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in America,” “all that part of America lying and being in breadth from forty degrees to forty-eight degrees of north latitude, and in length of and within all the breadth aforesaid throughout the mainland, from sea to sea,” — “to be holden of him, his heirs, and successors, as of his manor of East Greenwich, in the county of Kent, in free and common sockage, and not in capite, nor by knight's service ;” the grantees “ yielding and paying therefor the fifth part of the ore of gold and silver which should happen to be found in any of the said lands.”
Medford was included in the territory granted, Dec. 30, 1622, by the Plymouth Company to Robert Gorges. It was the tract “commonly called or known by the name of the Messachusiack,” lying “upon the north-east side of the bay, called or known by the name of the Messachusett.” It extended “ten English miles towards the north-east, and thirty English miles unto the main land, through all the breadth aforesaid.”
Hutchinson says that this grant, being loose and uncertain, was never used.
March 19, 1628: The Council of Plymouth, under their common seal, by a deed indented, granted and sold to Sir Henry Roswell and five others “all that part of New England, in America, which lies and extends between a great river there, commonly called Monomack (Merrimack), and a certain other river there, called Charles ; being in the bottom of a certain bay there, commonly called Massachusetts.”
These are the first grants, under legal authority, of the territory within which Medford stands. The Council also sold “all the lands being within the space of three English miles on the south of Charles River and Massachusetts Bay, and within the same space on the north of the river Monomack, and of all parts of said rivers and bay, and from the Atlantic Ocean on the east to the Pacific Ocean on the west.” “Upon the petition of said Henry Roswell and five others, and their associates, twenty in number, to have and to hold to them, &c., by the same tenure, and incorporated them by the name of The Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England.”
Holding under these grants and by these titles, the Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay made grants of lands to companies and individuals for towns and plantations, usually annexing certain conditions to their grants ; such as, that a certain number of settlers or families should, within a stated time, build and settle upon the same; or that the gospel should be regularly preached, or a church gathered upon the granted premises. In this manner, forty-four towns were constituted and established within the Plymouth and Massachusetts Colonies before the year 1655, without any more formal act of incorporation. Among the oldest are the following: Plymouth, 1620; Salem, 1629; Charlestown, 1629; Boston, 1630; Medford or Mystic, 1630; Watertown, 1630; Roxbury, 1630; Dorchester, 1630 ; Cambridge or Newton, 1633; Ipswich, 1634 ; Concord, 1635; Hingham, 1635; Newbury, 1635; Scituate, 1636 ; Springfield, 1636; Duxbury, 1637; Lynn, 1637; Barnstable, 1639; Taunton, 1639; Woburn, 1642; Malden, 1649.
London, May 22, 1629 : On this day “the orders for establishing a government and officers in Massachusetts Bay passed, and said orders were sent to New England.”
Although, in the first settlement of New England, different sections of country were owned and controlled by “ Companies ” in England, yet the people here claimed and exercised a corporate power in the elections of their rulers and magistrates. This was the case with Medford.
To show what form of government our ancestors in Medford recognized and supported, we subjoin the following records :
“Oct. 19, 1630: First General Court of Massachusetts Colony, and this at Boston: Present, the Governor, Deputy-Governor, Sir Richard Saltonstall, Mr. Ludlow, Capt. Endicott, Mr. Nowell, Pynchon, Bradstreet. Since their arrival here, the first form of their government was that of Governor, Deputy-Governor, and Assistants; , the Patentees with their heirs, assigns, and associates, being freemen. But now, in this General Court, they agree on a second form, as follows; proposed as the best course: For the freemen to have the power of choosing Assistants, when they are to be chosen ; and the Assistants, from among themselves, to choose the Governor and Deputy-Governor, who, with the Assistants, to have the power of making laws, and choosing officers to execute the same. This was fully assented to by the general vote of the people and the erection of hands.”
May 25, 1636: Mr. Bishop, as magistrate, appointed to keep the county court at Salem.
1643: Massachusetts Colony had thirty towns, and was
divided into four counties, – Middlesex, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex.
1646: Selectmen were empowered to try causes in a town where the magistrate could not, or where he was a party.'
The first mention of Medford in the public records of the Province is the following:
“At a Court of Assistants at Charlestown, 28th Sept., 1630. It is ordered that there shall be collected and raised by distress out of the several plantations, for the maintenance of Mr. Patrick and Mr. Underhill, the sum of £50, viz.; out of Charlton, £7; Boston, £11; Dorchester, £7; Rockbury, £5; Watertown, £11; Meadford, £3; Salem, £3; Wessaguscus, £2; Nantascett, £1.”
It appears from the records that the inhabitants of Medford did not receive legal notice of their incorporation as a town till fifty years after the event. Wishing to be represented in the General Court, they petitioned for an act of incorporation, and were answered, that “the town had been incorporated, along with the other towns of the province, by a 'general act' passed in 1630; and, under this act,' it had at any time a right to organize itself and choose a representative without further legislation.” Thus Medford was an incorporated town in 1630. The first representative was Stephen Willis, elected Feb. 25, 1684. The annual meeting was always held in February.
