Samuel A. (Samuel Abbott) Green.

Three historical addresses at Groton, Massachusetts online

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Historical Addresses


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January 28, 1818 — Fehruary 27, 1905





^ I ^HESE several addresses were delivered on differ-
•^ ent occasions by request of the town, and were
published originally in pamphlet form. As they have
long been out of print, they are now brought together
and republished in a volume for the greater conven-
ience of those who take an interest in the town. The
titlepages have been somewhat shortened, but the
several inscriptions or dedications have been allowed
to remain. The Address of July Fourth, 1876, was
given in the First Parish Meeting-house; and the
other two Addresses were made in the Town Hall.

The Archives, often quoted as authority for state-
ments in the text, are the Massachusetts Archives
found at the State House.

March 16, 1908


An Historical Address, Bi-centennial and Centennial,

July 4, 1876 If -63

An Historical Address at the Dedication of Three
Monuments erected by the Town, February 20,
1880 65-113

An Historical Address on the Two Hundred and
Fiftieth Anniversary of the Settlement of the Town,
July 12, 1905 115-159

Appendix : The Name of Groton, by Dr. Edward Mussey
Hartwell ; List of Indian Words ; List of Towns ;
Distinguished Citizens ; English Oaks ; Town Seal ;
First Parish Meeting-House 1 61-17 2

Index . . ° 1 73-181



Petition for the Plantation, 1655 16, 17

Stamp and Counter-stamp issued under the Act of 1765 52

" Useful Instructions," etc., Cambridge, 1673, by Samuel

Willard (Titlepage and Preface) 82, 83

Town Seal 171

First Parish Meeting-House 172



bi-centennial and centennial

July 4, 1876

Groton Burned by the Indians, 1676.
Declaration of Independence, 1776.


^l)e f nl^abitantg of Proton





The first century of our national existence is completed
this day, and we meet to commemorate the event. One
hundred years have passed away since the Declaration of
Independence was affirmed and a nation was born that is
destined to flourish as long as piety, religion, and morality
shall prevail in the land, and no longer. Modern times
have been full of great deeds; but none of them is greater
than that which declared the American colonies to be free,
and put them in the rank of independent nations. The
rapid development of the United States during this hun-
dred years has been watched by thoughtful men throughout
the world, — by some with jealousy, by others with sym-
pathy; and their success has made them an example
for other countries to follow. They have stood the test
of a century; and to-day, throughout the land, the great
birthday of the nation is commemorated with joy and ex-
ultation never before equalled.

The question may recur, Why is this notice taken of a
century? Why is a celebration more fitting now than next
year or last year? It is because there is a tendency in the
human mind to divide time into round periods. At the
end of a century comes a stopping-place, — a broad stair
in the flight of time, — from which to look back upon any
event that marked its beginning. In our decimal notation
the number Ten plays an important part, and is a kind of
unit. Originally connected in meaning with the fingers of
the hand, a hundred, in its primitive signification as well
as numerically ten tens, is a large unit, — a natural divi-
sion of duration. If man had been endowed originally by
Nature with six fingers on each hand, we should now have
a duodecimal system of numbers instead of a decimal sys-
tem; and it would seem just as easy and natural. This


tendency in the human mind is strikingly illustrated by the
last census returns of the city of Boston. The number of
its inhabitants who gave their ages as just forty-five is
more than twice as large as the number of those who were
just forty-four or just forty-six. The number of those
who were just fifty is more than three times as great as
the number of those who were just forty-nine, and about
five times as many as the number of those who were just
fifty-one. According to these returns, there are nearly
twice as many persons who are fifty-five as either fifty-four
or fifty-six; and there are four times as many who are
sixty as either fifty-nine or sixty-one. The tens have a
stronger attraction than the fives, and these, in their turn,
than the other numbers. This example, beside showing
the untrustworthy character, in some respects, of the census
returns, — a point not now to my purpose, — shows how
widely pervading is the feeling about round periods ; and
in this universal feeling is found the answer to the ques-
tion why we have a celebration at this time.

