The Touro house and its owner.
Some of our older Medford
residents will remember the old, comfortable-appearing dwelling on South
street, which, perhaps a dozen years since, was demolished to make way for the erection of several apartment houses.
It faced the river, sat low on the ground, well back from the street, with ample space about it. The main house was L-shaped; in the internal angle was a large square veranda, its roof supported at the outer corner by a massive round column.
A peculiar feature of the house was the circular end toward South
street, in which was a chimney and fireplaces.
Aside from that of the elder Magoun
, it was the only one in old Medford
that had any circular construction.
It was never painted in color, always white, and its solid appearance, especially its window frames and cornice, showed it to be the work of old-time mechanics who knew their calling.
Its walls were weather-boarded with clapboards, well lapped in width and at ends.
These extended around the circle also—another proof of the workmen's skill.
This house was, a century ago, the summer home of Abraham Touro
, a wealthy Boston
merchant, who went out from it one morning but never again came to it because of an accident resulting in his death in Boston
on October 20, 1822.
We have alluded elsewhere in this issue to a ‘Touro
—Lafayette episode,’ and now quote from page 493, Brooks
' History of Medford
1825.—Medford has not been a resort for Jews; but it had one who is remembered with interest, Abraham Touro, eminent for his social and generous qualities.
When General Lafayette reached Massachusetts, Mr. Touro offered him his noble horse for his entrance into Boston.
On the day of that triumphal entry, Mr. Touro was standing in his chaise to catch his first sight of the illustrious visitor, when a sudden start of his horse threw him from his place and broke his leg. The fracture was a very bad one, and the patient grew worse daily.
The physicians and surgeons did all they could, and finally assured him that nothing but amputation could save his life.
With a Jew's traditionary prejudice against that operation, he firmly answered thus: ‘No! I will never go into heaven with one leg.’
made brief mention of his wealth and legacies.
We can but wonder what he would think could he read the Medford
tax-list today; and also as to his source of information relative to Lafayette
, whose first return to this country was in the fall of 1824, two years after Mr. Touro
From the Independent Chronicle and Patriot
of Wednesday, October 25, 1822, we quote the following, which may be regarded as authentic:
Died. On Friday afternoon, Abraham Touro, Esq., merchant, [p. 80] aged, abt. 46.
While viewing the military parade on the 3d inst. in a chaise, his horse was frightened by the fire of the artillery, and became unmanageable, and Mr. T. in leaping from the chaise fractured his leg so seriously, that notwithstanding the best surgical assistance, a mortification ensued and terminated his life.
We learn that among other legacies, he has bequeathed 10,000 dollars to the General Hospital and 15,000 to the synagogue at Newport, at which place his body will be interred.
So it appears that his offer of ‘his noble horse’ to Lafayette
for a triumphant entry into Boston
(which has been accepted as veritable history since 1855), vanishes; and must be added to the catalogue of ‘Medford Myths.’
But how came this accident to happen?
We will summon a former Medford
man, Caleb Swan
His testimony is not a deposition under oath to be filed in court, but is, however, in writing and interleaved in his copy of Mr. Brooks
' history at page 493, on which page is written
1824 beside the printed 1825. Mr. Swan
evidently observed the dissimilarity in date, but makes no note of the error
as to Lafayette
Mr Dudley Hall told me in 18533 [that] Mr. Touro lent his own horse to a military friend to ride on the Parade—and his friend sent his own horse to Mr Touro, to use in place of his own—after breakfast, he concluded to drive the horse into Boston, and drove over to Mr Hall, to ride in with him. Mr H. did not wish to go that day, but Mr. Touro urged him, and finally told him he did not like to go alone with so spirited a horse as he had, when Mr H. got into the Chaise, and rode into Boston, and then left him [at] head of Elm Street, and went into State Street. Mr. Touro then drove up to the Common, where the accident happened.
B. L. S.[wan] says Mr Touro was standing up in his Chaise to look over the heads of the Crowd, and see the Troops, when at I 2, a Cannon was fired—his horse started, and turned around when he fell out—his leg was broken below the knee.
The ‘Parade’ was the fall inspection of the militia of Boston
and the review on the Common.
purchased five copies of the ‘History of Medford
’ at its publication in '55, and in 1905 his personal copy with his interleavings was given to the Historical Society by his grandson, Charles Herbert Swan
, [p. 81]
only recently deceased.
The ‘military friend’ with whom Mr. Touro
made the temporary exchange of horses, was undoubtedly Governor Brooks
; and the occasion of this inspection and review may have been his last, certainly one of his latest, public appearances.
Probably Mr. Touro
, in leaving his pleasant home in Medford
that morning, little thought that he was never to return to it. We are unable to ascertain whether his death occurred at the hospital or at his Boston
residence, —but probably at the former—nor yet anything of his funeral.
He was president of the Medford Turnpike
Corporation at the time of his death, though not one of the original stockholders, but there is no note of his passing upon its records.
It is fitting here to reproduce, from the pen of a modern historian and genealogist, the following which we find in our Society's library.
It is signed with his pen name
, but he ‘in propria persona
’ gives us his permission thus to use it:
Notes and queries, Boston transcript
To this we will add that the Medford turnpike
and [p. 83] Middlesex canal
paid dividends for a time.
As to Mr. Touro
's shipyard or vessels he had built in Medford
—we fail to find even the slightest mention of any such in that long list compiled by Rev. Augustus Baker
Yet, Mr. Touro
, with his wealth, may
have been a ‘silent partner’ in that great Medford
business of a century ago. As said above, his name is preserved, and is in daily use in Medford
in Touro avenue, but we know of no relic of his old home other than the iron fireback taken from the chimney and given to the Royall House Association.
was the son of Rev. Isaac Touro
, and had a brother Judah, who was seriously wounded ‘on the field of Chalmette
,’ in the battle which occurred after peace was declared.
Rescued by his ‘dear, old and devoted friend,’ Rezen Davis Shepherd
, he lived for nearly forty years, dying at Richmond, Va.
, at the age of seventy-seven years. It may be remembered that his gift of $10,000 contributed largely to success in the erection of Bunker Hill
sleep in the Jewish cemetery
at Newport, R. I.
Doubtless the inscription on Judah
's tablet may be well applied to Abraham of Medford
By righteousness and integrity he collected his wealth, In charity and salvation he dispensed it.