Lafayette's visit to Medford.

People and incidents relating Thereto reviewed.

IT was a proud day for many a town in our land when the body politic, or one of its prominent citizens, received and entertained Lafayette during his tour of the country in 1824 as the nation's guest.

The distinguished Frenchman was greeted everywhere with enthusiastic expressions of gratitude for his magnificent services to our country when she threw off the yoke of allegiance to the mother country, and for his unswerving loyalty to the principles of liberty.

Showered with attentions and invitations from every quarter, with so many towns and private individuals desirous of doing him honor, it was only due to one fact that Medford, so small a place, and so near the scene of the grand celebration in Boston, should have had the opportunity of welcoming him in her own precincts. It must be remembered that Plymouth, much as she coveted the distinction of a visit from the hero, believing that Plymouth Rock, the stepping-stone to liberty, would draw there one so devoted to the cause of freedom, was doomed to disappointment.

Medford was very fortunate at that time in having among her citizens one who was preeminently popular and widely known—John Brooks, the beloved physician, who had just completed eight years of service to Massachusetts as her chief executive, and who was well fitted to receive the great general. Beyond this lay his fine military record, and the fact which gave greater prestige to the occasion was his having been a brother officer with Lafayette and Washington in the war of the Revolution. As a personal friend the marquis came to visit [p. 2] his former comrade-in-arms at the latter's home on High street (site now occupied by the Medford Savings Bank). Fortunate are they who remember the old colonial house.

While Lafayette was in this vicinity, Dr. Brooks was much in his company. Early in the week of festivities Governor Eustis had given a dinner for the marquis, to which the latter's old friends had been invited, among them being Brooks, and when Lafayette appeared on the balcony of the house on Park street, Boston, which had been prepared for his lodging, to receive the ovation of the people, the governor and ex-governor were with him in their old Continental uniforms. Brooks and Eustis, up to this time, had not been on friendly terms, but by the considerate and careful procedure of a friend, the latter came to Medford, called on Brooks, and the breach was healed.

Boston, which Lafayette had left a town at the time of the Revolution, had become a city two years previous, and she exerted herself to welcome and entertain, in a manner befitting the guest's rank, the titled yet democratic Frenchman. Brooks had been appointed chairman by the Society of the Cincinnati of Massachusetts,

to consider what measures it will be proper for this society to adopt on the arrival of this our distinguished brother.

The bond between the original members of this society was very strong.

On Tuesday, August 24, 1824, Boston gave Lafayette her hearty reception. After he had been met and addressed by the mayor of the city at the Roxbury line, and the procession had passed through the principal streets, he was received in the Senate chamber by the governor and his council. Many gentlemen were then introduced to him—

officers of the United States, of the State and city; members of the Society of the Cincinnati, with their venerable and distinguished President, Hon. John Brooks, late Governor of the Commonwealth. La Fayette recognized his old military and personal friend, at the first sight, and embraced him with great cordiality and affection.

[p. 3] A few days later the whole Society of the Cincinnati waited on Lafayette and the president addressed the assembly.

When the guest visited Charlestown, Friday, the 27th of August, the two comrades were again together, and when Brooks told him about the association formed for erecting the monument to commemorate the battle of June 17, 1775, Lafayette was pleased and interested, and asked to be considered a subscriber to the Bunker Hill Monument Association.

August 28 was the great gala day in Medford, and probably nearly all of the town's population, then about eighteen hundred, turned out to see the general and give him a royal welcome. As soon as the procession entered the town, coming by way of West Cambridge (the Arlington of today), the salutes began. Bells rang, cannon pealed, garlands of flowers and flags greeted the vision of the guests. The school children of the town were drawn up in line, and with them were those of Miss Bradbury's private school. An arch over the street opposite the front door of the meeting-house bore the appropriate motto, ‘Welcome to our hills and Brooks.’

At the close of Lafayette's reply to the speech of welcome made by Turell Tufts, the chairman of the selectmen, the procession, escorted by the Medford Light Infantry, moved on to Brooks' house. Here an opportunity was given the people, including the children, to greet the marquis. The throng entered by the front door on the south side and passed out by the east door. Later a dinner was served, twenty-five being present. Charles Brooks, who thirty years later was to become Medford's first historian, was of this privileged company. Others were General Sumner, Major Swett, Rev. Andrew Bigelow, who asked the blessing, all of Boston, Rev. George Burnap of Baltimore, Dr. Swan and Dudley Hall of Medford. George Stewart of Canada, grandson of the host, is said to have been present, and his daughter-in-law, widow of Col. John Brooks, presided at the table. [p. 4]

The following, from the newspapers of the day, published in book form November, 1824, while the events described were fresh in the minds of all, gives us as accurate an account as can be obtained, and is of especial value to those who are not fortunate enough to own a copy of Brooks' History of Medford, which contains the selectman's speech of welcome, not inserted by Usher:—

