previous next

The highway or Canal through Labor in Vain point.

by John H. Hooper.
The first great highway connecting the settlement at Mistick with the other settlements on Massachusetts bay was the Mistick river. After the building of Mistick bridge, no other bridge spanned its waters so as to interfere with its free navigation until the building of Malden bridge, which was opened to public travel Sept. 29, 1787. Governor Cradock's interests in trading and fishing, and, after his death and the sale of his estate, the growing commerce of the town, required [p. 72] many boats or lighters on the river, and the management of these boats or lighters gave employment to a hardy class of men called boatmen or lightermen. The navigation of the Mistick river with this class of vessels was no easy task. With sails, oars, poles, and the towline, assisted by the incoming and outgoing tide, did those hardworking men pursue their arduous employment. The tortuous channel of the river winding through the marshes sometimes caused a journey of nearly half a mile, when in a straight line the distance to be travelled was only a few rods. One particular curve in the river, near the foot of Foster court, by reason of the difficulties of its navigation was called Labor in Vain point. For one hundred and thirty-one years several generations of boatmen labored almost in vain round this point.

The first successful attempt at straightening the river, and to remedy this obstruction to navigation, was made in the year 1761, when a number of the inhabitants of Medford petitioned the Court of General Sessions of the Peace for a new highway across a point of salt marsh and flats in Medford called Labor in Vain point. The court appointed a committee to view the premises, and to report upon the necessity and convenience of the proposed highway.

The committee reported that a highway at the place above mentioned was both necessary and convenient, and the court thereupon appointed a new committee to lay out the way and to estimate the damage that might accrue to any person or persons in their property by the laying out of said way.

April 21, 1761, the committee reported as follows:

‘We the subscribers have viewed and laid out the highway therein set forth, with as much convenience to the public and with as little prejudice to private property as (in our judgment) can be, which highway is bounded westerly by the dividing line between Col. Isaac Royall and Samuel Brooks, Esq., and easterly [p. 73] by the stakes set up in the aforesaid Samuel's marsh, as the same now stand, leaving two rods between the last-mentioned stakes and the channel proposed to be cut through the aforesaid marsh. And are of the opinton that the damage that accrues to the said Samuel Brooks, Esq., by laying out the aforesaid highway is thirty-three pounds six shillings and eight pence.’

The way was laid out twelve rods wide, and the town paid Samuel Brooks the amount of the award. This return of the committee was accepted by the court, and it was ordered to be recorded, so that the same might be known and used as a public highway.

This laying out of the highway was not satisfactory to the town of Medford, for at a meeting of the court, held Dec. 8, 1761, the Selectmen petitioned that the width of the way be reduced to six rods, and that the remainder of the old way be discontinued. The court appointed a committee to inquire into the expediency of making the change. The committee, after due examination of the premises, reported in favor of the petitioners; the court accepted the report and ordered that the width of the way be reduced to six rods, and that the remainder of the old way be discontinued. This action of the court was anticipated by the town, for at a meeting held May 13, 1761, a committee was appointed ‘to cut a canal through Labor in Vain point, the work to be done by subscription; and authorized them when the canal was cut, to sell and convey such part of the marsh which the town paid Samuel Brooks, Esq., for, as should be more than sufficient for a highway across Labor in Vain point.’ The committee proceeded to cut the canal, and Dec. 14, 1761, only six days after the court had reduced the width of the highway, sold to Isaac Royall, for the sum of thirteen pounds six shillings and eight pence, that part of the old way that had been discontinued, ‘together with all the mud and turf thrown and now laying on said marsh.’ Samuel Brooks quitclaimed to Isaac Royall [p. 74] all his right, title, and interest in and to the above-named piece of marsh.

It is possible that the canal was not cut to its present depth at that time, but that the action of the tides may have rendered very material assistance to the undertaking.

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 Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Medford (Massachusetts, United States) (3)
Massachusetts Bay (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Malden Bridge (New York, United States) (1)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Samuel Brooks (4)
Isaac Royall (3)
Sessions (1)
John H. Hooper (1)
Cradock (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: