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[p. 90]

Medford's Metes and bounds.

Walk about Zion, and go round about her. . . mark ye well her bulwarks. . . that ye may tell it to the generation following.

Psalm 48: 12-13.

The public statutes require that city and town officers do as above once in every five years, to make sure that the boundary lines are maintained and the monuments in suitable condition and in their proper places. This is known as ‘Perambulation of Town Lines.’ We understand that under our city government some aldermen are accompanied by the city engineer or his representative. We may not think that this duty is strictly ambulatory, or that the exact or all the boundary line is walked over. It would be impracticable thus to do, unless, indeed, our mayor adds an aeroplane to the equipment of the highway department. The Medford of today is much larger than was Governor Cradock's farm, which lay north of the river and ‘a mile backward in all places.’

The latest map of Medford, if cut by its outlines from one of the county, would reveal a singular shape, reminding one of a broody, bristling hen. The hen's beak is in the water where Malden river joins the Mystic, the broad tail reaches Stoneham, and the sheltering wing covers the parkway and dips into the waters of Mystic lake, and this even though the ordinary hen is not aquatic in her habits.

Around this curiously shaped boundary line, at its corners, are set the monuments of granite that, numbered and marked with the initials of Medford and her neighbors, form the subject of our sketch. In 1888 a careful survey of the lines was made by three commissioners, and substantial maps, descriptions and historic facts made into the Boundaries of Medford, one of which is in the city clerk's office. The official photographer also was on the ground, and two pages contain thirty half-tone views of these monuments. All but one were taken in that year and form a highly interesting exhibit, especially after the changes that twenty-seven years have wrought. Corner number one is at the top of Winter hill, inside the front fence of Mr. Barber's grounds, is less than a [p. 91] foot high, with a shade tree beside it. The view is taken looking into the front yard, which is in Somerville, while the rear is in Medford and the house in both cities. Just now, in this extreme corner of Medford, are being built some twenty houses of modern type. The last noted invasion of this spot was by the Hessian prisoners after their weary march from Saratoga in 1777. Number two is 3,550 feet westward, and looking north the Littlefield lumber shed forms a background in its view. Number three is 510 feet away beside a tree (a child's box cart, evidently home-made, shows in the view), and in the distance a dwelling-house, recognizable as now the parochial residence of St. Clement's church. Four hundred and sixty-five feet further is number four, and the view shows Warner street in Somerville, the continuation of Medford's Harvard street. Going 350 feet number five is shown among some small trees on the ‘east side of a cart path.’

Four of these are described as being in the Charles Tufts estate, but times have changed, as the numerous houses in both cities, and Bromfield, Pearson and Bristol roads show. Some dozen feet into Pearson road may now be found this last monument, cut smooth with the pavement. Eight hundred and seven feet away, looking north, is number six, with the brick station of the railway (called Tufts College) and the venerable oak, nobody knows how old.

To reach number seven will require a walk up hill 1,164 feet. Here Goddard chapel, with its lofty Lombardic tower, will be seen to the northwest, 165 feet away. The next line is short, but 80 feet, and here to the west, among some trees, is number eight. Number nine is described as ‘with broken top.’ It is viewed northwesterly, and in the distance are the gymnasium and another college building. Does this account for the breakage, even though 684 feet away from the chapel? One hundred and twenty-eight feet at another right angle and we see number ten (with the M very black), and the campus and three houses along Professors row.

Turn squarely again and 691 feet will bring one to [p. 92] number eleven, which is beside Somerville's Curtis street. Here the view includes a stone wall and bushes, ‘and a rough tapering monument.’ Three hundred and seventy-eight feet along the wall and street, and number twelve is reached. This view, also, is stone wall and bushes, but included is the towering embankment of the reservoir built by the city of Charlestown. A water-barrel used to be beside the road, fed from a spring in the hillside and not, as many thought, and quite naturally, from the reservoir. This spring was encountered at an early stage of the work in 1862, and record of same made at the time by the engineers in charge.

Seven hundred and sixteen feet from this last is number thirteen, and whether unlucky or not is ‘back of Samuel Teele's barn.’ Two hundred and eighty-five feet further, after turning squarely again, looking west one sees number fourteen. One tree and four houses show in the picture. Today there is the recently built Somerville extension of Adams street, phenomenal in its growth. Turn squarely again and 724 feet away is a ‘tall granite post with dressed top,’ which is number fifteen. The picture shows a tree and but little else; but it isn't lonesome now. Another square turn to right, 648 feet alongside an old rangeway, and number sixteen is found, with the sign ‘North street’ to keep it company.

