Charles M. (Charles Mayo) Ellis.

The history of Roxbury town (Volume 1) online

. (page 4 of 11)
Online LibraryCharles M. (Charles Mayo) EllisThe history of Roxbury town (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

" for no other use, intent, and purpose whatsoever."

There was some difficulty about the rents fixed on
these lands afterwards. A question also arose out of
the form of the devise, and at the general court May
27, 1677—

"In answer to the petition of the Feoffees of the free school of
Roxbury settled heretofore by order of Court in Town Street,
the General Court having heard and seen the pleas and eviden-
ces in the case, doe, upon mature deliberation, judge that the de-
clared intent of Mr. Thomas Bell both in his life and at his death
in his will was the settlement of his estate in Roxbury upon that
free school then in being at his death in said Town."

The bequest of personal property by Thomas Bell
was considerable in amount. The real estate which
he devised to the school has already become of great
value. In his day it was a large estate. He was
one of the wealthy men of the town. Bell was a
generous man and one of a liberal mind. He is the
Harvard of our Free School.

In the petition of 1643, he signs as owner of 166
acres. The present surveys of land left by him do


not vary far from this amount. His homestead was
in what in those dajs was one of the best localities
in town. The ancient mansion which stands at the
corner of Bojlston and School streets, was built on
the land he gave and nearly in the very spot where
his house stood. His lands extend from Stony River,
taking in this homestead, across School street and the
turnpike, up to Back street. The beautiful, smooth,
open field of nearly eighteen acres, at the right of
the Dedham turnpike, on the brow of the hill, at the
corner of School street, as you go towards Boston,
and the great orchard opposite are embraced in this.
In all there are about filty-six acres in his home farm.
Then upon Walk Hill street, about two miles and
three-fourths from Washington street is a lot, divided
by Walk Hill street, of forty-seven acres. Upon
Beach street, a little less than fifty rods from the
turnpike, there are two lots, amounting to about forty
seven acres. There is some other besides. Should
the rate of increase of Roxbury be no greater than it
has been for the last few years. Bell's gift alone
would, at the expiration of the present leases, say in
the year 1900, be an immense endowment for such
an institution as the school.

In 1756, a petition was presented by the West
Parish concerning the donation of land by Bell at

In 1671, an old lease mentions "three acres lately
Giles Payson's" and "four acres of land lately be-
longing to John Stebbins." There is preserved a
copy of a deed from Giles Payson of "three acres in
the great lots'' "provided the schools forever remaine

Part 1.] history' of roxbury. 49

free and the donation of four shillings, be forever
quit." From the fact that John Stebins' name, or
land, is not in the subsequent lists of those liable for
rents, it is probable his grant was made on a similar

Some time before 1674-5 Samuel Finch gave a
piece of marsh, containing a little more than an acre,
to the school. This appears from the oldest receipt
on file, of that date, which acknowledges the pay-
ment of ten shillings by James Frizzal for that marsh.
This marsh is at Gravelly Point, and is still owned
by Roxbury School.

In 1660, the General Court Judged it "meet to
grant to the Town of Roxbury five hundred acres of
land towards the maintainance of a free school." The
land, however, does not appear to have been located
at that time. In 1715, upon the petition of Stephen
Williams and others setting forth the facts, the gen-
eral court granted "five hundred acres to the town of
Roxbury towards the support of the free school." In
1718, Nov. 4, the platt was returned by sworn sur-
veyors and approved. The land was laid out in Ox-
ford, Mass. on Chabunagungamong pond. The plans
are still in existence.

Committees were appointed from time to time, lor
various purposes connected with this land, from 1749
to 1790. Those relative to lotting out the lands,
preventing waste, &c., &c., need not be here noticed.
In 1767 they voted to sell. In 1770, the committee
reported that they had sold to Rev. Mr. Bowman of
Oxford, and Mr. Bellows for £223 : 10 : 00. In the
same year it was proposed "whether to give ye in-


terest of the school money to ye inhabitants at ye
West end of the town and voted in ye negative." —
From 1776 to 1788 a committee was appointed an-
nually to take charge of the Oxford School money.
In 1790 the money was paid into the Town treasury
and that is the end of it.

In 1683, Oct. 29, William Mead, by his will, gave
"unto the free school of Roxbury for the encourage-
ment of learning, all the aforesaid little tenement by
me purchased, in case my beloved wife Rebeckah
marry not, my will is that after her decease the whole
(065.) shall be for the use of the aforesaid school and
managed by the Feoffees of the said school for the
best advantage." This was known as Mead's Or-
chard, and 'consists of about one acre and nineteen
rods. It is on Warren street and was often reserved
for the school master's residence.

