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Chapter 12: crimes and Punishments.

We trust, that, for the honor of Medford, records under this head will not be found numerous. We must tell the whole truth, let honor or infamy be the consequence; and we regret to learn that our plantation was so soon the scene of a mortal strife. In the Colony records, we thus read, Sept. 28, 1630: “A jury of fifteen were impanelled, concerning the death of Austen Bratcher” (Bradshaw). “Austen Bratcher, dying lately at Mr. Cradock's plantation, was viewed before his burial by divers persons. The jury's verdict: We find that the strokes given by Walter Palmer were occasionally the means of the death of Austen Bratcher; and so to be manslaughter.” Palmer was bound over to be tried at Boston for this death; and, on the 9th of November, the jury bring in a verdict of “Not guilty.”

At a court held at Watertown, March 8, 1631, “Ordered that Thomas Fox, servant of Mr. Cradock, shall be whipped for uttering malicious and scandalous speeches, whereby he sought to traduce the court, as if they had taken some bribe in the business concerning Walter Palmer.” This Thomas Fox was fined four times, and seems to have been possessed by the very demon of mischief. He left the plantation without his benediction.

June 14, 1631: “At this court, one Philip Radcliff, a servant of Mr. Cradock, being convict, ore tenus, of most foul, scandalous invectives against our churches and government, [432] was censured to be whipped, lose his ears, and be banished the plantation,--which was presently executed.” This sentence, so worthy of Draco, convinces us that some of the early judges in the colony were men who had baptized their passions with the name of holiness, and then felt that they had a right to murder humanity in the name of God.

June 5, 1638: “John Smyth, of Meadford, for swearing, being penitent, was set in the bilboes.”

Oct. 4, 1638: “Henry Collins is fined five shillings for not appearing when he was called to serve upon the grand jury.”

Sept. 3, 1639: “Nicholas Davison (Mr. Cradock's agent), for swearing an oath, was ordered to pay one pound; which he consented unto.”

Nov. 14, 1644: The General Court order that all Baptists shall be banished, if they defend their doctrine.

Nov. 4, 1646: The General Court decree that “the blasphemer shall be put to death.”

May 26, 1647: Roman Catholic priests and Jesuits are forbidden to enter this jurisdiction. They shall be banished on their first visit; and, on their second, they shall be put to death.

Edward Gould, for his miscarriage, is fined one pound.”

There was a singular persecution of the Baptists in the early times among us. They were not sufficiently numerous to be formed into an organized society; and yet they were so skilful in defending their creed, and so blameless in their daily walk, that they became very irritating to the covenant Puritans; and some wished they should be cropped! In April, 1667, a great dispute was held at Boston between them and the Calvinists. Who were the champions in this gladiatorial encounter we do not know, nor where victory perched; but we have proof of blind, unchristian persecution, which stands a blot on the page of history. At the “Ten Hills,” in Mistick, lived a servant of John Winthrop, jun., who professed the Baptist faith. Mary Gould, his wife, who was with him in his creed, writes to John Winthrop, jun., March 23, 1669, concerning her husband's imprisonment in Boston on account of his peculiar faith. Whether what was done at “Ten Hills” was approved at Medford we do not know; but these facts tell volumes concerning the ideas, principles, and practices of some of the Puritan Pilgrims of New England. [433]

Indians convicted of crime, or taken prisoners in war, were sold by our fathers as slaves!

June 14, 1642: “If parents or masters neglect training up their children in learning, and labor, and other employments which may be profitable to the Commonwealth, they shall be sufficiently punished by fines for the neglect thereof.”

Nov. 4, 1646: The General Court order:--

If a man have a rebellious son, of sufficient age and understanding,--viz., sixteen,--which will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them, then shall his father and mother, being his natural parents, lay hold on him, and bring him to the magistrates assembled in court, and testify unto them, by sufficient evidence, that this their son is stubborn and rebellious, and will not obey their voice and chastisement, but lives in sundry notorious crimes. Such a son shall be put to death.

1672 : Our ancestors had the gag and ducking-stool for female scolds. Such persons were “to be gagged, or set in a ducking-stool, and dipped over head and ears three times, in some convenient place of flesh or salt water, as the court judge meet.”

Down in the deep the stool descends:
But here, at first, we miss our ends.
She mounts again, and ages more
Than ever vixen did before.
So throwing water on the fire
Will make it but burn up the higher.
If so, my friend, pray let her take
A second turn into the lake;
And, rather than your patience lose,
Thrice and again repeat the dose.

The stocks stood in the centre of a village. The offender had both hands and both feet entrapped between two boards; sometimes only one foot and one hand.



The whipping-post stood near the meeting-house, and was often used: even women suffered the indignity.

