An old Medford school boy's reminiscences.
editor of the Register:You invite reminiscences of the long ago, when your city was, over seventy years since, a little town with only three or four populous streets; reminiscences of its all important river, of boyish sports in woods and waters, of the vanished canal and especially concerning the territory west of the Smelt brook. You style it the Meetinghouse brook, and as both smelts and meeting-house have long since disappeared into the limbo of the lost, perhaps your title is the better. I ought to know that territory, as I was born in 1830 at the Captain Stickney house on High street at the summit of Marm Simonds hill. My earliest pants were made by Miss Nabby, daughter of Marm. I learned to swim at the end of Rock Hill lane. This was prior to the advent of Mr. Hastings, and my first school was kept by Miss Lydia Symmes. The Stickney house was later the scene of the charming hospitality of the Misses Elizabeth and Lucy Ann Brooks, sisters of the historian of Medford. Next east stood the ancient homestead of their father Mr. Jonathan Brooks, with its great sycamore trees in front; next farther east was the house where Miss Lyddy lived with her brother Octave. Between her house and the Simonds house lived Noah Johnson. This hill was altogether the best coasting place in Medford, and the Smelt brook to the east of it the best boy fishing place before the diversion of its sources to Winchester reservoir. [p. 74] Nearly opposite the Stickney house stood an old house at the corner of the lane, where a Mr. Staniels lived at about 1835. He moved to the top of Winter Hill where he built a showy house very near the fork where Governor Edward Everett once lived and where about two centuries earlier Governor John Winthrop built his cementless stone house. The Mystic region has been a good place for Governors, for we may count Governor Cradock and Governor John Brooks and Governor Everett again. Late in life he lived on the west side of Mystic upper lake. To Mr. Staniels, succeeded on Simonds hill Mr. William Russell and his son Frank. These were accomplished gentlemen and carried on in Boston a noted Academy of elocution. Miss Lyddy Symmes' school did not inculcate the higher branches. It was a sort of parents' assistant. There were a dozen or two of us pupils, all tots. I could not have been four. No desk, table, nor even chair was provided for me. I had only a cubical block of wood (say nine inches) known as the chimney corner seat. She was very good and gentle, and we expected to sit in her lap when she told us about our alphabet. The alphabet class had three in it, and as she made the letter's sound and we repeated, it was all so funny that the rest of the school would laugh, and Miss Lyddy would laugh, and we would laugh, and all was merry. Her teaching was personally conducted. She was not the Medford girl who marked off an inch of alphabet in an infant's primer and told him to take his seat and learn that far. No punishments were feared in Miss Lyddy's school. She did not deem us victims or culprits, but ‘little dears.’ She did not give us examination but instruction. I was sorry to leave her, and have never heard of her since. My next teacher was Miss Foster who kept a private school in the basement of Rev. Abijah R. Baker's church (Orthodox) on High street. She was also good to us, and had a fine set of blocks with which we played a [p. 75] great deal in school hours and so were less uneasy. These blocks were everything to us. They were our reward of virtue and our safeguard against sin, our ‘path, motive, guide, original and end.’ In short, I remember little else about the curriculum in Miss Foster's school. The outside was fine. A high paling protected us from the river, and we could play all round the church and over the pleasant open slope which extended westward as far as the lot on which Mr. David P. Kimball, a Boston merchant, built his home, the home later of Dr. C. V. Bemis. Mr. Kimball was the brother of Moses Kimball of the Boston Museum, and father of D. P. Kimball, Jr., a schoolmate of mine. Next came Miss Harmon's school. This was in the southeast room of the old fort on Governor's lane. The pupils were a size larger. I was about five, and recall the awe with which we contemplated the two oldest; one was Oliver Wellington, aged ten, and the other was Everett his brother, aged nine. They came from the Wellington farm on the east frontier of the town. Our playground was in the lane and in Mr. Dudley Hall's great barn which stood high up to the westward. I was next sent to my first public school, not a grammar school. I think it was called a preparatory. It was on the east side of Back street, which perhaps is now styled Union street. On the east the yard was fenced off from the branch canal which brought timber to the river from the Middlesex canal at a point near the Columbian hotel. On the south the yard had no fence except the side of a linseed oil factory, owned by Henry Stearns, brother of Major George