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24 HISTORY OF EASTON.

fourteen thousand acres were thus cut off from the Old Colony.
What induced the Plymouth Colony commissioners to sign an
agreement so detrimental to its interests can only be conjectured.
There was probably a greater divergence than they supposed ;
moreover, the commissioners were no doubt fatigued by their
laborious journey through the forest, and did not think the land
of sufficient value to pay for the labor and trouble of another
survey. But as soon as the real location of this line was
discovered, and the loss to Plymouth Colony understood, great
efforts were made to rectify this boundary.

It is obvious that it was for the interest of the Taunton North-
Purchase proprietors to maintain the old line. Their purchase
extended to the " Massachusetts line," and if they could main-
tain their right to the territory up to the old line, it would make
a difference of probably not less than five thousand acres in
their favor. Gradually, however, the line of 1G64 came to be ac-
cepted as the authorized boundary. But about 1700 it was dis-
covered that some of the landmarks of this boundary were not
in a straight line between Accord Pond and Angle Tree, but
were a considerable distance south of it, and of course much
farther south of the original line between the two colonies than
even the line of 1664 was. This discovery led to frequent and
prolonged troubles. Even accepting the line of 1664 between
Accord Pond and Angle Tree, that line itself was not a straight
one, and cut off some of the land from the North Purchase. The
proprietors were of course justly indignant. Their records for
the first quarter of the last century give frequent signs of the
difficulty. In 1702 they appoint "John White as their agent to
join with Dorchester men and all others concerned, to run and
settle a straight line between the late Coloneys of the Massachu-
setts and Plymouth, from accord pond to the angle tree." ^ The
result of this survey has just been alluded to ; and as it would
have restored to the North Purchase what they were claiming,
and what even the line of 1664, if correctly drawn, would have
conceded to them, Dorchester (which then included Stoughton
and Sharon) refused to agree to the result. Accordingly there
were frequent contentions, and in 1710 this action was taken at
a meeting of the proprietors : " Then the said Proprietors made
1 Taunton North-Purchase Book of Votes, p. 26.



THE TAUNTON NORTH-PURCHASE. 25

choice of Mr. Edward Fobes and George Leonard to be their
agents, to Join with Bridgewater men in Defending the riming
of the Hne that was last run by the agreement by and between
Bridgewater men and said North-Purchase men on the one part
and Dorchester men on the other part, and do ingage to bear
their proportion of the charge thereof." ^

In May, 171 3, another attempt was made to settle the diffi-
culty by appointing a committee to run a new line. An
effort was first made to find the old Angle Tree which was
marked in 1664. The report made by a part of this committee
describes the search for this tree, and the evidence upon which
they were satisfied that they had found it. But here at the very
start the hope of the settlement of the trouble by this committee
vanished ; for " The gentleman that appeared for Attleborough
and Norton would not own the tree, and refused to be concerned
in running the line," ^ — so reads the report of the minority of
the committee, Samuel Thaxter and Jacob Thompson. In this
report the three points on the new line that were north of what
is now Easton are as follows : " The next is a heap of stones
on a great rock about forty or fifty rods to the east of Dorchester-
Meadow Brook ; the next is a black oak, marked about eighteen \\
rods to the southwest of Jeremiah Willis' house ; the next is a
great, hollow black oak marked with stones about it on the west
side of the Plain that is in the west side of Quantucket Cedar-
Swamp." ^ This Jeremiah Willis was the ancestor of one branch
of the Easton Willises ; his house was just north of the town
line, east of the Bay road, and but for the mistake of the com-
missioners of 1664 would have been within the town limits.
In justice, Easton should have extended farther north than it
does now. This uncertainty about the boundary was a great
annoyance to Mr. Willis, and to others living near the north
border of the North Purchase. Twice he "pitched" for land
near the line, and twice he " doth let drop his pitch because it
falls in Dorchester." Proprietors found in some cases that the
land that had been laid out to them was, by the new Hne, included
in Dorchester. The North-Purchase Company endeavored to
get satisfaction for such of their number as suffered on this ac-

1 Taunton North-Purchase Book of Votes, p. 30.

2 Massachusetts Court Records, vol. ix. p. 280. ^ Ibid.



\



26 'HISTORY OF EASTON.

count. In December, 1717, they "Voted that the committee
formerly chosen to lay out land in said North purchase, shall
have full power to make satisfaction to those that are Damnified
by the runing the line by Dorchester men, and the surveyor and
any two of said committee to make satisfaction to them in laying
out land to them, either in quantity or quallity ; and the person
Damnified to have no hand in Judging his own Damage."^ In
April, 1718, it was "Voted to make choice of a committee to
take care and use all proper methods as shall be thought meet
and convenient for the maintaining and holding their right and
title on the north side of said purchase, home to the ancient
Plymouth Colony line as Granted by Charter, whether it be by
renewing the bounds with the Proprietors adjoining, or by any
other lawfull way or means whatsoever." ^ In 1720 they voted
to sell two hundred and sixteen acres of land to defray the
charges growing out of these diflficulties ; they had previously
voted a sale of fifty acres for the same purpose. Sometimes
these troubles assumed a dangerous personal character. On
June 2, 1722, a committee, appointed to sell a piece of land on
the border, reported that they were opposed in their attempts to
establish boundaries. They affirmed in their report as follows :^

We renewed the ancient bounds by erecting a heap of stones,
which we intended for the first boundary. But Ephraim Fobes &
Edward & Ephraim Howard [Hayward] jCame and told us that we
had no business there, and that we had better take up the compass
& be gone. Wee answered that what we did was by order of the
General Court ; but the said Edward Howard told us that the General
Court had nothing to do with any land there, — whereupon we read to
them the Court's order ; and then the said Ephraim Fobes went and
threw off some of the stones, and said there should not be any bounds
there. And from thence they went forward to a fence where the line
went, and there the said Eph, and Edw. Howard warned us to stand
off upon our Perill, telling us that we came like Robbers, Highway-
men, and Rioters : The said Edw. Howard had an axe in his hand,
and the sd. Eph. Howard had a club. Wee told them we might pro-
ceed on the business wee were sent for, and Col. Thaxter, who carried
the line, stepped forward with the compass, to go over the fence in

1 Taunton North-Purchase Book of Votes, p. 44,

2 Ibid., p. 46.

8 Massachusetts General Court Records, vol. xi. pp. 308, 309.



THE TAUNTON NORTH-PURCHASE. 27

the course of the line ; but Edw. Howard & Daniel Howard laid vio-
lent hands upon him & pushed him back, so that we were obstructed, .
and unless we would have come to Violence & Blood shed we could
not have gone on with our Business. Therefore we pray this great &
Honorable Court would be pleased to consider the before mentioned
offence, & give us further direction in the Premises.

Sam. Thaxter.

Robert Spurr.

John Quincy.

Edward Hayward and his three companions thought, no doubt,
that they were defending their just rights. But the General
Court took a different view of the matter, and ordered that they
be arrested and shut up in Boston jail.^ Several weeks' confine-
ment therein induced them to offer an humble petition for their
release. This was granted them upon condition that they pay
damages, and give security for better behavior in the future ;
which they did.^ Of this Edward Hayward we shall soon hear
more.

In the year 1727 the proprietors voted that any person who
will prosecute those who have settled upon the proprietor's lands
in Stoughton, but south of the line as run by Nathaniel Wood-
ward and Solomon Safery, shall have one third of the land which
they may recover, — the suits, however, to be conducted at the
expense and risk of the prosecutor.

About 1729 it was determined to appeal to the Crown, and a
committee was chosen and money raised to promote this appeal.
It is in reference to this that we have the following curious vote
in a meeting held May 2"], 1 729 : —

" 2ly. the Proprietors voted that the Handkercheife which was the
return of the money which was sent to England should be sold, and
that that mr. Ephraim Howard should be paid two pounds and Eight
Shillings, and Lt. James Leonard to be paid Sixteen Shillings, and mr.
Edward Shove to be paid Sixteen Shillings out of the mone}' that said
Handkerchiefe should be sold for, and that the rest of said money
should be let out to Interest for the use of sd small proprietors.

