opportunities, the evil leaven would have lowered the standard of
character and exposed the settlements to mischief, if not shipwreck.
And the fathers did not wait for the official sanction by the Court
of their new English name before they began to use " Billerica." It
stands at the head of the first page of Records, in 1G54, and in the
Boston record of Danforth's marriage. 22d November of that 3'ear,
it also appeared.
In 1658, when Mr, Whiting came to Billerica, he found twenty-
five families in town ; eleven on the Township, seven on the Dudley
Farm, and seven elsewhere, of whom but one was north of the
Township, Paterson, and he adjoined it. His own house was built,
but not yet finished ; the meeting-house was not begun. There was
a road to Woburn, another to Concord, one to Chelmsford, and one
to Andover ; whether the road to Cambridge was distinct from the
Woburn Road west of the Shawshin is very doubtful. These roads
were little more than paths in the woods ; indeed the woixl "path"
is not infrequently' applied to them in the Records. Fences were
not yet built, and the care of cattle and swine was a matter of
common concern. A herd in the care of a keeper, driven out in the
morning and home at night, was the natural convenience of their
primitive life. Sometimes the herd would go in one direction, and
then in another. Fox Ilill and its western slopes long furnished
the herd a range, and another extensive common field was beyond
The cai-e of the common lands of the town already claimed
attention. Citizens had privileges of use for cutting wood and
timber and feeding "commonage," as the right was called; but
it was restricted to their own use, and unauthorized traffic was
THE STORY AS TOLD IN THE RECORDS.
There was much sun^eying to be done m those early days. The
woods and meadows would be carefully explored in all directions for
lots and ranges likely to prove most valuable and convenient ; and
it gives one a sense of weariness to sit down, with the book of
Land-Grants in hand, aud think of Danforth's travel and toil in
running the thousands of lines there described. For his services in
surveying, plotting, and recording the several lots "drawn by the
whole inhabitants," the town agreed with Danforth, "10: 9: 59,"
that he should receive two and one-half pence for every acre, "to
be pa3-ed vnto him out of y* Towne stock collected b}' Rate," etc.
It needed hardv, courageous, self-relying men and women to
plant homes in this wilderness ; men and women who could live
happil}' without luxuries, or what their children deem conveniences,
and fertile in resource to suppl}' their own necessities. Such, it
is plain, were these Billerica men. They had discouragements,
dangers, hardships, in plenty, but they were of too sturdy stuff to
While they were laying these foundations, thej' were watching
with keen interest the course of events in Mother England. Those
were the da3-s of the Commonwealth, which enkindled all their
Puritan sympathies. Cromwell's own name of Oliver found its wa}',
not by the force of personal admiration, but following naturally the
line of family relationship, to the second son of the Billerica pastor.
Parker and Danforth and their neighbors would often talk over, by
their winter fires, the latest news of the Protector's policy and
battles, and were thrilled with the tidings of his death a few weeks
after Mr. Whiting's removal to the town. The Commonwealth in
England had nowhere more earnest friends than in New England.
It can not be doubted that the seed then sown in the hearts of
the fathers bore legitimate fruit a century later in the American
The building of the minister's house and the raising of his salary
brought heavier common expense, and a collector was needed. So,
"11* 11""° 1658," John Parker was empowered "to gather, receiue,
and take up all and euery p't and p'sell of the severall sumes due
vpon the rate made for the building and finishinge A house for A
minister, and all other pay that is or shall be due from* any of the
inhabitantes or an}' other proprietors y' are non-resident, as is or
shall be by him, the saide John Parker, requested to receiue and
58 HISTORY OF BILLERICA.
disburse for the use of the towu as aforesaid ; and we doe also
impower the saide John Parker to make distress vpou the goodes
or Landes of any such person as shall refuse to pa3- there dues."
The}- promise to defend him in any suit to which his lawful acts in
this office may expose him ; require a true account of all his receipts
and disbursements ; and undertake to make good any deficienc}'
if his authorized pa3-ments exceed receipts. This agreement bore
at first the signatures of the inhabitants ; but the Record does not
preserve the names.
