By Charles W. Brewster
Editors Note: C.W. Brewster was a Portsmouth columnist in the mid-1800's. This article includes his opinions and may not reflect current research or current values.
ALTHOUGH in 1631 eighty emigrants came into the colony, yet twenty-six years after, the citizens of Portsmouth over twenty-one years of age, and females unmarried over eighteen, numbered scarcely a hundred.
At a town meeting held by the Selectmen January 13, 1660, a penalty of five shillings for every tree was imposed upon any inhabitant, for cutting timber or any other wood from off the town common, except for their own building, fencing or firewood.
Robert Elliot, John Lewis, Mr. Fryer and Goodman Mussell were fined L10 each for building on or appropriating portions of the town commons to their own use, without orders, license, or town grant, in general, or Selectmen in particular. Subsequently the fine of Goodman Mussell was remitted, and the lands illegally taken conveyed to him by the Selectmen.
"At a general town meeting, held February 3, 1660, those gentlemen the town had chosen to consider of the plans and proportions unto whom land ought to be given, presenting the town with what they had done therein, the which when the town had considered and debated, there were some of the old planters made a motion to have 600 acres of land distributed among them, and others of a shorter standing to have a lesser proportion of land added over and above to them, gave occasion to the following votes:
Voted, That the old planters should have six hundred acres of land distributed among them, three hundred acres whereof is rendered up by Capt. Pendleton, Mr. John and Richard Cutt, out of their proportion of three hundred acres, to make the sum aforesaid to be out of the town's land. And furthermore it was voted that the above six hundred acres should be to relieve those that stand in need, together with the old planters.
Voted, That they are to distribute the six hundred acres mentioned in the former vote, shall not exceed above fifty acres to any man. William Seavey and John Pickering were added to the committee to distribute the land among the inhabitants."
The Selectmen were prohibited from granting any more of the town's lands, until the lands are distributed and a vote of the town again renews their power of making grants, and it was voted that all owners of lands be at equal charge for defending the same, according to their proportions.
The following is the report of the committee appointed to proportion the land among the inhabitants.
"Whereas, at a general towne meeting held by the inhabitants of Portsmouth the 22d of January, 1660, it was agreed upon for the distribution of their lands undisposed and not yet granted, that there should be a distribution thereof, be made up to such of the inhabitants as hitherto have had little or none given them in some proportion to those that have already lands granted to them. And for an equal proceeding therein did then and there choose us whose names are underwritten, for to consider the persons and proportions unto whom the said lands should be divided and distributed, which said persons then chosen have considered accordingly with reference unto both, and for a more just and equal way of proceeding, according to the premises, have drawn up and concluded upon these propositions following:
1st. That all such as were reputed inhabitants and free comyuers unto the year 1657, (when at a town meeting held the 24th of February, the town looked at and respected after-comers under another consideration,) are the persons unto whom right of land belongs in this distribution.
2d. That all sons as are of the age of 21 years and upwards have right to land in this distribution, and further that all sons that are married, although under the age of 21 years, as like right as those aforesaid.
3d. That all daughters of those mentioned in the first proposition, whether married or unmarried at the age of 18 years and upwards, are capable of and ought to have a proportion in this distribution.
THE PERSONS TO HAVE LAND AND PROPORTIONS
Thomas Ornyon 20
The proportions abovesaid are made to every inhabitant as if noe land had been given them at all, and all such as have received above the proportions aforesaid by former town grant, such are to possess the same still, and must not expect further enlargement, as none is to be taken from them, and all those that have not yet had the abovesaid proportions such are to have the proportions aforesaid.
The 2d column contains the addition of acres given to every one against whose names they be sett, according to the discretion of those appointed for the distribution of the 600 acres of land as per the town's order.
Capt. Pendleton, Mr. John Cutt and Mr. Richard Cutt's full proportions are entered above as they were before they rendered back 100 acres apiece to be distributed, which are to be taken when the land is laid out to them."
Signed by Brian Pendleton, Richard Cutt, Nath'l Drake, Philip Lewis, Elias Stillman, Wm. Seavey, John Pickering.
The above distribution covers not quite five thousand acres. The land was in the limits of what now makes up Portsmouth, Great Island, Rye, Newington and Greenland.
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