Richard Snow* was an early resident of Woburn, though not one of the group who signed the “Town Orders” in December 1640. But before September 8, 1645, he had brought to the town his wife Avis** as well as their two older sons, John and James, for on that date he was included in the list of those who were taxed there, in a rate for the country” (colony tax) which was that town’s earliest extant tax list. He received land from the town in 1647-8—perhaps also earlier. His home lay to the west of the homestead of Joseph Carter (Thomas).
There is no slightest hint of a derogatory nature found relative to Richard or to his family, but on the other hand there is almost nothing of any sort recorded of his life. He evidently took no part in official or public life; no proof is seen of church membership or of the acquirement of freemanship—indeed the vital records even fail to show his death-yet indirect proof is found that he was neither an irreligious nor a careless man, and be careful attention much information about his character may be deduced. As to his religious views, it must be recounted that the General Court had ruled that when a town lacked a pastor they must not allow preaching by a lay brother without going through the procedure of getting the opinion and approval of the elders of four nearby churches, or the permission of the County Court. This was especially hampering to sparsely settled communities; and in the earliest days of Woburn itself, they tried for about two years before they got their pastor, The Rev. Thomas Carter, who was so well liked. But the Woburn men felt, as to the principle of the matter, that in any given town the church organization which had examined and accepted its own members was in a better position to judge of their qualifications than any outsiders would be. So, though the inhibition did not pertain to these men of Woburn since they already had a pastor, they had the courage of their convictions to a sufficient extent to prepare, impersonally, a very lengthy petition to the General Court, couched in the most deferential terms, but explaining how their opinions differed from the decision of the court. Twenty-nine Woburn men signed that petition on August 30, 1653, and Richard Snow was one of them. It required real moral fibre, and a courage of high degree to put one’s name to what amounted to a formal criticism of the highest court in the land, for principle’s sake alone, and Richard possessed those qualities. Incidentally, this petition for a rescinding of the earlier ruling was not granted, but the document itself has been referred to ever since as the “Woburn Memorial for Christian Liberty” and its signers are called “the bold petitioners.”
In the next place, as early as 1642, the very year Woburn was incorporated, the General Court, with careful concern for the religious education of the children and youths of the colony, had passed a law “that all masters of families do once a week (at the least) catechize their children and servants in the grounds and principles of religion”, adding that if they are unable to teach thus themselves, the said masters should procure instruction by some one else, so that the young people might be able to answer the questions on the catechism when they were examined by the selectmen or others. This same requirement obtained down through the years. Add to this obligatory religious instruction, the courageous independence of the petition referred to above and the fact that at his death Richard Snow owned two Bibles “and other sermon books” and the trend of his character seems fairly well established. He was undoubtedly hard working and thrifty for when one of the original settlers, George Farley, was removing to Billerica, Richard on November 19, 1656, was able to buy that man’s home and twenty acres of land. This purchase seems to have included Farley’s right to the undivided town land for in a distribution of common lands and timber made as late as 1668, Richard received a share, though, as has been stated, he was not an original proprietor. He must have been either ailing or injured in his later life for in 1659 he was dismissed or relieved from ordinary trainings*** “in consideration of his insufficiency to bear arms”. So we have the picture of a man of unusual moral courage, of careful attention to military duty, until unknown circumstances prevented, of thoughtful provision for his wife and family as will be shown by his will, with an estate of over 188 pounds at death and with the record of having reared four sons who lived useful, honorable lives. The three older sons married and reared families while his youngest son Zachariah died without issue, either a bachelor or a widower, for his estate was divided among his brother, nephews and nieces. This Zachariah was one of the thirteen Woburn men in Capt. Davenport’s Company, with John Carter, at the Great Swamp Fight (see Carter, p. 149), was wounded there and endured that dreadful all-night march back to Wickford (see Upham, p. 627) either staggering wearily through the storm or carried by his comrades-according to the location and severity of his wound. Many years later when land grants were being made to survivors or their heirs, a reminder of this service is seen in the fact that a claim was made by the husband of a granddaughter of James Snow, nephew of him who served, and land in Narragansett Township No 6, later Templeton, Massachusetts, was granted on the record of Zachariah.