During tlie year 1659, arrangements for building a meeting-house
were made, as elsewhere related. "Goodman Shead and Goodman
Kinsle}' shall have HogTooten Lett, if they doe desire it" ; perhaps
the name repelled them, and they did not. A committee are
instructed "to ad such Lande to fox hill Lott as they shall see
meet for the incouraging such persons as shall enjoy the same";
and Goodman Walsley [ ?] was granted ten acres of land to set a
house on, "on the East side of bare hill, leading towards Shawshin ;
also he is granted 10 acors of medow" ; but both these last grants
were made "null" afterwards. July 15, Lieut. William French was
chosen "Coihitioner for making the cuntry rate and caring in a
duplicate to }'* shiere meeting, and George Farle}' and Jonathan
Danforth is joyned with him for this worke." "John Durante is
granted ^ of a ten acre lot of uplande to set a hous on, and it is
lefte to y^ comitee y' La^'s out all other Lots, to lay it out where is
most convenient : y" it was determined b}- John Durant to have
y^ Land next Miles Reding, and the Towne gi-anted he should have
y' to Will Hail's." Reding's land became John Brackett's at the
"Corner," and this grant to Durant embraced the present homestead
of Mr. Anthony Jones. A grant follows to Edward Iron, which
became a nullity. William Sheldon asked that the committee might
view a piece of land which he wished, and act upon his request as
they might deem ' ' most advantageous to the publique " ; but his
petition was not granted. He held his grant on condition of
building "a mill to grind corn," and in 1663 the town " siezed
the forfeiture," the condition not being performed.
"6 : 12 : ^)\). The Town doe agree that there shall be a Towne
meeting for the wholl inhabitants the first second day in euery month
from time to time ; aud all those that are y" present inhabitants shall
pay [for ?] absence one shilling ; and also those that doe meet what
THE STORY AS TOLD IN THE RECORDS. 59
our acts shall be de[clared?] shall stand as vallid acts, and the fines
shall 1)6 gathered b}- the constable then l)eing from [time to tune?]
and shall be disposed of as them that doe meet shall see cause, and
the time of meeting is to begin about the sunn one our and a halfe
hy ; and whosoever is Not at y^ meeting [within one our ?] after the
time set, shall pay the fine vnlesse he can giue a good account of his
being absent." There would be murmurings at least if citizens were
now fined for absence from a monthly town meeting !
The first record of Town officers appointed is made in March,
1659-60. Samuel Champney is chosen constable ; Jonathan Dan-
forth and Henry Jeftes, surveyors; and "John Parker is added to
them to help be(?) over the work about the bridge and casway at
Shawshin," which was near his house. The Selectmen were John
Parker, Leift"'. Will French, Ralph Hill, Sen., Thomas Foster, and
Jonathan Danforth. John Sterne and John Baldwin " are apointed
to vew fences." John Parker was "chosen to carry the votes for
Nomination of Magistrates and Country Treasurer," and also to
attend upon the next General Court with the Town's petition "for
Attaining of Mr. Weld's farme on the other side Concord River, to
the Towne as other Conion Lands, if the Court pleased to grante
the same and to give Mr. Weld some land elsewhere." But the
petition, if presented, failed, and the town did not gain full title to
this land for thirty years, although it early began to make grants
John Hall receives l)ut declines a grant of land. George Farley
is chosen to serve on the grand jury, and Ralph Hill, Jun., on the
jury of trials. Jonathan Danforth "is chosen deputy for the town
to joyne with the Comitee to isew the buseness about County- bridges
and also to answer the presentments about Shawshin bridge," which
Jiad been complained of.
" 2 : 5 : 60. The town do consente to Captin Gookin y' he shall
haue 40 or .'^O acors of land in some convenient place where it
shall be found for convenient cituation to build vpon and break vp,
in lew of which p'cell of Lande y* is granted to him by the Town
Lying on the Township, and a committee is appointed to make the
exchange." His lot on the Township was^on the south corner of
Long and West Streets, where the Library, Church, Post-Offlce,
and Town Hall now stand, and his fifty acres in exchange were
laid out "on the south side the Town, and a little southeast of
60 HISTORY OF BILLERICA.
During this year, the town "accepts" as inhabitants the brothers
Peter and Jolui Bracket, and Josei)h Tomson and Simon Crosby,
whose wives were sisters of the Brackets, all from Braintree ; also
of John Kittredge and Roger Toothaker. And Benjamin Scot,
brother of Christopher Webb's wife, had "leave to live in town,"
but did not accept it.