"3ly. said Proprietors voted that Lieut. James Leonard and major
George Leonard shall have all the said Handkerchiefe, they Giving

1 Massachusetts General Court Records, vol. xi. p. 315.

2 Ibid., p. 369.



28 HISTORY OF EASTON.

good security for twenty-three pounds sixteen shillings to the Clerk,
to be paid within one year's time," etc. ^

What do these curious votes mean ? The word " handkerchief"
is evidently used to signify a special collection. The proprietors
raised money for specific purposes, and kept the sums thus raised
in separate amounts. Silver money was of course used for the
purpose alluded to in this case. Was it tied up in a handkerchief ?
If so, perhaps this is the first case on record where a handker-
chief was ever used for a contribution-box. For some reason
the proprietors were not ready to use this collection as yet, and
they therefore voted to "sell the handkerchief," — meaning by
this, to put its contents to interest, after paying the expenses
that had already accrued.

In 1750 the proprietors vote to choose a committee to act with
a committee of the Rehoboth North-Purchase, or Attleborough, to
petition the General Court to settle the line between the two late
colonies according to the agreement of the Commissioners of
1640. In both 1752 and 1753 they voted to begin an action to
eject all persons who had, without authority from the proprietors,
settled upon these disputed lands.

There was no final settlement of the matter until 1772. The
Court then appointed a committee to run the line from Accord
Pond to Angle Tree, Artemas Ward being the chairman of the
committee. They reported in favor of the line of 171 3, made by
Thaxter and Thompson. On March 6, 1773, an act passed the
Legislature, providing that the line should run from the pond,
so often alluded to, west twenty and a half degrees south to
the Angle Tree. This line is the present boundary between
Norfolk County on the north, and Plymouth and Bristol coun-
ties on the south. In 1790, a stone monument was by order of
the State erected on the spot where this tree stood.

INDIAN OWNERSHIP OF THESE LANDS.

It will be interesting to the people of Easton to know what
Indians were the immediate predecessors of the whites in the
ownership of the territory of this town, which was on or very near
the boundary lines that separated the important tribes of the

1 Taunton North-Purchase Book of Votes, p. 64.



THE TAUNTON NORTH-PURCHASE.



29



Massachusetts Indians and the Wampanoags. The former were
north of the limits of Bristol County ; the latter, according to
Baylies, in his " History of Plymouth Colony," inhabited Bristol
County. Massasoit was their chief, and his authority was recog-
nized as supreme among the tribes living in the whole of the
colony of Plymouth, as well as in the islands of Nantucket and
Martha's Vineyard. These tribes were known under the general
name of Pokanokets. Some doubt has been thrown upon the
statement that the whole of Bristol County was once the posses-
sion of Massasoit, and after him of Metacomet, who is better
known to us as King Philip. These doubts are based mainly
upon two considerations, which deserve a brief notice. The
first of these rests upon a deposition of five Indians made in
1650. The deposition is as follows: —

Pecunke, Ahiumpum, Catscimah, Webacowett, and Masbanomett
doe all affirm that Chickataubut his bounds did extend from Nishama-
goquannett, near Duxberry Mill, to Teghtacutt neare Taunton, and to
Nunckatatesett, and from thence in a straight line to Wanamampuke,
which is the head of Charles River. This they doe all solemly affirme,
saying, God knoweth it to be true, and knoweth their hearts. Dated
the first of the fourth month 1650.

Witness : Encrease Nowell.

John Elliot.

John Hoare.^

This deposition affirms that the boundary line extended from
Duxbury to Titicut, thence to Nippenicket Pond, and thence to
Whiting's Pond in Wrentham, This would cut off what is now
the town of Easton from the dominion of Massasoit. But were
there no other reason to doubt the correctness of this boundary,
its great irregularity would condemn it, or at least, make it ex-
tremely improbable. There are, however, other and convincing
reasons.

I. Plymouth Colony invariably recognized Massasoit as the
chief sachem of all the territory included within its limits.
Bridgewater on the east, and the lands on the west of the North
Purchase were bought of Massasoit. It is therefore certain that
this purchase, being in the same range as these, must have been
in his jurisdiction.

^ Plymouth Colony Records, vol. ii. p. 157.



30 HISTORY OF EASTON.

2, According to the deed of the above said purchase, the lands
included in it were bought of the Indians by Captain Thomas
Willett, and his negotiations were unquestionably with Massasoit
or his successors, and not with the Massachusetts Indians.

3. Several confirmatory deeds might be cited, were there suffi-
cient occasion for so doing, which assume and plainly state the
fact that the lands south of the Old Colony line were purchased
of Massasoit.

