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The Peter Rice Homestead, 377 Elm Street,

Marlborough, Massachusetts 01752


508-485-4763

Mar, Apr, May 2016


Volume 1, Number 1

HISTORY

IN THIS ISSUE
History
Genealogy
Presidents Message
Quiz of the Quarter
Identification Needed
Things to Note
Schedule

p. 1
p. 4
p. 5
p. 5
p. 6
p. 7
p. 8

www.historicmarlborough.org
Marlborough Historical Society
OFFICERS
Janet Licht
Bob Kane
Linda Rennie
Ernest Ginnetti
TRUSTEES
Paul Brodeur
Patricia Holt
Chandra Lothian
Bill Tate
Lee Wright
Cliff Avey
Paul Polawacyk
Dick Cochrane

President
VP/Curator
Secy/Membership
Treasurer

Glenn Foley
Peggy Kelley
Pauline Smith
Karen Widener
Trustee emeritus
Trustee emeritus
Archivist/Editor

The Marlborough Historical Society,


Inc.
is a private 501 (c) (3) organization

The Great Marlborough Land Controversy of


Colonial Times
By Paul Brodeur
Marlborough Historical Society

t was not uncommon for there to be land controversies in


colonial New England. Surveying methods were very rough
tools, Indian land ownership was always an issue, written
documents were sometimes missing, and even when present
often had math or geography errors. Establishing land ownership
in New England extended deep into the eighteenth century and
beyond. But the Marlborough controversy was somewhat
straightforward, and, to sweeten the drama, involved the two
most powerful families in colonial Marlborough: the Rices and
the Wards. The problem lasted for almost two decades, poisoned
relationships, created problems for the minister, and even outlasted the almost complete abandonment of Marlborough during
King Philips War.
One of the complicating factors for the citizens of Marlborough
was the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660. During the preceding decade under Cromwell, the Mass Bay Colony had experienced unparalleled independence. The Restoration of royal rule
meant a long period of readjustment by colonial authorities whose
very Charter was at risk. During the 1660s and beyond, the General Court was inundated with various issues emanating from
England and had little time or interest in the seemingly never ending strife in Marlborough.

Hudson St, perhaps near Ash St.

At the outset a serious jjproblem for the Sudbury


settlers was the lack of land opportunities for the
second generation Puritan families. Edmund Rice
and William Ward had large families and their sons
and married daughters had need of land for their
families. The problem was greatest for Rice since
he was older and more of his children had come of
age. In addition, his second wife was Mercy
Brigham, widow of the patriarch Thomas Brigham,
so his stepchildren would need land as well. For
Ward, the problem was imminent; most of his children would come of age within a few years.

]he next entry of note is on January 24, 1662, where


Samuel Ward is granted his brother Richards land.
Richard married Mary Moores of Sudbury in 1661
and it is doubtful that he ever lived in Marlborough.
Richard drowned in the Sudbury River in 1666. The
location of the land is a bit of a puzzle since Richards land is thought to have been in the exact same
area as the land granted to Thomas Rice. This land
never appears to be in dispute, however. Three days
later, on January 27, in order to settle some controversy, Samuel Ward and Abraham Howe are given
shares of meadowland.

