By the 1630’s, the town governments of Boston, and nearby Hingham and Weymouth, made it clear that if a settler was not in concord with majority views on religion and property, he’d be moving out of the town.(1) By 1636, the Baptist Roger Williams had fled the Massachusetts Bay Colony and settled in the Rehoboth, Rhode Island area, on the east side of the what is now the Seekonk, or Pawtucket River. His short-lived 1635 settlement at that east side location ended when the Plymouth Colony asserted their claim to the land based on their charter from the King of England. When the Plymouth Colony claimed this land, Williams moved to a five or so miles west, to the east bank of the what is now the Providence River, and called his new settlement “Providence”.(2)
But Roger Williams, coming from Boston, and originally settling on the west bank of the Pawtucket River, was not the only person settling in the area.
In the area of today’s Pawtucket, the first European settler and land owner on the east side of the Pawtucket River probably was John Hazel. Hazel was from the Hingham area. In 1641 Hazell had purchased land from Natives in the Rehoboth area; in 1642, Hazell resided there with 600 acres he owned on the Pawtucket River, including the strategic falls. Hazel may have purchased his land directly from Osamequin, the Wampanoag sachem, as Roger Williams had done. Like Roger Williams, Hazel lived at peace with the Indians.
But the Plymouth Colony insisted that they had jurisdiction over the land on the east side of the river(2b), because of a land grant from the King, and Hazell had not bought the land from them! Like Roger Williams had been ordered, Hazell was ordered into the Court of the Plymouth Colony. This prompted Hazels to move out of the area and to divest himself of the land –not by abandoning his claim of ownership, but by selling the land he had purchased to a man named Edward Smith.
Smith in turn had the same sort of troubles about his right to own the land. The Plymouth Colony simply did not recognize the purchase from the Indians, claiming that the land was theirs, part of their grant from the King of England. Smith was faced with continuing problems unless he could sell to someone willing to run the risk of problems with the legal authorities of the Plymouth Colony. And that person was William Bucklin of Hingham.
Bucklin got to the land, and built his home near the strategic falls and upstream river crossing, because the next group to arrive regarded his land and occupancy as the north edge of where they could settle. That next group was the church group of Reverend Samuel Newman, which bought their land not from the Indians, but rather from the Plymouth Colony.
Weymouth, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, had became a place of religious controversy, because of the doctrines of the Reverend Samuel Newman and his band of dissenters. Newman was at some odds with the official religious doctrine of the Bay Colony. The growing population of the Plymouth Colony made it necessary to approve new settlements, and probably the Plymouth Colony thought it prudent to sell land on the far reaches of their jurisdiction. When requested by Newman and his group, the Plymouth Colony sold land to the Newman church group as if it were a church group with a full Established Church doctrine. The Plymouth Colony may have thought him a conventional minister, because he was ordained from Trinity College in England as a minister of the Established Church; and his concordance of the Bible, published first in London in 1643, far surpassed any previous work of its kind.
In 1644, Newman and a part of his congregation left the Bay Colony and headed into the Pawtucket area.(3) Newman named the new settlement Rehoboth.
The Rehoboth Town Meeting Records of one of their first meetings (February 1, 1645), tell us, “. . . At the same time the way to William Buckland’s house is agreed on by those partyes which it doth conform.” So we know that probably at least by the fall of 1644, Bucklin had built a house on the land, and maintained his ownership of the land against the later arrivals. William’s house stood in the area of the 1641 property deal made with Native Americans by John Hazels.
The date of 1656 is usually given as the date when William moved his family to Rehoboth from Hingham, but probably only because the Old Proprietary Records of Rehoboth show on a 1656 date the land of William Bucklin recorded by his description as being,
“600 acres of land wch John Hazels wch I bought of Edward Smith bounded on Pawtucket River on the west & unto a Run Yours truly, comes from the cedar swamp on the east upon the south with lands yours truly was John Reads and upon the north the common as we go to Mr. Blaxtons.”(4)
Unless William obtained this Hazel-Smith land by some kind of credit or trade, he was a wealthy man. Six hundred acres is about a square mile, almost equal to all the land holdings of Rev. Newman and his entire congregation in their Rehoboth settlement. Moreover, William obtained other lands, presumably for cash. Maybe he was a man of some substance when he came, although apparently working as a carpenter. In 17th-century America , working as a carpenter sometimes indicated a lack of sufficient funds to purchase land. However William was clearly not impoverished.(5)
William may moved to Rehoboth around 1643, settled on at least part of Hazell’s land, then in 1645, when the Newman congregation came with their purchase, he made a record of his existence and right to be there, with the path or road to his house agreed upon and noted in the town records. At any time before the Newman purchase of 1645, William could have bought the entire six hundred acres from Hazels and Smith–perhaps an easy transactions after their difficulties with the colony–and in 1656 recording his entire purchase in the town records as he did, since by then he would have felt safer to do so without problems from the Massachusetts colonies.
