Dorchester Illustration no. 2374 Vose’s Grove
(Illustration includes a postcard of Vose’s Grove postmarked 1911).
Chicataubut, Indian sachem of the Massachusett tribe, oversaw that land currently known as Canton, Stoughton and Sharon--a forested wilderness when the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth in 1620. The Massachusett Native Americans were settled mostly around Massachusetts Bay and, after the Wampanoags, were the largest tribe in the area.
Kitchamakin, Chicataubut’s brother, was appointed acting sachem when smallpox claimed the Indian chief’s life in 1633. Son Josias Chicataubut (aka Wampatuck) eventually assumed his inheritance when he came of age, but by then the land known as Dorchester (including the portions later known as Canton, Stoughton and Sharon) had been signed over to occupancy by the English colonists in a treaty brokered in 1630.
In 1644 Josias submitted to English rule and in 1666 Kitchamakin relinquished additional tracts of land held by the indigenous people, thus enlarging the borders of the town of Dorchester to make it the largest town in New England. The number of individual towns that eventually separated from that original tract of land or added to their own borders best illustrate Dorchester’s vast acreage as well as its prominence at the time. Milton, Wrentham, Stoughton, Sharon and Canton assumed separate borders; later Foxboro, Dedham and Hyde Park also took on individual identities.
The specifics of Kitchamakin’s 1666 deed were later called into question by the Dorchester settlers. Josias promised a deed which would include all land beyond the Blue Hills except that which was in use by the Ponkapoag Indians, an area then known as a “praying town”. Before he could do so, Josias died in battle against the hostile Maquzogs, whom it was said were “more afraid to kill him than he was to die”. Job Ahauton temporarily took up the duties of this last chief of the royal line and in 1670 advised the new sachem, Squamaug--Josias’ brother--to confirm the terms of the “New Grant '' to the town of Dorchester, thus conveying all the land “beyond Neponsit Mill, unto the utmost extent,” to the colonists.
Much later, in 1870, Dorchester would merge with the City of Boston thereby blurring the distinction between large tracts of local land held by the indigenous people and those deeded to the original English settlers.
Kitchamakin’s individual legacy also includes his cooperation with Canton’s missionary “Apostle” John Eliot, who first preached the gospel to the natives in Kitchamakin’s wigwam in 1646, located in a place known as Vose’s Grove, within their original settlement at the Neponset River. It was Eliot who first established communities of “Praying Indians” separate from the settlers; in his work to convert them to Christianity, he had grown increasingly convinced that the interests of the natives were better served living segregated from the white settlers, thus establishing what eventually became known as Ponkapoag Plantation. Within these communities, the indigenous people were still subject to Colonial laws but were expected to abandon their traditional religion; although their language was not banned, it has since disappeared from use.
Contrary to popular belief, the Native Americans known as Ponkapoag were actually Neponsetts, having settled near the mouth of the Neponset River. They were a Massachusett tribe who changed their name to the place of their relocation, Ponkapoag Pond being a principal feature of the landscape.
MacLear, Anne Bush, A.M. Early New England Towns: A Comparative Study of Their Development. New York: Columbia University, 1908.
Huntoon, Daniel T.V. History of the Town of Canton, Norfolk County, Massachusetts. Cambridge: John Wilson and Son, University Press, 1893.