1659, November, and included thirty-nine lots and fort}' persons;
Peter Bracket and Joseph Tompson holding in common the right of
John Gurnc}', of Braintree. - The Record describes this division as
"in the great common field, on the East side of Concord river,
below the great Bridge." It began "at the little swamp next below
the falls," or a little south of North Billerica village, and extended
' ' down Concord river, towards Pawtucket, so far as the brook called
Bacon brook," which is just south of the Salem Railroad crossing
of the Concord River ; ' ' and the breadth of the said land to ly
along as the cart-path that leads down towards Pawtucket," near, if
not identical with, the present highway. Tliis division averaged
LAND DISTRIBUTION. 37
twentj'-two acres to each person, or eight hundred and eighty' in all.
When the line of Mrs. Winthrop's farm was run, it was found to
extend south of Bacon Brook, and cut off the north eight lots of this
division. For these the owners received other lots near the head of
Heath Brook in a plain called, no doubt for this reason, Recompense
At the same time another important division was made, in which
the Farm proprietors did not share. It is often referred to in the
Records as the "second division." It was "on the right hand of
the wa}' Leading toward gloab hill, by Shawshin River, and so
joining to Shawshin River and the College farme on the southward
part, and abutting on the ends of those Lots at Loose pla3'ne on the
Weste ; and in case there be not suffitient thare, then to take it
between heath brook mouth and the highwa}' before mentioned, and
so come homeward again. And for the devition of the said lands,
it is agreed it shall be devided into two devitions, until 3'ou come so
far as ailwife brook, which deviding Line shall be about the middle
of the Land between the above mentioned highway and Shawshin
river, butting upon Loose playne and Ailwife brook. The 1st Lott
shall begin next Samuel Kinsley, his Lott, and so goe on until you
come to Ailwife brook ; then begin at the west end of the other part
of the devition, and so goe on until 3'ou come to ailwife brook ; then
to begin bej'ond the brook and run from the highway to the river,
and so goe on till you come to gloab hill ; then returne homeward,
between the highway and heath brook, if need be."
Globe Hill is near the Shawshin, in Tewksbury, and is probablj'
the same on which the State Alms-house now stands ; and the road
named is the present highway through Patten ville. This description
includes the territory between Loes Plain and Fox Hill on the west,
the Shawshin meadows south-east, and the Church Farm south-west.
The Rangeway, which separated the First and Second Parts, as they
were called, of this Second Division, began near the Asa Holden
place, and passed the present fork in the roads where Mr. James
Page lives. The two rows of lots were laid right and left from it,
towards the road and the river. The first row of nine lots began
with Thomas Hubbard's, south of Fox Hill, which passed very soon
by his death to Samuel Manning. Others between the road and the
Rangeway were Daniel Shed, William Patten, James Kidder, Thomas
Foster, James Paterson, John Baldwin, John Marshall, and John
Parker, who also bought Marshall's and owned a lot of eighty acres
38 HISTORY OF BILLERICA.
near I'attenville. The second part of this division began farther
south, near the Deacon P^dmands place, and ran farther down the
river, inchuling seventeen lots. The twenty-six lots of this division
included 1,103 acres, more or less.
In 16G3, December, another division of meadow land took place,
and was to all the inhabitants. It began in the remote south-west
part of the town, now Carlisle ; four lots had Chelmsford line north,
and three were in Fort-wall meadow, which reached Concord line a
mile be3ond Carlisle village. Coming thence, homeward, three lots
were in Fort meadow, as many in Brook meadow, ten in Treble-cove
meadow, four on the Concord River, two on the Pond Bi'ook, four
in Patch meadow, three in Long-hill meadow, one south-west of
Gilson's Hill, and the last three on the river again opposite the
Township. These lots averaged two acres each, or eight}' in all.
A month later, in January, 1663-4, allotments of upland were
made in several places to forty-five proprietors. Fifteen lots were in
a field, beginning opposite the lower end of the Township, on the
west side of Concord River, and running down the river. Nine lots
ran along the Shawshin on the east side, beginning at the College
Farm; twelve were in the "pine plain be3ond Content" Brook, or
near the Tewksbury line ; three were north of Fox Hill and Brook,
east of Mr. Nason's place ; and six on the plain on this side of
Strongwater Brook, as near as might be "to their own meadows
Grants made at various times and places, in this wa}', could not
alwa3s satisf}' the men who received them. One would prove less
valuable or convenient than another, and in 1665, December, a
committee was appointed to make a Gratuity Division, as it was
called, or grants to various individuals, and exchanges with them for
common land, such as equity' called for, or would silence complaints.
Thirty persons received such special grants ; but Farley and Stearns
had no share, as the committee "Judge that their divitions on the
Towneship, already- laid out to them, is more than in proportion is
granted to other men lying as convenient." John Marshall has
" two acres by his house instead of six elsewhere." John Sheldon
has ' ' 3 acres & 33 pole joining to his east line of his home lot, or
else 10 acres, at foxes." John Kittredge "one-third part of five
acres, adjoyning to the South side of his house-lot, & he is content,"
and so on. James Kidder received two and a half acres taken from
the highway north of his house-lot, now West Street.
LAND DISTRIBUTION. 39
In the winter of 1665-6, a large meadow lying north-east of
Prospect Hill was divided into fort^'-two lots, and granted to as
many persons. In this division it was agreed that there should be
no allowance of "quantity for quality," such as had been common.
Another distribution was made at the same time, with the privilege
to each man of choosing where his lot should lie, the quantity being
one and one-quarter acres to each ten-acre lot. Seven chose lots
west of Concord River, near the Great Bridge, and fourteen accepted
Heath meadow for forty acres, holding it in common, and subject to
such future division as the\' might agree upon.
The last general division of land which was made before 1685
took place in January, 1665-6. It was a meadow division, located
"in the great meadow North-East of Prospect Hill," and near
Andover. The following condition was attached to this action : â€”
"It is agreed by y" Joint consent of the Towne, before the
alotments of the northerly medow at Prospect Hill, that in case
Cambridge men shall recover any meadow in our precincts, in
reference to their lots in this Towne bounds, granted them by
Cambridge, that then the}^ shall have it in this northerly meadow ;
and then the alotment of this meadow shall be a nullity, vnlesse
the towne shall see cause to satisf}^ such persons (whose alotments
shalbe taken away) in some other place, to their content." In other
words, they did not intend, if the troublesome Cambridge claims
could not be adjusted and were enforced upon them, to permit their
location in any of the near and, to them, more desirable parts of the
The Record proceeds : ' ' We do agree that y^ northerly meadow
at Prospect Hill shalbe alotted acording to towne order, to y'' whoU
inhabitance concerned therein ; and for the order of the lying of y*
said alotments, we do agree that there shalbee first a dividing line,
from this end of the meadow to y" further end, rufiing as convenient
as ma}' be about y^ middle of the meadow ; and the first lot shall
begin at this hither end, on y^ left hand or west side of y* dividing
line, and so take y"' in order going round, coming homeward on the
East side of the meadow, so that }-'* last and y" first lot will lye neer
east and west of each othere.
"Further we do agree that in this divition their shalbee noe
consideration of allowing quantity for quality to any person. Also,
it was agreed that Joseph Tomson and John Bracket should have
liberty to draw one lot for both their proportions.
HISTORY OF BILLERICA.
At the same meeting y" alotments drawne were as followeth : â€”
Jolm Roofis. Sen'"
Jpnath : Danforth
j John Bracket.
I Joseph Tomsoq.
"It was agreed that John Trull's allotment in y*^ above named
meadow should be put out, Because he had above his just pro-
portion in heeth brook meadow."
This division included about fort}' acres. Mr. Danforth was to
divide, measure, "make a plott of, and record the whole," for fort}'
and two shillings ; and persons concerned, who did not "seasonably
attend" to the laying out of their own lots, were to pay "niuepence
a person to those that do y" work."
This account of the distribution of lands in Billerica, in the
beginning, would be far from complete without notice of the large
grants and farms, held under Cambridge titles, in the south-east part
of the town. The largest of these was the farm reserved by the
Church in Cambridge for its special use, when it permitted the whole
town to assume practical possession of the larger part of Shawshin.
It consisted of seven hundred acres lying north of the Woburn Road,
and extended from Woburn line to the south-east line of Mr. Hart's
land on the west. Its north-east line may still be seen west of the
river, a distinct ditch and ridge, with a wall in some places, which
two hundred and twenty j-ears have not made even obscure. Here
LAND DISTRIBUTION. 41
John Parker lived, certainly foremost in many respects among the
The remainder of the thousand acres constituting the Church
Farm was located north of Fox Hill, and took name from that fact
as "Fox Farm." Mr. Daniel bought both parts. He subsequently
sold the larger part to Richardson and Walker, and the Fox Farm
to Joseph Davis, in whose family the place remained for about one
hundred and fifty 3'ears.
North-east of the Church Farm, down the Shawshin, and mostly
on the east side of it, was the College Farm. Our Records do not
describe its bounds ; but a plan, by Danforth, is preserved in the
archives of the Massachusetts Historical Societ}-. Whether it
formed a part of the grant to President Dunster, or was an
independent grant to Harvard College, does not appear. It was
sold about 1750 to William Gleason.
In the other direction, above the Church Farm, and with the
same extent east and west, was the farm of five hundred acres,
granted to Deacon Edward Collins, and sold by him to Elder
Champney. It was occupied till 1669 by his son Samuel, who sold
it to Richard Daniel ; and it was here that Mr. Daniel lived,
south of the Woburn Road, near Shawshin River. Above this
farm, President Henr^' Dunster, of Harvard College, had another
five-hundred-acre farm, which he sold, 10 May, 1655, to Francis
and John W^'man, of Woburn, for one hundred pounds ; and
bej^ond was Daniel Gookin's grant of five hundred acres, near
the mouth of Vine Bi-ook, and mostly east of the river. Mr.
Mitchel, pastor of the Cambridge Church, had also a five-hundred-
acre grant south-east of Gookin. All these grants, except Mr.
Mitchel's, bound on Woburn line; and this reached "somewhat
above the falls," in Bedford. Be^'ond was the three-hundred-acre
farm of Edward Oakes, sold by him in 1661 to George Farley,
and the Ralph Hills, father and son. This probably reached the
Concord line. Another farm known as the Oakes Farm consisted
of one hundred and fifty acres, given to Captain Gookin in exchange
for his lot on the Township, and by him sold to Thomas Oakes.
It included the Bedford Springs. West of all these was Job Lane,
who coming from Maiden had purchased, 2 August, 1664, Governor
Winthrop's large grant (already described) of his grandson, Fitz
John Winthrop, of Connecticut, and lived probably at the Duttou
42 HISTORY OF BILLERICA.
Billerica had also certain land-grants and dealings beyond her
own bounds which furnish an important chapter of her earl}' history.
The small grants which Cambridge had made in the bounds of
Shawshin, numbering more than one hundred and embracing ten
thousand acres, were found not easy to dispose of in a way that
would not embarrass the settlement. They were not valuable and
attractive enough to draw many of these Cambridge families here to
occupy them ; but the owners would naturally- seek to make as good
a sale of them as they could. While these rights .were thus held in
suspense, the chance that they might be enforced in some unwelcome
form would embarrass the measures of the settlers, and make the
rights in Billerica less attractive to persons who might otherwise
purchase and settle here As a measure of relief from this difficulty,
application was made to the General Court for a grant of lands
elsewhere, which met with tavor, as follows: â€” "
"In ans"" to the peticon of the inhabitants of Billirrike3% tills Court
doth graunt the toune of Billirrikey eight thousand acres of lands, for the
ends desired, in any place or places that are fFree. & not capeable of
making a toune, provided that the sajd lands be laid out before the next
Court of Election, and that the inhabitants of Caiubridg doe accept thereof
& disingage the lands desired at Billirikey, & also that the toune of
Billirrikey be seted w"^ twenty familyes at least w^'in three yeares,
yt the ordinances of God may be setled & encouraged in the sajd place of
Billirikey; & it is ordered, y* Majo"^ Willard, Cap'. Edw. Johnson, Mr.
Edward Jackson, or any two of them, w"' Thomas Danforth, or any other
surveyor, shall lay y" same out at the peticoners charge, making retourne
to the next Court of Election."
Jonathan Danforth, the j-ounger brother of Thomas, was not then
as well known to the General Court as he became in later 3'ears, and
to him fell the task of locating this eight thousand acres. Beyond
Chelmsford he had the whole Merrimack Valley to choose from,
or even the Connecticut and Champlain Valley's, if it had suited
Billerica's profit to go so far. The survey which Ire made, and
returned through the above Committee, on which the location was
finall}' sanctioned, is fortunately still preserved, in the office of the
Secretar}- of State ; ^ and on this authority some facts long forgotten
have recently come to light, and we are able to reclaim our own.