William needed to make his six hundred acres a matter of record in 1656 because the town of Rehoboth was planning more purchases in the Bucklin part of the forest. According to town records for February 12, 1657, at the town meeting for Rehoboth, certain men were sent to go see what meadows they could find north of the town for purchase by the town. This land subsequently became known as the North Purchase and was immediately to the north of the Bucklin land on the river.(6)
May 25, 1661, William sold land in Hingham on May 25, 1661.(7) We might conjecture that by then he had no need to create a “cover story” of temporary sojourn in Rehoboth, or we could speculate that he rented the land and his former house for years and finally sold it to liquidate the assets.
At Rehoboth, William participated in lot divisions of 1668 for meadows north of the town which were referred to as the “North Purchase.”(8) William and the town disputed the exact border between the north side of his property in Rehoboth, and the south border of the North Purchase. On April 18, 1666, town officials decided by vote that a three-rail fence be set up between the town’s purchased lands on the plain “from Goodman Buckland’s house to the Mill River,” to separate William’s land from the North Purchase land.
Although it might appear that the town was trying to protect William’s land, the decision to fence came shortly after the town found it needed wanted a public way down away from the river to the “salt marsh” area of the estuary, where the cows could get necessary salt for their diet. William owned the entire shoreline from the falls, which were the north end of the tidal river southward for about two miles; above the falls the river contained no sea water, and the town wanted a right-of-way.
Committees are a particularly American form of power structure, and sometime in 1666, townsmen formed one to purchase a right-of-way through the Bucklin land and also to investigate exactly where the Bucklin land lay, which they apparently did to William’s satisfaction during the sale negotiations. By then, town officials called William “Goodman Bucklin” instead of “William Bucklin,” indicating he was regarded as part of the gentry of the town.
William’s land ran along the river and had reached far back in depth,(9) clear to “‘Bucklin’s Brook,” a live stream that furnished running water close to their home. On the river side, the property included the falls, a primary fishing spot for both the Indians and early settlers, especially when salmon headed upstream each year,. And anyone who was willing to slog and swim through the shallow river pools above the falls would find this the first place to cross the head of Narragansett Bay on foot.
With all varieties of land, salt marsh, meadows, and forest, level and high enough to be above spring floods, the spot was important. In 1656, the falls area was the best place to put a bridge over to Providence, and was the spot where people had to get out of their canoes or boats and maneuver around the falls to continue upstream. And William’s spot on the river offered the best place to put a mill (and was the place of the first mill in the area).(10)
In 1656 William served on a grand jury in Rehoboth. Again, this suggests that William was well established by this time, because the grand jury had to be composed of men well acquainted with the persons and affairs of the area. The Plymouth Colony Record for February 12, 1657, shows William took the oath of Fidelity and therefore was listed in the colony’s records as a “freeman,” or one who had made the formal pledge of allegiance to the colonial government. On that same day at the Rehoboth town meeting, several men agreed to go see what meadows they could find north of the town for purchase by the town. William apparently intended to be in the group participating in these new lands, which may explain his taking the pledge. In another 1657 event, he was appointed a constable of Rehoboth, again indicating his position as a man of standing and respect in the community .
William’s land was outside the “Ring of the Green,” as the core of Newman’s Rehoboth settlement was called. And his theology was outside Newman’s Pawtucket Congregational covenant. William apparently was a Baptist,(11) because later he affiliated with the Baptist Church in Swansea. But though not a member of Newman’s Pawtucket congregation, William did carpenter work on the church, and William’s son Joseph along with other Bucklins, is buried in the Newman churchyard.
William’s brother-in-law Jonathan Bosworth apparently left Hingham around the time William did, and removed to Rehoboth. Religion might explain William’s and Jonathan’s moves to Rehoboth. The early Bucklins tended to be members of the Baptist churches, and not of the Established churches of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. On Feb 20 1678, William deeded to Jonathan twelve acres of “upland in Wachamoket Neck.” That deed recognized the “government of New Plymouth in New England” as in control of the town of Rehoboth. That deed coincides with the time of the ending of the disastrous King Philips’s War(12) which destroyed so many lives and buildings. William Bucklin contributed funds for the “defense” of the colony in that war.
The Bucklins had three children: Joseph, born June 26,1633; Lydia Bucklin, probably born about 1634 or 1635; and Benjamin, born July 2,1640.
William Bucklin died in 1683, a wealthy, important man with lands, children, and grandchildren. The only record of the death is in the Rehoboth Vital Record Death Book, Volume One, page 56, which only says “buried September 1, 1683.” Mary Bosworth died in 1687.There is no note as to the place or date of the death of either of them. Howebver, William’s burial was reported to be in Rehoboth, with a gravestone, but no grave marker is known to exist as of the year 2001.
