Meeting-house brook and the second Meeting-house.
by F. H. C. Woolley.[Read before the Medford Historical Society, April 18, 1904.]
I. Meeting house brook.THERE'S a little valley you reach going westward as High street curves and dips beyond Winthrop square. Just before it goes up Marm Simonds' hill the road passes over a brook—the brook of all the brooks of Medford. Did you ever stand here on a June morning and look across the meadow to the north and watch this brook come sparkling from out the distant foliage like a silver line through billowy grasses and nodding daisy blossoms? And turning to look southward follow its course through the marshes and to the river; then you notice on a near-by tree a tablet that marks the site of the second meeting-house. You may have passed this spot many times in the modern electric car, but only by the ‘old-fashioned’ way of walking and loitering along here will a picture of the early years of Medford's history present itself. You will even need to get acquainted with the brook itself—see it in its varied moods, inquire into its mysteries, follow it as though you walked with a friend, and then it will tell you that the old meeting-house and this brook were companions for many years; that no one is now living of all who loved the sacred spot; that the name lives forever in ‘Meeinghouse brook.’ But what of the brook? Whence does it come? Two miles or so to the north from out what was once known as Turkey Swamp, but now the Winchester Reservoir, [p. 74] it finds its way southerly down the woodlands past old gray rocks that throw dark shadows in its pools; sometimes it gurgles over the stones and then is silent among clumps of brake and fern and masses of jewel-weed. The Canada lilies swing their bells along its course. It winds down a narrow dell where its waters once, held at flood, turned the wheel of Captain Marble's mill (formerly it was called Marble brook). A high bank and heap of stones mark the spot, and there the fringed orchid waves its plume. It flows under bridges shaded by willows, through beds of mint; and the monkey-flower in midsummer and the flaming cardinal flower in August love the cool water. Then it swings around and passes south-easterly under a stone wall out into the orchard of General Lawrence's farm. Here it forms three levels, being dammed with large blocks of granite, making a miniature sea,—a delight to the children,—for here they wade and sail their boats. Now it quickens pace and passes under a small stone bridge at Winthrop street, where the white flowers of the turtle-head guard the archway; swings around past the place where John Albree once held its waters back to run his grist-mill, and like an arrow crosses the meadow, flows under the roadway near site of the second meeting-house, and wends its way to the river. A part of this old Woburn road, now High street, just by the bridge led down through the brook, where horses and cattle travelling along the road could stop and drink. It is just here that I must show you a picture of a Sabbath morning in the summer of 1730. Across the meadows and at the scattered houses the first roll of the drum is heard reminding the people of the hour for public worship. A hundred years have passed since Gov. Cradock's colony came up the Mystic. The settlement at Medford has been augmented by many new-comers. Their lands stretch along the river. Clearings have been made, houses built, trees planted. At the bend of the road east of the Meeting-house [p. 75] stands the parsonage occupied by Rev. Ebenezer Turrell. His wife, young and fair, is just adjusting the bands at the neck of his gown when the last call for worship sounds. Old and young, on horseback and afoot, are passing. A young man and maid loiter on the bridge over the brook. In these days the weekly assembling at the meeting-house for worship gives also the opportunity to learn of each other's welfare, for many of their homes are far apart and the busy daily life forbids much intercourse. Within, the meeting-house is plain, with high pulpit and sounding-board, and a gallery at the end opposite. The people sit upon uncushioned seats. Toward the front, a few pews, square enclosures, nun-like pens, with seats around three sides and a door opening into the aisle, contain the deacons or some prominent citizens and their families. The service is long—the sermon of extraordinary length. It is unnecessary that I give you more than this simple outline in words. The memories of many here reach back to earlier days and ways; and, nature-born, you have received from worthy ancestors those things that make you somewhat familiar with that period in Medford's history. I cannot better express the thoughts that have come to me, as I have sauntered up and down this brook and loitered near the sight of the old Meeting-house and reflected, studied and pencilled at intervals during some three years than to show you this result, and then proceed in detail to give you an account of the building and carrying on of the Second Meeting-house.
