Sources for Boston’s History

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“In 1908, after the printing of this manuscript, Mellen Chamberlain printed in 1908 A documentary history of Chelsea : including the Boston precincts of Winnisimmet, Rumney Marsh, and Pullen Point, 1624-1824 in 2 volumes. See volume 1, volume 2.As full a list as has ever been printed of the grea…”

The editor has endeavored in the map which accompanies this volume, called Boston, Old and New, to depict, as well as he could, the physical characteristics of the original peninsula, with the highways and footways of the young town for its first thirty years or more, and to indicate a few of the sites most interesting in its early history.
The editor has endeavored in the map which accompanies this volume, called Boston, Old and New, to depict, as well as he could, the physical characteristics of the original peninsula, with the highways and footways of the young town for its first thirty years or more, and to indicate a few of the sites most interesting in its early history.

When, in 1730, a hundred years had passed from the foundation of the town, a commemoration was proposed; but the community was then suffering under a visitation of the small-pox, and the anniversary was not observed, except by one or two pulpit ministrations. The Rev. Mr. Foxcroft preached a century sermon ((Observations, Historical and Practical, on the Rise and Primitive State of New England, with a special reference to the old or first gathered Church in Boston.)) at the First Church, and Thomas Prince, in the previous May, made the annual election sermon ((The People of New England put in mind of the Righteous Acts of the Lord to them and manuscripts and their Fathers.)) an admonition of the event. A fit celebration, however, took place on the second centennial, in 1830, and Josiah Quincy – who, after he had left the clue magistracy of the city, had taken the presidency of the neighboring university — was selected to deliver an address in the Old South, and Charles Sprague, who had shown his powers on more than one earlier occasion, read “the ode, ((A fac-simile of a part of this ode is given on p. 246.)) which is preserved in the volume of his Writings. The address was printed, and in some sort it became the basis of The Municipal History of Boston which Mr. Quincy printed in 1852. This volume gives a full exposition of the city’s history after the town obtained a charter, and during the administrations of the first and second mayors (Phillips and Quincy); but it contains only a cursory sketch of the earlier chronicles. ((Edmund Quincy, Life of Josiah Quincy, pp. 444, 501.)) This part of its story, however, had already been but recently told.

As early as 1794 Thomas Pemberton printed A Topographical an Historical Description of Boston. ((Mass. Hist. Coll., iii. 241-304. There are manuscripts of Pemberton’s in the Society’s Cabinet.)) A limit of sixty pages however, can afford only a glimpse of the town’s history. It nevertheless formed the basis upon which Charles Shaw worked, as shown in his little duodecimo of 311 pages which he published in 1817 ((Reprinted in 1818 and 1843.)) under the same title, A Topographical and Historical Description of Boston. In 1821 Mr. J. G. Hales, to whom we owe the most important map of Boston issued in his day, published a little descriptive Survey of Boston and Vicinity. Four years later, in 1825, Dr. Caleb Hopkins Snow printed his History of Boston, to which an appendix was subsequently added, and in 1828 what is called a second edition seems to have been merely a reissue of the same sheets with a new title((A History of Boston, the Metropolis of Massachusetts, from its Origin to the Present Period, with some account of the Environs. Boston: A. Bowen. 1828.)) and index, to satisfy the interest, perhaps, arising from the approaching centennial. Snow’s labor was creditable, and his examination of the records in regard to the sites of the early settlers’ habitations and other landmarks was careful enough to make his work still useful.((Dr. Snow also published, in 1830, a Geography of Boston, with Historical Notes, for the younger class of readers. He died in 1835, at less than forty years of age.)) The next year, 1829, Bowen, its publisher, issued his own Picture of Boston,((Other editions in 1833 and 1838.)) which proved the precursor of numerous guide-books.((Among them may be classed Boston Sights, by David Pulsifer, 1859.)) In 1848 Nathaniel Dearborn printed his Boston Notions, a medley of statistics and historical descriptions; and in the same year, 1852, in which Quincy’s Municipal History, already mentioned, appeared, Samuel G. Drake began the publication of his History and Antiquities of Boston, which was issued at intervals in parts, till the annals — for this was the form it took — were brought down to 1770, when the publication ceased, in 1856.((An examination of it was made in the North American Review, vol. lxxxiii., by William H. Whitmore. Lucius Manlius Sargent printed a little tract, Notices of Histories of Boston, in 1857. The City Government had taken steps to print a continuation of Drake, when his death put a stop to the project.)) No further special contribution of any importance((There was a small History of Boston, by J. S. Homans, published in 1856, and an anonymous Historical Sketch in 1861, beside others of even less interest. The account of Boston in the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica is by the Rev. G. E. Ellis, D.D. A Boston Antiquarian Club has recently been founded.)) appeared till the late Dr. Nathaniel Bradstreet Shurtleff published, under sanction of the city, during his mayoralty, A Topographical and Historical Description of Boston. The volume is principally made up of papers previously published, chiefly in the Boston Saturday Evening Gazette, which had been amended and enlarged. They relate to various topographical features of the town and harbor, forming a collection of valuable monographs, but in nowise covering even that restricted field. Two years later, in 1873, Mr. Samuel Adams Drake, a son of the elder annalist, printed an interesting volume, The Old Landmarks and Historic Personages of Boston, in which the reader is taken a course through the city, while the old sites are pointed out to him, and he is edified with the story of their associations. This is the last acquisition to the illustrative literature of Boston, apart from the numerous guidebooks which have filled from time to time their temporary mission.

