Friday, June 15, 2012
John Prescott, the father of Sarah (
Prescott) Wheeler, was born at Shevington,
in 1604-5 and resided there until his marriage to Mary Platts, Lancashire, England Jan. 21, 1628-9 when he
sold his home and removed to Sowerby, Halifax Parish, Yorkshire,
where most of his children were born.
For his conscience’s sake and to avoid persecution he emigrated to
America going first to the Island of Barbadoes in the West Indies where the
records show him to have a had property in 1638. He came to Boston in 1640 with his family and settled in
Watertown. In 1643, he, with several associates
negotiated the “Nashaway Purchase,” acquiring a tract of land ten miles long
and eight miles wide comprising what is now the town of Lancaster, Mass. And portions of adjoining
towns. He removed through the wilderness
to that place probably in 1642 with his family who were nearly drowned while
fording the . Sudbury
He was the first settler and the leading spirit of the enterprise and easily deserved the title that had been give him “The Founder of Lancaster”.
He was also the first settler in
It was at first proposed to call the new town established upon the “Nashaway Plantation” after its leading citizen and a petition was sent by the citizens to the General Court, asking that the town be called “Prescott,” but the wise solons of that day decided that this “smacked too much of man worship” and therefor refused the reuqest, but named the town Lancaster in compliment to John Prescott’s native county in England and appoint John Prescott, Ralph Houghton, and Thomas Sawyer as three of the six “Prudential Managers” of the new town. This was in 1653.
John Prescott first settled at the site of the present public buildings and Unitarian church but soon sold these lands and took up other lands near
South Lancaster on the east slope of “George’s Hill” at
the place now called “Maplehurst.”
Of him the historian of Lancaster, Hon. H.S. Nourse writes: “Not one of the famous frontiers men whose figures stand out so prominently in early history was better equipped with the manly qualities that win hero worship in a new country than was the father of the Nashaway Plantation.
Had Prescott, like Daniel Boone, been fortunate in the favor of contemporary histories to perpetuate anecdotes of his daily prowess and fertility or resource, or had he left grateful successors withal to keep his memory green, his name and romantic adventures would, like Boone’s, adorn Colonial annals.
Persecuted for his opinions, he went out into the wilderness to found a home and for forty years thought, fought and wrought to make that home the center of a prosperous community. Loaded from his first steps with discouragements that soon appalled every other of the original co-partners in the purchase of Nashaway from Showanon,
Prescott alone held to his purpose and death
found him at his post.” (Life of John
Prescott in Military Annals of Lancaster.)
The “Book of Lands” of the Proprietors of Lancaster, has the following description of the lands of John Prescott.
“Lotts of Jn Prescott. The ffirst Lott was the Scenter from which other Lotts may take their boundings and description North and South, is the Lott of John Prescot who is one of the first Inhabitants, he hath his Lott on the west side of the Nashaway and the North Riuers containing 20 acors in place where sometimes one Mr. Symmons and Thomas King built a trukeing house, Butting Easterly vppon the highway and westerly toward the Comons.”
“His Entervale Lott containeth 50 Acors, Buetteh vppon the North and Nashaway Riuers Esaterly and tendeth
Westerly as it is now
ffenced and one part Lying Northly of the Higway and another part Southerly
from the Lott of Thomas Sawyer.”
“That Lott of John Prescott Containing 20 acors which Lyeth on the east side of the Highway over against her former Lott Described butteth vppon the high way westerly and the Comons Easterly.”
In 1648 he laid out the “Road to
by Nashaway, which avoided most of the hilly way,” and for his services
received 100 acres of land near in Lake
Washacum Sterling including the
land upon which the Sterling Jucntion depot is now located. Later he bought of Quannapoag, the Nashaway
chieftain, 110 acres adjoining this grant including the land now known as the
Methodist Camp Meeting Grounds at Sterling—the deed being dated March 22,
In this deed mention is made of
“Washakim fert being aboutt fiefteene rods from the nearest pt of this plaine”.
Etc. Chief Quanapoag’s wigwam was upon a
rise of ground between the East and Fort
Washakim . His English name was James Wiser, and the
relation between him and Prescott were always very friendly. West
In 1652, he entered into an agreement with the town to build a grist mill or “corn mill” as it was then called. He completed the mill and commenced grinding
This mill was built upon Goodrich Brook on
St. in Clinton,
then a part of Lancaster
and it was the first mill erected in . Before its erection the nearest mill was at
Waterwon, 30 miles distant. He also
built a block house, or “Garrison House” on the hill near the mill a little
southeast of the corner of High and Water Sts in Worcester
County Clinton and to this house he removed his
family, perhaps before he had finished the mill, and here he lived
thereafter. This house and mill were the
first buildings to be erected in that portion of the town of Clinton.