Conspicuous in the meeting-house was the stool of repentance, on which moral culprits sat during divine service and on lecture-days. Sometimes they wore a paper cap, on which was written their sin. Wearing a halter round the neck was another form of punishment. The pillory was often used; and the offender was saluted by the boys with rotten eggs.


Military offenders were obliged to ride the wooden horse, or sit in the bilboes. Branding on the forehead, the cage, and the gallows, were each resorted to, according to the degrees of crime.

The Christian sentiments of the heart are outraged by the shameless exhibitions and cruelties sometimes witnessed on “lecture-day.” What a transition,--from the altar of God the bare back! This was teaching Puritan individualism with a vengeance.

The custom of whipping did not cease in Medford till 1790!


Our fathers held slaves in Medford. There are persons now living among us who remember slaves in their family. They were treated, generally, much after the manner of children. Africans were brought to this colony and sold among us, for the first time, Feb. 26, 1638. In 1637, Captain William Pierce was employed to carry Pequot captives and sell [435] them in the West Indies! On his return from Tortugas, “he brought home a cargo of cotton, tobacco, salt, and negroes” ! Slavery was thus introduced as early as 1638; but, in 1645, the General Court passed this noble, this truly Christian, order:--
The General Court, conceiving themselves bound by the first opportunity to bear witness against the heinous and crying sin of man-stealing, as also to prescribe such timely redress for what is past, and such a law for the future, as may sufficiently deter all others belonging to us to have to do in such vile and most odious courses, justly abhorred of all good and just men, do order, that the negro interpreter, with others unlawfully taken, be, by the first opportunity (at the charge of the country for the present), sent to his native country of Guinea, and a letter with him of the indignation of the court thereabouts, and justice thereof, desiring our honored governor would please put this order into execution.

May 29, 1644: Slaves took the name of their first master. “John Gore is granted leave to set his servant, Thomas Reeves, free.”

Respecting taxes on black servants, we have the subsequent items: Each of them, in 1694, was assessed twelve-pence; from 1700 to 1719, as personal estate; 1727, each male fifteen pounds, and each female ten pounds; from 1731 to 1775, as personal property. In 1701, the inhabitants of Boston gave the following magnanimous direction: “The representatives are desired to promote the encouraging the bringing of white servants, and to put a period to negroes being slaves.”

Colonel Royal (Dec. 7, 1737) petitions the General Court, that, having lately arrived from Antigua, he has with him several slaves for his own use, and not to sell, and therefore prays that the duty on them be remitted. The duty was four pounds a head. This petition was laid on the table, and rests there yet. In 1781, a final blow was given to slavery in Massachusetts; and in this the inhabitants of Medford unanimously rejoiced. To show how anxious our fathers were to prevent all abuse of an existing custom, the town passed the following vote, Aug. 4, 1718: “Voted that every inhabitant of this town (Medford) shall, when they buy any servant, male or female, be obliged to acquaint and inform the selectmen of said town, for their approbation.” It was a settled law with our fathers, that “no man shall hire any [436] slave for a servant for less time than one year, unless he be a settled housekeep.”

Men sold their labor for a certain number of years, or to pay the expenses of immigration; and, in such cases, were sometimes called slaves. Referring to such cases, we find the following: “Ordered that no servant shall be set free, or have any lot, until he has served out the time covenanted.”

April 1, 1634, the General Court passed an order, “that if any boy (that hath been whipped for running away from his master) be taken in any other plantation, not having a note from his master to testify his business there, it shall be lawful for the constable of said plantation to whip him, and send him home.” One hundred years after this time, our Medford ancestors found themselves willing to pass the following:--

Sept. 17, 1734: “Voted that all negro, Indian, and mulatto servants that are found abroad without leave, and not in their masters' business, shall be taken up and whipped, ten stripes on their naked body, by any freeholder of the town, and be carried to their respective masters; and said master shall be obliged to pay the sum of 2s. 6d. in money to said person that shall so do.”

This vote, we presume, must have been imported from Jamaica. Did our progenitors so learn Christ?

1680: “There are as many (one hundred and twenty) Scots brought hither and sold for servants in time of the war with England, and most now married and living here, and about half so many Irish brought hither at several times as servants.”

Judge Sewall, of Massachusetts, June 22, 1716, says, “I essayed to prevent negroes and Indians being rated with horses and cattle, but could not succeed.”

No cargoes of slaves were brought into Medford; but how many cargoes of Medford rum went to Africa and the West Indies, and were returned in slaves to Carolina or Rhode Island, we cannot say. The gentlemen of Medford have always disclaimed any participation in the slave-trade.

