Historical Sketch of Chelmsford, MA
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IN 1652, about twenty persons from Woburn and Concord petitioned the general court for liberty to examine a tract of land “lying on the other (west) side of Concord river.” This request was granted; and having, by a committee, examined the land, and having found others, to the number of thirty nine in all, desirous of uniting with them in erecting a new plantation, they jointly petitioned the iegisiatuIe for a grant of land, bordering upon the river Merrimac, near to Pawtuckett. They stated that there was a very “comfortable place to accommodate a company of God’s people upon, who may with God’s blessing do good in that place for church and state. They requested that said tract of land might begin on Merrimac river, at a neck of land on Concord river, and so to run up by said river south and west, into the country, to make up a quantity of six miles square. About the same time, a petition was presented to the legislature by Rev. John Eliot of Roxbury, agent and trustee for the Indians, for a grant of land lying about Pawtuckett and Wamesit falls, to he appropriated to the sole and exclusive use of the tribe inhabiting thereabouts. This land, called the Great Neck, was the principal habitation of the Pawtucketts, once the most powerful tribe north of the Massachusetts. Here they had erected wigwams, and broken up land for planting. The court, taking into consideration both petitions, directed that both an Indian and an English plantation should be laid out.

The plantation constituting the original Chelmsford was in the form of a parallelogram or oblong square. The town was incorporated in 1655, and received its name from Chelmsford in England county of Essex, which derived its name from the river Chelmer, on which it is situated. In 1656, the bounds of the town were enlarged. This additional tract comprised the whole of the territory now comprised within the town of Westford. To this tract the Indians had a common right with the inhabitants of Chelmsford. The tract on which the Indians lived was styled Wamesit. The Indians, from various causes, rapidly decreased, and having little or no use for their lands, sold them to the English. The first English settlements made on the Indian plantation were on the borders of Concord river, upon a plat of ground much resembling a heater, which gave rise to the name of Concord River Neck. William How was the first weaver in the town. He was admitted an inhabitant as early as 1656, and granted twelve acres of meadow and eighteen of upland, "provided he set up his trade of weaving and perform the town's work." In the same year, 450 acres of land were granted to Samuel Adams, "provided he supply the town with boards at three shillings per hundred, or saw one log for the providing and bringing of another to be ready to work the next March." To this were added 100 acres more, in consideration of his erecting a corn mill, and to give him still farther encouragement, they passed an order, "that no other corn mill should be erected for this town, provided, the said Adams keep a sufficient mill and. miller."

Chelmsford is remarkably diversified by meadows and swamps, uplands and forest trees of various kinds, and intersected by brooks and rivulets. Upon the Merrimac and Concord, much of the land is alluvial and fertile. Thence proceeding south-west lies a pine plain, shallow and sandy, called Carolina plain, upwards of a mile wide, intersecting the north east and south west part of the town. The western part of the town is rocky. There are two villages in the town, one near the central part. the other, callea Middlesex village, is in the north part of the town, where the Middlesex canal joins the Merrimac. The manufacture of glass has been carried on in this place for many years. The granite of this town is much used and highly valued for building. The University Hall, at Cambridge, many houses in Boston, and the Presbyterian church in Savannah, Georgia, were built of this stone. In 1837 there were seven air and cupola furnaces in this town, and one glass manufactory; value of glass manufactured, $30,000; hands employed, 30; one scythe manufactory; value of scythes manufactured, $12,500; twelve hands employed; capital invested, $10,750; 1 machine shop, which employed 20 hands; 1 hat manufactory; value of hats manufactured, $32,500. Population, 1,613. Distance, 9 miles from Concord, 4 from Lowell, and 25 from Boston.

The origin of the first church in Chelmsford is not certainly known. Its existence probably commenced about the arrival of Rev. John Fiske, the first minister, in 1654 or 1655. He was past the meridian of life when he commenced the work of the ministry in this uncultivated and thinly peopled town. For several years there was no other minister nearer than Concord and Wobum. "Coming from a paradise of pleasure in England to a wilderness of wants," his patience and fortitude were put to a severe trial. His care for the souls of his flock committed to him was unremitting, while his medical skill imposed upon him arduous additional duties. His services as a physician were of inestimable value in the new townships where he resided after he came to America. Upon the earnest solicitation of his people he composed a new catechism for the use of their children. It was printed at their expense in 1657, by Samuel Green, Cambridge. It is styled the "Watering of the Plant in Christ's Garden, or a short Catechism for the entrance of our Chelmsford. children. Enlarged by a three fold Appendix." After he had been many Lord's days carried to the church in a chair, and preached, as in primitive times, sitting, he, on Jan. 14, saw a rest from his labors.*

The following account of the visit of the Rev. John Eliot and Gen. Gookin to the Indians at Pawtucket falls, is from "Gookin's Historical Account of the Indians," written in 1674.**

"May fifth, 1674, according to our usual custom, Mr. Eliot and myself took our journey to Wamesit or Pawtucket; and arriving there that evening, Mr. Eliot preached to as many of them as could be got together, out of Mat. xxii. 1-14, the parable of the marriage of the king's son.

