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WOBURN HISTORY

The formal document (omitting the preamble), signed by the 32 settlers, was described as Town Orders for Woburn, agreed upon by the Commissioners at their first meeting, December 18, 1640, and (omitting preamble, but preserving verbatim spelling) is as follows:

"It is required that all persons admitted to be Inhabitance in the said town shall by voluntary Agreement subscribe to these Orders following; upon which Condistion, they are admitted.

"First Order for sixpence an acre: For the caring one [carrying one] Common Charges, all such persons as shall bee thought meete to have land and admittance for Inhabitation, shall paye for every Acre of land formerly Layd out by Charlestowne, but now in the limmets of Woburne, six pence; and for all thereafter layd out, twelve pence.

"Second order: to returne their lotts, if not improved in 15 months. "Every person talking lott or land in the said Towne shall within fifteen monthes after the laying out of the same, buld (build) for dwelling thereto and improve the said land by planting either in part or whole; or surrender the same upp to the towne againe: also they shall not make sale of it to any person but such as the town shall approve of.

"Third Order: almost fencing. That all manner of persons shall fence their Catell of all sorts either by fence or keeper; only it is required all garden plots and orchards shall bee inclosed ether by pale or otherways.

"ffouth Order about Inmats: "That Noe maner of person shall entertayne Inmate, either married or other, for longer time than three days, without the consent of fower of the Selectmen: Every person ofending in this perticqler shall paye to the use of the towne for every day they offend herein six pence".

"fivft Orcler, about timber: "That noe person shall sell or cutt any younge Oake Iyke to be good timber, under eaight inches square, upon forfitur of fivre shillings for euery such offense"..

"These Persons subscribed to these Orders:

Edward Johnson        John Carter
Edward Conuars        Jams Connars
John Mousall        Danill Bacon
Ezekill Richison        Edward Winnenny
Samuel Richison Henry Bolden
Thomas Richison ffrancis Kendall
William Lernedt        John Teed
James Thomson        Henery Tottingham
John Wright        Richard Lowden
Michall Bacon        Will. Greene
John Seers        Benjamen Butterfield
John Wyman        Henery Jefts
ffrances Wyman        Jams Parker
Mr. Thomas Graues John Russell
Nicholas Dauis        Jams Britten
Nichlas Treerice        Thomas ffuller"

(From Woburn Records, Vol. 2, p. 2).

* * *

Woburn happened this way: the settlement of Charlestowne, the most ancient town in Middlesex county, began in 1629; Thomas Graves, from Gravesend, in Kent, a surveyor and engineer for the Massachusetts Company in London, laid out the town and erected a large building for public purposes. By 1640 the Charlestown authorities, to provide for an increasing agricultural population, petitioned the General court for an addition of two square miles at her western border; the land prayed for was granted, and in October, 1640, the grant was enlarged to four square miles. The area was a wilderness. A committee from Charlestown undertook to explore it. The idea was conceived of creating a distinct town of it, instead of a village. The town of Charlestown appointed a Committee of 13 to see to the location and settlement of the new territory, but the Church of Woburn the next day appointed a Committee of seven to handle the same matter, and build a church, and had its way.

The work was formally launched by meeting held at the house of Thomas Graves December 18, 1640; the foregoing Town Orders were agreed on, and Edward Johnson elected Town Clerk or Recorder. How many men assented as colonists at this time is not indicated, but at subsequent meetings many were admitted. The precise location of the proposed town was not fixed until March-May, 1641, when the method of allotment was determined, house lots laid out, and probably some buildings erected later in the year. Until 1642, the town was called Charlestown Village.

Just when Francis and John Wyman arrived in Charlestown is not known, but Francis was only 21 in 1640, and John 19. It may be assumed, from the position of their names on the Town Orders, that they signed at or very shortly after, the initial meeting of Dec. 18, 1640. Most of the signers were resident in Charlestown.

At the general court in 1642, the town was incorporated by ordering: "Charlestown Village is called Wooborne". A general meeting was held Nov. 9, 1643, but no general choice of town officers until April 13, 1644.