The following extract from a letter, dated Boston, 14th January, 1759, may show what was done at that time. It is as follows :--

Captain William Ellery. Sir,--The “ Snow Caesar” is fully loaded and equipped for sea. My orders are to you, that you embrace the first favorable opportunity of wind and weather, and proceed to [437] the coast of Africa; touching first, if you think proper, at Senegal, where, if you find encouragement, you may part with such part of your cargo as you can sell to your liking, and then proceed down the coast to such ports or places as you judge best to dispose of your cargo to advantage, so as to purchase a cargo of two hundred slaves, with which you are to proceed to South Carolina, unless a peace should happen, or a good opportunity of coming off with a man-of-war, or some vessel of force, for the West Indies. In that. case, I would recommend the Island of St. Christopher's, being handy to St. Eustatia's, for the sale of your slaves. Buy no girls, and few women; but buy prime boys and young men. As you have had often the care of slaves, so I think it needless to say much upon that head in regard to keeping them well secured and a constant watch over them.

Your cargo is good, and well assorted. Your rum, I make no doubt, will hold out more than it was taken in for; having proved some to hold out more than the gauge. As you have guns and men, I doubt not you'll make a good use of them if required. Bring some of the slaves this way, if not too late.

I am, with wishing you health, success, and happiness, your assured friend and owner,

* *

One article of the outward cargo stands on the account thus: “Eighty-two barrels, six hogsheads, and six tierces of New England rum; thirty-three barrels best Jamaica spirits; thirty-three barrels of Barbadoes rum; twenty-five pair pistols; two casks musket-ball; one chest of hand-arms; twenty-five cutlasses.”

The return cargo is recorded thus: “In the hole, on board of the ‘Snow Caesar,’ one hundred and fifty-three adult slaves, and two children.”

The following is a fair specimen of the captain's running-account, in his purchase of slaves, while on the coast of Africa, copied by us from the original manuscript:--

Dr.The natives of AnnamboePer contra,Cr.

1770. gals.1770. gals.
April 22.To 1 hogshead of rum110April 22.By 1 woman-slave110
May 1.To rum130May 1.By 1 prime woman-slave130
May 2.To 1 hogshead rum105May 2.By 1 boy-slave, 4ft. lin105
May 7.To 1 hogshead rum108May 7.By 1 boy-slave, 4ft. 3in108
May 5.To cash in gold5oz. 2.May 5.By 1 prime man-slave5oz. 2.
May 5.To cash in gold2oz.   
May 5.To 2 doz. of snuff1oz.May 5.By 1 old man for a Lingister3oz. 0.
  ----3oz. 0.   

How will the above read in the capital of Liberia two hundred years hence? [438]

In 1754, there were in Medford twenty-seven male and seven female slaves, and fifteen free blacks; total, forty-nine. In 1764, there were forty-nine free blacks. When the law freed all the slaves, many in Medford chose to remain with their masters; and they were faithful unto death.

List of slaves, and their owners' names.

Worcester,owned byRev. E. Turell.
PompeyDr. Simon Tufts.
RoseCaptain Thomas Brooks.
PompCaptain Thomas Brooks.
PeterCaptain Francis Whitmore.
LondonSimon Bradshaw.
SelbyDeacon Benjamin Willis.
PrinceBenjamin Hall.
PunchWidow Brooks.
FloraStephen Hall.
RichardHugh Floyd.
DinahCaptain Kent.
CaesarMr. Brown.
ScipioMr. Pool.
PeterSquire Hall.
NiceSquire Hall.
CuffeeStephen Greenleaf.
IsaacJoseph Tufts.
AaronHenry Gardner.
Negro girlMr. Boylston.
Negro womanDr. Brooks.
Joseph, Plato, PhebeIsaac Royal.
Peter, Abraham, CooperIsaac Royal.
Stephy, George, HagarIsaac Royal.
Mira, Nancy, BetseyIsaac Royal.

