Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Petition to Create Maynard

A document has come to light which for Maynard is the equivalent of discovering a long-lost draft of the Declaration of Independence. It begins, "To the Hon. Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled. We the subscribers residing in the borders of the Towns of Sudbury, Stow, Acton and Concord wishing to unite as a body corporate and form a township...set forth the following reasons."

The petition of record, dated January 26, 1871, was submitted to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by people in what was informally known as Assabet Village. It proposed MAYNARD as the name of the town-to-be, requesting that the new town be created from parts of Sudbury and Stow. Three supportive petitions followed shortly thereafter, adding 63 more names for a total of 134 signatures. After negotiations with the parent towns (and payments) a smaller Maynard was created on April 19, 1871 with the present-day boundaries. We are creeping up on the 150th anniversary.

David Griffin (L) and Paul Boothroyd (R) of the Maynard
Historical Society hold the framed "lost" petition.
There have always been rumors of an earlier petition from either 1869 or 1870, never submitted. Remarkably, the original recently surfaced. Key differences from the official petition are that the town-to-be was not yet named and there was intent to acquire land from Acton and Concord in addition to Sudbury and Stow. Reasons given:

"Within the limits of said contemplated town are three manufacturing establishments, one cotton and wool factory village containing over one hundred inhabitants situated three miles from the center of its respective town, also one powder manufactory and one paper mill doing business on a large scale situated four miles from the center of their respective towns and many of the other inhabitants are as badly situated. Our schools are not sufficient many having to travel two miles distance. We are not provided with sufficient roads and those now located are in a bad state of repair and many thousand acres of fertile land remain uncultivated for the want of better accommodations. Said towns have been often requested and refused to supply said deficiencies. We therefore pray that this Hon. Court would incorporate said contemplated township with the like privileges of other towns."

This petition has 68 names. There is barely any duplication of names between the unfiled petition and the four subsequent petitions. Best guess here is that men who signed the first thought it had become support for the official document. Minus a few duplicate names, the total number of signers across all five petitions appears to be 200. Some of these men would end living outside what became Maynard.

Many of the last names on the newly unearthed petition are familiar as being early and significant landowners in what became the town: Bent, Brooks, Brown, Conant, Fowler, Haynes, Maynard, Puffer, Smith, Vose and Whitney. Interestingly, Amory Maynard's signature does not appear on any of the petitions. Of his sons, Lorenzo signed but William did not. Signer "Nathan Pratt, Agt." was in all likelihood the manager of the gunpowder mills. Signer "William Parker" was owner of the paper mill.
Streets named after early families

Provenance of the document was circuitous. As a rolled-up scroll it was in possession of Winslow Damon, great-grandson of Calvin Carver Damon, founder of the Damon Woolen Mill, in western Concord. No information on when or how it got to Winslow, but it may have been that some of the signers were members of the Masons in Maynard and he was also a Mason. He passed the document to Frederick S. Johnson in 1960. Johnson, Mason and Maynard resident, had it professionally framed behind UV protective glass, and created a typed transcript of text and signatures.

Hard work, given 19th century penmanship and fading ink!

Johnson passed away in October 2013 before his intended transfer of the document to the Maynard Historical Society, but his nephew John Taylor III completed the process. In time, MHS intends to post both a facsimile and a transcript on its website.