The outlying districts of Boston have each had their historians. A large History of East Boston, with Biographical Sketches of its early Proprietors was printed by the late General William H. Sumner in 1858, the author being a descendant of the Shrimptons and other early occupants and proprietors of the island. A History of South Boston, by Thomas C. Simonds, was published in 1857. General H. A. S. Dearborn delivered a second centennial address at Roxbury in 1830. Mr. C. M. Ellis issued a History of Roxbury Town in 1847. Mr. Francis S. Drake, another son of the annalist, did for Roxbury much the same service that his brother had done for the original Boston, when The Town of Roxbury, its Memorable Persons and Places, appeared in 1878. For Dorchester, there is the History published by the Dorchester Historical and Antiquarian Society, and other publications bearing their approval, which are enumerated in another part of the present volume. ((The church history of Dorchester has been specially commemorated by Harris, Pierce, Codman, Hall, Allen, Means, and Barrows.)) Of Brighton there is no distinct history ((In 1899, after the publication date of this manuscript, John Perkins Cushing Winship published 2 volumes on the Historical Brighton, see volume 1, volume 2.)); but a sketch prepared by the Rev. Frederic A. Whitney forms part of the recently published History of Middlesex County, which contains also a brief sketch of Charlestown. This is based in good part, as all accounts of that town must be for the period ending with the Revolution, on the History of Charlestown, by Richard Frothingham, the publication of which was begun in numbers in 1845 and never finished, — eleven numbers only being published. A very elaborate work, The Genealogies and Estates of Charlestown by Thomas Bellows Wyman, the result of nearly forty years’ application to the subject, was published in 1879, the year following the author’s death, the editing of it having been completed by Mr. Henry H. Edes. Mention should also be made of the earlier Historical Sketch by Dr. Bartlett, 1814, and Mr. Everett’s commemoration of the second centennial in 1830.((The church history of Charlestown has been particularly elucidated by Budington, Ellis, Hunnewell, and Edes.)) Those regions, no longer within the limits of Boston but once a part of the town, have also their special records. Muddy River, now Brookline, has had its history set forth in several discourses by the late venerable Dr. Pierce, in an address by the Hon. R. C. Winthrop, and in the more formal Historical Sketches by H. F. Woods. The Records of Muddy River, extracted in part from the Boston Records, have also been printed by the town. Mount Wollaston, or ” The Mount ” as it was usually called when the people of Boston had their farms there has recently given occasion to an elaborate History of Old Braintree and Quincy, by William S. Pattee, 1878, while there have been earlier contributions by Hancock, Lunt, Storrs, Whitney, and Adams. Of Pullen Point and Winnissimet there have been no formal records printed.((In 1908, after the printing of this manuscript, Mellen Chamberlain printed in 1908 A documentary history of Chelsea : including the Boston precincts of Winnisimmet, Rumney Marsh, and Pullen Point, 1624-1824 in 2 volumes. See volume 1, volume 2.

As full a list as has ever been printed of the great variety of local publications which must contribute to the completeness of the history of Boston has been given by Mr. Frederic B. Perkins, in his Check-list of American Local History, 1876, many of which titles, of particular application, will be referred to in the foot-notes and editorial annotations throughout these volumes.

