A short History of Newton, MA, USA

In 1630, the land area now occupied by the City of Newton, MA, was an unexplored wilderness, which the Massachusetts Bay Colony Court of Assistance granted to and was to belong to Newtown (Cambridge).[1] 

Newton and Cambridge

Land granted to individuals over the next years were sold to farmers, who cleared the land and established farmsteads of various sizes. On April 1, 1634, there is one thousand acres of land and a great pond (Wiswall’s Pond) granted to John Haynes.[2]  In 1640, the town granted to Joseph Cooke a farm of 400 acres of the nearest upland adjoining to his meadows lying beyond Cheese Cake Brook, and between that and Charles River, and also to go with a straight line on the hithermost side of his meadow on this side Cheese Cake Brook, down by the edge of the highland to Charles River – (the same land that Cooke sold to John Fuller in 1658).[3]

Of the twenty pioneers (first settlers) of this southside wilderness, four came from London, four from elsewhere in England, and the remainder from the Massachusetts towns. In the roll of the first-comers occur the names of Jackson, Hyde, Fuller, Wiswall, Park, Ward, Prentice, and Trowbridge, most of which still remain, filling out columns in the Newton City Directory. In 1645 there were 135 ratable persons in Newtown, with 90 houses, 551 head of cattle, 40 horses, 37 sheep, 62 swine, and 58 goats, the valuation of the settlement being £8,801.[4]

The first permanent settler was Deacon John Jackson, in 1639, on Brighton Hill; and he was followed, four years later, by his brother, Edward, the Whitechapel Vulcan. Deacon Samuel Hyde entered in 1640; John Fuller, in 1644; Jonathan Hyde and Richard Park, in 1647; Captain Thomas Prentice, in 1649; and in 1650 John Ward, James Prentice, Thomas Prentice, Jr., Vincent Druce, Thomas Hammond, and John Parker.[4]

Newton numbers nine or ten villages which for two centuries seemed as distinct from one another as if they were separate towns. Only the town meetings brought the inhabitants together in one place as a united people. These villages are: Newton, Newtonville, West Newton, Auburndale, Lower Falls, Upper Falls, Highlands. Newton Centre and North Village, perhaps we should add, also, Riverside. Their location depended, at first, on the water privileges along the Charles River, which flowed nearly around the town; afterwards, the railroad centres created additional reasons for their several locations. As the population increases, and the interests of the people have become one under a city administration, these villages tend to be melted into continuity. The town, at the date of this publication, is blessed with nine post-offices and ten rail-road stations.[5]  These district villages – see the map, Newton, 13 Villages.


The following timeline key dates are direct quotes from:

Francis Jackson,  History of the Early Settlement of Newton, County of Middlesex, Massachusetts: From 1639 to 1800, Boston, 1854. 

1631, The settlement of Newtown (Cambridge) began in 1631, p. 1.

1632, Its town records commenced in November, 1632, and its Proprietors’ [land] records in 1635. p. 1.

1634, The court granted very large tracks of land north and south of the river. On the south side of Charles River, they obtained all of what is now Brighton and Newton. This tract was first called “The south side of the Charles River,” and sometimes “Nonantum,” (the Indian name,) and after religious meetings were regularly held on the south side of the river, about 1654, it was called “Cambridge Village” until 1679. p. 6.

1635, Newtown (Cambridge) proprietors’ records (land records) commenced, p. 1.

1638, When Harvard College was established, in 1638, the General Court “ordered that Newtown should henceforward be called Cambridge.” p. 6.

1654, Religious meetings were regularly held on the south side of the river, it was called “Cambridge Village” (1654-1679) [which is the city of Newton today], p. 6. [also see 1634].

1661, The inhabitants of the village petitioned the Court again, to be releases from paying church rates to Cambridge. The erection of the new Meeting-house in the village had greatly strengthened their case, and accordingly the Court “granted them freedom from all church rates for the support of the ministry in Cambridge, for all lands and estates which were more than four miles from Cambridge Meeting-house; the measure to be in the usual paths that may be ordinarily passed.” p. 48.

New England Colonies

1662, In 1662, a parish line was established by the Court, between Cambridge and Cambridge Village, about four miles from the Cambridge meeting-house. p. 7. 

1679, On the 27th of August, 1679, Cambridge Village was set off from Cambridge, and organized as an independent town, “by virtue of an order of the General Court.” After which it was more often called “New Cambridge,” until 1691. p. 7.

1691, On the 8th of December, 1691 the General Court passed the following order. In answer to the petition of the inhabitants of Cambridge Village, sometime called New Cambridge, lying on the south side of Charles river, being granted to be a township, praying that a name may be given unto the said town, — It is ordered, that it be henceforth called “New Town.” p. 7. 

1766, All the town clerks of Newtown, followed the Court’s order in the spelling of the town’s name, until 1766, when Judge Fuller was town clerk; he spelt it on the Town records, “Newton.” There was no vote – usage in the town and by the public had been seventy-five years preparing the way for him to assume the responsibility of making the contraction, by omitting the ” w ” from the last syllable. p. 8.

1838, In 1838, eighteen hundred acres of Newton at the extreme southerly part of town bounding south-west about two hundred and ninety rods upon the river, was set off to Roxbury;[6] 

1847, and in 1847, about six hundred and forty acres, at the extreme northerly part of the town, bounding northerly ten hundred and eighty rods upon the river, was set off to Waltham. The town contained fourteen thousand five hundred and thirteen acres, in 1838.[6] 

1873, [Newton became a city.]



  1. F. Smith D.D., History of Newton, Massachusetts, From its Earlies Settlement to the Present Time. 1630-1880, Boston, The American Logotype Company, 1880. J.E. Farwell & Co., Printers, 45 Pearl Street, Boston. p.82. The Court of Assistants, September 7, 1630, ordered that the town upon Charles River be called Watertown. The place was then an unexplored wilderness, and the inhabitants of Watertown claimed a large tract on the south side of Charles River, all of which they gave up to Newton except a strip two hundred rods long and sixty rods wide, enough to protect their fishing privilege, afterwards called the Wear (Weir) lands. “All the rest of the ground on that side of the river, the Court ordered, was to belong to Newtown” (Cambridge). “This grant, – all the rest,”- says Mr. Jackson, “was the earliest made to Newtown on the south side of the river.”
  2. Ibid., p. 15.
  3. Ibid., p. 44.
  4. F. Sweetser, King’s Handbook of Newton, Massachusetts, Boston, Mass. Moses King Corporation, 1889, p. 16/17.
  5. F. Smith D.D., History of Newton, Massachusetts, From its Earlies Settlement to the Present Time. 1630-1880, Boston, The American Logotype Company, 1880. J.E. Farwell & Co., Printers, 45 Pearl Street, Boston. p.14/15.
  6. Francis Jackson, History of the Early Settlement of Newton, County of Middlesex, Massachusetts: From 1639 to 1800. Boston, 1854. P 20. These dimensions and contents are taken from the map of E. F. Woodward and W. F. Ward, of 1831, revised and corrected by James B. Blake, in 1848.