East Boston Worth $3500

That Was the Price Paid for the Whole Island 270 [360] Years Ago—The Globe Gets the Ancient Deed of Sale

They actually sold the whole of East Boston for $3500 worth of brown sugar.

Not lately, but 270 [360] years ago, when that now thriving district was known as Noddles Island, and its only riches were one comfortable dwelling, a small grist mill, a few huts and a plentiful supply of woods and grass.

The sale is recorded in a deed recently brought to the Globe office by someone who believed "there might be a story in it." In spite of its great antiquity, the document is without a crack or a tear, the paper is still white and the ink as black as though used yesterday. The text, written too finely to be comfortably perused without magnifying, is in script practically of Shakespeare's period.

What is virtually a printed duplicate of it is on file in the Suffolk Registry of Deeds as are also records of six subsequent sales of Noddles Island before 1833, when the island ceased to be the property of any individual or family and was christened East Boston.

As Big as Boston Proper

The Globe's ancient deed shows that Samuel Maverick, the earliest known owner of the future East Boston, then as great in area as Boston proper, confirmed the sale of it to Col Burch on the above-mentioned terms and date.

The sale by Maverick to Burch had actually been made seven years earlier than the date of the deed, but continuous litigation between seller and buyer had followed, Maverick continuing to occupy the island on the pretext that the purchaser had failed to fulfill conditions of sale.

The long litigation ended in 1656 by a decree of the Massachusetts General Court that Noddles Island should be Burch's as soon as he had deposited for Maverick in a certain seaside warehouse in Barbadoes, "muscovadoes" sugar to the value of 700 pounds sterling. Muscovado was the Spanish term for brown or unrefined sugar.

This designation of sugar as a legal tender, in the opinion of W. T. A. Fitzgerald, Registrar of deeds, explains the use in past generations of the word sugar for money, as dough is now used.

Maverick, being a shipping merchant and trader, probably found a profitable market for his sugar anywhere between Virginia and the coast of Maine. In the Globe's deed he and his son, Nathaniel, who was joint grantor, acknowledge complete satisfaction as to delivery of the sugar.

Here Before Winthrop Came

Authenticity of the deed seems proven by the wax seal which Maverick affixed to his own signature, for it is the seal of David Thompson, who lived and traded with the Indians on Thompson Island in the harbor before Boston existed, when Maverick on Noddles Island, William Blaxton on Beacon Hill and one Walford in the Future Charlestown were the only settlers hereabouts.

Maverick acquired the seal by marrying Mrs Thompson six months after her husband's death in 1628. The defunct, by the way, had always spelled his name "Thomson." Maverick spelled his name "Mavericke." A second seal on the deed, affixed to Nathaniel Maverick's name, has not been identified.

Samuel Maverick seems to have occupied Noddles Island as a squatter for about three years previous to the arrival of Winthrop's colony, who settled in Boston in 1630 and claimed Noddles Island as belonging to their grant.

In 1633, however, they gave the island in perpetuity to Maverick and his heirs, probably in consideration of his being an extensive raiser of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, much in demand for immigrants and arriving and departing ships.

It is a historic fact that supplying ships with fresh meat remained the chief activity of the tenants of Noddles Island during the 200 years it was privately owned.

Fatt Hogg or $10

The only obligations the General Court placed on Maverick in making him proprietor of the island were that he should annually furnish the Governor "a fatt wether, a fatt hogg" or the equivalent of $10 in cash, and should allow the people of Charlestown and Boston to cut all the wood they wanted for fuel from the southern part of his island. It is well know there never was a stick of timber in Boston, and this indicates there was probably none in Charlestown.

The name of the island is supposed to indicate that before Maverick's time it had been occupied for a while by William Noddle, a much respected pioneer, who was drowned at Salem in 1632.

Maverick's house, thought to have stood on the site of Maverick sq. may have been destroyed by the Revolution, when Colonial military authorities burned everything on the island that might possibly benefit British troops during the siege of Boston.

Maverick was probably something of an Indian trader, for he had a rude fort on the island defended by four small cannon of the kind called "murderers," because of the bloody work effected by the volleys of old nails, scraps of iron and brass and other miscellaneous junk with which they were loaded. Their reputation probably obviated the necessity of ever firing one of them.

