William Biglow.

History of the town of Natick, Mass. : from the days of the apostolic Eliot, MDCL, to the present time, MDCCCXXX online

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Online LibraryWilliam BiglowHistory of the town of Natick, Mass. : from the days of the apostolic Eliot, MDCL, to the present time, MDCCCXXX → online text (page 1 of 7)
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As there is much excitement, at the present time, respecting
the rights of tlie Indians and tlie treatment, which they oi'.ght
to receive from the government and people of these United
States, it is thought that many will be desirous to know, as far
as can be ascertained, tlie circumstances which accompanied
the gradual decrease and final e^^nction of the first tribe, that
was brought into a state of civflRation and Christianity, by a
Protestant missionary. To gratijjy^, in a degree, this desire,
and to preserve some of the ni^ interesting facts, relative to
this town, is the object of this publication.

BOS'i ON :
VVaitt &, Dow's Print, 122 Washington-street.

■ / 1 •


Topographical Description, Present State, &c.
NATICK lies in the County of Middlesex, south-west-
erly from Boston. The central meeting house is six-
teen miles distant from the State House, and about
fourteen miles from the Court Houses, in Concord and
Cambridge. It is bounded N. by East Sudbury ; E.
by Weston, Needham and Dover ; S. by Dover ; S.
W. by Sherburne ; W. and N. W. by Framingham. It
contains about 11,000 acres. Deducting for water, QS^
acres, leaves 10,365 acres of land. A neat lithographic
map of this town, executed at Pendleton's office, Bos-
ton, in 1829, has served, as a model, for several other
towns to imitate. On this are laid down all the houses,
roads, ponds, principal streams, wood lands, &c.

Roads, Mails, &c. — There are three principal roads
through this town, leading from Boston to Hartford,
Connecticut ; namely, Worcester Turnpike, through
the north part ; Central Turnpike, through the cen-
tre ; and the Old Hartford road, so called, through
the south part. On the Worcester Turnpike, the great
southern mail passes each way daily. Several other
mail and accommodation stage coaches are very frequent-
ly passing. On the Central Turnpike, Boston and Hart-
ford Telegraph line of stage coaches passes every day,
Sundays excepted, up one day andj down the next.
On the Old Hartford road, Boston, Mendon and Ux-
bridge daily line of stage coaches passes, and continues


on to Hartford three days in the week, and returns to
Boston on the other three. This line makes the Chris-
tian Sabbath a daj of rest.

There are two Post offices ; one on the Worcester
Turnpike, and the other on the Old Hartford road,
where a mail is opened daily, Sundays excepted.

One survey of a rail road from Boston to Albany pas-
ses through the centre of the town, parallel to the
Central Turnpike, a few rods distant from it. A
survey of a canal from Norwich, in Connecticut, to Bos-
ton passes a few rods in front of the south meeting house,
but the present generation have not high expectations of
reaping very great advantages from this project.

Soil, Productions, &c. — The soil in the south part
is generally loam, inclining in some parts, to clay ; in
the central and northerly parts, it is a sandy loam. In all
parts of the town are found^lands, favourable to the rai-
sing of grass, Indian corn, rye, barley, oats and fruits of
all kinds, usually produced in this climate. There is
little or no waste land in the town. Wood lots are be-
coming scarce; but meadows, affording an inexhaustible
supply of excellent peat, the use of which is yearly in-
creasing, insures an ample supply of fuel for future gen-
erations. The soil, in its original state, produced all
kinds of forest trees, usually growing in New England.
Formerly a great variety of nuts and berries were produ-
ced spontaneously ; but these productions have been
greatly diminished by the hand of judicious cultivation.

Surface of the Country, &:c. — Natick is the abo-
riginal name of the township, and signifies a place of
hills. This name is very descriptive, especially of the
southerly part of it. At the S. E. corner, about a mile