Chief among such are the numerous discourses and other monographs which have been given to the history of the churches of Boston.((The principal of these are here enumerated: On the First Church, — Foxcroft, 1730; Emerson, 1812; N. L. Frothingham, 1830, 1850; Rufus Ellis, 1868, 1869, 1873. Second, or Old North, — Ware, 1821; Robbins, 1844, 1845, 1850, 1852, 185S. Third, or Old South, — Austin, 1803; Wisner, 1830; Armstrong, 1841; Blagden, 1870; and Manning; a history of the meeting-house by Burdett, 1877. New North, — Eliot, 1804, 1822; Parkman, 1814, 1839, 1843, l849; Fuller, 1854. Manifesto, or Brattle Square, Church, — Thacher, 1800; Palfrey, 1825; Lothrop, 1851, 1871. King’s Chapel, — Greenwood, 1833; Foote, 1873. Christ Church, — Eaton, 1820, 1824; Burroughs, 1874 — First Baptist, — Neale, 1865. West Church, — Lowell, 1820, 1831, 1845; Bartol, 1867, 1877. Federal and Arlington Street, — Davis, 1824; Gannett, 1860, 1864; the lives of Channing and Gannett. Essex Street Church, — Sabine, 1823, and the memorial volume, 1860. Second Baptist, Baldwin, 1824, 1841. Hollis Street, — Chaney, 1877. Trinity, — Brooks. South Congregational, — Hale. Twelfth Congregational — Barrett, 1850; Pray, 1863. Park Street, — Semi-centennial, 1861. Bulfinch Street, — Alger, 1861. First Universalist, — Silloway, 1864. New South , — Ellis, 1865. Church of the Advent, — Bolles, 1860, &c. Coggeshall’s discourse on the introduction of Methodism into Boston. Cf. articles in the Amer. Quarterly Register, vii., and Boston Almanac, 1843 and 1854.)) Their history has also been made a part of such general accounts of the progress of religious belief in New England as Felt’s Ecclesiastical History. This is in the form of annals; and John Eliot’s “Ecclesiastical History of Plymouth and Massachusetts,” as begun in the Mass. Hist. Collections, vii., has a similar scope. In this place it would be unpardonable to overlook one or two chapters of the elaborate treatises of the Rev. Dr. Henry M. Dexter on Congregationalism as seen in its Literature.((The Congregationalism of the last three hundred years as seen in its Literature, New York, 1880. In an appendix there is a bibliography of the subject, giving 7,250 titles, arranged chronologically, — a most valuable contribution, showing most of the books one must consult on the early history of Boston.)) Boston formed so considerable a part of the colony, and the theocracy which ruled its people influenced so largely their history, that it is not easy to separate wholly the local from the general, and it certainly was not done by the earlier writers. Winthrop’s Journal, which is called, however, in the printed book, a History of New England, tells us more than we get elsewhere of the course of events in Boston for nearly twenty years after the settlement.((It was first printed in Hartford in 1790, from a copy collated with the original but incomplete, as the third volume of the manuscript was not then known to be in existence, though Prince is supposed to have had the three volumes in his keeping in 1754, and to have used them in his Chronology. This third volume, covering the last four years of Winthrop’s life, was discovered among the Prince manuscripts about 1815, and was shortly after surrendered to the Winthrop family, in whose custody the other volumes were. Savage used it, however, in preparing his valuable edition of the entire manuscript (cf. Mr. Hillard’s ” Memoir of Savage,” in Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc., March, 1878, p. 135); but while the volumes were in his hands, the fire occurred in Court Street in 1825, in which the second volume was burned. The first and third volumes are now in the cabinet of the Historical Society. See their Proceedings, June, 1872. The original letters of Winthrop and others, which Mr. Savage printed in his appendix, have recently become the property of the same Society. These and other letters and papers of the early Winthrops, brought to light of late years, and printed in the Society’s Collections, as noted elsewhere, were used in the Hon. R. C. Winthrop’s Life and Letters of John Winthrop, which, with the papers, have been the subject of numerous reviews: No. Amer. Rev., January, 1864, and January and October, 1867; Atlantic Monthly, January, 1864, and February, 1867; Harper’s Monthly, November, 1876; Blackwood’s Magazine, August, 1867; Annual Register, 1867; Revue Britannique, &c. Additional references are given in Allibone’s Dictionary.)) This can best be supplemented by the convenient group of contemporary writings which the Rev. Alexander Young, D.D., gathered in his Chronicles of Massachusetts Bay, 1623-36, and by a part of the documents which Hazard printed in his Historical Collections, and Hutchinson published in 1769 in his Collection of Original Papers,((This was reprinted by the Prince Society in 1865, under the care of W. H. Whitmore and W. S. Appleton. Other papers of Hutchinson are printed in 2 Mass. Hist. Coll., vol. x., and third series, vol. i. The Proceedings, February, 1868, and January, 1874, of the Society contain accounts of the controversy which preceded the transfer of these papers to the State Archives. Cf. also, ibid. ii. 438.)) to fortify his history. Of the early accounts by Wood, Lechford, Johnson, Josselyn, and others, and of such diaries as Hull’s and Scwall’s, mention is elsewhere made. Although some of these were in print when Hubbard wrote his History of New England, it was from the manuscript of Winthrop’s Journal that this old historian filched pretty much all that was valuable in his narrative; and for the thirty years that he continued it beyond Winthrop’s death, Dr. Palfrey, following Hutchinson’s judgment, calls his book “good for nothing,” — a decision, perhaps, too denunciatory. Every historical student, however, recognizes the great importance of Hubbard for the period before Winthrop took up the story, and for which Hubbard must have had material at first hand.((It was not printed till 1815, and again in 1848, in 2 Mass. Hist. Coll. v. and vi. Savage, Winthrop, i. 357. The Historical Society has the rough draft and the corrected copy of Hubbard’s manuscript, and has recently printed some opening and concluding pages of it, which had long been missing, until procured from England by Dr. F. E. Oliver. It would seem that the Society’s copy, when perfect, had been copied by Judge Peter Oliver, and it is from his transcript that the text is completed. Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc., August, 1814, and February, 1878. Sibley, Harvard Graduates, p. 56.)) Before the printing of Winthrop, Hubbard was looked upon as an original authority, but the recovery of his preface shows that he urged no claims but those of a compiler of ” the original manuscripts of such as had the managing of those affairs,” &c.

