Early History of this Countryside

– Author not named

In 1631 Cambridge was called Newtowne. In 1635 it included Brookline, Brighton (or Little Cambridge) and Newton. Newtowne in 1638 was renamed Cambridge, after the seat of learning in England where many of the town fathers had received their education. The land on the other bank of the river (now Newton and Brighton) was at first called "the South Side of Charles River" and sometimes "Nonantum." About 1654 Newtowne became "Cambridge Village," later "New Cambridge" and was so known until 1691, when by petition of the residents it became officially "Newtown"; gradually the second w was dropped. For the first ten years of this settlement's existence, only seven families lived in Newton; during the first twenty-five years there were only twenty families. In 1644 there were twelve young men of the second generation. Sixty-five freemen lived in Newton at the time of the separation from Cambridge. In the records of 1686: "A committee was chosen to treat with Cambridge about our freedom from their town." Cambridge did not take at all kindly to this separation, but the freemen of Newtown won out.

The hamlet which became the village of Waban had its share of the earliest settlers of Newton. Back in the 1600's there were freemen living on this ground. On the west side of Moffatt Hill lived Alexander Shepard, Senior, followed in 1748 by Jeremiah Alien. The Pine Farm land (on the corner of Chestnut and Fuller Streets, the latter then called Homer) was owned successively by Samuel Craft, Samuel Murdock, Esq., and Jonathan Stone.

The land holdings of Henry Seger at the lower end of Beacon Street (then the Sherburn road) date back to 1674. Going towards Waban Square from the present fire engine station, there followed the lands of Job Seger (1709); then Jonathan Mason (1689); Daniel Mason succeeding him in 1717 and William in 1730. Where the Gould houses stood was the land of Daniel Woodward (1701), which passed from his son Daniel, Jr., to Matthius Collins in 1778.

Further down the road stood an old tavern, in 1763, run by Captain Nathan Fuller. It was torn down in 1840. That land then passed to Jonathan Woodward in 1772. It is a pity that no further record remains of this old tavern on the Sherburn road. There are other sites vaguely suggested, but this seems to be the most authentic; at any rate, there was definitely a tavern on the old Sherburn road and it was run by Captain Nathan Fuller.

The William Locke house, still standing on Beacon Street, dates back to 1784. Further down on that part of the Sherburn road, now called Woodward Street, between the village green and Chestnut Street, was the land of Eleazar Hyde (later owned by Col. Edward Wyman). John and Thomas Taylor owned a narrow strip of land which went through to Beacon Street. Beside it ran a lane which later became Allen Avenue, named for William H. Alien who lived just beyond (the Betheul-Allen house). This land was first owned by Captain John Clark in 1734, then William (1741) and Daniel (1787). The Woodward land holdings across the way date back to 1681.

The Staples-Craft-Wiswall house (later Strong, now Episcopal rectory) is, in parts, very ancient. The homestead of the Dresser family (still standing, facing Quinobequin now) and the Judge Joseph Bacon farm are also among the early properties, as is the Raymond house (acquired by Patrick and Mary Cotter), now on Fuller Street, but originally on Chestnut, built in 1787.

The first recorded grant of land in what is now Newton was in the year 1632. "Mr. Phillips hath 30 ac of land granted him upp Charles Ryver, on the south side, beginings att a creek a lyttle higher than the first pynes, and soe upwards towards the ware." In 1650 "wild land" in Newton sold for $1.25 an acre.

1701. "Voted, that the select men shall be Asesores, to Ases the contrey rates." A glance at the rating in the Assessors' books of some representatives properties of Waban Free holders of the eighteenth century:

1798 Direct Tax of the United States.
Craft Joseph. 1 house Value $245 Acres — 78 Value $2,612 Total $2,857.
Collins, Matthius. 1 house Value $215 Acres — 119
Value $2,152 Total $2,367.
Woodward, Ebenezer. 1 house Value $3.60 Acres — 117 Value $2,810 Total $3,170.

In ancient days, up to the turn of the seventeenth century, and how much longer no one knows, Newton had wolf trouble. Witness these early records

1693. Paid Joseph Fuller 20s, for killing three wolves.
1695. The Town Treasurer paid William Ward 30s. lOd.
1696. Paid Thomas Wiswall 6/8 for killing a wolf.

Also indicating the rural atmosphere:

1711. March 9 — Voted, that sheep shall go at liberty upon the commons.
1711. At the same town meeting, the citizens appointed fence viewers, tithing men, a sealer of leather, a person to take care of hogs, and one to provide a school master and agree with him.
1717. March 3 — Voted, that those that shall kil black birds from ye: 1: of April til the last of May, and bring their heads to the Court or Selectmen, shall be alowed twelve pence for dosen of the town rate.

Waban is not, after all, a "mushroom village" as people often think, but a very ancient hamlet.


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