from Charles river, next to Dover, Pegan hill rises, in
a beautiful conical form, and is capable, like all the oth-
er eminences in the tov^'n, of profitable cultivation to its
summit. From the top a very extensive and elegant
prospect is presented. The land, as far as the eye can
reach, is well cultivated, excepting a due proportion of
woodlands ; and from filteen to twenty village churches
appear scattered in various directions. The romantic
meanders of Charles river may be traced for several
miles, and a number of ponds are interspersed in the
surrounding scenery. At the distance of thirty and fif-
ty miles, the Wachuset and Monadnoc mountains tower
in pleasing majesty; and many others, hardly distinguish-
able from azure clouds, skirt the distant horizon. Be-
tween this and Charles river. Perry's hill, considerably
less elevated, slopes gently down to the margin of the
water. On the opposite bank, Carver's hill gradually
rises to a corresponding height, and beyond this, Broad's
hill, a twin brother of Pegan, appears, at the distance
of a mile from the river. About half a mile north of
the south meeting house. Train's hill, similar to Car-
ver's and Perry's, in shape and elevation, adds to the
beauty of the variegated prospect. In plain sight of
these, are Bullard's hill in Needham, and Brush hill in
Sherburne, near the bounds of Natick, which were un-
doubtedly taken into view, when the place received its
significant name. On and around these hills, the cele-
brated Eliot apportioned the lands among his Indian
converts ; and here was the principal scene of his pious

In the middle and northern parts of the town the
land is agreeably undulating ; but there are no hills so
elevated, as those already described, or which are dis-
tinguished by proper names, excepting the beautiful one


in the northwest corner of the town, which is called
Tom's hill, from its having been owned, in olden time,
by a celebrated Indian, who went by the name ot Cap-
tain Tom. From many of these heights the prospect
is similar to that from Pegan, though not so exten-

Three plains may be deemed worthy of particular no-
tice. One, about half a mile square, spreads east of the
south meeting house, and is sometimes called Eliot
plain, in remembrance of the ' Apostle to the Indians.'
Another lies south and west of the central meeting
house, is about a mile square, and is called Pegan plain.
This and Pegan hill were so called from their being
formerly owned and inhabited by two distinguished In-
dian families of this name. Boden plain, so named af-
ter William Boden, Esqr. stretches about three miles in
length, from the westerly side of Long pond to Fra-
mingham line, and is about one mile in breadth. There
are several smaller plains scattered among the hills in
all parts of the town.

Minerals, &:c. — Bog iron ore has recently been
found in several places, near the centre of the town,
and transported to the foundery in Chelmsford, in con-
siderable quantities. A quarry of limestone was opened
during the revolutionary war, which was burnt to ad-
vantage ; but since that time it has been neglected, ow-
ing to the diminution of fuel, in its immediate vicinity,
and its distance from a market. In the westerly part
of the town, on the west margin of Long pond, there is
a very valuable brick yard. Four hundred and fifty
thousand bricks have been burnt here in one year; but
the average number is from three to four hundred thou-


There is an indication of clay, suitable for the same
purpose, on the eastern side of the pond. It is said
that there are appearances of mountain iron ore, in
some parts of the town. But as no professed geo-
logist has ever, to my knowledge, examined these parts
attentively, I shall make no further observations under
this head.

Ponds, Brooks, River. — About one half of Long
Pond, lies in Natick, covering 450 acres. The remain-
der is in Framingham and East Sudbury. The Indian
name of this was Cochituate. Its English name is
descriptive, as the pond is not far from 6 miles in length,
and the breadth varies from a few rods, to a mile, or
more. Its outlet is at the north end, in Framingham,
on which mills are erected. Formerly shad and ale-
wives were taken in this pond ; but, for some years past,
the mill dams have prevented them from reaching it.
Dug Pond, lies south of the above, at the distance of
about a quarter of a mile, and covers 50 acres. It is so
named, from its resemblance to an artificial excavation.
This has no natural inlet, excepting from the clouds
above, or springs beneath ; and no outlet, but by evap-
oration, or absorption. For a few years past, however,
a small rivulet has been conducted into it, by an artifi-
cial channel ; and a drain has been made to conduct its
waters into Long Pond. Thus it serves as a reservoir,
in which to lay up water for the use of mills in Fra-
mingham. Nonesuch Pond, lying partly in Weston,
covers 50 acres in Natick. How this pond obtained its
name is not known. Though there may be none ex-
actly such, yet there are many, which, to a common ob-
server, appear very similar.

Snake Brook, so named from its serpentine wind-


ings, forms part of the boundary line between this town
and East Sudbury, and empties into Long Pond from
the eastward. Pegan and Steep brooks likewise emp-
ty into Long Pond, the former from the East, and the
latter from the West. Sawln's and Bacon's brooks
enter Charles river from the north, about two miles from
each other.

