Colonel William Crowne, Mendon's First Town Clerk and Selectman

    William Crowne was one of the founding fathers of the frontier town of Mendon in 1667, but his
    background differed significantly from his co-founders  in terms of occupation, military experience, and
    wealth. Most of the families who settled in the eight mile square forested parcel called
    Squinshepauge had been adventurous farmers from Braintree and Weymouth. They had belonged to
    their local militia, but combat experience had not yet been necessary. Their wealth would be
    determined by their hard work of clearing their land and establishing  self-sustaining farms. Though
    Crowne  made the same commitments as his fellow frontiersman, it is questionable that if earlier
    events in his life had been different, whether he would have become one of the town's first residents.

    Colonel William Crowne was a member of England's Parliament during the reign of King Charles I.
    He served in the legislature's militia during the English Revolution, a rebellion that resulted in the
    removal and execution of the king. The monarch was replaced by Oliver Cromwell, who was given the
    title of Lord Protector. In return for his loyalty, Cromwell granted him one third of Nova Scotia on August
    7, 1656. The new Acadian land owner came to North America in 1660. He planned his future of newly
    acquired wealth.

    A turn of events brought an end to his plans. Cromwell was removed from power, and Charles II
    became the new king of England. The monarchy was restored, which was not good news for Colonel
    Crowne. The new king gave up Nova Scotia to France in the Treaty of Breda, completely negating the
    gift from Cromwell. Crowne returned to England to plead his ownership case to Charles, but his
    request was disregarded. He returned to North America and settled temporarily in Boston in the early
    1660's, pondering how he could reclaim the Acadian land that he felt was unjustly taken from him.

    By 1667, the property opportunist became aware that a new settlement was being carved out of the
    wilderness at Netmocke Plantation. It was in the process of being incorporated as a town to be called
    Mendon. As a new chance for land ownership, he joined the group of founders and became the first
    town clerk and a member of the first board of selectmen. He was granted parcels at Pond Field and
    Fort Field, land surrounding  Nipmuc Pond and land adjacent to it. It included Loon Island.  Historians
    have raised questions about the location of a fort in that area, but have assumed that one was built in
    the vicinity of what is now Millville Street when the settlers first arrived from 1663- 1666. By 1673,
    Colonel Crowne's  popularity had greatly diminished, and his service to the town ended. He continued
    to live in Mendon for another year and moved out of town before the first attack of the King Philip War.
    By 1680, the town was resettled. The new owners of Crowne's land were Robert and Sarah Taft.

    Colonel Crowne's residency in Mendon was seven years, three years longer than his partial
    ownership of Nova Scotia. He died penniless in Boston in 1682, never overcoming his belief that he
    was an unjust victim of Charles II. His roles in earlier life as a member of Parliament, an English
    revolutionary, and a crony of the Lord Protector never prepared him for the rigors and hardships of life
    in colonial Mendon. The society of the new frontier town was based on Puritan theology, town meeting
    government, and a dedication to a dawn to dusk agricultural way of life. He simply just didn't fit in !!!

    Richard Grady  ---  December 8, 2013

    Information for this article was obtained from Annals of Mendon by Dr. John Metcalf and an essay by
    Reverend Carlton Staples from a pamphlet of the first meeting of the Mendon Historical Society.

Mendon Menu          

    The following paragraphs about Col Crowne are from Metcalf's Annals of Mendon. They were sent by
    Sharon Cutler.

    From this notice of the Indians, I pass on to speak of some notable characters of this period in
    Mendon history.  First of all in respect to romantic interest and social distinction is Col. William
    Crowne, the town clerk, a name that figures somewhat in New England and Old England history.  He
    evidently had an eye for the picturesque and beautiful, and chose for his house-lot a site near the
    pond, and the island in the pond, formerly called “Loon Island,” was granted him.  For some service
    rendered the Puritan cause or Commonwealth, the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, granted to Crowne
    and two other men the whole province of Acadie, the scene of Longfellow’s poem, “Evangeline,” now
    known as Nova Scotia.  He was never able to get possession of the splendid gift, though he leased
    his share in the trade and fisheries to a company formed to prosecute them.  After the overthrow of the
    Puritan power and the restoration of Charles II., he went to England to secure recognition of his claim,
    or to receive compensation for giving it up, and while there was employed by the Massachusetts
    colony to represent and defend her interests.  He did not succeed in obtaining redress for his own
    grievances, or much respect for the rights of Massachusetts, and returned a disappointed man, and
    came to Mendon with the early settlers in the hope of retrieving his fallen fortunes.

    Thus it happened that a man who had stood before the king of England and his ministers to plead for
    his rights and those Massachusetts, the owner of one third of Nova Scotia became the proprietor of a
    house-lot at Nipmuck Pond, and also of Loon Island, and was chosen first town clerk of Mendon.  He
    was evidently not an agreeable man for the settlers to deal with, and serious difficulties soon arose
    between them, of the cause of which we are not informed.  Not unlikely he assumed authority over the
    pond which they would not admit, or that he was not in sympathy with their strict Sabbatarian and
    religious ideas.  However, this may have been, he probably left the town before the breaking out of the
    war, and his house-lot passed into the hands of Saville Simpson, one of the founders and wardens of
    King’s Chapel in Boston.  It is pleasant to learn from the records under a given date that the people
    “had a loving agreement with Col. Crowne.”  In the last years of his life Col. Crowne appears to have
    been in great poverty and distress, and petitions the General Court for some relief, which was
    granted.  And thus ends the adventurous career of Mendon’s first town clerk.

    Note:  The Town of Mendon now owns the island in the Middle of Lake Nipmuc referred to in this article
    as Loon Island.

    But I must add a word about his son, John Crowne, at one time a student in Harvard College, though I
    believe not a graduate.  Early in the reign of Charles II he went to England and presented a statement
    to the king concerning the celebrated regicides, Walley and Goff, whom he had recognized in this
    country before rewards had been offered for their apprehension.  In this paper he gives all the
    information he possessed concerning their movements in America, evidently seeking by his zeal for
    their arrest to recommend himself to the favor of the king.  He succeeded in his object, and afterwards
    became the king’s dramatic poet, an office in which he was held in high esteem by that dissolute and
    licentious monarch.  No doubt the position afforded a larger income and a merrier life than his father’s
    as town clerk of Mendon, owner of  Loon Island and one-third of Nova Scotia.