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THIS is an ancient town, it being settled the same year as Boston, in 1630. The first Englishmen who are known
to have visited the place were Mr. Wareham and some of his people, who afterwards settled Dorchester; for an account
of which the reader is referred to the history of that town in this work. The place in Watertown where they remained
a few days is stated yet to bear the name of Dorchester Fields. Shortly after their removal, a permanent establishment
was effected by another company. A party of the adventurous emigrants who came in Winthrop's fleet, with Sir Richard
Saltonstall and Rev. George Phillips at their head, selected a place on the banks of Charles river for their plantation.
On the 7th of Sept., 1630, (O. S.) the court of assistants, at Charlestown, "ordered that Trimountain be called
Boston, Mattapan, Dorchester, and the town on Charles river, Watertown."
The name of Watertown is said to have originated from the circumstance of its being a "well watered place,"
or, perhaps, from its being situated on a considerable fresh water river, and the communication with Boston being
at first by water, in boats. The Indian name of the town was Pigsgusset. The territory thus called Watertown was.
like most of the towns of that early period, very large, and its boundaries on the west side for a considerable
time somewhat undefined. Waltham, Weston, and a part of Lincoln, were once comprehended within its limits. There
are no means of ascertaining with precision the number of the first inhabitants, but it appears by the town records
that in 1636 there were 108 townsmen. Probably the original number in 1630 was considerably less than this. The
following list is copied from Watertown record book first, and were names of persons who shared in a division of
lands at Beaver brook, "divided and lotted out by the Freemen to all the Townsmen then inhabiting, being 108
Geo. Phillips, pastor,.....
John Smith, sen.,
Sir Rich. Saltoustall,
John Smith, Jr.,
The first church in Watertown was gathered on the 30th of July, 1630, upon a day set apart for "solemn fasting
and prayer," which had been appointed by Gov. Winthrop, on account of the prevailing sickness in the settlements.
Cotton Mather says that Rev. Mr. Phillips, with about 40 men, settlers of Watertown, on that occasion subscribed
the covenant, in order unto their coalescence into a church estate. The Hon. James Savage, in a recent Investigation
of the subject, makes the first church in Boston and the Watertown church precisely coeval, assigning the origin
of both to the 30th of July, 1630.
The first minister of Watertown was the Rev. George Phillips, who continued in that office 14 years. At the first
court of assistants, held at Charlestown, on board the Arabella, it was ordered that, as speedily as might be convenient,
houses should be erected for the ministers at the public charge. Sir Richard Saltonstall "undertook to have
this done for Mr. Phillips," and for salary he was to have £30 annually. The first meeting house stood
on the north side of the road to Cambridge, near the old burying yard; there was a common before it, which was
used as a training field. Mr. Phillips was sole minister of Watertown till 1639. in that year, Rev. John Knowles,
"a godly man, and prime scholar," arrived in New England, and in December was ordained second pastor
of the church, in connexion with Mr. Phillips. In 1612, Mr. Knowles went to Virginia, where he preached a short
time, but returned again to Watertown. He remained there a while after his return, but finally returned to England,
after an absence of 11 years. He died in London, in 1685. at a very advanced age. On the 1st of July, 1644, died
Rev. George Phillips. He is said to have been an able controversial writer. Mr. Phillips was succeeded in the ministry
by Rev. John Sherman, a native of Dedham, Essex county, England. He was educated at Emanuel College, Cambridge,
hut left college when ready for a degree, under the character of a college puritan. In 1634-5 he emigrated to New
England. He preached his first sermon at Watertown under a large tree, as an assistant to Mr. Phillips. His per.
formance was much admired by several ministers present. Soon after this, he removed to New Haven colony, and preached
in sundry places. The church in Milford invited him to become their teacher, but he declined, and for a time altogether
suspended his ministry, whereupon he was chosen one of the judges of the town, and a magistrate of the colony.
It was much against the wishes of the people of Milford and New Haven that he removed to Watertown. At the same
time he was invited to settle in Boston, and two churches in London tried to obtain him. He was a man of superior
intellectual endowments, was the best mathematician of the day, and left voluminous manuscripts on the science
of astronomy. Mr. Sherman was the father of 26 children, by two marriages, 6 by the first and 20 in the other.