Capt. Edward Johnson, one of the principal Woburn settlers, wrote in 1662 of its foundling as follows:

"This Town, as all others, had its bounds fixed by the General Court, to the contents of four miles square (beginning at the end of Charlestown bounds); the grant is to seven men of good and honest report, upon condition that within two years they erect houses for habitation thereon and soe go on to make a Town thereon, union the Act of the Court. These seven men have power to give and grant out labels unto any persons who are willing to take up their dwellings within the said precinct and to be admitted to all common privileges of the said Town; giving them such an ample portion, both of Medow and Upland, as their present and future stock of cattel and hands were like to improve, with eye had to others that might after come to populate the said town. This they did without any respect of persons; yet such as were exorbitant, and of a turbulent spirit, unfit for a civil society, they would reject; till they come to mend their manners, such same not to enjoy any freehold. These seven men ordered and disposed of the streets of the Town, as might be best for improvement of the Land, and yet civil and religious society maintained; to which end, those that had land nearest the place for Sabbath assembly, had a lesser quantity at home; and more farther off, to improve for corn of all kinds. They refused not men for their poverty, but according to their ability were helpful to the poorest sort in building their houses and distributed land to them accordingly; the poorest had six or seven acres of Medow, and twenty-five of Upland, or thereabouts. Thus was this Town populated, to the number of sixty families or thereabout; and after this manner are the Towns of New England populated. The scituation of this Town is in the highest part of the yet peopled land, neere upon the head springs of many considerable rivers, or their branches; as the first rise of Ipswitch river, and the rise of the Shashin river, one of the most considerable branches of Merrimeck, as also the first rise of Mistick River and ponds. It is very full of pleasant springs, and great variety of very good water, which the Summer's heat causeth to be more cooler, and the Winter's cold maketh more warmer; their Medows are not large, but lye in divers places to particular dwellings; the like cloth their Springs. Their land is very fruitful in many places, although they have no great quantity of plain land in any one place; yet cloth their Rocks and Swamps yield very good food for cartel; as also they have Mast and Tar for shipping, but the distance of place by land causeth them as yet to be unprofitable. They have great store of iron ore. Their meeting house stands in a small Plain where four streets meet. The people are very laborious, if not exceeding, some of them".

At first general public meeting for election of town officers, April 13, 1644, it was voted to elect seven selectmen annually to govern the town, and the following "Orders" were agreed on for the guidance of selectmen:

(1) They should always give public notice when any rate or assessment was to be made upon the inhabitants, "to the end men may shew their grevance if any bee; and mutual love and agreement may be continued, by talking ofe (off) the burden from the oppressed".

(2) When any scruples should arise in their minds, in the transaction of the affairs of the town, they should repair to the elder or elders of the church in said town for advice.

(3) They should alter no man's propriety (property?) in the town without his free consent.

(4) They should meet once a month at the least, upon the town's business; and keep a record of all orders concluded by the major part of them for the good of the town; and that they should give an account in public at the year's end of their disbursements and disposal of the town's stool; and land.

This, then, was the citizens' 'charter" to Woburn.

The records of the ancient Quarterly Courts for Middlesex county recite the details of sundry prosecutions "for manifesting contempt for the ordinance of Infant Baptism, and attending the assemblies of the Anabaptists".

Francis and John Wyman were included in a grand jury presentment against eight members in full communion with the Woburn Church, returned in October, 1671, "for refusing communion with the Church of Woburne in the Lord's Supper and rejecting the counsell of neighboring churches and all other measures for healing the disorder and scandal! thereby occasioned".

At the hearing on Dec. 16, 1671, the court declared unsatisfactory the reasons assigned in the defendants' answer, viz: conscientious scruples, - -and ordered the Church of Woburn and those of three other towns to send their elders and messengers to a meeting in the Woburn church to be attended by the defendants, and that the council "endeavor the healing of their spirits and making of peace among client according, to the word of God". The method of persuasion was at least partially successful; John was convinced of the error of his ways, apparently, and was entirely reconciled; Francis, while continuing in communion with the Church, apparently did so with reservations, as indicated by the bequest in his last will of twenty shillings each to the two elders of the Boston Baptist Church.

The duties of selectmen were not merely legislative, but administrative and executive. For over a century they ex-officio also discharged the duties of assessors and school committees. The constables were also collectors of taxes.

By levy the selectmen annually chose overseers caned Tithingmen, who were of first respectability in the town, "to have the oversight of their neighbors and see that they keep good order in their houses'', and each was assigned the names of nine or ten heads of families for his inspection anal oversight. They were required lay law to make complaint to the nearest magistrate of what they saw amiss under their inspection. From today's viewpoint, this has much the aspect of odious espionage.

By a colony law of 1642, the selectmen were required to see "that the masters of families do once a week: (at the least) catechise their children and servants in the grounds and principles of religion" and if they did not have the correct answers, the masters were obliged to make them learn then.

John served as selectman in Woburn in 1666-67-68, and 1673, and Francis in 1674-75. John Wyman served as Commissioner for the Country Rate in 1656, and Commissioner of the Rate in 1672.

Their descendants, Jonathan, Jacob, Capt. Seth, David, Dea. Samuel, Paul, Ezra, Samuel Jr., Daniel, Abel and Benjamin, in the 108 years between 1694 and 1801 served an aggregate of 54 years on the board of selectmen.

