The Sale of Indian Land

The sales of the Indian Plantation land of Okammakemesit (located within colonial Marlborough) were of two types – direct sales to individuals and the larger sale of the remaining land to all proprietors of Marlborough.

The sale to individuals involved particular plots of developed land sold under hardship by individual natives. After King Philip’s War, most of the Praying Indians wound up in Natick, but since the Marlborough Praying Indians had no status or land holdings there, they were in dire straits.

Sarah Conomog, widow to Marlborough chief Onamog, and acting as the head of the tribe, appeared to have sales rights to much of the land. In 1677 she transferred the Planting Field as well as ten acres of land on Fort Meadow and ten acres of land on Long Meadow to Superintendent of Indian Affairs Daniel Gookin for “diverse considerations,” probably for her ongoing support. This land was mostly between Union Street and Main Street, and between Bolton Street and Rawlins Avenue, about one hundred to one hundred fifty acres in all.

The second transaction was to Samuel Stow who had moved to Marlborough from Concord. On May 16, 1683, he purchased two plots totalling twenty acres of land.  The first plot was on Spoonhill Rd and the second probably along Concord or Stow Road.  Total cost was for six pounds money and six pounds corn, or about twelve shillings per acre.  Some of this land may belong to the Marlborough Country Club and if so, it was probably an apple orchard. It must have been prime land given the relatively high price for the time.

One of the great treasures of the history of Marlborough is the collection of Indian deeds long held by descendants of the Howe family. Transcriptions of these deeds can be found at the Marlborough Historical Society. They involve transactions to Thomas Martin who moved to Marlborough from Charlestown and whose daughter married Joseph Howe, a grandson of Abraham Howe who received an original grant on present day Elm Street.

The sales include two transactions from Great James, the leader of Natick, one for twenty acres and one for twelve acres; two from Benjamin Bohow of Okammakemesit, one for eight acres and one for six acres; and one from Joshua Assant for three acres. There were forty-nine acres total and they involved bounded by Bolton Street on the east and Hudson St on the south. Prices for the land were between six and eight shillings per acre.

The last of the individual sales to be considered deserves more of our attention.  It was a sale of land on Hosmer St, and its details were only recently uncovered.  Up to now, its origin was misrepresented by Marlborough historian Charles Hudson, and this error has carried through almost to the present.  But as recently as the last few years, a descendant of William Eager, Jennifer Ehle,  has uncovered the most unusual story of Eager, an indentured servant from Scotland, who rose from dire poverty to a significant Marlborough landholder.

This story will occupy the next four columns.  The first will be a general description of the sale which is compelling in and of itself.  The second will tell the story of the battle of the Scots against the English forces of Thomas Cromwell and William Eager’s capture and prison time.  The third story will tell of Eager’s travels to America and time spent in servitude, and the fourth story will tell of his time in Marlborough.  Please consider that this history is brand new, never told in its entirety and mostly the product of Jennifer Ehle’s investigations.

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