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Notes Epistolary and Horticultural.

Eliza M. Gill.
THE sources from which the facts were drawn for the statements herein embodied were the papers deposited by the late Horace D. Hall with the city clerk for safe keeping as the property of the Medford Historical Society, and the interleaved copy of Brooks' History of Medford, belonging to the late Caleb Swan.

The former is a collection of at least three hundred papers, comprising deeds, copies of wills, bills, accounts, memoranda, letters of a business or social matter covering a period of more than a hundred years, containing nothing of civic interest, but showing the business life of the Hall family for several generations.

The book, or second source, rich in manuscript notes and printed matter of historical and genealogical interest, was found among the effects of the late James Gilchrist Swan, a nephew of Caleb Swan, and was given to our Historical Society by a grandson of the former about twelve years ago. The first owner's notes run from 1855 to 1871. The second owner added to these notes in 1886 and 1888. Much of this data and matter from the Hall papers have been incorporated at various times in the papers of the Register.

In 1793 The Revd. Mr. Wm Wells came from England to Boston. He lived in the house afterwards of Mr. Ebenr Hall in Medford near the bridge.

He sometimes preached for Dr. Osgood. He imported a number of apple trees from England for his farm he had bought in Brattleborough, but they came too late in the spring and he had them sold. [p. 66]

Mr. Benjamin Hall bought some, and he set them out in his garden, a little South of his Summer house. The trees are there now in Dr. Swan's garden.

The above is a portion of what Caleb Swan sent for confirmation to two well-known residents of Medford, desiring their opinion on the subject. We give the replies he received; then another note of Mr. Swan's, evidently a copy of his acknowledgment of their receipt.

The Rev. Wm. Wells left England for this country in the year 1793 or 4, disgusted with the civil and religious persecution of that time, which resulted in the riots of Birmingham and the mobbing of Dr. Priestly, a friend of Mr. Wells, who also came to this country. Mr. Wells brought with him a wife and eight children, five sons, Wm., Eben, Hancox, Alfred and Howard, and three daughters, Martha, Mary Ann and Hannah.

He thought that this new country afforded a better prospect for the eligible settlement of his numerous family, than the old world offered. He came here with letters of introduction to the Rev. Dr. Morse of Charlestown, and his family lived in this town Medford the first year after their arrival, while the father was exploring different parts of the country, with a view of obtaining a parish as well as a farm, both of which he found in Brattleborough, Vt. He often preached in Medford and formed a friendship not only with my father, but with many of the most respectable inhabitants of the town, which continued through life.

His son Hancox was for some years a clerk in the store of Mr. Jona. Porter, Medford, and afterward became a distinguished merchant in Hartford, Conn. Eben was a farmer and excellent citizen in Brattleborough. Wm. the oldest was first a bookseller, the eminent Firm of Wells & Lilly, Boston, and upon failing in business removed to Cambridge, where he kept a classical school of a high order and died a few years since in a good old age. His wife was daughter of Kirk Boott1 of Boston. Alfred and Howard the [p. 67] two youngest sons, died in comparatively early life. Martha the eldest daughter had received a superior education to her sisters, under the patronage of a wealthy aunt in England, to whom she soon returned after remaining a short time with her family here. She married Mr. Freme a rich merchant who lived near Liverpool and her house became the resort of American travellers. Having no children, she came back to this country after the decease of her husband, and as her father and mother were then dead and her two sisters had remained single women, she purchased the old family mansion, added to it and beautified it in every way, and made it a home for herself and sisters. She was the Lady Bountiful of the town, and enjoyed an old age of the highest respectability and comfort until the occurrence of the terrible catastrophe which destroyed her life. She was, however, the only victim of the conflagration in the year 1819, Sunday, May 20. The other members of the family barely escaped in their nightdresses. All the first generation are now in their graves but many descendants remain, who are, I believe without exception, distinguished for their goodness and intelligence. I never heard the history of the apple trees before, but I make no doubt of its truth. Mrs. Wells was quoted for many years by the matrons here as a model of thrift and economy. She was greatly shocked at what she regarded as the wastefulness of our habits, in regard to food and other items of housekeeping. Mr. Wells had been settled in a parish in England, by the name of Bloomingdale, I think. After the death of his wife, when he was past 70 years old, he revisited England, and went to his birthplace which he had left when only ten years old even the inscriptions on the tombstones, he said, had been obliterated by the humidity of the climate, and every thing was strange to him. These notices, my dear Sir, will I hope meet your wishes.