Pieces of the original mill stones used for grinding in Prescott’s mill are still preserved at Clinton.
Prescott was appointed by
the Government as a member of the committee to build bridges “at Billirriky and
Misticke” and in 1658 he surveyed the Davenport
lands, comprising 650 acres, the western part of which included the central
part of the . village
of West Boylston
In 1659, he built a saw mill above his “corn mill,” probably on the location now occupied by the Bigelow Carpet mill.
In 1667 he contracted with the town of
to build a corn mill in that town and did so receiving as a bonus 520 acres of
land free from taxation for twenty years. The site of this mill is now within
the town limits of Harvard about one mile north of the center. He put his son Jonas in charge of the mill
and afterward gave him both mill and lands.
He had a helmet and a coat of mail which were the terror of the superstitious Indians and many anecdotes of his skill and prowess are related. His block house, although attacked by the Indians when the town was destoryed, was not captured, but in common with all the other inhabitants he was forced to temporarily abandon the town after the massacre and his house was then burned by the Indians.
He returned, however, probably in 1679 and lived there until his death in 1681.
His will, proved in Dec. 1681, counseled his wife and children to “labor and endeavor to preserue love and unitied among themselves and the vpholding of church and Commonwealth.” His son John succeeded to his father’s business at
Before conveying to his son Jonas the property at Groton (Harvard) Prescott owned upwards of 1200 acres of land situated as follows: In Lancaster about 100 acres extending from Georges Hill to the Nashua River near the old cemetery; in Clinton about 300 acres comprising what is now the central part of Clinton and extending from the B.& M. R.R. to the Nashua River; In sterling about 300 acres south of and bordering upon the Washacum lakes, and in Groton (Harvard) 520 acres. John Prescott was great grandfather of Col. Wm. Prescott who commanded the American forces at
Hill; and of Capt John. Prescott who commanded a portion of the Massachusetts troops at
the seige of Carthagena, South America by the
English in 1740 and great-great grandfather of Wm. H. Prescott, the historian.
John Prescott’s grave is in the old cemetery near the “Rivers meeting” at
Lancaster and a rude
stone, bearing his name and the date 1681 marks his last resting place.
On the 250th anniversary of the found of
Lancaster the town erected at his grave a
memorial stone bearing the following inscription:
WITH HIS CHILDREN ABOUT HIS LIES
FOUNDER OF LANCASTER AND FIRST SETTLER
BORN AT STANDMILL
DIED AT LANCATSER
DEC. 1681 MASSACHUSETTS
INSPIRED BY THE LOVE OF
AND THE FEAR OF
THIS STOUT HEARTED PIONEER
FORSAKING THE PLEASANT VALES OF
TOOK UP HIS ABODE IN THE UNBROKEN
AND ENCOUNTERED WILD BEAST AND SAVAGE
TO SECURE FREEDOM
FOR HIMSELF AND HIS POSTERITY
HIS FAITH AND VIRTUES
HAVE BEEN INHERITED BY MANY DESCENDANTS
WHO IN EVERY GENERATION HAVE WELL SERVED THE STATE
IN WAR, IN LITERATURE, AT THE BAR, IN THE PULPIT, IN PUBLIC LIFE,
At the semi-centennial celebration of the organization of the town of
Sites of John Prescott’s house and mill.
They are inscribed at follows:
NEAR THIS SPOT STOOD
THE HOUSE BUILT BY
JOHN PRESCOTT IN 1654
BURNED BY THE INDIANS
Otterson Place, Clinton
THIS TABLET MARKS THE SITE
OF THE FIRST GRIST MILL
, WORCESTER COUNTY
JOHN PRESCOTT IN 1654.
Tablet upon Mill in
Water St., Clinton
Of Mary Platts, wife of John Prescott, the Hon. Henry Nourse, historian of Lancaster, says, “Of Prescott’s wife we know only her name; but her daughters were sought for in marriage by men of whom he know nothing that is not praiseworthy; and her sons all honored their mother’s memory by useful and unblemished lives.” (Life of John Prescott in Military Annals of Lancaster, p 344.)
(taken from Wheeler Family of Ruthland, MA by Daniel M. Wheeler,
1924.) Pittsfield, MA