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Union Square and its neighborhood about the year 1846.

By Charles D. Elliot.
I first knew Union square in 1846, at which time it was called ‘Sand Pit square,’ a name said to have been given it, facetiously or otherwise, by some of the gentlefolk of Winter Hill. the name, though not euphonious, was appropriate, as its western side bordered sand lands that for years supplied the neighboring brick yards, as well as cities, with the best of silica. In shape it was not a square, for it was wide at its easterly and westerly ends, and narrow at its centre, so that, considering that for years sand was passing through it, it might with propriety have been christened the ‘Hour Glass.’ Later on a flagstaff was erected in it, and from that time till the Civil War it was known as ‘Liberty Pole square.’ When the war began it became a recruiting centre and took its present name of ‘Union square.’

In confining my recollections to about the year 1846, I am obliged to leave out many prominent people who came later, and who contributed much to the good name of this neighborhood and of the town, among whom were Major Caleb Page, father of Health Officer Page; Thomas F. Norris, editor of the Olive Branch; Colonel Rolin W. Keyes, member of the Legislature; Amory and Francis Houghton, who built the Glass house; Charles S. Lincoln, Esq., who also represented us in the Legislature; John S. Ware; ‘Father Baker,’ one of the founders of the First Methodist church: James S. and Isaiah W. Tuttle, who built the first high school now our city hall; Dr. Charles I. Putnam; Dr. Weston, our earliest, or one of our earliest, postmasters; D. A. and S. H. Marrett, prominent storekeepers; and many others.

Our family moved from Malden to Somerville in 1846 to a residence and store then facing on Union square, and owned by Jeremiah Jordan, a professional musician, I think connected with Ditson's music store. A man named Gossom kept store in this [6] building when we moved to it; the building was afterwards owned by George A. and Albert L. Sanborn, who carried on the grocery business in it, and who christened it the ‘Oasis.’ The Oasis originally stood quite out to the southerly line of Union square, and about one hundred and twenty feet east of Webster avenue; it had a piazza in front, which was the rendezvous of the idlers of that part of the village. At the easterly corner of this piazza, overshadowed by a lofty and picturesque elm, stood one of the town pumps, with its well of delicious water. Elm and pump are gone, except in recollection, and the Oasis itself has crept back and sat down in the rear of its former lot, and given place to a more juvenile store in front, yet I ween the old well still reposes there underground.

We came to Somerville about four years after it was set off from Charlestown, my father's attention having been called to the town by an advertisement in the Boston papers, put in by Sanford Adams, pump maker, who extolled the opportunities here for artisans and business men.

In 1846, besides Jordan's house, I think there were only two others fronting on the square; one, Mrs. Mary B. Homer's, was just west of Jordan's, and like his was a dwelling with a store in front, kept by Mrs. Homer; her children were Jacob, George W., Annie, and Mary. Some of her descendants I think still live in Somerville. The other house on the square was, I believe, owned by the Stone estate, and then, or later, occupied by John C. Giles. I think it stood on the site of the old Revolutionary hostelry known as ‘Piper's Tavern,’ and it may have been the old tavern building itself. Mr. Giles first built on the westerly side of Prospect street, north of the Fitchburg railroad, and then on Milk street (now Somerville avenue), near Prospect street; from there he moved to Union square. Two of his children were well-known Somerville citizens, Mrs. Eunice (Giles) Gilmore, prominent in Heptorean and other societies, and J. Frank Giles, music printer, and a soldier of the Civil war, who has honored Somerville with his commendatory army record.

In front of Mr. Giles' house stood another public pump; [7] the two public pumps, Jordan's and Giles', stared pleasantly at each other across the square, and with outstretched hands vied with one another in extending their aqueous hospitality to thirsty travelers, without money and without price. On the easterly side of Bow street, near the square, was the mansion of Deacon Robert Vinal, a pleasant home, with grape arbors, peach, apple, and pear orchards, flower gardens and conservatories. I shall never forget one tree of whose fruit I was especially fond, a blue pearmain apple. Mr. Vinal had a fine barn and stable in the rear of his house; these were afterwards destroyed by incendiary fire. Deacon Vinal's children were Robert A., Quincy A., John W., Edward E., Alfred E., Margaret, afterwards wife of General William L. Burt, postmaster of Boston, Emily, afterwards Mrs. Wilder, Elizabeth, Lydia, Martha, and Lucy. Deacon Vinal was one of the largest property holders in the town; I recollect him as a pleasant gentleman of the old school: his and Mrs. Vinal's pleasant greeting to me on my return from the army will always be an agreeable memory.

