As the author (if that’s the right word) of this website, I want to make it clear that I cannot and do not speak as the Definitive Voice of History, nor even as a professional historian.

I’ve been a professional and I’ve been a historian, but never both at the same time. My professions were at one time teaching university courses in English and Celtic literature, and at another time writing software manuals. However, I retired from both professions quite a while ago.

In my first profession, I acquired some experience with old manuscripts and early forms of English. These were helpful in dealing with the archaic language and handwriting of the historic documents presented on this site, although I concede that they’re significantly unlike the manuscripts I worked with back then. I can honestly say that I found the handwriting of 15th-century Irish monks easier to decipher than the eccentric scribbles of Edward Rawson, secretary of the Massachusetts Bay House of Magistrates. Fortunately, however, Mr. Rawson was an extreme example. It’s safe to say that if he had written all the documents on this site, it would never have come into existence. But it did, and I feel fairly sure that I've transcribed and interpreted most of the documents with reasonable accuracy.

As for the additional commentary, which includes many speculations on such matters as the document writers’ intentions, the nature of Puritanism, the politics of Massachusetts Bay, the course of 17th-century history, and similar trifles, please bear in mind that, while these speculations all appear reasonable to me, they do not emanate from the keyboard of a professional historian. Were I one of these, I would bear on my shoulders a great burden of knowledge, obtained through years of study, that would severely constrain the free play of imagination, and require me to write much more responsibly and accurately than I’ve been able to do here. Be warned—the commentary on this site may be good for a quick overview, but it’s based on my own nonprofessional interpretations. I'd advise you not to base any important term papers on it.

I’ve listed below the places where I found the documents, as well as some of the books I consulted in putting the commentary together.

Sources of the Documents

Most of the documents displayed and transcribed here are on deposit in the Massachusetts Archives at Columbia Point in Boston. They include:

The Cambridge Farmers’ petition of 1682, which includes the responses of both houses of the General Court for 1682 (one response each) and 1683 (two each). I’ve treated the legislative responses as separate documents, one for each of those years, which makes the list look longer, but they’re all written in the petition’s margins, on the same side of a single sheet of paper.

Cambridge’s Counterpetition of 1683

The General Court order appointing a survey committee

The committee’s report and map (technically, two documents, but they are shelved together and I’ve counted them as one)

The responses of the two houses of the General Court (two each, using two sides of a single piece of paper)

The 1691 order of the General Court, granting the Farms’ petition

The 1713 order granting the Farms’ request to separate from Cambridge and bestowing the name Lexington on the newly independent town

The remaining two documents come from other sources:

Cambridge Farms’ Parish Covenant, 1696, from the archives of the Lexington Historical Society

Excerpts from the Cambridge town records, 1712–1713, from the archives in the office the City Clerk of Cambridge

Local Histories

I found the most information about the separation of Lexington from Cambridge in Lucius R. Paige’s History of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1630–1877 (published 1877), which devotes most of a chapter to the story. The book is available on the Internet for reading or downloading.

Charles Hudson’s History of the Town of Lexington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, From Its First Settlement to 1868 (revised edition, published 1913) was a good source of details about the beginnings of the church at Cambridge Farms. (This is also available on the Internet.)

S. Lawrence Whipple’s Lexington Through the Years (published by the Lexington Historical Society in 2012), is mostly about the town’s later history, but begins with a short chapter on the town’s origins that I also found helpful. The same is true of Lexington, by Richard Kollen and other members of the Lexington Historical Society. As part of the Images of America series, this book is mostly concerned with aspects of the town’s history that have left a pictorial record, but it touches on the town’s first century, which lacks such a record, in its introduction.

John C. MacLean’s A Rich Harvest: The History, Buildings, and People of Lincoln, Massachusetts (published by the Lincoln Historical Society in 1987) helped me greatly on the comparatively obscure subject of how the boundaries of Cambridge Farms and the towns around it were defined during the 17th and early 18th centuries—a period from which no maps survive that can provide this information. Though my use of the book was thus rather narrowly focused, it was clear that, as a modern local history, it sets a very high standard.

I also consulted these 19th-century local histories, both available on the Internet:

Samuel Sewall, The History of Woburn, Middlesex County, Mass. from the Grant of its Territory to Charlestown, in 1640, to the Year 1860 (published 1868)

Rev. Henry A. Hazen, History of Billerica, Massachusetts, with a Genealogical Register (published 1883)

More General Histories

Albert Bushnell Hart, editor, Commonwealth History of Massachusetts (published 1927)

David Hackett Fisher, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (published 1989)

John Stetson Barry, History of Massachusetts. The Colonial Period (published 1855)

Benjamin W. Labaree, Colonial Massachusetts: A History (published 1979)

Richard D. Brown and Jack Tager, Massachusetts: A Concise History (published 2000)

Robert E. Brown, Middle-Class Democracy and the Revolution in Massachusetts (published 1955)

Cornelius Dalton, John Wirkkala, and Anne Thomas, Leading the Way: A History of the Massachusetts General Court 1629–1980 (published 1984)

Items Concerned with the Naming of Lexington

Charles Hudson, History of the Town of Lexington (cited above under Local Histories). Hudson's speculations on the origin of the town's name can be found in a late chapter of Vol. 1 entitled “Miscellaneous” in the original edition of 1868. In the revised edition of 1913 (the only edition I've seen), this chapter has been renamed “Statistics,” as explained in a note advising the reader that statistical information in the chapter has been updated to 1910. Hudson’s discussion of the naming of Lexington is unchanged, however, except for the addition of a footnote referring to Mr. Scott's article in the Proceedings of the Lexington Historical Society.

William Henry Whitmore, “An Essay on the origin of the Names of Towns in Massachusetts settled prior to A.D. 1775. To which is prefixed an Essay on the Name of the Town of Lexington,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society for 1872-3 (published 1873)

John Gough Nichols, “Local Nomenclature in New England,” The Herald and Genealogist, Vol. 8 (published 1874—available on the Internet)

A. E. Scott, “Origin of the Name of Lexington,” Proceedings of the Lexington Historical Society, Vol. 1 (published 1890)

Ethel B. Childs, History of Stow (published 1983)

Additional Sources

M. Halsey Thomas, editor, The Diary of Samuel Sewall, 1674–1729 (published 1973). The diarist is not, of course, the historian of Woburn in the list above, but his great-great-grandfather.

Stephen Paschall Sharples, Records of the Church of Christ at Cambridge in New England, 1632–1830 (published 1906)

Samuel Eliot Morison, Builders of the Bay Colony: A Gallery of Our Intellectual Ancestors (published 1930)

Finally, I’ve made use of Wikipedia to plug leaks and patch potholes here and there.