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HON. LINUS B. COMINS, MAYOR,
CITY COUNCIL OF ROXBURY,
DELIVERED BEFORE THE
TWO BRANCHES IN CONVENTION,
JANUARY 2d, 1854.
PRINTED BY ORDER OF THE CITY COUNCIL.
R O X B U R Y :
NORFOLK COUNTY JOURNAL PRESS
J J ' ^ J
CITY OF ROXBURY.
In Common Council, January 2, 1854.
Ordered, That the Address of His Honor the Mayor, delivered before the
two branches of the City Council, in Convention, this day, be printed for the
use of the City Council.
JOSHUA SEAVER, Clerk.
In Board of Aldermen, January 2, 1854.
JOSEPH W. TUCKER, City Clerk.
Gentlemen of the City Council :
In accordance with the provisions of the City Charter,
we have assembled for the purpose of organizing tlie Muni-
cipal Government for the ensuing year.
To me this appears a season well befitting the commence-
ment of our municipal labors. The gate of time swings
once more upon its hinges — a new year has commenced.
Though in the dead of winter, with its frigid influences
surrounding us — when all nature is without a charm — by
a closer union of heart and of purpose, the genial current
of good feeling flows spontaneously from man to man, from
lip to lip, the welcome harbinger of brotherly love and
The duties and responsibilities of the office, to which, by
the generous sufl'rages of my fellow citizens, I have been
elected, and which I have sworn to faithfully perform and
discharge, are not wholly unknown to me.
Although I have had no experience in the executive du-
ties of the Chief Magistrate of our municipality, the asso-
ciations connected with the room in which we are assembled
though pleasant and agreeable in the main, warn me that
the path of any one connected with the government of the
city, is not wholly strewn with garlands and flowers.
In entering upon the duties which are before me, I do not
purpose any minute or extended review of the past, or to
present to you such considerations, in regard to the especial
4 MAYOR'S ADDRESS. [Jan-
interest of the city, as the position I occupy may seem to
suggest. Yon will not expect it from me, having for nearly
five years had no connection with either branch of the
government. The remarks I shall make at this time will
be of a general character — reserving the privilege of con-
forming to the requirements of the City Charter, by recom-
mending such measures as in my opinion the interest, pros-
perity, and progress of our city may require, as I become
more familiar with the condition of its affairs, and have
a more accurate knowledge of its wants.
But few tov/ns in the Commonwealth have so much in-
creased in population and wealth, within the last fifteen
years, as Roxbury. Her present and future prospects are
not surpassed by those of any city in the vicinity of the
metropolis of New England.
While I would urge upon you the importance of the
strictest economy in all the expenditures of the city, I would
recommend a policy in accordance with the age in which
we live — liberal and progressive. As we reproach the
past for not anticipating wants we now feel pressing so hard
upon us, and which a few years ago could have been se-
cured at an exceedingly small outlay compared with the
present expense of even commencing radical improvements,
let not future generations reproach us for even a greater
dereliction of duty than those who have gone before us.
Every citizen familiar with the localities of our city,
must acknowledge with great pleasure the many substantial
and permanent improvements which have been effected
within our limits during the past few years. There are
many improvements yet to commence, which can not fail to
commend themselves to every member of the government,
and which, however shrouded in darkness in their incipient
stages, will, when completed, be warmly applauded by every
citizen having the real Avelfare of the city at heart. The
natural beauties and advantages of Roxbury for elegant
residences are so well known and acknowledged, that noth-
ing but a parsimonious policy can prevent her from being
1854.] CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 1. 5
what nature intended her to be — the most attractive of the
many suburbs which surround the great commercial empo-
rium of the Commonweahh.
In discharging the labors incumbent upon ns, we are not
to consult om' tastes and preferences, but to do our duty.
Nothing contributes so much to the well being of a com-
munity, as the administration of the laws. It is no part of
the duty of the executive to judge of the merits of a law.
If a statute of the State is impolitic and considered by the
people oppressive, the General Court of the Commonwealth
is the tribunal to which the people must look for amend-
ment or repeal. The executive must enforce all laws as it
finds them, taking care, however, that no fundamental
principle is violated in so doing.