Richard Snow died at Woburn on or before May 5, 1677, having made his will on January 30, 1676. It was witnessed by Francis Wyman, Allen Converse and his son Zachariah Converse and was probated on June 19, 1677. It made the widow Avis and son Zachariah the executors. It gave to John Snow “the parcel of land that his house now standeth one and one parcel of meddow that he hath now in possession”. It gave land to the three other sons and added:
“I do require that my sons equally do pay to my beloved wife twenty bushels of corne (grain) yearly as followeth; five bushels of wheat and five of ry: and five bushels of barley; and five bushels of Indian corne: and the keeping of two cowes summer and winter yearly; and foure cords of wood yearly. . .).
The inventory of the estate of Richard taken May 5, 1677, showed a valuation of over 188 pounds.
The children of Richard and Avis(---) Snow, the last three born at Woburn, were:
1. John, see following.
2. James, b. abt. 1642; d. not later than 1711, prob. At Lancaster; m. by 1670-1, and had sic children; removed 1704 to Lancaster.
3. Daniel, b. Feb. 4, 1645; d. July 18, 1646.
4. Samuel, b. May 28, 1647; d. June 15, 1686; m. 1st by 1669 Sarah Wildon (John) and Hannah (James?) who d. June 15, 1686; m. 2nd Aug. 9, 1686, Sarah Parker called daughter of John and Joanna Parker of Cambridge.
5. Zachariah, b. Mar. 29, 1649; d. at Woburn Apr 14, 1711.
John Snow (Richard) was born about 1640 at an unknown place and spent his life from early childhood until his death, on November 25, 1706, in Woburn. He married there by 1667 Mary Greene and in 1671 had occasion to sign a receipt to her uncle Capt. John Carter for her share of her fathers’s estate. He had received during his father’s life, and doubtless at the time of his marriage, land to live upon and meadow and this property was confirmed to him by his father’s will in January, 1676. He, in common with his three brothers, was bound to provide food and fuel for their mother. Search in published material has revealed no details of the life of John. He, as well as his father, was evidently one of the pioneers who performed their daily work so unobtrusively that it attracted no comment, did not stand out noticeable, yet such men were the backbone of the colony. So the only way we can approximate an understanding of the conditions he faced is through study of the history of Woburn during the period of his life, with the addition of a few incidents.
Apparently the purveying of sensational tales, regardless of authenticity, is not exclusively a modern fault for about 1660 it reported in England.
“That 18 Turksman of war (on) the 24 of Jan’y 1659-60 landed at a town (referring to Clarlestown, mother of Woburn) three miles from Boston, killed 40, took Mr. Sims minister prisoner, wounded him, killed his wife and three of his little children, carried him away with 57 more, burnt the Town, carried them to Argier (Algiers?) their loss amounting to 12,000 pounds—the Turk demanding 8,000 pounds ransom to be paid within seven months”.
The only discrepancies in the above take are that Turkish men of war did not raid or burn Charlestown, the Rev. Symmes and others were not kidnapped or held for ransom, none of his family were killed and his children were all adult by 1659-60 instead of being “little”. When Josselyn visited the colony and reported this wild English tale to the pioneers it must have created a sensation!
The tragic losses by fire in those days, when every necessity cost such a burden of effort, seem most appallingly heavy, and to our modern minds the methods of fighting fire seem needlessly crude. In this connection, we find a ruling of 1661 which would have had its bearing on every one of our Woburn families, for it was “Ordered that Thomas Brigden, sr., deliver the town buckets to any person. . .upon notice of fire within the town; provided the said Brigden was searched for or awakened and the church visited.
In October, 1667, twenty-five citizens of Woburn petitioned the General Court “May it please this honorable court to vouchsafe some help to our town of Woburn in dividing a lump of this wilderness earth”; and “The selectmen mette the 5.day of Octob. 1674, and agreed on the 15 day of this instant mo. To goe throo the Towne, and ecsamin the familys about Catichising.”
Richard Snow would have experienced the earlier anxieties over the threatened loss of their charter and John would have felt the injustice of Andros’ regime in the greatly increased taxes, the threatened loss of their lands and other strictures.
About 1686 a farmer of Woburn was called to account for his wife’s extravagance in dress. He answered, “That he thought it no sin for his wife to wear a silk hood and silk neck (neckerchief?); and he desired to see an example before him!” probably meaning that if it was to be considered a sin, he desired proof of the claim.
Kindly treatment of the aged or infirm is frequently seen in the Woburn records, in the remitting of taxes, in the restoration of land forfeited for non-payment of taxes, or in actual furnishing of food and clothing in cases of need.
