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In the Classroom > Course Overview > Unit Overview > Lesson 1
Lesson 1
The First Official Frontier of the Massachusetts Bay 1

In the Significance of the "Frontier in American History," I took for my text the following announcement of the Superintendent of the Census of 1890:

Up to and including 1880 the country had a frontier of settlement but at present the unsettled areas has been so broken into by isolated bodies of settlement that there can hardly be said to be a frontier line. In the discussion of its extent, the westward movement, etc., it cannot therefore any longer have a place in the census reports.

Two centuries prior to this announcement, in 1690, a committee of the General Court of Massachusetts recommended the Court to order what shall be the frontier and to maintain a committee to settle garrisons on the frontier with forty soldiers to each frontier town as a main guard.2 In the two hundred years between this official attempt to locate the Massachusetts frontier line, and the official announcement of the ending of the national frontier line, westward expansion was the most important single process in American history.

The designation "frontier town" was not, however, a new one. As early as 1645 inhabitants of Concord, Sudbury, and Dedham, "being inland townes & but thinly peopled," were forbidden to remove without authority;3 in 1669, certain towns had been the subject of legislation as "frontier towns;"4 and in the period of King Philip's War there were various enactments regarding frontier towns.5 In the session of 1675-6 it had been proposed to build a fence of stockades or stone eight feet high from the Charles "where it is navigable" to the Concord at Billerica and thence to the Merrimac and down the river to the Bay, "by which meanes that whole tract will [be] environed, for the security & safty (vnder God) of the people, their houses, goods & cattel; from the rage & fury of the enimy." 6 This project, however, of a kind of Roman Wall did not appeal to the frontiersmen of the time. It was a part of the antiquated ideas of defense which had been illustrated by the impossible equipment of the heavily armored soldier of the early Puritan régime whose corslets and head pieces, pikes, matchlocks, fourquettes and bandoleers, went out of use about the period of King Philip's War. The fifty-seven postures provided in the approved manual of arms for loading and firing the matchlock proved too great a handicap in the chase of the nimble savage. In this era the frontier fighter adapted himself to a more open order, and lighter equipment suggested by the Indian warrior's practice.7

The settler on the outskirts of Puritan civilization took up the task of bearing the brunt of attack and pushing forward the line of advance which year after year carried American settlements into the wilderness. In American thought and speech the term "frontier" has come to mean the edge of settlement, rather than, as in Europe, the political boundary. By 1690 it was already evident that the frontier of settlement and the frontier of military defense were coinciding. As population advanced into the wilderness and thus successively brought new exposed areas between the settlements on the one side and the Indians with their European backers on the other, the military frontier ceased to be thought of as the Atlantic coast, but rather as a moving line bounding the un-won wilderness. It could not be a fortified boundary along the charter limits, for those limits extended to the South Sea, and conflicted with the bounds of sister colonies. The thing to be defended was the outer edge of this expanding society, a changing frontier, one that needed designation and re-statement with the changing location of the "West."

It will help to illustrate the significance of this new frontier when we see that Virginia at about the same time as Massachusetts underwent a similar change and attempted to establish frontier towns, or "co-habitations," at the "heads," that is the first falls, the vicinity of Richmond, Petersburg, etc., of her rivers.8

The Virginia system of "particular plantations" introduced along the James at the close of the London Company's activity had furnished a type for the New England town. In recompense, at this later day the New England town may have furnished a model for Virginia's efforts to create frontier settlements by legislation.

An act of March 12, 1694-5, by the General Court of Massachusetts enumerated the "Frontier Towns" which the inhabitants were forbidden to desert on pain of loss of their lands (if landholders) or of imprisonment (if not landholders), unless permission to remove were first obtained.9 These eleven frontier towns included Wells, York, and Kittery on the eastern frontier, and Amesbury, Haverhill, Dunstable, Chelmsford, Groton, Lancaster, Marlborough,10 and Deerfield. In March, 1699-1700, the law was reenacted with the addition of Brookfield, Mendon, and Woodstock, together with seven others, Salisbury, Andover,11 Billerica, Hatfield, Hadley, Westfield, and Northampton, which, "tho' they be not frontiers as those towns first named, yet lye more open than many others to an attack of an Enemy." 12

In the spring of 1704 the General Court of Connecticut, following closely the act of Massachusetts, named as her frontier towns, not to be deserted, Symsbury, Waterbury, Danbury, Colchester, Windham, Mansfield, and Plainfield.

Thus about the close of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century there was an officially designated frontier line for New England. The line passing through these enumerated towns represents: (1) the outskirts of settlement along the eastern coast and up the Merrimac and its tributaries,--a region threatened from the Indian country by way of the Winnepesaukee Lake; (2) the end of the ribbon of settlement up the Connecticut Valley, menaced by the Canadian Indians by way of the Lake Champlain and Winooski River route to the Connecticut; (3) boundary towns which marked the edges of that inferior agricultural region, where the hard crystalline rocks furnished a later foundation for Shays' Rebellion, opposition to the adoption of the Federal Constitution, and the abandoned farm; and (4) the isolated intervale of Brookfield which lay intermediate between these frontiers.

Besides this New England frontier there was a belt of settlement in New York, ascending the Hudson to where Albany and Schenectady served as outposts against the Five Nations, who menaced the Mohawk, and against the French and the Canadian Indians, who threatened the Hudson by way of Lake Champlain and Lake George. 13 The sinister relations of leading citizens of Albany engaged in the fur trade with these Indians, even during time of war, tended to protect the Hudson River frontier at the expense of the frontier towns of New England.