We are indebted to a friend for the following: “It may be interesting here to mention a circumstance illustrative of the general feeling of the town in those days with regard to slavery. In the spring of 1798 or ‘99, a foreigner named Andriesse, originally from Holland, who had served many years at the Cape of Good Hope and in Batavia as a commodore in the Dutch navy, moved into the town from Boston, where he had lost, it was said, by unlucky speculations and the tricks of swindlers, a large part of the property which he had brought to this country from the East Indies. His family consisted of a wife and four children, with from fifteen to twenty Malay slaves. He lived only a month or two after his arrival in the town; and his widow, immediately [439] after his decease, sent back to their own country the greater part of the Malays, retaining only three or four of them for domestic service. Among these was a youth named Caesar, who was master of the tailor's trade, and made all the clothes of the family, three of the children being boys. He worked not only for his mistress, but was permitted by her to do jobs in other families; and, being quick and docile, he became a general favorite. But, in the summer of 1805, Mrs. Andriesse was induced to return to Batavia, having received the offer of a free passage for herself and family in one of Mr. David Sears's vessels, and having ascertained, that, if she returned, her boys might be educated there at the expense of the Dutch government, and she herself would be entitled to a pension. All her servants returned with her, except Caesar. He was sold to a son of old Captain Ingraham, who resided at the South, and owned a plantation there. Whether his mistress thus disposed of him for her own advantage, or because he was unwilling to return to his own country, cannot now be ascertained. In process of time, four or five years afterwards, Mr. Ingraham came on from the South to visit his aged father, bringing with him his ‘boy’ Caesar, who left behind a wife and two children. Caesar renewed acquaintance with his former friends, and expressed a decided preference for the freedom of the North over all the blessings which he had enjoyed at the South. They were not slow to inform him that he might be a free man if he chose; and he accordingly attempted to escape from his master. But, not having laid his plan with sufficient skill, he was overtaken in the upper part of the town, on his way to Woburn, and closely buckled into a chaise by Mr. Ingraham, who intended to drive into Boston with him, and lodge him on board the vessel which was to convey both of them home. Caesar, however, had a trusty friend in Mr. Nathan Wait, the blacksmith, who had promised in no extremity to desert him; and as the chaise reached Medford Bridge, upon the edge of which stood Mr. Wait's smithy, he roared so lustily that Mr. Wait sprang out of his shop, hot from the anvil, and, standing before the horse, sternly forbade the driver from carrying a free man into slavery. Being ordered to mind his own business, he indignantly shook his fist at Mr. Ingraham, and retorted, that he would hear from him again in a manner less acceptable. A general commotion then ensued among Caesar's friends, and they included many of the most respectable [440] citizens in the whole town. Apprehensions were entertained that he would be secreted, and that his pursuers might be subjected to a long, and perhaps fruitless, search. In those days, one daily coach maintained the chief intercourse between Boston and Medford. Accordingly, on the evening of this memorable day, Mr. Ingraham was one of the passengers who happened to be returning to Medford. His unguarded whisper to his next neighbor, ‘I have him safe now on shipboard,’ chanced to be overheard by some ladies, who speeded the intelligence to Caesar's friends. Their course then became clear. Mr. Wait instantly obtained from the Governor of the State the requisite authority and officers, proceeded to the vessel, and brought off Caesar in triumph. Great pains were taken by Mr. Ingraham to ascertain the names of the eavesdropping ladies who had betrayed his counsel; but Mr. Wyman, the long-approved Medford stage-driver, was visited on the occasion by a convenient shortness of memory, which wholly disqualified him from recollecting who were his female passengers that evening; ‘women,’ as he afterwards added when telling the story, ‘never liking to be dragged into court.’ Redress by law was vainly attempted by the master. The case was tried, first at Cambridge, in the Court of Common Pleas, and then by appeal, at Concord; large numbers of witnesses being summoned from Medford. Caesar worked at his trade in Medford several years with great approbation, and afterwards removed to Woburn, where he married again, and was called Mr. Anderson. He died in middle-age.”

Medford was the first town in the United States that rescued a fugitive slave. The antislavery movement of our day is one of the most prominent and effectual agencies ever witnessed. It has waked up the nation to the injustice and moral evil of involuntary bondage; and Medford has its full share of intelligent, persevering, and Christian opposers of the slave-system. Advocates of the system we have none. The Rev. John Pierpont and the Rev. Caleb Stetson early became devoted and able lecturers in the field; and, if a fugitive slave should now reach Medford, there would be fifty Nathan Waits to shelter and comfort him.



To this class of unfortunates every Christian heart should turn with sympathy, and desire to become a Howard to them. Sad, sad indeed it is to be left to the bleak mercy of the world. That provisions for the poor increase the poor, there can be no doubt; yet, after all due allowances are made, the fact is that there are the imbecile, the unfortunate, the widow, and the fatherless, who come to extreme want without much fault on their part. The virtuous poor should always be separated from the vicious. To force them into familiar intercourse is cruelty and wickedness. Indigent persons, supported by public charge, were known but in the smallest numbers to our early ancestors. When a case of extreme want occurred, it was provided for by private charity. There seemed to be a settled resolve of the Pilgrims that they would not have here the poverty and the alms-houses they had left behind them. In Medford was illustrated these remarks as early as June 6, 1637, when we find the following vote concerning a resident here: “Whereas John Binfield died, leaving two children undisposed of, the charge of the one is ordered to be defrayed by Mr. Cradock, he having the goods of the deceased, the other child being disposed of by the country.” We see from this that the poor belonged to the whole colony, and “the country disposed of them.”

