The Brooks Estates in Medford from 1660 to 1927.

By Richard B. Coolidge.
[Read before the Medford Historical Society, March 21, 1927. Acknowledgment is due Mrs. Shepherd Brooks, who generously made available her husband's manuscript referred to in the text, and to Mrs. Coolidge who compiled the material.]

IT is one of the functions of a historical society to record history as it transpires. Here in Medford it is unfortunate that we have so few records of certain memorable periods of our past. In 1775 there was no historical society existing. Had there been, we might now read in the records of that day at what hour of the morning the Minute Men marched up the road toward Lexington, how far they advanced, and at what point they joined in the attack upon the British Regulars. Again we are unable to determine with certainty the builder of the famous Cradock house, or to demonstrate that Washington came to the Royall house. In later years there are like omissions. To prevent similar gaps in the future, a historical society may perform a valuable function in recording and collating events as they transpire, and before they merge with dim outline into those of later years.

In years to come it is likely that our present decade will be fixed as that in which Medford passed through a stage of transition from the old order to the new. In that process the recent enlarging and rebuilding of Medford square substitutes in appearance the metropolitan suburb for the town. At the same time the development of outlying areas into residential districts has brought on the breaking up of family estates which through years of long holding have distinguished Medford. Chief among such lands are the tracts that have [p. 2] been held in the Lawrence and the Brooks families, both of which have in one case to a great extent and in the other to a less extent already passed into other hands, subdivided among many separate householders.

It is of the land holdings of the Brooks family and in a measure of that family that these pages will attempt to make some record from the earliest days to our own tines. It is practicable, however, within the limits of a paper to deal in hardly more than skeleton outline, omitting much that might well be written in full. I do not represent that I am setting forth what is not already known and recorded. In fact, this paper is based in large part upon the work of Shepherd Brooks, now preserved in written form under the title ‘History and Genealogy of the Brooks Family of Medford, Massachusetts, compiled chiefly from the researches of P. C. Brooks, senior, his son, Gorham, and his nephew, William G. Brooks, also from Charles Brooks's History of Medford, by Shepherd Brooks, Boston, 1885.’ That book forms an invaluable record.

The house of Brooks in Medford reaches back, if not to the earliest years of the settlement, to the later decades of the sixteen hundreds. In all that time the Brooks family has been one of outstanding prominence and has imprinted itself upon the annals of the town and the city. In fact, so associated with the western part of Medford, in particular, has been the name of Brooks, that within our own time, the proposal to divide Medford at Winthrop square and create the town of Brooks out of the territory lying to the west all but received legal sanction. By the closest of margins, however, the proposal was not adopted and the territory that was old Medford remains, so far as that proceeding is concerned, the Medford of today.

In 1660 Thomas Brooks became the first of this family to acquire land holdings in Medford. Medford had then progressed from a mere settlement to a scattered hamlet. Near the site of the present square stood [p. 3] the house of Cradock's agents and the great barn which sheltered his cattle and farm implements. On the site of and a part of the present Royall house stood Governor Winthrop's farmhouse. Scattered elsewhere along the roads, if they may be so called, were other small houses. There was, it is said, a rough wagon road leading from the future square along the old Indian trail to the weirs, or fishing ways, where the ponds narrow into the Mystic. These had been used from Indian times, as appears from the fact that the use of the weirs was reserved to the Indians in the deed of the Squa Sachem to Winthrop in 1639. Near the weirs at that early day stood a corn mill, an undivided fourth part of which passed to the first Brooks who became the owner of land in the present territory of Medford.

Such was the surrounding country which to the extent of four hundred acres Thomas Brooks acquired by deed recorded at Cambridge on the 16th day of May, 1660, from Edward Collins. The land in question lay on both sides of the road to Woburn, now called Grove street but then, or shortly thereafter, known as the road through the woods. Thomas Brooks, it should be said, never settled in Medford. He came over from England about 1630 in the same company with Saltonstall and others. Some of those early adventurers settled here, but Thomas Brooks, it appears from the records, had a lot assigned to him on the main road in Watertown. In 1636 he moved to Concord, where he became a freeman, and lived until his death on May 21, 1667. He was seven years Representative from Concord, and received various local appointments of trust and honor. Although he had a large estate in Concord, he evidently wished to make further provision for his children. Accordingly, with his son-in-law, Timothy Wheeler, he invested four hundred and four pounds sterling in these acres in Medford—two-thirds for himself and one-third for Wheeler. Collins was already a large holder of land at Mystic. He lived for many years on Governor Cradock's plantation [p. 4] and purchased it from the heirs of the governor in 1652. It may have been that fact which led him to part with his holdings to the west. The deed from Collins gives in quaint and formal language the terms of the purchase. It reads in part as follows:

Edward Collins merch't and Martha his wife. . . do fully clearly & absolutely grant bargain and sell alien enfeoffe and confirm under them ve said Thomas Brooks & Timothy Wheeler one Me ssuage or Tenement situate Lying and being within ye bounds of ye said plantation of Meadford (and lands adjacent) & ye now mentioned place of Golden Moor containing by estimation, four hundred acres of land more or less according to a plat taken and bounds marked by Capt. Nicholas Shapley; excepting & only reserving unto ye said Edward Collins, his heirs or assigns ye wood and timber of sixteene acres of land anent ye Great Pond & not lying above one mile from ye aforenamed Dwelling house with free egress and regress for fetching ye same. Also two acres of Land adjoining to Thomas Eames clay land. Also to Golden Moor ye priviledge & right he hath therein by Lease signed by ye said Edwd Collins. Also six acres of meadow land Lying in ye Easterly part of ye Meadow yt Lyeth on ye West side of Meadford river, lately appertaining to Mr. Thomas Broughton, with one-fourth part of all ye appurtenances thereto appertaining, according to ye Deed of Conveyance passed upon record from ye said Broughton to ye said Collins. . . . And also ye said Edwd Collins doth covenant for himself & heirs to clear and acquit ye said Thomas Brooks & Timothy Wheeler, their heirs and assigns from all damage and costs by ye waters of ye Mill pond flowing on ye meadows appertaining to My. Symmes' Farm so farre as fifteen shillings per anno or three acres of Meadow will tend toward ye clearing of ye said Quarterpart. . . Cambridge ye 16th of May 1660.

This witnesseth yt Edward Collins. . . do covenant, promise and grant to & with Thomas Brooks and Timothy Wheeler. . . that ye said Thomas Brooks and Timothy Wheeler. . . shall and may at all times and from time to time forever hereafter, peaceably and quietly have free egress and regress to ye landing place at ye Rock by Meadford River near to John Marable's house for ye Laying of such wood and timber as they shall see cause to bring down to ve said place for ye conveying down the River, provided they lay it in such order & manner as may not block up ye said place from ye use of ye said Collins, his Heirs. . .

From this deed it appears that there was heavy timber [p. 5] growing down close to the Mystic lakes, called the Great pond. The rock by the river, undoubtedly the rock near the end of Hastings lane, had already been in use. There is a touch of thrifty New England in the condition that the new purchaser may use this landing place, provided he lays his wood and timber in such manner as will not block up the place for Mr. Collins. There had, it seems, already been trouble from the water of the mill pond overflowing the meadows of Mr. Symmes' farm, which lay, it is believed, at the northern end of the pond near the Winchester of today.

The first Brooks estate, then, was situated on the east side of Mystic pond and east and north of the Mystic river. The mill referred to stood a few rods below the later bridge at the weirs. About one hundred acres lay on the south side of the road to the present Arlington, now High street, beginning with the weir bridge and running easterly along High street almost to the present line of the Boston & Maine railroad. From that point the boundary ran southerly to the Mystic river, and then westerly and northerly up the river to the bridge. This part of the property, it may be noted, in anticipation, remained in the Brooks family until about 1779, when it was sold. In 1843, however, it came back again into the ownership of a later generation, when Peter C. Brooks bought it from Nathan Tufts. In 1853, his son, Gorham, disposed of this tract to land speculators, so called, and the holdings of the Brooks family thereafter remained on the north side of High street.

