« PreviousContinue »
then of the First Parish. He died while the meeting-house in which he had so long ministered was in process of repair and alteration. He died just before that great change in manners, ways of living, and methods of industry had taken place, which the coming of the railroad with its swifter communications made inevitable. In his personal appearance, in his modes of thinking, and in the relations which he cherished to the town and parish, he preserved the traditions of a stalwart past. As was well said of him, "He and his coevals seemed the rear-guard of the great camp and army of the Puritans." Not until the weight of more than seventy years pressed upon him did he seek relief from the sole care of pulpit and parish; when, February 17,1829, at his request, Hersey Bradford Goodwin was settled as his colleague. Mr. Goodwin was a man of amiable character and persuasive eloquence, who died after a brief ministry of seven years, July 9, 1836.. Seven months after, February 1, 1837, Barzillia Frost succeeded to his work, and remained over twenty years, when, on account of failing health, he requested a dismission. He visited Fayal, with no benefit, and came home to die where he had lived and labored, December 8, 1858. Mr. Frost was a man of strong character, firm in his opinions, and deeply interested, not only in the welfare of his parish, but also in all the higher needs of the town. The present minister of the parish is Grindall Reynolds, who was settled July 9, 1858.
The first minister of the Trinitarian Congregational Church was Daniel S. Southmayd, a graduate of Andover, who remained from April 25, 1827, until June 8, 1832. John Wilder succeeded him in 1833, remaining six years. James Means was settled in January, 1840, and was over the parish four years. "To an unusual degree he won the respect of the community and the affection of his own people." After his resignation, for a time he
taught Groton Academy, and died a chaplain in the army at Newbern, N. C., in 1863, at the age of fifty. William L. Mather was minister from 1844 "to 1848, and Luther H. Angier from 1851 to 1858. Since 1858 the ministers have been Charles B. Smith, Edward S. Potter, Frank Haley, N. S. Folsom, C. H. S. Williams, and A. J. Rogers.. The present minister, Henry M. Grout, was settled in June, 1872.
The only person ever settled over the Universalist society was Addison G. Fay, who was ordained in 1842, and preached about four years. He was a man of great native vigor, and as a speaker had that power which a strong man, saying what he thinks, just as he thinks it, always has. After his four years' ministry he engaged in business, first as a pencil-maker, and afterwards as treasurer of the American Powder Company, and was killed by an explosion at the mills March 23, 1873. The pulpit of the Universalist society was at various times supplied by Messrs. Greenwood, Beckwith, Skinner, and others.
The growth of Concord from 1800 to 1860 was slow. It had no great manufactories to attract and support labor, and under the old modes of transportation its distance from Boston, in time quite as much as in miles, was too great to enable people doing business in the city to make it their home. In 1860 it numbered only 2,232. But in the next ten years it gained 180. Five years later it had 2,676 people. And in 1879 its population, not including the reluctant inhabitants of the state-prison, cannot be much less than three thousand. The valuation has increased quite as rapidly as the population, and is now nearly three millions of dollars. The average of life has perceptibly increased, and for health and longevity the town takes its place in the upper and favored quarter of the towns of the commonwealth.
the east, northern
Pelham, New boundary. The and valley, and
Hampshire, forms land is finely diversified by hill the soil is generally productive streams are the Merrimack River and the Beaver Brook, the latter of which affords considerable motive-power. The town has two Congregational churches, nine public schools, a post-office, and three or four cemeteries. The underlying rock is Merrimack schist and granite; a mine of zinc in the easterly part of the town is now worked to good advantage. The scenic aspect of the town is unusually beautiful.
Originally the lands in this region were in possession of the Pawtucket tribe of Indians, whose favorite resorts were at the Pawtucket Falls in the Merrimack River and at the Wamesit Falls in the Concord River; the famous powwow, Passaconaway, was the chieftain. His son, Wannalancet, succeeded him and was, like his father, always friendly to the English.