The care of our forefathers to keep pure may be seen in the following vote:--

March 4, 1685: The selectmen shall be empowered to prevent any person from coming into the town that may be suspicious of burden or damage to said town.

This vote of Medford looked at a case then existing. April 1, 1685, the selectmen protest as follows:--

Whereas William Burges, of Cambridge, hath lately intruded himself, with his family, into the town of Meadford, contrary to law, without the approbation of the town or townsmen, and he having been warned to be gone, and yet continues in said town without liberty, we, as selectmen, do hereby, in behalf of said town, protest against him, said William Burges, and his family, as being any legal inhabitants of the town of Meadford.

The first person who threw himself on the charity of Medford, and caused legislation in the town, was John Man, who [442] seemed a standing irritant to the parsimonious, and a convenient whetstone to wits.

Seven cities now contend for Homer dead,
Through which the living Homer begged his bread.

Whether any thing of this sort happened to John Man, we do not know; but we do know that Cambridge and Medford did “contend” stoutly that the “living” man did not belong to them. When the question of habitancy arose, the justice of the King's Court would cite the towns interested in the case, and require from them the fullest proofs in every particular; and, when a town got rid of a pauper, it seemed to call forth a general thanksgiving. The final decision gave the pauper in this case to Medford; and, in 1709, the town passed a vote “to put him to board at Samuel Polly's, at three shillings a week.” But their beneficiary must have something more than board; therefore we soon find the town furnishing “one coat for John Man, £ 1.13s.; one pair of stockings, 4s.” That his clothes wore out, we have record-proof in the following item: “Oct. 27, 1713: Voted a pair of leather breeches, a pair of shoes and stockings, to John Man.” 1718: Voted to defend the town against vagrants, and to prevent their coming to rest in it. Paupers coming upon the town were thought to be like angels' visits only in one respect,--they were “few and far between.” Another is introduced to our notice in the following record: April 25, 1728: Voted to support the widow Willis as we have done, “she being more than ordinarily troublesome.” Ten pounds were voted.

Dec. 3, 1737: “Voted that the town will not choose overseers of the poor.” For many succeeding years, Medford took the same care of its poor as did other towns. It was a common custom to board them in private families, at the lowest rates, allowing such families to get what work out of them they could. Accordingly, at the March meeting each year, the “poor were set up at auction,” and went to the lowest bidder. In 1799, the town voted to pay for the schooling of all the poor children at a woman's school. They had always enjoyed the privileges of the public school like other children.

Thomas Seccomb, Esq., who died April 15, 1773, gave by his will some money to the town of Medford. The amount was increased by a donation from his widow, till it reached the sum of £ 133. 6s. 8d. (lawful money), which was just [443] equal to £ 100 sterling of English currency. The interest only was to be distributed annually among the most necessitous.

It was common to imprison the poor debtor. July 16, 1770, the town voted to give security to the high-sheriff, and thus release Nathaniel Francis from jail.

When the town bought their first alms-house, the number of paupers lessened, because there were some who would not submit to being connected with such a house, and some who would not associate with such a mixture. The pauper-tax, therefore, was smaller. When, in 1813, the new brick house was built, and afterwards so admirably managed, the earnings of the inmates were enough to lessen the poor-tax nearly one-half. The cost that year was $1,010.25; which is fifty per cent less, proportionally, than the expenses before an alms-house was used. This may help to explain a statement in the report of a committee on town-expenses in 1815, when they say, “The revenue of the town has, fortunately, been more than sufficient to meet its expenditures.” The males in the alms-house were put to mending our highways. The keeper of the house and the surveyor directed their labors; and it took them most. of their time to accomplish the whole work. In 1830, they did three hundred and ninety-one days labor on the public roads; and the cost of each pauper's support then was seventy-eight and one-half cents per week.

In 1837, a proposition was made to purchase some land attached to that then owned by the town near the alms-house. After mature deliberation, the committee to whom it was referred reported against the measure.

Since the erection of the new house in 1852, the town's poor have not increased, though every good care is taken of them which their circumstances require. The town of Medford has always selected some of its best citizens to oversee and regulate the management of the poor; and they have performed their duties with commendable sympathy and discretion.

The nearness of the alms-house to the places of public worship has rendered special religious services at the house less imperative. Whenever there has been a call for extra service, it has been immediately performed by some clergyman of the town. A series of sermons was preached at the house, each settled minister taking his turn. Similar services should be had during each winter. [444]

The amount paid by the town for support of the poor, from Feb. 15, 1854, to Feb. 15, 1855, was $3,571.86!


Medford bears its suffering testimony to the effects of the terrible tornado of Aug. 22, 1851. Such extensive destruction of property from such a cause has never before been witnessed in this State. At a meeting of citizens, Aug. 28, the following votes were passed:--
Voted that a committee of five be appointed to appraise damages.

