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Lorin Low Dame. 1838-1903.

by Charles H. Morss.
[Read before the Medford Historical Society, March 16, 1903.]
To be glad of life, because it gives you the chance to love and to work and 10 play and to look up at the stars; to be satisfied with your possessions, but not contented with yourself until you have made the best of them; to despise nothing in the world except falsehood and meanness, and to fear nothing except cowardice; to be governed by your admirations rather than by your disgusts; to covet nothing that is your neighbor's except his kindness of heart and gentleness of manners; to think seldom of your enemies, often of your friends, and every day of Christ; and to spend as much time as you can, with body and with spirit, in God's out-of-doors—these are little guide-posts on the footpath to peace.—Henry Van Dyke.

A genial disposition, broad sympathies, a deep love for mankind, always seeking some good in everyone, and an intense enjoyment of life—these qualities, which Lorin Low Dame possessed to a remarkable degree, caused all to love him and to be the better for his noble, wholesome presence among us. It is given to but few to exert a power so wide, so strong, so potent for good as his. Thinking little of self, not too highly estimating his own power, he wielded an influence so great that he himself would have been astonished could he have realized its extent. The thirty-five hundred pupils who, in Medford alone, came under his care and guidance, bear witness to the great love and veneration in which he was held, and we in this city, together with those other communities that have shared his life and have felt his presence, mourn the loss of our firm friend, our enthusiastic co-worker and the loyal citizen.

The best summing up of his personal qualities is in these words of the Rev. Henry C. DeLong, at the funeral service in the First Parish Church:— [p. 26]

I am moved to say what we all feel when we try to make an estimate of a friend we have profoundly loved, that a man is more than the sum of his qualities. For in him these are fused into a personality, and so become much more than they are when they stand apart as separate elements of his character. Eminently is this true of our friend whom we now recall, who was notably a man whose personal force entered into his whole life and his work in life.

Intellectual and moral power was distinctly his characteristic. A man of large and wide intelligence, he did not live in a narrow world of special studies. If it is the danger of a teacher to be only a teacher, to limit himself to the studies which are his particular task, he escaped from this limitation by becoming an all-round mind. Science, history and literature formed parts of his culture, and you were struck with his thorough knowledge of them. A lover of the best literature he was also a good critic of it, and was master of a fine style of writing and speaking, which had both force and delicacy of expression. And this was irradiated by a delightful sense of humor whose pleasant surprises, penetrating suggestion and unlooked — for allusion added charm to his conversation and speech. But his was a sweet and wholesome nature, without taint of bitterness and cynicism, and his lighter moods never wounded or left a sting behind.

Lorin Low Dame, the only child of Samuel and Mary Ann (Gilman) Dame, was born in Newmarket, N. H., March 12, 1838. He was a direct descendant in the ninth generation from John Dame, one of the first and substantial settlers of Dover, N. H., the line being Samuel8, John7, Samuel6, Moses5, John4, John3, John2, John1. Through his mother, he was descended from Governors Thomas Dudley and Simon Bradstreet of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and also from Gov. Wiggin of New Hampshire.

In 1846, when he was eight years old, his parents removed to Lowell, Mass., and here, on the banks of the Merrimack, for which he always had a great and sentimental affection he grew to manhood. He was familiar with the picturesque beauty of this magnificent river for miles, and was fond of returning there with his family and friends, that they, too, might enjoy with him these charming spots. It is a great pleasure to recall the [p. 27] pleasant rambles we had together along the banks of this beautiful river, below Hunt's Falls, visiting the old familiar scenes of his childhood. Those of us whose lot it was to be reared on the banks of this stream can appreciate his devotion to the home of his boyhood, and say with Whittier:—

Yet wheresoe'er his step might be,
Thy wandering child looked back to thee!
Heard in his dreams thy river's sound
Of murmuring on its pebbly bound,
The unforgotten swell and roar
Of waves on thy familiar shore;
And saw, amidst the curtained gloom
And quiet of his lonely room,
Thy sunset scenes before him pass.

