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An insular but mythical dueling ground.

The latest query the editor has received is about the insular dueling ground at Spot pond (and perhaps not in Medford bounds), and of the monument on the island. We have never seen this but once, on the occasion of a Sunday-school picnic, and were then told its story. On such occasions, stories told should be truthful. As we recollect it, the monument was about two and a half feet high, and had an inscription of a few words. Whether this was painted or cut in the wood or stone we cannot now say with surety, as the time is forty-one years agone. Recently the story has come to us in different form. There is a woman in the case; i.e., some woman tells our new informant. She was evidently impressed with the horrible details she had heard—that in bygone days, when ‘gentlemen’ settled their affairs of honor by the code duello, that there in that lonely spot, two men met in mortal combat, and at the distance of certain paces, with deadly weapons, sought each other's life as satisfaction for wounded honor, with the result ‘that Colonel Shute fell mortally wounded,’ and that his [p. 72] friends, in their sorrow, erected the monument with the simple inscription, ‘Here Shute Fell.’ Truly a tragic affair must it have been, and sorrow in the extreme must have filled the hearts of all his family and friends. We will now tell the tale as we heard it years ago on the spot. In those old days there used to be a hotel called the Spot Pond House near the boundary line of Medford and Stoneham, at first respectable in character, and for the accommodation of travellers on the old Andover turnpike. It later, with the cessation of business and travel, degenerated into a place of questionable repute. The natural beauty of the locality attracted picnic parties to Spot Pond grove and to the island, and as usual to a public resort came some of lower character. One of these latter was composed of convivial spirits, and one among its number who was somewhat overloaded became overcome, and being too full for utterance, sank down for rest, or stumbled over some insignificant obstruction at that particular spot on the island. His boon companions thought it appropriate to mark the spot for future remembrance, and so set up the marker with the truthful inscription, ‘Here Shute Fell.’ Our own opinion is that ‘ColonelShute was a Kentucky colonel, and that his opponent in the duel the sympathetic lady told of was none other than the redoubtable Gen. John Barleycorn, hisdeadly weapon ‘a pocket pistol,’ and that ‘the grave on the island’ is entirely mythical. The old tavern has gone, the Andover turnpike is no more. Instead is the electric railway that brings multitudes from the crowded city. Instead is the broad Fellsway, with its throng of automobiles and their occupants, coming to the ‘Beautiful lake in Middlesex Fells,’ of which was written—

Fair as thy sister of the north
Lesser ‘Smile of the Great Spirit’ art thou
Spread o'er the face of Mother Earth.

Vol. XII, p. 41.

Whether the monument to the one who ‘fell’ so long ago still remains, or has disappeared, enquiry of the public or park employees fails to reveal. But the duel story [p. 73] is a myth. The real story of Shute's fall (whether colonel or not) has its lesson. Let us hope his successors of the present day do better than did he.

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