Samuel A. (Samuel Abbott) Green.

An historical sketch of Groton, Massachusetts. 1655-1890 online

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Online LibrarySamuel A. (Samuel Abbott) GreenAn historical sketch of Groton, Massachusetts. 1655-1890 → online text (page 2 of 19)
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firms the statement.

The following paragraph is taken from the Gro-


ton Mermry, of June, 1861, a monthly newspaper
edited by the late George Henry Brown, postmaster
at that time :

"iWe have noticed amongst the mass of letters received at our Post
Office, the wordGROTON spelled in the following different ways: Grot-
ton, Grawton, Graton, Grotown, Groutown, Growtown, Growtan, Grow-
ten, Growton, Gratan, Grattan, Grewton, Grothan, Graten, Groten,

The daily life of the founders of Massachusetts
would be to us now full of interest, but unfortunately
little is known in regard to it. The early settlers were
pious folk, and believed in the literal interpretation
of the Scriptures. They worked hard during six days
of the week, and kept Sunday with rigid exactness.
The clearing of forests and the breaking up of land
left little leisure for the use of pen and paper ; and
letter-writing, as we understand it, was not generally
practiced. They lived at a time when printing was
not common and post-offices were unknown. Their
lives were one ceaseless struggle for existence ; and
there was no time or opportunity to cultivate those
graces now considered so essential. Religion was
with them a living, ever-present power ; and in that
channel went out all those energies which with us
find outlet in many different directions. These con-
siderations should modify the opinions commonly held
in regard to the Puritan fathers.

The sources of information relating to the early
history of Groton are few and scanty. It is only here
and there in contemporaneous papers that we find
any allusions to the plantation ; and from these we
obtain but glimpses of the new settlement. The
earliest document connected with the town after its


incorporation is a petition now among the Shattuck
Manuscripts, in the possession of the New England
Historic Genealogical Society, which contains some
interesting facts not elsewhere given. All the signa-
tures are in the same handwriting as the body of the
document; but those of the committee signing there-
port on the back of the petition are autographs. The
report itself is in the hand of Joseph Hills. The doc-
ument is as follows :

"Bost': 16 : 3 mo : 1G5G

"To the Eight Wo""" the Gournoi the wo/il Deput Gorno"" and Magis-
trates with the Worthy Deputies of this Hono'"'! Court

" The humble Peticon of Certein the intended Inhabitants of Groten,

" Humbly Sheweth

"Thatyor PeticoDfs hauing obteined theire Bequest of a Plantacon
from this honored Court, they haue made Entrauc thervppon, and do
Resohie by the Gracious Assistants of the Lord to proceed in the same
(though the greatest Number of Peticon" for the Grant haue declyned
the work) yet because of the Remoteness of the place, & Considering
how heavy and slowe it is like to be Carried an end and with what
Charge and difHcultie it will be Attended yo^ Peticon" humble Requests

" 1 That they be not nominated or included in the Country taxes
vntil the full end of three years from these p,rnts : (in which time they
Account theire expenc will be great to the building a house, procureing
and maintaining of a minester &c, with all other nessessary Town
Charges; they being but few at present left to Carry on the whole
worke) and at the end of the term, shall be redy by gods help to yeald
their Rates according to thei' Number & abillitie & what shall be im-
posed, vppon them

"2 That they may haue libertie to make Choyce of an other then M^
Danford for the Laying out their town bounds because of his desire to
be excused by reason of his vrgent ocations otherwise, & that they be
not strictly tyed to a square forme in their Line Laying out

"So shall yor Peticon.'-s be incoridgedin this great work, and shall as,
duty bindes pray for yo"" happiness and thankfully Rest

yor humble Servants
" Dean Winthropp Jno. Tinker
Dolor Davis Richard Smith Jn*. Lakin

Will. Martin Robert Blood Amose Richenson


"In Ans. to this Peticon wee Conceiue it needful! that the Town of
Groton be freed from Uates for three years from the time of their Grant
as is desired.

