Middlesex County Manual, Massachusetts

We take pleasure in presenting to our readers the Middlesex County Manual.

Judge Cowley's "Historical Sketch" traces the fortunes of the County from its incorporation in 1643, when it extended to the "South Sea," and included large portions of New Hampshire and Connecticut, as well as of Massachusetts, until since the adoption of the Federal Constitution, and the close of Shays' Rebelloon. It is the first history of Middlesex County ever printed.

In it Judge Cowley has incorporated the principal and most valuable portions of both of General Gookin's works: namely, his Historical Collections relating to the New England Indians generally; and his History of the Christian Indians during King Philip's War. Both of these narratives are difficult to obtain. We have known as much as ten dollars to be paid for the volume containing the former of these works, and even a greater price for the volume containing the latter. One might watch the chances of the booksellers for many years to obtain, for twenty dollar's, the narratives here supplied, in all their most desirable parts, for a single dollar.

In addition to all this Judge Cowley has enriched his "Sketch" with much new matter, and with notes and references to original authorities. Mr. Johnson's labors in the Committee on County Expenditures have enabled him to present a valuable summary of the frauds and abuses heretofore practiced in County affairs, and to show how they have been or may be reformed.

Since Mr. Johnson's article was prepared, the Legislative Committee on Prisons have made a report on the Middlesex House of Correction, from which it appears that that establishment now actually yields a small income to the County, instead of being the public burden it was before the investigations of 1874; although Charles J. Adams has been permitted to remain in his place as Master.

This Committee say: "In 1877 the receipt from the sale of brushes was $24,000; and for board of prisoners, sale of old materials, offal, & c., $4,893.84; total, $28,893.84. The total expenses of Jail and House of Correction were $28,521.70, leaving a balance of receipts over expenditures of $372,14."

Others besides Mr. Johnson would like to be informed why an establishment that can be so conducted as to yield an income to the County in the worst of times, could not yield an income, but was actually run at a heavy loss, when the times were the best ever known in the land.

It will be seen that the income above reported, when divided by the number of inmates (285) amounts to $1.30 apiece. Mr. Johnson thinks this much smaller than it should be. Ought not an able bodied prisoner to earn more than $1.30 in a year, besides his board and clothes? Mr. Johnson says, he ought.

We had hoped to add another valuable contribution, on the "Old Families of Middlesex," from the practiced pen of the late John Wingate Thornton, author of "Roger Conant and Cape Ann," and other works of acknowledged merit, and himself a noble scion of two of those families. But his recent lamented death, before preparing his article, compels us to omit those pages (111-116,) in which we hoped to see the "Old Families of Middlesex" "live again."

County publications, in a great number and variety, are noticed by various writers, in a manner at once critical and interesting.

Lists of County officers have been compiled with an amount of labor of which the average reader can form no adequate idea.


Table of Contents

Historical Sketch of the County... 13
Financial Reforms in the County... 81
Reconstruction of the County... 93
Civil List of the County... 103
Advertisements... 117
New County Publications... 123


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The year 1643 was signalized by two important events in the history of Massachusetts: the formation of the famous confederacy between this Colony and the three other Colonies of New England; and the creation of the four Counties of Middlesex, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk. The tide of immigration from England to Massachusetts, which ran without interruption from 1630 to 1640, had substantially ceased to flow. About four thousand English families, including more than twenty thousand persons, were then domiciled on the rugged shores of New England. Since then, more persons have removed out of New England to other parts of the world than have come from other parts to it. The white population of the "Bay Colony," as Massachusetts was called, was then about fifteen thousand souls.