The common sequence of frontier types (fur trader, cattle- raising pioneer, small primitive farmer, and the farmer engaged in intensive varied agriculture to produce a surplus for export) had appeared, though confusedly, in New England. The traders and their posts had prepared the way for the frontier towns,14 and the cattle industry was most important to the early farmers.15 But the stages succeeded rapidly and intermingled. After King Philip's War, while Albany was still in the fur-trading stage, the New England frontier towns were rather like mark colonies, military-agricultural outposts against the Indian enemy.

The story of the border warfare between Canada and the frontier towns furnishes ample material for studying frontier life and institutions; but I shall not attempt to deal with the narrative of the wars. The palisaded meetinghouse square, the fortified isolated garrison houses, the massacres and captivities are familiar features of New England's history. The Indian was a very real influence upon the mind and morals as well as upon the institutions of frontier New England. The occasional instances of Puritans returning from captivity to visit the frontier towns, Catholic in religion, painted and garbed as Indians and speaking the Indian tongue,16 and the half-breed children of captive Puritan mothers, tell a sensational part of the story; but in the normal, as well as in such exceptional relations of the frontier townsmen to the Indians, there are clear evidences of the transforming influence of the Indian frontier upon the Puritan type of English colonist.

In 1703-4 , for example, the General Court of Massachusetts ordered five hundred pairs of snowshoes and an equal number of moccasins for use in specified counties "lying Frontier next to the Wilderness." 17 Connecticut in 1704 after referring to her frontier towns and garrisons ordered that " said company of English and Indians shall, from time to time at the discretion of their chief comander, range the woods to indevour the discovery of an approaching enemy, and in especiall manner from Westfield to Ousatunnuck.18. . . And for the incouragement of our forces gone or going against the enemy, this Court will allow out of the publick treasurie the sume of five pounds for every mans scalp of the enemy killed in this Colonie.'' 19 Massachusetts offered bounties for scalps, varying in amount according to whether the scalp was of men, or women and youths, and whether it was taken by regular forces under pay, volunteers in service, or volunteers without pay.20 One of the most striking phases of frontier adjustment, was the proposal of the Rev. Solomon Stoddard of Northampton in the fall of 1703, urging the use of dogs "to hunt Indians as they do Bears." The argument was that the dogs would catch many an Indian who would be too light of foot for the townsmen, nor was it to be thought of as inhuman; for the Indians "act like wolves and are to be dealt with as wolves." 21 In fact Massachusetts passed an act in 1706 for the raising and increasing of dogs for the better security of the frontiers, and both Massachusetts and Connecticut in 1708 paid money from their treasury for the trailing of dogs.22

Thus we come to familiar ground: the Massachusetts frontiersman like his western successor hated the Indians; the "tawney serpents," of Cotton Mather's phrase, were to be hunted down and scalped in accord with law and, in at least one instance by the chaplain himself, a Harvard graduate, the hero of the Ballad of Pigwacket, who

many Indians slew,
And some of them he scalp'd when bullets round him flew.23

Within the area bounded by the frontier line, were the broken fragments of Indians defeated in the era of King Philip's War, restrained within reservations, drunken and degenerate survivors, among whom the missionaries worked with small results, a vexation to the border towns,24 as they were in the case of later frontiers. Although, as has been said, the frontier towns had scattered garrison houses, and palisaded enclosures similar to the neighborhood forts, or stations, of Kentucky in the Revolution, and of Indiana and Illinois in the War of 1812, one difference is particularly noteworthy. In the case of frontiersmen who came down from Pennsylvania into the Upland South along the eastern edge of the Alleghanies, .as well as in the more obvious case of the backwoodsmen of Kentucky and Tennessee, the frontier towns were too isolated from the main settled regions to allow much military protection by the older areas. On the New England frontier, because it was adjacent to the coast towns, this was not the case, and here, as in seventeenth century Virginia, great activity in protecting the frontier was evinced by the colonial authorities, and the frontier towns themselves called loudly for assistance. This phase of frontier defense needs a special study, but at present it is sufficient to recall that the colony sent garrisons to the frontier besides using the militia of the frontier towns; and that it employed rangers to patrol from garrison to garrison.25

These were prototypes of the regular army post, and of rangers, dragoons, cavalry and mounted police who have carried the remoter military frontier forward. It is possible to trace this military cordon from New England to the Carolinas early in the eighteenth century, still neighboring the coast; by 1840 it ran from Fort Snelling on the upper Mississippi through various posts to the Sabine boundary of Texas, and so it passed forward until to-day it lies at the edge of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.

A few examples of frontier appeals for garrison aid will help to an understanding of the early form of the military frontier. Wells asks, June 30, 1689:

1 That yor Honrs will please to send us speedily twenty Eight good brisk men that may be serviceable as a guard to us whilest we get in our Harvest of Hay & Corn, (we being unable to Defend ourselves & to Do our work), & also to Persue & destroy the Enemy as occasion may require 2 That these men may be compleatly furnished with Arms, Amunition & Provision, and that upon the Countrys account, it being a Generall War.26

Dunstable, "still weak and unable both to keep our Garrisons and to send out men to get hay for our Cattle; without doeing which wee cannot subsist," petitioned July 23, 1689, for twenty footmen for a month "to scout about the towne while wee get our hay." Otherwise, they say, they must be forced to leave.27 Still more indicative of this temper is the petition of Lancaster, March 11, 1675-6, to the Governor and Council: "As God has made you father over us so you will have a father's pity to us." They asked a guard of men and aid, without which they must leave.28 Deerfield pled in 1678 to the General Court, "unlest you will be pleased to take us (out of your fatherlike pitty) and Cherish us in yor Bosomes we are like Suddainly to breathe out or Last Breath." 29

The perils of the time, the hardships of the frontier towns and readiness of this particular frontier to ask appropriations for losses and wounds,30 are abundantly illustrated in similar petitions from other towns. One is tempted at times to attribute the very frank self-pity and dependent attitude to a minister's phrasing, and to the desire to secure remission of taxes, the latter a frontier trait more often associated with riot than with religion in other regions.

