Page images

3' To conclude where the next district meeting shall be held, and make due return of your doings, herein, to myself, at or before nine of the clock of the above said day. Given under my hand and seal at Shirley this ninth day of February, A. D. 1753, in the 26th year of his Majesty's reign.


The proceedings of the meeting :

"At a legal meeting of the inhabitants of Shirley, so called, begun and holden at the house of Mr. John Whitney, on the first day of March, 1752.

Mr. Jonathan Biglow was chosen Moderator for said meeting. Joseph Longley, was chosen Town Clerk.

Joseph Longley,
Samuel Hazen,
Nathaniel Harris, Selectmen.
John Whitney,

William Simonds,
Voted, that the selectmen serve as assessors for the
year ensuing. Jonas Longley was then chosen Town
Treasurer for said district.

Stephen Holden was chosen Constable.
Chose Samuel Hazen,

Seth Walker, Highway Surveyors.

Hezekiah Sawtel,
Chose Robert Henry,
Amos Holden,

Jonas Longley, Sealer of Weights and Measures.
And Stephen Holden was chosen Sealer of Leather.
Chose Philemon Holden,

Fence Viewers.
and James Patterson,
Chose Nathaniel Harris,

Field Drivers.
and Samuel Walker,
Robert Henry was chosen to take care of the swine.
Chose Hezekiah Sawtel,

Dear Reaves.
and Caleb Holden,
John Whitney was chosen Surveyor of Lumber.



Nathan Smith was chosen Pound Keeper.

Voted, that the next district meeting be held at the house of Jonathan Moore.”

In the above account both the arrangement and orthography have been mainly retained.

The house of Mr. John Whitney-where the first town meeting convened—was subsequently purchased by the town for a "work and almshouse." By this purchase it was expected that the building appropriated to the first public business in the town would be permanently devoted to a public use; but, unfortunately, after a trial of some ten years, the town voted to dispose of the property, and it was again assigned to private purposes. The poor were thus left without an asylum, to the great regret of a large minority of the voters.

By the organization of the district its inhabitants, amounting in number, probably, to between three and four hundred, were liberated from a portion of the trials to which they had been long subjected. With very great inconvenience had they experienced the civil, social and religious privileges of incorporated communities. They had been compelled to travel from five to ten miles over unbeaten roads to attend town and religious meetings, to find a common school for the instruction of their children, and a place of burial for their dead. A portion of these privileges they could not have dispensed with if they would; others of them they would not have dispensed with if they could. Their puritan ancestry had set up the school and the church, and they felt the need of both to sustain that liberty, to enjoy which they had taken up their abode in a wilderness. The mantle of this worthy parentage had fallen upon their New-England descendants, who had an inherent love for the sabbath and reverence for the sanctuary. They accordingly cheerfully submitted to the great inconvenience just stated, of attending public worship, until they should be sufficiently numerous to bring about the change now so happily effected.

Their trials, however, were not, ended but only varied. They were equally great, though more endurable than they had been. They must now be subjected to the labor and expense of erecting a meeting-house and school-houses; of supporting a minister and teachers; which, for people in their straitened circumstances, required great energy and self-sacrifice. Yet their veneration for God, and their love for the rising generation, impelled the effort, and assisted them to transmit to posterity, unimpaired, those institutions which they had received, a glorious legacy from their fathers.


Soil and ProductionsRoads-Rivers and Bridges.

Shirley is favorably located for the health of its inhabitants. It is situated about fifteen miles from the southern boundary of New Hampshire, in full view of the lofty hills that range along that part of the Granite State, whose refreshing breezes are an

an antidote to the fogs and unhealthy exhalations that arise from the low grounds and rivers by which the town is partially intersected and bounded.

The soil presents an undulated surface, and rises in some parts to considerable elevations, giving agreeable and healthy locations to settlements, furnishing a genial atmosphere for respiration, and presenting the eye with prospects of variegated richness and beauty. The hills are, however, of such gentle declivity as to render the surface favorable for the construction of roads, the location of farms, and the cultivation of the soil.

The soil itself presents considerable variety. In certain parts of the town, particularly in the valley of Mulpus brook, are tracts of low swampy land, that naturally yield a coarse, unpalatable grass, of little value as fodder, and which if left without cuitivation become corered with a low brush-wood jungle that precludes the growth of useful vegetation. But when these swamps are cleared, drained and cultivated, they become prolific of valuable hay and other useful produce. Their surface is composed of thick beds of peat, which has been found on trial to make excellent fuel. If, then, the forests shall disappear, as one of the innovations of the times -of which there is too much probability—a substitute for wood may be obtained from the meadows.

There are upon the rivers large tracts of intervale land, that are usually overrun with water in the spring, and sometimes in autumn. These overflowings leave behind an annual tribute of sediment, by which the soil is rendered highly productive. Their crops are, however, exposed to unseasonable frosts and floods, by which they are liable to great injury, if not to total destruction. In favorable years, under the hand of skilful cultivation, these lands—easily tilled-yield large harvests of grass and grain, but are especially fitted to the growing of hops.

Within the town there are many acres of light, sandy soil, which will remunerate a fresh cultivation for one or two years, but which will not repay a continued tilth. When left, however, in a state of rest, it will gradually come into the production of pine trees—a wood that will not so well flourish on a richer soil—and if cultivated with the seed of pine will rapidly spread into a glowing forest. The casual observer might call these lands profitless; but the conviction of the faithful experimenter is that their products are among the most valuable that nature affords. With proper fertilizers a portion of sandy soil may, with advantage, be kept under tillage. And even whole farms of this description, with a plentiful supply of swamp muck at hand, have been made highly productive.

There is still another variety of soil, more valuable than either described, which characterizes many of the farms within the town. Its natural productions are oak, walnut, chestnut, birch and maple timber; and its cultivated produce consists of the cereals, including Indian corn, the esculent roots, and the various kinds of fruittrees that thrive under a northern temperature. It is, however, still better adapted to grazing purposes and to the production of hay. This soil is filled with that species of stone called by geologists argillaceous slate, but of too coarse a quality either for building or other mechanical purposes. "The

" The range of this slate commences in Boylston, and runs through Lancaster, Harvard, Shirley and Pepperell. It is associated with the peculiar mica slate that contains the Worcester coal."* In Lancaster this slate has been found fit for rooting buildings, and has been quarried to some extent for this purpose. In Harvard it has been wrought into cemetery monuments, into chimney ornaments, and into flagging stones. however, for these purposes has greatly diminished, since the discovery of other and better adapted materials.

The farms of Shirley are not under so high a state of cultivation as they should be, nor have their owners entered into the modern improvements of experimental tillage as much as might be profitable; and, yet, their success will bear a fair comparison with that of agriculturists of neighboring towns. Though there is not a sufficiency of agricultural products within the town to meet the demands of its inhabitants, this is partly owing to the attention that is given to the cultivation of hops. This product, in some years, has amounted to fifty thousand pounds. Its cultivation was commenced about 1825, and has been continued, with varied success, unto the present time (1872). Less encouragement has been given to its cultivation during a few of the last years, than at a former period, yet it promises to hold a respectable

Its use,

*Hitchcock's State Geological Report, 1833, page 34.

« PreviousContinue »