Voted that Gorham Brooks, Charles Caldwell, Franklin Patch, Albert Smith, and Jeremiah Gilson, constitute the committee.

Voted that the committee be instructed to consider the circumstances of the sufferers, and report cases (if any) where charity is deemed necessary.

Voted that the committee be authorized to communicate with similar committees from other towns, in relation to the publication of the results of their investigations.

Voted that Rev. Charles Brooks be a committee to collect and arrange the facts in reference to science.

Report of Committee of appraisement.

The amount of individual losses, as estimated by the committee, is as follows:--

Edward Brooks — Barn$25
Estate belonging to T. P. Smith and others — Buildings, $300; fruit-trees, $600; carriages, $75; vegetables, $10985
Charles Rollins--Two dwelling-houses, unfinished, which Mr. Rollins was building by contract, both entirely demolished, including, in one case, the cellar wall. One of these buildings was on the property belonging to T. P. Smith and others, $4,320; the other was for the Rev. Mr. Haskins, $1,4505,770
House building by J. F. Edward, on property belonging to T. P. Smith and others12
Boston and Lowell Railroad Company — Freight car blown from track, and buildings injured40
J. M. Usher — Buildings, $442; fruit-trees, $30; fruit; ornamental tree (horse-chestnut), $50522
L. B. Usher — Buildings, $50; fruit-trees and fruit, $58; ornamental trees (elm in road, and horse-chestnut), $100208
Heirs of Leonard Bucknam — Buildings and fences, $450; fruit-trees, $25475
J. M. Sanford — Fence, $10; vegetables, $5; furniture and clothing, $150 ;. carriages, $75$240
H. T. Nutter — Vegetables, $5; furniture and clothing, $400405
Joseph Wyatt — Buildings, $250; fruit-trees, $150; fruit, $10410
Town of Medford — Buildings (school and poorhouse fences, &c.), $410; ornamental trees, $50; fruit-trees, $50510
George E. Harrington — Buildings, $30; fruit-trees, $50; fruit, $888
J. Vreeland — Fruit-trees, $150; fruit, $12162
A. L. Fitzgerald (house slightly damaged). 
Samuel Teel, jun.--Buildings, $800; fruit-trees, $200; fruit, vegetables, and hay, $61; wagons, furniture, &c., $1201,181
George CaldwellHouse, $25; fruit-trees, $2045
George F. Lane — Buildings, $600; fruit-trees, $250; vegetables, $16866
Thomas Huffmaster — Buildings, $275; fruit-trees, $500; fruit and corn, $45820
Wellington Russell — Clothing and furniture25
E. T. Hastings — Fences, $30 ; fruit-trees, $100; fruit, $20150
J. B. Hatch — Fences, $5; fruit-trees, $75; fruit, $25105
Nathaniel Tracy — Fence10
John W. Hastings — House and fence25
Rev. John Pierpont--Buildings, $500; fruit-trees, $100600
Heirs of Jonathan Brooks — Buildings and fences, $677; fruit-trees, $500; ornamental trees, $200; fruit, vegetables, and hay, $80; carriages and hay-rack, $1751,632
Alfred Brooks — Buildings, $350; fruit-trees, $100450
Noah Johnson — Buildings, $445; hay and grain in barn, $40; ox-wagon and farming-tools, $42527
James Wyman — Fruit-trees30
Moses PierceHouse25
John V. Fletcher — House, $25; fruit-trees, $2045
Joseph Swan — Fruit-trees20
P. C. Hall-Fruit-trees, $920; ornamental trees, $50; fruit, $801,050
Jonathan Porter — Fruit-trees, $75; fruit, $35110
William Roach — Fruit-trees25
Dudley Hall — Fruit-trees25
Samuel Kidder — Buildings, $50 ; fruit-trees, $400; ornamental trees, $50500
Thatcher R. Raymond — Fruit-trees, $100; ornamental trees, $100; fences, $10210
John A. Page — Fruit-trees, $150; ornamental trees, $50; fences, $50250
----Russell — Ornamental trees150
Orchard (East of Andover Turnpike)40


Loss of property in West Cambridge, $23,606. In Waltham, $4,000.

The other report of facts, in their relation to science, fills forty pages of the little pamphlet which was published Oct. 30, 1851. It will not be republished here, but may be found among the papers of the Smithsonian Institute.

