Archive:Divided We Stand

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Roger Thompson, Divided we stand. Watertown, Massachusetts, 1630-1680 (Amherst, MA: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 2001).

There is some general information that seems relevant (mostly economic). I have also quoted every passage that refers to a Whitney, and the same for footnotes. In a couple of cases the passage does not mention a Whitney, but the footnote cites one as an example of the topic being discussed in the main passage.

Watertown was first settled late summer of 1630. They were mostly folk from North Essex and South Suffolk around the Stour River valley in East Anglia, led by Sir Richard Saltonstall. These settlers were among the thirteen to twenty thousand people who migrated to New England during the 1630s. (11, 21).

Three surges of immigration brought people to Watertown: one in 1630, a second from 1634 to 1636 (when John & Elinor immigrated), and a third and final wavelet in 1637. Some also came from Norfolk, and a few from London. Many of these East Anglians had been weavers, which may explain why John Whitney (a member of the Merchant Tailors Guild in London) threw in his lot with them (22).

Watertown began with a grant of 23,456 acres of land. Beginning in 1630 each household received a "homestall" where they built their first house and shelters for animals as well as planting their first crops. "These grants were located at the far eastern end of the town's domain, to the east, north, and south of Mount Auburn, near the Newtown line." This is where the first meetinghouse was built. "Later arrivals" (like John Whitney) "received homestalls to the west of this area."

By the early 1640s the average homestall was 12 acres, although this varied according to the size of family, amount of livestock, and social standing (51).

In July 1636 4,595 acres of livestock pastureland was distributed in four huge divisions, known as the "Great Dividends" in the northern part of the town grant. Each of the four "squadrons" was one-half mile wide, with 30 lots in each. "On 28 February 1637 the freemen divided out potential plowlands--often called uplands to distinguish them from low-lying marsh or meadow--on Beaverbrook Plain (divided by the brook into Hither and Further Plains and situated north of the riverbank and southwest of the town center) to all '106 townsmen then inhabiting.' A few of the leaders received sizable lots, but 86 of the 106 recipients got single figure grants, some as little as one acre. ... In 1637 Beaver Brook marked the western limits of any town settlement or cultivation" (53).

It was the town's expectation that this plowland would be cultivated in common, and that during the summer months livestock would be herded together under town-appointed herdsmen and shepherds (56). Four months later, in June 1637, "the 'Remote or West Pine Meadows' on land beyond Beaverbrook Plain granted 'by the freemen to 113 townsmen then inhabiting' were specifically linked to mouths, human and bovine. Most recipients again got single-figure acreages of these parcels of natural meadowland dotted among the heavily wooded western section of the town domain. Many householders got the same allotment of fodder land as for plowland (53). "The fourth allotment, on 9 April 1638, saw forty proprietors granted relatively small lots, typically six acres, on land called the Town Plot, a reserved area of 238 acres northeast of the town mill and two and a half miles west of the meetinghouse. The object was that forty families should 'build and dwell upon their lots at the town plot, and not to alienate them by selling or exchanging them to any foreigner, but [only] to the freemen of the congregation; it being our intent to sit down there close together,and therefore, these lots were granted to those freemen that inhabited most remote from the meetinghouse, and dwell most scattered.'"(53). Finally in 1642 all the townsmen that had not formerly received farms (93 are named) each received 13 acres of upland to every head of persons and cattle. At this point some 20,206 acres of the town's total grant had been lotted out. Only 3,250 acres remained town land (54). Though desire for land ownership may have motivated some of this largesse, the principal con-cern seems to have been that unless the town allocated the land, it could be appropriated by neighboring settlements. Distributing the land seems to have been a way to secure the rights of the town and its inhabitants. It was also a way to encourage those already living there to remain in the town, rather than moving on in search of better prospects elsewhere. At the same time, with most of the land having been distributed, it discouraged outsiders from moving into the community. Distribution was also a way of ensuring individual claim to the land before its value increased so much that the elder generation might be unable to provide for their offspring. Although less than 1800 acres were being farmed in 1651 (about 10 acres per household), this massive distribution of land "was a prudential 'laying up for posterity'. Nonetheless, perceived injustices in the allocation of land within Watertown lead to disputes and court actions that lasted until 1669 (56-57, 62-63). "In June 1641, as measures were announced to encourage servants to sin hemp for twine-, rope-, and sack-making, a group of Watertown men were rewarded with over L4 between them for weaving 83 yards of cloth. A further, overdue bounty was piad in October 1643. Two of these beneficiaries were master weavers: Martin Underwood and Nicholas Busby. The others had no recorded weaving experience21" (95)