Zebediah Wyman served 20 years as Recorder, or Town Clerk, and between 1744 and 1813, the office of Treasurer was filled for 44 of the 67 years by a Wyman&Dash;a Benjamin, Zebediah, or Deal Samuel.

Deal Samuel was deputy to the general court in 1773-4 and to the Provincial Congress in February of 1775; and Samuel, to the Congress at Boston in 1777.

In the 104 years between 1764 and 1868, Samuel, Zebediah, Benjamin, Marshall and Luke Wyman served as Deacons of the Woburn church, a total of 131 years.

A church building, or meeting-house, and a pastor, were considered the indispensable necessity in a new Massachusetts settlement. A rigid hold must needs be retained upon its congregation. The pastor was the most powerful man in the community, for it was unthinkable that the members of the congregation could do without him. And taxes were levied to pay his salary, and maintain the church.

Strangely, it may be thought, the colonists were not nearly so concerned in educating their children as in securing religious instruction for them. While Woburn began annual contributions to Harvard College in 1669, and its children presumably were taught to read and write, a public school, if maintained, simply was not patronized. Many parents were competent to and did teach their children the rudiments, at home, or in small groups at a nearby neighbor's, in preference to sending them, unprotected, a considerable distance over bad roads to a common school. The Indians and the wolves were a standing menace. But apparently a majority tool; the view that "book larnin"' was chiefly meant for the professions, and was of little use in the ordinary manual vocations. Anal in those days nearly everyone was a farmer, though he might have secondary vocation. So Woburn for a long period made mere pretense at obeying the law requiring maintenance of grammar schools.

A curious slant upon the rigorous views which caused punishment for tippling, and more severe punishment for the provider, was the universal custom of serving intoxicants at funerals, and the Selectmen even ordered payment of three quarts of rum for a pauper's funeral, and 14 gal. of wine for the funeral of the pastor; while, for the 1729 ordination of a new pastor, they went all out in serving 433 dinners at the town's expense, plus 6 1/2 bbl cider, 25 gal. wine, 2 gal. brandy and 4 gal. rum (the bill came to more than 2,/3 the pastor's salary for a year); At in other respects the selectmen were parsimonious, and, perhaps, abstemious.

John and Francis bought of Pres. Dunster of Harvard College his Shawshin grant of 500 acres; the deed is dated May 10, 1655, a few days before Shawshin became Billerica, and describes the land: ``500 acres lying scituate at Shawshin betwixt the lands of Capt. Gookin up the streame and lands lately given to Edward Collins down the streame of Shawshin river, bounded on the Woburn line on that end which toward Woburn insided, and reaching onwards toward the township so far as to make up due measure! ". The price paid was 100 pounds sterling.

About 1669, John and Francis united to buy the Coltman grant, of about 500 acres, in the northwest part of Woburn, for which they paid 25 pounds sterling, each, to the executor of the will of Martha Coltman Coggin.

To settle the question as to whether Woburn or Billerica should tax the Wyman lands, a committee appointed by the General Court in October, 1669, advised:

"Whereas Francis and John Wyman, Sen., have their present habitations near the Lyne and enjoying much of ye livelyhood and benefit at both Towns, and may partake of the public ordinances in both places, they the said Wymans shall contribute equally to both Towns in all public charges both civil and eclisiasticall".

And the Court accepted and confirmed the report. In 1672 the Mans petitioned for release from Billerica. Billerica instructed the selectmen to prosecute them for not paying their dues, but lost the case: and apparently the Wymans escaped further double taxation

Francis Wyman and his son Francis Jr., and John Wyman and his son, John Jr., fought in King Philip's war, as members of Capt. Prentice' cavalry troop. On December 19, 1675, in the Swamp, or Narragansett Fort, battle, John, Jr., was slain. Francis, Jr. was in the same battle and died April 26, 1676, presumably from wounds or illness contracted there. John, Jr. was Cornet (3d ranking officer) in the troop, afterward promoted to Lieut. after his death, his father was made Lieut.&Dash;he was wounded, also.

Some 58 years later, the general court of Massachusetts granted to 120 ax-soldiers, or their representatives, the township later known as Templeton, Massachusetts, as a belated bonus, including one lot to the sons of each John Sr. and John Jr. and to Benjamin Wyman, on account of his father, Francis, Sr. under whose will he was residuary devised.

John Wyman unwittingly left for posterity a pen picture of the colonist's troubles in that period. Constable John Seers (he of the original Woburn 32) petitioned the general court, charging John had refused to allow him to impress his horse for military duty. The petition and the written answer of John were duly preserved in the Massachusetts Archives, Vol. 69, pp. 1, 2, 3.

