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Chapter 8: civil History.

  • The inhabitants on the south side of the River obtain parochial privileges.
  • -- their petition for incorporation as a separate town. -- elaborate and vigorous protest by the Selectmen of Cambridge. -- after long delay, Newton is incorporated, under the administration of Governor Andros. -- ship-building in Cambridge. -- Unruly dogs. -- Wolf. -- Draining of a pond in the centre of the town. -- Stone wall between Cambridge and Watertown. -- Committee to inspect families, and to prevent improper practices. -- encroachment on fishing rights in Menotomy River. -- fish officers
    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:—

    To the honored Governor, Deputy Governor, together with the honored Magistrates and Deputies of the General Court, now sitting in Boston.

    The humble petition of us, the inhabitants of Cambridge Village, on the south side of Charles River, showeth, that the [80] late war, as it hath been a great charge to the whole Colony, so to us in particular, both in our estates and persons, by loss of life to some, and others wounded and disabled for their livelihood, besides all our other great charges in building of our meetinghouse and of late enlargement to it, as also our charge to the minister's house. And, as you know, the Lord took that worthy person from us in a little time, and now in great mercy hath raised up another in the place, who hath a house in building for him, which requires assistance: As also we are now, by the great mercy of God, so many families that a school is required for the education of our children according to law, besides our public charge of the place. Yet, notwithstanding, this last year, the Townsmen of Cambridge have imposed a tax upon us, amounting to the sum of three country Rates, without our knowledge or consent, which we humbly conceive is very harsh proceeding for any Townsmen of their own will and power to impose upon the inhabitants what taxes they please, and to what end, without ever calling the inhabitants to consider about such charge. Nevertheless, for peace sake, the inhabitants of our place did meet together and jointly consent to give the town of Cambridge the sum of one hundred pounds, and to pay it in three years, without desiring any profit or benefit from them of wood, timber, or common lands, but only our freedom, being content with our own proprieties, which some of us had before Cambridge had any right there: which tender of ours they having rejected, as also to grant to us our freedom from them, we do most humbly commend our distressed condition to the justice and mercy of this honored Court, that you will please to grant us our freedom from Cambridge and that we may be a township of ourselves, without any more dependence upon Cambridge, which hath been a great charge and burden to us; and also that you would please to give the place a name, and if there should be any objection against us that the honored Court will admit our reply and defence. So hoping the Almighty will assist you in all your concerns, we rest your humble petitioners.

    Mr. Edward Jackson. Capt. Thomas Prentice. John Fuller, senr. John Kenrick, senr. Isaac Williams. John Ward. Joseph Miller. Thomas Prentice, junr. John Kenrick, junr. John Mason. Wm. Robinson. Thomas Greenwood. John Parker (south). Humphrey Osland. [81] Joseph Bartlett. Isaac Bacon. Jacob Bacon. Samuel Trusdale. Simon Onge. Jonathan Fuller. Jonathan Hides, senr. Thomas Parkes, senr. James Trowbridge. Noah Wiswall. Thomas Hammond. Jonathan Hides, junr. James Prentice, senr. David Meads. Vincent Drusse. John Hides. Ebenr. Wiswall. Eliah Kenrick. Sebeas Jackson. Samuel Hides, junr. Noah McDaniel. John Fuller, junr. Joshua Fuller. John Alexander. John Prentice. Nathl. Hammond. Job Hides. John Parker (east). widow Jackson. Edwd. Jackson, junr. Daniel Key. Thos. Prentice, junr. Abraham Jackson. Stephen Cooke. Richard Parks. Joseph Fuller. Isaac Beach. Peter Hanchet.3

    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:—

    Rev. Nehemiah Hobart.

    Elder 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.

    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:— [82]

    The answer of the Selectmen of Cambridge to the petition exhibited against them by their Brethren and Neighbors of the Village on the South Side of Charles River.

