^B 5ME m?
CHARLES D.l ELLIOT
s HISTORY. ^
By CHARLES a ELLIOT,
PRINTED FROM THE
ILLUSTRATED SOUVENIR OF THE CITY OF SOMERVILLE.'
BY PERMISSION OF
Edward A. Samuels and Henry H. Kimball, A. M.
By CHARLES D. ELLIOT.
Origin and Settlement. — Grants, Etc. — Deed from Web-Cowet and Squaw-
Sachem. — Early Topography. — First Settlers. — Governor Winthrop's Ten
SoMERViLLE was formerly a part of Charlestown, that honored ancestor
of the towns of the Mystic valley, — and whose bounds originally ran
"eight miles into the country from their meeting house," and included
Woburn, Stoneham, Winchester, Burlington, a part of Arlington and Med-
ford, Somerville, Maiden, Everett and the Bunker Hill peninsula, and whose
early history is the heritage of each.
New towns one after another were broken off from the old, the last
being Somerville in 1842, and in this account the name Somerville is used
in narrating the events which have occurred within its limits, since its first
The title of the white man, whether Spanish, French, Dutch, or Eng
lish, to the home of the Indian, rested usually in a royal grant ; " by turf
and by twig," and in the name of their king and religion they took posses-
sion, seldom consulting the aboriginal owner.
The title to the territory of Somerville has this royal authority and
more. First, in the grant of James I to the Plymouth Council of all lands
between 40° and 48° N. latitude from sea to sea.
Second, by grant of the Plymouth Council, March 19, 1628, to the
Massachusetts Bay Company.
Third, by royal charter, March 4, 1629, to the Massachusetts Bay Com-
pany, which confirmed the grant of 1628 ; and fourth, a title not every
colony can claim, a deed from an Indian sovereign, " Squa-Sachem."
Other grants covered the territory and caused much trouble.
The Plymouth people had already, in 1622, granted ten miles along the
shore and thirty miles inland, to Robert Gorges ; he dying, his brother John,
in 1624, leased to John Oldham and John Dorrill all land between the
Charles and Saugus Rivers, for five miles up the Charles, and three up the
Saugus. And again John Gorges, in 1628, deeded to Sir William Brereton
all the land between Charles River and Nahant, for twenty miles inland.
4 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
But little came of these later grants, unless possibly Blackstone, the first
settler of Boston, and Thomas Walford, the first settler of Charlestown (on
the pt linsula), claimed under them.
These conflicting grants caused the Bay Company to strengthen their
claim by actual occupation, and they accordingly sent settlers to several
localities within the disputed territory, Charlestown being one.
Among the instructions from the Company, written from England in
1629, to Mr. Endicott, is the following: —
" If any of the Salvages pretend right of inheritance to all or any part
of the lands granted in our patent, we pray you to endeavour to purchase
their title, that we may avoid the least scruple of intrusion." Under these
instructions several deeds from the Indians were secured, the one covering
Somerville land being from Squa-Sachem, who on the recent death of her
husband became chief of her tribe.
The deed begins as follows : —
"The 15th of the 2d Mo. 1639.
" Wee, Web-Cowet, and Squaw Sachem do sell vnto the Inhabitants of
the Towne of Charlestown all the land within the lines granted them by
the court," and closes with "wee acknowledge to have received in full sat-
isfaction, twenty and one coates, ninten fathoms of wampum, and three
bushels of corne."
" In witness whereof we have here vnto sett our hands the day and
yeare above named."
Early Descriptions and Topography.
Descriptions of this part of the country sent to England by the early
comers, often read like advertisements of modern Eldorados. They were
generally directed to intending settlers, and usually with the desired effect :
after reading they emigrated ; for health and plenty stood on the shore, and
with open arms welcomed each new arrival. The sea, the rivers, the woods,
and the fields were great natural store-houses, stocked abundantly with fish
and fowl, furs and fuel, fruits and flowers ; the air and water were the
purest; "New England's air was better than old England's ale," and as
one writer said, "We are all freeholders, the rent day doth not trouble us."
If all that was written were true, this must have been a paradise to the
sportsman, farmer, and lover of nature.
Yet there was much that was true in their high-colored, curious de-
Mr. Graves, the earliest civil engineer in Charlestown, writing in 1629
or 1630, thus describes the topography of this section : " It is very beautiful
in open lands, mixed with goodly woods, and again open plains, in some
places five hundred acres, some places more, some less, not much trouble-
some for to clear for the plough to go in ; no place barren but on the tops
of the hills. The grass and weeds grow up to a man's face in the lowlands,
and by fresh rivers abundance of grass and large meadows, without any
tree or shrub to hinder the scythe."
SOMERV/LLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 5
The peninsulas of Charlestown and Boston, when settled, were much
alike in shape. From the mainlands on either side they reached out toward
each other and shut in the great basin of Back Bay. They were attached
to the mainland by low, narrow necks, which being overflowed, made each
an island at highest tides.
From Charlestown neck, the marshes extended to the shores of Miller's
and Mystic Rivers, and from the foot of Prospect Hill round to the foot of
Convent and Winter Hills ; Asylum Hill was a peninsula at high tide.
Several creeks and brooks now mostly extinct, meandered from the
higher land, across these marshes to the adjacent rivers. Chief of these
was Miller's, first known as Gibones' River from Captain Edward Gibones
who lived on its shores, probably near Cobble Hill. A later name for this
was Willis' Creek, or Wills' Creek; and one French translation makes it
" Crique de Vills." It was probably called Miller's River, and Cobble Hill,
Miller's Hill after Thomas Miller, who owned land in that locality.
This rivulet had its source in old Cambridge, South of Kirkland Street;
thence in earlier days it flowed, a pellucid stream through sandy upland,
and sedgy meadow, to its mouth near the Charles.
A branch of Miller's River began its course not far from the Old Folks'
Home on Highland Avenue, crossing Central Street near Cambria, and
School Street near Summer, joining the main stream not far from Union
East of Miller's River, and flowing into the same great Charles River or
Back Bay basin, was Crasswell Brook, named after one of the early owners ;
its outlet still exists, and forms part of the city boundary ; a ditch through
the McLean Asylum grounds marks approximately a part of its old course.
Washington Street bridged it, and its source was probably not far from the
junction of Cross and Oliver Streets. Passing over "the Neck" we come
to Mystic River, into which five streams poured their constant tribute. The
first, opposite Convent Hill, was perhaps never named, and was possibly of
no great length or importance. The next was probably the "Winthrop
Creek " of the old records, named for the Governor and more recently known
as Bachellor's Creek. It marked the easterly boundary of the grant of Ten
Hills Farm to him. Its source was not far from Oilman Square ; it wound
its way easterly, crossing Broadway near Walnut Street, and thence across
the Park and through the marshes to the river ; all west of Middlesex
Avenue is now filled. Following up the shore to where the new Trotting
Park now is, we come to Winter Brook ; like the hill, called so, no man now
knows why ; its source was in Polly Swamp, not far from the junction of
Lowell and Albion Streets ; thence it flowed northeasterly, crossing Broad-
way near the railroad bridge, and Medford Street (in Medford) just north-
west of its junction with Main Street, probably where the present water-
course, its successor, is bridged.
Further on was Two-Penny Brook ; I might have said is, if a sedgy
ditch cut to straight lines, can be called a brook ; it rose near the old school
on Broadway, opposite the Simpson estate, flowing through the College and
6 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
Robinson estates, under the Lowell Railroad, along the easterly border of
the brickyards, to the river ; forks of each of these brooks started near the
foot of Powder House Hill. The fifth stream was Alewife Brook, our
western boundary, then called by its Indian name, "Menotomy" River.
This name has many spellings in ye ancient record, one or two of which
commenced with a "W." It has also been known as "Little" River.
This is the outlet of Fresh Pond, and there is much of interest connected
with it. Into Alewife Brook ran another, from near Davis Square, westerly
into Cambridge, entering Alewife Brook near the former tanneries on North
Avenue, whence in later times it has been called Tannery Brook; the
Somerville part of it is now a covered drain.
The hills of those old days are fast disappearing as well as the rivers,
both in name and substance. Within a year or two the " high fielde " of
the original settlers, the "ploughed hill " of the Revolution, better known in
our day as " Nunnery " or " Convent Hill " or " Mount Benedict," will be a
memory only. Asylum Hill, which was the Miller's Hill, or Cobble Hill of
a hundred years or more ago, has the seal of destruction set upon it. The
historic heights of Prospect Hill, the Mount Pisgah of the Revolution, have
long since gone to bury the less historic shores of Miller's River.
Winthrop Hill, on the Ten Hills Farm, and the other eminences near it,
are but scarred relics of their former picturesque beauty. Winter Hill,
strange to say, so far as is known, has suffered no change since " long ago,"
either in height, contour or name ; like Winter Brook, the origin of its name
is in obscurity ; whether named for a person, or a season, is an enigma.
Walnut Tree Hill, now College Hill, has probably seen little change in
shape since the Indian roamed over it. Wild Cat Hill, on the borders of
Alewife Brook, from the remotest day until recently, has remained to thrill
the mind with the possible cause for its name ; but now it is degraded to a
city gravel-bank, and will soon be gone.
Quarry Hill, smooth and polished, with little left of its antique charm,
yet remains crowned by its old tower, which, though architecturally modern-
ized with cut stone archway and window, is still a historic inspiration.
Strawberry Hill, where is and where was it ? Possibly and probably, if
old records are correct, in which there is but one mention of it, east of
Beacon Street and north of Washington Street, a part of it still remaining
on the Norton's Grove estate in Cambridge. Spring Hill in name is recent,
probably, and in shape much as of yore, as is Central Hill, which on some
old Revolutionary maps is styled " Middle Hill."
In the foregoing, the endeavor has been made to retrace the natural
features of the town, and the old naming with which the earlier residents
were familiar, as well as that of more recent times.
Probably the first white men who wandered over Somerville soil were
Standish and his exploring party from Plymouth in 1621.
Seven years later came a party of settlers from Salem, prospecting for
SOMERV/LLE, PAST AND PRESENT. y
a place to locate in. These were "Ralph Sprague with his bretheren
Richard and William, who with three or four more " . . . " did in the sum-
mer of anno 1628, undertake a journey from Salem, and travelled the woods
above twelve miles to the westward, and lighted of a place situated and
lying on the north side of Charles river, full of Indians called Aberginians,"
..." and upon surveying, they found it was a neck of land, generally full
of stately timber, as was the main, and the land lying on the east side of
the river, called Mystick river." Here on the peninsula they settled and
built, and others came soon after. In 1629, " it was jointly agreed and
concluded, that this place on the north side of Charles river, by the natives
called Mishawum, shall henceforth, from the name of the river, be called
Charlestown " ; and in this connection it may be of interest to recall that
the river was named by Captain John Smith, in 1614, after H. R. H.
Charles, Prince of Wales, afterwards Charles I, who. Smith says, "did
change the barbarous names of their principall Harbours and habitations,
for such English, that posterity may say King Charles was their Godfather."
Among the first of the Charlestown settlers to locate on Somerville territory
were John Woolrich, Captain Norton, Edward Gibones, Mr. William Jen-
nings and John Wignall ; followed a little later by Richard Palsgrave,
Edward Jones and others, and by the Governor, John Winthrop, in 1631.
It may be proper here to give a sketch of these pioneers of our town.
John Woolrich or Wolrich was an Indian trader ; he " built and fenced
a mile and a half without ye necke of land in ye maine, on ye right hand of
ye way to Newe Towne," which would be somewhere on the northerly side
of Washington Street, beyond the Fitchburg Railroad bridge; perhaps
not far from Dane Street. He was prominent in affairs, and was a repre-
sentative to the General Court in 1634.
Of Captain Norton, accounts are somewhat conflicting : in one reference
he is called John, in another Francis ; one record is that he was killed by the
Indians in 1633, another makes him join the church in 1642, marry in 1649,
and die in 1667. There may have been two Captain Nortons.
Major-General Edward Gibones, the most distinguished of our early
citizens, excepting Governor Winthrop, was a young man recently converted
and admitted to the church ; he ultimately rose to the rank of Major-Gen-
eral in the militia, being " a man of resolute spirit " and " bold as a lion."
He represented Charlestown in the General Court, in 1635 and 1636, and
died in 1654.
Of William Jennings and John Wignall but little is recorded.
Richard Palsgrave was the first physician of Charlestown, living in the
town several years, and died about 1656.
Edward Jones was an inhabitant in 1630, and removed to Long Island
Palsgrave and Jones each built three-quarters of a mile beyond the
neck, on the northerly side of Washington Street, "right before the marsh,"
probably opposite the Asylum grounds.
John Winthrop, the first Governor of the Massachusetts company that
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
came over here (Craddock never came), was granted the Ten Hills Farm
of six hundred acres in 163 1 ; it extended from the Craddock Bridge, near
Medford Centre, along the Mystic River to near Convent Hill, and em-
braced all the land between Broadway, Medford Street and the River.
This was the Governor's farm where he built, lived, planted, raised cattle,
and launched the first ship in Massachusetts, the " Blessing of the Bay,"
July 4, 1 63 1. Governor Winthrop was the ancestor of the late Hon.
Robert C. Winthrop. He was a man of liberal education and sterling
worth, a devout Christian and an honor to the Colony ; he died in 1649.
From Settlement to the Revolution.
Early Events. — Pasturing and Herding. — Characteristics of Early Immigrants. —
Machinery of Primitive Industries Set in Motion. — Establishment of Town
Government of Charlestown. — Municipal Regulations. — Persons non Grat^.
— First Highways. — The Stinted Common. — Churches and Schools. — Peti-
tion OF Ezekiel Cheever. — The First Town School. — Military Organizations
AND Fortifications. — King Philip's War. — Indian Allies.
Charlestown's settlers in 1629 were in all ten families, not including
Thomas Walford and wife, whom they found already there living in " his
pallisadoed and thatched house," and not including servants of the Bay
Their first winter was full of discouragement; provisions were gone
and disease so prevalent that " almost in every family lamentation, mourn-
ing and woe were heard " ; " many perished and died." Added to this, the
water became bad and brackish, and Indians threatening; many left
Charlestown and removed to Boston, where the water was better. The
arrival of Capt. Pearce with a shipload of provisions, however, inspirited
them anew, and was hailed with rejoicing and thanksgiving.
The first inhabitants built around Town Hill, now Bow Street, near
Charlestown City Square. They were allotted grounds for planting on
other parts of the peninsula, which they were required to fence ; but the
grazing ground for their cattle was here in Somerville, or "without the
neck," and Somerville was in those early times known as the " Cow Com-
mons," and later, as the " Stinted Pasture." The rights of pasturage were
apportioned among the citizens in 1656, and perhaps before.
A herdsman, as early as 1632, was appointed to " Keepe the Milch
Cattle of this Towne, in a herd without the necke of land upon ye maine
till the end of Harvest, and hee is to drive them forth every morning and
bring them into Towne every evening." The herdsman sounded his horn
from Town Hill each morning, to call the cattle together, in readiness for
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 9
pasture. In 1633, the salary for this official was "fifty bushels of Indian
A fence with a gate was early ordered and built across the Neck, from
Mystic River to Charles River basin, to keep these cattle, and perhaps wild
beasts, from straying into the town ; for wolves were common then, and
bounties given for their destruction.
In the course of time, about the whole of Somerville was enclosed with
fencing; fencing or "paling," as it was called, extending all along the Cam-
bridge line, and between the common pasture and the Ten Hills Farm, with
gates at the highways.
In speaking of highways it is but natural again to recall the first engi-
neer in these parts, Mr. Thomas Graves, who came in 1629, and who, it is
supposed, laid out all earlier streets, and other works of improvement in
Charlestown. It is claimed that he was the (afterwards) noted Admiral
Thomas Graves of the EngHsh Navy.
It is quite fair to presume that he traced the routes for our infant
thoroughfares, Washington Street and Broadway.
Those early emigrants were a sturdy, tireless race ; their energy knew
no obstacle. Roads were laid out, watering places located, landings built,
bridges thrown over streams, and, where too wide for bridges, ferries estab-
Those to Boston and to Maiden (the latter called " Two penny ferry ")
remained until after the Revolution, the only direct means of communication
between those places.
All kinds of business and trades were soon started, mills built, one
at Charlestown Neck opposite Miller's River as early as 1645, li"^^ kilns set
up, fish-weirs established, ledges opened, and all the primitive machinery
of industry set in motion.
Among the various trades and callings found here in Charlestown be-
tween 1630 and 1650 were the following: cutting of posts, clapboards and
shingles ; raising of horses for export ; farming ; fishing of various kinds,
especially for alewives, oysters, and lobsters, which were abundant in these
waters — lobsters of twenty-five pounds weight being mentioned; rope and
anchor making ; coopering ; tile making ; brewing ; salt manufacturing ; car-
pentering; ship building; wheelwright work; pottery; charcoal burning;
and various kinds of mill work, there being in 1645 i^ Charlestown wind,
stream, and tide mills.
A town government was very early organized, and local laws enacted,
controlling church, school, and military matters, as well as civil and crim-
inal. The town officers were the " Seven men " or Selectmen, Constables,
Highway Surveyors, Town Clerk, Herdsman, Overseers of the fields, and
Chimney Sweepers, and later on. Town Treasurer, Town Messenger, In-
spector of youth, Tythingmen, Surveyors of damnified goods. Clerks of the
market, Packer of fish and flesh, Corder of wood. Culler of staves. Sealers
of hides and leather, Measurers of lumber. Cullers of fish, and Measurers
of salt and coal.
lO SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
The freemen of the town could vote for Governor and Deputy, and for
Major-General, Representatives, Grand Jury, and also for Assistants or
Mag'strates; in electing the latter, corn and beans were used, corn for
" yes," beans for " no." The penalty for fraud in voting was £\o.
Among the wholesome regulations were those guarding against fires :
they required every house to be provided with ladders, and to be statedly
inspected, and every chimney to be swept once a month in winter, and once
every two months in summer. A blazing chimney brought a fine on the
All children must be educated and " catechised," for neglect of which
their parents answered in court.
Sabbath-breakers, tipplers, and gamblers were sharply watched, and
severely punished. One woman, for instance, was heavily fined for washing
clothes on Sunday.
Strangers in town were "personae non gratae," and had speedily to
account for themselves. A committee was appointed to " marke such trees
for shade by the Highwa[ies] and watering places as in theire discretion
shall bee thought mete ; " fine for cutting these, five shillings, and a special
order was also made that no tree " under any pretence whatsoever " should
be cut outside the Neck without the knowledge of the Selectmen.
As already stated, several of the settlers had, as early as 1629 or 1630,
located, built, and planted, here in Somerville, and in the year 1633 the
town gave liberty to any of its inhabitants to build outside the Neck, pro-
vided, etc., that it " bee not a shortening of the privileges of the Towne," and
in 1634 ten persons were granted "planting ground" on the "South side
of New Towne highway," forty-one acres in all. From this time on, settle-
ments on Somerville land increased, and the records show many transfers
of property in this part of Charlestown.
The first road in Somerville was Washington Street, from the Neck to
Cambridge, described in 1630 as the "Way to New Towne " (Cambridge),
and in one place spoken of as narrow and crooked. The next was probably
the easterly part of Broadway, called " the way to Mystick," connecting,
perhaps, as early as 1637, by trail, or bye road around or over the Ten Hills
Farm, with the ford and bridge then built at Medford Centre over the
Mystic River. It was probably many years afterwards that Broadway was
extended over Winter Hill to Menotomy (now Arlington).
The Stinted Common was apportioned in 1656 among the citizens of the
town, and remained a cow pasture until 1681 and 1685, when it was cut into
strips one-fourth of a mile wide, with numbered rangeways between them,
and granted in stated lots to the inhabitants entitled to them.
The territory thus laid out extended from Washington Street, Bow
Street and Somerville Avenue, to Broadway, and from the present Charles-
town line to Elm Street. The first Rangeway is now Franklin Street ; the
second, Cross Street ; third. Walnut ; fourth. School ; fifth, Central ; sixth,
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. II
Lowell; seventh, Cedar; and eighth, Willow Avenue. There were three
others, running from Broadway beyond Elm Street, into Medford. The first
has been entirely obliterated ; the second is now Curtis Street, and the
third, North Street.
Churches and Schools.
Until 1632 the good people of Charlestown sought religious consolation
in the church at Boston, but in this year they separated and organized the
" First Church of Charlestown " ; their early meetings were held " under the
shade of a great oak," celebrated as the " Charlestown oak" ; it stood in or
not far from the square ; they soon purchased the "great house," no longer
used by the town, and fitted it up for a meeting house. People from the
remote parts of the town, as well as from Somerville, attended this church,
among the number, our earliest settlers, Woolrich and Jones, who are on
its membership roll. The services lasted all day, beginning at nine o'clock
or before ; and for the benefit of those living at a distance, the town built
small houses with chimneys, called " Sabbaday houses," as the record says,
" of a convenient largeness to give entertainment on the Lord's day to such
as live remote," etc. In November, 1882, the two hundred and fiftieth an-
niversary of this church was celebrated.
It is probable that, in earlier days, all the young people of these parts
received their first teaching in the schools of the peninsula, going and re-
turning over the Neck, a long and tedious walk in winter ; all the branches
were taught, from a, b, c's to Latin grammar. There seems to have been
some rivalry then, among the educators of the town, which is generously
hinted at in the petition of Ezekiel Cheever, schoolmaster of the town
school, in 1666, to the Selectmen; he had evidently been promised that no
other schoolmaster should set up in the town, but says that "now Mr.
Mansfield is suffered to teach and take away his scholars." The town
schoolhouse of that day can well be pictured from the records, which speak
of it (1686) as twelve feet square, and eight feet high, with flattish roof,
turret for bell, and " mantle-tree " twelve feet long ; ceiled with brick and
clay, and built at a cost of $90.00. Yet in it ancient and modern lore were
for years successfully dispensed.
The military prowess of the pioneers stands out boldly in their history ;
they were men of intelligence, education and piety, and the defense of
home, religion and rights was first in their thoughts. They at once began
their military organizations and their fortifications, protections against
foreign foes as well as Indians. The " Castle " in the harbor, the Fort on
" Town Hill " and the " Half moon " at the Neck, all gave a greater feeling
of security to people on the peninsula. Companies were organized, offi-
cered, and drilled, and in the various struggles with the savage and the
Frenchman, Charlestown soldiers bore well their part. Among them and
pre-eminently prominent was a resident of Somerville, Major-General
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
King Philip's war in particular caused much suffering and alarm among
the inhabitants ; it became necessary to impress men for the service. As a
projection from Indian attack in 1676, it was proposed, but afterwards
abandoned, to build a stockade across the country from Charles River to
the Merrimac. A company of praying Indians was also organized here in
Charlestown for this war, and did good service.
It would be pleasant to trace the part Somerville settlers bore in these
various conflicts if there were space and the records complete, which they
Advent of Andros and Consequences to the Colonists. — Titles to Estates
Imperiled. — Ten Hills Farm and its Owners. — A Favorite Home for
Governors. — "The Blessing of the Bay" Built and Launched. — Captain
Robert Temple. — Slave Holders in Somerville. — The First Privateer in
America. — Colonel Samuel Jaques. — The Old Powder House. — Jean Mallet.
— A Tragic Legend.
In 1686 the happiness of the people was rudely shattered by a royal
edict, appointing Sir Edmund Andros " Capt. Generall and Govr. in
Chief" over New England: it gave him royal powers to choose Coun-
cillors, make laws, and assess taxes ; it constituted Andros and Councillors
a court of justice for trial of all cases, civil, criminal, and of property rights,
as well as petty cases ; also unlimited authority over matters military and
naval, thus annulling the charter of the Bay Company. A struggle ensued
which, lasting three years, ended in the revolution of 1689, the seizure
and imprisonment of Andros and others, and capture of the Castle in Boston
Harbor; and in 1692, the restoration of their old rights to the colonists.
One of the first acts of Andros was to declare all previous property
titles valueless ; the charter had not been complied with, " and, therefore,
all the lands of New England have returned to the King" ; and further, it
was declared that " wherever an Englishman sets his foot, all that he hath
is the King's." Andros angrily asserted that "there was no such a thing
as a town in the country," and that the ancient town records of titles were
"not worth a rush." In Somerville, by this action, many estates were
imperiled ; one or two of these had been in the same family half a century.
Some of the owners submitted to these cruel exactions, while others
rebelled. The greatest of these outrages was the granting of the Stinted
Pasture to Lieutenant Colonel Charles Lidgett, a follower of Andros, and
already one of the owners of Ten Hills Farm : of which, however, he also
received Andros' title of confirmation. Lidgett immediately began the
prosecution of the rightful owners of the pasture, for cutting wood and for
other alleged trespasses. They were caused much annoyance and distress ;
and in some cases were fined and imprisoned.
But Lidgett's chickens flew home to repose : in 1689, with Andros and
others, he was seized and thrown into prison, with which just retribution
ended the fraudulent title speculation.
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 1 3
Ten Hills Farm.
It is especially notable that this old estate, called Ten Hills after the ten
knolls on it, should have kept for two hundred and sixty-five years the name
given it by its first owner ; though that name at present applies to only one
hundred acres or so of the original grant.
This property is one of the few in the city whose title can be clearly
traced in the records, through each conveyance, from aboriginal and royal
grants to the present time.
Besides being included in the deed from Squa-Sachem, already quoted,
it is, of course, within the limits of the royal grant to Plymouth Colony in
1620, and in the Plymouth grant and Royal Confirmation to the Massa-
chusetts Bay Company in 1628 and 1629.
By the Massachusetts Bay Company's Governor and Council it was
granted direct to John VVinthrop.
The record reads : —
"6 Sept., 1631 — Granted to Mr. Governor, six hundred acres of land,
to be set forth by metes and bounds, near his house at Mistick, to enjoy to
him and his heirs forever."
The claim of the Andros government, that none of the settlers held any
title whatever to their lands, did not hold good regarding this estate. It
was the only one in this city, however, that was granted by the Bay Com-
On the death of the Governor, in 1649, the property fell to his son John,
Jr., Governor of Connecticut, by whose executors it was deeded, in 1677, to
Elizabeth Lidgett, widow of Peter Lidgett, a merchant of Boston. She
deeded one-half of it to her son Charles, the same year. The Lidgetts and
their heirs, among them the wife and children of Lieutenant-Governor
Usher of New Hampshire, deeded a portion of it, in 1731, to Sir Isaac
Royal, the most of which is in Medford, five hundred and four acres.
The remainder, or Somerville portion, two hundred and fifty-one acres,
they sold to Captain Robert Temple, in 1740 ; on his death, it fell to his son
Robert, Jr., the " Royalist," who retained it until after the^Revolution, selling,
in 1780, to Nathaniel Tracy of Newbur5^ort, and he, in 1785, to Honora-
ble Thomas Russell, who again sold it, in 1 791, to Captain George Lane.
Later it was owned by Theodore Lyman ; and then by Elias Hasket Derby
of Salem; afterwards it became the property of Colonel Samuel Jaques,
then of Samuel Oakman, and finally of the present owners, the heirs of
Fred Ames and F. O. Reed and others.
It is noticeable that Ten Hills, if not continuously a gubernatorial
demesne, has in all times been held in some favor by governors and their
relatives and associates : first, Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts ; then
his son. Governor of Connecticut; then the wife of Lieutenant-Governor
Usher ; then by Robert Temple, son of the Governor of Nova Scotia ; then
by Robert, Jr., whose wife was the daughter of Governor Shirley ; then by
Royal and Russell, each a governor's councillor ; and now by the heirs of
the brother of Governor Ames.
14 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
There is much of interest akin to romance in the annals of this old
property ; and in the lives and doings of its various owners.
Its first proprietor settled on it when it was in all its original wildness,
buiit his house and barns, planted his gardens and orchards, raised his
cattle, and hunted and fished through its woods and along its shores. In
the record he kept, he gives one picture of his life here, under date of
October ii, 1631 : "The Governor being at his farmhouse in Mistick,
walked out after supper and took a piece in his hand, supposing he might
see a wolf (for they came daily about the house and killed swine and calves,
etc.) and, being about half a mile off, it grew suddenly dark, so as in coming
home he mistook his path, and went till he came to a little house of Saga-
more John, which stood empty. There he stayed, and having a piece of
match in his pocket (for he always carried about him match and compass
and in the summertime snake weed), he made a good fire near the house,
and lay down upon some old mats, which he found there, and so spent the
night, sometimes walking by the fire, sometimes singing psalms and some-
times getting wood, but could not sleep. It was (through God's mercy) a
warm night ; but a little before day it began to rain, and having no cloak,
he made shift by a long pole to climb up into the house. " In the morning "
..." he returned safe home, his servants having walked about, and shot oif
pieces, and halloed in the night, but he heard them not."
It was here, at Ten Hills, that he built and launched the first ship built
in this Colony, which records mention as follows: "July 4, . The
Governor built a bark at Mistick, which was launched this day, and called
' The Blessing of the Bay.' "
In November, 1631, his wife with some of their children arrived from
England in the ship Lyon ; the event caused great rejoicing. " The ship
gave them six or seven pieces," "the captains with their companies in arms
entertained them with a guard and divers volleys of shot, and three drakes "
(cannon) ; people from the near plantations welcomed them and brought in
great store of provisions, "fat hogs, kids, venison, poultry, geese, part-
ridges " and other contributions. " The like joy and manifestations of love
had never been seen in New England."
Meanwhile the Governor had established himself in Boston, probably
his winter home at first, but afterwards his permanent abode ; this was on
Washington Street between Spring Lane and Milk Street, his house, which
was framed in Charlestown, being at the corner of Spring Lane. The Old
South Church occupies his front yard, or "green."
Colonel Charles Lidgett has already been noticed in the account of the
Captain Robert Temple was the son of Thomas Temple, once Governor
of Nova Scotia. Robert Temple, Jr., the " Royalist," as he has been called,
was brother of Sir John, first Consul-General from England to the United
States, and uncle of Sir Grenville Temple, both baronets in England ; Sir
John married the daughter of Governor Bowdoin; and Robert, Jr., the
daughter of Governor Shirley. Thus connected with Royalists and perhaps.
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 1 5
very naturally, not showing intense enthusiasm in the patriot cause, Temple
was looked on as a tory, and when, in May, 1775, he started on a journey to
England, he was seized by the Committee of Safety of Cohasset, and sent to
Boston, where, after inspecting his letters and questioning him personally,
it was recommended that he be treated as " a friend to the interests of this
country, and the rights of all America."
The Temples were slave-holders, though probably not the only ones in
It was during the occupancy by Temple that the British landed at his
wharf on their raid to the Powder House and Cambridge.
Nathaniel Tracy, the next owner, was said to be " generous and patri-
otic." He fitted out the first privateer in America during the Revolution, and
his firm did a large business in that line, losing many, yet reaping, finally,
a rich harvest.
Thomas Russell, who bought of Tracy, was a " merchant prince," a rep-
resentative to the General Assembly, and an executive councillor. He sold
to George Lane, a sea captain.
Elias Hasket Derby, merchant, of Salem, who owned the place and
lived here for some time, was a man of note ; he was wealthy and enter-
tained sumptuously. His son died here in 1801.
Colonel Samuel Jaques, who made the " Ten Hills " famous in the ear-
lier days of this century, had his title from a long service in the militia and
in the war of 181 2. His farm was stocked with horses, cattle, sheep and
deer ; he had his pack of hounds, and that he was the famed Nimrod of these
parts, many a wily fox could testify.
The destruction of the mansion and slave-quarters in 1877, and digging
down of Winthrop Hill, is too recent to require further mention. It is now
a dismal wreck, let it be hoped that the construction of the elaborate park-
way proposed across it, and a more liberal policy in the improvement of its
surroundings, will restore the locality at no distant day to something of its
former importance and beauty.
Old Powder House.
Where a long-abandoned ledge
Breaks the brow of a grass-grown hill,
Near its crumbled and mossy edge
Stands the old deserted mill.
Like a sentinel keeping watch and ward over neighboring fields and
highways, the old round tower on the ancient quarry's brink has stood for
nearly two centuries. Around it cluster obscurity, legend and history, those
charms of antiquity, and they have hung over it a mantle so attractive as to
render it one of the most interesting of relics. It stands on Quarry Hill,
called also in the quaint nomenclature of old, " Two penny brooke quarry,"
which winding meadow stream it overlooked.
The knoll, with its adjacent lands, was at the extreme of the Stinted
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
Pasture, at the division of which in 1685 it was allotted to Sergeant Richard
Lowden, some nine or ten acres in all, long before which it had been worked
as a quarry. After Richard's death, his son and executor sold the estate to
Jonathan Foskett, and Foskett, in February, 1703-4, to "Jean Mallet," a
shipwright, afterwards a miller, and who very likely built the curious old
mill, though no record tells us so. Jean Mallett was a Huguenot, and
probably came from France with many others, to these more congenial
shores, shortly after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in 1685, settling
unwisely, to say the least, in Worcester County, in what is now the town of
Oxford, then a border wilderness, but which these Huguenots soon
turned into blossoming fields and fruitful gardens; here they lived in
contentment and security for many years, but in 1696 the Indians descended
on their settlement and a dreadful massacre ensued. The survivors aban-
doned their plantations, and most of them came to Boston ; among these was
Mallet, who, a while after, we find here in Somerville. Little more is known
of him except that he died about 1720, leaving the old stone windmill to his
son Michael, who in 1747 sold it to the State for a powder-magazine ; prob-
ably long before this its millstones had ceased to grind, though undoubt-
edly for many long years the old miller took his lawful toll of "one to
sixteen " from the farmers for miles around.
A tragic legend shrouds the old mill, told of a captive Acadian maiden
who, disguised as a youth, flees from her cruel master and seeks refuge
in the family of the old miller; his rooms are few and accommodations
scanty ; so the maid is given lodging in the old mill-loft, dusty and dismal.
In the night comes her master ; he has traced her here, and with smooth
speech and specious story induces the miller to unlock the mill ; the master
clambers clumsily up the ladder, reaches the loft and tries to seize his
victim; in the unfamiliar darkness he loses his foothold, plunges to the
mill floor, clutching the rope as he falls. The great fans move, the mill-
stone rolls hoarsely around, and soon all is over. The exile maiden is once
It is a curious, grewsome story ; let us trust that it is only a legend.
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 1 7
Friction Between the Colonies and Home Government. — Preparations for the
Great Struggle. — Seizure of Powder. — First Hostile Demonstration of
the Revolution. — The Whole Country in Arms. — Resignation of Lieut.-
Governor Thomas Oliver. — Arbitrary Measures of the British Government.
— Secretion of Arms and Distribution of Military Supplies by the Colo-
nists. — Hostile Steps taken by the British. — The Patriots Warned. — Paul
Revere's Ride. — Battle of Lexington. — Roads in Somerville Traversed by
British Troops. — Battle of Bunker Hill. — Vivid Scenes.
The Boston Port Bill, enacted March 31, 1774, was the punishment
inflicted on the Americans for the destruction of the East India Company's
tea ; it prohibited all commerce, export or import, with Boston and Charles
town, and brought disaster and distress upon both cities, the ferries even
being included in the embargo. All business was suspended, and the
sufferings of both rich and poor were great. Neighboring towns came to
their relief with food and fuel ; committees were appointed to devise reme"
dies, and arrangements made to quarter the most needy families upon other
towns of the State.
The friction between the colonies and the home government had grown
steadily for ten years, and a frowning fleet and formidable army, sent to
enforce various odious enactments, increased to the utmost the spirit of
The Americans for a long time had been actively preparing for a
struggle they believed imminent, and quietly collecting arms, accoutrements,
ammunition and stores.
In this way it occurred that the powder of several towns was stored in
the powder house on Quarry Hill ; fearing for its safety, in the summer of
1774, some of the towns began removing it. This powder and also that
belonging to the Province, as well as other military stores, were in the
custody of Maj. Gen. William Brattle, of Cambridge, and to him General
Gage wrote, in August, asking a return or schedule of " the different sorts
of each." Brattle in his reply of August 29, speaking of powder, says that
that in the arsenal at Quarry Hill, was " the King's powder only." Medford
had just taken the last belonging to any of the towns.
On August 3 1 , Sheriff Phipps called upon Brattle, with orders for the
remaining powder and for two cannon at Cambridge ; in compliance Brattle
1 8 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
delivered up the key of the powder house, and ordered Mr. Mason, who
was in charge of the cannon, to deliver them also.
On the next day, September i, 1774, occurred the first hostile demon-
stration of the Revolution ; by a miracle, almost, it ended without bloodshed.
It is described in the news of the day as follows : —
" On Thursday Morning [ Sept. i ], half after four, about 260 Troops
embarked on board 13 Boats at the Long Wharf, and proceeded up Mystic
River to Temple's Farm, where they landed, and went to the Powder-
House on Quarry Hill, in Charlestown Bounds, whence they took 212 Half
Barrels of Powder, the whole store there, and conveyed it to Castle
WiUiam." ..." A detachment from this corps went to Cambridge and
brought off two field pieces, which had lately been sent there for Col.
Another account says that " 250 " half-barrels of powder were taken.
These troops were under the command of Lt. Col. Madison, and in
Boston it was believed that they had gone out to capture the Committee of
Conference at Salem, who were promptly notified ; but when their actual
destination was discovered, the alarm spread like wild-fire throughout the
country, to the north, west and south, even to Pennsylvania.
Before night there was a general uprising of the militia of the State,
and the next day, along the roads in all directions, were squads of men
marching towards Cambridge, ready to repel the invaders.
As was natural, the news of the raid was heightened by sensational
accounts of fighting and bloodshed. Boston had been bombarded by the
fleet, and Americans killed and wounded.
It was estimated that fifty thousand " well armed " men had responded
to this alarm : "the whole country was in arms " ; they came not only from
Middlesex and the adjacent counties, but from the western parts of the
State, and even from Connecticut.
They poured into Cambridge, and assembled by thousands on the
Common. It was an orderly throng, but determined. The Crown officers
were alarmed ; Judge Danforth and Judge Lee addressed the assemblage,
and both expressing regret at having accepted appointments under acts so
obnoxious to their fellow citizens, then and there resigned their offices, and
promised never again to accept any position in conflict with the charter
rights of the people.
Phipps, the high sheriff, appeared also ; he was aggrieved at the feel-
ings of the people towards him for his action in delivering up their powder,
but in view of the fact that he acted under orders from his commander in
chief, his offense was condoned.
