Cambridge town, 1750-1846.
The period in the history of Cambridge
which we are about to consider naturally divides itself into two portions, the line of separation between which is furnished by the Revolution.
The marked differences in the career of the town, caused by its change from a township in the Royal
Province of Massachusetts Bay
to one of the fundamental parts which constituted the State of Massachusetts
, would attract the attention of the most casual observer.
Geographically it had already been greatly reduced in area.
During the period which we are considering it was to be still further curtailed by the incorporation of Brighton
and West Cambridge
as separate townships, while as a slight compensation the area along the river west of Sparks Street was to be taken from Watertown
and added to the jurisdiction of Cambridge
As we first view the town in 1750, there is much that is picturesque in the placid life of its inhabitants, who numbered perhaps 1500, and who were settled mainly in the neighborhood of the college.
The outlying settlement at Menotomy
had already taken its first step towards separate life as a township.
It had been incorporated as a precinct, and a church had been regularly organized there.
The interest taken by the inhabitants of the body of the town, in the struggle of the residents south of the Charles River
for similar privileges, was far greater during the years of political inaction which preceded the attempts of Great Britain
to tax the colonies than that produced by the slight participation of the town in the prolonged contest between the colonies and the French
As early as 1744, an attempt had been made to secure the necessary legislation for the establishment of a separate parish south of the Charles
Unsuccessful at that time, the petitioners renewed the contest in 1748, only to be defeated.
the discussion that then took place, the members of the First Parish claimed that if the petition were allowed, compensation should be made by adding to the parish a number of families residing in Charlestown
, who had for years attended public worship in Cambridge
In December, 1753, the question was again presented to the General Court, and again the petition for a separate precinct was dismissed.
A petition made at the same time by the First Parish for the annexation to Cambridge
of that portion of Watertown
west of what we now know as Sparks Street, and south of Vassall Lane, extending to Fresh Pond
The committee to whom it was referred reported, April 17, 1754, in its favor, and the next day an order to that effect was passed by the Assembly.
In 1758, the inhabitants south of Charles River
again petitioned for a separate precinct.
Consideration of this petition was postponed from time to time, but in March, 1760, a committee reported, recommending practically that it be granted, and that as a compensation, a part of the territory of Charlestown
should be annexed to the First Parish.
Action on this report was deferred until April 17, 1761, when it was submitted, but not adopted.
A compromise measure offered the next day met a better fate.
The residents south of the Charles
did not secure their separate autonomy, but an annual allowance of £ 52 was granted them for the support of preaching in their meeting-house, and they were exempted from paying their proportion for the new meeting-house of the First Parish.
A strip of land in Charlestown
was at the same time annexed to the First Parish.
This extended from the salt-water creek adjoining Lieutenant-Governor Phips
's farm up to the Stone Powder-House
, and thence to the Medford
Unfortunately for Cambridge
this annexed territory was not to become an integral part of the First Parish unless the inhabitants thereof should fail within two months to give security to the treasurer of the parish for the annual payment of their proportion of the charges of maintaining public worship in the parish, so long as they should attend worship there.
The threat to these Charlestown
people of being permanently attached to Cambridge
, unless they should settle with the treasurer of the First Parish, apparently served its purpose, and this district remained a part of Charlestown
The compromise with the inhabitants south of the river resulted in a truce, which lasted for sixteen years, but in 1774 they renewed their efforts for separation.
The General Court, to which the petition was presented, was adjourned by General Gage
before it was considered, and there is no reason to suppose that action could have been had upon it during the excitement of the brief session at that place.
In 1778, a new petition to the same effect was presented.
This was met by a counter-petition presented by families living on the south side of the river, within easy distance of the First Parish Church, who protested against being compelled to sever their connection with that organization.
On the first of May a bill was passed incorporating the precinct, but exempting from ministerial taxation therein certain of the protestants.
Thus was this long protracted struggle concluded by the triumph of the separatists.
Begun at a period when it was of the utmost importance to the townspeople and was the all-absorbing topic of local politics, it was continued during the passage of events which completely overshadowed it, and was concluded at a time when all thoughts were concentrated upon the impending struggle with the Mother Country
A separate church was founded in the precinct in 1783, and the parish was incorporated as the town of Brighton
, February 24, 1807. Three days thereafter West Cambridge
was incorporated as an independent township.
The act under which this last was accomplished was not, however, to take effect until June 1, 1807.
The body of the town, as the central settlement was formerly termed, was in 1750 centred upon that part of the Common now called Harvard Square. Here were the church and the courthouse standing side by side in open ground, part of which is now to be found in the square itself and the rest within the college yard.
These buildings could either of them be used for town meetings, and Cambridge
was therefore for a long while exempted from the necessity of erecting a separate town-house.
