Henry S. (Henry Stedman) Nourse.

History of the town of Harvard, Massachusetts, 1732-1893 online

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Boston, November 19, 1891.
Hon. Henry S. Nourse.

My Dear Sir: — For many years it has been my ardent de-
sire to see written a history of Harvard — my native town —
beginning with the period when the Indians first saw the
smoke ascending from the hearth-fires of the white men in
the Nashaway Valley and coming down to modern times.

In no part of our country were the pioneers beset by
greater trials, toil and danger than in New England ; and
probably none suffered more than those who lived within
sight of Wachusett. The little colony at Lancaster was for
many years constantly menaced by savage foes, and as the
larger portion of Harvard was originally included in Lancas-
ter, she shared the same experiences. The tale of the perils
and sacrifices and the many thrilling incidents in the lives of
her founders should be so woven into the story that the stu-
dent may readily comprehend what hardships the brave men
and women of that day endured, to secure for themselves and
their posterity civil and religious liberty and the many bless-
ings which attach to home in a civilized land.

The town of Harvard was made up of sundry tracts from
other towns, and if these can be so mapped as to represent
the manner of their combination into the present harmonious
whole, it would be "a consummation devoutly to be wished."
The causes which led to the separation from Lancaster, the
town's prosperity after the dismemberment and her more
recent decline, the educational, civil and religious conditions


at various epochs, are subjects which should have due atten-

At my advanced age I cannot think of undertaking this
work myself, and it must be entrusted to younger and abler
hands. In casting about for some suitable person to carry
forward the enterprise it has occurred to me that "thou art
the man." Your experience as author of the "Early Rec-
ords," the "Military Annals," and the "Birth, Marriage and
Death Register" of Lancaster, is a sufficient guarantee that
the task will be well and faithfully done. By education and
natural gifts you are fitted for this laborious undertaking;
you are acquainted with the sources of information ; you are
familiar with our state, town and parish records; and no one
ever has questioned your courage and fidelity. May I not
then submit the work to your hands, feeling sure that no rec-
ord will be left unsearched, no tradition unscanned, to make
this one of the most complete of the many excellent town
histories our Commonwealth can boast?

In case my decease occurs before the work is finished, it
is my wish that you have a sufficient number of copies printed
and bound — say three hundred — to give one to each deserv-
ing family in the town of Harvard, and one each to a few
libraries where it will be of value. If all the copies are not
thus disposed of, it is my wish that the remainder be deposi-
ted in the public library of Harvard, to be bestowed from
time to time by the managers of that institution as they may
deem advisable. All reasonable charges for writing, printing,
binding and distributing the book will be cheerfully paid by
me or by my executors, and this letter will be sufficient order
to them for that purpose.

Trusting then, in your ability, persistent energy and integ-
rity, and hoping that the work may be as speedily accom-
plished as is consistent with accuracy and perfection, may I
now submit the task to you?

I am, with great respect,

Your ob't serv't,

W. Hapgood.


Lancaster, Mass., November 20, 1891.
Warren Hapgood, Esq.

Afy Dear Sir: — Your proposal that I shall write, and super-
intend the printing of, a comprehensive history of the town
of Harvard, Massachusetts, comes to me when I have pro-
spective leisure for such work, and I consent to undertake it.
I do so with great dififidence, however, when I note your too
flattering estimate of my abilities, and your high expectations
of excellence in my workmanship. I am fully aware of pecul-
iar difficulties in the task set me. My not being Harvard-
born is one very serious disqualification. The venerable men
and women who inherited the family traditions of two cen-
turies, and whose memories could throw clear light upon the
personality and doings of generations long turned to dust,
have all, or nearly all, vanished from Harvard homes; with
them we have forever lost much that would have given
significance or romantic interest to local story. There is
little left for the historian's use save the curt and prosaic
public records; but fortunately those of parish and town
have been well preserved. I enter upon the work as you
have outlined it, with the understanding that the time for its
completion is not limited, for I would not consent to discredit
myself, the town of Harvard, or your generosity, by anything
wrought in haste or unverified by thorough study of all
available authorities.

Very respectfully yours,

Henry S. Nourse.