Next north of Deacon Vinal's, on Bow street, came the estate of Robert Sanborn, the father of Jane, wife of Richard Sturtevant, Esq. She lived on part of the old estate until her death a few years since. Mr. Sanborn's sons, George A. and Albert L., have already been mentioned. Mr. Sanborn was a kindly man, known to every one as ‘Uncle Robert’; his farm, like all the others on the north sides of Washington and Bow streets, extended far tip the hill, and lay between Deacon Vinal's and Walnut street, then a lane. His house was, I think, moved to and still stands on Clark street.

Between Walnut street and School street, on Bow, the only other house I remember was that of Henry Adams, ‘Squire Adams,’ as we all called him. His house was an old Revolutionary one, at which the British are said to have stopped for water on their way to Concord; it was torn down to make way for the Methodist church.

Starting again on the northwest side of Bow street, near Sand Pit square, was the Hawkins block of four tenements, the [8] occupants of which, with the exception of Mr. Smith, a broom manufacturer, and Captain Donnell, a ship master, I do not recall; and these may have lived in the block later than 1846. In later years this block was moved around the corner on to Somerville avenue, raised, and a new story built under it, and is still in existence. Next to this block on Bow street was the estate of David Bolles; then came the house of Levi Orcutt, afterwards owned by Thomas Goodhue; then that of A. W. Russell; and still on the same side of Bow street the house and shop of Leonard Arnold, sashmaker, a skilled artisan, genial man, and a member of the Cincinnati. This residence still remains, and his son, J. Frank Arnold, is still a resident of Somerville. Next to Mr. Arnold's, at the corner of Bow and Milk streets, where Drouet's block now is, was the home of Theophilus Griffin. Mr. Griffin was an owner of sand and brick teams, and one of the most prominent men in that line of business. Mrs. Dr. J. French Smith was his daughter.

Returning again to Union square, the estate east of Deacon Vinal's was that of Messrs. Jonathan and Nathaniel T. Stone. Stone avenue now runs through the old Stone estate, and Stone block is on the front of the old Stone property. F. W. Stone, treasurer of the Somerville savings bank, and the Misses Sara and Lucy Stone, Mrs. Jonathan Stone, and Mrs. N. T. Stone, are the present representatives of the Stone families. East of the Stone estate was that of David A. Sanborn, brother of Robert Sanborn, already mentioned, and father of David A., Jr., Daniel A., and Adeline E. Sanborn, all deceased. David A., Jr., was a carpenter and builder, and was for some time captain or chief of our fire department, and also held various public offices for many years in the town and city; he married a daughter of John C. Magoun, Esq., of Winter Hill. Daniel A. Sanborn was a well-known and successful civil engineer, and founder of the Sanborn (Insurance) Map Company of New York. Miss Adeline E. was a teacher in our public schools, under whom the writer studied; the family is now represented here in Somerville by Miss Adeline L. Sanborn, [9] recently a teacher in our city schools, and by J. Walter Sanborn, Esq., one of our school committee. East of Mr. Sanborn's was the widow Peter Bonner estate, and east of that the home of William Bonner, which was moved back up the hill to make way for the Prospect Hill grammar school, built in 1848. The Peter Bonner property was later on divided between the heirs, viz., William Bonner, Mrs. Thomas Goodhue, and Mrs. Augustus Hitchings. William Bonner was at one time in the coal business on Park street, and was also station agent at the Fitchburg railroad Somerville station.

