Early Grants [1/2]

of the



The Parent Towns — Early Grants and Settlements — The Two Brothers —
Discharge of Indian Claims — Garrisons — Incorporation


Bedford stands number twenty-five in the fifty-nine townships thus far incorporated in Middlesex County. It has a twin mate— Westford. They were both incorporated by the General Court September 23, 1729.

Bedford was taken from Concord and Billerica, but not until the parent towns had almost reached their first centennial. It then appears that the early history of the territory known as Bedford is included with that of the parental towns. That which may be designated as the south and west part of the town was taken from Concord, and the greater part of the north and east was from Billerica.

For nearly a century this territory comprised the outlying districts of Concord and Billerica.

It represents a part of the first inland town of Massachusetts and includes portions of very early grants. [*1]

A commendable pride prompts every true New Englander to seek for Puritan descent, and to date the settlement of his locality from the landing of those grand worthies. Hence, in considering the origin of Bedford, it may be admissible to repeat a few familiar facts of history, with their dates.

The Pilgrims landed in the year 1620. The charter of Massachusetts was granted in 1629, by King Charles I. In 1630 came Winthrop and Dudley with

fifteen hundred passengers. September 2, 1635, Musketaquid (Concord) was granted to Mr. Bulkley (Rev. Peter Bulkley) and ——— Merchant (Major Simon Willard), with other families. [^1][^2]

November, 1637, the Court made grants to Governor Winthrop and his deputy, Mr. Dudley. In the following spring the grants were located, the original having been somewhat enlarged. [^3]

In June, 1641,

“Shawshin is granted to Cambridge, p^rvided they make it a village.” [*2]

The town of Bedford comprises a portion of the Musketaquid grant, the whole of the Winthrop and a portion of the Shawshine grant.

The first house occupied by the English, within the present limits of Bedford, alluded to in a report made in 1642 as the “Shawshin house,” proves that the first settlement was made here within twenty-two years after the landing of the Pilgrims. [^4]

The nature of the land included in the above named grants is seen in reports and descriptions made about that time. Hubbard describes the Concord settlement as “right up in the woods,” and Johnson as “in desert depths where wolves and bears abide,” and the journey to it he describes as

“through watery swamps, through thickets where the hands were forced to make a way for the bodyes passage, and their feete clambering over the crossed trees, which when they missed, they sunk into an uncertaine bottome in water, and wade up to their knees, tumbling, sometimes higher and sometimes lower.” [*3][*4]

Of the grants made to the Governor and his deputy (lieutenant), the whole of the former is included in the present limits of Bedford. [^5] Its western boundary

[ p 6 ]

being Concord River. The grants were located 1638, May 2d, as follows:

“It was ordered by the p^rsent Court that John Winthrope, Esq^r, the p^rsent Governo^r, shall have 1200 acres of land whereof, 1000 was formerly granted him. [*2] & Thomas Dudley, Esq^r, the Deputy Governo^r, has 1000 acres granted to him by a former Courte, both of them about 6 miles from Concord, northwards; the said Governo^r to have his 1200 acres on the southerly side of two great stones standing neare together, close by the ryver side that comes from Concord.”

The deputy’s was north of it within the present limits of Billerica. Winthrop has given us an account of the location of these farms in his journal.

“Going down the river about four miles, they made choice of a place for one thousand acres for each of them. They offered each other the first choice, but because the deputy’s was first granted, and himself had store of land already, the Governor yielded him the first choice. So, at the place where the deputy’s land was to begin there were two great stones which they called the Two Brothers in remembrance that they were brothers by their children’s marriage and did so brotherly agree, and for that a little creek near those stones was to part their lands.” [^6][*5]

A little later the Court added two hundred acres to the Governor’s part, and still later he received an additional portion of sixty acres of meadow

“within a mile or two of his farme, beneath Concord, towards the southeast of the said farme.”

