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Tory row.

Adeline A. Douglass.
At the beginning of the Revolution the larger proportion of the inhabitants of Cambridge were true to their own country in its struggle for liberty; but there were a few, office holders or those belonging to the aristocratic class, who maintained their allegiance to the King of England. It was to this class that the owners of almost every estate on the present Brattle street belonged; and because of this fact it was popularly designated as Tory Row. It was also known as Church Row, and another name was the romantic title, the King's Highway.

There were seven in all of these manor houses, surrounded by their farms and gardens. The occupants were largely related to one another, and they formed a very select circle. Few indeed outside of their own number were permitted to join in their festivities. Upon the breaking out of hostilities, the most of those with Tory proclivities were obliged to leave their homes, and in some cases to flee from their country. Their estates were confiscated and leased by the Committee of Correspondence.

Taking the houses in the order in which they are located, commencing at the east end of the street, we come first to the house on the left hand side of Brattle street next to the University Press, now occupied by the Social Union. It was [26] built about 1740 by Brigadier-General William Brattle of His Majesty's army. When General Brattle was obliged to leave his house, it was used by Col. Thomas Mifflin, quartermaster of the American army. The mansion was situated about in the centre of the extensive grounds which stretched from the present Brattle square to the Vassall estate. They were so beautifully laid out that they were said to be the finest in New England, with their shaded walks and lawns reaching to the banks of the Charles. Here were held a number of receptions while the army was in Cambridge. One was given in honor of Mrs. John Adams, and at another Mr. Adams was present. Another interesting association for Cambridge people lies in the fact that this house was once occupied by Margaret Fuller. The parlor and the room above are practically unchanged still, the former showing some handsome panelled wainscoting and, about the fireplace, probably the first Italian marble brought to America.

The next house in Tory Row was that at the corner of Hawthorn street, known as the old Batchelder or Vassall place. This is one of the oldest houses in Cambridge, as it was mentioned in the early records as being already built in 1642. In 1717 the estate came by inheritance to Jonathan Belcher, afterwards royal governor of the province, and into the possession of the Vassall family in 1736, having been purchased by Colonel John Vassall. Five years later it was sold by him to his brother, Colonel Henry Vassall. It was he, probably, who built the ancient brick wall forming the boundary line of the estate at the corner of Brattle and Ash streets (then known as Windmill Lane), which has been a landmark in Cambridge [27] for so many years. In 1775 it was in the hands of Penelope Vassall, widow of Colonel Henry Vassall, who fled to Antigua with her only daughter upon the breaking out of hostilities. This house was not confiscated as so many were at the time. It became, however, the headquarters for the medical department of the army under Dr. Church, and many of the wounded from Bunker Hill were taken here. It was in this mansion that Dr. Church was confined after his arrest for treasonable correspondence with the enemy, and his name is still to be seen carved on one of the old doors. In the sitting-room over the fireplace was a panel which opened outwards, revealing a space sufficient to conceal a man. The kitchen chimney was eight feet square. For a long time there was a popular belief that there was a subterranean passage connecting this house with the Longfellow mansion, made in order that the two Vassall families could have ready communication with each other; but search has been made among the low arches of the cellar for some trace of its existence without success. Tradition says that the Vassalls treated their slaves with cruelty, and blood stains have been shown in one of the rooms where it is said a slave was killed by a member of this family; but there is no evidence of the truth of the legend. On the contrary it is on record that Madame Vassall paid twenty pounds to free the child of their slave Tony. After the war this estate was purchased by Nathaniel Tracy of Newburyport, and later, in 1792, it was bought by Andrew Cragie who also owned the Longfellow house. About fifty years afterwards it came into the possession of Samuel Batchelder, the father of the present proprietors. [28]

The Longfellow or Craigie house, the third of these notable places, stands nearly opposite the Batchelder estate. It was built in 1759 by Colonel John Vassall, a brother of Colonel Henry Vassall whose home we have just been considering. After he was obliged to vacate these premises, a regiment from Marblehead commanded by Colonel Glover occupied the mansion. This is perhaps the most interesting of the houses in Tory Row, as with it are associated the names of those who are so prominent, either historically or in the world of letters. As the headquarters of General Washington it will always hold a foremost place among the points of interest in Cambridge.

After Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of the American army — he left Philadelphia on the twenty-first of June, 1775, to join the troops whose headquarters were then at Cambridge. He accomplished the whole of the journey on horseback, accompanied from place to place by mounted escorts. He made all possible speed, arriving the second of July at Watertown, where the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts was in session, by which body he was warmly greeted. He then proceeded to the quarters assigned to him in Cambridge. As he approached the camp of the army which occupied about the site of the present common, he was greeted with shouts and the firing of artillery. Congress ordered that all the rooms but one in the house of the president of Harvard College, now standing on Massachusetts avenue between Dane and Boylston Halls and known as the Wadsworth house, should be prepared for the use of General Washington and of General Lee who accompanied him. On the morning of the next day, July 3, the army being drawn up on the com- [29] [30] [31] mon, Washington formally took command under the wide-spreading branches of the venerable tree which will always be associated with this event. In a very short time Washington left the president's house, probably because he considered it too near Boston for safety, as a shell had burst near it shortly before. When he first entered Cambridge he was attracted by the appearance of the house on Tory Row then known as the Vassall place. Upon his indicating his preference for this estate as his residence, the Committee of Safety immediately ordered it put in readiness for his occupation; and about the middle of July--the exact date is uncertain-he removed to the new headquarters which became his home until he left Cambridge about nine months later.

How many troubled hours Washington spent under this roof! Prominent among his causes for anxiety was the fact that the army was short of ammunition, and it was of the greatest importance that the knowledge of this be kept from the invaders.

Mrs. Washington arrived in Cambridge from her home in Virginia, Dec. 11, 1775, accompanied by her son and his wife, Mr.Custis and Mrs. Custis. They travelled with a “chariot and four, with black postilions in scarlet and white liveries,” a Virginian style of that period and one well befitting the rank of the wife of the commander-in-chief. After her arrival, many were the entertainments furnished in the dining-room of the old Vassall house, to the most notable people of the time. The rooms most closely connected with their occupancy are the southeast room on the first floor, which General Washington used as his study; the room over this, which was the general's chamber; the northeast room, where [32] he held councils of war with his subordinate officers; and the room on the left as one enters (the southwest), in which Mrs. Washington received her friends. This is now called the Lady Washington room, and the wood-work is the same as in 1775.

General Washington's appearance was very stately in his blue and buff uniform, rich epaulettes, elegant small sword, and silver-mounted pistols. He left his Cambridge home April 4, 1776, for New York. Thirteen years later when on a visit to Boston he passed through Cambridge and spent about an hour at his old headquarters.

In 1792 the Vassall estate was purchased by Andrew Craigie. by whose name it was known for so many years. It was said that he accumulated a fortune when apothecary-general to the Continental army. The northeast room on the first floor was enlarged and the wooden columns and much of the fine wood carving was added by Craigie. He was greatly interested in the development of East Cambridge, the bridge there still being known by his name. He became involved financially through his speculations, andd during the last years of his life he was virtually a prisoner in his own house. He was liable to arrest for debt if he was seen outside his home on week days, though on Sundays he could go out with no fear of molestation. After his death his widow continued to reside here, helping out her income by letting rooms to students; and Edward Everett, Jared Sparks, Joseph E. Worcester and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow among others occupied rooms in the venerable mansion at this time.

Soon after Mrs. Craigie's death in 1843, the estate was purchased by Mr. Longfellow. Since then the interest in the house on account of its connection [33] with Washington is overshadowed by the associations with our much loved and greatly honored poet. He first occupied the southeast chamber, and it was in this room that all of his poems from 1837 to 1845 were written. Later the room below this on the first floor was used by him as a study, and it remains to-day precisely as the poet left it in 1882.

The grounds of the Craigie estate extended to the house on the right-hand side of Brattle street, formerly at the west corner of Sparks street, occupied by John Brewster, which was removed about 1887 or 1888 to the corner of Riedesel avenue. This was the residence of Judge Richard Lechmere, and later in 1771 the home of Judge Jonathan Sewall. He was attorney-general, and fled on the breaking out of hostilities in 1775. It was in this house that Baron Riedesel and his wife were quartered after his capture with Burgoyne's army, and from which the baroness wrote the letters which are now of so much historical interest. The house has been greatly altered and is now decidedly modern in appearance.