East of the Bonners' came the home estate of Joseph Clark, brick maker, who had yards south of the Fitchburg railroad; he was a man of business ability, and at one time a selectman. Of his children, Mrs. Oren S. Knapp1 and Samuel Adams Clark are still living, but his remaining children, Ambrose, Manly, Arthur, and Miss Mary A. Clark, are deceased. East of Clark's came the two old Revolutionary houses on the north side of Washington street, whose occupants I have forgotten, but in one of which a British soldier was shot April 19, 1775. East of these houses came the residence of John Dugan, Esq., now occupied by his son, George D. haven. Still farther east across Medford street was the house of James Hill, Jr., a fine estate; his sons, Richard and Charles, were in the Civil war, James F., another son, lives in Boston, and a daughter, Harriet, is dead. On the east side of Alston street (then Three Pole lane) was the estate of Deacon Benjamin Randall, at one time town collector, and still further east that of Charles Tufts, founder of Tufts College. Mr. Tufts was an ardent Universalist, as was my father, and perhaps for that reason he became one of my father's best customers, often stopping to discuss the creed on his business calls. Mr. Tufts not only endowed the college, but donated land and money for the church on Cross street. On the south side of Washington street, facing Union square, was the wheelwright shop of Horace Runey, and a little further east the residence of John B. Giles, marble cutter, who [10] came from Ogdensburg, N. Y. He was father of Miss Mary O. Giles, one of the first teachers of Somerville, and of Joseph J. Giles, the first boy born in Somerville after its incorporation, and a veteran of the Civil war. Miss Mary O. Giles married Isaac Barker, and moved to California. There were other children. In this Giles house lived for a time Dr. Stephen B. Sewall. On the southwest corner of Washington and Prospect streets was the ancient engine house, with its little belfry and bell, ‘Mystic No. 6,’a ‘cast-off’ from Charlestown. On the southeast corner of these streets, and opposite the Joseph Clark house already mentioned, lived another Joseph Clark, father of one of our oldest residents, Joseph H. Clark, of Spring Hill. Mr. Clark's widow married Leonard Arnold, of whom I have already spoken. In this Clark house Mrs. Mary B. Homer, already mentioned, first opened her store.

Next east, on the southerly side of Washington street, came the home of Clark Bennett, Esq., brickmaker, and later on town treasurer, and alderman of the city. Mr. Bennett had a large family, most of whom have distinguished themselves in their various social and business relations. Lieutenant-Colonel Edwin Clark Bennett and his brother, Irving M. Bennett, were both valiant soldiers in the Civilwar, each being severely wounded in battle; George Eldon; Herbert W., a prominent musician, who died in California; Dana and Dexter, the well-known insurance men, Dana having for many years been alderman, and later chairman of the school committee and mayoralty nominee; Josiah, who as cashier of the Market bank, and president of the Mercantile Trust Company, Cambridge Electric Light Company, Parry Brick Company, and Fresh Pond Ice Company, has shown great business ability; Mrs. Gustina Hall; Mrs. Hattie E. Bean, recently nominated for Boston school committee; Miss Melvina Bennett, elocutionist; and two others. His was a typical old New England family. Mr. Bennett came here from Vermont about 1835. He was a strong abolitionist when abolition was not a passport to popularity; he was a friend of Wilson, Garrison, Phillips, and Sumner. At an anti-slavery meeting held [11] in the old engine house hall, Mr. Bennett was the only person present; he was chairman, secretary, speaker, audience, and all hands. The papers of the next day, however, reported the gathering as a very harmonious and enthusiastic one, and that strong anti-slavery resolutions were passed, without a dissenting voice.

East of Mr. Bennett's was the residence of Hiram Allen, rope and twine manufacturer, whose rope walk, run by tide power, was on the south side of Somerville avenue, east of Prospect street, on Miller's creek. Hiram Allen, Jr., the leader of Allen's band, still lives in the old home. Mr. Allen had two other children, Margaret and Lucy. Beyond Mr. Allen's was the ‘yellow block,’ still standing, occupied about this time by the family of Mr. Fellows, and previously by Clark Bennett. Further on was the residence of Ivers Hill, provision dealer; oil portraits of Mr.Hill and Mrs. Hill were in the last exhibition of the Historical Society. East of Mr. Hill's was the residence of Charles Miller, clothing dealer in Boston. Mr. Miller had the honor of naming Somerville. Some of his descendants still reside in Somerville. He was the great-grandson of James Miller, the Somerville minuteman killed on Prospect Hill on April 19, 1775, by the British; to whose memory a tablet was erected on Washington street, bearing his last words: ‘I am too old to run.’ Beyond Mr. Miller's came the estate of Mrs. Underwood; her son, James Underwood, a cripple, I well remember as a schoolmate. His sister was the wife of Horace Runey, deceased. Near here also lived John Thorning, an estimable old gentleman, whom I well knew; he was a Universalist, and was the father of Mrs. Nancy (Thorning) Munroe, wife of Edwin Munroe, Jr.; she was a lady of great literary attainments, and a poet. Next came the residence of Andrew M. Kidder, music printer, who had previously resided on Mystic avenue, at the foot of Convent Hill; two of his sons, Arthur T. and Andrew M. Kidder, still reside in Somerville. On the west corner of Medford street and south side of Washington street, then or a few year later stood the law office of Francis Tufts, captain of our military company before the Civil war, and the first justice of a Somerville court; he is still [12] living in the house previously occupied by his father on the opposite corner of Washington and Medford streets. His father formerly owned the grain mills at Charlestown Neck, and the grain store near Warren bridge. Nathan Tufts was also father of Mrs. Booth, and of Nathan Tufts, Jr., who lived on Central street, and grandfather of Dr. E. C. Booth, and of Miss M. Alice Tufts and Albert C. Tufts, deceased; and was brother of Charles Tufts, founder of Tufts College.

