« PreviousContinue »
under them, in 1713. On this farm, was supposed to be a valuable silver mine, and for the purpose of obtaining the treasure, various shafts were suok near a small hill about the year 1755. Christian Angel, a miner from Sweden, was the principal workman. He was in the principal excavation at the time of the great earthquake in the
year last mentioned. Specimens of the orè were sent to England to be assayed, but the quantity of the precious metals was too small to justify a further prosecution of the design. In 1777, the Proprietors sold the land to Josiah Kendall, reserving to themselves and their heirs all the minerals, with the right of egress and regress, for the purpose of working the mines. The principal shaft is now nearly filled up with water, and fragments of rocks, casually thrown into the cavity, by persons visiting the mine from curiosity. Judging from the mass of materials thrown from it, the workmen must have proceeded to a great depth : tradition says upwards of one hundred feet at an angle of about forty five degrees. Among the fragments are found plumbago, nickel, sulphates of copper and of iron, garnets and various other minerals, but the predominating material is a rich Carbonate of iron, some specimens of which, it is thought by an experienced mineralogist, would yield 90 per cent. of pure metal. The high price of fuel will probably prevent working it.
This place being a wilderness in the time of the Indian wars, had but little concern with those tragic scenes. The Washacom pond, however, is memorable as the scene of the only victory ever obtained on the water in the County of Worcester. In May, 16 76, Capt. Henchman, of Boston, marching with a force for the defence of the plantation on Connecticut river, was informed by a Natick Indian, that the enemy was at Washacum. Accordingly he varied his course and suddenly supprised a party in their canoes taking fish. Capt. Henchman instantly commenced an attack upon the boats, which were defended until seven of the Indians were killed, and twenty pine taken prisoners.
In 1707, another battle was fought upon this territory. Twenty four Indians, remarkable for their prowess and bravery, had the temerity to venture as far as Marlborough, where they captured a Mr. Jonathan Wilder, formerly of Lancaster. The next day they were pursued by a party of the Marlborough men who overtook them in this town. The approach of the English threw the savages into the utmost consternation. The weather was such that their packs and guns were secured from the wet, and it was sometime
before they could prepare for action. Having first dispatched their
SETTLEMENT.-The first wbite inhabitants established themselves
Whitney ; and Harrington's century sermon. The spot where this battle was fought is about three miles from the Meeting House on the road to Westminster. Tradition points out the rock against which the Indians placed their victim before they killed him, which was effected by severe stabs through the sutures of the skull.
tHe was born in 1684 and died in 1745, the first person buried in the place. His father was named John and his grandfather Gamaliel Beaman, who came into Lancaster as early as 1659; he died in 1707, at an advanced age. This family is numerous and respectable. Ezra Beaman, Esq. late of West Boylston, was one of the descendants from a collateral branch. The farm in Sterling is now occupied by Gideon Beaman, a grandson of the first settler. The old house yet remains, having been recently repaired.
Samuel Sawyer was born in 1698, and died in 1787. His farm is now owned and occupied by his grandson of the same name, He has recently torn down the old mansion, with its huge stone chimney and erected a more modern and convenient house upon the spot.
Many of the descendants of this man still reside in the place and form an extensive and influential family. The largest landholder in town also bears this name in common with that of his ancestor. He bas sustained the office of Justice of the Peace for several years, and has often represented the town in the General Court. His farm adjoins that of the ancieni family homestead. A part of this sertile tract he inherits from his maternal grandfather, Moses Cooper, an emigrant from Rowley, who died some years since at the age of 90. Another of the decendants, uniting both of the family names, is a valuable and worthy citizen of Templeton.
There were three persons of this name in the early settlement of the town, distinguished by appropriate nicknames. This man kept the first tavern in the town and was designated by the name of Landlord Ben. The ancient house was accidentally burnt in 1821. The third generation owned this farm, but held it only for a short period.
|| David Osgood, Esq. was the first Justice of the Peace that resided in the place. He was born in 1698, and died in 1771. His son of the same name, was able to retain the farm but a short time after his father's death. The old house still remains, although much varied in its form.
1 Jonathan Osgood was the first deacon in the church, appointed March 18, 1745, and continued till his death in 1766. He was born in 1696. His farm was sold from the family previous to the revolution. The ancient dwelling house remains as a model of the primitive style of building. It was for many years, occupied as a tavern. Before the erection of a Meeting House, public worship was occasionally observed here on Sundays.
these were the only inhabitants then in the place. They were all natives of Lancaster, old parish, and of families who had long resided there. Their settlements were all within short distances from each other, lying northwesterly of the Meeting House. The inhabitants found there a small tribe of Indians, with whom they lived upon terms of the most perfect friendship, insomuch that they permitted them to indulge in their savage customs and laws. We are informed by well authenticated tradition, that one of their number having killed a fellow Indian, was immediately tried in a summary manner by his companions and forthwith tied to a tree and shot to death. Such was their custom of executing justice speedily," that the murder, trial, execution and burial, all took place in the course of a few hours on a Sabbath morning. Decent grave clothes were procured from some of the English families for the murdered person, upon a promise to pay in deer skins, which, it was said, was never performed. But the rights of sepulture were denied to the criminal; his mangled remains were thrown naked into the same grave with those of his victim. The place of the burial is pointed out by the ancient inbabitants to this day.