The remaining three hundred acres acquired by Thomas Brooks lay to the north and on both sides of Grove street of today. At the date of the original purchase of the whole tract, in 1660, there was on the land a messuage, or tenement so called, leased to Golden Moor. This house, the first of the Brooks houses, stood on the south side of High street, directly opposite the end of Grove street. The four hundred acres comprised almost a feudal estate, including as it did woodland, [p. 6] meadow land, a dwelling house, one-fourth right in the grist mill and access to the clay pits. It does not appear when the land was cleared of timber, but that process undoubtedly began with the first Brooks, for he reserved the right to make use of the landing place at the rock. The clay pits were doubtless made use of by a later generation at least, for Caleb Brooks of Revolutionary fame, a brick-maker by trade, could hardly have neglected to utilize the clay beds that lay at hand.

The first of the Brooks family to take up actual residence in Medford was Caleb, son of Thomas. In 1679 he made his abode in the house referred to on the south side of the present High street, opposite the delta. That nineteen years elapsed between the sale to Thomas and the settlement by Caleb is probably accounted for by the fact that the land had meanwhile been leased to Moore. On the death of his father in 1667, Caleb's portion of the estate appears to have comprised all the land on the east side of Grove street, and the northern part of that on the west side between Grove street and the upper Mystic pond, as well as the eastern part of the property lying south of High street, including the house which he occupied.

Caleb Brooks died in Medford in 1696. His real estate was divided between his two sons. Ebenezer, the eldest, and the grandfather of Governor John Brooks, received, as nearly as can be determined, that part lying south of High street including his father's house, part of the land on the east side of Grove street, from Symmes corner as far south as Slow pond, now Brooks pond, and the land west of this between Grove street and the upper Mystic pond. On the death of Ebenezer in 1743, his four sons inherited his real estate. They and their descendants held the property until about the time of the Revolution, when they sold all their Medford possessions and moved away. The house occupied by Ebenezer later fell to Samuel and Caleb, respectively, grandson and great-grandson of Caleb, the original [p. 7] settler. According to the Brooks records this house on the south side of High street stood until 1812.

The second son of Caleb was Samuel. His portion of the estate included the land on the southeast corner of High and Grove streets, as far north as Slow pond, from which it extended in a narrow strip in the rear of Ebenezer's land at Symmes corner. In passing it may be noted that the inheritance of these two sons of Caleb as set forth in the inventory of their father's estate gives an insight into the living conditions of the early freeholder. It is too long except for reference.1 This Samuel, born in 1672, was another prominent townsman until his death in 1753. His gravestone, with that of his wife, Hannah, are in the old Medford cemetery. His house, the second of the Brooks houses, stood on the east side of Grove street, nearly opposite the mansion built later on the west side by his great-grandson, Peter Chardon Brooks, remembered by the present generation as the Francis Brooks place. The house of Samuel stood until 1762, when it was burned. His will shows us again the property of a well-to-do farmer. He had two slaves, Bristow and Boston, one left to his wife and the other to his son Samuel. He seems to have been wealthy chiefly in land, for his will mentions but one horse, which with the calash and the horse-cart, he left to his wife, and the cattle and swine which he divided among his heirs. His son, the second Samuel, took among other things a suit of wearing apparel, bootlashes and silver buckles, and a new house built in 1727.

This house, the third of the early Brooks houses, and occupied by the second by the name of Samuel, stood on the east side of Grove street about one hundred and thirty yards north of the house of the elder Samuel nearer the corner. It was built in all probability in 1727 [p. 8] or about the time of his marriage. Between this house and the road, about 1760, Samuel Brooks or his son Thomas, with the help of the negro slave, Pomp, built the brick wall which is still standing. The bricks were made by themselves in their brickyard situated near the Mystic river, a short distance below the present railroad bridge. About fifteen feet from his house Samuel planted the venerable black walnut tree known all these years as a landmark. In his time, too, the land inherited from his father was increased by the purchase of adjoining land, including Rock pasture, which has become Oak Grove cemetery.

