Sailing up from Plymouth, shortly after it was settled, came the Men of Kent. They discovered this harbor and realized its future possibilities of farming and trade. The first plantations of “Satuit” were laid out by the Men of Kent before 1623 on Third Cliff and here the first windmills merged with the soft sounds of the breezes which turned their great sails.
The name Scituate is derived from an Indian word which the early settlers understood as “Satuit”, which means “Cold Brook”, and referred to the small stream flowing into the harbor. In some part of the years 1627 or 1628 a group from Plymouth increased the population of this area by bringing new arrivals from the County of Kent in England, and they formed the first permanent settlement. They laid out their village a mile or so back from the coast behind one of the cliffs, established a main street, which they named Kent Street, and assigned spaces on this street to the various householders forming the Company. They were of course under the jurisdiction of the General Court at Plymouth, and it was not until 1636 when the population had increased that permission was given to elect certain officers and to some extent carry on their own affairs. They referred to this act as the incorporation of the Town, and its boundaries were established at this time.
No other part of our country was more difficult to clear for planting than this dense New England jungle with its horse briers, elderberry, sumac and other dense undergrowth throughout which is strewed with granite rocks and stones. To clear the undergrowth, fell the trees and clear land of rocks and stumps would have been an unpleasant task, and without horses and oxen would have been almost impossible. But meantime, horses, oxen and cows had to be fed, and it was the marshlands that, in the interim, produced this feed. The hay of the marshlands of Scituate harbor and its North River was its fundamental economic factor. Corn was the only major crop grown in the area, but beans, pumpkins, rye and squash were also grown in limited quantities. The settlers learned how to grow the crops thanks to the Wampanoag Indians who lived in the area.
The Men of Kent Cemetery is a historic cemetery on Meetinghouse Lane in Scituate. The cemetery dates from the earliest days of of the settlement, estimated to have been established in 1628. It is the town’s oldest cemetery, containing the graves of some of its original settlers. The 0.75 acres cemetery is also the site where the town’s first meeting house was built in 1636.
The Williams-Barker House, which still remains near the harbor, was built in 1634 making it is one of the oldest buildings in Massachusetts. The house is believed to have served as a garrison during King Philip’s War when it was owned by Captain John Williams and the walls were reinforced with bricks. The thick wooden walls and beams were “once pierced for portholes.” The Williams and Barker families occupied the house for seven generations.
John Otis Sr, my 9th Great Grandfather, was born in 1581 in Barnstaple, Devon County, England. He married Margaret (unknown) in 1603. They had 9 children, 3 sons, and 6 daughters. In 1631, John and his family left England for the Plymouth Colony and arrived in Hingham, Plymouth Colony aboard the Ambrose. They quickly made their way to Scituate. During the division of lands in that town, a lot of 5 acres were granted to John and it bears the date, June 1, 1631. It was located in the meadow called the Home Meadow next to the cove. Here he built his home on the side of a hill.
John took the oath and was made a freeman of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay on March 3, 1635. On March 15, 1646, his house was burned to the ground, but it was soon rebuilt, and he continued to live here until his death. His wife, Margaret died on June 28, 1653. John married a widow by the name of Elizabeth Whitman Stream that same year. He died on May 31, 1657, in Scituate, at the age of 76. He was buried in “The Men of Kent” Cemetery just outside the town limit, however there is no headstone remaining.