f.n. 21. "Busby, a worsted weaver On Underwood, a weaving-clothier, with north Suffolk linen and northeast Essex textile connections, see (sources cited)). Others: Miles Nudd, John Whitney, Henry Kemball (a wheelwright), and John Witheridge or Wetherall, who figures in the Watertown records as a champion fox trapper" (228).

Occasional assistance from the community was needed "by the Thomas Whitneys in 1664 and 1678-79, when the family was struck down by smallpox. The town spent L1.10.0 on William Goddard for attending Thomas Whitney, fifteen shillings on a rig, nine on a bedstead and cider, four on firewood and milk. In all L5.4.5 was expended. All seem to have survived14" (110).

f.n. 14. "Whitney, in serious difficulties in 1664, had been appointed scarer of dogs out of the meetinghouse at thirty shillings per year"(233).

"If major breadwinners were going to be away for any length of time, the townsmen wanted guarantees that their families would be provided for. When Daniel Metup and Jonathan Whitney proposed to go to Cape Fear, the seven men insisted that enough assets be lodged with neighbors to keep their dependents from want. They got court sanction for this requirement and, killing two birds with one stone, arranged for a cow to be left with the ill-nourished Beeches" (113). "The selectmen were often the richer members of the community, but by no means always. There was nonetheless a relatively small gap between the rich and the poor, and misfortune lurked everywhere. Even among brothers, like the Whitney boys, there could be considerable variations of wealth. John was comfortably well off; Thomas was near the breadline" (114). "The settlement of Groton in the 1660s and 1670s saw the new generation moving west in a concerted group. In this new 'company.' along with siblings or newly married neighbors, like minister's daughter Abigail (Sherman) Willard, went paupers, troublemakers, orphans, and family misfits. Twenty-eight out of the original fifty-one grantees of land there had Watertown connections"12 (118).

f.n. 12. "Siblings: Morses, Lawrences, and Holdens; paupers: Sawtel, Sanders,Onge, and Price. Newly married: Barrons, Fiskes, Clarkes, Pearces, Tarbells, Whitneys, and Crisps; troublemakers: Benjamen Allen and James Knapp" (236).

"Sex fascinated many of these adolescents. Weddings were fraught with sexual excitement. On 23 May 1674 teenagers Moses Whitney and Jonathan Smith 'about noon, left work to see a wedding that we heard was to pass that way which was between William Shattuck and Goodman Randall's daughter.' The bride's brother was later sued 'for making and publishing an obscene and scurrilous writing or libel tending to the corruption of youth and defamation of several persons therein named as particularly Phillip and Elizabeth Shattuck and others.' The (lost) libel was probably full of sexual innuendo and bawdy suggestions. This was a deprived, but not an innocent, age" (123). Throughout the 17th century rising affluence and population lead to construction of larger houses and "conspicuous consumption," both of which are reflected in the distribution of assets prescribed in individual wills (130-131).

f.n. 27. Silver: Pewter: John Whitney Mx PR 4:99 Glass or china: John Whitney Mx PR 4:99 Whitney (chest), Mx PR 4:99 (Ms Pr: Middlesex Probate Registers, vols. 1-5, MA: vols. 106 on microfilm at Middlesex Probate Registry, East Cambridge)

