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William L. (William Ladd) Chaffin.

History of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) online

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assigned the divisions of land corresponding to the numbers
drawn. But in case any one did not like the lot that fell to him,
it was provided that he might choose it in some other place.
As already stated, those who had actually settled upon any land
were assigned the location they were living upon.

The divisions had thus been determined and numbered, but no
careful survey of them had been made except the three lots
named below. The first survey was made on the 6th day of
January, 1696, and is recorded in the " First Book of Lands " of
the Company, on the first page. It was the homestead lot of
Clement Briggs and Thomas Randall, Sr. The lot of John
Phillips and William Manley was laid out on the same day. On
the next day the lot above the latter was laid out to Thomas
Randall, Jr., and the Rev. James Keith, — the latter being the
minister of Bridgevvater. It was more than a year before lots
were surveyed in other parts of the North Purchase, which fact
confirms the claim subsequently made by the settlers in what is
now Easton ; namely, that they were the " first settlers " of the
Taunton North-Purchase.



THE TAUNTON NORTH-PURCHASE.



35



Various other divisions of land were subsequently made. The
one we have been considering was called " the first hundred-acre
division." This was of upland. In January, 1699, there was
a second division, which consisted of eight acres of meadow-land.
The following list gives all the divisions of land from the organ-
ization of the Company to the present time : —



One hundred acres of upland








. In the ye


ar 1696


Eight acres of meadow-land .










, 1699


One hundred acres of upland










, 1700


Fifty










, 1705


Sixty „ „










, 1714


Forty „ „










, 1724


Thirty










, 1729


Forty-five „ „










, 1731


Twenty „ „










, 1744


Ten










> 1755


Eight










, 1773


Four „ „










. 1774


Sixteen „ „










, 1779


Eight










, 1811


Four „ „










, 1814


Four „ „










, 1833



The aggregate of these divisions for the fifty-four shares is
twenty-seven thousand, three hundred and seventy-eight acres.
This was about four fifths of all the proprietors' lands. But in
addition to this there was in 1699 a division of "the Great
Cedar-Swamp " into nine shares of six lots each ; and there were
subsequent divisions of the other cedar swamps. Nearly all the
remainder of the land of the North-Purchase Company was sold
to raise money for legal and other expenses, as they occurred.
A little of the land still remains undivided, but is of small extent
and of slight value.

It is an interesting fact that this Taunton North-Purchase
Company still exists, and is one of the oldest organizations in
the State, being now over two centuries old. The clerkship of
the Company was held by the Leonard family for one hundred
and fifty-five years, — Thomas holding it for the first forty-six
years. He was followed in turn by George, Samuel, George, and
George, Jr., they living in Taunton or Norton. Alfred Williams



36 HISTORY OF EASTON.

of Taunton was chosen clerk in 1823, and Howard Lothrop of
Easton in 1836. Alson Gilmore served from 1861 to 1876, when
Edward D, Williams, the present clerk, was elected. The last
meeting of the Company was held November 25, 1876.

THE BOOKS OF THE COMPANY.

The books of this Land Company are very interesting relics
of other days, and they are exceedingly valuable to the anti-
quarian and local historian. The old " Book of Votes," as it is
called, is now (1886) two hundred and eighteen years old. It
brings the record of the business meetings of the Company down
to 1 712. As this book was then full, a new book was bought,
the records of the old book copied into it, and the account of
subsequent meetings continued down to the present time.
Another book is called the " Book of Pitches." When land
was due to a proprietor, or purchaser, he made a statement
of the location where he wished his lot laid out. This choice
was recorded in the book just named. This was called a
"pitch." Here is an example of one: —

February 22 : 1708-9. John Dayly, on Abiah Whitman's Right,
doth pitch for twelve acres and halfe of Land on the Stone-House
Plaine, Joining to Bridgewater Line, Joining to thomas Drake's lot of
his second division on the northward and westward Parts thare of, and
northward of William Manley seners, eastward of John Phillips and
southward of John Dayleys, if the Place will afford : if not, the re-
mainder to be Between Tussuky meadow and Bridgewater Line ; . . .
and six and a quarter acres of Land in the northeast corner of the
north purchase, Ranging south from a bever dam home to Bridgewater
Line.^

The original " Book of Pitches " is not preserved. That book
brought the account down to 1745, when it had probably become
so much worn as to need transcribing. A new book was bought,
a complete copy of the old book made in it, and the records con-
tinued down to the present day. This book, purchased in 1745,
and much used, is still in excellent condition.