At the age of twelve years he entered the Lowell High School and pursued the general course of study intended for those who were not going to college. But, later, he changed his plans and returned to the school to take the college preparatory work. Thus, he was a pupil of the high school for six years—from 1850 to 1856.

To most boys brought up apart from the artificial life of the crowded city there comes, as if by instinct, the desire to collect, and in his rambles by the river and through the fields about Lowell he began that study of nature at first hand that was such a joy to him through life. The study of insects fascinated him, and, while still a student in the high school, he became very familiar with entomology and had made a considerable collection. Trees and other forms of plant life also came under his observation, so that, even at this time, the beginnings of what later became his special studies were made. In adult life it became a matter of principle with him that in order to keep the heart young and sympathetic one must have absorbing interests apart from the business or profession by which the daily bread is won.

In all these avocations that he followed he was no dilettante, but a thorough student. It was during this [p. 28] period that he mastered the principles of phonography, and became an expert writer of shorthand, an added power which he found serviceable through life.

He entered Tufts College in the summer of 1856, after a brilliant record as a student in the high school, and continued to add to his laurels during his course. President Capen, a classmate in college, says:—

As a scholar he was remarkable, one of the most remarkable whom I have ever known. He was not one of those brilliant sons of genius who go by intuition, almost with the swiftness of light, and by a process which they themselves cannot explain, right to the heart of great matters. He was a persistent, patient, plodding, faithful and conscientious student. He never wasted his time in idleness, and never took his powers for granted. But when it came to the test of the classroom, he was absolutely accurate and absolutely clear. He was equally good in all subjects. I never knew him to fail in anything. Indeed, in all my experience, whether as student or teacher, I have never known more than three or four men who could be put in the same class with him.

Throughout his college course the choice of a profession came frequently to mind for serious reflection, and his journals show that much thought was given to this point. Several different lines of usefulness were presented to him for consideration. One request came to enter the office of a physician as assistant and student, another to pursue his avocation of entomology as a serious business by turning his attention to musuem work as an entomologist. But none of these seemed to appeal to him. His mother's earnest desire was that her only son should fit himself for the Christian ministry, and he gave much careful consideration to this wish of hers, although he had grave doubts of his fitness for this profession. To satisfy both his own mind and his mother on this point, he resolved to preach as opportunity offered, and toward the end of his junior year his first sermon was preached in the village of East Lexington, and thereafter he continued to do supply work, preaching in his home church in Lowell, in Weston, Shirley and Essex.

In order to provide the means for his college expenses, [p. 29] he, for several years, had taught the winter term of school, as so many young men of his time did. We find no record when his first service as teacher was rendered, but he has frequently mentioned the fact that he taught his first school at the age of seventeen, which would place the date the year before entering college, or 1855. We find, however, that he taught the winter term of 1857–'58 in Westford, Mass., and the two following winters in the town of Dracut.

While in college he was interested in all the best activities of college life, and although holding the first rank in his class, found time for the various social duties that come into every career. He was not a recluse. An active member of the Zeta Psi fraternity while a student, he always held fondly to the old associations and kept an interest in fraternity affairs all through life. When a chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa society was organized at Tufts he was one of the first members.

He was graduated from college in 1860, the first scholar in the class, and, as was the custom, was assigned for a commencement part the valedictory. He was yet undecided as to his life work, but as he had had considerable experience in the schoolroom as teacher, he naturally turned to that as an immediate means of livelihood, while giving further consideration to this important question. He received the appointment as principal of the Braintree High School, where he taught with much success till the summer of 1862, when he had made choice of the law as his future profession. He accordingly resigned and entered a law office in Lowell.

