City Document — No. 23.
HON. JAMES RITCHIE, MAYOR,
t ^ a r b af ^Uuruun,
DECEMBER 31, 1855.
PRINTED FOR THE CITY COUNCIL
CITY OF ROXBURY.
In Board of Aldermen, Dec. 31, 1855.
Ordered, That the Address of His Honor the Mayor, delivered before
the Board this evening, be printed for the use of the City Council.
JOSEPH W. TUCKER, City Clerk.
Citj of |Ui k hirj.
In Board of Aldeemen, December 31, 1855.
Alderman Wm. D. Adams offered the following resolution, which
was passed unanimously :
Resolved, That the members of this Board tender their sincere thanks to
the Hon. JAMES RITCHIE, for the impartial and dignified manner in
which he has so acceptably performed the duties as presiding officer, and
for the promptness and ability in which he has discharged his other duties
incumbent on him as Mayor during the past municipal year ; and that in
retiring from the office of Mayor, he will carry with him the respect and
confidence of the Board of Aldermen.
Passed unanimously. Joseph W. Tucker, City Clerk.
His Honor the MAYOR responded to the resolution as follows :
Gentlemen oe the Board oe Aldermen, —
It is proper and becoming, at the close of our term of official duties,
to put on record a statement of the acts which have chiefly characterized
the administration of municipal affairs for the past year. In my Inau-
gural Address, I took occasion to recommend such measures as an inti-
mate acquaintance with the wants of the city presented most forcibly to
my attention, and which had been subjects of deep thought and reflec-
tion long before it occurred to me to have an opportunity to present
them to the consideration of the City Government. Fortunate has it
been for me and for the interests of our city that those recommendations
found in your honorable body a most prompt and cordial response.
4 CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 23.
In the course of events we entered upon our duties at a time when
among the poor of our city there was unusual want and suffering.
Hundreds of laborers, with their families, were clamorous for the means
of satisfying the common necessities of life. The cry of the poor was
not unheeded. Prompt measures were taken by the City Government,
in the spirit of enlightened liberality and of a common humanity, with a
prudent and judicious regard for the public good, to provide for the
emergency. Employment was furnished for the men, at a compensa-
tion which enabled them and their families to exist, and at the same
time accomplished far more for the city than could have been possible
at any other season at the same expense. It is the testimony of the
best judges that never was so much done at the same cost for the
streets. Norfolk Avenue, a large portion of East, Eustis, Short, Sum-
ner, Union and Lowell Streets were macadamized. At the same time
the public property on Highland Street was much increased in value by
the blasting and removal of rocks, some of which were broken up on
the streets, and others sold for the building of cellar and other walls.
As Chairman of the Surveyors of Highways, I distributed the pay to
the families of those employed, in food, fuel and money, as they were
severally required, and took care that none should be retained in em-
ployment who expended the proceeds of their labor in the purchase of
intoxicating drinks. Without any consideration of evils prevented by
the employment of those who otherwise would have been idlers in the
community, and nearly at the starving point, I may safely say that the
three or four thousand dollars thus expended enured to the benefit of
the city of more than double that amount.
The sale of Brook Farm was early made the subject of consideration.
Whatever might have been the policy of its purchase, that of its sale
was indubitable. It could not be retained and improved by the city
except at great cost of money and a vast amount of strife. It was sold
for $21,000, the sale was pronounced a good one, and the proceeds
were applied towards the extinguishment of the public debt. The dis-
posal of the Monroe Farm and of the Stony Brook lands followed in
due course, and the result is the reception of an annual interest of
about $3,000, besides a great addition to the taxable property of the
The Stony Brook improvement is now a matter of history. Its net
cost to the city was $40,000, a sum nearly double of that expeuded in
widening Washington Street on its northerly side. But let that pass.
VALEDICTORY ADDRESS. 5
It is not for us, against whom so many charges are preferred, to reflect
upon the acts of our predecessors. Sufficient for us that we are willing
and proud to have our doings of the past year stand side by side with
others in the public records, and to have them compared and contrasted
as long as time shall endure.
