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Centennial Monograph: A Town is Born


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Centennial Monograph: A Town is Born


The story of how the town of Maynard came to be.


Elizabeth Schnair





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In order to present the story of the birth of the town of Maynard, it is necessary to learn the histories of the two parent towns from whom the land was taken for its formation in 1871. 1300 acres were taken from Stow and 1900 acres from Sudbury -- a total of five and seven tenths square miles. [Ref #1]

Sudbury had its beginning in 1638. It extended from Weston [Ref #2] (then a part of Watertown) to the Assabet River. It was the 19th town in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and only the second plantation settled away from the coastline. The settlers were Englishmen, some of whom migrated from Watertown and came to America from the ship "Arbella" a few years previously. But most of the settlers came directly from England, The Sudbury town records contain lists of the names of the settlers from Watertown and also the names of the first settlers who came from England on the "good ship Confidence" in April of 1638.

The land awarded to the settlers was allowed to them three different grants, being preceded by three different petitions.

The boundaries of the land of the first grant as established by a committee appointed by the Colony Court: are described on the Colony Records as:

"A tract of land of about 5 miles square, bounded by Concord on the North, Watertown (now Weston) on the East, and on the South a line running a little to the East of Nobscot Hill along the present Framingham and Sudbury boundary to Weston, and on the West a line two miles East of the present western boundary."

The following year an additional mile on the Southeast and Southwestern sides of the town was granted. Deeds registering purchase of the lands by the colonists from the Indians, bear the signatures of Cato and his brothers Cutchamokim and Jojenny, and were signed by Governor John Winthrop in 1648.

The third grant was made in 1649 and is known as the two mile grant. The deed for the purchase of this land from the Indians to the Colony Courts is on record at the Middlesex Registry of Deeds in Cambridge, It is dated October 15, 1684 and is signed by Indians Jehojakim, John Magnus, John Musqua, Benjamin Bohue, John and James Speen, Dorothy Wemmotoo, Humphrey Bohue, Mary Neppanum, Abigail Harding, Peter Jethro, Peter Muskquamogru, John Boman, David Mannoon, "Ancient native and hereditary Indian proprietors of this two miles of land." The price paid was "12 pounds of current money of New England" (about $60.00)

The Colony Record concerning this grant is "That Sudbury is granted two miles westward next adjoining to them for their further enlargement, provided it not prejudice William Brown in his 200 acres already granted." The land granted to Brown is described in the Colony Records as "200 acres of land to be layed out to him outside the west line of Sudbury, by Captain Simon Willard and Sergeant Wheeler, for 25 pounds. All this land was probably in that part of Sudbury which is now Maynard. It was 5 miles in length and 2 miles wide.

The Act of Incorporation for the Sudbury Plantation was drawn up and signed September 4, 1639, when the Colony Court ordered that "the new plantation by Concord shall be called Sudbury." It is thought that the name "Sudbury" was given by Rev. Edmund Brown, first minister of Sudbury who figured prominently in its settlement and v/ho came from the vicinity of Sudbury, England.

[Ref. #3] The territory of Stow as it was originally settled in 1650, was more than twice the size of its present area. It extended from the Assabet River to Lancaster and from Concord to Marlboro. From that tract of land parts of it were taken to form other towns as we now know them; These towns are Harvard, incorporated in 1733, Shirley in 1764, Boxboro in 1783, Hudson in 1866. In 1871, 1300 acres
and 800 inhabitants from the easterly section was taken towards the formation of the Town of Maynard.

Although Stow was one of the earliest Colonial towns it was difficult to assign settlers there. The first settlements were made by Matthew Boone in 1660 near the Sudbury lines and by John Kettle in 1663 near the Lancaster border. Much of the area, however, was woodland and the meadows were not as suitable for farming as were those rich and fertile fields in Concord and Sudbury. Moreover, the territory was isolated from the other two plantations by the river and the great fear of the Indians and their tomahawks contributed to the forfeiting of the Iands back to the Courts.

[Ref. #4] Again, in 1678 a committee was chosen by the court "to to lay out in the most convenient places Twelve Lots, containing 50 acres of land, as near together as they may be". The petitioners were to cast lots for these homesteads, and the place be settled with no less than 10 families. This plan worked out and by October of 1681 the inhabitants had so increased in numbers that four men were appointed by the prudential committee to take charge of the plantation. These were Thomas Steves, Bo Brown, Thomas Gates and Stephen Hall and were invested with the powers of selectmen.

By early 1683 the settlers, anxious to take their place among the Colony towns began proceedings for incorporation. In their petition to the General Court was included a list of names and a request "a suitable and comly name be given". Included in this list was the name "Stow". Governor Bradstreet had befriended a man named John Stow on the ship bearing them to the New World. When he came upon the name on the list he naturally thought of his friend and called the new town "Stow." This was May 16, 1683. Arrangements were made and deeds were drawn in 1684 to purchase formally the lands from the Indians. The signees of the deed are the same as on the deeds for the Sudbury land purchases.