As the foregoing correspondence tells, this volume origi-
nated in the generous impulses of Warren Hapgood, a native
of Harvard, whose successful career has honored his birth-
place. Not only has he liberally provided for all outlay
incurred, but his personal interest and aid have been untiring
and invaluable.

To all who by information or encouragement have assisted
the author in his search for historic material he renders his


cordial thanks. He gratefully acknowledges special obliga-
tions to Reverend John B. Willard, Elder John Whiteley,
Honorable Samuel A. Green of the Massachusetts Historical
Society, C. B. Tillinghast, State Librarian, Professor Daniel
Denison Slade, Miss Katherine L. Lawrence, and Miss Mary
R. Farwell for many favors. The illustrations are mostly
from photographs by Alice G. Chandler of Lancaster, kindly
taken especially for this volume. The map was drawn for
reproduction by Harold Parker of Lancaster and owes much
to his knowledge of local geography derived from experience
as civil engineer and surveyor in this and adjoining towns.

To the people of Harvard the author respectfully submits
his work — the result of patient research and pains-taking
labor — trusting it may aid them to a higher appreciation of
their pleasant heritage, and a deeper respect for the brave
men and women who faced the deprivations of pioneer life
to win that liberty of thought and conscience which they
now enjoy.

Lancaster, January i, 1894.




I. The Nashaway Pioneers.

The Fur-traders of the Nashaway Valley — The Lancaster
and Groton Plantations and their Connecting Highway —
The Still River Farm of Major Simon Willard — Jonas
Prescott's Grist-mill — Nonacoicus 1 1-19

II. The Nashaway Indians.

The Sagamores — Racial Antipathies — The Tribe on the
War Path— Monoco's Raid — Quanapohit's Information-
— Lancaster and Groton Destroyed — Extermination of
the Nashaway Tribe 20-27

III. The Still River and Bare Hill Settlements.

The First Settlers upon Harvard Soil — John Willard the
Witch — King William's War — Garrisons of 1704 — Old
Garrison Houses — Garrisons of 1711 — The Early High-
ways — Tax List of 1723 — Schools and Schoolmasters —
Lovewell's War

IV. The Contest for Autonomy.


The Meeting-house Enlarged — Worcester County Created
— Secession Planned— Petitions to the General Court,
and Answers of Lancaster, Groton and Stow — The Plans
and Names of the Petitioners — Act of Incorporation.. . . c;i-6o


Topography and Natural History.


Geographical Position and Description — Geology — Bare
Hill OT. Bear Hill — The Oak Hill Silver Mine— Flora
and Fauna 61-75


II. The People and theik Homes.

Industrial Life — Domestic Architecture — The Early Homes
of Harvard — Household Furniture — At the Meeting-
house — Agriculture — Character of the People 76 1 10


ANNALS OF THE TOWN. 1732-1792.

The First Town-meetings — A New County Proposed —
Secession Scheme of Shabikin — Drought, Earthquake
and Dysentery — The Ashburnham Emigration — Boxbo-
rough Founded — The State Constitution — The Town's
Poor — The Pock Hospital — The Town Common — Col-
onel Henry Bromfield and Eliphalet Pearson, LL. D. —
The Waterford Emigration — Shays' Insurrection — Rev-
erend Joseph Penniman — Bridges — The L'nion Turn-
pike — The War of 1812 — Muster and May Training —
Nicknames — The Harvard Temperance Society — Canal
and Railway — The Morus Multicaulis Speculation —
Augustus Granville Hill — Fires and Fire Extinguishers
— Town Halls — Miscellaneous 1 1 1-177



I. The First Church under John Seccomb.

Locating and Building the Meeting-house — The Ordination
Festivities — The Church Covenant — The First Records
— John Seccomb and his Home — The Pews — The Har-
vard Revival — Reseating the Meeting-house — Mr. Sec-
comb's Last Days 178-195

II. The First Church.

Joseph Wheeler's Pastorate — His Character and Career —
The Meeting-house Reseated — Daniel Johnson's Pastor-
ate — Building a New Meeting-house — The Congregation
according to Dignity — The Meeting-house as it was —
Ebenezer Grosvenor's Pastorate — William Emerson's
Pastorate — Anecdotes of his Time — Stephen Bemis's
Pastorate — Harvard's First Bell — Warren Pay's Pastor-
ate — Division of the Society igS-^ - •

