Petition of Sarah Wamsquam to the Massachusetts General Court

To His Excellency Francis Bernard, Esq., Captain General and Governor in Chief in and over His Majesty’s Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England and to the Honorable His Majesty’s Council and House of Representatives in General Court assembled. 
The Petition of Sarah Wamsquam, Indian widow, now residing in Natick
Humbly sheweth that she was born in Natick, aforesaid, and at six years of age was bound to service to John Braddish of Cambridge, now deceased,  for 12 years, and after that served 3 years more in that town, and then went to service at Boston 3 years more, at which time she was arrived at the age of 24 years.   Then married at Natick, but, as neither her parents nor her husband’s parents were proprietors, she never had any freehold, nor any estate saving 1/3  part of ten acres of poor unimproved land in Natick that her late husband Solomon Wamsquam purchased,1 which is assigned her for her dower for life.   And she being now arrived at the age of sixty-five years or more, hath not dwelt in any one town in this province twelve months at one time since she lived in Boston aforesaid.  That she, about eleven months ago, suffered a shock of the dead palsy whereby she is rendered unable to labor, to procure the least degree of sustenance, nor even to feed herself without some assistance.   And as the inhabitants of Natick are greatly burthened with their own poor, and your petitioner having no pretentions to a legal residence in with them,  she can expect no relief from them for the future, and for the time past hath had none but by private charity.  And as your petitioner hath neither house nor home, she humbly prays that this Honorable Court will not suffer her to perish in the streets in this severe season, but that Your Honors will order that her dower, aforesaid, be sold for the most it will fetch, and that the proceeds, though small, may be applied towards her support.  And that she may have some further support provided her, in case of need, that she may not lay in the open air exposed to the inclemency of the weather in want of all things.2
And your petitioner as in duty bound shall ever pray, etc.
Natick, January 29, 1767                                                   
Sarah Wamsquam, her mark
Legislative Action:
Petition of Sarah Wamsquam, March 14, 1767, Report accepted 
In the House of Representatives, March 13, 1767.  The facts set forth in this petition appearing to be true, therefore resolved that the prayer of this petition be granted and that Captain John Jones of Dedham be and he hereby is impowered to make sale of the one third of the ten acres of land mentioned
in this petition for the most the same will fetch, and to make, and execute a good deed of the same to the purchaser, he observing the rules and directions of the law respecting the sale of real estates by executors and administrators and the monies arising by such sale to be applied for the purposes mentioned in the petition.  Sent up for concurrence, T. Cushing, Speaker  /  In Council, March 16, 1767, Read and nonconcurred, A. Oliver, Secretary                                               
  • 1. Solomon Wamsquam died of tuberculosis in Sherborn in 1755. Mandell, Behind the Frontier, 95.
  • 2. For more about Sarah Wamsquam, see O'Brien, Dispossession By Degrees, 193-196 and Mandell, Behind the Frontier, 95-96.