Saturday, after receiving the salutations of the citizens, who were desirous of being presented to him, he set off for Medford, to visit his particular and valued friend, Governor Brooks. His reception in this beautiful village, is represented as very interesting. The citizens had comparatively short notice of the visit to that place; but they greeted him with great cordiality, and the honors bestowed were not unworthy of their distinguished guest. The main streets and the houses which he passed, before he reached the mansion of Governor Brooks, were filled with children and people, who repeatedly bid him welcome, with great cordiality, and expressed their gratitude and joy on beholding the man, who they had learned, had done so much for their beloved country; and who was the reputed friend of one among them, whom they always delighted to honor. A company of artillery fired a salute, as he entered the village; and several arches were thrown across the street, decorated with flags, and wreaths of flowers and evergreens. Under one of them he was met by the selectmen, one of whom thus addressed him—

General La Fayette,

The selectmen of Medford, as the representatives of the town, deem it a grateful and honorable part of their duty to bid you welcome.

They are proud, sir, that Medford is the birthplace of one of your companions in arms,—a man, who, by his bravery in the field, his patriotism and civic virtues, contributed to acquire as much glory to our country, as honor to himself.

We rejoice, sir, that you both live to meet again, and to enjoy together the consolations fairly derived from your virtuous and heroic deeds.

The minds of our countrymen traced your course with anxious solicitude, through the French revolution, from your first success in the cause of liberty, until the spirit of oppression confined you to a dungeon; and their hearts were gladdened, when, by the influence of our great and good Washington, their friend was at last set free. In the rich harvest you are now gathering of the expressions of esteem and gratitude of this numerous people, whose freedom and happiness your exertions so essentially contributed to [p. 5] establish, we hope you will find some compensation for all your trials, sacrifices and sufferings; and we feel much complacency, that, in this respect you have gained so complete a triumph over the monarchs of the world.

Again, sir, we bid you a most cordial welcome; and hope, the testimonials of approbation you are receiving from every heart and tongue, will forever remain an instructive lesson to mankind, that patriots who endure faithfully to the end, shall not lose their reward.

The General said in reply—

I am most happy in visiting my old brother soldier and friend, General Brooks, to be received with so kind a welcome. You speak of compensation, sir; the smallest part of the delights which I have experienced in America, would more than repay me for all my services and all my sufferings.1

Medford was further honored by the presence of Lafayette, for he called on our Revolutionary heroine, Mrs. John Fulton (born Sarah Bradlee). At this time he presented her with a breast-pin, now in possession of descendants of hers (Rindge family) in Cambridge.

He also dined at Dudley Hall's in the house still standing on the north side of High street, No. 57. The story of this dinner party has never before been in print. It was natural that Mr. Hall, neighbor and intimate friend of John Brooks, and who was a man of wealth and prominence in the town, should have had the opportunity of having Lafayette as his guest. Mr. Hall, without doubt, did his friend many favors, and the latter could have easily obtained Lafayette's acceptance for this occasion.

The dinner was a pleasant social affair, carried on in the hospitable, home-like, old-fashioned way, where good American help gave capable, cheerful and interested service. Mrs. Hall, with the assistance of the sister of her husband's foreman, both of whom were for many years in the employ of the Hall family, cooked the dinner, and this excellent New England woman had a vivid remembrance forever of the day, and used to tell her nieces and nephews of the various dishes served at the different courses. Three tablecloths were spread on the table, [p. 6] one over the other. When one course was finished and the dishes removed the top cloth was taken off and the next course was brought in. Furniture and fine old silver used then is in use in the Hall family today. The late Dudley C. Hall, then a child six years of age, well remembered the grand occasion, and of shaking hands with his father's guest. John Brooks, of course, was present, and the time of the event we may be able to fix, for the conversation turned on the subject of the ability of being able to assemble the militia at short notice. Brooks wanted to show Lafayette how quickly he could muster thousands of fighting men in about four days. This was the time my informant said he thought was mentioned.

On Monday, August 30, a grand review of the militia was held on Boston Common at the instance of Governor Eustis, and Brooks, knowing what was being prepared for the entertainment of the general, naturally had great interest in the coming spectacle, and led the conversation to the subject.

This military show, an assembling of six thousand troops, was considered a very fine affair, and was a source of pride to Massachusetts.

Mr. Hall's dinner party may have occurred on Saturday, August 28, the same day Brooks gave his dinner to Lafayette.

The Hall foreman was in the ranks at the military review, and told his children, years afterward, of seeing the general, and that he was old and lame. He thought it an occasion worthy to be told to future generations, for thousands were assembled there.

