Hometown Tuesday #40 ~ Dorchester Village, Massachusetts Bay Colony

Settled by passengers from the Mary and John about June 1, 1630, Dorchester originally was one of the largest towns in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They carried their goods back from the marshes and there built rude huts until they could provide themselves with better houses. Having finally settled, they set about building substantial frame houses, and within the next few years several houses were raised. On this hill once grew a forest of huge oak trees and as these were felled to make a clearing they were converted into timbers suitable for building purposes. In the wilds of Dorchester, this area was covered with an ancient forest.

It was a land where wolves, foxes and bears held dominion and control. Throughout the Great Blue Hills native peoples gathered to hunt and fish and send signals through the region. The area was well watered; and had very good arable grounds and hay-ground. There were fair cornfields and pleasant gardens, with kitchen gardens, In this plantation is was a great many cattle, as kine, goats, and swine. The inhabitants of this town were the first that set upon the trade of fishing in the Bay, who received so much fruit of their labors that they encouraged others to the same undertakings.

Many families among the early settlers of Dorchester carried on a trade in addition to farming the land. The town was first to use public tax money for the support of its school which was established in this town in 1639, and is said to be the very first free school in the world. Dorchester was the first in organizing the New England town government, choosing twelve men in 1633 as selectmen or townsmen. The first grist mill was started on the Dorchester bank of the Neponset River by Israel Stoughton in 1634. Walter Baker & Co., the chocolate manufacturer, was for many years the major employer in the town. Dorchester once contained the only powder-mill, the only paper-mill, the only chocolate-mill and the only playing-card factory in the whole country. Shipbuilding began on the river as early as 1640 The town had only one church, first at Pleasant and Pond Streets and later at Meeting House Hill, from 1630 until the formation of the Second Church was built in 1806.

There are a few seventeenth century connections to witchcraft. William Stoughton, Dorchester’s preeminent citizen, presided with Judge Sewall at the infamous Salem witch trials in 1692. Witchcraft was suspected throughout the early years in New England. People were being punished for the crime of witchcraft long before the celebrated trials at Salem. In Dorchester Alice Lake, wife of Henry and resident of Dorchester, Massachusetts, was convicted of witchcraft and executed about 1650. She had four young children.

One of the first English settlers of this area was David Tilden my 1st cousin 9 times removed, who was born in Scituate, Plymouth Co., Massachusetts Colony. David was one of twelve children born to Stephen Tilden and Hannah Little. David’s grandfather was Nathaniel Tilden who arrived at Plymouth Plantation in February 1634 aboard the ship The Hercules. David was born on November 6, 1685. At the age of 25 he married Abigail Pitcher age 22 on January 11, 1710. Abigail was born in Milton, Massachusetts Colony on April 26, 1688.

By the time David and Abigail had arrived in Dorchester Village, now present day Canton Corner, they found a small village. In 1654 this area had been established as the Ponkapoag Plantation, 6000 acres of land set aside for the Ponkapoag Indians. And it was from the native people that David received his deed of land. The deed signed by Amos Ahauton, Thomas Ahauton, Simon George, Hezekiah Squamaog and George Hunter, gave land ownership of 20 acres to David Tilden, Husbandman, “outdone of the English Tenants of Lessees…” for 5 pounds 15 shillings, “a certain messuage or Tenement with lands thereto belonging”.

David and Abigail had 10 children, 6 sons, and 4 daughters. David was interested in church matters and swept the meeting-house. There are reports of difficulties with neighbors, and he was once charged with being “unduly transported” with the cup that inebriates. David died July 3, 1756, at 71 years of age.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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