Lucie Caroline Hager.

Boxborough: a New England town and its people online

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A New England Town and Its

Compiled for the Middlesex County History.

With Sketches and Illustrations, Additional,

Lucie Caroline Hager.

•• The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be, and
that which is done is that which shall be done : and there
is no new thing under the sun."


J. W. LEWIS & CO., Philadelphia.


Copyright 1890, By J. W. Lewis & Co., Philadelphia.


Copyright 1890,

J^^ ^ J©i«i»ton |&rcjJ!*,



I have been led to believe, by conversation upon the subject
with some of the older residents of the place, that a history of
Boxborough printed in a small volume, separately from "The
History of Middlesex County," would be favorably received by
many of those who are interested in the welfare of the town, or
who have been connected with it from early years.

I therefore issue the book in its present form. It is with
some misgivings that these pages are placed before the citizens
of Boxborough, many of whom are familiar with its history
from the beginning. For besides laboring under the disadvan-
tage of having been a resident of the town, and acquainted
with it, only a few years, I have been obliged to glean a part
of the facts from somewhat incomplete town and church
records, and the rest from the personal recollections of the
people. Upon perusal, therefore, should errors become
apparent to any, the author asks for lenient criticism.

For myself, I would say, I have become very much inter-
ested in the town and also in its early inhabitants while
engaged in studying and writing this history.

I wish here to express my indebtedness to Messrs. J. W.
Lewis and Co., for according to me the privilege of using, in
this volume, whatever material was recently published in the
Middlesex County History under the head of " Boxborough ; "
also, to assure my friends of my gratitude for and appreciation
of their many efforts in my behalf while T have been engaged

4 Preface.

in this work. Suggestions, scraps of information, use of
records and genealogies, etc., have been freely given, and ver}-
helpful. And, further, in this last venture, for assistance in
interesting and securing subscribers, I would render my sincere

Tiianks are hereby given, also, for the engraving of the
Congregational Church, which was presented by The Ladies'
Circle, and for the engraving of the Town Hall, the gift of
Deacon S. B. Hager.







Early History — Formation — Scenery — Situation
— Reason for New Town — Harvard Meeting-house —
Petition to General Court — Act of Incorporation It


District Officers — Boundary Troubles — Estates
Transferred — Location of Boundaries — Working of
New District — Town Hall — Incidents — Roads —
Fitchburg Railroad — Political .... 20


:Military History — Luther Blanchard — 1812 —
War of the Rebellion — Soldiers' Names — Schools —
Division of Town — School Buildings — Reports . 28


Ecclesiastical — Church Organized — First Pastor
— Installation — Sermon — Mr. Willard — Contro-
versy — Rev. Aaron Picket . . . . . 37



Separation — New Society — Rev. James R. dish-
ing — New Clnircli — Pastors — The First Parish —
Methodist Church — Statistics — Centennial — Town
Officers 44


Geology — Flora — Fauna ..... 50

Miscellaneous ....... 61


Biograpliical Sketches — Bigelow Family — P)lan-
chard Family — James S. Braman — Charles H.
Burroughs — Chester Family ..... 85


Cobleigh Family — Francis Conant — Stuart P.
Dodge — Di'aper Family — John Fletcher . . 109


The Hager Family — Sketch of Author, hy Jane M.
Read 123


James R. Hayden — Hay ward Family — rfohn Hoar
- Wm. S. Houghton — Littlefield Family . . 149

Content i<.


Mead Family — Wm. ]Moore — Joseph H. Orendorff
— Page Famil}' — Patch Family — Amasa A. Rich-
ardson — Dr. Robins ...... 163


Stone Family — Ta3'lor Family . . . 178


Wetherbee Family — Whitcomb Family — John R.
Whitcomb — Wood Family — Dea. M. E. Wood —
George C. Wright 195