As an example of various petitions the following from Groton in 1704 is suggestive. Here the minister's hand is probably absent:

2 And more then all this our paster mr hobard is & hath been for aboue a yere uncapable of desspansing the ordinances of god amongst us & we haue advised with th Raurant Elders of our nayboring churches and they aduise to hyare another minister and to saport mr hobard and to make our adras to your honours (we haue but liter left to pay our deus with being so pore and few In numbr ether to town or cuntrey & we being a frantere town & Iyable to clangor there being no safty in going out nor coming in but for a long time we haue got our brad with the parer of our lines & allso broght uery low by so grat a charg of birding garisons & fortefycations by ordur of athorety & thar is saural of our Inhabitants ramoued out of town & others are prouiding to remoue. axcapt somthing be don for our Incoridgment for we are so few & so por that we canot pay two ministors nathar ar we wiling to liue without any we spend so much time in waching and warding that we can doe but liter els & truly we haue liued allmost 2 yers more like soulders then other wise & accept your honars can find out some baser way for our safty and support we cannot uphold as a town ether by remitting our tax or tow alow pay for building the sauarall forts alowed and ordred by athority or alls to alow the one half of our own Inhabitants to be under pay or to grant liberty for our remufe Into our naiburing towns to tak cer for oursalfs all which if your honors shall se meet to grant you will hereby gratly incoridg your humble pateceners to conflect with th many trubls we are ensadant unto.31

Forced together into houses for protection, getting in their crops at the peril of their lives, the frontier townsmen felt it a hardship to contribute also to the taxes of the province while they helped to protect the exposed frontier. In addition there were grievances of absentee proprietors who paid no town taxes and yet profited by the exertions of the frontiersmen; of that I shall speak later.

If we were to trust to these petitions asking favors from the government of the colony, we might impute to these early frontiersmen a degree of submission to authority unlike that of other frontiersmen,32 and indeed not wholly warranted by the facts. Reading carefully, we find that, however prudently phrased, the petitions are in fact complaints against taxation; demands for expenditures by the colony in their behalf; criticisms of absentee proprietors; intimations that they may be forced to abandon the frontier position so essential to the defense of the settled eastern country.

The spirit of military insubordination characteristic of the frontier is evident in the accounts of these towns, such as Pynchon's in 1694, complaining of the decay of the fortifications at Hatfield, Hadley, and Springfield: the people a little wilful. Inclined to doe when and how they please or not at all." 33 Saltonstall writes from Haverhill about the same time regarding his ill success in recruiting: "I will never plead for an Haverhill man more," and he begs that some meet person be sent "to tell us what we should, may or must do. I have laboured in vain: some go this, and that, and the other way at pleasure, and do what they list." 34 This has a familiar ring to the student of the frontier.

As in the case of the later frontier also, the existence of a common danger on the borders of settlement tended to consolidate not only the towns of Massachusetts into united action for defense, but also the various colonies. The frontier was an incentive to sectional combination then as it was to nationalism afterward. When in 1692 Connecticut sent soldiers from her own colony to aid the Massachusetts towns on the Connecticut River,35 she showed a realization that the Deerfield people, who were "in a sense in the enemy's Mouth almost," as Pynchon wrote, constituted her own frontier36 and that the facts of geography were more compelling than arbitrary colonial boundaries. Thereby she also took a step that helped to break down provincial antagonisms. When in 1689 Massachusetts and Connecticut sent agents to Albany to join with New York in making presents to the Indians of that colony in order to engage their aid against the French,37 they recognized (as their leaders put it) that Albany was "the hinge" of the frontier in this exposed quarter. In thanking Connecticut for the assistance furnished in 1690 Livingston said: "I hope your honors do not look upon Albany as Albany, but as the frontier of your honor's Colony and of all their Majesties countries." 38

The very essence of the American frontier is that it is the graphic line which records the expansive energies of the people behind it, and which by the law of its own being continually draws that advance after it to new conquests. This is one of the most significant things about New England's frontier in these years. That long blood-stained line of the eastern frontier which skirted the Maine coast was of great importance, for it imparted a western tone to the life and characteristics of the Maine people which endures to this day, and it was one line of advance for New England toward the mouth of the St. Lawrence, leading again and again to diplomatic negotiations with the powers that held that river. The line of the towns that occupied the waters of the Merrimac, tempted the province continually into the wilderness of New Hampshire. The Connecticut river towns pressed steadily up that stream, along its tributaries into the Hoosatonic valleys, and into the valleys between the Green Mountains of Vermont. By the end of 1723, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted,--

That It will be of Great Service to all the Western Frontiers, both in this and the Neighboring Government of Conn., to Build a Block House above Northfield, in the most convenient Place on the Lands called the Equivilant Lands, & to post in it forty Able Men, English & Western Indians, to be employed in Scouting at a Good Distance up Conn. River, West River, Otter Creek, and sometimes Eastwardly above the Great Manadnuck, for the Discovery of the Enemy Coming towards anny of the frontier Towns." 39

The "frontier Towns" were preparing to swarm. It was not long before Fort Dummer replaced " the Block House,"and the Berkshires and Vermont became new frontiers.

