Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Incorporators

John G. Hales, 1832 - annotated by Fred Seaver (BPL). (click to enlarge)

The map segment shown above is part of John G. Hales' 1832 map of the town of Roxbury. It was used by Mr. Fred Seaver to show the locations of houses of the founders of the Third Meeting House of Roxbury, now First Unitarian Church of Jamaica Plain (see below for numbered names). The branch of the Seaver family that included Fred was one of the leading families of Jamaica Plain. The story of the Seaver general store is told on the JP Historical Society web site here. Of immediate interest is the information provided by Fred, who was in a position to know and pass on details of Jamaica Plain history otherwise lost to us.

I left the photo of the map above at full size, so you can click on the picture and see an enlarged and easily read version. Twenty-seven homes are located by number, showing the area from which the third parish drew its founding members. In today's terms, the parish extended from Hyde square (no. 10) to the border of Brookline (no. 2) and from Hemlock Hill in the Arnold Arboretum (no. 20) to Walnut avenue in Roxbury (nos. 23, 24). On the other hand, we don't see the Curtis homestead at Boylston street listed, so perhaps some of the people in the district continued to travel to the First Church at Eliot square in Roxbury proper.

Let's start looking closely at the map. The first thing we have to do is remember that this is an 1832 map, and shows streets that were not present at the time of the founding of the Third Parish (1760s). Centre and South streets were present, as well as Perkins, Day Heath, May streets. Burroughs Eliot and Prince streets were not present near Jamaica pond, and Washington street (originally the Dedham Turnpike) had not been laid out yet. Jamaica Plain was still an agricultural community, with farms and homes lining a few country roads. There were certainly other people living in the area at the time, but the location of these houses probably tells us a lot about the population of Jamaica Plain at the time.

Going down the list of names, we see some we should recognize immediately, and some we can identify with a little digging. Benjamin Pemberton (#1) married Susannah Faneuil, niece of Peter Faneuil of Boston's Faneuil Hall fame. He purchased an estate along Centre street from his brother-in-law Benjamin Fanueil, and shouldered much of the financial burden of founding the Third Parish in Jamaica Plain. He would later sell the property to Dr. John Warren, and it would later pass to Samuel G. Goodrich, also known as Peter Parley.

Edward Child (#2) is shown living along Pond street at the Brookline border. Pond street was known as the Newton road in the early 1800s, though it was only officially named as Pond street in 1825. The location of the Child house suggests that the road went back well into the 1700s.

John Morey (#4) is another matter. He has already been mentioned on this site. His farm was along Centre street and today's Arnold Arboretum.

Captain Lemuel Child (#5) would later serve with the Minutemen, leading a group of local men to fight the British as they retreated from Lexington. He had a farm along Centre street near today's Faulkner Hospital.

William Burroughs (#6) is shown living on Centre street, quite near the future location of the street that would bear his name. he is said to have laid out Burroughs street some time around 1800.

Isaac and Nathaniel Brewer (#7) are shown living at the same place as Captain Charles Brewer would live one hundred years later.

Eleazer and Nathaniel Weld (#8) lived on the estate granted to Joseph Weld by the town of Roxbury for his service in the Pequod War. The homestead was along South street, the property extending to Centre street and including much of today's Arnold Arboretum. In the Family Search online archive, I find an Eleazer Weld, born Feb. 20th, 1736 to Joseph and Martha Weld. There is also a Nathaniel Weld, born March 24st, 1739 to Ebenezer and Mary Weld. I haven't been able to satisfy myself that I have the two men I'm looking for, as I have not been able to cross-reference the two men's relationship. For now, I'll accept that the two named men did live on the Weld estate at the time, but it is entirely possible that Fred Seaver made mistakes in his effort, so I'll put off for now doing a grand Weld genealogy.

I believe the Withingtons (#10) ran an inn/tavern at today's Hyde square that served travellers on the highway from Boston to Dedham (as Centre street was called then).

Joshua Loring (#11) should need no introduction to residents of Jamaica Plain. Commodore Loring built his house at the beginning of South street, where it still stands today. The old farm house that stood on the land when he bought it was moved across the street, and served as the parsonage of the Third Church for a time. Tradition has it that the old farm house was later sold and moved down South street, and perhaps moved again still later. There is the possibility that the old house still stands today, covered in later additions and improvements. If so, it could be the oldest standing house in Jamaica Plain.

John Troutbeck (#13) was the first owner of Linden Hall, which sat at Centre and Pond streets. Reverend Troutbeck was assistant rector of the first Anglican church in Boston, and like that other loyalist, Joshua Loring, would emigrate to Great Britain during the Revolution.