    To omit what they express by way of narration, declaring ‘the loss of lives and estates to them sustained by the late war, the death of their former minister and their having now got another for whom a house is building,’ &c.—the impertinency and absurdity of their argument therein being obvious to all intelligent minds,—we shall only concern ourselves with what they make the main of their petition, which may be divided into these two parts:

    I. The cause on our part, viz. the hard usage by the Townsmen of Cambridge, i. e. imposing upon them a tax of their own will and power, and what they please, and to what end they please.

    For answer hereunto, the Cambridge Townsmen have imposed a tax (as they call it) if they intend no more than the making of a rate for the paying of the charges of the whole town, and putting upon them their just proportion of the charge of those things, properly belonging to them to bear their part of, according to the order of the General Court with reference to them, made May 7th, 1673, and then declared to be the issue of the controversy between the town and the petitioners, thus far we own to be a truth. But whereas they charge us that we have thus done, 1, of our own will, 2, of our own power, 3, what we please, 4, to what end we please,—these are high and sad accusations which we cannot own to be true: for 1st it was not by our will that any taxes have been imposed on them or any other of the inhabitants, but their own will, so declared in orderly town-meetings, legally warned, whereat themselves either were or might have been present and had their votes. 2. Nor was it of our own power, but by the authority of the General Court, committing to us by the law, as we are Selectmen of the town, power for the ordering of the prudentials of the town and levying what is necessary for the payment of the annual disbursements regularly made for the town's occasions. 3. Nor have we imposed upon the town in general, or the petitioners, what we please. The rule that we have observed in raising our rates being to make them no greater than is of absolute necessity for the payment of the town's debts, and most an end falling considerably short by reason of the town's poverty, and upon each inhabitant in particular according to a list of their persons and [83] rateable estates. 4. Nor have we improved the moneys raised to what end we please, but have faithfully disposed of the same for the end for which we raised it, namely, the payment of the town's just debts. If herein we have transgressed the line of our power, we beg pardon (and direction for the future) of this honored Court. If our accusers shall deny the truth of what we assert, either in general or any one article, we crave liberty to put in our further defence and evidence.

    II. That which is the ‘main of their petition they thus express,’ viz., ‘that we may be a township of ourselves, without any more dependence on Cambridge.’ And this their petition they strengthen with two arguments; the 1st is prefatory to their petition, wherein they say ‘they plead only for their freedom, being content with their own propriety;’ the 2d is subsequent ‘because their dependence on Cambridge hath been a great charge and burthen to them.’

    We shall begin with their arguments why they would be freed from Cambridge. To the 1st, whereas they say that they plead only for their freedom, being content with their own proprieties, we answer, 1. That the inhabitants of Cambridge now dwelling on the north side of Charles River have well nigh three thousand acres of land that is laid out into several lots, some ten, some twenty, some forty, acres, more or less, that they are at this time seised of, and by them kept for herbage, timber, wood, and planting lands, as they shall have occasion for to use the same, all which is by the petitioners included within the line of division between the town and them and therefore they do not say words of truth when they say they are content with their own proprieties. 2. Nor is it true that they plead only for freedom; for they having obtained these our lands and proprieties to be within the line of that division and payable to the ministry, they would become our masters and charge us for our lands and cattle that we shall put thereon to all their common charges, if they may obtain to be a distinct township.