The Hudson River likewise was recognized as another line of advance pointing the way to Lake Champlain and Montreal, calling out demands that protection should be secured by means of an aggressive advance of the frontier. Canada delenda est became the rallying cry in New England as well as in New York, and combined diplomatic pressure and military expeditions followed in the French and Indian wars and in the Revolution, in which the children of the Connecticut and Massachusetts frontier towns, acclimated to Indian fighting, followed Ethan Allen and his fellows to the north.40

Having touched upon some of the military and expansive tendencies of this first official frontier, let us next turn to its social, economic, and political aspects. How far was this first frontier a field for the investment of eastern capital and for political control by it? Were there evidences of antagonism between the frontier and the settled, property-holding classes of the coast? Restless democracy, resentfulness over taxation and control, and recriminations between the Western pioneer and the Eastern capitalist, have been characteristic features of other frontiers: were similar phenomena in evidence here? Did "Populistic" tendencies appear in this frontier, and were there grievances which explained these tendencies?41

In such colonies as New York and Virginia the land grants were often made to members of the Council and their influential friends, even when there were actual settlers already on the grants. In the case of New England the land system is usually so described as to give the impression that it was based on a non-commercial policy, creating new Puritan towns by free grants of land made in advance to approved settlers. This description does not completely fit the case. That there was an economic interest on the part of absentee proprietors, and that men of political influence with the government were often among the grantees seems also to be true. Melville Egleston states the case thus: "The court was careful not to authorize new plantations unless they were to be in a measure under the influence of men in whom confidence could be placed, and commonly acted upon their application." 42 The frontier, as we shall observe later, was not always disposed to see the practice in so favorable a light.

New towns seem to have been the result in some cases of the aggregation of settlers upon and about a large private grant; more often they resulted from settlers in older towns, where the town limits were extensive, spreading out to the good lands of the outskirts, beyond easy access to the meeting-house, and then asking recognition as a separate town. In some cases they may have been due to squatting on unassigned lands, or purchasing the Indian title and then asking confirmation. In others grants were made in advance of settlement.

As early as 1636 the General Court had ordered that none go to new plantations without leave of a majority of the magistrates.43 This made the legal situation clear, but it would be dangerous to conclude that it represented the actual situation. In any case there would be a necessity for the settlers finally to secure the assent of the Court. This could be facilitated by a grant to leading men having political influence with the magistrates. The complaints of absentee proprietors which find expression in the frontier petitions of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century seems to indicate that this happened. In the succeeding years of the eighteenth century the grants to leading men and the economic and political motives in the grants are increasingly evident. This whole topic should be made the subject of special study. What is here offered is merely suggestive of a problem.44

The frontier settlers criticized the absentee proprietors, who profited by the pioneers" expenditure of labor and blood upon their farms, while they themselves enjoyed security in an eastern town. A few examples from town historians will illustrate this. Among the towns of the Merrimac Valley, Salisbury was planted on the basis of a grant to a dozen proprietors including such men as Mr. Bradstreet and the younger Dudley, only two of whom actually lived and died in Salisbury.45 Amesbury was set off from Salisbury by division, one half of the signers of the agreement signing by mark. Haverhill was first seated in 1641, following petitions from Mr. Ward, the Ipswich minister, his son-in-law, Giles Firmin, and others. Firmin's letter to Governor Winthrop, in 1640, complains that Ipswich had given him his ground in that town on condition that he should stay in the town three years or else he could not sell it, "whenas others have no business but range from place to place on purpose to live upon the countrey." 46

Dunstable's large grant was brought about by a combination of leading men who had received grants after the survey of 1652; among such grants was one to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company and another to Thomas Brattle of Boston. Apparently it was settled chiefly by others than the original grantees.47 Groton voted in 1685 to sue the "non-Residenc" to assist in paying the rate, and in 1679 the General Court had ordered non-residents having land at Groton to pay rates for their lands as residents did.48 Lancaster (Nashaway) was granted to proprietors including various craftsmen in iron, indicating, perhaps, an expectation of iron works, and few of the original proprietors actually settled in the town.49 The grant of 1653 - was made by the Court after reciting: (1) that it had ordered in 1647 that the "ordering and disposeing of the Plantation at Nashaway is wholly in the Courts power "; (2) "Considering that there is allredy at Nashaway about nine Families and that several! both freemen and others intend to goe and setle there, some whereof are named in this Petition," etc.

Mendon, begun in 1660 by Braintree people, is a particularly significant example. In 1681 the inhabitants petitioned that while they are not "of the number of those who dwell in their ceiled houses & yet say the time is not come that the Lord's house should be built," yet they have gone outside of their strength "unless others who are proprietors as well as ourselves, (the price of whose lands is much raysed by our carrying on public work & will be nothing worth if we are forced to quit the place) doo beare an equal share in Town charges with us. Those who are not yet come up to us are a great and far yet abler part of our Proprietors . . ." 50 In 1684 the selectmen inform the General Court that one half of the proprietors, two only excepted, are dwelling in other places," Our proprietors, abroad," say they, " object that they see no reason why they should pay as much for thayer lands as we do for our Land and stock, which we answer that if their be not a noff of reason for it, we are sure there is more than enough of necessity to supply that is wanting in reason." 51 This is the authentic voice of the frontier.