The finances of the City, always a subject of great
interest, are by no means, I am happy to say, in a condition
to create alarm.
The annual current expenses of the City — including the
interest on the City Debt — amount to about $95,000.
The amount of the liabilities of the City at this time, is
$189,110.40. The City Treasurer holds notes receivable to
the amount of $19,840.24 ; leaving a City Debt of $169,-
270.16; of which sum $82,410.40 was created in 1851, and
$47,700 in 1852. This large increase of more than $130,-
000, in a period of two years, was to some extent, necessary
and indispensable. But the largest item of this debt was
caused by the " Stony Brook land purchase." The amount
of this purchase, including expenses on the same, as made
up to Feb. 1st, 1853, is $84,202 ; of which sales have
recently been made and settled for, to the amount of
$15,027.77. The estimated value of this purchase remain-
ing unsold, is $26,000; leaving a deficit or loss on the
purchase, of $43,174.23, exclusive of interest.
The available property of the City is valued at about
$125,000. It will be a question for your early consideration,
whether a portion of the City Debt shall not be liquidated
by a sale of such public property as can be judiciously
6 MAYOR'S ADDRESS. [Jan.
The subject of popular education will naturally receive
your earnest and most careful consideration. There is no
subject upon which you will be called to act, and for which
large appropriations will be required, second in importance
to our Public Schools. No censure too great — no reproach
too withering can fall upon us, if we neglect this sacred
The utility of the New England system of Education is
fast developing itself to the civilized world. So irresistable
is the love of educating the youth of our country, implanted
within the human breast, that a young woman in a sister
State, braves the walls of a felon's cell rather than omit this
In respect to education, Roxbury has always maintained
a high position among her sister cities. The interior man-
agement of our schools is placed by law, under the super-
vision of a Committee chosen as an independent Board.
For a statement in detail of their condition, I must refer
you to the report of the School Committee which will be
soon laid before you.
In several cities in Massachusetts and in the adjacent
States, the office of Superintendent of Schools has been
established. Wherever the experiment has been tried,
there has been but one opinion in regard to the necessity of
this office, in the economy and efficiency of school adminis-
tration. Should the School Committee press this subject
upon your attention, I trust it will receive a favorable con-
The permanent establishment of evening schools for
adults, is an object highly worthy of your attention. These
schools have done a vast amount of good, wherever they
have been commenced and fostered. In some of the cities
of New England and New York, they take their rank
among the permanent institutions. The class of persons
who attend them is that which it most interests the City to
enlighten and instruct. They are those for whom in my
opinion a school system should be maintained. They are
those whose youth has been neglected, and whose time for
854.] CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 1. 7
preparation for the duties of life is short. The time for their
education at our day schools has passed. They have
arrived at the verge of manhood or womanhood, almost
entirely ignorant of the simplest knowledge necessary to
enable them faithfully and well to discharge their duties
as good citizens. By their want of instruction they are
cut off from many of the avenues to wealth and com-
fort, and from many of the incentives to an honorable,
healthy and useful ambition. Many of them, ignorant of
reading, or without any love for it, pass their time, when
not employed at labor, in places and among companions
little calculated to contribute to the elevation of their char-
acters or the welfare of the City.
To meet what seemed a positive necessity, our worthy
City Missionary, five years ago, opened an evening school
for such as have been referred to. The school was crowded,
and many were unable to be accommodated. The expenses
were mainly defrayed by private contributions, for the first
year, — the City providing a room, warming and light-
ing the same for the use of the school. The public have
every year become more fully convinced of the advantages
of evening schools, and the City Council has gradually
increased the appropriation therefor. Still the school can
not accommodate all who would come. With its present
means it cannot be kept up during the winter for more than
two evenings in the week. The scholars would be glad to
attend four or five, and would progress much more rapidly
and the morals and good order of the community would be
much advanced thereby. If two schools, one at the Point
and one near Tremont Street, were established for four
nights of each week, from November to April, I am confi-
dent that it would greatly subserve the best interests of the
Our highways are in their usual good condition. Many
improvements have recently been made in grading and
straightening our principal streets, and in constructing
sidewalks. I recommend that the liberal policy which has
marked the administration of our immediate predecessors in
this department be continued.
8 MAYOR'S ADDRESS. [Jan.
A Gas Company has recently been organized within our
City. I trust you will at an early day make arrangements
with the company for lighting our Streets and Public
I am happy to say we have as efficient, orderly and well
disciplined Fire Department as can be found within the
Commonwealth. Any appropriation expedient and necessary
to maintain an organization so useful, and of such great
consequence to a community so exposed by the close prox-
imity and construction of its buildings as Roxbury, will
meet my ready approval.
The great immigration of foreigners to our shores in
1847-8, and the prevalence of a malignant epidemic
among them, filling our Alms House with an unusual
number of paupers, caused the subject of the removal of
this establishment to be investigated. The Special Com-
mittee to which the question Avas submitted came to the
conclusion that the interest of the City and the well being
of the inmates of the institution would be promoted by its
removal from its location on Highland Street, and located
upon a farm at some more remote situation. "Brook Farm"
was bought — its .present cost, including the original pur-
chase, is not far from ^30,000. The poor of the City have
been provided for at this new establishment during the last
two years, apparently to the satisfaction of the department.
The causes which led to the purchase and improvement of
Brook Farm, have, in consequence of the general good
health which has prevailed among immigrants thejast few
years, and the ready and profitable employment found by
them as they arrive, nearly ceased to exist. And when the
buildings now being erected by the Commonwealth for the
reception of State Paupers shall have been completed, and
the State Paupers removed thereto. Brook Farm will be
no longer required. The whole number of inmates of the
establishment at the present time is 147. Of this number
134 are State Paupers,- and will soon be removed to the
State Alms House. Leaving only 13 in charge of the City.
Surely we shall not require so large and expensive an
establishment with so few paupers.
1854.] CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 1. 9
The health of the inmates is good. There is not a case
of fever in the house, and not an inmate confined to the
bed with any iiind of disease.
Mr. Isaac H. Meserve, the ahle and gentlemanly Super-
intendent, has been appointed by Governor Clifford. Super-
intendent of the State Alms House at Tcwk&bnry. I
congratulate the Slate upou securing tlie services of so able
a man. Under the failliful ond vigilnnt superintendence of
Mr. Meserve, Brook Farm has been brought nnder a high
state of cultivation and improvcmmt, and would undoubt-
edly sell, the coming season, for a sum equal if not above
its cost, should you in your wisdom deem it expedient to
dispose of it, and snpport the small ninnher of paupers left
to our care, at a much less expensive establishment.
By a judicious sale of Brook Farm and the estate on
Highland Street, nearly one half of our City Debt could at
once be liquidated; an object far more desirable to our
citizens than experiments in agriculture.
The principal features of our system of Police are de-
scribed in "An Ordinance, authorizing the appointment and
prescribing the duties of a City Marshal." It is made the
duty of this officer, placed by law at the head of the Police,
to preserve, by every means in I lis power, the public peace;
and to prevent all riotous and disorderly proceedings. " He
shall be vigilant to detect the breach of any law, by-law or
ordinance. It shall also be his duty lo prosecute all offend-
ers as soon as may be, and atte.id. in behalf of the City,
;the trial of all offences which may be prosecuted ; and to
use all lawful means for the effectual prosecution and final
conviction of offenders."
The usual quiet and good order which prevails within the
limits of our City, leads me to the couclusion' that this de-
partment has generally been well administered. Its effi-
ciency, however, not only depends up)n the energy, faith-
fuli:ess, and courtesy of iis officers, but upon the determined
support they receive from the executive and its co-ordinate
branch of the government.
In a community so renowned for its love of order, as our
10 MAYOR'S ADDRESS. [Jan.
beloved City, any force other than an ordinary Pohce, will
seldom be called into requisition. But in large and popu-
lous cities, on occasions of great excitement, more powerful
and summary aid than civil authority is sometimes required.
I can safely say that should such a melancholy occurrence
take place within our borders, we have a volunteer militia
company which has ever maintained a high character for
military discipline and soldiery appearance, and which will
form a powerful auxiliary branch of our Pohce. We should
therefore, most cheerfully and liberally make any appropri-
ation for their comfort and convenience, required by law or
dictated by our sense of propriety.
