Mystic river made over.
Could some old observant Medfordite of seventy years ago pass over the river's entire course in a forty-foot motor-boat (as we did last summer), or along the Parkway in a swift automobile, he would note a marked change from the Mystic of his time. How these changes have been wrought is worth noting in Medford history, even though it seem technical. With our knowledge of modern engineering difficulties, we have wondered how Labor-in-vain was cut off. Our river is deeper now than before, though from Wear to Cradock bridge no tides ebb and flow in its less serpentine course. because of the dam at the latter site. But how many know of another dam that once lay across its course? In the work of deepening the channel below Usher bridge a dredge of the ‘orange-peel’ type was [p. 10] used. This was mounted upon a double scow and deposited the material on either bank. The season of 1908 was one of drought, and the natural flow of the river was insufficient to float the dredging apparatus when the tides were no more. To relieve the situation a temporary dam of earth was built just below the mouth of the tributary Menotomy, more commonly called Alewife brook. Some twenty feet of its overfall was made with sand bags that resisted the action of the water. This dam raised the river in its upper reach about eighteen inches, and served its purpose well for some weeks. When no longer needed it was removed, leaving no vestige thereof to tell of its existence. The Register herewith presents the visible proof of the above, looking from the Somerville side of the Mystic toward West Medford. A portion of the Mystic is seen undredged. Beyond this is the overflowing stream, while to the left is the higher earthwork portion of the dam. The water in the immediate foreground is the new Menotomy, not then cut through to the Mystic. Farther away to the left a wider excavation was made, and in this the Parkway bridge was built ere the water was allowed to flow in, an engineering process that materially saved expense, as but little pumping was required to keep the ‘hole in the ground’ free from water during the time of construction. It was just a few rods further up-stream that Thomas Broughton built his ‘corne and fulling mills in the River of Misticke’ and constructed the first dam across the river in 1656. In dredging the river at this point the clay he used therefor two hundred and fifty years before was encountered and was with difficulty removed. From this point down stream to Cradock bridge the water was allowed to pass out at low tide, revealing what the eye of mortal had never seen before—the bottom of the river, across much of which one could walk with comparative ease. When the river was refilled it was by allowing the salt water to come in from below the [p. 11] dam, and we were fortunate in securing a view of its inflow up-stream under Canal bridge. These pictures prove what might otherwise be doubted in later years, and may well be of interest in the future.
M. W. M.