Roxbury, Massachusetts

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United States Gotoarrow.png Massachusetts Gotoarrow.png Roxbury Gotoarrow.png Roxbury

Roxbury (1630-1868)

Roxbury was a town in Norfolk County before it was annexed to Boston in Suffolk County. This guide discusses the records created by this town and includes references to material of present-day Roxbury (the neighborhood of Boston) as well. Be careful of the time period you are researching here as the records you need may be in one of two counties or one of two towns.

Brief History

Roxbury was one of several towns settled by the passengers from the Winthrop Fleet in 1630. The settlement grew when the famed Rev. John Eliot (called "the Apostle to the Indians") arrived in 1632 with a group of his followers called "Nazeing Christians." It is under Eliot that the church is established (with residents attended Dorchester's church before his arrival). Some settlers moved away when the wealthiest resident, William Pynchon, moved in 1636 to establish Springfield. The leadership void was filled by Thomas Dudley moving to town. There were strong connections to East Anglia among the residents. The land was distributed quickly unlike other towns around. It was not until the town was granted more land in 1660 by Massachusetts Bay Colony that this situation changed. The grant, called New Roxbury, was later renamed Woodstock and eventually became part of Connecticut.

While the northeastern section was becoming one of America's first streetcar suburbs, the rural southwestern section became home to Brook Farm in 1841, a utopian commune based of the ideals of the Transcendentalism movement. English, Irish, and German immigrants were attracted to the industrial sections in the north arrived by the mid-1800s. The town was split in 1851 and the rural western two-thirds was established as a new town of West Roxbury. The east become more integrated with the city until it was annexed to Boston in 1868, after which it was referred to as Boston Highlands. The Irish concentrated in the Dudley Square area and Neponset. After 1900, a large Jewish community settled along the Blue Hill Avenue corridor (before annexation called Grove Hall Avenue). Twenty years prior to the Great Depression and after World War II through the 1950s, there was a massive migration of African-Americans from the South to the northeast. In Boston, the community settled in Roxbury.

Historical Data

The basic data is from the "Historical Data" publication series[1] with additions from various sources.

Associated names

Roxbury at one time was called Rocsbury and Rocksbury. After annexation, it was called Boston Highlands.

Village or section names include Dudley Square, Egleston Square, Grove Hall, Highland Park, Jamaica Plain (until 1851), Lower Roxbury, Mission Hill, Punch Bowl (now Brookline Village), Roslindale (until 1851), Roxbury Crossing, South End (partially in downtown Boston), Washington Park, and West Roxbury (until 1851).

Border changes
Dates Events
28 Sept. 1630 Listed the plantation "Rocsbury" as being taxed [Mass. Bay Rec., 1: 77].
4 Mar. 1633 Border between Roxbury and Boston established.
7 Apr. 1635 Border between Roxbury and New Towne [now Cambridge] established.
25 May 1636 Land granted to Roxbury.
2 May 1638 Land granted to Roxbury.
16 May 1638 Border between Roxbury and Dedham established.
7 Oct. 1641 Border between Roxbury and Boston at Muddy River established.
16 Oct. 1660 Land granted to Roxbury.
12 May 1675 Border between Roxbury and Dedham established.
16 Mar. 1836
19 Apr. 1837
Border between Roxbury and Boston established.
23 Apr. 1838 Part of Newton annexed.
24 Feb. 1844 Part annexed to Brookline.
25 Mar. 1846 Roxbury incorporated as a city per act of 12 Mar. 1846.
3 May 1850 Part annexed to Boston and the border between Roxbury and Boston established.
24 May 1851 Southwestern two-thirds set off as the town of West Roxbury.
8 May 1860 Part annexed to Boston per act of 3 Apr. 1860 and the border between Roxbury and Boston established.
5 Jan. 1868 City of Roxbury annexed to Boston per act of 1 June 1867 [Mass. Acts 1867, ch. 359, sec. 1, p. 754].
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Town Histories

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]]Works written on the town include:

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Vital Records

All the pre-1646 town records were lost, those most were recreated. The town's vital records are available in many locations:

Published records
This includes, in part, church records from the First Religious Society (Unitarian) (C.R.1), First Congregational Parish of West Roxbury (Unitarian) (C.R.2), First Congregational Society of Jamaica Plain (Unitarian) (C.R.3), Dudley St. Baptist Church (C.R. 4), St. James Episcopal Church (C.R. 5), Eliot Congregational Church (C.R. 6), and South Congregational Church, West Roxbury. (C.R. 7). Deaths are included from Eliot Cem. (G.R.1), Westerly Cem. (West Roxbury) (G.R.2), Walter Street Cem. (West Roxbury) (G.R.3), Jamaica Plain Cem. (G.R.4), and Warren Cem. (G.R.5).
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City Directories

Roxbury was published in 1847, 1848, 1848/9, 1850, 1852, 1854, 1856, 1858, 1860, 1862, 1864, 1866.

The Library of Congress (Washington, D.C.) has one of the largest collections of city directories in the country. They are likely to own most of the years listed above. Their collection is in microfiche, microfilm, and books, but there is no online inventory of their holdings except for microfilm. See their guide online.

Other holdings:

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Maps

After the city of Roxbury was annexed to the city of Boston, this area appeared in numerous atlases of the city of Boston, being the closer annexed area to downtown Boston. Below are the published atlases that include Roxbury (the neighborhood).

Most of the following Bromley atlases are viewable at The Boston Atlas. Select your viewer and then unclick the top layer maps. Choose the top item, click "Boston Public Library," then "Bromley Atlases," then "Roxbury," and last the map you want. Play with the other options to see more maps than listed here.

  • George W. Bromley and Walter S. Bromley, Atlas of the city of Boston Roxbury : from actual surveys and official plans (Philadelphia, 1889), 40 colored double maps.
    WorldCat (Other Libraries); Not at FHL.
  • George W. Bromley and Walter S. Bromley, Atlas of the city of Boston, city proper and Roxbury, from actual surveys and official plans (Philadelphia, 1890), 40 colored double maps.
    WorldCat (Other Libraries); Not at FHL.
  • George W. Bromley and Walter S. Bromley, Atlas of the City of Boston : Boston Proper and Roxbury (Philadelphia, 1895), 43 colored double maps.
    WorldCat (Other Libraries); Not at FHL.
  • George W. Bromley and Walter S. Bromley, Atlas of the city of Boston : Roxbury : from actual surveys and official plans (Philadelphia, 1915), 40 colored double maps.
    WorldCat (Other Libraries); Not at FHL.
  • Atlas of the city of Boston : Roxbury : from actual surveys and official plans (Philadelphia, 1931), 37 folded leaves.
    WorldCat (Other Libraries); Not at FHL.

For other maps of Roxbury, see the links in the blog Fort Hill History.

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THIS PAGE BEING POPULATED IN SECTIONS. MORE TO FOLLOW SOON.

References

  1. William Francis Galvin, Historical Data Relating to Counties, Cities and Towns in Massachusetts (Boston, new ed., 1997), 99. WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 974.4 H2h 1997
Adjacent towns: Norfolk Co: Brighton | Brookline | Dedham | Dorchester | Hyde Park | Needham | West Roxbury Middlesex Co.: Cambridge | Newton Suffolk Co.: Boston