The jail stood on the northerly side of Winthrop Street, between Winthrop Square and Eliot Street. In 1757, the county built a new court-house on the lot where Lyceum Hall now stands, and this structure was occupied for county purposes until the removal of the courts and records to East Cambridge in 1816, when both it and the Winthrop Street
jail were abandoned.
The burial ground adjoining the present First Parish Church was in 1750 the town burial ground.
Provision for the support of the poor in private families was made in early times out of the town rate, and it was not until 1779 that an estate was secured by the town for a poorhouse.
This property, which stood at the northeast corner of Brighton
streets, was sold in 1786, and about five acres lying at the southwest corner of North Avenue and Cedar Street were purchased.
A building called The Poor's House was erected thereon.
A new meeting-house for the First Parish, nearly on the site of the one then in being, was raised November 17, 1756.
The first service was held in it July 24, 1757.
The college contributed one seventh of the cost of its erection, and also, in consideration of the acceptance of certain conditions which it imposed relative to the interior construction, it relinquished to the parish a strip of land in order that the building might be set further back from the street than the site of the former house.
It was in this church that Washington
attended divine service when in Cambridge
at the head of the army.
It was here that the convention to frame a constitution for Massachusetts
held its sessions in 1779.
It was here that Lafayette
was received in 1824, and here also, for three quarters of a century, the Commencement and other public exercises of the college were held.
The distribution of the population in the three parishes in 1750 is largely a matter for conjecture.
We have, however, the means of forming an approximate opinion.
In 1765, the inhabitants numbered 1571. Eleven years later, there were 1586.
There can be but little doubt that in 1750 the population was in the neighborhood of 1500, of whom about one half lived in the body of the town, one third in Menotomy
, and one sixth south of the Charles
Manufactures were unknown.
Laborers found their way to their work without the aid of a chorus of dissonant whistles, nor were there other means at hand than the church-bell to rouse distant slumberers in case of fire at night.
The bellowing of some sleep-destroying instrument was far more needed then than now, for Cambridge
was dependent then upon the industry and perseverance of her citizens at large for checking the progress of her fires.
The first trace which Mr. Paige
finds of the organization of a fire company and the purchase of a fire engine was in 1803.
Yet in the account of the burning of Harvard Hall in January, 1764, we learn that
(the first of that name) and Massachusetts
were saved through the exertions of citizens, members of the General Court, and even of the governor himself, who, ‘notwithstanding the extreme rigor of the season, exerted themselves in supplying the town-engine with water, which they were obliged to fetch at last from a distance, two of the College
pumps being then rendered useless.’
When was this engine purchased which is here alluded to as the town-engine?
If we could ascertain, we could fix the birth of our fire department.
Perhaps it was the engine belonging to Henry Vassall
, which in 1755 he offered for the use of the town upon certain conditions.
The town did not then accept the offer.
Whether we have here a clue which will add to the years claimed for the life of our fire department or not, the scene presented to our view, of citizens and members of the provincial government, working side by side, passing buckets from the neighboring wells, in their efforts to prevent the conflagration from spreading to the other college buildings, is of great interest.
The sight was to them a sad one.
The collection of books which formed the library of the college, the philosophical instruments, the gifts of rare and curious objects, and the portraits which had been given to the college, fed the flames which the citizens were seeking to hold in check.
Our interest in this scene is not confined to the lines of men passing water in buckets from distant wells to feed the feeble stream of the little tub which was at work trying to prevent the progress of the conflagration.
The contrast with the rapid throbs of the powerful engines of to-day, which make the air palpitate for a mile from the fire where they are at work, is striking, but there is another feature which makes this scene memorable.
Its position in time is at the end of the days of pastoral simplicity in Cambridge
It was not only the last occasion when royal officers and prominent citizens actually worked together with a common impulse, but it was close to the time when such cooperation was scarcely possible upon any point.
The era of political activity was about to begin.
The attention of the people of Cambridge
was to be devoted to other topics than the protection of the First Parish.
The arousing of that sentiment which led to the Declaration of Independence
was accomplished in Massachusetts
through the town organizations.
In this work Cambridge
, as a town, lent a hand, and there is scarcely a proceeding in the preliminary struggle which
is not illustrated by some vote recorded by the Cambridge town
The serenity of the town was but slightly disturbed by the indignation aroused by the arbitrary legislation of Parliament for the suppression of the Land Bank
Its interests were not seriously impaired by the enforcement of the navigation acts.
There is no conspicuous record of the use of writs of assistance within its borders; but from the time that the anger of the people of the province had determined them to oppose the Stamp Act, the record of the citizens of the town in opposition to the royal measures for raising revenue and enforcing parliamentary acts was bold and unyielding.
The outbreak in Boston
, which resulted in the destruction of Hutchinson's house, was deplored by the inhabitants of Cambridge
, and they voted in town meeting on the 29th of August, 1765, that they abhorred and detested such proceedings, and would use their utmost endeavors to protect the dwelling-houses and property of residents of Cambridge
from such outrages.