First among the books whose authors were indebted to Hubbard comes Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana: The first book of the New -English History, reporting the Design whereon, the Manner wherein, and the People whereby, the several colonies of New England were planted. This book is an anomaly, even in those times of anomalous books. It was published in London in 1702, in a huge folio, but the introduction bears date Oct. 16, 1697. While there is much that is valuable in its heterogeneous contents, there is not a little that is absurd and irrelevant. It is largely made up of earlier separate publications of its author,((It has since been reprinted in this country, in 1820 and in 1853. Mr. Deane has indicated the light thrown upon it by Mather’s diary in Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc., December, 1862. Cf. Mr. Winthrop’s apt characterization of the book in his lecture of the Lowell Institute course, p. 21. Dunton, the London bookseller who came to Boston, says of Mather and his book: “His library is very large and numerous, but had his books been fewer when he writ his history, “twould have pleased us better;” and again he speaks of Mather’s library as “the glory of New England, if not of all America. I am sure it was the best sight that I had in Boston.” Some part of this library, as is. well known, is now in the possession of the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester, and fragments of it even to this day occasionally find their way into public sales or dealer’s catalogues. The Mather manuscripts in the library of that Society are described in their Proceedings, April 30, X S73, p. 22. The papers known as the Mather manuscripts, belonging to the Prince Library, have been fully calendared in the catalogue of that library, and the best part of them printed in 4 Mass. Hist. Coll. viii. Some part of the diaries of Increase and Cotton Mather are preserved in the Historical Society’s cabinet. – — Proceedings, March, 1858, and April, 1868. Other portions are in the library of the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester. It does not seem likely that they will be printed until men are better pleased with confessions of shortcomings and with the display of self-debasement. Drake, in his introduction to Increase Mather’s History of Philip’s War, speaks of the Mather library as the product of the care of four generations, and refers to some letters of Samuel Mather, D.D., the last of the four, which were a part of a MS. volume afterwards noted in the Brinley Catalogue, No. 1,329. Accepting the statements of these letters, it appears that Samuel Mather furnished Hutchinson “with most of the material of which his history was composed.” His son says of the library, that it was “by far the most valuable part of the family property. In consisted of 7,000 or 8,000 volumes of the most curious and chosen authors, and a prodigious number of valuable manuscripts, which had been collected by my ancestors for five generations.” A considerable portion, if not the whole, of Increase Mather’s library is said to have been burned in the destruction of Charlestown in 1775.)) and gives us the chief accounts we have of the lives of several of the Boston ministers, — Cotton, Wilson, Norton, Davenport, and others.

Next, there is a similar acknowledgment to Hubbard due from Thomas Prince, the pastor of the Old South, for the use he made of him in his Chronological History of New England.((The first volume was published in 1736, and a second volume was begun in 1755, of which only three serial numbers were issued before the author’s death. The completed volume is not a scarce book, but the subsequent parts had become so rare that it was deemed desirable to reprint them in 2 Mass. Hist. Coll. vii.)) This work, as published, extends only over the earliest years of Boston’s history, not going beyond 1633, as the author, seeking a start, began with the Flood. In his preface he enumerates the manuscripts he had used, and his paragraphs are credited to their sources.

Great value must confessedly be put upon Governor Hutchinson’s History of Massachusetts Bay. No one before his day, and perhaps no one since, has had reflected on him more credit as a local historian. His first volume was published in 1764, and was the subject of a correspondence, preserved to us,((N. E. Hist, and Geneal. Reg., April, 1872.)) between the author and Dr. Stiles. His second volume was nearly ready for the press when his house was sacked by a mob, Aug. 26, 1765. He left the manuscript to its fate, as he bore off a daughter from their fury; thrown into the street, it was saved by the interposition of the Rev. Dr. Andrew Eliot, and was not so much injured but that the author readily repaired the loss: it was printed in 1767, bringing the story down to 1749. A third volume — detailing events preceding the Revolution with a surprising fairness when we consider the treatment he had received, and of course without sympathy for the patriot cause — was not published till long after its author’s death (1780), when a grandson, at the instigation of some Boston gentlemen, gave it to the world in 1828.((Charles Deane has traced the bibliography of Hutchinson’s historical writings in the Hist. Mag. i. 97, or with revision in the Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc., February, 1857. Hutchinson, in his preface, speaks of his efforts to save records and papers from destruction, and of their repeated loss by fire; and in the preface of his second volume he recounts his own losses by the riot.))

It is not worth while to enumerate here a long list of histories, all more or less general as regards our State and country, but all throwing light in considerable sections upon our own Boston history, and which the eager student of her fameful annals will not neglect, — the histories of New England by Neal, Backus, Palfrey (hardly to be surpassed), and Elliott; those of Massachusetts by Barry (the completest), Minot, and Bradford, not to mention other works. Of the foreign writers, who in days not recent have visited Boston and left accounts of the town, there are enumerations in Shurtleff’s Description of Boston, and in Henry T. Tuckerman’s America and her Commentators, with extracts from such narratives.

The Commonwealth has done its work nobly in causing the printing of those early records,((Records of Mass. Bay, 1628-86, edited by N. B. Shurtleff, Boston, 1855-57, in six volumes. The transcription for the printer was made by David Pulsifer. Cf. Mass. Hist. Soc., Lowell Lectures, p. 230.)) to which the historian of Boston must constantly resort. In our State House, too, are tier upon tier of volumes, labelled ” Massachusetts Archives,” so arranged, indeed, in an attempted classification,((Set forth in N. E. Hist, and Geneal. Reg., 1848, p. 105. See Dr. Palfrey’s condemnation of it in the preface to his New England, iii. p. vii.)) that it is irksome and unsatisfactory to consult them. They are rich, however, to the patient inquirer in the evidences of Boston s power and significance in our colonial history. The city has, fortunately, established of late years a Record Commission. Under the supervision of the gentlemen who have thus far constituted it, Messrs. William S. Appleton and William H. Whitmore, three reports have been printed. The first consists of various lists of early inhabitants, and the second, third, and fourth are mentioned below.

Historic Records of Boston found in the office of the City Clerk

Of the records and papers in the office of the City Clerk, the following statement is furnished by Samuel F. McCleary, Esq., the present clerk:

  • The Town Records, 1634 to 1821, in ten volumes. Also a copy on paper of vol. i. (1634-60), by Charles Shaw, made in 1814. Also a copy on parchment of vol. i., and fully indexed, made by S. B. Morse, Jr., in 1855. [This first volume is now in print in the Second Report of the Record Commissioners .]
  • The City Records,((There is a printed index of city documents, 1834-74, compiled by J. M. Bugbee.)) from 1822 to 1867, in forty-five volumes; from 1868 to 1880, in twenty-six volumes, two for each year.
  • The Original Papers forming the foundation of the Town and City Records, from 1634 to 1880. [Those from 1634 to 1734 (1716 missing) are bound in two volumes; the rest are in files.]
  • The Book of Possessions, being the original entries of the earliest recorded division of land within the town, written about 1643-44, in one volume. Also a copy made on parchment in 1855 by S. B. Morse, Jr., in one volume. [The volume is now in print in the Second Report of the Record Commissioners. Its probable date is discussed elsewhere in this history.]
  • Minutes of Meetings of the Selectmen, 1701-1822, inclusive, in twenty-four volumes. Selectmen’s Memoranda, being the original entries from which the above minutes were made up, 1732 to 1821, in ninety-four memorandum books.
  • Record of names of the inhabitants of the town in 1695, U one volume. Records of strangers not inhabitants of the town; also of bonds furnished by sundry persons as sureties that certain other persons therein named shall not become a charge to the town, 1679-1700, in one volume.
  • Permits to build with timber in the year 1707. Account books of the town and records of the committee on finance, 1739 to 1821. Records of committee on rebuilding after the great fire of 1760. Subscriptions for sufferers by the great fire of 1794. Lists of persons who arrived by sea during the years 1763-69. Memorandum book of selectmen for the year 1772.
  • List of donations to the town of Boston from all parts of the country, north and south, at the time of the enforcement of the Boston Port Bill in 17 74. Records of the donation committee of the town in 17 74. Lists of persons aided in the several wards by gifts of food or money, in eighteen memorandum books, for the years 1 774 75 – Cash-book of donation committee for 1774-75.
  • The shoemakers’ book, 1774. Spinning and knitting-book, 1774. Brickmakers’ book, 1774. Wood-account book, 1774. “Departing money” receipt-book, 1774. Petty ledger of donation committee, 1774.
  • Records of Committee of Safety, after the evacuation of Boston by the British troops, 1776.

Historic Records of Towns adjacent to Boston found in the office of the City Clerk

Then, of the records of adjacent towns, now a part of the metropolis by annexation, there are the following; and for the enumeration I am indebted to John T. Priest, Esq., the Assistant City Clerk: —


  • Town Records, 1629-1847, in fourteen volumes.
  • Selectmen’s Records, 1843-47, in one volume; previous to 1843 these records were kept in the Town Records.
  • Mayor and Aldermen’s Records, 1847-73, 1n ten volumes.
  • Common Council Records, 1847-73, in seven volumes.

These and other records and papers have been rearranged by Mr. Henry H. Edes, acting under orders of the city of Charlestown, 1869 and 1870. See Third Report of the Record Commissioners, where the ” Book of Possessions,” 1638-1802, is printed in full. One of the other volumes in this series is ” An estimate of the losses of the inhabitants by the burning of the town, June 17, 1775.” The volumes so far arranged make sixty-nine in number, and the papers yet to be arranged, few of which are earlier than 1720, will fill fifty or sixty volumes more.


  • Town Records, 1648-1846, in six volumes [the records were burned in 1645, and of those remaining there are but few before 1652. Ellis, Roxbury, p. 7; Drake, Roxbury, p. 260].
  • Selectmen’s Records, 1783-1846, in four volumes; previous to 1 783 these records were kept in the Town Records.
  • Mayor and Aldermen s Records, 1846-67, in seven volumes, 1652-54.

The “Ancient Transcript,” so-called, is the Roxbury Book of Possessions, and was made about 1652 — 54- A has been copied for the Record Commissioners and will be printed

West Roxbury

  • Town Records, 1851-73, in two volumes.
  • Selectmen’s Records, 1851-73, in two volumes.


  • Town Records, Jan. 16, 1632-1869, in twelve volumes. [These are the oldest original records in the office; a portion of the first volume will constitute the Fourth Report of the Record Commissioners]
  • Selectmen’s Records, 1855-69, in two volumes; previous to 1855 these records were kept in the Town Records.


