Settlement and Early History

Enormous and historical significance is attributed to the early settlement of Massachusetts towns such as Hingham or Ipswich, Cambridge or Boston. Yet frequently towns which were founded at very nearly the same time mentor into the 20th century virtually unknown outside their own boundaries. Such a town is one of the original members of the Third Plantation: Lynn, Massachusetts. Located approximately 11 miles from the center of Boston, Lynn nestles into a curve of the North Shore coastline, originally stretching six miles along the shore and five miles deep into a rich, undulating woodland known as Lynn Woods.

The earliest days this woodland played a significant role the inhabitants of the area. The Pawtucket Indians hunted there, upon arrival of the white man in 1629 the forest was utilized for timber and fuel. The area was held uncommon for the use of the entire community, was frequently referred to as Lynn Commons as well as Lynn Woods or the great Woods.

One of the 17th century European Settlers was a man named William Wood. He later left Lynn and returned to England. In 1634 he published a book from London entitled New England Prospects, in which he discussed his impression of the new world, and Lynn in particular. He described the water from the forest streams as "... far different from the waters of England, being done so sharp but of fatter substance, and a more jettie color, it is thought there can be no better water in the world."

Posterity is fortunate that Wood did not stop there, but continued on to described the kinds of timber the colonists discovered in Lynn forest:

Trees both in the hills and plaines, in plenty be,

The long liv'd Oake and mornful Cypris tree,

Skie-towering Pines, and Chestnut's coated rough,

The lasting Cedar, with the Walnut tough;

The rosin-dropping Firr, for mast in use;

The boatmen seeke for oares, light, neat-grown sprewse,

The brittle Ash, the ever-trembling Aspes,

The board-spread Elme, whose concave harbors waspes;

The water-spongie Alder, good for nought,

Small Elderne by th' Indian Fletchers sought,

The knottie Maple, pallid Birtch Hawthornes,

Which, from the tender Vine oft takes its spouse,

Who twinds imbracing armes about his boughes.

Within this Indian Orchard fruits be some,

The ruddie Cherrie and the jettie Plumbe,

Snake muthering Hazell, with the sweet Saxaphrage,

Whose spurnes in beere allays hot fever's rage,

The diars Schumach, with more trees there be,

That are both good to use and rare to see.

The above poem not only reveals to the modern reader the kinds of trees which flourished in the 17th century forest, but also it gives indications of how they were used: for oars and masts by sailors and ship builders, for arrows by the Native Americans, for dyeing and for medicinal proposes, and the indigenous fruit which was added to the diet of both the Indians and the white man.

Timber for building was a crucial product of the Woods Lynn's white settlers. Shortly after the rival men begin clearing cart paths into forest to accommodate the cutting gathering of wood. One of the earliest constructions there was a stone bridge built over one of the streams. The bridge became known as Penny Bridge, and the stream was called Penny Brook, for in order to finance the building of the bridge, each man who used this convenient access to Woods charged one Penny untill the bridge was paid for.

One of the most significant ancient structures of the town was the Meeting House built in 1682. To this day one of the swampy areas in the Lynn Woods is called Meeting House Swamp because the timber used for building came from that section of the forest.

In 1686, the white inhabitants of Lynn officially purchased the land they had settled on and the surrounding woods from the Natives for seventy-five dollars. By 1693, the Town Meeting reached the stages of legislating about the cutting in the woods, imposing a 20 schilling fine on any person who dared to defy the order "...that prohibits the Cuting of young wood..." Despite the plenitude which existed in this virgin forest, it was becoming important to protect the younger trees from thoughtless axemen.

In 1698, the town meeting put the idea of dividing the Common Land to a vote and it was decided in the negative. Once again, in June 1702, the division of all the common areas among the land holders of the town came before the Town Meeting. It was not untill 1706 that the decision was affirmed. On April 15th, the town meeting voted "That all ye Undivided Common Lands in ye Town Except the training field and serveal highways shall to be Divided to and among all ye propriators and inhabitants that have Land the Towne of their own fee..." This was not the end the subject, however, for, on September 28 of the same year, they had to qualify the vote to deal with rights of passage: "... after said Common Lands shall be Divided Every person interested Therein and shall have free Liberty at all times to pass and Repass over Each others Lotts of Land to fetch their wood and such other Things that shall be Upon their lands in any place or places and for No other End provided they Do not Cut downe course any sort of trees in Their so passing over."

Thus the Common Land became individually held, but there were still universal menaces which drew the settlers together into common action concerning the woodland area. Wolves were a frequent danger to the lives of the people and livestock. In the northern section of Lynn Woods to this day exist narrow, rectangular, stone lined holes which were built 17th century as wolf pits. There is an old age Lynn tail that once an Indian woman, traveling home after dark fell into one of those baited traps and found herself face-to-face with an incarcerated wolf. According to the story the two of them spent the night cowering in their respective corners in terror until help arrived the next morning. In any case the problem both of wolves was apparently not as quaint as the story, for the citizens gathered periodically to hunt the creatures down in order to minimize the loss of livestock. This went on for many decades; as late as 1735 there is a record of two days in August, the 6th in the 27th, being set aside for general killing of wolves in Lynn Woods.

Another important remnant from the 17th century period of Lynn history involves its link with pirate lore and pirate treasure. The tail was often told of a part ship anchoring near Lynn Harbor. Four pirates rowed to shore and left silver in exchange for handcuffs and leg irons made for them the nearby Saugus Iron Works (Saugus was still part of Lynn at that time). They then disappeared, only to return again, supposedly depositing a treasure of great magnitude within a natural cave in a rocky portion of Lynn Woods. When they once again reappeared three of them were captured at a place called Pirate's Glen. They were subsequently tried and hanged. The fourth was a man named Thomas Veal. He escaped and hid at the natural cave where the treasure was buried. There he dwelt, mending shoes for the people of the town periodically in order to buy supplies, but chiefly secluding himself at his hideout. Several different versions of the pirate's life have been told, but in one aspect the all concur. The year 1658 there was an earthquake which shook Lynn severely. Thomas Veal was in his treasure cave at the time. The rock above him splintered and fell in upon him, entombing him forever with his ill-gotten hoard. From that time onward the spot has been called Dungeon Rock. News of the buried treasures continued to echo through out the years creating never-ending interest in the site.

Generally the town moved quietly into the eighteenth century. Although it had a readily accessible harbor, it was the too shallow for shipping and therefore Lynn could not emulate the rise to wealth and power of the nearby port of Salem. The land in the area of Lynn was rocky and therefore farming was done only in a small individual way. It was not until the appearance of Welshman by the name John Dagyr that Lynn began on the road which was to lend it a moment of glory in Massachusetts history. For Dagyr brought with him in the mid-18th-century the trade of shoe making, and it was his highly skilled techniques which were purported to have set Lynn shoe makers apart from all others. The shoe industry grew, becoming a major part of local economy as the century turned. The population of Lynn expanded with Industrial Revolution. It became a thriving town with a growing working class population.

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