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Medford broadsides

In a book of nearly five hundred pages, recently published, is a list of titles of nearly thirty-five hundred broadsides issued in Massachusetts prior to the year 1800, the first being (from the Stephen Daye press set up in Cambridge in 1638) ‘The Freeman's Oath.’

Three in the list are credited to Medford, two of them in 1771. One is a ‘Poem, Medford, Printed & Sold 1771,’ and the first two lines are quoted:—

one God there is, of wisdom, Glory, Might:
One truth there is, to guide our Souls aright.

The poem consists of twelve verses of four lines plentifully capitalized and italicized, enumerating ‘Two Testaments,’ ‘Three Persons in the Trinity,’ ‘Four Evangelists,’ ‘Five Senses,’ ‘Six Days,’ ‘Seven Lib'ral Arts,’ ‘Eight Persons in the Ark,’ ‘Nine Muses,’ ‘Ten Commandments,’ ‘Eleven Disciples did with Jesus pray,’ and closing with

twelve there were among our Fathers Old,
Twelve Articles our Christian Faith doth hold,
Twelve Gates to New Jerusalem there be,
Unto which place may Christ bring you and me.

[p. 78] A foot note (in the book) says, ‘No printer has been identified with Medford this year.’

The other is,

A Poem

Occasioned by the late sudden and awful Death of a Young Woman, who was found drowned in Medford—River July 14, 1771

Printed & Sold 1771.

As in the first, this quotes the opening lines—there are sixty-six in all. We have seen the originals in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society and quote but four lines:—

Now unto you I shall relate
The awful and surprizeing fate
Of a fair Maid, both young and Gay
Who lived in Malden, as they say.

It was the same old sad story of mistaken confidence, betrayal and suicide, antedating ‘The River's Death-Roll,’ which has appeared in the Register. There is no clue to the authorship of the ‘poem.’

The third broadside referred to is of the collection at Harvard College, and is a sheet eight by thirteen inches, frayed at the edges and torn into the print at the left, but the missing print is supplied by the context. Its title is

A True and Wonderful Relation
of the Appearance of
Three Angels
(Cloathed in White Raiment) to a Young Man1
in Medford, near Boston on the 4th of2
February 1791 at Night
With the Substance of the Discourse delivered by one of the Angels from Colossians Iii-4

Beneath are three columns of print. First is quoted, Joel 11-28, next an index finger pointing to the publishers' notice, then a column and a quarter of the statement of the ‘young man’ as to his ‘distress of mind’ and the appearance of the ‘angels,’ one of whom ‘addressed him for the space of an hour,’ and part of which address he [p. 79] ‘penned down,’ and which follows his statement in the remainder of the broadside.

Who the printer was, or whether this broadside was printed in Medford, is unknown; there is nothing to indicate either fact, but the publisher evidently expected an incredulous reception and fortified it with Scripture and commended the author as one worthy of belief.

As we read it today, in the light of many modern views and experiences of people of various religious beliefs and thought, the query naturally arises, what effect had such a publication in the little town of but a thousand people?

Evidently his remarkable story had been heard to some extent, so much so that he was requested to publish the same. How large an edition was printed is unknown, but this is a ‘treasured broadside today.’ ‘In these things lies the material of history.’ Doubtless it was discussed around the firesides of Medford, in the taverns and wherever people or neighbors met.

And who was this ‘young man,’ Ebenezer Adams? There was a Benjamin Adams who came to Medford from Plainfield in October, 1756, and licensed as an innholder in the same year. His family was wife Elizabeth and six children—Simeon, Ebenezer, Abraham, Solomon, Levi and Martha (whether in this order is uncertain) but all were ‘warned out’ May 3, 1757.

Such was the custom of early times in order to avoid the liability of the town for support. Three months unwarned residence gained recognition but not all thus warned departed. Benjamin Adams may have had good staying qualities, but his son Ebenezer could hardly have been the ‘young man’ of the broadside. Possibly it was a son or nephew of his who told the remarkable story which was evidently so real to him.

Perhaps ‘others mocking said’ something about ‘new wine,’ otherwise Old Medford, but the publisher followed St. Peter's example and quoted the prophet:

Your young men shall see visions.

1 These two lines were included in one in the broadside.

2 These two lines were included in one in the broadside.

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