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These Commissioners were instructed to hear and determine the several differences and grievances which “ obstruct the present and future good of the town” &c. and were to continue in office till they could report the town to be of sufficient ability to manage its own affairs.
The Commissioners appointed in September of the same year, were, master John Tinker, Wm. Kerley, sen'r, Jno. Prescott, Ralph Houghton, and Thomas Sawyer, to superintend the municipal concerns with power to make all necessary rates and levies, to erect “ a meeting house, pound and stocks," three things that were then as necessary to constitute a village, as, according to Knickerbocker, a “meeting house, tavern and blacksmith's shop” are, at the present day. None were to be permitted to take up their residence in town, or be entertained therein, upless by consent of the selectmen, and any coming without such consent, on record, and persons entertaining them, were each subject to a penalty of twenty shillings per month. However much we may be inclined to smile at the last regulation, something of the kind probably was necessary in the early state of society, and especially in so remote a plantation as that of Nashaway, to exclude the idle and unprincipled; not only strong hands but stout hearts, sobriety of character, and patriotism, properly so called, were needed to sustain and advance the interest of the town. Vicious persons would be disorderly; the situation was critical, the danger of giving provocation to the Indians would be increased, and it would require but a slight matter to destroy the settlement. The commissioners directed further, that lands should be reserved for the accommodation and encouragement of five or six able men, to take up their residence in the town."
Early attention was paid by the town to its water privileges. In Nov. 1653, John Prescott received a grant of land of the inhabitants, on condition that he would build a " corn mill.” By a memorandum in Middlesex Records, it appears, that he finished the mill and began to grind coro, the following spring, 23, 3 mo. 1654. A saw mill followed in a few years, according to the records of the proprietaries; where I find that" in November 1658, at a training, a motion was made by Goodman Prescoft, about setting up a saw
He was one of the few who dared to oppose openly, the witchcraft delusion. Gov. Bradstreet, President Increase Mather, and Sumuel Willard, son of Major W. minister in Boston, and afterwards V. Pres. of the College, were almost the only leading men who withstood the mighty torrent.
mill; and the town voted that if he should erect one, he should have the grant of certain priveleges, and a large tract of land lying near his mill for him and his posterity forever; and to be more exactly recorded, when exactly known.”
In consideration of these provisions, Goodman Prescott forth with erected his mill. This was on the spot, where the Lancaster Cotton Manufacturing Company have extensive and profitable works under the superintendence of Messrs. Poignand & Plant. I mention these mills, the more particularly, as they were many years before any of the kind in the present County of Worcester. People came from Sudbury to Prescotts' grist mill. The stone of this mill was brought from England, and is now in the vicinity of the Factory*, in fragments.
There were no bridges in town till 1659. In January of that year (3. 11 mo. 1658) it is recorded that “the Selectmen ordered for the bridges over Nashaway and North river, that they that are on the neck of land do make a cart bridge over the north riverf by Goodman Water's, and they on the south end, do make a cart bridge over Nashaway about the wading places at their own expense."
These two bridges were supported in this way, eleven years. In February 1670, it was voted, that the bridges should be a town charge from the second day of that month, (1669, O. S.) only, it was ordered, that if the town should think it “for the safety of north bridge, that the cages be put down, that then they shall be set down upon the Neck's charge, the first convenient opportunity." There is reason to believe that no bridge was built over the Penecook, or Main river, till after the re-settlement of the town in 1679 and 80. The "Great bridge by the Knight pasture," (the same as the Neck bridge,) a little to the east of the present centre bridge is spoken of in 1729, and a vote was passed in 1736, to repair this bridge. The road that I have before mentioned from Bolton, across the Penecook, and “staked up to Goodman Prescott's rye field,” was laid out in the spring of 1656. But I assert with confidence, that no bridge was there as early as 1671. From 1671 to 1675, it is by no means probable that the inhabitants were in a situation to
* This rests on information received from Mr. Jonathan Wilder, of this town, a high authority in traditionary lore. Mrs. Wilder is a descendant, in direct line from John Prescott.
+ This was near the residence of the late Judge Sprague.
This was on the south branch, near the present will bridge.
The remark, relative to the bridge in the first volume of Worcester Magazine, p. 284, in note, is incorrect.
support three bridges,* and after that time, Metacomet's war left neither opportunity nor means, to pay attention to any thing but self-defence.t
1658. The Selectmen met in January following their appointment, and ordered the inbabitants to bring in a perfect list of their lands—the quality, quantity, bounds, &c. that they might be recorded, to prevent future differences, by reason of mistake or forgetfulness. In the course of the year, finding their authority insufficient to manage the municipal concerns of the town, they presented a petition to the commissioners, in which they say " the Lord has succeeded our endeavors to the "settling,” we hope, of Master Rowlandson amongst us, and the town is, in some sort, at last, in a good preparative to after peace; yet it is hard to repel the " boilings and breakings forth” of some persons, difficult to please, and some petty differences will arise amongst us, provide what we can to the contrary,” and that unless they have further power given them, what they possess is a “sword tool, and no edge.”