Between Nathan Tufts' house and the Lowell railroad was the house of Samuel C. Bradshaw, Jr., still standing; he owned the adjacent large tract of land, bordering also on Joy street, which he divided into lots and built upon. Edward H. Bradshaw, who opened up and developed more recently the properties on Westwood road, is a grandson of S. C. Bradshaw.

On the south side of Washington street stood the ‘Milk Row’ station of the Lowell railroad, the first, I think, in Somerville. About this time S. C. Bradshaw, Sr., owned a residence on Joy street, and Zebediah Kinsley one on Linwood street. Mr. Kinsley was the ancestor of Willard C. Kinsley, veteran from Somerville killed in the Civil war, and after whom the G. A. R. post is named, and of his brother, Colonel Frederick W. Kinsley, also veteran of the Civil war, also of Henry Kinsley and of Albert C. Kinsley. The Kinsleys were brickmakers, the younger members of the family being prominent scholars in our grammar and high schools; a daughter, Miss Joanna Kinsley, recently lived in Brighton.

On the west side of Boston street, near Washington, was a house owned by Benjamin F. Allen, who married Mrs. Booth, widow of Dr. Chauncey Booth, of McLean asylum, and mother of Dr. E. C. Booth, one of the trustees of our public library. When the Pope schoolhouse was built, this house was moved to another lot on Boston street, where it now stands. On the south side of Munroe street, which at one time was called Prospect street, stands a house formerly occupied by J. T. Trowbridge, the author, and another by Samuel H. Gooding; his son, Edmund H. Gooding, was a member of the First Massachusetts [13] cavalry in the Rebellion. Opposite these houses, on the north side of Munroe street, was the residence of Edward L. Stevens, Esq., now owned by Mr. Leighton, and another occupied by Frederick W. Hannaford, harness maker, whose son, Edward Francis, was the first Somerville soldier killed in the Rebellion; this house was afterwards owned by M. P. Elliott, hatter. Near the top of the hill overlooking Union square stood an old double house, recently torn down, owned lately by the Randall heirs, and then occupied by a Mr. Willard, portrait painter; and further on, also on the south side of Munroe street, was the residence of Benjamin Sweetzer Munroe. His children were Mrs. Major Granville W. Daniels and George S. Munroe, Esq. Further north on the hill was a private school for Catholic boys, kept by G. W. Beck, and near by an old grist mill owned by Edwin Munroe, father of Benjamin S. and Edwin Munroe, Jr., already mentioned, and grandfather of the author, Elbridge S. Brooks, Esq., deceased, formerly vice-president of the Historical Society.

From Union square along the southerly side of Somerville avenue to the East Cambridge line I do not recall any dwellings. At the northeast corner of the avenue and Prospect street was the house of Benjamin F. Ricker, mason, father of Captain Melvin B. Ricker, of our fire department; east of this was the house built by John C. Giles, already spoken of, later owned by Samuel Thompson, flour inspector, a colored man, said to have been one of the best flour judges in Boston, a gentleman of dignified manner.

The blacksmith shop of Seward Dodge, the paint shop of J. Q. Twombly, and Artemas White's harness shop, all between Union square and Prospect street, on the south side of Somerville avenue, and the house of Abraham Welch, superintendent of town streets, were, I think, all built later than 1846. Mr. Dodge was councilman and later alderman of the city, and Mr. Twombly was prominent in the Universalist society, and a muchrespected citizen. On Prospect street, north of the railroad, were the houses of David A. Sanborn, in one of which he afterwards lived; in another, a double house, the former residence [14] of John C. Giles, lived, if I remember aright, the families of Nathaniel Blair and of Isaac Barker, brickmakers. On the east side of Prospect street, south of the railroad, about opposite the present Oak street, was the residence of Amos Hazeltine, also brickmaker; his was the only house on the east side of Prospect street.