The tornado commenced about five o'clock, P. M., in Wayland, passed through Waltham and West Cambridge, and entered Medford a few rods south of “Wear Bridge.” From that point it moved west by south to east by north, and kept this line till it ceased in Chelsea. The report describes the following facts: Direction; centre; form; width; speed; power; directions in which trees and vegetables were thrown; directions in which buildings were thrown; absence of whirl; miscellaneous items; personal injuries and death. The report closes thus:--

I must pay a tribute of respect to the people of Medford who were sufferers by this visitation. One and all have sustained their losses, met their disappointments, and borne their sorrows, with a true Christian heroism, worthy of all honor. They see in the event an extraordinary exhibition of a great law of nature, and they bow submissive to nature's God.

Storms and Freshets.

Medford is protected from storms which come from the north and west by the range of hills called “Rocks.” It lies exposed to the easterly, and especially to the south-easterly, winds; and, from these quarters, it suffers more than some of its neighbors. Snow-storms, coming from the sea, are apt to end in rain; and our nearness to the ocean prevents the snow descending in that quiet way which is so common in the interior. [See remarks on Climate.]

Against freshets, Medford is particularly well guarded. The hilly portions have brooks sufficient to carry off into the river any extra quantity of water that may come from long rains or melting snows. The parts most exposed are those on a level with the banks of the river; and, when violent south-east winds occur during spring-tides, the river rises to a dangerous height. A few times within a century, damages have come from this cause.



For the first two hundred years of our settlement, there were very few fires, and those few were mostly in the woods. The Indians had been used to clearing their planting-fields by the summary process of burning; and they occasionally lighted a fire without regard to bounds or proprietorship. Not more than two buildings have been burned at the same time till quite recently; but, within the last ten years, it has seemed as if former exemptions were to be cancelled by rapidly increasing alarms and widely extended conflagrations. The deepest shade of sorrow is added to this calamity by the fact that the fires were sometimes the work of incendiaries. Several peaceable and excellent citizens have thus lost their barns at seasons when those barns were most full and most needed. The incendiary is truly a child of hell.

The parts of the Town House which were destroyed by two separate fires were restored without much expense to the town.

The greatest and most distressing conflagration that ever occurred in Medford was on the night of the 21st of November, 1850. It destroyed every building, on Main Street and its neighborhood, which stood between the bridge and South Street. The number, including dwelling-houses, workshops, and barns, was thirty-six. It commenced in the old tavern barn, at the north-west corner of the settlement, when the wind was blowing a gale from that quarter; and it spread with such speed as to prevent all passage over the bridge from the north, where ten or fifteen engines were collected, waiting for the first opportunity for duty. There was but one engine north of the bridge. If, instead of a large barn, the first building burned had been a dwelling-house, or if the wind had been at any other point, the terrible destruction might have been stayed; but, as every circumstance favored the spread of the flames, their progress seemed like lightning; and they appeared to leap with frantic fury from one building to another, as a starving man rushes to devour the first food within his reach. Before two o'clock, the whole district was in ashes. It must have gone farther, had not engines from towns south of us arrived, and a few engines from the north been ferried across the river in scows. Nineteen engines were present; and every fireman and citizen [448] did his utmost. Next to the sufferings of those personally interested in the losses of the conflagration, were those of the neighbors and firemen who were stopped on the north side of the bridge, and who saw no way of going to the relief of their friends but by rushing through sheets of fire. If there be acute agony on earth, it is in witnessing calamities and pains which we have the wish, but not the power, to relieve.

The deprivations and exposures consequent upon such a catastrophe can better be imagined than described. Every heart and hand in Medford were ready to administer relief; and all was done for the sufferers that an active sympathy could suggest. Before the first barn was consumed, couriers were sent to the neighboring towns; and the firemen in each one answered with promptitude, and arrived in season to arrest the devastation. The amount of insurance on the buildings was in many cases small; and losses fell on those who could very ill afford them. $1,335 were immediately raised by subscription in Medford, and distributed by a committee to the greatest sufferers among the poor. To the honor of the sufferers be it said, they met the waste of their property, the derangement of their business, and the suspension of their comforts, with firmness and patience. Before the ruins had ceased to smoulder, the sounds of shovel, hammer, and trowel announced the work of reconstruction; and, before two years had passed, a new village, Phoenix-like, had risen out of the ashes of the old.

The Committee of Investigation chosen to estimate the losses examined each case; and their report was $36,000, after all insurances were deducted. About half of the property was insured.

This conflagration convinced the town that another bridge across the river is a necessity; and we wish it had secured the straightening of Main Street, on the east, from the bridge to Short Street.

At the moment (March 6, 1855) that we chronicle the sad events above, we hear that the school-house in Park Street is in ruins. It took fire this morning, while the children were in it; and, being of wood and exposed to a high wind, it was soon consumed. The children were kept from dangerous alarm, and therefore left the house in safety. The building was insured for one thousand dollars.



