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The road through the woods.

It was a mile and three-quarters long. Originally longer, it extended from the Menotomy corn mill on Mystic river and crossed the way to the weare, where in 1660 was a dwelling in lease-hold of one Golden Moor. It was the country road from Cambridge to Woburn, and doubtless lay over the Indian trail followed by Myles Standish on his memorable journey of September 21, 1621, the first recorded visit of white men to what became our ancient town of Medford.

It is one of our oldest roads. Two centuries and a half after the death of the old Indian king on the crown of the hill, there was erected the ‘grey stone house’ of Peter C. Brooks (third of the name), who has but a few years since passed away. So only two families have succeeded the Indian on these hilltops as residents.

This old road is certainly of great interest, as the county records show that in 1693 the court considered it an ‘ancient highway,’ and in 1709 a committee reported its view of two localities, which report discontinued [p. 21] the former southern end, the more ‘ancient road where Wheeler his mill formerly stood.’ October, 1709, it reported, ‘Beginning at Adams his gate in Menotomy, allowing three rods in breadth to the Weares, where the road now lyeth a long time improved, and from said weares to Ebenezer Brooks his gate which is between said Brooks and John Francis, and from said Brooks his gate to Symms his farm, . . . assuring to Samuel Brooks the barn one end of which stands in the highway while the barn stands, and no longer.’

No name was given this road, but the committee told of considering the way to Convers' mill in Woburn (recently Whitney's in Winchester). A short road ran from this to the mill of Symmes (now Wedgemere) which from 1754 to 1851 was in ‘Upper Medford.’ To this day there are but three or four houses southward from that short road.

It remains a country road, with no dwellings, for a mile to the stone farmhouse and Lowell railway. It is beautiful for situation, the rising hill on one side and the shining lakes and higher hills on the other, but in recent years less used since the opening of the Mystic Valley parkway. Stone walls four feet high border either side, overgrown with woodbine and unbroken save only at entrance drives. No sidewalks are needed, but instead grassy borders and natural shrubbery, including the brilliant barberry and sumac. It is still a road through the woods. Though the old-time forest is gone, it is replaced by the modern forestry of the later generation of owners. Historian Brooks gives a glimpse of it in 1789:—

Thomas Brooks, Esq., ‘marrying justice,’ while riding on horseback to Woburn, discovered a party of six young persons riding toward him. He guessed their errand; and they guessed that the cocked hat, bush wig, and silver buckles approaching them belonged to ‘the squire.’ The bridegroom announced his wishes, and the squire replied thus: ‘My young friends, we are here in the midst of this lofty forest, on an unfrequented road, with God's clear sky above and his green earth beneath and we will not be [p. 22] disturbed. I propose to solemnize your marriage here. What say you’ They gladly consented. Telling them not to dismount, he arranged them in order, ladies and gentlemen facing each other, with his own horse between the bride and groom. Then taking off his hat, he began his prayer; and report said he was ‘gifted in prayer,’ and on this occasion ‘prayed like an angel.’ The plight of vows was made, the union declared, benediction pronounced, and the whole party journeyed back together, rejoicing in the poetry appended to the great event.

Perhaps romance, as well as poetry, attached to this road through the woods, as in later years, it, as well as the tow-path of the canal, was a veritable ‘lovers' lane.’

We recall that after the ceremony many years ago another happy couple rode over the same ‘unfrequented road’ one moonlight night to their new home in the West End of Medford. It was then known as Grove street, but not till about a century ago it was announced by the selectmen thus: From High street near the canal bridge by P. C. Brooks' to Symmes corner, Grove street. This reminds us that the Middlesex canal had been cut through the Brooks land and in operation in 1803. The bridge at High street was somewhat elevated and one was required to unite the dissevered parts of his estate. In 1820, Mr. Brooks, at his own expense, had built one of granite, an elliptical arch of marvelous beauty and construction. After the closing of the canal it was ever kept in excellent condition until it passed into new ownership which failed to appreciate its historic worth to the new village and used it in cellar wall building. But at the other end of the Brooks property, just a century ago, the canal company rebuilt their Aberjona aqueduct of granite, within the estimated cost and so it would require no repairs for a century. Thus said the agent in his annual report. Alas for human calculations. The canal's rival, the Boston and Lowell railroad, cut another way through the estate and began the quicker travel by steam power in 1835. In 1860, the city of Charlestown built its water-works, raising the level of the upper pond six feet by the erection of a dam at the narrow strait known [p. 23] as The Partings. At that time there was a large, extensive woodland in that vicinity, utilized in that work. The contour of the upper pond was much changed, the mouth of the Aberjona became up-stream where was once the Symmes mill, thus destroying its water-power. Later came the Mystic valley parkway, over whose surface the modern automobiles so rapidly roll along.

Grove street, once the road through the woods, has lost none of its beauty and charm, and may some day vie with its neighbors across the water, Interlaken and Morningside.

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