previous next

History of Wellington.

by Abner H. Barker.
Read before the Historical Society, October. 1927, by Joseph C. Smith.

IN May, 1630, Gov. John Winthrop and his associates arrived in Salem from England, and not being satisfied, proceeded to find land which suited them better. They came south along the coast and settled in Boston, Dorchester, Watertown and Medford.

The first record we have of what is now known as Wellington was made at the General Court held in Boston, April 1, 1634, which is as follows;—

There is two hundred acres of land ganted to Mr. Nowell, lying and being on the west side of North river, called Three Mile brook (Malden river).

There is two hundred acres of land granted to Mr. John Wilson, pastor of the church in Boston, lying next to the land granted to Mr. Nowell, on the south, and next to Meadford on the north.

The farm of Mathew Cradock joined the Nowell and Wilson farms, and extended as far as the Mystic lakes and one mile inland from the Mystic river. This grant of land was made to Mr. Cradock, March 4, 1634.

Governor Winthrop owned the land on the south side of the Mystic, in what is now Somerville, extending from Charlestown Neck to College hill, or Walnut hill as it was then called. He settled there in 1630 and called it ‘Ten Hills Farm.’

Rev. Mr. Wilson built a house on the land granted him by the court about 1634. The building was probably a large log house with a small, deep cellar and brick chimney laid in clay, the cellar being walled up with [p. 70] stone. This building was situated on the hillside near the junction of Middlesex avenue and Fellsway. Of the life of these first settlers we have a very meagre record. The land was wooded, and the greater part had to be cleared before much in the way of agriculture was accomplished. The years passed, and in February, 1650-51, we find that Rev. John Wilson, Jr., pastor of the church in Dorchester, sold to Thomas Blanchard, who came from Hampshire, England, in 1639 and lived in Braintree, Mass., from 1646 to 1651, ‘a house and farm of two hundred acres lying on the north side of Mystic river, and between Malden river on the east and the Cradock farm on the west,’ for £ 200. Mr. Blanchard died on his farm, so lately purchased, May 21, 1654. At this time the farm was a part of Charlestown and remained so until 1726, when it was annexed to Malden. In 655, after the death of Thomas, the farm was divided between his sons George and Nathaniel. George Blanchard, son of Thomas, had two wives and ten children. He lived on the half of the farm he had inherited from his father, and died there March 18, 1700, aged eighty-four. In the deed of Nathaniel to his brother Samuel, in 1657, he received the house, and it is stated that Samuel was building a house on an acre of ground called ‘The Flax Land,’ lying lengthwise between the highway and the swamps. This, therefore, must be the ‘old house’ which every resident of Wellington knows so well. In 1795 it was the only house standing, and was occupied by Captain Wymond Bradbury, a mariner, formerly of Newburyport. The promontory, extending into the marshes now known as Wellington, was first called ‘Wilson's point,’ then ‘Blanchard's point.’ The earlier records all call the place ‘Wilson's or Blanchard's point,’ Charlestown, then ‘Maiden;’ and in 1819, ‘part in Malden and part in Medford.’ One hundred and twenty acres of this farm [p. 71] were annexed to Medford in 1816, which explains the difference. The ‘old house’ was on the part included in Medford.

In 1819 the whole farm, now called one hundred and eighty-three acres, was purchased by Isaac and James Wellington of Lexington for some $6,000. They married sisters and lived in the old house, where they brought up their families, of five and three children respectively, from a common purse. The old house remained in the Wellington family until recently, when it was purchased with the surrounding land by the brothers J. A. and F. A. Walker.

The farm continued to be divided between two towns from 1817 until 1875, when the easterly part was set off from Everett and annexed to Medford.

The River road, also called Mile lane and Ship street, was referred to in a deed dated 1657 as ‘The Common Highway’ leading from the Mansion house (Blanchard's) into Charlestown common and Medford house. This road, now Riverside avenue, started from Medford house, located in Medford square, followed Salem street, thence over Gravelly bridge across the Common, thence to the southerly end of Cross street, from there it followed the present lines to the western end of Fourth street, which it followed probably its entire length, passing just south of the Pale Face Club house to the bank of the Malden river, where a landing was located just north of the site of the Wellington Boat Club house. This landing is mentioned in the records in 1635 and was called ‘The Landing at Wilson's Point.’ It was a wharf made by large trees laid crosswise. The remains of this wharf are still extant and can be plainly seen at low tide.

A branch of this road ran over the hill to the ‘Mansion house.’