'•'John Bracket, requesting of the Town a small skirt of Lande
Lying between his hous Lott and the highwa}' on the East, together
with a small Angl of Laud Lyinge crosse the upper road wa}- at
Abot's Bridge and Simon Burd's fence according to two trees
already marked b}' Jonathan Danforth, and so ruuninge to the hither
corner bounde mark of John Durant's house Lott, the Tbwne grant
his request, provided that John Bracket at his owne charge shall
make a good and sufficient Bridge over that durty place (called
Abots Bridge) both watter course and all the bad way on each
side so far as is needful, which sufficient way shall be Judged and
accepted of by the present surveyors and the work to be done by
the said John Brackett by the Last of the Nexte month ensewing,
or else this grant to be voyde." Bracket's house stood between the
brooks at the corner, and this record identifies the locality, but does
not explain the source of the name, of Abot's Bridge.
In December, IGGO: "At a Meeting at Leiffcent. French's, the
major prt of y'' Townsmen did agree y' Will Browne shold wayt sum
time for the disposinge of his acomidations y' was granted him by
the Towne, in reference to the getting of his charges \^ he had
expended upon the premises by way of improvement of the same
himself, or by such other person as the Towne shall approue on,
by his procuring or otherwise procured by the Towne ; it was also
yielded to the saide Will Browne that it sholde be propounded to the
towne and move to another vote whether Simon Crosby shall inj(w
the Bargain soulde to him by the saide Will Browne, whether the
said Simon shall injoy the same notwithstanding the vote y' is paste
by the towne alread}-, or whether he shall not injo}' it." The result
was no doubt in favor of Simon Crosby, as he henceforth appears as
a citizen. This action, it will be observed, is of the "Townsmen,"
a frequent earl}' name for the officials commonl}' known as Selectmen.
Was not tl|is early word better than that which usage has adopted?
It was soon found important to define the functions of these all
important officials of the New England Town. The Town itself
was an experiment in local government such as the world had never
THE STORY AS TOLD IN THE RECORDS. 61
tried until tlie fathers set it in motion on tlaese shores ; and its
successful working was and is still fundamental in the American
sj'stem. Upon the Selectmen much of this success depended, and
Billerica thus outlined their duties : —
''19: 9: 7660. The severall p'ticulars drawne vp for instructions
for the Townsmen, acordinge to which they are to act in the Town affairs.
This Mas voted by the major prt of the Towne.
ujtii_ xhat what worke or business is by order of Courte Assigned on
the Selectmen, or injoyned on the 'J'owne, the Selectmen shall take due
care to effect the same so as may best conduce to the publique good, and
no damage by the neglect thereof.
"2'>'. As often as they shall see Needful, they shall giue publique
notice to the Inhabitance to meet together. & what orders or determinations
shall be passed by publique vote of the Town, made by there Selectmen,
the Selectmen shall take due care to execute, fulfill, and acomplish the
same without respect of any man's person.
•'3'>'. They shall take due care for the maintenance, repairing, and
well ordering of all such things wherein the Towne hath a comou interest,
as the meeting house, Amunitione, pounde. stocks, common highways,
common herdes, and the like.
'•'4'h. They shall make such prudentiall orders and impose such
penalties, and duly publish and execute the same, as may best ef ecte the
execution of the premisses for the publique weall of the Towne.
'Soiy. That the nessary charges expended on the premisses in the
execution thereof be discharged by an equall Rate made by the Townsmen
and levied by the Constable on the severall Inhabitants and Proprietors
acordinge to orders.
"6^y. The Constable at ye end of his yere shall giue in his acountes
vnto the Townsmen (and any other person that shall receiue anything of
the Townes debts or money in Like manner) of what they haue receiued
of the Towne by way of Eate or otherwayes, of the publique stocke, and
how they haue disbursed the same, which shall be cept vpon record in a
"7'y. The Surveyors of the highewayes shall take order for there
work from the Townsmen, and shall take due care for the repairing of all
Country Eoades in the Towne, (and of no other without p'ticular order) ,
and they shall keep vpon record (in a book fairly written) 4:he names of all
such persons as are improued therein during there yere and deliuer the
same to the Townsmen then in place.
•'8'>'. The Townsmen shall carefully examine Town records which
are already recorded, and wherein any of them are not so fully expressed
as to the true intent of the Towne they shall corect and amende the same.
"9«'. Whatever damage they shall aprehende to come to the Towne
by any person within or without the Towne, by appropriating, intruding.
or damnifling or exceedinge there owTie due proportion in any wise, in any
62 HISTORY OF BILLERICA.
of the Towne comons, Lands, or woods, or other publick stocke, Libertyes,
or interests in y^ Towne, aoordinge to there best discretion they shall
timely preuent and remoove y*^ same ; and wliere any Lands are in question
at the present, whether they are or shiiU be the Just right of such prsons
as Lay claime to the same, the;' shall Judge acordinge to there Best
discretions and either more fully confirm the same or else vindicate such
Lands to the Towne.