There are three books called " Books of Lands," or of " Sur-
veys." They number in the aggregate nine hundred and eighty-

1 Book of Pitches, p. 13.



THE TAUNTON NORTH-PURCHASE. 37

four very large and closely written pages. They contain the
surveys or laying out of the shares of land due the proprietors
on the several divisions, and also the laying out of the various
pitches of land recorded in the book just named. The following
illustrates what has been said : —

In Taunton North-Purchase June 14th, 1699, we the subscribers
who are of the committee chosen by the proprietors of said North Pur-
chase, we have laid out & bounded nine acres of meadow & meadowish
land for Mr. Keith and Thomas Randall, Junior, to the right of Sair^uel
Smith Deceased. Said meadow lyeth up the River from Thomas Ran-
dall's about three quarters of one mile. Bounded at the lower end
Ranging from a marked tree across the swamp on a west and by north
point, and so bounded by upland on both sides up the river about
one hundred & five or six rods to a little oak tree, from thence on a
west point across the meadow to the upland again.

Thomas Randall.

Thomas Harvey.

John White, Sirvayer. *

The first survey was made on the 6th day of January, 1696,
and the last on July 18, 1882. Some of the boundary marks are
interesting. For instance: "We began at a May Foal [maple.'']
tree." " We began at a saxifax tree." Frequently the bounds
begin at "a little pile of stones," with no indication of where
said pile of stones may be found. On June 21, 1765, the heirs
of Edward Hayward, Esq., have a lot laid out to them " north on
said land forty rods to a bird's nest with one egg in it for a
corner" ^ — a not very lasting boundary line, one would think.
The oldest of these books of surveys is the original book, which
was begun in 1695, and is not a copy. It is very valuable in
determining the location of the homesteads of the first settlers
of this region. This book was rebound in 1782, at a cost of
" nine silver dollars " for binding and the trouble and expense
connected with it.

There are two other books of this Company ; namely, the
ledger accounts. One is that of the "Original Proprietors," and
the other of the " Present Proprietors," as they were called in 1724.
The second book has an especial value to the genealogist, be-

1 J'irst Book of Surveys, p. 3. 2 Second Book of Surveys, p. 41.



38 HISTORY OF EASTON.

cause in the transference and settlement of property and estates
many family relationships are alluded to. These books have
enabled the writer to fill up gaps in family genealogies by infor-
mation which no other records could have supplied. The pro-
prietors now living ought to secure the safe and permanent
keeping of these valuable and ancient records.

No thorough and adequate account of the Taunton North-
Purchase and its celebrated land company has ever before been
given ; and this is a sufficient reason for the extended notice it
has received in this chapter.



EARLY SETTLERS.



39



CHAPTER III.

EARLY SETTLERS.

The Seven Families of Squatters. — Subsequent Settlers. —
Their Previous Places of Abode. — The Time of their Set-
tlement IN Taunton North-Purchase. — Location of their
Homesteads. — The Oldest House in Town.

IN this chapter some account will be given of those who set-
tled in the "East end of Taunton North-Purchase" (now
Easton) previous to the incorporation of the town. Thorough
search among the Bristol County deeds, and careful study of the
North-Purchase records have enabled the writer to determine
three very interesting facts concerning these settlers ; namely,
their previous place of residence, their time of settlement, and
the locations of their dwelling-houses. Most of the settlements
were made subsequent to the first division of lands, in 1696. A
few families were here, however, earlier than this, settling as
squatters, so called. Among these were Clement Briggs, William
Hayward, William Manley, Thomas Randall, Sr., Thomas Ran-
dall, Jr., John Phillips, Thomas Drake, and possibly others. The
first settlements were made in what is now South Easton village.
At the time of the incorporation of the town, a. d. 1725, there
were, or had been, about sixty heads of families here. Of these,
fifteen came from Weymouth, fifteen from Taunton, twelve from
Bridgewater, and the rest from various other places. Their
names are given here as nearly as possible in the order of their
settlement.

