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[p. 46]

The Walnut Tree Hill division of the stinted pasture.

[Read before the Medford Historical Society by John H. Hooper, February 19, 1912.]

In the year 1637 the large tract of land situated at the present time within the limits of the Cities of Somerville and Medford, being a part of the common lands of the Town of Charlestown, was divided into rights of pasturage. A large committee was chosen to do this, or ‘to stint the common,’ and to determine the number of cowcommons which one hundred and thirteen inhabitants should have in this pasture. The agreement was as follows: ‘In consideration of the straitness of common on this side of the Mistick river it was agreed that all the ground from the town to Menotomies river that is without the enclosures, shall be reserved in common for such cattle as are necessarily to be taken care of near home, as milch cows, working cattle, goats and calves of the first year and each one to have a propriety of the same, according to the proportions underwritten for such cattle above specified, either of their own or any they should let, unto the same kind and not otherwise—.’

In the year 1685 that portion of the common lands situated between Menotomy road (Broadway) and Mystic river and bounded westerly by Menotomy river (Alewife brook) and easterly by Governor John Winthrop's ‘Ten Hills farm,’ and known as the Walnut Tree hill division of the stinted pasture, was set off to the several proprietors whose names appear upon a plan hereto annexed, ‘to be their propper right and Estate.’ The amount of pasturage allotted for each cow, or ‘Cow-Common,’ was three and one-half acres.

Prior to the year 1637 there were no restrictions as to the number of cattle to be pastured on the common lands, but when the number increased so that the pasturage was insufficient, it became necessary to stint the pasture, or to limit the number of cattle to be pastured there by each inhabitant. Hence the term of ‘The Stinted Pasture.’ [p. 47]

There were three roads, or rangeways, laid out through this pasture, that extended northerly from the Menotomy road to Mystic river, and were called the first, second and third rangeways. These rangeways were laid out two rods in width and the width between the ways was eighty rods, making the width of each range or plot of land forty rods. The first rangeway is mostly closed at the present day, only a small portion being now visible where it connected with the Menotomy road.

When Lieut.-Gov. John Usher owned the Royall farm he purchased a portion of the stinted pasture and closed a portion of this rangeway. A complaint was made to the selectmen of Charlestown that he had stopped up a rangeway running through his farm and he was ordered to open the way forthwith. There is no evidence that this order was complied with. The ancient ford was situated at the Medford end of this rangeway.

The second way is laid out as a public way and is known as Curtis street in the City of Somerville and Winthrop street in the City of Medford. Near this rangeway and close to the river stood the house of James Tufts, also the shipyards of Paul Curtis and Jotham Stetson.

The third way is also a public way and is known as North street in both cities. This street, as laid out, varies somewhat from the location of the rangeway. Prior to the laying out of these two ways they were encroached upon and in some places entirely closed by the adjoining owners.

The third rangeway was sometimes called Cook's lane. There are four ways leading westerly from the third rangeway, two of them to the marshes through land of Lieut. John Cutler. The third way was situated between land of John Blaney and land of Susanna White, leading to the land of John Dickson, and was called the way to Dickson's land.

The fourth way, situated between land of Joseph Frost and land of Thomas Graves, led to the common landing [p. 48] or watering place. This way was two rods in width where it connected with the rangeway and along the river; the length of the landing place was thirteen and one-half rods. This landing place was known in recent years as Second Beach, and by the action of the Metropolitan Park Commission in changing the course of the river this landing has been obliterated. The house of the Rev. William Smith stood on land shown as that of Thomas Graves.

Another way, two rods in width, was laid out from the highway now known as Warner street in the City of Somerville and Harvard street in the City of Medford. The easterly line of this way was the westerly boundary of Governor Winthrop's Ten Hills farm, and is in part the boundary line between the Cities of Medford and Somerville. This way extended to Peter Foule's lot, it being the lot now owned by the heirs of the late George L. Stearns and upon which their mansion house is situated. The spring on said heirs' land, over which the brick tower stands, is on land formerly belonging to the Ten Hills farm.