If the name Scarborough (#16) rings a bell locally, it would be because Frederick Law Olmsted used the name of a former land owner when he designed Franklin Park. Scarboro Hill, and later Scarboro pond are near today's Morton street, and not far from number 16 on the map.

John Louder, father and son (#18), lived appropriately near to today's Louder's lane, a later road that was laid out to provide access to private lots off Centre street.

John Keyes (#21) was also honored with an eponymous street name, but gave up the honor when the street was renamed for Corporal John J. McBride, who lost his life in France during the First World War. John Keyes was a tanner who lived along South street, as shown. When the Loring estate was sold, Keyes purchased the south most portion, the greater northern section going to Ann Doane, who would soon be Mrs. David S. Greenough, and the matriach of five generations of D.S. Greenoughs. This map, however, shows home sites before the Revolutionary War, and before the estate of the Loyalist Loring was sold. It appears as if Keyes well pre-dated the Greenoughs in the area, and is actually shown living on what would have been at the time the Loring estate. Sooo.... we have a puzzle here.

We have various Mays: Benjamin (#14), Lemuel (#17) and Ebenezer (#19). Benjamin (b. March 1, 1708 - d. Dec. 8, 1774) was a farmer, and is shown here living on Centre street at today's Pond street. Lemuel, (b. Feb. 20, 1738 - d. Nov. 19, 1805) the first son of Benjamin, served as a Lieutenant under Capt. Child in General Heath's regiment during the Revolutionary War. Ebenezer is shown living on Centre street near William Burroughs house. His first daughter, Susanna, married Daniel Starr, later to give his name to Starr lane just across Centre street. Makes sense - the Starrs lived somewhere off Centre street in the vicinity of Starr lane and Seaverns avenue.

Isaac Williams, George Woods, Edward Briggs, Ezra Davis, father and son, Lemuel Austin, John Williams, Joathan Williams, Jacob Davis, John Foster and Jonathan Payson are all unknown to me in any detail worth relating. I do know that the Williams family had farms in Roxbury, east of today's Washington street, which agrees with the location of their homes on Fred Seaver's map. Having these names will allow me to start looking for them, so perhaps they will reveal themselves at a later date.

1. Benjamin Pemberton
2. Edward Child
3. Isaac Williams
4. John Morey
5. Lemuel Child
6. William Burroughs
7. Isaac Brewer, Nathaniel Brewer
8. Eleazer Weld, Nathaniel Weld
9. George Woods
10. Abil Withington
11. Joshua Loring
12. William Pepperil
13. John Troutbeck
14. Benjamin May
15. Edward Briggs
16. Samuel Scarborough
17. Lemuel May
18 John Louder, John Louder, Jr.
19. Ebenezer May
20. Ezra Davis, Ezra Davis, Jr.
21. John Keyes
22. Lemuel Austin
23. John Williams
24. Jonathan Williams
25. Jacob Davis
26. John Foster
27. Jonathan Payson

The original Roxbury map, without Fred Seaver's annotations, can be seen here.

Source: The Founders and Incomporators ofthe Third Parish in Jamaica Plain; Who They Were and Where They Lived. Fred Seaver (Boston Public Library, Jamaica Plain branch).


  1. That's a fantastic map. I've lived all over it in the last few years--starting near #16 on what is now Forest Hills St. and ending up 8 years and about 8 houses later on the Fort Hill, just off Highland. Where in the library did you find this? I'd love to get a good hi-resolution image of the entire map and have it printed and framed.

  2. This particular map is a small black and white image from a booklet - just a few inches across. The booklet is at the Sedgwick st. library, locked in a cabinet in the Adult room. You need to ask the reference librarian to get access to it - it's in one of the green boxes. The full Town of Roxbury map without the numbered locations can be seen on the JP Historical Society web site

  3. Thanks! The link you sent is perfect--hopefully it's a high enough resolution to print well. I'll play with it at work where we have a big plotter. Love the blog, by the way--your recap of the Stony Brook history was fantastic and very useful to some of us who work in the local world of water utilities.

  4. This stuff is great. I read it all the time. I grew up in Woodbourne (White City) and knew just about every family in the area. I believe my house was on the border of land owned by Minot and Peters. I have tried but I can not find the date or name of the builder for the house I grew up at 236 Wachusett St. Is there any way I can find this information on line. Keep up the great work. Tim

  5. Tim

    Go to this page: and plug in the address. The original building permit request is there. The owner/builder lived on Bourne st. To get the full history of the house, you need to go to the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds and work your way through the deeds from one owner to another.