While they were thus outspoken in condemnation of the Boston
mob, they were not ready to have the loss charged to the province, and instructed their representatives on the 14th of October to vote against any such proceeding.
From this opinion, after the repeal of the Stamp Act, they receded, and at a town meeting in October, 1766, instructed their representatives to favor compensation to the sufferers from the public treasury.
The Stamp Act itself they declared by a vote in the town meeting in October, 1765, to be an infraction of their rights, and they recommended their representatives to endeavor to secure its repeal, and to do nothing which should aid its operation.
In May, 1766, the representatives were instructed not to give their suffrage to office-holders, the purpose being to exclude from the council certain crown officers who were supposed to be too subservient to the royal interests.
Deeming it important that the public should know what was under discussion in the Assembly, and in general what took place there, the representatives were instructed to endeavor to have a gallery constructed in the room where they were in the habit of meeting, to which the public should be admitted.
In 1767, the Townshend duties were laid by Parliament.
representatives sought cooperation both in England
and in this country for their repeal.
In May, 1768,
the governor required the House of Representatives to repeal the resolution by which they had appealed to the other colonies for aid in this behalf, and when this was refused, he dissolved the General Court.
Rumors followed this act that more soldiers were to be stationed at Boston
A town meeting was thereupon held in that place September 12, 1768, at which the inhabitants voted to request the governor to convene the General Court, and a committee was appointed to ascertain from him whether he expected the arrival of any more troops.
The governor declared himself unable under his instructions to call a General Court.
As to the troops, he said that his information that they might be expected came from private sources, and not from any official announcement.
It was thereupon voted to call a convention of the several towns of the province, to be held September 22, in Faneuil Hall, to consult as to the measures for the peace and safety of the province.
To this convention Cambridge
sent two delegates.
They were not chosen, however, until September 29.
In May, 1769, the governor once more convened the General Court, but they, immediately after organization, remonstrated with him for compelling them to hold their sessions in a place where a standing army was posted, and where there was a military guard with cannon pointed at the very door of the State-House
, in which the session was being held.
The governor replied that the only remedy at his command was to remove the General Court to a place where these objections would not apply, and he accordingly adjourned the session to Harvard College, in Cambridge
On the evening of March 5, 1770, occurred the deplorable event generally spoken of as the Boston Massacre
In this affair Cambridge
was not called upon to mourn the loss of any of her citizens, but from the Boston Records
we learn that a message of sympathy was sent, and an offer of assistance if occasion should require.
In November, 1772, the famous Committee of Correspondence was organized for the purpose of stating the rights and grievances of the colonists.
The circular letter and the pamphlet issued by the Boston
committee were duly read at a town meeting held in Cambridge
, December 14, and a committee was appointed on the part of Cambridge
, which was instructed to acquaint the Boston
committee that Cambridge
concur in all salutary, proper, and constitutional measures for the redress of the intolerable grievances which threatened, and which, if continued, would overthrow the happy civil constitution of the province.
The committee was also instructed to take under consideration the infringements upon the rights of the people which were complained of, and to report at an adjournment of the meeting.
It was also to prepare instructions to the Cambridge
After a recess of a few minutes this committee submitted a report, in which a long and carefully prepared review of the situation prefaced instructions to the representative to use his greatest influence at the next session of the General Court for a speedy redress of all grievances.
He was also recommended to ascertain if the salaries of the judges of the Superior Court were adequate, and if he found that they were not, he was to use his best endeavors to have them increased to an amount suitable for the position.
The meeting then adjourned for three weeks. On the 28th of December, the committee placed itself in correspondence with the Boston
committee, reporting the proceedings of the Cambridge
meeting, and expressing full sympathy with the action taken by the Boston
On the 4th of January, 1773, the meeting was reconvened, and the committee then reported that the rights of the colonists were properly stated by the Boston
committee, and that the alleged infringements and violations were notorious facts.
They reported a resolve condemning the attempt to make the judges of the Superior Court dependent upon the Crown, by giving them fixed stipends, independent of the people.
The attempt to collect a duty on tea led to the agreement on the part of the patriots that they would no longer use the leaf.
This duty was laid by Parliament in 1773.
The dramatic method in which the inhabitants of Boston
and vicinity resisted the attempts to land tea in that place marks a conspicuous point in the attempts of the colonists to resist the ministry in their efforts to raise money in the colonies by taxation.
At a town meeting held in Cambridge
November 26 of that year, which was described in the records as a ‘very full’ meeting, the opposition of the town to the collection of this duty was set forth in great detail.
The claim of Parliament to tax the colonists was defined to be a claim to levy contributions at pleasure.
The duty on tea was, in the opinion of the people
, neither more nor less than a tax. The application of the money thus raised in support of the government would tend to render the Assembly useless.
Every American should resist this plan of the ministers.
The sending of the tea here by the East India Company, subject to the payment of duties, was an open attempt to enforce the ministerial plan, and a violent attack on the liberties of America
Every person who should aid, directly or indirectly, in unloading, receiving, or vending any tea subject to these duties, was declared to be an enemy of America
The factors appointed in Boston
by the East India Company, who had been requested to resign this appointment, but who had refused to do so, had by this conduct forfeited all right to the respect of their fellow-countrymen.
For this reason the town of Cambridge
would not show them respect, but would view them as enemies of their country.
Any person who should harbor these factors, unless they should immediately make full satisfaction to a justly incensed people, was declared to be unfriendly to his country.
Any person who should import tea, subject to this duty, was said to be an enemy to be treated with the same contempt as the factors of the East India Company.
And finally it was resolved ‘That this town can no longer stand idle spectators, but are ready, on the shortest notice, to join with the town of Boston
, and other towns, in any measures that may be thought proper, to deliver ourselves and posterity from slavery.’
On the evening of December 10, 1773, occurred the far-famed incident of throwing overboard in Boston harbor
the cargoes of tea which had been forwarded to that port by the East India Company.
Of the connection of Cambridge
men with this event we have no record, but the effects were felt throughout the Province.
The Boston Port Bill, through which Parliament sought to punish Boston
for the destruction of the tea, received the royal assent March 30, 1774.
The act took effect June 1, 1774, and for the time being the commerce of Boston
Cambridge of course suffered from this proceeding, but on the 28th of July the town voted that the Committee of Correspondence should be a committee to receive and transmit to their destination gifts for the relief of their distressed brethren in Boston
The next step resorted to by the British Parliament for bringing the recalcitrant colonists into line was the passage of the
act for the better regulation of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay
Among other changes made by this act, it was provided that the Council or Court of Assistants should be appointed by his Majesty with the advice of the Privy Council.
The councilors thus appointed were termed Mandamus Councilors.
Among them were three Cambridge
men: Thomas Oliver
, and councilor by virtue of his office, Samuel Danforth
, and Joseph Lee
. The change in the method of creating the board was but one among many which this act effected, but unfortunately for these particular gentlemen, the offensive nature of their act in accepting an appointment under the circumstances was brought to the consideration of their fellow-citizens at a period of intense excitement.
It appeared that Major-General Brattle
, of Cambridge
, had notified General Gage
that the Medford
selectmen had removed from the powder-house in Charlestown
, now known as the Somerville Powder-House
, a stock of powder belonging to the town, thus leaving only the powder which belonged to the province.
On receipt of this information Gage
sent out some troops, and brought in to Boston
the powder from the powder-house, and from Cambridge
two fieldpieces which had been sent there for Brattle's regiment.
There was much speculation in Boston
when the march of these troops became known, as to their destination, and word was sent to the neighboring towns that the expedition was under way, in order that they might be prepared for action.
This movement took place on Thursday, September 1.
The same evening a body of Cambridge
citizens surrounded the house of Jonathan Sewall
at the westerly corner of Sparks and Brattle streets, who was attorney-general and also, under the new plan, judge of the admiralty.
With the exception that a few panes of glass were destroyed, nothing came of this gathering of the people.
The next day, however, several thousands of the inhabitants of that part of Middlesex County
gathered around the court-house in that portion of the Common now called Harvard Square. To them Judge Danforth
and Judge Lee
each made an address, stating their determination not to serve upon the new Council Board, and in confirmation of this conclusion each of them submitted in writing a copy of a written certificate to that effect, attested by the clerk of the court.
The high sheriff of the courts, who was present, submitted a certificate in similar form, to the effect that he would
not execute any precepts under the new act of Parliament, and that he would recall the venires which he had already sent out. The clerk of the courts of Middlesex
engaged to do no one thing in obedience to the new act of Parliament.
The meeting apparently adjourned from the Common to the residence of Lieutenant-Governor Oliver
, on the westerly side of Elmwood Avenue, now known as the Lowell house
, where the lieutenant-governor made a promise of a similar nature over his own signature, the concluding sentence in which is, ‘My house at Cambridge
being surrounded by about four thousand people, in compliance with their command I sign my name,— Thomas Oliver
There was but one other person with whom the people in their indignation had to deal, and that was General Brattle
He had apparently taken refuge in Boston
, and from that place he wrote on the same day an explanatory and apologetic letter, in which he spoke of threatenings he had met, his banishment from his home, and the search of his house.
He said he was sorry for what had taken place, and hoped that he might be forgiven.
It requires no demonstration to show that this was one of the most exciting days in the history of Cambridge
The temper of the people was incapable of being misunderstood.