In 1636 Matthew Cradock expressed a desire to obtain a grant of two thousand acres “at a place called Shawe Shynn,” and in 1637, August,

“Capt. Jeanison & Leift. Willi: Spencer were appointed to viewe Shawshin & to consider whether it be fit for a plantation.” [*6]

The report was not made, however, until after it had been granted to Cambridge. The explorer’s experience is thus described by Sewall as taken from Woburn records:

“As they were engaged Nov. 9, 1640, shortly after their appointment, in exploring the land about the Shawshin river they were overtaken and lost in a snow-storm, and in this sad dilemma they were forced as night approached, for want of a better shelter, to lye under the Rockes, whilst the Raine and snow did bediew their Rockye beds.” [*7]

The following is the report of the committee, which is not as valuable for accuracy as it is helpful, in locating the Shawshine house:

“Wee, whose names are underwritten, being appointed to viewe Shawshin & to take notice of what fitness it was for a village & accordingly to o^r apprehensions make returne to the C^rt; [*2] wee therefore manifest thus much: that for the quantity it is sufficient, but for the quality in o^r app^rhensions no way fit, the upland being very barren & very little medow there about, nor any good timber almost fit for any use. Wee went after we came to Shawshin house, by estimation. Some 14 to 16 miles at the least, in compass; from Shawshin house wee began to go

downe the ryver 4 or 5 miles near East; then we left that point & went neere upon north, came to Concord Ryver, a little belowe the falls, about one mile or neare; then wee went up the ryver some 5 miles untill wee came to a place called the Two Brethren: and from thence it is about two miles & 1/2 to Shawshin, & the most part of all the good land is given out already; more land there is at the south side of the house, between the side of Concord line & the heade of Cambridge line, but littell medow, & the upland of little worth; & this is what we can say hearin. [^7]

Symon Willard.
Edw^d Convers.

The signers of the report were not the ones appointed for this exploration by the Court in 1637, but the former, Willard was a prominent inhabitant of Concord and Convers was of Woburn, and as such may have had an eye to this territory for their own advantage and hence were unconsciously influenced in making their report, which is not an accurate description of the land. After receiving the report of the exploring committee the General Court renewed the grant to Cambridge and specified the bounds:

“All the land lying upon Shaweshin Ryver & between that and Concord Ryver, and between that & Merrimack Ryver, not formerly granted by this Co^rt.” [*2]

May 9, 1644, the Court

“ordered that the ryver at Shawshin shall be called by the name of Shawshin.” *1

By a vote of January 2, 1654, a second division of land was made in Concord.

“It was voted to divide the town into three parts or quarters;”

as the east quarter, in part, fell to Bedford, it is to that division that we confine our investigation. The report of the committee to make the division is as follows:

“The east quarter by their familyes are from Henry Farweles all eastwards with Thomas Brookes, Ensign Wheeler, Robert Meriam, George Meriam, John Adames, Richard Rice.”

In 1663 the town voted

“that every man that hath not his proportion of lands laid out too him, that is due to him, shall gitt it laid out by an artis”

before 1665;

“and that each one should give to the town clerk a description of their lands.”

Mr. Shattuck’s table, made from the records, is helpful in showing some of the divisions that fall to Bedford: William Hartwell had 241 acres; John Hartwell, 17; Wm. Taylor, 117; Joseph Wheeler, 357; Caleb Brooks, 150; Thos. Pellet and Joseph Dean, 280; Eliphalet Fox, 106; others are indicated as being in the east quarter, but are omitted, as there is no reasonable certainty of their exact location. Each quarter had the care of its own highways and had a board of overseers to look after its interests. Mr Shattuck says:

“Regulations were established in each quarter, similar to

*1 The spelling of this as of many proper names of early colonial days is variable. Shattuck, in his history of 1833, seems to prefer “Shawsheen.” [*8] Walcott in his recent work, “Concord in the Colonial Period,” accepts Shawshine as the more approved. [*9] In following his good judgment we use the latter form.

[ tipped-in page ]

[ nature photo ]
[[ Brother Rocks. ]]

“The Governour and Deputy went to Concord to view some land for farms, and, going down the river about four miles, they made choice of a place for one thousand acres for each of them. * * * At the place where the Deputy’s land was to begin, there were two great stones, which they called the Two Brothers, in remembrance that they were brothers by their children’s marriage and did so brotherly agree.”

