The Founding of Newtowne - Cambridge, MA
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member NorStar
N 42° 22.363 W 071° 07.231
19T E 325408 N 4693337
Quick Description: This sign provides a detailed account of how Cambridge - originally named - "Newtowne" - was settled.
Location: Massachusetts, United States
Date Posted: 11/29/2009 7:16:23 AM
Waymark Code: WM7T1Q
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member cache_test_dummies
Views: 5

Long Description:
In the Harvard Square district of Cambridge, at Winthrop Park on Mt. Auburn Street, near the intersection with J. F. Kennedy Street, stands a historical station with text and illustrations of the founding of Newtowne, the original name of Cambridge. The text on both sides of the station is as follows:

Side 1

The Founding of Newtowne

Massachusetts Bay Colony

The Puritans of Lincolnshire and East Anglia, England, in anticipation of their emigration to New England, organized the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1628, and obtained a grant of the territory between the Merrimac and the Charles Rivers from King Charles I for their settlement. They chose John Winthrop as Governor, Thomas Dudley as Deputy Governor, and "the Assistants," who together act as a kind of executive committee or council in the negotiations of July and August, 1629 for a transfer of the government of the Colony from the Company in Britain to the settlers in Massachusetts (recorded October 15, 1629).

In April and May, 1630, seventeen vessels with "nearly 1,000 souls" sailed from Britain preceded on March 29, 1630 by the Arbella, with Winthrop, Dudley and the Assistants, which landed in Salem on June 22, 1630. They settled in Charlestown about July 1st and organized what is now known as the First Church of Boston on August 27, 1630. At this same time other arrivals settled in Watertown, in Medford, and in Dorchester. (Thomas Graves had built a house on Graves Neck in what is now East Cambridge in 1629). When problems of water supply were encountered in Charlestown, Winthrop, Dudley, and the Assistants accepted the invitation of the hermit William Blackstone to move to Trimountain, which they renamed Boston on September 17, 1630.

Boston and Newtowne

Concerned that Boston was too open to attack from the sea by King Charles or the French, Winthrop, Dudley, and the Assistants rowed up the Charles River on September 30, 1630, in search of what Winthrop called "a fit place for a fortified town." The first high ground near the river channel was then somewhat northeast of what is now the Anderson Bridge (about on the site of Standish Hall), and there they landed. Tradition has it that from there they walked up a "rounded hill" to what is now Winthrop Square (southwest corner of Boylston and Mt. Auburn Streets), and there Deputy Governor Dudley stuck his cane in the ground and announced, "This is the place."

After a second trip and "Diverse meetings," all the members of the council signed an agreement on December 18 or 18, 1630, "to build houses in the next spring (1631) and to winter there (Newtowne) the next year (1631-32).

And so it came about that a gridiron plat of streets and lots (the first town plan in the English colonies of America) was laid out for the area south of what is now Massachusetts Avenue and east of Brattle and Eliot Streets.

This is the Place

Side 2

Newtowne and Cambridge

Historical Events of the Early Period
Significant events of the early years of Cambridge include the arrival of Stephen Daye with the first printing press in America in 1639. Day's widow married President Dunster of Harvard, thus establishing the Printery at Cambridge, antecedent of the University Press, the Riverside Press, and the Athenaeum Press of later Cambridge.

The publication in 1641 of the "Body of Liberties," a bill of rights, and the "New England Confederation" anticipated provisions later included in the U.S. Constitution, while the "Cambridge Platform" of religious liberties was published in 1646.

The American Revolution started in Old Cambridge in September, 1774, with the forced resignations of Lt. Gov. Thomas Oliver and the Cambridge members of the Mandamus Council. George Washington took command of the Continental Army on Cambridge Common on July 3, 1775.

In 1780, the Massachusetts Constitution was drafted in the Foruth Meeting House in Harvard Square, and Cambridge was the first town to approve it. It is now the oldest constitution in the world.

The College
October 28, 1636, has been celebrated ever since as the date when the Colony's General Court, "dreading to leave an illiterate ministry," appropriated funds for a "colledge," which on November 15, 1637, was "ordered to be at Newtowne."

In recognition of the education at Cambridge University in England of so many of the leaders of the Colony, the name of Newtowne was then changed to Cambridge, and following the bequest to the college by John Harvard of L[Pounds] 700 and all his library, the General Court voted in 1639 "that the be built at Cambridge shalbee called Harvard Colledge."

The Town
The original grant for Newtowne included an area southwest of Watertown over what is now Allston, Brighton and Newton, and northwest "some eight miles from the village." In 1641 the General Court extended the town boundaries northwest between Charlestown and Watertown "almost to the Merrimac," to "Shawhin" or what is now Tewksbury.

As the population of outlying areas reached numbers capable of supporting their own parish church and minister, the areas thus served were set off as separate towns. Thus Billerica was set off in 1655 and Bedford was later set off in turn from Billerica. Cambridge Village, now Newton, followed in 1688; Cambridge Farms, now Lexington, in 1713; West Cambridge, now Arlington and part of Belmont, in 1807; and Little Cambridge, now Brighton, and then including Allston, in 1837.

Meanwhile, parts of the original Watertown were added Cambridge: west of Sparks Street to the middle of Fresh Pond and including Gerry's Landing in 1754, and to the present western city boundary in 1880 and 1881. Adjustments were also made in the Cambridge-Somerville boundary in 1820 at Shady Hill and in 1856 northwest of Porter Square.

The Meeting House on Watch Hill in what is now Harvard Square was the Town Hall as well as the Church, and when Middesex County was established in 1643, Cambridge became the shiretown or county seat with a court house on the site of the Harvard Coop and jail on Winthrop Street west of the Market Place.


Bridges across the Charles River and the turnpikes to them shortened the distance to Boston (as recorded on the milestone in the Burying Ground) and changed Cambridge from a village around Harvard College to three rival villages, as shown on the Hales map of 1830. In 1780 the West Boston Bridge (the present Longfellow Bridge) stimulated the development of Cambridgeport, and Andrew Craigie's development in East Cambridge started with the Canal Bridge or Cragie Bridge of 1807 on the site of the present Charles River Dam
[the old dam where the Museum of Science stands on]. With the construction of a new Middlesex County Courthouse designed by Charles Bulfinch in East Cambridge in 1815, and a new town hall in Cambridgeport in 1830, Old Cambridge was left with Harvard College as its focal point.

Cambridge Historical Commission

There are also several maps as illustrations of the progression of settlement in Cambridge.
Agency Responsible for Placement: Cambridge Historical Commission

Year Placed: 1980

County: Middlesex

City/Town Name: Cambridge

Relevant Web Site: [Web Link]

Agency Responsible for Placement (if not in list above): Not listed

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