John's answer presents, in its original form, a splendid example of execrable though phonetic orthography. Its phraseology indicates that a scrivener or attorney drew the answer, rather than John. With the spelling corrected to 20th century standards, the answer follows:

`'To the much honored and right worshipful governor, the rest of the honored council, in General Court assembled in Boston:

The humble petition of John Wyman humbly showeth:

That upon complaint made by John Seers to your Honors, my humble defense, craving, your clemency to hear these few lines, humbly showeth that your humble suppliant was called to the country service against the barbarous heathen, up on the high places of the field, upon jeopardy of my life, and did God and the country the best service I could; and it was hard service for man and horse. Soon after I came home my man was pressed into the country's service, (he was tanner by trade; I had nearly set up the trade and left no artisan to carry it on), and continues with them in service to this day, and bath had no release to this day; which bath been a very great embarrassment to me; then in December last, I was called to go in the Country service again, and had none to fool; after my tan yard all the time till I came home, and I suffered much by that, besides what I suffered by being wounded by the enemy, and by the hard service and the extremity of the cold; and my son being slain by the enemy in the fight, did come very hard unto me; and I have not been well ever since; and, with the cries of the orphans and the widow, cloth pierce my heart; and I think I have carried my part in the war, and now I am at an hour's warnings, upon all accounts, to serve the country; my horse was and is much called out both in the summer and winter: arid ashen he came to press, my horse fleas but newly come out of the Coventry service, being called out at a quarter of an hour's warning; and I had no other horse but a poor mare which was for the mill, to grind bark, and for myself to scout upon, and to set out the scouts, and to warn the scouts and the squadron in the town, the warders, the watches, after I calve home from the war; and to call the youth together, to cut brush up; and the desire is, and bath been my practice, to make effort by the help of God, when I have been caller!, to do God and the Country the best service I can, and to keep a horse fit to do the Country service; or else it is a delusion to that end. I have been at more than ordinary charge to keep my horse for that end; when I have done so and have done my utmost, to have my horse pressed from me for a foot soldier, and myself pressed to drive a cart for one week;, together, and to lie at one hour's warning with my horse and arms to fight the enemy&Dash;I would entreat your honors' help and relief herein; and I have my own wife to look after, besides this; it is very hard, and as Jacob said, I and mine have served the country and have born the heat of the day and the cold of the night, and my pay bath been hard words for my hard labor, and jeopardizing, of my life; awl yet I am willing to do God and the Country the best service I can when I shall be called thereto. And my mare he had, that was for the upholding of my life, he pressed away that night he complains to your honors of, for a post, as he said, and she was returned home again, it is true, but almost ready to die; for she would neither eat hay nor grass and she hath not been fit to do me one day's work ever since; nor hath not. This man cloth not consider that the breach of our Church peace to lie at his door, and those that have been faithful to him in the cause of God,&Dash;to pay them in this way will not do. And besides he wanted but two horses, and them he had before he came to my house; as it will appear. And my humble request is to this much honored Court and Council that my servant might have a release for the present, that I may recruit him with clothes, for be bath been out nine months or thereabouts, and bath had no release ever since. And so shall your suppliant ever pray for your prosperity." . . . May the 12; '76 JOHN WYMAN,

* * *

Immediately following the above, John Wyman filed a petition with the General court (Vol. 69, p. 4) setting up (';spelling ours") that "Your petitioner hath often been out on the service of the country against the Indians, his son was also out and slain by the enemy; and his servant hath been long out in the war; and now being reduced to great want for clothing, desires liberty to come down from Hadly where be now remains a garrison soldier; and he is a tanner by trade, and your petitioner bought him on purpose for that management of his tan yard; and himself beings inexperienced in that calling, doth humbly request the favor of your honors to consider the premises and to grant his said servant Robert Simpson a dismission from this present service, so that his leather now in the fatts (vats?) may not be spoiled, but your petitioner be ever engaged to pray, &c.

JOHN WYMAN

The stern court, however inflicted a penalty of ten shillings against John.

* * *

John and Francis Wyman had both town and farm houses. The houses, in Woburn, were nearly opposite the site of the (present?) park named "Wyman Green" at the junction of Wyman and Main Streets. Their tannery was also located near here, and the vats are said to be still in the earth, two or three feet below the surface. The town houses were razed long ago.

But the Francis Wyman country house still stands. It is situated near the "fertile meadows of the Shawshin River, and the whole valley is a beautiful tract of country ,quiet, peaceful and secluded, where, as a visitor expressed it, 'It is afternoon all the time'." Many of the summer visitors linger beneath the spreading branches of the great elm near the house. The highway leading to it from Burlington is "Francis Wyman Road". A bronze plate on a large rock informs the passer-by that the house was built by Francis Wyman in 1666.




History of Woburn




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