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[p. 80]

Medford in 1821.

Now that our old town house and city hall is gone it may be well to consider what Medford was at the time just prior to its building. The story of its construction has been compiled from the records, and ably written in the Register (Vol. IX, p. 40) by Miss Wild, and we commend its careful perusal. The architect was one of the best of his time, and the builders did their work well. What present workmen know how to do such work in wood, now that iron work has come into use?

Our veteran townsman, Francis Wait, has compiled from the state census, taken in 1821, the following items of interest:

State Valuation taken 1821 town of Medford

Polls 16 years to 20 years30246
Polls 21 years upwards202
Polls o not Ratable2
Polls Supported by the town12
Dwelling houses152 1/2
Shops in the Same2
other Shops19
Distill houses4
Tan Houses3
Slaughter houses3
Grist mill1
Saw mills1
Bake Houses2
other Buildings Value 20 dollars66
Superficial feet of Wharf2240
Stock in Trade5350
Money at Interest69050
money on hand or in any Bank18300
Bank Stock1300
Ounces Plate575
Shares in toll Bridges17
Acres of tillage Land394
Bushells of Rye65
Bushells Indian Corn5230
Bushells Barley295
Beans & peas6
English mowing877
Tons Engh Hay751
Tons of Hay from the same416
Cows the whole farm will keep394
Barrels of Cyder128
unimproved Land1253
Land improvable130
acres of Land for Roads160
Land owned by the town10
Land covered by water434
Total amount of Real Estate384440
Total amount of Personal Estate186259

[p. 81]

Some interesting deductions may be made from these statistics. Medford was then a town of one thousand five hundred inhabitants. The polls were about one-sixth, their votes one-eighth, and the boys and young men (ten to twenty years) one fiftieth of the population; this last seems a small proportion, but perhaps the girls were in the majority.

The number of dwellings shows that an average of ten persons inhabited them, with perhaps two polls in most of them. That half house probably joined the line next Malden, Charlestown or Woburn. Medford was then certainly in the rural district, for the number of barns was four-fifths that of the dwellings. The one hundred and five horses were not enough to allow each barn one, but the cows were enough to average two, though the Medford farms might have accommodated one hundred and fifty-seven more.

Then there were thirty-nine yoke of oxen. Wouldn't they be a sight on the Medford roads today? Who knows when the last ox-team was owned in Medford, or who drove it?

One hundred and thirty-one swine were enough to keep the hogreeve busy. As the family pig was in evidence in those days, the number is not excessive, and probably the piglets were not enumerated.

Medford land produced a little less than a ton of hay to the acre, and the salt marshes about the same proportion. The tillage land was about one-half the grass land and two-thirds the salt meadow acreage, but the unimprovable land we know as the Fells about equalled both the latter. The roads, river and ponds were of about the same area as the productive marshes, and two-thirds the area of the grass land. The tillage land might have been increased one-third, by the area of improvable land.

Medford's staple product (at least as shown by these statistics) was Indian corn. Its barley and rye only about a fifteenth as much, while the six bushels of peas and beans looks insignificant, considering the proximity to Boston. [p. 82]

No statistics of orchards are given, but the one hundred and twenty-eight barrels of ‘Cyder’ would have averaged three-quarters to each dwelling. There is no reference to that beverage that made Medford famous, except that four distill houses outclassed other industrial pursuits. Slaughtering of cattle and tanning of their hides kept pace with each other in three places.

Medford had even then paid the penalty for forest destruction in the loss of its water power of the brooks, and only one grist—and one saw-mill are named, these on the tidal river. Its two ‘bake houses’ were the predecessors of the Medford cracker.

Two householders had shops in their dwellings, and nineteen other shops were named. Perhaps some were the little New England shoe-shops, though these last may have been among the ‘other buildings, value 20 dollars’ that numbered sixty-six.

Parson Osgood, in his somewhat peculiar letter to his sweetheart, tells of some Medford people being ‘bridge mad.’ Not the present ‘bridge’ of social functions, but Maiden bridge across the Mystic. Here is the evidence, ‘Shares in toll bridges 17.’

It would be interesting to know how the Medford tradesmen did business with a stock of only fifty-three hundred and fifty dollars, but prices were not like today's. The wealth of the little old town is indicated by the items, ‘Bank stock, money at interest and on hand’; while the ‘ounces of plate’ shows the style affected by the wealthiest ones.

We have read somewhat of the ship-building and commerce of Medford, and the wharfage space (only fifty per cent. larger than our new society home covers) seems rather inadequate.

If we add the old third meeting-house (there was then no other), the few schoolhouses Medford then had to the barns, houses and half house, and include the shops and all other structures, we will find that three hundred and seventy-five will be an ample total for the Medford buildings of ninety-five years ago. [p. 83]

Our city has grown from this to its present proportions during the lifetime of our friend who has copied and sends to the Register these statistics, which we have thus reviewed briefly. Doubtless by others many other interesting points may be seen.

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