Charles River winds very beautifully through the
southern section of the town, covering 100 acres. The
township is also well watered, by springs and rivulets,
in every part. The height of land, in this region, is
where Captain Luther Broad's house stands, and on Pe-
gan plain, which lies westerly from it. The water that
falls from the eaves of this house, on one side, runs in-
to Charles river, and meets the ocean at Charlestown;
or, following the channel of Mother Brook, mingles
with the waters of the Neponset, and joins with the
great deep, at the mouth of this river. That which falls
from the eaves on the other side, flows into Long Pond,
thence into the Concord, and Merrimack, and thus finds
its way to the sea. The same may be said of two riv-
ulets, on the plain ; one of which directs its course to
Charles river, and the other to Long Pond. Either of
these might be conducted into the other, by digging a
slight trench, but a few rods in length. The ponds and
river are pretty well stored with the usual variety of
fresh water fish.

Mills, &c. — The first mill, erected in Natick, was a
saw mill, on Charles river, nearly in front of the dwell-
ing house of the late Hezekiah Broad, Esq. It was
built by John Sawin, about the year 1720. The own-
ers of the great meadows in Medfield, complained that
his dam prevented the water from draining off from their


premises ; and Sawin was induced to move his mill up
to the brook, which still bears his name. Here he
again erected his saw mill, and built a corn mill on the
most simple construction. It consisted of a horizontal
wheel and a perpendicular shaft, on the top of which
the upper stone rested, and with which it was turned.
The Indians were much gratified with these mills, and
Sawin found it very easy to gain possession of a large
tract of land, many acres of which are inherited by his
descendants, to this day. The mill privileges are also
owned by his posterity, on which are two saw mills, a
corn mill, a boulting mill and a machine for making

A few years after Sawin's removal from Charles riv-
er, one Hastings built a dam across it, where Sawin's
had stood, and erected a saw mill, corn mill and fulling
mill. This occasioned a law suit, brought by the own-
ers ol Medfield meadows, which eventuated in the re-
moval of the mills to the site, where Biglow's estab-
lishment is now. The natural channel of the river, was
on the north side of the island, near these mills; and from
the island to the south shore, was solid land. Not long
after the dam was erected, there came what is common-
ly called, '- a great freshet ^^ which excavated the 'deep
hole,' so called, on the south side of the island, and
rendered it necessary to build another dam.

On this site, on the north side, there are now one
saw mill, three runs of mill stones, two crackers, for
corn or plaster, one paper mill and two carding ma-
chines, all under the same roof. On the south side, a
wheel factory was put in operation, several years ago ;
but the machinery, though very ingenious, was too
complex and expensive, to be profitable. Some parts
of it, however, are still used to advantage. This privi-



lege is capable of great improvement, and is considered
one of the best on Charles river. It is supposed, that as
much water flows in the channel here, as at Water-
town ; owing to Mother Brook draining out of the riv-
er, as much as flows in from all the brooks between
Natick and Watertown.

Besides the mills already mentioned, there are a saw-
mill on Bacon's brook, in the south part of the town ;
a saw mill, and corn-mill, on Steep brook, in the west-
erly part, and a trip hammer, and other blacksmith's
works, moved by water, on Pegan brook, near the

Were all the water privileges used to the best advan-
tage, and all the land, that is suitable, cultivated, as a
considerable portion of it now is, double the number of
inhabitants might here be supported, as comfortably and
respectably, as the present population. Beautiful and
even romantic situations for country seats, for gentle-
men of fortune and taste, are not wanting among the
hills, plains, and ponds, in the northerly portion of the
town, and on the charming banks of the Charles, in
the southerly section. Could its present uncouth name
be changed, as has been proposed, to Eliot, or Eliot-
ville, it would pass for a very delightful village. It is
difficult for a stranger to realize, that the only habitations
here, were ' magalia quondam,'' formerly wigwams.

Remarkable Trees. — There are two oaks, near the
south meeting house, which have undoubtedly stood
there ever since the days of Eliot. They have been
decaying about forty years. The red oak, on the west-
erly side of the meeting house, measures 17 feet in cir-
cumference, two feet from the ground ; and the white
oak, on the easterly side, 141-2 feet, at the same height.


