James Smith

of Weymouth


James Smith and his family were among the earliest settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in New England.The family included James, his wife Joan, James Jr., Hannah, Joshua and Nathaniel.

Weymouth's (Wessaguscus) history begins with Sixty men who sailed from England in the "Charity" and "Swan" to establish a trading post on Massachusetts Bay. They landed on the east bank of the Fore River in August of 1622 and built rough cabins for the settlement which, after Plymouth, was the oldest in New England.

This location provided the settlers with harbors for ships and a naturally defensive position in case of Indian attack. The settlers suffered many difficulties and setbacks as they struggled to keep their settlement intact.

This was to change in 1630 with the arrival of the Winthrop Fleet. Governor John Winthrop left England with a thousand Puritans, escaping persecution for their refusal to worship by to dictates of the Church of England. It was their plan to set up the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They came with a charter, which contained a grant of territory more extensive than the existing commonwealth of Massachusetts and a delegation of powers to govern the present and future inhabitants of the colony.

Thus, the earlier settlers of Weymouth (Wessaguscus) viewed with apprehension the expanding power of the Massachusetts Bay Colony with it's capital at Boston. They regarded this development as a threat to their liberties and for this reason did not immediately become Freeman of the colony. James Smith was one of them, for he was not admitted as a Freeman until May 3, 1654.

Due to disorganization, recording of land holdings was much delayed. The general court had, on April 1, 1639; ordered all towns in Massachusetts Bay Colony to submit surveys of occupied lands. Thus recognizing the property rights of the early settlers. Weymouth was fined five shillings on December 3, 1639 for being delinquent.

The land holdings of James Smith identify him as an early settler. As the description makes no reference to a former owner, it is probable that James Smith was the first settler and original proprietor. The Great Hill was then called "Smith's Hill" and James Smith made his home and farmed at the base of this hill. He owned property on the "Easterneck" bounded on the east with the "Highwaie" and the land of Clement Briggs on the west, and on the north with the Sea, and on the south with land of William Hayard. James owned land on the Salt Marsh and acquired other lands through distribution of undivided land and purchasing land from his neighbors. James Smith became one of the large landholders in Weymouth.

Although the church of his baptism is unknown, and though he was originally reluctant to become a member of the Congregational Church, upon his admission, he became an active participant both in church and governmental affairs. He held positions in both the church and community for many years.

Later in his life, James Smith removed to Boston, where he died on May 2, 1676. He left a will dated March 11, 1673. The will was published at Weymouth on June 19, 1673, before James and Nathaniel Humphrey as witnesses and was admitted to probate at Boston on June 22, 1676.

James Smith can be noted as an early and tenacious settler of New England's rugged coast.

 

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