It will be noted that deeds for the lands were not given to the Indians for several years after the Court grants. This was probably because the settlers themselves became doubtful as time went on that their claim to the land was valid and formal steps were taken to award payments to the Indians.

The colonies of Sudoury and Stow continued to grow and develop despite hardships incurred hy nature and conflicts with the Indians. The hub of communications in those early days were the meetinghouses for public worship. Stow's first meeting house was built in 1686 in the lower village east of the "Old Common" and was used for 30 years. As years passed, larger and more comfortable churches were built to accommodate the growing population.

The lush valley by the Sudbury River was a natural magnet to the pioneers and thus the eastern section of the plantation was found most desirous and became the center of activity from the very beginning. It was not until 1650 that development of the west side began, and this only after investigations of the country and its native inhabitants, and a substantial roadway was built to this area.

The portion of the land was called "The New Grant Lands" and was divided by the land court into squadrons: The south-east was the first squadron, the north-east the second, north-west the third, and south-west the fourth. Each squadron was divided into equal size of 140 acres and were awarded to the settlers by lot. Persons by the names of Howe, Parmenter, Woodward, Moore, Brown, Walker, Noyes, Balcolm and Rice were some of the first residents of this fine new territory and later came Fairbanks, Stone, Willis, Smith, Hayden, Maynard, Perry, Bowker, Vose, Brigham and others.

From territory in the third squadron, 'known as the ”North-West District" was taken 1900 acres to make up part of Maynard. This was the land awarded to Sudbury in 1649 which we have already described as the two-mile grant and for which about $60,00 was paid to the Indians. Its northerly boundary was a direct continuation of the Concord and Sudbury town line to the Assabet River.

The river was a favorite abode of the Nipmuc Indians. Through the years, numerous Indian relics have been uncovered along the length of the river which lends credence to this bit of history. Near the Ben Smith Dam once were found the remains of 6 Indians buried side by side, and with the remains several Indian relics. Also, along the river have been found excavations which may have been store-houses for the Indian Corn. Tradition states that the Indians once held a consultation on top of Pompasiticut Hill, overlooking Concord and Sudbury, to decide which place to destroy. Because of fear of the influence of Rev. Edward Bulkley, Concord minister, with their Great Spirit, Sudbury suffered while Concord was spared.

King Philips Indian War in April 1676 created great havoc to the Stow and Sudbury settlements and both districts were sparsely settled for a quarter of a century after this conflict.

In 1723 the inhabitants of the North-West District were successful in petitioning the Court for a division of the town of Sudbury into an East and West Precinct. This action opened the gateway to much progress in building new meeting-houses, churches, schools, mills and roads.

One of the earliest main highways in the new West Precinct was the New Lancaster Road which ran from Sudbury Center passing between Vose's Pond and the Old Rice Tavern into Stow. In 1716 the first bridge actually connecting the two towns was built over the Assabet River on the Lancaster Road and was known as the Dr. Wood's Bridge. We now know it as Russell's Bridge. Another road was the Old Marlboro and Concord Road which did exactly as the name implies - connected Concord with Marlboro and intersected with the New Lancaster’ Road at the Rice Tavern.

The lives of the early settlers in the Maynard territory depended on the products of the soil. This was good farm country and the land on Pompasiticut Hill was excellent pasturage. The great forests in the area gave purpose to several saw and grist mills, and the lumber used for increasing growth and development of the area.

For many years there was no commercial centre to the settlement of the North West District, but in due process of time inhabitants to up residences close to the Assabet River. Water power began to be used and a village was commenced.

In 1821 James and William Rice purchased a saw and grain mill previously owned by Jewell and Asa Smith which was located on the Assabet River above the location of the present mill near Mill Street and Summer Hill Road. They were the first men to use water-power in this area for manufacturing and they made spindles and other factory machinery for Smith’s mill in Peterboro, New Hampshire, and Waltham, Mass. Insufficient water pressure closed this mill.

In 1846, Mr. Amory Maynard, with his ingenious foresight in seeing great potential in water-power by the use of dams, founded the Assabet Mill with a partner, Mr. William H. Knight of Saxonville. A dam was built across the Assabet, a canal dug channeling the water into a reservoir for power through the use of water-wheels. The mill was opened early in 1847 for the manufacture of carpets and carpet yarn.

In the meantime new roads and bridges were being built affording shorter and more comfortable travel to and from the small hamlet. The Ben Smith Bridge, built in 1816, opened the Great Road and made travel from Sudbury to Stow more direct, The Paper Mill Bridge, crossing the Assabet on Lower Main Street was built in 1840. In 1848 was built the Main Street Bridge at "Mr. Knight’s Factory".