The gloomy days of 1862, caused by the various disasters to the Union forces during the latter part of the year, produced their effect upon him. The blood of his patriotic forefathers was stirred. His ancestor, Capt. Samuel Brocklebank, hastened to the defence of the New England homes against the Indians in King Philip's war, and met his death in the famous Sudbury fight; another, Chaplain Moses Coffin of Newbury, ‘the drum [p. 30] ecclesiastic,’ whose life was saved from a French bullet by the Bible in his pocket, did valiant service for his country at the taking of Louisburg. Mr. Dame could not resist his country's call in her deepest need. His Lowell home had been broken up by the removal of his father and mother to California some time before, and there was nothing to hold him back. He enlisted February 9, 1863; was commissioned second lieutenant and served as recruiting officer at Fort Warren, where he was instrumental in organizing the Fifteenth Massachusetts Light Battery.

Although engaged in these warlike preparations, and hastening forward with all speed possible the time of departure for the seat of active war, he yet found time for the gentler arts of peace and the subtle claims of love, and on March 1, 1863, he married Nancy Isabel, daughter of John Bass and Nancy B. (Thayer) Arnold of Braintree, who had been one of his pupils in the high school at Braintree.

The Fifteenth Battery was soon ordered south, and with them he sailed from Boston for New Orleans, March 9, on the ship Zouave, arriving April 9. On the third of June they were sent to garrison two forts commanding the approaches to New Orleans by land; one on a marshy island, formed by Bayou St. John, commanding the bayou road to Lake Pontchartrain, and the other at Gentilly, on the New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain Railroad, both being situated about five miles from the city and two from the lake. Officers and men alike suffered much from the ills resulting from the proximity of the swamps, and for some weeks he was in command of both forts, being the only officer not in the hospitals. But he too succumbed to that scourge of the swamps, chills and fever, and was obliged to spend a few weeks of this first summer in the hospital. On his recovery he was ordered to duty at the recruiting office in the city and remained at this post till October 21. He had been promoted to the rank of first lieutenant September [p. 31] 27. Toward the end of the year he was at Lakeport, La., and on January 2, 1864, accompanied an expedition to Madisonville, on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain. Throughout the year his company was engaged in helping hold the territory on both sides of the Mississippi that had been acquired with so much difficulty previous to the fall of Vicksburg. After the expedition to Madisonville they again returned to New Orleans for guard duty. During this interval the monotony of garrison life was cheered by a visit of several months from his wife, whom he had left the year before, a bride of a week. On October 17, they embarked for the mouth of the White river in Arkansas. An expedition up this river was made one hundred ninety miles to Devall's Bluff, which occupied the time till the end of November, when they returned and encamped in the suburbs of Memphis, Tenn. Early in January, 1865, they returned to Louisiana and took up their position at Kennerville, some miles above New Orleans. Changes of camp are the only matters of activity recorded in the journals till February 20, when the battery embarked on Lake Pontchartrain and sailed for Mobile Bay, thence to Barrancas, Fla. Here they joined the Second Division, Thirteenth Army Corps, under Major-General C. C. Andrews, and on March 11, proceeded to Pensacola. Although the forts commanding Mobile Bay had been reduced by Admiral Farragut the preceding August, the city of Mobile still held out, and the movements in this section were directed to that end. From Pensacola the route was northward along the Escambia river. On March 25, the Fifteenth Battery was engaged in the battle of Escambia Creek. Thence the route lay through the pine barrens, till Blakely was reached. The siege of this place was begun on the second day of April, and the battery then received an experience of vigorous fighting for which they had longed ever since they had come south. The works were carried by assault on April 9, the same day that Lee surrendered at Appomattox, and [p. 32] on the eleventh, with the news of this surrender came also the news that the enemy were evacuating the city of Mobile. They were afterwards sent on an expedition into the interior of Alabama as far as Selma, where they remained on guard till May 11, returning then to Mobile for garrison duty there. From June 3 till the mustering out of the battery at Readville, Mass., Lieut. Dame was in command. On June 30 they turned over their property to the government and went to Dauphin Island in Mobile Bay to await orders to return home. On July 21 they embarked at New Orleans on board the Ashland for New York, where they arrived on the thirty-first. They reached camp at Readville, Mass., August i, and were mustered out on the fourth. On the fourteenth of August, 1865, Lieut. Dame became once more a private citizen.