The Almshouse estate on Highland Street, to which the poor were
removed on the sale of Brook Farm, has been vastly improved this
year. This estate has been very much neglected in the past, and has
stood, with its unsightly out-buildings, a disgrace and a shame to the
city. During the present year, the old structures have been taken
down or removed, the land graded, a slimy basin adjoining Highland
Street filled up and converted from a nuisance into an ornament to the
grounds, excellent and well ventilated stables have been constructed
for the city horses, where they can live and breathe in health, in place
of stalls erected against a stone and earth embankment, where the poor
animals could scarcely live, were often sick, and in summer mornings
were led forth in worse condition than when taken from work at night.
The wing on the west end of the brick building, very unsightly and
wholly useless, has been moved to Highland Street and converted into
an excellent dwelling-house, containing twelve rooms, where the city
teamsters, who have been obliged to board at a distance of half a mile,
can be accommodated in the immediate vicinity of the horses, and at a
saving of much time to the men and the city.
The pest house, which was sold under a former administration, has
been repurchased and well fitted up for its appropriate purposes. The
almshouse building has been repaired, papered and painted within, well
supplied with water drawn through pipes from a never failing spring
and from a large brick cistern constructed under the main building ;
and, in every respect, the whole has been made such an home for our
own poor as they deserve, and as such a city as Roxbury may be proud
to afford. From being a disfigurement, the whole estate has been con-
verted into an ornament to our city. The new dwelling-house alone
will rent for more than enough to pay the interest on the whole amount
expended in its construction and on all the other improvements on the
The most important and valuable improvement ever made in Rox-
bury, — the widening of Washington Street below Warren, — has been
accomplished this year. After expending all the leisure time I could
obtain for the space of three weeks, in making estimates and calcula-
6 CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 23.
tions, I ventured to propose to the City Council that "VVashingto.
Street, on the northerly side thereof, be widened in accordance with a
plan made in 1852, provided that the expense thereof should not exceed
$25,000. The proposition was unanimously responded to, and the
appropriation made. Very few in the community believed that the
work could be accomplished for any thing like the sum named, and I
well might have distrusted the result, when experienced mechanics did
not hesitate to proclaim that the improvement would cost the city forty,
sixty, one hundred and even two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
But my calculations, aided by those of two members of this Board ex-
perienced in the value of property and in the general business affairs of
the street, were based upon facts which could be relied on. The result
has confirmed the data of my proposition ; nay, it has placed this work
among the wonders of the age, viz., — a vast undertaking accomplished
within the estimate. The value to the city of this widening cannot yet
be fully computed. It has certainly vastly enhanced the worth of
property on the street, and rendered its taxable value a source of real
income to the city. One piece of property on the street, valued under
oath in May last at $4,800, cash, was rated by the same individual,
also under oath, in October at $6,000, cash, and this, too, not in the
most business portion of the street. This may not be the just measure
of increase of value, but it is an indication of the general idea. We
may well glory in this crowning act of our administration, which, how-
ever it may be regarded now, must finally entitle the present govern-
ment to the gratitude of the citizens, at the same time that it will be an
enduring monument of our enterprise and forecast.
The widening of Eustis Street, at its intersection with Washington,
a subject of debates, resolves and estimates in former administrations,
has during the present year been accomplished.
The widening of Washington Street, at its intersection with Sumner,
has been effected.
Washington Street has been re-paved from above Vernon Street to
Ruggles Street, from Tremont to Parker, has been widened from 33
to 40 feet, and converted from a muddy, and oftentimes almost im-
passable road, into a good and substantial street, with curb-stones and
an excellent sidewalk on the easterly side.
Francis, Eaton, Webber, Zeiglcr and Highland Streets have been
thoroughly graded and finished, and will not soon require any further
VALEDICTORY ADDRESS. 7
outlay. Our intention to improve and put in good condition Heath
Street has been frustrated. That street has been for some time neg-
lected and is in a bad state.
In nearly all parts of the city, improvements have been made in
streets and sidewalks. Those persons who for years have suffered from
the mud and water at the corner of Vernon and Washington, Dudley
and Warren, Sumner and Eustis, Vernon and Ruggles, Washington
and Tremont Streets, can now pass those points dry shod and with
comfort. Many, too, daily rejoice over the brick sidewalk from the
Norfolk House to the Universalist Church.
During the past seven months five miles of sidewalk have been made,
25,000 feet of curb-stones have been set, 1,756 square yards of block
stone crossings have been laid, and 2,845 square yards of brick side-
walk. Five and one half miles of gutters have been paved ; more
than the whole quantity paved under all the previous administrations of
the City Government. The importance of suitable gutters and side-
walks in our city cannot be over-estimated, and they should be provided
as soon as possible at whatever cost to the city.
A vast number of stone and wooden posts, awning supports and sev-
eral pumps, which for years have obstructed our sidewalks, have this
year been removed, and the nuisance of overhanging trees has been
A commencement has been made in providing for the drainage of
Roxbury, a matter every year becoming more essential and urgent.
The sewer, more than 800 feet in length, constructed through a portion
of Bartlett Street, at a cost of $3,400, has been made with a view to
meet future as well as present necessities. It is on a grade low enough
to receive all waters in its vicinity, and elevated sufficiently to afford a
good descent to tide waters. It is a permanent structure covered with
thick granite stones, and having a capacity sufficient for the discharge
of immense quantities of water. The abuttors contributed $1,000 in
aid of this work.
The old lock-ups, which were in a very bad condition and unsuitable
for the occupancy of human beings, have been removed, and their places
supplied by as good ones as can be found in the country, with stone
floors and coverings, walls of brick and doors of iron, at a cost of $1000.
Two spacious reservoirs have been constructed, one in Winthrop,
corner of Grenville Street, and the other in Smith, near Parker Street,
at a cost of about $1,700.
8 CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 23.
The dangerous crossing of the Boston and Providence Railroad, over
Washington Street, has been temporarily protected by the establish-
ment of gates.
The New York Central Railroad Corporation have been compelled to
erect a substantial truss bridge over Norfolk Avenue.
The establishment of Nahum Ward & Company, on Parker Street,
the subject of so much complaint, and the dispenser of so much foetid
odor over Highlands and Lowlands, has been almost entirely suppressed,
their piggery has been broken up, and the occupants thereof brought to
an untimely market or transferred to more rural districts.
The keeping of swine in the more thickly settled portions of the city
has been prohibited, and the general health of the inhabitants thereby
greatly promoted. Indeed, in no season for the last six years has there
been so little sickness in those regions.
A vast number of nuisances have been abated, not by buying up the
infected districts, but by compelling the owners to abate them at their
But these are minor matters.
The track of the Metropolitan Railroad has been located in Roxbury
this year, through all the principal streets ; and a proviso has been in-
sisted upon, that certain routes should be simultaneously laid, that the
citizens, now using omnibus conveyances, may not be inconvenienced
by the change. I understand that contracts for rails and cars have
already been made, and that early next Spring the road will be com-
pleted, and the lines in operation through Washington and Dudley
Streets, over Eliot Square by Centre Street to the Chemical Works,
over Warren Street to corner of Walnut, and over Eustis Street to
Dorchester line. In my opinion this road will be highly acceptable to
our citizens, and the occasion of great accessions to our population, and
of a great enhancement to the value of our real estate. I am happy to
be able to record the fact that one of our most worthy citizens has offer-
ed to the Metropolitan Railroad Corporation about 25,000 feet of land,
in a very desirable location, for car houses and stables. This is an
encouragement to the Company, and will undoubtedly be a good invest-
ment for the wise donor.
A survey of the city is now in progress, by direction of the City
Government, for the purpose of an accurate map and a delineation of
lots and estates, in such a manner that none can escape the notice of
VALEDICTORY ADDRESS/ 71 9
the assessors or fail of paying its proper quota to the expenses of Gov-
ernment and the improvement of the city.
The city in every part has been thoroughly provided with lights.
The number of gas lights has been increased from 13 to 208, and the
number of fluid lamps from 166 to 192. This was an improvement
much desired and greatly needed. It is a noble work, and has greatly
contributed to the value of real estate in the city by rendering a resi-
dence here far more desirable than heretofore. The Committee who
have had this matter in charge, have performed a great amount of work.
