Colonel William Crowne, Mendon's First Town Clerk and Selectman
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
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.
The following paragraphs about Col Crowne are from Metcalf's Annals of Mendon. They were sent by
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.