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Introduction

This project is supported in part by a grant from the Bedford Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

This project is also supported by a grant from the Greater Lowell Community Foundation.

The Lane Family Papers are the Bedford Historical Society's largest and most important family collection. The BHS maintains more than 230 Lane Family documents, nearly all dated from the 1650s to the late 1790s. These papers are quite valuable as primary source documents on the history of the Lane Family, of Bedford, and of colonial life in New England.

The history of the Lane Family of Bedford began in 1664 when Job Lane (1), an immigrant from Rickmansworth, England, acquired a large tract of land in exchange for building a house in Connecticut for the grandson of Governor Winthrop. The land deeded to Job Lane comprises one-fifth of what is now Bedford. Thus began the long involvement of Job Lane and his descendants in affairs of the area, serving as public and church officials throughout the colonial period and as officers and soldiers in every military engagement of note during that time. In 1775 ten Bedford men named Lane marched as militia and Minutemen to the Battle of Concord.

Job Lane (3), a grandson of the first Job Lane and heir to a portion of his land, built a house at about the time of his marriage in 1713. The house still stands and is owned by the Town of Bedford and managed by the Bedford Historic Preservation Commission. Having been restored to much of its 18th-century appearance, it is open for public tours conducted by the Friends of the Job Lane House, Inc. (Friends), a non-profit educational organization. Each year all the third-grade students in the Bedford Public Schools are given a tour of the house as part of their History and Social Science curriculum.

The Lane Family was one of the most prominent in Bedford throughout the colonial period and the Lane papers owned by the BHS comprise the largest known collection of original source documents concerning Job Lane (1) and his descendants during that era.

The collection of records includes more than 230 original Lane Family source documents dating back to 1651, among them the oldest papers in the Bedford Historical Society’s collections. Some 203 are related directly to the Lane Family and the rest to other families (apparently because of some association with the Lanes) or to the town governments of Bedford and Billerica (the town in which the Lane tract initially was located). Almost all documents in the collection are dated between 1651 and 1792, with a few dated as late as 1841 or undated.

The key record is the 1664 contract for Job Lane (1) to build a house in exchange for some 1500 acres of land in Billerica, now Bedford. It was by means of this transaction that the Lanes first became associated with Bedford. Other documents include wills, probate inventories, and documents concerning land division; town business transactions concerning Bedford and Billerica (one of Bedford’s two parent towns) including “warning out” documents; business correspondence concerning English properties that remained in the Lane Family throughout the period covered by the Lane papers; deeds for sale of land and for gifts of land from father to son; contracts for bridge and house construction; indenture papers of servants and apprentices; a few documents dealing with the disposition of slaves; documents related to court business; maps; military commands; bills of sales and sales receipts; debt obligations; marriage contracts; orders for luxury goods from Great Britain; and private correspondence between the Lanes and their relatives and friends.