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The Bridgewater Deed
The area known as the Bridgewaters was originally inhabited by Wampanoag who called it Saughtuchquett (Satucket). In 1642 Marshfield was established from the northern part of Duxbury and inhabitants of the latter petitioned for compensating land in the interior. The General Court granted their petition in 1645 and six trustees were appointed to divide the land - Captain Myles Standish, John Alden, George Soule, Constant Southworth, John Rogers, and William Brett. The action by the General Court was primarily an authority to purchase land, and Captain Standish, Samuel Nash, and Constant Southworth were appointed to make the purchase. The March 23, 1649 deed which they signed with Ousamequin (Massasoit), "Sachem of the country of Poconocke," was witnessed by John Bradford and William Otway (Alias) Parker. The purchase was said to have been executed on a hill called Sachem's Rock, now contained within a town park in East Bridgewater
"Witness by these presents, that I, Ousamequen, sashim of ye countrie of Poconocket, have given, granted, enfeofed, and sold unto Myles Standish of Duxborough aforesaid, Samuell Nash and Constant Southworth of Duxborough aforesaid, in ye behalf of all ye townsmen of Duxborough aforesaid, a tract of land usually called Saughtuckett, extending in the length and breadth thereof as followeth, that is to say, from ye weare at Saughtuckett 7 miles due east, and from the said weare 7 miles due west, and from the said weare 7 miles due north, and from the said weare 7 miles due south; the wch tract the said Ousamequen hath given, granted, enfeofed and sould unto ye said Myles [Standish], Samuell Nash and Constant Southworth, in the behalf of all ye townsmen of Duxborough as aforesaid, with all the emmunityes, privileges, and profitts whatsoever belonging to the said tract of land, with all and singular all woods, underwoods, lands, medowes, rivers, brooks, rivulets, &c., to have and to houled to the said Myles Standish, Samuell Nash and Constant Southworth, in behalf of all ye townsmen of the town of Duxborough, to them and their heyers forever, in witness whereof I, the said Ousamequin, have hereunto set my hand this 23 of March, 1649.
The mark of Ousamequen
In consideration of the aforesaid bargayne and saile, now ye said Myles Standish, Samuell Nash and Constant Southworth doe bind ourselves to pay unto ye said Ousamequin for and in consideration of ye said tract of land as followeth:
|7 Coates, a yd. and half in a Coat||}|
|8 Hoews||Myles Standish|
|20 Knives||Samuell Nash|
|4 Moose Skins||Constant Southworth|
|10 yds. and half of Cotton|
Hosea Starr Ballou, in his massive series "Dr. Thomas Starr, Surgeon in the Pequot War, And His Family Connections," published in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register between 1935 and 1942, wrote about the deed. The text of the deed as given above is taken from that article, in volume 94 [July, 1940], page 242. In two footnotes on that page he explained two features of the deed - the original name of the land and the mark used as a signature by Ousaquemen:
"Saughtuckett is the name of a pond and a river (now called Satcuket) and was also called by the Indians Saguatuckett or Massaguatucket. Established as plantation in 1651, in 1656 it was incorporated as the town of Bridgewater, with tax requirements one-third those of Duxbury, viz. Duxbury paid £06:00:09 and Bridgewater only one-third, £02:00:03.
The area granted by the General Court in 1645 and that by Massasoit in this deed of 1649 did not agree; and when the bounds were questioned later in Court, a deposition by Constant Southworth and Samuel Nash (two of the three grantees named in Massasoit's deed), stated that "they purchased six (not seven) miles every way from the wear."
Originally Chikataubut, living at Neponset, claimed certain lands in this region, as did Pomponoho, sachem at Titicut, but these were bought out in 1686 and 1672, respectively.
See "Description of Bridgewater, 1818" (anonymous, but no doubt by Nahum Mitchell, later the town's historian), dated Feb. 12, 1818, in the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Second Series, vol. 7, pp. 137-176."
"This mark was a crude figure of a glove with four fingers down and a cuff in the upper portion."
On pages 242 and 243 of the same issue he wrote of the deed:
"The history of this deed is interesting, aside from its internal evidence. Mitchell implies in his "History of Bridgewater" that he had it in his possession more than a century ago. After half a century or more the late Judge B. W. Harris, of East Bridgewater, happened to discover one day a lot of old papers, induding this document, being burned in the process of clearing out a house in Bridgewater. By rare good fortune he saved it from destruction and turned it over to the Bridgewater Historical Society. That Indian deed is now the most treasured item in its whole collection, so valuable, indeed, that it is kept for safekeeping in the vault of the Bridgewater Trust Company, and can be seen only by permission of the officers of that Society. The writer was refused permission to see it in September 1939; but facsimiles of the Indian deed are preserved in several libraries, including the Treasure Room of the Boston Public Library, and by several private individuals. The deed appears never to have been recorded in the Registry of Deeds at Plymouth. Why the Indian sachem, Massasoit, used the name Ousamequen rather than his usual name in making the grant is not clear. The consideration paid for the large tract of land, fourteen miles square, appears to be ridiculously inadequate. Perhaps Massasoit considered that he was granting to the men of Duxbury joint use of the territory together with his own tribe, as has been contended in such cases by Cyrus E. Dallin, the sculptor, and many other students of Indian deeds. Such appears to have been the attitude of Massasoit when he made two grants of land to the township of Dedham, in that section toward William Blaxton's large domain in 1635 on the Pawtucket or Blackstone River, in the present township of Cumberland, R. I. In 1649 Massasoit was about sixty-nine years of age."
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USGenWeb Bridgewater, MA, commenced 06-Jul-1998.
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Revised and maintained since 26-Aug-2002 by Dale H. Cook.
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