As described and approved by the Court,' it was located as follows :
Â« Colonial Records. Vol. IV, Part i, p. 2G9.
<> Ancient Maps and Plans. Vol.11. Index: "Billerica."
' Colonial Records. Vol. IV, Part i, p. 302.
LAND DISTRIBUTION. 43
"Layd out to the vse of the inhabitants of Billirrikey, eight thousand
acres of land, lying vpon Menemacke Riuer, on both sides thereof, taking
in the trucking hovvse now inhabitted by J"o. Cromwell, the sajd land being
lajd out about sixe thousand three hundred acres, on the East side the
riuer, and about seventeene hundred and fivety acres on the west side the
sajd riuer, and is bounded by the wildemes surrounding the same, as is
demonstrated by a plott thereof, taken and made by Jonathan Danforth.
survejor, and exhibbited to this Court by Major Symon Willard and Cap'.
Edward Johnson, appointed by this Court, Octob. 14, 1656, to lay out the
'â– â€¢ Symon Willard.
"The Court allowes & approoves of the retourne of these co'"issioners
in reference to the land herein expressed. â€” 1657, May IS."
This survey was the earliest ever made, it is safe to say, in the
Merrimack Valley' beN'ond Chelmsford, and is the starting point in
the history of Dunstable. The location was in a part of the valley
commonly called Naticook, but which Danforth spells "Naticott."
The name was derived from a little brook which, according to Fox,*
comes into the Merrimack on the west, "just above Thornton's
ferry." The grant began at the Penichuck Brook, which forms the
north bound of Nashua, and extends on the west of the river as
far north as the Souhegan River. Then it follows the Merrimack
nearly a mile, passing two islands, the larger of whi(!h received the
surveyor's name "Jonathan," then runs eastward two or three miles
and southward five or six, returning to its starting point. This
Naticott grant remained for a year in the hands of Billerica, when
John Parker received authority to dispose of it. (Grants, page 7.)
''9th, 6m., 1658. It is jointly agreed by vs, the Inhabitance of
Billerica, That John Parker hath given to him (by the towne) full power to
make sale and give assurance of that eight thousand acres of land granted
to us, and for our use, by the Ilono'^'i Generall Court, which land lyeth at
Natticott, upon merimack River. And we do hereby, fully, clearly, and
absolutely give up our whole interest, right, and title in the same unto the
aforesaid John Parker, to make sale of and dispose of as he shall see good
for himself & his assigns. Provided always, that the aforesaid John Parker
shall purchase, for ye vse & behoofe of the Towne of Billerica aforesaid,
all the severall lotts, to the valine of eight thousand acres, (granted by the
towne of Cambridge to their inhabitance,) which grants are already entered
in their towne booke, which land lyeth within the bounds and limits of our
towne. * * And in case any of ye proprietors of the aforesaid alotinents
* Dunstable, p. 10.
4-4 HISTORY OF BILLERICA.
shall rofiise to sell or give them, then the said John shall returne vnto the
towne of IJillerica six pence per acre for so maiiy acres as shall remain
unpiirchiised, to y^ valine of (or short of the number of) eight thousand
acres, which money shall remain to Public Towne use.'"
Fourtoon names are subscribed : Jonathan Dauforth, William
French, Samuel Chamne, Ralph Hill, Sen., John Baldwin, John
Rogers, Sen., Ralph Hill, Jun., George Farley-, Henery Jciffs,
Willm. Patten, AVill'" C'hamberline, John Sternes, John Marshall,
A month later Parker had sold the land, and agrees with the
town as follows : â€”
^' [ ?] day of the 7"' month, 1G58.