"lO'y. In case complainte be made by any man wantinge his due and
Just proportion granted him by the Towne, they shall take due care that it
be made good acordinge to there beste discretione.
*'ll"i. All lands which are to be recorded to tlie propriety of any. a
copy of the same shall first be vewed and approued by the Townsmen
before they are entered in the Towne booke.
"12"=. The Townsmen shall demande and carefully examine & receiue
and pay all Towne debtes, and in case any refuse to pay, to destraine by
the constable acordinge to the former orders.
" 13tii. They shall haue no power to grant any house Lott or acomida-
tions to any person, vnless it be in makeing satisfactione to i^ersons damni-
fied by the highwayes going cross y' propriety, the which they shall haue
power to act in acordinge to y' best discretione.
"■19. 9. 1660. this was uoted on y*' aftlrmative.'"
"27: 12: 64. The Town A^oted these instructions be not in
force, but as they are voted by tlie Town from yeare to j^eare."
And a frequent vote of later j-ears was to repeat previous instruc-
tions to the Selectmen.
In the Treasurer's accounts for tliis 3"ear, Henry Jeffcs lias credit
for "300 briks for 3'"^ minister's chimney"; Ralph Hill, Sen., and
Thomas Patten are charged thirteen shillings each for "not tra^^n-
inge" ; and Will Sheldon, James Patersou, and John Kitti'edge,
for "defect in traj-ninge," two shillings.
"17 December, 1660. Lefteu'. Will" French is chosen Deputy
for this Town for the Next Genr'. Court, and no longer." Two
days later he was in his seat at Boston, the first Deputy from
Billerica to the General Court.
On page 2?, an important letter is found : —
"18: 11* mo. 1660. A copy of a lettei' from Major Willard, directed
to John Parker: the contentes follow:
" Loving and kind ffriend, you haue heard of the many notions between
my son Blood and myselfe about the farme adjoining to the New addition
to your towne; also you remembej- the agreemente that we made about
running the Line between you and the farme, which, when I came with
the men of Concord to [run?] it out, I had forgott: therefore, to prevent
THE STORY AS TOLD IN THE RECORDS. 63
any further troubles. I pray, let that agreement [with?] y^self, Goodman
Hill, and Gou. ffarley, which my sonn Blood and myselfe made, let it
[stand?] and continue; and to this eande I commit the thinge to my son
Blood, wholly : in witness whereto I set my hande.
"Dated this 18: January, 1660. SlMON Willakd."
This forgetfulness of the good Major was apparently the basis
of a claim made by Concord about 1700, and of a controversy
carried up to the General Court, concerning these lines.
In 1661, the town agreed that the clerk should have "twelve
pence per a page," and for every land-grant entered in the book
sixpence from the grantee ; and sixpence for ever^- copy taken out
of the book.
"The town did agree with John Parker to look out some land
for the towne, to the vallew of four thousand acres granted to the
town b}^ the General Court ; and for what time the said John dotli
expende in looking for the said Lande, they do covenant to pay vnto
him six shillings a day, and also to pay him for what other charges
he shall necessarily be at in hireing Indians to discour or otherwayes,
except his own provitions, which he is to bare himself."
The location and disposition of this grant are described else-
where. The pa}'' was probably not large enough to tempt Mr.
Parker to devote any more time than was necessary' to the service.
In 1661, we find an order concerning the "common herd": —
" 5 ; 2 : 61. The Townsmen do order :
"1. That there shall be a comon Herde kept in the toune; or more
herds if it is more convenient for the inhabitants who Liue remote from
the senter of the Toune.
''2iy. That all such persons as Liue convenient to tura there catell to
the comon herd, shall pay their full proportion to the same, whether there
catell be turned to the herd or not, if they goe without a cow [?] keeper.
"3>y. That all such persons as liue remote from the Toune, who can
not so conveniently turne there cattell to the comon herd, shall put there
cattell vnder a suffitient keeper, or pay half so much to the comon herd as
others doe who Hue convenient for the same. The persons which we judge
to Liue remote, and are Lyable to pay but half, or else herd there owne
cattell, are such as dwell upon or about Loes playne, and about foxes hill
and which liue on the east and south of bare hill, and beyond theni that
way, except Shawshin farmes.
"4'n. They do grant vnto the inhabitantes y' Liue about a mile from
Shawshin house to make vp there herd if they wante, to the Number of
64: HISTORY OF BILLERICA.
