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The Bradburys of Medford and their ancestry.

by Eliza M. Gill.
[Read before the Medford Historical Society, April 7, 1906.]
Continued from Vol. IX., No. 3.

WILLIAM, the third child of Captain Wymond Bradbury, after he settled in Medford remained here, and his children spent their lives here. His name does not appear on the Malden tax list. When of age he must have left the Malden home, settled in Medford, and engaged in business, for he was assessed a poll tax in 1791, and the following year had personal property. He was married by Dr. Osgood, October 14, 1795 (the good minister's diary verifies the fact), to Elizabeth Floyd of Medford, who was born July 14, 1768. She was the daughter of Andrew and Elizabeth (Bradshaw) Floyd, who were married October 31, 1765. Her father came from Roxbury; her mother was descended from John Bradshaw, one of the earliest recorded tax payers of Medford.

William and Elizabeth Bradbury had a family of eight children. He was a cooper, did a good business, and lived in a comfortable way. We can trace his prosperity by increased tax rates. In 1797 he had one-half a dwelling house and another building, and two years later, a cow and stock in trade. Later the assessors' valuation book shows he owned a whole house, another building, a barn, probably, for he was taxed for a cow and a pig, two acres of tillage, eight of pasture, six of unimproved land, had $500 dollars on hand and at interest, and $200 stock in trade.

In 1797 he bought of Joshua Wyman of Medford for [p. 74] $700, a parcel of land and the southerly part of a dwelling, with all other buildings thereon, bounded east by the county road, west by land belonging to heirs of Isaac Royall, Esq. This is the south part of the three-story dwelling house on Main street, now numbered one hundred and five. In 1803 he bought a parcel of land of Ebenezer Hall, 2d., of Medford for one hundred and fifty dollars. This was west of his dwelling place, and was bounded on the north by land of Andrew Blanchard, west by that of Nathaniel Hall, Esq., south by land of Ebenezer Hall, 2d., and on the east by land of Luther Stearns and his own land. The deed of another parcel was recorded the same date as that of the one just described. This was purchased also of Ebenezer Hall, 2d., and was bounded west by land of Captain Andrew Hall; north by the road leading toward the county road; east by land of Ebenezer Hall, 2d., which was laid out a road as far as the Middlesex Canal, and south by land of Ebenezer Hall, 2d.

In the county road we recognize our Main street; in the one that leads toward the county road, South street, and the one that ran to the Middlesex Canal is the Walnut street of today. It was not till 1829 that Main and South streets were so designated by an act of the town. Bradbury lane was the former name of Walnut street.

On this last mentioned piece of land, William Bradbury built the house now standing at the corner of South and Walnut streets, sometime before 1806, for in that year he was first taxed for a whole dwelling house. The half-house he owned for many years. In 1821 it was occupied by Mr. G. Brooks; in 1822, by Mr. David Leach.

The making of rum and packing of beef carried on in Medford necessitated the production of barrels and casks, and afforded ample scope for the business William Bradbury engaged in. He made many barrels for Ebenezer Hall, whose tannery occupied the site of the Armory; for Tanner Hall, as he was called, slaughtered cattle, packed the beef, tanned the skins, and did a very large [p. 75] business. The cooper shop was near the tannery, and back of the Howe house and trunk store which stood on the lot west of the one on which stands the house of Dr. C. V. Bemis, High street.

As stories of a local flavor are enjoyed, I will relate one recently told me. Governor Hill of New Hampshire, as befitted a thrifty, democratic, New England gentleman, came to Mr. Hall's one night with a drove of cattle. He was given his supper and lodging in the way an ordinary drover would be received and made comfortable for the night. In the morning when the bill of sale was receipted and the signature disclosed the identity of the supposed drover, there was consternation, a few apologies, and the governor took his breakfast with the family. Isaac Hill was governor of New Hampshire, 1836-38. It is said, Timothy Cotting, who was a friend of Tanner Hall (they were both Democrats), could never forego the opportunity of joking his friend on this experience.

