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Meeting-house brook.

A few years ago we received a request from an elderly man, long absent from, but Medford born, that some one write for the Register ‘the story of the Frenchman's mill.’ He passed away soon after, and we know not where the mill he named was, unless it was that mentioned in Vol. IV, p. 51, of the Register, and again by Mr. Woolley in his story of ‘the brook of Medford,’ beside which was the Second Meeting-house. His description revived an interest awakened by reading of the ‘Bower’ in Brooks' History, and led to

A Midwinter Ramble.

The glorious sunshine of a recent winter morning was an allurement that decided the writer to take a woodland ramble that had been long deferred, and nine o'clock found him at High street, looking into the waters of Meeting-house brook. So he said, ‘Well, old brook, I've seen you many times before in your straight-jacket at High street, and in your serpentine wriggling ere you lost yourself in the river; but I'll make your acquaintance today in your sylvan home, see what your wanderings are and from whence you come.’

After passing the fences each side the lane to the Hall farm, a vision of beauty appeared in the miniature falls, as the brook descends in an even sheet over the granite cope beneath, and between the higher wall on either side. Below the lowest fall an iron-railed bridge spans the stream, and above each the brook widens, as if to linger awhile, while further up the stones that lie in its course hold it a little and give the waters a musical voice in their plunge.

Great willows have their roots by its side, and one has fourteen distinct trunks growing from one common base. Two of these, a few feet up, have so crowded each other as to grow together as one, but they separate again. The brook was altogether silent as to the thirteen superstition.

Another bridge is here, with a larger willow that has felt the effects of storm and time. Great branches have been torn from it, the rents and scars have been filled up with masonry, thus saving the life of that remaining, much as some old veteran of many batties [p. 67] has been patched and mended, and enabled to continue in service.

Beneath its shade one can rest on the benches there provided, or drink from the cool spring that boils up from the ground at the brook's edge and overflows the stony basin about it. Some kindly hand has placed an iron post and drinking cup beside it for thirsty ramblers—cold water ramblers.

Across a mown field flows the brook with even course; then the rambler climbed a stone wall and entered the woodland, known as the Fells.

The ramble was attended with little difficulty, the frozen ground affording a firm footing, though the ‘record’ Sunday and Monday that followed must have told upon the frost, and only a few patches among the shady nooks gave evidence of the snow that had been.

Here and there the brook divides, and uniting again, forms miniature islands, while across the slowly moving waters were quaint bridges of Jack Frost's architecture.

Beautiful to look at, but too frail for use, except for the brownies or elves of the forest, the rambler sought the help of some convenient boulder or fallen tree for the few crossings he made, unless, indeed, the brook narrowed enough to admit of a step across.

Soon he entered a narrow valley where the hills arose on either side and between them lay a level ridge before his view. Through this is an opening where flowed the brook, and through this pass, in the distance, the still rising and surrounding hills are seen. To the right is another opening some rods nearer, which is lined with stone walls on either side.

Yes, this is the ‘Bower’ (so called fifty years ago), the site of the ancient mill, where the early dwellers of ‘Meadford’ came with their corn for grinding; and here, possibly, the first lumber was sawed in the old town by power.

It is more than probable that boards for some of Medford's old houses were here sawed, for there is record of a saw-mill at this spot two hundred and forty years ago.

Yes, there was power here and lots of it, too, in those old days, colony days ‘when we were under the King.’ And possibly some of the trees had the king's broad arrow on them, too, but they are long gone now.

The walled enclosure is the old raceway, and below, at the open end, is the wheel-pit. That great pile of rocks is the foundation of the mill that was elevated almost twenty feet from the brook below. Great trees have grown, and the culvert through the dam is closed by the accumulated debris, but a climb to the top reveals the extent of the old mill pond, and the course of the brook as it slowly meanders through it. [p. 68]

All about in the hills the ledges crop out, and on these are great boulders, left by the retreating glacier, ages ago. Grim and dark, they stand like sentinels on guard; some broken by frost, moss-grown and hoary-headed, they were old when the first settlers came.

Just here the rambler's vision of the ancient time and the early dwellers, that was accompanied by the music of the rippling brook, was interrupted by the calls and appearance of the moth brigade, and the sawing, scraping and creosote daubing reminded him of the presence of the modern pests and the alarming proportions they assume.

Farther up, the brook is crossed by the road leading from Forest street to Ram's Head hill. Here is a rustic bridge, and for some distance the declivity is but slight, and the stream broadens and lingers in the shady groves.

Again a cart-path into the woods crosses it, and here is a ruined bridge, the stone abutments still good, however. A little further a diminutive grove of white birches gleams in the sunlight and overshadows the stream, and just beyond looms up the lofty dam of the Winchester South reservoir.

This forms a barrier across the valley and cuts off further search for the source of Meeting-house brook, once called Marrabel's or Marble. Its original source was over half a mile farther on in Turkey swamp, but the rambler found no swamp or turkeys there, as the reservoir occupies its place.

With the exception of the woodsmen, he met no one to converse with during his tramp, but found constant pleasure in the sylvan solitude by exploring the shady nooks and peering into the sparkling waters of the stream, catching a glimpse ever and anon of its shy denizens, as they darted quickly under sheltering rocks. The shadows of the trees were long, even at noon, and the handy camera secured him some views as souvenirs of a pleasant ramble on an equally pleasant midwinter day.

Meeting-house is but one of the direct tributaries of the Mystic, and the views facing page 64 were secured seventeen years prior to those of the rambler, whose visit was twelve years ago. It was a source of satisfaction to him that others found enjoyment over the same route, and that the rambler's story we now present gave pleasure to that old Medford boy, whose latest thoughts reverted to his boyhood home.

To members of the Mystic Camera Club we are indebted for the preservation of many interesting views in Medford, among which are our present illustrations. [p. 69]

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