Congregational Chukch Frontispiece

BoxBOROuGH Centre, Town Hall 23

L. Waldo Bigelow 86

S UNION Blanchard, Sr 87

Simon Blanchard, Jr 88

Leonard Chandler 91

Luke Blanchard 92

John and Margaret Blanchard 96

E. B. Cobleigh 110

Francis Conant 114

John Fletcher • . . 119

George Hager 125

Benj. S. Hager 127

Lucie C. Hager 128

Joel F. Hayward 152

Jacob Littlefield 159

Albert Littlefield .162

Benj. S. Mead 164

Phinehas Stone 178

Phinehas J. Stone 180

Amos Stone 184

Jonathan Stone 186

Varnum Taylor 189

Oliver Wetherbee 199

A. W. Wetherbee 200

Martin E. Wood 213

George C. Wright 215

The History op^ Boxborough,







Some one has said, "Time, like distance, lends enchantment to
the view, and tlie pictures of the past, seen through the mellow
light of centuries, become soft and beautiful to the sight, like
the shadowy outlines of far-off mountain peaks, whose jjurple
heads half hide themselves behind a screen of clouds." The
men and women who lived, and loved, and labored, and reared
their homes among these hills and in these valleys, a hundred
years ago and more, had they been interrogated, would doubt-
less have replied, as did one of the present citizens when
questioned with regard to his ancestry, " Oh no, we never did
anything remarkable, nothing worth}- of notice." And 3'et to us
of the present day, as we gaze down the vista of the departed
years, their words and acts are of very great interest and impor-
tance, and the labors and the toils which to them may have
seemed to bear such meagre fruitage, are to us, after the lapse
of more than a century, invested, as it were, with a halo of

12 Boxhorough : a Neiv Ungland Town and its People.

We look back still farther into the past, through another
century or more, and lo ! the red man is lord of all these sunny
slopes and vales ; and here, wild and free as his own native
hills, he made the forest his hunting-ground. We are informed
by early historians that the Ivev. John Eliot of Roxbury visited
this region some time in the seventeenth century. He was a
philanthropic man and an earnest Christian. With him came
General Daniel Gookin, the historian, who had in charge at that
time, as an agent of the Government, all the Indian tribes in
Massachusetts. Here they found the chief of the Nashoba
Indians, John Tokatawan, and the venerable Eliot preached and
prayed in the open air, and James Speen and his Indian choir
sang a psalm. But early in the eighteenth century the white
men sought a place in this region where they might build
their log huts, found their homes, and rear their families. We
of today can scarcely realize through what difficulties and
dangers the first permanent settlements were made.

Boxborough was formed by taking a portion from three
adjoining towns, — the largest part from Stow, a smaller portion
from Littleton, and a piece of Harvard making up the town
whose outline — until the recent change in the Littleton bound-
ary — was nearly a square. Previous to 1750 the boundary line
between Stow and Littleton was near where the present town-
house stands, running in a south-easterly direction past the
house now owned and occupied by Mr. E. B. Cobleigh, which
was then in Stow, and onward to a heap of stones in a field in
front of Mr. Eurbush's dwelling, thence in the direction of Mr.
Herbert Blanchard's residence.

Boxborough, though the smallest town in Middlesex county,
is yet "beautiful for situation." Erom her lofty hill-tops the
true lover of nature is never weary of gazing on the panorama
of beauty which is everywhere spread out before him. Which-
ever way he turns — north, east, south, or west — pictures of
rare rural loveliness greet his eye and delight his soul. No
wonder that her sons and daughters love and are proud of their
birthplace. Said one of her former residents, as he came up to
an annual gathering "in the old meeting-house on the hill"

Scenery and Sitnafkm. 13

(now the town hall) : " I always feel as if I was nearer Heaven
Avhen I come np this hill," — words lightly spoken, doubtless,
and yet they should be true, for surely when one long since
gone forth from his early home to active, earnest life among
men returns again and feels his feet pressing once more the
soil of his own native hills, hallowed by so many happy and
sacred associations ; when his eyes behold again, as in his youth-
ful days, the delightful scenery so familiar grown; when his
hand clasps the hand of neighbor and friend as in early youth,
and his ears hear as of old the loved voices of his childhood, —
he may feel more nearly akin to the early days of free-hearted
innocence and happiness, and therefore "nearer Heaven."

To the eastward, in the distance, the gleaming church spires
designate the position of the three Acton villages, while in a
southerly direction the new citj^ of Marlborough lies quietly
resting upon her sister liills. Turning toward the western hori-
zon, Monadnock, Wachusett and other eminences meet the eye,
while to the north-east, the village spires of Littleton and
Westford are visible amid the distant trees.

