Deerfield — Settlement, Indian Purchase

Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.

      Having laid out the grant according to the direction of the court, Dedham proceeded to perfect its title, according to the policy of the colony, by buying the land of the native claimants. June 4, 1666, two men were appointed by the town "to employ the Worshipful Col. Pynchon to buy the Indian title in the 8000 acres." It appears that on the 6th of June, 1667, he had expended £40 in this service. Previous to this date he had procured two deeds,—one from Wut-taw-o-lunck-sin, of an unknown date, the other dated Feb. 24, 1666-67, from "Chank, Sachem of Pacumtuck," "for himself and his Brother Wap-a-ho-ale." This is given below.
      June 13, 1667, another deed was signed by Ma-se-a-mot, alias Mil-ke-na-way, conveying all his rights save the liberty of fishing. On the 22d of July, 1667, an unreserved sale of all his land at Pocomptuck was made by A-him-un-quat, his brother Grin-mach-chue receiving from the pay "20 fadam, and approved of the sale of the land." These three deeds were procured by John Pynchon, and were made running to "Maj. Eleaser Lusher and Daniel Fisher, of Dedham, their Associates, and theire heires and assigns for ever." The consideration paid Col. Pynchon for these purchases was £96 10s.
      On the 6th of August, 1672, Col. Pynchon obtained from Masshalisk, mother to Wuttawoluncksin, the deed of a large lot of land lying on the Connecticut, in payment of her son's debts to Pynchon, he being at this time dead. Pynchon does not appear to have ever laid claim to this land under this deed, and there is reason to think that it covered the same tract previously sold by Wuttawoluncksin to Dedham. The price paid the Indians for the Pocomptuck lands seems trifling; if the deeds covered the whole grant, the price was about three pence per acre. The land was of no use to the Indians at that time; they could not occupy it as a residence for fear of the Mohawks, and they reserved all that was of real value to them,—the right of hunting, fishing, and gathering nuts. Not a very high value was put upon this land by the new owners. They paid nearly one-tenth of the whole grant for locating and surveying it; and soon after the purchase a large tract, covering some of the choicest meadow-land, was offered for eight pence per acre. In view of all the facts, it appears that a fair price was paid the Pocomptucks for their lands.
      Having taken these measures to secure its title, Dedham set about plans for a settlement on the grant. It is an interesting fact that, so closely did the footsteps of advancing civilization follow upon the heels of retiring barbarism, on the very day that the sachem of Pocomptuck set his mark to the deed conveying all his Pocomptuck lands to the English forever, the people of Dedham, in town-meeting assembled, imposed a tax upon these very lands for the support of a Christian ministry there. The vote ran, "That each proprietor's land there shall pay annually toward the maintenance of an orthodox minister there two shillings for every cow-common that he shall keep in his own hand, whether he shall be living there or at Dedham." Whether on account of this tax, or for other reason, many cow-commons (or rights) at Pocomptuck were put upon the market about this time.
      Gov. Leverett bought 312 acres, which he sold to Col. Pynchon, Oct. 31, 1667, for "6 pounds current money of New England, and for several barrels of tar in hand paid." Before the settlement more than 2000 acres had passed from the Dedham owners.
      The 8000-acre grant was made to the "proprietors of Dedham," and their individual right in the grant was the same as that by which they held shares in the common land in Dedham. This latter was held in 523 shares, called "cow-commons," and the same rule applied to the newly-acquired territory.

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03 Aug 2005