A committee of selectmen on ‘Names of the Streets, May, 1829,’ made the following report: ‘From Porter's corner, southeast to Wellington farm, Ship street.’ This name remained until November 15, 1872, when it was [p. 72] voted at town meeting ‘that the name of Ship street be changed to Riverside avenue.’

Bradbury avenue was named for Captain Wymond Bradbury, who owned the farm in 1795.

Cradock avenue gets its name from the founder of Medford.

Ship street ended at the ‘Red Gate,’ the entrance to Wellington farm, which was owned and tilled by the brothers Isaac and James Wellington, their fertile acres unbroken by street or railroad.

‘The Red Gate’ was located on Fourth street, a few rods east of its junction with Riverside avenue.

In those days Middlesex avenue had not been thought of, and what is now Riverside avenue, between the end of Fourth street and the Fellsway, was marsh land, a part of the thirty acres of land called the pine swamps, which was sold in 1656 by the Cradock heirs to Mr. Edward Collins of Cambridge. Mr. Collins sold this land, with four and a half acres of upland, to Mr. George Blanchard. The remains of these pine trees can still be seen on the marsh near the side of ‘Blackbird Village,’ and it is safe to say that many of these trees must have been marked with the king's arrow, such was their size.

The Western Division of the Boston & Maine Railroad cut through the Wellington farm in 1839, and the Medford Branch Railroad was incorporated March 7, 1845, and finished in 1847.

Before the Wellington station was built, a rough shed with a bench was all there was to protect the people from the storm. There was no agent, and if one wished to travel, he flagged the train himself, got his baggage aboard as best he could, and then climbed aboard himself. After dark a lantern was used, but more often the passenger did not wish to be bothered with it and so he carried a newspaper and as the train came in sight he scratched his brimstone match, lighted the newspaper and put it in the middle of the track and the train stopped. [p. 73]

The Wellington station was built in 1878-79 and Walter S. Sherman of Medford looked after the fires and cleaning until three months before the appointment of the first agent.

On April 21, 1883, Mr, Charles A. Ellsworth, a native of Ipswich, Mass., was appointed agent and entered service, which position he held continuously until May 8, 1911, when he resigned. When Mr. Ellsworth first took charge Wellington was a flag station and no tickets were sold.

Until the switch tower was built, about twenty years ago, the switches at the junction were all operated by hand, and a ball-signal pole, also worked by hand, took the place of the block system now in use. One ball, or red lantern at night, showed that the track was clear from main line trains; two balls gave the right of way to the Medford Branch trains. The trains also whistled for the switch, two long and two short blasts, blown as the outward train reached the dike (Revere Parkway); the inward signal was blown where the Fellsway now crosses the Medford Branch track. During the first twelve years Mr. Ellsworth was alone at the station, opening the station at 6.00 A. M. and closing it at 10.45 P. M.

In 1895 Mr. Frank Palmer was appointed baggage master.

The older residents of Wellington ever have a warm place in their hearts for Mr. Ellsworth, whose courteous manner and kindly smile made many a dull day seem brighter. In addition to his duties as station agent, Mr. Ellsworth had those of postmaster. He was appointed postmaster July 7, 1883, and the Wellington post office was established July 1, 1883. There was no free delivery in those days. If you wanted to know whether that expected letter had arrived you had to go to the station post office yourself or send somebody. There were two mails a day, the first arriving a few minutes past seven in the morning. If you happened to be an early riser and were down on time you saw Mr. Ellsworth [p. 74] come across the tracks with the bags in one hand and often dragging a trunk with the other, in the days before the railroad furnished a truck. After entering the waiting room he produced a bunch of keys, opened the door and passed out of sight. Next you heard a click and rattle as the lock of the first-class bag was opened, and then the noise of the packages of mail dropping on the floor; then a brief space when quiet reigned, and then came the thump, thump, thumperty thump, as the cancellation stamp did its work. That was long before back cancellation was abolished. Then came the click, click, as the bolts of the ticket window were thrown back, the window was raised, and there before him was a row of children's noses adorning the ticket shelf, and above each nose was a pair of expectant eyes. Then he ran through the mail, calling each name. If no answer came it was put in the alphabetically arranged pigeon-holes on the west side of the ticket office. The last mail came on the 5.25 P. M. train, and then the little waiting room presented a far different scene from that in the morning. There was the same row of noses around the edge of the ticket shelf, to be sure, but seated around the three sides of the room were the high school girls, chattering like magpies, telling the events of the day; there, too, were their older sisters who had just run down to get the air, although every one else said that—— ——had a new dress that she wanted—— ——, well, somebody's brother to see.

