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How a settler became a proprietor of the lands. Mode of dividing lands at first. Common ploughfield. Wood Lands. Rules for making future dividends of lands established in 1656. Disputes arising therefrom. Finally settled by committee of general court. Measures to extinguish the Indian titles. Treaty with king Philip and other sachems. Measures to establish other plantations. Medfield in the records called Bargarstowe. Wrentham called Wollomonopoag. Deerfield called Petumtuck. Natick Indians principally under the care of Mr. Eliot.
How persons became proprietors of the common lands.-THE second grant of the general court in September, 1636, enlarging the former one, for a plantation, was made to nineteen persons. These grantees of course were the sole owners until they admitted new associates. This they did at first without demanding any compensation. By the fourth article in the town covenant, every man was entitled to have lots in town, who was admitted an inhabitant, and would sign the covenant, which obliged him to pay all sums imposed on him rateably, and subjected him to the observance of all orders and constitutions necessary for the public peace, and a loving society.
As the new comers were voted into the society, they immediately had lots assigned them.
After the wood was cleared off their home lots, the inhabitants applied to the wood reeves for leave to cut wood and timber, to cut hoop poles, and peal bark on the common lands. The frequent practice of cutting without leave caused much difficulty.
In 1642, the proprietors, then forty-seven in number, agreed that 200 acres of the land where the houses now stand south of high street, should be made a common tillage field; and that each proprietor's share therein, should be marked out and assigned to him by seven men chosen for that purpose.
The execution of this design shows the excellent spirit of the inhabitants, and the great influence of their principal men.
The seven committee men decided that the quantity of land to be assigned to each person ought not to depend
on one arbitrary rule, but on the various considerations of each man's personal merit, and usefulness, on his ability to improve, or the amount of taxes by him paid. Some men, then servants, were to have lots as freemen. Upon this plan, major Lusher with the rest of the committee, set off to Mr. Allin, the minister, 23 acres, to elder Hunting and deacon Chickering, 14 acres each, to major Lusher 13 acres, to the remainder of the inhabitants from eight to one acre each. How admirable the love of peace which submits without complaint to such a division!! Can any Agrarian law ever effect a division of lands so perfect as this?
In 1645, 375 acres of wood land were divided among the proprietors on a similar plan.
In 1656, the proprietors resolved they would not make any more free grants of their common lands to strangers. It became necessary therefore to establish some permanent rule for dividing their lands, among the present proprietors and their heirs. No one pretended that all should have an equal share. They agreed on this principle.That each man's share should be proportioned to the valuation of his property, as it was made the last year for the purpose of assessing the rates. They then found that the number of acres in the herd walks, or cow commons, was 532 acres, and the number of cattle fed thereon somewhat less. They further found that by allowing one cow common for every eight pounds valuation of estate, the whole number of cow common rights or shares would be four hundred and seventy-seven. And this would make the number of cow commons the nearest to their then number of cattle. Five goat commons or five sheep commons were computed equal to one cow common, and were used as fractions of a whole right. When this rule came to be applied, it bore hardly on several poor persons, whose estates were low in the valuation. The proprietors therefore, so far departed from the rule, that they granted to these poor men, according to the necessity or equity of their case, twenty-five cow common rights more, which added to the former number made five hundred and two common rights or shares. By making the number of shares five hundred and two, a two fold purpose was answered. It regulated the right which each man then had in the herd walk, and it would serve as a rule in all
future dividends throughout their extensive proprietary. Thus far the proprietors proceeded without any difficulty, and what they had done was not afterwards questioned. But they went farther and determined, that those proprietors who had lands in town, but who did not reside in it at that time, should not have any right to put cattle into the cow commons, although they should have dividends. in the lands. This decision operated unequally on ensign Henry Philips, who then lived in Boston, and on several others. They made their complaints. To settle this dispute, major Humphrey Atherton, Richard Russel, Thomas Danforth, Royal Clap, and Richard Cook, were appointed referees, by the general court, and afterwards by the consent of the contending parties. These commissioners came to Dedham in February, 1659, and made a formal award, which they support by several quotations of scripture. They award to ensign Philips and other aggrieved persons, twelve more cow common rights; and that the church, for the purpose of supporting a teacher, should have eight more, making the whole number, five hundred and twenty-two. The parties acquiesced in this decision, and the selectmen immediately agreeably to the rule thus finally settled, assigned to the eighty proprietors their due shares. The commissioners further awarded, that in all future measures, in managing the proprietary, the majority in interest should govern. Thus after this decision, there were two distinct bodies. The proprietors and inhabitants, including non-proprietors. But for many years this distinction existed only in theory, for there were not any persons for many years in the town, who were inhabitants and at the same time non-proprietors. In process of time, the two separate bodies had meetings on the same day, and their doings were recorded in the same book. The commissioners mention that many places had almost been ruined by disputes occasioned by a division of lands.
