Samuel A. (Samuel Abbott) Green.

The boundary lines of old Groton online

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BY THE SAME AUTHOR.



George E. Littlefield has for sale at his Anti-
quarian Bookstore, No. 67 Cornhill, Boston, the
following publications : —

AN HISTORICAL ADDRESS, Bicentennial and Centennial,
delivered July 4, 1876, at Groton, Massachusetts. Octavo,
paper covers, 86 pages. Price ^i. 00. Groton: 1876.

AN HISTORICAL ADDRESS delivered at Groton, Mas-
sachusetts, February 20, 1S80, at the dedication of three
monuments erected by the town. Octavo, paper cover,
56 pages. Price 50 cents. Groton : 1880.

GROTON IN THE WITCHCRAFT TIMES. Octavo,
paper cover, 29 pages. Price 50 cents. Groton : 1883.

TWO CHAPTERS IN THE EARLY HISTORY OF
GROTON, MASSACHUSETTS. Octavo, paper cover,
19 pages. Price 35 cents. Boston : 1S82.

EPITAPHS FROM THE OLD BURYING-GROUND
IN GROTON, MASSACHUSETTS. With Notes and
an Appendix. Illustrations. Octavo, cloth, pages xix, 271.
Price ^3.00. Boston : 1878.

GROTON DURING THE INDIAN WARS. Octavo,
cloth, 214 pages. Price $2.50. Groton: 1883.

THE EARLY RECORDS OF GROTON, MASSACHU-
SETTS, 1662-1707. With Notes. Heliotypes. Octavo,
cloth, 201 pages. Price I2.00. Groton : 1880.

GROTON HISTORICAL SERIES. Nos. I. -VIII. A
collection of Tracts relating to the history of the town.
Octavo, paper covers. Price 25 cents each. Groton :

1S84-85.

ALSO,

COUNT WILLIAM DE DEUX-PONTS'S CAMPAIGNS
IN AMERICA, 1780-81. Translated from the French
Manuscript, with an Introduction and Notes. Octavo,
paper cover, pages xvi, 176. Price $2.00 Boston: 1868.

HISTORY OF MEDICINE IN MASSACHUSETTS.
A Centennial Address delivered before the Massachusetts
Medical Society, at Cambridge, June 7, 1881. Octavo,
cloth, 131 pages. Price $1.00. Boston: 1881.



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The Boundary Lines



OF



OLD GROTON



BY



SAMUEL A. GREEN, M.D.



Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.

Prov, xxii. 28



GROTON, MASS.

1885.



SSntbersitg ^rtss:
John Wilson and Son, Cambridge.




Co tlje jflemorp



OF

JONATHAN DANFORTH,

WHO SURVEYED THE ORIGINAL GROTON PLANTATION;

SntJ to tfjc i^emarg of tJje ffif)atnmEn,

WHO, THOUGH UNKNOWN TO US EVEN BY NAME, ACCOMPANIED HIM THROUGH
THE WILDERNESS DURING HIS WEARISOME LABORS,

THIS BOOK IS INSCRIBED

By the Author.



CONTENTS.

Page

I. Groton Plantation 9

11. Nashobah and Littleton 19

III. Groton Gore and the Provincial Line ..... 32

IV. Westford and Harvard 45

V. Dunstable, Hollis, and Nottingil^m 53

VI. Pepperell 72

VII. Shirley, Tyngsborough, and Ayer 82

INDEX 99



ILLUSTRATIONS.

Groton and Neighborhood, 1885 Frontispiece

Groton Plantation 13

Groton Gore 33



THE BOUNDARY LINES OF OLD

GROTON.



L



GROTON PLANTATION.

Well-defined boundaries are of the highest importance to
communities as well as to individuals. In the one case they
mark the limits of political power, and in the other of landed
possession. Oftentimes such boundaries prevent strifes and
quarrels, and thus indirectly and silently promote the Chris-
tian virtues. During the various stages of civilization, from
the earliest days of recorded history, they have been con-
sidered absolutely essential to the existence of society ; and
in the Mosaic code of laws a curse was uttered against the
man who should remove his neighbor's landmark. The ancient
Romans personified this principle of fixed boundaries, and dei-
fied him under the name of Terminus. A temple was built in
his honor, where he was worshipped by the pagans.

The various transfers of territory connected with the town
of Groton, in its corporate capacity, have a certain local inter-
est, and in order to gratify it this little book is printed.

