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How Medford began to grow.

In 1855 historian Brooks alluded to several ‘outlays’ of ‘townships’ in Medford, with commending words for each. The names he recorded were Bellevue, Sagamore Vale, Williamsburg and Wellington. He said, ‘Private gentlemen open roads through their grounds, mark off many acres into small lots, publish a map of the unborn city, and on the appointed day begin to sell the little enclosures at public auction.’

Now that fifty-five years have passed, and with them the promoters of these enterprises, it may be of interest to note the development of the ‘outlays.’

The first named, and perhaps the earliest, was by Messrs. E. T. Hastings and Samuel Teel. Mr. Brooks placed it in 1845, and styled it a ‘beneficence.’ It comprised nearly all the area between Rock Hill, the river and the Lowell railroad, and included Mystic Mount, now known as Hastings Heights. Ten streets were within its limits, and the record says that in nine years thirty-five houses were built thereon. An observant person can easily identify these today, and of many of them speak in praise of their builders. A few have been moved to other positions, some remodeled, and nearly all remain.

These gentlemen planned wisely, and in planting elm trees along their streets created vistas of beauty. Somebody is entitled to praise for selecting in a central position a generous lot, bordered by three streets, for the Brooks School site. [p. 10]

It took over thirty years for people to realize that the rocky eminence now crowned by the stone tower was ‘beautiful for situation,’ but during that time an enterprising ‘township’ had grown.

Two old sheets of paper are reminders of Mr. Brooks' record, and suggest the present writing. One is a letter that, having served its purpose, was consigned to a waste-basket years ago, and recently came to light. It reads as follows:

Boston & Maine Railroad Office, Haymarket Square. Boston, May 28, 1855.
Mr. Paul:—
Sir:—Please have an extra this P. M. to take land sale party to Wellington's at 2 3/4 P. M. & bring back the cars.

Yours, &c.,


There are several interesting things about that paper. First, the perforation of the desk spindle, and the location of the old station house that Medford people remember so well. Then there is a burnt place in the paper, perhaps from some one's cigar or pipe, and the following in pencil:—

September 23, 1910.
To J. E. Wellington:—
I rescued this from the waste basket years ago. Thought it might interest you.

Sincerely yours,


Incidentally, we notice that in recent years people have built cupolas on their stables. Mr. Swan, when at Wellington with his brother, Dr. Swan, in 1851, noted that

Mr. Wellington has 2 Barns one is 96 feet long 40 feet wide one is 72 feet long 40 feet wide each barn has 4 Ventilators (small wooden chimneys) along the summit of the roof.’

Evidently this was something new in Medford.

Mr. Brooks places the ‘outlay’ of Wellington as on November 1, 1853, speaks of its parallel streets, nearness [p. 11] to Boston, and facilities for travel by railroad, but is silent about the six-mile drive that Mr. Wait mentions in this issue of the Register.

Wellington retains its name, but how many in Medford know Williamsburg? Twenty houses on either side of Myrtle street, built in 1854, were so called from the name of the builder, who built all to one plan on alternate lots, with none fronting another. Small houses that contained no modern improvements they were, but lured people from the crowded city. Among the number was the French naturalist, Louis Trouvellot, whose gypsy moths have become so well but unfavorably known.

Mr. Brooks said,‘Mr. John Bishop has done the same on the deep forest south of Pine Hill,’ and that no houses were built on this tract he called ‘Bellevue.’ Mr. Brooks described Bellevue as an ‘impenetrable forest’—‘where as children we were forbidden to venture for fear of being lost,’ and ventured a prophecy of its future that was not realized, as few houses have ever been built there.

Two ice ponds were in later years constructed, and the place was for a time a rifle range.

Mr. Swan attached this comment (over date December I, 1860):—

Mr. John Bishop was very nearly ruined by “piercing the woods with streets to allow us to ride at ease.” The outlay was pretty much a total loss, as he could not sell the land for building lots after the streets were made; they were too far out of town.’

But by the reservation of the Middlesex Fells greater improvements have been made by the Park Commission than either Mr. Brooks or Mr. Swan dreamed of.