There was a way two rods in width called in the early days ‘the way to the ford,’ and in later times ‘Fishhouse lane,’ which extended from the highway (Main street) to land of Christopher Goodwin, the northerly line of whose land was in part bounded by this way. The southerly end of the ancient ford or landing place was on the northerly side of this way, opposite land of Goodwin, and contained about one-half an acre. A portion of this landing place is now a part of the estate of Mr. F. E. Chandler. This location was the site of the ship-yard of Mr. James Ford, and later the yard of Mr. George Fuller. This way is now known as South street. The improvements made by the Metropolitan Park Commission have destroyed this landing place.

In the year 1644 Gov. John Winthrop, in his journal, describes the following incident as taking place at a ford in Mystic river. From a careful study of the story it is [p. 49] evident that the ford referred to was at this place, and that the parties lived near the farmhouse of Governor Cradock (called Meadford on the ancient maps) which was located near the present square.

‘One Dalkin and wife dwelling near Meadford, coming from Cambridge where they had spent their Sabbath and being to pass over the River at a Ford, the tide not being fallen enough, the husband adventured over, and finding it too deep, persuaded his wife to stay awhile, but it raining very sore, she would needs adventure over, and was carried away with the stream past her depth, her husband not daring to go help her, cried out and thereupon his dog, being at his house near by, came forth, and seeing something in the water, swam to her, and she caught hold on the dog's tail, so he drew her to the shore and saved her life.’

The Town of Charlestown, by vote passed May 8, 1723, sold, through its committee, to Aaron Cleveland and Samuel Kendall, about one-half an acre, upland and marsh, near the great bridge, ‘The Gravel Pit,’ together with a two-pole way leading down to the river, above the upper side of the bridge. This sale was authorized upon the condition that the grantee maintain and repair the said town's half of Mystic bridge and causeway adjoining and also build a dwelling house (within two years) of two stories, thirty-six feet long and eighteen feet wide, two rooms upon a floor. These premises afterwards came into the possession of Mr. Ebenezer Merrow, who proceeded to fence in the two-pole way leading to the river, but was brought before the court and fined for so doing. The Central Fire Engine House is now located upon this lot.

It will be remembered that all that part of the City of Medford south of the river was a part of the Town of Charlestown until the year 1754. The two-pole way is now included in Main street and the landing place is covered by the foundations of the Cradock bridge. Walnut Tree hill took its name from the walnut trees growing upon it.

The parties to whom these lots were granted were obliged to pay the Town of Charlestown for the wood [p. 50] standing on their lots, as will appear by the records of that town, and it is evident that at that date (1685) there was still quite a forest standing upon this pasture. It was within the limits of this pasture, portions of which were then covered with a thick forest, that Governor Winthrop lost his way while taking a walk and was obliged to pass a night in an Indian hut. According to a map made about the year 1633, Sagamore John, son of the Squa Sachem, had a residence on the westerly slope of Walnut Tree hill, near the pumping station of the Mystic Water Works.

An illustration of the condition of this pasture is afforded by the incident above referred to, and which is related in Winthrop's ‘History of New England’:—

‘October 11, 163, the Governor, being at his house at Mistick, walked out after supper, and took a piece in his hand, supposing he might see a wolf (for they came daily about the house and killed swine, calves, etc.) and being about half a mile off, it grew suddenly dark, so as in coming home, he mistook his path and went till he came to a little house of Sagamore John, which stood empty. There he stayed and having a piece of match in his pocket (for he always carried about him, match and a compass and in the summer snake weed), he made a good fire near the house and lay down upon some old mats, which he found there, and so spent the night, sometimes walking by the fire, sometimes singing psalms and sometimes getting wood, but could not sleep. It was (through God's mercy) a warm night, but a little before day it began to rain, and, having no cloak, he made shift by a long pole to climb up into the house. In the morning there came thither an Indian Squaw but perceiving her before she opened the door, he barred her out, yet she staved there a great while assaying to get in. At last she went away and he returned safe home. His servants having been much perplexed for him, and having walked about and shot off pieces, and hallooed in the night, but he heard them not.’

