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City of Charlestown records

Identifier: 1200.001

Scope and Contents note

The City of Charlestown records extend approximately 24 cubic feet and cover the period from 1725–1875. The records fall into two groups, Town records and City records. The town records are approximately 3 cubic feet and cover the period prior to Charlestown’s incorporation as a city in 1842. These records are from the Selectmen, including correspondence from John Hancock President of the Continental Congress, petitions and reports concerning the Rioting and Burning of the Ursuline Convent, notifications and warrants relating to strangers in the town, and records pertaining to the militia; the City Clerk (Town Clerk) including writs and warrants to town officers to be sworn; and the Overseers of the Poor including indentures and correspondence. The City portion of the records dating after 1842 include records from the City Council; the City Clerk; the Police Department; the Assessors including tax volumes covering 1791–1873; the Treasurer records include 21 volumes covering the accounts of the city; the Fire Department; the Mystic Water Board; and publications including yearly addresses by the Mayor 1847-1873; Municipal Register, 1848; and several annual reports of the Library, School Department, and the Mystic Water Board.


  • 1725-1875


Historical note

The First Europeans settled in Charlestown in 1628. In 1629 the Massachusetts Bay Company sent Thomas Graves to present day Charlestown in order to lay out the town in 1629. His elliptical street plan can still be seen in City Square.

Throughout the pre-revolutionary period the town grew as a port and transportation center. On June 17, 1775 the Battle of Bunker Hill took place, actually occurring on Breed’s Hill. After routing the American colonists the British troops burnt the oldest section of the town to the ground. The rebuilding of the town did not begin in earnest until the end of the war in 1781.

In the post revolutionary war period the town continued to grow as a port and transportation center. In 1800 the U.S. Navy opened the Navy Yard at Moulton’s Point which attracted further maritime industry and became the largest employer for the next 150 years. In 1803 the Middlesex Canal opened connecting the Merrimack Valley with Boston Harbor; Charlestown was its southern terminus. In 1825 the first bridge was built linking Boston and Charlestown. Each of these developments increased the importance of Charlestown’s maritime industry. In 1842 the city of Somerville was set off from Charlestown. The growth of the town led to its incorporation as a city in 1847.

In the late 19th century Charlestown saw an influx of Irish immigrants and by 1865 they made up one quarter of the town’s population. In 1874 the City was annexed to the City of Boston.


26.0 Cubic feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement note

While these records have been arranged by City Department much of the original order has been maintained. Much of the Selectmen records as well as the Overseers of the Poor records were originally interleaved into volumes and were removed in an earlier project. The original order of these records has been maintained.

Related Archival Materials note

Complementary records of the City of Charlestown as well as other annexed towns are available through the Boston Public Library research Division. Records of other annexed towns are also available at the City of Boston Archives.

Guide to the City of Charlestown records
Zachary Enright
5 May 2008
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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With funding from a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)

Repository Details

Part of the City of Boston Archives Repository

201 Rivermoor St.
West Roxbury MA 02132 United States
617-635-1194 (Fax)