In Medford, there were fewer “lands common” than in other towns. The making of fences was difficult at first; and the “pound” came early into use. It was placed so near a stream of water as to allow the cattle in it to drink. Where the first one in Medford was placed, we know not. The first record is as follows:--
Feb. 25, 1684: At a general meeting of the inhabitants, John Whitmore granted a piece of land for the use of the town, for the setting up of a pound; which land lies on the south-east of John Whitmore's land, lying near John Bradshaw's house, and is bounded south on John Bradshaw, and east upon the country road. At the same meeting, the inhabitants agreed to set up a pound on the land aforesaid.

April 28, 1684: “Thomas Willis was chosen to keep the town's pound; and said pound-keeper shall have, for pounding, twopence per head for horses and also neat cattle; one penny for each hog; and, for sheep, after the rate of sixpence per score.”

This answered all purposes until May 15, 1758, when the town voted “to build a new pound with stone.” This was built accordingly, and placed on the west side of the “Woburn road,” six or eight rods north of Jonathan Brooks's house, in West Medford. Mr. Samuel Reeves, whose house stood on the spot now occupied by Mr. James Gibson's house, was the pound-keeper. The walls of this pound were very high and strong; and bad boys thought they had a right to throw stones at the cattle there confined.

March 6, 1809: Mr. Isaac Brooks and others petitioned the town to have the pound removed. This petition was granted thus: “Voted to have the pound removed to the town's land near Gravelly Bridge, so called; and said pound to be built of wood or stone, at the discretion of the committee.” There the pound remained only for a short time; when it was removed to Cross Street, near the old brick primary schoolhouse.


That our Medford ancestors should have subjected themselves to the attack of some new diseases, or rather of old [450] diseases in modified forms, is most probable. An early historian says of this region, “Men and women keep their complexions, but lose their teeth. The falling off of their hair is occasioned by the coldness of the climate.” He enumerates the diseases prevalent here in 1638: “Colds, fever and ague, pleurisies, dropsy, palsy, sciatica, cancers, worms.” Consumption is not mentioned! We apprehend that the health of our fathers was unusually good. There is scarcely mention of any epidemic. A new climate, poor food, scanty clothing, necessary exposure, hard work, unskilful physicians, may, in some cases, have caused desolating disease to do its rapid work of death; but, as a general fact, health prevailed through the first fifty years.

1764: With reference to the prevalence of smallpox in Medford, we find the following vote: “That a fence and gate be erected across the main country road, and a smokehouse also erected near Medford great bridge, and another smokehouse at the West End, and guards be kept.” In 1775, a smokehouse was opened for the purification of those persons who had been exposed to the contagion of smallpox. It stood on the west side of Main Street, about forty rods south of Colonel Royal's house. Visitors from Charlestown were unceremoniously stopped and smoked.

1775: During this and some following years, there was fatal sickness in Medford from dysentery. Out of fifty-six deaths in 1775, twenty-three were children. In 1776, there were thirty-three deaths; in 1777, nineteen; in 1778, thirty-seven; and in 1779, thirteen. No reason is given for these differences in numbers. Out of the thirty-seven deaths of 1778, eighteen were by dysentery, and twenty were children. Whooping-cough has, at certain times, been peculiarly destructive. Throat-distemper, so called, is often named among prevalent causes of death. In 1795, ten children and three adults died of it between the 20th of August and the 1st of November. Apoplexy seems to have destroyed very few lives. During the first fifteen years of Dr. Osgood's ministry, only one case occurred!

Oct. 15, 1778: The town voted to procure a house for those patients who had the smallpox. No disease appeared to excite so quick and sharp an alarm as this. The early modes of treatment gave ample warrant for any fears. In 1792, the town voted that Mr. Josiah Symmes's house is the only one authorized as a hospital for inoculation. At this [451] house, many, both male and female, whom we have known, have told us that the patients there were numerous, young, and not very sick; and that the hilarity and frolic of the convalescents exceeded all bounds.

There was one disorder not uncommon among our early settlers and their descendants: it was dropsy; and we opine that over-doses of cider may have been the cause. Cider did not produce intoxication; but it filled the stomach to satiety, and produced a kind of water-loggedness and distention, which were apt to make the men cross, and the women sleepy. There is another more active demon, not chronicled in ancient mythology, whose history has recently been written in fire. He gets a letter of introduction, and comes in the guise of a friend to a house, but finally murders the whole family. The temperance reformers have tried to cast this demon out; but he will not depart until he has thrown down his victim, and “rent him sore.” Luxurious living has produced diseases in the digestive organs, and boundless ambition has produced them in the nervous system. Humors have been created in our day, and are becoming transmissible to a degree which threatens whole families. The marriage of first-cousins together has done something to produce imbecility and early death.

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