Wednesday, July 16, 2008

William Blaxton

William Blaxton Plaque
Beacon St.
Boston, Mass.

The Reverend William Blaxton (1595-1675) was the first European settler on the Shawmut peninsula - the future site of the Town of Boston. The peninsula was dominated by three large hills overlooking forested land, a protected harbor and a river (the Charles) that emptied into a marshy estuary. Connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land, Shawmut was quite secluded and private - which, according to old accounts, was just how Rev. Blaxton liked it.

An Anglican Minister, educated at Cambridge in England, Blaxton arrived in the New World in 1623 with a group of settlers. When his fellow travelers moved back to England in 1625, Blaxton stayed on and settled onto Shawmut, living by himself. In 1629 Puritan settlers, seeking to establish a Massachusetts Bay Colony, arrived in what is now Charlestown - just across the harbor from Shawmut. Founding a viable community in that location proved to be difficult due to a lack of drinking water.

The official version of what happened next is that in 1630 Reverend Blaxton invited his new neighbors to come share the peninsula with him. At this time Shawmut consisted of some 487 acres of land, so there was plenty of room. John Winthrop, the governor of the colony, then made a deal with Blaxton buying the rights to the land, but leaving him with some 45 acres. This acreage encompassed a portion of Beacon Hill and the Boston Common.

In 1634, finding the Puritans difficult to live with - they were fervent believers in religious intolerance - Blaxton ended up selling his land back to them. The Boston Common (land) was thereby established and used for the training of militia and the grazing of cattle. After the sale Rev. Blaxton headed south and built a home in what is now part of Rhode Island.

Roger Williams was yet another refugee from Governor Winthrop's "city on a hill" who headed for Rhode Island. The two men became friendly and the Reverend Blaxton often gave sermons to Williams flock. Blaxton lived in a solitary house on a hill overlooking a river and filled the home with books. He married late in life and had one child. Blackstone Massachusetts, the Blackstone River and its valley are all named after him.

No comments: