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When Mary’s father John Ball abandoned his Watertown family and removed to Lancaster, about 40 miles away, it was understood that he had departed for the wild frontier.

In that light, it’s somewhat poignant that Michael Bacon should see fit to send pregnant Mary all the way (some 70 miles) to Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

It behooves us to be careful in assigning geographic meaning to the place-names in the old documents. When William and Martha rescued Mary, town boundaries were very much in flux.

For example, as late as 1655, Cambridge (formerly the “New Towne”) stretched 35 miles, from present-day Newton on the south to Billerica on the north. Lexington (Cambridge Farms) and Bedford remained precincts of Cambridge into the 18th Century, and present-day Arlington (originally Menotomy) into the 19th.

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