    To their 2d argument, viz. that their dependence on Cambridge hath been a great charge and burden to them. For answer hereto, 1st we shall say something that hath reference to them more generally, and 2d, we shall distinguish between the persons that are petitioners, and speak something more particularly. 1. More generally. They well know, before their settlement in that place, that all those lands that they now petition for did belong to Cambridge, and were the grant of the General [84] Court to them, for their enabling to maintain the ordinances of God among them, and all other common charges inevitably arising in a township; so that what they call a burden will appear to be no more than their duty which they owe to the town; and if, in that sense, charge and burden may be admitted as a just plea, may not the servant as well petition the Court to be freed from his master, the tenant from his landlord, or any single town petition his Majesty to have their freedom, and be a distinct Colony, and plead that the annual charges for maintenance of government and the peace of the commonwealth is to them a great charge and burden? 2. Their charge and burden hath not been greater than their brethren and neighbors; for we have not, by burdening or charging them, eased ourselves of our just dues and proportion in any kind; and although their accommodations for enabling then to bear and discharge their dues are far better than those of the town, yet it seems that what they call great (and we may without wronging our case freely concede to the truth thereof, that when all our shoulders bear, and hands and hearts join together, we find it so by daily experience) they are content that we should bear it alone, not pitying us, though we sink and break under it; for they know full well that their withdrawing will not abate the weight of our burden; for the bridge must be maintained, the school must be kept up, the Deputies must be sent to the General Court: and they have no other charge or burden imposed upon them by us than their just proportion of that which these do ordinarily require. 3. They know full well that such hath been the tenderness of the town towards them at all times, that they have evermore chosen a Constable that hath been resident among them, and for the Selectmen also they have desired that they might constantly have some of them joined with those of the town, partly for their help, and partly that they might more easily have help from them, and be satisfied in the equity and justice of their proceedings in all respects; so that we know they cannot and dare not to plead that we have at any time been unwilling to execute the power of the Selectmen for gathering the rates due to their minister or otherwise more properly belonging to them, nor that we have carried crossly, proudly, or perversely towards them. If we have, let us be accused to our faces, and not backbitten and slandered as we have been in the other particulars whereof they accuse us.

    Thus far in answer to the petitioners' 2d argument in general. We shall now make answer thereto more particularly. [85] And here we must divide the petitioners into two sorts: 1. Those that were dwellers in the town before they went to inhabit on that side. 2. Another sort are those that came from other towns.

    1. Those that proceeded from the town, who knowing the straitness and want of accommodation to be had among their brethren there, and the lands on that side the water being then of small value, procured to themselves large and comfortable accommodation for a small matter. We have confidence that these dare not to say that their being in Cambridge hath been any charge or burden to them. They must and will own that God hath there greatly blessed them: that whereas we on the town side, of £ 1,000 that we or our parents brought to this place, and laid out in the town, for the purchasing at dear rates what we now enjoy, can not, divers of us, show £ 100, they may speak just contrary or in proportion. We could, if need were, instance some,5 whose parents lived and died here, who, when they came to this town had no estate, and some were helped by the charity of the church, and others yet living that well know they may say truly, with good Jacob,—over this Jordan came I with this staff,—and so may they say, over this River went I, with this spade, hoe, or other tool, and now, through God's blessing, am greatly increased. Yet here we would not be understood to include every particular person; for we acknowledge that Mr. Jackson brought a good estate to the town, as some others did, and hath not been wanting to the ministry or any good work among us; and therefore we would not reflect upon him in the least.

    2. There are another sort of persons that did not proceed from the town, but came from other towns, where there had been much division and contention among them, who, though they knew the distance of the place from the public meetinghouse, the dependency thereof on Cambridge, which they now call a great charge and burden, yet this they then did choose, and we are assured will own, generally at least, that they have there increased their estates far beyond what those of the town have or are capable to do. We might instance also in the Inventories of some of them, whose purchase at the first cost them a very small matter, and their stock and household stuff we judge to be proportionable, and yet when they deceased, an inventory [86] 6 amounting to more than 1,100 pounds is given into the Court; and others that are yet living have advanced in some measure suitable. But poor Cambridge quickly felt the sad effect of their coming among us; for though some of them came from their dwellings very near the meeting-houses in other towns, and these beforehand knew the distance of their now dwellings from Cambridge, yet this did not obstruct them in their settlement there; but before they were well warm in their nests, they must divide from the town. And though such was the endeared love of our brethren and neighbors that went from us to this Church and the ministry thereof, that it was long before they could get them (at least with any considerable unanimity) to join with them, yet they would petition, some few of them in the name of the rest, to the honored General Court, for their release from the town. And when the Court, being tired out with their eager pursuit and more private fawnings and insinuations, granted them Committee upon Committee to hear and examine the ground of their so great complaints, at last all issued in a declaration of the unreasonableness of their desire with reference to the town and unseasonableness on their part, as may appear by the return of the Committee made to the General Court, October 14, 1657, the Worshipful Richard Russell Esq., Major Lusher and Mr. Ephraim Child subscribing the same, and was accepted by the Court.