Eight hundred and seventy-seven feet from this is number seventeen, and 500 feet away, looking north, is seen the tall chimney and the roof of the pumping station now for years disused. But to follow this line might require rubber boots, as the ground is very moist, in fact the engineer referred to styled it then ‘a swamp.’ Another sharper turn right and 1,207 feet will reach number eighteen, which is ‘215 feet distant from the center of the westerly track of the railroad.’ This view shows (northward) the framework of shed of the Colonial Chemical Co., a carpenter's saw bench and one rail of the spur track from the railway whose high embankment looms up in the distance. This monument was not a corner, but bore upon it a ‘witness mark,’ as the boundary line continued straight on to an unmarked point in the middle [p. 93] of the river beyond the railroad, and which was number nineteen. Incidentally we note that the Middlesex canal crossed this line very closely at this point. But other things than the canal have disappeared. The ‘irregular granite with flaring top, near the east corner of a small building,’ has been cut off smooth with the concreted floor of the big brick factory, recently built over it, and the drill-hole in its top marks the exact boundary.

In our perambulation we have covered about two and a half miles and arrived at the end of the Somerville appendix, having gone up hill and down dale, sometimes forward, sometimes backward. Just now we may hear the fire-alarm whistle over our heads, perhaps the hoodoo sixty-one.

In this small part (only about a quarter) of Medford's boundary are nearly two-thirds of the corner bounds. Why this crooked line? and why this Somerville appendix that Medford so nearly encloses? The reason is that long ago Charlestown people had some cows, and this hill territory outside Governor Winthrop's farm was their ‘cow commons’ or pasture land, as a mile back from the river northward was ‘Charlestown wood lots.’ Well does the Boundaries of Medford say, ‘Originally Medford was entirely surrounded by Charlestown.’ When in 1765 Medford wanted more territory (and got it) the line of boundary followed the lines of the cow pastures over and around the hill, thus keeping some of the Charlestown lots along the river, forming the appendix that forty years ago began to be troublesome by the incoming of the chemical works (now gone). There is need of legislative surgery for Medford's relief, though a partial and considerable relief has come by the Metropolitan parkway's taking therein. We fancy some of those Charlestown people had some wood or marsh grass on their holdings, and naturally preferred to stay in Charlestown bounds, and so were not annexed, and nearly a century later their territory became Somerville.

One thing our perambulation has not revealed—the wigwam of Sagamore John that Governor Winthrop visited, but it was close by. Perhaps somebody's new house building may find trace of it. [p. 94]

We have heard recent enquiry about corner nineteen. Only the engineers can now determine it, but it is eighty-five feet from the railway track. The river has been moved, and the ‘tip end’ of the appendix lies northeast of the railway under the parkway and beside it.

From corner nineteen the boundary follows the ‘thread of the river’ to an unmarked point where Menotomy river (alias Alewife brook) joined it, which is some distance above the present stream. Here is the corner of Medford, Somerville and Arlington. It would be a pleasant excursion up this boundary. We took it last summer in company with nearly forty people in one boat, as far as Mystic dam. ‘Through the narrows’ the line runs to ‘an unmarked point in Mystic (upper) pond.’ This is also an unmarked point, the corners of Medford, Arlington and Winchester. On the shore, 15 feet from the water's edge and 1,094 feet from that unmarked point, is number twenty. The view shows the curve of the Mystic Valley parkway, a slim, tapering cedar, and the stone monument. This, like number eighteen, is a ‘line stone,’ and not a corner, and has the ‘witness mark,’ as the line passes through it 5,620 feet to number twenty-one. Also in its course are the ‘road stones’ on Grove and Winthrop streets, which latter becomes Main street in Winchester.

We are now in the woods near Whitmore brook, and the pictures are sylvan views. On our way we will pause and see the red cedar growing from the top of a massive boulder not far from the line. See register, Vol. XIV, p. 14.