L. Stearns. This mill was an instance of abominable heedlessness. Instead of delivering its escaping steam into the upper air by a high chimney, it actually delivered it into the school yard through a level pipe on the ground. The steam was hot, and very hot at the end of the level pipe, and poured out into a flock of forty or fifty little people who knew no better than to dare each other to go into [p. 76] it. I, being the youngest and the most heedless, went the farthest and was suddenly struck down. At first my life was despaired of, and I was under medical treatment for weeks. I never went to the Back street school again. Fancy such a playground equipment as that steam pipe now. Later I entered the grammar school in the rear of the Unitarian church on High street. Among the schoolmasters were Mr. Foster, Mr. Gilman and Mr. Tweed, later Professor Tweed of Tufts College. Here I first saw the hard realities of New England instruction. These masters were neither kind nor cruel, just the ordinary style of an ill-paid schoolmaster in a low grade school, and some of the pupils were very big, strong and unruly. Corporal punishment was needed, or thought to be needed, very frequently indeed. Sometimes a very big boy would fight against it, but he never was quite big enough. Andrew Wade was the biggest in school. He was a man grown and was about nineteen years old, not troublesome nor noisy, but deficient. In fact he was underwitted, but we did not know it. He would sit for hours staring at his book, but ideas did not come to his poor brain. He could not learn and had to take the consequences, viz., heavy blows across the shoulders from the master's ferule. He would keep his seat, roaring with pain, and the girls would be teary and shuddery and sometimes make little screams. It was all very horrid indeed. The masters were no worse than usual. It was the so-called method of education in the grammar schools. I remember nothing of the sort in the high school in the east end of the same building. We had a fine large yard between the school and the old church which stood well south and paralleled the schoolhouse. Our sports on it were foot-ball, tag, prisoners' base, etc., with excursions over the west fence into Squire Abner Bartlett's artichoke patch, and over the east fence into the orchard of the Misses Osgood; but at last the terrible Miss Lucy Osgood caught little Gorham Train who [p. 77] was rather slow in his return trip over that fence, and so our apple hooking came to an end. I can hear even now the lofty eloquence worthy of Antigone or Electra, with which Miss Lucy condemned Gorham's trespass. I can fix a date at which I was in the grammar school. In 1839 I saw the old church pulled down, and a picture of it in my possession bears that date of its destruction. It had a high pointed spire above its open belfry. At the belfry, carpenters sawed the upright posts through, and by a rope attached high above, the crowd below pulled and swayed. The spire trembled, tottered and fell with a loud crash. The great brazen rooster left its pintle, flew its first and last flight and fell at the feet of Sam Swan, who captured it and carried it home. Where is that bird now? It ought to be in the headquarters of the Historical Society. Sam was the son of Mrs. Peggy Swan who lived in the west half of the Bartlett house. Maybe some Swan may know of it. Our first teacher in the high school was Mr. Forbes, a good teacher and man. The next was Isaac Ames, the best teacher I ever knew. He was a small man with a club foot, a student at law, and in after life Judge of Probate for Essex County. He was thoroughly amiable and no trouble ever arose in his school. He instructed three of us in Latin and Greek. He did not insist on absolute quiet, and allowed whispering. If the hum was too great he would gently request silence, and always got it. When he forgot to ask for it, old Galen James of the school committee who was often present, would call out in his deep voice, ‘Oyez, oyez.’ We did not know what Mr. James meant, and perhaps he did not either, but it sounded sympathetic and so we became quieter. The high school numbered far more girls than boys. I remember well Rebecca, Chastina, Garaphylia and Esmeralda, the four pretty daughters of Isaac Sprague, a leading ship builder; Caroline Blake, daughter of Oliver Blake, a dry goods merchant; Maria Fuller, daughter of George Fuller, a ship builder of South street; Harriet [p. 78] Stetson, daughter of Jotham Stetson, another ship builder on the same street; Mary Peck and Lucy Peck, daughters of Thos. R. Peck of the hat factory, all nice girls, but I fear none remain to hear me say so. As the high school did not fit for college James Hervey, Albert F. Sawyer and myself left it about 1843 for the private academy of Mr. Day on Forest street, successor to John Angier. He gave us good instruction, but his school was very small and could not give us the habit of forceful recital and expression which the great Boston Latin school gave its