We next come to the old Lee house, on the right hand side of Brattle street just above Appleton street, now known as the Nichols house. By some this is considered the oldest building in Cambridge. The frame of this edifice was brought from England, as the Reverend Daniel Waldo who built it feared there were no workmen in this country capable of erecting a house of this description. His name was written with a diamond on one of the window panes. The house was built in the most substantial manner, the partitions between the rooms being a foot thick, and the depth of the outer walls is shown by the wide window seats. The walls [34] of some of the rooms were covered with landscape paper. It was afterwards owned by Judge Joseph Lee. On the occupation of Cambridge by the troops he removed to Boston where he remained during the siege of that town, but after the siege was raised he returned to Cambridge and was allowed to live in his residence on condition that he would not interfere with politics, although he was obliged to give up his position as councillor. He remained here until his death, in 1802.

Next in order is the Fayerweather house also on the right-hand side of the street, between the Nichols house and Faverweather street, long the residence of William Wells who kept there a well-known school for boys. This structure, built between 1740 and 1750, was first occupied by George Ruggles, who after the trouble with the mother country began, sold the estate in 1774 to Thomas Fayerweather. This house was used as a hospital for the wounded soldiers. In one of the old records we read: “August 21, 1775, a sergeant, corporal, and nine men to mount guard to-morrow morning at Mr. Fayerweather's house lately converted into a hospital.”

The house is now owned by Mr. Newell and is in most excellent preservation, a fine, stately and hospitable mansion as of yore.

As famous as Craigie house, and for a similar reason, is “Elmwood,” the entrance to which is on Elmwood avenue, between Brattle and Mount Auburn streets. This house was built between 1763 and 1767 by Thomas Oliver, the last of the lieutenant-governors under the crown. He was so much disliked by the people that a large number surrounded the house and demanded his resignation. He refused until he feared for his own safety and that [35] [36] [37] of his family, when he wrote on the paper containing his resignation,--“My house at Cambridge being surrounded by four thousand people, in compliance with their commands, I sign my name, Thomas Oliver.” He left Cambridge immediately and never returned. He died in exile at Bristol, England, in 1815. On his departure the house was taken possession of by the Committee of Correspondence. It was next used as a hospital for the men who were wounded in the battle of Bunker Hill, and in the field opposite this and the Fayerweather house those who died in these mansions, temporarily converted into hospitals, were buried. Elmwood then became for three weeks the headquarters for Benedict Arnold and his company of forty men from New Haven.

In 1779 it was sold to Andrew Cabot, who eight years later resold the residence to Elbridge Gerry of Marblehead, a well-known patriot and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He afterwards served as governor of Massachusetts, and later still as vice-president of the United States.

In 1818 the estate was purchased of Mr. Gerry's widow by Rev. Charles Lowell, who was pastor of the West Church in Cambridge for over forty years. A year later his youngest and most distinguished son, James Russell Lowell, was born there. During the life of Rev. Mr. Lowell both sides of Elmwood avenue were bordered by hedges of lilac and other shrubs which grew in great luxuriance. He wished it to be kept in this state of nature, as it was a reminder to him of the lanes in England. All who have read the letters of James Russell Lowell, edited by Charles Eliot Norton, will recall the love which tile poet felt for this mansion, his birthplace. and its beautiful [38] grounds, where doubtless he received many of his poetic inspirations; and will feel, for the sake of the author whose personality will ever hallow this spot, an added interest in this, the last of the houses which constituted our historic Tory Row. [39] [40]


All through the golden haze
     Leaves were drifting and falling.
All through the mellow days
     Boughs were bending and calling
To their little castaways.
     Through branches almost bare
A squirrel came frisking and springing.
     No restless birds were there:
Yet he was bounding and swinging
     As if born of the sky and air.
But in the winter cold
     Who will be loving and caring
For the leaves, then withered and old;
     Or the sprite with his tilting and daring,
And no tender arm to enfold?
     All through the changeful year
Nature is finding and keeping
     A home for her children dear;
And the waifs may go fluttering or leaping
     With never a shade of fear.

[41] [42] [43] [44]

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