From Daniel T.V. Huntoon's 

History of The Town of Canton, Massachusetts (1893)



Near the middle of the seventeenth century, the territory now occupied by the towns of Canton, Stoughton, and Sharon was a wilderness covered with a majestic forest. No signs of civilization were visible; wolves, foxes, and bears hold undisputed possession, and herds of deer roamed at will over this expanse.

In 1620, when the forefathers landed at Plymouth, they found the Indian chief Chicataubut in full possession of all the country. It is not now accurately known how far his jurisdiction extended. His tribe, the Massachusetts, were the next great people north of the Wampanoags, and were settled principally about Massachusetts Bay. The petty and local governors of Neponset - Nonantum, Nashaway, and Ponkapoag (or, strictly speaking, those who afterward removed to Ponkapoag) - paid tribute to him. His court was held at Braintree, which included the present towns of Randolph and Quincy; and it was never denied in his lifetime, or that of his son or grandson, that he held an undisputed possession. In 1621 he went to Plymouth, and signed a treaty with the English. He consented to the occupancy of Dorchester by the English in 1630; and it was paid for to his satisfaction. Finally, the small-pox gathered him to his fathers in 1633 ; and Kitchamakin, his brother, was appointed to govern as sachem during the minority of Josias, or Josiah Chicataubut, sometimes called Wampatuck, son of Chicataubut.

How long this savage regency continued, we know not, but Feb. 4, 1644, regent and Josias, now styled successor and heir to Chicataubut, submitted to the government of the English. Kitchamakin conveyed, Oct. 8, 1666, all the land " beyond Neponsit Mill, unto the utmost extent," to the English.

Thus ancient Dorchester, our mother town, which had until this time extended only to the top of the Blue Hill, enlarged her borders; and the General Court by order, Nov. 20, 1637, confirmed the deed from the Indians, and fixed the southern limit of the town at the Old Colony line.

Dorchester was therefore at this time the largest town in New England. Its extent maybe better illustrated by enumerating the towns it has lost since, than by specifying what it originally included. From time to time, portions have been taken to form or to increase other towns. In 1662 Milton was set off, Dorchester still holding the territory south of it; a portion was set off to Wrentham in 1724, the petitioners alleging that they "lye thirty miles from the old meetinghouse and fifteen from Puncapoug." In 1726 the South Precinct, containing the modern towns of Stoughton, Sharon, and Canton, with the lands beyond it, was incorporated under the name of Stoughton.

In 1765 Stoughtonham, now Sharon, was set off; Foxborough in 1778, and Canton in 1797. About 1739, there was set off to Dedham all the land owned by Stoughton north of the Neponset River; and about this time, Dedham and Stoughton agreed that Neponset River should in future be the boundary line between the two towns. Dorchester Heights, around which so many historical reminiscences cluster, was detached in 1804; Washington Village in 1849; in 1868 the large portion known as Hyde Park; and finally, this old town of Dorchester, with its noble history, of the 1st of January, 1870. became merged in the city of Boston, and condescended to be called the Sixteenth, subsequently the Twenty-fourth, Ward. The deed of Kitchamakin was not considered by the settles of Dorchester full enough; and in 1666 Wampatuck, — called by the English Josias, "a wise, stout man," but "a very vicious person, . . . who had considerable knowledge of the Christian religion, and had at one time professed it when he was a boy under the care of Kitchamakin,"— promised a deed "more full" than that given by Kitchamakin, of all the land in Dorchester beyond the Blue Hills within the grants of Dorchester, to the utmost extent thereof, excepting only that land which was then occupied by the Ponkapoag Indians. He engaged to give within three years a more full and complete title; but before the time designated, he had gone as chief general of the expedition to meet hostile tribes in battle, and had been killed by them. This last chief man of the royal line, says Eliot, "was slain by the Maquzogs, against whom he rashly, without due attendants and assistance, went. Yet all - yea, his enemies - say he died valiantly. They were more afraid to kill him than he was to die. Yet being deserted by-all, - some knowingly say, through treason, - he stood long, and at last fell alone. Had he but ten men -  yea, five - in good order with him, he would have driven all his enemies before him. His brother was resident with us in this town, but is fallen into sin and from praying to God." But Josias had taken the precaution before he put on his war paint to appoint Job Ahauton his true and lawful attorney; and armed with this instrument, Job, by and with the advice of Squamaug,—called by the English DanielAhauton, and Momentaug, consummated the deed on the 10th of December, 1666, agreeing, at the same time, to obtain the personal consent of his absent chief, with the rest of the council. Upon intelligence of the death of Josias, - his son, Charles Josias, not yet being of age, - Squamaug, brother of Josias, and uncle to Charles Josias, was chosen sachem of the Massachusetts Indians. He is described as residing at Ponka-poag, and in 1670 fulfilled the promise made by Job Ahauton, and confirmed to the town of Dorchester the deeds relating to the "New Grant;" and a rate of £28 was levied upon the proprietors to pay for it.