Clement Briggs, reputed by tradition to be the first settler,
bought a full share in the Taunton North-Purchase, in 1694. He
neglected to get the deed recorded, and it was "defaced and
damnified by the mice eating some part of it, so that it was not fit
to pass the records ;" and accordingly, after his death, in order



40 HISTORY OF EASTON.

to make the title good, the heirs of the grantor (Benjamin Dean)
gave to Clement Briggs's heirs a new deed. He was domiciled
as early as 1694, and his house was on the north side of Depot
Street, east of the Green and near the head of Pine Street. He
came from Weymouth, with Thomas Randall his step-father, and
was grandson of Clement Briggs, who is called an " old comer,"
having arrived in Plymouth in the ship "Fortune," in 1621.
Three of this first Clement's children, being among the earliest
born in the colony, received grants of land of the Government
on that account. He was a felt-maker, and settled very early in
Weymouth. His grandson, the Clement Briggs who settled here,
was for awhile part owner of the saw-mill which the Randalls
had built, and erected the first grist-mill in town. These mills
stood near where the mill now stands, at the Green. He died
previous to June, 1720, and left a family of seven children.

William Manley was from Weymouth, and was residing here
as early as 1694. He was a squatter, as was no doubt Clement
Briggs and others. It is therefore possible that they may have
been settled here some time prior to the appearance of their
names in deeds and other papers. William Manley was the an-
cestor of all the Manleys of this section. He owned land, and
located his dwelling-house a little below where Palmer Newton
now lives, in South Easton. While a resident of Weymouth, he
served in the army. He and his three sons owned the west-
erly part of F. L. Ames's estate in North Easton, and also owned
both north and south of that. Like some others of this early
time, he had to "make his mark." He died December 2, 171 7.

William Haywakd was here in 1694. He was not one of
the Bridgewater Haywards, but was the son of Jonathan and
Sarah Hay ward, of Braintree, and was born February 6, 1669.
His homestead was near Simpson's Spring, and the old location
can still be identified, about fifteen rods to the east of the spring.
He died March 26, 1697, leaving two children, Ruth and William.
His widow returned to Braintree, and in two years married
William Thayer, who afterwards settled in Easton.

Thomas Randall, ist, came here from Weymouth, and was a
resident in Taunton North-Purchase no doubt as early as 1694.
He bought half the share which Clement Briggs had purchased
of Benjamin Dean, The fifty-first share was set apart to them,



EARLY SETTLERS.



41



and it included the Green, being partly west but chiefly east of it,
and had one hundred and four acres. The half of this north of
the mill-stream was owned by Thomas Randall. There, but a
few rods from the saw-mill which he and his sons erected, stood
his house. He was son of Robert Randall, one of the original
settlers of Weymouth. Three sons certainly, and probably four,
and at least two daughters, came with him to settle here. His
saw-mill was soon built, the first one in town, and the noise of
its wheel was the sweetest possible music to the new settlement.
He is interesting to us as the father of what has been the most
numerous family of Easton. He married, for a second wife,
Hannah, daughter of Samuel Packard of Bridgewater, and widow
of Clement Briggs, who was father to our first settler, Clement
Briggs. He died June 11, 171 1. She died April 20, 1727.

John Phillips came here from Weymouth at the same time as
William Manley, they dividing one share of land (the fifty-second
lot) between them. His half was north of the Manleys, and in-
cluded the Morse privilege, extending north of Mr. Morse's house
and quite a distance eastward. His house was on the spot where
the house (formerly the home) of Mr. Morse now stands. He
was a prominent man in the early town history, and was the first
town clerk, serving twelve years in that capacity. His first
wife was Elizabeth Drake of Weymouth, sister of two early set-
tlers, soon to be mentioned. He was the first captain that bore
a commission in the town of Easton. He was a soldier as early
as 1690, serving in the expedition against Quebec. Forty years
afterwards the Colony granted the township of Huntstown (now
Ashfield) to the soldiers, and Captain Phillips had some shares.
His son Thomas, and son-in-law Richard Ellis of Easton, were
the first settlers of that town. He died November 14, 1760.

Thomas Randall, 2d, came from Weymouth with his father.
He was married January 20, 1697, to Rachel Lincoln, of Taunton.
He had his dwelling-house a little north of John Phillips, the
site being almost exactly where the barn of Benjamin Macomber
now stands. In 171 8 he took up twenty-six acres of land in
what is now North Easton, on both sides of the stream, near
the Ames office. He had taken up five acres there, in 1711.
Here he built either the second or third saw-mill in town-
His first wife died February 18, 1715, and in 1719 he married



42 HISTORY OF EASTON.

widow Hannah Pratt, of Weymouth. During the first years of
the settlement he was the largest property owner among the resi-
dents, paying double the tax of any other. He was also deacon
of the church. Indeed, the Randall family was more prolific in
what in later times Elijah Howard called "deacon timber" than
any other family in town. In 1727 the town voted that Deacon
Thomas Randall should make a pair of stocks for the use of the
town. Where these stocks were set up we are not informed ;
but more than one culprit of both sexes had a chance to find out
H Deacon Randall did this piece of work well. He died in 1752,
dividing a large property among several children, but leaving
his homestead to his son Deacon Robert Randall.

