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Historical Description of Dorchester - 1839
 The entry for Dorchester, Mass., in Hayward's Gazetteer (1839) contains the following descriptions:

Norfolk co. This ancient and respectable town lies on Dorchester bay, in Boston harbor, 5 miles S. From Boston, and 7 N.E. From Dedham. Population, 1837, 4,564. It was first settled by a party of Puritans from England. These pilgriams landed from the ship Mary and John at Nantasket, on the 11th of June, 1630, and on the 17th day of that month they located themselves at the Indian Mattapan, and called it Dorchester, in honor of their pious and learned friend, the Rev. John White, of Dorchester, 120 miles W. From London. The town was incorporated on the 7th of September following, and included most of the territory of the town of Milton, Canton, Stoughton, Sharon, and that part of Boston, on which stand "Dorchester Heights," memorable for their sudden conversion into a fortress, for the protection of Boston harbor, by order of Washington, on the night of March 4, 1776. These lands were obtained from the Indians by purchase, not by combat. The present limits of the town are about 6 by 3 1-2 miles. Dorchester furnished pioneers for the settlement of many parts of the country. A party from this town crossed the trackless wilderness in 14 days and settled Hartford, on Connecticut river, in 1635. In 1695, another party emigrated from this place, and settled Dorchester, in South Carolina, and afterwards Medway, in Georgia. The soil of Dorchester is rocky, but very fertile and under a high state of cultivation. It is exceedingly productive, particularly of vegetables, fruits and flowers. Its surface is greatly variegated, presenting a continual succession of picturesque and delightful views of the country, city, and sea. Its hill-tops and valleys are decked with farm houses and tasteful villas, and nowhere can be found the union of town and country enjoyments more complete. The beautiful Neponset washes the whole of the southern border of the town, and besides its navigable privileges, affords it a large and valuable water power. The first water mill in America was erected in this town, in 1633; and here, about the same time, the cod fishery, the boast of New England, was first commenced. There are now 4 vessels employed in the whale, and 16 in the cod and other fisheries. Total tonnage, 2,210 tons. Capital invested, $190,000. Product, in one year, $138,349. The manufactures of Dorchester consist of cotton goods, boots, shoes, hats, paper, cabinet ware, block tin, tin ware, leather, wearing apparel, soap, candles, chocolate, and playing cards; the aggregate amount of which, in one year, was $457,400.

The first settlers of Dorchester came a regularly organized church, with its pastor and officers. They soon erected a house of public worship; but it is a singular fact that "none can tell the precise spot where the first meeting-house was located, nor does a single stone remain to designate the site of the original burying ground." There are, however, some mementos of olden times. The earliest date in the present ancient cemetery that can be distinctly traced is 1644. We copy the folloiwng fom aong many singular effusions, found on the grave-stones in that cemetery, in commemoration of the dead.

"Here lies our Captain and Major of Suffolk was withal,
A Godly Magistrate was he and Major General,
Two troops of horse with him here came, such worth his love did crave,
Ten companies of foot also, mouning marched to his grave.
Let all that read be sure to keep the faith as he has done;
With Christ he lives now crowned, his name was Humphrey Atherton."

On the grave of three brothers, by the name of Clarke.

"Here lies three Clarks, their accounts are even,
Entered on earth, carried up to heaven."

Johnson , in his "Wonder Working Providence," thus speaks of Dorchester in 1654.

"The forme of this Towne is almost like a Serpent turning her head to the Northward; over against Tompson's Island, and the Castle, her body and wings being chiefly built on , are filled somewhat thick of Houses, onely that one of her Wings is clift, her Tayle being of such large extent that Shee can hardly draw it after her. Her houses for dwelling are about one hundred and forty; Orchards and Gardens, full of Fruit-trees, plenty of Corne Land, although much of it hath been long in tillage, yet hath it ordinarily good crops; the number of trees are near upon 1500. Cowes and other Cattell of that kinde about 450. Thus hath the Lord been pleased to increase his poore dispersed people, whose number in this Flock are near about 150. Their fisrt Pastor called to feede them was the Reverend and godly Mr. Marveruck."

Among the first settlers of Dorchester was George Minot, a ruling elder of the church for thirty years. He erected a dwelling-house in that part of Dorchester where the pleasant village of Neponset now stands. That house is now standing, and its doubtless one of the oldest houses in the country. It is in good repair, and has ever remained in possession of Mr. Minot's lineal descendants. Mr. Minot died December 24, 1671, aged 78. This house is more celebrated for the female heroism displayed within its walls, than for its antiqutiy. A party of Narraganset Indians, hunting on the borders of Neponset river, stopped at elder Minot's house and demanded food and drink. On being refused they threatened vengeance, and the sachem, or chief of the party, left an Indian in ambush to watch an opportunity to effect it. Soon after, in the absence of all the family, except a young woman and two small children, the Indian attacked the house and fired at the young woman, but missed his mark. The girl placed the children under two brass kettles and bade them be silent. She then loaded Mr. Minot's gun and shot the Indian in the shoulder. He again attacked the house, and in attempting to enter the window, the girl threw a shovel full of live coals into his face and lodged them in his blancket. On this the Indian fled. The next day he was found dead in the woods. The Indian's name was Chickataubut, but not the Narraganset sachem of that name. The government of Massachusetts bay presented this brave young woman with a silver wristband, on which her name was engraved, with this motto, -- "She slew the Narrhaganset hunter."


Hayward, John. The New England Gazetteer ... Fifth Edition. Concord, N.H.: Israel S. Boyd and William White. Boston: John Hayward. 1839.

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Created: August 17, 2003   Modified: February 19, 2007