It does not appear that there was any collision with the troops, nor indeed could there have been any reasonable ground for opposing the removal of the powder which belonged to the province.
It is obvious, however, that the 2d of September, 1774, just escaped the historic importance of the 19th of April of the succeeding year.
As a sequel to these events, the town held a meeting October 3, 1774, and instructed the representatives whom they had chosen for the General Court, which was to meet at Salem
October 5, to act only with the council which had been chosen in May preceding.
They were also authorized to represent the town in a Provincial Congress, and either as members of the Assembly or as members of the Congress
, to consult with their fellow-members and determine what was most proper to deliver America
from the iron jaws of slavery.
This was of course revolutionary.
The council, established by act of Parliament, was deliberately refused recognition, and the representatives were authorized to represent the town, in a body whose very
existence would be a blow to royal authority.
was thoroughly in earnest in the stand thus taken, and was prepared to defend its position, is shown by a vote at the same meeting authorizing the selectmen to procure a carriage for the cannon belonging to the town, to purchase another cannon, and to furnish powder and balls for both.
The forethought of the town in providing the representatives to the General Court with alternative instructions to act as delegates to a Provincial Congress was justified by the event.
Before the time arrived for the assemblage of the General Court, Gage
prorogued that body, and the representatives, who reported at Salem
, organized as a Provincial Congress.
In the course of a few days they adjourned to Concord
, and after a short session in that place adjourned to Cambridge
, where they met October 17, and proceeded with their deliberations.
Among other acts of the court at this session was the appointment of a Receiver-General
of the province, to whom collectors were required to pay the province taxes.
On the 28th of November, the town voted that if any person should refuse to comply with this act of the Provincial Congress, the town would consider him as operating with the enemies of the rights and liberties of this injured and oppressed people.
The second Provincial Congress met in Cambridge
, on the 1st of February, 1775.
The event is perhaps worthy of record in our annals, although nothing occurred at this brief session which called for special action on the part of the town.
It was rumored in the early days of the session that Gage
proposed to march to Cambridge
at the head of his troops and break up the session, but events proved that it was only rumor.
The period of discussion was now over, and stirring times of action were near at hand.
The opportunity has seldom been furnished a town to write its own history so completely as Cambridge
has through the record of the votes at town meeting which has just been reviewed.
Throughout all these preliminary steps in opposition to the assertion of parliamentary power over the province we trace the action of the town.
When active military events supervene, the town as such no longer commands our attention, but our sympathy goes forth for the suffering of some individual inhabitant, or our pride is aroused by the heroic performances of some fellow-citizen.
It would be impracticable in this sketch to narrate in detail
the events that occurred in Cambridge
on the 19th of April, 1775, which might arouse our sympathy and stir up our pride.
This work has been performed with great fidelity by the historian of Cambridge
, and to his pages readers must turn if they would learn the particulars of what our citizens did and suffered on that day. It will be sufficient for our purposes if we note that the path of the British
troops, both going to and coming from Concord
, lay through our territory.
Twenty-six lives were lost within the boundaries of what then constituted Cambridge
, six of which were of inhabitants of the town.
The militia who followed the British
troops in their retreat were marched to Cambridge
, and were then ordered to lie on their arms.
For eleven months from that time Cambridge
was occupied by the American
The college buildings were made use of as barracks.
The library and apparatus of the college were first removed to Andover
, and then to Concord
, where for a time instruction was given.
The Episcopal church was converted into barracks, and many private houses were taken for the same purpose, or for hospitals.
The headquarters of General Ward
were in the house which stood nearly in front of the present Austin Hall
, and was long familiarly known as the Holmes House
There the movement was planned which resulted in the battle of Bunker Hill
was in close touch with that event, but the story of the battle must be sought in Frothingham
's ‘Siege of Boston
The details concerning the life and death of Colonel Thomas Gardner
, whom Cambridge
was called upon to mourn that day, will be found fully set forth in Paige
No man in Cambridge
had been more completely identified with the several steps taken by the town in protest and defiance of parliamentary oppression.
No man could more fittingly have exposed his life in defense of the local government, in the formation of which he had assisted, and of which he had from the beginning been a part.
No life that was lost in that battle better conveys the lesson of devotion to principle and the cheerful surrender of life in its behalf.
On the 3d of July, General Washington
assumed command of the army in Cambridge
His first headquarters were in the President's House
, still standing in the college yard, on Massachusetts Avenue, and sometimes called the Wadsworth House
After a few days they were transferred to the Vassall House
on Brattle Street, afterwards called the Craigie House
, but now generally spoken of as the Longfellow House
During the progress of the siege of Boston
became a sort of fortified camp.
The location of the several forts and the line of the breastworks have been preserved in maps and described by historians.
Of these works, one alone remains.
It stands at the foot of Allston Street. In 1858, it was restored to its original condition, and the entire site was surrounded with a substantial iron fence.
