The early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony established a series of seven villages in 1630. Roxbury was located about three miles south of Boston, which at the time was a peninsula, and was connected to the mainland by a narrow neck of land, “Roxbury Neck”. This led to Roxbury becoming an important town as all land traffic to Boston had to pass through it. The town was home to a number of early leaders of the colony, including colonial governors Thomas Dudley, William Shirley, and Increase Sumner. The Shirley-Eustis House, located in Roxbury remains as one of only four remaining Royal Colonial Governor’s mansions in the United States.
The settlers of Roxbury originally made up the congregation of the First Church Roxbury, established in 1630. The congregation had no time to raise a meeting house the first winter and so met with the neighboring congregation in Dorchester. The first meeting house was built in 1632, and the fifth meeting house is still standing and it is the oldest such wood-frame building in Boston. In the 1600s Roxbury held many of the resources that the Colonists prized: potentially suitable land for farming, timber, and a brook (source of water and water power), and stone for building. That particular stone exists only in the Boston basin; it is visible on stony outcroppings and used in buildings such as the Warren House, and it proved to be a valuable asset to the community that led to early prosperity. The village of Roxbury was originally called “Rocksberry” for the rocks in its soil that made early farming a challenge.
First Church Roxbury
The Roxbury congregation, still in existence as a member congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Association, lays claim to several things of note in American history:
*Establishment of the first church school in the British colonies.
*The founding (along with 5 other local congregations, i.e. Boston, Cambridge, Watertown, Charlestown and Dorchester) of Harvard College.
*The first book published in the British Colonies (1640).
*The first Bible published in the British Colonies (1663). It was a translation into the Massachusett language by the congregation’s minister and teaching elder, John Eliot who was known as “The Apostle to the Indians”.
*First Church Roxbury was the starting point for William Dawes’ “Midnight Ride”, April 18, 1775. He went off in a different direction than Paul Revere to warn Lexington and Concord of the British raids.
James Morgan Jr, my 8th great-grandfather, was born in Roxbury on March 3, 1644. He was the second of six children born to James Morgan Sr (1607-1685) and Margery Hill (1611-1690). He lived in Roxbury until about 1665 when he was 21 years old. He then moved to Groton, New London, Connecticut. Here he married Mary Vine (1641-1689) in November 1666. They had 6 children, 2 sons, and 4 daughters.
James was a very prosperous farmer, and he was chosen as Captain of the first “train band” in 1692, under an order of the Governor and Council, authorizing a military company to be formed there. He continued as the commander of the “dragoon” force of New London County, under a special commission from the General Court.
He died on December 8, 1711, in Groton at the age of 67.