Home > 002048. James Mattocks, 002050. Richard Fairbanks > The Memorial History of Boston

The Memorial History of Boston

Source: Justin Winsor, editor, The Memorial History of Boston, Including Suffolk County, Massachusetts, 1630-1880, Volume 1, The Early and Colonial Periods (Boston: Ticknor and Company, 1880). [WorldCat]

[page 232]

It was not till November, 1639, that the first post-office was set up in Boston.  The General Court at that time passed an order to give notice “that Richard FAIRBANK’s house, in Boston, is the place appointed for all letters which are brought from beyond the seas, or are to be sent thither, are to be brought unto; and he is to take care that they be delivered or sent according to their directions; and he is allowed for every such letter a penny, and must answer all miscarriages through his own neglect in this kind,– provided that no man shall be compelled to bring his letters thither, except he please.”4 It is not known how long Mr. FAIRBANKS held this office; but in June, 1677, the same difficulties which had led to his appointment compelled the merchants of Boston to petition for some further action of the General Court.  From the statements then made it appeared that “many times letters are thrown upon the exchange, that who will may take them up;” and the Court thereupon appointed Mr. John HAYWARD, the scrivener, as a “meet person to take in and convey letters according to their direction.”5


4 Mass. Col. Records, i. 281.

5 Ibid. v. 147, 148.

[page 539]

State Street early rivalled Washington Street in interest, and surpassed it in importance.  In one of the early views of the next century the street appears paved with pebbles and without sidewalks; and so we may assume it to have been for some time previous to 1684.  The buildings too, doubtless, more nearly answered Josselyn’s description as standing “close together on each side of the street as in London, and are furnished with many fair shops.”  This was the busy bustling part of the town, the centre of commerce and trade; here at its head was the first market;2 here, in the market place, was subsequently built the Town House with the Merchants Exchange as above mentioned; and not far from here was the first post-office, established in 1639 by the following order of the General Court:–

“For the preventing the miscarriage of letters, it is ordered, that notice bee given that Richard FAIRBANKS, his house in Boston, is the place appointed for all letters, which are brought from beyond seas or to be sent thither, are to be brought unto him, and he is to take care that they bee delivered or sent according to their directions; provided that no man shall be compelled to bring his letters thither except hee please.”3


2 [The open space was at first, we may judge, somewhat encumbered with stationary shops; for the Town Records, 1645, show that the widow HOWIN had a shop here which the authorities removed, granting her compensation therefor.–ED.]

3 FAIRBANKS lived on Washington Street.

[page 558]

An important source of information is the Book of Possessions, compiled about A.D. 1645, and containing the names of the owners of land at the time.  It has been published by the City, being the second report of the Record Commissioners.  The following alphabetical list of the proprietors will be sufficient for our present purpose:–

[page 559]


[selected names]

  • BAKER, John
  • BATES, George
  • BISHOP, Nathaniel
  • BROWNE, Edward
  • BROWNE, Henry
  • BROWNE, William
  • BROWNE, James
  • FAIRBANKS, Richard
  • FAWER, Barnabas

[page 560]

  • MATTOX, James
  • MILOM, John
  • NANNEY, Robert
  • OLIVER, James
  • OLIVER, John
  • OLIVER, Thomas
  • PHILLIPS, John
  • PIERCE, William
  • SPOORE, John
  • SWEETE, John
  • TAPPING, Richard

[page 565]

The fact that church-membership was long a necessary preliminary to recognition as a citizen makes it very desirable for us to know who were the early members of our First Church in Boston.  The list is often referred to by Savage and others, but has not been printed.  We therefore present all of the record of admissions prior to A.D. 1640, believing that no more valuable document can be offered to the genealogist.  We prefix numbers to the names for convenience.

[page 572]

The 24 of ye same 12th. Moneth [1638]:–

James MATTOCKE, a Cooper


The 14th Day of ye same 2d Moneth [1639]:–

John SPOURE, a Husbandman, and
Elizabeth his wife

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