"2 theire familjes wt^in 2 years after theire
graunts, on penalty of forfeiting theire graunts againe to the Towne &
so many tenn shillings as they had acres Graunted them for theire
houselotts & that the like Injunction be putt vpon those aboue named
as old planters.

" 2 That all towne charges both Civil & Eccleasiasticall be levyed ac-
cording to each maris Graunt in this first divition of lands for seuen
years next Ensuing Excepting only such whose stocks of Catle shall
exceed one hundred & fifty pounds estates.

'* 3 That the power of Admission of Inhabitants & Regulating the af-
faires of the sajd place be referred to a Comittee of meete persons Im-
powred by this Court thereto, Vntil the plantation be in some good meas-
ure (at least) filled w'^^ Inhabitants & be enabled regularly & peaceably
to Carry on y* same themselves

" 4 That this honoured Court be pleased to graunt them Imunitjes
[from] all Comon & Ordinary Country charges not exceeding a single
rate or a Rate & a half p Annu for three years next ensuing.

it, and the original copy in the library of the New-England Historic,
Genealogical Society does not contain it, though the printed edition of
the General Court Records gives it.


"5 That in Graunting of lotts children haue theire due Considei-ation

■wti> estates theire parents giving securitje to defray yf charges of the

place as is before p^mised.

" Tho Danfoeth

Edward Johnson
Ephr. Child

•' The Court Approoves of &: doe Coufirme the returne of the Comittee
& doe hereby further ordc & Impower the aforesajd Comittee for the
ends aboue mentioned vntill meete men shall be found amongst such as
shall Inhabit there & be approoved of by a County Court "

(General Court Records, lY, 371.)

The next document, in point of time, found among
the Archives (I. 21) at the State House and relating
to Groton, is the following request for a brandmark,
which was wanted probably for marking cattle

"The Humble Request of Joseph Parker to the Honoured Governor
the Honourd magistrates & deputyes, Humbly Requests in behalfe of
the towne of Grawton that the letter Gr may bee Recorded as the brand
mark belonging to the towne I being chosen Counstible this j-ear make
bolde to present this, to the Honoured Court it being but my duty, in the
townes behalfe thus Hopeing the Honored Court will grant my request
I rest yo' Humble Servant :

" Joseph Parker
"Boston : 31t»> : may : 1666

" In answer to this motion the Deputies approue of the letters : Gr
to be ye brand marke of groaten

" William Torrey Cleric.
" o^ Hono.'*! magists consentinge hereto
" Consented by the magists

" Edw : Rawsox Secrety'''

Joseph Parker, before coming to Groton, had lived
at Chelmsford, where his children were born. He
was a brother of James, another of the early settlers
of the town.

During this period the town was paying some at-
tention to the question of marks for trees as well as
for cattle. At a general meeting held on March 5,
1G65-66. it was voted that "there should be trees


marked for shade for cattell in all common hy wayes : "
and furthermore that " the marke should be a
great T." From various expressions found in the
early town records, it would seem that the country
in the neighborhood was not densely wooded when
the settlement was first made. At a meeting of the
selectmen held in the winter of 1669, an order was
passed for the preservation of trees, but the writing
is so torn that it is impossible to copy it. At another
meeting held on January 13, 1673-74, it was voted
that all trees of more than six inches in diameter at
the butt, excepting walnut and pine, growing by the
wayside, should be reserved for public works, and
that the penalty for cutting them down, without
authority, should be ten shillings a tree.

