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[p. 97]

In one corner of Medford.

‘On this road near the Charlestown line, the canal, turnpike and river come into such close contact that a coachman, with a long whip, touched the waters of the river and canal without leaving his seat.’

The above is quoted from page 53 of History of Medford and suggests an article upon the Medford Turnpike.

In the limited space of this issue, justice cannot be done to the subject, but only a few cursory allusions.

It was written by Rev. Charles Brooks, probably after the discontinuance of the canal. The query naturally arises, how long a whip? If the coachman drove a six horse stage and swerved from a straight course a little, while the river was at full tide, the feat was possible without stretching either the whip or story.

The location is in a remote corner of the city and comparatively little known to the people of today. Winter Hill slopes steeply down to the river there, and the Middlesex Canal having been successfully cut through, some of its projectors, business men of Medford, built the turnpike beside its narrow pass between Charlestown and Medford, just below Winter Brook.

It is an historic spot and a part of the Ten-Hills farm of Governor Winthrop. Somewhere hereabout was built the Blessing of the Bay, perhaps not in that part of old Charlestown now a part of Medford, but possibly farther down stream, as the Somerville people claim.

Late in August, 1774, Medford people became uneasy about their powder that was stored in the old powder house, erstwhile Mallet's grist mill on Quarry Hill. They removed it in the nick of time, for on September 1st, General Gage seized what was then there. Two hundred and sixty men embarked at Long Wharf, in Boston, and carried out his orders, conveying the powder to Castle William. In all probability, all the land route they took was across the ‘sorrelly plain’ via Winter Brook, to the Mystic at this point where they had landed. [p. 98]

The next spring, Paul Revere, in galloping over the summit of the hill, diverged from a straight course and rode ‘over the bridge into Medford Town,’ on his way to Lexington.

Three years later, the near slopes of the hill saw the encampment of the Hessian prisoners from Saratoga, and later came the days and enterprises of peace.

The canal with its boats, the turnpike with its stagecoaches and toll-house, the tide mill, where mahogany logs were sawed, with the river to bear away the product of Medford shipyards; all these crowded in this narrow pass and thence onward to the great world outside and beyond. No wonder that a Medford born citizen, in reading Mr. Brooks' account of the turnpike (then fresh from the press), felt moved to illustrate the same with the pen and ink sketch the Register reproduces today for a wider reading.

The old Tufts Mill stood just within the border of Medford, while one ‘salt meadow’ next the canal and half the other formed the mill pond. A ‘dike’ extending from the mill diagonally across the ‘meadow’ to the river impounded water that furnished power as the tide receded. The mill site was purchased by Gershom Cutter, in 1845, and the mill twice rebuilt by him after destruction by fire. This, with the business, has long since vanished and Combination Park now occupies a part of the pond site.

Mr. Brooks says, ‘about the year 80 the turnpike began to be used as a race course and trotting matches were quite common.’ One race track, the Mystic Park, has had its day and vanished. Homes for the people are rapidly arising there. Twice have railway enterprises sought a way through the hillside but as yet unsuccessfully.

The Register presents this 55 year old sketch and present article as a waymark.

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