Lieut.-Governor Thomas Oliver lived then in the mansion which since
was the home of the poet Lowell. Several thousand people, militia and
" lookers on," appeared before his house. Previously he had parleyed and
hesitated, fearing His Majesty's displeasure if he should resign, as requested
to do, but intimating that he might do so if the whole province desired it ;
but now, seeing the determined spirit of the people, and the uselessness of
SOMERVTLLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 1 9
further refusal, he signed his resignation as Lieutenant-Governor and
President of the Council,
Meanwhile Brattle, who by his prominence in this affair had brought
upon himself the indignation of the inhabitants, fled to Boston, and
sought refuge in the fold of General Gage, whence he wrote a woeful story
of his wrongs and banishment, claiming to be a friend of his country,
acting for its true interest, yet expressing himself sorry for what had oc-
Meantime the wild rumors afloat had been contradicted, and the people
returned again to their homes and employments, and all seemed as tranquil
This great uprising was the rumble of the approaching storm, and
warning of the coming tempest.
Paul Revere's Ride.
The English Parliament and press during the winter of 1774-5 dis-
cussed vigorously the dispute with the Colonists ; among each were friends
to America ; but the Ministerial party were in the majority, and, urged on
by the King and Lords, endeavored to enforce the most arbitrary measures,
among which were further restrictions on trade and the act forbidding
importation into the colonies of arms and munitions of war.
This last act caused much alarm, and the Americans took immediate
steps to secrete and protect the military supplies already accumulated.
These were distributed among various towns, one of which was Con-
cord. Gage learned this, and determined on their capture, divining which,
the patriots took precautions to prevent. A company of thirty men
arranged with each other to watch " two and two " the movements of the
British ; among these were William Dawes and Paul Revere. Several days
previous to April 19, the unusual activity of the troops and fleet announced
to the Americans that some important movement by the enemy was
John Hancock and Samuel Adams, who were in Lexington, were
cautioned that Gage intended their capture. About this time the wife of a
British soldier carelessly divulged the order for the expedition to a lady
who employed her, who promptly gave the patriots warning. William
Dawes was immediately sent by way of Roxbury and Paul Revere by way
of Charlestown, to alarm the inhabitants. Revere crossed Charles River
past the frigate Somerset just before orders were received to stop all
boats, and taking horse on the Charlestown shore, rode with all speed over
the Neck and up Washington Street, to near the present Cresent Street ;
here he saw two horsemen standing in the road a short distance away;
perceiving that they were British officers, he wheeled and galloped back to
the Neck, and around into Broadway, pursued by one of the horsemen ; the
other endeavored to head him off by crossing the fields, but fell into a
clay pit, thus enabling Revere to escape. He rode over Winter Hill and
Main Street, to and through Medford and Arlington, to Lexington and
20 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
beyond, where he was captured; not, however, until he had thoroughly
alarmed the country. At the junction of Broadway and Main Street stands
a granite tablet commemorating this historic ride.
Battle of Lexington.
At about ten o'clock on the night of April i8, 1775, Lieutenant Colonel
Smith of the Tenth British, with eight hundred men, marched quietly to the
foot of Boston Common, and crossed Back Bay in boats to Lechmere Point,
now East Cambridge, landing not very far east of the present Court House ;
the troops, avoiding the roads and highlands for fear of discovery, skirted
the marshes ; and the tide being up, or rising, and East Cambridge then an
island at high water, they were obliged to wade " thigh deep " in crossing
to Somerville, where, striking a byway, they emerged upon Washington
Street, probably at or near Prospect Street ; thence their march was through
Washington Street, Union Square, Bow Street, Somerville Avenue and Elm
Street, and thence to Concord.
In those days, an old house, owned or occupied by a widow Smith,
stood on the east side of the present Wesley Park ; here the troops halted
and quenched their thirst at the well, and were seen by the frightened occu-
pants of the house.
Next they passed the residence of Samuel Tufts (now Mr. Blaisdell's),
who was in the kitchen at the time, moulding bullets; thence on past
Thomas Rand's house ; Mrs. Rand, who had not yet retired, saw the
threatening platoons, and after they had gone by sent her son to alarm the
neighbors. Then they came to Timothy Tufts' house on Elm Street, near
Beach, stopping there again for water. Mr. Tufts' dog woke the echoes of
the night, and also the family with his vehement protests. Peering out, they
saw the hostile columns and flash of the bayonets in the moonlight, and
then saw the soldiers turn into Beach Street and disappear, as they con-
tinued their silent march.
Their encounters at Lexington Common and at Concord Bridge, and
their disastrous retreat, reinforced and perhaps saved from capture by Lord
Percy, yet still flying, harassed and relentlessly pursued by the Americans,
have become notable events in the world's history. Like a rabble rout they
came down Arlington Avenue into Cambridge and Somerville. The Ameri-
cans supposed they would retreat as Percy came, through old Cambridge,
Brighton, and Roxbury ; but a confused throng, they turned through Beach
Street into Elm. At the westerly corner of these streets was a grove, where
minute men were secreted, who gave the troops a galling fire. The British
who fell here were buried in Mr. Tufts' land, just inside the wall.
Percy, who at every available point had endeavored to check the pur-
suit with his artillery, again opened fire with his cannon, from the northerly
slope of Spring Hill, on the pursuing minute men, but with little avail ; his
troops continued their retreat down Elm Street and Somerville Avenue, one
man being killed near Central Street, at which point a volley was fired into
Mr. Rand's house, and near Walnut Street another soldier fell. Down
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 21
Washington Street they went, skirting the foot of Prospect Hill, where oc-
curred some of the hottest fighting of the day.
It was now evening, and the flashes of musketry, which were plainly
seen in Boston, told vividly the story of their retreat and disaster.
Throughout the retreat, wherever possible, flanking parties of British
had been sent out to drive off the minute men.
The only Somerville citizen who fell on this day was shot by the flank
guards. He was James Miller, an old man and patriot.
He with others were on the slope of Prospect Hill, firing on the British
in the street below, when the flankers surprised them ; the rest fled, but
Miller, still firing, stood at his post, and when called upon to fly made the
memorable answer, " I am too old to run."
On the north side of Washington Street, nearly opposite Mystic Street,
is the house then owned by Samuel Shed ; a British -soldier entered it, and
while rummaging a bureau, was shot, falling dead over the drawer ; this
bureau, or " high boy," as it was called, with its bullet holes, is now in pos-
session of the descendants of Nathan Tufts.
The British flight and pursuit continued until they had crossed the
Neck into Charlestown, which they did just as Colonel Pickering, with seven
hundred Essex minute men, came hurrying over Winter Hill, to intercept
them. Had he arrived a little earlier the entire force would have been
During the battle. General William Heath assumed command ; after the
Americans had ceased further pursuit, he " assembled the officers around
him, at the foot of Prospect Hill, and ordered a guard to be formed and
posted near that place." This was the first guard mounting of the Revolution.
Sentinels and patrols were also posted near the Neck, to give warning of the
enemy's movements. The minute men were ordered to Cambridge, where
all night they lay on their arms.
The battle of the nineteenth of April began at Lexington, and ended
in Somerville, and in its glory Somerville is entitled to share.
Battle of Bunker Hill.
On April 20, General Artemas Ward, the senior in date of commission,
took command of the American forces, with headquarters at Cambridge,
whence, under the resolve of the Provincial Congress for the enlistment of
thirty thousand men, the militia from all directions began to march.
Within a short time there were fifteen thousand troops, or more, in the
American camp, among them many from New Hampshire, Rhode Island,
Early in May, a report was made to the Committee of Safety, recom-
mending the immediate fortifying of Prospect Hill and vicinity, and of
Bunker Hill ; and probably not long after, earthworks were thrown up near
Union Square, commanding the Charlestown road (Washington Street).
Troops meanwhile were posted both in Roxbury and Somerville, to repel
any attempt that might be made by the enemy to march out of Boston.
22 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
Roxbury Neck had been fortified the previous winter by the British, and
now bristled with thirty cannon or more, but Charlestown was still neutral
ground. Gage probably fearing to divide his forces by its occupation.
The measure suggested in May for fortifying Bunker Hill was not
finally decided on until June 15, when rumors became prevalent that the
British were again planning to march out into the country.
On the 1 6th, General Ward ordered Col. William Prescott, with three
Massachusetts regiments, and a batallion of Connecticut troops, about a
thousand or twelve hundred in all, to proceed that night to Charlestown
and seize and fortify Bunker Hill. The troops were paraded on Cambridge
Common, and after a prayer by Dr. Langdon, President of Harvard College,
at about nine o'clock in the evening, commenced their march towards
Bunker Hill, passing through Somerville, by way of Washington Street and
Union Square, down to and across the Neck. Colonel Prescott, with two
sergeants carrying dark lanterns, led the way.
General Israel Putnam and Colonel Richard Gridley, the engineer of
the army, accompanied the expedition, and following after were wagons
with intrenching tools. Their destination was kept a profound secret from
the troops until after crossing the Neck.
Prescott had been ordered to fortify Bunker Hill, but it was soon
discovered that Breed's Hill was a superior military position, and after
consultation, and some loss of time, it was determined to fortify that in
place of Bunker.
Col. Gridley immediately laid out the works, which, rising as if by magic,
confronted and challenged the British fleet and army at sunrise.
The details of the battle on Bunker Hill are familiar to all, and only
such events connected with it as occurred in Somerville need be related.
For some time previous to the 17th, Colonel John Patterson's regiment
of Berkshire men had been stationed at the redoubt near the foot of Pros-
pect Hill, where they probably remained throughout the day, having been,
with Ward's regiment and part of Bridge's, held back as a reserve. All
other Massachusetts troops, and those of New Hampshire and Connecticut,
were ordered to the front. A great part of them never arrived there, the
furious cannonading from the fleet across the Neck, and into East Somer-
ville, rendering any attempt to reach the peninsula perilous. Yet it was
over this Neck, and through this storm of shot and shell, that the terror-
stricken people fled into Somerville from their burning homes in Charles-
Early in the fight. Major Gridley, son of the engineer, was ordered with
his company of artillery to reinforce Prescott ; he was a young man with
but little military experience, and instead of obeying orders, he took a
position, with a portion of his force, on Cobble, now Asylum Hill ; the rest
of his company marched on to the scene of action. Col. Mansfield's regi-
ment passing forward at this time with orders to the front, was directed by
Gridley to support his battery, which disobeyed previous instructions.
Mansfield did so, and also took a position on Cobble Hill. From this hill
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 23
Gridley opened a feeble and ineffectual fire from his light guns upon the
British ships which lay in the bay east of the hill.
Disobedience, or misunderstanding of orders, seemed to be a common
occurrence. Colonel Scammon's regiment had also been ordered to the
field of battle, which he curiously interpreted to mean Lechmere Point, now
East Cambridge, and thither went. From there, however, he soon crossed
to Cobble Hill and reinforced Gridley, and later on marched as far as
Bunker Hill, but too late to be of service. Colonel Gerrish's regiment, also
under orders to reinforce Prescott, found lodgment on Ploughed, now
Convent Hill ; part of the regiment later were led into action by a brave
officer, named Febiger, and did valiant service.
Gridley, Mansfield, Scammons, and Gerrish, were each court-martialed.
Gridley, Mansfield and Gerrish were cashiered, and Scammons acquitted ;
Gridley on account of his youth not being deprived of the right to hold
future commission in the Continental Army.
Somerville beheld vivid scenes of war that day : incessant marching of
troops towards the front, over Washington Street to Broadway; citizens
fleeing here from their burning town ; officers galloping to and fro between
the battlefield and Cambridge ; artillery bombarding the fleet from Asylum
Hill ; shot and shell from the frigates mercilessly raking the easterly part
of the town ; fugitives and wounded soldiers, on litters or the shoulders of
their comrades, hurrying to places of safety ; and finally the retreating army,
who, victorous in defeat, planted themselves on Prospect and Winter Hills,
expecting and ready for a renewal of the battle.
The Siege of Boston. — Intrenchments Made. — Exchange of Prisoners. — Battle
OF Hog Island. — Gage's Proclamation of Amnesty. — Fortifications on
Prospect and Winter Hills. — Arrival of Generals Washington, Putnam
AND Lee. — Declaration of the Continental Congress. — Description of the
Patriots' Camps. — Sufferings of the People and Troops. — First Unfurling
of the New Flag of the United Colonies. — Seizure of Dorchester Heights.
— Evacuation of Boston by the British.
The investment of Boston began on the night of the battle of Lexing-
ton, when General Heath posted the guard at the foot of Prospect Hill.
Speaking of that battle a British officer says, " About seven o'clock in
the evening we arrived at Charlestown." . . . "The rebels shut up the
Neck and placed sentinels there." ..." So that in the course of two days
we were reduced to the disagreeable necessity of living on salt provisions,
and fairly blocked up in Boston."
The posting of troops in Somerville and Roxbury shortly afterwards,
to check any attempt of the enemy to again leave Boston, and the building
of fortifications near Union Square and the Cambridge line, the first works
24 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
thrown up by the Americans in this war, convinced the British that a siege
was actually begun.
In the latter part of May General Burgoyne arrived in Boston, and
writing to a friend in England, says, speaking of the town, that it is
" invested by a rabble in arms, who, flushed with success and insolence,
had advanced their sentries to pistol shot of our outguards ; the ships in
the harbor exposed to, and expecting a cannonade or bombardment."
The incidents of this siege crowded one upon another in quick succes-
sion, and we can more readily chronicle them by noting each in the order
of its occurrence. The earlier operations of the siege were probably
desultory, and dictated by circumstances.
In the interim between the battles of Lexington and Bunker Hill,
many events of interest took place.
On April 20 the Americans held their first council of war, at which
were Generals Ward, Heath and Whitcomb, with many other Massachu-
setts officers, some of whom figured prominently in the battle of June 17,
notably Colonel William Prescott. Communication between the people of
Boston and those outside was immediately cut off by Gage, who expressed
fears to the Selectmen that the Americans would attack the town, and might
be aided by its citizens, which would cause serious results ; accordingly,
on April 22, a town meeting was held, resulting in an agreement allowing
all women and children who desired, to leave " with all their effects " ; and
" their men also," by solemnly engaging not to "take up arms against the
King's troops, " " should an attack be made " ; a further condition being
that all firearms and ammunition be delivered up. This was reciprocated
by the Provincial Congress, who gave to all outsiders who might wish, per-
mission to enter Boston on similar terms ; and officers were stationed at the
" Sun Tavern " at Charlestown Neck, and also in Roxbury, to issue passes
therefor. Under this arrangement nearly thirty-five hundred weapons
were taken by the British, and never returned. For a while Gage kept
the agreement in good faith, but later, at the instance of Tory advisers, he
threw many obstacles in the way of those leaving, such as searching goods,
separating families, etc., and finally forbade their leaving the town.
The battle of Lexington was fought by men from Eastern Massachu-
setts, but immediately thereafter troops from other sections and States
began to arrive, notably from New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connec-
ticut, and later on from Pennsylvania and Virginia.
In May fatigue parties were sent out and intrenchments were com-
menced in Cambridge and Somerville. On the 27th and 28th the battle of
Hog Island occurred, brought on by a detachment sent from this camp to
capture live stock on Hog and Noddle's islands (the latter now East Boston) ;
while doing this they were attacked by the King's troops and ships, but
escaped to the main land during the night; re-inforced by infantry and
artillery, they resumed the conflict the next day, and succeeded in blowing
up one of the British schooners and disabling a sloop ; the trophies of this
engagement were twelve cannon, more than three hundred head of horses,
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 25
cows and sheep, and a large quantity of hay ; with the re-inforcements came
Generals Putnam and Warren, the latter serving as volunteer ; our loss was
light in this engagement, but the enemy's was said to be heavy.
On June 6 the first exchange of prisoners took place ; through Somer-
ville the procession passed, Generals Putnam and Warren riding in a
phaeton, accompanied by three captive English officers in a chaise, and by
wounded prisoners in carts, all under military escort. At the ferry they met
Gage's officers, with whom came the American captives. The exchange
was soon over, the whole affair being " conducted with the utmost decency
and good humor."
On June 1 2 Gage issued his notorious proclamation of amnesty to all
except Hancock and Adams, which offer the Americans answered five days
later at Breed's Hill.
This engagement was the one great battle of the noted siege, and the
only one where the two armies met in force. For nine months thereafter it
was one continuous artillery duel, accompanied with sharpshooting and
A curious rumor was circulated after this battle, that the British pur-
suit had been continued to Winter Hill, where the Americans had again
repulsed the British with great slaughter. It was only a rumor, however.
After falling back to Winter and Prospect Hills, on June 17, the pro-
vincial troops immediately commenced fortifying those eminences; the
works on Prospect Hill were built under the direction of that wolf -renowned
hero, Putnam. On this hill the men were subjected to a heavy artillery fire
from the British, who thus attempted to dislodge them; with no result,
however, except to inure the provincials to the howling of shot and shell.
Meanwhile the New Hampshire men under General Folsom were forti-
fying Winter Hill.
During the month of June smallpox broke out and became epidemic,
causing great distress to the besiegers, and the people of the towns where
they were quartered.
On July 2, there arrived in camp General Washington, recently ap-
pointed Commander-in-Chief, accompanied by General Charles Lee, second
in command, and Horatio Gates, Adjutant General of the Army. Both
Gates and Lee had been officers in the British service, but had now
espoused the cause of the Americans.
Lee was an eccentric military genius ; he was looked upon by many of
the wisest patriots as scarcely inferior to Washington in loyalty or capacity ;
he had a great reputation as a soldier, having been in service since boy-
hood. He was an officer at the age of eleven, and had served in the British,
Portuguese, and Polish armies, in the latter acting as aid-de-camp to the
king ; and now he had placed his sword at the service of America, and for
a long time seemed its most devoted champion, but later his inordinate
ambition brought disagreement with Washington ; and, after several un-
pleasant episodes, he was court-martialed and suspended for one year.
Within a few years, documents have come to light tending to show that
26 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
Lee, toward the last of his service, played a double part ; but while here, he
was a " tower of strength " to the army, and, as commander of the most of
that portion of it in Somerville, his career has more than usual interest to
All the State organizations on July 4 were taken into the service and
pay of the United Colonies, and re-organized, and on July 22 were formed
into three divisions, viz : —
The left wing was composed of two brigades, one at Winter Hill under
General Sullivan, the other at Prospect Hill under General Greene. The
center, two brigades, one commanded by Heath, the other by its senior of-
ficer ; and the right also two, one under Thomas, the other under Spencer.
The left held the line from Mystic River to Prospect Hill ; the center,
from Prospect Hill to Charles River ; the right, from Charles River to
Roxbury Neck. The entire left wing, and perhaps half of the center, were
within Somerville limits, and her hills were crowned with the strongest and
most elaborate works of the whole line : the redoubt on Ten Hills Farm ;
the "Winter Hill Fort"; the "French Redoubt," on Central Hill; the
" Citadel," on Prospect Hill ; the strong intrenchments on Ploughed Hill,
which commanded the Neck, and defied the British on Bunker Hill ; " Fort
Number Three," near Union Square ; and " Putnam's Impregnable For-
tress," on Cobble Hill ; each must have reminded Gage of the similar work
he had captured at so great a sacrifice, on June 17, and brought to his mind
the question asked in England, viz, " If it cost a thousand men to take
Bunker Hill, how many will it cost to capture all the hills in America ? "
On July 6, 1775, the Continental Congress issued a declaration setting
forth the grievances of the Provinces, and reasons for taking arms ; on the
15th this was read at Cambridge, and on the i8th, to the army on Prospect
Hill, and was received with patriotic enthusiasm. A prayer was offered by
the Reverend Mr. Langdon, cannon were fired, and the Connecticut flag,
recently received by Putnam, unfurled. On one side it bore the motto,
" An Appeal to Heaven," and on the other, " Qui transtulet sustinet."