At a general town-meeting on December 21, 1674.
leave was granted to William Longley, Jr., to cut
down three or four trees standing in the road near his
farm and shading his corn, on condition that he give
to the town the same number of trees for mending the

The early settlers of Groton encountered many
trials and privations in planting the town. The men
worked hard in felling trees and breaking ground,
and the women toiled faithfully in their rude houses.
They w^ere used to hardships, and they took them
with Christian resignation. Their daily life taught
them the true principles of philosophy. They lived
on the rough edge of civilization, and nothing stood
between them and an unbroken wilderness. These
pioneers were a devout people ; and the strength of
their religious belief is shown in no way so clearly as


in the fortitude with which they met their lot in life.
The prowling Indians were their neighbors, whose
constant movements required careful watching. There
were families of savages scattered along the interval
land of the Xashua valley, from Lancaster to the
Merrimack Eiver, who at times annoyed the settlers
by killing pigs and stealing chickens. Judging from the
number of stone implements found in the neighborhood ,
there was an Indian village just above the Red Bridge,
on the west side of the Xashua Eiver. It probably
consisted of a few families only, belonging to the
Nashua tribe, as they were called by the English.
Like all their race, these Indians were a shiftless peo-
ple, and often changed their abodes, going hither and
thither as they found good hunting-grounds or fish-
ing-places. They bartered skins and furs with the
planters; and so much business was carried on in this
way, that the government sold to individuals the
right to trade with them. As early as July, 1657,
John Tinker, one of the original selectmen of the
town, appointed by the General Court, paid eight
pounds for the privilege of trafficking with them at
Lancaster and Groton. A few of these natives knew
a little English, which they had picked up from con-
tact with the whites. Gookin refers to them in his
" History of the Christian Indians," when he speaks of
" some skulking Indians of the enemy, that formerly
lived about Groton, the principal whereof was named
Nathaniel, he and his party did this and other mis-
chief afterward, in burning several houses at Chelms-
ford."^ This Nathaniel was taken subsequently at

1 Archseologia Americana, II. 471.


Cocheco (now Dover), New Hampshire, and hanged in
Boston. Some of these vagrants took an active part
in the burning of Groton during Philip's War. The
leader of the savages at this assault was John
Monaco or Monoco, nicknamed " One-eyed John,"
from the loss of an eye. After he had taken by strat-
agem a garrison-house, he entered into a long conver-
sation with Captain Parker, who was stationed in
another house nearby, and called him his old neigh-
bor. Fpm this fact I infer that " One-eyed John "
knew Captain Parker, and had previously lived in the
vicinity. Warfare among the aborigines did not
require generalship so much as knowledge of places ;
and the head of an assaulting party was one familiar
with the clearings and the lay of the land in the
threatened territory. During the ensuing autumn
this leader was brought to the gallows in Boston,
where he suffered the extreme penalty of the law.

The Indians soon acquired from the English the
love of strong drink, which is sure to lead to disputes
and quarrels. The earliest documents at the State
House, relating to Groton and the savages, give an
account of a drunken brawl wdiich ended in murder.
The affair took place in the Merrimack Valley, and
several men of this town were summoned to appear
as witnesses at the investigation before the General
Court in Boston. In the spring of 1668 Captain
Eichard Waldron built a trucking or trading-house
at Penacock (now Concord), New Hampshire, where a
few weeks later one Thomas Dickinson was murdered
by an Indian while under the influence of liquor.
The homicide created great excitement, and it has

24 . GROTON.

been supposed to have delayed the permanent settle-
ment of the place for many years. A warrant was
issued directing the constable of Groton to summon
John Page, Thomas Tarbell, Jr., Joseph Blood and
Kobert Parish, all of this town, before the General
Court in order to give their testimony, which they
did under oath. It appeared by the evidence that
there had been a drunken row, and that Dickinson
was killed by iui Indian, who acknowledged the crime
and expressed great sorrow for it, but pleaded drunken-
ness in extenuation of the deed. The culprit was
tried at once by a council of the Indians, who sen-
tenced him to be shot, which w^as done the next day.
It is interesting now to note the high temperance
stand taken, more than two hundred years ago, by the
Chief Tohaunto, which places him abreast of the most
earnest opposers of the rum traffic at the present