Governor Dudley is supposed to have given part of
the lot, where the old school house, that was sold,
stood, opposite Guild Hall. Both he and his de-
scendants made very large donations to the school.

Other donations were made to the school besides
those that have been noticed.

With such bounties, it is no wonder that this school
was, very early, one "of high character" and "the
admiration of the neighboring towns." It was said
by Mather "that Roxbury had afforded more scholars,
first for the college and then for the public, than any
other town of its bigness or, if I mistake not, of
twice its bigness, in all New England."

And the Roxbury Free School, for the liberality of
its objects, the great names that have been associated

Part I.] history of roxbury. 51

with it, and the actual good it has done, as well as
for its wealth, deserves an honorable place amongst
the institutions of the country. But these must be
passed by now, whilst we turn over a iew matters
concerning its early days.

In 1648, Isaac Morrill agreed to collect the school
money and pay it over to the schoolmaster.

The first teacher named in the school records is
Master Hanford who agreed for twenty-two pounds
per annum.

The 25th of the 9th month 1652, the feoffees
agreed with Mr. Daniel Welde "that he provide con-
venient benches with forms, with tables for the schol-
lars, a convenient seate for the schoolemaster, a
Deske to put the Dictionary on and shelves to lay up
bookes, and keepe the house and windows and doores
with the chimney sufficient and proper and there
shall be added to his yearly stijjend due by the Booke
the rent of the schoole land being four pounds the
yeare. He having promised the Feoffees to free
them of the labour of gathering up the particulars of
the contributions and they to stand by him in case
any be refractory."

Though our early law of the colony required each
town to provide a school master to teach children to
read and write, and, when any towns should have a
hundred families or householders, to set up a gram-
mar school, there appears to have been none but this
in Roxbury.

In 1668, the Feoffees made an agreement with
John Prudden as teacher, for a year, the terms of
which arc a little curious. Master Prudden "prom-


" ised and engaged to use his best endeavour, both by
" precept and example, to instruct in all Scholasticall,
" morall, and Theological discipline, the Children, (soe
" far as they are or shall be capable") of the signers
"all A. B. C. darians excepted."

About fifty persons signed the agreement.

And the Feoffees, "not enjoyning, nor leting the
" said Pruden from teaching any other children, pro-
" vided the number thereof doe not hinder the profiting
" of the fore-named youth," promised to allow Mr.
Pruden twenty-five pounds half on the 29th of Sept.
and the other half "to be payed on March 25, by
" William Parks and Robert Williams, their heirs or
" administrators, at the upper mills in Roxbury, three
" quarters in Indian Corn, or peas, and the other fourth
" part in barley, all good and merchantable at price
"current in the country rate, at the day of payment."

It was "alsoe further added" that "if any other
" persons in the town of Roxbury shall for like ends
" desire and upon like grounds with the above-men-
" tioned, see meete to adde their names to this writing,
" they shalle enjoye the like priviledges."

One column of the subscribers was headed

At one time, probably about 1673, the Bell lands
were let to John Gore for twenty -one years, he
agreeing "to teach the school or procure a substitute,
or pay £12 a year in corn, or cattle," &c.

In 1679, it was ordered that "parents, &c., of
" children comeing to the school, whether inhabitants
" or strangers, shall pay four shillings a child to the
*^ master or bring half a cord of- good meichantable


" wood, except such as for poverty or otherwise shall
"'■ be acquitted by the feoffees."

In 1724 it was ordered that parents, &c. shall send
45A. 6d. in money or two feet of good wood for each
child within ten days "or the suffer no such
children to have the benefit of the fire."

In 1735 the amount for each child was eight shil-
lings or two feet of wood.

In 1665, the school house, probably the first, was
repaired by Capt. Johnson. But in 1666 it was com-
plained of as out of repair. In 1681 one of the teach-
ers in a letter to one of the trustees says " of incon-
" veniences, I shall instance no other, but that of the
" school house the confused and shattered and nastie
" posture that it is in, not fitting for to reside in, the
" glass broken and thereupon very raw and cold, the
" floor very much broken and torn up to kindle fires,
" the hearth spoiled, the seats some burnt and others
" out of kilter, that one had as well nigh as goods
" keep school in a hog stie as in it." (This master
was evidently not restricted to morall, ecclesiasticall
and theologicall discipline.) A new building was
probably built about this period.

