Yarmouth, Barnstable Co., MA
Division of the Common Lands
History of Old Yarmouth
Comprising the Present Towns of
Yarmouth & Dennis From the Settlement to the
Division in 1794 with the History
Of Both Towns to These Times
Charles F. Swift
Yarmouth Port, 1884
[Transcribed by Jane Devlin]
The town had now been settled about seventy years. The first comers had been gathered to their fathers, and their children and grandchildren were filling their places and carrying forward the work for which they had so bravely toiled. The original estates of the first-comers had necessarily been divided and sub-divided, the area of improved lands to each proprietor had been considerably restricted, and it was found desirable to make a division of the common lands among the rightful proprietors. Grants of these lands had been made, from time to time, by the committees appointed by the court. The first record of these grants was commenced in 1672, and the record reads, "John THACHER was appointed to keep this book and enter records therein." The committee were, Mr. Edmund HAWES, Thomas BOARDMAN, Mr. Thomas HOWES, Andrew HALLET, John THACHER. Afterwards added by the court, in the place of Capt. HOWES & Andrew HALLET, Jeremiah HOWES, John MILLER. This committee disposed of the lands from time to time to a limited extent.
In February, 1710, the town voted to choose a committee to draw up for the consideration of the proprietors at the next meeting, some plan for a division of the common lands; and Col. THACHER, Mr. John HALLETT, Samuel STURGIS, Mr. Joseph HALL & Zachariah PADDOCK, Jr., were chosen the committee. In April of the same year, the committee made their report, which was accepted by the town. The recommended that the division be made on the following plan, viz: 1st. That one third of the commons shall be apportiond to tenements, the owners to be inhabitants of the town, or the children or successors of those now inhabitants who have tenement rights, or of those who were freeholders in 1661, and had borne charge in settling the town, and that no person should have to exceed two tenement rights. 2d. One-third to all male persons 21 year of age & over, born in town and now inhabitants, or those not born here who have been inhabitants 21 years, and hve possessed a tenement 21 years. 3d. One-third, according to real estate, as each person was rated in 1709.
A committee was then chosen to report a lost of persons in the town entitled to a portion of the public lands, and the number of shares to which each one is entitled, the committee consisting of Col. THACHER, Samuel STURGIS, Joseph HALL, John HOWES, Peter THACHER. The committee reported May 23d, and thier report was confirmed. The town then chose a committee of relief, to hear and report on such as might feel aggrieved at the committee's report, the relief committee consisting of Samuel STURGIS, Levi HOWES, Zachariah PADDOCK, Jr., Joseph HALL & John HOWES. The relief committee reported the ensuing August, making but few changes from the original report.
In February, 1711, the Proprietors of the common lands met, and agreed that one-third of the undivided lands be laid out to the individual proprietors, according to thier interest therein, for planting lots, and one-third more for wood lots, and Col. John THACHER, Mr. John HALLET, Mr. Elisha HALL, & Mr. Joseph HALL were appointed a committee for that purpose. The committee were also authorized to lay out such highways & private ways in those undivided lots as they deemed proper. "The whole number of shares is 3135" [afterwards altered to 3118.] The Proprietors' clerk was directed to make out a list of Proprietors from the town book and record them, and a list is given below. By a general average, 9 shares were assigned to each tenement right, and 7½ to each personal right. No person was to have more than two of the former, and there were only four persons in town found to be entitled to more than one, viz: Col. John THACHER, Joseph HALL, Jonathan WHITE & Ebenezer HOWES. All the residue over the tenement and personal rights was on account of proportionate ownership in the taxable real estate in town.
The division was made by lot, and the drawings were completed and choice made during the summer of 1712. A large portion of these lots have remained in the families of the first owners down to the present time.
[Transcriber's note:-- The number following each name is the number of shares to which that person was entitled.]
Attest, Samuel STURGES, Proprietor's Clerk
It was agreed that the last third part of the commons and all the cedar swamps, marsh & meadow, shall be laid out into lots, "in bigness equally according to value for quantity and quality; leaving and allowing all convenient ways as they shall think needful, and what land they shall set out for the Indians to live upon, what the committee shall think fit to lie for trainings, to erect meeting-houses and dig clay upon," etc. The proprietors made choice of Dea. Joseph HALL, Mr. Peter THACHER, & Mr. Josiah MILLER for the committee to lay out the aforesaid last third part of the common lands. March 2, 1715, it was voted "that the Indian lands shall be governed by the Selectmen; and that neither the English nor the Indians shall be permitted to bark or chip trees to draw turpentine, and any person so offending shall pay 10s. for any such tree so chipped and barked, to be recovered in any court competent to try the same.: The division was made by lot 14 Jul 1715, to the same Proprietors or their successors as the second division. This division absorbed the great bulk of the common lands, except a few spots reserved for exceptional purposes, as already indicated.
The particular locality reserved for the use and occupation of the Indians is particularly described in the Proprietors' records, and is in the following words:
"A piece of land laid out in Yarmouth for our Indians to live upon, belonging to this town, beginneth at the Bass River at the West end of Joseph ELDREDGE's land, leaving an open way from said river two rods wide, between said land and said ELDREDGE's field to the way, and so over the way to a small oak tree marked, thence from said oak tree sets N.N.W. as trees are marked, 180 rods to the E. end of the Long Pond, thence sets by said pon on the S. side 136 rods to a maple tree marked, thence sets S.S.E. as trees are marked about 212 rods to the bank of the river to a pine tree marked, thence it sets Easterly by said river to the first mentioned way between said ELDRIDGE's land and said piece of land laid out to said Indians, only reserving a way along said river below the bank upon the flats, for the convenience of the inhabitants of siad town, wholly open. Also reserving the way wholly open that leads from Abisha MERCHANT's to Nathaniel BAKER's." Those familiar with old landmarks in that portion of the towship included in the present "Friends' village," in South Yarmouth, will be able to measurably define the limits of this reservation.