III. The Baptist Church of Still River.

Organization — Dr. Isaiah Parker's Pastorate — The F'nsi
Meeting-house — Elder George Robinson's Pastorate —
Abisha Sampson — Church Annals 221-231


IV. The Unitarian Society 231-237

V. The Evangelical Congregational Society 238-246

VI. The Universalist Society 247-250

VII. The Methodist Episcopal Society 250-252



I. Shadrach Ireland.

Early Schismatics — The Square House — Death and Burial

of an Immortal 253-257

II. The Shakers.

Mother Ann Lee and the Elders in Harvard, 1781-1783 —
Mob Law — Early Extravagancies — The Harvard Com-
munity and its Elders 257-275

III. Fruitlands.

"Transcendental Wild Oats" in 1S43 — Family Regulations
— The Ascetics and their Vagaries — The Abandonment
of the Phalanstery 275-284



I. King George's War. 1745-1763.

The Siege of Louisbourg — Colonel Samuel Willard's Regi-
ment — D'Anville's Armada — Indian Raids 285-287

II. The French and Indian War.

The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle — The Crown Point Expedi-
tion of 1755 — The Acadian Campaign and the French
Neutrals — The Second Crown Point Expedition — Loss
of Fort William Henry — The Conquest of Canada 287-301


I. Town-meeting and County Convention.

Signs of the Times — Town-meeting Declaration of Rights
— Correspondence with the Boston Committee — The
Covenant — Action of County Conventions — Reorganiza-
tion of the Militia — Bounty upon Home-made Cloth 302-316


II. The Lexington Alarm.

Muster-rolls of the Harvard Minute Men and Militia 316-319

III. The Siege of Boston.

Colonel Asa Whitcomb's Regiment — Bunker Hill — Town-
meeting Action Relating to the War 319-330

I\'. Short Service Enlistments.

Colonel Josiah Whitney's Regiment — Captain .Manasseh
Sawyer's Company — Captain David Nurse's Company in
the Jerseys — Rhode Island Campaigns — Bennington
Alarm and Miscellaneous Service — The Hard Winter
and the Dark Day 330-339

y. The Continental Soldiers, etc.

Harvard's Quota — Debasement of the Currency — List of
Three-years Men— Elias Willard — Colonel Josiah Whit-
ney^ The Tories — British Officers on Parole in harvard

— The Pensioners 339-350



In Town Meeting — The Memorial Monument and Tablets

— Descriptive Roster — Summary 35 '-365


1. The Schools of Harvard.

The Town Divided into Quarters — The Grammar School
and Its First Teachers — The Districts of 1790 — The
Shakers' Petition — The Prudential Committee — The
School-houses Rebuilt — Attempts to Found a High
School — The District System Abandoned — Statistics —
List of School Committee — Still River Academy — The
Bromtield School 366-383

II. Harvard Libraries and Lyceums.

The Social Library Association — The Common School
Libraries — The Free Public Library and its Benefactors

— List of Library Committee — Lyceums and Lectures —

The Henry L. Warner Fund 384-396




The Census of 1765 — The Valuation of 1771 — Industrial
Conditions at the Revolutionary Period — Slavery in
Harvard — The Census of 1885 — Postal Facilities — The
Representatives and Delegates, etc. — Justices — Town
Officers — Attorneys and Counselors — Physicians —
Graduates of College and Professional Schools — The
Innholders — The Store-keepers — Political Statistics —
The Slate-stone Quarries — Aqueduct — Mill, Forge and
Machine Shop 397-461



Local Authorship — Father Abbey's Will — List of Harvard
Authors and their Works — The Harvard Printing Press
— The Harvard Almanac — Maps of Harvard — Har-
vardiana 462-476



The Burial Grounds — Epitaphs prior to A. D. 1800 — Mar-
riages, Deaths and Births prior to 1800 477-576





Portrait of Warren Hapgood Frontispiece

Caleb Sawyer House 34

Map of Harvard 60

Bare Hill Pond from the South 65

Henry Willard Garrison House 82

Shadkach Hapgood House 93

Public Library Building and Soldiers' Monument 355

Bromfield School 379

Wetherbee Tavern 436









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THE historic beginning of the New England town usually
antedates by many years its legislative creation. That
of Harvard may be said to have preceded the act of incor-
poration by more than three-fourths of a century. With the
character, the purposes, the deeds and the trials of the
founders our story properly opens.

