Much has been said in recent months of the use of pageants in the teaching of local history.
It may well be thus taught, but we still hold to the idea expressed by the late James A. Hervey
in the words, ‘If we are to be historical, let us tell the truth.’
If it is too bad
to tell, better be silent, for it is difficult to unlearn even pleasant fiction.
Three questions are pertinent, however:—
1. Did John Winthrop
purchase Ten-hills farm of the Indians?
If so, does any record of such purchase exist?
2. Was there any mob demonstration against the Royall house
, either before or after Sir Isaac's departure?
If so, what proof of it?
3. Did Washington
ever visit that house in person?
If so, when, and what proof thereof?
By reference to the local press we find that the first two query subjects were thus portrayed in pageant by various actors.
If this is correct, by all means let it be added to existing history, which heretofore has been silent thereabout.
It is a source of gratification that the Royall house
has been preserved, and this because of the wide-spread interest taken in the matter by members of historical and patriotic societies.
The old house guards its secrets well, but no one has done better in truthfully seeking its evolution than has Mr. Hooper
former president of the Medford
Historical Society. Four years since a poem read within its walls found place in the register.
It contained one line savoring strongly of poetic license:
The bricks shall be brought from over the sea
to which the editorial dissent was then made in a foreword.
And now comes the House Beautiful
, August, 1915, with superb illustrations of the house and pageant, and extended description of the former.
We cannot quite understand how ‘the eave of the one-story lean-to’ can [p. 74]
be ‘in the top story,’ which is the third in the house whose date of erection is given as 1631-2.
people will certainly take exception to this— ‘A fire burned down. . . an extension on the end adjacent to the old building of brick and wood called the “slave quarters,” ’ or that ‘it burned off the clapboards.’
A pretty theory is advanced relative to the kitchen stairway door, thus-
‘Stairs are boxed in by a door, the top of which slants down from the hinge-side at a mildly acute angle because, in the seventeenth century, doors were often made by ships' carpenters who made them for houses as they made them for cabins of ships.’
The prosy fact is, that the horizontal lines of these door panels are not mildly acute, as in ‘cabin doors.’
The settling of stairs and sagging of floors have necessitated a cutting off and a refitting of the door to its opening thus made angular.
And again, ‘the old carpenters' rule’ for constructing staircases is named as applying to the front stairs of seven-inch risers and an eleven-inch tread—
‘twice the rise, plus the tread, equals twenty-five inches cut on the string.’
Some old carpenters that have long built stairs as well as houses would be glad of information as to this, and why twice
the rise, or where twenty-five inches?
The above are technical matters.
The ‘skeletons and ghosts’ we will allow to rest and allude only to the assertion that—
‘in the parlor. . . George Washington is said to have done his courting of some fair lady in one of the recessed windows.
The tale is that he courted in vain.’
As history records Washington
as having only been in this vicinity at the siege of Boston
, and again in 1789, when he visited Colonel
and Dr. John Brooks
, and as he had married Martha Custis
years before, we think this a very unkind thrust against the revered memory of the Father
of his Country to be scattered broadcast throughout the land from beneath the shadow of the gilded dome.
Instead of technical and romantic myths, let us have attractive and historic truth, taught by narrative and pageant.