The original grant of the township was made by the General
Court on May 25, 1655, and gave to the proprietors a tract of
land eight miles square ; though during the next year this



lO BOUNDARY LINES OF OLD GROTON.

was modified so that its shape varied somewhat from the first
plan. It comprised all of what is now Groton and Ayer,
nearly all of Pepperell and Shirley, more than one half of
Dunstable, a large part of Littleton, smaller parts of Harvard
and Westford, Massachusetts, and a portion of Nashua, New
Hampshire, besides a little patch of Hollis, in the same
State. The grant was taken out of the very wilderness, rela-
tively far from any other town, and standing like a sentinel
on the frontiers. Lancaster, fourteen miles away, was its
nearest neighbor in the southwesterly direction on the one
side ; and Andover and Haverhill, twenty and twenty-five
miles distant, more or less, in the northeasterly direction on
the other. No settlement on the north stood between it and
the settlements in Canada. Chelmsford and Billerica were
each incorporated about the same time, though a few days
later. For several years previously, however, there had been
some scattered families living at Billerica, then known as
Shawshin.

When the grant was made, it was expressly stipulated that
Mr, Jonathan Danforth, of Cambridge, with such others as he
might desire, should lay it out with all convenient speed, in
order to encourage the prompt settlement of a minister ; and
furthermore that the selectmen of the town should pay a fair
amount for his services. During the next year a petition,
signed by Deane Winthrop and seven others, was presented
to the General Court, asking for certain changes in the condi-
tions, and among them the privilege to employ another " artist "
in the place of Mr, Danforth, as he was overrun with business.
The petition was referred to a committee, who reported favor-
ably upon it, and the request was duly granted. Formerly a
surveyor was called an artist, and in old records the word is
often found with that meaning.

Ensign Peter Noyes, of Sudbury, was then engaged by the
grantees, and he began the survey ; but his death, on Septem-
ber 23, 1657, delayed the speedy accomplishment of the work.
It is known that there was some trouble in the early settlement
of the place, growing out of the question of lands, but its exact



GROTON PLANTATION. II

character is not recorded ; perhaps it was owing to the delay
which now occurred. Ensign Noyes was a noted surveyor,
but not so famous as Jonathan Danforth, whose name is often
mentioned in the General Court records, in connection with
the laying out of lands and towns, and many of whose plans
are still preserved among the Archives in the State House.
Danforth was the man wanted at first for the undertaking ;
and after Noyes's death he took charge of it, and his elder
brother, Thomas, was associated with him. The plat or plan
of the land, however, does not appear to have been completed
until April, 1668. The survey was made during the preced-
ing year. At a meeting of the selectmen. of the town, held on
November 23, 1667, it is recorded that a rate should be levied
in order to pay " the Artest and the men that attended him
and his diet for himself and his horse, and for two sheets of
parchment, for him to make two platts for the towne, and for
Transportation of his pay all which amounts to about twenty
pounds and to pay several! other town debts that appear to us
to be due."

It was of Danforth that the poet sang : —

He rode the circuit, cliain'd great towns and farms
To good behavior ; and, by well-marked stations,
He fixed their bounds for many generations.
His art ne'er fail'd him, though the loadstone fail'd,
When oft by mines and streams it was assail'd.
All this is charming, but there's something higher,
Gave him the lustre which we most admire.

This poetical tribute to his character is taken from a poem
written at the time of his death, and appears in Farmer and
Moore's " Collections " (ii. 65). The allusion in the last line
is to his piety.

A little further on in the records a charge of five shillings
is made "ffor two sheats of Parchment." These entries seem to
show that two plans were made, — perhaps one for the town
and the other for the Colony ; but neither copy is now to be
found. An allusion is made to one of them in a petition, pre-
sented to the General Court on February 10, 1717, by John



12 BOUNDARY LINES OF OLD GROTON.



Shepley and John Ames. It is there stated that "the said
Plat tho something defaced is with the Petitioner ; " and
furthermore "That in the year 171 3 M' Samuel Danforth
Surveyor & Son of the aforesaid Jonathan Danforth, at the
desire of the said Town of Groton did run the Lines & make
an Implatment of the said Township laid out as before & found
it agreeable to the former. W^ last Plat the Petitioners do
herewith exhibit, And pray that this Hon''''= Court would allow
& confirm the same as the Township of Groton."