The Commissioners, then in Boston, explained to the Selectmen the extent of their powers, and authorized them to impose penalties in certain cases, for breach of orders, to make divisions of land, to appoint persons to hear and end small causes, under forty shillings, and present them to the County Court for allowance, &c. This increase of power, probably answered the purpose, so long as the management of affairs pertained to the Commissioners, and till it returned to the inhabitants of the town, at their general meetings.
As was before observed, although a committee had been appointed for that purpose some years before, it does not appear that the boundaries of the town were surveyed and marked before 1659. At that time, Thomas Noyes was appointed to that service, by the General Court, and the selectmen voted that when “ Ensign Noyes comes to lay out the bounds, Goodman Prescott do go with him to mark the bounds, and Job Whitcomb, and young Jacob Farrar, to carry the chain," &c. provided “that a bargain be first made between him and the selectmen, in behalf of the town, for his art and pains." Noyes made his return 7th April, of that year
* There was a wading place over the Penecook. --See note ante.
+ Since the above was written, I have ascertained satisfactorily, that the Neck bridge was built, 1718. The vote to build, was March 10, 1718--and to be finished by the first of August following. In the vote, it was ordered, "that the bridge have five trussells, and to be a foot higher than before.” It would seem then, that this was not the first bridge over the principal stream.
as follows, viz.: beginning at the wading place of Nashaway* river, thence running a line three miles in length, N. W. one degree West, and from that point drawing a perpendicular line five miles, N. N. East, one degree North, and another S. S. West, one degree South. At the end of the ten miles, making eight angles, and running at the north end, a line of eight miles, and at the south, siz miles and a half, in the direction E. S. East, one degree East, then connecting the extremes of these two lines, finished the fourth side, making in shape a trapezoid. Four miles of the S. East part of the line, bounded on Whipsufferaget plantation, that was granted to Sudbury, now included in Berlin, Bolton and Marlborough. The return of Mr. Noyes was accepted by the Court, provided a farm of six hundred and forty acres be laid out within the bounds, for the Country's use, in some place not already appropriated. I
The town, which for a number of years, had labored under the many disadvantages incident to new plantations, increased, perhaps, by being quite remote from other settlements, now began to acquire somewhat of municipal weight and importance. It was becoming a place, to which the enterprising colonists were attracted by its natural beauties, its uncommon facility of cultivation, and by the mild and friendly character of the natives in the vicinity. The selectmen, therefore, in July, 1659, found it necessary to repeal the foolish order of 1654, by which the number of Inhabitants was limited to 35. Their eyes being opened, they conceived it to be most for the good of the town, “that so many Inhabitants be admitted, as may be meetly accommodated, provided they are such, as are acceptable ; and that admittance be granted to so many, as shall stand with the description of the selectmen, and are worthy of acceptance according to the Commissionary acceptance."
1663, the town also began to feel sufficient strength to regulate the affairs of the Corporation by regular town meetings. The selectmen were willing, and in a letter expressed to the town " that there was not such a loving concurrence as they could desire," in their proceedings, and go on to observe, that if their labors in endeavoring to procure the town liberty to choose its own officers be
* This it will be recollected was the South branch, and near the present mill bridge by Samuel Carter's mills. The main stream was invariably called Penecook.
+ This is the English name. Rev. Mr. Allen, in his sketch of Northborough, in which he discovers the true spirit of the antiquary, says, that the Indian word is Whippsuppenike. See Worcester Magazine for July, 1826, p. 134.
# The tradition is, that it was laid out in the south part of the town, and included a very poor tract of land.
of use they desire to bless God for it; but if not, they desire not to create trouble to themselves, and grief for their loving brethren and neighbors,” &c. &c. The town confirmed the doings of the selectmen, and petitioned the Commissioners early in the year 1665, to restore the full privileges to the town. The answer of the Commissioners is, in part, as follows6 Gentlemen and loving friends.
4 We do with much thankfulness to the Lord acknowledge his favor to yourselves, and not only to you, but to all that delight in the prosperity of God's people, and children, in your loving compliance together; that this may te continued is our earnest desire, and shall be our prayer to God. And wherein we may in our capacity, contribute thereto, we do account it our duty to the Lord, and to you, and for that end, do fully concur, and consent to your proposals, for the ratifying of wbat is, and for liberty among yourselves, observing the laws and the directions of the General Court, for the election of your selectmen for the future.”
Dated, 8th 1 mo. 1664." The town was soon after relieved from the inconveniences and embarrassments of baving its affairs directed by gentlemen residing at a distance, and, in future, sustained its new duties, without further assistance from the General Court.
A highway was soon after laid out to Groton, passing over the intervale to Still river hill, in Harvard, theace to Groton in a very circuitous course.
In 1669, an order was passed establishing the first Monday in February, at ten o'clock A. M. for the annual town meetings, and obliging every inhabitant, to attend, under penalty of two shillings unless having a good excuse. The limited population, rendered necessary the sanction of all qualified persons, to the municipal proceedings.
The affairs of the town seem to have proceeded with tolerable quiet for more than twenty years from the first settlement, till 1674. The population had increased quite rapidly and was spread over a large part of the township. The Indians were inclined to peace, and, in various ways, were of service to the Inhabitants. But this happy state of things was not destined to continue. The day of deep and long continued distress was at hand. The natives with
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