GenMassachusetts-L ArchivesArchiver > GenMassachusetts > 2006-03 > 1142909099
Subject: History of Harvard, Mass. 1643-1732 -Henry S. Nourse - 1894
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2006 21:44:59 EST
Thanks to the gift of this book - from Toni Feeney - I will be transcribing
excerpts - pertinent
records of Harvard - and eventually the whole book - to be shared at my
is the very beginning of this book (I have coveted for quite some time)
The History of Harvard, Massachusetts, 1643-1732, by Henry S. Nourse,
1894. - W. J. Coulter, Printer.
Settlement and Incorporation.
The Nashaway Pioneers.
The historic beginning of the New England town usually antedates by many
years its legislative creation. That of Harvard may be said to have pre-
ceded the act of incorporation by more than three-fourths of a century.
With the character, the purposes, the deeds and the trials of the founders
our story properly opens.
Eight or ten years before the middle of the seventeenth century, some
adventurous white men from English settlements on the river Charles began
to traverse the upper Nashaway valley, in eager pursuit of the profits of
trade with the Indians who at that time were encamped between the Washacum
lakes, or in nomadic bands pitched their rude summer wigwams on the shores
of the ponds which lie scattered between the Wataquadock and Wachusett
ranges of hills. These traders, chief among whom were Thomas King and
George and John Adams, of Watertown, Henry Symonds and John Cowdall of
Boston, soon made known to their kin in the bay towns the great attractions
of this favored region -
the domain of the hospitable Sagamore Sholan, who was then ruler over
the remnant of a once powerful tribe known as the Nashaways. They brought
back, with their cheaply bought packages of otter and beaver peltry,
glowing accounts of the fertility of the gently sloping hillsides; of the
abundance of trout, salmon and shad in the clear streams; of the grapes,
plums, many sorts of berries, and groves of nut trees everywhere common;
of the deer, turkeys, water-fowl and other game that frequented the park-
like woodlands, the dense thickets of the swamps, or the countless water-
courses and ponds hidden in the forest; of the kindly disposition towards
Englishmen shown by the gentle-mannered sachem and his simple-hearted
people. But what stirred their land-greedy hearers to restlessness more
than all else that they told, was their description of the broad and almost
treeless intervales, stretching for miles along the rivers and clad in
late summer with a rank growth of flowering herbs and grasses breast-high
to the tallest man; offering rare advantages to the pioneer husbandman
and his herds. "A desirable place as any in the country," Sergeant
Phillips said of it at Cambridge, when questioned about it after a visit
thither in 1650.
It was not long after that two groups of sturdy immigrants gathered from
Dorchester, Charlestown, Boston and Watertown, began settlements in the
valley, having brought the Indian title to the land, and obtained town
grants and political rights from Colonial authority.
The two little meeting-houses, the central points around which these
communities were clustered in obedience to legislative injunction and
Puritan custom were about twelve miles apart as the crow flies, and an
interval of a little more than two hundred rods separated the southern
boundary of the one township from the parallel northern boundary of the
other, as they were finally determined by the surveyors. Soon the friendly
intercourse between the two hamlets, had trodden a winding bridle-path
through the meadows along the east bank of the Penecook, as the main
Nashua river was then called - doubtless this at first was but the
hunter's track, naturally clinging where possible to the water courses.
It very probably followed the old Indian trail which led from Waschacum,
the headquarters of the Nashaways, by the "wading place" near the meeting
of the waters that form the Penecook or Nashua, to Wamesit, the chief town
of the Pawtuckets, on the Merrimack.
After the house-lots were assigned - twenty acres of the upland to each
family - and twenty acres of intervale adapted for tillage, were set
apart to each householder, the lands most sought for were the grass-
bearing meadows and the other tracts fit for the plough and spade. A fair
division of these by lot was one of the first acts of the assembled towns-
This and later divisions were proportionate to the estates which the
settlers brought with them. The hunter's or Indian trail soon became,
with slight changes at some points, a cattle path - the herdsman's way
to the common pasturage grounds. It led by the great fenced fields of
grain - perhaps sometimes through them, for we read of swinging gates
hung and maintained at certain places where the planting fields were
fenced off from the commons. Along this way was harvested much of the
fodder that kept the herds alive during the long winter.
Transcribed by Janice Farnsworth
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