    Yet here they rested not; but in the year 1661 petitioned the Court, and then obtained freedom from rates to the ministry for all lands and estates more than four miles from Cambridge meeting-house; and this being all that they desired, although we were not at that time advantaged with an opportunity to send any one to speak in the town's behalf, yet considering the impetuousness of their spirits, and their good words, pretending only the spiritual good of their families that could not travel (women and children) to the meeting-house at Cambridge, we rested therein, hoping now they would be at rest. But all this did not satisfy them; but the very next year 7 they petition the Court again. And then as a full and final issue of all things in controversy between Cambridge town and the petitioners, there is another Committee appointed to come upon the place and determine the bounds or dividing line between the town and them; the result whereof was such that, whereas their grant was for all the lands that were above four miles from the town, they now [87] obtain the stating of a line that for the generalty is (by exact measure) tried and proved to be very little above three miles from Cambridge meeting-house. Yet did not Cambridge (thus pilled and bereaved of more than half the lands accommodable to their town at once) resist, or so much as complain, but rested therein,—the Court having declared their pleasure and given them their sanction, that this, as abovesaid, should be a final issue of all things between the town and the petitioners.

    All this notwithstanding, these long-breathed petitioners, finding that they had such good success that they could never cast their lines into the sea but something was catched, they resolve to bait their hook again; and as they had been wont some of them for twenty years together to attend constantly the meetings of the town and selectmen, whilst there was any lands, wood, or timber, that they could get by begging, so now they pursue the Court for obtaining what they would from them, not sparing time or cost to insinuate their matters, with reproaches and clamors against poor Cambridge, and have the confidence in the year 1672 again to petition the Court for the same thing, and in the same words that they now do, viz. ‘that they may be a township of themselves, distinct from Cambridge’ ; and then the Court grants them further liberty than before they had, viz. to choose their own Constable and three selectmen amongst themselves, to order the prudential affairs of the inhabitants there, only continuing a part of Cambridge in paying Country and County rates, as also Town Rates so far as refers to the Grammar School, Bridge, and Deputy's charges, they to pay still their proportion with the town; and this the Court declares, once more, to be a final issue of the controversy between Cambridge and them.

    Cambridge no sooner understands the pleasure of this honored Court, but they quietly submitted thereunto; and we hope our brethren neither can nor dare in the least to accuse us (first or last) of refusing to acquiesce in the Court's issue, although we may and must truly say we have been not a little grieved when by the more private intimations and reproachful backbitings of our neighbors, we have, in the minds and lips of those whom we honor and love, been rendered either too straitlaced to our own interest, or unequally-minded towards our brethren. And did not this honored Court, as well as we, conclude that the petitioners, having exercised the patience of the Court by their so often petitioning, as well as giving trouble to the town by causing them to dance after their pipes, from time [88] to time, for twenty-four years, as will appear by the Court Records, in which time they have petitioned the Court near if not altogether ten times, putting the town to great charges in meeting together to consider and provide their answers, and to appoint men to attend the Court, and the Committees that have been from time to time appointed by the Court, as also the charges of entertaining them all, which hath been no small disturbance to their more necessary employments for their livelihood, and expense of their time and estates;—yet all this notwithstanding, we are summoned now again to appear before this honored Court to answer their petition exhibited for the very same thing, nothing being added save only sundry falsehoods and clamorous accusations of us: 8 so that now it is not so much Cambridge as the arbitrary and irregular acting of them and their Townsmen that they plead to be delivered from, as being their bondage and burden.