Plans were needed by the public authorities, to show offi-
cially what lands had already been appropriated. Sometimes
one grant would overlap or conflict with another, and thus
create confusion. The grant of five hundred acres lying within
the limits of Groton Plantation, and made to Major Simon
Willard in the spring of 1657, was given under a misappre-
hension. The General Court had no official knowledge that
this tract had previously been taken up, as at that time no
plan of the original plantation had been returned to that body,
or even made. Years afterward the mistake was recognized
by the authorities, and an equivalent of land allowed to the
proprietors for their loss. At a very early period in the his-
tory of the Colony, there was an order regulating the laying
out of grants, so that places fit for townships should not be
spoiled for that purpose, but the order was frequently violated.
All the early surveys of public grants were very liberal,
and purposely included more territory than was given by the
General Court. Land was cheap, and did not belong to private
individuals. Sometimes an excess was taken to make up "for
rocks and waste land," and this was permitted by the authori-
ties. Danforth's survey was no exception, and gave the pro-
prietors ample measurements. Over and above this fact, the
difficulty of defining lines of boundary with precision is never
wholly overcome, unless it is done by landmarks successively
visible from one another. Surveys dependent on the compass
are always subject to many sources of inaccuracy, such as the
loss of magnetic virtue in the poles of the needle ; blunting of
the centre-pin ; unsuspected local attractions ; oversight or



33osronFaT-ms
Jjuvk^cadow




GROTON PLANTATION. 13

mistake as to the secular variation, and variability from the
influence of the sun, known as the diurnal variation, to say-
nothing of the elements of uncertainty connected with the
chain. Error from the diurnal variation may amount, in the
distance of a mile, to twenty feet or more of lateral deviation.
Under these circumstances it is neither fair nor just to subject
the work of the early surveyors to the test of modern methods.

While the original plan of Groton has been lost or destroyed,
it is fortunate that many years ago a copy was made, which is
still preserved. In June, 1826, the Honorable James Prescott
was in the possession of the original, which Caleb Butler,
Esq., at that time transcribed into one of the town record-
books. Even with this clew a special search has been made
for the missing document, but without success. If it is ever
found it will be by chance, where it is the least looked for.
There is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the outlines or
the faithfulness of the copy. The relative distances between
the streams emptying into the Nashua River, however, are not
very exact ; and in the illustration placed opposite, for the
sake of clearness I have added their names, as well as the
name of Forge Pond, formerly called Stony Brook Pond.

Accompanying the copy is a description of the survey,
which, in connection with the drawing, gives a good idea of
the general shape of the township. Probably in the original
these two writings were on the same sheet. In the transcript
Mr. Butler has modernized the language and made the punc-
tuation conform to present usage. In the illustration I
have followed strictly the outlines of the plan, as well as the
course of the rivers, but I have omitted some details, such as
the distances and directions which are given along the mar-
gins. These facts appear in the description, and perhaps
were taken from it by the copyist. I have also omitted the
acreage of the grant, which is grossly inaccurate.

Whereas the Plantation of Groton, containing by grant the pro-
portion of eight miles Square, was begun to be laid out by Ensign
Noyes, and he dying before he had finished his work, it is now
finished, whose limits and bounds are as followeth,



14 BOUNDARY LINES OF OLD GROTON.

It be^an on the east side of Nashua River a little below Nissitis-
set hills at the short turning of the River bounded by a pine tree
marked with G. and so running two miles in a direct line to buck-
meadow which />''^aws to Boston Farms, and so is bounded by Bos-
ton Farms, Billerica land and Edward Cowell'sfarm until you come
to Massapoag Pond, which is full of small islands ; from thence it
is bounded by the aforesaid Pond until you come to Chelmsford
line, after that it is bounded by Chelmsford and Nashoboh lines
until you come to the most southerly corner of this Plantation, and
from thence it runs West-North-West five miles and a half and
sixty four poles, which again reacheth to Nashua River, then the
former west-north-west line is continued one mile on the west side
of the river, and then it runs one third of a point easterly of north
& by east nine miles and one quarter, from thence it runneth four
miles due east, which closeth the work to the river again to the
first pine below Nissitisset hills, where we began : it is bounded by
the Farms and plantations as aforesaid and by the wilderness else-
where ; all which lines are run and very sufficiently bounded by
marked trees & pillars of stones : the figure or manner of the lying
of it is more fully demonstrated by this plot taken of the same.

By Jonathan Danforth,

April 1668. Surveyor.

The Nissitissett Hills are conspicuous elevations in the
northeast quarter of the town of Pepperell, standing on the
west side of the Nashua River, perhaps half a mile distant
from it; and just below them the river takes a decided bend
to the westward. The largest of these hills is situated near
the village of East Pepperell, and to this day is known in the
neighborhood as the Nissitissett ; while north of it are two
other hills, which extend to the present State line, and form
prominent landmarks when seen from the east side of the river.