Truly yours,

Mr. Swan—My Friend, I wish I could answer all the questions; but I cannot. William W. graduated at Har. College in 1796. James lived to old age in Hartford. Had one son and 3 daughters.

The son of old Mr. W. at Brattleboroa was a farmer on the homestead. Had a family. Three daughters lived at Brattleboroa. Two unmarried. One married Mr. Freme of Liverpool, and was burned in the house at Brattleboroa, the only death by fire.

With respect and esteem

Yrs truly

C. Swan begs Miss Osgood to accept his thanks for her very [p. 68] full account received last summer of the Revd Mr. Wells formerly a resident of Medford.

The only wonder is that she ever came to the Knowledge of so many incidents connected with his history. It increased my regrets of which I have told Mr. Brooks that the History of Medford had not been written 30 years sooner when Governor Brooks and Doctor Osgood, and others could have furnished so many items of historic interest.

Thursday Dec. 15, 1864.

From the second source of material some letters came to hand that quite unexpectedly supplemented the accounts given by Miss Osgood of the Wells family. The first is addressed to Benjamin Hall, Esq., Medford, near Boston, dated Birmingham, Cheshire, July, 1781, and subscribed Eliza Worthingto,. late Loughes. She thanks him for having procured for her stock to the amount of $1,144 in the Union Bank of Boston, and asks to have the amount, with interest, remitted to her, in care of her nephew, J. J. Hancox, who is with a firm of merchants in Liverpool which she names. She writes Mr. Hall she is enclosing her letter in one to her nephew, William Wells of Boston, and has been made happy that day by the receipt of a letter from America, and expresses the hope of seeing her niece, Martha Wells, in England in a short time. Mrs. Worthington was probably the rich aunt alluded to by Miss Osgood. The letter abounds in those dignified and gracious expressions of courtesy common to the letter writers of that time.

At the top of another large half sheet of heavy linen paper the following is written:—

dear Sir,

Inclosed I send you bank securities for fifteen hundred Dollars. You will please to transfer 143 script, or 1144 Dollars, to my sister Mrs. E. Loughes and send the remainder with those you have in your hand already, when convenience suits, to Brattleboro.

I left my family well last week, and intend to set off for Vermont again tomorrow. With respectful Compts to your family and friends I remain your obliged and humble Sevt Wm. Wells.

Hartford June 20 1797
To Mr. Benjn Hall, Senr, Medford near Boston.

[p. 69]

In the center of this same half sheet, which we must notice if only for its very beautiful writing, like copperplate, are eleven lines of writing unlike that at the top, and through the text four oblique lines in ink have been drawn. The writer speaks as having been informed by his father of a bill of £ 100, remitted through Mr. Hall to James Hancox of Birmingham, which he fears lost or delayed, as it had not been heard of so late as 4th April (no year given), and asks for information concerning it, and concludes by saying his brother and sister join him in ‘respects to you, Mrs. Hall, and the rest of our Medford friends.’ Subscribed James H. Wells.

There is another letter from William Wells to Benjamin Hall, Sr., dated Brattleboro, May 3, 1802, in which he thanks his friend for past business favors which he says have been conducted to his entire satisfaction, and that he has given his son William, in Boston, power of attorney to receive interest as it becomes due at the Union Bank, as he is not willing to longer trouble Mr. Hall with this trifling concern. He asks assistance for his son, in the way of advice, should he need it, and further says that in the affair of the interest of Mrs. Worthington's scrips it was a misapprehension of his altogether.

Probably the elder Wells sent the letter he had written to Mr. Hall to his son, who added the explanation which closed the transaction satisfactorily to all, and then forwarded the sheet to Mr. Hall.