In 1814, William Bradbury was assessor; in 1823, he was on committee with Andrew Blanchard, Galen James, Turell Tufts, and Nathan Adams, to whom was referred the petition of those citizens in the east part of the town who desired a school in their section.

Previous to the sale of his father's property, William Bradbury had made over to him about twelve acres of woodlot in what is now Glenwood. He may have used the wood in his coopering, and there are people living who remember seeing him going back and forth with his axe to cut wood. He sold this property to the late Daniel Lawrence, who sold it to a Mr. Williams, who built up East Medford, the section now called Glenwood.

Mr. Bradbury attended the First Parish Church, and it is noticeable that his children were presented for baptism in nearly every instance within a short time of birth; but this was in the days when the church believed in infant baptism.

He had one peculiarity well remembered by old residents. [p. 76] He could not endure a sermon or service one minute beyond 12 o'clock, and when the limit was reached, he would take out his watch, hold it up with great ostentation, slam the pew door, and stride down the aisle, quite likely with his hands under his coat tails, a favorite attitude with him.

He died, as his father had, of paralysis, January 4, 1848, in his seventy-ninth year. His will was signed August 18, 1832. He left $620 in varying sums of money to his six daughters, to be paid within a year of his death to them or their heirs, and the use and improvement of his real estate to his wife during her life, at her decease to be equally divided among his children or their heirs, and the remainder of his personal estate to his wife. She died July 14, 1854.

I shall not notice the children of William Bradbury in order of age, for convenience in grouping together those best remembered by the Medford residents today.

Mary, the second child, born September 14, 1797, died Angust 15, 1848. There is no record of her baptism.

William Moody, the third child, was born July 20, 1800, and baptized July 27, 1800. He was lost at sea September 5, 1821.

Susan Newhall, the fourth child, born July—, 1802, was baptized August i, 1802, and died May 28, 1867. Like others of her family she was skilful with the needle, and did dressmaking at home. She had many patrons among the town's people. A pupil of her sister Eliza's school, now living in this city, had her wedding dress made by Miss Susan.

Henry Wymond, the fifth child, born March 5, 1804, baptized March 25, 1804, died November 8, 1810. He went to call his father to dinner or to come home with him, and running along on the stones on the edge of the river, fell in and was drowned. No outcry was heard, and the accident was not known till some time later, when his body was seen floating in the river. Dr. Osgood's invaluable diary informs us: ‘Nov. 9, 1810 attended [p. 77] funeral of Bradbury child.’ A gravestone bears the following inscription:—

In memory of Henry Wymond Bradbury son of Wiilliam Bradbury &
Elizabeth Bradbury who died Nov. 8, 1810
Aet 7 years

While with the spirits of the just
My Saviour I adore,
I smile upon my sleeping dust
That now can weep no more.

Adeline, the eighth and youngest child, born September 1, 1810, was baptized September 16, 1810, and died March 17, 1857.

Caroline, the sixth child, born January 5, 1806, was baptized January 12, 1806. The intention of marriage was recorded August 15, 1830, and on September i of that year she was married to George Chase of Newburyport. She remained in the family home, as her husband was a sea captain. She went with him on one voyage and perhaps more. He died in the early 40's. She was a bright, charming woman, and passionately fond of flowers. The garden, a beautiful spot in her parents' time, became her especial charge. It was a labor of love that she bestowed upon it, and it smiled into abundant blooms under her faithful and tender care. She became a member of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, September 3, 1864; was a contributor at the weekly exhibitions for many years, and was known for her graceful arrangement of flowers. She died June 8, 1881.

Charlotte, the next in point of age, born February 14, 1808, baptized February 21, 1808, was the last of the family to die in the old home, where she passed away December 22, 1881.