Another source of doubt concerning the rightful ownership of
this territory by Massasoit and Philip is the fact that two deeds,
at least, were given by sachems of the Massachusetts Indians
covering a part of these lands. One of them appears, on the
face of it, to acknowledge their ownership in the North Pur-
chase. In the Book of Votes of the Taunton North-Purchase
Company, page 7, is the following record : —

" At a meeting of the proprietors of the north purchase the twenty-
fourth day of Feb'y 1686-7, the said Proprietors agreed and voted to
levey and raise sixteen pence in money on each share in said purchase,
to pay Josiah the Indian sachim for a Deed they have percured of him ;
and it is to be paid into Thomas Leonard by the sixteenth Day of next
march."

The original deed just referred to is still preserved, being among
the papers left by the Rev. George Leonard, already referred to.
That this sachem Josiah, who was one of the feeble remnant of
the Massachusetts Indians, had no valid claim to the lands he
thus deeded away, is sufficiently apparent from the fact that in
1770 Squamaug, then the acting chief of this tribe, made an
agreement with Philip that the line between the Plymouth and
Massachusetts colonies should be the dividing-line between the
Massachusetts and Wampanoag Indians.^ Though Josiah was
without any valid claim to this land, the North-Purchase proprie-
tors were willing to give him the small pittance he asked for
rather than have any further trouble about the matter. The
whole sum he received was only three pounds, twelve shillings.
The Indians of that date had so far degenerated that they could
imitate white men by becoming beggars. " Sometimes, when
our fathers had purchased lands of the real owner, and others

1 Clarke's History of Norton, pp. 50, 51.



THE TAUNTON NORTH-PURCHASE. 31

afterwards laid some claim to them, they would buy off the claim
by a small consideration rather than suffer a controversy or leave
a doubt to disturb private or individual purchasers hereafter.
Thus the colonies practised what are called 'quieting titles,'
and extinguished claims on expediency, and without regard to
their validity." ^

It is very probable that the boundaries between the Indian
tribes were rather indefinite, but there is no reasonable ground
to doubt that the territory of Easton was once a part of the
hunting-gro.unds of the celebrated Massasoit and his more cele-
brated son Philip.

Some readers may be disappointed to find that the Indians
have done nothing to add to the interest of this history. This
was not the fault of the savages. They would very cheerfully
have tomahawked and scalped enough of our early settlers to
have furnished us with most exciting and harrowing tales of
bloodshed. But several years before our first settler built his
rude dwelling east of the site of Dean's mill at South Easton,
the spirit and power of the Indians in this section had been
thoroughly broken, — King PhiHp's war having ended in 1676.
There is a tradition that they had a village on the spot just indi-
cated, east of "The Green." The tradition is probably correct,
because, first, there have been from time to time a large num-
ber of relics ploughed or dug up from the field there ; and sec-
ondly, the selection of that spot by the first comer for his
homestead makes it probable that it was a clearing where the
previous occupants, the natives, had been accustomed to culti-
vate maize, etc. There were, no doubt, other clearings in the
south part of the town, where lands were easily worked : not
even an Indian would be foolish enough to attempt to clear the
soil in the northeast quarter. Indian relics have been found in
many different places in Easton. Two stone pestles were dug
from a gravel-bank southeast of Daniel Wheaton's house. They
were deep enough beneath the surface to make it probable that
they were buried with their owner, according to Indian custom.
Further examination there might possibly indicate the pres-
ence of one of the burying-grounds of the natives. That some

1 Manuscript letter from the late Hon. John Daggett of Attleborough, to whose
kindness the writer is indebted for some facts and suggestions used in this chapter.



32



HISTORY OF EASTON.



Stragglers among the Indians remained about here and had
come to sore need, is indicated by the following action of the
town in town-meeting in the year 1763: "Voted to James
Linsey one pound eleven shillings, for provisions and clothes
for the Indians."

THE PRESERVATION OF TIMBER.