    It now remains that we speak something as to the main of their petition, which they thus express, i. e., ‘that we may be a township of ourselves, without any more dependence on Cambridge.’ The reasons why we apprehend they may not have this their petition granted them may be taken from—

    I. The injustice of this their request, which may thus appear:—1. If it would be accounted injustice for any neighboring towns, or other persons, to endeavor the compassing so great a part or any part of our town limits from us, it is the same (and in some sense far worse) for those that belong to us so to do. This we conceive is plain from God's Word, that styles the child that robs his father to be the companion of a destroyer, or, as some render the word, a murderer; although the child may plead interest in his father's estate, yet he is in God's account a murderer if he takes away that whereby his father's or mother's life should be preserved; and this, we apprehend not to be far unlike the case now before this honored Court. 2. All practices of this nature are condemned by the light of nature, Judges XI. 24. They who had their grants from the heathen idolaters did not account it just that they should be dispossessed by others. And idolatrous Ahab, although he was a king, and a very wicked king also, and wanted not power to effect what he desired, and was so burdened for the want of Naboth's vineyard that he could neither eat nor sleep, and when denied by his own subject tendered a full price for the same, yet he had so much conscience left that he did [89] not dare to seize the same presently, as the petitioners would so great a part of our possession as this is, were it in their power. 3. The liberty and property of a Colony, so likewise (in its degree) of a township, is far more to be insisted upon than the right of any particular person; the concerns thereof being eminently far greater in all respects, both civil and ecclesiastical. 4. The General Court having forty-five years since (or more) made a grant of the land petitioned for to Cambridge town, the Court's grant to each town and person as his Majesty's royal charter is to this honored Assembly and the whole Colony, we have confidence that such is their wisdom and integrity that they will not deem it to be in their power9 to take away from us, or any other town or person, any part of what they have so orderly granted and confirmed to them. 5. Had we no grant upon Record (which is indubitably clear that we have, none in the least questioning the same), yet by the law of possession it is ours, and may not, without violation of the law and faith of the honored Court be taken from us.

    II. Could the petitioners obtain what they ask, without crossing the law of justice, yet we apprehend it would be very unequal; and that may thus appear:—Because Cambridge town is the womb out of which the petitioners have sprung, and therefore ought, in the first place, to be provided for; and the question in equity ought to be, not what do the petitioners crave, and might be convenient for them, but what may Cambridge spare? Now that Cambridge can not spare what they desire we shall thus prove:—1. From the situation of our town, being planted on a neck of land, hemmed about by neighboring towns, Watertown coming on the one side within half a mile of our meeting-house, and Charlestown as near on the other side; so that our bounds is not much above a mile in breadth for near three miles together; and, on the south side the River, the petitioners have gained their line (as we before related) to come very near within three miles of our meeting-house. 2. The most considerable part of the best and most accommodable lands of these near lands to the town are belonging to Mr. Pelham and others that live not in the town; so that the far greater number of those that live in the town are put to hire grass for their cattle to feed upon in the summer time, which costs them the least twelve shillings and some [90] fifteen shillings a head in money, for one cow, the summer feed; and corn-land they have not sufficient to find the town with bread. 3. Cambridge is not a town of trade or merchandize, as the seaport towns be; but what they do must be in a way of husbandry, although upon never so hard terms, they having no other way for a supply. 4. By the same reason that the petitioners plead immunity and freedom, our neighbors that live far nearer to Concord than to us may plead the like, and with far greater reason; and should they have a township granted them also, there would be nothing left for Cambridge, no, not so much commonage as to feed a small flock of sheep.