Ii. The second Meeting-house.The first meeting-house of Medford, built in 1696 ‘on a rock on the north side of Woburn road’ (the site familiarly known at the top of Marm Simonds' hill) had accommodated the people for twenty years, when in June, 1716, it was considered inadequate to meet the needs of the increasing population. Seven prominent [p. 76] citizens headed by Deacon Thomas Willis were chosen to ascertain ‘whether it was best to build a new meeting-house or to enlarge the old.’ On July 19, 1716, at an adjourned town-meeting, this committee reported their decision that a new meeting-house should be built, to be 50 feet long, 38 feet broad and 27 feet stud, and to cost £ 450. Nearly three years elapsed before action was taken on this committee's report and then (February 9, 1719) it was voted down. Another year went by and this time (March 7, 1720) the town sought advice from neighboring citizens, asking that ‘five gentlemen be chosen from neighboring towns to give their advice whether it will be most convenient for the town at present to build a new meeting-house or enlarge the old one.’ One week later the question was raised in the adjourned town-meeting as to whether the town was going to abide by and rest satisfied with the determination of this committee, and this was given an affirmative vote; and within two (2) months came a vote of the town refusing to raise any money for erecting a new meeting-house. The Committee of Five from neighboring towns considered the matter until February 20, 1721, when evidently they rendered a report favorable to a new meeting-house; but the town refused to accept the result of the committee's work, thereby going back upon the vote of the year before. This aroused a protest, signed by twenty citizens of the western section, dissenting from this vote of refusal to accept the committee's report, as illegal. The signers also affirmed that they had been to some considerable trouble to procure land and remove encumbrances in view of a proposed new meeting-house. It was then midsummer of the year 1722, and the honored Committee of Five whose favorable report for a new meeting-house had not been accepted, now found the town ready to reconsider and to accept their report. Which action immediately stirred up the people of the eastern end, who dissented from such a vote and brought [p. 77] in a petition signed by fourteen citizens giving the reasons, first, ‘that it was wholly contrary to the warrant granted for town-meeting,’ and, second, ‘that it was contrary to a former vote of the town.’ These differences and prejudices aroused throughout the town seem to have undergone a mollifying process during some three years before the subject of the new meeting-house was revived. A piece of land belonging to John Bradshaw was selected as an available spot for building upon, but no money could be raised for the purpose by the town. Almost ten years had gone by, and the capacity of the old house must have been taxed to its utmost. On January 10th and later on, the 24th of January, 1726, in two town-meetings, the whole matter was definitely settled by the town purchasing of Mr. John Albree land adjoining Marble brook (Marrbelle brook in Town Records) for £ 55 for one acre, and deciding to build a new meeting-house thereon. A building committee of eleven men, whose names were important ones in the town's history, were chosen to attend to the matter. Thomas Tufts, Esq., Capt. Ebenezer Brooks, Peter Seccombe, John Richardson, Capt. Samuel Brooks, John Willis, William Willis, Lieut. Stephen Hall, John Francis, Benjamin Parker and John Whitmore. These reported that it would be proper to build a meetinghouse 52 feet large, 38feet wide, 33feel posts. They were empowered to build the house. Thenceforth the town was concerned with the detail of the building and the raising of necessary money, as notice the following votes:— March 7, 1726.—‘Voted to have a steeple.’ April 25, 1726.—‘Voted to raise £ 250 for carrying on work of meeting-house.’ May 8, 1727.—‘Voted to raise money on places left for pews in new meeting-house.’ August 27, 1727.—‘Voted that the Town will pay for the building of a ministerial pew in the new meeting house in the place where the Rev. Mr. Turrell shall choose.’ [p. 80] of worship Rev. Mr. Turrell served as the pastor. More than five thousand sermons were preached here and over one thousand persons received baptism. When we think of such a record as that we can imagine how sacred the spot was to more than a generation. My account has been almost wholly drawn from the early records of the town. A glimpse of Mr. Turrell's ministry was given in an able paper upon the ‘Early Ministers of Medford’ by Rev. H. C. Delong, in 1899, and is published in our Register. The farewell service took place on March 4, 1770. Another meeting-house, some distance away to the east on the northerly side of this same road had been built, larger and better suited to the needs of that day. To this the people moved, and when Paul Revere rode through Medford some five years later on that thrilling April night (just 129 years ago) he passed this Third Meeting-house, tall and imposing in the moonlight, and pressing westward along High street crossed the wooden bridge over Meeting-house brook. The hurrying hoofs awoke no echoes from the old meeting-house, for long ago it had been removed, having been sold at auction August 7, 1770, to Mr. John Laith for, £ 24 (O. T.); its underpinning to Mr. Benjamin Hall for £ 13, 6s. 8d., in April 1771. The land whereon it stood was bought by Mr. Ebenezer Hall, Jr., for £ 197 (O. T.) The bell had been removed in January, 1770, to the Third Meetinghouse. I have given you very little that is new or in any wise original. I have sought simply to dress up the old records; to keep in the line of truth, and present a pleasant picture by word and brush of those days when Medford was young and provided a sure, though movable, foundation for the things of the kingdom of God, of which we all are inheritors.
Andrew Hall, Esq. His widow's dower set off.1ANDREW Hall was the second son who lived to maturity of John Hall of Medford and Jemima Syll of Cambridge; he was born in Medford, May 5, 1698. When he was twenty-one, his father died, and he faced the world with little capital beside strong hands and active brain. His father had occupied a high position in the town, but when Andrew's name appears on the records it is dignified with no title, though soon he was called Mr. and later Esquire. The oldest son, John, was a distiller, succeeding his father. In 1735, Andrew bought out his brother and took possession of the distillery and wharves used in connection with the business. In addition to distilling he established a carrying trade by boat from Medford to Boston, made his own barrels and owned a slaughter house within a few rods of the ‘Great [Cradock] Bridge.’ In partnership with Benjamin Willis he bought almost the whole of the Jonathan Wade estate, including the ‘Garrison House,’ as we call the Wade homestead. This land, which extended back from High street, following the line of Brooks Lane [Brooks Lane proper, Bradlee Road, Porter Road and Governor's Avenue] was bought in small shares from the husbands of Jonathan Wade's daughters. Willis sold most of his share in various parcels to Andrew Hall or his heirs, until eventually nearly all the orginal purchase was owned by the Hall family. The homestead mentioned in the following inventory is standing  and is numbered forty-three High street; the barn was on the opposite side of the road, occupying part of the lot now covered by Page and Curtin's establishment. The ‘large brick house’ was the Garrison House. The house ‘occupied by Richard Hall’ stands at the westerly corner of Governor's avenue. [p. 82] The ‘Turkey Swamp’ district is now included in the Winchester Reservoir. Andrew Hall died June 24, 1750, and left no will. His estate was not divided until 1769, soon after his youngest son, Ebenezer, reached his majority.
After Abigail Hall's death in 1785, Oliver Prescott, Judge of Probate, assigned the dower set off to her son Benjamin2, in consideration of £ 720; which, after deducting his own share, was to be paid to his brothers and sisters or their heirs, as follows: Andrew3 (eldest son) £158.19.345, Isaac6, Richard7, Ebenezer8 Josiah9 and James10, each £79.9.71112; Sarah13, £54.6.51415; Anna16, £29.1.21718. Abigail,19 for reasons mentioned in the following document, received nothing in this division; and Sarah and [p. 85] the heirs of Anna, because these daughters had been given money while their father was alive, received less than the sons.
Strangers in Medford, (continued from Vol. 4, no. 3).
|Names.||From. Date.||Warned out.||Remarks.|
|Jones, Rebecca||Dec. 24, 1755||In family of Benj. Hall.|
|Jones, Capt. William||Holliston, Apr. 24, 1762||Jan. 1, 1763||Tavern keeper, Tenant of Col. Royall.|
|Kemp, Amasa||Groton, August 1765||Feb. 24, 1766|
|Kendall, Jesse||Woburn, Apr. 11, 1754||Son of Samuel Kendall.|
|wife and two child'n|
|Kendall, Joseph||Jan. 30, 1791||Laborer.|
|Killerin, Anna||Boston, Aug. 18, 1761||May 14, 1762||Age 4 yrs. Anna or Ann. Boarder in family of Jacob Hall.|
|Lampson,20 David||Cambridge, Apr. 1, 1765||Feb. 24, 1766||In family of Samuel Tufts jr.|
|Lampson, Martha||Ipswich, Nov. 19, 1761||Single woman in family of William Bradshaw.|
|Lawrence, Anna||Lexington, May 15, 1764||Mar. 1, 1765||In family of Aaron Hall. Servant in family of Hugh|
|Lawrence, Lydia||Woburn||Floyd, and of Dr. Simon Tufts, 1765.|
|Lealand, Amariah||Sherborn, April, 1758||Nov. 27, 1758||‘Taken in’ by Col. I. Royall.|
|Learned, Thomas||Jan. 30, 1791||Clock-maker.|
|Leech, Hannah||Reading,21 Apr. 25, 1759||Feb. 25, 1760||In house of Simon Tufts. Single woman.|
|Leech, Hannah||Reading, Nov. 29, 1773||Single woman in family of Stephen Hall.|
|Lewis,22 John||Chelsea, Apr. 10, 1765||Feb. 24, 1766||In family of Simon Tufts.|
|Lewes, Mary Lilly, (widow)||Chelsea, June 7, 1759||Nov. 21, 1735 1759||Maid in family of John Bishop.|
|Livermore, Elizabeth||Cambridge, Aug. 25, 1759||Single. Housekeeper in family of Isaac Warren.|
|Livingstone, John||Aug. 31, 1797|
|Lock, Abigail||Boston, Apr. 10, 1762||Maid in family of Stephn Bradshaw.|
|Lowder, William||Aug. 31, 1797|
|Lunno, David and wife||Dec. Ct. 1759|
Expedition to Goldsboro, N. C.23
Edited by Emma Wild Goodwin.
Company F, 5th Massachusetts Infantry, enlisted from Medford, September, 1862, for nine months. The whole term was spent in and about Newbern, North Carolina.
The Medford Historical Society solicits contributions for its scrap book and for the Colonial kitchen which it is fitting up at headquarters.