We all recall Washington's advice, ‘In time of peace prepare for war,’ and considering the much-talked-of subject today—whether the United States shall or shall not maintain adequate military force in view of the awful conditions prevailing in Europe—it will not be amiss to quote the following concerning Lafayette's opinion on the subject as given at the time of his visit to the [p. 7] Charlestown Navy Yard, on the day before he came to Medford:

He agrees entirely with those enlightened politicians of our country, who have always considered a naval force of great advantage to America, if not absolutely necessary to Independence.

His toast at the military dinner on the Common in Boston was,

The patriotic troops who have paraded this day, they excite the admiration of every beholder, and fill the heart with delight.

The selectmen's records show that no great expense was incurred for the local celebration, and the whole simple story is told in the following:—

Henry Chapman for Ensigns$5.00
Darius Waitt work etc. on reception6.87
James Hyde decoration of street2.00
James W. Brooks for horse and chaise to Lexington for bass drum3.12
Joseph Swan cash pd. for oil etc. & for flags33.48

Could we of today entertain so distinguished a visitor as a French marquis, who had been a great general, with a sum like that? Yet we may well ask, would our feelings be any more sincere than those of our townsmen in the simple days of old, or could we offer hospitality more gracefully and elegantly, or that would be more acceptable?

When Lafayette made his visit to New Hampshire, Peter C. Brooks and Ignatius Sargent, Boston citizens, the former also of Medford, accompanied him as aides.

The next year Lafayette returned to this region to lay the corner stone of Bunker Hill Monument, June 17, 1825, the fiftieth anniversary of the battle in Charlestown. Of this memorable occasion we will only mention such items as concern our town's connection with it.

Sixteen military companies did escort duty that day and Medford's company was of the number, a fact to be proud of. Boston and five towns beside ours were represented by their citizen soldiery. Our neighbor, Col. [p. 8] Samuel Jacques of ‘Ten Hills Farm,’ was chief marshal of the procession, and had Lafayette as his guest.

Lafayette's friends, Brooks and Eustis, with the former of whom he had carried on a correspondence, had both passed on before this time. The lives of these friends, in point of years, were nearly identical. John Brooks was born May 31, 1752, and died March I, 1825. William Eustis was born June 10, 1753, and died February 6, 1825, while Lafayette was born September 6, 1757, and died May 20, 1834. The first two were physicians, the latter a pupil of Joseph Warren, and each served the state as its chief executive. The three served in the Revolutionary war, and with such significant incidents what would it not have meant to this trio if they could all have participated in the events of that wonderful day! We can but think that sad memories came to the survivor, even in the midst of the splendors and exciting interest of the exercises.

Three of Medford's daughters have given us accounts of Lafayette's visit and the reception attending it, either in Boston or here, though their descriptions are brief. Lydia Francis was then a charming young girl of twentytwo, having the entree of the best society in Boston and Cambridge. She was already known as a writer, and in 1825 issued her ‘Evenings in New England,’ which mentions Lafayette's entry into Boston and the reception given him, of which she was an eye-witness. We know her better as Mrs. Child, her married name, which she assumed in 1828.

Miss Lucy Osgood, who was personally unknown to me, but whom I recall as one of the celebrities of Medford, was then over thirty years of age, and we have her story of the day, in a letter in her vigorous style, which was published in the Register, October, 1907, page 90.

Mrs. Harriet (Jordan) Rowe, whose reminiscences in the Register, July, 1912, page 73, were written at my request, had the story from the lips of her mother, who was then about ten years old, was in line with the school [p. 9] children, and shook hands with the general. Mrs. Rowe also says her mother's father was captain of the Medford company that assisted in receiving the visitors.

Six years after his visit to America Lafayette was introduced to Maria (Gowen) Brooks, a pleasing young widow, then in Europe with her brother. She was Medford born, and has given fame to her native place as a poetess of imagination and brilliancy, known as Maria del Occidente. Like a gallant Frenchman, Lafayette was susceptible to feminine charms, and so pleased was he with Mrs. Brooks that he was eager to befriend her, and learning that she desired for her son an appointment to a United States military academy, he procured it for her, a favor which she had been unable to attain.

To come in touch with a great event of the past, with but one person between it and ourselves as a connecting link, gives greater significance to that event, and a more vivid realization of it than if we read an account from the printed page. So receptions to Lafayette, and the honors bestowed upon him in this vicinity, seem real to me for the following reasons. My maternal grandmother, at the impressionable age of eighteen, from an excellent position on Park street, witnessed the ovation given America's great guest by the city of Boston. She was never tired of relating the story to me, nor of repeating those lines composed by Charles Sprague for the occasion, and inscribed on an arch thrown across Washington street—

Welcome, Lafayette.
     The fathers in glory shall sleep,
That gathered with thee in the fight;
     But the sons will eternally keep
The tablet of gratitude bright.
     We bow not the neck; we bend not the knee;
But our hearts, Lafayette, we surrender to thee.