He died in 1685, aged 72, and was succeeded by Rev. John Bailey, who was ordained in 1686. He was assisted for
a time in the ministry by his brother, Mr. Thomas Bailey, till his death, in 1689; after which, Mr. Henry Gibbs
was engaged as teacher. In 1692, Rev. John Bailey left Watertown and returned to Boston. Mr. Gibbs was now the
only minister in the town, and was engaged from time to time, but not ordained. About 1692, there was much excitement
on the subject of the location of a new meeting house. In opposition to the wishes of the inhabitants of the eastern
part of the town, it was located in the middle part. This caused a separation of the church. Mr. Gibbs continued
to preach in the old meeting-house, and appears to have been settled in 1697. The part of the society who had built
the new meeting house obtained a pastor, Rev. Samuel Angler, who was also ordained in 1697. In 1720, a committee,
appointed by the general court, to run the dividing line between the societies, decided that the western or new
meeting house should be removed to an eminence in the present town of Waltham, and that the old or east meeting-house
should be removed to the hill back of the present meeting house of the society, then called School house Hill.
Both societies soon erected new meeting houses at the places directed by the committee. The western parish, in
1787, was incorporated a distinct town, by the name of Waltham. Mr. Gibbs died in 1723, in the 56th year of his
age, and in the 27th of his ministry, reckoned from the date of his ordination. He was interred in the old burying
yard. The successor of Mr. Gibbs was Rev. Seth Storer, (of Saco, Maine, and a graduate of Harvard in 1720,) who
was ordained in 1724. He. died in 1774, aged 73.
The ministry of Mr. Storer was the longest which occurs in the history of Watertown, being half a century. The
situation of the meeting-house was removed during his ministry from the summit of the bill to the present location,
but not without much opposition. Rev. Daniel Adams was the next minister in succession from Mr. Storer, and was
ordained in 1778. He was a native of Medway, and was of the 5th generation from Henry Adams, who came from Devonshire,
England, about 1630, and settled in Braintree, (Quincy.) His ministry was short, as he died in August following
his ordination. The next pastor of this church was Rev. Richard Rosewell Eliot, a native of New Haven, Con., and
descendant of Rev. John Eliot, the memorable teacher of the Indians. He graduated at Harvard, in 1774, and was
ordained at Watertown in 17S0. He died in 1818, aged 66, and was succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. Convers
Francis ordained in 1819. The Universalist society was formed in 1826. In August, 1827, their meeting-house was
dedicated, and on that occasion Rev. Russell Streeter was installed as pastor. In 1829, he was dismissed, and in
1830 succeeded by Rev. Wm. S. Baich. The Baptist church was formed in August, 1830; when their house was dedicated,
and Rev. Peter Chase installed their pastor.
Watertown village is large and compactly built, about 6 miles from Boston. The above is a representation of the
appearance of the village as it is seen from the Newton road, on the south side of Charles river. The tower of
the Congregational (Unitarian) church, a fine Gothic structure, is seen in the distance, in the central part of
the engraving; the Baptist church is seen on the right. The United States Arsenal, occupying a site of 40 acres,
is about a mile eastward of the villager on the Boston road. The arsenal consists of several large brick buildings,
enclosed by a high fence, on the north bank of Charles river. Watertown, in extent of territory, is one of the
smallest towns in the state, containing but 3,833 6/10 acres, including land and water; the soil is generally remarkably
good. A portion of the southeastern extremity of the town is sandy, poor, and barren; but with this exception the
land is some of the most productive in the commonwealth. Population, 1,739. In 1837, there were three soap and
candle manufactories; tallow used, 300 tons; barilla, 350 tons; palm oil, 50 tons; rosin, 1,750 barrels; fuel,
375 cords; lime, 2,000 casks; salt, 1,000 bushels; capital invested, $27,000. There were 85,000 boxes manufactured,
valued at $14,000, and 1 cotton and 2 paper mills in operation.
It seems a very remarkable complaint so early as 1635, that "all the towns in the Bay began to be much straitened
by their own nearness to one another, and their cattle being so much increased." This is said to be accounted
for by the government having at first required every man to live within half a mile from the meeting house in his
town. The want of room appears from some cause to have been peculiarly felt in Watertown; and on several occasions
the inhabitants emigrated and formed new settlements. The first of these was in 1635, at the place aftervards called
Wethersfield, in Connecticut, where, as we are told, some people of Watertown, before they had obtained leave to
go beyond the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts government, "took the opportunity of seizing a brave piece
of meadow," which it seems was also coveted by their neighbors of Cambridge. This Watertown plantation at
Wethersfield was for a long course of years a scene of dissension within and without. In the course of three or
four years the church at that place fell into such a state of discord that the plantation divided, and a part removed
and settled in combination with New Haven.
Watertown in early times received but little trouble from the Indians. One remarkable instance, however, of Indian
vengeance on a citizen of this town, was the melancholy fate of Capt. John Oldham. Before the settlement of Massachusetts
Bay, he had resided in Plymouth, from which place, for some misconduct, he was expelled. He, however, was highly
respected in Watertown, and was a deputy from the town to the first general court, in 1632. He became a distinguished
trader among the Indians, and went to traffic with them at Block Island. The Indians got possession of Oldham's
vessel, and murdered him in the most shocking manner. Two boys and two Narragansett Indians the murderers had spared.