The North-Purchase proprietors showed much interest in the
preservation of the timber, especially the cedar, which grew upon
their lands. From the number of votes passed empowering
committees to prosecute persons who had cut cedar, oak, and
other timber, it is evident that there was considerable trespass-
ing upon the undivided lands. As early as 1683 the proprietors
"Voted and agreed that there shall be no cedar falne that Doth
belong to the said north purchase or improved for any use, until
the said Proprietors do otherwise agree." A committee is ap-
pointed to " see that the aforesaid order be not broken nor the
cedar wasted ; and to seize any cedar fallen or improved, or the
produce thereof, for the use of said proprietors ; or to arrest
the person or persons so transgressing, and by law to recover
the value of the produce of such cedar, improved contrary to
order, or what damage he or they do to the cedar swamps."
Such votes are quite common for many years, and the preser-
vation of the cedar in the Great Cedar-Swamp and in other
places appeared to be a matter of much solicitude, the proprie-
tors evidently placing a high value upon it. In the year 1699
there is this curious record : " Samuel Briggs having bought
about 1400 of Claboards and long shingles of an Indian, the
stuff being got in the North Purchase, the Proprietors by vote
agreed that he shall have them, paying six shillings in money to
the proprietors, — which he then did, and it was then spent in
drink." ^ This was in Taunton in mid-winter, and a good drink
was, in the opinion of the proprietors, seasonable, and the easiest
solution of the difificulty of disposing of this unexpected six shil-
lings. Whether the absent proprietors, who were not on hand to
share this good cheer, took the same view of the case we are not
informed. This Samuel Briggs was son of Thomas, of whom we
have already heard. How this unknown Indian became pos-
1 Taunton North-Purchase Book of Votes, p. 22.



THE TAUNTON NORTH-PURCHASE. 33

sessed of these " Claboards and long shingles " must be matter
of conjecture only. They were too bulky to steal and carry
away ; an Indian was extremely unlikely to be a regular dealer
in such merchandise ; and we are therefore obliged to imagine
the extraordinary spectacle of one of these wild sons of the
forest laboriously splitting out these articles from the trees
among which he had so often roamed in his hunts for game.
The mere thought of it touches our sympathy.

THE DIVISION OF LANDS.

The manner in which lands of the Taunton North-Purchase
Company were divided is a subject of great interest. The deed
of purchase was made June i, 1668. The Company organized
on the 15th day of September following, by the choice of
Thomas Leonard as clerk, and the election of a committee who
were intrusted with the affairs of the Company. The next meet-
ing took place November 15, 1671, when a committee was
appointed to meet other committees from Rehoboth and Bridge-
water, to settle the boundaries between the North Purchase and
those towns. On December 31, 1674, it was voted to " lay out a
Division of upland in the North purchase to each Proprietor
alike, as near as they can both for quantity and quallity, no lot
to be under a hundred acres, nor no lot above six score of acres."
To equalize the value of these lots, it was voted that their size
might vary from one another by a difference of twenty acres, the
number being according to the worth of the land. Reference is
made to this division at subsequent meetings, but no actual sur-
vey of the lots was made prior to 1695. Meantime several
settlers had come upon the lands, they having purchased a
whole, or some part of, a share from some of the original pro-
prietors or from their heirs, and being allowed to choose a loca-
tion and settle upon it. When the first division of lands was
made in 1696, as will be presently explained, these actual set-
tlers, instead of choosing their divisions by lot, as the other
shareholders did, were assigned the land upon which they had
already located. This was the case with the first settlers in the
east part of the North Purchase, now Easton. Clement Briggs,
Thomas Randall, William Manley, John Phillips, and a few oth-
ers whose acquaintance we shall soon make, were residents

3



34



HISTORY OF EASTON.



before the first division of land. Briggs had made his home
east of " the Green ; " Randall, just above on the north side
of the stream ; Manley, next above him ; and Phillips, at the
Morse place.

It was not until May 12, 1696, that the first general division
of land was made. It was a notable occasion for the proprietors
as they met on that day in the old Taunton meeting-house. Fifty-
four sections of land, of about one hundred acres each, had been
roughly indicated by survey, and these were all numbered. This
number of shares corresponded to the number of original share-
holders, except that one share was added, which was to be laid
out " for the use of the ministry," — that is, for the support of the
preaching of the gospel. Some of the original proprietors were
dead, and some shares were owned in company by as many as
four different persons ; in which case each was entitled to a
quarter-share, or about twenty-five acres. Everything being
now ready for the lots to be drawn, the names of the original
proprietors were called, in the order in which they appear upon
the deed. As the names were announced, these proprietors, or
their " successors " as they are termed, drew their lots, and were



Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 4 of 78)