Of the seven children of John Snow, at least four married and reared families of well behaved children. Ebenezer died in young manhood; Nathaniel was probably crippled or ailing for he received his small share of his father’s property in money rather than in land which the other sons shared. At the age of fifty-one, Mary was still unmarried; the life of Timonthy was spent in Woburn, where he served the military company as sergeant from 1716 until 1737; Hannah with her husband had removed about 1715 to Killingly, Connecticut, (where some of her Snow relatives later followed her) and the two older sons removed to New Hampshire, John, who became an ensign, settling permanently in what is now Hudson in that state and becoming one of the most useful men of the town until his death in 1735. Zerubbabel evidently lived for a time near Concord, New Hampshire, but apparently returned to Woburn before his death.
An interesting tale is told of an experience of his which gave its name to Snow Pond in Concord Township, east of the Merrimack River. Zerubbabel was out hunting and was treed by a pack of wolves just at night. “He fired away at them all the balls he had, and then cut off buttons from his coat and discharged them; but the wolves kept round the tree till broad daylight next morning, when they went off and he escaped,” and the nearby pond was given his name.
John Snow died intestate in November, 1706, and on April 12, 1707, his widow and children signed an agreement as to the disposition of his property. At his death his estate owed 16 pounds to his eldest son John and 12 pounds to Timothy as though they might have helped to maintain the family. John Cutler signed the agreement in behalf of his wife Hannah. By this document, the widow Mary was to use for life all the household stuff and one-third part of the other movables, housing and lands; John was to retain the home and over twenty acres already in his hands on condition that he pay 12 pounds to Timothy and 3 pounds to his sister, Hannah Cutler. In view of their payment of certain amounts to the other heirs, Zerubbabel and Timothy were to divide between them, the remainder of the housing and lands, including the widow’s third after her death. The description of land includes reference to the Hungry-plain field.
The children of John and Mary (Greene)Snow all born in Woburn were
1. John b. May 13, 1668; rec’d share of est. of uncle Zachariah; d. at Hudson, N.H. Mar. 21, 1735, called 68-4-3; m. at Chelmsford Feb 13, 1693-4, Sarah Stevens (John and Elizabeth (Hildreth), sister of the man his cousin, Sarah (Samuel) married.
2. Zerubbabel, b. May 14, 1672; with Samuel Snow he was administrator of estate of Zachariah; d. at Woburn Nov 20, 1733; m. there Sept. 22, 1697, Jemima Cutler (James).
3. Timonthy, b. Feb. 16, 1674-5; rec’d share of est. of uncle Zachariah; d. at Woburn Nov 20, 1747-8, aged 73-4; m. there Jan. 16, 1705-6, Lydia Pierce (Samuel, Thomas, Thomas).
4. Hannah, b. June 6, 1677; she rec’d a share of est. of uncle Zachariah; d. at an unknown date; m. Feb 6, 1700-1, at Woburn John Cutler. It was probably she who m. 2ndly at Killingly Nov 2 1736, Deacon Eleazer Bateman.
5. Mary, b. Aug 4,1680, unmarried in 1711 when she shared in the estate of he uncle Zachariah.
6. Ebenezer, b. Oct 6, 1682; d. Feb 11, 1704, prob. Unm.
7. Nathaniel, b. Nov 17, 1684; shared in the estate of his uncle Zachariah in 1711.
*As to the origin of this family in England, nothing has been proved, but suggestion has been made that possibly a man named Richard Snow who was born in the parish of Barnstaple in col. Devon, England, in 1608, may have been he; and possibly one of this name, aged twenty-eight who on November 20, 1635, received “license to go beyond the seas” along with two hundred and five other men, embarking on the “Expedition” for the Barbadoes, may have been our ancestor. It is well known that frequently emigrants who sailed for the Barbadoes presently continued their journey to New England, and it is a fact that on the “Expedition” there sailed also one William Greene, and that our own Richard Snow and our William Greene both appeared early at Woburn and that members of their families intermarried. These fellow voyagers may have been our ancestors.
** This name has frequently, but erroneously, been printed as “Annis”.
*** Others who signed were Francis Kendall, John Tidd, and the three Parker brothers Abraham, James, and John, brothers of our Jacob.
****Until 1686 military service in the colony was required of all able bodied men from the age of sixteen upward.” “Men of sixty were always found drilling in the ranks and men of seventy-six and even older were active in the ordinary training.” In England it had been the practice to enlist men in the train band at sixteen and to dismiss them at sixty, and in 1689 that plan came into effect in the colony. The officers often served much later in life.
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