Atherton, Humphrey, 1608 - 1661
Humphrey Atherton immigrated to Massachusetts by 1637 and settled at Dorchester, where he was made a freeman the following year. Serving in the Massachusetts General Court as a representative (1638-1641), speaker of the house (1653), and assistant, Atherton was also appointed a magistrate (1654-1661) and held the position of lieutenant, captain, and major-general of the colony’s artillery company and superintendent of the colony’s Praying Indians (1658-1661). In 1659, he began a land speculation venture called the Atherton Company, supported by influential shareholders in the colonies and at the metropole. Hardly a model of ethical practice, the company was a method of gaining control over vast quantities of Indian land. In 1660 Atherton was part of a scheme to defraud the Narragansetts of much of their territory and remove them from their land. John Frederick Martin, Profits in Wilderness: Entrepreneurship and the Founding of New England Towns in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1991), 58, 62-63. Pulsifer, Acts of the Commissioners of the United Colonies, Vols. 1 and 2.