Sons or step-sons of Edmund Rice in Marlborough


included Edward, Samuel, Joseph, Benjamin and
Thomas Rice, and Thomas and John Brigham.
There is also evidence that John Maynard had marIn mid November of that year, although Hudson says
ried Mary Rice Axtell, purported to be the eldest
September, one in a long series of threats is made to
daughter of Edmund Rice. All owned land at one
force proprietors to pay taxes. This is particularly
time or another in Marlborough. Sons and sons in
exact and may have included Thomas Rice. The first
law of Ward who owned land included Richard,
generation Puritans had a great deal of land in SudSamuel, and Obadiah Ward and John How Jr, Jonabury (and perhaps other towns as well), but the secthan Johnson, Abraham Williams,
ond generation men had little or none.
Thomas Rice, Abraham Those with land could sell some to pay
Abraham Howe, and John Woods
Jr. In addition to the primary famitaxes in the new town. Where would
lies, all of the other landowners had Howe and Samuel Ward those who were land poor find the
a very close affiliation with one or
were at the center of the money to pay taxes? A contributing
both of the families. The original
problem was that his father Edmund
proprietor list only included 38
was only a few months from death (in
controversy.
names. To make matters worse,
May, 1663) and may not have been
Thomas Rice had married Mary
able to intervene. In any case, it does
King, daughter of Thomas King, another powerful
appear that this Town Order forced Thomas Rice to
man and long time selectman in Marlborough.
give up his land.
Thomas Rice, Abraham Howe and Samuel Ward
were at the center of the controversy. According to
the Rice, Ward and Howe Genealogies, Thomas
Rice would have been about 35 in 1660, Samuel
Ward about 19 and Abraham Howe between 35 and
40. Although the exact details of the problem cannot be told with absolute certainty, the Colonial
Records provide a good overview.

This is reflected the following year where an entry on


December 25, 1663 shows that Thomas Rice, who
gave up the land formerly granted him, is granted 35
acres. It is uncertain at this writing why the grant
was so large. The initial grant was only 18 acres and
he had trouble supporting that smaller grant. Could it
be that Thomas benefited from his fathers will? The
location of the land was north of the pond and undoubtedly included the land on which the Peter Rice
house (home of the Marlborough Historical Society)
now sits. Peter was one of Thomas Rices 13 children and inherited half of the property. The disputed
meadow land was probably at the bottom of the hill
near to the intersection of Bigelow St. and Donald
Lynch Blvd. and just a relatively short distance from
Thomas Rices house lot.

In December of 1659, Thomas Rice is singled out


as having been granted land north of John Ruddocke and west of Christopher Bannister. He must
have been a late addition since his grant is deserving of a separate entry. The land would have been
somewhere between present day Pleasant St. and
2

The above grant was certainly the outcome of


negotiations that took place in late 1663. In his
History of Marlborough, Charles Hudson
speaks of the problem thusly: some, perhaps
from necessity, failed to meet these demands
(for taxes) within the time specified, the penalty
of forfeiture thus incurred, was attempted to be
enforced. But the delinquents petitioned the
General Court, which sent out a committee to
inquire into the facts of the case.
This committee reported in October 1663, with
the following directive: That all grants as have
been granted there since the aforesaid order was
made, and upon no other engagement or privilege then is in that order expressed, the grantees
whereof have not fulfilled the conditions therein
required, shall forethwith be returned again to
the toune & be at theire dispose, except any
such grantees as shall within two moneths after
the end of this present session of Court, otherwise agree with the toune. Hudson adds that
in all such cases of forfeiture, the town should
pay for all betterments which had been made on
the forfeited estates; and that henceforth no
town act passe, but in some publicke towne
Meeting orderly called, and only by such as are
by lawe enabled so to doe; which report was
accepted by the Court. The language suggests
that secret meetings were held and that decisions were made outside of the normal Town
Meeting.
It appears from both the directive and the result
that in the negotiation with the town, Thomas
Rice gives up his former grant and accepts a
new, larger grant, in the west of Marlborough
where other of his brothers have settled. But
what of his other grants of meadow and swampland? Were these forfeited as well? There were
four Squadrons of meadowland distributed in
1660. Those near to the Assabet River in the
area presently near to Donald Lynch Blvd are
highly prized. Thomas Rice was apparently
granted land here and it is down the hill from
his new house lot. Im inclined to believe that
this served as the next point of contention.