The residents on the outskirts of the towns mentioned, —
Stow, Littleton and Harvard, — drawn there probably by the fer-
tility of the soil, tilled their farms and raised their crops, but
found themselves subjected to much inconvenience through
their remoteness from any place of public worship. So they
formed a society among themselves, purchased the old meeting-
house in Harvard in 1775, and then petitioned the General
Court to be set off as a separate town.

The town is situated in the west central part of Middlesex
county, and is bounded north by Harvard and Littleton, east
by Littleton and Acton, south by Stow, and west by Harvard.
From the assessors' report for the year 1889 we have the follow-
ing : (3,428 acres of land : total valuation of assessed estate,
1(246,700 ; polls, 108 ; number of scholars in the public schools,
G3. According to the census of 1885 the population was 348 ;
in 1850 it numbered 395 ; and in 1837 the number was 433.
The number of voters in 1889 was 76 ; in 1834 the number
was 99. Li 1847 the whole valuation was 1268,913. The

14 Boxhorovgli : a New England Toivn and its People.

amount of taxes for 1889 Avas 2,810.71 ; in 1817 the amount
was 1,299.08. In the town safe, in very good condition, there
is an outline map on parchment by Silas Holman — scale two
hundred rods to an inch. His survey was made in 1791, and
the area given is 7,036 acres and 100 rods. By a com-
parison of some of the foregoing figures, it \vould seem that the
town had been slowly losing ground for at least a half century.
There seem to be good reasons for this. It has been a farming
community from the first ; but although smallest in population
of any town in Middlesex county, it yet ranks second only in
agriculture. The value of its agricultural products in 1885
was |592,349. But it is situated at a distance from market
towns and main thorouglifares ; though two busy streams,
Stony Brook and Assabet river, have their source here, it has
no water-power of its own by which the many industries of the
present age are carried forward to so great an extent in other
places ; it has not the advantage of l)eing a railroad centre.

The Fitchburg Railroad skirts its eastern l)order, Avith
stations at both T.ittleton and Acton — a flag station at Hoar's
Crossing in Boxborough — and that is all ; it was of later
incorporation than any of the other towns about us. As a farm-
ing town it began its existence over a century ago, and as such
it is destined to remain. There is no employment other than
farming to call in those from without, and lier own sons and
daughters aie drawn away to other towns and cities in the hope
of enjoying their greater advantages. A good town for one's
birthplace ; a good place to begin the culture of those sterling
qualities which shall grow and increase and actuate in all the
affairs of after-life.

As I look at the materials before me for the making of this
history of Boxborough, gathered in man}^ different ways and
brought together under various heads and dates, I feel as
though it would be, at least, a saving of thought and labor,
could one do what the "projector" in Gulliver's Travels was
trying to accomplish ; viz., the writing of books of philosophy,
poetry, politics, laws, mathematics, theology and history (?)
without any assistance whatever from study or genius, by

Harvard Meeting-lioiise. 15

simpl}'' throwing upon a frame all the words of his vocabulary, —
in the " ordinar}- pi'oportion of verbs, participles, nouns," etc., —
and then setting his pupils at the work of grinding out the
various tomes. But upon second thought it would be better,
doubtless, to classify and bring under the correct dates and
headings these facts and incidents of early times.

As we have already remarked, it was for convenience of
public worship, not the desire for a new town, that first led the
residents of these remote portions of three other towns to band
themselves together. The purchase of a church building has
also been alluded to. In an ancient record purporting to be
" The Town Book for Births and Deaths and Strays and Poor
Persons for Boxborough," we find the following : —

" At a meeting Held on the 31 Day of January, 1775, By
a Sartain Society part Belonging to Stow and part of Littleton
and part of Harvard, at the house of En^ Abel Fletcher, in
order to Erect a meatting-house for the publick worship of
God — lly. chose Mr. Coolidge Moderator, 2 ly. Chose Mr.
Bennet Wood of Littleton, and Mr. Joseph Stone of Stow, a
Committee for purchasing Harvard Old meatting-House.

A Covenant to indemnify s^ Committee :

This may certify that we the subscribers Do Covenant and
engage with Each other that we will pay our subscriptions as
is hereafter set Down towards purchasing the Old meatting
hous of Harvard, for which purpose we have chosen Mr. Bennet
Wood of Littleton and Mr. Joseph Stone of Stow to Represent
and act for us at a vandue in order for Sail of si House on the
Second Day of February next and Do engage hereby to fulfill
according as they the s^ Bennet Wood and Joseph Stone Shall
bid or otherwaj's agre at a^ vandue, in testimony thereof we Do
hereunto set our hands this 31 Day of January, 1775.