Deerfield furnishes another type, inasmuch as a considerable part of its land was first held by Dedham, to which the grant was made as a recompense for the location of the Natick Indian reservation. Dedham shares in the town often fell into the hands of speculators, and Sheldon, the careful historian of Deerfield, declares that not a single Dedham man became a permanent resident of the grant. In 1678 Deerfield petitioned the General Court as follows:

You may be pleased to know that the very principle & best of the land; the best for soile; the best for situation; as lying in ye centre & midle of the town: & as to quantity, nere half, belongs unto eight or 9 proprietors each and every of which, are never like to come to a settlement amongst us, which we have formerly found grievous & doe Judge for the future will be found intollerable if not altered. Or minister, Mr. Mather . . . & we ourselves are much discouraged as judging the Plantation will be spoiled if tines proprietors may not be beg,,ed, or will not be bought up on very easy terms outt of their Right . . . Butt as long as the maine of the plantation Lies in men's hands that can't improve it themselves, neither are ever like to putt such tenants on to it as shall be likely to advance the good of ye place in Civill or sacred Respects; he, ourselves, and all others that think of going to it, are much discouraged.52

Woodstock, later a Connecticut town, was settled under a grant in the Nipmuc country made to the town of Roxbury. The settlers, who located their farms near the trading post about which the Indians still collected, were called the "go-ers," while the "stayers " were those who remained in Roxbury, and retained half of the new grant; but it should be added that they paid the go-ers a sum of money to facilitate the settlement.

This absentee proprietorship and the commercial attitude toward the lands of new towns became more evident in succeeding years of the eighteenth century. Leicester, for example, was confirmed by the General Court in 1713. The twenty shares were divided among twenty-two proprietors, including Jeremiah Dummer, Paul Dudley (Attorney-General), William Dudley (like Paul a son of the Governor, Joseph Dudley), Thomas Hutchinson (father of the later Governor), John Clark (the political leader), and Samuel Sewall (son of the Chief Justice). These were all men of influence, and none of the proprietors became inhabitants of Leicester. The proprietors tried to induce the fifty families, whose settlement was one of the conditions on which the grant was made, to occupy the eastern half of the township reserving the rest as their absolute property.53

The author of a currency tract, in 1716, entitled "Some Considerations upon the Several Sorts of Banks," remarks that formerly, when land was easy to be obtained, good men came over as indentured servants; but now, he says, they are run-aways, thieves, and disorderly persons. The remedy for this, in his opinion, would be to induce servants to come over by offering them homes when the terms of indenture should expire.54 He therefore advocates that townships should be laid out four or five miles square in which grants of fifty or sixty acres could be made to servants.55 Concern over the increase of negro slaves in Massachusetts seems to have been the reason for this proposal. It indicates that the current practice in disposing of the lands did not provide for the poorer people.

But Massachusetts did not follow this suggestion of a homestead policy. On the contrary, the desire to locate towns to create continuous lines of settlement along the roads between the disconnected frontiers and to protect boundary claims by granting tiers of towns in the disputed tract, as well, no doubt, as pressure from financial interests, led the General Court between 1715 and 1762 to dispose of the remaining public domain of Massachusetts under conditions that made speculation and colonization by capitalists important factors.56 When in 1762 Massachusetts sold a group of townships in the Berkshires to the highest bidders (by whole townships),57 the transfer from the social-religious to the economic conception was complete, and the frontier was deeply influenced by the change to "land mongering."

In one respect, however, there was an increasing recognition of the religious and social element in settling the frontier, due in part, no doubt, to a desire to provide for the preservation of eastern ideals and influences in the West. Provisions for reserving lands within the granted townships for the support of an approved minister, and for schools, appear in the seventeenth century and become a common feature of the grants for frontier towns in the eighteenth.58 This practice with respect to the New England frontier became the foundation for the system of grants of land from the public domain for the support of common schools and state universities by the federal government from its beginning, and has been profoundly influential in later Western States.

Another ground for discontent over land questions was furnished by the system of granting lands within the town by the commoners. The principle which in many, if not all, cases guided the proprietors in distributing the town lots is familiar and is well stated in the Lancaster town records (1653):

And, whereas Lotts are Now Laid out for the most part Equally to Rich and poore, Partly to keepe the Towne from Scatering to farr, and partly out of Charitie and Respect to men of meaner estate, yet that Equallitie (which is the rule of God) may be observed, we Covenant and Agree, That in a second Devition and so through all other Devitions of Land the mater shall be drawne as neere to equallitie according to mens estates as wee are able to doe, That he which hath now more then his estate Deserveth in home Lotts and enter- vale Lotts shall haue so much Less: and he that hath Less then his estate Deserveth shall haue so much more.59

This peculiar doctrine of "equality" had early in the history of the colony created discontents. Winthrop explained the principle which governed himself and his colleagues in the case of the Boston committee of 1634 by saying that their divisions were arranged "partly to prevent the neglect of trades." This is a pregnant idea; it underlay much of the later opposition of New England as a manufacturing section to the free homestead or cheap land policy, demanded by the West and by the labor party, in the national public domain. The migration of labor to free lands meant that higher wages must be paid to those who remained. The use of the town lands by the established classes to promote an approved form of society naturally must have had some effect on migration.