In 1671 Squamaug ratifies the deed; and Jerome, son of Josiah Chicataubut, himself "relinquished and confirmed the deed of Squamaug, my uncle."

On June 4. 1684, Charles Josiah, son of Josiah, who was the son of Chicataubut, in consideration of money paid by William Stoughton, granted to Roger Clapp, Capt. John Capen, Lieut. Richard Hall, Ensign Samuel Clapp, and Quartermaster Thomas Swift, of Milton, their heirs, etc., according to each man's respective right, the whole tract of land in the township of Dorchester south of the Blue Hills, except the "Punquapaug" Plantation. This deed was given to the proprietors of the "New Grant," or the proprietors of the common and undivided lands beyond the Blue Hills.

The next year, 1685, Josias, having "been well assured by some ancient Indians that his grandfather Chicataubut had conveyed to the English planters the tract of land on which the town of Dedham now stands, quitclaims the same."

The territory granted in 1637, and confirmed in 1720 by the General Court, to the town of Dorchester, was all the undivided and unallotted land extending from the Blue Hills to the Plymouth line. It contained over forty thousand acres of land, and was commonly called the land "beyond the Blue Hills" by the English, and after 1707 was known as the "New Grant." The upland was laid out by the proprietors into divisions, by parallel lines running from north to south, and was known as the "Twelve Divisions." The swamps and low, poor lands were excluded. A rule of proportion was made to four hundred and eighty proprietors on the 9th of May, 1737; and every inhabitant of the town had each his proportion according to the rule. An order was made Jan. 16, 1738, that all the land in Dorchester should be divided according to said rule; and the undivided land was sold to pay the expenses of surveying and laying out.

The inhabitants of Dorchester met together in 1668 and drew lots for the "Twelve Divisions." In 1695 a committee was chosen to lay out the lands unto each proprietor according to a former grant agreed upon by a vote of the proprietors in 1671. Twelve times as much land was proportioned to each proprietor as was already prefixed to each man in a list Of a single division left by Captain Breck, and at that time in the keeping of the town clerk; but it was not until 1698 that the laying out of the land was finished. Although some of these proprietors may have settled upon the land laid out to them, the owners must not be confounded with the actual settlers of the town. In some cases their children moved here and occupied the land ; in many cases it is questionable whether the "proprietor" ever set his foot on his possessions in the "New Grant."

In 1659 the proprietors gave two hundred acres of land for the use and maintenance of the ministry "to ye inhabitants of Dorchester on ye northwest side of ye river Neponset, and two hundred to the inhabitants that live on the southeast side of the river." On the first day of March, 1706, they made another grant of seventy-five acres of land, to be laid out for the use of those ministers that shall be ordained in the land belonging to Dorchester, beyond the Blue Hills, and another grant of seventy-five acres to the first minister who shall settle and remain with the inhabitants for the space of ten consecutive years. So much the proprietors did for the spiritual welfare of the early settlers. As we read fifty years later that among the earliest bells in New England was one imported from Bristol, England, weighing seven hundred and eighty-five pounds, and presented to the town of Dorchester, "the gift of the proprietors of Dorchester and Stoughton," let us not flatter ourselves that it was given by the actual settlers of what is now Canton, but by the proprietors of tiie common lands in Stoughton, mostly residents of Dorchester.

The association known as the "Dorchester Proprietors" were the owners of the wild lands in that territory now comprising the towns of Stoughton, Sharon, and Canton, with the exception of the Ponkapoag Plantation. Until late in the seventeenth century these lands were uninhabited; and to whomsoever they were assigned or sold, such persons became the lawful owners. Thus was established a system of small freeholds, which was to be a distinguishing feature in the landed history of our country. The occupants of these terms paid no annual tribute, as did their ancestors in old England, to some great proprietor,- some "Earl of Puncapog," as the Rev. Thomas Prince facetiously called himself when a boy,- but were independent. Thus was created a love of freedom, and a capacity of self-government developed, which was in after years to bear a rich and abundant fruit. Massapoag Brook, or the "East Branch of the Neponset," running through the centre of South Canton Village, was the dividing line between the Ponkapoag Plantation and the land of the Dorchester proprietors. The place where Washington Street crosses this stream is nearly identical with the spot where the old road from Milton line to Billings' tavern, in Sharon, crossed it, probably as early as 1650. At any rate, this road was in existence long before any lands were laid out in the Dorchester South Precinct, or any person had received his estate in severalty.

