How Did Gratuity Road Get Its Name?
Tue, 11/26/2019 - 11:27pm Heraldgroton
With Gratuity Road in the news for a proposed 40B Housing Project, it seems appropriate to revisit Butler’s history of Groton wherein is told the strange tale of how Gratuity Road got its name.
The name "Gratuity Road harkens back to the earliest days of Groton’s settlement, back to the Town Meeting of July 1665. In those days common land was abundant and community solidarity was paramount.
In turns out that a prominent member of the community was rumored to have taken some common land as his own. After a committee of five men found that he had, indeed, taken more land than allowed under his registered "share rights", people were unsure how to proceed. To punish the prominent man could have led to a devisive dispute, fracturing a tightly-knit community where everybody was dependent on each other for security and survival.
Ultimately, Town Meeting came up with a creative and unorthodox way of resolving the dispute. Rather than punishing the man, Town Meeting decided it was wiser to allow everybody in town to partake of the same bit of real estate larceny the man had enjoyed. Below is the strange but true story of how Gratuity Road got its name, recounted in Chapter 3 of Caleb Butler’s History of Groton.
Gratuities of Land
Gratuities of Land
In the year 1665, there was a dispute between the town and John Lawrence, and it was submitted to the determination of five men. The referees reported and do "declare, that they do thus determine, that is to say, his proportion of land being first made good according to his grant, we [words illegible] the remainder to be the town's land according as it is now bounded."
This decision became important in its consequences. It seems that Lawrence had enclosed common or town land, and that the decision of the referees was against him. But, at a Town Meeting held July 21, 1665,
"It was this day granted and by vote declared, that John Lawrence shall quietly possess and enjoy a parcel of land now in controversy, and already within his fence and adjoining his house lot, containing two acres, more or less, bounded, &c., and granted to him as a gratuity."
"It is also granted that every inhabitant shall have the like privilege proportionably."
And to make the matter more explicit, town meeting voted soon after that,
"It was this day agreed and voted, that in consideration of a gratuity formerly granted to every inhabitant, agreeable to John Lawrence, his grant the 21 of the 7 mo. 1665, that every man shall have liberty to take up six acres to a twenty acre house lot, and in case it join to his house, every man shall take up proportionably thereunto, excepting such as have either the whole or any part thereof already; but if more remote, every inhabitant shall have liberty to take up two for one."
It may be inferred from these records, that Lawrence was dissatisfied with the determination of the referees, and appealed to the town. The town it seems forgave him the wrong and injury, upon condition that every inhabitant might do the like wrong and injury. These gratuities, sometimes called in succeeding records, "accommodations," gave names to a brook, and a road, near which some of the gratuities were laid out, now called, Gratuity Brook, and Gratuity Road.
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