The American riflemen seriously annoyed the English, and cost them
many lives. Most of these were sharpshooters from Virginia and Pennsyl-
vania, and, having been accustomed to the rifle from childhood, were all
skillful marksmen. The American soldiers were aggressive, and made fre-
quent and often successful attempts to surprise the enemy's pickets, burn
their buildings, or capture their stores, and the British in their turn occa-
sionally ventured outside their lines on similar errands, but usually with
Some of the diarists of that time have left us interesting pictures of
camp and conflict ; one, the Reverend William Emerson, father of Ralph
Waldo, who was chaplain in the army, says : " My quarters are at the foot of
the famous Prospect Hill, where such great preparations are made for the
reception of the enemy. It is very diverting to walk among the camps " ;
" some are made of boards, and some of sail-cloth, some partly of one and
partly of the other. Again, others are made of stone and turf, brick or
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 2/
brush," " others curiously wrought with doors and windows, done with
wreaths and withes, in the manner of a basket."
Another, in September, speaks of the success, so far, of the British.
" Britain, at the expense of three millions, has killed one hundred and fifty
Yankees in this campaign, which is twenty thousand pounds a head ; and
on Bunker Hill she gained a mile of ground, half of which she has since
lost by not having post on Ploughed Hill" ; and adds that, "as meanwhile
sixty thousand children have been born in America," one can " easily calcu-
late the time and expense requisite to kill us all, and conquer our whole
In August, there were under Washington's command about forty regi-
ments, or something less than twenty thousand men, poorly supplied, and
with so little ammunition that the firing from our lines from necessity
nearly ceased. This scarcity of powder caused great alarm among the Amer-
ican officers, as the EngUsh appeared to be preparing for an attack. Re-
garding it, Colonel Reed wrote, " The word * powder ' sets us all on tiptoe ;
we are in a terrible situation, occasioned by a mistake in a return. We
reckoned upon three hundred quarter casks, and had but thirty-two barrels."
Early in the month of September about eight hundred men were de-
tached from the army to join General Arnold's unfortunate Quebec expedi-
tion, a large part being from Prospect Hill, mostly riflemen.
In October, Gage having returned to England, General Howe assumed
command, and soon issued a proclamation prohibiting anyone from leaving
Boston unless by his permission, on pain of execution as a traitor. They were
also forbidden to carry out more than five pounds in specie, the penalty be-
ing forfeiture, fine and imprisonment. These measures compelled Wash-
ington to issue orders of retaliation upon the Tories.
At this time, and afterwards, the people and troops in Boston are said
to have suffered severely from want, increased greatly by the loss of ships
laden with provisions and stores, captured by our privateers. They were
" almost in a state of starvation, for the want of food and fuel," and "being
totally destitute of vegetables, flour and fresh provisions, had actually been
obliged to feed on horse flesh." On the 9th of November, a force of four
hundred British crossed in boats to Lechmere Point, intending to capture
the stock there, but, the alarm being given, the Americans waded across to
meet them, a skirmish ensued in which the English ships took part, but
which resulted, as usual, in the retirement of his majesty's troops.
On the night of the 22d, General Putnam took possession of Cobble
Hill, and commenced fortifying. The work was skillfully planned and very
strong, and contrary to expectation, completed without molestation from
In December, Lechmere Point was also fortified, but the work on this
hill was thrown up under a continuous fire of shot and grape from the
British, which lasted several days. In this action the fort on Cobble Hill
took part with good effect, forcing an English ship to retire from the fight.
On December 28, an endeavor was made by a detachment from Winter
28 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
Hill to capture the enemy's pickets near the Neck. They attempted to
cross on the ice just south of Cobble Hill ; but one of 'the men, slipping, fell
and discharged his musket, thereby alarming the British, and the expedition
The new year brought much uneasiness to the patriot army ; veteran
troops, whose time had expired, were returning home " by thousands," and
new ones replacing them. This change was a difficult and dangerous one to
make in presence of an enemy, but Washington accomplished it without mo-
lestation ; and says of it that " it is not in the pages of history, perhaps, to
furnish a case " like it.
From Prospect Hill, on January i, 1776, the new flag of the United
Colonies was unfurled to the breeze, and for the first time bid defiance to
the foe ; it had thirteen stripes, alternate red and white ; but the field con-
tained, instead of stars, as now, the crosses of Saint George and Saint
Andrew. A year and a half later, stars took the place of crosses. A tablet
has been erected on the hill in memory of this flag-raising.
In February Colonel Knox arrived with the captured Ticonderoga can-
non and stores, some fifty pieces of artillery in all. These increased im-
mensely the offensive strength of the Americans, and a little later enabled
them to carry into execution that daring feat, the seizing and fortifying of
Dorchester Heights. This successful movement so seriously threatened the
British army and shipping, that after various threatening manoeuvres, on
Sunday, March 17, they embarked and left Boston forever. In their hasty
departure they left the Americans over one hundred cannon, and an im-
mense quantity of military stores.
The roar of cannon and mortars and the bursting of shells had shaken
Boston and the surrounding towns, resounding through the valleys, and re-
verberating among the hills, for nine weary months ; and now the people
hailed with rejoicing its cessation, and the departure of the British army of
occupation. Thus ended the siege, which in its inception, execution and
triumph was to the Americans one of the most successful achievements of
the war. But the news in England that her famed legions, supported by
her renowned navy, could be shut up for eleven months in a beleaguered
city, and finally driven to sea by a "rabble" they despised, but feared to
meet, was a cause of national mortification.
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 29
Designed Isolation of New England. — Surrender of Burgoyne. — Hessian
Prisoners Quartered in Somerville. — Ball and Supper given by General
Riedesel's Wife. — Poor Barracks for the Prisoners. — Scarcity of Fuel. —
Removal of the Prisoners.
The obstinate resistance of the people of Boston and of New England,
and the disastrous results of every attempt at their subjugation, caused the
English ministry to look upon that section as the center of insurrection,
and early in 1777 they planned a campaign designed to sever New England
from the rest of the colonies.
The lines of the Hudson River and Lake Champlain were to be oc-
cupied by armies from Canada, under Burgoyne, and from New York,
These lines were to be strongly fortified, and with the co-operation of
the fleet, it was believed this would effectually hem in the refractory section
and enable the King's forces to operate elsewhere with greater ease.
The conception was brilliant, but its execution was a failure, and thus
fresh laurels were added to the American arms.
After a series of successes and failures, Burgoyne surrendered to Gen-
eral Gates at Saratoga, on the 17th of October, 1777. Over nine hundred
officers and forty-eight hundred soldiers fell into the hands of the Ameri-
cans, together with thirty-five cannon and about five thousand stand of
Burgoyne's army consisted of British, Hessians, Canadians, Tories and
By the terms of surrender the Canadians were allowed to return
home, and the English and Hessians were to have free passage to England,
on condition of not serving again in this contest, Boston to be their point
of embarkation. With this understanding they started on their weary jour-
ney over the Green Mountains, and arrived at Somerville on November 7.
The English, about twenty-three hundred, under General Philips, were
marched to Prospect Hill and vicinity, and the Hessians, about nineteen
hundred, under General Riedesel, to Winter Hill.
A letter, describing the arrival of the prisoners, says : —
"Last Thursday, which was a very stormy day, a large number of
British troops came softly through the town, via Watertown to Prospect
Hill. On Friday we heard the Hessians were to make a procession in the
30 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
They are described as being poor, dirty and emaciated ; with them
came "great numbers of women, who seemed to be the beasts of burden,
hrving bushel baskets on their backs, by which they were bent double ; the
contents seemed to be pots and kettles, various sorts of furniture, children
peeping through gridirons and other utensils."
General Riedesel's family accompanied the expedition, and in her de-
scription of this journey, Madame Riedesel says : —
" As it was already very late in the season, and the weather raw, I had
my calash covered with coarse linen, which, in turn, was varnished over
with oil ; and in this manner we set out on our journey to Boston, which
was very tedious, besides being attended with considerable hardship. I
know not whether it was my carriage that attracted the curiosity of the peo-
ple to it — for certainly it had the appearance of a wagon in which they
carry around rare animals — but often I was obliged to halt, because the
people insisted upon seeing the wife of the German general with her
children. For fear that they would tear off the linen covering from the
wagon in their eagerness to see me, I very often alighted, and by this
means got away more quietly. However, I must say that the people were
very friendly, and were particularly delighted at my being able to speak
English, which was the language of their country."
" At last we arrived at Boston ; and our troops were quartered in bar-
racks not far from Winter Hill. We were billeted at the house of a coun-
tryman, where we had only one room under the roof.
" My women servants slept on the floor, and our men servants in the
entry. Some straw, which I placed under our beds, served us for a long
time, as I had with me nothing more than my own field bed."
In a short time the quarters of General Riedesel were changed from
near Winter Hill, where his family had been very unpleasantly situated, to
more pretentious ones at Cambridge, where most of the captive officers were,
and where they lived comfortably, if not sumptuously.
Mrs. Riedesel thus describes one of the entertainments given here : —
"On the 3d of June, 1778, I gave a ball and supper in celebration of
the birthday of my husband. I had invited to it all the generals and
officers." " We danced considerably, and our cook prepared us a magnifi-
cent supper of more than eight covers. Moreover, our courtyard and garden
were illuminated. As the birthday of the King of England came upon the
following day, which was the fourth, it was resolved that we would not
separate until his health had been drank ; which was done with the most
hearty attachment to his person and his interests. Never, I believe, has
* God save the King ' been sung with more enthusiasm or more genuine good
will." " As soon as the company separated, we perceived that the whole
house was surrounded by Americans, who, having seen so many people go
into the house, and having noticed, also, the illumination, suspected that
we were planning a mutiny, and if the slightest disturbance had arisen, it
would have cost us dear."
General Heath, whom we remember at Lexington, was placed in com-
mand of the prisoners, and of the Americans guarding them.
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 3 1
Meanwhile Congress decided to ignore the articles of surrender grant-
: ng free passage to England, and, as a result, Burgoyne and his troops were
leld as ordinary prisoners of war. This caused intense indignation among
:he captives, English and Hessians, as well as in England ; and with a man
Df less judgment than Heath in command, might have resulted seriously.
As it was, the troops during their entire captivity were in a state bor-
dering on revolt.
Disputes and trouble between them and the Americans were of daily
occurrence, and in several instances resulted in bloodshed. On one oc-
casion a Hessian prisoner received a serious bayonet wound from a conti-
nental soldier, and on another a British soldier a sword thrust from an
The most serious event was the shooting of an English officer who was
riding in a chaise with two ladies along the foot of Prospect Hill, but who
failed to answer the challenge of the sentry.
The act was stigmatized as murder by Burgoyne, and the prisoners
were wild with exasperation. The sentry was tried by court-martial and
The officer was buried from Christ Church, old Cambridge.
The British and Hessian soldiers, while in Somerville, were quartered
in the old barracks left by the Americans after the siege of Boston, the pre-
vious year, at which the prisoners made bitter and frequent complaints. A
writer, speaking of them says : " These barracks had been erected for . . .
use during the siege of Boston, and were of the lightest description. The
wind whistled through the thin walls, the rain came through the roofs, the
snow lay in drifts on the floor."
General Riedesel says of them : " Indeed the greater number of the
soldiers are so miserably lodged that they are unable to shelter themselves
from cold and rain in this severe season of the year ; and in spite of the
handsome promises and the fact that they are here fourteen days, and not-
withstanding, also, my offer that the men would make the repairs themselves
if the necessary materials were furnished, nothing has been provided for
them yet. The soldiers, of whom twenty to twenty-four occupy the same
barrack, are without light at night. Three of them sleep in the same bed.
They receive, also, so little fuel that they can scarcely cook our rations, to
say nothing of warming the cold rooms. In fact, they have not even con-
sidered it worth while to establish a rule by which the officers and privates,
according to their rank, may receive fuel."
The scarcity of fuel during this winter of 1777-8 was so great that the
guards as well as the prisoners suffered severely, and in their straits spared
neither tree nor fence, which, however, furnished meagre warmth for so
great a number, miserably sheltered.
The prisoners remained here from November, 1777, until November,
1778, when it was thought prudent to move them inland, and they were
marched first to Rutland, Massachusetts, and then to Virginia.
Thus ended the Revolutionary drama here.
32 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
Revival of Industries after the Revolution. — Brick-making in Somerville. —
Celebrated Farms. — The Bleachery. — The Middlesex Canal. — Completion
of Bridges to Boston. — The First Railroad through Somerville. — Establish-
ment of the McLean Asylum. — Robbery of Major Bray. — The Ursuline
Convent and its Destruction. — Town Improvements. — Establishment of
Schools. — Beginning of a Fire Department. — Separation of Somerville from
The Revolution over, industries and public improvements absorbed the
energies which for eight years had known little else than war, and from this
time until its separation from Charlestown, Somerville's material progress
was continuous, though perhaps slow. Many were the industries of her
people during this period. Among the most notable were brick-making,
farming and milk-raising.
The brick-making business " held high carnival " here for years before
and since the town was set off. The time, conditions and location, near a
great city just beginning to change from wooden to brick constructions, were
more than favorable. The town abounded not only with a superior quality
of clay, but the best of sand, which were generally near one another-
Wood had to be brought by team or canal.
These clays bordered and underlay the marshes and scattered generously
around the town, from the present Wyatt Park to the northerly slope of Winter
Hill. The burning kilns, for years, smoked the days and illumined the
nights. In one way or another a majority, perhaps, of the townspeople
were interested in this prosperous business. The sand industry was also
great, and its excavations covered a considerable territory, which before
was at a much higher elevation than now.
Farming, and milk and stock raising were carried on extensively. The
old road from Charlestown Neck through Union Square, Bow Street and
Somerville Avenue into Elm Street, from the dairy farms bordering it, was
called, until recently " Milk Row." Ten Hills, while Derby and Jaques
were its proprietors, was noted as a stock farm. The best breed of horses,
cattle and sheep, some being choice importations, gave it a world-wide repu-
tation. Colonel Jaques was not only a horseman and huntsman, and a
lover and raiser of fine stock, but the raising of choice poultry was among
his pursuits. Some of the finest varieties in the country were imported by
him. Another estate in the town was also noted : the farm of Joseph Bar-
rell, afterward the site of the McLean Asylum. Barrell was a man of leisure
and fine tastes. He made horticulture a study, and his gardens contained
the choicest varieties of fruits and flowers.
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 33
While many of the important industries which were started here in the
early days of the century are now almost forgotten, one still flourishes
after a life of seventy-five years : the bleachery on Somerville Avenue, incor-
])orated in 1821 as the Charlestown Bleachery. It has changed proprietor-
' jhip and name several times since then, being known as the Milk Row
Bleachery, the Somerville Dyeing and Bleaching Company, and the Mid-
dlesex Bleachery and Dye Works. Its latest owners were Messrs. K. M.
Gilmore and John Haigh, the latter recently deceased. The bleachery
people form almost a community of their own, and the narrative of their
three quarters of a century, if written, would be very entertaining.
One other calling has had a long existence : stone quarrying. It began
nearly or quite two hundred and fifty years ago, and still flourishes.
Among other establishments in Somerville before its incorporation,
were a pottery, grist mill, distillery, rope walks and spike works.
Several public enterprises were inaugurated while the city was a part
of Charlestown. The Middlesex Canal, incorporated in 1792, was com-
pleted in 1803, under the superintendence of that famous engineer, Loamm
Baldwin. It extended from Charlestown to Chelmsford. Up to 18 19 there
had been one hundred assessments on its stockholders, and the enterprise
had yielded little if any return to its proprietors, and had cost |5 1,1 64, 200.
With its locks, bridges and creeping boats, it must have added much to the
picturesqueness of the landscape. Like the stage coaches and baggage
wagons of primitive days, it sulkily retreated on the approach of the rail-
road, and became with them an antique curiosity. Its ruins are still dis-
cernible in a few places within the city.
An old stone which stood in Harvard Square until recently, bore the
words " To Boston 8 miles." It was set there before Charlestown or Cam-
bridge had any bridge connection with the metropolis, and indicated the
distance to it by carriage. From Prospect Hill it was nearly ten miles to
Boston by highway. Great was the rejoicing therefore when, in 1786, the
bridge from Charlestown, and in 1793, that from Cambridge to Boston were
completed, and the eight or ten weary miles became little more than two.
In 1787 the Maiden bridge was built, and in 1809 the Craigie bridge from
East Cambridge to Boston.
About 1803, Medford Turnpike, now Mystic Avenue, was laid out from
Medford Centre to Charlestown Neck. Another early road was Middlesex
Turnpike, now Beacon, and Hampshire Street, from North, now Massachu-
setts Avenue, at North Cambridge, to Broadway in lower Cambridgeport.
Both of these great thoroughfares were the direct result of the new bridges,
to which they were the feeders of country travel. But it was the coming of
the railroad that awoke the new era. The ill effects of its advent on the canal
and the coach have been mentioned, but it brought a great and general in-
crease of business and prosperity.
The first railroad through Somerville was the Lowell, opened in 1835.
Its building incurred much opposition from property owners along its route.
In 1836 the Charlestown Branch was incorporated, it being at first what its
34 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
name implies, a branch of the Lowell, running from a point a little north of
the present Fitchburg, to the wharves in Charlestown, the headquarters of
the ice traffic. It was shortly after extended to Fresh Pond, and, in 1842,
its franchise descended to a new company, the Fitchburg. The first pas-
senger station in Somerville established on the Lowell road, was at its
crossing with Washington Street; and the first on the Fitchburg, at its
crossing with Kent Street, just in the rear of the present Franklin School
lot ; both are now gone.
The Lowell, and the Charlestown Branch, were the only railroads exist-
ing in Somerville previous to its incorporation.
In 1 816 the beautiful estate on Cobble Hill, or, as Barrell named it,
" Pleasant Hill," was sold to the Massachusetts General Hospital, to be
dedicated two years later as a retreat for the mentally afiiicted, and such it
has remained until recent days ; but it has now yielded its loveliness to
traffic's iron rail and wheel. The asylum received its name from John
McLean, its generous benefactor. Its first superintendent was Dr. Rufus
Wyman, followed consecutively by Dr. Luther V. Bell, one of Somerville's
martyrs in the Civil War, Dr. Chauncy Booth, Dr. John E. Tyler, Dr. George
F. Jelly, and last, Dr. Edward Cowles, its present superintendent.
During the town's pre-incorporate period, two incidents of more than
ordinary moment occurred : the robbery of Major Bray and the burning of
the Ursuline Convent.
The robbery of Major Bray took place on the night of August 13, 1821,
on Medford Turnpike, now Mystic Avenue, that reproach to city and
county, and not far from Temple Street. Medford in those days held high
place among the towns, as the residence of the Governor, that gallant old
hero of Bunker Hill and other Revolutionary fields. Major John Brooks.
His receptions were frequent, and his guests were gathered from Boston
and surrounding towns. It was on one of these occasions that Major Bray,
while returning to Boston, was waylaid by that recently imported artist of
the highway, Mike Martin, alias " Captain Lightfoot," neither of which was
his correct name. Martin had watched the Governor's house, and as the
Major drove away, singled him out for his victim. Mounting his horse,
Martin soon overtook Bray, who at the muzzles of Lightfoot's pistols de-
livered up his watch and money. Mrs. Bray was in the carriage, but from
her Martin, who was a chivalrous rogue, took nothing, gallantly remarking
that he " never robbed ladies." He was captured not long after, tried and
convicted, and was the first and last example under the law which made high-
way robbery a capital crime. In his defense he strenuously asserted that
the pistols which threatened Major Bray were empty and that Bray was un-
The Ursuline Convent on Mount Benedict was opened on July 17,
1826, under the auspices of the " Ursuline Community." Its purpose was
" the education of female youth," " to adorn their minds with useful knowl-
edge and to form their hearts to virtue." The school was divided into a
junior and a senior department ; in the former were taught the " common
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 35
branches of education," in the latter ancient and modern languages,
sciences, music and art, including ornamental work and other accomplish-
rients. Probably no other institution in New England offered such an ex-
tensive range of studies.