In 1742, the old school house being much gone to
decay, the feoffees, "with the help of many well dis-
posed persons by way of subscription" erected a new
school house. This was built of brick, of one story.
The second story was added in 1820. It was sold in
1835. When they built the brick school house in
1742 the "Honl. Paul Dudley Esquire was pleased to
bestow for the use of said school a good handsome


In 1688, the school lands were let at auction for
five hundred years. This gave great dissatisfaction,
and it was alleged that there was fraud in the sale.
About 1716 a petition was presented to the council
and the leases of^ell's land were declared to be con-
trary to the law and statutes of England and beyond
the power of the Feoffees. A suit or suits were
brought in court. Achmuty and Valentine were
counsel for the School, but Gore the defendant pre-
vailed at last, after the case had been appealed and
reviewed. These leases were finally all cancelled by

In 1728 the standard of admission was raised. In-
stead of excluding only ABCdarians, the order provi-
ded that the master should " not be obliged to receive
" any childrf^n for his instruction at the said school
" until such time as they can spell common easy En-
" glish words either in the Primer, or in the Psalter
*' in some good measure." Latin was ordered to be
taught at least as early as 1674.

In 1765 the present house on the Bell place was

The early income of the School, after receiving its
various donations, may be seen by the following ac-

''Roxbury, 7 April, 1731.
The profits or incomes of the Free School in Roxbury, taken
the day and year above written.

Imprimis. Mr. Bell's farm so called —
Ebenezer Gore's lease at .... £30 00 00
Ebr. Weld . . . Lease . . 7 00 00

Zach. Smith's lease at 3 00 00

Scarboro and Sam Williams (sold since & money let) 5 00 00

45 00 00

Part I.J history of roxrury.


Other school lands —

Joseph Ruggles




Joseph Williams

. 4



Joseph Warren




John Stowe ......

. 2



James Frizzel ......



. 3



Govr. Dudley's Donation £50


Subscriptions collected by

Mr. Dorr




" Sam). Williams ....




" Sumner ......

. 1



Maj. Bowles

. 1



Deacon Mayo . . . . .



John Williams ......



45 00 00

16 00 00

3 00 00

8 01 11

72 1 11

The whole amounts to 72 1 II
Paul Dudley.
From the year 1645 when the Donors subscribed, to the year
1734, including only ye year 1733, is 88 years.

£ sk. D.
The amount of the subscriptions being 8 — 1 — 11 pr. ann.

£ sh. D,

brings the subscribers to have payd 712 — 8 — 8.

Each donor that pays 12sh. pr. annum £ s. p.

has paid in the time above-mentioned 52 16 00

Mr. Dudley seems in the above account to have
been considering the wealth of the school, and the
best mode of securing its income.

It is difficult, oftentimes, to trace the old home-
steads. The following list of the Donors and estates



[Part I.

will be found a great aid and a sure guide. This ac-
count was made about tiie year 1700, no doubt for
the purpose of guiding in collecting the school rents.
It will be borne in nnind that the names are given for
the different dwellings, or homesteads, not for the lots
owned by individuals. This list gives, first, the
names of the original subscribers, and then, when
their dwellings had changed hands, the names of the
occupant in 1690 or 1700. To that time most of
them can be traced with little difficulty.

The sums in this list are in those in ye former. This was made
after Eliot's death in 1690.


His excellency ye gov. 00

12 00

Mr. Thomas Weld (now Ed-


12 00

Mr. John Eliot now

12 00

Capn. Joseph Weld (now


12 00

Hugh Prichard (now Pier-


12 00

Joshua Hews (now Polly)

8 00

John Gore

8 00

John Johnson, now Bowles

William Park, now Smith

6 06

6 06

Isaac Morell " Stevens

6 00

Isaac Heath " Bowles

5 06

Thos. Lamb " Aspinall

5 00

William Denison


John Roberts, now Sumner

4 00

4 00


William Cheney, now Thomas 4 00
John Watson, now Brumfield 4 00


John Watson, " Stodman 2 00
Danl. Brewer, now Daniel

Brewer . . . 2 06

Isaac Johnson, now Seaver 2 00

James Astwood, alias Yung-
man, now Stoddard 2 00
John Bowles, now Gary 2 00
Griffin Crafts, now Ruggles

secundus . . . 9 00
John Ruggles, now John

Ruggles sr. . . . 2 00
Robert Willyams now Stevens 2 00
John Scarborough, " Samuell 2 00

Richard Pepper, now Scar-
borough . . . 2 00

Humphrey Johnson, now

J. Williams . . 2 00

Richard Woody, now Mr.

