The Watertown area was first occupied nearly six thousand years ago. The area was inhabited by two Native American tribes, the Pequossette and the Nonantum, who settled along the river banks. John Smith explored the coast of Massachusetts in the early 1600s naming the river that flows through Watertown the Massachusetts. It was later changed to the Charles River, in honor of King Charles I.
In May 1630, a party led by Roger Clap landed on the steep banks of Charles River at a point near the present site of Perkins School for the Blind. He tells of the first encounter with the Paquossette Indians when they approached Clap's landing party with a large bass for, which they were given a biscuit by the settlers. (This scene is commemorated on the official town seal.) Soon after, Clap's group left, at Governor Winthrop's order, to settle in Dorchester where it was thought the land was better for cattle.
In July of that same year, a small company of Englishmen, among those who had arrived from England on the Arabella, and now led by Sir Richard Saltonstall and his Minister George Phillips, made their way up the Charles and landed at a point near the present location of Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge. At first called Saltonstall Plantation, their settlement officially became Watertown in September 1630.
See Watertown's Official Town Page for more history
LOCAL RESOURCES :
Watertown Free Public Library - Site boasts an amazing collection of online records available to view in a variety of formats, including Watertown Directories from 1869-1939 in PDF format, local documents, photographs of historical buildings, cemeteries, headstones, people, schools and much much more. Terrific web site for anyone interested in Watertown history and genealogy.
Watertown Historical Society : 28 Marshall street, Watertown, MA 02472-3408 (617)923-6067 - no web site available at this time
County Massachusetts Vital Records
RECORDS ONLINE :
Watertown 1790 Federal Census - located on the USGenWeb site, locate census records transcribed for Watertown and surrounding areas.
Old Burial Ground, Watertown, MA - epitaphs on Jane Devlin's website
Records of Watertown's First Church - A detailed outline of the records available from First Church Collection. Includes a time line of the church.
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