pupils. However, we all got into Harvard (1845), but were for a time astonished and handicapped by the nerve of the little chaps from the Latin school. Other schools need noting, where we were taught dancing, singing and drawing, all by private tutors. Mrs. Barrymore came out weekly from Boston to teach a class in dancing in the Day Academy. To it came Helen Porter from the George Porter house across Forest street; Catherine and Rebecca Adams, daughters of Deacon Adams, came from the slope of Winter Hill; Susan Emily Porter came from the Royall farm. She was our best dancer. She later married Mr. Cunningham of Baltimore. Amelia and Caroline Blanchard, daughters of Capt. Andrew Blanchard, came from the house shown on the outside of the Historical Register; Apphia and Mary Fuller, daughters of Dr. Fuller, from the next house east. The drawing class was instructed by Miss Hannah Swan, daughter of Mrs. Peggy Swan and sister of Sam, he of the brazen rooster. The singing school was a large affair. It was kept in the Martin Burrage house opposite the Unitarian church. It was attended by many of the Bradbury school girls from across the river. The teacher was Mrs. Peak, wife of our organist and a fine singer. Often in church, she as the soprano and her brother-in-law Horatio, barytone, would sing gloriously Bowring's Antiphonal [p. 79]
Watchman tell us of the nightLater the whole family, including my schoolmate ‘Bill’ Peak, were really famous all over New England as the travelling ‘Peak family.’ But I must come to our lovely river with its sinuous and graceful course and its bright water, especially bright at flood tide. At low tide it was less so, but twice a day the salt sea water came sweeping by, bringing the real sea air into the town, and in springtides covering the wide marshes. Can it be more beautiful now that it is above the Cradock bridge an artificial basin? But I do not know it now. The great marshes had their beauty even if the grass was salt grass. The old bathing places must be altered now. The lowest bathing place used to be Blanchard's wharf opposite the Lawrence distillery. This was probably the most valuable wharf in Medford. It had no beach, of course, but there were generally log rafts which sufficed. Crowds of boys came here to bathe at high water, for no well conditioned Medford boy would ever bathe except at the top of the flood. Besides the ordinary water borne freight to Medford, this great wharf had a monopoly of the inward molasses bound to the distillery, and of the outward bound rum. Great casks lay everywhere, almost hissing in the sun heat, and as the molasses casks came without any bungs, its odor went to the skies almost as rummy as the rum itself. The boys did not like it, but the old salts did. Later it had a far reaching effect upon an infant industry started by Mr. Peter C. Brooks a mile and a half off at the extreme western edge of the town. He secured a lot of bees and decided to make his own honey. All went well till a far-roving bee of his happened upon Blanchard's wharf. He knew that the world had nothing better for him, and he lit. He stowed a full freight, went home, and next morning returned with all his sisters, his cousins and his aunts. All loaded, and the same thing went on till the [p. 80] time for the honey crop arrived and Mr. Brooks then found his honey combs stuffed with rum and molasses. He was furious. He was said to be the wealthiest man in New England, but he could not control this situation. You will not expect me to expatiate on the merits and glories of old Medford rum. Both Daniel and his younger brother Sam Lawrence were schoolmates of mine, but they were too young to give us any of it. Its fame reached far and wide. It was known where the township was not known. When the Reverend Mr. Learoyd left his Medford parish to join one in Taunton, at the installation feast he spoke of the joy he anticipated in his new connection, but when he added ‘my affections will for a long time be with old Medford’ a titter rippled along the tables of the banqueters. The last time I saw Mr. Brooks was on High street. Between the parsonage of my father and the tan yard was an orchard, lower than the street and with no road into it. A man named Tufts owned it. He had got his hay cart down to the street wall and had laboriously forked into it his crop of orchard grass over the wall, but there was an upward slope to the roadway, very rough, and the horse could not stir the load. So the usual method for boys and horses was adopted, and he began a long and most cruel beating of the animal. The small boys about, who always were the Greek chorus to any Medford event, were very angry and were about stoning Tufts, till one suggested that we should probably hit the horse. Just then appeared on the north side of the street near the house where Cleopas Johnson once lived, a rather short, elderly gentleman. He was dressed all in black with short breeches, black silk stockings, buckled shoes and carried a cane. At once he came across the street, went straight to Tufts and said clearly and loudly: ‘If you strike that horse another blow I'll prosecute you.’ Tufts stopped, raised the whip, and we thought trouble was coming. If Tufts had struck Mr. Brooks every boy would have let fly his stone. But the king of the Boston [p. 81] marine underwriters did not scare worth a cent, though the brute was twice his size and not half his age. So Tufts muttered some words, and Mr. Brooks resumed his march westward. This very region was a lively place in winter. The canal was frozen and the Lowell railroad had not quite begun service, so enormous four horse sleds brought through High street high piled heavy cloth boxes from Lowell to Boston. There was a sloping entrance into the Magoun estate (now the Public Library). This slope extended much into the street and the great sleds would skid southward and bring up against the posts and trees of the parsonage sidewalk. Sometimes two or three were thus wrecked at once. Their high speed began at the Unitarian church, and continued down the hill as far as the orchard. Once I saw one of the big sleds going down at high speed, with a horse towed behind the sled by a halter buckled to his head. The sled passed safely by Mr. Magoun's slope, but the horse did not. He lost his footing and was dragged past the Johnson house by the head. I expected to see his head pulled off. The driver did not know what was up, or rather what was down, till the yells of the chorus made him stop. But the snow was smooth and icy, the original impetus had been useful, and I saw the horse get up with rather a puzzled look, and presently the whole outfit went on to Boston. There was danger in those great swift sleds. Right at this orchard one of them struck a school girl I knew and killed her. I think her name was Edgerly. I saw the blood spatters on the burdocks and rubbish between the road and the orchard wall. The next bathing place was on the north end of the mead-ford. It was a poor place. It was central, and so far as I remember, had no other raison d'etre. But between it and High street was a building that deserves mention. This was John Howe's trunk store. In its rear, looking down on the bathing place, was his workroom where [p. 82] he utilized his boxes, leather and brass tacks. In the front was a large airy room with some finished goods in it, and an assortment of loafers. It was so convenient that when a Whig headquarters was wanted in 1840, for a presidential campaign, all eyes turned to Howe's front room and he let the Whigs have it. They fitted it up grandly. At least we boys thought so. Pictures of General Harrison, of Tippecanoe and Tyler too, log cabins and hard cider barrels galore hung on the walls, also others ridiculing Matty Van Buren and his Kinderhook cabbages, etc., etc. The secretary of the club was Charles Hall, chosen unanimously, and to be in charge of the place all the time until election. He was a hero in Medford politics, an old bachelor, well dressed, one of the prominent Hall family, deemed himself a ladies' man and had a tremendous voice and good arguments, too. He was vox et proeterea both. All day long debates went on there, for the Van Buren men came in and talked and the Whigs hoped to convert them. Charles was up in the whole story of ‘protection to American industry,’ and having the best arguments and best voice he was always supreme—always but once, and I must tell of that, for soon all the elusive memories of my old acquaintances will vanish. One day he had triumphantly conducted a long discussion in the trunk store, talked his leading opponent nearly blind, when an illogical Democrat sprang to his feet and shouted: ‘Well, anyhow, I was in Dudley Hall's yesterday. There were some girls there and one of them looked out of the window and said,’ There goes old Charley Hall.‘The shot told. Charles collapsed, and even the Whigs were pleased, for Charles talked too much. The next bathing place was a little stone wharf at the fork of the meeting-house creek, way out in the marsh, and hence private enough. I never knew by whom or why it was built, perhaps for the transit of salt hay, but it had no deck and no roadway. The boys liked it. Maybe it is visible now. If not it may be submerged in [p. 83] artificial flood waters. Perhaps Winthrop street is on top of it. The last and best bathing place of all was at Rock hill. This was an ideal spot. No house was about. The fine grassy hill sloped south to a great rock which seemed to deflect the current eighty or ninety degrees. At full sea there was plenty of water for diving off the rock. All about was nice short grass, and near by bushes and trees for a dressing room. Across the Mystic on its opposite bank was a very heavy growth of the tuneful sedge which sounds up so musically in the hands, or rather in the mouths, of a lot of small boys. Two or three rods eastward was a beach, just the place for little boys to learn how to swim. How came this beach there? Our mudbanked river did not have natural beaches. Some said this beach told of the historic Blessing of the Bay, and certainly it did look as if scarped out for the launching ways of a vessel. Some said it was the place the early Woburn settlers came to for free alewives. To be sure there was a bigger fishery at the outlet of Mystic lake, but our ancestors did not like paying royalties to Cradock and Winthrop grantees of the upper privilege. Some said this beach was made to help the Woburn people move their water freight to and from Boston through the very direct line of Rock Hill lane and Woburn street northwestward. I cannot answer.’Non nostrum tantas componere lies. An enormous blue pearmain tree stood near this beach and we kept good run of its noble fruit. After Mr. Hastings came, it was on his land, but he was a good soul and never bothered the boys. I should like one of those great apples now. Perhaps all this beautiful scene is now spoiled by the dam below or by the great sewer construction. I have not seen it for sixty years. Boating on the river was good. Captain King, who originally lived in the house later of Major Geo. L. Stearns, moved to a house near the river a little off South [p. 84] street, and set up a fine able boat. She was schooner rigged, a style best for shortening sail in our twisting river. His son George, a schoolmate of mine, was the skipper and would often take the little fellows aboard and go as far as Malden bridge where we caught big fish. Sometimes he would go up into the lower lake, though he disliked the trouble of passing under the canal aqueduct and the Weir bridge. But it all ended when George King went to sea, and later became a shipmaster himself, and then I built a boat of my own when I was about fourteen. She was a sort of flat bottomed scow but had a keel fastened on. A rake tail served as a mast. The sail was a sprit sail, easily twisted round the mast and the sprit, and she had no boom. She would go pretty fast especially with a skipper who made friends with the strong tides, and I had no trouble in getting by the aqueduct and Weir bridge. I often took her into the pond, a beautiful lake with heavy woodlands along its shore and some very high grounds by it. Two points ran out into the lake and (except for about seven feet) nearly met. This was the ‘parting of the ponds,’ the extreme westerly point of the grant to Governor Cradock of 1635. The water rushed swiftly through the strait referred to; bushes and trees grew on the two points and very large trees on the high eastern point. Generally a plank served as a crossing over the runway. The whole place was delightful prior to the Charlestown Water Works dam. At this runway I could catch white perch in the swift water. This was a sea-going fish but never caught in the river. He had come all the way from Boston in the salt stream, then the length of the brackish lower lake, and here he got his first taste of the fresh water he had come for. One word of parting is due to the Parting of the Ponds which no one will ever see again in its pristine beauty. It was a notable spot. Nothing more beautiful was within the perimeter of the first governor's grant. It was his furthest point, as if he had stretched out his [p. 85] primal choice to secure this spot. It was called the Parting, but it was also the meeting of the waters, in fact of two water systems. To this point came the tidal influence of the salt Atlantic, but never beyond. Its anadromous fishes, however, went further. From above came the rainfall of the whole Aberjona water shed and its great state ponds—Horn, Wedge, etc. The fresh water went on southward but its fishes did not enter the brackish south lake. I never knew of any such there except an occasional clumsy sucker who knew no better and came down from Lexington sometimes as far as Sucker hole at the south side of Weir bridge. My little boat often took me the whole length of the Menotomy river, clear up to the Concord turnpike and the outlet of Fresh pond, but the scenery in this region was inferior to that of the upper Mystic. I used to note a large, black old house apparently rising out of the salt marsh west of the Menotomy and south of the Mystic, but I never until lately knew it had been the home of Henry Dunster, the first president of Harvard. In winter our river was of no use to the boys or anybody except the eel-spearers. It never froze smoothly and the current was deep and dangerous. Everywhere on both shores there was a space of a rod or more of floating ice masses and sludge difficult and dangerous to cross. The Middlesex canal in winter was very unlike the river. There was no danger in its currentless four foot water; no unfrozen margin. It always froze smooth and early, so that we were sure of skating on Thanksgiving day. It was the scene of glorious shindies between the Medford maggots and the Charlestown pigs. We never went far into Charlestown as the pigs would at once appear in countless numbers, but when they undertook an invasion of Medford their numbers would be less, and some stout fellows from the shipyards, etc., would join us and help with snow balls, ice chunks and fists. Joe Revaleon, a young colored man, always helped. He could [p. 86] not hit with a snow ball but his fists were very efficient. But Joe won no glory for he was so much bigger than the pigs. Roars of ‘take one of your size’ always greeted his appearance, but never made him blush. Our true hero was a high school boy named Bela Cushing, whose size was more correct. Bela was our bravest on the field and also our best on the rhetorical platform. I don't believe Cola di Rienzi ever addressed the Romans with more ‘bir and smeddum’ (as Galt the Scotch novelist called it) than did Bela when he poured out Rienzi's words from our school rostrum. I wish I knew of his later life. These fights were really quite serious, and we who were too small to be on the fighting line could shout well and could make more noise than any Greek chorus ever made. Once we corralled a squad of pigs in the upper story of Mr. Peck's hat factory and held them there till we wanted supper, not quite daring to charge up the staircase. This war between these two towns was a strange thing. It was ancient, historic, legendary. No feud ever existed between Medford and Woburn. West of Main street the winter canal was nicer. It generally was in sight of the river and, for a long stretch, of the Walnut tree hill on which no Tufts College or anything else stood, though I seem to remember the lone walnut tree. Beyond the aqueduct and through the woodlands it was ideal. The heavy oaks kept off the wind. We could look down upon the lovely lake which at times was very near the canal and perhaps twenty feet lower. We could climb down the slope and explore on our skates all its nooks and bays. Some distance above the ‘parting’ there was an apron of plank, the wasteway for the surplus water of the canal. This made a handsome cascade as the water tumbled over the rocks right into the upper pond. Further northwest and nearly up to the Aberjona were two great ice houses very well located, with one end projecting into the lake for the inward coming ice blocks and the other end a little over the canal to send the outgoing ice crop by the cheapest possible freight service to Boston. [p. 87] In summer the canal was delightful also. No place could be more beautiful than the mile or two of its passage through the lake woodlands. The great boats never charged us passage money and at every bridge one could step on or off a boat. Cleopatra's barge may have had silkier awnings and downier cushions, but it did not have a motion more swanlike. With the eyes shut you could not say there was any motion. The boatmen never bothered us. They had little to do but to talk. Theirs was in general an easy service. The long tow had the horse at one end, and the other was made fast to the top of a slightly elastic pole which stood near but not quite at the middle of the boat's length. Its exact position was scientifically important, for if it was rightly placed the boat would keep the middle of the water, and only at approaching a bridge or another boat did the boatman need to lean against his enormous steering oar. The fishing in the canal must be noticed. Pickerel were there, and the troller had an easy time loafing along the tow path from which he could cover all the water. Smaller fish were numerous at certain spots, notably at the Lowell railroad bridge which crossed the canal near the arch over the river. Here were bream, perch, shiners, etc., but no pouts. The pouts were about ten feet south of the canal in a little pond at the angle of the railroad and canal, and there they were plenty. Another good place for float-fishing for small fish was just above the lock at the aqueduct in front of the station house. This spot had a fine prospect to the west and south. To the right the sloping expanse of the green meadow stretched away to the head waters of the Mystic. There were no houses or obstructions to the view. To the left one's vision ranged for miles up the marshes of the Menotomy, and no house stood there except the black spooky old Dunster house fast sinking into ruin and decay. I liked this spot with the operating lock and the life about the 1station house, and went there often. [p. 88] One day a gruesome event happened. I was walking south on Canal street and met a boy who told me something which sent me at once to the basement of the town almshouse which then stood between Canal street and the Lowell railroad. I found a dismal cell, lighted only by one small barred window, and by a feed hole about as large as a brick, in the heavy plank door. Inside was a fixed bunk but no bedding. There was not an article of furniture. The whole place was unutterably foul. And there, howling and roaring, was my old schoolmate Andrew Wade, now a raving maniac. At the grammar school a harmless idiot, neglect and bad treatment had brought him to this. The Medford authorities were not, I think, to be especially blamed, for this sort of thing was then universal. There were no state