Hudson continues: In 1664, seventeen of the inhabitants of the town respectfully ask the General Court to
appoint a committee, with full power to hear and settle all their difficulties. They declare that their differences are such as render them incapable of carrying
on their affairs.
Hudson lists the petitioners which included all friends
and relations of William Ward: his sons Samuel and
Obadiah; his sons in law Abraham Williams, John
Johnson, Abraham Howe, and John Woods Jr.; his
close friends and allies John Ruddocke, Thomas
Goodnow Sr, William Kerley and Andrew Belcher (a
non-resident proprietor); fathers of his sons in law
Solomon Johnson and John Woods Sr.; sons in law of
Thomas Goodnow, Thomas Barnes, and Christopher
Bannister; Nathaniel Johnson, son of Solomon; and
John Barnes, who married the widow of Thomas
Goodnow Jr.
Hudson also lists those who presented a counter petition to the General Court. Although Edmund Rice
had died, his property must have been represented by
his wife since his name appears as one of the petitioners. The petition also included his sons, Samuel, Joseph, and Thomas; step sons Thomas Brigham and
John Brigham; son in law John Maynard; Peter Bent,
brother in law of Edmunds son Edward Rice; and
Richard Barnes,
Hudson also lists
cousin to Peter
Bent. Others inthose who presented
cluded Richard
Newton and his son a counter petition to
John; John and
the General Court.
Thomas Barrett;
John Rediat, John
Rutter and John Bellows. These may have had payment issues of their own or may have been close
friends of the others. Two others played key roles as
counter petitioners. Thomas King, a selectman and
father in law of two of Edmund Rices sons, is noted
as one who kept pressing the issue once decisions by
the General Court were made. John How, a universally respected landowner, had family connections on
both sides and may have been more of a centrist who
leaned toward a more lenient position. Notably absent from both lists is John How Jr. whose father is on
3

the Rice side but whose father in law is William


Ward.
There were four issues which Hudson speaks of
in the counter petition. Its clear that they had no
interest in involving the General Court. We are
willing, with our persons and our estates, to uphold the Authority of the Country, and do therefore desire the liberty of the law which gives
towns power to transact their own affairs. This
was a common colonial theme through the period of the Revolution. The Colony didnt need
the English Crown and the Towns didnt need
the Colony. Ironically, this was the exact issue
that the Ward-Ruddocke faction faced in Sudbury that caused the creation of Marlborough.

Only in that case, Ward and Ruddocke had won the


local elections and had initiated land reforms, but a
petition to the General Court by Rev. Brown had destroyed their initiatives. Shortly after, Ward and Ruddocke were among the petitioners for the Marlborough
Plantation. The General Court had imposed its will in
favor of Rev. Brown and now the Ward faction was
using the Court to their own advantage in Marlborough.

The Great Marlborough Land Controversy of


Colonial Times will be continued in the next issue
Learn the results.

GENEALOGY
Most new researchers do not appreciate the
need to keep recordsI know I didnt when I
started. When, after a couple of years, I started
getting conflicting information, I couldnt
check it out because I didnt know where I got
the original information. Sooo.remember

Genealogy without documentation is mythology


From an article by Patricia Dingwall Thompson,
From Family Myth to Historical Account: The
McMillan Incident in 1814 Detroit, American Ancestors, Spring 2012, p.27
From: Family Tree Magazine, Sept 2012, AncestorCrazy, p. 60

Please consider sharing your Genealogy. We will file a copy in


your family file for the use of others who are seeking a connection to your family. Researchers come in on a regular basis asking for information on Marlborough families. Dont lose
your family history by having your work thrown away after your demise.
4

PRESIDENTS MESSAGE
Hello Everyone,
I havent written a letter to the Membership in a long time, so I would like to reiterate some of my goals that
I wrote when I first was elected as your President.
Along with the help of all of the Board of Officers, Trustees and Committee chairpersons I would like to continue our efforts to become a fiscally viable entity while providing our members with an interesting and active schedule of events in the future.
Broadening the value and understanding of what the Historical Society represents for Marlborough.
Keep the links between our roots and our future alive and significant by bringing young families into our Society as members and participants.
Create a place to visit and enjoy where history comes alive through talks, pictures and special events.
Create a place where people can research and trace their own unique history.
It is your history and your Historical Society, so give me your thoughts of what types of programs would be of
interest to you. Please contact me at 508-481-8567 or send me an e-mail: janetlicht@verizon.net .
We will be holding the election for Officers and Trustees at the April Membership meeting to be held on April
26th. If you are interested in any particular office or know of someone that is interested in holding an office,
please contact either me or any other board member and we will be glad to put you on the ballot. The Board
of Directors meet once a month and would love to have some new faces with new ideas to help us make the
Marlborough Historical Society an exciting and relevant connection between past and future.

Janet

QUIZ OF THE QUARTER


Based on the 1882-3 Town of Marlborough Annual Report there were 14 Schools. Who can
name them? Answers will be printed in the next edition.
From the November 1941 edition of the MHS [Marlborough High School] News [Sports
Editor Peter Delancy]:
NAME CHOSEN
Panthers was the name chosen for the M.H.S. players in the contest sponsored by the
A.A. Irving Weitzler was awarded the two 50-yd. line tickets for the Thanksgiving Day game.
Panthers fits Marlboros team well, for they certainly acted like panthers to their opponents,
trouncing them 26-0, 30-12, 37-0, 33-7. Last year this would have seemed incredible and
many years before would have been ridiculous. Marlboro itself was being beaten by these
scores, but those days are gone forever and the Marlboro Panthers are out to stay on top.
5

IDENTIFICATION ASSISTANCE NEEDED


We get, or discover, numerous photographs on a weekly basis. Unfortunately the back of many of
them have no identificationso we need help. Without some identification it is difficult to file and retrieve the photos accurately.
Please send your suggestions to The Marlborough Historical Society, ATT: Dick Cochrane, or e-mail
Dick at <Dick@historicmarlborough.org>
Thank you for any assistance you can give.

1939 Nashoba Apple Festival, Marlborough

THINGS TO NOTE
HISTORY CAMP BOSTON 2016
This conference is dedicated to all things history, and will be held on Saturday, March 26 at
the Harriet Tubman House at 566 Columbus Avenue, near the Mass Ave T stop in Boston.
Everyone is welcome, but registration is required. Go to Historycamp.org website for the
schedule of activities.
GENEALOGY GET TOGETHER on last Thursday of month from 6-8pm at the homestead.
HOMESTEAD IS OPEN on Tuesday 9 12am and Thursday 1-4pm. Archive research is free
and open to the public.
ARCHIVES: Visit and ask for a tour of our archives [both genealogical and historic]. We have
thousands of items. New items are being added every month.

In Memory of Robert L. Rennie


Retired Deputy Fire Chief Robert Leigh Rennie, (70) a lifelong resident of Marlborough
passed away on January 26, 2016 with his family by his side, after a courageous battle with
Alzheimers disease. He was the son of the late Robert and Marguerite (Harris) Rennie and
the beloved husband of Linda (Coutu) Rennie, to whom he had been wed for over 40 years.
Bob served with dedication on the Marlborough Fire Department for 34 years, 20 of which
were spent serving as the head of District 3 (Worcester Region) Hazardous Material Team.
He also served his country as a member of the National Guard and the Army Reserves.
Bob had been an active, long time member of the Marlborough Historical Society and most
recently served as a Trustee.

This newsletter is published quarterly in March, June, September, December

MARLBOROUGH HISTORICAL SOCIETY, INC.


The Peter Rice Homestead
377 Elm Street, PO Box 513
Marlborough, Massachusetts 01752-0513

All activity is at the Peter Rice Homestead unless noted otherwise.


FEBRUARY
9
MHS Board Meeting 7-9pm
23 MHS Educational Meeting at the First Church (Congregational) Discovering New Englands Hidden
Histories in First Church Marlborough and other Congregational Churches in New England 7 PM
25 Genealogy Get Together 6-8pm
MARCH
8
MHS Board Meeting 7-9pm
22 MHS Educational Meeting Hillside Farm School 7 PM
24 Genealogy Get Together 6-8pm
26 History Camp, Harriet Tubman House at 566 Columbus Avenue, Boston
APRIL
12 MHS Board Meeting 7-9pm
26 MHS Educational Meeting Marlborough & the Revolution Part III 7 PM
28 Genealogy Get Together 6-8pm
MAY
10 MHS Board Meeting 7-9pm
24 MHS Educational Meeting The Great Boston Molasses Flood 7 PM
26 Genealogy Get Together 6-8pm

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