But a more effective source of disputes was with respect to the relation of the town proprietors to the public domain of the town in contrast with the non-proprietors as a class. The need of keeping the town meeting and the proprietors' meeting separate in the old towns in earlier years was not so great as it was when the new-comers became numerous. In an increasing degree these new-comers were either not granted lands at all, or were not admitted to the body of proprietors with rights in the possession of the undivided town lands. Contentions on the part of the town meeting that it had the right of dealing with the town lands occasionally appear, significantly, in the frontier towns of Haverhill, Massachusetts, Simsbury, Connecticut, and in the towns of the Connecticut Valley.60 Jonathan Edwards, in 1751, declared that there had been in Northampton for forty or fifty years "two parties somewhat like the court and country parties of England.... The first party embraced the great proprietors of land, and the parties concerned about land and other matters." 61 The tendency to divide up the common lands among the proprietors in individual possession did not become marked until the eighteenth century; but the exclusion of some from possession of the town lands and the "equality" in allotment favoring men with already large estates must have attracted ambitious men who were not of the favored class to join in the movement to new towns. Religious dissensions would combine to make frontier society as it formed early in the eighteenth century more and more democratic, dissatisfied with the existing order, and less respectful of authority. We shall not understand the relative radicalism of parts of the Berkshires, Vermont and interior New Hampshire without enquiry into the degree in which the control over the lands by a proprietary monopoly affected the men who settled on the frontier.

The final aspect of this frontier to be examined, is the attitude of the conservatives of the older sections towards this movement of westward advance. President Dwight in the era of the War of 1812 was very critical of the "foresters," but saw in such a movement a safety valve to the institutions of New England by allowing the escape of the explosive advocates of "Innovation." 62/p>

Cotton Mather is perhaps not a typical representative of the conservative sentiment at the close of the seventeenth century, but his writings may partly reflect the attitude of Boston Bay toward New England's first Western frontier. Writing in 1694 of "Wonderful Passages which have Occurred, First in the Protections and then in the Afflictions of New England," he says:

One while the Enclosing of Commons hath made Neighbours, that should have been like Sheep, to Bite and devour one another.... Again, Do our Old People, any of them Go Out from the Institutions of God, Swarming into New Settlements, where they and their Untaught Families are like to Perish for Lack of Vision? They that have done so, heretofore, have to their Cost found, that they were got unto the Wrong side of the Hedge, in their doing so. Think, here Should this be done any more? We read of Balaam, in Num. 22, 23. He was to his Damage, driven to the Wall, when he would needs make an unlawful Salley forth after the Gain of this World.... Why, when men, for the Sake of Earthly Gain, would be going out into the Warm Sun, they drive Through the Wall, and the Angel of the Lord becomes their Enemy.

In his essay on "Frontiers Well-Defended " (1707) Mather assures the pioneers that they "dwell in a Hatsarmaneth," a place of "tawney serpents," are "inhabitants of the Valley of Achor," and are "the Poor of this World." There may be significance in his assertion: "It is remarkable to see that when the Unchurched Villages, have been so many of them, utterly broken up, in the War, that has been upon us, those that have had Churches regularly formed in them, have generally been under a more sensible Protection of Heaven." "Sirs," he says, "a Church-State well form'd may fortify you wonderfully! " He recommends abstention from profane swearing, furious cursing, Sabbath breaking, umchastity, dishonesty, robbing of God by defrauding the ministers of their dues, drunkenness, and revels and he reminds them that even the Indians have family prayers! Like his successors who solicited missionary contributions for the salvation of the frontier in the Mississippi Valley during the forties of the nineteenth century, this early spokesman for New England laid stress upon teaching anti-popery, particularly in view of the captivity that might await them.

In summing up, we find many of the traits of later frontiers in this early prototype, the Massachusetts frontier. It lies at the edge of the Indian country and tends to advance. It calls out militant qualities and reveals the imprint of wilderness conditions upon the psychology and morals as well as upon the institutions of the people. It demands common defense and thus becomes a factor for consolidation. It is built on the basis of a preliminary fur trade, and is settled by the combined and sometimes antagonistic forces of eastern men of property (the absentee proprietors) and the democratic pioneers. The East attempted to regulate and control it. Individualistic and democratic tendencies were emphasized both by the wilderness conditions and, probably, by the prior contentions between the proprietors and non-proprietors of the towns from which settlers moved to the frontier. Removal away from the control of the customary usages of the older communities and from the conservative influence of the body of the clergy, increased the innovating tendency. Finally the towns were regarded by at least one prominent representative of the established order in the East, as an undesirable place for the re-location of the pillars of society. The temptation to look upon the frontier as a field for investment was viewed by the clergy as a danger to the "institutions of God." The frontier was "the Wrong side of the Hedge."

But to this "wrong side of the hedge" New England men continued to migrate. The frontier towns of 1695 were hardly more than suburbs of Boston. The frontier of a century later included New England's colonies in Vermont, Western New York, the Wyoming Valley, the Connecticut Reserve, and the Ohio Company's settlement in the Old Northwest Territory. By the time of the Civil War the frontier towns of New England had occupied the great prairie zone of the Middle West and were even planted in Mormon Utah and in parts of the Pacific Coast. New England's sons had become the organizers of a Greater New England in the West, captains of industry, political leaders, founders of educational systems, and prophets of religion, in a section that was to influence the ideals and shape the destiny of the nation in ways to which the eyes of men like Cotton Mather were sealed.63


Footnotes: Chapter II

1 Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, April, 1914, xvii, 25-271. Reprinted with permission of the Society.