Silas Wetherbee . . One-quarter part.

Edward Brown . . One-sixteenth part.

£ s. d.

Joseph Stone . . . . .200
Samuel Wetherbee . . . .300

16 Boxhorougli


Phinehas Wetlierbee
Abel Fletclier
Reuben Wetheibee .
John Taylor
Epliraim Whitconib
Oliver Taylor
Solomon Taylor
Henry Coolidge
Levi Wetlierbee
James Whitcomb,
Abel Whitcomb
Boston Draper
Lieut. Daniel Wetlierbee

Edward Wetherbee, 2,000 of shingles,
adjourn to meatting hous Spot/'

Then the society met and voted to accept the Committee's
report, and farther "voted to take down s^ Old meatting liouse
and move it to the spot agreed upon By s'^ Society and Kaise
the Same." Mr. Silas Wetherbee is recorded as making a
present to the society of three acres of land " for the use of a
meatting hous Lot." Record is also made of the pecuniary
aid rendered by each member of the new society, and of the
Avork performed upon the newly ].)urchased house of worship.
Nov. 25, 1776, the society "voted to Except of the Report of
Examine accounts for work done

nd I own and its






. 1



. 1


. 1














. 1


of shingles. 31


Voted to

the Committee Chosen
which is as followeth :


Daniel Wetherbee .
Abel Fletcher
Epliraim Whitcomb
Samuel Wetherbee
James Whitcomb, Jr,
Abel Whitcomb
Phinehas Wetherbee
Henry Cooleclge
Bennet Wood

£ s.



. 26 17



17 12



25 13



19 7



26 17






12 12


9 15



31 13



Petition, to General Court. 17

Oliver Taylor
Solomon Taylor
Boston Draper

















Old ten.

We the subscribers Being appointed a Committee to Ex-
amine the accounts of the Society of Stow, Littleton, and
Harvard have accordingly Examined the Same and we find
Due for Each man above Named to pay the sum as set against
his Name in the List above written."

hi 1777, November 24, the society again met and "voted
to chuse a Committee to Petition the General Cort to Sett of
s'i Society," and they accordingly chose Silas Taylor, James
Whitcomb and Bennet Wood a committee for this purpose.
The new society seems to have been unsuccessful in their
efforts in this direction at the first, but committees were
repeatedly chosen from among her citizens to present the
petition to the General (~!ourt, and June 14, 1779, they voted
to apply to ]Mr. Francis Dana, attorney, — of whom Hon.
Richard H. Dana was a grandson, — <•' to Carry on our
Memorialist Petition and Present it to the General Court, and
voted ^100 for that purpose." But the attorney's efforts,
even, must have failed, or the $100 was too small a sum to
attract him to the cause for a sufficient length of time, for
during tlie next four, years the names of committees from
among the citizens are often recorded. In 1780, when a
committee was again chosen to apply to the General Court to
be set off, they also voted " to chuse a committee to treat with
the obstinate part of Our Society in Littleton." The " obstinate
party " is referred to again a little later. It is not strange
that the towns called upon to jdeld up a part of their own
territory to form a new town should make objection, but there
is no record of any demur on the part of either Stow or
Harvard. Littleton seems to have been opposed to the tran-
saction from the beginning. Three times more — December,
1780, January, 1782, and January 21, 1783 — the same petition
is presented to the General Court, and at last, after a six

18 Boxhoroiigh : a JVew England Town and its People.

years' struggle, on the 24th of Februaiy, 1783, the pe-
tition is granted. The following is a copy of the Act of
Incorporation :

Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in the year of Our Lord One Thousand
Seven Hundred and Eighty-three. — An Act for Erecting a District in
tlie County of Middlesex by the name of Boxborougli.
Whereas a number of Inhabitants living in the Extreme Parts of the
Towns of Stow, Harvard and Littleton, Labour under many Inconveniences
by Reason of their grate distance from any Place of Publick Worship and
have Requested this Court that they May be Incorporated into a District
with all the Privileges of a town, that of sending a Representative to the
General Court Excepted — Be it therefore Enacted by the Senate and House
of Representatives in General Court Assembled, and by the Authority of the
same, That a Part of Stow, a Part of Harvard and a Part of Littleton, all
which are Included within the Boundarys following, viz : Beginning at the
Road Southerly of John Robins' Buildings, and Running Southerly in Acton
line to a Place called Flag hill, being two miles, three-quarters and ten rods
to a heap of Stones; from thence Westerly in Stow, Two miles and a quar-
ter to a Stake and Pillar of Stones in the Harvard Line, then turning
Northerly through part of Harvard to a white oak tree by a Causeway; from
thence to the Place first Set out from, be and hereby is incorporated into a
District by the Name of Boxborough. And all the Polls and Estates that
are Included within the said Boundaries shall belong to the said District,
Except those of such of the Inhabitants of that Part Set off from Littleton
as Shall not, within the Term of twelve months from the Passing of this act
Return their Names into the office of the Secretary of this Common-wealth,
Signifying their Desire to become Inhabitants of the said District. And be
it further Enacted by the authority aforesaid that the said District be and
hereby is invested with all the Powers, Privileges and Immunities that
Towns in this Common-wealth do or may Injoy, Except the Privilege of
Sending a Representative to the General Court, and the Inhabitants of the
said District Shall have leave, from time to time, to join with the Town of
Stow in Choosing a Representative, and shall be notified of the Time and
Place of Election in Like manner with the Inhabitants of the said Town of
Stow by a Warrant from the Selectmen of the said Town to a Constable or
Constables of the said District, Requiring him or them to warn the Inhabi-
tants to attend the meeting at the time and Place appointed, which warrant
shall be Seasonably Returned by the said Constable or Constables of the
said District, and the Representative may be Chosen Indifferently from the
said Town or District, the Pay or allowance to be borne by the town and
District in Proportion as they shall, from time to time. Pay to the State Tax ;
and be it further Enacted that Jonathan Wood, Esq., of Stow, be and hereby
is impowered to Issue this Warrant, directed to some Principal Inhabitant
within the said District, Requiring him to warn the Inhabitants of the said
District, Qualified to vote in Town affairs, to assemble at some Suitable time
and Place in the said District to Chuse Such officers as Towns and Districts

Act of Incoiyoration. 19

are required to Chuse in the month of March annually, Provided, Neverthe-
less, that the Inhabitants of the said District Shall Pay their Proportionable
Part of all Such Town, County and State Taxes as are already assessed by
the said Respective Towns from which they are taken, and their proportion-
able part of all Publick Debts Due from the said Towns, and also Provide
for the Support of all the Poor who were Inhabitants within the said Dis-
trict before the passing of this Act, and shall be Brought back for main-
tenance Hereafter, And whereas it is fit and Necessary that the whole of
the said District should belong to one and the same County, be it therefore
further Enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that that Part of the said
District which is set off from the Town of Harvard, in the County of
Worcester, shall be and hereby is annexed and sei to the County of Middle-
sex, and the line established by this act as the Boundaries betwixt the said
Town of Harvard and the said District, shall hereafter be the boundary Line
betwixt the said County of Middlesex and the said County of Worcester.

This instrument bears the signatures of Samuel Adams,
president of the Senate, and John Hancock, Governor.

20 Boxhorouf/h : a JVew Utu/Iand Town and its People.





Accordingly, Jonathan Wood, Justice of the Peace of Stow,
issued the warrant — notifying and warning all voters to assem-
ble at the meeting-house that they might perfect their organiza-
tion by the election of the customary officers — to Bennet
Wood, one of the principal inhabitants of the new District of
Boxborough. To the people of today the officers chosen and the
offices filled, on that 10th of March, 1783, may not be
without interest, and we give them entire. Jonathan Wood,
Esq., presided as moderator.

Capt. Silas Taylor was chosen clerk of the District ; Capt.
Silas Taylor, Silas Wetherbee, Ens. Abel Fletcher, Lieut.
James Whitcomb, Lieut. Ephraim Whitcomb, selectmen ; Capt.
Phinehas Taylor, treasurer; Capt. Silas Taylor, Abel Wliit-
comb, Lieut. Ephraim Whitcomb, assessors ; Joseph Howe,

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