"This jDresent Writing witnesseth. that I. John Parker, doe hereby
jugadge to purchase & clere y^ severall lotts to y'' valine of 8.000 acors,
belonging to Cambridge, Lying in o'' Towne boundes, viz'., of y^ Towne of
Billerica, excepting y'' farmes Lying on Shawshin River, and the farmes
given by Cambridge, to the two brothers, the Okses, y' is to say, Edward
& Thomas Okes, for & in consideration of the su'" of two Hundred pounds
I'eceived by me of Mr. William Brenton for the 8,000 acors of land granted
to the aforesaid Towne of Billericay. Lying at Xaticot ; which was given
to o'' Towne of Billericay by the Genrall Courte, for the disingadging of
the Lands aforesaide ; and I, y<^ said John Parker, doe also ingadge to bare
all the charges, past or shall be, for Laying out the 8,000 acors, or any the
charges concernhig the purchasing the said Lotts, and also to be by me
procured a deed of sale for the use and in the behoofe of the towne of
Billericay aforesaid, acording to the Law of the Countrj'^ ; and what lands
shall appear not to be clered, by gift or sale, from the said inhabitantes of
Cambridge to y^ Number aforesaid, I doe promise to returne to the towne
and for the towne's use, 6p. p"" an acor, for so many acors as shall appear
not to be assurance made of, as aforesaid ; for performance of the same, 1
doe hereby binde myselfe, my heires, and Assignes, to o"^ Towne aforesaid,
firmlj' bjr these presents. Witness my hand the day and yeare above
'â– 2:5:1000. The town did order John Parker to bring in an account
to the town concerning" [remainder tcora]."
William Brenton, who bought the Naticott land of Billerica,
was a Boston merchant and leading business man : often one of
the Selectmen. He removed soon after this date to Rhode Island,
and Avas Governor of thai Colon}' in 1GG6-8, and died in 1674.
Â» The above original agreement with Parker has been preserved, and was recently
discovered, as a loose slip, in the First Volume of Billerica Records.
LAND DISTRIBUTION. 45
Litchfield, which was taken from Dunstable and incorporated in
1724, was known as "Brenton's Farms." John Farmer surmised
that he had an earl}- grant of land there, and other writers have
accepted the theory and repeated it as history. Our Records have
fortunately preserved the true account of the matter and demonstrate
that the Naticott grant, the earliest in New Hampshire west of
Rockingham County, was made to Billerica.
One circumstance connected with the Naticott grant is interesting,
and may be noticed here, "The trucking howse now inhabitted by
John Cromwell" was fonnd by Danforth, when making his surve}' in
the winter of 1 656-7, just above Thornton's Ferry, on the west of
the river, and is entered there on his plot returned to the Court.
These houses for trade with the Indians, pushed on beyond the line
of settlements, were a feature of the early life of New England.
Pro])abh' our niA'sterious Shawshin House belongs to this class.
But the man who lived at Naticott in 1G56 must have been much
the earliest J^nglish inhabitant of all that part of New Hampshire,
and as Billerica found him there she owes recognition to his memory.
Tradition has been busy with his name, but as some of the reports
have been wide of the truth, we ma}' suspect others are fabulous.
The tale has been that he had a house first in Tj-ngsborough and
later at Thornton's Ferr}' ; that in his Indian traffic he used his
liaud and foot for weights, incurring the hate of the red men, until
they came, burnt his house, and would have killed him ; but, getting
a hint of their coming, he just escaped, before his flight burying
money and treasure, which was foinid many 3'ears after in Tjngs-
borough ; all which has been said to be "as early as I660."
The facts which are proved are, that Cromwell was living at
Thornton's Ferrj' in 1656 ; and that, two or three 3'ears later, he
purchased of Capt. Edward Johnson a grant of three hundred
acres of land, made to him in 1658, and situated just north of the
Nacook or Howard Brook in Tyngsborough. To this place Cromwell
removed, built a house large for the time and had a large store,
but soon died in 1661. His inventor}', in the handwriting of John
Parker, is preserved. It was taken in January, 1661-2, and
embraces household, farming, and trading stock, such as suggest
no lecent Indian raid, and could hardly have been gathered there
save b}' a wealthy madman, which he plainly was not, in the fixce
of danger of such attack. Any later discovery of buried treasure
cannot be used to reproach his memory, for he died in his bed, and
46 HISTORY OF BILLERicA.
would not have left his widow in need of it, to mortgage and loose
the place there, as she was compelled to do. His wife was Salome,
daughter of William Batcheller, of Charlestown, and he left two
sons, John and Benjamin, and a daught?r, Rebecca, who were living
in 1702. It is not certain that Cromwell was a model Puritan ; but
the case against his memor}' is shadow}-, and he is entitled to the
benefit of the doubt. He was an active, enterprising man, as the
pioneer at that da}- in the Merrimack Valley needed to be. The
"l30und weight" stor}- is charged to various men, and more than
doubtful in any case ; and it is not clear that John Cromwell is not