This atrocious deed excited great indignation in all the English settlements, and was one of the immediate causes
of the celebrated Pequot. war. In 1639, an order is found in the records by which "the meeting-house is appointed
for a watch-house for the use of the town," which may lead to the inference that it was thought necessary
to maintain a patrol in the night for fear of the Indians.
In the early wars of the country, and in the revolutionary war, the inhabitants of Watertown took an active part.
In the time of excitement preceding the war of American independence, the article of tea was proscribed in this
town, in the following words: Voted, "That we consent to lay aside all foreign teas, as expensive and pernicious,
as well as unnecessary; this continent abounding with many herbs of a more salubrious quality, which, if we were
as much used to as the poisonous bohea, would, no doubt, in time be as agreeable, perhaps much more so; and whilst,
by a manly influence, we expect our women to make this sacrifice to the good of their country, we hereby declare
we shall highly honor and esteem the enconragers of our own manufactures and the general use of the productions
of this continent; this being in our judgment, at this time, a necessary means (under God) of rendering us a happy
and free people." The second and third sessions of the provincial congress were held at Watertown, in the
meeting-house, within the first six months of the year 1775. Dr. Joseph Warren, the early and lamented martyr in
the cause of freedom, on the memorable 17th of June, presided at their deliberations. The congress was busy in
adopting such measures as the distracted state of the colony required. Among the few newspapers printed at that
time was "The Boston Gazette and Country Journal," published at Boston, by Edes and Gill, and was distinguished
by the spirited and fearless tone in which it defended the American cause. The press of this paper was removed
to Watertown, and the Gazette was there published for more than a year, from June 5th, 1775, to Oct. 28, 1776,
when, the British having evacuated Boston, the office was moved back.
The inhabitants of Watertown bore their part of the losses and burdens of the country at this perilous period.
One of their number was killed on the 19th of April, and many others, during the war, either died by sickness in
camp, or fell on the field of battle.
Sir Richard Saltonstall, who has been mentioned as the leader of the planters to this town, was of an ancient and
highly respectable family in Yorkshire. He was a gentleman of noble qualities of mind and heart, and has always
been deservedly regarded as one of the venerated fathers of the Massachusetts settlement. He remained in the colony
not quite a year, but was of much service to them in England, before and after his visit to America. His liberal
and tolerant spirit in religious matters was truly remarkable for the times in which he lived, and presents to
the eye of the historical inquirer a trait of character as honorable and attractive as it was uncommon. Among his
services to the colony, he was one of the early benefactors of Harvard college. He died in 1658.
The following epitaphs are copied from the old burying-ground, east of the village, on the Cambridge road:
Johannis Shermani, maximae pietatis. gravitatis et eandoris viri, in Theologia plurimum versati ; in concionando
vere Chrysostomi, et in Artibus liberalibus precipoe Mathematicis, incomparabilis; Aquitamensis ecclesiae in Nov.
Anglia fidehssimi pastoris, Collegii Harvardini inspectonis et soeii; qui postquam annis plus minus XLV Christi
fuit ------ in ecciesia fidus ; morte matura transmigravit, et a Christo palma decoratus est, A. D. MDCLXXXVI Augusti
VIII, AEtatis LXXII; memioriee.
[To the memory of John Sherman. a man of the greatest piety, dignity and candor; well versed in theology, in the
pulpit a very Chrysostom; and in the liberal arts, especially mathematics, exceedingly skilful. He was the faithful
pastor of the church at Watertown, in New England, and an overseer and fellow of Harvard college. After he had
been an undaunted servant of Christ for forty-five years. he was removed when ripe for his departure, and received
the palm from his Redeemer, on the 5th of August, 1685, in the 72d year of his age.]
Here lyes the precious dust of Thomas Bailey,
A painful preacher,
An eminent liver,
A tender husband,
A careful father,
A brother for adversity,
A faithful friend,
A most desirable neighbor,
A pleasant companion,
A common good,
A cheerful doer,
A patient sufferer,
Lived much in little time,
A good copy for all survivors.
Aged 35 years.
He slept in Jesus the 21st of January, 1688.
Pious Lydia, made and given by God
As a most meet help unto John Bailey,
Minister of the Gospel.
Good betimes-Best at last,
Lived by faith-Died in grace,
Went off singing-left us weeping,
Walked with God till translated, in the 39th yeare
of her age, April 16, 1691.
Read her epitaph in Prov. xxxi. 10, 11, 12, 28, 29, 30, 31.
Historical Collections Relating to the
History and Antiquities of
Every town in Massachusetts with
By John Warner Barber.
Published by Warren Lazell.