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Our Seal.

By J. Albert Holmes, for the Committee.

Charles D. Elliot, always interested in the Historical Society, was an active member of its Seal Committee. The Seal as finally adopted appears for the first time in this issue of Historic Leaves, and the Somerville Historical Society affectionately dedicates the first use of it to his memory.

The original drawing of the Seal was made in April. 1909 by William Henry Upham, of Somerville, an artist and illustrator, and a descendant of John Upham, of Weymouth and Malden, 1600-1681.

It consists of a shield outlined in gold, on which appears illustrated, also in gold, the launching of the Blessing of the Bay, the raising on Prospect Hill of the first American flag, and the Old Powder House. The shield is surrounded by a looped ribbon of blue, on which in gold letters is the name, ‘Somerville Historical Society,’ and the date of organization, ‘1897.’

Regarding the Blessing of the Bay, ‘Some time in 1631,’ to quote Mr. Elliot,

the governor (Winthrop) seems to have [50] come to Somerville territory and established himself at Ten Hills, where he evidently lived during the summers of many years, Charlestown peninsula, and later Boston, being his winter residence. On July 4, 1631, he built a bark at Mistick, which was launched this day, and called the Blessing of the Bay.

This was at Ten Hills Farm, in Somerville, just east of the present Wellington Bridge. She was of thirty tons burden, and was the first craft built in Massachusetts large enough to cross the ocean. She was constructed of locust timber, cut on the farm, and was built by subscription at a cost of £ 145. In 1632 she was converted into a cruiser to suppress piracy on the New England coast. Her energies were to be particularly directed against one David Bull, who, with fifteen Englishmen, had committed acts of piracy among the fishermen and plundered a settlement. She therefore may lay claim to the honor of having been the first American vessel of war.

Mention of the ship is made several times in the Colony Records up to 1692.

The Cambridge Chronicle in 1852 stated that the identical ‘ways’ on which the Blessing of the Bay was built were still in existence and in fair preservation. James R. Hopkins, chief of the Somerville Fire Department, who was familiar with the locality, and John S. Hayes, master of the Forster School, together with two firemen, William A. Perry and William A. Burbank, in May, 1892, secured a portion of the ‘ways’ from which the bark was launched. Three vases and two gavels were made of the wood secured, and one of the gavels is now in the possession of the Historical Society.

From the Somerville Journal Souvenir number, March 3, 1892, we take the following:—

The Powder House, or old mill, at West Somerville is unquestionably the most interesting historical relic in Massachusetts, and it has, indeed, but few rivals in New England. The exact date when it was built is not known. It was originally a grist-mill, and was probably built by John Mallet, who came into possession of the site in 1703-04. In his will, made [51] in 1720, the grist-mill is left to his two sons. The mill was undoubtedly built several years previous to 1720, and for some time after that it continued to grind the corn for the farmers for many miles around.

In 1747 the old mill, with a quarter of an acre of land, was sold to the Province of Massachusetts Bay for £ 250. After being remodeled it was used for storing the powder of the surrounding towns and of the province.

The Powder House commemorates one of the earliest hostile acts of the Revolution. On the morning of September 1, 1774, General Gates sent an expedition to seize the powder at the magazine, and 260 soldiers embarked at Long Wharf in Boston and proceeded up Mystic River, landing at Ten Hills Farm, from where they marched to the Powder House. The 250 half-barrels of powder which the magazine contained were speedily transferred to the boats and removed to Castle William (now Fort Independence), in Boston Harbor. A detachment of troops also visited Cambridge, and carried off two field pieces which they found there. The news of the seizure of the powder spread with great rapidity, and on the following morning thousands of armed men from the surrounding towns assembled on Cambridge Common, ready to oppose the forces of the king.

The Powder House was used for storing powder until the erection of a new magazine at Cambridgeport.

In 1836 it came into the possession of Nathan Tufts, in whose family it remained until May 28, 1892, at which time it was presented to the city, together with one and one-half acres of surrounding land, to which three acres more were added by purchase. One of the conditions under which the gift was made was that the Powder House be kept perpetually in repair, and that the land surrounding it be made into a public park and forever maintained as such, to be called the Nathan Tufts Park. The conditions have been fully carried out by the city.

The bronze tablet on the Powder House, setting forth its history, was placed there by the Massachusetts Society of [52] the Sons of the Revolution on September 1, 1892, 118 years after the seizure of the gunpowder by General Gage. ‘The Old Powder House is about thirty feet high, with a diameter of fifteen feet at the base. Its walls, which are of bluestone (probably quarried on the hillside), are two feet thick. Within, the old structure formerly had three lofts, supported by heavy beams. Originally it had but one entrance, that on the southwest side.’

The following is from Lossing's ‘Field Book of the Revolution’:—

On the first of January, 1776, the new Continental Army was organized, and on that day the Union flag of thirteen stripes was unfurled for the first time in the American camp, Somerville, Mass. On that day the king's speech was received in Boston, and copies of it were sent to Washington, who, in a letter to Joseph Reed, written January 4, 1776, said: “The speech I send you. A volume of them were sent out by the Boston gentry, and farcical enough, we gave great joy to them without knowing or intending it, for on that day, the day which gave being to the new army, but before the proclamation came to hand, we had hoisted the Union flag, in compliment to the United Colonies. But behold, it was received in Boston as a token of the deep impression the speech had made upon us, and as a signal of submission. So we hear by a person out of Boston last night. By this time I presume they begin to think it strange that we have not made a formal surrender of our lines.”

The flag bore the device of the English Union, which is composed of the cross of St. George, to denote England, and St. Andrew's cross, in the form of an X, to denote Scotland. It must be remembered that at this time the American Congress had not declared their independence, and that even yet the Americans proffered their warmest loyalty to British justice, when it should redress their grievances.

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