Much of the territory south of the railroad and a small piece north of it were occupied by brick yards, Mr. Hazeltine's, Clark Bennett's, G. W. Wyatt's, Joseph Clark's, and others. There were two one-story cottages south of the railroad and adjoining it, between Webster avenue and Prospect street, owned by Patrick Egan, and still standing. On the south side of Washington street, just east of the railroad bridge, was the house of Sanford Adams, pump maker, and his shop was nearby, adjacent to the railroad, over which came his pump logs. His pumps and those of his successors, Messrs. Hamblen and Kingman, were reputed the best in New England.

The only other house on the south side of Washington street that I remember was near the corner of Beacon street, occupied or owned by Christopher Hawkins, a road master on the Fitchburg railroad. On the north side of Washington street, west of the bridge, stood the ancient ‘lean-to’ house owned by Guy C. Hawkins. It was said, and also disputed, that this was an old Revolutionary house, and that it had been loop-holed for musketry. It was occupied by Alonzo Burbank, sand dealer, whose teams could be seen at all times of the day either at Sand Pit square or on their way to or returning from the numerous brick yards near, or in Cambridge or Charlestown. Mr. Burbank's son was William E. Burbank, recently deceased, for thirty years or more a member of the Somerville fire department, being its assistant engineer. A photograph of this old house, with its annex of wood sheds, so common sixty years or more ago, was presented by the writer to the Historical Society.

West of Burbank's were the houses of Mr. Swett, of Mr. Leland, carriage builder, and of Mr. Pettengill, all still standing, and perhaps one or two others. Mr. Swett was killed at the Somerville-avenue crossing of the Fitchburg railroad. [15]

Along the west side of Beacon street, north of Washington (Kirkland street in Cambridge), lay Palfrey's and Norton's groves. These umbral parks were really in Cambridge; they were the resort of old and young in the summer time; they were owned by Hon. John G. Palfrey, author of the history of New England, and by Professor Charles Eliot Norton, a friend of Longfellow's. Mr. Norton is still living. From Union square west up Somerville avenue the nearest house was owned by Primus Hall, a colored man; it still stands. It has its corner cut off, which was done when that part of Somerville avenue was laid out about the year 1813, and again when the avenue was widened in 1874; previously it was reached by a court from Bow street. Further west, and back from the avenue in the field, was the home, surrounded with orchards and gardens, of Colonel Guy C. Hawkins. Mr. Hawkins' widow afterwards became Mrs. Mann. Her children were Mrs. Alice E. Lake, N. Carleton Hawkins, and Eben C. Mann, Jr.

West of and adjoining the Hawkins estate was the old cemetery, opened about 1804. In its easterly front corner stood the ‘Milk Row primary school,’ burned in 1859; it was the first school the writer attended in Somerville, and was taught by Miss Adeline E. Sanborn, of whom mention has already been made.

Between the cemetery and the bleachery the only other house was that of Samuel T. Frost, Esq., father of Mrs. Francis H. Raymond and of George Frost, both living on Spring Hill. Mr. Frost's house was formerly owned by his grandfather, Samuel Tufts, whc is said to have spread the alarm of the British march on the night of April 18, 1775; this house was the headquarters of General Nathaniel Green during the siege of Boston. Some way beyond was the bleachery, with its surrounding colony, which deserves a separate paper.

On the northerly side of Somerville avenue, west of School street, was the estate of Jonathan Ireland, father of George W. Ireland, Esq., a large land holder here for many years; the only member of the family living is, I think, Mrs. Martha J. Gerry, of Jamaica Plain. Further west came the house of Osgood Dane [16] and of Osgood B. Dane, his son, back of which was the granite quarry. Yet westerly was the residence of Mr. Field, a relative of Mr. Ireland, and further yet on the easterly side of Central street the house owned then or a little later by the Stone estate. A picture of this house is owned by the Historical Society. It has since been removed or torn down.

Between Union square and the west end of Bow street, on the north side of Somerville avenue, was the residence of Levi Orcutt, Esq., carpenter, whose family is now represented by Edward L. Orcutt, inventor of the electrical safety appliances for preventing railway collisions.

In 1847 my father was appointed station agent of the Prospect-street station—now Union square—of the Fitchburg railroad, which position he held for about sixteen years, or until nearly the end of 1862. Through my long residence in that section during my youth I have stored in memory recollections of people, scenes, and incidents of the vicinity of Union square, which I think are in the main correctly given herein.

I have endeavored to make mention of all persons and places, and if I have omitted any, it has been an omission due to forgetfulness.

In another paper I shall try to cover incidents, etc., which occurred at about the period indicated, and perhaps include persons whom I have herein forgotten.

1 Deceased, June 16, 1907, since the above was written.

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