"Cross-generational relations were not always edgy and antagonistic. As aged parents sank into dependence'land-for-care' agreements were common. Though some arrangements were loving, others built in safeguards implying a certain distrust.43"

f.n. 43. E.g. Whitney: Mx Deeds, 3:451-52, 4:344, 9 March 1670 (Mx Deeds: Middlesex Registry of Deeds,vols. 1-7, County Courthouse, East Cambridge)

King Phillip's War (1675-76) stirred up colonial prejudices against the Indians and fueled their paranoia about Indian "unreliability, laziness, treachery, and general savagery." Numerous Watertown men were called to do battle. By December 1675 20 of them had been drafted (150-152).38

f.n. 38: Drafted: Michael Fleg, William's brother; John and Moses Whitney, a couple of the town's ne'er-do-wells; plus (a list of the others) (249)

In its early days Watertown looked like it would become an important town. But by the 1650s it had been overshadowed by Boston, Cambridge, Charlestown and other settlements. By the 1670s it had become a quiet parochial backwater. The first 50 years are also marked by chronic discord and conflict--over religion, over land, over taxes. There were disputes over who should be recognized as a member of the community. "The town leadership was three times unceremoniously dumped by irate townsmen." "There wee also regular spats between neighbors, often over stock and fences, but also involving personal rivalries and envies, long-nursed grievances, dark suspicions, generational jealousies, and family feuds. Although this drove some people out, "One of the most striking characteristics of Watertown in its first fifty years--indeed of its first two hundred and fifty years--was its residential stability. Individual family members might leave, but family names persisted (169-174).

f.n. 14. "The old burial ground commemorates these pesistent descendants: forty-one original families, whose subsequent generations are buried in the Arlington Street Cemetery. The eighteenth-century records of Watertown's 'Western Precinct,' which became Waltham in 1738, are dominated by the names of founding families of Watertown. In the 1790 Census forty-three family names in Watertown perpetuate those of our period and forty-four from Waltham. Heads of Families at the First U.S. Census. 1790 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992), 156, 157. In the 1850 Watertown map based on the survey by S. Dwight Eaton and Elbridge Whitney, thirty-one families who had settled in Watertown by 1650 still held land in the town. List of Arlington Street Cemetery (old burial ground) gravestones kindly supplied by the Watertown Public Works Department; between them, the Coolidge and Stone families have eighty-one headstones there. Records of the Western Precinct of Watertown, 1720-1738 (Waltham: Aldermanic Board, 1913) contains thirty family names from the first generation of Watertown settlers. MS map in the archives of Watertown Public Library; my thanks to Ann Butler and Forrest Mack" (253).

APPENDIX B. Lists of Residents

List 1: Long-Term, First Generation Criteria for Inclusion: Arrival by 1640; residence for seven-year minimum, usually grantee of town land (proprietor), adult on arrival, usually male head of household. 96 men, including John WHITNEY.

List 2: Short-Term, First Generation Criteria: Unless they died, five or six years of residence, usually continuous. 43 men, no Whitneys.

List 3: "Perchers," First Generation Criteria: Under five years, mostly 1630s arrivals, hold land or connected in other documentary evidence. 64 men, no Whitneys.

List 4: Latecomers, First Generation Criteria: Arrival in Watertown after 1640, born before 1620, resident for decade or more. 32 men, no Whitneys.

List 5: Incomers, Second Generation Criteria: Born after 1620, arrived from elsewhere in Watertown after 1640. 25 men, no Whitneys.

List 6: Long-Term, Second Generation Criteria: Born between 1620 and 1650, lived ten adult years in Watertown before 1680 (except for early death), offspring of first or occasionally of second generation resident. 100 men, including "John, Jonathan, Richard, and Thomas WHITNEY".

Abstracted by Karl Schwerin.

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