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Subject: [GM-L] Marlborough & early militia
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2002 13:16:13 EDT
Subject: Marlborough and early militia
Source: Hudson's History of Marlborough
Within twenty years after the founding of Sudbury, some of the inhabitants
of that town petitioned the General Court for permission "for to make a
Plantation" at Marlborough, alleging as reasons:
"That whereas your Petitioners have lived divers years in Sudbury, and God
hath been pleased to increase our children, which are now divers of them grown
to man's estate; and wee, many of us, grown into years, so that wee should bee
glad to see them settled before the Lord take us away from hence, as also God
having given us some considerable quantity of cattle, so that wee are so
straightened that we cannot so comfortably subsist as could be desired; and
some of us, having taken some pains to view the country, wee have found a
which lyeth westward about eight miles from Sudbury, which wee conceived
comfortable for our subsistence." Hudson, History of Marlborough, 26.
No plantation could be established, however, without permission from the
Court, and the first thing to be done was to present a petition and get its
which was usually given upon the performance of specified conditions, as, for
example, in the grant to Sudbury petitioners who desired to locate at
"that there be a town settled with twenty or more families within three
as an able ministry may bee there maintained."
As before stated, the General Court recognized the Indian title, and all
authority to establish a plantation were upon the express or implied
the title of the Indians had been, or should be, purchased of them, and, to
against their being imposed upon, it was necessary that such purchase should
approved by the General Court.
Generally a company of proprietors united in the purchase of the land, but
times a direct grant was made by the General Court in payment of some debt,
recognition of some meritorious service or claime.
The next step in the foundation of the plantation was the division or
the lands. Generally the first allotment was of a few acres to each settler
dwelling place, these lots being small and located close together for the
protection of the inhabitants. Afterward, the "meadow" land and "wood" land
divided. These divisions, whether made before or after the plantation became
were made with reference to the respective interests of the proprietors.
"Commons," or lands for common pasturage, were usually reserved, and also
for "training fields." Such lands as were not divided among the proprietors,
reserved by them, were sold and the proceeds divided or paid into the common
Sometimes grants of land were made to encourage the establishment in the
of a grist-mill, a blacksmith shop, or some other industry. After the title
particular parcel of land had become vested in some individual, it became
disposal by conveyance or devise and to the laws of descent.
Proximity to the Indians, more than all other causes, made life on the
different from what it was in Boston and the towns near it. During the whole
of the commonwealth, Indian wars, and the apprehension of them, exercised a
upon the domestic, social and industrail life of the colonists, but more
of those living on the frontier, so that the military features of early
were at all times prominent in the frontier towns.
Preparations were early made for the organization of the militia. Afterwards
laws were enacted containing minute regulations for raising, organizing and
a military force of infantry, calvary and artillery.
Every person above the age of 16 years was required to attend military
service except certain government officers, elders and deacons, the officers
of Harvard College, schoolmasters, physicians and surgeons, masters of
over 20 tons, fishermen and herdsmen constantly employed and some others,
bodily infirmity or other cause, were wholly or partially excused.
Two-thirds of every military company were to be "musquetiers, and those which
serve with pikes have corselets and head pieces." The army of the foot
provided for as follows:
"Every foot souldier shall be compleatly Armed & furnished, the pikemen with
Pike well headed, Corselet, head piece, sword & napsack, the musquetiers with
fixed musquet, not under Bastard Musquet bore, nor under three foot long,
with a priming
wire, worm, scourer and mould, fitted to the bore of his musquet, also with a
sword, rest, banaeleres, one pound of powder, twenty bullets and two fathom
upon penalty of ten shillings for every defect; and all other inhabitants of
Jurisdiction, except Magistrates & Elders of Churches, the President,
Students of Harvard College, shall always be provided of Armes & furnished as
said under the penalty aforesayd."
"Troops of Horse" were not to exceed 70, besides the officers, and every
shall keep alwayes a good Horse, and be well fitted with saddle, bridle,
pistols or carbines and sword."
Field artillery would not have been of much use, but provision was made for
forts and batteries.
There were forts at important points. Every town was required to be provided
with a "watch
house" and sufficient supply of powder, bullets and match.
The garrison houses were the places of rendezvous in case of expected attack,
all living near them resorted. Sometimes they were built for that purpose;
times they were built as dwelling houses, but so constructed that they could
as garrison houses if necessary. Some of them are still in existence. One
the Walker garrison, is described by Mr. Hudson as "a curious structure, with
massive chimney, large rooms and heavy framework. It is lined within the
upright planks fastened with wooden pins."
Mititary watches or sentinels were set at suitable places when danger was
An alarm was given by the sentinel "discharging his musquet and crying, "Arm!
A general alarm was given by "either the distinct discharge of three musquets
continued beat of the drum or firing a beacon or the discharge of a piece of
two musquets after it, any of which in the night, shall be accounted a general
Alarme, which every souldier is immediately to answer by repairing armed to
colours, or court of guard, upon the pnealty of five pounds."
Training fields were usually set apart out of the common lands. The one at
contained nine acres.
Muster days were appointed, varying in frequency at different periods. By
the militia law
contained in the revision of 1660, the foot soldiers were to muster eight
days and the
troopers six days each year. When there had ceased to be any actual danger
probable that the training day became the occasion for festivities and a
relaxation from the rigid deportment of ordinary social life.
The stories told of the life of the settlers, especially those on the frontier
during the wars with the Indians and particularly during King Philip's war,
too familiar to justify extended repetition. Mr. Hudson records an incident
which graphically illustrates the life of the pioneer in those days. [History
of Marlborough, p. 73]
"The 26th of March, 1676, being the day for public worship arrived. 'No rude
raging foes' disturbed the quiet of that Sabbath morning. The people
the house where prayer was wont to be made, and a fervent petition had been
their safety and protection. A hymn of praise had been sung. Their
the Rev. Mr. Brimsmead, commenced his sermon and was dispencing to them the
word of life when he was interrupted by the appalling cry, "The Indians are
upon us." The confusion
and dismay which ensued can be better imagined than described. The assembly
broke up, and the people made for the neighboring garrison, where, with a
exception, they all arrived in safety, just in season to elude the savage foe,
but thirteen of their dwellings and eleven barns and their meeting-house were
their fruit trees deadened and their farms laid waste."
Even when no war was in progress, the apprehension of it, for many years,
settlers on the frontier and gave rise to gloomy forebodings. A distant
strange foot-print, some unusual event, interpreted by the superstitious as a
sufficed to make the bravest man anxious and the mother to hug her
babe closer to her breast.
We gather from the old town records something about the public
enterprises which engaged the attention of the early colonists, the building
of meeting-houses, roads, bridges, pounds and such other matters as
would likely to demand attention of those who had settled in a wilderness.
There were a few millers, carpenters, smiths and other artisans who pursued
their vocations. Lumber and staves were manufactured, as the forests were
cleared, and the pines yielded some tar. But the great mass of the
community on the frontier tilled the soil. In the early periods when it was
necessary to guard the field against the invasion of wild beasts or
Indians, it was usual to have common planting grounds, which
some tilled while others stood guard.
The staple crops were Indian corn, rye, barley, wheat, hay and oats and some
flax and hemp.
Little of the produce of foreign markets was brought in the frontier
settlements. What little machinery there was, was of the rudest pattern.
Almost everything in the way of farm implements and household furniture
and clothing that was used was made by hand and was made at home.
Transcribed from pages online by
More of the book, The Puritan Republic of Massachusetts Bay in New England
Marlborough - Puritan New England</A>