  • Town Records, 1807-73, in five volumes; the first volume contains the records of the “Third Precinct of Cambridge on the South side of Charles River,” beginning in 1772. Selectmen’s Records, 1807 — 73, in four volumes.

Historic Records of Towns adjacent to Boston found in the office of the City Registrar

The following statement of the records in the keeping of the City Registrar has been kindly furnished from that office.


Births, Marriages, and Deaths (County Records), 1630-60, in one volume, with a transcription made in 1856:

Births, 1644-1744 (complete, over 20,000), in one volume, with a transcription made in 1874; 1726-1814 (imperfect), in one volume; 1800-49 (imperfect), in one volume; 1849-79 (complete), in sixteen volumes. Marriages, 1651-1879, in twenty-seven volumes, with a gap from 1662 to 1689; marriages out of the city, but recorded here, in one volume. Deaths, 1800-79 (complete from 1810), in twenty-one volumes; of persons buried here but who died elsewhere, in one volume.


Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1629 — 1843, in two volumes, including marriages out of town before 1800, and indexes: Births, 1843-73, in three volumes. Marriages, 1843-73, in three volumes. Deaths, 1843-73, m three volumes. Indexes, 1843-73, ‘ n three volumes.


Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1632-1849, in three volumes: Births, 1843 — 68, in four volumes. Marriages, 1632 — 1868, in four volumes; marriages out of the city but recorded here, in one volume. Deaths, 1633 — 1868, in three volumes.


Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1631-1849, in four volumes: Births, 1850-69, in one volume. Marriages, 1850-69, in two volumes. Deaths, 1850-69, in one volume.


Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1771 — 1873, one volume.

West Roxbury

Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1851-73, in one volume.

Intentions of Marriages

Boston, 1707-1879, in thirty-five volumes; Charlestown, 1725-1873, in five volumes, with an index volume; Roxbury, 1785-1868, in two volumes; Dorchester, 1798-1869, in two volumes.

The editor has endeavored in the map which accompanies this volume, called Boston, Old and New, to depict, as well as he could, the physical characteristics of the original peninsula, with the highways and footways of the young town for its first thirty years or more, and to indicate a few of the sites most interesting in its early history. His chief dependence has been the first volume of the “Boston Town Records” and the “Book of Possessions,” both of which are now in print in the Second Report of the Record Commissioners. The earliest published maps of the town were not made till eighty or ninety years after the settlement, and after the original water-line had been much obscured by the ” wharfing-out ” process, which began, so far as the records indicate, in 1634. Ever after that date the town records show that frequent permission was given to wharf out along the front of riparian lots. Still, some help has been derived from Bonner’s map of 1722, Burgiss’s of 1728, and even from later published surveys. More than one attempt has been made to construct a map of Boston as it was about the middle of the seventeenth century, but none has heretofore been published. Mr. Uriel H. Crocker was led to the study of the subject from his professional calls as a conveyancer, and constructed a map of the lots in the town, which he explained by extracts from the records in an accompanying volume. These he very kindly placed at the editor’s service, and they have been of frequent assistance. So has a similar plan on a much larger scale, which was made by Mr. George Lamb of Cambridge, and which is now in the Public Library. Of this latter plan a lithographed fac-simile of full size has been made, under the direction of the Trustees of the Library. If there are other plans existing based on the same sources, they have not come to the editor’s knowledge, except a sketch of streets and estates, indorsed ” William Appleton, 1866,” a copy of which is in the Historical Society’s Collection. Any one working up this subject can but derive great assistance, in tracing the bounds of estates and placing the original habitations, from the “Gleaner” articles of the late Mr. N. I. Bowditch, which were published in the Boston Transcript in 1855-56, and which are to be republished in the near future. They are the key to the greater store of information preserved in Mr. Bowditch’s manuscripts. Not a few hints and corroborative statements which have also been of assistance were found in Snow, Drake, and Shurtleff. ((The modern map used as a background is a reduced section of a large one recently published by the Boston Map Company; but it has been found necessary to modify a little the “original shore-line,” as indicated by its compilers, George F. Loring and Irwin C. Cromack, surveyors and draughtsmen in the City Surveyor’s office. The stones of the last previous authentic map of Boston were destroyed in the fire of 1872, and no satisfactory representation of the recent changes in the streets had been given till the issue of this map. The present reduction of it has been made by the proprietor’s kind permission.))

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