Eight or ten years before the middle of the seventeenth
century some adventurous white men from the English set-
tlements on the river Charles began to traverse the upper
Nashaway valley, in eager pursuit of the profits of trade
with the Indians who at that time were encamped between
the Washacum lakes, or in nomadic bands pitched their rude
summer wigwams on the shores of the ponds which lie scat-
tered between the Wataquadock and Wachusett ranges of
hills. These traders, chief among whom were Thomas King,
George and John Adams of Watertown, Henry Symonds and
John Cowdall of Boston, soon made known to their kin in
the bay towns the great attractions of this favored region —


the domain of the hospitable Sagamore Sholan, who was
then ruler over the remnant of a once powerful tribe known
as the Nashaways. They brought back, with their cheaply
bought packages of otter and beaver peltry, glowing accounts
of the fertility of the gently sloping hillsides ; of the abun-
dance of trout, salmon and shad in the clear streams ; of the
grapes, plums, many sorts of berries, and groves of nut trees
everywhere common ; of the deer, turkeys, water-fowl and
other game that frequented the park-like woodlands, the
dense thickets of the swamps, or the countless water-courses
and ponds hidden in the forest ; of the kindly disposition
towards Englishmen shown by the gentle-mannered sachem
and his simple-hearted people. But what stirred their land-
greedy hearers to restlessness more than all else that they
told, was their description of the broad and almost treeless
intervales, stretching for miles along the rivers, and clad in
late summer with a rank growth of flowering herbs and
grasses breast-high to the tallest man; offering rare advan-
tages to the pioneer husbandman and his herds. "A desira-
ble place as any in the country," Sergeant Phillips said of it
at Cambridge, when questioned about it after a visit thither
in 1650.

It was not long after that two groups of sturdy immigrants,
gathered from Dorchester, Charlestown, Boston and Water-
town, began settlements in the valley, having bought the
Indian title to the land, and obtained town grants and politi-
cal rights from Colonial authority.

The two little meeting-houses, the central points around
which these communities were clustered in obedience to leg-
islative injunction and Puritan custom were about twelve
miles apart as the crow flies, and an interval of a little more
than two hundred rods separated the southern boundary of
the one township from the parallel northern boundary of the
other, as they were finally determined by the surveyors.
Soon the friendly intercourse between the two hamlets had
trodden a winding bridle-path through the meadows along
the east bank of the Penecook, as the main Nashua river was
then called. Doubtless this at first was but the hunter's track,
naturally clinging where possible to the water courses. It



very probably followed the old Indian trail which led from
Washacum, the headquarters of the Nashaways, by the
"wading place" near the meeting of the waters that form
the Penecook or Nashua, to Wamesit, the chief town of the
Pawtuckets, on the Merrimack.

After the house-lots were assigned — twenty acres of up-
land to each family — and twenty acres of intervale adapted
for tillage were set apart to each householder, the lands
most sought for were the grass-bearing meadows and other
tracts fit for the plough and spade. A fair division of these
by lot was one of the first acts of the assembled townsmen.
This and later divisions were proportionate to the estates
which the settlers brought with them. The hunter's or In-
dian trail soon became, with slight changes at some points,
a cattle path — the herdsman's way to the common pasturage
grounds. It led by the great fenced fields of grain — perhaps
sometimes through them, for we read of swinging gates hung
and maintained at certain places where the planting fields
were fenced off from the commons. Along this way was
harvested much of the fodder that kept the herds alive dur-
ing the long winter.

This common thoroughfare in 1658 was formally laid out
as a public highway between Groton and Lancaster, and is
thus described by the recording clerk: —

IVay to the plumtrees Qr^ groten . . One way: from that entervaile
way downe along all the entervailes to the Still riuer and towards grot-
ten on the east side of the riuer two rods wide.

