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[p. 89]

‘What mean these stones?’

Joshua 4:21.

A few years since, a bright, observing Medford schoolboy came to the writer with this question, ‘Mr.—— what is that stone post on——street, near the brook, for?’ adding, ‘my teacher said that he didn't know, but probably you could tell me.’

The stone in question is one of the markers of ‘grade lines’ established by order of selectmen May 28, 1889, in accordance with general laws of 1888, and which, to the number of twenty-two, may be seen at the roadsides, near the crossing of all brooks and the river. They are (mainly) of the dark Medford granite of Pasture hill, about a foot square, and of varying heights. A square space is roughly dressed across the roadside face and indented thus, G/19 ÷ 6″, or otherwise, as location needs. Probably the ‘grade act’ had never come under the schoolmaster's notice, and there are others equally excusable.

The schoolboy's query shows that he used his eyes and tongue to some purpose, and suggests the ancient one we have above quoted. We were not licensed to preach, but gave the schoolboy the information he sought (much to his gratification), and wish there were more like him.

In their annual report (1890) the selectmen said,

A grade of thirteen feet above mean low water was decided upon by the selectmen under the law, for the established grade, below which no cellar or basement-cellar of any building shall be constructed, used or occupied, except by license, for storage, or business purposes.

Then followed a list of twenty-two grade marks in various localities of ‘cross cut in stone and red chalked,’ giving figures thus, ‘19, 09. In feet and inches 19′ 1″,’ or otherwise, as might be. Some of these red-chalked cross cuts (X) were in abutments of bridges, ‘natural rock,’ ‘man-hole curb,’ ‘iron hydrant,’ and the like, and in some cases cannot now be found because of alterations made. Ere long granite markers of uniform shape were substituted for these which were difficult to find.

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