Again the choice of a profession confronted him. His law studies, early interrupted by his country's call had not progressed far enough to be of practical use, and his marriage made it necessary for him now to enter some business that would give immediate support. The unsettling influence of army life rendered this a difficult decision, and before he finally settled down, he tried various lines of activity. Making his home at Braintree, he engaged in literary work, reporting for the daily papers, writing sketches, stories and essays. At the same time he was reading law. He also engaged in the insurance business, did private teaching, and, in fact, turned his attention to any form of honorable employment that would furnish a means of livelihoods On his birthday, March 12, 1866, he writes: ‘I am twenty-eight years old and have hardly made a beginning in life; nevertheless, I have a clean record, and strong hopes of the future.’ This hopefulness for the future is a characteristic with which we who knew him in his later life have always been impressed.

April 6, 1866, he sought and obtained the position of principal of the high school in Lexington, and began his [p. 33] duties there on the tenth of the same month. He had not wholly, and did not for several years, relinquish his intention to enter upon the practice of law, and we find from his journal and notes that during all the time he was teaching at Lexington he was pursuing his law studies. He also was very active in his literary work, writing stories and essays, likewise perfecting himself in stenography. It was while teaching here that he first took up with enthusiasm the study of systematic botany, and laid the foundations for those later works that will be his enduring monument.

In the summer of 1867 he left Lexington, to take charge as principal of the Nantucket High School, where he remained two years. Here he kept up the same lines of activity as in Lexington—reading law, practicing stenography, writing for papers and magazines, and botanizing.

In the summer of 1869 he removed to Stoneham, having been chosen principal of the high school of that place. From this time his journals are silent on the subject of his law studies, and having given up all idea of other occupation than his school and literary work, he devoted himself assiduously to these to make them as successful as possible. The fact that he now had two children to care for, in addition to his other duties, probably was influential in deciding him to abandon his intention of entering the legal profession. But the giving up of these studies left him time for others, and to aid him in his scientific work we find him working diligently, taking lessons in German, French, mineralogy, conchology, etc. In fact, he was almost never without some study, in addition to his botany, to which he had now become a devotee.

The public library was a special care for him, and, as a member of the Board of Trustees, he devoted a large amount of time to advancing its interests and making it more useful to the community.

While living in Stoneham he became a member of the local Post of the Grand Army. [p. 34]

In the summer of 1876 he was appointed to the Medford High School, and from that time his life was lived peacefully but forcefully in our midst, and grew to be such a part of us that it seemed as if he had always belonged to us. The vacation of 1880 was spent in a walking tour through England and Scotland in company with his friend, Mr. George S. Hatch of Medford.

He labored to the very end in the interests of this community, and to him in the full vigor of life, with unabated mental power, death came suddenly on January 27, 1903. Arising in the morning to prepare for his daily school work, he seemed in usual health, but before he had made himself ready for breakfast, he complained of vertigo and was persuaded to lie down for a short time. The usual symptoms of apoplexy appeared, and before long he became unconscious, and at 5.30 P. M. the end came, his wife and three of his four daughters being with him at the time.

He was a devoted member of the First Parish (Unitarian) Church, and gave largely of his sympathy and interest to the advancement of liberal Christianity. He served the parish as a member of the parish committee, and was one of the founders of the Unitarian Club connected with the church, serving for two years as its president.

His work as teacher is well known to such a large body of the citizens of Medford that any comment can only chronicle matters with which all are perfectly familiar. He possessed remarkable powers as an instructor, training his pupils to habits of careful observation, exactness of thought, and logical deduction. He expected scholars to draw their own conclusions, and, having formed them, to be ready to stand by and defend them. He was specially skilful in making independent thinkers and actors, not only by his specific training, but by example. In the words of President Capen: ‘He was an example to his pupils; he lived before them day by day a simple, honest, manly, pure, and upright life. In this way he was a constant and never-failing inspiration.’ In [p. 35] his capacity as teacher he became a member of the Massachusetts Schoolmasters' Club, and of the High Schoolmasters' Club.

Through all his adult life he was engaged in some form of literary work. The result of much of this was published, but, besides these, a large collection of manuscript stories, essays, and addresses testify to his unremitting zeal. While in Stoneham he was a regular correspondent for some of the Boston papers, and also special correspondent for Nantucket during the summer months. Although he always wrote over his own name on scientific subjects, he frequently used a non de plume for his poems, essays and stories; among those used being F. Gerry, F. M. Arnold, and Viator. Articles from his pen are found in the Congregationalist, Gospel Banner, Our Continent, Good Times, Ladies' Repository, Bay State Monthly, besides several of the daily papers.

Of especial interest are his articles in the Bay State Monthly on ‘The Washington Elm and the Eliot Oak,’ February, 1884, as foreshadowing the greater work-‘Typical Elms and Other Trees of Massachusetts,’ which came several years later. In November, 1884, he contributed to the Bay State Monthly a carefully prepared paper on the Middlesex Canal. This same was later revised and appeared in its new form in the Medford Historical Register in 1897. His style of writing is well indicated in this article—clear, concise, and with a smoothness that pleases.

The organization of the Middlesex Institute, which he was instrumental in founding, gave definiteness and direction to his scientific studies, and fixed in him a more definite purpose for greater undertakings than any he had tried before. His position as president of the Middlesex Institute gave him an intimate acquaintance with the leading botanists of the region, and soon he, in collaboration with Mr. Frank S. Collins of Malden, undertook the preparation of a Flora of Middlesex County, which was published in 1888. This is a carefully prepared [p. 36] list, with descriptions where necessary, of the plants growing wild in the limits of the county, and its preparation involved extensive research in the published botanical literature, as well as a careful study of herbaria, and numberless botanical excursions. So careful was the preparation that it stands today among the most accurate of such catalogues.

In ‘The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table,’ Oliver Wendell Holmes said:

I wish that somebody would get up the following work: Sylva Anglica. photographs of New England elms and other trees, taken upon the same scale of magnitude. With letter-press descriptions by a distinguished literary gentleman.

Mr. Dame had always been a careful observer of trees; he may be said to have been a lover of them. In his notes, taken when on the march through the swamps of Louisiana, on his trips up and down the White river in Arkansas, and along the Mississippi, in the pine barrens of Florida, and in the higher regions of Alabama, are frequent comments on the trees. In the preface to his ‘Typical Elms and Other Trees of Massachusetts,’ he says:

The call of the Autocrat, in the August number of the Atlantic, 1858 . . . expressed so general a desire that it is a wonder the work has not been previously undertaken. From that date, the historian of this volume has looked over the announcements of publishers for the required prospectus; he has had an eye also on the big trees, but with no idea of turning biographer. Within a radius of ten or a dozen miles from his residence he has struck up a close acquaintance with every tree of note, his pleasures enlarging from year to year with the ever-widening circle of his forest friends.

In the summer of 1886 the historian fell in with the photographer, and the scheme outlined by the Autocrat began to assume a vague consistency.

The photographer mentioned was Mr. Henry Brooks of West Medford, with whom he worked in preparing the book. The labor of collecting the material was great, [p. 37] but it was finally published in 1890. As the work was of such magnitude as to make it an expensive publication, the subscription was limited to five hundred copies, but in spite of the cost, the edition was soon exhausted, and it is now impossible to purchase a single copy. The introduction was written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, to whom was due the inspiration that led to the making of the book.

No sooner was one task completed than another was already planned and well started. His ‘Typical Elms’ was scarcely before the public when his notes show that observations had for some time been recorded for his last and greatest work, ‘Handbook of the Trees of New England,’ which he also brought out in collaboration with Mr. Henry Brooks. This is fully illustrated with plates carefully prepared from living specimens by Mrs. Elizabeth Gleason Bigelow of Medford. The entire range of our native trees is given in detail with illustrations of buds, leaves, flowers and fruit. The text was prepared with great pains; every part was carefully scrutinized, revised many times after being submitted to the best experts on the subject, until the final product is a book accurate in almost every particular, and one admirably adapted to the use intended.