Thomas Drake, the father of John and Benjamin Drake, soon
to be noticed, came from Weymouth, and had a house here as
early as 1695. He appears to have lived east of the Morse place
at South Easton, about half the distance to the Bridgewater line.
He died August 19, 1728, three days after the death of his wife
Hannah. She was his third wife, as deeds at Taunton show that
this Thomas Drake of Weymouth, in 1688, had a second wife
Millicent, who was widow of John Carver and daughter of
William Ford.^

These seven persons and their families appear to be the only
settlers in what is now Easton, prior to 1696 ; for on July 20 of
that year their names are given as inclusive of all the " neigh-
bourhood " in the east end of the North Purchase. This appears
by the following vote passed at a meeting of the North-Purchase
proprietors held in the "Taunton meeting-house," July 20, 1696:
" 3dly, at the same time Thomas Randall and William Manley
Desired the Grass this year on the meadows in the North pur-
chase, between the great Cedar swamp and Dorchester bounds
and Bridgewater bounds, and as far southward as to take in
Cranbury meadow, they acting for themselves and the rest of
the Neighbourhood ; viz., William Haward, Thomas Drake, John
Phillips, Clement Briggs, and Thomas Randall, 2d, for which
they promise to pay ten Shillings in money this year to the
Clerk ; for which the said Proprietors Promised said Grass to
them for this year, 1696." ^

1 See also Savage's Genealogical Dictionary, vol. ii. p. 71.

* Book of Votes of Taunton North-Purchase Proprietors, p. 14.



EARLY SETTLERS. 43



Jacob Leonard, of Bridgewater, had built a house as early
as 1697. It was situated fifteen rods directly east of where
William C. Howard now lives. The road ran between Leonard's
house and well, the latter being in Bridgewater. He had lived
at Weymouth, and then at Bridgewater, before coming here.
He was the son of Solomon Leonard, of Duxbury, who was one
of the first settlers of Bridgewater.

Israel Randall was a son of Thomas Randall, Sr., and
had a dwelling-house as early as 1697, which was very near
the spot where N. W. Perry now lives. He married in 1701
Mary, daughter of John and Experience (Byram) Willis of
Bridgewater. In March, 1710, his father, "out of the good-
will and natural affection which I bear towards my son," as the
deed runs, gave to him his land on the west side of the river
near the Green, this being the land north of the houses of
Dr. Randall and N. W. Perry. He was interested in the saw-
mill business with his father and brothers. He died March 24,
1753. His widow died Nov. 29, 1760.

James Harris, of Bridgewater, bought the estate of Jacob
Leonard in November, 1697, and made it his home. He was
first married to Elizabeth, daughter of Guido Bailey of Bridge-
water, in 1693, and afterwards to Elizabeth Irish, in 1696. He
sued Clement Briggs and John Phillips for cutting and carrying
hay from his lot in Cranberry Meadow ; and this lawsuit cost
the North-Purchase proprietors sixteen pounds sterling, they
disputing his ownership to the lot and agreeing to sustain the
charges of the suit.^ Timothy Cooper, who lived next below
him, proved to be a very uncomfortable neighbor, and in 171 3
Harris sold out his estate to Elder William Pratt.

Timothy Cooper was a resident here in 1699 ; how much
earlier cannot be determined. He married a daughter of Abiah
Whitman, a leading citizen of Weymouth, and one of the
largest land-owners in the North Purchase. Cooper was proba-
bly of Weymouth, but this is only a conjecture. His house was
a few rods south of the Roland Howard house, where Mr. Collins
now resides, the land on which it stood being given to his wife
by her father. In 1713 he bought three fourths of the saw-mill
at the Green, owning it at his death ; or, as the legal record has

1 Taunton North-Purchase Book of Votes, pp. 15, 16.



44



HISTORY OF EASTON.



it, " he died seized of the saw-mill." He was killed by his mill-
wheel in 1726, probably in March. Tradition represents him as
a very rough man, and tradition is supported by documentary
evidence, which, after being concealed for over a century and
a half, has just come to light, and has been examined by the
writer. His violent death was regarded by some persons as a
providential punishment for his sins. He left a family of five
daughters, one of them marrying Seth Babbit, who was admin-
istrator of the estate of her father. The old road ran just east
of Mr. Cooper's house, and thence on a southwest course coming
nearly to the line of the present highway in front of David
Howard's house.