These bearings give very nearly the position of "a. pine
tree marked with G," from which Danforth started in making
his survey. It was undoubtedly very near to the present
State line, and probably just north of it. From the pine-tree
the boundary ran northeasterly two miles in a straight line
to Buck Meadow, which is a well-known locality, still bearing
the same name. P'"rom this boundary the description gives



GROTON PLANTATION. 15

neither distance nor direction to the next angle, but the plan
shows it very well. Apparently the course was about a mile
and a half in the southeasterly direction. It is difficult now
to understand why the original grant was laid out along its
northern border in so irregular a manner, but perhaps it was
owing to the character of the soil or the topography of the
country.

A carefully constructed map of the region, based on these
facts, includes within its limits the present Lovewell's Pond,
which is an excellent guide in tracing this boundary running
in a southeasterly direction. The pond lies so near the line
that I thought it might be possible still to identify it in part
by some modern mark, such as a fence, road, or stone wall ;
and I determined to reconnoitre the district. On reaching
the neighborhood one hot afternoon in August, 1884, I found,
much to my gratification, a road, little more than a cart-path,
and substantially straight, running along a natural ridge for
half a mile, coinciding with this line. The ridge is a marked
feature of the region, and would naturally have been taken
by Danforth as a boundary. The road is a very old one,
and known in the vicinity as the Ridge Road. While near
one end of it, I met a young man, of whom I inquired the
name of the meadow, just in front of us, when he at once
replied : " It hain't got no name, but the folks 'round here call
it Buck Meadow." This bit of information was confirmed by
several persons living in the neighborhood. The whole of
the triangle made by Danforth's two courses, with the pres-
ent State line as a base, comes now within the territory of
Nashua, New Hampshire.

The lands known as " Boston Farms, Billerica land, and
Edward Cowell's farm," were all granted by the General
Court after the incorporation of Groton, but before the date
of the survey, which will account for their appearance in the
description.

It was undoubtedly Danforth's intention to make the eastern
boundary of Groton correspond in part with the western boun-
dary of Chelmsford, though the territory of the last-named



l6 BOUNDARY LINES OF OLD GROTON.

town never extended to Massapoag Pond. At the time of the
survey there was a tract of unappropriated land between the
pond and the northern boundary of Chelmsford, which after-
ward was included within the township of Dunstable, but now
is in Tyngsborough. Danforth's line was continued through
Forge Pond, and then made to follow the boundary of Nash-
obah, an Indian grant, which subsequently was included in
Littleton. It passed on, nearly a mile further, in a straight
course, until the southeast corner of Groton Plantation was
reached. This corner is now represented by an angle in the
boundary between Boxborough and Harvard, perhaps two
hundreds rods south of the Littleton line. Here a prominent
ridge, belonging to the Oak Hill range, comes to an end ; and
Danforth, in his survey, was not slow to use as a landmark
such a conspicuous feature in the topography of the country.
From this place the line turned and ran " West-North-West
five miles and a half and sixty-four poles," where it crossed
the Nashua River, and then continued another mile, on the
west side of the river, to the southwest corner of the plan-
tation. This point is known to-day as "Groton Old Corner,"
and the stone post marking the boundary is lettered on the
top : —

GROTON &

STOW LEG

OLD CORNER

The post stands in the woods very near the Leominster
road, about a mile from Shirley Village. From here the line
ran in a northeasterly direction for nine miles, to a place
where the northwest corner of the township was reached.
The stone post marking the spot comes now very near the
boundary of Addison Wood's farm in Pepperell, and is still
called " Groton Old Corner." P^om this point the line ran
due east for four miles to the pine-tree on the banks of the
Nashua River, whence Danforth started to make the survey.
It undoubtedly crossed the river a short distance north of the
present State line, and passed through the southeast corner
of the present town of Hollis.