Sagamore Vale, Mr. Bishop's ‘lands east of the Fountain House,’ is now a thickly populated section. His ‘similar show of diagrams’ was on July 13, 1853; but who now knows the locality by that name?

According to a newspaper advertisement, to which we find attached in writing this drastic comment, ‘An absolutely inflated description by the auctioneer,’ four hundred building lots and the Bishop mansion lay between [p. 12] Forest, Salem, Fulton and Webster streets, in ‘Vale of Sagamore, Medford.’ Also that on ‘Bellevue Heights’ were fifty acres of fertile land. The auctioneer of May 27, 1857, was George R. Hichborn, and in advertising was a close competitor of one later mentioned.

The second “outlay” named by Mr. Brooks was in 1852, at the western border of the town, comprising nearly all the territory between the river, the railroad and High street. The tract was referred to in the records of the ‘Proprietors of Middlesex Canal’(which traversed it) as ‘Brooklands.’ Its agent or promoter was Thomas P. Smith, who built Mystic Hall, near his residence, in the same year. Possibly there was some rivalry between this enterprise and the earlier one of Hastings and Teel. Upon theirs the new schoolhouse had been built, and by the private enterprise of citizens another story, containing a village hall, was added. Mr. Smith did not live to realize his hopes, and the new section he planned lay dormant for sixteen years. But the Lyceum and Library Association that found quarters in Mystic Hall was a social force.

Mystic Hall became the social center of West Medford, even before the removal of the Young Ladies' Seminary there housed.

On March 3, 1870, this ‘Smith estate’ passed into the new ownership of several men, Dr. Abram B. Story of Manchester, N. H., holding the record title. The same plan of action mentioned by Mr. Brooks and followed at Wellington was observed. The auctioneer was Samuel A. Walker, who was noted for his grandiloquent style of advertising. A special train of cars brought a crowd of people, with some prospective buyers, from Boston. A bountiful collation of crackers and cheese, ice cream, strawberries and lemonade was served near the railroad, and lithographic plans of the land as surveyed were distributed ere the sale began. Then the crowd moved about, as the auctioneer led the way, and bid the cents and fraction over per foot for choice of lots within [p. 13] a given area. The successful bidder at once made his selection, and the sale went on till five o'clock, when the crowd dispersed.

At the time of this sale James M. Usher was publishing the Nation in Boston, and in it there appeared an editorial notice of this enterprise, or ‘outlay,’ that is today, no less than then, interesting reading.

The sale was advertised by a folder, whose inner pages were a reprint of Mr. Usher's Nation article. A few months ago a lady, then resident in Medford, found one among her papers and sent it to the writer. It is the second paper alluded to, and revives a host of memories of the growth of this section of Medford.

Another sale followed in the autumn, and still another the next spring, with the same accompaniments. Some bought for investment, others for home sites, and the village began to grow. Within the limits of ‘Brooklands’ Medford has two schoolhouses. Seven churches have there been organized (though two are now nonexistent) and six houses of worship built. One was destroyed by fire and another devoted to secular use when outgrown. Two churches have rebuilt, one in another location, leaving four now in use in this tract we have described.

With the exception of Bellevue, each tract has been steadily increasing in population, and other estates have yielded to the incoming people in more recent years.

These six ‘outlays’ mark the real beginning of Medford's territorial development, and the reader can take ocular note of the same. During the Revolution there was but an increase of fourteen and in the Civil War but eight in Medford's population. In the twenty-six years following the Revolution the increase was about fifty per cent.; in the next half century, while the shipbuild-ing flourished, the population more than trebled, while in the forty years just past it has quadrupled. A glance at the following figures may be interesting to many, even though statistics are said to be dry reading:— [p. 14]

Population of Medford.

1776967
1784981
17901,020
180011,14
18101,440
18201,474
18301,755
18402,478
18503,749
18554,603
18604,831
18654,839
18705,717
18756,627
18807,573
18859,041
189011,770
189514,774
190018,244
190519,686
191023,150

In September, 1891, Medford had 12,100 people, enough to claim a city charter.

With the decadence of Medford ship-building began the house and road building Mr. Brooks mentioned and which we have thus reviewed, and with it the growth of the town and city, with its many comforts of the present day.

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