Archive for April, 2020

By David M. Powers, 16 April 2020


Even though all adult males could legally vote after May 1647, but in local elections only, Springfield citizens had little say beyond their own town. Only seven of forty-three male residents of legal age were freemen and therefore eligible to act on colony-wide matters. Springfield had the lowest proportion of freemen of any town in Massachusetts.

Regrettably, Pynchon did not participate regularly in the General Court during a formative time in the Court’s development in the 1640s. Those years saw a substantial expansion in the exercise of voting rights; on average, as much as 50 percent of the adult male population had become freemen by 1647. Pynchon does not seem to have attended the Court in 1642, when 139 freemen were added to the electoral roles. Nor was he present for other changes in electoral policy. Through all those years, when the Deputies struggled to maintain and expand their role of popular representation in the Bay Colony, Pynchon was not involved.

As if to correct this, on November 11, 1647 the General Court voted that:
“Mr Pinchin is authorised to make freemen, in the towne of Springfeild, of those that are in covenant & live according to their p[ro]fession; and Springfeild, within twelue months, to bring in a transcript of their land, according to the law in that case p[ro]vided, and a true note of the time of all their births, burials, & marriages.”

Still, Pynchon remained quite parsimonious about extending the franchise. He acted the following spring, when the record states, “Aprill 13. 1648. These were sworne to be Freemen: John Pynchon, Elitzur Holioak, Henry Burt, Roger Pritchard, Samuell Wright, William Branch.” He added three more the next April. But no more joined the list until 1654, a couple of years after William Pynchon had left. The five new freemen at that time included the noted Deacon Samuel Chapin, the inspiration for Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ famous statue of “The Puritan.” At that point Chapin had been a Springfield resident for twelve years.

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The Pioneer Valley History Network (PVHN) is excited to announce its newest project, “Revolution Happened Here: Our Towns in the American Revolution.” Funded through a newly-awarded grant from Mass Humanities, the project will bring together a collaborative team of our region’s historical societies and museums to create an online exhibit and related programming that tells the story of the American Revolution as it unfolded in western Massachusetts. Visitors to the “Revolution Happened Here” web exhibit will discover how the American Revolution, while a globally transformative event, was fundamentally a grassroots movement – intrinsically local and intensely personal.

PVHN is a consortium of, and advocate for, the many small historical organizations in our region of western Massachusetts that archive and steward much of the region’s history. Frequently run by volunteers, these institutions often have limited public hours and few resources. The Revolution Happened Here project encourages and enables even the smallest organizations to participate and share their town’s unique stories and treasures with a wider audience to help tell a larger, region-wide history. Often unknown outside their communities, these compelling 18th century artifacts and documents will also give voice to myriad, diverse histories of individuals and groups often marginalized in traditional, top-down histories of the Revolution – people of color, both free and enslaved of indigenous and of African descent, indentured servants and apprentices, the poor; women, children, loyalists, and prisoners of war.

The “Revolution Happened Here” online exhibit will interpret artifacts and documents, grouped by topics and themes, and provide interactive opportunities for users to develop a deeper understanding of the American Revolution. An interactive map will enable visitors to locate each story and object as they explore what happened town by town. The database and website exhibit will be expandable to accommodate future participants and materials.

PVHN invites all historical institutions in the Pioneer Valley and surrounding areas to participate in the Revolution Happened Here project. To learn more contact PVHN at:

This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities,
which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.



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