The family became well known by the fame of the excellent private school kept by the eldest daughter, Elizabeth, or Eliza as she was generally called, in the [p. 78] family home, in the house standing at the corner of South and Walnut streets. Rev. Charles Brooks, in his History of Medford says, ‘The private boarding school for young ladies, taught for twenty-four years with signal success by Miss Eliza Bradbury, was deservedly ranked among the most useful seminaries within the neighborhood of Boston. Devoting herself to the most substantial and important branches of education, she produced the most durable and happy results. Her pupils were mostly from other towns, and several of them from the most elevated families.’

Miss Bradbury was born August 14, 1796, and was baptized June 17, 1798. She began teaching at the age of twenty-one or twenty-two. She had both boarders and day pupils at the same time, often from twenty to thirty, and later she received only day scholars. The ages of the pupils varied from six to fifteen; a few young ladies were among the number, and two or three very young boys were privileged attendants. One lady, who was a pupil at the age of six, writes: ‘It was considered a good school for that time. It was a boarding school as well as day school, and was well patronized. The mother kept the house on South street, and the daughters, Miss Mary and Miss Eliza, took charge of the school.’ I know of no one else who recalls Mary as a teacher, but Charlotte assisted in teaching during the existence of the school. On the selectmen's records it is found once mentioned as Miss E. & M. Bradbury's school but generally Miss E. Bradbury's. She had an account with the town for several pupils educated at the town's expense. The rate of tuition was twenty cents per week. It was called South Street Seminary.

The alphabet was taught, and the following branches: reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, botany, history, chemistry, philosophy, drawing, painting. Much time was given to instruction in fine needle-work and the various kinds of fancy work in vogue at that time. The designs for embroidery were all drawn by Miss Bradbury [p. 79] with a fine camel's hair brush, and most exquisite work of this kind was done by Miss Bradbury, her sisters and pupils. Many pieces are to be found in Medford today.

Girls were well grounded in arithmetic through interest. On Saturday compositions were written or poetry recited. There was a piano for the pupils to practice on. For the boarders there were two beds in a room, and during a thunder storm the timid ones were allowed to go to bed. They attended the First Parish Church, and were never allowed to walk out singly. At a certain hour each day lunch was served to the boarders in a little closet.

Especial pains were taken with deportment and manners. Industry and good behavior were encouraged by the giving of written prizes or simple, home-made gifts, and for excellence in recitations, the wearing of medals for a specified time was allowed. Medford's daughters of one generation were attendants at Mrs. Susanna Rowson's School, the next at South Street Seminary, some remaining at the latter six or seven years. There was no High School here till 1835, and it was the custom at that period for well-to-do families to send their children to private schools. Girls of that day were much like those of the present, and the story is told that on one occasion they locked the teachers out for awhile and held the schoolroom. The pupils were drilled in the practice of walking with books on their heads, gradually adding to the number they could poise.

The southwest room was especially fitted up for a schoolroom, with desks and benches. There was a little room where cloaks and hats were hung, south of the schoolroom, which may have been the one seen today. The schoolroom had windows on the south and west, and when the small lights were replaced by large ones not many years ago, the names written on the panes by the young ladies with their diamond rings were seen. The living rooms were on the South street side of the [p. 80] house. Later the house was altered to accommodate two families; an addition was made on the west side of the schoolroom, and other changes were made.

There was a fine garden with many small fruits like raspberries and currants, and the beautiful flower garden was a delight to the pupils who could look out upon it from the schoolroom. One window in the house was always filled with flowers and plants.

The father and mother were always affectionately called Pa Bradbury and Ma Bradbury. The former when digging in the garden was wont to apostrophize the worms he unearthed, much to the amusement of the little folks. Mrs. Bradbury was considered an especially lovable person, and was a source of comfort and a tower of strength at all times to those under her charge.

Two of the school terms closed the last of February and of August respectively, and there were two other terms.

Each year on the first of May it was the custom for the scholars to go on an excursion, spend the day on Pasture Hill, or its vicinity, and crown a May Queen.

