History of Lynn Massachusetts

History of Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts: Including Lynnfield, Saugus, Swampscot, and Nahant, by Alonzo Lewis and James R. Newhall. Published at Boston by John L. Shorey in 1865.

When the collection of the facts composing this work was commenced, very little was known of the early history of Lynn. It had not even been ascertained in what year the town was settled — the records for the first sixty-two years were wholly wanting — and the names of the early settlers were unknown. It has been said that the Town Records were burnt, about the year 1690; but that they were in existence long after that period, is evident from an order respecting them, on the seventh of March, 1715, when the inhabitants voted that — "Whereas, some of the old Town Records are much shattered, therefore, so much shall be transcribed out of one or more of them, into another book as the selectmen shall think best .... and the selectmen having perused two of the old Town Books, and find that the second book is most shattered, and that the oldest book may be kept fare to reed severall years, think it best and order, that soe much shall be transcribed." A few pages were thus copied, and the books were afterward destroyed or lost.

[In 1686, Oliver Purchis was elected Town Clerk. And probably he kept the records in a careless manner, as subsequently this passage appears: "At a Town Meeting held in Lyn, May 16th, 1704, the town being informed that there was considerable concerns of the town lay in loose papers that was acted when Capt. Purchis was Town Clark — therefore Voated, that the present selectmen, with Capt. Theo. Burrill, should be a committee to sort all them papers and such of them as they thought fit the Towne Clark to record in ye Towne Booke.]

The papers were accordingly sorted and some recorded. But though among the rejected ones there were doubtless many containing matters that would be highly interesting to the people of this day, yet it is hardly probable that anything of real value escaped.

It is well to bear in mind, however, that divers matters which are now Considered entirely within the jurisdiction of the towns themselves, were anciently taken cognizance of by the General and Quarterly Courts. Town records were hence deemed of comparatively small importance, and often kept with little care; far too little, when it is considered what mischief might arise, for instance, from uncertainty respecting land allotments. But the living witnesses were then at hand, and the necessities of the great future could not be anticipated. Yet it is not believed that Lynn has greatly suffered from the loss of her early records.

Table of Contents:

Chapter I., Beginning On Page 9:
Embraces Introductory Remarks - Notices of the Early Voyages and Discoveries in and about our territory - An account of the Indians found here, with brief Biographical Sketches of some of the more prominent - Topographical and general Descriptions, with notices of Natural History and Phenomena - Facts concerning the Business Enterprises and Employments of the Settlers, and their Religious Character, Manners, and peculiar Customs.

Chapter II., Beginning On Page 111:
Carries forward our History, year by year, in the form of Annals, giving all important events under the appropriate dates, from the time of the first settlement, in 1629, to the year 1865 interspersed with brief notices of prominent individuals, and other matters deemed pertinent.

Chapter III. Beginning On Page 479:
Contains Biographical Sketches of various Natives of Lynn who from position, endowments or acts seemed entitled to some special notice.

Chapter IV., Beginning On Page 575:
Embraces various Tables - Lists of Public Officers, Names of Early Settlers, Religious Societies and Ministers, Newspapers and Editors, etc. together with Statistical Summaries.

Chapter V., Beginning On Page 590:
Contains brief Concluding Remarks, alluding especially to (vii) the progress of Lynn during the last twenty years and closing with acknowledgments for the friendly assistance received during the progress of the work.

The Index, Beginning On Page 593:
Contains all the Surnames in the book, alphabetically arranged in connection with the subjects.

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At the time the Massachusetts emigration commenced there were many decided Puritans in the Church, some of the more sanguine of whom had probably once hoped to Puritanize her, and who were yet fond of calling her their " dear mother." Many of these came over with the "rigid separatists." And were it not in accordance with the recognized tendency of the human mind to proceed to extremes when it recedes from an established order, we might well be astonished at the apparent delight some of them took, when safely here, in heaping indignities upon the very name of their " dear mother."

It will be instructive to those who have never given this subject much attention, to present an illustration or two of their seeming disposition to proceed, as far as they decently could in raising and fostering prejudices against the Church.

The Church had always observed Christmas as the most noteworthy festival of the year — it was the anniversary of the natal day of the great founder of our faith — the anniversary of an event which the very angels of heaven came down to celebrate— those sinless spirits whose majestic anthem rang over the starlit plains of Judea, and being taken up by the Church had been continued on through all the centuries. But her "children" here in these western wilds thought fit to turn their backs upon her holy example. They went to the extent of forbidding, by law, the observance of Christmas. Whoever abstained from his ordinary labor on that day, subjected himself to the liability of being punished for a misdemeanor.

The Church regarded matrimony as a religious rite. They did not elevate it to the position of a sacrament but invested it with a peculiar sanctity. But in Massachusetts, from an early date, ministers were not allowed to perform the wedding ceremony. Magistrates and special appointees alone could discharge the agreeable duty. It was not till 1686 that the present custom of authorizing ministers to solemnize marriages became established. Reducing it to the incidents of a mere civil contract was no doubt the occasion of divers evils. And it is not remarkable that the effect was so long felt that even in 1719 the Boston ministers testified that weddings were times of "riotous irregularities."