Three cannon, the gift of the United States
, were mounted in the embrasures, and there they stand to-day, perpetuating the memory that the current of the Charles
was once navigable even for hostile vessels, but with muzzles pointed in the air as if intolerant of the pollution of the stream.
There is perhaps a suggestion of fatigue and indecision in their attitudes, with their trunnions buried in gravel, and there are slight indications of a desire on their part for recumbency, as if they thought that Cambridge
did not appreciate their watchfulness.
After March 17, 1776, when Boston
was evacuated, Cambridge
ceased to be involved in the military events of the Revolution.
It was a curious feature of the preliminary contest of the colonies with Great Britain
, that the people constantly asserted their loyalty to the Mother Country
; but contact with actual bloodshed and participation in active military measures in time destroyed all feelings of allegiance on the part of the citizens of Cambridge
On the 27th of May, 1776, they unanimously voted that the towns of the province ought to instruct their representatives to favor independence.
The resolutions adopted at the time concluded with these words: ‘We the inhabitants of the town of Cambridge
, in full town meeting assembled and warned for the purpose aforesaid, do solemnly engage with our lives and fortunes to support them in the measure.’
was already practically under a government of its own, organized at the suggestion of the Provincial Congress, in the manner prescribed by the charter for a General Court, but with no governor at its head.
This General Court proposed to frame a constitution, but June 16, 1777, the town of Cambridge
instructed its representative to oppose this movement, and when in 1778 a constitution framed by the General Court
in convention was submitted to the people, the inhabitants of Cambridge
rejected it by a unanimous vote.
The convention which framed the constitution of Massachusetts
that was afterwards adopted met in Cambridge
September 1, 1779, and continued its sessions there until March 2, 1780.
At a town meeting held in Cambridge
May 22, 1780, the Declaration of Rights submitted by this convention was unanimously approved.
To the constitution certain amendments were suggested, but the delegates were instructed to ratify it, whether these amendments were adopted or not.
During the thirty years which we have just considered, while there had been but little change in the population of the town, there had been a social development which has attracted considerable attention.
Brattle Street as it now runs was open from Brattle Square nearly to Mount Auburn
, and the property bordering upon it was owned by wealthy loyalists.
This has given rise to the title, ‘Tory Row,’ by which their beautiful houses which are still standing have since been known.
The picture of the social life of the inmates of these homes, as it has been handed down to us, is charming in the extreme.
Nearly all of them passed into the hands of the Committee of Correspondence, and the revenue derived from them was appropriated for public service.
Some of these estates were ultimately confiscated, but others were restored to the families of their former owners.
The town was opposed to such returns, and, May 5, 1783, instructed its representative to vote against them.
In October, 1777, Burgoyne
's troops were temporarily quartered in this town and vicinity.
A part remained until the succeeding November.
himself had quarters assigned him in the Borland House
, on the easterly side of Dunster Street, about midway between Mount Auburn and Harvard streets. General Reidesel
was quartered in the Sewall House
, sometimes called the Lechmere House
from a former owner.
A part of this house still stands at the western corner of Reidesel Avenue and Brattle Street. It was while her husband was quartered there that Madame Reidesel
gained the knowledge that enabled her to describe, in her letters, life in ‘Tory Row’ before the war began.
‘Never have I chanced,’ she says, ‘upon such an agreeable situation.’
We have now reached the period indicated at the beginning of this sketch as the point in the history of the town where a
marked change in its career began.
Down to this time there had been little or no fluctuation in the population.
The number of inhabitants in 1776 was said to have been only 1586, and at that time both Menotomy
and the parish south of the Charles
were parts of the town.
and East Cambridge could have been described in 1780, in conveyancer's language, as woodlands, pastures, swamps, and salt marsh.
The little village practically ceased at Quincy Street, and eastward between the mansion house of Judge Dana
, on what is now called Dana Street, and Boston
, there were in 1793, according to Rev. Dr. Holmes
, but four dwelling-houses.
On the 23d of November of that year, the West Boston Bridge
was opened for public travel.
Then began the growth which soon transferred the centre of population east of the college.
The construction of the Craigie Bridge
in 1809 largely contributed to this result also.
Both of these bridges were originally private enterprises, their profits being dependent upon tolls.
As the town increased, other bridges were built, partly on account of the growth of population, and partly for the purpose of bringing real estate
into the market.
Prison Point Bridge was constructed in 1815, under authority of an act passed in 1806.
It was laid out as a county road in 1839.
The bridge at the foot of River Street was completed in 1811, and was assumed by the town in 1832.
The Western Avenue Bridge
was built under authority of an act passed in 1824.
A glance at the streets and avenues which were laid out as feeders to the Boston bridges
will show the important part played by these corporations in the development of the town.