Miss Bradbury took a kindly interest in all her pupils, is pleasantly remembered by them as a dignified and most excellent teacher, and a faithful friend. I have found many who speak of her worth and the excellence of her school. One young woman's impressions were colored by her feelings of homesickness. She had been sent to the school because she was in poor health. Although the pupils were not allowed to walk out without permission, her feelings overcame her, drove her to break the rule, and she walked to her home in Charlestown without giving any notice of her intention. She was a boarder for a year, and is living in Charlestown, nearly eighty-three years of age. She says she can now play ‘Java March’ and ‘Bounding Billows,’ and recite ‘I am monarch of all I survey,’ and the other poetry she learned at the school when fifteen years of age. A boarding school girl who can't find fault with her teachers [p. 81] or food is an anomaly. This one recalls seeing Pa Bradbury coming down the street with a leg of lamb over his shoulder, the remembrance being intensified because she disliked lamb and wanted turkey as a regular diet.

The following copies of Miss Bradbury's rewards of merit and records of behavior give an idea of her exactness and the influence she strove to impress upon her pupils. The originals are written on small sized note paper, or cards, in the finest of letters:—


For greatest number of marks of approbation during the term ending Aug 30th, 1828 awarded to Miss L——M——S—— by her Friend & Instructress


For obtaining the greatest number of marks for good Behaviour in 2d Division during the term ending Aug 30th, 1828 awarded to Miss L——M——S—— by her Instructress


Miss L——M——S——

For her unexceptionable conduct & uniform exertions to improve, is entitled to the thanks of her Friend & Instructress

E. Bradbury Medford, Sept. 12th, 1829.

This certifies that

Miss L——M——S—— has obtained every merit required during 6 days ending Aug 27 and is entitled to the unqualified approbation of her friend & Instructress

E. Bradbury South Street Seminary, Medford, 1831

[p. 82]

I have a copy of a character (as it is called) of a miss of eleven for the term closing February 27, 1841, in which her deportment for each of twelve weeks is specifically written out at length, followed by a tabulated account of lessons, credits, errors, etc. This young girl belonged in Medford, and her behavior was excellent. If each pupil received a similar account there must have been a great deal of writing for the preceptress to do. I also have seen a letter written to a pupil about to leave, who had been with her several years, in which Miss Bradbury tells the pupil that she has earned her entire approbation, and cannot be permitted to leave without being assured of her teacher's lasting affection and esteem.

In point of years the South Street Seminary probably outranked every private school here for girls. Contemporary with it was Mr. John Angier's private boys' school on Forest street that had a reputation similar to that of Miss Bradbury's. On Tuesdays and Fridays there was dancing at the former, which the pupils of the Bradbury school were allowed to enjoy and take part in. Mr. Angier's school lasted from 1821 to 1841, about the time that Miss Bradbury's existed. The following from Medford were among the pupils of Miss Bradbury:—

Lydia, Mary, Eliza, Nathaniel, children of Nathaniel H. Bishop.

The last was there as a very young child. He was the young man who travelled over South America and made an extended canoe trip. His experiences were published in a book entitled ‘Voyage of the Paper Canoe. A Geographical Journey of 2,500 Miles, from Quebec to the Gulf of Mexico during the years 1874-5.’

The last two were boarders while their parents were in Europe.

The following are living in Medford: Miss Lucy Peck, Miss Mary G. Porter, Julia Peck, widow of James A. Hervey; Mary W. Blanchard, widow of Pelham Harlow; Susan E. Withington, widow of Humphrey B. Howe; Mary Cushing, widow of Samuel Weston.

Eliza Bishop, widow of W. H. Emery, is living in Newton; Hepzibah Hall, widow of Henry Bradlee, in Boston.