2 Massachusetts Archives, xxxvi, p. 150.

3 Massachusetts Colony Records, ii, p. 122.

4 Ibid, vol. iv, pt. ii, p. 439; Massachusetts Archives, cvii, pp. 160-161.

5 See, for example, Massachusetts Colony Records, v, 79; Green, "Groton During the Indian Wars," p. 39; L. K. Mathews, "Expansion of New England," p. 58.

6 Massachusetts Archives, lxviii, pp. 174-176.

7 Osgood, "American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century, i, p. 501, and citations: cf. Publications of this Society, xii, pp. 38-39.

8 Hening, "Statutes at Large," iii, p. 204: cf. 1 Massachusetts Historical Collections, v, p. 129, for influence of the example of the New England town. On Virginia frontier conditions see Alvord and Bidgood, "First Explorations of the Trans-Allegheny Region," pp. 23-34, 93-95. P. A. Bruce, "Institutional History of Virginia," ii, p. 97, discusses frontier defense in the seventeenth century. [See chapter iii, post.]

9 Massachusetts Archives, lxx, 240; Massachusetts Province Laws, i, pp. 194, 293.

10 In a petition (read March 3, 1692-3) of settlers "in Sundry Farms granted in those Remote Lands Scituate and Lyeing between Sudbury, Concord, Marlbury, Natick and Sherburne & Westerly is the Wilderness," the petitioners ask easement of taxes and extension into the Natick region in order to have means to provide for the worship of God, and say:

"Wee are not Ignorant that by reason of the present Distressed Condition of those that dwell in these Frontier Towns, divers are meditating to remove themselves into such places where they have not hitherto been concerned in the present Warr and desolation thereby made, as also that thereby they may be freed from that great burthen of public taxes necessarily accruing thereby, Some haveing already removed themselves. Butt knowing for our parts that wee cannot run from the hand of a Jealous God, doe account it our duty to take such Measures as may inable us to the performance of that duty wee owe to God, the King, & our Familyes" (Massachusetts Archives, cxiii, p. 1).

11 In a petition of 1658 Andover speaks of itself as "a remote upland plantation" (Massachusetts Archives, cxii, p. 99).

12 Massachusetts Province Laws, i, p. 402.

13 Convenient maps of settlement, 1660-1700, are in E. Channing, "History of the United States," i, pp. 510-511, ii, end; Avery, "History of the United States and its People," ii, p. 398. A useful contemporaneous. map for conditions at the close of King Philip's War is Hubbard's map of New England in his "Narrative" published in Boston, 1677. See also, L. K. Mathews, "Expansion of New England," pp. 56-57, 70.

14 Weeden, "Economic and Social History of New England," pp. 90, 95, 129-132; F. J. Turner, "Indian Trade in Wisconsin," p. 13, McIlwain, "Wraxall's Abridgement," introduction, the town histories abound in evidence of the significance of the early Indian traders' posts, transition to Indian land cessions, and then to town grants.

15 Weeden, loc. cit. pp. 64-67; M. Egleston, "New England Land System," pp. 31-32; Sheidon, "Deerfield," i, pp. 37, 206, 267-268, Connecticut Colonial Records, vii, p. 111, illustrations of cattle brands in 1727.

16 Hutchinson, "History" (1795), ii, p. 129, note, relates such a case of a Groton man; see also Parkman, " Half Century," VOL i, ch. iv, citing Maurault, "Histoire des Abenakis," p. 377.

17 Massachusetts Archives, lxxi, pp. 4, 84, 85, 87, 88.

18 Hoossatonic.

19 Connecticut Records, iv, pp. 463, 464.

20 Massachusetts Colony Records, v, p. 72; Massachusetts Province Laws, i, pp. 176, 211, 292, 558, 594, 600; Massachusetts Archives, lxxi, pp. 7, 89, 102. Cf. Publications of this Society, vii, 275-278.

21 Sheldon, "Deerfield." i. p. 290.

22 Judd, "Hadley," p. 272; 4 Massachusetts Historical Collections, ii, p. 235.

23 Farmer and Moore, "Collections," iii, p. 64. The frontier woman of the farther west found no more extreme representative than Hannah Dustan of Haverhill, with her trophy of ten scalps, for which she received a bounty of £ 50 (Parkman, "Frontenac," 1898, p. 407, note).

24 For illustrations of resentment against those who protected the (Christian Indians, see F. W. Gookin, "Daniel Gookin," pp. 145-155

25 For example, Massachusetts Archives, lxx, p. 261; Bailey, "Andover," p. 179; Metcalf, "Annals of Mendon," p. 63; Proceedings Massachusetts Historical Society, xliii, pp. 504-519. Parkman, "Frontenac" (Boston, 1898), p. 390, and "Half-Century of Conflict" (Boston, 1898) i. p. 55, sketches the frontier defense.

