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[p. 68]

Medford Smelt and Smelt Brooks.

THE Register's editor recently received an appreciative letter containing inquiries which suggest two of our following articles. Our correspondent, a former Medford boy, writes ‘I was familiar with [Meeting-house] brook in 1840. It was a capital smelt brook, and we caught many in our hands.’ In another letter he says, ‘I used to catch smelts in Whitmore brook.’

Another and older Medford boy, Caleb Swan, has left the following written record of December, 1855:—

Meeting-house brook rises north of Mr. Dudley Hall's land, and east of Mr. Swan's woods called Ram-head. It runs through Mr. Peter C. Hall's farm, and through Mr. Swan's meadow, and unites with the creek from the river by the old meeting-house lot owned by Mr. Swan. In April, immense numbers of smelts come up from the river and creek into the brook. They are taken in scoop-nets by the boys, early in the morning, in great quantities. They are a very sweet and delicious fish, [of] long slender shape and bright silvery sides; 6 to 8 inches long, and 6 to 10 weigh a pound. . . .

Dr. Swan wrote B. L. S.,1 April 23, 1855—

Over 5 Bushels were taken today in the brook in your meadow.

And on April 10, 1856, Dr. Swan wrote to his brother Caleb—

Timothy Swan caught a good mess of smelts last night; he says they have come quite plenty.

Mr. Caleb Swan, living in New York, made note thus, January 3, 1863:—

Some very small smelts are now brought to market in New York; they are sold to French restaurants. I had a pound of them counted this morning by James, my fishman, and there were 55 smelts.

Historian Brooks also modestly mentions another Medford boy who caught smelts in these same brooks, in the same primitive fashion first named.

Those fifty-five-to-a-pound smelts of the New York market were doubtless degenerate in Mr. Swan's estimation, as the ‘brother doctor's’ letters from Medford stirred the memories of boyhood days. [p. 69]

Though smelts have in recent years been seen in Whitmore brook, it is unlikely that they have come up stream since the building of the Cradock dam. Since the denuding of the hill slopes around Bear meadow, Whitmore brook has shrunk noticeably, and for several summers failed entirely in its lower reach. Should our correspondent, the Medford boy of 1840, visit his early haunts he would find Meeting-house brook but little changed, but Whitmore brook at its best he would not recognize. The city has put some fifteen rods of it below High street in a strait-jacket of concrete. The old wooden bridge and the ford-way for watering horses is gone, and a stone bridge is beneath the street. House foundations border it, and ever and anon it disappears beneath other streets and front-door yards, while in the Playstead it is spanned by several bridges of rubble stone and concrete. ‘Art and man's device’ have there done much to beautify its course, but what it needs most is water.

Different conditions exist along Meeting-house brook, though its head waters of 1840 have long since been diverted by the south dam of the Winchester Water Works. From thence to within sight of Winthrop street it flows through woodland, and a stroll along its winding course will reveal ‘a beautiful spot’ our correspondent refers to. Medford people will do well to become better acquainted with its sylvan retreats.


A Medford mill site, formerly occupied by one John Albree, a weaver, who bought land in Medford in 1720. Was seen near ‘Mr. Noah Johnson's’ in 1855. The water supply was small, and failing, the mill fell into disuse. Any information relative to the same will be thankfully received by the editor.


Some one to ‘write up the story of the Frenchman's mill,’ whose location was at the ‘Bower.’ Inquiry has [p. 70] been made therefor by a former resident of Medford, and a paper containing facts will be welcome at the Register office.

Strayed or stolen,

A Medford streamlet known as Whitmore brook. Its usual course lay between Bear meadow and Mystic river. For the last few years it has had times of disappearance; is said to have been abducted by the market farmers, or stolen by the gypsy moth. Any one restoring the same will be gratefully remembered.


Some one with ‘civic pride,’ public spirit or private munificence, to ‘plant a hogshead of acorns’ at the ‘Rocks’ and on the bare hillsides, as was suggested by Rev. Charles Brooks sixty years ago. Any person doing thus may become a benefactor, and add to the beauty of Medford, as well as conserve its water courses.

Information wanted,

In relation to a silver mine, said to have been opened in Medford at about 1880.

Also, some facts regarding the Medford Salt Marsh Corporation of 1803, its promoters and purposes. Address the editor.


On the bank of Mystic River, about six years ago, a swimming place known as ‘Second beach.’ When last seen it was near the railroad embankment. Its restoration would be appreciated by Medford boys.


Between Auburn street and the railroad, a stagnant pool of dirty water, said to be the remains of Mystic river. The owner (unknown) will receive the congratulations of the public on proving property and paying the amount needful for filling same and abating the existing nuisance. The same was created by the Metropolitan Park Commission by uncompleted work.

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