The inconvenience and difficulty accruing from these straitened limits induced its selectmen, William Park, John Bolles, Joseph Griggs, John Ruggles and Edward Morris, to petition the General Court, in October, 1683, for a tract of land seven miles square in this Nipmuck Country, "for the enlargement of the town and the encouragement of its inhabitants"-the land to be laid out "at Quinnatissel or thereabouts, if a convenient way may be found there." This request was granted on condition that an eight-mile tract previously bestowed on Robert Thompson, Stoughton, Dudley and other prominent gentlemen "have the first choice," and "that thirty families be settled on said plantation within three years and maintain among them an able and orthodox godly minister." Roxbury, in town meeting, January 21, 1684, accepted the honored Courts grant, and "did leave it to the selectmen, to consider of sending men to take a view of the place that may be most convenient." To facilitate communication with this new and barbarous region-"the way to Connecticut being very hazardous to travelers by reason of one deep river passing four or five times over"-Major Pyncheon was ordered by the General Court to mark and lay out a better and nearer one, and two Indians appointed to guide him on the way.
Messrs. Thompson and Dudley having selected for their grant the tract soon afterward incorporated as the township of Oxford, Lieutenant Samuel Ruggles, John Ruggles, John Curtis and Edward Morris were sent by Roxbury, in October, 1684, "to view the premises and find a convenient place to take up her grant." With Indian guides, these gentlemen proceeded to the Nipmuck wilderness, and spent due time in searching it. Quinnatisset, for which they had asked, was in part appropriated, but west of the Quinebaug, at Senexet and Wabbaquasset, they found land which afforded encouragement for the settlement of a township. The town voted, on their return, to accept of their information, yet gave liberty to any persons to go upon their own charge and take a view of said land, the town for once going being at charge of a pilot. At the same meeting, October 27, 1684, Master Dudley, Master Cowles, Deacon Parks, Lieutenant Ruggles and Edward Morris were appointed "to draw up, upon consideration, propositions that may be most equable and prudent for the settlement of the place, and present them to the town at the next town meeting after lecture." Inhabitants wishing to withdraw from any interest in the tract had liberty so to do without offense and be free from further charges. All others were held responsible for colony settlement and expenses.
Farther "views," confirming Roxbury in her choice of land at Wabbaquasset, negotiations were opened with Captain James Fitch for its purchase and a deed secured through the agency of Dudley and Stoughton.
The planting of her colony was viewed by Roxbury as a grave and momentous affair, requiring much care and deliberation. A general town meeting was called July 13, 1685, for the disposal and settlement of their new grant in the Nipmuck country, when it was agreed and ordered:- "That if there shall appear to the selectmen thirty persons or upwards who shall give in their names to plant and settle on the said lands, so as to fulfill the grant and conditions of the General Court referring to the same, they shall have to themselves and their heirs the full half of the whole tract of land, in one square, at their own choice, to be proportionally divided among them; and further, the town does engage to assist the said goers and planters with one hundred pounds money, to be paid in equal portions in five years, to be laid out in public buildings and charges as the old town of Roxbury shall annually determine. The rest of the inhabitants of the town shall have the remaining half, to be equally and proportionally divided to them, to be to them and their heirs forever."
The town adjourned to consider these propositions "until the morrow eight weeks"-when "this agreement and every article of particle thereof was read, voted and unanimously consented there to the contrary being put to vote not one appears therein." As an additional encouragement to settlers the town voted:- "That the estates left behind by goers should be free from rates for raising the hundred pounds allowed them, and that the amount should be entirely expended upon the settlers' half of the grant, and should annually be delivered by £20 a year into the hands of such men as the goers-out of Roxbury should depute, and by them be expended on public works, viz: meeting-house minister's house, mill, bridges, &c., and that subsequent settlers on Roxbury half should be liable to bear all public charges with them that go first."
To these liberal offers there was no lack of "subscribers." The hazards indeed were great, but the inducements surpassed them, and the requisite quota of men was soon made up. This emigration project excited great interest and enthusiasm in Roxbury and its vicinity. Town meetings were chiefly occupied with arranging the approaching exodus, plans and propositions were discussed in public and private, and people were only recognized in the capacity of go-ers and stay-ers. A number of pioneers volunteered to go out early in the spring, in advance of the others, break up land, plant it, and make some preparation for the main body of colonists. Their offer was accepted, and for their encouragement it was voted, at a town meeting March 4, 1686, "That such should have liberty to break up land, and plant anywhere they please for the present year, without being bound to accept it as their share of the grant." The colonists were allowed till September 29th to make and declare their choice of land, and was further yielded that they should have a surveyor with then to be assistant in finding the colony line and promotion of the present design, upon the charge of the whole town."
The thirteen pioneers-Benjamin Sabin, Jonathan Smithers, Henry Bowen, John Frizzel, Matthew Davis, Nath. Garey, Thomas Bacon John Marcy, Peter Aspinwall, Benjamin and George Griggs, Joseph Lord and Ebenezer Morris, recorded on its first book of records a "the men who went to spy out Woodstock"-left Roxbury about the first of April, 1686. Special religious services were probably held the Sunday preceding their departure. The venerable Mr. Eliot, pastor of the Church in Roxbury, could not but feel a deep interest in this attempt to colonize the scene of his former missionary labors. Infants were recorded by him as "baptized in the same week that we sent out our youth to make the new plantation," and doubtless many fervent prayers followed them on their perilous journey. By the fifth of April, these perils had been surmounted, and, according to the old record, "several persons came as planters and settlers, and took actual possession (by breaking up land and planting corn) of the land granted to Roxbury-(called by the planters New Roxbury); by the Ancient natives, Wapaquasset."