They have suffered, too, a vast amount of blame and vituperation, have
undoubtedly made some mistakes, but I verily believe that those most
forward in fault-finding eould not have executed the same business
more satisfactorily to the community or more advantageously to the
In accordance with the recommendation of my Inaugural Address, a
Police Court has been established in this city. Most satisfactory results
have followed. Not a single objection, urged at the outset, has been
sustained by facts. Thus far, instead of being an expense, it has been
a source of revenue to the city. But this, to my mind, is not the
standard of its value. If it diminished the number of cases to such a
degree that its receipts amounted to little or nothing, its value would be
greatly enhanced. It has greatly lessened the number of cases. It has
contributed materially to the dignity of the administration of justice. It
has never created a nuisance about the City Hall, nor ever been attended
by the number of hangers-on, who in past years have thronged the Jus-
tices' Courts in our main streets. It is an institution which deserves,
as I believe it will receive, the support of all order-loving citizens.
Before pressing the establishment of a Police Court, I wrote to the au-
thorities of fifteen cities and towns, where such Courts existed, and
received favorable returns from all but three ; and in two of these the
objection was not to the court but to the character of the judges.
These returns are now on file in the Mayor's office.
The office of City Marshal has been re-established. The necessity
for this officer is fully apparent. He is recognized by the laws of the
State, and in very many of the long-established ordinances of the city.
The system which prevailed in the early part of the year was, to say
the least, very inconvenient. In my opinion it was in conflict with the
legal execution of several of the city ordinances. In reply to letters
addressed to the executives of all the cities of New England, came, with
10 CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 23.
a single exception, a full and. explicit assertion of the necessity of a
City Marshal, or Head of Police. Those answers are now on file. The
double-headed organizations of the Police did not harmonize, and never
could. The appointment of either of the heads to the office of City
Marshal would not have promoted harmony. The present City Mar-
shal was a candidate for the office before it was abolished last year.
His claim was backed by a petition, commencing as follows : — " We,
whose names follow, most cordially recommend Benjamin Meriam for
the office of City Marshal," &c. This petition was signed by 225
citizens, and among them a large number of those who now most strongly
object to his appointment ; and what is their objection ? Nothing in
particular, but general assertions that they do not think him fit for the
office. When I perceive how quick the opposition of a man to a clique
will often bring upon him the condemnation of those who once sustained
him, I do not feel as if a man's merits or competency for a particular
place have much to do with the expressed opinions of the members of
such a clique, and I should place more reliance in their previous "cor-
dial recommendation " than in their after vituperation. Thus much I
have thought it best to state, in justice to myself and to Mr. Meriam.
In my opinion he has proved himself all that he was cordially recom-
mended to be ; but his report is now before you, and you can judge as
well as I of the manner in which he has discharged his duty.
In every city .there are some persons who attempt to gratify their
own malignant feelings without regard to consequences, — and Koxbury
has her share of these. They have all along sought to destroy har-
mony in the Police force, and have instigated officers to acts of in-
subordination and disrespect, which otherwise they would never have
committed. Reports were circulated in the papers, tending to bring
disrepute on our police, and offering inducements to rogues to make
Roxbury the scene of their depredations. An excitement was created
in consequence, which cost the city in one month $477 for extra police.
With this exception, our city has never been more quiet. There have
been few extensive depredations upon property, and very few destruc-
In this review it is proper to notice what are termed our extrava-
gances. In the first place, we have vastly increased the expense of
lighting the city, so that it will annually cost $5,000 more than here-
tofore, if all the lamps are lighted. This is true, and will add 334 cts.
per annum to the tax on every $1,000. Will it pay ?
VALEDICTORY ADDRESS. 11
We have expended $25,000 on the Streets. This seasonably done,
as it has been, will save a tax of 33£ ets. on every $1,000, for years to
We have increased the pay of the Fire Department, officers and men,
and have added greatly to the facility of their operations.
We expended $775 for the Celebration of the Fourth of July, $350
of which, however, were contributed by individuals. The balance of
$425 is about four times the usual expenditure for this purpose.
The Mayor and Aldermen visited New York and Brooklyn, for the
purpose of examining the Horse-power Railroads in those cities, before
locating them in this city, and were absent five days, at a cost to the
city of $272.
We have expended a large sum in widening Washington Street ;
whereas, in process of time, as the old buildings were removed, the
street could be gradually widened at a much less expense.
We established a Liquor Agency, in accordance with the law of the
State imposing a fine of $100 for every three months' neglect so to do ;
and this has cost the city about $400.
We have appropriated $500 for Evening Schools for Adults.
We awarded too much to the owners of land at the corner of Eustis
and Washington Streets.
We established the office of City Solicitor, at a cost of $500 per
annum. — and that of City Physician at a cost of $200 per annum.
We have set a bad example, by not having any Public Dinners or
Suppers, at the cost of the city.
We expended four dollars for Mounted Police, — the expense of which
has been greatly decried in the public journals.
The expenditures of the City Government for this year have been
large in the aggregate, but not so for ordinary purposes. Among our
extraordinary expenses, most of which have been adverted to, the fol-
lowino; will be charged to our account :
For amount paid for School-House on Gore Avenue, . . $9,000
widening Washington St. (northerly side) 23,500
" " " corner of Sumner 1,600
Eustis St., corner of Washington 4,000
paving Washington Street, . . . 3,000
" gutters, 2,400
setting curb-stone, .... 2,000
12 CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 23.
For amount paid for crossings and brick sidewalks, . . . 1,500
sewer in Bartlett St 2,400
" " " two reservoirs, ..... 1,700
" " " house and almshouse improvements, . . 4,000
" " " , employment of poor in winter, . . 4,000
" " " increased facilities for Fire Department, . 2,000
" " " increase of State tax, .... 3,300
" " " 195 iron lamp posts and lanterns, . . 4,600
Total for unusual expenditures, $70,000
The whole expenditure for 1852 was $181,000, or $15,000 a month.
" 1853 " 149,000, " 12,400
" 1854 " 173,400, " 14,400
" expenditure for 10 mos. 1855 " 173,000, " 17,300
It follows from this statement, that if you deduct a portion of the
amount of expenditure for unusual and permanent improvements from
the expenditures of 1855, the ordinary monthly expenses would average
less than for the four past years.
It is true the public debt has been increased the present year by
$34,500, to which must be added $4,000 early next year to pay for
the improvement at the corner of Eustis and Washington Streets. But
it must also be stated that about $50,000 worth of real estate has been
disposed of, and that notwithstanding, the estimated value of the real
estate owned by the city is $217,861 88, while the amount of bills
receivable is about $60,000.
At the commencement of the year the liabilities of the city were, in
round numbers, $209,000, with an offset of notes amounting to $14,000,
leaving $185,000. At the close of the year the liabilities of the city
are $234,000, with an offset of notes amounting to $58,000, leaving
In comparing the financial condition of our city with that of others, I
do not find that our progressive tendency to ruin is very fearful. The
alarmists of to-day, who think that our administration has irretrievably
involved the city, will do well to consult the past. They will find that
in the year 1851 the public debt was increased by $91,910 ; in 1852,
by $46,423 : in 1854, by $18,155. In other years the debt has been
diminished. There is no cause for despair.
VALEDICTORY ADDEESS. 13
Considering the amount accomplished for the improvement of the
city and for works of decided usefulness and comfort to citizens, we may
confidently put the question, whether, during the past five years, as
much has been accomplished with the same amount of money as during
the year of the present administration ? In fact, so much has been
done in places where expenditure was much needed and where its re-
sults have appeared so marked, that it has been again and again as-
serted that the expenditures must have been extravagant and the city
deeply involved. When, however, it is considered that during the
past ten months such a new aspect has been given to our city as to
excite the admiration of our sister cities and the terror of our own tax
payers, we may proudly point to the doings of the present year and
challenge comparison with those of any other, both in magnitude of
results and economy of means.
But it is time to bring this long review to a close. It is sufficient
for us that the doings of this administration have been in good faith for
the best interests of the city. If not so regarded by others now, they
will be hereafter. They are all of them of a character which will increase
in favor with the lapse of time. They have all been accomplished at
a cost which at no future period could be less, and, in all probability,
would be far greater. None of the public money has been wasted.
