THE FIVE DIVISIONS; COMMONERS' MEETINGS
A large portion of the land had been laid out and disposed of at an earlier period, but a considerable quantity, in different parts of the town, was still held in common by the proprietors. The committee was appointed to view this common land, and to determine, in case they should think it expedient to make any division, into how many parts the commons should be divided, with the understanding that the people of each part of the town should have their proportion in the part nearest to them. The committee was instructed to report at an adjournment of the meeting, one week later.
At the adjournment, the commissioners chose Col. Peter Weare, Dea. John Tuck, Dea. Nathaniel Weare, Capt. Jabez Dow, Ephraim Marston, Christopher Page and Capt. Joshua Wingate, a committee "to receive the claims of any on the commoners' land, and give in their opinion at the next commoners' meeting" -- said committee to report who have just claims, and who have not.
The committee appointed to consider the condition of the common lands, and to recommend what new measures to adopt concerning them, after giving considerable attention to the subject, agreed upon certain measures, which were reported to the commoners, and adopted by them, November 5, 1722. Hitherto, when any business was to be transacted about the commons, it had been necessary to call a legal meeting of all the commoners. At first, when they all lived within a moderate distance from the meeting-house, where their meetings were held, it subjected them to but little inconvenience; but as the settlement was extended, the commoners were spread over a much larger territory, some living remote from the center, so that they could not attend the commoners' meetings without the loss of considerable time. To obviate this, the committee recommended, that the town should now be divided into five portions, to be called Divisions , and numbered from one to five, beginning on the easterly side of the town. In general, the ungranted, or common land, lying in each of these divisions, was to belong to, and be managed by the commoners living in, or near, the same division. As, however, it was not practicable to make the divisions in such a way that the quantity of common land in each of them should exactly correspond with the rights of the commoners living in the same divisions, it was necessary that some provision should be made to meet the case.
Accordingly, it was agreed "that the eastermost part of the commoners should belong to the First Division, until their proportion should take up all of it, and so successively round the whole town, reserving always lands for such highways to other lands and grants, as might be thought convenient and be appointed for that end. In case there should not be land enough in the Fifth Division to satisfy the claims of the Falls people, the deficiency was to be made up from a tract of land lying within the limits of the First and Second Divisions, though not considered as a part thereof, but as forming a small division by itself. This tract was situated between Joseph Taylor's and Simon Dow's -- probably including the southern portion of Black Swamp and of the Twelve Shares, and the whole of the Plains. If, on the other hand, there should be any common land remaining in the Fifth Division, after the Falls people had received their shares, it was to be shared equally by the commoners.
It was also voted, agreeably to the recommendation of the committee, that the majority of the owners of each division should have power to manage the affairs thereof as fully as all the commoners could do. If any lawsuit should be commenced against any of the cow-commoners concerning their land, the expense should be borne by all the commoners, and the gain or loss shared among them all in proportion to their interest in the commons. It was further agreed to reserve sufficient land to satisfy all claims that the commoners considered just.
The parsonage shares were to be laid out in the first three divisions -- one share in each of them.
A committee was chosen to complete the arrangement by ascertaining who were the lawful owners of the commons, and assigning to each one his proportion, -- the committee to be upon oath. They were also authorized to employ some surveyor not belonging to the town -- Mr. Wade being preferred. The committee chosen, were: Lieut. Jonathan Marston, Sergt. Joseph Taylor, Simon Marston, Capt. Joshua Wingett, Lieut. Benjamin Hilliard.
Soon after the survey of the common lands had been completed, there was a meeting of the proprietors of the "Five Divisions" (October 26, 1722), at which they authorized the committee previously appointed for the laying out of these divisions, to determine the rights of claimants, and "to settle men in their rights." It was considered important, also, as each division had been empowered to manage and order its own affairs, that some rule should be established, to which all the divisions should conform, in calling their meetings. It was therefore voted that the owners of ten shares in any division should have power to warn a meeting of the proprietors of that division, and that all votes passed at such a meeting should "stand good in all respects," and such votes as the proprietors should order to be placed upon the Town or the Commoners' Records, should be entered there by the town clerk -- "they paying ye fee" -- and any entry thus made, was to be regarded as a good and sufficient record.