A scrap of paper in the Hall collection contains a memoranda of trees bought in New York, and shows the purchase of three early Red Rareripes, three late Red Rareripes, two Beurre Colmars and two Bon Chretiens. The Rareripes were peaches of American origin, very highly esteemed, and were planted as follows; The early varieties, ‘one on the Bank, one by Dr. S[wan] fence near the grape vine, one by the cherry tree east.’ The late ones, ‘near the west side of the Barn, one in the alley near the grape vine.’ [p. 70]

The others were pear trees. The Beurre Colmars were planted on the east side of the garden and the Bon Chretiens on the north. The Bon Chretien is the pear now found in all American gardens called Bartlett. It was originated in England, propagated by a London grower by the name of Williams, and sent out by him. Its original name was lost soon after imported here in 1799. It was propagated and disseminated by Enoch Bartlett of Dorchester. When the trees fruited they were supposed to be seedlings and were given the grower's name, Bartlett.

Mr. Manning of Salem, an eminent authority, felt that the fruit was identical with an English variety, and the statement he made at that time to that effect he was afterwards able to prove, but it was too late to restore the original name. Till 1830 all trees that had been propagated were from scions in Bartlett's garden, but after that time they were largely imported.

In the early part of the nineteenth century there were several nurserymen in New York who sent out catalogs. It is interesting to look over their catalogs, so different from the large illustrated ones of today, many of which have elegantly embossed covers and are works of art. The early ones were very simple in their makeup, there were no illustrations and some were merely a single sheet or broadside.

Prince's Nurseries, Flushing, Long Island, called the Linnean Botanic Gardens, were then well known. His catalogs give a list of imported trees, and also one of trees obtained from people in the United States, and as we find the Bartlett listed in the latter, from Boston, and the Bon Chretien in the former, we may fairly assume Mr. Hall's trees were imported stock, quite likely obtained at Prince's. Probably the Bartlett pear found a home in Medford in the early part of the nineteenth century.

Though we have a local horticultural society established in 1913 (January 22), interest in the culture of [p. 71] fruits and flowers in this city antedates it by many years. ‘Horticulture had a cordial reception in the early days of Medford, even back as far as the building of the house of Matthew Cradock.’

The grounds of the Royall estate were known far and wide, and mention has been made in the Register of fine gardens of a later date belonging to well-known families that were justly celebrated. Some exist today, and in many small gardens fine flowers and fruits have been grown for many years by those who have been unknown save locally, and yet have been deeply interested in gardening.

Medford has had honor conferred upon her by two well-known residents through their interest in horticulture. Captain Joshua T. Foster2 produced an excellent peach called Foster Seedling, and Charles Sumner Jacobs originated a fine apple named Jacobs Sweet. These fruits originated in Medford, were extensively grown at one time and were highly esteemed. Change is the fashion of the day, and they have been superseded by others, yet for real merit they were unsurpassed. The secretary of our State Agricultural Board writes me some nurserymen today carry the Foster peach, and that he knows of several persons who are still growing the Jacobs Sweet.3

The peach attracted great attention at the exhibitions of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, and won many prizes, both for the originator and others who grew the trees. It was a very attractive looking fruit, and specimens were sold at a dollar each. More plates of this variety were exhibited than of any other, it is said, [p. 72] either because it was so popular, or because the season favored its growth.

This seedling peach tree came up about 1857 and the apple about 1860. The fruit of the latter is of good size, ‘yellow with a handsome red cheek.’

At the time when these fruits were so prominently before the public Medford was also well represented at the exhibition of our State Horticultural Society by the following—Mrs. Caroline B. Chase, Mrs. Elsey Joyce, Mrs. Ellen M. Gill and Francis Theiler. The ladies were genuine lovers of flowers and enthusiastic and successful growers. Fifty years ago they were prize winners at the weekly exhibitions of the society and were known for their skillful arrangement of floral designs. The last, at an advanced age, is still4 enjoying the cultivation of flowers, and her zeal is undiminished. Mr. Theiler had the German love for flowers and was the first trade florist here, carrying on the business for many years.

Pasture hill indicates by its name the purpose for which it was early used, and until a late time herds of cows might have been seen grazing there. Today the prophecy is fulfilled made by Charles Brooks—‘The hill is mostly rock, and will afford, in coming years, a most magnificent site for costly houses.’

