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At a commoners' meeting, held December 29, 1712, it was voted that Ephraim Marston should "have half a quarter of an acre of land by the fort in the swamp to set a malt-house on," and to enjoy the same as long as he should improve it in making malt for the people of the town, but the land should revert to the town whenever Marston or his heirs should cease to use it for the purpose for which it was granted.

This vote suggests a custom long prevalent here, and in other parts of New England, that of malting barley, and brewing beer to be used as a common beverage among the people. So accustomed were they to the use of this drink, that it was regarded as indispensable to their comfort. We have not now any means of ascertaining the quantity used in the town yearly, but, evidently, it was somewhat large. It was considered of so much importance, that the town and Rev. John Cotton in agreeing upon the terms of his settlement as the minister of the town, in 1696, stipulated at what price per bushel malt should be received by him in part payment of his salary.


Another vote of the commoners brings to light one of the expedients sometimes resorted to for obtaining grants of land, and other privileges. The usual course in making grants was to have the subject brought before some public town or commoners' meeting, and there freely discussed before any vote had been taken. In this way the people were prepared to act understandingly. In come cases, however, individuals who were anxious to obtain a mill-privilege, or a particular tract of land, prepared a petition, and carried it from house to house, to procure signatures privately. In some instances persons were induced to sign it through ignorance of the value of the grant sought, who, after a public discussion, would have given their votes against the grants.

To prevent abuses of this kind, the commoners made it a penal offence for any person to carry about a petition, or endeavor to persuade any man to sign one, in favor of granting any common land, stream, or other appurtenance belongs to the common land, otherwise than in a public meeting -- the fine for each offence being 20s. to be paid to the selectmen for the use of the poor. They also ordered that every person that should sign such a petition, should pay a fine of 2s. 6d., to be applied to the same use.

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