1. E.g., Quakers were ordered out of town, subject to a complicated schedule of various parts of their bodies being cut off on their return to town. In a few years the penalties were simplified to one penalty: a returning Quaker was hanged!
2. The east bank of the river, Seekonk, or Pawtucket, continued to be an area of religious dissenters who were not approved persons by the Bay Colony for settlement in that area (which the Bay Colony claimed as part of their colonial grant from England).
2B. This paragraph and the two next following are now known to be historically not correct, but, to preserve the body of text as written by Ingram, these three paragraphs have been retained instead of edited. A more historically accurate understanding now is that:
In 1649, the Plymouth Court (the general assembly) heard a complaint about Hazel settling in the area, but confirmed in Hazels the right to be there on a tract of 600 acres abutting the land previously granted to Newman. (Actually, the Court had no power to do otherwise, because by 1649 a land boundary dispute with the Massachusetts Bay Colony had been settled with an agreement that the Bay Colony had legal and political control of that area in which Hazels lived.) Still Hazels seemed to be uneasy in being in the jurisdiction of something other than Rhode Island, or else he simply wanted to move from his forest dwelling to the town of Providence, and have some cash when he got Providence. Hazels moved across the Pawtucket (Seekonk) river to Rhode Island. and sold his 600 acres to Edward Smith, who was the town clerk of Rehoboth. Smith immediately in turn sold the land to William Bucklin.
3. They purchased land in 1643 from the Bay Colony in what is now Pawtucket, Massachusetts. They named the area Rehoboth. It was on the east side of the Pawtucket River and about three miles from the falls which was the later heart of Pawtucket (and the Industrial Revolution Moses Brown/ Jenks industrial community.
4. Bucklin here doesn’t swear to a date when he bought the land or moved on it. William may well have obtained the land from Hazel-Smith and started living there by 1640 or so, but did not advertise his exact place to the Bay Colony. This description is the same as in the deed of Hazel’s from the Indians.
Interestingly, Jonathan Bosworth also had land at the exact area in Pawtucket, at the falls, as William had, but Jonathan did not record his land dealings in Pawtucket until the 1660’s. Jonathan had sold his house lots and most of his land in Hingham by 1640, and there is no record of a home for him until the 1660’s, when he shows up in Rehoboth land records concerning an apparently already existing land involvement. Jonathan sold the rest of his Hingham land in 1661, within a month of when William sold his Hingham land. [See Anderson, Great Migration 1620, at entry for Jonathan Bosworth.]
5. William did not inherit from his father-in-law, Edward Bosworth; and his wife, only 5 schillings from her father, who left only that same small amount to her brother Jonathan, who go t nor more because of his Baptist beliefs..
6. Today this part of Rehoboth is almost the same bounds as the east side of Pawtucket, RI. The former Rehoboth, MA, is now partly in East Providence, RI, and partly in Pawtucket, RI. The sequence is that there first was the area known as Seconet or Seekonk. In 1645 Seconet became the town of Rehoboth. The town of Rehoboth purchased land to the north of the land of William Bucklin, which land was known as the “North Purchase”. Attleboro , mentioned in some records in connection with the Bucklin family, became a separate town when it separated from Rehoboth in 1694 as the North Purchase land. Attleboro exchanged land with Rehoboth in 1710. Pawtucket, at first a part of Massachusetts, joined Rhode Island in 1862.
7. see footnote 11, re brother in law Jonathan.
8. Later, in 1694, the North Purchase area would be established as Attleboro, in Bristol County, Massachusetts, with about 180 inhabitants.
9. Generally William had about two miles of river frontage and ½ mile in depth back from the shoreline.
10. The area would someday, after the building of Slater’s Mill, gain notoriety as the beginning point of the Industrial Revolution.
11. Brother in law Jonathan, who seems to have been geographically near the moves of William in the 1635 – 1670 period, also was a Baptist. Jonathan even gave up inheriting from his father for this beliefs, his father stating: “but for … Jonathan he shall have nothing to do with anything I have except he decline from that opinion of the Anabaptists which he now holds …”
12. In 1620 when the English first settled in New England, relations between the Indians and the colonists were friendly. Massasoit, sachem of the Wampanoag tribe, brought food to sustain the newcomers through their first winter and helped them adjust to life in this strange, new world. As more and more colonists flooded into New England, strains in the relationship began to appear. The English were convinced that the various tribes should be under colonial control. Unless the Indians were willing to surrender their independence, conflict was inevitable. Finally, in 1675, the battle was joined. Massasoit’s son, Metacomet, called Philip by the English, led his tribe into a final struggle.
In 1676, the battle was over. Philip was slain, his body drawn and quartered, and his head paraded in triumph in Plymouth. Philip’s son, Massasoit’s grandson, was sold into slavery in Bermuda. The generosity of Massasoit toward the Puritans in 1620 indirectly resulted in the enslavement of his grandson 56 years later.