This road served the pioneers passably well, but the towns
prospered and the increased travel and gradual substitution
of carts for pack-horses demanded better ways. The inter-
vale path with its sticky sloughs, its risky fords, and its
rickety bridges, was constantly calling for costly repairs, and
periodically it sank out of sight in the bosom of a broad,
shallow lake, when the annual freshets poured their fertiliz-
ing floods over the bottom lands. Finally, in 1673, it was in
part given up for a road laid out upon higher ground by a
joint committee from the two towns. Where the hills crowd
the Nashua, near the point at which it is joined by Still



River, the new highway turned away from the meadows and
gradually climbed to the height then known by its Indian
name, Makamachekamuck's Hill, north of Bare Hill Pond.
The committee's report of their location, which has come
down to us in Groton's records, though it affords no very
legible description of the modern situation, belongs to Har-
vard history : —

Wedensday 4 of June 1673. fforasmuch as the countrey hye way as
it was formerly layd out by Lankaster and groaten vpon seuerall yeares
triall, proued to be very insufficient and very difucult to be made passa-
ble in regard it was for the most part lyeing in the Intervailes wheirin
their are seuerall soft places and litle brookes vpon which bridges and
other mater for making the same passable is apt to be raised and torne
vp by floods and vpon experiance of the same Lancaster made aplica-
tion to groaten for Remouing of the said way to Run more vpon the
vpland which was Readily atended and John Prescott seni=and Roger
Sumner for Lancaster and sergent Parker and corperall Knop for groaten
wer chuse committe by both to townes to lay out the said hye way as
aforsaid which was atended the day aforsaid as foUoweth (viz) first within
the bounds of groaten they toke their begining at their meeting house to
the mille of Jonas Prescott bv Matthias ffarnworths his house six Rods
wide turning of out of the common mill way near twenty Rod aboue the
mille and then it Runs 4 Rode wid through the land of the aforsaid Jonas
Prescott acording as it is described by trees marked by the men afore-
said and from the said Jonas Prescotts land to penicooke Riuer in Lan-
caster through swan swamp 6 Rod wide as it is already marked out by
the comitte aforsaid and from the way aforsaid butting upon Penicook
near to the night pasture wading place, they tak the way as it is left in
width through the intervayle and ouer nashaway bridge and soe to the
meeting house and as it is to be vnderstood that the way within lancaster
bounds Runes neare the mideway betweene the brook medow and plum-
trees medowes ouer a hill called Mahaneknits hill and soe along on the
vpland to the pond path as it Runes near to the Still Riuer medow and
Josiah Whits medow vntill it come to the Swan Swamp path as aforsaid,
and to the confirmation hereof the comitte aforesaid haue here vnto put

their hands the day and year aboue said

John Prescott

Roger Sumner

James Parker

James Knop

It is noteworthy that, although this highway for nearly
three-fourths of a mile passed through territory belonging
neither to Lancaster nor to Groton, no mention of this fact


appears in the committee's report, and it may have been un-
known to them. Three years before — May 31, 1670 — upon
the report of a committee appointed the previous autumn,
all lands unappropriated and enclosed between the towns of
Lancaster, Groton, Concord, Sudbury, Marlborough and the
Indian plantation of Nashoba, were granted by the Court to
George and John Hayward, Joseph Wheeler, Shadrach Hap-
good and others, who had petitioned therefor. This exten-
sive territory, described by the committee as "the greatest
part of it very meane land," was incorporated as a township
May 16, 1683, ^^^ thereafter dropped its sonorous native
name, Pomposetticut, for the very curt one, Stow. It in-
cluded, projecting westward, a strip of land about two-thirds
of a mile wide, which extended the whole length of Groton's
boundary from Littleton to Lunenburg, over seven miles.
This long, narrow tract soon became known as Stow's Leg.
May 18, 1730, Lancaster elected Jabez Fairbank and Joseph
Wilder, Esq., a committee "to go to the General Sessions of

Online LibraryHenry S. (Henry Stedman) NourseHistory of the town of Harvard, Massachusetts, 1732-1893 → online text (page 1 of 61)