This Samuel was treasurer of the town of Medford for many years. His will is a long and minute document. In it, dated September 6, 1762, and recorded in Vol. 29, Middlesex Probate Office, he directed his executors

to provide for his wife during her life 20 bushels of good Indian corn, 5 of rye, 3 of malt, 6 of winter apples, 3 barrels of cider, and turnips and other sauce sufficient for her; and to find her a horse to ride to meeting and elsewhere as she shall have occasion; also S cord of good wood at ye house fit for the fire, one hundred pound of good beef, also a third part of the pew I have in the meeting house and as I have in this instrument given her one half of my plate I do hereby give her the use and improvement of the other half during her natural life.

He also gave to his wife his chaise, two cows, two pigs and his negro woman Rose, and as Rose was then sick, if she should die, his wife was to have the negro girl Dinah. Rose, however, recovered, and after the death of the widow of Samuel both she and Dinah belonged to their son, Thomas Brooks. He gave his negro lad called Pompey and also his silver-hilted sword to his son Thomas, and to his son Edward the negro boy called Chester. The real estate was divided between his sons, Thomas and Edward.

Genealogy, except to the expert, is a confusing pursuit. Among the successive generations of Calebs, Samuels and Thomases, the amateur finds it difficult to [p. 9] present a statement that is both concise and accurate. It is interesting to observe in tracing this family how often sisters figured in the marriages. The original Thomas married two sisters successively, and his sons married sisters of the Boylston family. We may also digress into Winchester, then Charlestown, where, in a house at Symmes corner, later dwelt Caleb, grandson of the original of that name. Here, at the extreme of the grant to the first Thomas Brooks, was born in 1752, John Brooks, later Governor of the Commonwealth. His history has been written so many times that it is out of place to enter into it in detail. We note, however, that he attended the district school with his playmate, Benjamin Thompson, afterwards Count Rumford, and later became apprentice in Medford to Dr. Simon Tufts. He had settled down in Reading to practice medicine when the war intervened, and Captain John Brooks marched to Lexington, where he perhaps fought shoulder to shoulder with his relatives, Caleb and Edward and Thomas from Medford. He found the British already on the retreat before he could reach Concord, but placing his Reading men near the road between Concord and Lexington, he gave the British troops a volley as they passed. He then followed them, with his men harassing the enemy's rear all the way to Charlestown neck. Soon after this he was commissioned major, while his cousin Caleb of Medford became a captain. It adds a touch of human interest to find that his first child was born June 16th, while the young doctor was off military duty, at home with his wife. That very night, however, he accompanied Colonel Prescott as a volunteer at Bunker hill and was engaged in constructing intrenchments. Perhaps by the grace of God he was despatched the next morning to Cambridge for reinforcements, and there being no horse to spare, was obliged to journey on foot. He was detained in Cambridge all day and returned to Bunker hill only in time to witness the retreat of the American forces. It may have been due to this fact [p. 10] that the young father lived to see his daughter Lucy again.

At the time of the Revolution Caleb Brooks was living in the house of the first Caleb, opposite the delta. The house built by the first Samuel, at the corner of Grove and High streets, had burned down. Thomas Brooks was living in the house of the second Samuel, behind the slave wall. Another son of this second Samuel was Edward Brooks, famous in local history. This Edward was graduated at Harvard in 1757 and served two years as college librarian. In 1764 he was ordained as minister in North Yarmouth, Maine. His connection with that church, however, brought him toil and trouble. His theology was of a more modern cast than that of his congregation, and he soon retreated to Medford, where he occasionally preached for the Rev. Ebenezer Turell. He also bought land in Medford of John Francis, Jr., on the west side of Grove street, and there occupied what may be called the fourth of the Brooks homesteads. This house stood just north of the later mansion built by his son, Peter C. Brooks, which in turn was torn down in 1915 to make way for the new development. The life of the Reverend Edward Brooks was characteristic of the period. The words of his son are well known, ‘He was a high son of liberty and started off on horseback with his full-bottomed wig and his gun on his shoulder.’

