Medford turnpike Corporation.

ON March 2, 1803, the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, upon the petition of Benjamin Hall, John Brooks, Fitch Hall, Ebenezer Hall, 2d, and Samuel Buel, granted to these petitioners, and all other persons as are or shall be associated with them and their successors, the right to lay out and make a turnpike road from the easterly side of the road nearly opposite to Dr. Luther Stearns' house, and running easterly of Winter hill and Plowed hill1 to the east side of the road opposite Page's tavern near the neck in Charlestown. Dr. Luther Stearns' house stood in part on the location of Emerson street in Medford, and Page's tavern stood in or near Sullivan square, in the Charlestown district of Boston. The act of incorporation provided, that if the said corporation shall neglect to complete the said turnpike road for the space of three years from the passage of this act, the same shall be void. It was also provided, that if the said road should be laid out across any grounds, the privileges of which have been heretofore granted by law to the proprietors of the Middlesex canal for the purpose of cutting a canal, the proprietors of the turnpike road shall be obliged to make any extra bridge or bridges across said canal, or extra sluices that shall be rendered necessary by the formation of the said turnpike road, and to keep the same in repair. It was further provided, that the corporation might make and establish rules and regulations as might be necessary to regulate the affairs of the corporation, and for a breach thereof might order and enjoin fines not exceeding $13.33. Also, that said turnpike road shall be laid out not less than three rods in width on the upland, six rods in width on [p. 2] the marsh, and the part to be traveled be not less than twenty-four feet in width in any place, and when the said road shall be sufficiently made and approved by a committee of the Court of General Sessions of the Peace for the County of Middlesex to be appointed for that purpose, then the said turnpike corporation shall be and hereby is authorized to erect a turnpike gate or gates in some convenient place or places on said turnpike road, for collecting such toll as shall be determined by the said corporation and approved by the aforesaid committee.

The act provided that the corporation shall be entitled to receive from each traveler or passenger the following rate of toll, to wit: For every coach, chariot, phaeton or other four-wheeled carriage for the conveyance of persons, drawn by not more than two horses, ten cents, and if drawn by more than two horses an additional sum of two cents for each horse; for every cart, wagon, sleigh or sled or other carriage of burden, drawn by not more than three cattle, six cents, if by more than three, an additional sum of two cents for every additional ox or horse; for every carriole, eight cents; for every cart drawn by one horse, four cents; for every sleigh for the conveyance of persons drawn by two horses, six cents, and if drawn by more than two horses an additional sum of two cents for each horse; for every sled or sleigh drawn by one horse, four cents; for every chaise, chair or other wheeled carriage drawn by one horse, six cents; for every man and horse, two cents; for all oxen, horses, neat-cattle, led or driven, besides those in carriages and teams, five mills; for all sheep and swine, two cents by the dozen, and in the same proportion for a greater or less number. Provided that nothing in this act shall authorize said corporation to demand toll of any person who shall be passing with their horse and carriage to or from his usual place of public worship, or with his horses, team or cattle to or from the common labors of his farm, and when no toll-gatherer shall be present at said gate to receive the toll, the said gate shall be left open and [p. 3] travelers be permitted to pass freely. And the corporation shall, at the place where the toll is collected, erect and keep constantly exposed to view, a sign or board with the rates of toll of all tollable articles, fairly and legibly written thereon. And if the said corporation or their toll-gatherer, or others by them employed, shall unreasonably delay or hinder any passenger or traveler at the gate, or shall demand or receive more toll than by this act established, the corporation shall forfeit and pay a sum, not exceeding $10.00 or less than $2.00, to be recovered before any justice of the peace for the county of Middlesex.

The first meeting of the proprietors of the Medford Turnpike Corporation was held on the eleventh day of April, 1803, at the house of Hezekiah Blanchard, Jr. Benjamin Hall was chosen moderator and Luther Stearns clerk.

May 5, 1803. Voted that General Brooks, Luther Stearns and Capt. Andrew Hall be a committee to draw up a subscription, and that the number of shares shall be 100.

