Needham History Center & Museum Needham History Center & Museum, Needham Massachusetts 02492

Dedham Graunteth

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The oldest object in our collections is an arrow point, dug up in the vicinity of the Charles River Street pumping station, that is about 9000 years old. The next oldest is a little slip of paper, a land deed from Dedham to John Kingsbury (or, Kingsbery, as he spelled it), dated 15 August 1636 – at the time, the legal year started in March, so ye 6th Month in 1636 would have been August rather than June:


The 15th of ye 6th Month 1636

Dedham graunteth to

John Kingsbery twelve acres more or less as it lyeth betwene ye waest & ye clayepits toward the North and ye river and medowe of the Sayd John towards the South. And abutts upon the swamp of the Sayd John and Mr. Thomas Eaeton towards the East, and upon the claypitts and the high waye leading to the same; and also upon ye waye one Rod and halfe broade leading from the River to the Medowe towards ye west together with one small [??] of grownd for a [??] for [??] as it lyeth between the waye one rod and a halfe broad and from ye River to ye medow toward ye East and the pond with a [??] of medowe of the sayd John towards the west. And abutteth upon Charles River toward the North and ye sayd River toward the South.

[signed] Edward Alleyn, [?]


Presumably, “the said John” and Mr. Thomas Eaton were granted these plots of land for grazing their cattle.  The waste, swamp, and meadow were not good for building a house; but because they were not wooded (unlike all the drier land) and therefore did not require the great labor to clear, they were highly valued for pasture.

I have not been able to identify the specific location described in this deed.  By the late 18th century, old land records can be compared to maps to get at least a general location, because the old maps almost always included the landowners’ names. This deed predates the earliest extant Needham map (1771) by nearly 150 years, so the trick does not work in this case – by the 1770s, the Kingsburys and Eatons held land all over Needham.

What is most interesting about this, though, is the very early date. The Dedham Grant is dated October 1636.  They hadn’t even inked the deal before John Kingsbury, Thomas Eaton, and others had hopped over the river to claim precious land.