He is said to have been active in the capture of a convoy of provisions at Menotomy about a mile from his own house, the convoy having been sent for the relief of the British troops farther up the Concord road. After the retreat of the Regulars through Menotomy, Edward Brooks saved the life of Lieutenant Gould of the King's Own. This officer, who had been wounded at Concord, was left at Menotomy during the retreat of the Red Coats. From Menotomy he was conveyed by the militant divine on horseback to the Brooks homestead, where he remained until his wound healed, and was exchanged [p. 11] for an American officer. In the inventory of the estate of Edward Brooks, made in 1781, his real estate, which was the same inherited farm of his father's, with the addition of the house and a few acres of land on the west side of Grove street, was valued at £ 1036 s.13d.4 and his personal estate at £ 421 s.13d.2.

We have, then, in the one family, Capt. John Brooks, Lieut. Caleb, Thomas and the Reverend Edward Brooks all leaving hot-foot for Lexington. The diary of a British officer, MacKenzie, recently published in full, gives us from the British point of view, what must have been the course of many a mounted volunteer like the Reverend Edward. MacKenzie writes that many farmers rode up and tied their horses at a distance from the road, crept near enough to get in a few shots, and when the column had passed, hurried back to their horses, rode on again until they were a little in advance of the British column, dismounted, tied and fired again, and so repeated the attack until they were out of ammunition.

Peter Chardon Brooks, his son, related that he saw the sun flashing on the bayonets of the British soldiers, as he looked from the garret of his father's house through the thin-leaved trees in the west, and heard the rattle of the musketry.

Another tradition is that Madam Abigail Brooks served chocolate to the Minute Men on their return back from Lexington, as tired and hungry they came down the road. The road was doubtless full of stragglers and volunteers of every description who had gone to get in their shot. It is probable that the Minute Men, who were enlisted for five days, did not return to Medford that evening, but followed the retreating British straight through to Charlestown. Individual skirmishers doubtless came back down the road to Medford, especially those who were already out of ammunition and could fight no more. To these Madam Brooks may have served her chocolate, though there is no source for this belief but tradition. There was a copper kettle, long preserved [p. 12] in the family, said to be the identical kettle then used by Madam Brooks. Mr. Henry Brooks later pointed out the site of the identical elm tree under which the chocolate was said to have been served. This tree stood in the driveway on the east side of the Peter C. Brooks house, at that time called the Francis Brooks house. In recent years doubt has been cast on the authenticity of this tradition. In 1775 chocolate was being manufactured in Boston. In fact it is probable that the only chocolate then manufactured in the colonies was made in the corner of a saw mill on the banks of the Neponset river on the site of the present mills of Walter Baker & Co. The maker was a young Irishman, Richard Harman. At his death, a few years later, a Doctor Baker who had interested himself in the young man's enterprise took over the operation of the infant industry, installing his son, Walter Baker, to learn the art of making chocolate. From that beginning sprang the present firm which bears his name. In the latter part of the eighteenth century chocolate as a beverage had become an expensive luxury. It was unpalatable without sugar, and sugar was scarce, though honey was sometimes used in its place for sweetening purposes. Assuming then that sugar was available, Abigail Brooks would have provided an expensive refreshment had she served hot chocolate to the returning army of stragglers on the afternoon of the nineteenth. The day was in any event worthy of the deed.

As to the cost of chocolate itself some years before war prices set in, one may read in The Boston Evening Post, Number 1255, of Monday, September 17, 1759, the following advertisement:—

To be sold

By John Brewster near Cross Street

Choice Chocolate at 1s per Pound,

10 s 6d per Dozen, and his best old Stamp 12 s cheaper by the Dozen.

As is well known, Rev. Edward Brooks died a sacrifice [p. 13] to his patriotism. While serving as chaplain on the American frigate Hancock, of thirty-two guns, he was taken prisoner into Halifax with the ship and there contracted smallpox. He was released after his recovery, but his constitution was so weakened that he lived only until 1781. It is a coincidence that Isaac Royall, the leading Tory of Medford, should also have turned to Halifax, crossed the Atlantic and there perished from smallpox.