Out of town pupils were Harriet Worcester; Charlotte Fitz, widow of Gilbert Tufts, living in Charlestown; Charlotte and Kate Walker of the same place. Charlotte married James G. Foster, who taught in the brick school back of the meeting-house (First Parish), July, 1838, to April, 1840. Ellen Blanchard; Helen Dudley, both little girls; Morgianna Bancroft; Miss Field; Carrie Stone, a relative of the Bradbury's, who married the father of Miss Field, and is living in Dorchester; Lydia M. Smith of Winchester, sister of the late Mrs. Nathan W. Wait of Medford; several young ladies from Cambridge, one of whom was the mother of our late Gov. William E. Russell; Mary Utley, and after the [p. 84] burning of the Ursuline Convent, August 1, 1834, her sister Abbie, who had been there, came here to school; Anna and Maria Wells, whose father, Charles Wells, was Mayor of Boston, 1832 and 1833; Miss Smith of Weston; Miss Parker of Boston; Harriet Bacon of Winchester; Pamelia Symmes; Susan Revere, and Susan Floyd, a relative of the family.

Lydia Bishop, a pupil of Mrs. Rowson, was aunt of the Bishop children, who were Miss Bradbury's pupils.

Miss Bradbury gave up her school a short time before she became the wife of Thomas R. Peck of Medford. She was married September 29, 1842, and assumed the charge of a family of six children, the daughters of which had been her charges while she was a teacher. Her home was thenceforth at the Peck homestead, one hundred and five Mystic avenue.

She was fond of reading, was familiar with the best in English literature, and in her later days, was often seen walking to the library, frequently accompanied by her husband. Their tall, dignified forms were familiar to the dwellers in the square. The last ten years of her life she was blind. Her frequent advice to her young friends was to store the mind in youth with the gems of poetry that would give comfort to repeat in old age.

Mr. Peck died March 8, 1882, and his wife, September 10, 1882, the last of her father's family. Eliza, Susan, Caroline and Charlotte are the daughters of William Bradbury, best remembered by people of this city. They were attendants at the First Parish Church, devoted to all its benevolent work.

They enjoyed a comfortable fortune, but had New England thrift, and were never ashamed of honest work. They were true gentlewomen, refined, with that genuine sympathy that showed itself in those acts of neighborly kindness that seem almost to have gone out of fashion. To the children of our family they were dear friends, familiarly called aunts. We counted it a great happiness to spend the afternoon with them and take tea in their cosey home. They were fond of young peopie, [p. 85] though having none of their own, and we often met other young friends there. How attractive were the cushioned window seats where we sat with our sewing; the little Swiss music box, the blossoming plants, the odd trinkets brought from over the sea and the dainty china. They were excellent home-makers, fine housekeepers, and skilled cooks. Their dainties were carried to many an invalid, while their presence cheered many a sick room.

They were wont to tell how their grandfather, when he settled at Wellington, came up in a boat and landed his goods. In their early days they frequently, as many others did, walked to Boston, did their shopping, then walked back. They kept abreast of the times and were interested in every improvement. They lost considerable money by a bank, or some individual, in Charlestown, yet were generous to others and never niggardly. They were very hospitable, entertained well, and no more delightful home for a visit or call could be found in the town. Charlotte, in her will, 1877, after giving away $8,200 to relatives and friends, made a bequest to the town, which is today called the Bradbury Fund, and is invested in the Medford Savings Bank.

The sisters had agreed that the last one of those who remained in the family home should make this public disposition of their property, and so followed the example of their emigrant ancestor nearly two hundred years previous. The will reads as follows:—

Bradbury Fund.

I direct my executor to sell my real estate and to add to these any surplus of my personal property as hereinafter mentioned, and then to pay the whole over to the town of Medford as a charitable trust for the following charitable uses: That the income of the fund shall be appropriated for all time for the help or relief of indigent American females, old or young, that shall be residents of the town of Medford, said appropriation or distribution of income to be made by the selectmen for the time being, and such distribution shall be annually as the income accrues, in accordance with their best judgment.

[p. 86]

The fund amounts to $11,252, the yearly income of which is a little more than $450.

The family name is also perpetuated by Bradbury avenue, Wellington, a public way running from the railroad to Riverside avenue. The private way through land of the Wellington heirs, to the Fellsway, in line with Bradbury avenue, passes the old mansion of the Blanchards, which later was for many years the home of the Bradburys.

1 Medford Historical Society's Building.

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