They found a desolate, deserted wilderness. No Indian inhabitants were visible; their forts and villages had been leveled; their cornfields had "run to waste." The tract was as yet un-surveyed and unbounded; the Massachusetts boundary line was unrecognizable. Following the course of the principal stream, past a picturesque lake, they came to a rich, open valley. A noble hill, bare also, lay to the westward-the Woodstock Hill of the present generation. On this "Plaine Hill" the pioneers established their head-quarters, put up shelters, selected land and planted it, and made what preparation was possible for the coming colony. A sawmill was built and set in operation, on a small brook running into the lake. This stream was called Sawmill Brook; the larger stream was probably named from Muddy Brook, of Roxbury.
In May, they were visited by Samuel Williams, Sen., Lieutenant Timothy Stevens and John Curtis, who, with John Gore as surveyor, came as committee from Roxbury, "to view the land, in order to the laying out of the same; settle the southern bounds (upon or near the colony line), and also to determine the length and breadth of the General Court's grant as they judged most convenient for the town in general, that so the first Goers may make choice of their half thereof." Eleven days were spent by Mr. Gore in making the needful surveys and measurements-Massachusetts' south boundary line evaded their search, so they made a station about one and a half miles south of Plaine Hill, and thence marked trees east and west for the south line of their grant, nearly two miles south of the invisible Woodward's and Saffery's line, thus securing to Massachusetts another strip of Connecticut territory. After careful survey and explorations, the committee decided-"if the first goers chose the south side of the tract, to lay the town eight miles in width, from east to west, and six and a half miles from north to south, or so much as should be needful to make up the complement-but if they desire to divide by a line from north to south, it should be six miles from east to west, and eight from north to south."
The committee returned to Roxbury to report their proceedings by June 12th. The time for the departure of the colonists was now approaching. More than the requisite thirty were already enrolled, but permission was now given to persons of other towns whose estates or other qualifications might be beneficial, to be admitted with the Goers and share their privileges-"if the selectmen of Roxbury and other Goers do approve them." Lieutenant Samuel Ruggles, Timothy Stevens, and Samuel Williams, Sen., were chosen a committee for the new town till the following year, "to issue any differences that may arise among them." July 21, an especial meeting was held Roxbury, "of a certain number of inhabitants under the denomination of Go-ers," for the more orderly settling the aforesaid village grant,-when the following agreement was adopted:
I. That every man should take up what number of acres he pleaseth his home-lot, not exceeding thirty-and after-rights and divisions of land shall arise, according to the proportion of his home-lot; and all after-charge to arise proportionably upon the home-lots for the first six years.
II. That whoever shall neglect the payment of his rate two months after rate, made and demanded, shall forfeit for every five shillings two acres of his home-lot, with all proportionable rights, and so consequently, more or less according to his failure; always provided that they take not his house or orchard-this forfeiture shall be to those chosen by the company as selectmen, to be improved by them for the use of the public, which rates shall be paid by the public, the person forfeited excepted, which agreement shall stand the first six years.
III. If any meadows should fall out to be in any one's home-lot, it shall be accounted as so much of his proportion of meadow, and his home-lot made with upland.
IV. That all persons that have planted in the year 1686 shall have two acres of his home-lot free for the first three years, and shall enjoy the land the planted in 1687 and '88, though it fall out in any other person's home-lot.
V. That within one month they will go personally to their new plantation and there make further agreements, divisions and settlements.
The subjoined list gives the names of those who fulfilled this agreement and took personal possession of the new plantation:-
Edward Morris. Peter Aspinwall. Samuel Scarborough.
Ebenezer Morris. John Frizzel. Samuel Craft.
James Corbin. Joseph Frizzel. Samuel May.
Benjamin Sabin. Jonathan Smithers. Samuel Peacock.
Thomas Bacon. John Butcher. Joseph Bugbee.
Joseph Bacon. Jonathan Davis. John Bugbee.
Henry Bowen. Jonathan Peake. Arthur Humphrey.
John Bowen. Joseph Peake. John Ruggles.
William Lyon, Sen. John Hubbard. Andrew Watkins.
Thomas Lyon. George Griggs. John Marcy.
William Lyon, Jun. Nathaniel Garey. John Holmes.
Matthew Davis. Nathaniel Johnson. John Chandler, Jun.
Ebenezer Cass. John Leavens.
John Chandler, Sen. Nathaniel Sanger.
These Colonists were all men of good position and character, connected with the best families of Roxbury. Edward Morris, Samuel Scarborough, Samuel Craft, John Chandler and William Lyon, Senion Jonathan Peake and Henry Bowen were men advanced in years, going out with grown up sons to the new settlement, leaving estates behind them. A larger number were young men with growing families. A few were still unmarried. None were admitted as proprietors under nineteen years of age. All were inhabitants of Roxbury but Peter Aspinwall of Dorchester, and John Butcher, James Corbin and John Holmes, from neighboring towns, admitted into the company by consent of the selectmen of Roxbury. Benjamin Sabin had removed recently from Rehoboth, driven thence it is said in the Narraganset War.
From: History of Windham County, Connecticut. By by Ellen Douglas Larned. Worcester, MA: 1880.