The Governor's house at Mystic stood upon the southeasterly slope of Winter hill, within the present limits of the City of Somerville, a short distance from the boundary line between the Cities of Medford and Somerville.

Lieut.Col. Charles Lidgett came into full possession of Ten Hills farm in the year 1685. Colonel Lidgett [p. 51] was the friend and adherent of Sir Edmund Andros, the first royal governor of New England during the Inter-Charter period. The assertion of Governor Andros that the abrogation of the first colonial charter re-invested all land titles in the Crown caused wide-spread consternation. Some proprietors endeavored to strengthen their titles by procuring deeds from the Indians, which acts brought forth from the Governor the criticism ‘That their hand was no more worth than the scratch of a bear's paw.’ He confirmed to his friend Colonel Lidgett his title to the Ten Hills farm, and also granted him the stinted pasture. Colonel Lidgett then began to prosecute the rightful owners of this pasture for cutting wood and other alleged trespasses. This grant became void upon the downfall of the Andros administration. Colonel Lidgett was arrested and thrown into prison at the time of the arrest of Governor Andros. He was released on bail and went to England in February, 1689–‘90, where he died in 1698.

At the time Colonel Lidgett went to England the northerly part of his farm was leased to Thomas Marabel. This lease contained one hundred acres, a part of which was a portion of the stinted pasture. It is supposed that he resided in the old part of the Royall house, as there was no other dwelling house upon the Ten Hills farm within the present limits of the City of Medford except the farm house occupied by Joseph Whittemore, which stood on the site recently occupied by the Mystic house, and which was removed to the brick-yard on Buzzell's lane, near College hill, where it was destroyed by fire less than a year ago.

In the year 1662 Lieut. Richard Sprague agreed with the selectmen of Charlestown to make up and maintain

‘All that fence belonging to said common, between it and Mr. Winthrop's farm, which said fence is to begin at Mistick bridge and so along in the line between the said common and Mr. Winthrop's farm, to a rock which is for a bound mark about some six [p. 52] or seven poles on the southeast side of Winter's brook, where it is to meet Mr. Winthrop's farm fence. The fence is to be made sufficiently, and so maintained for one and twenty years. In consideration whereof the said Lieutenant Richard Sprague is to have the use of twenty Cow Commons for the full term of twenty-one years. Also liberty to make use of any stones or brush from the Common for making and repairing said fence. It was also agreed that what the said fence shall be adjudged worth at the end of the aforesaid term of one and twenty years more than it is at the present is to be payed unto the said Richard Sprague or his Assigns. The fence at present is adjudged worth thirty pounds by mutual consent.’

Tufts College is situated within the limits of this pasture, upon the summit of Walnut Tree hill, now known as College hill. The boundary line between the Cities of Somerville and Medford passes through its grounds. The establishment of the college was the work of the Universalist denomination. It received its name from Mr. Charles Tufts of Somerville, who gave it twenty acres of land upon the condition that it be made the site of a college and should bear his name. He afterwards increased his gift of land to the amount of nearly one hundred acres. The charter of the college was granted by the General Court, April 21, 1852.

Walnut Tree hill is also the site of the reservoir built by the City of Charlestown as a part of its Mystic water supply. Ground was broken for this reservoir in the spring of the year 1861.1 After Mystic pond was abandoned as a water supply this reservoir fell into disuse. It is now used as a part of the water supply system of the Metropolitan Water Works.

Across this pasture was located the Middlesex Canal, thirty feet in width and four feet deep. Chartered June 22, 1793, discontinued 1852. The Boston and Lowell Railroad location also runs across this pasture. Chartered June 5, 1830.

This paper is mostly extracts from papers previously prepared and read before the Society, but it was deemed [p. 53] expedient to embody all extracts relating to the subject in one paper in order to more fully explain the annexed maps. The lines of several lots were difficult to locate. The central lots are fairly accurate; some of those on the westerly side of the pasture near Menotomy river and those on the easterly side can only be approximately located.

1 Mr. Hooper was present and witnessed the ceremony. The turf that covered the reservoir embankment came from land near the Second beach and reimbursed the owner of the land for his purchase thereof. [Ed.]

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