His love for nature led him to spend his summer vacations in places where he could enjoy her to the best advantage. The majority of them for the last thirty years were spent on the island of Nantucket, mainly in the village of Siasconset. He also made excursions several times into the Maine woods. The summer of 1900 was passed with his family in Nova Scotia and a part of 1902 in Newfoundland, where in both places he botanized extensively and added largely to his collections.

From his interest in science in general he became a member of the Middlesex Institute and of the Natural History Society of Boston. He was one of the founders of the New England Botanical Club and an active member at the time of his death. [p. 38]

His Alma Mater appreciated the judicial and well balanced mind, and in 1894 elected him to the Board of Trustees. Later he was one of the executive committee of that body, holding this office at the time of his death. The degree of A. M. had been conferred on him in 1866, and in 1895 Tufts honored herself as well as him by bestowing the degree of S. D. in recognition of his distinguished service to botanical science.

Of his service to the Medford Historical Society only brief mention need be made. He was so closely associated with the founding of the society and with its whole active life that all recognize his devotion to the ideals for which the society stands.

Thus has passed a life noble and unselfish, progressive without ostentation, loving and loved, to its close.

Life's race well run,
Life's work all done,
Life's victory won,
Now cometh rest.

Principals of Medford High School, 1835-1903.

Charles Mason, 1835; Luther Farrar, 1835–'36; Daniel Forbes, 1836–'41; Isaac Ames, 1841–'44; M. T. Gardner, 1844; Edwin Wright, 1844–'45; James Waldock, 1845–'46; Charles Cummings, 1846–‘76; Lorin L. Dame, 1876-1903; Leonard J. Manning, 1903.


Vol. 6, last five lines p. 17, and first two lines p. 18 should read: Mr. [Benjamin] Moore, in company with John Fall, a shipsmith, and J. T. Barker, a teamster, took the business of Alexander Gregg (see vol. 5, p. 93) after his death. Mr. Moore was killed by being caught between two cars while unloading freight at the Boston & Lowell railroad in West Medford. Mr. James Winneck succeeded Mr. James B. Gregg in the grocery business.

[p. 39]

Medford in 1847.

[The following paper was read by Mr. Charles Cummings before the Medford Historical Society, November 17, 1902. The first part of this paper was devoted to the churches. The history of the various religious organizations has been, or will be, given in detail in the Register, and is therefore omitted here.—editor.]


AT Symmes Corner, which was a part of Medford till the incorporation of Winchester in 1850, a primary school of twenty-six scholars was kept in a small room in a private residence.

The West Primary school, of twenty-three pupils, which, till that year, had been allowed three months vacation in winter, was kept in that small building near the brook on the south side of High street, which became a victim of the tornado in 1851, while a new house was being erected for it on the corner of Irving and Brooks streets.

That ancient brick schoolhouse in the rear of the Unitarian Church, which had sheltered the West Grammar and High schools till 1843, was occupied during the two winters of 1846-8 by a school exclusively of boys, who, from age or want of qualification, could have no place in any of the other schools. It was demolished in 1848.

In 1843 the High school was removed to the third story and the West Grammar school to the second story of the new house on High street. The brick basement of the building served as cloak and playroom for both schools.

The South Primary and Alphabet schools were located in a house on Union street, which in 1858 was sold, and became a dwelling house on Main street.

The East Alphabet was kept in a small, unsightly brick structure on Cross street, whose age cannot be ascertained, but which certainly had its origin before the discovery that children needed a constant supply of fresh air as surely as they needed bread and butter three times a day. The school committee of 1851 reported that the school had previously been almost a nullity from its crowded state and the miserable ventilation of the room, [p. 40] and that before the improvement, which they had caused to be made in the ventilation, no parent could have sat an hour in the room without feeling that the graveyard near by had a significant meaning.

After the summer of 1852, the school went to other quarters, and the house was demolished.

It is worthy of note that here Miss Hetty F. Wait commenced, on June I, 1852, her fifty years of service in the Medford schools.

The East Grammar and East Primary occupied the house on Park street, which was built in 1837, of such an ancient type that some of its seats would hold nine scholars. From its ashes the Swan arose in 1855. In 1847, Medford and the model city of Boston alike had no means of ventilating their schoolhouses except through the windows. The improvement had been agitated somewhat for three or four years in the city, but the city council made no appropriation to secure it till the abovenamed year.

Teachers' wages at that period seem small when compared with those of the present time. But money then had a purchasing power which has since greatly diminished; and, besides, though the town was not poor, the citizens desired to pay the smallest tax possible and expected the school committee to act in accord with them.

The salary of the high school assistant was $208. That of the principal was, from the founding of the school in 1835, $700, and the first increment of $200 was made in 1848. The recompense of the lady teachers in 1847 ranged from $143 (grammar assistants) to $312 (grammar principals) and averaged $202, which was an advance of $22 from that of 1846, when the grammar assistants received but $104. Within a few years prior to 1847 the distinguished educators, A. B. Magoun, B. F. Tweed, Stacy Baxter and Thomas Starr King had served the grammar schools for a salary of $575, and the records of the school committee are in evidence that when two of them asked for an increase of $25 to their salary, [p. 41] the rise was voted ‘inexpedient.’ When, many years later, the writer rallied one of those masters on his extreme modesty in making the above request, though receiving at that time three or four thousand dollars as school supervisor in Boston, he replied that no later salary had ever seemed to him as large as the $575 he received in Medford.

The two grammar masters, A. K. Hathaway and S. R. Townsend, resigned in the spring of 1846, and lady teachers were put in their places. The experiment, however, not proving successful, Paul H. Sweetser and Stephen Gilman were put in charge of the schools in 1848, with a salary of $600.

Prior to 1847 the schools had eleven three hour sessions each week, and for vacations, fast week, Thanksgiving week, and two weeks in August. But in the summer of that year the Wednesday afternoon sessions began to be omitted, and, in compliment to the new teacher, the high school was allowed two weeks extra vacation in August. Two years later all the schools were allowed three weeks respite in August. The entire board of school committee was chosen annually, and their first printed report was made in 1847.

Notwithstanding the few blots here shown upon its record, Medford in its educational appointments stood in the front row. Its high school, organized for the free co-education of the sexes, and then twelve years old, had but one senior (that in Lowell), and not a baker's dozen of juniors in the entire state. Cambridge organized one in October, 1847, Charlestown one in 1848, and it was then several years before Newton, Somerville, Malden, Woburn, or any other of the neighboring towns provided that luxury for their children. In 1846 the State Board of Education reported Medford as number four among the 322 towns and cities in the Commonwealth in regard to the amount appropriated for each scholar between the ages of four and sixteen. In Brookline it was $7.33, in Nantucket, $5.74, in Watertown, $5.52, and in Medford, [p. 42] $5.48. The three next in order were Chelsea, Charlestown and Boston. According to the census of 1845, each of the three towns first named had a much larger valuation than Medford in proportion to their number of scholars. Boston's was triple that of Medford.

In 1852 Medford had fallen to the twentieth place, not because its appropriation was less, but because other towns and cities had greatly advanced in that respect. Medford spent for schools in 1846, $3,922; in 1847, $4,515, and in 1852, $5,428. Its population in 1847 was about 3,400, and in 1852, about 4,300.


From 1802, when Thatcher Magoun, Sr., ‘laid the first keel of that fleet of ocean merchants ships whose sails have shaded every sea and bay on the navigable globe,’ down to the laying of the last keel by Joshua T. Foster in 1873, ship building was the leading industry of the town. The business was of steady growth from the first, and reached its climax in the decade from 1843 to 1853, in which one hundred and eighty-five vessels were constructed. The banner year was 1845, in which thirty of the number slid over ‘the ways.’