The wills of Edward and of his father Samuel give interesting information about the estate in those years. Next the ‘mansion’ on the eastern side of Grove street was a small orchard with a narrow farm lot behind it. North of this was the ‘hither’ pasture and then the sheep pasture leading in toward the middle pasture and ‘Slow pond.’ Behind this in turn was ‘Rock pasture.’ About where the house of Mrs. Shepherd Brooks stands today was the upper pasture, and behind that the woodlot, extending practically to Symmes corner. The land on Grove street above Brooks pond was divided into six narrow holdings, running in from the road between the pond and Symmes corner. These each belonged to different members of the family and were probably unsettled and unused. At the death of Rev. Edward Brooks the land was appraised from seventy pounds an acre for that south of his house near the corner to about thirty-eight pounds an acre for pasture land and nine or ten for the woodlot.

At the death of her husband, Abigail Brooks, with the same fine spirit with which she had served the tired soldiers, brought up her four fatherless children. Of these, Joanna, the youngest, was the only one born in Medford, the other three, including Peter Chardon Brooks, having been born in North Yarmouth, Maine. Mrs. Abigail Brooks was herself a descendant of Rev. John Cotton, the old Puritan divine, and proud of the relationship, too, for she christened her first son Cotton Brown Brooks. Apparently something in the name or [p. 14] the blood ran true to form, for the grandchildren of Cotton Brown Brooks included Phillips Brooks, Bishop of Massachusetts, and his three brothers, all likewise Episcopal clergymen. It was heroic and consecrated inheritance.

The second son of the Rev. Edward Brooks was the well-known Peter Chardon Brooks. The era in which Mr. Brooks lived corresponded more or less exactly with growth of New England in mercantile and manufacturing interests. The same year that little Peter was watching the shining bayonets from the garret window of his home, the home of his future wife, Ann Gorham, in Charlestown, was burned to the ground during the battle of Bunker hill. His life may be called the romance of commerce. He writes in his biography that he may be said to have begun life without a dollar. He died possessing the largest fortune that had ever been left by any individual at that time in Boston. With that he always said that he never tried or expected to get more than six per cent on an investment. He abstained as a rule from speculative investments and he never borrowed. What he could not compass by present means was to him interdicted. One feels that the stern Puritan spirit of father and ancestors spoke in this man also. One wonders how, with such conservative principles, he accumulated his fortune. ‘When I came to Boston in 1782,’ he writes, ‘the country was wretchedly poor. It was the last year of the war; peace was declared in State street in January, 1783, about a month after I came. My father had died the year before, my mother was left with her four children with nothing but the farm of little more than one hundred acres, and on this some debts were due and so remained until I was able to pay them. We had to struggle through as well as we could. No woman could have done better, if so well, as my good mother. She was a rare manager. She insisted on our grappling on without selling an acre. She had the pride that was a virtue. Happily she lived to reap the good effects of [p. 15] her care and solicitude. Long before her decease her children were abundantly able and willing, nay, delighted, to do all in their power to make her happy and to reward her in some degree for her goodness. . . . I was married at the age of twenty-five, on November 26, 1792. Soon after this came the French Revolution and a war between England and France. Commerce increased prodigiously and premiums also [he was in the insurance business at a time when all underwriting was done by individuals at private offices, of which there were but three in Boston], owing to the captures and restraints of the powers of war, so that from June, 1793, to the peace of Amiens, I was more busily employed and perhaps more profitably than any young man of my acquaintance. . . . The funding system and the First National Bank were great objects of speculation in 1791, and about that period Mr. Brown [a trusted adviser] took no part in them himself, but urged me to, and I did to great advantage, for though I had little property then, he kindly offered to stand in as my surety to any amount. Now it was, what with my office and the funds, that I made money hand over hand. In June, 1803, I quitted the business of a private insurance office. . . . In 1806 I became the president of the New England Insurance Company and so remained about ten years, since which I have been my own man. . . . For this whole period of ten years, I believe, I was in the State Senate and House and Council chambers, which with my office and private concerns gave me full occupation.’ Such is the simple and modest account of the life of Peter Chardon Brooks and the amassing of his fortune.

More interesting to Medford is his connection with his local estate. Though he resided most of the year in Boston, he was very proud of his mansion house in Medford, the grey mansion which stood on the west side of Grove street until it was razed twelve years ago.

In the course of his lifetime he bought out the interests of the other heirs in his father's real estate and became [p. 16] the sole owner. In 1806 he built for himself a large house, the fifth in the succession of the family homesteads, a few yards south of his father's, which was then taken down. Under his ownership the extent of the Brooks property was greatly increased. It included a lot lying north of his house, and all the land south of his house on the north side of High street between Grove street and the Mystic river, also a large tract of land lying east of the railroad called the ‘Clewly’ land, which he bought from the heirs of John Clewly of Halifax. He also bought of Nathan Tufts the ‘Tufts farm’ so called, lying south of High street, including all the land between that street and Mystic river and Harvard avenue, and somewhat more lying south of the latter. This property was intersected by the Middlesex canal, the land of which forms Boston avenue.

Mr. Brooks always took great pride in his estate at Medford. It was one of the handsomest near Boston. To those who remember the old estate it would seem the typical estate of the gentleman of the period. The exterior of the house was not unduly pretentious. Awnings on the great porch in the rear made it seem more festive in the summertime. In front were hedges of evergreen, with the great elm tree which Mr. Henry Brooks pointed out as one of Revolutionary fame. Behind the house, in the privacy of the hedges, the garden was delightful. A little pond of perhaps a hundred feet, set in a border of stone and abounding in goldfish, made a vista immediately behind the house with a great horsechestnut tree at the end, reflecting in the spring its candelabra of white blossoms in the water beneath. One of the great features of the garden was a silver bell tree, imported from across the sea. The white blossoms were overpoweringly sweet and hung in long festoons all over the great tree, which itself in places stretched its heavy limbs along the very grass. The blossoms were so full of bees that the tree was itself as full of their drowsy humming as of the fragrance of its blossoms. In the [p. 17] rear was a high brick wall, with an old-fashioned garden bed at its foot, full of hollyhocks and perennials. On the other side of this wall was an aisle of pines over a hundred feet long, under which was the largest bed of lilies of the valley. There was also an experimental garden, where Mr. Henry Brooks in later years grew pink and white lotus blossoms. Such was its beauty that it seemed like an act of vandalism that it should have fallen prey to new development. Beyond the enclosed garden, at scarcely a stone's throw, ran the Middlesex canal. One may fancy that the retired Boston merchant often emerged from this garden to watch the boats pass up and down the placid canal.

With the death of Peter C. Brooks in 1849, at the end of his long, serene life, his son Edward inherited all the Medford estate. It was Edward who bought the strip of land that had belonged to the Middlesex canal, and who sold Rock pasture to the town of Medford for a cemetery. Before the death of Peter C. Brooks his second son, Gorham, had bought from his father the whole of so-called Isaac Brooks farm, built originally by his greatgrandfather Samuel and lying beside the slave wall. Here he died in 1855. Gorham Brooks also made great purchases of land, so that he owned all the land on the westerly side of Grove street between the estate of his brother Edward up to and including the land on which the Middlesex canal crossed the Aberjona creek by an aqueduct. A bronze tablet now marks the place. When the aqueduct was removed the granite was used in building the farmhouse of the present estate on the west side of Grove street.

With all this extensive property, Gorham Brooks clave to the simple house of his great-grandfather as a summer home. Like his father, Gorham Brooks took an intense interest in agriculture and in beautifying his own estate.

Others of the thirteen children of Peter Chardon Brooks who may interest especially a Medford audience were Abigail Brown Brooks, who married Charles Francis [p. 18] Adams, minister to England in the Civil war, and Charlotte Gray Brooks, later the wife of Edward Everett, orator, governor of Massachusetts, and president of Harvard. A sister of Peter Chardon was Joanna Cotton Brooks, who married Nathaniel Hall of Medford and lived in the home later known as the Samuel C. Lawrence farmhouse. The grandson of this Joanna was Francis Parkman, the historian, and it was doubtless from this house that he tramped through the region of the present Middlesex Fells.