Statements made in the Register, Vol. III, No. 2, p. 85, April, 1900, Vol. XV, No. 3, p. 65, October, 1912, and the account of the planting of fruit trees of which we have made mention, show the state of cultivation the south end of the hill was under at one time. The first change was made probably when the three Hall brothers built their houses just at the foot of this round hill that comes down so close to the road (High street). They had gardens which were spots of beauty for many years, and another Hall built his home there soon after, and these four houses, two now standing, were dignified and attractive dwellings for years.

When the first building for the high school was erected [p. 73] in 1845, a portion of the hill was cut away and reinforced with granite blocks, but it was many years before the great change was made that so materially altered the face of nature and changed the Hill pasture, as it is called in old deeds, into a residential section. Hillside avenue was laid out through the Magoun land, then came Governors avenue, with its branching avenues, a little to the east of the former, the time for the first being approximately 1880 and for the latter 1890. This caused the removal of the Benjamin Hall house, later known as Dr. Swan's house, and in 1906 the Richard Hall house was taken down and on its site the brick building for the use of the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company was erected.

A later generation of Halls built their homes under the east slope of the hill, and in all five generations of this family made their homes at the base of the Hill pasture. The hill fell within the bounds of that large tract of land belonging to Jonathan Wade (Register, Vol. VII, No. 3, p. 49, July, 1904), and the earliest paper in the Hall collection bears the date 1689 and is the division of the Wade estate. A portion was deeded to Andrew Hall in 1743, and later the whole came into the possession of this family.

Large holdings of land by a few fine old houses whose equipments spoke of all the comforts and elegancies known to early days, spacious grounds around them where each one lived the seclusion of the Englishman in his castle, told of the ancestry of Medford's early families and gave the aspect of old England to this New England village. With a but slowly increasing population this quiet rural atmosphere prevailed for many years.

Those who never knew Pasture hill in the old days have missed a charming picture, for as we see it today, crowned with houses, with a broad avenue laid out below, though a fine sight, it has no likeness to the hill of sixty years ago. There was a quietness and seclusion as you reached it byway of Brooks lane that was very attractive, [p. 74] and the old road at its foot that led through the woods to Stoneham was the place for a meditative stroll.

Let us close our literary ramble through an old book and a box of older papers with two gleanings, from the former a manuscript note, from the latter a newspaper clipping, as they touch topics of today's interest, though not horticultural.

George L. Stearns is an orator in Town meetings, and it is said speaks very well. He spoke at the meeting in the Unitarian Church Sunday, July 2, 1865 for the negroes to vote. He had been in the army with the rank of Major and was some time at Nashville, Tennessee.

The venerable Rev. Dr. Todd, of Pittsfield, says the root of the great error of our day is, that woman is to be made independent and self-supporting—precisely what she never can be, because God never designed she should be. Her support, her dignity, her beauty, her honor and happiness lie in her independence as wife, mother and daughter.

The above is dated in pencil, August 6, 1867.

1 Kirk Boott was an Englishman, an eminent merchant of Boston, who lived more than a hundred years ago in Bowdoin square. Part of his estate is now the site of the Revere House. He had a very fine garden and is said to have had the first orchids in New England. He had several children, Kirk, Francis, William, Mrs. William Wells, Mrs. Lyman, Mrs. Edward Brooks, John Wright Boott.

Francis was a physician and botanist of note who spent most of his time in England. His brother William was a botanist of local fame. The former, born in Boston, 1792, died in London, 1863. The latter, born in Boston, 1805, died there, 1887. He spent much time in summer in Medford studying its flora. He was accustomed to pass Sundays and Wednesday nights at the home of his relative Francis Brooks, whose father, Edward, oldest son of Peter Chardon Brooks, married Eliza Boott, 1821.

2 For an account of Capt. J. T. Foster see Usher's History of Medford, page 487.

3 The Massachusetts Horticultural Society offers this year (1917) a first and second prize for plates of twelve specimens of Jacobs Sweet at an exhibition to be held in conjunction with the American Pomological Society and the New England Fruit Show. Charles Sumner Jacobs lived at the junction of Salem and Washington streets, where Dr. J. C. D. Clark now lives. The estate was then larger and had a small garden. The tree was on the Washington street side near the fence line.

4 At the time of writing this, May, 1914.

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