The following is a list of the proprietors of the Medford turnpike road, with the number of shares which they hold annexed to their names:—

Benjamin Hall10 shares, Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,9, 10.
John Brooks3 shares, Nos. 11, 12, 13.
Samuel Buel6 shares, Nos. 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 70
Nathaniel Hall3 shares, Nos. 21, 22, 23.
Ephraim Hall1 shares, Nos. 24.
Andrew Hall4 shares, Nos. 25, 26, 27, 28.
Luther Stearns4 shares, Nos. 29, 30, 31, 32.
Oliver Hartshorn5 shares, Nos. 34, 35, 36, 37, 38.
Fitch Hall5 shares, Nos. 39, 40, 41, 42, 43.
Joseph P. Hall3 shares, Nos. 59, 60, 61.
Timothy Dexter1 shares, Nos. 64.
Benjamin Hall Jr & son5 shares, Nos. 65, 66, 67,68,69.
Peter C. Brooks7 shares, Nos. 19, 20, 77, 78, 79, 80,81.
Josiah Bradlee2 shares, Nos. 82, 83.
William V. Hutchins5 shares, Nos. 33, 74, 84, 85, 86.

[p. 4]

Samuel Gray4 shares, Nos. 87, 88, 89, 90.
Dudley Hall1 shares, Nos. 75.
Richard Hall1 shares, Nos. 76.
John C. Jones5 shares, Nos. 44, 45, 46, 47, 48.
Richard D. Tucker3 shares, Nos. 71, 72, 73.
Ebenezer Hall Jr2 shares, Nos. 62, 63.
Elijah & Samuel Davenport10 shares, Nos. 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96,97, 98, 99,100.
Rufus Davenport10 shares, Nos. 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54,55, 56, 57, 58.

At the meeting held May 5, 1803, Nathaniel Hall was appointed an agent to petition the Court of General Sessions to appoint a committee to lay out and appraise the lands taken for the Medford turnpike road. At a meeting held June 18, 1803, it was voted that the officers of the corporation shall consist of a president, a standing committee of five to lay out and superintend the making of the turnpike road, and a treasurer. June 29, 1803, Benjamin Hall was chosen president, Nathaniel Hall, Andrew Hall, Luther Stearns, Joseph P. Hall and Samuel Buel were chosen standing committee, and Samuel Buel was chosen treasurer. (Luther Stearns had been chosen clerk at a prior meeting.) At a meeting of the standing committee on August 22, 1803, it was voted to adopt, as a seal of the corporation, the letters M. T. inclosed in a heart as a field. September 12, 1803, the committee appointed by the Court of General Sessions of the Peace to lay out the Medford turnpike road, or such part thereof, as with the consent of the proprietors of said turnpike they might think proper, made return of the warrant to them directed, as follows:—

Beginning at a stake and stones on the easterly side of the road, and by land of the heirs of Col. Isaac Royall, deceased, nearly opposite to Dr. Luther Stearns' house in Medford, and running southeasterly over land of said heirs, one hundred and thirty-seven rods and three-quarters of a rod, and here the road is laid out four rods wide; and thence the same course two hundred and forty-one rods and sixteen links to land of the heirs of Thomas [p. 5] Russell, late of Boston, deceased, and here the road is laid six rods wide; thence the same course over the land of the heirs of said Russell ten rods and fourteen links to a stake by land of Elias Haskett Derby, and here the road is laid out six rods wide; thence over land of said Derby, thirty-eight rods and six links to a heap of stones at the point of the rocks, by or near the Middlesex canal,2 and here the road is laid out three rods wide; thence the road is laid out twenty rods to a stake in the rail fence, and here the road is laid out three rods wide; and thence southeasterly fifty-four rods, and here the road is laid out six rods wide; and thence the same course, fifty-two rods and six links, and here the road is laid out four rods wide; and thence the same course seventy-one rods and six links to land of John Tufts, and here the road is laid out six rods wide; and thence the same course over the land of said Tufts, and partly over the land of the heirs of Timothy Tufts, Jr., forty-seven rods and eight links to land of William Stearns, and here the road is laid out six rods wide; and thence over land of said Stearns and partly over land of Benjamin Frothingham, Jr., forty-four rods, and here the road is laid out six rods wide; and thence the same course forty-six rods to land of Samuel Swan, and here the road is laid out four rods wide; thence the same course over said Swan's land seven rods to land of Andrew Kettle, and here the road is laid out four rods wide; thence the same course over said Kettle's land ten rods to land of William Smith, and here the road is laid out four rods wide; thence the same course over said Smith's land twenty-seven rods eight links to a stake and stones by the east side of the road opposite Page's tavern near the neck in Charlestown, and here the road is laid out four rods wide. And all the fore-described lines, butts and bounds are in the middle of the said turnpike road, except where said road comes to northeasterly side of the bank of the Middlesex canal,3 and there the said side of the bank is the bound of the [p. 6] southeasterly side of said turnpike road. . . . And we estimate the damages that any man may sustain, or which or shall arise to any person by taking his land for said road as follows, viz.:

