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[p. 78]

Medford's home for the Aged.

THIS institution, which appeals strongly to the people, is now upon the Puffer estate at Winthrop square. Heretofore it has occupied a typical Medford dwelling, a view of which appears in its first printed report (1903). A better (half-tone) view from another direction is in reports of 1907-12, and the latter shows its neighbor, the Abraham Touro house. (Probably this is the only view extant of that ancient and peculiar house, which was demolished some years since.) Information relative to this Medford Home is furnished by its correspondence clerk:
The Medford Home for Aged Men and Women was incorporated in December, 1901, and opened on January 29, 1902, in the house No. 66 South street (corner of Manning), which had been bought subject to mortgage, which has since been paid off. Seven persons entered at that time, which number was increased to nine the next year, filling all rooms. There is always a waiting list.

The Home is sustained by subscriptions, gifts, and entrance fees of $250 each, and by the proceeds of an annual fair. Gifts of real estate—a lot of land on the opposite corner of Manning and South streets, and a house and land on Winthrop street—have come to the Home, as also gifts of money and bequests. The Corporation has just purchased a larger house, the Puffer homestead, at the meeting of High street and Winchester road, upon which a mortgage must rest until its other real estate can be sold. The service of physicians, ministers and managers is given without charge.

The large barn that stands so near the house was erected by J. H. Norton for Mr. Puffer in 1871 or 1872, and before the improvements were made that resulted in the present building. The writer, on a recent pleasant (November) day went upon the grounds for the first time, and through the various rooms and cellar, and ascended the stairs to the cupola. Looking from the latter in all directions the thought came, ‘What would the original builder, the earliest occupants (and later, as well) say of the Medford of today spread there to their view?’ And especially we thought of that Medford boy, whose home it was, and his writings, from which we shall later quote.

The house in its present form is well known to the present generation of Medford people as being in a fine location and with abundant grounds. For the past forty years it has been the home of a worthy Medford family, [p. 79] though for a few recent years disused. It will now be known by the above caption. Were it styled ‘Aged People's Home,’ the adjective might refer to the building, as well as to its occupants, as the main portion is one of the oldest in the city.

This may seem strange to the casual observer, but there are still a goodly number of old residents who remember the large white house (resembling the Unitarian parsonage) which stood close to High street and nearer the brook, in former years known as the Swan house. This must not be mistaken for the Swan house that was moved from Governors avenue, as there were several of that name in the old days.

This house became the property of Samuel Swan, Jr., (b. 1750) who moved from Charlestown to Medford in 1790 and took up his residence therein. Mr. Swan was in his time a man of note, having served in the Revolution under Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, who afterward commanded the militia of Massachusetts at the time of the Shays rebellion. At that time Samuel Swan was quartermaster general with the rank of major, and in recognition of his service received the written thanks of Governor Bowdoin.

He was treasurer of the Malden Bridge Corporation, whose enterprise in building the bridge across Mystic river so exasperated the Medford parson as to cause him to write a vituperative letter thereabout. With his little (and only) daughter, then but three years old, Mr. Swan was the first to drive over the new bridge in a chaise. The distinction of being the first to pass over the bridge at its opening was eminently fitting. It was Mr. Swan who first suggested to Judge Russell the idea of a bridge at Penny ferry.

Major Swan was paymaster of the Middlesex Canal Company, and went up to Wilmington every week with money to pay the workmen, running some risk of being robbed, as he was well known to carry money.’

He had seven sons, one of whom became the ‘beloved physician’ of Medford, Dr. Daniel Swan, and for whom the Swan school was named. [p. 80]

His youngest son, Caleb, was much interested in Medford's history, and distributed numbers of Mr. Brooks' volume among his friends on its publication. His own interleaved copy, after traversing the continent, has found place in our Historical Library—not a resting place, however, for its wealth of additions and its owner's criticisms are an illuminating sidelight on Medford history often sought.

Among the interleavings is a pen and ink drawing or ‘Map made by C. Swan July 24, 1863,’ which shows the course of Meeting-house brook through ‘salt marsh’ on either side, with land of John Bishop at the south, while on the north side and between the brook and ‘County road,’ i.e., High street, is shown ‘land of Sam Swan,’ and at ‘head of tide’ is ‘salt marsh, about 1 acre Francis Leathe to Patrick Roach Oct 18, 1816.’ The brook, in its lower reach, is designated as ‘Creek of salt water full every tide.’ Above ‘head of tide’ is shown ‘stone wall,’ and the stream is there styled ‘brook,’ and a ‘bridge’ is shown by dotted lines across ‘County road.’ Three ‘gates’ are shown on the roadside, the one nearest the brook about midway on a ‘1 acre’ lot next the Roach lot, on the other side of the brook is ‘land of John Wade.’ Another similar map styles it ‘Noah Johnson's land formerly John Wade's tanyard.’ From the middle ‘gate’ is pencilled a ‘cart way’ to the middle of the plot, and also in pencil is shown ‘boggy land.’ Toward the eastwardly adjoining ‘land of Dudley Hall’ is pencilled ‘heavy crop of grass for 30 years.’ Almost opposite the easterly, or third gate, is shown the ‘House,’ which is the subject of our writing, and from which we have wandered a little. But a short distance eastward, and before the bend in High street, is shown another, marked ‘Furniss,’ which has been gone from that spot for the past forty-five years or more.

Incidentally we mention that the Wade tanyard is the Bean greenhouse location, and the ‘1 acre’ east of the brook is the location of the second meeting-house and first schoolhouse of Medford, and through this mapped and still unoccupied land has been built the present ‘Winthrop street’. [p. 81]

One of these interleavings relates to his paternal home and was added as below in

New York, June 25, 1863.
About 1801 Mr Nathaniel Wells (who for many years assisted in mowing the grass in Medford, and who died in Aug. 1824, aged 92) said at Fathers house about 1800, that when he was a boy, he heard his Father say, that the frame of that house was of Oak, got out, framed, raised and built at a certain time, which was 112 years before the time Mr Wells was repeating it in 1801, which would make the time it was built 1689. Mr Wells thought the house was built by a Mr Richardson of Woburn.


If this be correct, and there can be little doubt thereof, this house, with its solid oak frame, must have been a century old when President Washington took his ‘health tour as far north as Portsmouth,’ and visited Medford in 1789, where he was entertained by Colonel Brooks at his home, only a few rods away.

Truly it is, with the modern addition of 1872 and its recent refitting, an aged ‘Home for the Aged’ people. Its builders did their work well. They builded better than they knew.

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