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Bailding mills. Corn mills. Water mills. Saw mill. Introduction of trades. Modes of cultivating the land. First articles carried to Boston market. Stock of cattle. Horses. Swine. Sheep. Wolves. Wild cats.
GOVERNOR WINTHROP foresaw that when a small company of men went into the wilderness to begin a plantation, it would be many years before they could erect a water mill. He therefore gave orders for bringing into the colony, those small corn mills which had stones from two to three feet diameter, and were turned by hand, and which might be easily transported. The stones of two of these corn mills are still remaining in town. A corn mill seems to have been the appropriate name for this little hand grist mill, to distinguish it from the larger grist mill, driven by water, which was called a water mill.
First water mill.--The origin of Mother Brook has already been described. The chief design of cutting that canal, was to create a suitable dam for a water mill, for at the same meeting, March 28, 1639, the town granted liberty to any one who would undertake it, to build a water mill on that stream, with a lot of land around it. Who availed themselves of this grant, does not directly appear. In 1641, a foot path is laid out to the mill. Soon after the foot path was made, John Dwight and the reverend John Allin, conveyed the mill to Nathaniel Whiting. He and his heirs have possessed that mill privilege until Benjamin Bussey, Esq. purchased it within a few years.
In 1664, the town granted a license to Ezra Morse, to erect a new corn mill on Mother Brook, above the old one, on or near the factory built by the Norfolk cotton factory. The mill was erected, but it interfered with the rights of Whiting, and a dispute arose which resulted in the abatement of the new dam. So early did litigation about mill privileges commence. Within a few years the conflicting claims appurtenant to this mill seat, have been settled by a lawsuit. The town has at different times appointed
committees to lower the water in Charles river. I quote a passage from the records relating to this subject, to show what our provident forefathers have done for their posterity. In October, 1686. "Inasmuch as damage did come to the town by water lying long on the meadows, we saw reason to lower Charles river, but in this extreme drought, the town and the millers suffering so much, we see reason to allow that we may have a supply of meal, that the river about forty rods below the mill channel's mouth, be raised to its former height."
A saw mill was built by Joshua Fisher, on Neponset river, in the year 1664. The town granted him ample previleges to encourage that enterprise. It was quite on the southern boundary of the present town. The town stipulated with him for the price of sawing timber. When Ezra Morse was driven from Mother Brook, the town granted him a mill privilege at the saw mill, with much land about it. His thriving posterity now possess that inheritance.
In 1681, a fulling mill was built on Mother Brook, by Draper and Fairbanks.
Introduction of Mechanics.-The society which has not a joiner, a carpenter, a blacksmith, or a shoemaker, must necessarily be very deficient in articles of the first necessity. It was however several years before any of these kind of artificers came into the town. The number of carpenters, joiners and masons in the colony were so small, compared to the demand for their services, that they demanded enormous wages, and were principally employed in Boston and near it. It is an obvious fact therefore, that the first houses in Dedham were chiefly built without them. We may easily perceive in the peculiar situation of the town, in its infancy, the reason why every sort of mechanical business would be little successful. At Boston was the only market for the few productions of the land, and there would the inhabitants of course buy to the best advantage, the articles most necessary. This cause continued to operate until there was a considerable amount of circulating medium. Thence Dedham remained for a hundred and fifty years, a mere agricultural people, having extremely few inhabitants of other pursuits.
Methods of cultivating the land.-Excepting the home lots, all the lands cultivated, were inclosed in common fields. The common plough field, of two hundred acres, on the village plain, was surrounded by a fence made at common charge. The wood reeves decided the number of rods of fence to be made by each owner. This field was every year to be cleared by the 12th of October, that the cattle might be turned into it. There was for many years a great deficiency of English grass, which circumstance, in some seasons, produced great distress, by means of water on the meadows, as in 1649. Wheat continued to be raised until the year 1700, but I suppose it was only on newly cleared land. Until this time, the people voted by wheat and beans on the question of admitting townsmen—wheat denoting the affirmative, and beans the negative. Wheat before that time was a legal tender in the payment of some part of the taxes, and of most of the contracts.
The practice of burning the cow commons continued many years. This must have rendered those lands barren in a short time, provided these annual fires had much burned the soil.
I mention the articles carried into the Boston market, in the order in which they seem first to have been the subject of trade. Pealed oak bark, hoop poles, oak and pine timber for building, oak staves, ship timber, charcoal, wood, and then vegetables, and carried in panniers. It must have been many years before wood for fuel was carried to Boston. The bad and circuitous roads did not admit much of that article into the market from this town, until 1780.
Herds of cattle.-In the summer, the working oxen and cows fed on the commons near home. The young cattle, either fed in the woods, or on Neponset meadows, in Mr. Stoughton's pasture. The horses likewise run in a kind of wild state in the woods, and were extremely mischievous, although fettered, they frequently broke into the cornfields, and other enclosures, as our by-laws state. The horse of those days, was no doubt a small and inferior animal compared to the grain fed and improved breed of the present time. He felt, in common with the inhabitants, the want of a more perfect cultivation of the country; he had not even a pasture-he was doomed to live in
the woods, and wear fetters, and submit to a degrading slavery, without its usual benefits. Swine, with great yokes on their necks, likewise ran wild in the woods, and lived on acorns and roots. When hogs are kept in the woods, they soon become wild, and are active animals, very different from that lazy stupid creature in our sties. Hubbard, the historian, says that "In November, 1677, a great black boar came into the town of Dedham, no body knows from whence, eight feet in length. He was shot thirteen times before he could be killed. Almost the whole town was mustered together before he could be mastered.*
Sheep were not introduced into the town before the year 1667. They required more care than any other stock. They were at first kept in a town flock, as it was called, under the care of a shepherd. The wild beasts and numerous hungry dogs, rendered it necessary to guard them carefully. When the sheep were put into the common, it seems that additional bounties for killing wolves became necessary. These troublesome enemies of a new settlement, continued to annoy the inhabitants so late as 1698. Soon after its first settlement, a bounty of ten shillings was offered by the town, for every wolf killed, and this bounty was received almost every year, for one to five wolves. In 1698, the bounty was increased to ten shillings more for each wolf, and an unusual number was then destroyed, by which means the whole race in this wilderness was annihilated. In 1734, a bounty of twenty shillings was offered for each wild cat; fifteen were soon destroyed, and I hear of no complaints before or after that period, of wild cats. So long as these wild beasts lived on the borders of the wilderness, so long would many timid persons indulge a fear, perhaps a groundless one, that their children or their friends might be destroyed by them. Such apprehensions they have expressed, by pointing out the most dangerous haunts, by the names they have given to places, as wolf's den, wolf's pit, wild cat swamp. The famous hunters in those days, Sargent Ellis and deacon Ephraim Wilson, merited and no doubt enjoyed the reputation of being real patriots.
Hubbard's History, 649.
First company, twenty-four. Second company, twelve. Increase in fifty years. Compendium of the doings and improvements of fifty years. Indian war. Character of the first generation. Principal men, Edward Allyne, John Allin, Eleazer Lusher, Daniel Fisher, Timothy Dwight. Reflections.
THE first comers to the Massachusetts colony during the first five or six years, crowded into Boston and a few adjoining towns, particularly into Roxbury and Watertown. In Winthrop's journal, under date of April, 1635, it is asserted "Those of Watertown and Roxbury had leave to remove whether they pleased in this jurisdiction. The occasion of their desire to remove was, all the towns in the bay began to be much straitened by their own nearness to one another, and their cattle being much increased."* Then began the inhabitants to form new companies to settle other places. Several went out of the Watertown hive. From that place also, came nearly all the first twentyfour persons wh settled in this town. This company of men seem from their subsequent conduct, to have been a portion of that mixed population collected at Watertown, who possessed good sense and moderate principles, and were desirous of forming a peaceable civil society. They were puritans, but by no means of high proof. This company did in substance at least say to their fellow townsmen, whom they were about to leave, "Let there be no strife between us and thee, and between thy herdsmen and our herdsmen, for we be brethren, if you go to the right we will go to the left, for is not the whole country before
Under date of September 1, 1635, in Winthrop's journal, it is stated, that a town is begun above the falls in Charles river. No other place than Dedham could have been intended. That was the time when the first town meeting was held. There were that day twelve persons assembled. The next year, November, 1636, their numbers had increased to nineteen; they had then formed the town cove
1 Winthrop, 160.