    That our town is thus situated, narrow and long on each wing, Watertown and Charlestown nipping us up close on each side, there needs no proof; it is sufficiently known to sundry of the members of this honored Court. And that we are in other respects circumstanced as we have related, so as that we must be no town nor have no church of Christ nor ministry among us, in case we be clipped and mangled as the petitioners would have, we conceive there needs not further evidence than our testimony. We know not why we should not be believed. We conceive that the honor of God and of this Court is more concerned in providing against the laying waste an ancient town and church of Christ, settled in this place for more than forty years, than any of us can be to our personal interest;—nothing that we here enjoy as to our outward accommodation being so attractive as that we should be forced here to continue, if we be disabled to maintain God's ordinances. Yet for evidence of the truth of what we thus assert we might allege the removing of Mr. Hooker and the whole church with him to Hartford, and that for this very reason, because they foresaw the narrowness of the place was such that they could not live here. Also the endeavor of Mr. Shepherd and the church with him, before his death, to remove in like manner, and that for no other reason but this, because they saw, after many years hard labor and expense of their estates that they brought with them from England, that they could not live in this place. Also we may add, that the Committee, which the honored General Court appointed to inquire into the estate of the town, 14th. 8mo. 57, made their return that they found the state of Cambridge to be as we have declared.

    We do freely own that, as our place is straitened so the charges are great for the maintenance of our Great Bridge and schools, &c., besides all other charges common to other places. [91] Shall this be an argument therefore to countenance any to seek to pluck from us our right, and to pull away their shoulders, to whom of right it appertains to bear a part with us, and have far the greatest part of the accommodation that should uphold the same? We would not speak passionately; but let not this honored Court be offended if we speak a little affectionately. We know not wherein we have offended this honored Court, or why poor Cambridge above all other towns in the country must be thus harassed from Court to Court, and never can have an end in twenty-four years time, although the Court have declared and given in their sanction that this and the other determination should be a final issue, never to be troubled more with the petitioners; yet still their petitions and clamors are received, and we compelled to make answer thereto. If we have transgressed in any kind, and this Court or any the members thereof have a prejudice against us, we humbly entreat that our offence may be declared. And if we have been such arbitrary taxmasters as the petitioners render us, that we may either be convicted, or recompense given us for our cost and damage by their unjust molestation of us from time to time, for the just vindication of our innocency against their unjust calumnies.

    Also we do humbly entreat of this honored Court that, whereas the petitioners at the time of their first grant which they obtained from this Court then pleaded that, for and towards the maintenance of the ministry in that place, they might have the lands and estates on that side the River that were more than four miles from the town, that we might have the line stated accordingly; the whole being our own, as we have before pleaded and proved, and we having need thereof, we conceive we can not in justice be denied the same.

    Also, whereas they have not submitted unto nor rested in the Court's last grant made them for the choice of a Constable and three Selectmen among themselves, but have carried it frowardly one towards another, and in like manner towards the town from whom they proceeded and unto whom they of right belong, we humbly entreat that the said order may be reversed, and that we being all one body politic may have a joint choice in the Selectmen and Constables of the town, according as the law doth determine the right and privilege of each town.

    Finally, we humbly entreat that this our defence may be entered in the Court's register, there to remain, for the vindication of our just right, in perpetuam rei memoriam. Praying [92] that the God of wisdom and truth may direct and guide this honored Court in their issuing of this and all other their more weighty concerns, we subscribe ourselves, honorable Sirs, your humble and dutiful servants and suppliants,

    Cambridge, 23 (8) 78.

    Mass. Arch., CXII. 253-264.

    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, [93] 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:—

    Articles of agreement, made September 17, 1688, between the Selectmen of Cambridge and the Selectmen of the Village, in behalf of their respective towns: That, whereas Cambridge Village, by order of the General Court in the late government, was enjoined to bear their proportion in the charges in the upholding and maintaining of the Great Bridge and School, with some other things of a public nature in the town of Cambridge; also there having been some difference between the Selectmen of said [94] towns, concerning the laying of rates for the end above said, that the Village shall pay to the town of Cambridge the sum of £ 5, in merchantable corn, at the former prices, at or before the first day of May next ensuing the date above, in full satisfaction of all dues and demands by the said town from the said Village, on the account above said, from the beginning of the world to the 11th January, 1687. Provided, always, and it is to be hereby understood, that the town of Cambridge on consideration of £ 4, in current county pay, already in hand paid to the Village above said, shall have free use of the highway laid out from the Village Meeting-house to the Falls, forever, without any let, molestation, or denial; also, that the Constable of the Village shall pay to the town of Cambridge or [all?] that is in their hands unpaid of their former rates due to the town of Cambridge above said. In witness whereof, the Selectmen above said hereunto set their hands, the day and year first above written.