During a series of years before Philip's War the
Indians had been supplied with arms and ammuni-
tion, though this was contrary to the laws of the Colo-
nies. The French in Canada and the Dutch in New
York had carried on considerable traffic with the na-
tives in these contraband articles ; and occasionally
some avaricious settler would barter with them, giv-
ing powder and shot in exchange. The possession of
firearms made the Indians bold and insolent, and the
tendency of events was toward open hostilities.
This tendency was strengthened by a feeling of suspi-
cion on the part of the colonists, and by one of
iealousy on the part of the savages. Distrust always
grows out of suspicion, and the fears of the settlers


began to be excited when they thought of their ex-
posed situation. Under these circumstances, it was
wise to prepare for all emergencies ; and at an early-
day a military company was organized in this town.
The following entry is made in the manuscript records
of the General Court during the session beginning
May 6, 1673 :

" James Parker of Groaten haning had the care of the military Com-
pany there for seuei-all yeares. is Appointed & ordered to be their leiften-
nant & W^ Larkin to be ensigne to the sajd Company there." i *

The two officers of this organization were each pro-
moted one grade during the next autumn, which
would indicate that the company was filling up in
numbers. At the session of the General Court begin-
ning October 15, 1673, the record reads :

" The military Company of Groaten being destitut of military ofcers
The Court Judgeth it meet to choose & Appoint James Parker to be their
captane W™ Lakin to be leiftennant & Nathaniel Lawrence to be their
ensigne.3 "'

Before this time there had been in Middlesex
County a company of troopers, or cavalry, made up
of men living in the frontier towns, of which Groton
was one — as mentioned in the General Court Eecords
of October, 1669.

One of the prominent men in the history of the
Colony at this period was Major Simon Willard. A
native of England, he came to Massachusetts in the
year 1634. He had lived at Concord, Lancaster and
Groton, and in all these places exerted a wide influ-
ence. He had filled various civil offices, and in his

1 (General Court Kecords, IV. 718.)

2 (General Court Records, IV. 726.)


day was a noted military man. His farm was sit-
uated at Nonacoicus, now included within the limits
of Ayer ; and his dwelling-house was the first build-
ing burned at the attack on Groton, March 13, 1676.
During several months previously he had been en-
gaged with his men in scouting along the line of
frontier settlements and protecting the inhabitants.
At this assault Major Willard came with a company
of cavalry to the relief of the town, though he did not
'reach the place in time to be of service in its defence.
He died at Charlestowu, on April 24, 1676, a very
few weeks after this town was abandoned. Benjamin
Thompson, the earliest native American poet, pays
the following tribute to his character, in a little
pamphlet published during Philip's War, and entitled
" New England's Tears." It is certainly rude in ex-
pression, and probably just in its conception, but not
accurate as to the date of his death :

"About this Time Died Major Willard Esq.; who had continued one
of our Senators many years, and Head of the 2Iassachuset Bands. In
23 April 1676.


" Great. Good, and Just, Valiant, and Wise,
New Euglands Common Sacrince :
The Prince of War, the Bond of Love,
A True Heroich Martial Dove :
Pardon I croud his Parts so close
mdch all the World in measure knows.
We envy Death, and well ice may,
Wlio "keeps him under Lock and Key. ''^

Nearly one-and-twenty years had passed since the
little settlement in the wilderness was begun, and
Groton was fast approaching its majority. The new
town had enjoyed a moderate share of prosperity, and


was slowly working out its destiny. The founders
were poor in this world's goods, but rich in faith ai5d
courage. They had now tasted the hardships of
frontier life, but not as yet felt the horrors of savage
warfare. The distant thunders of a threatening
storm were beginning to be heard, and the occasional
flashes put the early settlers on their guard. Philip's
War had broken out during the summer of 1675, and

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Online LibrarySamuel A. (Samuel Abbott) GreenAn historical sketch of Groton, Massachusetts. 1655-1890 → online text (page 2 of 19)