The account of the dinner at Dudley Hall's was told by one whose father and aunt were in the employ of the Hall family at that time (see Register, July, 1912, page 65). [p. 10] The Eustis coach, in which Lafayette rode, now finds a resting-place in the carriage house of the Wayside Inn at Sudbury, where, seated in the quaint old vehicle a few years ago, I dreamed away some pleasant hours trying to bring before my mental vision a picture of those historic days. This old coach, still in a good state of preservation, has been an object of interest in several processions. It was used September 17, 1880, at the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of Boston. Members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society occupied fourteen carriages in the parade, and in the Eustis coach were Marshall P. Wilder, president of the society, and Benjamin G. Smith, marshal, both of whom I well knew. I count it a great privilege to have had the acquaintance of these gentlemen of the old school, with their courtly, dignified manners.

In my zeal for seeing historic places I visited Shirley Hall, the home of Governor Eustis. Though shorn of much of its magnificence, there was enough left, though it had been moved from its original site and the spacious rooms had been divided into several small ones, to show what an elegant residence it had been in its prime. There Lafayette spent the night, and many distinguished men had been welcomed under its roof.

I have in my possession one of a set of six champagne glasses given me by a lady long a resident of Medford, only lately having removed from the city, that came to her husband in a direct line from the Dexter family of Medford, with the story that the glasses were used at a dinner given to Lafayette.

Possibly, as was done in Marblehead to fittingly entertain Washington, all the well-to-do families were levied upon for silver and suitable table-ware to lay the table in some home where the general was a guest, for it may be that other feasts were given in our town of which no mention has been made in print, as in the case of the Hall dinner. In earlier, simpler days what good housewife did not borrow of some neighbor a few spoons or [p. 11] glasses to grace her table for distinguished guests or extra company?

There is today a fine large elm in Kennebunk, Me., under whose shade Madame Storer, the great lady of the town, entertained Lafayette. With two friends' hands clasped in each other's, our out-stretched arms just encircled its huge trunk.

In many towns the receptions were at night, and houses along the route of Lafayette's journey were illuminated and bonfires were built on the hills. This was the case in Bolton, in this state, where, after a short visit to Concord, he spent the night at the mansion of Samson V. S. Wilder, a personal friend. Mr. Wilder, a man of wealth who had spent years abroad, knew Lafayette in Paris, and owned the finest estate in the town. I once had the pleasure of going through the grounds. The summer-house was built in the style of the one on the Royall House grounds, in that it had a receptacle made like a well for keeping food cool.

Persons, events and places which I have mentioned in this paper seem to have a relationship one to the other, and just here you may notice another instance of it, for the wife of Mr. Wilder was born in Medford in the old Watson house on High street, only removed a few years ago. After John Brooks left the eastern half of this house, Joseph Barrel, Jr., of Boston, became the next tenant. His wife was Miss Electa Bingham of Boston, and there is the record of two children being born here to this couple in 1796 and 1799. One of these, Electa Barrel, became the bride of Samson V. S. Wilder, who was noted in Bolton for his lavish hospitality, where he lived for a number of years.

Bolton also is the birthplace of our venerable townswoman, Miss Zipporah Sawyer, who has assisted so many in our educational careers. As a child five years of age she remembers the illumination that night for the distinguished guest, and the occasion is particularly impressed on her mind, for the fence in front of her father's house was set on fire by some light placed upon it. [p. 12]

Hero worship began early with me. For no reason that I can give, before I was nine years old Daniel Webster had caught my imagination, and stories about him, and his pictures, have had a fascination for me from that time. In later years I stood beside his burial-place in Marshfield with a feeling of reverence. He was the orator at the laying of the corner-stone of Bunker Hill Monument, and again at its completion in 1847. My father, as a young man, was present at the latter occasion, and from his lips I had the story of his seeing this great man, and of the immense throng gathered there.

A later hero that strongly appealed to me was Edward Everett, who died fifty years ago, January 15, 1865. In my first scrap-book, begun in childhood, I put a piece by T. W. Persons on the death of Everett. When in riper years I discarded this book, I took from it this one piece and placed it in another that I have today.

When Edward Everett made the speech of welcome to Lafayette in 1824 at the old church in Cambridge, it is said he brought tears and cheers from his hearers, comprising one of the finest audiences in America, when at the close of his Phi Beta Kappa address he turned to the visitor whom America delighted to honor.

Although these reasons may seem insignificant and trivial to you, yet the persons, places and events I have mentioned are to me the links of a perfect circle, a full round story of Lafayette's visit to Medford, and the people with whom he came in touch.

1 Brooks' History contains an account of this speech, which varies from this in a few minor details.

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