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:
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:
The last clause of this deed is more fully explained in this affidavit of John Wilson in 1662:
On the thirteenth of November, 1639, the squa sachem gave another deed to Jotham Gibbons for the same tract of land as follows:
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.’
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.