As early as 1647 the celebrated John Eliot commenced his missionary labors among these Indians, and continued his visits to this region until the War of King Philip, by which the tribe was broken up and Waunalancet forced to fly into the distant wilderness. During that war, and subsequently, the English settlers were obliged to live in garrison houses, and to carry weapons when travelling or working on their farms. One of the garrison houses, with its solid walls and projecting stories, still remains, reminding the present generation of the dangers and privations of the forefathers of the town. A fort was erected at Pawtucket Falls, in
April, 1676, and placed under the charge of Lieutenant James Richardson, which served, both under his command and that of Thomas Henchman, to defend the new settlement against its wily foe.
Among the earliest settlers in what is now, or was afterwards, Dracut, were Edward Colburn and Samuel Varnum. Both came from Ipswich, and the former purchased for £200 attract of 1,600 acres of land of John Everett, on the Merrimack River, September 30, 1688, and on the 3d of April, 1671, he bought a large tract of land of Thomas Henchman in the same locality. A part of this land has continued in the Colburn family to the present time. Samuel Varnum took up lands in the same neighborhood, which still remain, in the Varnum family. The Indian title to these estates, as also to that of Hannah Richardson, a widow, was relinquished April 7, 1701, for £300. in silver by John Thomas, sagamore of Natick. They embraced a large portion of what was subsequently the town of Dracut.
Mr. Samuel Varnum first resided on the right bank of the Merrimack River above the falls; and while crossing the stream one morning in 1676, with three children in a boat to milk his cows, two sons were shot by Indians lying in ambush: they were buried in the field of Mr. Howard, near the river. The other sons of Mr. Varnum were Thomas, John, and Joseph, all of whom settled on land purchased by their father. The present Mr. Thomas Varnum is of the fifth generation from the above-uamed Thomas, all having the Christian name of Thomas and all occupying the same homestead.1
As the land was fertile, and the shad and salmon
1 Some of the land originally purchased of the Indians by Samuel Varnum is now owned by Major A. C. Varnum, — a lawyer by profession, and a paymaster in the United States army during the late war, — which he inherited, and which has remained in the family for more than two hundred years, it baring descended through each successive generation. The late Samuel V aruum, who died February 6, 1879. lived and died ou the identical spot, as it is supposed, where the bullet-proof house was erected by the original settler for a protection against the Indians. A considerable portion of this territory was annexed to Lowell by an act of the legislature, which took elicet August 1, 1874.
fishing good, many settlers soon came in from Salem, Ipswich, Chelmsford, and other places, so that at the commencement of the eighteenth century the settlement numbered about twenty-five families; and in 1701 a petition, signed by Samuel Sewall, Ephraim Hunt, Benjamin Walker, John Hunt, and Jonathan Belcher, proprietors, together with Samuel Varnum and several other inhabitants and proprietors, was presented to the General Court, asking for an act of incorporation as a township under the name of Dracut,1 this being the name of a parish from which Mr. Varnum emigrated. The petition having been accepted, it was, on the 26th of February, 1701 - 1702,—
"Rrsolcfd, That the prayers of said petitioners be granted, and that the tract of land therein described be made a township and to be called by the name of Dracut; provided that the bounds specified intrench not upon any former grant, or grants of townships; that the inhabitants of said land assist in maintenance of the Ministry at the town of Chelmsford as at present they do, until they be provided with a Minister as y* Law directs; that the General plat of said land taken by a sworu Surveyor be laid before this Court at their Session beginning at May next, and that if any land shall happen to fall within the bounds above mentioned that hath not been heretofore granted, it shall be reserved to be disposed of by this government."
The following is the survey of the town as then laid before the General Court: "It begins at the Island lying in Merrimack river called Weknsook and takes about half of it, and is bounded by Captain Scarlet and Dunstable line on the Northwest as farre as Kimballs farme at Jerimer Hill which is about six miles in a crooked line, — then it is bounded by Dunstable line on the West about four miles, — It is bounded southerly by Merrimack River in a straight line from Wekasook where we began. The South East Corner is a white oak marked with D, — a little from the river and from thence it runs due North six miles, which line is paralell with Dunstable line, on that side. Then by a North West line it again closeth to Dunstable line. This North West line is four miles long — then on the West is bounded by Dunstable line four miles. Laid out and bounded by Jonathan Danforth, Surveys.