Although professedly sectarian, it was liberally patronized by young
ladies of all creeds, the majority being Protestants ; for it was claimed that
" the religious opinions of the children are not interfered with." The
])uilding was beautifully situated on heights commanding the landscape in
all directions, and the grounds were ornamentally laid out with fine gar-
dens, foliage and flowers. No event occurred to disturb the " even tenor "
of the school until 1833, when the flight of one of its pupils. Miss Rebecca
Reed, who had been converted from Protestantism, and the publication by
her of a book, purporting to give an account of life there, and of alleged
abuses, called public attention to the institution, and was largely instru-
mental in creating a feeling of antagonism against it, especially in the
minds of those who were prone to strong religious prejudices.
On the night of the 28th of July the next year (1834), a second incident
occurred which increased intensely this feeling. It was the escape of a
nun. Sister " Mary John," as she was called. She is said to have been suf-
fering at the time with a fit of " mental derangement." She was sought for
by the bishop, but at first refused to return. The next day, however, hav-
ing somewhat recovered, she evidently reconsidered her previous refusal,
and was taken back to the convent.
From this occurrence sprang various rumors in the press and on the
streets, all of which were derogatory to the Ursuline Community, and
tended to greatly increase the feeling against it. Threats of the destruction
of the building were whispered around, and the excitement grew stronger
and stronger as fresh rumors passed from mouth to mouth, until with the
fatal August 11, 1834, came the storm which laid all in ruins.
A full warning had been given the " Community " that the convent was
to be destroyed on that day, and all indications pointed to the probable ex-
ecution of the threat, yet only feeble efforts on the part of the town author-
ities were taken to prevent it. In the early evening a mob of many
hundred gathered outside the convent grounds, and after much noise and
disturbance, the gates were forced, fences torn down, and the mob surged
up to the building. When the lady superior saw the temper of the assail-
ants, she is said to have endeavored to stay their work by threatening them
with the retaliation from twenty thousand Irishmen. About this time two
shots were fired by some one in the crowd, upon which the inmates
abandoned the building and retired to the gardens. The doors were
battered down, and the rioters, flushed with excitement, overran the build-
ing, which was soon in flames. The fire engines were called out, but it is
nowhere recorded that the firemen made any effectual attempt to quench
the fire. It was even thought by some, though never proven, that they
were in sympathy with the mob. The inmates, who were all females,
sought refuge in the house of Mr. Adams, which is still standing, on Broad-
36 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. '
way, near Sargent Avenue, and the rioters, having finished their work of
desolation, retired. It was feared that more rioting would follow, but the
p' ecautions now taken by the authorities averted further danger.
Thirteen of those known to have participated in the attack were ar-
rested and tried, but owing to conflicting evidence, or for some other rea-
son, only one was found guilty, and it was strongly, and probably with
truth, asserted, that he, a youth only, was the least guilty of all. Religious
feeling ran very high in those days, it would seem, and there are also rea-
sons for believing that pure religious sentiments might have been found as
easily elsewhere as in the hearts of the men who, in the darkness of night,
could attack a defenseless community of women and children, most of the
latter being of their own religious faith. But in condemning a deed, which,
looked at calmly to-day, sixty-two years after its occurrence, seems to us
extremely brutal and unchristian, it may perhaps be well to remember that
in all ages, great political and religious excitement have led men to the
perpetration of acts which, in their calmer moments, they would have con-
demned, which leads us to exclaim, nearly in the words of Madam Roland,
" Oh, religion ! how many crimes in thy name are committed " ; and these
words are applicable to no one creed alone.
But few town improvements were made in Somerville while part of
Charlestown. Its highways were neglected and its school facilities
meagre. True, three important avenues were opened, viz. : Middlesex
Turnpike, Medford Street and Medford Turnpike. But for these, being
private enterprises, the town government deserved no credit. Five schools
had been established, one grammar, and four primary, the buildings being
one-story, cheap structures, and generally costing not over a thousand dol-
lars, the land for which, in some cases, had been donated.
In 1838 one fire engine had been generously given this section, the
" Mystic, No. 6," it being the cast-off " Tub " of Company No. 6, of the penin-
sula, which then became No. 7. A wooden structure was built for this on
the site now occupied by the No. i Hose Company, at the corner of Wash-
ington and Prospect Streets. The Mystic was a small machine, fed with
buckets. Its company of thirty-five members included many, if not most
of the prominent citizens of Somerville.
Twenty years, and probably more, before our city was finally set off
from Charlestown, the people of this section became dissatisfied with the
way in which town affairs were conducted. Though contributing their full
quota to the treasury, they felt that they received no equivalent return in
public improvements. As the result, attempts were made at various times
to divide Charlestown, by the inhabitants "outside the Neck," which pro-
ject was strenuously opposed by the denizens of the peninsula, or, when
favored by the latter, as on one occasion it was, objectionable conditions
were imposed, which defeated the project. But at last the "outsiders"
succeeded in obtaining the act of separation, approved by the Governor,
March 3, 1842. The act was hailed with delight, and duly celebrated with
a supper at which were representative guests from surrounding towns, and
with dancing and a salute of cannon.
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
From Separation to the Rebellion.
Town Beginnings. — Expenses of Early Town Government. — Highways Described.
— Growth of the Town. — Survey of the Town. — Railroads and their Exten-
sion. — Horse Railroads Opened. — Industries of Early Somerville. — Fire
Department and its Growth. — Organization of the Somerville Light Infantry.
— Schools and their Development. — Churches.
On March 5, two days after the approval by the Governor of the act of
setting off, the inhabitants were notified to meet "at the Prospect Hill
School House " on Medford Street, on the fourteenth day of March, for the
choice of town officers, at which meeting the following were elected : Select-
men, Nathan Tufts, John S. Edgerly, Caleb W. Leland, Luther Mitchell
and Francis Bowman. Town Clerk, Charles E. Oilman. Treasurer and
Collector, Edmund Tufts. The salaries paid during the first few years
were many removes from munificent, and compared with the figures of the
present day, seem extremely diminutive.
Salaries for 1842.
Paid John C. Magoun for assessing taxes . . . $ 15.00
" Charles E. Oilman as Town Clerk .
" Edmund Tufts as Treasurer and Collector
Oliver Tufts for assessing taxes
Total salaries paid ^250.00
The salaries of the same officials for 1843 were I270. The whole ex-
pense of carrying on the Town Government from March 3, 1842, to March
3, 1843, was as follows : —
Cash paid Benjamin Hadley's note
Interest on note
Fire Department .
Salaries and Fees .
Abatement of taxes
Cash on hand.
38 SOMERVILLE, PAST AMD PRESENT,
The receipts of the town the first year were : —
From Taxes . ^5,007.08
" Benj. Hadley's note 600.00
" The State Military bounty 45.00
Total . . . $5,652.08
The town grew rapidly and the public expenses kept pace. By 1853,
the cost of schools had increased to $9,150.51; highways to $3,953.17;
fire department to $147.39, and salaries to $708.50; while $1,112.67 was
spent for relief of the poor, the total expense for the year being $24,356.37,
or four times the amount spent in 1842.
In i860, the year previous to the war, the town's expenses had increased
to $38,052.87, the schools costing $17,505.91, highways $6,989.39, fire de-
partment $1,821.41, salaries $1,453.45, and the poor $1,660.81. The salaries
this latter year were as follows: Town Clerk, $300.00; three Assessors,
$400.00; Collector, $453.45 ; Treasurer, $300.00.
Somerville began her town career with a meagre equipment : a pound, a
valueless fire engine, a few cheap schoolhouses, and some poor roads,
completing the list of her possessions.
Broadway and Washington Street were her oldest and principal high-
ways. Milk Street (Somerville Avenue), from North Cambridge to Elm
Street, was new ; from there to Bow Street it was part of the ancient
"Charlestown Lane," thence to Union Square recent, and new from the
Square to Medford Street, the different sections being laid out at various
In earlier times. Bow and Elm Streets were also parts of " Charlestown
Lane." Prospect, Beacon and Main Streets, and Mystic Avenue, were all in
existence in 1842. Franklin and Cross Streets were open, but the remaining
Rangeways were narrow, and probably steep or otherwise impassable, or
entirely closed. Sycamore and Temple Streets were private lanes. The
former ran from Barberry Lane to the old Lee Headquarters, the latter
from Broadway to Colonel Jaques' mansion. Newton Street, from Prospect,
southerly, was the narrow and antique Brick Yard Lane, running, as its
name says, to brickyards. A part of it, however, was one of the pre-revolu-
tionary ways from Charlestown to Cambridge. Medford Street was also
open from Broadway to East Cambridge. Barberry Lane was the " Middle
Way " of a century ago. It was one rod and a half wide, and began at Cross
Street, opposite the Universalist Church ; thence it ran to Fosdick Square,
which was where Medford Street and Highland Avenue now join, and
thence to School Street, where the first section of it ended.
The Lowell Railroad cut this lane in two. Avon Place from Cross Street
to the railroad was a part of it, and Chester Avenue another part; the re-
mainder of it was widened to forty feet, and became " Church Street," part
of the Highland Avenue of to-day. The second section of Barberry Lane
SOMERVILLE, PAST AISTD PRESENT, 39
began at School Street about ten rods north of the first, and ran north-
^/esterly to Central Street, where it ended; it was long since abandoned.
The growth of the town between 1842 and 1861 claimed the constantly
increasing attention of the Selectmen to the improvement of the old, and
the building of new streets. The Department of Highways during this pe-
]iod was carefully and economically managed; streets were graded and
:nacadamized, sidewalks built, gutters paved, street signs put up, etc. The
act that our soil was chiefly clay or clayey gravel, and our ledges mostly
slate, both unsuitable material for heavy travel, rendered the task of good
road making very difficult, so that notwithstanding their best efforts, our
most traveled streets were at times beds of dust, or sloughs of mud. With
a view to remedying this, a gravel bank was early purchased at Winchester,
and gravel for our roads was brought over the railroad.
In 1 85 1, a careful survey of the town was made, and in 1852 a map
published by Martin Draper, Jr., who at that time was principal of the
Prospect Hill Grammar School.
In 1859, the town voted to have a complete survey of its highways,
which was begun shortly after, and finished in 1861. The survey embraced
all the roadways then opened, public or private, and many prospective ones.
It was carefully done, and granite posts were set to define and preserve the
When the town was incorporated, it consisted chiefly of farms, brick-
yards and marshes. Some lands in East Somerville had been lotted and
put on the market, but little if any elsewhere. Soon, however, there was
great activity in real estate, so that by 1855, land valued in 1842 at only
fifty or one hundred dollars an acre, had advanced to two or three thousand
dollars per acre, and some to ten thousand ; and flourishing settlements
began, not only in East Somerville, but near Union Square and on Pros-
pect, Spring and Winter PI ills, each a little village of itself.
In 1842 the population was 1,013, i'^ i^So? 3>524, and in i860, 8,025 ; the
valuation also increased from $988,513 in 1842, to $2,102,631 in 1850, and
to $6,033,053 in i860.
In its first year the town taxes were $5,007.08, in 1850, $i6,956.22,in 1855,
$27,701.46, and in i860, $29,316.11 ; the tax rate per thousand being in
1842, $4.29; 1845, $3.60; 1850, $5.65; 1855,16.40; i860, $5.70.
The prosperity of the town is perhaps indicated by the fact that while
in 1842 only two persons, Henry Hill and Charles Tufts, paid over one
hundred dollars in taxes, in 1850, fifteen residents and seven non-residents
paid taxes ranging from one hundred and one dollars to three hundred
and thirty-nine dollars; and in i860, thirty-seven residents and thirteen
non-residents paid taxes ranging from one hundred and three dollars to
five hundred and seven dollars each.
The Fitchburg Railroad, the successor to the Charlestown Branch (of
the Lowell), incorporated in 1842, was opened to Waltham in 1843, and to
40 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
Fitchburg in 1845 ; its crooked route through Somerville was meanwhile
straightened, and a few years after, it was extended to Boston, its terminus
previously having been Charlestown. Until 1857 it crossed the Lowell at
grade, but it was then lowered and the Lowell raised and bridged over it.
In 1 85 1 the Vermont Central was finished, which gave continuous rail-
road connection between Boston and Canada. The rejoicing over this event
lasted several days. One feature of the celebration was a steam calliope,
whose musical scream some of our older citizens probably remember.
The year 1845 saw the extension of the Boston and Maine through
Somerville to Boston. This road was chartered in 1833 as the Andover and
Wilmington, and was then a branch of the Lowell.
The Grand Junction Railroad was projected in 1849, ^^^ was built from
the Eastern and Boston and Maine to the Fitchburg. It was opened in
1 85 1, and later was extended across Cambridge and the Charles River to
the Albany Railroad. After considerable litigation it passed, in 1869, into
the control of the Albany, by reason of whose connection with the western
railroads, the Grand Junction became the great feeder for European traffic.
At this time there were no regular lines of steamers between Boston and
foreign ports. They were soon established, however, and proved so successful
that the number which cleared during the year 1880 was over three hundred,
and Boston's exports increased proportionally.
The Eastern Railroad, which previously ran from Salem to deep water
at East Boston, was extended through this town to Boston proper in 1854.
The Harvard Branch was another railroad built here before the war. It
started from the Fitchburg near the Bleachery and ran to Harvard Square,
the depot being near the junction of Kirkland Street and North Avenue. It
was incorporated in 1848, but had a short life, having ceased running in 1851.
Its entire equipment was a single passenger car, in one end of which was
the locomotive, whose smoke-pipe, covered with a screen, peeped out above
the roof, from which circumstance it was christened the " pepper-box," which
it somewhat resembled.
These were all the railroads built in Somerville before the war ; others
will be mentioned in a later chapter.
Previous to 1858 steam cars and omnibuses or " hourlies " were the only
conveyances to Boston, but neither fully accommodated the public. This
year two lines of horse railroads were opened into the town, one over
Broadway to Winter Hill, the other up Washington Street to Union Square,
and thence through Somerville Avenue (then Milk Street) and Elm Street to
West Somerville. They were built along the sides of the streets, near the
gutters, and were laid with sleepers and T-rail, like those of a steam road.
In 1842 the inhabitants of the town were chiefly employed in brick-
making, farming and milk raising ; but " New times demand new manners
and new men " ; so after the " separation " advertisements were inserted in
the Boston papers, calling the attention of mechanics and others to the in-
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 4 1
fant town. In 1845 it had added tinware, pumps, paint manufacturing and
cigar making, and perhaps other trades, and in 1855, besides the foregoing,
we find a long list of new industries, among the principal of which are
rolling and spike mills, steam engines and boilers, brass tube works, glass
works, vinegar works, steam planing mills, harness and trunk factory, curry-
ing, a bakery and upholstery hair factory. This increase of trades and
manufactures was probably due largely to the railroad facilities of the town.
A comparison of the products of a few of the principal industries of
1845 with those of 1855 show some of the changes wrought in a decade.
Bricks made in 1845, 27,500,000; in 1855, 17,000,000; decrease, 10,500,000.
Potatoes raised in 1845, 5,700 bushels; in 1855, 1,400 bushels; decrease,
4,300 bushels. Hay in 1845, 980 tons; in 1855, 630 tons ; decrease, 350 tons.
Value of horses, cattle, etc., in 1845, ^20,000; in 1855, ^42,000. Cordage
manufactured in 1845, 14 tons; in 1855, 54 tons. Cloth bleached or
dyed in 1845,4,500,000 yards; in 1855, 21,600,000 yards. It will thus be
seen that in this decade began the decline of brickmaking and farming,
while manufacturing and kindred industries increased.
The Middlesex Bleachery and Dye Works employed in 1845 thirty-seven
persons, and in 1855, eighty. Brickmaking in 1845 gave employment to
about three hundred and fifty men in the various yards, but in 1855 there
were only two hundred and twenty engaged in it.
The Union Glass Works were established about 1854, with a capital of
$60,000, the projectors being Amory and Francis Houghton. In 1855 the
value of glass ware made was $120,000, and it employed one hundred work-
men. The establishment is still in operation, after a life of over forty years.
The American Brass Tube Works were built in or about 1851, for the
manufacture of seamless brass tubes, the process being a carefully guarded
secret, not patented. Their capital was 1 100,000, and the product in 1855
was said to be $200,000, and the number of men employed forty.
The first attempt to obtain a fire engine for the Somerville district is
related in Charlestown records thus : —
" 7th March, 1831." "Voted thafthe subject of the 8th article, to wit,
' To know whether the Town will purchase an engine to be located at or near
the School house. Milk Row, petitioned for by Samuel Kent and others,' be
referred to the engineers to consider and report at the adjournment of the
present meeting," and the result is shown in the following record. " April
4, 1 83 1." "Under the 8th article, the engineers, among other things re-
ported, as on file, that it is inexpedient to purchase an engine to be located
at Milk Row ; which report being read, thereupon, voted that the same be
The above location asked for must have been near the cemetery. In
1838, the old Charlestown Co. No. 6 desiring an improved machine, the au-
thorities generously donated the old " Mystic No. 6 " to Somerville, and at a
town meeting on May 7, the following "Article 1 1 " was presented : " To see if
4i SOMERVfLLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
the Town will erect a house for Engine No. 6 near Milk Row," whereupon it
was " voted " " That the engineers be authorized to erect the house at the
place named in the article," and also " voted" "That ^oo be raised for the
purpose of defraying the expenses of building said house."
The Somervillians of those days were hard to satisfy, for soon a further
demand seems to have been made, and on March 27, 1839, it was —
" Voted " " That Messrs. Goodrich and Elliott [T. J.] be a committee to
consider of the expediency of erecting a belfry on engine house No. 6, Milk
Row ; also to ascertain the probable expense and report to the Board," and
on "April 8, 1839, voted, that Nathan Tufts be added to the committee to
consider the expediency of erecting a belfry on engine house, Cambridge
Road [Milk Row] so called." " The committee subsequently reported that
it was expedient to erect the belfry, whereupon, voted, that the committee
proceed forthwith to erect the same, provided the cost does not exceed forty
In 1 841 the "Milk Row " Company evidently became dissatisfied with
their miniature bucket machine, and asked for a " suction engine," with the
customary success, for we find it recorded that, on petition of Hiram Allen,
voted, inexpedient to buy a new " suction engine " to replace No. 6 ; and so
" Mystic 6 " remained eight years longer, the only protection from fire for
In 1849 the new "crack" " Hunneman tub," was purchased by the
town and christened " Somerville No. i," and the poor friendless "Mystic
6 " was trundled off to a stable on Broadway near Marshall Street, and
four years later was sold for I33. 00 as old junk.
In 1850 an Act of the Legislature was passed " to establish a fire depart-
ment in the town of Somerville." The department was organized with
Nathan Tufts as its first chief engineer. He was followed by Abram Welch,
Robert A. Vinal, and John Runy, who was the last chief previous to the war.
None of these are now living.
Herein has been outlined only the early history and chief events of
Somerville's Fire Department, as elsewhere in this volume their narrative
has been more fully written.