The present year has also a bi-centennial anniversary
that brings us together. It was in the year 1676 that this
town was destroyed by the Indians, and the inhabitants,
with all their available effects, were forced to leave it. A
contemporary account of the removal says that there were
sixty carts required for the work, and that they extended
along the road for more than two miles. It was a sorry
sight to see this little community leaving their homes, which
they had first established twenty-one years before. What
bitter pangs they must have felt, and how dark their future
must have seemed, as they turned to look for the last time
upon familiar places, — their rude but cherished homes, their
humble meeting-house, in ashes, and the graves of their
kindred whom they had laid away tenderly in God's acre.
As they made their way along the rough and muddy roads,
the hearts of all were heavy with grief ; and the mothers'
eyes were dimmed with tears, as the thought of blighted
prospects filled their minds, for no one could foresee the
end of their misfortunes. Their bitter experiences, how-


ever, affected more than one generation. Fortitude is the
logical result of hardships : brave parents will breed brave
children. Our fathers little thought that these trials were
making them the ancestry of a strong people, who them-
selves, a century later, were to contend successfully against
the strongest power in the world. At this late day we
cannot know all their sufferings, but we do know that they
were a God-fearing community; and on this occasion it is
fitting that we should celebrate their virtues. They were a
plain folk, with homely traits; and their best memorial is
the simple story of their lives. For this reason I purpose
to give an unadorned narration of some of the more im-
portant events with which they were connected from the
very beginning of the town, together with a brief account
of some of the actors, bringing the account down through
the last century, and touching lightly upon the present one.

In the spring of the year 1655, the township of Groton
was granted by the General Court to a number of peti-
tioners. It was situated on the frontiers, fourteen miles
from the nearest settlement; and at that time there were
but nine other towns in Middlesex County. What induce-
ments were held out to gain settlers for the new town, it
is impossible now to ascertain. Probably, however, the
country in this neighborhood had been reconnoitred by
adventurous men from other settlements; and it is likely
that such persons had followed the Indian trails, and pene-
trated to what then seemed a long distance into the wilder-
ness. These persons knew the rivers and the hills, and the
lay of the land generally; and, after coming home, they
talked about the good farming region. It would take but
a short time thus to establish traditions that might draw
a few families to desirable places. It happened then, as it
sometimes happens now, that large fires had run through
the woods in dry weather, and had burned until they were
put out by some rain-storm, leaving a track of black deso-
lation that would last for many a year. And, moreover,
there were small patches that had been planted by the In-
dians with corn, beans, and squashes, and therefore ready
for cultivation by whosoever should take possession of


them. In this way a few places had been more or less
cleared; and the wild grasses had caught-in sufficiently to
furnish fodder for the cattle. This last consideration was
a matter of much importance to the settlers. In planting
towns, it undoubtedly weighed with them in selecting the
-sites. In fact, it is recorded that, during some of those early
years, feed was so scarce that the cattle had to be slaugh-
tered to save them from death by hunger. It should be
borne in mind that grass then was not cultivated as it is
now ; nor was it for more than a century after this period.
In the winter cattle had to be kept on corn-stalks and the
native grasses, which the settlers had gathered wherever
they could; and it required rigid economy, even on these,
to keep them till spring.

It was amid such and other difficulties that our fathers
founded their settlements. Prompted by interest or enter-
prise, families would plant themselves in the wilderness
and make new homes away from neighbors and far from
friends. As these settlements increased in numbers, they
were constituted towns without much formality. The only
Act of Incorporation of Boston, Dorchester, and Water-
town was an order of the General Court " that Trimoun-
taine shalbe called Boston; Mattapan, Dorchester; & the
towne vpon Charles Ryver, Waterton."

Towns thus informally established have grown up with
"certain rights and privileges as well as duties and obliga-
tions, and have developed into fixed municipal corporations,
as we find them to-day. They did not spring into existence
full grown and clothed, like Minerva from the head of
Jupiter, but they have been creatures of slow growth.
They should be compared rather to the old homestead that
has been receiving additions and improvements during sev-
eral generations, in order to accommodate the increasing
and constantly changing family, until finally the humble
house has expanded into a roomy structure.

The prominent idea in the minds of the founders of New
England appears to have been the support of the gospel min-
istry. After this came the management of their political
affairs and the support of free schools. Captain Edward


Johnson, in his quaint and instructive book, " Wonder-
Working Providence of Sions Saviour, in New-England,"
says that it was " as unnatural for a right N. E. man to
live without an able Ministery, as for a Smith to work his
iron without a fire; therefore this people that went about
placing down a Town, began the foundation-stone, with
earnest seeking of the Lord's assistance, by humbling of
their souls before him in dales of prayer" (p. 177). The
College, which was established so early in the history of
the colony, was dedicated " to Christ and the Church " ;
and dov.'n to the present time this motto is kept on the

Mr. Butler, in his History, says that " The original peti-
tion for the plantation or town of Groton, is not found, or
any record of it " (p. 11). Since this statement was made,
however, one of the petitions — for it seems there were two
— has been found among the papers of the late Captain
Samuel Shepley, by Charles Woolley, formerly of this
town, but now of Waltham. A copy of it was printed in
" The New England Historical and Genealogical Register "
(xiv. 48) for January, i860, and is as follows: —

To the honored Generall Courte assembled at Boston the humble
petion of vs whose names ar here under written humbly shoeth

That where as youre petioners by a prouidence of God haue
beene brought ouer in to this widernes and litied longe here in :
and being sumthing straightned for that where by subsistance in
an ordinarie waie of Gods prouidence is to be had and Con-
sidering the a lowance that God giues to the sones of men for
such an ende : youre petioners request therefore is that you
would be pleased to grant vs a place for a plantation vpon the
Riuer that runes from Nashaway in to merimake at a place
or a boute a place Caled petaupauket and waubansconcett and
youre petioners shall pray for youre happy proseedings

WiLLiM Martin .Timothy Cooper

Richard Blood John Lakin

John Witt John Blood

WiLLiM Lakin Mathu Farrington

Richard Hauen Robert Blood




On the third page of the document, the decision of the
General Court is given, which runs thus : —


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In Ans^ to both theise peticons The Court Judgeth it meete
to graunt the peticone^s eight miles square in the place desired to
make a Comfortable plantacofi wch henceforth shall be Called
Groaten formerly knowne by the name of Petapawage : that
M"" Danforth of Cambridge w*^ such as he shall associate to
him shall and hereby is desired to lay it out w*^ all convenient
speede that so no Incouragement may be wanting to the Peti-
cone''s for a speedy procuring of a godly minister amongst them.
Provided that none shall enjoy any part or portofi of that land
by guift from the selectmen of that place but such who shall
build bowses on theire Lotts so given them once w^'^in eighteene
months from the time of the said Tonnes laying out or Tonnes
graunt to such persons ; and for the p'^esent M'" Deane Winthrop



M>" Jno Tinker M"" Tho: Hinckly Dolor Davis W" Martin
Mathew Farrington John Witt and Timothy Couper are Ap-
pointed the selectmen for the sajd Toune of Groaten for one
two yeares from the time it is lajd out, to lay out and dispose
of particular lotts not exceeding- twenty acres to each house
lott ; And to order the prudentiall affaires of the place at the
end of which tjme other selectmen shall be chosen and Appointed
in theire roomes. the selectmen of Groaten giving M^ Danforth
such sattis faction for his service & paines as they & he shall
agree ;

The magis*^ haue past this w*^ reference to the Consent of
theire bretheren the depu^s hereto

25 May 1655 Edward Rawson Secrety

The Deputies Consent hereto William Torrey Cleric.

A religious temper pervades the whole petition, which in
its language has the flavor of the Old Testament. It speaks
of their having been brought over " by a prouidence of
God," and of their living long in the wilderness. In an-
swer to it, the Court grants a tract of land to make " a
Comfortable plantacofi," and provides for its survey and
prompt location ; naming as the chief end the " speedy
procuring of a godly minister amongst them," and fore-
shadowing in its action some of the features of the modern
Homestead Acts of Congress. From these expressions we
may learn the guiding thoughts of the first settlers of the
town; and it is now a pious duty we owe them to com-
memorate their virtues and their deeds. They were men
and women in every way worthy of all the respect and
honor we can pay them; and I congratulate those of my
audience who trace back their family line to that stock.
The names of Parker, Prescott, and Blood, of whom there
are so many descendants still among us; of Farnsworth,
Lawrence, and Shattuck, names not to be omitted in any
historical record of the town; of Gilson, Nutting, and
Sawtell, worthy forefathers of worthy progeny; of Stone,
Moors, and Tarbell, — all these are familiar to you as the
names of citizens descended from the founders of the town ;


and there are other names equally worthy to be mentioned,
that will readily suggest themselves.

Mr. Deane Winthrop, whose name stands at the head of
the list of selectmen appointed by the Court, was a son
of Governor John Winthrop; and it is to him that we are
indebted for the name of the town. A native of Groton
in Old England, it was natural for him to wish to keep
the name fresh and fragrant on this side of the Atlantic.
Groton, in Connecticut, — younger by half a century, and
famous as the scene of the heroic Ledyard's death, — owes
its name to the same family. Groton, in New York, was
settled, in part, by families from this town. New Hampshire
and Vermont both have towns named Groton, though they
are of comparatively recent origin. Why they were so
called I have been unable to find out, unless it was that the
fair fame and reputation of the one in Massachusetts had
made the name auspicious.

There was a place in Roxbury, a hundred and thirty
years ago, that was sometimes called Groton.* It was a
corruption of Greaton, the name of the man who kept the
" Grey Hound " tavern in the neighborhood.

The word Groton, the same as the Grotena of Domesday
Book, probably means Grit-town, or Sand-town, — from
the Anglo-Saxon, greot, grit, sand, dust; and tun, village
or town. The locality of the English Groton is in fact a
sandy one. A proper pride of birth would suggest that the
name was doubtless also appropriate by reason of the grit
or pluck, now as well as then, characteristic of the people
of any town so named.

Groton, in Suffolk, England, is an ancient place, — there
being a record in Domesday Book of its population and
wealth, in some detail, at the time of William the Con-
queror, and also before him, under the Anglo-Saxon King,
Edward the Confessor. A literal translation of this cen-
sus return of seven hundred and ninety years ago is as
follows : —

* New England Historical and Genealogical Register, xxiv. 56 note, 60.


In the time of King Edward * Saint Edmund held Groton
for a manor, one carucate t and a half of land. Always [there
were] 8 villeins and 5 bordarii [a rather higher sort of serfs ;
cotters]. Always [there was] i plough in demesne. Always
2 ploughs of homagers [tenants] and i acre of meadow. A
mill, for winter. Always i work-horse and 7 cattle and 16
swine and 30 sheep and 2 free men of half a carucate of
land and they could give and sell their land. Seven bordarii.
Always i plough & i acre of meadow [belonging to these
7 bordarii.] Then [i. e., under King Edward] it was worth
30 shillings, and now 40. It has in length 7 furlongs and
4 in breadth. In tlie same, 12 free men and they have i caru-
cate and it is worth 20 shillings. All these could give and
sell their land in the time of King Edward. Saint Edmond
has the soc, protection and servitude [i. e., the lord's legal
rights]. 7 pence of gelt [i.e., Dane-geld], but others hold

Such were the census returns, made nearly eight hundred
years ago, of the place from which our good old name is
taken, and which on that account will always be of interest
to us.

It is curious to note the different ways which our fathers
had of spelling the name ; and the same persons took little
or no care to write it uniformly. In those days they paid
scarcely any attention to what is now regarded as an im-
portant branch of education. Among the documents and
papers that I have had occasion to consult and use in the
preparation of this address, I find the word spelled in
twenty-three different ways; viz., Groton, Grotton, Groten,
Grotten, Grotin, Groatne, Groaton, Groatton, Groaten,
Grooton, Grorton, Grotonne, Grouten, Grouton, Grauton,
Grautten, Grawten, Grawton, Growtin, Growton, Groyton,
Groughton, and Groaton.