John Winthrop’s Journal, April 24, 1638. [*5]

[ p 7 ]

those in wards of a city. Each chose its own officers, kept its own records, made its own taxes,” etc. [*10]

The first overseers for the east quarter were Ensign Wheeler and William Hartwell (without doubt William I.).

The Governor Winthrop grant remained intact, and probably unoccupied until 1664, when it was sold by Fitz John Winthrop to Job Lane for £230. [*11] Mr. Lane was distinguished as an “artificer” and a “house wright.” [*12] He paid for the Winthrop farm by erecting a mansion for Fitz John Winthrop at Norwich, Connecticut, and he built one of the college buildings at Cambridge. His skill and reputation are acknowledged in being selected as an

“able and honest artificer for erecting a bridge over Billerica River.” [*13]

The contract made January 11, 1667, shows that he was to receive for the work

“seven score and five pounds starling;” “ten in cash, ten in wheat, ten in malt, and the remainder in corn and cattle.” [*13]

The discharge of obligations, of importance like the two cited above, by the use of barter, suggests the state of the currency at that time. The conveyance of the Winthrop farm is made on vellum, now in the possession of the heirs of Mary Lane Cutler; the deed is in an excellent state of preservation, and after having lain in folds 225 years and changed custodians many times, can be read with comparative ease. It begins as follows:

“This indenture, made the second day of August, in the year of our Lord, one thousand six hundred and sixty & four, in the sixteenth year of the reign of y^e Sovereign Lord Charles the Second, by the grace of God, of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, King and defender of the faith. To wit: Between Fitz John Winthrop, of New London, in the Colony of Connecticut, in New England, Esq., on the one part, and Job Lane, of Malden, in the County of Middlesex, in New England, carpenter, on the other part.”

The purchaser of the Winthrop farm was from Rickmansworth, in Hertfordshire, England, where he inherited property from which he received an annual income that he bequeathed to his son John.

Job Lane built a house very soon after he came in possession of the farm, 1664. [*14] The Hiram Dutton house is supposed to mark the spot, if it is not in part the original house. It was the only house in Billerica south of Ralph Hill’s at the time of King Philip’s War. Job Lane went to Malden some years before his death, which occurred in 1697, and established a home. He gave by will, the Winthrop farm to three of his heirs. They agreed to a division of the farm, which was found, by survey, in 1706, to contain 1500 acres. Each had a portion of upland, meadow and woodland, and many of the odd-shaped lots of land of to-day are the result of that division. Capt. John Lane had 750 acres, Samuel Fitch had 375 and Matthew Whipple had 375. The former, Capt. John Lane, was son of Job; Fitch and Whipple were

grandsons, who represented deceased daughters of Job Lane. *1

There is no evidence that Whipple settled on his portion, but the others did, and some of the lots are held, in 1890, by their descendants, (the sixth generation).

The Shawshine grant included all of the remaining land that was set off to Bedford at the incorporation. Two small accessions were made later. It does not appear that Cambridge took action towards the settlement of Shawshine until April 9, 1648. Only those grants known to be in Bedford are mentioned here. Gookin (Gooking), had 500 acres; it comprised the northeast section of the present town of Bedford. The grantee was Capt. Daniel Gookin, and was thus publicly recognized as a valuable servant of the Colony. He was a faithful friend of the natives and a co-worker with the Apostle Eliot, and had a great influence with the Wamesit Indians. [*15] His name appears as Magistrate in 1684, before whom depositions were taken in regard to the Musketaquid purchase of 1636. Rev. Joseph Mitchell had 500 acres. This was all purchased by Michael Bacon, in July, 1682, for £200. Nathaniel Page bought a grant of Grimes, in 1687. It contained 500 acres. Edward Oakes had a grant of 300 acres, extending from the Page land southward to “Concord Old Line.” Thomas Oakes had 150 acres, extending from the Bacon purchase to Winthrop farm on the west. The Bedford Springs covers this grant.

