Petition of Samuel Stratton to the Massachusetts General Assembly

Province of the Massachusetts Bay                                                                                                           

To His Excellency Thomas Pownall, Esq., Captain General and Governor in Chief in and over his Majesty's Said Province.  To the Honorable His Majesty's Council and House of Representatives in General Court Assembled    

The petition of Samuel Stratton of Natick in the County of Middlesex and Province aforesaid, miller, humbly sheweth that whereas the General Court or Assembly of the said Province, on the first day of September 1729, "upon the petition of John Speen and other Indians of said Natick, praying that Messrs. John Gleason and Henry Leland might have liberty to erect, use, and improve a grist mill upon a stream running through a part of the said Speen's land known by the name of Indian Brook, alias Steep Brook, in said Natick," under the conditions provisos and reservations therein contained, did thereupon "order, viz., that the prayer of the petition be granted and the said John Gleason and, Henry Leland are allowed to erect the said mill and receive the profits accordingly. saving that the Indians' corn shall be received, and ground toll-free for the space of thirty years, next after the run of the said mill, provided the meadows therein mentioned be overflowed from the first of October to the tenth of April and no longer."1  As per the records of this Honorable Court (if confirmed) may appear, and whereas the said John Gleason and Henry Leland both died soon after the aforesaid order,2 and the said mill not erected nor their families under the proper circumstances to erect and improve the same, it was unavoidably neglected until about twelve years ago, at which time, the said mill and dam was well-built, which (at the limited season) hath continued to grind ever since to the great relief of the poor, especially Indians in that part of Natick, for as there are sundry Indian families near said mill, some of whom are in very indigent circumstances.  Your petitioner not only grinds for them toll-free but many times transports their corn, and meal, for them.  And to some of them who are objects of charity, not only gives them their grinding but their corn also.   

But of late, some queries have arisen touching the aforesaid order, namely, whither the said mill shall not be demolished, and the charges of building, and the privilege of the stream lost (by the mill owner) at the end of thirty years from the date of the order aforesaid or whither it shall not continue to stand as it shall be kept in repair and shall be well-improved by the owners or occupants thereof, and that the said thirty years doth only limit the time how long the Indian corn shall be ground for toll-free, accounting from the run of the mill.    

Whither the time of overflowing is therein intended to mean only (from the first of April to the tenth of October) for the first year or yearly.    

And the Indians who live near said mill, having no horses to carry their corn, most of whom are widows and fatherless children, who are three or four miles from other mills, being very much dissatisfied that the validity of the said order should be questioned, and that their said privilege of grinding toll-free (and having a mill so convenient to them) should be infringed upon.  And your petitioner's expenses in repairing, as well as purchasing the said mill and privileges, being too great, and his subsistence depending thereupon, as it accommodates sundry other towns, and his charity to the Indians over and above his obligation per order of court, having been so extensive as to leave him no opportunity to lay up for his own future support.  Your petitioner, therefore, cannot but be in some concern, till the said order be favourably explained and the mill privilege quieted and put out of doubt.   

Therefore, your petitioner humbly prays that this Honored Court will explain the said order.

And your petitioner as in duty bound shall ever pray,                     

Samuel Stratton

Natick, January 3, 1760

Certification:

We, the subscribers, Indian Inhabitants of Natick, do hereby certify that Mr. Samuel Stratton's mill in said Natick is of absolute necessity to us and our families, as he grinds toll-free for us and other ways extends his charity to the poor among us. Samuel Pogenit, Elizabeth Pogenit, her mark, Esther Sooduck, her mark, Sarah Lawrence, her mark, Patience Lawrence, Mary Tom, her mark, Samuel Sina, Job Comacher, Nathan Hill, his mark, Patty Pegan, Liddy Speen, Esther Speen, Sary Francis, Cato Farit, James Fago[ torn ], Jean Farit, Belial Speen3

Certification:

We, the subscribers, English inhabitants of Natick, and other towns next adjoining, do hereby certify that so far as we can learn, the petition annexed is strictly true, that Mr. Stratton's mill therein mentioned is of public utility, that the Indians in particular in that part of Natick have great dependence on the said mill.  And that their substance doth in a great measure depend thereupon. John Jones, David Hall, Isaac Goodenow, Elijah Goodenow, Josiah Goodenow, Josiah Parker, Samuel Morse, William Carey, Elijah Bacon, Timothy Bacon, Joseph Bigelow, Paul Brintnell, Daniel Bacon, William Dunn, Joseph Travis, Joseph Hemmenway, Joseph Stone, Isaac Stone, Thomas Fessender, Samuel Dadmun, Job Bond, Elijah Washburn, Stephen Bacon, Isaiah Tailler, Thomas Stanford, Joseph Dunn, Jabez Stratton, Samuel Dunn

Cataloguing:

 458, 459, 460

  • 1. Acts and Resolves (Massachusetts, 1729), 425.
  • 2. Before they died, however, Gleason and Leland sold the mill to Benjamin Kendall of Framingham in 1732. O'Brien, Dispossession by Degrees, 108.
  • 3. A copy made of the document (1760.01.03.01) fails to include these two certifications.