The settlements advanced with great rapidity, by accessions not only from the old Parish, but also by numerous emigrations from various towns in the county of Essex, particularly from Rowley. As early as 1733, the settlers petitioned to be set off as a separate township, assigning as a particular reason, the great abuse of the Lord's day, in spending so much of it in travelling to and from the place of public worship. Their petition was disregarded, but their solicitations were continually renewed until the year 1741, when the Legislature proposed to grant their request, provided they would keep in repair one half of the Cart bridge, next above the meeting of the rivers in the town of Lancaster.* This proposition was rejected by the petitioners, but they soon after became a Corporation by the name of the second or west parish in Lancaster. The precise date of this incorporation cannot now be ascertained. The lands in the new grapt not containing a sufficient number of inbabitants to form a parish, it was proposed that a strip, one mile in width, should be added from the old parish. A principal part of this tract has ever since belonged to Sterling, and is unquestionably the most valuable mile in eitber of the towns.
This incorporation included that part of the new grant not included in Leominster, and one half of the mile so called ; the corner boundary at Leominster corresponds with the present boundaries of the town.
The first Meeting House was built in 1741 or '42, principally by the voluntary labor of the people, the town granting them but £10 for that purpose, on condition they “ would set it near where the largest timber grew.” The spot selected had but few phys. ical advantages besides this. The lot whereon it was set, was a part of the division of Elias Sawyer, an original proprietor. Mr. Sawyer, by deed of gift, gave the Precinct about three acres of land, for the purpose of setting a Meeting House, and for conveniency, about the same for stables and other uses.*
1744, Dec. 19. The Church gathered, and Rev. John Mellen settled as pastor. The ecclesiastical history will form a separate chapter.
1756. This is called the year of the great sickness. The dysentery prevailed to an alarming extent, especially among children. Some families, it is said, were entirely swept off. Forty two were buried in seven weeks. It was estimated the population of the place was then less than 800 souls. The proportion of the deaths to the whole number was as 1 to 19; a mortality that would have depopulated the parish in less than three years.f
1760, Oct. 9. A thanksgiving was celebrated in consequence of the reduction of Montreal, and the conquest of Canada. On this occasion a Sermon was delivered and printed, containing a history of the various campaigns in that memorable struggle. If the vast sacrifices made by this small parish were, as is probable, a specimen of what was effected by this country for the honor of their sovereign, the British Government owe us a debt of gratitude that
* See his deed of February 12, 1742, in the Registry of deeds, Book 18, page 129. Elias Sawyer was the son of Thomas Sawyer, who was captured with him by the Indians in 1705. See Whitney, 43. They were carried to Canada, and Elias was detained there for the purpose of building a Saw mill, the first, it is said, in Canada. The father was an original proprietor of the new grant, but died before the bargain was completed. This son was admitted to his father's right, by a special vote of the Proprietors in 1716. He did not remove on to the land himself, but granted it to his son, Capt. Elisha Sawyer, who left numerous descendants. His son, the second Capt. Elisha, who died in 1810, lived on the land, and conveyed it to the 4th generation, one of whom still retains a valuable lot.
+ See three interesting Sermons of Rev. Mr. Mellen upon that occasion. In the great earthquake of Nov. 1755, a remarkable chasm was opened in the earth, near the southwest corner of the town, in Holden. The disease was attributed in that day to this cause, as the mortality increased, in proportion to its proximity to this spot. Holden, which then contained but a small population, buried 40–Rutland, 45; the north parish of Shrewsbury, (now Boylston and West Boylston) upwards of 20. The Quinepoxet river changed its channel, and many marks of a great alteration in the earth's sure face are yet visible at that place.
cannot easily be repaid. Nearly all the military force of this part of the country was engaged in the various expeditions. Scarcely a family but mourned the loss of some of their valuable relatives. Upwards of twenty of the young men of this place fell victims in this contest. Four were slain in the morning action at Lake George, Sept. 8, 1755. Mr. Mellen has preserved the names of most of the slain in an Appendix to his Sermon.*
1765, March 24. Died, Sebastian Smith, a native of Spain, aged 70. He had lived in the parish for several years, without any family. He emigrated when young, and bad served in the English fleet when a lad under Admiral Shovel. He acquired a considerable estate, chiefly by trading upon a limited scale. He sustained a good moral character, and having been deprived of the advantages of an early education, he generously determined to appropriate all his means to supply that deficiency in others. Having been educated in the superstitions of his country, where the Holy Scriptures are a " sealed book," he took great delight in hearing the reading of those Holy Oracles, and for this purpose, he presented to the Parish a large folio Bible, on condition that it should be read as a part of public worship. This injunction has ever since been duly regarded.f He distributed his whole estate in public and private charity. He gave the Church two valuable silver tankards, with suitable inscriptions, and also bequeathed one hundred pounds sterling, to be expended in educating the poor children belonging to tbe Parisb. I
1766. The population had so far increased that an addition
* To wit, Samuel Fairbanks, William Fairbanks, Isaac Kendall, Ithamar Bennet, Hezekiah Whitcomb, John Whitcomb, Jacob Glazier, Simon Kendall, John Farrar, Jeremiah Dickinson, William Brabrook, Ebenezer Bigelow, Jacob Smith, Jonathan Geary, Philip Geno, Reuben Walker, Stephen Kendall, George Bush, Joseph Stuart, Jonathan Fairbanks, Isaac Kilburn, and probably
+ The “Sebastian Bible," as it was called, having become mutilated by long use, has recently been replaced by an edition, in two volumes, elegantly bound; the donation of the Washington Benevolent Society. It probably is known but to few of the present generation, that the practice of reading the Scriptures publicly on the Sabbath, is comparatively modern, in the Congregational Churches. It was considered by our Fathers as partaking too much of the formality of the Episcopalians. It has been followed here ever since the year 1748.
This bounty was entirely lost in the time of the Revolution, when so many public funds were swallowed up. Most of the inhabitants attribute the loss to the failure of paper money, others to the unfaithfulness of the Managers ; the name of Capt. David Osgood is often mentioned in connection with this ungrateful fact.