Archeological evidence suggests that Watertown was inhabited for thousands of years before the arrival of settlers from England. Two tribes of Massachusett, the Pequossette and the Nonantum, had settlements on the banks of the river later called the Charles. The Pequossette built a fishing weir to trap herring at the site of the current Watertown Dam. The annual fish migration, as both alewife and blueback herring swim upstream from their adult home in the sea to spawn in the fresh water where they were hatched, still occurs every spring.
Watertown, first known as Saltonstall Plantation, was one of the earliest of the Massachusetts Bay Colony settlements. Founded in early 1630 by a group of settlers led by Richard Saltonstall and George Phillips, it was officially incorporated that same year. The alternate spelling “Waterton” is seen in some early documents.
Much excitement was generated in Watertown towards the start of the American Revolutionary War period. In 1773, many of its citizens were engaged with the Sons of Liberty in another tax protest, this time against the British Tea Tax which resulted in the famous Boston Tea Party rebellion.