The Settlement Begins

In his book, “Profits in the Wilderness,” John Frederick Martin outlined four types of people needed to begin a successful colonial plantation in New England. You needed someone to deal with the Indians, someone who could win favor in colonial courts, someone who understood the complexities of the colonial land systems, and someone who could attract new settlers.

Profits in the Wilderness by John Frederick Martin

In all of these matters, Marlborough was well prepared. To confront the Indian issues, John How moved to Whipsuppnicke in 1657 and became neighbor and confidante to the Praying Indians there. From 1656 to 1659, the intended settlers negotiated with the Indians and their mentor Reverend John Eliot over the boundaries. Joseph Holmes of Roxbury, son of a close Eliot friend who had passed away, received a twenty-three acre grant in Marlborough. He never lived there and sold the land shortly after. 

Both William Ward and Edmund Rice had been members of the General Court in Boston. In addition, they enlisted Andrew Belcher, a prominent sea merchant who was granted land in both Sudbury and Marlborough. The Marlborough land was near Lake Williams and its first name became Belcher Pond. Belcher was an expert in colonial land court dealings.

Each of the first generation men had been schooled in Sudbury politics, land management, taxation and Church relationships. John Ruddock, William Ward, Edmund Rice, John How, Solomon Johnson, and Thomas King became regular members of the Board of Selectmen. In the matter of town organization, no town was better prepared than Marlborough.

As for attracting new settlers, the group of men didn’t have to look any further than their own family and friends. Of the thirty-eight initial settlers, all but a few came from Sudbury, and even fewer could be counted as not having a direct close familial or personal relationship with the dozen or so first generation men who established the grant.  Most of the sons and sons in law of these men also received grants.

The biggest hurdle to the settlement would be negotiations with the Praying Indian tribe. The Praying Indians had been granted their plantation in 1654. The original plantation had been a square area of about six square miles. But shortly after the Indians gathered there, they decided to place their planting field outside the southern border of the Indian plantation.

Charles Hudson’s map of Marlborough (modified with area names below) includes territory that would later become Southborough, Westborough, Northborough and Hudson. The Okammakemesit Plantation is shown to the northeast. It included land that began near where Marlborough Hospital is today, and extended north to the current Wood Square area in Hudson. It ran east to a point south of Mount Ward. The Planting Field was an area roughly bounded by our present Rawlins Avenue, Main Street, Bolton Street and Union Street.

Since the Planting Field was outside the borders of the land grant, but had become an essential part of the local Indian economy, new borders would be necessary to protect the Indian field from the new English plantation. Negotiations with the Indians began in 1656. Reverend Eliot represented the Indians. In 1658, a treaty was completed that redrew the borders of Okammakemesit to include the Planting Field. Note that Hudson’s current boundaries include a large jog in the northeast quadrant. I believe that this jog was to offset the land taken for the Planting Field. 

It soon after became the land of John Alcocke.  John Alcocke had been granted over 1000 acres of land by the General Court for services rendered in the rich farming area of Farm Road.  After a considerable amount of hay had been mistakenly taken from the area by the new townspeople, a controversy erupted.  In subsequent negotiations, the town was given 200 acres of this prime land, probably on present day Broadmeadow St., while Alcocke was given 200 acres land given up by the Indians in the previous land swap with the English settlers.

The treaty with the Indians also gave the new English plantation first rights to any land given up by the Indians. This would prove to be an incentive for the English to make things difficult for their Indian neighbors.  As we shall see, King Philip’s War created an opportunity for the English to press their claim.

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One thought on “The Settlement Begins

  1. Interesting read! Seems like there was a lot of intrigue and in some cases ‘Shady” deals to push the natives out. Would make a good Hjistorical Docu-drama on Livetime tv.. 😉
    Waiting for the next installment.
    TY Paul

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