    John Spring, Selectmen of New Cambridge. Edward Jackson, Selectmen of New Cambridge. James Prentice, Selectmen of New Cambridge. John Cooper, Selectmen of Cambridge. Samuel Andrew, Selectmen of Cambridge. Walter Hasting, Selectmen of Cambridge. David Fiske, Selectmen of Cambridge. Samuel Stone, Selectmen of Cambridge. Jonathan Remington, Selectmen of Cambridge.

    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 [95] 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 [96] 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 [97] 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 selectmen of Cambridge plaintiffs against Capt. Lawrence Hammond and John Cutler, jun., defendants, do humbly declare as followeth, &c. In the year 1634 the General Court granted them liberty to erect a ware upon Minottomy River, and they accordingly so did, and have had quiet possession of the same from that time until now, without any disturbance of their neighbors of Charlestown or any other; and hath been in a manner the stay and support of the town by fishing their Indian corn, which is the principal part of their husbandry and livelihood. But this last spring the defendants, to the great damage of the plaintiffs, have interrupted their fishing by crossing said River below the wares granted to Cambridge by the Court, whereby the grant of the Court is made null and void, and they are put out of the possession of that which they have peaceably enjoyed forty-six years, contrary to law and equity. And after that the plaintiffs had obtained a writ of nuisance to bring the case to a legal trial, the defendants have both violently and contemptuously proceeded to obstruct the passage of the fish to the wares, which they so long possessed as above said, to their great damage [98] and loss of two hundred thousand fish, which we judge will be a hundred pounds damage to the town in their crop, and tending to the inevitable impoverishing of divers poor families. The justice of this honored Court for their relief from this great wrong done them by the defendants is the favor they beg.

    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.

    1 Mass. Col. Rec., IV. (II.) 16.

    2 Ibid., 555.

    3 Mass. Arch., CXII. 250.

    4 Jackson's Hist. of Newton, 50, 52.

    5 John Jackson's Invent., £ 1,230. Rich. Park's Invent., £ 972.

    6 Old Hammond's Invent., £ 1,139.

    7 Octob. ‘62.

    8 A Machiavelian practice.

    9 It was no dishonor to Paul, that had all church power, that he could do nothing against the truth; nor diminutive to the power of God Himself, that He is a God that cannot lie.

    10 Hist of Newton, page 60.

    11 Ibid., page 63.

    12 At the close of their elaborate “answer” the Selectmen of Cambridge allege that the petitioners “have not submitted unto nor rested in the Court's last grant made to them for the choice of a constable and three Selectmen,” etc. It seems highly probable that, having again failed in their efforts to obtain incorporation in 1678, and despairing of present success, the petitioners determined to exercise the power granted in 1673, and accordingly elected a Constable and three Select men, Aug. 27, 1679. Such action would sufficiently account for the record bearing that date in what Jackson styles the “New Town Book.”

    13 Hist. of Newton, p. 62.

    14 The orders in council are dated Jan. 1687; but that this was in the Old Style, calling March 25th the first day of the year, and thus equivalent to Jan. 1688, commencing the year, as we now do with the first day of January, is certain, because (1) according to the present style, Wednesday was not the eleventh day of January in 1687, but it was in 1688; and (2) King Charles II., died Feb. 6, 1684-5, and consequently the third year of the reign of James II. did not commence until Feb. 6, 1686-7, and the only January in that “third year” was in 1687-8, that is, in 1688, by the present style of reckoning.

    15 Hutchinson's Coll. Papers, 496.

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