A Brief History of Weymouth, MA
The Town of Weymouth occupies 21.6 square miles about 12 miles south of Boston on the South Shore. It is the second oldest settlement in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, dating from 1622. Thomas Weston, a London merchant, had done helped finance the Pilgrims and pay for the Mayflower, because he believed that there was the potential for a lucrative business based on trade with the colonies. Since the Pilgrims were motivated more by religious freedom than investment opportunities, Weston wanted to establish a separate colony that would serve as a trading post from which lumber, furs, salted fish could be shipped to England. Accordingly, he sent 60 men to what is now North Weymouth and named it "Wessaguscus" or "Wessagusset". These sixty men were apparently unprepared for the rigors that faced them, especially during the harsh winters. Food stores dwindled rapidly, and the men were forced to eke out an existence by foraging for shellfish, nuts, and berries. With starvation threatening, they appealed to the Plymouth colony for food, but they too had scarce supplies. The Wessagusset men first resorted to trading clothing and other wares to the local Indians in exchange for food. When their wares ran out, they resorted to working for the Indians in exchange for food or simply stealing food from them.
By 1623 the Indians were becoming increasingly irritated with the new settlers, and it was rumored that they intended to wipe out the Wessagusset settlement and then attack the Plymouth settlers. One of the Wessagusset men got word to Miles Standish in Plymouth, and Standish took a band of men to Wessagusset and made a preemptive strike, killing the Indian chief Pecksuot and and several of his men. Many of the Wessagusset men subsequently moved to Plymouth and others to Maine; two of the men who remained a Wessagusset were killed by the Indians in retaliation for the attack by Miles Standish.
Six months later Robert Gorges, a captain in the British navy, obtained a grant and brought approximately 120 men and women from Weymouth, England to the Wessagusset colony. Gorges and some of the settlers returned to England in 1624, but others remained in the colony that they renamed "Weymouth. One of the ministers in the Gorges expedition was the Reverend William Blaxton (also spelled Blackstone), who shortly thereafter became the first settler in what is now Boston. The Weymouth colony slowly grew, and by 1633 it was described as follows:
"... yet but a small village, yet it is very pleasant and healthful, very good ground and is well timbered, and hath good store of hay ground. It hath a spacious harbor for shipping before the town, the salt water being navigable for boats and pinnaces two leagues. Here the inhabitants have good store of fish of all sorts, and swine, having acorns and clams at the time of the year. Here is likewise an alewife river."
The early settlement must have looked much like the one depicted below.
A Favorable Location for Early Industries
The map above on the right shows the outline of Weymouth bordered on the north by Quincy Bay, which is part of Boston Harbor. In addition to shipping access, Weymouth also enjoyed a fair amount of protection from Hull peninsula, and Weymouth was also bounded by the Fore River to the west and the Back River to the east, providing not only additional havens for ships, but also the opportunity to erect mills and a shipbuilding industry.
The image below shows a schooner at Rhines lumber yard in Weymouth Landing which is upriver from the mouth of the Fore River.
In the 1630s Wessagusset became recognized as part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1635 21 new families arrived from Weymouth, England, and the town was renamed Weymouth. The settlers lived primarily on fishing and farming, and they also harvested lumber from the forests and salt and thatch from its salt marshes.
Eventually, other communities began to spring up, and, like many of them, Weymouth was governed by a town meeting which met at least twice a year (March and November). The town meeting established local laws and regulations and levied fines and taxes. For example, laws were established to protect the salt marshes, which were an important source of salt and thatch. Other laws were enacted to manage the harvesting of pine and cedar that were important resources for construction and export.
As the town grew, the simple network of paths originally used by the Indians gave rise to roads that expanded Weymouth southward from the bay to Whitman's Pond and also connected it to other communities. Ferries began to connect Weymouth to Boston and other communities, and town meetings took up the business of planning, building, and maintaining roads and bridges.
From 1636-37 the Pequod War took place in southern New England, which pitted the Pequod tribe against an alliance of other tribes and the English settlers. The Pequods lost the war, and a period of relative peace followed, but the growing demands of the English settlers for more and more land continued to cause friction with the Native Americans, including the local Wampanoag Indians. Chief Massasoit had worked to help the English and maintain a good relationship. His son Metacom, also know as "King Philip", succeeded him, and in 1671 he was forced to sign a humiliating peace treaty that required his tribe to surrender their guns. In 1675 and Indian who was an informer for the English settlers was murdered, and officials in the Plymouth colony tried three Wampanoags for the murder and executed them by hanging. Metacom was incensed and ordered an attack on Swansee and other settlements in retaliation, thus triggering "King Philip's War."
The conflict was widespread, and some of the fighting occurred in Weymouth where houses and barns were burned by the Indians on several occasions. Eventually, the Indians were defeated. King Philip was assassinated by a Native American working for the English, and his head was impaled on a pike in Plymouth. The war was costly to the settlers, but it devastated the Wampanoags, and the expansion of settlements proceeded without further opposition.