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A Medford centennial note.

A Boston daily recently noted the centenary of the launching in New York of the first steam vessel, that crossed the Atlantic the following year. This is timely, in these new ship-building days.

The Savannah was a sailing vessel, and steam was used as auxiliary power but eighty hours of the passage, which took twenty-seven days. Incidentally we note that Medford was the scene of some steam navigation that same year, from which great things were expected, but was, like the Savannah, ‘commercially a failure,’ though from different causes. The Register has told the story before (Vol. XVII, p. 92) in some detail, and now, because of its centennial, notices it again. Accustomed as we have become to the swiftly moving motor boats on our river, we would look with some curiosity on the nondescript that ploughed its way through the old town—not on the river, but where is now no vestige of water, nor has there been since 1852, when the Middlesex canal gave up its unequal struggle with the rival railroad.

In a town of less than fifteen hundred people, with the canal's course in a sparsely settled portion, probably but few saw it. One of the employees, however, was specific enough, in writing his bill, to note the various services performed. His name was William Phipps, and the item, ‘Aug. 11. 1 day to Medford with steamboat, $1.50,’ is a part of the amount receipted for by him, and fixes the time of at least one occurrence. [p. 62]

We may wonder what the few that did see it thought of it. It is said that the Clermont alarmed some dwellers by the Hudson. One of them declared ‘he had seen the devil going to Albany in a saw-mill.’ But New Yorkers became accustomed to it, while Medfordites did not, and with the passing of the few witnesses the fact that such an occurrence had been was lost sight of for many years. It seems like a fairy tale when Summer street and Boston avenue, Sagamore avenue and the Mystic Valley parkway are pointed out as being the course of a steamboat voyage a hundred years ago, but such is the case.

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