The subject of Public Squares has often been brought to
the attention of the City Government by my predecessors.
The lamented Dearborn, in his inaugural addresses of 1847-
8, very forcibly and eloquently illustrates the great and
growing importance of this subject. A Joint Special Com-
mittee was appointed under an order of the City Council,
August 4th, 1851, " to ascertain if any suitable parcels of
land could be procured for one or more Public Squares."
The report of that Committee is an able and interesting
document. I trust you will not consider me as trespassing
upon your patience if I quote from its pages: — "The Com-
mittee have given this subject (Public Squares) a careful
examination, and are now prepared to submit in part, the
result of their deliberations.
"They would recommend that a tract of land be purchas-
ed in Ward 3, and a portion of the same be laid out as a
Public Square. The tract of land proposed, is situated be-
tween Tremont and Ruggles Streets, and north-east of a
line commencing on Ruggles, near Yernon Street, to the
foot bridge accross Stony Brook, thence across said bridge
to Tremont Street. Containing, by measurement, seven
acres, three-quarters, nine rods; or 342,800 feet. Four
acres, twenty five and a half rods, or 181,000 feet, of which
is upland, and three and one-half acres, and thirty-three
rods, or 161,000, feet is water or flats covered with water."
The purchase was made at an expense to the City of
1854. CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 1. 11
f 84,000. And it was universally supposed that the happy-
event which had been so long foreshadowed, had arrived —
that at least four acres of the purchase was to be converted
into a Public Square.
The Committee further said : — "After selling a portion
of the property, say for instance, 139,200 feet, there will
remain about 203,600 feet, or fotir and one-half acres, and
txveniy-seven arid one-half rods of valuable land, for which
the City will owe a debt of $9,162, making a cost of about
four and a half cents fer foot. Now we believe that in a
few years, the valuation of the property around that
Square, will be nearly if not quite sufficient to pay the
interest on the debt ; so that no burden will arise from it in
that respect, and we are very certain, that if at any time in
the next twenty years, our successors in office should come
to the conclusion that it is not required for the public good
that it should be kept open, the laud may be put into the
market, and sold for the cost and interest at least, and pro-
bably for a large profit."
Why the result of this well intended effort to adorn our
City with a Public Square, and to "turn deformity into beau-
ty " has been so entirely different from what was anticipa-
ted, I am not able to inform you.
Let not the present government be swerved from its sense
of duty and of justice, in consequence of the failure of our
predecessors to accomplish that which they so much de-
sired, and so sanguinely promised.
Should a favorable opportunity present itself, the im-
provement of which will yet secure our City the benefits of
a PubHc Square, you will have my hearty co-operation in
Our rural cemetery, " Forest Kills," has continued in
prosperity, far above the expectations of its most sanguine
friends. The original cost of the grounds was $36,894.67.
In conformity to an act of the Legislature of the Common-
wealth, passed at the request of the City' Council, the re-
ceipts of the Cemetery must be appropriated and applied to
the liquidation of this debt, and to improve and adorn the
12 MAYOR'S ADDRESS. [Jan.
grounds. Since the consecration of Forest Hills, in June
1848, over seven hundred lots have been sold. The Com-
missioners have had ample means from receipts from these
sales to make thus far, all desirable improvements and em-
bellishments, and liquidate over $7,000 of the debt.
The beauties and avantages of this well chosen location,
can not be described within the limited space appropriate
for this occasion. Nature seems to have drawn most
bountifully upon her exhaustless resources and lavishly
bestowed her choicest gifts upon this hallowed spot.
Gentlemen, I am aware of my v/ant of experience and of
wisdom. Looking around within the circle of those with
whom I am to be associated in the City Council, I see my
seniors on every side — among you I see many personal
friends : may I not ask your kind forbearance and indul*
gence. And be assured, whatever of ability, zeal and
energy I possess, I will not fail to bring to bear, in co-opera-
tion with you upon the interest and welfare of our
And may God, the gracious giver of all good, grant His
blessings upon us, and upon our beloved City.
LINUS B. COMINS.
Roxhury^ Jan. 2, 1854.
CITY OF BOSTOlSr
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