Walter ... 01 08

Richard Woody jr. now Mr.

Walter ... 01 08

John Woody, now Macarty 01 08

Abraham Nowell, now Ma-
carty . . . 01 08

Edmund Pason, now Hol-

brook . . . 01 08

Robert Gamblin, now Benj. 01 08
Thomas Gardner, now Sam

Williams . . . 01 08

Part I.]



Edward Bridge . . 01 00
Abram. How, now Isaac 01 00

Gowin Anderson, now As-

pinwall . . . 01 00

*10 : 11 : 12 : 13

Robert Peper, now Pike 01 00

[Robert Scaver in original]


Edward Porter, now Mac-
arty . . . 01 03
Christor. Peak, now Dor 01 03


Richard Peacock, now Dor 01 00

Francis Smith, now John 01 00 Peter Gardner, now Cheany 01 00

*9 Lewis Jones, now Ruggles

John Mays . . . 01 00 tertius . . . 02 00

John Hemingway . . 01 00

It will be seen that the chief difference in this is the reduced rent,
which occurs as early as 1674 ; the addition of very few names ; and the
omission of those who, from their gifts of land, had had their estates
freed from rent, or from some other cause, if there was any other, were
exempted from payment of rent.

*1 Thomas Bell's name was here on 1st list.

*2 Philip Eliot's name was here.

*3 George Holmes " "

M Samuel Finch " "

*5 Giles Payson " "

*6 John Stonnard [but he did not sign ye original.]

*7 John Levinz was here.

*8 Samuel Morgan was here.

*9 Thomas Ruggles " "

*10 Arthur Gary C '\

*11 Edward Bugby J Their names were here but they did not!

"12 Edward White ) sign original themselves. j

*]3 William Levins (^ J

*14 John Stebins.

Robert Prentise [did not sign original.]

The following is a list of the earlier teachers of the school,
with the dale when they served,

Philip Eliot .... -
Stowe, probably —

Hansford .

Daniel Weld . .

MihiU . .

John Prudden
John Howe .
Thomas Weld
Thomas Bernard
Joseph Greene .
Andrew Gardiner

Benjamin Thompson

John Bowles . .

1650 William Williams

1665 Timothy Ruggles

1666 Ebenezer Williams
1668 Increase Walter .

1673 Robert Stanton .

1674 Thomas Foxcroft
1680 Ebenezer Pierpont
1695 Henry Wise . .
1698 Richard Dana .


y Cou.nX ^«-«''viw o^t-rL *.



ART 1.

Benjamin Ruggles .

. 1722

Coolidge .


Thomas Weld . .


James Greaton . . ■


Ebenezer Pierpont .


John Fairfield . .


Joseph Mayhew . .


Joseph Warren . .


David Goddard . .


Ebenezer Williams .


Thomas Balch . .

. 1734

Benjamin Balch . .

. 1763

John Ballanline . .


Samuel Parker . .


Stephen Fessenden .


Oliver Whipple . .


Nathaniel Sumner .

. 1740

Increase Sumner


John Newman . .


Samuel Cherry . .


Job Palmer . . .


Ward Chipman . .


Elisha Savel . . .


Joseph Prince . .


Daniel Foxcroft . .


John Eliot . . .


Edward Holyoke .


Benjamin Balch . .


Solomon Williams , .
Merriam . .


. 1775

Thomas Marsh . .

William Gushing .


Oliver Everett . .



T 01071 Government.

At a court held in 1635, " it was ordered that all
triviall things," &;c. "should be ordered in the towns."

The general laws of the colony belong to other
works. Only those acts are here noted which belong
to the town, or matters recorded there.

I have not been able to discover any trace of the
first organization of the town government. The vote
of the town passed about 1649, and which is still
legible that " ye five men shall have, for ye present
yeare, full power to make and execute such orders as
they, in their apprehension, shall think to be condu-
cing to the good of the town," indicated that it was
ot the simple form common in the colony, and that it
was distinct from the parochial or church government.
The five men as they were called for many years,
being styled selectmen afterwards, were chosen annu-
ally, by the body of the people, and had the general
control of town affairs. For a long time they were
the only town officers chosen. Though there seem
to have been separate and distinct bodies to manage
the affairs of the town and those of the church, many
matters relating to parish affairs were transacted in


the town meetings and are recorded in the town
books, such as those relating to building, repairing,
and arranging the meeting house, salaries for the pas-
tors, and the like. The town was but one parish.
The business was not kept distinct. Very likely if
the church had been organized on the first settlement
that would have been* the only government.

