We are presenting an extract from the early records of Charlestown
, relative to a boundary fence erected within the limits of present Medford
The reader should remember that the Medford
of 1662 was entirely surrounded by Charlestown
, but not included in it, and had no town government or records till 1674, when the few new owners of Mr. Cradock
's farm began to associate themselves for that purpose.
We find a quotation from this record (on p. 51, Vol.
XV. of the register) by Mr. Hooper
in his article on the ‘Stinted Pasture.’
We give the entire record and in the actual form in which the record commissioners reproduced it in 1883:—
was one of the three brothers who, with four others, formed the exploring party sent by Endicott
He was then but twenty-four years of age. They went out into an unknown country, following the Indian
trail, and lighted on ‘an uncouth wilderness, full of timber,’ and adjoining ‘the farm Mr. Cradock
's servants had planted.’
He became a settler in the peninsula we know as Charlestown
the next year with Governor Winthrop
's company and was a man of note in the town.
died in 1647 but his farm was still in possession of the family and a fence was required between it and Charlestown
's ‘common land.’
Through [p. 37]
the latter was but one ‘road to Manottomy’ (present Broadway
), and through ‘Mr. Winthrop
's farm’ only the Charlestown
and Cambridge roads (now Main and Harvard streets in Medford
The ‘fence’ Richard Sprague
built was probably mainly a stone wall, topped with tree branches or ‘brush’ secured from the ‘comon,’ or wooded Walnuttree hill.
Thus reinforced, it was a barrier against the ‘reasonable Cattle’ turned into the ‘stinted comon, without the peninsula.’
A little corner of the common land extended down the river, but the fence began at Misticke bridge and crossing that corner followed ‘the Lynne between’ the farm and common (near present Florence street and College avenue, crossing the latter near the railroad) and to and beyond Two-penny brook to the ‘Rocke which was A Bound marke’ where the farm fence began.
It is useless to look for that ‘Rocke’ today in the congested district east of Winter brook
, but the old stone wall, now along College avenue may be of the original ‘fence’ of 1662, moved eastward when the brick tower was built a century ago over a spring on the Winthrop
The ‘gate’ referred to was doubtless across the Cambridge
road, now Harvard street, near St. Clement's church.
was fifty-seven years old when he contracted to build this fence and keep it secure for twenty-one years against the damages
of reasonable Cattle
, only the gate being excepted.
And what was his compensation for the original outlay and continuous repair?
Simply a twenty-one year leasehold of enough pasture ground for twenty cows,—not an acquirement of title thereto.
He died November 25, 1668.
His will, made just previously, made his wife his executrix.
One of his bequests to her was his interest in eleven
cow commons, and to the church in Charlestown
the remainder of his ‘interest in those twenty cow commons which I am to have for mayntayning the fence against Mr. Winthrop
's farm, on condition that the proprietors [p. 38]
release my executrix from care of the fence.’
It would be of interest to know the outcome of this, as he said further:—
I do declare it to be my mind and will that in case the church do not accept the commons on ye terms xpressed, then the Deacons shall receive of my Estate thirty pounds in goods out of the shop or in Cattle, to be employed for the church's use as they shall see meet.
His wife survived him six years, but in her will is no mention of cow commons or fence.
Note now. This contract made two hundred and sixty-two years ago valued the fence at thirty pounds, with possibility of appreciation, the sum named in the will.
Ninety years later, portions of both farm and common were annexed to Medford
; the fence entirely in Medford
It was one hundred and forty years before the canal, and one hundred and seventy-three before the railroad came through farm and pasture; and one hundred and eighty-eight when Tufts College ‘set a light on the bleak hill,’ no longer wooded.
Just two centuries later, within our own remembrance, came the embanked reservoir beside the college.
Since then the entire West Somerville
and Medford Hillside
sections of two cities have been built, whose limits are now reached, beyond which they may not pass.
Where Lieutenant Sprague
began his fence, the Mystic Valley
parkway crosses Main street, and follows the river through Medford
beside the lower lake, then in Charlestown
On this barrier, but fifteen years old, we see no reasonable Cattle
, but modern automobiles, one hundred and thirty-five in five minutes on Sunday afternoon pass by, and no ‘gate mayntayned.’
In the intervening reservation the birds, pheasant and quail, find sanctuary.
may have seen such, and perhaps larger game, while the fence was building along the border of the cow pasture, where stands the broadcasting tower of Amrad, W. G. I.