Deed of Sale for 8 acres of Spectacle Island in Boston Harbor. Colonial Boston, Ralph and Anna Mason.

Deed of Sale for 8 acres of Spectacle Island in Boston Harbor.

1675. Suffolk County, MA: Nov 22, 1675.

Single leaf (10.25" h x 15" w), 1p., 34 lines of legible secretary hand in ink, with notes, signatures and two red wax seals beneath. Expected folds and even toning, one 3mm burn hole and four smaller chips along internal folds with slight loss of letters but not of sense. Small chip to bottom edge with loss of one letter of the phrase "her mark".

§ Original manuscript deed recording the sale of eight acres of Spectacle Island in Boston Harbor by one English settler to another. The sellers were almost certainly Ralph Mason (1600-1678) and his wife Anne (1600-after 1679) who came to Boston from London in the ship Abigail in 1635. Ralph trained as a carpenter in London and along with a partner, Henry Messinger, he is credited with being the first to bring fine cabinetry-making to Boston. (A chest of drawers made by them sold at auction for $20,000 in 2003.)

The buyer was Thomas Bill (c.1618-1678) who emigrated to Boston colony with his parents sometime before 1635. He is recorded variously as a lighterman, an innholder, a mariner, and a planter and was a member of the Second Church during the time of Increase Mather. He bought his first acres of Spectacle Island from his brother in 1666 and increased his holding over the following years until by this purchase he had acquired about half the island. His son, Samuel, acquired the rest and for the next 80 years some or all of the island was owned by the Bill family.

The island is an interesting oddity in the Boston Harbor, originally shaped like a pair of spectacles until landfill changed its contours. Its simultaneous proximity to and isolation from Boston at the mouth of the Charles River has attracted a succession of insalubrious uses. For the Bill family it was primarily a source of lumber but after their tenure it hosted a quarantine for smallpox victims, various brothels, a horse rendering plant, a trash incinerator, and a dump. Today it is being rejuvenated as a public park.

Other early settlers mentioned in the document or witnesses to it include Jonathan Negus, William Beamsley, Thomas Kemble, and Isaiah Addington. The text is recorded in the Suffolk County Deeds (Lib. IX, 418, 419). Ref. Ledyard Bill, History of the Bill Family, 1867. Item #122997

Price: $975.00

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