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James Otis

Building the City

It seemed more like magic than the sober, everyday work of making homes, for straightway all that portion of the country which was to contain our city, had upon it men, women, and children, each eager to destroy the last vestige of forest that the land might take on a semblance of England.

Now you must understand that there were no fewer than two Indian villages within the limits of the town as marked out by Thomas Holme, and some of our people were eager to settle in those places, because of there not being so much of labor required in cutting down the trees; but this could not be.

William Penn had given strict orders to all who bought land of him, that the savages were not to be molested in any way; but should be sent away from the country which had been given him by the king, only when they were well inclined to go. Therefore it was that we began to make our city around these villages, being forced to wait until our governor came to deal in his own way with the Indians.

At one time, after spring had come, I could see no less than eighteen log houses being set up, and, as if that was not evidence enough that our city would soon be built, one could hear the ring of an hundred or more axes, while every few minutes the crashing of a huge tree, as it was felled, told how rapidly the forest was giving way before this army of home-hunters.

The work of building did not go on without interruptions, however, and the first came when our people decided that if we were to keep the few pigs which had been brought from England, it was necessary that steps be taken to lessen the number of bears.