Radiating from Main Street (now Massachusetts Avenue) and covering the territory from the Charles River
to the eastern boundary, we have as tributary to the West Boston Bridge
, River Street, Western Avenue, Broadway
, which was built as a continuation of the Concord Turnpike
, Hampshire Street, which was a part of the Middlesex Turnpike
, and Webster Avenue, formerly known as Medford Street. Tributary to Craigie Bridge, Cambridge Street was opened, crossing the Middlesex Turnpike
, intersecting the Concord Turnpike
, and connecting with the streets through which the Watertown travel could find its way to Boston
Rivalry between these bridge corporations was the basis of many a hard-fought battle, in connection with street openings.
The Craigie Bridge
was but a part of a real estate
The title to the greater portion of the property at Lechmere Point was absorbed by a company incorporated in 1810, as the Lechmere Point
At first sales of lots were sluggish, but a fair start was made in 1813, when the corporation agreed to convey to Middlesex County
enough land for the county buildings, and to erect a court-house and a jail, satisfactory to the court, at an expense not to exceed $24,000. As may be conceived, this scheme was not carried out without opposition from the residents in the older part of the town.
They were, however, powerless to prevent it. In 1816, the buildings erected for the county by the corporation were accepted, and the courts have held their sessions at East Cambridge since that date.
This liberal contribution of land and money by the corporation was not thrown away.
From the time of its acceptance by the county the success of the enterprise was assured.
The purchase of a site in East Cambridge for their plant in 1814 by the Boston Porcelain
and Glass Company added to this assurance.
possesses several miles of water front.
Its value for commercial purposes was greatly diminished by the fact that nearly all of it was marsh-land, which could only be made available for such uses through extensive means of preparation.
That this could be accomplished was, however, recognized by the government in 1805, when Cambridge
was declared to be a port of delivery.
At that time it seemed quite probable that Boston
might avail themselves of the great advantages offered by the protected inner basin called the Back Bay
as a place for loading and discharging vessels of light draft.
An extensive attempt was made to overcome the natural disabilities in the way of the development of the region near the foot of Main Street, by the construction through the intervening marsh between the river and dry land, of a main canal known as Broad Canal
, which was also connected with Miller's River
by another running north from it. The West Dock Canal
, which was also connected with Broad Canal
, was so constructed as to furnish a place for loading and discharging vessels in the area now surrounded by Portland and Bristol streets, Webster Avenue, and Hampshire Street. The South Dock Canal
was a similar construction near the junction of Main, Harvard, and Sixth streets, and was connected with Broad by Cross Canal
, and had also a separate outlet to the
The only existing reminder of this attempt to utilize our water front is Broad Canal
itself, which is still used.
In 1830, an attempt to inclose the common lands of the town and convert them into a park met decided opposition from those who were interested in the Craigie Bridge
, because it would divert the Concord Turnpike
from direct connection with Cambridge Street. This opposition was seconded by the cattle-drivers, who wished to make use of these lands as a resting-place for their stock.
There were several stormy town meetings, the attendance at which was so great that it was necessary to adjourn from the court-house to the church.
Appeal was made to the county commissioners, the General Court, and even to the Supreme Court.
Fortunately the Common was saved as a park, but the contest demonstrated the inadequacy of the old court-house for town meetings.
East Cambridge had secured the county buildings and shown the vulnerability of the old part of the town.
The Port determined to have the townhouse.
A lot of land containing about eleven acres, bounded by Harvard, Norfolk, Austin, and Prospect streets, had been secured in 1818 for an almshouse.
On this land it was voted, in 1830, to erect a town-house, and in pursuance of this vote a wooden building was put up on the easterly part of the lot, in which, March 5, 1732, there was held for the first time a town meeting, and in which thereafter, so long as Cambridge
remained a town, all such meetings were held.
Thus was Harvard Square robbed of its last claim to be considered the centre of the town, with the exception that the First Parish Church still stood there.
Even the prestige which attached to this fact had been greatly diminished through the withdrawal from the church of a majority of the church-members and communicants.
This step was taken in 1829, in consequence of the conclusion by the parish that the ministration of Rev. Dr. Holmes
could no longer be maintained with any possibility of advancing their religious interests.
Those having the legal power to vote were therefore of opinion that there was sufficient cause to terminate the contract subsisting between the parish and the pastor.
The cause of the trouble was purely theological.
A majority of the parish were Unitarians.
and his followers were Trinitarians.
The latter organized a new society, which they called the Shepard Congregational Society.
In 1814, a new church had been organized, under the auspices
of the college.
This was the first step towards a separation of the college from the town church.
In 1833, the old meetinghouse was abandoned, and a new building, situated on the westerly side of Harvard Square between Church Street and the burial ground, was dedicated to the uses of the congregation.
