Petition of William Stoughon and Joseph Dudley to the Massachusetts General Court

To the Honourable General Court Now Sitting in Boston, May 11, 1681


The humble motion and petition of William Stoughton and Joseph Dudley[1] sheweth that whereas there is a large tract of land lying in the Nipmuc Country belonging partly to this Colony and partly to our neighbours of Plymouth and Connecticut, to which also there are several Indian claims, and some already devised to some persons abroad and amongst ourselves utterly improbable to be of benefit to this Colony by any settlement of inhabitants likely to be serviceable to the Country and other entanglements thereupon, which, because the said Country is so inland and remote and so uncertain how it will be divided since the patent lines are so much interrupted and questioned by our friends of Connecticut, all which they are sensible of and have been conversant in, being employed as Commissioners of the United Colonies, do propose to this General Court that some committee be impowered and employed fully to examine all claims and grants within the said Country and that the remainder be disposed some way for the Country's benefit, least under ill pretenses it be entangled and embezzled to the Country's disadvantage.  Or if it be thought meet that ourselves, as Commissioners abovesaid, do take any particular care and farther inspection into the said matter, we shall be willing so to do and to give this Court a full account thereof as we may or can without any charge to the Country for our service, provided we may have liberty to purchase to ourselves of such remaining Indians as have good title thereunto a small convenient tract of land, which may bee a meet recompense for our pains and travel therein.


Legislative Action:

The Magistrates judge meet to grant this motion and do further desire and impower the Worshipful William Stoughton and Joseph Dudley, Esqs., to take particular care and inspection into the matter of the land in the Nipmuc Country, what titles are pretended to by Indians or others and the validity of them and make return of what they find therein to this Court as soon as maybe. The Magistrates have passed this their brethren, the Deputies, being desired hereto consent.  Edward Rawson, Secretary, May 13, 1681

The Deputies consent hereto, provided the recompense to the Gentlemen for this service be suspended till the work be done and return made and then to be determined by this Court.  Our Honoured Magistrates hereto consenting. William Torrey, Clerk

Consented to by the Magistrates. Edward Rawson, Secretary




[1] Stoughton and Dudley were land speculators who capitalized on the disarray in Nipmuc Country after King Philip's War, when White settlers squatted on Indian land.  After disputes between Nipmucs and the trespassers broke out, authorities sent Stoughton and Dudley to investigate.  With John Eliot acting as interpreter, the two met with a Nipmuc delegation at Cambridge and convinced them to sell about one thousand acres along the Quinebaug to Massachusetts, setting aside a twenty-five mile square reservation for the Indians' use.  Stoughton and Dudley reserved two thousand acres for themselves.  Martin, Profits in the Wilderness, 92.