Ancient ammunition at an Altitude.
Not every day are cannon balls dug up in Medford, but several have been very recently. This starts a train of thought in itself curious, and naturally raises the query, ‘How came they there?’ Medford people are well aware that near their eastern boundary, rising abruptly from Fellsway West, is a rocky [p. 73] ridge of wild land; and the numerous excursionists by the new trolley line to Spot Pond cannot have failed to notice the same, on which the signs ‘Boulevard Heights’ are placed. This name is given to the locality by the present owners, who have laid out the tract for residential purposes and are building streets therein. Only the other day the road builders dug up the fragments of a cannon ball, but paid little attention thereto, and the cartload of earth into which they were thrown, was dumped somewhere in one of the new streets. Ere long, another was found, then two more thirty rods away; the former nearly three feet below the surface and all in fairly good condition. They are three and one-half inches in diameter and of six pounds weight. Various theories as to their presence have been formulated, but none seem satisfactory. Through the courtesy of Mr. Claud Allen of the owner company, one of these balls will find place among the local curios of the Medford Historical Society, and to him are due thanks for their preservation. But whence came they, is the question. Either they were brought there and buried by some one now unknown, or they were fired there from cannon; but who knows or can suggest who the artillerymen were? History records no battle nearer the spot than Bunker Hill. The British ordnance at that time had not so long range, while the direction would be highly discreditable to the gunners aboard the ‘Somerset, British man-of-war.’ It is hardly to be supposed that the colonists of 1775 would have taken the trouble to carry any heavy weights to such a height to secrete from General Gage, when many secluded spots easier to dig into were to be had on level ground. Again, the fact of the broken ball would show that with the force of a projectile it hit the outcropping ledge beside which it was found, while a similar force embedded the others at various depths according to the nature of the soil they struck. Also, their scattered location would indicate firing instead of hiding. [p. 74] Still the question recurs, ‘Who were the artillerymen?’ Some one has suggested the entrenchments on Central Hill in Somerville as being the nearest point where cannon were mounted in 1775 by Washington, but there was no enemy in this rocky fastness to dislodge as the minute men from Essex County had hastened along its base toward Lexington. Had there been cause, the iron missiles might have sped through the ravine where found, as it lays open in that direction, but there was none, for not even tradition hints of artillery practice in the Revolutionary days with their scarcity of ammunition. And thus the mystery remains unsolved. In all this elevated tract of rocky woodland, comprising forty-three acres (in the development of the land company), there are but three dwellings, all of comparatively modern build, and no wilder locality can be found so near Boston. Its history is interesting, as it harks back to the ownership of Benjamin Hall, a noted business man of Medford in the Revolutionary and later days. Those were the times when the capacious fireplaces were the only heating apparatus, whose cavernous maw demanded continuous supplies of good hardwood. But the meeting houses of New England had no fireplaces, and the people were content to sit in the frigid atmosphere on Sabbath days and listen to two sermons that frequently had a ‘twelfthly.’ But in the parson's settlement so many ‘cords of good hard wood’ were stipulated to be delivered at his door. Perhaps some of the heat from this went into the sermon as he wrote it. It is a matter of record that the Medford minister in 809 preached the ‘election sermon’ in Boston, and a recent review of it says ‘he gave them a hot one.’ At all events the Medford parsonage had to be well supplied with fuel, and so, in 1808, the Rev. David Osgood, D. D., purchased of Mr. Hall these forty-three acres, now after a century being developed, for his ‘wood lot.’ But the good doctor, after serving his church and parish for forty-eight years, passed away, and this wood lot, by [p. 75] his will, allowed January 15, 1823, descended to his children—David, Mary and Lucy. David, Jr., (the boy so nearly fatally injured in the snow fort siege in 1808), was a practicing physician in Boston in the fifties (one of the early homoeopaths), and at his death his portion was inherited by his wife Mary Ann. She deeded the same to his sister Lucy, April 13, 1863. The elder sister, Mary, had before this, by her will, allowed October 15, 1858, bequeathed her ‘one-third part of wood lot’ to her sister Lucy, who was at last the sole proprietor for ten years. She died on June 17, 1873, and by her will, made in the previous year, did ‘give and bequeath to the Town of Medford, . . . wood lot in the north-east part of said town, for the benefit of the Town Library.’ Another decade passed away and the selectmen recommended that the town sell its unproductive property. Two years later they were authorized to sell the Osgood lot, so called. Their report shows that Miss Osgood gave it with the understanding that when sold, the income from the proceeds should go to the library. After being advertised for three weeks, only one bid was received, that of S. K. Abbott, of Malden, $1,720.96, and to him it was sold. In 1877, the wood standing thereon had been sold by the town for $179.74, and this sum including interest was on deposit in the Medford Savings Bank. The selectmen recommended that this be withdrawn and added to the proceeds of the sale, the town to assume the debt, making it a perpetual fund, paying the income thereof to the library trustees, which was done. The three houses referred to were evidently built soon after this purchase. In the twenty-five years that have elapsed, a sparsely settled section of Medford has become a thickly inhabited one; a boulevard has taken the place of the lonely Valley street, and the car houses and power station of the electric railway, at the boundary, are busy hives of industry. Overlooking it all is Parson Osgood's wood lot, to which [p. 76] nature in its recuperative power has been generous, as the ample growth of largely oak and hickory witnesses; and among which, ere long, will arise the modest and tasteful homes of the people.
—M. W. M.