lunatic asylums. The system of kindness and some simple instruction for the insane was not heard of. It was not supposed that a crazy man had any rights, tastes, capacities for enjoyment or preference between comfort and misery, pain or pleasure. And so this dreadful punishment befell this poor wretch whose only crime was his incapacity for crime. I do not know Andrew's pedigree. Perhaps he derived from leading citizens of Medford. We know that Jonathan Wade who died in 1689 was the largest land holder in the township. What a trist ending was this. I could not bear it long, and said goodbye to Andrew, but he did not know me. The Lowell railroad crossed Canal street at grade. I remember there was no gate or flagman there, also that the sleepers were of very heavy split granite. We boys used to figure on the number of them necessary to reach from Boston to Lowell. These stone sleepers did not stay long. They were too noisy and unyielding and later gave place to wood. I recall also the preposterous gates at the West Medford railroad crossing. There were two of them, not a bit like the familiar turnpike toll bar but made of heavy planking, box construction and much iron work, and when swung across the rails, [p. 89] looked as if intended to stay a locomotive. When not swung across the rails they swung across the street. One night, perhaps no train was expected or the station master was sleeping, the gates were left across the track. A high northerly gale sprung up and started an empty gravel car which was standing on a siding, and down it came as if shot from a catapult, and so ended the box gates. The pleasantest and most productive of the fishing places was at and near Mr. Brooks' granite arch. I hear the beautiful thing has been destroyed. I am very sorry. I do not believe any parkway or house construction can rival the original beauty of that region with its mile of forest arcade, its mighty oaks with their luxurious greenery and the outlook over the shining pond below the winding canal. The arch was perfect in its absolute simplicity. A gravel path from the Brooks mansion led over it and onward along the west bank of the canal to the nearest part of the lake where was Mr. Brooks' grove extending from the canal to the lake, full of similar trees of great size, and with pretty paths and two little stone arches over a bit of a brook which flowed down to the lake. We did not fish in the canal beyond this, but the cool shadow of the granite arch, where no sun ray ever came, was with the adjoining tree shadows, a favorite home of many kinds of fish. Besides the striped perch and bream, we there took cheven, a rather larger fish, all silver and resembling a scup, suckers large enough if not very good, and chub. This last had large silver scales with a sort of purple iridescence, and would sometimes weigh a pound. They were very good eating, too. Another beautiful fish was found at this bridge and only here. It was about as large as a small smelt, silvery but with crimson tipped fins and tail. There was one more fishing place at the west edge of Medford, or maybe just over the edge. It was Bacon's pond in the Aberjona. Deacon Samuel Train, who lived next west of Mrs. Peggy Swan, was of very solemn [p. 90] aspect. He was not so portentously solemn as the Rev. Orin Fowler of Fall River, of whom after one of his pastoral visits a tot of a girl said, ‘Mama, was that Dod?’ but he was very grave indeed. He was, however, kindly inside, liked boys and fishing, both very good symptoms in an elderly gentleman. He would come from Boston as the sun began to decline and the best fishing hour to approach, have his wagon hitched up to his quick trotter, get in front with his great pickerel rod, put Gorham, his youngest son, and myself in behind with our perch rods and worms, and whirl away to Bacon's pond just west of Symmes' corner. While Mr. Train was hitching the horse, jointing up and getting his fishing tackle in order, we boys, who could act quickly, were catching him shiners for bait. He then took the east side of the pond where the water was shallow, where the long grass and the rushes, weeds and lily pads grew, and where the pickerel lay, and began his trolling. We took the road causeway and the railroad embankment. Results were good. Small fish were plenty and the deacon would get pickerel often over two pounds in weight. But this retrospect is growing too long, especially as those who might sympathize with it have departed. Charles II. apologized for his unconscionable slowness in dying, and I feel that an apology for the unconscionable length of this prattle is due you from Yours sincerely,
What its signs of promise are?
New Bedford, July 27, 1914.We regret our inability to present to our readers a likeness of Mr. Stetson, with those of his contemporaries like him interested in the Historical Society's work. Thanks are due him for his letters appreciative of the Register, and for the many side lights on our local history contained in his interesting reminiscences.—editor.