The organization of churches began not long after the place began to develop into a rapidly expanding factory village.

In 1839 an Evangelical Church was founded in Stow. In 1850 a large number of the parishioners left to help organize the Union Congregational Church at Assabet Village. Services were first held in the railroad station until 1852 v/hen it was voted "to build a church on apiece of land on the south side of the road on the Stow side of the river " donated specifically for the church by Messrs, Knight and Maynard.

The Methodists held meetings at the Uason Street School until 1868 when they leased Union Hall on Main Street. The present church was built in 1895,

The Roman Catholic congregation built its first chapel in 1864 and was administered to by priests from Marlboro and Concord.

The laying of the railroad was an important historical action. The Marlboro Branch of the Fitchburg Railroad was laid in 1849, extending from South Acton through Stow to Hudson and Marlboro. It was the introduction into the area of the first new method of transportation since the stage coaches. Also it did much to expedite the shipping of freight to and from the Assabet Mill Works.

Thus it was --- a town was born. Assabet Village became the by-product of man's ingenuity and his natural inclination for continuous development. He used the virgin forests, the sloping pastures, the fertile fields, the strength of running streams, and harnessed these gifts of nature to his brain and brawn.

The small village adopted the name "Assabet" from the river dividing the two parent towns. On documents dated about 1650 the river is spoken of as Asibeth, and also Isabaeth, derivations of the Indian word Assabet, which name has been in use on all maps and documents since 1850. It means, in Algonquin language, "the place where materials for making fishnets grows".

Before 1870 it "became obvious that the small village should become an independent town, and legal procedures were instituted to make it one. The village had a population twice as large as either Stow or Sudbury. It had 500 registered voters who were forced to Journey several miles to a polling-place over rough country roads. It needed street lights, roads, sidewalks, police, and schools which the parent towns were wont to supply. Diversified interests also existed. Assabet village was given to manufacturing -- the others to agriculture.

On January 26, 1871, Mr, Henry Fowler, and 70 other residents of the village submitted to the Legislature the following bill:

To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:

The undersigned citizens and legal voters of the Northern part of Sudbury and the Eastern part of Stow, being the parts of said town commonly called Assabet, unto your Honorable Body respectfully represent; that they are situated in the extreme part of the towns to which they belong; that they are at the distance of five miles from the center of Sudbury and three miles from the center of Stow; that there is no convenient intercourse by any regular mode of conveyance with these centres; that from all these causes. and from their variance with said towns in pursuits and interests, they are subject to great and injurious inconveniences in exercising their legal rights as voters and citizens; that they are deprived of their fair share of Educational Advantages and street improvements according to their taxation; that these evils are oppressive and can only be remedied by incorporating your petitioners into a distinct municipality; that the territory which they desire to have incorporated into a town contains above fifteen hundred inhabitants, more than three hundred families, and over two hundred legal voters; that it contains taxable property to the amount of eight hundred thousand dollars, included in which is a large and quickly growing woolen manufactory with a very important water-power, and a paper mill, and that the above liberal valuation is constantly increasing; that a branch of the Fitchburg Railroad passes through the center of said territory;
that while it will be of great advantage to your petitioners that said territory be incorporated into a town it will not deprive the before mentioned towns of any considerable proportional part of their territory.

Wherefore, your petitioners pray that the above named territory may he incorporated into a town bearing the name of MAYNARD, with all the powers, privileges, rights and liabilities of towns, and with substantially the following boundary lines:

Beginning at the north-west corner of the farm of the late Daniel Whitney; thence running southerly to the road westerly of the house of Jonathan P. Bent; thence more easterly on a straight line to the town line separating Stow from Hudson; thence easterly on said town line to the South East corner of Stow ; thence North Easterly on a straight line crossing Bottomless and Willis Pond to the Concord town line, at or near the place familiarly known as Dungee Hole; then North Westerly on said town line of Concord on the town line of Acton to the point of beginning.

Furthermore your petitioners pray that an equitable share of all funds, credits, and other public property, real and personal may be decreed to them, and that they may be required to assume and pay their just portion of the debts and liabilities of their respective towns, that is to say that that portion of said territory which belongs to Sudbury may be decreed to pay its just portion of the debts and liabilities of Sudbury, and that that portion which now belongs to Stow may be decreed to pay its just proportion of the debts and liabilities of Stow, such portions to he assessed when, and in what manner commissioners appointed by your Honorable Body may determine; and for all which your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray.

The petition is signed by Henry Fowler and 70 others.

Not unexpectedly, Mr. Fowler’s petition triggered strong reaction from both Stow and Sudbury,

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