In 1722, a deputation of Indians came to Mr Peabo-
dy's house, one bearing two elm trees on his shoulders.
They presented themselves to their minister, and re-
quested permission to set out those trees before his door,
as a mark of their regard, or as ' the tree oj friendship.'^
These trees flourished for about 90 years, when the lar-
ger one was stricken by lightning, and soon after failed.
The other being in a state of decisive decline, w as re-
cently cut down. These trees measured, one foot from
the ground, about 21 feet, and in the smallest part, for
14 feet up, 13 feet. The growth was about 1 1-2 inch-
es per year. — Hon. John Welles^ communication^ in Mas-
sachusetts Agricultural Repository, ^c. No. 1, Vol. 9.
These trees stood in front of the house, now owaied by
Mr John Bacon, the front part of w^hich was built by Mr

In 1753, soon after the settlement of Mr Badger, a
like request was made by the Indians, and the same ce-
remony took place in planting the ' trees of friendship'^
before his door, as had been done before that of his pre-
decessor, Mr Peabody. In 1826, the Hon John Welles
observes, ' these trees are now in full vigor, having been
set out 73 years. They are about fifteen feet in cir-
cumference, near the ground, and have given in circum-
ference, nearly 1 1-2 inches growth a year.' They
still remain in full vigor, May, 1830, in front of the
house now occupied by Mr Oliver Bacon, which w^as
built by Mr Badger.

The button-wood trees, in front of the south tavern,
w^ere set out in 1783. They were brought to the spot
one at a time, on the shoulder of a man of ordinary
strength. Their being planted on the Indian burying
ground gave oflence to some of the few remaining indi-
viduals of the tribe ; and one poor girl, with a mixture


of grief and anger, endeavored to uproot them ; but
they resisted her efforts, as they have many a violent
storm, are still in a thriving condition, and measure 17
feet ni circumference, at the height of two feet from the

College Graduates. — The following is a list of
those belonging to this town, who have received a col-
legiate education. H. U. stand for Harvard University ;
B. C. for Bowdoin College. Those with this mark *
prefixed are dead.

* Oliver Peabody, H. U. 1745. He was the son of
the Natick minister of the same name ; was settled in
the ministry in Roxbury ; and died soon after his ordin-
ation, much respected and lamented.

* Nathaniel Battelle, H. U. 1765. He inherited
considerable landed property, and devoted his attention
chiefly to agriculture. He died a few years since in
Maiden, in this state.

William Biglow, H. U. 1794. He has been em-
ployed most of the time, since he was graduated, as a
teacher of youth.

Robert Peteshal Farriss, H. U. 1815. Attorney at
law, in St. Louis, Missouri.

John Angier, H. U. 1821. Teacher of an Academy
in Medford, Mass.

Calvin E. Stowe, B.C.I 824. Teacher of the Hebrew
language in Andover Theological Seminary and trans-
lator of Jahn's History of the Hebrew Commonwealth.

Charles Angier, H. U. 1827. Teacher of an Acade-
my in Medford, in company with his brother John.

Joseph Angier, H. U. 1829. Student in the Theo-
logical School in Cambridge.

Physicians. — The Indians abounded with physi-


cians and doctresses. One of the former by the name of
Joshua Bran, was the most celebrated in his day. He
owned a small house, in which he resided, which stood
between Mr Oliver Bacon's and Eliot Walker's, where
his well and traces of his cellar still remain. His wid-
ow, who was ' quite a tidy ' white woman, survived him
many years. She was known by the name of 'nurse
Bran,' an appellation, which designates the employ-
ment, in which she was generally engaged.

Isaac Morrill, son of the Rev. Mr Morrill, formerly
minister of Wilmington, Massachusetts, came to this
town in 1771. He is now living, in the 82d year of
his age ; and resides in that part of Needham, which was
set off from Natick in 17.)7.

Asa Adams came to Natick about t e year 1782, and
remained ten or twelve years. He removed to Wolf-
borough, where he died. He professed chiefly to be a
surgeon of the Kittride school; but occasionally, practi-
sed physic.

Alexander Thayer, a native of Milford, Mass., came
to Natick to reside in 1813. He passed two years of
the academical course in Harvard University. He af-
terwards attended the medical lectures in Dartmouth
College, and received the degree of M. D. He died
in 1824.

John Angler, a native of Southborough, came to this
town in 1817, and still resides in the north part.

Stephen H. Spaulding, a native of Chelmsford, came
in 1823, and resides in the south part.

