Blogs Concord Roots Blog Colonial Concord Village in the 1600's

cv-FrenchConcord1636The original town of Concord Village in Massachuesetts was founded in 1635 when an English merchant peacefully purchased six square miles of land from local natives.  The village was named for the uniquely harmonious "concord" (or accord) struck with local Algonquians.

In the years preceding the purchase, there was a small native community called Musketaquid, which was situated on Nashawtuc hill in Concord, but the tribe was decimated by the small pox plague brought by the Europeans, leaving only a remnant of its prior population.  Several early American outposts had failed with entire communities starving to death in the winters, or in violent conflicts with local tribes, and so this uniquely peaceful relationship caused the settlers to honorably rename the town from its Algonquian name within a year of founding it.

At the time of the purchase, the Concord area was 90% forest-covered and was the first official town in the interior of the Massachusetts Bay.  This was the unspoiled rugged West of the day.

About a dozen English families establish Concord in the six-mile square. Two Puritan ministers played key roles in developing the town, developing a central meeting house that clearly shows no separation between church and state.  The reasons for settling here were probably the existing trail intersection, proximity to Boston and Cambridge, friendly native community, three rivers, warmth on the east-west ridge, a dammable brook, good soils of former crop fields, and, especially, river-meadow hay to sustain livestock through the winter.

The settlers attempt to recreate an English village structure that includes land ownership, demarcated boundaries, solid buildings, wagon roads, mill dam, and pond. The Puritan meeting house on Revolutionary Ridge has no separation between church and state. The Hill Burying Ground is used. Around this settled nucleus is the commonland shared by all: river-meadows for hay, fields for cultivation, and forest for pasturage and hunting.

The natives and settlers trade and peacefully coexist. But in King Philip's War of 1675, racial hatred of the natives erupts in Massachuesetts.  A longstanding peaceful native relationship allows Concord to be spared the destruction suffered by neighboring villages, and so Concord quickly becomes a regional center.

Even in the 1600's, the lack of seasonal migration by the Concord settlers puts ecological pressure on the land. Livestock spreads widely, grazing down the limited forage of the forest. Firewood demands for huge inefficient home-fireplaces used all winter clean out the understory. The forest is perforated and pushed back for wood products. Pitch pines and sprouting oaks decline, while maples, birch, beeches, red oaks, and white pines spread. Edge species and weeds from Europe explode across Concord. Local game and fish populations drop, and have no chance to rebound. Beaver, deer, turkey, elk, moose, and wolf become rare or extinct.  This ecological decline is an important backstory to what will happen in the 1800s when Concord-born naturists and writers including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and especially Henry David Thoreau, begin to share stories about Concord with the world.

Today, there isn't much left of colonial Concord Village.  It is believed that there are two homes and a tavern that date from the 1650s, and that two rooms of the Old Block House might have been the home of Puritan Reverand John Jones, a town founder and resident from 1635 to 1644.