“The great meadows,” east of the Poor Farm, including sixty acres, constituted the last grant to Governor Winthrop. With the exception of the Winthrop meadows, all of the land remaining between Thomas Oakes, (Bedford Springs) and “Concord Old Line,” bounded on the east by Page and Edward Oakes, and on the west by the Winthrop Farm, was known until 1708 as Billerica Commons; (the squadron south of Oakes farm) Bedford Village is included in this. [^8][*16]

Dr. Paige, in his “History of Cambridge,” has the following: [^9]

“Michael Bacon, of Woburn, bought of Rodger Shaw a farm in the northwesterly part of Cambridge (now Bedford), including all the meadows adjoining to the great swamp near the east corner of Concord bounds that falls to Cambridge. The Shawshine River runs from this swamp.” [*17]

This must have been a second purchase of land in this town by Mr. Bacon. There still remains about 700 acres of the Shawshine grant within the limits of Bedford, the section east of the Page purchase and the Rev. Joseph Mitchell grant. This must include some minor grants, among which, doubtless, is that of thirty acres to John Wilson, in 1685,

“for encouragement towards his corn-mill.”

The Billerica Common lands or “Squadron South of Oakes farme,” be-

*1 The law of Massachusetts gave to the oldest son a double portion of a parent’s estate, which may account for the unequal division.

[ p 8 ]

fore mentioned as including the village of Bedford, containing 600 acres, was divided in 1708. The allotment, according to Hazen’s Billerica, was as follows:

“It is agreed that Lt. John Stearns should attend the laying out of the lots as fast as might be, and to carry the hind end of the chain, (only as to his own) and Daniel Hill or Henry Jefts to carry the chain for said Stearns’s lot.” [*18]

“The first lot was granted to lieutenant Samuel Hill including seventy-six acres bounded two hundred and forty rods on Concord, and sixty-four rods on Winthrop Farm. The main street in Bedford was afterwards located on the north line of this lot, and the ‘old line’ of Concord is now to be traced sixty-four rods south of that street and parallel with it.” [*19][*20][*21] *1 [*22]

The second lot of twenty-three acres was Fassett’s, “Patrick Fassett’s,” and became the property of Israel Putnam, as did the third, granted to Joseph Hill. The two included fifty acres. The fourth lot was ninety-one acres, laid out to Jonathan Hill, next to Oakes Farm; and others following southerly were Nathaniel Hill, Joseph Farley, Daniel Hill, John Stearns, Henry Jefts, John Parker and Job Lane, the last reaching Mr. Page’s farm.



  1. Bulkley ∨ Buckley
  2. Bulkley) ∨ Buckley)
  3. his deputy, ∨ the deputy,
  4. the English, ∨ English,
  5. his deputy ∨ deputy
  6. children’s ∨ childrens
  7. & ∨ & and
  8. Commons; ∨ Commons,
  9. Paige, ∨ Page,


  1. “the first inland town of Massachusetts”: Concord
  2. Only the letter “r” is superscript. (Succeeding letters are not.)
  3. cf. (perhaps) Shattuck’s History of the town of Concord (1835)
    Shattuck’s quote (without citation) is “away up in the woods”.
  4. cf. A history of New-England (1654), as (much later) reprinted
    in Wonder-working providence of Sions saviour (1867) pp 81-82
  5. cf. Winthrop’s journal entry (24 April 1638), as published
    in his History of New England: Volume I (1825) p 264
  6. “plantation”: settlement
  7. cf. Sewall’s History of Woburn (1868) p 12
  8. cf. Shattuck’s History of the town of Concord (1835)
  9. cf. Walcott’s Concord in the colonial period (1884)
  10. cf. Shattuck’s History of the town of Concord (1835) p 35
  11. “Job Lane”: b. 1620 – d. 1697 (II: p 20)
  12. “artificer”: craftsman
  13. cf. Hazen’s History of Billerica (1883) p 99
  14. “a house”: the Job Lane House (now a museum): 295 North Road
  15. “the Wamesit Indians”: a Pennacook people
  16. “squadron”: district
  17. cf. Paige’s History of Cambridge (1877) p 482
  18. This statement is seemingly not found in Hazen’s History.
    (It does not appear to exist in any other published work!)
  19. “two hundred and forty rods”: about 1,200 meters
  20. “sixty-four rods”: about 320 meters
  21. cf. Hazen’s History of Billerica (1883) p 212
  22. Please find this footnote on the next page.
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