John Badger, a white native, resides in the westerly
part of the town, and has gained no small celebrity, as
a root and herb physician. But it is believed that ow-
ing to envy, rivalry, or some other cause, the regularly
educated gentlemen of the faculty are somewhat un-


willing to acknowledge him, as one of the fraternity.
The sovereign people, however, from whom all power
and honors emanate, have decreed to him the title of
Doctor, and frequently employ him to cure the diseases
both of man and beast.

Lawyers. — But one of this class of citizens has ever
attempted to gain a residence in this town ; and he re-
mained but a short time. The inhabitants, however,
have contributed as liberally towards the support of
nonresident gentlemen of the profession, as is consist-
ent with good economy and a due regard to their own

Burying Grounds. — The Indian burying ground, in
the south part of the town, now lies chiefly common.
It is pretty well ascertained, that the original bounds
of it were nearly as follows, viz : beginning at the oak
tree, on the east side of the south meeting house, by a
straight line running north of the meeting house, to the N.
E. corner of Dr Spaulding's land ; thence following
the fence in front of his dwelling house, and a straight
line, a few feet in front of the neighbouring red house,
the barn, house and store, belonging to the tavern es-
tablishment, as far as the front door of the house, adja-
cent to said establishment ; thence by a straight line in
front of Mr Moses Eames' dwelling bouse, to near the
centre of the front yard, belonging to the house of the
late Deacon William Biglow ; and thence by a straight
line to the oak tree first mentioned.

These bounds have been ascertained, to the satisfac-
tion of the writer, from several circumstances. Old
people told him, fifty years ago, that the road from Bos-
ton to Sherburne, originally passed north of the meeting



house, and west of where Dr Spaulding's house and the
other buildings on a line with it, now stand, and came
into the road, as it now runs, in front of Moses Eames'
store. In digging wells, cellars, &c. near these bounds,
on the outside, no skeletons have been found. In all
parts of the ground within these limits, skeletons have
frequently been disturbed.

It will be seen that this repository of the dead, in-
cludes part of the garden and front yard of the late Dea-
con Biglow, and a small portion of the land now belong-
mg to Miss Eunice Biglow, and of that belonging to
Dexter Whiting, Esq, and that the roads leading from
Boston to Sherburne, and from Framingham to Dover,
cross each other nearly at right angles, not far from its

A number have been interred, within the memory of
the writer, on the sloping common, in front of the tav-
ern; and one on the land, since purchased and enclosed
by the late Deacon Biglow, as a door yard. Many
have been disinterred, in digging graves for others, in
procuring sand for masons' work, or moving gravel for
repairing high ways. Nearly twenty were disturbed,
when preparations were making to build the wall round
the south meeting house, and carefully reinterred. In
two or three instances, black and white beads, formed
of shells from the sea shore, and called, in the aboriginal
language, wampam, have been found in the graves ; also
a few glass beads, and other trinkets. Several spoons,
composed of a mixture of the baser metals, have been
disinterred with their bones. In one instance, a small
junk bottle was discovered with a skeleton, nearly half
full of some kind of liquid ; but the lad, who dug it up,
emptied it before the quality of its contents was ascer-
tained. This bottle, with several other Indian curiosi-


ties, was sent to the museum of the Antiquarian Socie-
ty in Worcester.

There is another small Indian bu'jing ground, lying
common by the road side, near the Rev Mr Moore's
dwelling house, not far from the centre of the to.vn;

' VVliere heaves the turf, in many a mouldering heap,
And the rude children of ihe forest sleep.'

The south burying fi;round, for the white population,
was granted by the Proprietors, ' to Mr Peabody and
his successors, and for the use of other English inhabi-
tants,' June 22, 1731. In this inclosure, there are 92
grave stones, for single persons, and one. Rev Mr Bad-
ger's, for 7. Theie is also one tomb containing five
bodies. We may therefore consider 104 individuals,
as having monuments erected to their memorv. The
numbers of those, who arrived at the age of 60 years, or
upwards, are as follows, as stated on the monumental

1_60 1—70 2—79

1_61 1—73 1—80

1_62 1—75 1—84

1_63 1—76 1—87

1_64 1—77 2—88

1_67 2—78 1-94

The time is not ascertained, when the north grave

yard for the whites was laid out. A vote was passed, 'to

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Online LibraryWilliam BiglowHistory of the town of Natick, Mass. : from the days of the apostolic Eliot, MDCL, to the present time, MDCCCXXX → online text (page 1 of 7)