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GROTON was originally a grant by the general court, made May 23, 1655, of eight miles square, to Mr. Dean Winthrop
and others, at a place called Petapaway, and included the greatest part of the towns of Pepperell and Shirley,
and parts of Dunstable, Westford, Littleton, and Harvard. Mr. Dean Winthrop, being a son of John Winthrop, the
first governor of Massachusetts colony, probably named the place Groton, from the town in England whence the family
came. The grant, in the quaint language of the times, says, “the court judgeth it meet to grant the petitioners
eight miles square in the place desired, to make a comfortable plantation,” and it is ordered to be laid out “with
all convenient speed, that so no encouragement may be wanting to the petitioners for the speedy procuring of a
godly minister among them.” Among the first settiers were William Martin, Richard Blood, Robert Blood, and John
Lakin. The precise time of the first settlement is not known; but a committee of the general court, appointed October,
1659, report, that there are not above four or five families there, though "it will afford a comfortable accommodation
for sixty families at least."
The first town record to be found is as follows :- "At a generall town meeting, June 23rd, 1662, It was agreed
uppon, that the house for the minister should be set uppon the plane whare it is now framing." Also, "that
the meeting house shall be sett upon the right hand of the path, by a small white oak, marked at the sowwest side
with two notches and a blaze." The number of inhabitants increased until the year 1676, when. having been
three times attacked by the Indians, in Philip's war, they abandoned the place. A new settlement took place, it
is believed, in the spring of 1678.
The first minister of Groton was the Rev. Samuel Willard, ordained 1663, left the inhabitants in 1676. His successors
have been Gershom Hobart, ordained 1678, dismissed 1704 or 5; Dudley Broadstreet, ordained 1706, dismissed 1712;
Caleb Trowbridge, ordained 1715, died 1760; Samuel Dana, ordained 1761, dismissed 1775; Daniel Chaplin, ordained
1778, retired by reason of age 1825; Charles Robinson, installed 1826, dismissed 1838; Rev. George W. Wells, installed
Nov. 21, 1838. A Presbyterian society was incorporated in 1788, but it never had an ordained minister, and has
become extinct. In 1826, a part of the first parish seceded and formed an Orthodox society; whose ministers have
been John Todd, ordained 1827, dismissed 1833; Charles Kitteridge, installed 1833, dismissed 1835; Dudley Phelps,
installed 1836, the present minister, A Baptist society was formed in 1832, and they have Amasa Saunderson for
Groton, as now bounded, is of a very irregular shape, having many angles in its boundary lines. None of its original
boundaries are retained, except one mile on Townsend on the west, and Massapoag Pond on the N. East. Its present
area is about 27,350 acres; one fourth of the whole, viz, the central part, is an excellent soil for grass, corn,
barley, or most crops usually cultivated in New England.
The village, in the center of the town, contains two meeting houses, one academy, two district school houses, five
mercantile shops, two taverns, and seventy other dwelling houses. The engraving is a north-western view of the
Unitarian church, and the academy, seen on the right, in the southern part of the village. This place is 17 miles
from Concord, 14 to Lowell, 30 to Worcester, and 34 to Boston. Population, 2,057.
At the west part of the town, about two and a half miles from the center, on the Squannacook river, there is a
paper mill, which will employ from 8 to 10 hands. There are two tanneries, and 4 grist and saw-mills. The town
is mostly a farming town, and formerly has raised large quantities of hops, but the recent low prices have discouraged
the hop growers. In 1837, the value of clothing manufactured was $24,000; number of garments, 11,000; males employed,
3; females, 245.
The following, respecting the Indian depredations in this town, is from Dwight's Travels, vol. ii.
"Groton, in the early periods of its settlement, experienced its share of Indian depredations. It was incorporated
in 1655. In 1676, a body of savages entered it on the second of March, plundered several houses, and carried off
a number of cattle. On the ninth, they ambushed four men, who were driving their carts, killed one, and took a
second; but, while they wore disputing about the manner of putting him to death, he escaped. On the thirteenth,
about four hundred of these people assaulted Groton again. The inhabitants, alarmed by the recent destruction of
Lancaster, had retreated into five garrisoned houses. Four of these were within musket shot of each other. The
fifth stood at the distance of a mile. Between the four neighboring ones were gathered all the cattle belonging
to the inhabitants.
"In the morning two of the Indians showed themselves behind a hill, near one of the four garrisons, with an
intention to decoy the inhabitants out of their fortifications. The alarm was immediately given. A considerable
part of the men in this garrison, and several from the next, imprudently went out to surprise them; when a large
body, who had been lying in ambush for this purpose, arose instantaneously, and fired upon them. The English fled.
Another party of the Indians, at the same time, came upon the rear of the nearest garrison, thus deprived of its
defence, and began to pull down the palisades. The flying English retreated to the next garrison; and the women
and children, forsaken as they were, escaped, under the protection of Providence, to the same place of safety.
The ungarrisoned houses in the town were then set on fire by the savages.
"In a similar manner they attempted to surprise the solitary garrison, one of their people being employed
to decoy the English out of it, into an ambush in the neighbor hood. The watch, however, discovering the ambush,
gave the alarm, and prevented the mischief intended. The next day the Indians withdrew; having burnt about forty
dwelling-houses and the church, together with barns and out houses. John Monoco, their leader, during the preceding
day, with the same spirit which is exhibited with so much vanity and haughtiness in the proclamations of General
Burgoyne, the duke of Brunswick when entering France, and General Le Clerk when attacking St. Domingo, insulted
the inhabitants of Grotoa with his former exploits in burning Lancaster and Medfleld; threatened that he would
burn Groton, Chelmsford, Concord, and Boston; and declared, amid many taunts and blasphemies, that he could do
whatever he pleased. His threatening against Groton he executed; but, instead of burning the other towns, he was
taken a prisoner a few months afterwards, led through the streets of Boston with a halter about his neck, and hanged.
His three compeers in haughtiness met with a fate differing in form from his; but by the inglorious and miserable
end of their efforts are exhibited to mankind as solemn monitions of the madness, as well as impiety, of arrogating
to a human arm that disposal of events which belongs only to God. One would think, that Sennacherib and Rabshakeh
had long since taught this lesson effectually. For Monoco, ignorance may be pleaded; for the Christian boasters
there is no excuse."
Historical Collections Relating to the
History and Antiquities of
Every town in Massachusetts with
By John Warner Barber.
Published by Warren Lazell.