Home > 006982. Richard Baker > Some Savin Hill (Dorchester) Families

Some Savin Hill (Dorchester) Families

Source: David T. Robertson, “Some Savin Hill (Dorchester) Families,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register 149[1995].

[page 28]

Savin Hill is part of the northern peninsula of Dorchester, Massachusetts, which encloses Dorchester Bay. Dorchester, established 7 December 1630 and long an independent town, is today a neighborhood of Boston, having been annexed by the city in 1869. Originally called “Rocky Hill” or “Old Hill,” the area was not known as Savin Hill until 1822. It was the site of the first landing in 1630, and the first fort was built atop its 110-foot elevation above sea level in 1633. The peninsula was originally connected to the mainland byone road, Leeds Lane, which became Savin Hill Avenue. Its easternmost tip, Fox Point, is today the site of the Savin Hill Yacht Club.

To the north of Fox Point lies a small peninsula known as the Calf Pasture. On this peninsula today rest the Campus of the University of Massachuseets, the Massachusetts State Archives, and the John F. Kennedy Library. William T. Morrissey Boulevard now runs from north to south along this coastline, passing by the Boston Globe newspaper plant, along Savin Hill Beach and across a drawbridge toward Commercial Point and its well-known “Gas Tank,” and on toward Port Norfolk.

It is the land immediately north of the aforementioned drawbridge that is under discussion. This is the only point along the original Dorchester coastline with water on both the east and the south. While some shoreline filling has taken place here and the Calf Pasture has been greatly expanded, the area retains most of its earlier geographical characteristics.[1] This article will attempt to show the relationships between three families – GURNELL, MASON and MERO – who owned and lived on a particular plot on Savin Hill that is readily identifiable. Extensive research in Suffolk County Deeds, combined with other available records, makes it possible to document the lives of these interesting, but previously overlooked, families.


1. The author is indebted to Carol Zurawski, Lynn Whitney, and David R. Starbuck, authors of Seventeenth Century Survey of Dorchester (Boston University, 1979). Their book, though not cited as an authoritative source for this article, helped explain the transfer of property in Savin Hill during this period. The map on the opposite page is adapted from Figure 6 (page 60) of their work.

[page 29]



Many of the most prominent Dorchester families selected Savin Hill as the location for their residences. One of these was Governor ENDICOTT’s brother-in-law, Roger LUDLOW, whose Dorchester land was on the south side of the hill on Savin Hill Avenue, between the present Denny Street and Bath Avenue, extending to the beach. His house, on the corner of Bath Avenue, one of the most substantial in the town, was still standing in 1730. When LUDLOW left Dorchester, as part of the large migration from that place to Connecticut, he sold his estate to Captain Thomas HAWKINS, a ship-builder and navigator who amassed a large estate in Dorchester. After her husband’s death in 1648, Mrs. HAWKINS sold the property to John GURNELL.[2]


2. William Deane Orcutt, Good Old Dorchester – A Narrative History of the Town, 1630-1893, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, 1908), pp. 52, 55, 56.

[page 30]

On 24 February 1658, John GLOVER, late of Dorchester, sold land there to John GURNELL of Dorchester, and on 5 November 1659 his widow and executrix, Anne GLOVER, confirmed the sale. Included were all commons and common right that had formerly belonged to Mr. WATTERHOUSE containing four acres in every division and two acres of fresh marsh near Pine Swamp. This land is near Massachusetts Avenue in northwestern Dorchester.[3]

Richard BAKER and John GURNELL purchased jointly the land of John HILL, formerly of Dorchester, who had removed to Medfield. This land was described in 1682 as eight acres of upland meadow and five of pasture, part of a tract commonly known as Bullocks Lot, being land formerly owned by Edward BULLOCK. BAKER and GURNELL held this land jointly until 1682.[4] By the date of his death John GURNELL owned or controlled all of the land on the south side of Savin Hill …


3. Suffolk Deeds (14 vols., Boston, 1880-1906): 3:318; 12:248-249.

4. Ibid., 12:309-310.

[page 31]

… John GURNELL also shared the strong religious convictions of the settlers of Dorchester. He was a candidate in the election of deacon of the Church in Dorchester in May 1672. James BLAKE and John GURNELL received the most votes in a primary election, but in the final election BLAKE received thirty-four votes and GURNELL only nineteen[11]


11. Dorchester CRs, p. 66.

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