An early Tourist's Medford home.1
In 1805 Timothy Bigelow, with a party of gentlemen, made a tour by stage to Niagara Falls. Starting from Boston, they passed over the usual routes of travel, returning by way of Montreal and Lake Champlain, thus enjoying the pleasure of travel by water. Mr. Bigelow left the party at Groton, where he then resided, and the others went on to Boston by stage. The trip took six weeks, and they traveled over thirteen hundred miles. Mr. Bigelow kept a journal, noting each day's progress, the inns at which they stayed, the kind of accommodations offered guests, the conditions of the country, business situations, and the people met. Of scenery and the great natural curiosity which prompted the trip he wrote minutely. His manuscript, lost for many years, was found and compiled for publication by a grandson [p. 75] in 1876. A copy of a ‘Journal of a Tour to Niagara Falls in the Year 1805 by Timothy Bigelow,’ is in our public library, but the one the writer was privileged to use bore the following inscription, in a free, manly handwriting:— Martin Burridge Esq, with the kind Regards of, Abbott Lawrence, April 17TH 1877 The following, from the introduction, adds a little more to our knowledge of the man, and shows the taste, energy and genius that enabled him to create the most elegant estate, though not the largest, that has been in the center of Medford:—
He had strong rural tastes, and was active in establishing and conducting the Association of the Middlesex Husbandmen. He took great delight in horticulture, and may claim with others the merit of stimulating a taste which is associated no less with science than with pleasure. His grounds on the banks of the Mystic were famous for their beauty at that day, and long continued to be a conspicuous ornament of the town of Medford. While reading law in Worcester, in early manhood, the garden plot around the family homestead was embellished by him with such flowers and plants as could be obtained at that period. The same passion lie naturally carried with him to Groton, and there, on taking possession of his house and farm, a well-chosen spot of ground was tastefully laid out, both for family uses and for pleasing and ornamental effects. His orchard, in connection with the garden, contained not only the common, but the rare varieties of fruit trees, making it altogether the best of the village and neighborhood. After his removal to Medford, in procuring trees he was fortunate in having the assistance of his friend and old-time client, the elder Theodore Lyman, whose tastes were similar to his own, and who often sent from his Waltham nurseries standard stock trees, with a man to plant them, and furnished him with the first espalier which covered his fruit wall.Today the garden, now owned by Mrs. Mary Tufts, has something of the aspect the garden had years ago. The terraces are the same, the foundations of the greenhouse are the old ones used by Timothy Bigelow, the frames only being new, and the brick wall between the [p. 76] Magoun estate on the east and the wall on the west by the land of Grace church are the same. This was the upper garden. The lot of Mrs. Prescott was an orchard, and for many years after her father purchased it a large greening apple tree yielded fine fruit. The garden of today, although a pleasant spot, does not show the elegance of the one a hundred years ago, for that was a wealth of shrubbery, plants and trees, and the greenhouse was filled with rare plants, and trees were trained on the brick walls. The fame Timothy Bigelow had as an expert in raising fine fruits and vegetables was in part due to his able and faithful gardener, Martin Burridge. Some of the following facts and dates have been stated in papers mentioned in previous Registers. Timothy Bigelow died in 1821, his wife in 1852. A son and daughter, both unmarried, from that time lived hermit lives in the old home. They were eccentric, and lived in a wretched way, shutting themselves away from both stranger and friend. The place had a gloomy aspect, for the house was nearly surrounded by pine trees, and they filled the space from the street to house and had grown so large that the street was dark and so muddy that the neighbors rejoiced when they were cut down and sunlight flooded the space. Miss Bigelow died in 1865, and her brother sought a home elsewhere. The story is current that among her effects were found seventeen bandboxes, each containing a bonnet and a veil. To clear the house of the accumulation of years was a great piece of work. A fine dress is said to have served some misses of the town many times for a fancy dress costume. The townspeople were accustomed to speak of Mr. Bigelow as ‘Speaker Bigelow.’ The house was a two-story, broad wooden structure. A broad walk led from the front door to the street, meeting it in a deep curve. In 1865 the estate was advertised for sale. It was divided into three lots. The middle one was purchased [p. 77] in 1867 by Ellen Shepherd Brooks, who, on the site of the Bigelow house, erected Grace Church. The east lot was bought by the late James W. Tufts, who built his residence there. This comprised the upper and lower garden. The lower one extended in terraces to the river and was separated from the upper by a brick retaining wall ten feet or more high, on which fruit trees were trained. Later, Mr. Tufts bought the west lot and erected the house occupied by his daughter, Mrs. Prescott. When that wonderfully odd plant, the night-blooming cereus, on the place, unfolded its sweet flowers, the Bigelows were accustomed to invite their friends to witness the sight. Our Medford Pepys,2 comparing the town's first two lawyers, left this record: ‘Mr. Bigelow wished to have credit for wit and brilliant repartee, and in company sought to encounter Mr. Bartlett, but Mr. Bartlett's mind was more brilliant, and Mr. Bigelow generally came off second best.’
E. M. G.