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A local Geography Lesson.

On page seven of Brooks' ‘History of Medford’ is this statement: ‘There was till recently (1855) but one island in the river, and that near the shore in Malden, at Moulton's Point, and is called “White island.” Two have since been made, one by cutting through “Labor in vain,” and the other by straightening the passage above the bridge.’

Mr. Brooks made no mention of the small island just below Wear bridge, though it is shown on contemporary maps and plans and was supposed to be of natural formation. It was usually considered a part of the ‘Smith estate’ in West Medford, and was alluded to (as also its removal) by Mr. Hooper in his ‘History of Medford’ in 1905 (page 10).

At the present writing (September, 1911) there is on its site a temporary dam of earth across the entire width of the river, as also another above the bridge, the outflow of Mystic lake being carried in an iron conduit during the deepening of the channel beneath the bridge. Steam dredging machines are completing the work begun eight years ago, alluded to by Mr. Hooper. This completed, the lower lake will be accessible for boats at its new level, the upper reach of the river having been impassable since the closing of the dam at Cradock bridge. Then will be realized the desirability of a lock in the dam which was erected at the Partings in 1863 by the City of Charlestown, which made the erstwhile Medford pond the Upper and Lower Mystic lakes. Should one be built, [p. 54] it may be possible to go from Boston to ‘Lake Innitou’ (choose between this name, Horn pond or ‘Lake of the Woods’ of 1819) by motor boat, as well as to Spy pond in Arlington or Fresh pond in Cambridge, as Winchester is planning a water park all its own.

Under date of May 2, 1856, Caleb Swan interleaved his copy of Brooks' history with the following:—

White Island is within an eighth of a mile above Malden Bridge. In very high tides it is covered with water, same as the surrounding marshes; it contains about 14 acres.

It was bought of the Town of Charlestown about 1787 by Saml Swan Jr. then of Charlestown; he had the grass and sedge cut and taken to Medford in a scow, every year for many years after he lived in Medford. He then some years sold the grass to a man in Reading, for $30 a year—and sometimes for half the grass delivered to him in Medford.

After his death in 1825 the island was owned by his son Dr. Swan of Medford, who sold the crop of grass for $15 to $20 per year. In 184—he sold the island to Atwood & Brothers of Boston, for planting Oysters on the Flats. Soon after this the Flats on the East side were claimed by a person in Malden as being formerly part of the mainland of Malden, and a suit was brought, but it was shown in Court by Dr. Swan to have been an Island on the first settlement of the Country and the suit wholly failed.

Now that fifty-five years have passed, a look at White island may be of interest. When the Eastern railroad located its Boston terminus on Causeway street, removing the same from East Boston, its tracks were laid from Chelsea over the Mystic and across White island. The building of the Charlestown Gas Works had ruined the oyster beds. The island was gradually enlarged until similar filling from the Malden (Everett) shore reached it and the place was an island no longer. At the present time it is thickly covered with factories of various kinds, chemical works, and the accessories of railroad work, all in marked contrast to the days of Dr. Swan.

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