To the heirs of Isaac Royall, late of Medford, deceased, $2,390.00; the heirs of Thomas Russell, late of Boston, deceased, $65.50; Elias Haskett Derby, $2,362.00; John Tufts, $550.00; the heirs of Timothy Tufts, Jr., late of Charlestown, deceased, $1.00; Dr. William Stearns, $910.00; Benjamin Frothingham, Jr., $62.50; Samuel Swan, $105.00; Andrew Kettle, $150.00; William Smith, $635.00; making a total of $7,231.00.

January 26, 1804, a committee was chosen to consider the expediency of building a hotel. At a subsequent meeting the committee reported that it was inexpedient to build at present, but recommended that a committee be appointed and authorized to purchase a piece of land immediately for the building of a hotel at some future day. Still later another committee was appointed to enquire into the expenses and report a plan for a hotel. No action by the corporation concerning the building of a hotel was taken after the appointment of this committee, as the building of the Medford house commencing about this time obviated the necessity of any further action.4 February 13, 1804, the standing committee was directed to purchase a piece of land on or near the farm of General Derby and build a house suitable for a toll-man. The committee contracted with Buckman and Wait, carpenters, to build the house at a cost of $300.00. Mr. James Kidder was appointed toll-gatherer, his compensation for the year following to be $350.00 and the use of the house. February 22, 1805, a committee was chosen to attend the General Court and oppose the passage of the cut or canal5 through the turnpike into Mystic river which has been petitioned for by Benjamin Hall and others. June 27, 1805, voted, that in future the affairs of the corporation shall be conducted by five [p. 7] proprietors who shall be annually chosen directors, and who shall choose a president out of their own body.

About halfway between the Medford and Charlestown line and the toll house there was a private way leading from the farm of E. H. Derby6 to Broadway, now known as Temple street in Somerville. Certain persons desirous of avoiding the climb over Winter Hill and also desirous of avoiding the payment of toll, were in the habit of using the Medford end of the turnpike and passing through the private way to Broadway, and on their return passing over the same route. The proprietors of the road petitioned the General Court for additional legislation to put a stop to this practice. An act was passed March 8, 1808, providing that ‘from and after the passage of this Act, if any person with a team, carriage, cattle or horses shall turn out of or into the road of the Medford Turnpike Corporation with an attempt to avoid any toll established by law, such persons shall forfeit and pay three times as much as the legal toll at the Turnpike gate established as aforesaid; to be recovered by the Treasurer of the Corporation by an Action of debt. . . .’