The colony law of 1631, forbidding any butchurch
members from becoming freemen, shows that all had
not equal privileges. It is probable that all were not
regarded as entitled to act in town affairs. In 1659,
the " non freemen chose Edward Denison to clear
whether the non freemen may not have vote to choose
commissioners and hee to see this cleared the next
general court."

Somewhat later, a question was raised as to the
right of any but original proprietors or their heirs to
have a voice in the disposition of town lands.

But in general the records indicate that all matters
promiscuously were brought before the whole body of
the people.

In 1652, orders for the town were drawn up. It
was then ordered " by the body that they be entered
in ye towne booke and from yeare to yeare, ujDon
that day when the body meete for choice of officers
and selectmen (being concluded to be in January) to
be read over to the body which, if judged by the town
to be for the town's good they shall remain in force
for the next yeare," &lc.

It is further provided " in case any person shall,
at any time, find himself aggrieved or judge himself
wronged by any order or carriage of the selectmen

Part 1.] history of roxbury. 61

such person shall first complainc to the said five men
and seeke satisfaction of them, and if he can, have
satisfaction of them, and if not then to have liberty to
appeal to the body to hear and decide the case but if
such person complaine causelessly then he to pay
double the fine imposed on him.''

In 1664, three men were chosen "to give the select-
men orders that may be thought of for the selectmen
to consider and establish for the good of the tovvne."

Some of the earliest fivemen, or selectmen, were

1647 — Captaine Prichard
Lieut, {obscure.)
John {obscure.)
John Bowles
Brother Williams



Griffin Crafts
Dea. Eliol
Edward P. {obscure.)
Thomas M. {obscure.)

1652 — John Johnson
John Ruggles
Edward Denison
Griffin Crafts
John Bowles

1653— Philip Eliot
Isaac Morel!
Thomas Welde
Robert Willyams
Edward Denison

1654 — John Johnson

Thomas {obscure.)
John Bowles
Edward {obscure)
William Park

1655 — Edward Drayson
Isaac Morell
John Ruggles
Griffin Crafts
John Pierpont

They attest the oldest records, where there is any

In 1665 the five men were allowed £5 per annum.

In 1679 the order providing for their pay was re-

It was not till 1666 that the town "voted to choose
a clarke for the year ensuing and so remaine till the
towne see cause to alter it. He is to keepe the
towne records and buy another booke and have every
thing exactly transcribed by the aforesaid clarke un-


lessc such things as either are ridiklus or inconven-
ent," &c. and that the selectmen direct what be wrote
in the town booke.

Edward Denison was chosen the first town clerk.

The general laws for the government of the people
were enacted bj the general court. Though in some
respects they would not do for our day, they still
" evince not only their acknowledged love of liberty
but a degree of practical good sense in legislation and
a liberality of sentiment far greater than have usually
been ascribed to them."

Some traces of these are found in town papers.

In 1669, 1671 and seven, persons were set on the
gallows with a rope round their necks and suffered
corporal punishment.

In 1671 an Indian was executed and hung up in
chains for murder.

In 1673, a youth of seventeen being convicted of
the horrible and abominable crime, and " being very
stupid and hard hearted was excommunicated, and the
beast was knocked on the head and slaine before his

Excommunication was a common punishment for
drunkenness and various crimes.

In 1668, the county bridge being presented, a com-
mittee was appointed " for the substantial erecting ot
" the bridge, with power to impresse men to that
" worke."

Of the earliest town laws there are only a few
scraps to be found on the decaying part of mutilated
leaves. One of the earliest of these provides for pen-
alties far taking rocks out of the highways, and Icav-

Part I.] history of roxbi'rv. 63

iiig lioles in the road. Very careful regulaiions were
made for preventing fires, each person being obliged
to provide ladders to the top of his house, &c. Oth-
ers relate to the feeding at large of cattle, swine, &c.
In 1656, a law was made prohibiting turkies from go-
ing at large, against which a most earnest protest

1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryCharles M. (Charles Mayo) EllisThe history of Roxbury town (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 11)