It was left to the grandchildren of Peter C. Brooks, the sons of Gorham,—Peter C. Brooks, third of the name, and Shepherd Brooks to present the aspect of the Brooks property as it is known in Medford in later years.

In 1860, five years after the death of his father, Peter C. Brooks, 3d, built the grey stone house which still stands magnificently at the crest of the hill above Brooks pond, facing on the south the long sweep toward Boston, and on the west the shimmering waters of the Mystic ponds. In 1880 Shepherd Brooks, on the knoll farther to the east, built the brick house with its own splendid outlook. These may be called the sixth and seventh of the Brooks homesteads. It was Shepherd Brooks who transformed the so-called ‘Slow pond,’ which became only a marsh in the dry seasons, into the charming pond that it is today. His workmen cleaned the site, removing the peat of many generations which clogged the living springs, and then built a retaining wall or dike at the western end.

Peter C. Brooks, 3d, and Shepherd Brooks needed no landscape architect to develop the natural beauty of their estates. These landed proprietors loved the land. They were also practical farmers, understanding the raising of vegetables, the rotation of crops, the care of cows, the laying of stone walls and the grading of roadways. Not only did they direct the practical operation of their farms, but with equal success they enhanced the natural beauty of their ample acres by planting gardens [p. 19] and opening vistas through the trees. Indeed with special care were the trees preserved and developed, following the practice advocated by Professor Sargent of Arboretum fame. In fact, in the thriving trees of various kinds, the great beeches, perhaps notably in the magnificent canoe birch in front of the stone mansion, and in the tupeloes about the pond, are exemplified the fine traditions of intelligent landscaping.

Turning from the land to the land owners, no account is complete which does not record that the generosity of the Brooks family is stamped in many ways upon the history of Medford. The original Brooks school, a name since borne by its successor, was the gift of Edward Brooks, son of Peter Chardon Brooks, senior. The delta, at the meeting of High and Grove streets, was laid out by the latter, and for many years after him the trees and shrubs were kept in order by his son and grandson. In the collection of silver belonging to the First Parish church are two silver flagons presented by him in 1823. It was the same benefactor who built in 1846 the granite wall along the east side of the old burying ground, where so many of his ancestors lie buried. In 1869, Mrs. Ellen Brooks, widow of Gorham Brooks, with her two sons, Shepherd and Peter C. the third, gave both land and church edifice to Grace Episcopal church. In 1897 the Commonwealth received from the latter a gift of forty acres of land once owned by the Middlesex Canal Corporation, now a part of the Mystic Valley parkway. The Whitmore brook reservation was created in 1901 out of land presented to the Commonwealth by Peter C. and Shepherd Brooks. Brooks road, on the east side of the South Winchester reservoir, owes its plan and construction to the gift of the same two brothers in 1905. Shepherd Brooks made feasible for West Medford a suitable approach to Oak Grove cemetery, through the extension of Playstead road, and gave additional land for the enlargement of the cemetery. In 1924, the heirs of Shepherd Brooks, through his son [p. 20] Gorham Brooks, made a gift to the city of the Flat Iron lot on Grove street for a public park. In 1926 another portion of that estate was made over as a bird sanctuary open to the public, the latest of the many benefactions which are barely listed here.

It was two hundred and sixty-seven years ago that the original estate came into the ownership of the Brooks family. In the course of those years it has been divided and subdivided. Much of it has gone into other hands. Of the original domain there is still retained in the later generations of the family a generous spread of acres of both open and wooded land. Some of the changes that have come to pass in these landholdings I have noted here. Happily it is not for us yet to record the passing of the entire estate.

1 The estate of Caleb Brooks was inventoried at £ 630 s.14, of which ‘the housing and lands’ were £ 500 and the personal property, £ 130 s.14. It is evident from the detailed items that the house consisted of a ‘parlour,’ a ‘parlour chamber,’ hall, hall chamber, kitchen and garret. There was also a barn.

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