"Additional,—Dracut township contains 22,334 acres, attests, Jo: Danforth, Surveyr.
"On the 6th of June, 1702, it was ordered by
1 Several places in England hare a similar name, as Drayrott Moor in Berkshire, Drayrott-in-the-iunors in 8taffordshire, aml Drayrot-orne and Drayrot Koliat in Wiltshire. It may be that 8amuel Varnum emigrated from one of these places. in his diary, 8cwall spells the word " Dnu/ot."
the General Court that Dracut be rated with Chelmsford, as formerly, in the tax to be raised that session, and that Dracut might choose one assessor to act with those of Chelmsford."
The land of Dracut was at this period, for the most part, wild and uncultivated. The deer, the wolf, the wildcat, the beaver, and the bear still frequented the deep recesses of the wilderness and the only lines of travel were by Indian trails and bridle-paths, or by boats and rafts along the streams. It was a frontier settlement, and the Indians were held in check only by the warlike attitude of the inhabitants, by the soldiers under Major Thomas Henchman, or by those under the brave Jonathan Tyng at Dunstable.
It may be seen, by the following extracts from the records, that efforts were early made to secure the service of a minister of the gospel for the settlement. At a general meeting of the town, April 4, 1712, it was voted "Mr. Cheevers for to come to be our gospel minister if he will come on the terms we have formerly offered to him." It was also voted that "Thomas Col burn and Joseph Colburn be the committee to treat with him in the way for a settlement; also that Mr. Wigglesworth should come to preach for a time in a way to making a settlement after Mr. Cheevers has been treated with and don't come to preach in a way to making a settlement."
On the 20th of June following the town voted that "Mr. Wiggleworth should be our gospel minister to preach the gospel of Christ with us and if he will spend his days with us then we have granted to him fifty pounds in current money of New-England and as the town grows abler then to add to his salary. Also granted 80 pounds in current money of New-England for his settlement and we have three years to pay this money which is twenty six pounds thirteen shillings and four pence ft year, — also voted that Joseph Varnum, John Varnum, and Sargent Hildreth should.be the committee to treat with Mr. Wiggleworth concerning his settling with us and to receive his answer, and bring it to the town this day month."
Mr. Wigglesworth did not accept this call, but was subsequently settled over the church at the hamlet in Ipswich.
Measures were taken by the town in 1714 for the building of a meeting-house which "should be 30 feet longe and 23 feet wide." Thomas Coburn, Ezra Coburn, Joseph Coburn, Thomas Varnum, and John Varnum were appointed trustees for building the house, and were to get the "work done as cheap as they can." It was voted, xVpril l 1 of the year ensuing, to set the house "on a peice of land near the- south side of a hill called by the name of 'Flag Meadow Hill' on Thomas Varnum's land"; also to grant "one barrel of cider and such a quantity of rum as the trustees shall think needful for the raising of said meetinghouse." The meeting house stood on the south erly side of what is now " Varnum Avenue," about half a mile above Pawtucket Bridge, and was dedicated, though then incomplete, September 29, 1716.
The people now listened to as many as fifteen candidates, among whom was the Rev. David McGregor, subsequently settled at Londonderry, N. H. The call extended to him is in the following quaint language: "Dracutt, October y* 15, 17IS Mad Choice of Mr. Mackggor to settel in Dracutt to preach the Gospel and to do the Whole Work of a Settled miuistor; and likewise Voted to give to Mr. Macgregor Sixty five pounds a year for his salary for the first four years and then Seaventy pound a year till there Be fifty families in the town of Dracutt, and then it Shall Be Eighty pounds a year; and likewise voted for a settlement fifty pounds the one half the Next June inseying and the other half the next June in the year 1720."