Benjamin Drake, the ancestor of many of the Drakes of
Easton, was born in Weymouth, January 15, 1677, and came
here in the year 1700. In June of that year he bought fifty
acres of land, with a dwelling-house, on what is now the
Cynthia Drake road, or Church Street, south and southwest
of the old burying-ground, in South Easton. In that house
his first child, Benjamin, was born in December of that year.
The care of the meeting-house, after it was erected, was for
many years his special charge. He served in numerous town
offices.

Ephraim Hewitt is recorded as of Taunton North-Purchase
in 1 701, and may have been here a little earlier. He was prob-
ably son of Ephraim Hewitt, of Scituate, and afterwards of Hing-
ham. If so, he was born in 1676. He owned land here in 1700.
His home-lot was northerly from Mr. Rankin's, where Mr.
Littlefield now lives. A road ran on the south side of his house
up to the present road near the track by F. L. Ames's saw-mill.
It is interesting to note that he and his wife died on the same
day, November 19, 1733, — she going at sunrise, and he following
her at the sunset hour.

Samuel Kinsley was grandson of Stephen, of Braintree.
He came here from Bridgewater, buying his home-lot in Decem-
ber, 1 701. It was about a quarter of a mile south of Timothy
Cooper's place, just north of what is called the Thaxter Hervey
place, about six rods east of the turnpike, and five rods north of
the foundation of Cyrus Alger's old forge. He built his house
in 1702, and became a resident at that time. He had eight



EARLY SETTLERS.



45



children, his daughter Hannah marrying Edward Hayward, Esq.
He died about 1720.

John Drake was son of Thomas and brother of Benjamin,
both of whom moved here from Weymouth. He bought a part
of a share of land of Ephraim Hewitt in April, 1702, and had it
laid out in 1703, when he settled upon it. It joined Bridgewater
line north of Stone-House Hill, and probably included what be-
came known a century later as the North Daily place. Some-
where on this lot he had his home. He died, leaving seven
children, October 10, 171 7, his wife Sarah surviving him just
ten years.

James Hodge is a settler as early as 1704. His home was
next west of John Drake's, north of the old road running almost
due west from Stone-House Hill. On August 8, 1704, Abiah
Whitman, of Weymouth, "in consideration of the faithful service
performed by James Hogg for Captain John Thomas, sone-in-law
to the said Abiah Whitman," gave to him the land on which he
settled. He does not seem to have prospered. A daughter
Elizabeth was the occasion of great grief, and a son was for
many years a town charge.

William Manley, Jr., was of Weymouth, and was a son of
one of the earliest settlers, before mentioned. He was of age
in 1700, and settled on his father's place just above Thomas
Randall, Sr.'s, home-lot. He died January 16, 1764, eighty-five
years old. His wife almost completed her hundredth year, dying
January 6, 1777.

Thomas Manley was the second son of William Manley, Sr.
He was born in Weymouth in 1680. In 1701 he married Lydia
Field, of Bridgewater. He built his house on the upper half of
his father's place, a little south of the No. i schoolhouse. He
was father of six sons and seven daughters, the latter being
the maternal ancestors of many persons now living in town.
He died June 6, 1743, leaving considerable property, among
which was "a negro boy George," valued at ;^38. His will
shows that he meant to do all in his power to prevent any other
man from taking his place as husband of Mrs. Manley. He
ordains that the quarter-right in the saw-mill is to be hers "dur-
ing her widowhood'' " So long as she shall remain my widow'*
she shall have his dwelling-house and homestead land. But "if



46 HISTORY OF EASTON.

my well-beloved wife see cause to change her condition by mar-
rying," she is summarily dismissed from the premises, and, save
the pittance of ten pounds, loses all further claim to the property
of her late affectionate spouse.

Ephraim Marvell was a settler concerning whose antece-
dents nothing can be learned. He was an early settler, coming
here certainly prior to 1710. His dwelling-house was a little
west of where N. W. Perry now lives, at South Easton. He
seems chiefly noted as the possessor of an orchard, which is
several times referred to in marking boundaries. His name is



Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 5 of 78)