Genealogies of the Families and Descendants of the Early Settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts, Including Waltham and Weston: To which is Appended the Early History of the Town
N. E. Historic-genealogical society, for the benefit of the "Bond fund,", 1860 - Massachusetts - 1094 pages
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[Part 2 of 2]
Finally, the second general interest element, an absolute gem, is THE MAP, an oversized, free-standing map, folded, and enclosed in a pocket inside the back cover of the book. Dr. Bond created a town map showing the original street names of the initial streets of Watertown. It looks similar to a plat map of today, but instead of accessor's parcel numbers, the names of the original settlor's surname is on the lot. Thus, descendants can see where their immigrant ancestors first realized owning their own home in the New World. However, a casual reading of the map leads one to think of a modern plat map with its designated "lots.". However, the lot size had a much different meaning in colonial Mass. Bay Colony: the lots in Watertown were 44 acres each; thus, today's Watertown street alignments were created along the original lots lines of the founding lot owners’ lots (thank you, Google Maps, for bringing this insight to the fore!) Dr. Bond's map was probably Anya Seton's source for the Watertown neighbor of Elizabeth Winthrop when she was living there, whose fictional visit in Seton's historical novel ˆThe Winthrop Woman" has the verisimilitude of probably actually happening, given the proximity of their respective properties. [n.b., "The Winthrop Woman" is also a fantastic and enjoyable read which details the times in England leading up to the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the founding itself, plus much about the founding of Hartford and Greenwich, Connecticut, and what is now Astoria, NYC, covering over a period of roughly 80 years. Elizabeth Winthrop herself was a rare personage of the 17th Century, a highly literate, well-educated woman, trained as a pharmacist, and highly politically connected, who led a remarkably independent life for the times.]
Perhaps the most intriguing factoid out of Dr. Bond's work is the boundary description of the new town of Watertown contained in the King's Charter to Sir Saltonstall (the ancestor of the 20th Century's senator from Massachusetts), Watertown being one of the few original towns of the Colony. The need for Watertown in large part was due to the fetid swampy land of what is presently downtown Boston and Charles Town, as Watertown could fairly be described as America's first suburb. Paraphrased, the charter’s description was: “The boundaries of the new settlement of Watertown are the Charles River on the south, the Town of Cambridge [of Harvard University fame] on the east, the Indian Lands [apparently an understood designation of the time] on the north, and the ocean on the west.” DO THINK CAREFULLY about that description; it is an insight to the state of knowledge of the world in the 1600s!
Part 1 of 2: This is one of the most interesting and remarkable books of early America, and a book any educated person with an interest in early colonial American history should peruse. It has three notable elements, two of general interest and one of special interest to any person whose ancestor's surnames appear in the book. The author was a medical doctor, Henry Bond, M.D., whose family was from Watertown, Mass. Dr. Bond obviously had a lot of time on his hands over a period of more than 30 years to collect all the information to go into this tome.
The first general interest element is the chapter on what it took to found a new town in the early 1600s after the Winthrop Ships deposited the settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to inhabit the Boston area. This mandatory chapter for all to read covers all aspects of town formation and gives the reader insight into the challenges the founding settlers faced as well as insights applicable to today's Watertown.
The rest of the book deals with the genealogies of the original settlors and is thus likely of particular interest mostly to descendants bearing those surnames, although reading at least a few of the entries give everyone a sense of how the initial generations of colonial Americans multiplied and migrated.
The special interest element are these genealogies of all the original settlers which were traced by Dr. Bond for a period covering approximately 200 years and roughly four or five generations of the families. The reason Bond was able to accomplish this was the penchant for the English to make public records and preserve them (going back to the Domesday Book era over a 1000 years ago). Probably records exist, or once did exist, to do similarly for other towns, but those other towns did not have a Henry Bond to do the tremendous amount of research with organizational skills so to do. Thus, if one is lucky enough to have an ancestor resident of Watertown in its early days, this book provides a treasure trove of genealogical information. (Indeed, this reviewer's family had published in 1890 a complete genealogy of its ancestors and descendants to 1881, which used Dr. Bond's work primarily for the first four generations in its genealogical lists.) [end of Part 1]