The land on which the old building stood was surrendered to the college, which also bore a portion of the expense of the new building and retained certain rights in it. For forty years thereafter the annual exercises of Commencement were held in the new church.
It has been already stated that in 1818 land was purchased in Cambridgeport
for an almshouse.
A brick house was erected on it, which was first occupied in September, 1818.
It was burned July 20, 1836, and temporary provision for the town's poor was made in a building on the north side of Main Street nearly opposite Osborn Street. This building was occupied until 1838, when the inmates were removed to a new brick almshouse on land on Charles River
between Western Avenue and River Street, now a part of the Riverside Press
The efforts to develop the growth of the town which were made in the early days of our independence have already been described.
They were upon a scale of magnitude which, when we consider the circumstances under which they were accomplished, was surprising.
Bridges, avenues and streets, turnpikes, and canals, all were directly in that interest.
The population in 1790 was 2115.
In 1810, notwithstanding the fact that Brighton
and West Cambridge
had in the mean time been set off, the census showed 2323 inhabitants.
In 1840, there were 8409, and in 1850 there were 15,215.
There must have been therefore in Cambridge
in 1846 six times as many inhabitants as there were in Cambridge
, Brighton, and West Cambridge
This growth was at a rate nearly three times that of the State
at large during the same period.
This prosperity resulted from protracted peace, and freedom from great political excitement.
For many years after the organization of the state government there were but few events which interfered with it. It is true that the insurrection termed Shays
's Rebellion, in 1786, paralyzed for the time being the progress of western Massachusetts
, but Cambridge
declined to participate in the convention which was called by those who inaugurated this movement.
In 1807, too, there was a period of serious business
depression caused by the embargo.
This was so severely felt by the town that in 1808 a petition to the President
of the United States
was adopted in town meeting, requesting a suspension in the whole or in part of the embargo laws.
To this petition the President
replied, saying that Congress alone had the power to modify the law under which the embargo proclamation had been issued.
The War of 1812 followed.
It continued the depression, and retarded the growth of Cambridgeport
and East Cambridge.
During these troubles the Cambridge
Light Infantry was under arms for coast defense.
The declaration of peace was the occasion of a great celebration by the town on the 23d of February, 1815.
The disturbances referred to above, while they were felt to be serious when they occurred, serve only to emphasize the fact that in a general way the town was prosperous, and its progress, though retarded, was not stopped.
The growth of the manufactures of Cambridge
does not belong to the period which we are now considering.
The application of steam as a power for purposes of transportation, and as a substitute for wind or water in manufactures, was in its infancy.
The New England
Glass Company, established about 1814, and a few soap companies, constitute all the industries mentioned by Paige
during this period, which were of real importance to Cambridge
In matters of education, Cambridge
had kept pace with her neighbors.
Prior to 1800, the records are not clear as to the number and location of the schools, but Dr. Holmes
states that at that date there were in the town besides the Grammar School
, a little to the westward of the Episcopal church, two schools in each of the three parishes.
There were, therefore, at that time, in Cambridge
as now constituted, three schools.
gives the names of thirteen schoolhouses standing in 1845.
He adds that the earliest record of the election of a school committee which he was able to find was in 1744.
In 1834, the schools were graded.
, in his inaugural address, in 1853, claimed for Cambridge
the honor of having introduced this system into the Commonwealth
, and of having carried it to its greatest degree of completeness.
Within the limits of what now constitutes Cambridge
there was in 1750 a single church.
Between that date and the incorporation of Cambridge
as a city, seventeen religious societies
were organized, the details concerning which have been collated by Mr. Paige
, and are to be found in his chapter on ‘Ecclesiastical History.’
The parallel growth of three distinct centres within the limits of one town could not take place without raising questions as to the expenditure of the public money in the development of the different sections.
Jealousies were inevitable, and the interests of the different sections seemed on the whole to be so marked and distinct in 1842, that the residents of Old Cambridge petitioned to be set off as a separate town.
This movement was successfully opposed by the town as a whole, but it doubtless led to the suggestion of a city charter as a remedy.
It is true that another attempt was made to divide the town while action on the city charter was pending, but the act to establish the City of Cambridge
became a law March 17, 1846.
Under this act Cambridge
could not become a city, unless a majority of the inhabitants of the town should vote to adopt the act at a town meeting called for the purpose.
Such a meeting was held March 30, 1846.
A majority vote was cast in favor of adopting the city charter, and Cambridge
became a city.
With this event the period to be treated in this sketch closes.
It has not been possible to enter into any details as to the growth of our schools and our churches, nor could the attention of the reader be drawn to individuals of prominence whose names are associated with Cambridge
as a town.
These facts are all to be found in Paige
,’ a volume which must stand for all time as the authority for the history of the town of Cambridge
Upon it the writer of this sketch has depended for the greater part of the facts which he has selected to illustrate the career of the town.