The first indication of martial spirit in Somerville, after the " separa-
tion," is shown by an item in her annual expenses for " military bounty,"
$45.00 paid to John S. Edgerly and eight others. These bounties continued
to be paid in varying amounts until 1853, when the Somerville Light Infan-
try was organized under command of Captain George O. Brastow, suc-
ceeded in 1854 by Captain Francis Tufts. In 1859 Captain Brastow again
assumed command. The company's armory and drill room was at first in
" Franklin Hall," which on Sundays was used as a church. The hall was
in Union Square at the junction of Somerville Avenue and Washington
Street. It was owned by Mr. Robert Vinal and has since been destroyed
by fire. Upon the completion of the new brick engine house at the corner
SOMERVILLE, PAST AI^D PRESENT. 43
cf Washington and Prospect Streets, its armory was transferred to that
The Somerville Light Infantry, at this time, was attached to the 5th
legiment as Company " B" ; at the commencement of the war in 1861 be-
coming Company " I." The honorable record of this organization in the
Civil War will be mentioned in a succeeding chapter.
The early military matters of Somerville can hardly be referred to with-
.)ut mentioning three persons identified prominently with the state militia.
They were Colonel Samuel Jaques, spoken of in a former chapter, Captain
Henry A. Snow of the Boston Fusileers, identified with that company since
£841, and still its captain ; and Major Caleb Page, commander of the " Fly-
ing Artillery," that company whose lightning manoeuvres were the admira-
tion of all.
Her schools, the pride of Somerville, had humble beginnings. Five
little houses, grudgingly built by the Charlestown authorities before the sep-
aration, were her entire educational establishment. They were as follows :
" Pound Primary," on Broadway, corner of Franklin Street.
" Winter Hill Primary," west side of Central Street, near Broadway.
" Milk Row Primary," on Somerville Avenue adjoining the cemetery.
" Prospect Hill Primary," on Medford Street, in what is now Central
" Prospect Hill Grammar," adjoining the primary, in Central Square.
Another school was kept for a part of the year 1842, known as the
" Primary School in the Russell District," though there was then no school-
house in that part of the town.
The teachers of these schools, and their salaries for the term commenc-
ing May I, 1842, and ending February i, 1843, were as follows, viz. : —
Pound Primary, Mary E. Brown ^157.50
Winter Hill Primary, Lucy D. Smith .... 157.50
Milk Row Primary, Sarah M. Burnham .... 157.50
Prospect Hill Primary, Eliza P. Whitredge . . . 157.50
Russell District Primary (6 mos.), Clara D, Whittemore 72.00
Prospect Hill Grammar, Wm. E. Graves .... 450.00
Total amount paid teachers the first year of the town . 11,152.00
All other school expenses were $135.96, making the total cost of schools,
including salaries, for this first year, $1,287.96.
The assessed value of the foregoing schoolhouses in 1843 was : —
Pound School $600.00
Prospect Hill Grammar and Primary .... 1,400.00
Milk Row 650.00
Winter Hill . 500.00
Total value of schoolhouses in Somerville when set off, $3,150.00
44 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
In 1843 two new schoolhouses were built, one in the " Russell District "
on Broadway on land purchased of Charles Tufts at a cost of |ioo, known
afterwards as the Walnut Hill School, and the other as the " Lower Winter
Hi.l School," which probably replaced the " Pound School." These were
built by Mr. Jerome Thorp, who is still a resident of the city, and at a cost
of $600 and $605 respectively.
New schoolhouses and schools raised the educational expenses of 1843-
1844 to $3,393.88, but in 1844-1845 they fell to $2,761.35. The average of
pupils attending school in 1843 was two hundred and fifty-five, and the
number of children returned as of school age was three hundred and two.
The first published report of the School Committee was that of April,
1844, covering the year of 1 843-1 844, and was made by Luther V. Bell, its
chairman. This report, in speaking of the two new schoolhouses built the
previous year, says, " The edifices are planned'externally with much taste,
and the internal arrangements made in the most approved mode." They
are spoken of as *' little temples of learning." The committee also suggest
to the parents that " posterity would thank them should they, the present
spring, set out as many trees as are needed, in the squares which have been
reserved about the schoolhouses," adding that, "The spirit of the age and
of the Commonwealth requires that this should be done," which spirit has
since materialized in our annual Arbor Day.
During the year 1 846-1 847 two more school edifices were erected and
named, one the " Prescott " grammar and primary, on the corner of Broadway
and Franklin Streets, the other the " Franklin " grammar and primary, on
Milk Row (now Somerville Avenue) at corner of Kent Street Thus by the
beginning of the year 1847 the five schools had increased to nine, three
grammar and six primary. In 1848 the commodious Prospect Hill grammar
and primary school was built. It accommodated two hundred and sixty-four
pupils, and was opened on December 25. The name of the old " Prospect
Hill" wa§ now changed to " Medford Street School." On September i,
1848, a new school was commenced on Beacon Street, south of Washington
Street near the Cambridge fine, and called the " Harvard Primary." Its
house was the old school building removed from the Prescott district, and
perhaps the one built there in 1843 as before mentioned.
The School Committee, in their report of March, 1849, speak with pride
of the increase in school facilities, and say that " the liberality of the town
in providing for its schools^has placed it first on the list in the county, and
only third in the Commonwealth."
The following is a list of the books used in the grammar schools in
Well's Grammar, Russell's Sequel to Primary Reader, Russell's Intro-
duction, American First Class Book, Instructive Reader, Worcester's Dic-
tionary, Swan's Spelling Book, Mitchell's Geographies, Emerson's Arith-
metic, Parker's Philosophy, Worcester's History, Wreath of School Songs.
In 1850 the " Spring Hill Primary " was erected on Elm Place, and the
" Cherry Street Primary " School on the west side of the street, near Elm,
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 45
in 1 85 1. But the event which marked an era in the school history of the
town was the founding of the High School.
In recommending the establishment of a High School, the committee,
in their report of March, 1851, suggest three ways for its accomplishment.
First, to use the Prospect Hill School building for it ; second, vestry of the
Unitarian Church ; and third, to build a one-story building on Central Hill.
The High School building was finished in 1852. It is the present City Hall,
and cost $7,881.38. The school began with sixty-six pupils, Mr. Robert
Bickford and Miss E. C. Babcock being its first teachers.
The Forster School on Sycamore Street, named for a prominent citizen,
Charles Forster, was built in 1854.
In 1857 the Prescott School was built. It was of brick, and the most
costly structure built by the town previous to the war.
The Brastow School was commenced in i860 and completed in 1861, on
the old " pound lot " on Medford Street, where the new steamer house now
stands. It was the last school edifice built during the pre-rebellion period.
The town had now (March, 1861) twenty-two schools, and thirty teachers
with salaries amounting to ^13,050. It began in 1842 with five schools,
six teachers and a salary list oi $i,is,2.
From its settlement in 1629, until the year 1844, the people of this sec-
tion attended public worship probably either in Charlestown or Cambridge,
and possibly a few in Medford, listening to the persuasive words of such
pastors of early renown as Zachariah Symmes, John Harvard the founder
of the University, Thomas Shepard, Simon Bradstreet and Thomas Pren-
tice, and other inspired teachers. In the church membership, from earliest
to recent times, we find Somerville names ; among others for instance, in
the earlier years, such as Governor Winthrop and General Gibones, and in
later, Nathan Tufts, Samuel Jaques and others. In the early records are
also many references to church land and lots here in Somerville, one as
early as 1638, and two in 1788, one lot on " Walnut," now College Plill, one
lot on "Three Pole Lane" (Cross Street), and one lot "in Rangeway"
(Middle Lane, now Highland Avenue). A later record says, " The new
church in Somerville now stands upon this lot," which was the first Unita-
rian, " thrice destroyed and thrice rebuilded," the last time on a new and
the present location.
The first church formed in Somerville was the Congregational Uni-
tarian Society just mentioned, organized August 22, 1844, in the old " Milk
Row " Engine House. Afterwards it built its church on Highland Avenue,
then called Church Street. It has had two edifices destroyed by fire, and
one unroofed by the wind, and is now occupying its fourth.
The Perkins Street Baptist Church was the second, organized in 1845,
in the residence of Reverend William Stowe, on Pleasant Street, its first
church being built the same year.
Then came the First Baptist Church, founded in 1852, whose earlier
46 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
services were held in a chapel, since a schoolhouse on Beach Street, and
whose present edifice, on the crown of Spring Hill, was built in 1873.
The fourth was the Franklin Street Congregational, organized in 1853,
ai d which society built their church edifice in 1854.
The fifth was the First Universalist, whose early meetings were in the
old Medford Street Schoolhouse. Its first edifice was a chapel on Tufts
Street built in 1859, its next was on the corner of Tufts and Cross Streets,
on land given by Mr. Charles Tufts, the founder of Tufts College ; this was
burned in 1868, and replaced with the present structure, on the same site.
The sixth and last church which was founded during the period treated
of in this chapter was the Methodist Episcopal organized in 1855, and
which met at first in Franklin Hall, Union Square. The society afterwards
built a church building in 1858 or 1859, on Webster Avenue, which has since
been remodeled into the Parochial School. Its church is now on Summer
near Bow Street.
The Civil War.
Somerville's'Response TO President Lincoln's Calls for Men. — Appropriations by
THE Town for Soldiers and their Families. — Bounties Offered. — Somerville
Light Infantry. — Somerville Guard. — Volunteers for the War. — State
Bounties. — Officers of Somerville Companies in the War. — Service during
the War of the Companies from Somerville. — The Martyr Roll.
When the "long roll" sounded throughout the land, after the fall of
Fort Sumter, and President Lincoln called for seventy-five thousand men to
quell the rising rebellion, the regiments of Massachusetts promptly re-
sponded. Among the earliest was the Fifth, in whose ranks was the Somer-
ville Light Infantry, then Company " I." And as promptly the people of the
town also responded.
Enthusiastic meetings were held in the public halls, the engine house
and the open air.
Subscriptions were raised and committees appointed. One of the first
meetings was held in the Town Hall, on April 17, 186 1. It was a largely
attended and enthusiastic gathering, and a fund of over $4,300 was soon
raised for assisting the families of the Somerville Company, which had been
ordered immediately to Washington ; this meeting was followed by others.
Private subscriptions were prompt and liberal, as were also the appropria-
tions of the Town, not only at the beginning, but throughout the whole
period of the war. During the four years' contest, Somerville expended for
the soldiers and the cause, from its public treasury, one hundred thirty-five
thousand five hundred sixty dollars, and from the contributions of its
citizens, sixty-five thousand eight hundred twenty-two dollars ; in all, two
hundred one thousand three hundred eighty-two dollars.
SOMERV/LLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 47
The Selectmen were then : Benjamin Randall, Captain Henry A. Snow,
Captain Thomas Cunningham, Albert Kenneson and Charles H. Guild.
They entered with alacrity upon the duties which war had so suddenly
placed upon them, and under the instructions of the Town at its April
neeting, they at once urge forward the necessary enlistments, and took
neasures to secure comfort for the soldier in the field and for his family at
lome. In the performance of these duties, the visits of Captain Cunning-
ham, Captain Snow and Mr. Guild to Washington and the camps were
Calls for Troops.
At the first alarm, Captain Brastow had called together the Somerville
Light Infantry ; this was on April 17, and on the 19th the Company with its
valiant Captain were in camp, and a few days later, on their way to the
front, serving more than the term for which they enlisted.
On May 25, 1862, the National Capital being again threatened. Gov-
ernor Andrew called out the State Militia, who assembled on Boston Com-
mon in readiness for an expected summons from the President. The Somer-
ville Company, under Captain W. E. Robinson, answered, but their services
were not then required, and they returned home.
On the 28th of June, President Lintoln made his famous call for " three
hundred thousand more," under which the quota of Somerville was ninety-
two. The Selectmen began immediately to raise a full company which was
to be known as the " Somerville Guard."
From this time on recruiting became more difficult. A town meeting
was held July 19, and a "committee of sixty" citizens appointed to co-
operate with the Selectmen in all matters of enlistment to fill the quota.
Mass meetings, with patriotic addresses and martial music, were again
held to promote volunteering, and in August a bounty of one hundred
dollars to every recruit was offered, which was increased to one hundred
and twenty-five dollars by private subscription.
The Company's camp was on Prospect Hill, where it remained for
several weeks. Ultimately it was attached to the 39th regiment, as Com-
pany " E," and under command of Captain Fred R. Kinsley it proceeded
to the front, where it " proved an honor to the Town and the State."
Very soon came another requisition for troops, a second " three hun-
dred thousand more," and the old 5th again responded.
The Somerville Light Infantry, which at its first enlistment was Com-
pany " I," now became Company " B," of the same regiment.
Upon the departure of the " Somerville Guard," its camp on Prospect
Hill was occupied by this company, now commanded by Captain Benjamin
F. Parker. Here it remained until September 6, when it joined the
regiment at Washington. On October 22, it left for Newbern, North Caro-
Meanwhile the Town had raised its bounty for volunteers to two hun-
48 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
Under these two "three hundred thousand more" calls, Somerville
furnished about five hundred and sixty-eight men, at a net cost for bounties
and all other expenses of thirty-two thousand seven hundred and sixty-four
do lars, beside which, up to June i, 1863, the town had expended in aid to
two hundred and fifty families, the sum of thirteen thousand and sixty
At the beginning of the year 1863, there were from Somerville, two full
companies in the field, beside about three hundred other officers and men,
in various regiments from Massachusetts, and other loyal states.
In June, 1863, the Somerville Light Infantry, whose term of nine months
had expired, returned to Somerville, and was heartily welcomed home by
the citizens, the company having lost but one man, Samuel G. Tompkins.
In July, 1863, a demand on Somerville was made for one hundred and
eighty-six men, and a draft ordered. Of this number one hundred and eighty-
three responded promptly, without waiting to be drafted.
The third call for three hundred thousand came in October, with a
requisition on Somerville for ninety-two, the same number as in the first
call, which were required by January 5, 1864.
Bounties were now offered by the State. Volunteering being exceed-
ingly slow, war meetings were held, and the enrolled men (those liable to
military duty) of the Town were called together, which resulted in a liberal
financial response, and enabled the " War Committee " to follow the lead of
other towns and obtain recruits from wherever they could be procured ; by
February i, the limit having been extended, the town's quota was filled.
Another call for two hundred thousand came, and to it Somerville again
In July, 1864, an assessment of $30,000 was. levied upon the citizens,
the share charged enrolled men being greater in proportion than to others.
Under this measure the town ultimately received and disbursed $15,609.
Between October 17, 1864, and March i, 1865, five hundred and nine
men were asked for from Somerville, and six hundred and twenty furnished,
which left one hundred and eleven men to be credited the town upon any
The following is a summary of the Somerville companies during the
war, giving their terms of service and names of officers : —
Company I, 5 th Regiment. April 19 to July 31, 1861. Captain, George
O. Brastow. ist Lt., William E. Robinson. 2d Lt., Frederick R. Kinsley.
Company B, 5th Regiment. May, 1862. Under command of Captain
William E. Robinson. Ordered out by Governor Andrew, but not being
needed, returned home.
Company E, 39th Regiment. August 12, 1862, to June 2, 1865. Captain,
Frederick R. Kinsley, ist Lt, Joseph J. Giles. 2dLt., Willard C. Kinsley
(promoted to Captain). And the following by promotion — viz. : Captain
Melville C. Parkhurst. ist Lt., John H. Dusseault. 2d Lt., Edwin Mills.
2d Lt., George A. Bodge.
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 49
Company B, 5th Regiment. September 19, 1862, to July 2, 1863. Cap-
tain, Benjamin F. Parker, ist Lt., Walter C Bailey. 2d Lt., John Har-
Company B, 5th Regiment. July 25, 1864, to Nov. 16, 1864. Captain,
Tohn N. Coffin, ist Lt, Charles T. Robinson. 2d Lt, Granville W. Daniels.
The service of these various companies at the front calls for special
Company I, Fifth Regiment. — Three Months.
The Somerville Light Infantry, Company I, under command of Cap-
tain Brastow, left Boston for Washington on Sunday, April 21, 1861, and
arriving there, was quartered with the Regiment in the Treasury Building;
after which it was ordered to Alexandria, to join the command of General
Mansfield. On June 14, it was reviewed by President Lincoln and Cabinet,
and on July 16, ordered forward to Centreville. On the 21st it had its first
experience in battle at the memorable action of Bull Run, in which engage-
Tient the Somerville Light Infantry faithfully sustained its part and the
lonor of the Town. This battle was fought after the Regiment's time of
service had expired.
Somerville lost one man in the action, Edward F. Hannaford, and an-
other, William F. Moore, died at Washington of disease.
Company B, Fifth Regiment. — Nine Months.
As before stated, the Fifth Regiment, in its nine months' campaign, left
Boston on October 22, 1862, and, after a five days' voyage, arrived at New
Berne, N. C, on the 27th. Here it was attached to the brigade commanded
by Colonel Horace C. Lee of the Twenty-seventh Massachusetts Regiment,
the department being under command of Major-General Foster.
Even before its muskets had arrived, the Regiment received orders to
be in readiness for an expedition, and on October 30 embarked for Wash-
ington, N. C, whence, with other forces, it marched for Williamston. After
some skirmishing, nothing else important transpiring, it returned to camp,
November 13, having marched one hundred and sixty miles. In December it
took part in the expedition to Goldsboro, forming the left of the column.
The object of the movement was the destruction of the Weldon Railroad.
On the 14th it was attacked by the enemy, whom it repulsed and drove
in great disorder towards Kinston. On the i6th occurred the battle
of Whitehall, near which place the army had bivouacked, in which the
Union forces were again victorious. On the 17th the column was again in
motion, and reached the railroad about noon. The railroad bridge over the
Neuse River was soon destroyed, and wires cut, which work was accom-
plished under fire of the enemy.
The destruction completed, the troops returned, the Fifth Regiment
acting as rear guard " supporting battery," and encountering and repulsing
repeated attacks of the Confederates, and reaching camp on December 3 1 .
After various marches and reconnoissances, on May 22, the Union for-
50 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
ces appeared before the strong works of the rebels at Moseley Creek previ-
ously reconnoitred by the Regiment, and which by a simultaneous attack
in front and rear were soon captured, with two hundred prisoners and five
hundred stand of arms, together with horses, wagons and ammunition.
The remaining service was principally picket and similar duty. The
Regiment was highly complimented by General Foster for its faithful ser-
vice. It returned to Boston June 26, and was mustered out at Wenham on
Company B, Fifth Regiment. — One Hundred Days.
On July 25, 1864, the Fifth was for the third time mustered into the ser-
vice, and on the 28th, under Colonel George H. Peirson, again left for the
field. Arriving at Baltimore, they went into camp at Mamkin's Wood.
Their service lasted one hundred days, the term of their enlistment, during
which time they did garrison duty at Forts McHenry and Marshall in Bal-
timore, and guard duty at the "Lazarette Magazine," and in charge of
prisoners. They arrived home November 7, 1865, and were mustered out
Company E, Thirty-Ninth Regiment. — Three Years.
The " Somerville Guard," under command of Captain Frederick R.
Kinsley, Company E, Thirty-ninth Regiment, which was mustered into ser-
vice August 12, 1862, first went into camp at Lynnfield, and then at Boxford,
Massachusetts. From the latter place, on September 6, it left for Washing-
ton, arriving on the 8th. On the 9th, the Regiment was ordered to " Camp
Chase," across Long Bridge. From this time until the next July, it formed
part of the force guarding the line of the Potomac, and the City of Wash-
ington and other important points in that department. On the 9th of July,
1863, it was ordered to Harper's Ferry, and, on arriving, marched at once
to Maryland Heights. On the 13th, it joined the Army of the Potomac,
forming a part of the Second Division, First Army Corps. From this time
the Regiment was under constant marching orders, guarding positions, sup-
porting cavalry and kindred service, until November 27, when it confronted
the enemy at Mine Run.
On the 28th, Companies E and C were deployed as skirmishers, cover-
ing the front of the brigade during the engagement. There they remained
in line of battle until December i, when the Union Army retreated. No
movement of importance occurred after this until May, 1 864, at which time
the Regiment took part in the campaign of the Wilderness, where on the
5th, 6th and 8th, it had engagements at Brock's Pike and Laurel Hill, driv-
ing in the enemy's cavalry and battery, but, finally meeting with superior
numbers posted behind breastworks, the Regiment was forced to fall
back. On the loth, it was again in the front under heavy infantry and
artillery fire, and here Lieutenant Edwin Mills of the Somerville Company
was among the wounded.
The Regiment soon after marched to Spottsylvania, and on the 26th, to
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 5 I
Lethesda Church, where, as skirmishers, it remained almost continually en-
gaged until June 5. On that night it quietly withdrew. After various marches
il arrived at Petersburg on July 16, remaining exposed much of the time to
tie fire of artillery and sharpshooters in its vicinity, until August 1 8, when
ii: joined the expedition against the Weldon Railroad, and immediately en-
gaged the enemy, the action being continued on the 19th. In this battle,
('olonel Peirson was dangerously wounded, Captain Fred. R. Kinsley taken
prisoner, and Lieutenant J. H. Dusseault wounded, both the latter of Com-
pany " E " (Somerville).
The loss of the Regiment in these two days, was eleven killed, thirty-two
i^ounded and two hundred and forty-five missing. After many vicissitudes,
skirmishes and arduous marches, the Regiment, on December 7, found it-
self again near the Weldon Railroad as skirmishers and in action with the
( nemy, after which, and destroying the railroad by burning its ties and
l)ending its rails, the Regiment was ordered to cover the rear of the army
mow falling back), which was greatly annoyed by the enemy's cavalry.
The casualties of the Regiment during 1864 were thirty-five killed, one
liundred and ninety-one wounded, and two hundred and eighty-nine missing
On February 6, 1865, the Regiment held the right of the line in the ad-
vance at Dabney's Mills, where the enemy's works, -^though finally taken, had
;o be abandoned by the captors for want of support. The assault was re-
lewed on the 7th, but was again unsuccessful.
On the loth the Regiment broke camp and went into winter quarters
tiear Hatcher's Run.
In March the spring campaign opened, and on the 31st a move was
made to Gravelly Run, where the enemy in strong force opened the attack,
pushing back the 39th, which had been hurriedly deployed as skirmishers,
and which left many dead and wounded on the field. Later, upon the arrival
of reinforcements, the lost ground was regained. In this action Lieutenant-
Colonel Tremlett was mortally wounded, and Somerville lost her heroic son.
Captain Willard C. Kinsley, who was wounded, and died the next morning.
Speaking of him, the official account of the battle says, " The Regiment lost
one of its most popular and loved officers, as well as one of its best soldiers."
On the next day, April i, the Corps united with Sheridan's Cavalry at
Five Forks, the Regiment taking part in the charge and victory of that day.
It occupied a position near the center of the line, and the report says,
" This battle of Five Forks was the most successful one that the Regiment
was ever engaged in. Almost the entire force opposed to us was captured,
and their rout was complete."
By the 9th of April, the 39th was at Appomattox Court House, where
soon after its arrival " all hostilities suddenly ceased, and later in the day,
the entire army opposed to us surrendered."
On May i, the Regiment began its march to Washington. It was now
under the command of Major F. R. Kinsley, the former Captain of Com-
pany E (Somerville Guard), who, from the previous August until recently.
SOMERV/LLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
had been a prisoner in the hands of the Confederates. It arrived at Arling-
ton Heights on May 12, and took part in the " Grand Review," at Washing-
tor, on May 22. On June 2, it was mustered out of the United States
service, and arriving in Massachusetts went into camp at Readville, where
soon after it was paid off, and returned home.
Number of Men in the War.
During the war, Somerville, according to Captain Cunningham, its
recruiting agent, enlisted one thousand four hundred and eighty-five men,
or one hundred and forty-seven more than were called for, of whom ninety-
eight were killed or died in the service, and about two hundred and fifty
were wounded, and many taken prisoners.
* Besides the regular organizations whose services, as Somerville com-
panies, have been sketched, there were hundreds of others in the various
regiments of this and other States, and in the regular army and the navy,
under Butler, Banks, Grant, Farragut and other commanders. Their per-
sonal services and sufferings in the war, though most worthy of record,
cannot, in the space allowed, be here written.
The Martyr Roll.
The following is the Roll of those who gave their lives for the Union.
Killed in Battle or Died of Wounds.
Edward E. Brackett,
Frank E. Doherty,
Samuel O. Felker,
Frederick A. Galletly,
Eugene B. Hadley,
Edward F. Hannaford,
William M. Herbon,
Edmund H. Kendall,
Willard C. Kinsley,
Edward P. Light,
Corporal (?) Moran,
N. Fletcher Nelson,
Jeremiah T. Paine,
William D. Palmer,
Fred. G. Pruden,
William P. Ruggles,
John H. Rafferty,
John Van De Sande,
C. C. Walden,
John F. Waldon,
William W. Wardell,
Nathan W. Wilson.
Died in Hospital^ Camp, or Prison.
George W. Ayres,
Luther V. Bell,
William H. Bartlett,
Charles L. Carter,
Edwin D. Gate,
John W. Coffee,
Frederick A. Glines,
George H. Hatch,
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
Jchn E. Horton,
Henry E. Howe,
Richard J. Hyde,
Charles G. Jones,
E F. Kenniston,
J. W. Langley,
Alvin G. Love joy,
Charles M. Miller,
William F. Moore,
Francis J. Oliver,
Charles H. Perry,
Albert W. Phillips,
Timothy H. Pitman,
Leonard F. Purington,
John S. Roberts,
Sumner P. Rollins,
William E. Spurr,
Alonzo W. Temple,
Frank W. Thompson,
Samuel G. Tompkins,
William H. Blackwell,
John S. Van Cluff,
Isaac C. Whittemore,
Joseph W. Whitmore,
Albert E. Mitchell.
This list may not be complete, and is probably otherwise imperfect,
a J the records are meagre.
In the years to come, when the sorrows of the widow and orphan are
forgotten, Somerville will still recall with, perhaps, increasing pride, the
services of her soldiers in the Union Army in the Civil War. Their memory
deserves a more lasting tribute than tradition, and the city has well begun
upon the work of their record, which, under the City Clerk, has already made
s jme progress. It is a work in which every citizen should be interested,
and to which all should give every possible aid as the object, when attained
--the preservation of the story of the personal services of each Somerville
s Dldier — must receive the hearty approval of all, whose friends took part
i 1 the great struggle.
The Town from i86i to 1872.
] MPROVEMENT OF HIGHWAYS. — GaS INTRODUCED. — WATER SUPPLY. — SeWERS. —
Great Improvements. — Central Hill Park. — Horse Railroads. — The Town
Farm. — Attempts to Divide the Town. — City Charter and Hall. — First
Notwithstanding the continuous and unusual demands of the four
wears' war, the regular business of the town was not neglected. Public im-
provements and private enterprises were inaugurated, and the industries of
Deace thrived as well as those of war.
The population increased during this period from 8,025 in i860, to 9,353
n 1865, and in 1870 it numbered 14,693. With this increase came calls for
lew roads and for improvement of the old ones, and considering the times,
:hey were met with reasonable liberality.
The work accomplished during this period was too extensive for more
than general notice here. Streets were graded and macadamized, brick
54 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
sidewalks built, edgestones set, gutters paved, road-bridges rebuilt, streets
watered and lighted, and new ways laid out — fresh strands in the network
of thoroughfares. In fact, then began the transition from poor to fair or
Among the principal improvements during these eleven years, were the
building of College avenue, Holland street, Highland avenue to Davis
square, Prescott and Putnam streets, the westerly part of Pearl street, the
easterly portion of Summer street, and the widening and grading of Walnut
and School streets, and of Willow avenue.
In 1862 the long neglected work of lowering, widening and paving the
Washington street roadway, under the Lowell railroad, was finished ; the
bridge and tracks, at the same time, being raised. This low spot formerly
connected by an underground drain with Miller's river; but in a storm
which occurred on February 22, i860, this old drain was either too small or
became choked, and the place filled with water, into which an unfortunate
hack was driven, nearly drowning its occupants, and resulting, later, in
heavy damages against the town and railroad.
Some of the highway enterprises proposed during the later years of the
town did not meet with the hearty co-operation of its officers. Among
these were the three new avenues ordered by the county commissioners,
and running from Medford into Somerville. College avenue, laid out in
i860, and built in 1861, and Boston and Middlesex avenues, ordered or de-
cided on in 1871. These measures were strenuously, though unsuccessfully,
opposed by the selectmen. Of College avenue, they say that they believe
" that neither the town, nor the public, require the laying out of such a
street, but that it was for private purposes and private speculation." Boston
and Middlesex avenues each crossed Mystic river, and bridges were re-
quired. Boston avenue commencing at West Medford, crossed the river at
the site of the old Middlesex canal bridge, the old stone piers and abutment
being used for the new bridge. The avenue ended at College avenue, but
has more recently been extended to Broadway.
Middlesex avenue was the extension of a highway from Stoneham and
Maiden, across the Wellington farm in Medford, and over the Mystic river
and Ten Hills farm to Mystic avenue in Somerville. This was first asked
for in 1869. The selectmen voted to oppose this "road to Mystic avenue,
or at any other point in Somerville, not feeling that benefits equal to the
large expense to be incurred could ever be derived by the Town."
An act empowering the county commissioners to lay out this highway
was passed in 1869, and though decided on in 187 1, was not built until two
These avenues, laid out a quarter of a century ago, have yet very few
buildings or improvements, and so far have principally benefited neighbor-
The laying out of Mystic avenue (Medford turnpike) as a public way
also encountered the opposition of the town, and every effort possible was
made to prevent it, including employment of counsel and appeal to the
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 55
1 sgislature, as the avenue up to this time had been property of the Medford
Turnpike corporation, who wished to abandon it and throw the burden of
its maintenance on the towns, which in 1867 they accomplished, since
which time it has been a county highway.
Under authority of acts of the legislature passed in 1853, gas was intro-
duced into the town by the Charlestown Gas Company and by the Cam-
Dridge Gas Company, the dividing line between the territory within which
2ach company could lay its pipes being the Lowell railroad. It was ten
^ears later before street lighting became general. In 1863 the town voted
to pay the expense of lighting such street-lamps as the abuttors should
furnish at their own expense. Under this vote ninety-two lamp-posts and
lamps were put up. This was the commencement of our system of street
lighting. By 1871 the number of lamps had increased to two hundred and
The laying of the Charlestown water-main from Walnut Hill reservoir
through the town opened the way for a water-supply for Somerville which
was authorized by legislative enactments in 1866 and in 1868, and negotia-
tions with Charlestown entered into, which resulted in a contract with that
city. This contract, though not entirely satisfactory in its terms, secured
to Somerville its present supply. An experienced engineer, Mr. Roberdeau
Buchanan, was engaged and a pipe system for the town planned, and before
the close of the year some two miles or more of pipe were laid.
The Charlestown act of 1861 gave authority for supplying water to
hydrants in Somerville, and meanwhile many were set. In 1866 the first
steam fire-engine was purchased replacing the old " Somerville One," which,
like its predecessor, " Mystic Six," was stored for a while and then sold.
With the introduction of water came the demand for sewers. Before
the war there were no public sewers in the town. There were one or two
private drains in East Somerville, running across lots, and some others
crudely built with brick invert and stone covering, in Oak and other private
streets west of Prospect.
The first public sewer was built in Marshall street in 1867, Messrs.
Winning and Gordon being the contractors ; the work cost about two thou-
In 1 868, sewers were laid in three different sections of the town ; over
a mile in all. The first was the Linwood street, with laterals in Fitchburg
and Poplar streets ; its outlet was into Miller's river. The second ran from
the southerly end of Bow street, across Union square to the creek in Web-
ster avenue, and the third extended from Summer street, down Harvard,
Beech and Spring streets, across Somerville avenue and through Kent street
56 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
to the railroad ditch. The three sections costing nine thousand eight hun-
dred and sixty-four dollars.
Calls for sewers now became frequent, and in 1869 a general survey
and plan was ordered, for a sewer system, in conformity to which future
sewers were to be constructed. It was also recommended that " Some
order should be taken, looking to the construction of trunk sewers." The
survey and plan, thus outlined, were commenced but never completed.
The want of proper outlets and the necessity for strict economy were serious
In 1869, 3,986 feet of new sewers were laid, and 2,078 feet of private
sewers purchased by the town, at a cost in all, of about 1 12,000.
In 1870 and 1871 a large number of sewers were built. In 1870, 18,380
feet, costing $49,304 ; and in 187 1, 11,937 feet, costing $24,042. The principal
were as follows : in Elm and Milk streets from Cherry to Prospect. In
Medford street from the Fitchburg railroad to Grand Junction railroad. In
Mystic avenue from the Maine railroad northerly. In Perkins and Mount
Pleasant streets and Broadway. In Broadway from Marshall street and
across the present park, to the creek beyond Mystic avenue. In Broadway
from Broadway park, to Cross street, and in Cross street to a culvert near
Pearl. In Lincoln, Arlington and Franklin streets ; in Putnam and Pres-
cott streets ; and in Summer and Bow streets from School to Walnut street.
In Glen and Brooks streets. In Otis street, in Vinal avenue and in School
street. The difficult problem in all the foregoing work was that of an out-
let. Every sewer, up to this time, emptied into some ditch or water-course,
and many then built still continue to do so.
Other Town Matters.
The years 1870 and 1871 were busy ones for the town government.
Besides extensive sewer and highway constructions, many other prominent
matters claimed consideration ; among the more important were the organ-
ization of a police force, the purchase of the Central Hill park, the build-
ing of the new engine-house thereon, and stables on the town farm, all in
1870. The consideration of the proposed Middlesex and Boston avenue
bridges, ordered by the county over Mystic river, the erection of a new high
school building in 1871, the enforcement of the liquor law, the defense of
the town against claims, and damage suits. The preparation of the city
charter, and the consequent legislation. The division of the proposed city
into wards, and the arrangements necessary for the election of city officers.
Central Hill Park.
One of the most important of the foregoing was the purchase of the
present Central Hill park land in 1870. This land formerly belonged to
Jacob Sleeper of Boston. It cost the town about thirty-eight thousand
dollars. It was what was known in 1788 as one of the " Church lots," being
then the property of the " First Church of Charlestown." This purchase
did not meet the entire approval of the citizens, many thinking that Pros-
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 57
f ect hill, with its extensive views and hallowed memories, was a more appro-
priate location for public grounds and buildings, and that it could have
been bought at a smaller price ; concerning it, the selectmen say : " This
purchase definitely settled the question of a recognized center. This ques-
tion being no longer in dispute, plans for the future development of the
town may be made with especial reference to this fact." This was the
first of Somerville parks, and the only one before it became a city.
In 1 86 1 a survey was made for a proposed street railway from Union
square through Somerville avenue to East Cambridge, and thence to Sud-
oury street in Boston.
The originator of this project was General William L. Burt, afterward
postmaster of Boston.
The work was finished in 1864, and was the first railway in Somerville,
built in the middle of the street. A location was granted for another road
through Franklin and Pearl streets, but it was never built.
The inconvenience of railroad tracks at the sides of the streets was
soon recognized, and efforts made for their removal to the center, opposed
and delayed of course by the companies ; but in i87rthis change was made
in Somerville avenue and Elm street, from Union square to Cherry street,
at a cost to the town of about $11,000 ; and by 1875 21II others had been re-
moved from side to center.
The present "town farm" was originally purchased for a cemetery, but
being "swampy and wet" it was abandoned for that use. In 1863 it was
put up at auction, but " the bids not coming up to the views of the board, it
was not sold." The farm " from long neglect had become almost a barren
waste," in 1864, at an expense of about eight hundred dollars, the brush
and stone were removed from it and the land thoroughly tile-drained. In
1871 a "stable" and "hay barn" "separated by a brick wall and fire-proof
door " were built on the estate, with stalls for twenty horses, and also a
" neat and convenient double tenement for the use of the men."
Attempts to Divide the Town.
In 1865 an attempt was made to annex a portion of West Somerville to
Cambridge. The valuation of this tract was about one hundred thousand
dollars. The matter came before the legislature, was successfully opposed
by the selectmen, and the petitioners given leave to withdraw. The ground
of complaint was the want of school accommodations, which the school
committee also recognized, and which brought the suggestion from the
selectmen, that " now it is for the town to decide whether they will give the
required accommodations, and thereby prevent another petition of like
nature from our townsmen." But the petitions were not prevented; for in
1 868 two more were presented to the General Court, asking a division of
the town, which were again defeated.
58 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
City Charter and Hall.
It was probably about this time that the idea of a city charter was first
entertained, a census, this year, being taken, showing the population of the
town to be 12,535, ^^ more than requisite for a city, and the number of
In 1 87 1 the new high schoolhouse was built, and soon after, the present
city hall (the first high school) vacated. Anticipating this want, the select-
men in their report say that " when the present building is vacated, we re-
commend its removal to a more suitable location on the town land, near
where it now stands ; and that its external architecture be modernized, by
adding a few modest ornaments, so that the general appearance of this
building shall moderately correspond with the buildings erected on this
land," and further suggest that a " suitable lock up " be built in it, and
offices for the selectmen and other officials ; thereby " deferring for many
years the necessity of building a town house or city hall." The moderniz-
ing of its " external architecture," after a lapse of twenty-five years, is now
First City Election.
On April 14, 1871, the act establishing the city of Somerville was ap-
proved and accepted by the voters at a town meeting held for that purpose
on April 27. On December 4 the first city election occurred, resulting in
the choice of George O. Brastow as mayor, and of a board of aldermen and
councilmen whose names are given in the history of the city government in
In this historical relation of the town, and further on of the city, mention
of schools, churches and other institutions, and of the town and city de-
partment are purposely curtailed or omitted, as they are treated of specially
in succeeding chapters of this book.
Somerville as a City.
Appreciation in Value of Real Estate. — Great Increase of Houses. — Steam
Railroads. — Extension of Street Railways. — West End Railway. — Widen-
ing OF Somerville Avenue and Broadway. — The Broadway Park. — The
Miller's River Nuisance. — Annexation to Boston Discussed. — Parks and
Boulevards. — Tufts College. — Old Landmarks.
In January, 1872, the new city government was duly installed and or-
ganized. Their names are mentioned in the next chapter. The officials
placed in charge of the several departments were the following : —
City Clerk, Charles E. Oilman ; City Treasurer and Collector, Aaron
Sargent; City Solicitor, Selwin Z. Bowman; City Engineer, Charles D.
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 59
Elliot ; City Physician, William W. Dow ; Clerk of Council, Solomon Davis ;
City Messenger, Jairus Mann ; Chief of Police, Melville C. Parkhurst ;
Superintendent of Streets, Franklin Henderson ; Chief of Fire Department,
James R. Hopkins ; Assessors, John C. Magoun, Sabin M. Smith, Thomas
Cunningham ; Superintendent of Schools, Joshua H. Davis.
The building of horse-railroads and introduction of water, sewers and
gas gave a wonderful impetus to real estate transactions, which even the
financial depression occurring a few years later failed to check. The
erection of Masonic Block in Union square by Thomas Cunningham,
Robert A. Vinal, C. S. Lincoln and Philip Eberle was the precursor of im-
provements. In 1870 Pythian Block was built, followed soon by Warren
Block, Odd Fellows Block, Hill Building, and the block adjacent on Somer-
ville avenue, all of which were erected by Ira Hill, who was associated in
some of these enterprises with Col. Elijah Walker, Maj. George R. Abbott
and Charles E. Lyon. Mr. Hill alone, or with his associates, laid out and
built over several tracts of land in the years from 1870 to 1874. Among
these were the Warren and Columbus avenue districts, the territory east of
Walnut street between Boston street and Highland avenue, including the
Grandview, Pleasant and Summit avenue estates, and large tracts in West
Somerville on Holland and Elm streets, through which they laid out Wal-
lace, Chandler, Winter and other streets. The energy of Mr. Hill in devel-
oping real estate has seldom been surpassed in the town or city.
Some sections of the city developed slowly and continuously, as East
Somerville, and Spring and Central Hills, which were among the first sec-
tions lotted for the market, the latter two by the enterprise of George O.
Brastow, who was the pioneer in the development of those sections, fifty
years ago. Other parts of the city grew rapidly, as Union, Davis and Gil-
man squares and their vicinities.
Among other earlier real estate ventures while Somerville was a town
may be mentioned the lotting and building up of the property between
Webster avenue and Prospect street, and west of that street, the Oak and
Houghton street district, the owners being Francis and Amory Houghton,
the projectors of the Glass Works. Another section opened up by Mr.
Amory Houghton was the land between Somerville avenue and the Fitch-
burg railroad, west of Dane street to Park street. The Dane, Hudson and
Vine streets territory, and the Joseph Clark estate on Newton, Clark and
other streets were also put on the market before the war.
During the war real estate languished, but revived a few years after, so
that the period from 1869 to 1875 saw many old estates laid out and built
over. Among these were the Putnam, Prescott and School streets territory,
formerly the Jotham Johnson estate ; the Vinal avenue, Quincy and Church
streets territory, formerly the property of Robert Vinal ; property on Pros-
pect Hill, built over and marketed by Maj. Granville W. Daniels; the
Newton street, Concord avenue and Springfield street district, owned by
60 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
John O'Brien, and the Clarendon Hill territory by John W. Vinal and
Then came another period of business and real estate . depression,
which lasted till about 1880. The estates that have been laid out and put
upon the market since that time are numerous, the larger ones being the
Stickney estate on Broadway and School street, the Oliver Tufts property
between School and Central streets, the George W. Ireland estate on School
and Summer streets, the Hawkins (or Lake) properties on Somerville ave-
nue and Washington street; part of Mrs. M. P. Lowe's estate on Summer
street, the R. P. Benton land on Avon and Berkeley streets, the Wyatt
(brick-yard) land on Washington street, the Osgood Dane property on
Somerville avenue and Granite street, the A. W. Tufts et al. property on
Pearl street, the John Runey estate on Cross street, the Wheeler estate
("Ox pasture") in East Somerville, the Harrington and Brine land on
Spring Hill, the Russell estate on Elm street, the Charles Robinson prop-
erty on Central and Medford streets, the Trull estate on Oxford street, the
"Clark and Bennett land" on Central and Gibbens streets, the J. C. Ayer
estate on Highland avenue, the Nathan Tufts (Powder House) property,
the J. M. Shute estates on Somerville avenue. Central and Cambria streets
and Westwood road, the Stearns estate (Polly Swamp) north of Highland
avenue, the lands on the northerly slope of Spring Hill, laid out originally
by R. H. Conwell, and the adjacent estate of J. D. Prindle. Most of the
foregoing have been built up within the last ten or fifteen years, and gener-
ally with a class of houses creditable to the builders and the city.
The principal factor in the unprecedented growth of West Somerville
was the building of the Lexington and Arlington railroad. The Lexington
railroad formerly branched from the Fitchburg not far from Fresh Pond,
but in 1870 its route east of Alewife Brook was changed so as to connect
with the Lowell railroad at Somerville Junction. Several years later the
Massachusetts Central obtained its location over the Lowell and part of
this new Lexington branch, which, meanwhile, had been extended to Con-
cord. With the exception of the " Mystic river " freight track across the
Asylum grounds, these two steam railroads were the only permanent ones
built in Somerville since the war.
A railroad branching from the Boston & Maine across the Ten Hills
farm, thence to Winchester and beyond was projected and partially graded
andjafterwards abandoned. It was known as the " Mystic Valley Railroad."
An extension of the Broadway tracks over Winter Hill to Medford via
Main street was early made. It was, like the others, a side track T-rail
road, and was run by the Charlestown & Medford Railroad Company. The
selectmen ordered it to the center, but the company neglecting or refusing,
SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 6 1
its location in Main street was revoked. In 1884 the Middlesex Company
reopened this line, the change to the center of the street meanwhile having
In 1 88 1 the Charles River Street Railway was organized, and soon it
laid tracks in Summer and Bow streets and through Union square and
Webster avenue to Cambridge street, and others in Newton, Springfield
and Beacon streets. It was built as an opposition to the Cambridge, whose
tracks its charter gave it the right to use from Cambridge to Boston. It
was a popular line, but not being a financial success, in 1886 it was consoli-
dated with the Cambridge. The same year the Middlesex, which leased or
ran several of the other Somerville roads, combined with the Highland (a
South Boston line which ran in competition with the Metropolitan), taking
the name Boston Consolidated. Meanwhile the Elm street tracks had been
extended up Holland street to Broadway.
In 1886 two rival companies for Somerville patronage, the Cambridge
and the Consolidated, petitioned for locations in Cross and Medford streets
and Highland avenue to Davis square, and in Pearl and Medford streets to
Central street. The contest for these locations was vigorous but the Con-
solidated won, and by the close of 1887 had laid tracks in most of these
West End Railway.
" The West End Street Railway Company" was the outgrowth of the
West End Land Company, formed by Mr. Henry M. Whitney and others for
the development of real estate along Beacon street in Boston and BrookHne
by making that thoroughfare a broad boulevard. To ensure success in this
enterprise a charter was procured for a " West End Street Railway " over
the proposed boulevard location. The opposition to this line by other
street railways resulted in the West End Railway acquiring controlling in-
terest in all the other roads excepting the Lynn & Boston, and obtaining
legislation by which they were all consolidated under the management of the
West End, which was finally consummated on November 11, 1887.
In or about 1889 the overhead electric system of propulsion was intro-
duced, after a careful examination had been made by Mr. Whitney of its
workings in Richmond, Va. It was first applied on the Beacon street and
Brookline routes and soon became general. Within a few years the West
End road has made many improvements in the Somerville service, among
which may be mentioned the increased number of trips, especially on the
West Somerville line, the extension of that line to Alewife Brook, and of
the Medford street Une to Magoun square, the recent opening of the new
line from Highland avenue via Medford street and Somerville avenue to
Boston, together with improved road-bed, more easy riding cars, and a new
and liberal system of transfers.
Widening of Somerville Avenue and Broadway.
The most important highway improvements since 1872 have probably
been the widening of Somerville avenue, and paving it, and the adjacent
62 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
thoroughfares, and the widening of Broadway. Soraerville avenue was
formerly fifty feet in width, but in 1873 the County Commissioners laid it
out anew seventy-five feet wide from East Cambridge to Union square and
sevei ty feet from Union square to North Cambridge. The lines were so
run that only one or two shade trees and very few buildings required re-
moval. The avenue, over two miles in length, was rebuilt to its new width
in 1874 at a cost for land damages of $86,000, and for construction of about
Broadway was widened and straightened on its northerly side in 1875,
making it two hundred feet in width opposite the park. This measure met
with serious opposition, speculative motives being ascribed to its originators.
It was built in 1874 and 1875, and cost about $75,000 for land and construc-
With the Broadway widening was associated the laying out and con-
struction of the Broadway park : they were mutual enterprises. The park
scheme originated with the owners of Convent hill, Messrs. Klous and Lord.
It met with fierce opposition, and its effect on local politics was volcanic,
resulting, in 1876, in a complete overturn of the city government which in-
augurated it, and in the election of an anti-park administration. The feeling
against the park was so strong that, after its opponents came into power, it
was even proposed to lay it out anew into lots and sell it for building pur-
Most of the ground which was filled over for the park was an old
marsh, so soft and deep that, in building the fence around it, the posts were
set on piles and a timber structure on piles built to sustain the curbing of
the pond, the bottom of which has a double flooring of boards covered with
gravel to prevent the paving sinking into the mud.
Previous to 1855, and perhaps for some years after. Miller's River was a
comparatively pure stream ; it was the fishing and bathing place for that
section of the town. In 1855 Mr. John P. Squire purchased a lot of land
on the East Cambridge side of the river, and built his first establishment,
its product being one animal daily. At first this caused little or no annoy-
ance, but the phenomenal growth of Mr. Squire's business, and the building
shortly after of another similar establishment by Mr. Charles H. North,
followed later by other concerns, soon changed the Miller's River district
into a malodorous and unenviable locality. It was several years, however,
before complaints became general. The first reference to this nuisance by
the selectmen was in their report of 1869 ; and in their report of 1870 they
say, " Slaughter Houses, Pork and Lard factories, are questions to be con-
sidered. . . . Shall they be erected and maintained on or near our main
thoroughfares and in the midst of a crowded population ? . . . Does our
town become more attractive, wholesome, or desirable as a place of resort
or residence ? " etc.
SOMERVILLE, PAST AIVD PRESENT. 63
Cambridge meanwhile had taken action in the matter, and in 1872, by
the combined efforts of the two cities, an act was obtained, supplemented by
others, providing for the abatement of the nuisance by the construction of
a trunk sewer through Somerville avenue, and the filling of the Miller's
River basin. This work was begun in 1873 and completed in 1874; the
sewer, eight feet in diameter inside, being one of the largest ever built in
Boston or vicinity.
Among the many events, municipal or otherwise, which have occurred
iiince Somerville became a city, may be mentioned the semi-centennial
celebration of 1892, described elsewhere, the agitation for annexation of
;his city to Boston, the movement for a soldiers' memorial building, and the
:onsideration of the subject of more parks and of boulevards.
The question of annexation to Boston has been informally considered
and discussed, on several occasions, by the citizens of Somerville, so far,
without definite result. In 1893 it received greater attention than ever be-
fore. The merging into and becoming an important factor in a great
metropolis has, to some, alluring features, and those who favored it worked
zealously to accomplish the measure ; but the sentiment of the city has not
as yet seemed favorable to its achievement.
The subject of parks and boulevards has often engrossed the attention
of the citizens and city government. A movement to preserve that vener-
able structure, the Powder House, resulted in its gift to the city with a
small tract around it, by the owners, the purchase of more land, and the
laying out of the grounds, which were named the " Nathan Tufts Park," in
honor of the former owner, whose heirs presented it.
The foundation for another park has been laid by the purchase of the
" Wyatt pits " estate near Washington street, which probably will ere
loi^g gladden the denizens of that section with its lawns and walks. In 189 1
the trustees of the estate of J. C. Ayer offered a tract of land opposite the
Highlands station, on the Lexington railroad, for park purposes, but in the
unusual agitations and troubles of that year the matter was laid over by the
city government and there rests.
In the spring of this year, 1896, another park was proposed on the
southerly slope of Prospect Hill to include the revolutionary remains and
site of the old " citadel." The suggestion was received with much favor, a
public meeting was held, and an association formed to further the project.
No more appropriate spot could be found for a memorial building to
commemorate the services and sufferings of the soldiers of two wars, the
Revolution and the Rebellion, than this, their old camping-ground.
64 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
The desirability of a denominational institution of learning had been
under discussion for some time among leading Universalists of America ;
but the first step taken for its realization was by. the Rev. Thomas J. Saw-
yer of New York City, now of Somerville.
In the spring of 1847 he wrote to the Rev. Hosea Ballou, 2d, of Med-
ford, and the Rev. Thomas Whittemore of Cambridgeport, in relation to it,
and soon after issued circulars, calling for a convention in New York on
the 1 8th of May. At this meeting the need of such an institution was
fully considered and decided upon, and a board of fifteen trustees elected.
The Rev. Otis A. Skinner was appointed agent to solicit funds, the
required amount being one hundred thousand dollars, all of which was
subscribed before the close of 1851.
It was at first proposed to locate the College in New York State, in
either the Hudson or Mohawk Valleys. Meanwhile Mr. Oliver Dean, of
Franklin, Mass., who afterward founded Dean Academy, by offer of liberal
endowment, endeavored to secure its location in that town.
It was destined to overlook none of the fair valleys of the Hudson,
Mohawk or Charles, but that of the romantic Mystic ; for the liberal offer of
Mr. Charles Tufts of Somerville, of twenty acres on Walnut Hill, was ac-
cepted as the most desirable place, from its view, surroundings, and prox-
imity to a great metropolis. Mr. Tufts' gift of twenty acres was soon
increased to one hundred, supplemented by an additional tract of twenty
acres from Mr. Timothy Cotting of Medford.
In appreciation of Mr. Tufts' generous gift, the College was given his
name. Other liberal donations were also received ; among the most prom-
inent givers were Sylvanus Packard, Thomas A. Goddard, and Doctor
William J. Walker. Mr. Packard's gifts and bequests amounted to between
three and four hundred thousand dollars, and Dr. Walker's to about two
In 1 852 the charter for the college was obtained. It bears the signatures
of three historic names : N. P. Banks, Speaker of the House ; Henry Wilson,
President of the Senate ; and George S. Boutwell, Governor. The incorpo-
rators were B. B. Muzzey, Timothy Cotting, and Richard Frothingham, Jr.
At a meeting of the trustees on July 21, 1852, Rev. Thomas J. Sawyer was
unanimously elected president, but he declined the office, and the choice
then fell on Rev. Hosea Ballou, 2d, who retained the presidency until his
death in 1861.
On July 23, 1853, the corner-stone of the first building, " Ballou Hall,"
was laid. The day was beautiful ; large awnings surmounted with Ameri-
can flags were provided for the ladies, a special train was furnished by the
Lowell railroad, and between fifteen hundred and two thousand persons
were present. Among the exercises was a hymn written by Mrs. N. T.
Munroe, a prominent member of the first Universalist Society of Somerville.
Three students commenced study in 1854, though the building was not
completed and formally opened until August 22, 1855.
SOMERV/LLE, PAST AND PRESENT. 65
The attendance upon the opening exercises was large, six hundred or
more arriving by special train. A banquet was spread for nine hundred
guests, among whom were Mr. and Mrs. Tufts, and hundreds were turned
away. The first toast given was to their most honored guest, " Charles
Tufts, the venerable founder of Tufts College ; may the fruition of his proj-
ect gladden his heart through all his earthly journey," to which the com-
pany responded by rising and giving cheers. The exercises closed with
the singing of " From all that dwell below the skies."
In 1862 Rev. A. A. Miner was inaugurated as the second president
and successor of Mr. Ballou, deceased. Dr. Miner held the office twelve
years, resigning in December, 1874, and was followed in March, 1875, by
Rev. Elmer H. Capen, its present president.
Many other bequests have been made beside the ones mentioned ; those
from the State, from P. T. Barnum, and from the estate of the Honorable
Charles Robinson being the most important. The founder of this institu-
tion was a citizen of Somerville, as is its president and are most of its pro-
fessors. Most of its landed possessions are also here, with some of its
buildings, its campus and its principal avenues of approach ; and thus with
Medford, Somerville shares the renown of this " First Universalist College
in the World."
Charles Tufts was a descendant of Peter Tufts, who settled in Maiden
previous to 1638. Mr. Tufts lived on the northerly side of Washington
street, west of the Lowell railroad, which his property adjoined ; the house
is still standing.
Many mementos of former days still remain. Our hills are yet here,
though from most have disappeared all traces of their revolutionary occupa-
tion. Until within a few years remains of old forts and breastworks were
visible; those on the Central Hill park were dug away in 1878 regardless of
protests ; the " Fort " on this park is modern, and was built in 1885. It has
no history and is not on the lines of the revolutionary works, although with-
in their enclosure. The cannon in it were used in the defenses of Washing-
ton during the Civil War. On an estate on the opposite side of Highland
avenue old breastworks were still in existence in 1892, where now is an
apartment house. There was also an old redoubt on the top of a ledgy
knoll near Mystic avenue, commanding a long reach of Mystic River ; a few
years earlier, a little higher up Winter Hill stood another redoubt, since dug
down in excavating the ledge. On the southerly slope of Prospect Hill
revolutionary traces still remain, — tradition says they were the old tent-holes
of 1775, or perhaps of the Burgoyne prisoners. These are all that are now
left in the city.
There are many houses of a century or more ago, some prerevolution-
ary, among these Mr. Blaisdell's on Somerville avenue, where Samuel Tufts
lived in 1775, and which was later General Greene's headquarters, and the
Oliver Tufts house on Sycamore street, the headquarters of General Lee.
66 SOMERVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT.
In 1 890 the city erected tablets on many historic spots, they were as
follows : —
On Abner Blaisdell's house, Somerville avenue : " Headquarters of
Brigr dier-General Nathaniel Greene, in command of the Rhode Island
Troops during siege of Boston. 1775-6."
On the Oliver Tufts house. Sycamore street, now owned by Mrs. Flet-
cher : " Headquarters of Major-General Charles Lee, commanding left wing
of the American Army during the siege of Boston. 1775-6."
On the stonework of the battery, Central Hill park : " This battery was
erected by the city in 1885, and is within the lines of the 'French Redoubt,'
built by the Revolutionary Army in 1775, as a part of the besieging lines of
Boston. — The guns were donated by Congress, and were in service during
the late Civil War."
On Prospect Hill : " On this Hill the Union Flag, with its Thirteen
Stripes — the Emblem of the United Colonies — First bade Defiance to an
Enemy, January i, 1776. — Here was the Citadel, the most formidable work
in the American Lines during the siege of Boston : June 17, 1775, ^o March
On Elm street, corner of Willow avenue : " A sharp fight occurred here,
between the Patriots and the British, April 19, 1775. — This marks British
On Washington street, corner of Dane street : " John Woolrich, Indian
trader, built near this place in 1 630. — The first white settler on Somerville
At junction Broadway and Main street : " Paul Revere passed over this
road, in his midnight ride to Lexington and Concord, April 18, 1775. — Site
of the ' Winter Hill Fort,' a stronghold built by the American Forces while
besieging Boston, 1775-6,"
On Washington street opposite Rossmore street: "On this Hillside
James Miller, Minute-man, aged d^^ was slain by the British, April 19, 1775.
— * I am too old to run.' "
Though required improvements may sometimes sweep away ancient
monuments, yet those interested in local history view with regret the often-
times needless destruction of landmarks which recall so vividly the story of
Nature and circumstance have given Somerville an admirable location.
On the north and west are the classic halls of Tufts and of Harvard ; to the
south and east, the metropolis and the heights of Bunker Hill. In the near
valley ebbs and flows the silent Mystic. In their midst is Somerville " on
her seven hills," each crowned with a historic halo, and from each extends
a beautiful and widening landscape, thick with villages and cities, fading
among pleasant hills and valleys in the misty distance.
CARL H. HBINTXBMANN, BOSTON.
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