A value received can be shown for all that has been expended. We
may well congratulate ourselves that our administration of the affairs of
the city has contributed to its beauty and convenience as well as to the
value of its real estate and its general desirableness as a place of resi-
dence. We have also made the way easy for our economical successors.
The demands which were urgent at the outset of the year have been
very generally met, and the citizens for a time at least will acquiesce in
a less progressive condition of things.
But it is objected that we have burdened the next City Government
with the settlement of much of our business. On the other hand, it
seems to me less than usual has been passed over. The settlement of
three bills of Mr. Sigourney's tenants, of the land claims of Amos J.
Dean, of land claims on Buggies Street, in consequence of widening,
are passed over, but are all in good train for settlement. The city
has claims also upon abuttors on Francis Street, and upon sundry per-
sons for non-payment of bills for curb-stones, which are not yet adjusted,
but are in process of settlement by clue course of law. I do not call to
14 CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 23.
mind any other matters which have originated with us that have not
been fully adjusted.
We have, moreover, finished much business which came to us from
former administrations, — such as land damages to sundry persons on
Dudley Street, between Warren and Elm • also on Washington Street,
near Suffolk Place ; also on Buggies Street, at the corner of Water
Street, where a suit was pending between the city and a land owner ;
also the completion of the Gore Avenue school-house. Brook Farm,
too, and the Stony Brook lands have ceased from troubling and are at
rest. If, however, we have- overburdened our successors with duties
from the past, we have at least the satisfaction of reflecting that we in-
flict nothing upon them which, in their places, had the public will so
ordered, we should have refused to accept and faithfully have performed.
In the review that has been made, I think we can find no cause of
self-reproach. There is no act I would recall for the purpose of change.
Guided by a pervading sense of justice and right, and a sincere devo-
tion to the best interests of the city, I feel, as I doubt not you do, an
inward satisfaction which cannot be diminished by the lack of immediate
public appreciation. It has been remarked, that the success of an ad-
ministration is to be judged by the degree in which the measures pro-
posed have been adopted and carried out. With this test we may
certainly feel satisfied since not a prominent recommendation of my
Inaugural Address has failed to be approved and carried out into suc-
Gentlemen, what I have said in this farewell address is not intended
in the way of boasting or self-gratulation, but as a suitable exposition of
the doings of an administration which has been, as it appears to me,
most unjustly and severely attacked. Every measure which has
brought obloquy and discredit upon this government has been proposed
and urged by myself. Many things have undoubtedly been done out
of deference to my opinion, where it was supposed I had the best oppor-
tunity to understand the state of the case. It is proper and right that
for these things the public disapproval should fall upon me alone. As
chief executive and representative of this government, whatever of
blame is deserved, is and should be mine to bear. All I desire is that
I may share with you whatever of credit is justly our due for those acts
of ours which have contributed to the well-being of our city and its
VALEDICTORY ADDRESS. 15
Gentlemen, this is our last official meeting. Permit me to express
my heartfelt thanks for the kind and generous consideration with which
you have ever treated me and my recommendations. The harmony of
this Board has been almost unexampled in municipal history. Private
prejudices have never interfered with public objects. Our debates have
been on public interests and not on personal ambitions. You have con-
sulted for the people, not in any time-serving spirit or with any desire
to court approval, but with a single eye to the public service and with
due and solemn regard to your oaths of office. I owe much to your
support, and shall ever think of it with pleasure and gratitude. My
thanks are also most heartily given to the City Clerk and the City
Treasurer, for the faithful services they have rendered, and for the
gentlemanly alacrity with which they have contributed information and
advice, and for the respect and regard which they have ever manifested
to me in public and private intercourse. To the City Messenger also it
is a satisfaction to pay a well-deserved tribute. His services this year
have been unusually arduous. For the first three months there was
scarcely a night when it was not his duty to prepare for the meet-
ing of some Committee of the City Government. Without complaint
he has steadily and faithfully discharged his duty. My thanks and
yours are freely accorded him.
Gentlemen, it is my hope and desire that the friendship we have here
formed for each other may not cease when we part, but ever live in
our memories and be yet more strongly cemented by future intercourse
as well as by a firm and unalterable devotion, in every possible way, to
the interests and well-being of the city which is our home and our