At a meeting of the corporation held January 6, 1812, the Treasurer's account being examined showed that the amount of money received in the quarter ending January 1 1812, was $673.21, and the amount of expenditure $302.05, and it was ordered that a dividend of four dollars be paid on each share. At a meeting held August 27, 1838, a committee was chosen to act on behalf of the corporation, touching the petition of Daniel Lawrence and others, then pending before the county commissioners, with full powers to give the assent of the corporation to the prayer of the petitioners for laying out the said turnpike road for a public highway, whenever the said committee shall receive satisfactory assurances that the compensation or damages to be allowed by said commissioners will not be less than $75.00 on each share. [p. 8]

The county commissioners declined to take action upon the above petition. At a meeting held April 10 1843, it was voted to pay L. Spaulding for work done on the turnpike for the year ensuing $1.25 per day for April, May, June, July, August, September, October and November, and $1.00 per day for December, January and March, and $100 per day for horse and cart for the year. Also to pay fifty dollars per quarter for tending the toll gate. When the building of the Medford branch railroad was under consideration (1846) the Turnpike Corporation voted to sell the franchise of the corporation to the Boston and Maine Railroad Extension Company (later called the B. & M. Railroad Co.) for the sum of $10,000 including all the damage sustained by the railroad crossing said turnpike. September 6, 1860, it was voted to sell the land and buildings then occupied by the toll gatherer, Thomas Perkins, to the said Perkins for the sum of $600.00

At a meeting held May 8, 1861, it was voted that the corporation hereby give their consent to the county commissioners of Middlesex County to lay open their road as a public highway, upon the petition of George T. Cutter and others, the said commissioners awarding to the corporation what damages shall in their judgment be right and just. The committee appointed to confer with the county commissioners reported that the commissioners do not deem it expedient to take any action at present.

At a meeting held January 24, 1866, it was voted that the directors be directed to petition the legislature for leave to abandon the Medford turnpike. The petition was presented January 27, 1866, and leave to abandon was granted, and the road was laid out by the county commissioners as a public way. The amount of assessments on each share was $430.00, making a total of $43,000.00.The number of dividends was 129, but the total amount is not stated in the records.

The foregoing history of the Medford Turnpike Corporation is taken largely from the record book of the [p. 9] corporation. It is evident that the undertaking was not a profitable one, and that during the last thirty years of the existence of the corporation it was the main object of the proprietors to rid themselves of the burden of its maintenance. The laying out of Medford street in Medford and Somerville around the southerly side of Winter Hill, thus avoiding the climb over the top of the hill, contributed to reduce the revenue of the company and thus assisted in its final collapse.

The turnpike road was used by the sporting portion of the community as a course for the speeding of horses. There was a tree which stood on the southerly side of the road that was just one mile from the old saw and grist mill. The only disadvantages experienced by the sportsmen were the clouds of dust that filled the air, for the road was about the dustiest place to be found far or near.

An interesting incident that happened in those days was due to the dust before mentioned: A wealthy citizen of Medford, doing business in Boston, was in the habit of driving to and fro between his place of business and his home in Medford. These same sports, above mentioned, found great pleasure in annoying our townsman by speeding their horses by and in front of him, compelling him to be almost smothered by the dust raised by their horses' feet. Our townsman stood the annoyance until forbearance ceased to be a virtue with him. Then he placed an order with a horse dealer for a horse to beat the crowd at whatever cost. He got what he wanted, and took no more dust from anyone.

We never heard of the toll-gatherer being robbed of a busy day's receipts, as was the case in other places, but the turnpike road was once the scene of a sensational highway robbery, when Major Bray was held up and robbed by the notorious highwayman, Mike Martin. It is said that on Mrs. Bray's handing over her watch, the ‘knight of the road’ immediately returned it, saying he ‘never robbed a lady.’

It was quite a common sight to see Colonel Samuel [p. 10] Jaques of the Ten-hills farm, bugle in hand, ride up and down the road to and from the hunting grounds mounted on his hunting horse and followed by a pack of hounds.

1 Mt. Benedict or Convent hill.

2 See sketch made by Caleb Swan, register, Vol. XIV, p. 68, also Vol. XIII, p. 97.

3 register, Vol. XIII, p. 97

4 The Medford house was built in 1805 and opened as a tavern that same year.

5 The branch canal.

6 The Temple estate or ‘Ten-hill farm’ of Governor Winthrop.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: