Mortimer Blake.

A history of the town of Franklin, Mass.; from its settlement to the completion of its first century, 2d March, 1878; with genealogical notices of its earliest families, sketches of its professional m online

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Online LibraryMortimer BlakeA history of the town of Franklin, Mass.; from its settlement to the completion of its first century, 2d March, 1878; with genealogical notices of its earliest families, sketches of its professional m → online text (page 1 of 26)
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HeliotyPe Prmtmg Co., 220 Devonshire Street, Boston.






2d March, 1878;

Genealogical Notices of its Earliest Families, Sketches

OF its Professional Men, and a Report of

the Centennial Celebration.


Mbmbbr of Old Colony Historical Socibtt ; Honorary Member o» New EInoland
Historic-Genealogical Society.





J. A. & R. A. RUD, Printers, Providence, R, I.


Pk'ai?p foneci the tullovviiig enors :

Pairc 34, line 4th, tor "ha.*" read "had."

" (i'2, " lOtii, after "hah" insert "shice."

" 64, " ."ith tVoiii bottom, after "steps" insert "were."

" 88, " r2tli, read "missionary."

90, " 3d from bottom, insert "60 feet."

" 107, " 20th, for "one" read "our."

" 125, " 7th from liottom, read "headed."

" 187, erase lines 21-24.

" 194, last line, erase last clause.

" 20G, transpose 8th and 9th lines.
" 227, last line, read "names." \ , -» /^/ t Iw -,,

the town to carry out the phin presented".

The committee were unanimous in their choice of historian — •
Rev. Mortimer Blake, D.D., of Taunton, Mass. His marked
ability and well-known antiquarian researches, especially con-
nected with the early histoiy of Franklin, abundantly qualified
him for this important work.

Dr. Blake with some reluctance entered upon the task, which
he would not have undertaken for any town but his own.

At the annual town meeting, in March, 1878, the committee
was enlarged by the addition of five members — Messrs. A. St.
John Chambre, Henry M. Greene, James P. Ray, Paul B. Clark,


J. A. & R. A. Reid, Printers, Piovidence, R. I.


At the annual town meeting held in March, A. D. 1876, a re-
port was presented by a committee previously chosen by the town,
consisting of Messrs. Waldo Daniels, Stephen W. Richardson,
William M. Tha3'er, AVilliam Rockwood, and Adin D. Sargent, to
whom was referred the subject of the celebration of the one hun-
dredth anniversary of the incorporation of the town.

Among the recommendations embodied in this report was the
following : —

"That a history- of the town be prepared and published, in
which the important events of its early settlement and the suc-
ceeding municipal transactions shall be recorded — including also,
so far as practicable, its interest in and the part sustained by its
citizens in the Revolutionar}' War, the War of 1812, and the late
RebeUion ; also its ecclesiastical and educational work, the growth
and development of our manufacturing interests, and of all that
pertains to its prosperity as a township."

The report was accepted and the committee were authorized by
the town to carry out the plan presented.

The committee were unanimous in their choice of historian —
Rev. Mortimer Blake, D. D., of Taunton, Mass. His marked
ability and well-known antiquarian researches, especially con-
nected with the early historj- of Franklin, abundantly qualified
him for this important work.

Dr. Blake with some reluctance entered upon the task, which
he would not have undertaken for any town but his own.

At the annual town meeting, in March, 1878, the committee
was enlarged by the addition of five members — Messrs. A. St.
John Chambre, Henry M. Greene, James P. Ray, Paul B. Clark,


and Edward A. Eand, to assist in the accumulating duties and
preparations arising from the approach of the centennial celebra-
tion. To the united committee Dr. Blake presented his valuable
manuscript, which, after examination and discussion, was unani-
mously accepted and ordered to be printed.

In presenting this volume to the citizens of Franklin and the
public generall}^, the committee feel that the reputation of the
author as a historian and scholar is sufficient pledge of its value.
They are confident that it will be found to be a rare history,
abounding in facts, incidents, narratives, biography, genealogy,
and whatever belongs to a superior town history — all enriched by
the author's terse style and originality of thought.

Waldo Daniels, A. St. John Chambee,

S. W. Eichaedson, H. M. Greene,

William M. Thayer, James P. Eay,

William KocKwoor), Paul B. Clark,

Adin D. Sargent, Edward A. Eand,

Centennial Committee.
Franklin, December, 1878.


Mr. President, the Honored Chief Magistrate of this Common-
wealth AND HIS Associates in Office, Kinsfolk and Friends —

Ladies and Gentlemen : A hundred years are crowding
to tell their tales to-day. It will not, therefore, permit much
time for introductory salutations. We will just congratulate
one another that we are allowed to be here, at the centennial
epoch of this grand old town, give a welcome hand to the sons
and daughters who have come back (some from long distances)
to this home of their childhood, and then we will stand aside
to let the century talk of the men and their deeds who have
given us a town history worth commemorating.

I must preface, however, that it was with great timidity I
consented to be the spokesman of this hour. Living so far
and so long from the sources of information, and crowded with
the never-finished work of my vocation, it has only been by
short visits and broken explorations that I have searched
records to collate the story of this town's past. If the results
seem meagre, please charge it — not to want of interest in the
seeking, but to lack of time and material. And, had it not
been for the zealous co-operation of your committee in charge
of this celebration, and of other interested citizens, and the
cordial responses of the town clerks into whose records the
sources of our town history run back, and of Wrentham in
particular, the present address would be still more meagre.
To all who have aided in this service, let me here present my
cordial acknowledgments. So much only will my short hour
permit me to say for introduction.


The life and roundness of our story have decayed in the
lapse of time, leaving but a skeleton of dismembered facts.
I am appointed to wire together these scattered bones and
reclothe the framework of our past with the motor forces and
flush of a recovered life. If I can so much as make the cen-
tury stand before you, I shall feel amply rewarded, even if the
countenance be lack-lustre and homely.

The century we commemorate to-day by no means carries
us back to the beginning of the town. To reach the forces
which have shaped its character and history, we must go still
further back by more than another hundred years. Seventeen
hundred and seventy-eight was only when this town became
of age and took her place among her sister towns. Her child-
hood dates really from 1660, when her mother, Wrentham,
first came to live in Wollomonopoag. But her birthday was
close upon the beginnings of the Massachusetts colony. To
compass, therefore, the full history of this town, we should
confer with the original Puritan immigrants of 1630 around
the Bay. But such a quest would cover two hundred and fifty
years, a period that cannot be compressed Avitliin this hour's
review. I must, therefore, content myself with the humbler
aim of selecting what may seem to be the hinge-facts on which
the course and character of our town history have turned.

These facts mainly cluster about three points : First, The
rights of the settlers to the soil ; Second, The character and
aims of the settlers ; and Third, The subsequent development
of their history.

It may be of no present consequence to learn ])y what title
these goodly farms are held ; but it is a satisfaction to know
that our ancestors were not lawless trespassers upon their
original Indian occupants. And the evidence lies abundant in
the colonial charter, the laws of its courts and tlie purchase
deeds of the settlers. By their Patent, the lands belonged to
the settlers as a company and not as individuals. But they
had the right of distribution among themselves, and they turned
to this task with becoming gravity. As a preliminary caution,
their court had voted (March 4, 1630) that " no man shall


buy land of Indians without leave had of the court ; " and, as
an immediate necessity, it votes that " all swamps of above
one hundred acres he free to any freeman to fetch wood."

But, interesting as it might be, we must not spend time
in waiting upon this court and reporting its cautious and wise
conclusions. A few only, which touch our present inquiry,
will be quoted. To prevent the scattering and weakening of
the settlers, no house shall be built above half a mile from
the meeting-house without leave of the court. A special com-
mittee shall set out and bound all towns and settle all bound-
ary difficulties, and towns may divide up their own lands. As
we listen to the debates and orders of this Court of Assist-
ants, we gather these conclusions of their policy : None but
freemen acceptable to the court shall have any lands ; such
shall have lands only as companies and in masses of territory ;
for signal service to the colony, however, single persons are
paid in special grants of land ; all grants to companies or to
individuals are to be set and laid out by and with the approval
of the court. The occupants of their soil are thus to be as-
sured friends of the colony ; and for a man to become a free-
man and proprietor of a farm, is an endorsement of his
goodness by the Puritan standard.

The court, further, is particular to transfer only its own
title to the soil. If the lands granted be subject to any Indian
claims, these must be extinguished by the towns themselves.
Thus, Concord is directed, in 1637, to purchase the ground
within their limits of the Indians, and an agent is chosen in
1638 to agree with the Indians for land in Watertown, Cam-
bridge, and Boston. But in 1639 John Bayley is fined five
pounds for buying land of Indians without leave. We care-
fully note these sample acts, as vindicating the honesty of the
Puritans towards the Indians. They are in accord with the
general letter from the governor and council of the New Eng-
land Company, dated Gravesend, April 17, 1629. "If any of
the salvages Ptend right of inheritance to all or any Pt of the
lands graunted in or patent, wee pray yo'r endeav'r to p'rchase
their tytle, that wee may avagde the least scruple of intrusion."


Still lingering about this venerable court of the governor
and his assistants, our ears catch the words of an order in
■which we immediately feel an interest. The session is at New-
towne, Sept. 2, 1635, and the order is, " that there shall be a
plantation settled about two miles above the falls of Charles
river, on the northeast side thereof, to have ground lying to it
on both sides the river, both upland and meadow, to be laid
out hereafter as the court shall direct." This must have
something to do with Franklin, for it is on one side of Charles
river. We drop into the session of next year, Sept. 8, 1636,
to read on its record : " Ordered that the plantation to be set-
tled above the falls of Charles river shall have three years'
immunity from public charges as Concord had, to be accounted
from the 1st of May next (i. e. 1637) ; and the name of said
plantation is to be Deddham, to enjoy all that land on the
southerly and easterly side of Charles river not formerly
granted to any town or particular persons, and also to have
five miles square on the other side of the river." The courts
of those days followed rather than led public opinion, and we
find, back of this large grant of territory — including now
thirteen towns and parts of four others — the impulse of
twenty-two solid men, ancestors, some of them, of persons
here present.*

Our genealogical line is Franklin, Wrentham, Dedham, and
this line would be the full path of our history, starting from
Newtowne Sept. 2, 1635. We need not go back even so far
as Dedliam, for others have already told its story. We will,
however, on our way to Wrentham, look in upon Dedham long
enough to form some idea of our ancestral beginnings. Rev.
John Allen, the first minister, or Michael Metcalf, the head
selectman, can tell us their story. They described their char-
acter in the name they have given to their town, " Content-
ment," and in this peaceable prelude to their covenant, " We,
whose names are hereunto subscribed, in the fear and rever-

* These towns, following the compass, are Dedham, Needham, Natick in
part, Dover, Sherborne in part, Medfield, Medway, Bellingham mostly, Frank-
lin, Wrentham, Norfolk, Walpole, Foxboro in part, Norwood.


ence of our Almighty God, mutually and severally promise
amongst ourselves and each other, to profess and practice one
faith according to that most perfect rule the foundation where-
of is everlasting- love." Happily named. Contentment.

Some of the settlers, however, especially John Dwight and
his son Timothy, John Page, and John Rogers, are not con-
tented. They remember the old home town in England whence
they came, and especially their minister, Eev. John Rogers,
grandson of the proto-martyr, John ; and for love of him and
of it they change the name of Contentment to Dedham.

It is but a few minutes' walk along the short street east of
the present court-house. The ninety log-houses are nearly alike,
thatched with long grass from the meadows, each with a lad-
der from the ground to the chimney, and standing near the
front edge of its twelve acres ; which are dotted with stumps
and bounded with uneven pole fences. In the rear of these
lots are the fields or pastures, called " herd walks " or " cow-
commons," simply cleared of timber and burnt over each
spring under the oversight of the wood-reeves. Bounding
the pastures outside is the virgin forest, filled with wolves
more than dogs and hunters can keep under ; although there
is a bounty upon their scalps, and there are regulation muskets
from three feet nine inches to four feet three inches barrel
length, and such noted marksmen as Sargent Ellis and Dea.
Ephraim Wilson behind them.

In one of these houses Michael Metcalf is keeping school
for the year for £20 — two-thirds part in wheat at the town or
country rate, and the other part in corn at the said rate, to be
kept, the record says, " at the school-house, except the wether
be extreme to hinder, and then he is to attend at his own
dwelling-house. The town to have the harth laid in the
school-house forthwith, and windows made fitt, and wood for
the fire to be laid in. In the heat of the weather, if the said
Michael desire to make use of the meeting-house, he may do
so, provided the house be kept clean and the windows be made
good if broken (as if the young D wights and Fishers and


Metcalfs of that day ever threw stones !), the school to begin
the 19th of the present month (1656) and the pay quarterly."

In another house Michael Powall has, since 1646, kept a
licensed ordinary, where we may find a dinner or a bed. Near
by him, if exhausted with our toiling through the woods from
Boston, we may find something stronger — as the selectmen
petitioned in 1658 that, " in regard of their remoteness from
Boston, Left. Joshua Fisher (one of their chief men) have
liberty to sell strong waters, to supply the necessity of such
as shall stand in need thereof in that town." Here are the
elements of a promising civilization ! Besides, there is Capt.
Eleazur Lusher " impowered to marry ; " Mr. Edward Allen,
John Kingsbury, and John Luson to " order small business
under 20 shillings ; " John Haward constable, a barrel of gun-
powder, a train band and a small cannon, or drake, presented
by the colony to this now called " out towne."

But it is drawing towards 1660, and stories are afloat of a
mine of some kind of metal near certain ponds, about thirteen
miles to the westward of Dedham, which must be somewhere
in this region.

The people, alert for any increase of their hard-earned and
small incomes, talk it over when they come together " in a
lecture day," and the selectmen send out (22° 4m., 1660) four
men " to view the lands both upland and meadow near about
the ponds by George Indian's wigwam, and make report of
what they find to the selectmen in the first opportunity they
can take." Six months after, their report gives so much en-
couragement that two other men are sent to compound with
the Indians for their rights to the soil.

But great enterprises like the settlement of new towns in the
wilderness must move slowly and cautiously. For it is no
trifling afternoon project to vacate a home, though it be just
built of logs and thatch in a stump-covered lot, and to forsake
companions wlio have worked in the fields and sat in the rude
meeting-house together, and to start everything anew in the
forests twenty miles of unbroken paths away. We cannot



appreciate their obstacles or their hesitancies. But we do
admire their cautious deliberations and prudent conclusions.

Although the good people of Dedham had talked together
of the meadows towards the west, where they had cut hay in
1649, and of the great ponds towards the Narragansett country,
and now especially of the mines near them, and of the report
of the men sent to explore the western wilderness more thor-
oughly, still when the motion was made (27th March, 1661)
to begin a plantation and give 600 acres for its encouragement,
some objected. But the movement had begun already. Ten
men, at least, had gone to break ground in Wollomonopoag,
as this region was called. As soon as they heard of this
encouragement of the 600 acres, they claimed it as pioneers
of the projected settlement. You will recognize their names,
if not the persons : Anthony Fisher, Sargent Ellis, Robert
Ware, James Thorp, Isaac Bullard, Samuel Fisher, Samuel
Parker, John Farrington, Ralph Freeman, and Sargent Stevens.
Some of their descendants are probably here to-day.

But Dedham could not be in such haste. It had chosen a
committee to attend to three things in due order : First, " to
determine when men present themselves for entertainment
there, who are meet to be accepted ; " Second, to " proportion
to each man, thus accepted, his part in the 600 acres ; " Third,
to " order the settling of the plantation in reference to situa-
tion, highways, convenient place for a meeting-house, a lot or
lots for church officers, with such other things necessary as
may hereafter be proposed." Yet this committee made com-
mendable haste, for before the year 1661 closed they reported,
and the town of Dedham adopted their boundaries and plan
of a settlement. But now the cautiousness has shifted to the
side of the colonists. They have some grave problems to lay
before their townsmen before they depart into this wilderness
of Wollomonopoag. The selectmen of Dedham, therefore, call
a meeting of the proprietors of the town, 12th January, 1662,
to hear these propositions. The prospective colonists say,
through their committee, Anthony Fisher, Robert Ware,
Richard Ellis, and Isaac Bullard, that they have secured but


ten men, and they cannot go with so small a company —
" they are not desirous to leave the world altogether," as they
put it, but will go if they can " proceed in a safe way." For
their justification, be it said, it was not Indians, nor solitude,
nor hard work in a wilderness which they were afraid of, but
a jeopardy of their legal rights and privileges of citizenship.
They were not willing to enter into the wolf's den without
good assurance that responsible hands were hold of the other
end of the rope and would keep hold of it.