This young clergyman did not accept the invitation; when a call was extended to the Rev. Thomas Parker of Chelmsford, which was accepted, and he was installed as pastor on the 29th of March, 1721; his salary being eighty pounds per annum and his settlement one hundred pounds. A church was organized on the same day. The income of the fishing-grounds at Pawtucket Falls was appropriated towards the payment of the salary of Mr. Parker.
Much of the territory was held as "common land," and laid out to the original settlers by a committee appointed by the proprietors for that purpose. The first book of the proprietors is extant, and serves to supply some of the deficiencies in the town records. The quaint orthography indicates that the spelling-book and dictionary had not then reached the settlement, and that the leading men had but little time while laying the foundations of the town to bestow on grammar or penmanship. The earliest entry in this curious book bears the date of 1710, and from it may be learned the names, as well as something of the
estates, of the principal settlers at that time. The first record herein made is this: —
"We do Except of y' Parsons within named to be Proprietors of the Reserved Land in the Township of Dracutt and do order thir Loots and thir Nams to be Entered in the Book of records for Dracutt accordingly, Jonathan Tyng, John Lane, John Stearns. .
"This is a trew Coppy of the Gennerall Corts order. Wittnas our Hands. Joseph Varnum, Ezekiel Cheever, James Fales.
"Dracutt Janevery f 2d 1710. These are the Nams of the men that have the Loots now in Possession with y* Consent of f Gennerall Corts Commute and sum that have souk! to outliers, with the consent of the Selectmen of the Town of Dracutt. John Varnum Joseph Colbou Ebenezer Good hew. Benjamin Barans 1 Ebenezer Goodhew 2 Ezckell Cheevers 3 James Colbon 4 Benjamin Hoore 5 Ebenezer Wright 6 Onesimus Marsh 7 Benjamin Barans 8 Solomon Wood 9 Josiah Richason 10 Nathanell Foxe 11 Anthony Neggerow 12 Ezekell Cheevers 13 William Reed U Nathauill Cheevers 15 Samuel Prime 16 John Higgosou 17.
"These are ye fifteen that Lye between mr Bellshers Farme and mr wintrips Farme and Every mans nam is seet to his Loot. samuell prime his Loot Lyes below mr wintreips Farm Lying on merimack river. John Higgosons Loot lyes on meramack river below samuell Primes Loot. Minestirs Loot and the Minestirs Farme lies att Gompos on y* North Sid of bever Brook. Solomon Woods Loot lyes on Gompos Brook. George Brouen g Joseph Crosby 3 Ezekell 4 Calbreys Balle 5. John Hayward, Cheney Flage, these two Loot Lye on the north Side of Bever Brook west of the Minestirs Farm. Sollomon Wood his Loot lyes on y* Easte Side of beaver brook and on north Sid of y* Colbons ould Meadowes. john barans, hesacaah Townasane, joseph whitter, these three Loots lys north of mr winterips Farm."