Extinguishment of Indian titles.-The land was granted to the first settlers, subject to the Indian title. They were bound by a law of the colony, as well as by their own sense of right, to extinguish that title, by equitable contract. It is pleasing to find how fully and fairly this was done.
In 1660, two agents are appointed to treat with the
Sagamores who owned Wollomonopoag, now Wrentham. In 1662, Richard Ellis and Timothy Dwight, the agents appointed for that purpose, made a report, that they had made a treaty with Philip the Sagamore, for lands six miles square, or as much as six miles square, at Wollomonopoag, and exhibited his deed thereof, under hand and seal. Six days after this report is made, the town ratify the treaty and assess their common rights, to the amount of twenty-four pounds ten shillings, for the purpose of paying king Philip the stipulated price for his deed. This treaty required five years of negociation, as appears by the records. Our commissioners were assisted in this business by captain Thomas Willet, of Sekonk, a gentleman very useful to the early colonists, in many employ
"In November, 1669, upon notice of Philip, sagamore of Mount Hope, now at Wollomonopoag, offering a treaty of his lands thereabouts, not yet purchased." The selectmen appoint Timothy Dwight, and four other persons, to repair to him on the morrow, with authority to treat with him for his remaining right thereabouts, provided he can show that he has any, and provided he will secure the town against future claims of other sachems.
At this time the first grant of six miles square had not been located; possibly however the boundaries may have been fixed in the deed. Tradition informs us that in this second treaty, king Philip showed the Dedham commissioners the northern boundaries of his kingdom, which was the southern boundary of the sachemdom of Chickatabot, which was somewhere in the town of Walpole, and actually traced out the line, beginning at a point north east of the Wollomonopoag hill in Wrentham, then going westerly in a circuit, round that point, and that the shape of land in the second grant, was somewhat like that of a new moon, inclosing a part of the first grant within its horns. Why any land, especially a narrow strip, should have been reserved to Philip in this place, is not easily accounted for. Probably none was really reserved; but that wary chief, finding that the inhabitants were willing to purchase and prompt to pay, was willing to make an experiment. By this time he had learned that the white people would at all events possess his lands, and the only thing he could do, was then to procure as much money for
his lands as he could. Besides, he might well calculate that the inhabitants would prefer to purchase a doubtful title, rather than that a powerful sagamore should have a plausible pretext for a quarrel. On the 15th of November, 1669, the town ordered the common rights to be assessed seventeen pounds eight shillings, to complete the payment of this second purchase of Philip.
The Indian titles to Dedham and Medfield.-The sachems of the Neponset tribe claimed the territory west of the river Neponset, bounded northerly by Charles river, and southerly on king Philip's land. I find no deed nor treaty for the title to Dedham, but it must be inferred that a purchase was actually made. For in the year 1684, a committee appointed to treat with the Indian sachem Josias, for a parcel of land south of Neponset river, near the saw mills, and to procure from him a confirmation of all the lands between that and Charles river. The purchase was made with Messrs. Dudley and Stoughton, the guardians of Josias. And five pounds given for the claim.
The Indian title to the land in Medfield was purchased of Chickatabot; it was afterwards again purchased of his grand-son, Josias, in 1685, for the consideration of four pounds ten shillings.*
William Nehoiden and Magus' titles.-In April, 1680, the town agreed to give William Nehoiden ten pounds in money, forty shillings in Indian corn, forty acres of land at the upper falls on Charles river, for a tract of land seven miles long, from east to west, on the north side of Charles river, and five miles wide.
In the same year, they gave Magus, another sachem, eight pounds, three in Indian corn, and five in money, for his lands about Magus hill. Thus was the Indian title to Natick, Needham, and Dedham island extinguished.
In 1681, the town voted that all deeds and other writings relating to the town rights, should be collected for the purpose of being more carefully preserved. After this vote had been duly published, captain Fisher and Timothy Dwight brought to the selectmen seven Indian deeds, four from the Indians at Petumtuck, one from Philip, one from Nehoiden, one from Magus, and a receipt from Philip. These writings were ordered to be deposited in a box kept
* Dr. Saunders' sermon, preached at Medfield, January 5, 1817,