In the absence of early records, we are left to conjecture, from what afterwards appeared, what existed in the earliest times. We therefore presume that the first settlers of Medford did as their neighbors did; that is, organized a municipal government, which should have the usual powers of levying and collecting taxes, opening and repairing roads, guarding the public interest, and securing the common peace.
The mode of " warning a town-meeting," in the early times, may be new to many of our day. It ran thus:
“ To Mr. Stephen Hall, jun., Constable of Medford, Greeting: You are hereby required, in His Majesty's name, to warn the freeholders and other inhabitants of Medford to meet at their meetinghouse, the first Monday of March next ensuing the date hereof, by eight o'clock in the morning; then and there to choose a Constable, Selectmen, Town-clerk, and other town-officers, as the law directs. And all persons, to whom the said town is indebted, to bring in their accounts, and lay the same before the said town; and the
town-treasurer for said Medford is hereby required to give unto said town, at said meeting, a particular account of the disposing of the said town's money; and whatsoever else may be needful, proper, and necessary, to be discoursed on and determined of at said meeting. Hereof you may not fail, as you will answer your default at the peril of the law.
“ Dated, in said Medford, Feb. 14, 1702, in the fourteenth year of His Majesty's reign. “ By other of the selectmen of said Medford.
“Town-clerk.” Among the oldest records existing, we have proof of what we have said, as follows:
- “ The first Monday of February, in the year of our Lord 1677, Goodman John Hall was chosen Constable by the inhabitants of Meadford for the year ensuing. Joseph Wade, John Hall, and Stephen Willis, were chosen Selectmen for ordering of the affairs of the plantation for the year ensuing. John Whitmore, Daniel Woodward, Jacob Chamberlain, John Hall, jun., Edward Walker, Walter Cranston, Patrick Hay, Andrew Mitchell, and Thomas Fillebrown, jun., took the oath of fidelity.
This was probably the simple organization of the civil government of Medford soon after our ancestors found themselves planted in their new homes. A more complex form of municipal agencies was not needed; especially as the celebrated Rev. James Noyes preached here a year, and established that church discipline which, in those days, took care of every body and every thing.
March 8, 1631: “It is ordered that all persons whatsoever that have cards, dice, or tables, in their houses shall make away with them before the next Court, under pain of punishment.”
April 12, 1631: “ Ordered that any man that finds a musket shall, before the 18th day of this month (and so always after), have ready one pound powder, twenty bullets, and two fathom of match, under penalty of 10s. for every fault.” Absence from public worship, 5s. for each time.
To be a freeman was a high object with every man. Several of the inhabitants of Medford took the entire oath, and could therefore vote in the election of Governor and Assistants. At a session of the General Court, May 18, 1631, it was thus voted :
“To the end the body of Commons may be preserved of honest and good men, it is likewise ordered and agreed, that for the time to come no man shall be admitted to the freedom of this body politic but such as are members of some of the churches within the limits of the same."
“A freeman must be orthodox, a member of the church, twenty years old, and worth £200.” At a later period, March 4, 1645, the General Court “ordered that the freeman's oath shall be given to every man of or above the age of sixteen years; the clause for the election of magistrates excepted." All the male inhabitants of Medford complied with this law.
To know what oath our fathers took, we subjoin the form, as ordained by the General Court, May 14, 1634:
Freeman's Oath. “I, - - being by God's providence an inhabitant and freeman within the jurisdiction of this Commonweal, do freely acknowledge myself to be subject to the government thereof, and therefore do here swear, by the great and dreadful name of the ever-living God, that I will be true and faithful to the same, and will accordingly yield assistance and support thereunto, with my person and estate, as in equity I am bound, and will also truly endeavor to maintain and preserve all the liberties and privileges thereot, submitting myself to the wholesome laws and orders made and established by the same; and further, that I will not plot nor practise any evil against it, nor consent to any that shall so do, but will timely discover and reveal the same to lawful authority, now here established, for the speedy preventing thereof. Moreover, I do solemnly bind myself, in the sight of God, that, when I shall be called to give my voice touching any such matter of this state wherein freemen are to deal, I will give my vote and suffrage as I shall judge in mine own conscience may best conduce and tend to the public weal of the body, without respect of persons or favor of any man. So help me God, in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
officer, more than Court “ order
In 1643, the Court “ordered, that if any freeman shall put in more than one paper or corn for the choice of any officer, he shall forfeit £10 for every offence; and any man, that is not free, casting in any vote, shall forfeit the like sum of £10.”
The ballots used at elections were corns and beans : corn's, yeas ; beans, nays.
The conditions of voting in towns was fixed by the General Court as early as April 17, 1729. « Voted that no