In 1713 the proprietors were incorporated as a distinct body, and the town of Dorchester had nothing further to do with their affairs. This same year another survey was ordered of the lands unsold or undivided south of the "Twelve Divisions," to be henceforth known as the "Twenty-five Divisions." These lines were run parallel with the old Braintree line, and were about half a mile distant from each other. Mr. James Blake was the surveyor, and his plan is still extant. A small portion of these lands only arc included in the town of Canton. The earliest map of the territory now Canton is known as the "Map of the Twelve Divisions." It gives, however, only an outline of the Ponkapoag Reservation. It was made by John Butcher, from a survey on which he spent forty-five days, and on which Thomas Vose employed fifty-three days. It bears the following legend: - "A map, plat, or draft of the Twelve Divisions of land, as they were laid out, bounded, and measured to ye proprietors in Dorchester New Grant, beyond ye Blew Hills, in ye years of our Lord 1696 and 1697. by order of ye committee impowered by ye proprietors for that work."

Another plan, based partially on this one, but from additional surveys made between the years 1716 and 1720, was - completed by James Blake, Jr., in 1727. These maps are still preserved, though much worn by time, in the Norfolk Registry of Deeds ; and several copies of them have been made. The town of Canton owns one, procured through the antiquarian enthusiasm of Ellis Ames, Esq., who, knowing the value of a duplicate in case the original was destroyed, placed the matter before the town in such a manner that a copy was ordered to be made without a dissenting vote.

Nathaniel Glover, Jr., in a petition which bears date Aug. 23, 1718, says that the lands in Dorchester beyond the Blue Hills, commonly known or distinguished by the name of the "New Grant," contained by estimation forty-two thousand acres, more or less. He also affirms that there were nine hundred acres of cedar swamp and eleven hundred acres of meadow bottom.

In December, 1753, a plan of the whole town of Stoughton was made by Joseph Hewins, Jr., but I know of no original or copy. It was probably done with especial reference to the setting off of several thousand acres of land to Wrentham.

When it was deemed by the British government that a war with the colony was inevitable, surveyors were sent into the interior to prepare a reliable map of the country. The State was surveyed in 1774. The main road appears, running substantially as at present through the town. The meetinghouse at Canton Corner, the brooks and ponds bearing the names "Mashapog" and "Ponkipog," are also delineated; Traphole Brook is called Trapall; a part of the Manatiquot River, Smelt River, and the Neponset River runs a questionable course on one side of the map.

The next map that has come under my observation in point of time appeared in, or was prepared for, the "Boston Magazine" of June, 1785. The scale is two inches to the mile. It displays the Doty tavern, the Bussey house, the Episcopal church, Bemis's mill, the old meeting-house, with the grammar school on the south, Bent's tavern ; and at South Canton, Withington's mill, Belcher's tavern, and the mill of Colonel Gridley; on Ragged Row, Pequit Brook, the old saw-mill, and Dickerman's mill are placed. The meetinghouse in modern Stoughton and Capen's tavern are on the southern limit.

The Hon. Elijah Dunbar, who was a mathematician and surveyor, records that "November 8th, 1783, he finished y great plan of Dorchester land."

The General Court passed an order, June 26, 1794, that towns should be surveyed and plans made. Nathaniel Fisher was then our surveyor. He made his map on a scale of fifty chains to the inch, - or, as he always spelled it, "intch." It shows the occupants of the houses only on what are now Pleasant and Washington streets; the ponds and brooks; the situation of the mills, with their owners; the meetinghouse; and the hay bridges over the Neponset. This map includes the modern town of Stoughton. When the line was run between adjacent towns, the selectmen of those towns were present; and Gen. Elijah Crane, Jabez Talbot, and Gen. Nathan Crane looked out for the interests of Canton.

In 1830 Joseph Hodges, Esq., appears to have been a resident of Canton, occupant at one time of the Bussey, and at another the Bemis house. He was a surveyor; and when in conformity to the law of the State, a map was required, the committee appointed by the town consulted with Mr. Hodges. His offer to make the map from actual survey for thirty dollars was accepted. In his labor he was assisted by a committee of five, but Hon. Thomas French and Robert Tucker are the only names which appear on record as having done anything. This map was published in March, 1831. 

In 1855 Henry F. Walling, a civil engineer, who was superintendent of the State map, also engaged on a map of Norfolk County, proposed to furnish a map of Canton. He offered to make such surveys as were necessary, and draft a plan of the entire town on a large scale, showing all the roads, streets, lanes, hills, woods, swamps, ponds, streams, mills, stores, churches, schools, dwellings, and other objects of importance and interest usually laid down on a map of this description. The town accepted the offer; and this is the latest map of any size that has appeared. It states that the town boundaries are laid down in part from old surveys. Canton also appears in the maps of Norfolk County by Walling, in 1853 and 1858; Boston and its environs, in 1866; and in the " Norfolk County Atlas," published in 1876.

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