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
-- earliest inhabitants.
-- arrival of the Braintree company.
-- Common pales.
-- division of lands.
The purpose for which Cambridge
was originally established as a town is stated by two of its projectors, Winthrop
“The governor and most of the assistants,” had “agreed to build a town fortified upon the neck,” between Roxbury
, 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.”
, describing the events of 1630, in his letter to the Countess
, 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
, and Watertown
, on the twenty-eighth of December, we grew to this resolution, to bind all the assistants2
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.”
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
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
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.”
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
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
, which was at length decided by the elders in favor of Dudley
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
a lot was assigned to him for that purpose;6
but he went to England
in the spring of 1631, and did not return.
remained at Charlestown
, at Roxbury
, at Dorchester
; and Coddington
, at Boston
were originally free from engagement.
says, “the Deputy Governor
), Secretary Bradstreet
, and other principal gentlemen, in the spring of 1631, commenced the execution of the plan.”
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
But this Book
of Records was not commenced until 1632, several months after Dudley
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.”
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
. the New Town
. Meadford, III.l
and Marble Harbor
. x. s. Boston
. Rocksbury, VII.l
. Wessaguscus, v.l
. Winettsemet, XXX.s
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
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.
Common pales divided as follows:—
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.
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.”
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
, 63 acres; Richard Goodman
, 6 acres; William Westwood
, 27 acres; John Talcott
,. 32 acres; Daniel Denison
, 22 1/2 acres; John Haynes
, 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
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.
The principal fresh meadows at first divided were those which adjoin Fresh Pond
, called the “Fresh Pond
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
” 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
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 Street||Harvard Street and Harvard Square.|
|Spring Street||Mount Auburn Street.|
|Long Street||Winthrop Street.|
|Marsh Lane||South Street, and part of Eliot Street.|
|Creek Lane||Brattle Square and part of Eliot Street.|
|Wood Street||Brighton Street.|
|Water Street||Dunster Street.|
|Crooked Street||Holyoke 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
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
The first and last of these three highways were long ago closed.
was early distinguished as the “highway from Charlestown
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
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.”
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
,” 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.”
and Field Lane north of Harvard
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
Frequent reference is also made, in the early records, to the “highway from Watertown