Maverick had the "distinction" of inaugurating negro slavery in New England on Noddles Island about 1638, and he boasted of breeding "blooded stock, both slaves and cattle."

Nearly Ruined Innkeepers

To all strangers visiting Boston he extended hospitality like that of a baron of old, bidding them forsake the tavern for his own festive board, bountifully supplied with wines and liquors, with fine beef and mutton, game birds from his own marshes and oysters, clams, lobsters and fish taken almost in front of his door, till the General Court forbade him to usurp the prerogatives of the tavern keepers.

Although son of a Puritan minister, Samuel Maverick was an enthusiastic Church of England man. With others of the same faith he petitioned the General Court about 1646 that they be allowed the rights of citizenship denied those not of the Congregationalist church.

Their petition being denied, they complained to the British Parliament, were then imprisoned and fined by the General Court. Refusing to pay his fine and fearing that Noddles Island would be appropriated in lieu of it, Maverick, according to his daughter, disposed of it himself in order to forestal the authorities.

She declared her father first transferred the island to his son by means of what was intended to be a make-believe sale, but which to his chagrin, his son, for awhile at least, insisted on regarding as a bonafide one.

Made Enemies Tremble

The Globe's deed recites that seven years earlier, in 1649, Maverick, his wife Amias and his son Nathaniel had sold Noddles Island to George Briggs of Barbados, that Briggs had reconvened it soon afterward to Nathaniel Maverick and that the same Nathaniel sold it to Col John Burch, after which followed the long litigation culminating in the Globe's deed, which finally confirmed the sale.

After leaving Noddles Island in 1656, Maverick moved from place to place, Virginia, West Indies, London, Eng. and New York, wherever he went denouncing New Englanders as traitors to the English Church and institutions.

He probably paid tribute largely to his own enterprise when, in 1658, he wrote that while in 1624, when he came here from England at the age of 21, "there was not a single cow, horse or sheep in New England, and very few goats or hogs"; 30 years later, when he left here, "it is a wonder to see great herds of cattle and the great number of horses belonging to every town, as well as to thousands of cattle and hogs slaughtered each year for years past and sent to New Foundland and the West Indies or sold to provision ships."

Probably the happiest period of his life was when, by appointment of King Charles II in 1664, he returned here a member of a royal commission to investigate and correct as they saw fit all alleged New England shortcomings. He caused a lot of worry to those who had earlier denied him the privileges of citizenship, but accomplished little to their disadvantage, after all.

He died about 1670, age about 68, in New York, in a house given him by King Charles II and under such obscure circumstances that the date of his passing away has not been preserved.

Two of Samuel Maverick's descendants, both Samuels, became historical characters. One, who lived on State st in 1770, was a victim of the so-called Boston Massacre on the night of March 5, that year, when the British troops fired a volley into a belligerent crowd at the east end of the Old State House.

A later Samuel, a San Antonio, Tex. lawyer, and a cattle raiser like his Noddles Island ancestor, owing to having his ranch on an island, omitted to brand his cattle, as other owners did, with the result that in time all unbranded cattle, particularly young ones, came to be known as "mavericks," and finally either cattle or property unlawfully obtained were said to have been "mavericked." Following the destiny of Noddles Island after its transfer to Col John Burch of the Barbados in 1656, Burch sold it the same year to Thomas Broughton of Boston, who immediately turned it over to a number of his creditors.

Called North Boston Then

One of them got sole possession of it in 1662, and two years later he sold it to Sir Thomas Temple, to whom Temple st, West End, is still a memorial. Temple sold it in 1670 to Samuel Shrimpton, for whom Exchange st was once called Shrimptons lane.

Shrimpton bequeathed the island to his widow, who in turn left it to her granddaughter, Mrs John Yeamans, who bequeathed it to her son, Shute Shrimpton Yeamans.

Shute in 1768 bequeathed it to three of his aunts, Mrs Chauncy, wife of the minister of First Church; the wife of Gov Increase Sumner, for whom Sumner st was named, and the mother of David Grenough, later to be an extensive real estate developer.

Alexander Corbett, Boston Daily Globe, Aug 29, 1926, p. C9

1 comment:

  1. Sir John Everett Millais lived life to its fullest. He was a popular man's man who enjoyed hunting and fishing. He may have been a sportsman, had he lived in our times.
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