THE REVEREND JOHN HANCOCK, "Bishop of Lexington," Massachusetts, throughout the first half of the eighteenth century, was as forbearing toward the foibles of his Hock as a man of God should be. But something was going on in his parish that had aroused his righteous wrath; so he decided to put a stop to it.
Two of Parson Hancock's parishioners had long been wrangling over the bounds of their contiguous properties. This is no cause for wonder in view of the vague verbiage used to define Lexington land at that period, even in the official records. The town, which had broken away from Cambridge in 1713, had scarcely improved upon the method employed in the parent settlement seventy-eight years before, when it had been known as Newtown. According to an inventory of householders taken in 1635, Nathaniel Hancock, grandfather of the Bishop and first of the New England Hancocks to emigrate to America, owned a house "with back side about half a rod, William Town southwest, Hester Musse southeast, the common pond northeast, Water Street northwest." 1The real estate now in dispute was described with similar precision.
Still, this was no reason, in the eyes of their pastor, for men in the Christian colony of Massachusetts Bay to carry on a silly quarrel every time they met. So the Reverend Mr. Hancock suggested that Joseph and Reuben (fictitious names invented by the Reverend Theodore Parker in retailing the story handed down by ancestors who had lived in the same parish) should accompany him to the boundary line in question and bring along their deeds. Since a suggestion from the Bishop was tantamount to a command, they complied without hesitation. After listening to the rival claims and inspecting the legal papers on which they were based he ordered:
"Take your axes and cut some stakes."
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Publication information: Book title: John Hancock: Patriot in Purple. Contributors: Herbert S. Allan - Author. Publisher: Macmillan. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1948. Page number: 1.
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