■•o'y. Thc}^ doe order that thelisual places at wiiieh the Herdsmen in
the toune shall take and deliuer there cattell are at Ralph Hill, senior's, and
Jonathan Danforth's south east corner of his house lot.
"6'>. That Jonathan Dantorth and James Kidder shall agree with
herdsmen or a herdsman, and to draw vp orders that consernes the same,
in behalf of the Avhole.
'••T'y. They doe order that all such vplands wch. ly vnfenced, which
are the propriety of any particular person or prsons whatsoever, shall be
accounted comon for the free feed of cattell, without any Lett or hindrance
f rtJni the particular proprietors of the same.
'•S'^. It is ordered that the herdsmen shall driue out there herd thease
severall ways hereafter mentioned, in theire severall da\'s, towards the
falls and bejamd thafr way; and ouer Concord riuer when the water is
Low. that the C'atell may pass through the riuer; and beyond goodman
Hills and arounde the ponde and beyond it; and by Nuttens towards
Capt. Gookins farme; and round fox Hill (but not to keep the herd about
any of the houses of such as pay half ^the herdage, whose cattell cannot
'goe conveniently with the herd) ; also to keep the herd out of all meadows,
as they will answer the neglect of it at their own peril.
"9'.^'. It is also ordered that what person or persons soever shall refuse
to pay there proportions to the comon herd, they shall pay one-quarter so
much more than there wholl proportions ; and to be Levied by distress by
the constable, acording to Law, or such other person as the Townsmen
shall apoynt. And that all such cattell as either goe with the comon herd
(or are Lyabie to pay to the same) three weeks in either half year, in the
Time of herdinge, shall be Lyabie to pay for the whole half."
Soon after, "it is ordered that any person being Legally warned
to keep the comon herd vpou the sabbath day. and he refuse and
neglect the same, shall pay for a fine five shillings." A fine of
sixpence was also laid b}- the Townsmen, "if any one of them doe
neglect to appear at the usual da3's of meeting, b}' eight of the
clock, in the forenoon," and, "if any of them shall deprt at any
time, without special leave from the rest of the compan}'," he was
fined two shillings and sixpence.
In 1660, "Simon Burd is sworne Clerk of the Trayne Band," the
first record of the military life of the town. "24: 8: 61. James
Kidder is chosen sarjent, Thomas Foster, eldest corporal, George
ffarle}', corporal, Samuel Kemp, drummer, and Will' Hamlitt, Clarke
to y* company."
Four days later, the town made a distribution of meadow lots
to forty-one inhabitants, which was afterwards annulled, probably
because it was found to belong to the "great meadow" of Governor
THE STORY AS TOLD IN THE RECORDS. 65
An important agreement bearing the same date follows : —
"We, whose Names are vnderwritten do Agree that John Parker
and Jonathan Danforth shall haue one thousand acres of Land (to
there owne propriet}-) out of the four thousand acres of Land granted
to the Towne by the Last General Courte, provided that they Lay
out the other three thousand Acres at penicooke, or sum of it nerer
home in either place or places, as the Towne shall Apoynte, and
be at all charges about it, returning a record of the buttings and
boundings of the same, with a platt of it, to the Generall Courte for
their confirmation of the same.
" Mr. Samuell Whitinge. Hamuell Champney.
Leift. Will* ffrench. John Rogers, Sen'.
Will* Tay. John Marshall.
'George ffarley. John Kitterige.
Henery Jefts. Thomas Pattin.
Simon Burd. Samuell Kemp.
Samuell Kinsley. John Poulter.
Daniell Shead. John Baldwin.
Cristopher Webb. Jacob Browne.
Willi Chamberlin. John ffrench.
John Trull. Will* Haill.
James Patterson. John Durante."
A glimpse of the pioneer side of life follows: "5: 9: 1661.
It is ordered that what person soever shall kill a wolfe or wolues
shall haue, for euery wolfe killed and brought to the constable
acordinge to law, he shall haue for euery wolfe Twentj^ Shillings,
which shall be payd by the constable then being, in the towns behalf
* provided that either English or Indian shall make proof to the
constable or select men that it was killed within the boundes of o'
Towne." Ralph Hill, Jun., and John, Indian, received each one
pound from the town for wolves killed, in 1661. At the same time
a committee was appointed to make recompense to ' ' the several
inhabitants for Highways taken out of there lands."
A large share of the town action of this period is devoted to
grants of land, general and special. Much of this record can not