The laying out of the lands and the roads, the construction of buildings and fences, together with the clearing of the forests, the planting, the care and the harvesting of the crops, engrossed the attention and occupied most of the time of the early settlers; and the tavern, the mill, and the blacksmith shop were places of general resort for learning the news from Boston, and for discussing the concerns of the young municipality. On Sundays they crossed the river in boats or rafts to attend public worship at Chelmsford. The lots along the margins of the streams were the first ones occupied, and, as English hay was then unknown, the meadow lots were greatly coveted, as affording subsistence for the cattle during the winter season. The following is a record of a proprietors' meeting, held in the spring of 1716-17: —
"At a generall. meeting of the proprietors of the common and undivided land belonging to the Township of Dracutt legally assembled on the Last thirsday of march in the year of our lord 1716 by vertue of a warrant from justice Tying. 1, chosen for moderator for this present meeting Ezekiel Cheever, Senior. 2ly Chosen for a clarke for the proprietors afore said Nathaniel Fox. 31y Chosen for a commity to act about the undivided land belonging to the fore said proprietors Mr George Brown of Bilricah, Captain Joseph Varnum Ezekiel Cheever senr, mr Nathaniel Fox, mr Jeams Fails. 4ly Voted that this commity now chosen shall go upon the undivided land and view the land that is not yet devided and lay it out into two squadrons and the land that lyeth nearest the river lotts to be laid out into the river Lotts and that which lyeth nearest the Gumsetts Lotts to be laid out unto the Gumset Lotts. 51y Voted that there shall be a considerable quantity of upland to each mans medow laid out of the land that lyeth about his meadow laid out by the committy according to the quantity of meadow he hath and so much upland as every man hath laid to his meadow it shall be reackoned as so much of his share in the undevided land. 61y Voted that when the land is laid out into squadrons then they shall lay out unto every lott an hundred and thirty acres, or more if they shall judge it best and the next rest at the next laying out. 71y, Voted that this Committy, or the major part of them, are fully impowered to lay out all the undevided land as soone as can conveniently be done and that this committy shall be allowed for shillings a day for their service by the proprietors. 8ly, Voted that this committy shall have power to sell some of this undevided land to pay the charge of laying out the said land and the sale of the land to be posted up in some public place. 91y, Voted that for the time to come any two of the committee and the clarke shall have power to call a proprietors meeting by posting up a notification in some publick place 11 dayes before the meeting. l0ly, Voted that this committee shall have to imploy the serveir or artist so much as shall be need full and the proprietors to bare the charge of it. Illy, Voted that this committee shall
have full power to lay what high wayes they shall judge needfull. Lastly, it is Voted and agreed upon that no man shall debarr any other from coming to his meadow where there shall not be highwayes laid out, but every man shall have sufficient liberty to come at his meadow for mowing and making and carrying off his hay. These were the things that were agreed upon and Voted at this meeting. Atest, Ezekiel Cheever moderator."
It appears that one of the early settlers of Dracut was a negro, or, as it was written," neggerow," who bore the name of Anthony, or Tony. A lot of land was laid out to him in 1721, which is thus described: —
"March f 25th 1721. a Lott Laid out to Anthony of dracutt in the Reserved Land in Dracutt in the County of Middlesex in New england Containing Eighty Eight acres, be it more or Less, as it is bounded Lying Southerly of Higginsons medo, bounded Northerly on Higginsons medo Lotts, Bounded Easterly by a Line of marked Trees, Letered A, by Thorntons Land, bounded Southerly by Land Laid out to ezekiel cheever of Salem Village which was Sould to the sd Anthony. The above sd Anthony had Ten acres of Land Laid out in the bounds of the above sd Cheevers Land the Westerly Line of the above sd Anthonys Land is Pine trees by ffoxes marshes and thorntous Land, the Northwest Corner is a Stake and Stones, also another Lott of Land Laid out to anthony negro of Dracutt in the above sd Reserved Land in Dracutt Containing one Hundred and Sixteen acres, be it more or less, as the Same is bounded easterly on sd Anthonys made and Ceader Pond, Bounded Southerly with A Line of marked trees, bounded Westerly with a Line of marked Trees Lettered with A, bounded northerly by a line of marked trees by the:Land of Benjamin Wood, also another Lott of Land Laid out to the above sd anthony negro in the above Sd Reserved Land in dracutt containing four and a half acres, be it more or less, Lying westerly of his home stead house Lott, bounded easterly on sd Anthoneys house Lott and westerly by Country Road, North westerly by the Rhoad Leading from the Caneuytry to Curtises house, also another Lott Laid out to the above Said anthony negro, Lying in the above Said Reserved Land on the South Side of the Colburns New medows Bounded Southerly by a Road Leading to Ceader Pond medows westerly by the Land of benj: wood, Northerly by the Colburns new medo farme, Easterly by a Line of marked trees Caled