* Some idea of the condensed character of the entries in Domesday Book
may be gathered from the following transcript of the Latin beginning of the
account of Groton, in which the matter within the brackets is what the Norman
scrivener omitted: " Grotena[m] t[empore] r[egis] E[dvardi] ten[uit] S[anctus]
e[dmundus] p[ro] man[erio]," etc.

t The carucate was a " plough land," and is variously set at from twelve to
one hundred acres.


Dictionaries of our language were hardly known at that
time and there was no standard for spelHng; and it seems
as if every one spelled according to his own feelings at the
moment. In many cases the odder the form, the better.
As an instance of orthographic license then prevalent, it is
said that there are sixty-five different modes in which the
name of Shakespeare was written.

Yonder river, familiar to us as the Nashua, is spoken of
in a record by Thomas Noyes, in 1659, as the Groaten
River, and is called so more than once. While this would
have gratified our local pride, I am not sorry that the name
Nashua was finally kept. It is to be regretted that so few
of the Indian words have been retained by us to designate
the rivers and the hills and other localities. However much
such words may have been twisted and distorted by Eng-
lish pronunciation and misapplication, they furnish us now
with one of the few links that connect us with prehistoric
times in America. The word Nashua,'^ in its fulness and
before it was clipped, meant the land betzueen, and referred
to the tract on which Lancaster was settled, because it was
betzueen the branches of the river; the name, however,
was afterward transferred from the territory to the river

Among the earliest papers at the State House, relating
to the town, is a request for a brandmark. Joseph Parker
represents to the Governor and Magistrates, in a writing
dated May 31, 1666, that he has been chosen constable,
and asks that the letters Gr — or monogram, as we should
call it — be recorded as the brandmark of the town. This
was wanted probably for marking cattle. " In answer to
this motion the Deputies approue of th® letters : Gr to be
the brand marke of groaten." (Archives, i. 21.)

Very soon after the settlement of the town, there was a
complaint of improper management on the part of the pro-
prietors, and the General Court appointed a committee to
look into the matter. This committee visited the place, and
reported on " the entanglements that have obstructed the

* Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, ii. 33.


planting thereof," giving at the same time their opinion
that there was land enough here to furnish subsistence by
husbandry to sixty families. When we consider that this
opinion was the result of deliberate calculation, on the part
of disinterested men, before the town was shorn of its
original dimensions, it shows the vanity of human prophecy,
and should serve as a warning to us all to abstain from
prediction in regard to a century hence. There are now
nearly ten thousand persons in the territory of the original
Groton Plantation, living mainly by the products of the

For some years before the destruction of the town the
Indians began to threaten the inhabitants. They were
troublesome neighbors at best, and their movements re-
quired careful watching. Some of them were friendly, but
others were hostile and treacherous. They had already
acquired the taste for strong drink, and, on more than one
occasion, drunken brawls and fights, which ended in mur-
der, had taken place between them and the settlers. In
May, 1668, Captain Richard Waldron built a trucking or
trading house at Penacook, now Concord, New Hampshire,
where a few weeks afterward Thomas Dickinson was
murdered by an Indian; and "rum did it." The affair
created great excitement, and it has been supposed that
the brawl prevented a settlement of the place at that time;
at any rate, none was made until 1726. A warrant was
issued to the constable of Groton to summon John Page,
Thomas Tarbell, Jr., Joseph Blood, and Robert Parish, all
of this town, to appear before the General Court at Boston
to give their testimony, which they did under oath. It
appeared from the evidence that there had been a drunken
row, and that Tohaunto, the chief, desired them, if they

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Online LibrarySamuel A. (Samuel Abbott) GreenThree historical addresses at Groton, Massachusetts → online text (page 1 of 14)