History of Roxbury


Roxbury is a neighborhood within Boston, Massachusetts. It was one of the first towns founded in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. It became a city in 1848 and was annexed to Boston in 1868. The original town of Roxbury once included the current Boston neighborhoods of Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury, Mission Hill and much of Back Bay. Roxbury now generally ends at Columbus Avenue to the north and Melnea Cass Boulevard to the east.

1852 Roxbury, Massachusetts Map

1852 City Map of Roxbury

The early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony established a series of seven villages in 1630. Roxbury was located about three miles south of Boston, which at the time was a peninsula, and was connected to the mainland by a narrow neck of land, "Roxbury Neck". This led to Roxbury becoming an important town as all land traffic to Boston had to pass through it. The town was home to a number of early leaders of the colony, including colonial governors Thomas Dudley, William Shirley, and Increase Sumner. The Shirley-Eustis House, located in Roxbury remains as one of only four remaining Royal Colonial Governor's mansions in the United States.

The settlers of Roxbury originally comprised the congregation of the First Church Roxbury, est. 1630. The congregation had no time to raise a meeting house the first winter and so met with the neighboring congregation in Dorchester, Mass. The first meeting house was built in 1632, and the building pictured here is the fifth meeting house, the oldest such wood-frame building in Boston. The Roxbury congregation, still in existence as a member congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Association, lays claim to several things of note in American history:

Establishment of the first church school in the British colonies.
The founding (along with 5 other local congregations, i.e. Boston, Cambridge, Watertown, Charlestown and Dorchester) of Harvard College.
The first book published in the British Colonies (1640). Editors of the Bay Psalm Book most cited are John Eliot and Thomas Weld, ministerial colleagues at First Church Roxbury, and Richard Mather, minister in Dorchester (and perhaps 27 other ministers not often mentioned.)
The first Bible published in the British Colonies (1663). It was a translation into the Massachusett language by the congregation's minister and teaching elder, John Eliot (known as "The Apostle to the Indians".)
First Church Roxbury was the starting point for William Dawes' "Midnight Ride", April 18, 1775 (He went off in a different direction than Paul Revere to warn Lexington and Concord of the British raids.)
As Roxbury developed in the 19th century, the northern part became an industrial town with a large community of English, Irish, and German immigrants and their descendants, while the majority of the town remained agricultural and saw the development of some of the first streetcar suburbs in the United States. This led to the incorporation of the old Roxbury village as one of Massachusetts's first cities, and the rest of the town was established as the town of West Roxbury.

It was originally called "Rocksbury" because of its hilly geography and the many large outcroppings of Roxbury puddingstone, a rock formation composed of small stones that were surrounded by lava from ancient volcanoes.


[History Source: Wikipedia.org.
Map from "The Roxbury directory : embracing the city record, the
names of the citizens, a business directory, a map of the city,
with an almanac for 1852", J.T. Bicknell & Co., 1852, c1851]

Contributor - K. Torp


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