The town of Dedham, they knew, had at a general town
meeting already approved the setting up of a plantation at
Wollomonopoag, and had sent two men to inquire of the Indi-
ans about their title. But what will tlie proprietors of Ded-
ham do about it ? for these were two different parties. Will
they make the way safe by paying tlie Indians and giving the
lands to the venturing settlers ? The proprietors, and not the
town, you remember, owned the lands not already granted to
individual settlers or set apart for public use, and they, and
not the town, must sell and give the title of their 600 acres
to their hesitating colonists. I have not time now to report
the discussion of this grave problem in that proprietors' meet-
ing of 1662, But the conclusion, at a second meeting in the
next month, 2d March, 1663, was that the proprietors could
not advise the settlement in the present circumstances, but
would satisfy for the necessary expense of those who had
broken ground at Wollomonopoag. So the project seems to
be exploded. But Timothy D wight and Richard Ellis, the two
agents chosen two years before, in 1660, to confer with the
Indians, have, meanwhile, been busy in dealing with the wily
Wompanoags, and now, in 1662, bring to the proprietors a re-
port which gives a new aspect to the problem.

Philip has this year succeeded, through the death of his
father Masassoit and elder brother Alexander, to the headsliip
of the tribe of the Wampanoags, and, perhaps to collect the
means for his projected war upon the settlements, is ready to
conclude the long negotiations for his lands. By the aid of
Capt. Thomas Willett,one of the Plymouth commissioners, long


skilled in Indian tactics — afterwards the first mayor of New
York city, and whose grave lies on the banks of Bullock's Cove
in Seekonk — the Dedham agents have purchased and secured
a deed of Wollomonopoag, five miles square (six says Worthing-
ton) for .£24 10s., which sum Captain Willett has advanced for
the town out of his own pocket. This money must be repaid to
the generous captain and the newly-bought land must supply
the means of payment.

The proprietors, therefore, at this same meeting of March,
1663, vote a general dividend among themselves, both of the
600 acres set apart for a settlement and of its price of .£160,
one-quarter to be paid annually. This land and its cost is
to be divided according to each one's cow-common rights.
There "are thirty-four shares of the 600 acres and of the X160.

These cow-common rights, so often mentioned, may require
an explanation. The territory belonged to the proprietors as
a company, in which each held shares in proportion to his
property valuation. The ratio was one common right per each
X8 of estate. The number of acres set apart for pasturage
was in proportion to the number and needs of the cattle
owned by the proprietors, five sheep being reckoned equal
to one cow, and each owned such a share of this land, or so
many cow-common rights, as one-eighth of his property valua-
tion might express in units. The whole grant or township
was held by the proprietors in a similar manner, and when
five-acre, eight-acre divisions, etc., were subsequently granted
by the proprietors, each drew five, ten, or fifteen acres of the
common land, as the number of his common rights might be.
For many years the business of proprietors and of inhabitants
were transacted in common, but a colonial law in 1720 organ-
ized the proprietary as a separate body from the town, and
their acts disappear from the municipal records and mostly
from our present knowledge.

Those who have already made improvements at Wollomono-
poag are allowed first to choose their lots. I count nine men,
and these were presumably the first comers to Wollomonopoag
to settle. You may recognize among them your grandfather's


grandfatlier : Anthony Fisher, Jr., Sargt, Richard Ellis, Robert
Ware, James Thorp, Isaac Bullard, Sam'l Fisher, Sam'l Parker,
Josh. Kent, and Job Farrington. Good Franklin names, most
of them. To them are to be added Sam'l Sheers (the first
actual settler apparently), Ralph Freeman, and perliaijs Daniel
Makiah. Where these men located their lots it is not possible
now accurately to determine. But the record says the first lot
was " to be where the Indians have broken up land not far from
the place intended to build a mill at," which was where the
Eagle Factory now stands.* Perhaps the remaining thirty-
three lots went southwards to the meeting-house, and thence

Online LibraryMortimer BlakeA history of the town of Franklin, Mass.; from its settlement to the completion of its first century, 2d March, 1878; with genealogical notices of its earliest families, sketches of its professional m → online text (page 1 of 26)