THE MILL LAWSUIT

Thomas, Josiah, and Jedediah Dewey
Westfield, Massachusetts

Latter Half, 17th Century




In 1672 the second mill in Westfield was completed. It was built on Two Mile Brook, Little River District, and co-owned by Joseph Whiting and the three Dewey brothers, Thomas, Josiah and Jedediah.

That year, the Dewies received a grant to set up a saw mill on Two Mile brook. They also had been granted land around the mill as encouragement to set it up.

Joseph Whiting had earlier established a grist mill, on the brook by the hill going toward Northampton. He found that the lands were sandy and didn't hold water. When the Deweys were planning their mill, he agreed with them to take a fourth part in their saw mill, and they would have 3/4 ownership in his grist mill. And so they all signed an agreement (see below), and set the saw mill on ye same dam.

That is to say conserning the Saw Mill and Corn Mill that now stands upon Two Mile Brook, being fully finished as we are Mutely concerned do wholly discharge each other of all charges past about said mills * and we further agree from this time to bear equal charge in reparing and doing what may be necessary about the mills and to receive equal benefit; and if any should desire to sell his part, the rest of the owners are to have the refusal of it; we further agree that the mills shall stand where they now are for 20 years except we shall see cause to remove them sooner; and to the above said agreement we bind ourselves, our heirs, executors, administrators, or assigns as witness our hands this __ day of December, 1672.

Signed: Joseph Whiting, Thomas Dewey, Josiah Dewey, Jedediah Dewey.


* Evidently there had been some dispute over an earlier mill.







Whiting didn't keep his part of the bargain, and sold out his share to Capt. Aaron Cook. The Deweys entered a protest on 10 May 1676, and refused to recognize the captain's claim.

This may certify whom it may concern – That we whose names are here subscribed, being the copartners with Joseph Whiting, the owners of the Grist Mill and the Saw Mill in Westfield, do declare that there is agreement made between the four partners that if any are desirous to sell his part, the rest of the owners are to have the refusal of it; but understanding that Mr. Whiting hath made sale of his part of the mills to Capt. Aaron Cook as appears by his demands desiring our consent that he might enjoy Mr. Whiting's part with us, We declare to all that we neither do nor shall at any time consent that the said Capt. Cook shall be any copartner or have any share with us in the said mills.”



It all ended up being a big mess. The Dewey genealogy presents the scenario, taken from church records. I’ve paraphrased quite a bit for ease of understanding, though much seems to have been left out. At first, the church records present the causes of the case, which have already been stated.

To continue:

BROTHER THOMAS DEWEY'S CASE

In time, Joseph Whiting went away, and three parts of the mills went to the Deweys. Others from Westfield began making a new dam, which ended up letting water away at the mouth of Two Mile Brook, which was where the foundation rock of their own dam had been founded. Eventually the corn mill was worn out and the Deweys built a new one, and a swift mill it was.

But there was a great flood the next August which caused a break from the great River almost to the mill brook, which was judged to require 30£ and 40£ in work to repair.

Now in this Pinch, Brother Pomeroy and some others had gotten a grant to set up a saw mill on the brook above the Deweys’. The Deweys figured this new mill would take away two thirds of their water.

This proved a temptation too hard upon Brother Thomas Dewey, such that he went one morning and cut down their dam and hid their tools.

A sermon was preached on 1st Corinthians 12:1, which convinced Dewey of “the irregularity” of his act. After this, he confessed his fault, and put up an acknowledgment which was read and accepted by the church, on “2d 9m 1683” (the 2nd of September) being Lords day.




THO. DEWIES ACKNOWLEDGMENT

“In respect unto the cutting down of the Dam and hiding the tools, I do here before God and his people acknowledge that, since I did it, God hath brought me to see my Irregularity and Dishonr all proceedings therein, as a thing offensive under many considerations, wch made me grieved in my spirit, that the Adversary should get such advantage against me and to beg of God to pardon the will thereof.

“And having in point of satisfaction for the Dammaged ones, agreed with the owners, I before the people of God and especially ye Church whereof I am an unworthy member, to lay by whatever Offences they may have taken hereat, and to help me with their prayers, that God may show himself gratious to me herein, and for the time to come, defend me against all overbearing temptations.”




The View of Things from John Sacket’s genealogy:

John Sacket, was the first child born in Newtown (now Cambridge) Massachusetts, in 1632. In 1653, he had settled in Springfield, Mass., having received from the town commissioners a gift of four pieces of land, agreeable to an ordinance passed to encourage the speedy settlement of that place. Around 1660, he sold out at Springfield and removed to property he had purchased some fifteen miles up the Connecticut River at Northampton; stayed there until 1665, when he again sold out and moved to a farm purchased near Westfield, on what are now called Sacket's Meadows. This was just when Westfield was first settled, and about ten years before King Philip's Indian wars. There he built a house and barn, both of which were burned, Oct. 27, 1675, by the Indians, who, at the same time, destroyed a large amount of other property, and drove off his cattle. When he rebuilt his house and barn, he also erected a saw mill on a creek which ran through his farm and emptied into the Waronoco (now Westfield) River.

The building of this dam on this creek was the occasion of a vexatious lawsuit, brought against him by Thomas, Jedediah and Jonah Dewey, who claimed that by reason of Sacket's saw mill dam the water was backed up on their grist mill. The case was tried at Springfield before a jury, who found for plaintiff (the Deweys), but the court in giving judgment, recited that it was a hard case for the defendant and "therefore ordered that the plaintiffs should, with a hired man and oxen, work with said Sacket 9 days in taking down and removing said dam.

(Lockwood, pg. 183; Weygant)




All that notwithstanding, the first case came up 31 March 1685 before the court: the Deweys vs. Joseph Pomeroy, Samuel Taylor, John Sacket, John Williams and Nathaniel Williams, for unlawfully keeping a dam on two mile brook, beyond the liberty formerly granted to them and contrary to the grant of said Deweys whereby they, the Deweys, were damaged 20£ by the stoppage of the stream.

Verdict for the plaintiffs (the Deweys): liberty of the stream; all incumberances to be removed by the defendants who were to pay costs of 3£ 3 sh. 6d.

The defendants appealed, except John Williams, who appeared to be not concerned, and gave bond. He soon forfeited his bond, by sawing at the new saw mill making the water run down an inch below the dam at the Deweys' corn mill.

They were sued, ordered to pay costs, but appealed.

Then Sacket and the others sued the Deweys for seizing their mill, but received a verdict only for costs of the court. The Deweys, on the other hand, obtained execution on the land on which the upper mill stood, and the remainder of the amount on the owners’ estates. This routed the upper mill and all parties came to the following agreement:

11 April 1685

Each were to have their own proper charges; the Deweys to have the land for their charges. The owners had the liberty to use the mill until the beginning of October and then desist and give up all rights to the same. The Deweys were to remit the 50£ given them by the Court, discharge all bonds and obligations, and “give eight days work, a hand, and team, and six days with a hand towards removing” the mill to some other location. Samuel Marshfield, Thomas Noble and Edward Neale were witnesses.




Pomeroy, finding the Court against him, had sold the land the February before to William Sacket; who sold to George Saxton, who was intending to back Pomeroy.

Josiah Dewey had tried to persuade Pomeroy to no avail. “This matter being so foul”, Josiah Dewey drew up a complaint against him and handed it to the minister. Pomeroy was called before the church, made a confession and was forgiven.







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