Petition of Sarah Berry and Family to the Massachusetts General Court

To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of the Massachusetts State in General Court Assembled

The petition of Sarah Berry and five of her children and Jerusha Hawkins and her one child who are legal heirs to the Indian land called the "Six Hundred Acres"1 lying in Stoughton within the County of Suffolk humbly sheweth that your petitioners have supported themselves for many years by their own industry,2 whereby they have obtained a comfortable living until since the commencement of the present war, since which we have found hard living and very difficult getting money to pay taxes,3 which we have done three years last past and are no longer able to support ourselves and pay the frequent taxes.  We think ourselves very hardly dealt with by being taxed and not allowed the liberty of selling wood or coal off the small pieces of land laid off to us or even improving said land to our own advantage.  We are aggrieved at the misconduct of some of the heirs to said lands, which has occasioned the selling a considerable part of the same and a great deal of wood and timber from the remaining part, while we have done all in our power to save the whole interest as will appear by the account of the Guardians.  Your petitioners, therefore, pray that Your Honors would take their circumstances into your wise consideration and free them from taxes or grant them such privileges as shall enable them to pay the same. 

As your petitioners in duty bound shall ever pray,

Note Bene:  Your Petitioners further pray that they may be heard before the Honorable Court in presence of their Guardians.

Sarah Berry, mark
Mingo Hawkins and Jerusha, his wife, mark
Isaac Williams and Elizabeth, his wife, mark
Jacob Wilbor and Mary, his wife, X
Stoughton, January 19, 1781 



  • 1. The Berry household and livestock were located between York Pond (now Glen Echo Pond) and the southerly and easterly lines of the Ponkapaug Plantation. Huntoon, The History of Canton, Massachusetts, 33. [Glen Echo Pond:
  • 2. Indian families throughout the region commonly supported themselves by broom and basketmaking, as well as selling medicinals. The Ponkapaug also made cedar shingles and clapboards for the Boston market. Huntoon, The History of the Town of Canton, 17.
  • 3. It is unclear which forms of taxation the women are referring to. Inhabitants in the Province of Massachusetts Bay were required to pay a wealth or estate tax (i.e. land, animals) and a poll tax, but it has been generally accepted that Indians who lived in tribal relations, that is, as members of a tribal community, were exempt from that duty. Charles J. Bullock. "The Taxation of Property and Income in Massachusetts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics 31, no. 1 (1916): 1-5. Brad Tennant, "'Excluding Indians Not Taxed,': Dred Scott, Standing Bear, and the Legal Status of Native Americans in the Later Half of the Nineteenth Century," International Social Science Review 86, nos. 1-2 (2011), 25-28.