Papers of John Adams, volume 1

Report of the Braintree Committee for Repairing Highways

Editorial Note

Report of the Braintree Town Committee to Lay Out the North Common, 1 April 1765 JA Niles, Samuel Bass, Jonathan Braintree, town of Report of the Braintree Town Committee to Lay Out the North Common, 1 April 1765 Adams, John Niles, Samuel Bass, Jonathan Braintree, town of
Report of the Braintree Town Committee to Lay Out the North Common
Braintree, 1765 April 1st.

The Committee who was directed to take a Plan and make Division of the North Commons (so called) at the Meeting of the Town in March last past having proceeded on that affair1 and have taken a Plan thereof Excepting the following peices (viz.) about Three acres taken off by the Road at the Swamp called purgatory swamp, about 101four acres taken off by the Road or Towns Way between Benja. Savels and Joseph Crains, about one acre opposite to William Fields House part of which is fenced and improved by said Field, about four acres near the Lane leading from said Commons, to Deacon Joseph Neals, and about four acres taken off by the Towns Way East of Capts. Bridge so called and have Divided said Commons (the above mentioned peices Excepted) in the manner described on the Plans herewith presented.2

Concerning the fence the Committee find rail fence in some Places where by the Leases stone wall was to be built and in other parts the stone wall not according to the Leases. But that in general the wall is well built and stands well. The Committee also find by the accounts of Mr. Elisha Niles Town Treasurer that said Leasees have not accounted or Settled with him for any stones taken off said Commons since the Expiration of the first Lease. All which is Submitted by

Saml. Niles John Adams Jonathan Bass Committee

The above Report being read before the Town was Voted accepted.

Then Samuel Niles Esqr., Mr. John Adams, and Mr. Jonathan Bass, were Seperately Chosen a Committee to Settle with the Leasees of the North Commons respecting their obligation to the Town and Provided said Committee and the Leasees do not agree then said Committee and the Leasees mutually to agree on Men from some other Town or Towns to determine the Same.3

Voted The above said Committee inform themselves in the best manner they can Respecting stones carried off said Commons since the Commencement of the Last Lease and that they Settle with such Persons as have carried off stones on the Same Condition as sett in the first Lease.

Voted the abovesaid Committee Proceed as soon as Conveniently may be to the Sale of the said North Commons the Lotts as Exhibited on the Plan of said Lands to be sold Seperately at Publick Vendue to the highest bidder.

Voted The abovesaid Committee have full Power in the Name and Behalf of the Town to make and Execute good and authentic Deeds of said Lands to the Purchasers.

Voted That said Committee take obligations of the Purchasers of said Lands said Obligations to be made to the Treasurer of Said Town of Braintree or to his Successor in said office for the use of the Town 102and that there be two Sureties to the Satisfaction of said Committee bound with each purchaser, Except where Cash is paid.

Voted said Committee make Sale of those peices of Common Lands that are not included in the Plan Exhibited to the Town but Described in their Report to the Town.

Voted That the aforesaid Committee before they Proceed to the sale of said North Common Land make provision for such Drift Ways4 thro such parts of said Lands as may be Necessary.5

MS (Braintree Town Records, 1731–1783, p. 231–232)); in hand of Elisha Niles, town clerk. In entering the day's proceedings, Niles erroneously copied the first of two resolutions adopted in pursuance of the committee's Report before the text of the Report itself. Realizing his error, he noted: “The Report of the Towns Committee which was omitted in its proper place as it preceeded the votes Respecting the Commons is as follows (viz.).” He then copied the Report and continued his entry with the last five votes taken thereon. The Report and votes are here printed in their correct order.


As the date for the expiration of the leases on Braintree's North Common approached, the town considered the wisdom of selling these lands outright. The agenda for the town meeting of 5 March 1764 included this question, but no action was taken that year ( Braintree Town Records , p. 393–394). As JA recalled the controversy, the South and Middle Precincts of the town favored the sale, while the North Precinct opposed it. As for himself, JA thought “the Lands in their common Situation . . . of very little Utility to the Public or to Individuals” and supported their sale when the issue was once again brought before the town meeting in March 1765 ( Diary and Autobiography , 3:279). On 5 March, the town voted to sell the North Common, “as soon as conveniently may be after expiration of the Leases,” and named JA, who had just begun his term as a surveyor of highways, Samuel Niles, and Jonathan Bass a committee to divide the Common into salable lots as well as “to observe how far the Leasees . . . have or have not fulfilld the conditions of their Lease” ( Braintree Town Records , p. 399, 400). To lay out the lots, JA, Niles, and Bass spent “three or four Weeks” with “Chainmen” and surveyors as they “rambled . . . over Rocks and Mountains and through Swamps and thicketts” so that they might submit their final plan for division of the Common on 1 April ( Diary and Autobiography , 3:280). For the town's earlier sale of South Common and for the background of the problem of common lands in Braintree politics, see Reports of 12 April and 19 May 1762, above.


The plan or plans mentioned here and above have not been found.


This and the paragraph which follows were erroneously copied by the town clerk into the MS before instead of after the committee report. See descriptive note.


Driftway: “Local, Eng. A common way or path for driving cattle” (Webster's, 2d edn.).


For the committee's execution of the duties assigned by the resolutions of this date, see Report of 30 Sept., below.