"We met at the wigwam of one called Wannalancet, about two miles from the town, near Pawtucket falls, and bordering upon the Merrimack river. This person, Wannalancet, is the eldest son of old Pasaconaway, the chiefest Sachem of Pawtucket. He is a sober and grave person, and of years, between fifty and sixty. He hath been always loving and friendly to the English. Many endeavours have been used several years to gain this Sachem to embrace the christian religion; but he hath stood off from time to time, and not yielded up himself personally, though for four years past he hath been willing to hear the word of God preached, and to keep the Sabbath. A great reason that hath kept him off I conceive, hath been the indisposition and aversion of sundry of his chief men and relations to pray to God, which he foresaw would desert him in case he turned christian. But at this time, May 6, 1674, it pleased God so to influence and cvcrcomc his hcart, that, it being proposed to him w give his answer concerning prayer to God, after some deliberation and serious pause, he stood up and made a speech to this effect:

"Sirs, you have been pleased for four years last past, in your abundant love, to apply yourselves particularly to me and my people, to exhort, press, and persuade us to pray to God. I am very thankful to you for your pains. I must acknowledge, said he, I have all my days used to pass in an old canoe, (alluding to his frequent custom to pass in a canoe upon the river) and now you exhort me to exchange and leave my old canoe, and embark in a new canoe, to which I have hitherto been unwilling; but now I yield up myself to your advice, and enter into a new canoe, and do engage to pray to God hereafter.

"This his professed subjection was well pleasing to all that were present, of which there were some English persons of quality; as Mr. Richard Daniel, a gentleman that lived in Billerica, about six miles off; and Lieutenant Henchman, a neighbour at Chelmsford; besides brother Eliot and myself, with sundry others, English and Indians. Mr. Daniel, before named, desired brother Eliot to tell this Sachem from him that it may be whilst he went in his old canoe he passed in a quiet stream; but the end thereof was death and destruction to soul and body; but now he went in a new canoe, perhaps he would meet with storms and trials; but et he should he encouraged to persevere, for the end of his voyage would be everlasting rest. Moreover, he and his people were exhorted by brother Eliot and myself to go on and sanctify the Sabbath, to hear the word and use the means that God had appointed, and encourage their hearts in the Lord their God. Since that time I hear the Sachem doth persevere, and is a constant and diligent hearer of God's word, and sanctifieth the Sabbath, though he doth travel to Wamesit meeting every Sabbath, which is above two miles; and though sundry of his people have deserted him, since he subjected to the gospel, yet he continues and persists."

The following are the inscriptions on the monuments of the second and fourth ministers in this town:

Memento mon. Fugit hora. Huic pulveri mandate sunt Reliquae Rev. Dom. Thom. Clark, Gregis Christi Chelmfordianae Pastoris eximii; qui fide et spe beats resurrectionis animam. In sinum Jesu expiravit die VII Decembris, Anno Domini 1704. aetatis suae 52.

[The remains of the Rev. Thomas Clark, the faithful Pastor of the flock of Christ in Chelmsford, are here committed to the dust. In the faith and hope of a blessed resurrection, he breathed his soul into the bosom of Jesus, Dec. 7, 1704, in the 52 year of his age, (and 27 of his ministry.)]

By the church of Christ in CHELMSFORD, in testimony of their esteem and veneration, this sepultrial stone was erected to stand as a sacred memorial of their late worthy pastor, the Rev. EBENEZER BRIDGE, who, after having officiated among them in the service of the sanctuary for more than a year above half a century, the strength of nature being exhausted, sunk under the burden of age, and joined the congregation of the dead, Oct. 1, 1792, AE 78.


* Rev. Mr. Allen's History of Cheimsford, published 1820.

** "Maj. General Gookin of Cambridge, the author of this account of praying towns, was the superintendent of all the Indians that had subjected themselves to the provincial government. He was accustomed to accompany Mr. Eliot in his missionary tours. While Mr. Eliot preached the gospel to the Indians, General Gookin administered civil affairs among them. In 1675, when Philip's war broke out, the English inhabitants generally were jealous of the praying Indians, and would have destroyed them, had not General Gookin and Mr. Eliot stepped forth in their defence. The Christian Indians were for a while kept on one of the islands in Boston harbor through fear of their becoming traitors and going over to the enemy. The issue proved that these fears were entirely groundless. Not a single praying Indian went over to the enemy. This fact affords abundant encouragement to civilize and christianize the savages of our western forests. This is the most effectual way to preserve our frontier settlements from savage butchery. General Gookin died in 1687, an old man, whose days were filled with usefulness."-Moor's Life of Eliot.

Historical Collections Relating to the
History and Antiquities of
Every town in Massachusetts with
Geographical Descriptions.
By John Warner Barber.
Published by Warren Lazell.


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