GROTON PLANTATION. 17

The description of the original grant of Dunstable has
been twice printed, but with so many inaccuracies and inter-
polations that I am constrained to print it again for the third
time. The original copy, in the handwriting of Jonathan
Danforth, surveyor, is found on the first page of the earliest
book of Dunstable town records, now in the possession of the
city of Nashua. The leaf on which it is written is much
torn and worn near the front edge. Of the first line about
three quarters of an inch is gone, and near the middle of the
edge probably an inch and a quarter is also gone. Without
attempting to supply the missing letters or words, I have
placed brackets thus [ ] to indicate them, which in some
lines are very evident. The following copy was made by me
with much care on June 5, 1885, and it is here given line for
line with the original : —

THE NEW PLANTATION GRANTE
APON MERIMACK REUER

It Lieth on both sids merimack Riuer on the n[ ]

Riuer it is bounded by Chelmsford on the south by [ ]

partly by Cuntry land the Line runing from the boun[ ]

du north Ten mile untill you Come to Souhegon Riuer [ ]

Called dram Cup hill to a great Pine ny to y^ said Riuer: a[ 1
of Charlstovvn Scoole farm bounded by Souhegon Riuer
North and on the east Sid merrimacke : It begins at a great chef ]

corner of

which was supposed to be near the northern M' Brintons land

and from thence it Runs sou south east six miles to a Pine [ ]
with : F : standinge within sight of Beauer Broke
It Runs two degres west from the ife^ south four mile and ouer [ 1
which Reached to the tsiitlie ter-ths south side of henery [ ]

ffarme at Jeremies Hill then from y^ South-East angell of [ ]

it runs two degres and a quartor westward of the south [ ]

of the long Pond which lieth at y' head of Edward Co[ ]

And thus it is Bounded by the said Pond and the head of th[ ]
Takeinge in Captaine Scarlets farme to that bou[ ]

All which is sofficiantly Bounded and described [ ]

danforth Suruayer : 3'": 1674:

3



l8 BOUNDARY LINES OF OLD GROTON.

The map of Old Dunstable, between pages 12 and 13 in
Fox's History of that town, is very incorrect, so far as it re-
lates to the boundaries of Groton. The Squannacook River
is put down as the Nissitissett, and this mistake may have
tended to confuse the author's ideas. The southern boun-
dary of Dunstable was by no means a straight line, but was
made to conform in part to the northern boundary of Groton,
which was somewhat angular, Groton was incorporated on
May 25, 1655, and Dunstable on October 15, 1673, and no
part of it came within the limits of this town. The eastern
boundary of Groton originally ran northerly through Massa-
poag Pond, and continued into the present limits of Nashua,
New Hampshire.




II.



NASHOBAH AND LITTLETON.



On the southeast of Groton, and adjoining it, was a small
township granted, in the spring of 1654, by the General Court
to the Nashobah Indians, who had been converted to Chris-
tianity under the instruction of the Apostle Eliot and others.
They were few in numbers, comprising perhaps ten families,
or about fifty persons. During Philip's War this settlement
was entirely deserted by the Indians, thus affording a good
opportunity, which was not lost, for the English to encroach
on the reservation. These intruders lived in the neighboring
towns, but mostly in Groton. Some of them took possession
with no show of right, while others went through the formality
of buying the land from the Indians ; though such sales did
not, as was supposed at the time, bring the territory under
the jurisdiction of the towns where the purchasers severally
lived. It is evident from the records that these encroachments
gave rise to controversy. The following entry, under date
of June 20, 1682, is found in the Middlesex Court Records
(iv. 38) at East Cambridge, and shows that a committee was
appointed at that time to re-establish the boundary lines of
Nashobah : —

Cap' Thomas Hinchman, L" Joseph Wheeler, & U. Jn? flynt
surveyo'^, or any two of them are nominated & impowred a Com-
ittee to rune the ancient bounds of Nashoboh Plantaccon, & remark
the lines, as it was returned to the geiiall Court by said m'' flynt at



20 BOUNDARY LINES OF OLD GROTON.

the charge of the Indians, giveing notice to the select men of Grot-
ton of time & place of meeting, w'^'' is referred to m' flint, to ap-
poynt, & to make return to next Coun Court at Camt>r in order to
a finall settlem'

Again, under date of October 3, 1682 (" 3. 8. 1682."), it is
entered that —

The return of the comittee referring to the bounds of Nashobey
next to Grotton, was p'sented to this Court and is on file.
Approued

The " return " is as follows: —

We Whose names are under written being appointed by y*" Hono'''
County Court June : 20* 1682. To run the Ancient bounds of
Nashobey, haue accordingly run the said bounds, and find that the
town of Groton by theire Second laying out of theire bounds have
taken into theire bounds as we Judge neer halfe Indian Plantation
Severall of the Select men and other inhabitants of Groton being
then with us Did See theire Erro' therein, & Do decline that laying


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Online LibrarySamuel A. (Samuel Abbott) GreenThe boundary lines of old Groton → online text (page 1 of 9)