26 Massachusetts Archives, cvii, p. 155.

27 Ibid., cvii, p. 230; cf. 230 a.

28 Massachusetts Arehives, lxviii, p. 156.

29 Sheldon, "Deerfield, i, p. 189.

30 Massachusetts Archives, lxxi, 46-48, 131, 134, 135 et passim.

31 Massachusetts Archives, lxxi, p. 107: cf. Metcalf, "Mendon," p. 130; Sheldon, "Deerfield," i, p. 288. The frontier of Virginia in 1755 and 1774 showed similar conditions: see, for example, the citations to Washington's Writings in Thwaites, "France in America," pp. 139-195; and frontier letters in Thwaites and Kellogg, "Dunmore's War," pp. 227, 228 et passim. The following petition to Governor Gooch of Virginia, dated July 30, 1742, affords a basis for comparison with a Scotch-Irish frontier:

We your pettionours humbly sheweth that we your Honours Loly and Dutifull Subganckes hath ventred our Lives & all that we have In settling ye back parts of Virginia which was a veri Great Hassirt & Dengrous, for it is the Hathins [heathens] Road to ware, which has proved hortfull to severil of ous that were ye first settlers of these back woods & wee your Honibill pettionors some time a goo petitioned your Honnour for to have Commisioned men amungst ous which we your Honnours most Duttifull subjects thought properist men & men that had Hart and Curidg to hed us yn time of [war] & to defend your Contray & your poor Sogbacks Intrist from ye voilince of ye Haithen-But yet agine we Humbly persume to poot your Honnour yn mind of our Great want of them in hopes that your Honner will Grant a Captins' Commission to John McDowell, with follring ofishers, and your Honnours' Complyence in this will be Great settisfiction to your most Duttifull and Humbil pettioners-and we as in Duty bond shall Ever pray . . . (Calendar of Virginia State Papers, i, p. 235).

32 But there is a note of deference in Southern frontier petitions to the Continental Congress--to be discounted, however, by the remoteness of that body. See F. J. Turner, "Western State-Making in the Revolutionary Era'' (American Historical Review, i, pp. 70, 251). The demand for remission of taxes is a common feature of the petitions there quoted.

33 Proceedings Massachusetts Historical Society, xliii, pp. 506 ff.

34 Ibid., xliii, p. 518.

35 Connecticut Colonial Records, iv, p. 67.

36 In a petition of February 22, 1693-4, Deerfield calls itself the "most Utmost Frontere Town in the County of West Hampshire" (Massachusetts Archives, cxiii, p. 57 a).

37 Judd, "Hadley," p. 249.

38 W. D. Schuyler-Lighthall, "Glorious Enterprise," p. 16.

39 Sheldon, "Deerfield," i, p. 405.

40 "I want to have your warriours come and see me," wrote Allen to the Indians of Canada in 1775, "and help me fight the King's Regular Troops. You know they stand all close together, rank and file, and my men fight so as Indians do, and I want your warriours to join with me and my warriours, like brothers, and ambush the Regulars: if you will, I will give you money, blankets, tomahawks, knives, paint, and any thing that there is in the army, just like brothers; and I will go with you into the woods to scout; and my men and your men will sleep together, and eat and drink together, and fight Regulars, because they first killed our brothers" (American Archives, 4th Series, ii, p. 714).

41 Compare A. McF. Davis, "The Shays Rebellion a Political Aftermath" (Proceedings American Antiouarian Society, xxi, pp. 58, 62, 75-79).

42 "Land System of the New England Colonies," p. 30.

43 Massachusetts Colony Records. i. p. 167.

44 Compare Weeden, "Economic and Social History of New England," i, pp. 270-271; Gookin, "Daniel Gookin," pp. 106-161; and the histories of Worcester for illustrations of how the various factors noted could be combined in a single town.

45 F. Merrill, "Amesbury," pp. 5, 50.

46 B. L. Mirick, "Haverhill," pp. 9, 10.

47 Green, "Early Records of Groton," pp. 49, 70, 90.

48 Ibid.

49 Worcester County History, i, pp. 2, 3.

50 J. G. Metcalf, "Annals of Mendon," p. 85.

51 P. 96. Compare the Kentucky petition of 1780 given in Roosevelt, "Winning of the West," ii, p. 398, and the letter from that frontier cited in Turner, "Western State-Making" (American Historical Review, i, p. 262), attacking the Virginia "Nabobs," who hold absentee land title. "Let the great men," say they, "whom the land belongs to come and defend it."

52 Sheldon, "Deerfield," i, pp. 188-189.

53 These facts are stated on the authority of E. Washburn, "Leicester," pp. 5-15: compare Major Stephen Sewall to Jeremiah Dummer, 1717 quoted in Weeden, "Economic and Social History of New England," ii, p. 505, note 4.

54 Compare the Virginia system Bruce, "Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century," ii, pp. 42, 43.

55 For this item I am indebted to our associate, Mr. Andrew McF. Davis: see his "Colonial Currency Reprints," i, pp 335-349

56 Hutchinson, "History of Massachusetts (1768); ii, pp. 331, 332, has an instructive comment. A. C. Ford, "Colonial Precedents of Our National Land System," p. 84; L. K. Mathews, "Expansion of New England," pp. 82 ff.

57 J. G. Holland, "Western Massachusetts," p. 197.

58 Jos. Shafer, "Origin of the System of Land Grants for Education," pp. 25-33.

59 H. D. Hurd (ed.), "History of Worcester County," i, p. 6. The italics are mine.

60 Egleston, "Land System of the New England Colonies," pp. 39-41.

61 Ibid., p. 41.

62 T. Dwight, "Travels" (1821), ii, pp. 459-463.

63 [See F. J. Turner, "Greater New England in the Middle of the Nineteenth Century,' in Ameriean Antiquarian Society "Proceedings," 1920.]

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