Then there were a few young matrons who came down to meet their husbands and to walk home with them, and over by the stove was a group of boys, still true to the old New England traditions, although wholly unconscious of it. Then came the train, and the already well-filled room was packed to capacity by the business men and a few women who chanced to have been in town shopping. An expectant hush fell over the place and the names were called; even the high school girls' chatter ceased for a time, for every one knew that if there was [p. 75] too much noise Mr. Ellsworth would wait until it was quiet, and that made supper just so much further away.

After the ‘mail was out’ the bolder youth walked up Fifth street with the maiden of his choice—if some one else didn't cut him out—and many are the courtships that have started at the old station post office and ‘going home from the mail.’ The mails were sent out on the 8.33 train in the morning and the 5.58 in the evening. Mr. Ellsworth served faithfully in his dual roll of station agent and postmaster until April 15, 1905, when upon his suggestion the Wellington post office was discontinued and was made a part of the Malden district and free delivery was established. A few months later the Wellington district was transferred to the Medford post office where it has remained to date. In 1911 Mr. Ellsworth gave up his position as station agent and bought a house in Middleton, Mass., where he is glad to welcome his many friends.

For some time prior to 1872 the residents of Wellington tried to secure a bridge across the Malden river and thence over Malden bridge to Boston. The Legislature had granted the right to bridge either the Malden or Mystic, as the county commissioners should judge best for the public good, and the commissioners had, after protracted hearings, decided to bridge the Mystic near Ten-hill farm. They then ordered Medford to build that part of the road on the north side of the river and Somerville that part of the south side leading to the bridge, and the county to build the bridge. They further ordered that the street should be made thirty feet wide, but it was later changed to sixty feet. The road in Medford, now Middlesex avenue, was built by James W. Perry for $26,351. The bridge was completed early in the spring of 1874, but was not opened to the public until September. Mr. Charles A. Ellsworth took charge June 22, 1874, and resigned April 15, 1883. He was followed by Mr. Waterhouse of Medford, who was succeeded by Mr. Henry Angier of Somerville, who in turn was succeeded [p. 76] by Mr. Thomas Leahy of Medford, the present superintendent.

This bridge was repaired several times and was replaced by the one built by the Metropolitan Park Commission, which was completed in 1904. Just across the Mystic on a beach, now filled in, a short distance east of the bridge, is the probable site of the launching of the first vessel of any size whose keel was laid on the Mystic. She was a bark of thirty tons called The Blessing of the Bay, and was built by Governor Winthrop and launched July 4, 1631, costing, £ 145.

Five years later Governor Winthrop said he would sell her for £ 160.

The Osgood school (now the home of the Wellington Improvement Association) was built on Salem street near the Malden line in 1851 by Beaty and Bradlee at a cost of $3,375. It was moved to Wellington in 1883, and was used until the new Osgood school was completed in 1912. At first the lower room only was used for school purposes, but in the fall of 1885 the grammar and intermediate grades were moved to the upper room and the primary grades occupied the lower room.

Until 1872 or 1873 every household had his own private water supply of either a well or cistern.

In 1870 the Medford Water Company commenced the work of laying pipes from Spot pond to Medford square, and it was about two years later that the service was extended to Wellington.

The Wellington farm was in the thirties and forties a large milk producer, having a herd of over one hundred cows. Work began at two o'clock in the morning. The cans were loaded on the wagon and the daily milk was delivered to the hotels and paid for every day at the rate of four pence, half penny a quart, or fifty cents a can.

About 1854 the farm was laid out in house lots, but the enterprise did not flourish until twenty years later, when the Middlesex avenue bridge was completed. The growth was slow until the Fellsway line of the Elevated [p. 77] road was completed. Since then it has been rapidly increasing.

In 1869 there were but seven houses on the farm. They were: Blanchard (old house); house corner Middlesex and Riverside avenues; Mansion house, Bradbury avenue; J. E. Wellington's, Middlesex avenue; yellow house on Third street, in rear of new school house; Davis house, corner Middlesex avenue and Fourth street; Clover house, corner Riverside avenue, opposite Hall.

After the bridge was finished seven more were built, all within two or three years. They were: Thompson house, Third street; Wood house, Fourth street; Kittredge house, Fifth street; Croswell house, Fourth street; Mitchell house, Fourth street; Ball house, Fourth street.

The chapel on Fourth street was the outgrowth of song services held originally in the homes of different residents. The movement gathered momentum, and after the school house was moved from Salem street, the services were held in the upper room until 1885, when it was taken for school purposes.

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 Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: