Chapter 8: civil History.
As early as 1654, some of the inhabitants upon the south side of the River commenced a movement, which resulted, seven years afterwards, in an order of the General Court, that all who resided more than four miles from the meeting-house should “be freed from contributing towards the ministry on the north side the river,” so long “as the south side the river shall maintain an able ministry.” 1 This was not wholly satisfactory, and a petition for more extensive privileges was presented to the General Court, Oct. 18, 1672, but action thereon was postponed until the next session, May 7, 1673, at which time this record is found: “In answer to the petition of Mr. Edward Jackson and John Jackson in behalf of the inhabitants of Cambridge Village, on the south side of Charles River, this Court doth judge meet to grant the inhabitants of the said village annually to elect one constable and three selectmen, dwelling among themselves, to order their prudential affairs of the inhabitants there according to law, only continuing a part of Cambridge in paying country and county rates, as also town rates so far as refers to the grammar school and bridge, and also pay their proportion of the charges of the deputies of Cambridge, and this to be an issue to the controversy between Cambridge and them.” 2 But the people were not content to be a precinct. Accordingly at the session of the General Court, commencing May 8, 1678, a petition was presented for incorporation as a town:—
The historian of Newton says this petition “was no doubt drawn up by Mr. Edward Jackson, senior.” He adds a list of “Freemen in the Village who did not sign this petition,” 4 namely:—
At the time appointed, a long protest was presented by the Selectmen of Cambridge, a part of which was printed in Jackson's “History of Newton,” pp. 53-60. Notwithstanding its length, it is here inserted in full, on account of the historical facts mentioned in it, and the picture it presents of the general condition of affairs:— Thomas Wiswall. Dea. Samuel Hyde. John Woodward. Henry Segar. Thomas Park, junr. Daniel Bacon. John Spring. Daniel McCoy. John Park. Samuel Hyde, Son of Jona. James Prentice, junr. In answer to the petition of the inhabitants of Cambridge Village, on the south side of the river, the Court judgeth it meet to grant them a hearing of the case mentioned on the first Tuesday of the next session in October, and all parties concerned are ordered to have timely notice.Mass. Col. Rec., v. 188, 189.
In Jackson's “History of Newton,” it is stated that “the result was that the Court granted the prayer of the petition, and Cambridge Village was set off from Cambridge, and made an independent township. The doings of the Court in this case are missing, and have not as yet been found, and therefore we do not know the precise conditions upon which the separation took place. But the Town record is quite sufficient to establish the fact of separation. The very first entry upon the new Town Book records the doings of the first Town-meeting, held ‘27, 6, 1679, by virtue of an order of the General Court,’ at which meeting the first board of Selectmen were duly elected, namely, Captain Thomas Prentice, John Ward, and James Trowbridge; and Thomas Greenwood was chosen Constable.” 10 “1691. December 8. ‘In answer to the petition of the inhabitants of Cambridge Village, lying on the south side of Charles River, sometimes called New Cambridge, being granted to be a township, praying that a name may be given to said town, it is ordered, that it be henceforth called New Town.’ This order of the General Court, for a name only, has been mistaken by historians for the incorporation of the town, whereas the petitioners had been an independent town for twelve years. The child was born on the 27th August, 1679, but was not duly christened until the 8th of December, 1691.” 11 It is evident that the township was incorporated before Dec. 8, 1691 (or rather Dec. 18; the session of the Court commenced Dec. 8, but the order granting a name was adopted ten days later). This order plainly enough recognizes the village as already a distinct “township.” Moreover, in 1689, when a General Court assembled after Andros was deposed and imprisoned,  Ensign John Ward appeared as a Deputy from New Cambridge, and was admitted to a seat, apparently without objection. So far, Mr. Jackson has a good case. But other facts of public notoriety would justify grave doubts whether the town was incorporated so early as 1679. It is a very suspicious circumstance, scarcely reconcilable with such an early date of incorporation, that for the seven years following 1679, until the charter government was overturned in 1686, the Village, or New Cambridge, never assumed, as a town distinct from Cambridge, to send a Deputy to the General Court; but did not miss representation a single year for half a century after the government was established under the new charter. People as tenacious of their rights as the inhabitants of the Village manifestly were, both before and after incorporation, would not be likely to let the newly-acquired right of representation lie dormant for seven years, during a period of intense political excitement. The election of a Constable and three Selectmen in 1679 by no means furnishes countervailing proof of incorporation; for this is precisely what the inhabitants were authorized to do by the order passed May 7, 1673, which was never understood to confer full town privileges, and which, for aught that appears to the contrary, was the order mentioned in the Town Record dated 27. 6. 1679.12 But the evidence in the case is not wholly of this negative character. One of the documents published by Mr. Jackson13 indicates with some distinctness a different day (Jan. 11, 1687-8) as the true date of incorporation into a distinct town:—
Mass. Arch., CXII. 253-264.
What seems probable by the reference to Jan. 11, 1687-8, in the foregoing agreement, is rendered certain by two documents, which Mr. Jackson probably never saw, but which are yet in existence. One is an order of notice, preserved in the Massachusetts Archives, CXXVIII. 7: “To the Constables of the town of Cambridge, or either of them. You are hereby required to give notice to the inhabitants of the said town, that they or some of them be and appear before his Excellency in Council on Wednesday next, being the 11th of this instant, to show cause why Cambridge Village may not be declared a place distinct by itself, and not longer be a part of the said town, as hath been formerly petitioned for and now desired: and thereof to make due return. Dated at Boston the sixth day of January in the third year of his Majesty's reign, annoque Domini, 1687. By order, &c., J. West, D. Secy.” What was the result of this process does not appear on record; for the records of the Council during the administration of Andros were carried away, and no copy of the portion embracing this date has been obtained. Fortunately, however, a certified copy of the order, which is equivalent  to an act of incorporation, is on file in the office of the clerk of the Judicial Courts in Middlesex County:—
At a Council held at the Council Chamber in Boston on Wednesday the eleventh day of January, 1687; Present, His Excy. Sr. Edmund Andros, Kt., &c. William Stoughton, Esqs. Robert Mason, Esqs. Peter Buckley, Esqs. Wait Winthrop, Esqs. John Usher, Esqs. Edward Randolph, Esqs. Francis Nicholson, Esqs.
Upon reading this day in Council the petition of the inhabitants of Cambridge Village in the County of Middlesex, being sixty families or upwards, that they may be a village and place distinct of themselves and freed from the town of Cambridge to which at the first settlement they were annexed; they being in every respect capable thereof, and by the late authority made distinct in all things saving paying towards their school and other town charges, for which they are still rated as a part of that town; and also the answer of the town of Cambridge thereto; and hearing what could be alleged on either part, and mature consideration had thereupon; those who appeared on the behalf of the town of Cambridge being contented that the said Village be wholly separated from them as desired, and praying that they may be ordered to contribute towards the maintenance of Cambridge Bridge, and that other provision be made as formerly usual to ease the town therein:—Ordered, that the said village from henceforth be and is hereby declared a distinct village and place of itself, wholly freed and separated from the town of Cambridge, and from all future rates, payments, or duties to them whatsoever. And that, for the time to come, the charge of keeping, amending, and repairing the said bridge, called Cambridge Bridge, shall be defrayed and borne as followeth (that is to say), two sixth parts thereof by the town of Cambridge, one sixth part by the said Village, and three sixth parts at the public charge of the County of Middlesex. By order in Council, &c. John West, Dy. Secy. This is a true copy, taken out of the original, 4th day of Decem. 88. As attests, Laur. Hammond, Cler.There remains no reasonable doubt, that “Newtown,” which received its name December, 1691, was “separated from the  town of Cambridge,” and was declared to be “a distinct village and place of itself,” or, in other words, was incorporated as a town, by the order passed Jan. 11, 1687, old style, or Jan. 11, 1688, according to the present style of reckoning.14 A few matters of less public nature, belonging to this period, should not be entirely overlooked. I quote from the Town Records. Dec. 14, 1657. “Liberty is granted unto Mr. Stedman, Mr. Angier, &c., the owners of the Ketch Triall, to fell some timber on the common for a ware-house.” Nov. 14, 1670. “Granted to the owners of the Ketches that are to [be] builded in the town liberty to fell timber upon the common for the building of the said Ketches.” By the County Court Records, it appears that in April, 1672, Daniel Gookin, Walter Hastings, and Samuel Champney, recovered ten pounds damage and costs of court, against William Carr for the unworkmanlike finishing of two ketches, or vessels, of thirty-five tons and twenty-eight tons. Among the papers in this case, remaining on file, is a deposition, to wit: “John Jackson, aged about 25 years, testifieth that, being hired to work upon the two vessels (whereof William Carr was master-builder) in Cambridge, I wrought upon the said vessels about four months in the winter 1670,” etc. Sworn April 2, 1672. These were probably the vessels mentioned in the Town Order, Nov. 14, 1670. They were small in size; but it appears from Randolph's narrative,15 written in 1676, that more than two thirds of all the vessels then owned in Massachusetts ranged from six tons to fifty tons. Feb. 18, 1658. The Town voted, “That the Great Swamp lying within the bounds of this town, on the east side of Fresh Pond meadow and Winottomie Brook, shall be divided into particular allotments and propriety.” March 23, 1662-3. “Ordered, that if any man be convicted that his dog is used to pull off the tails of any beasts, and do not  effectually restrain him, he shall pay for every offence of that kind twenty shillings, in case that further complaint be made.” Feb. 13, 1664-5. “The Constables are ordered to allow Justinian Holden ten shillings towards a wolf, killed partly in Watertowne and partly in this.” May 8, 1671. “Granted to William Barrit and Nathaniell Hancock, to dig a sluice, to drain the pond by their houses, in the town's land, provided they secure it from doing damage as soon as may be: and in case the Townsmen see reason for it, they are to stop it up again.” This pond was on the easterly side of Dunster Street, about midway between Mount Auburn and Harvard Streets. May 29, 1671. A committee was appointed “to make a covenant with Phillip Jones, or any other able person, to make a sufficient fence of stone of four foot high,—between Watertowne bounds and ours,” as far as to Rocky Meadow; with gates to the highways from Concord to Watertown and from Cambridge to Watertown. Feb. 14, 1675-6. “William Maning, and Nathaniell Hancocke, and John Jackson, and John Gove, are appointed by the Selectmen, to have inspection into families, that there be no bye drinking, or any misdemeanour, whereby sin is committed, and persons from their houses unseasonably.”
The jury rendered a special verdict: “If the General Court's grant to Cambridge—for the erecting a ware in Menottimyes River, within their own bounds, be a legal and perpetual title, they find for the plaintiffs five pounds and costs of Court; if not, for the defendants, costs of court.” The Court considered the title good. This case is entered in the County Court Records, under date of June 21, 1681, and the papers are on file. The practice of “fishing their Indian corn” was long ago abandoned by cultivators in Cambridge; but the privilege of taking fish in Menotomy River remains valuable. It has been subject to occasional controversies and litigations since 1681, in all which Cambridge has preserved the rights originally granted; and to the present day “Fish officers” are annually appointed by the City Council, to take care that those rights suffer no infringement.