We will turn northward, now. Three thousand eight hundred and eighty-one feet will take us to number twenty-two, and as we look southward we shall see W on the stone, as the photographer had to get his view from the Winchester side. Turning just a little, 1,336 feet brings us to number twenty-three. Possibly there was some ‘hoodoo’ about this number, as the photographer did not get his view till a year later (1889) when he secured a woodland view of ‘an iron 4 feet high and 1 3/8 inches square, standing on a ledge about 1,500 feet away from Turkey swamp dam.’ [p. 95]

From this point it is 1,818 feet to number twenty-four, the extreme corner of the city next Stoneham. Turning squarely and passing across middle reservoir, 4,261 feet brings us to number twenty-five. There was a large rock of four feet on the side next and west of Forest street, with a drill hole between S and M on its top. This was near Porter's cove of Spot pond. Number twenty-six is 2,786 feet farther on in nearly the same direction, is near Fulton street, is a tall stone with wedgeshaped top among denuded trees. Two thousand six hundred and twenty-five feet, still in similar direction, reaches number twenty-seven, which is a tall monument with a pile of loose rocks about it, and near a pile of stones, or cairn. The Metropolitan park map styles this spot ‘Cairn hill,’ and gives the elevation as 303 feet, the highest elevation in Medford.

From corner twenty-seven the boundary runs southward by Malden 7,257 feet to number twenty-eight, which was a rough granite block with M in red paint, but the view shows the same in the retaining wall beside Salem street, with an M on either end, and Mr. Jacob's houses on the slope above.

Two thousand six hundred and fifty-seven feet in a line swinging eastward from the former, to number twenty-nine in the loam space of the Fellsway, formerly called ‘Creek head,’ thence is a water route ‘along the thread of Little creek,’ or ‘Nowell's creek,’ to number thirty. Here Highland avenue of Malden ends and Middlesex avenue of Medford begins. The boundary line continues through a ‘line stone’ with ‘witness mark,’ along Malden river to number thirty-two, an unmarked point at the corners of Everett, Malden and Medford. Number thirty-three is also an unmarked point, the corners of Everett, Medford and Somerville, at the junction of the Malden with Mystic river. After following the serpentine Mystic westerly to a point in line with the monuments ‘Medford Somerville 1’ and ‘Medford Somerville 3,’ the line runs 2,088 feet westerly by Somerville to the point begun at, on the top of Winter hill. This line is through a witness mark on a ‘line stone’ [p. 96] beside Mystic avenue, marked ‘M. S. city line,’ 250 feet from corner thirty-four, and also through another ‘ancient line stone’ on the site of the old Middlesex canal.

Beside these corner monuments there are ‘road stones’ on east of Main and east of Medford streets, east of College and northeast of Boston avenues, east of Grove, west of Winthrop, and east of Myrtle streets at the city boundary. There is also a ‘line stone’ between corners twenty-seven and twenty-eight, distant 1,152 feet from twenty-seven.

These two pages of the Boundaries, containing thirty half-tones, are very interesting, varying from woodland scenes to exceptionally fine views of Goddard chapel and the railway station. Were photographs taken today, in a few instances the change would be marked by the building development. In two instances (five and twenty-five) a blue print of the survey and a new monument is inserted in the Boundaries. If we have ‘walked about’ Medford or gone ‘round about her’ by boat or air craft, we have travelled about nine miles by land and about six miles by water or air; but this is not an ‘air line,’ as the ‘thread of Nowell's creek’ and Mystic river is crooked indeed. We have looked across the boundary into the pleasant homes of our neighboring cities, been close to the temples of religion and halls of learning, crossed the railways with their crowded cars and hurrying multitudes, gone under the highways and climbed over the dam at the ‘Narrows.’ We have sailed over the upper as well as the lower lakes, and climbing the hillside, passed through the Brooks estate, and enjoyed the beautiful view across the lake to ‘Morning-side.’ We have overlooked the silent city of Oak Grove and passed through the attractive solitude of the Fells. Doubtless we have enjoyed our perambulation.

Town officers in days gone by have had similar and other experiences. One of them comes to us with the story of setting a road stone. In drawing the line between monuments it was found that two houses were ‘over the line,’ and not in Medford. The resident in one was highly irate, and regarded the Medford selectman [p. 97] as the cause thereof, and assailed him with eggs. We asked him if there was any egg-nog in it, and the reply was, ‘Medford selectmen in the old days never had any junkets.’ Tell this ‘to the generation following.’

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