family was well known.

1 Sucker brook in Arlington.

2 At the mouth of the Aberjona. This point was overflowed by the dam at the partings in 1865.

3 Cradock's farm house at Medford Square.

4 480 per Plan.

5 Sucker brook.

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