Though the launchings in Medford did not excite the world as did that of the German emperor's yacht, Meteor, they were nevertheless occasions of much interest, and never failed to draw many spectators. They sometimes occurred at midnight, especially in summer, when the tallow on the ways was in danger of being melted under a meridian sun.

The ships were usually built by contract, but the builders often made sub-contracts with individuals or clubs to do certain parts of the work, and those subcon-tractors, by very earnest work and sometimes even prolonging the customary ten-hour day, usually made their jobs very profitable.

To construct the patterns for the ribs in the ship's [p. 43] frame required much skill, and, at the time of which we write, Elisha Stetson and James Ford had the monopoly of making them.

Ships, especially the larger ones, were usually launched when the moon was new or full, and consequently near the noon or midnight hour, as the tide was then the highest. To make the launching easy they were built on an inclined plane. In their construction the first act was to lay the keel, a very large, well-smoothed hard wood timber (rock maple being the favorite) extending from stem to stern. It was supported by blocks placed a few feet apart, and on it the vessel was to rest till finished. As the work progressed, shores were placed along the ship's sides to prevent it from careening. The end nearest the water was usually the stern, but sometimes the prow. When it was ready for the launch, ways were laid on each side at a distance, according to the vessel's size, of five to seven feet from the keel, and extended down to the low water mark in the river. These, about eighteen or twenty inches wide, were made of long and strong timbers, and had in the centre a securely fastened strip of wood a few inches in height and width which served as a flange to keep the moving vessel on the track. After these had been given a heavy coating of tallow, sometimes a sprinkling of flaxseed, but oftener a film of castile soap, in addition, heavy timbers, called bilgeways, with a groove on the under side to fit the projection on the ways, were drawn up under the ship, and, by blocking, made to fit well its bottom. A multitude of wooden wedges were then driven between the ship and the underlying timbers, in order to equalize the bearing upon the ways and remove some of the pressure from the blocks under the keel. Then, the before-named shores having been removed, the final act consisted in splitting to pieces with mauls and iron wedges (as the only means of removing) the blocks under the keel, commencing with those nearest the river. When all these or sometimes all but two or three were demolished [p. 44] the ship would begin to move, at first as slow as the hour hand of a clock, but faster and faster till the final dive.

The construction of a ship's frame required an immense amount of timber, enough, it was said, to fill another ship of the same size. An oak log too crooked to be worked into it could hardly be found. Almost the only square or straight timbers used were the keel which lay beneath the ribs and the keelson which lay inside the ship and above the keel to which it was firmly bolted. A rib usually consisted of six pieces firmly bolted together, and its shape depended upon the place it was to occupy. Sometimes the timbers were hewn in the forest where the trees were felled, but usually the hewing was done in the yard where the ship was being built. In this process the cubical contents of the logs were greatly diminished (in some cases by more than one half), and as in the cutting of diamonds, a large percentage of the gems takes the form of chips and dust, which still have a value, so the fragments of the hewn timbers, which thus became abundant, were distributed through the town to purchasers who paid for them, according to the amount of solid wood, at the rate of $1.75 to $2.25 per load of nearly half a cord. The workmen in the shipyards usually numbered about two hundred and fifty, and sometimes more.

The taking of shad and alewives for a brief period in spring had long been a profitable industry, and though its value had greatly diminished before 1847, yet in that year $253 were paid to the town for the privilege of capturing them. On certain days in the week nets were stretched across the river at convenient places, and on being drawn to the shore, would often contain a cartload or more of the treasure.

Messrs. Waterman and Litchfield were doing an extensive business in the manufacture of doors, blinds, sashes, etc., on what is now Swan street.

Robert Bacon had a factory at Baconville (in northwest Medford) in which he made hat bodies, feltings, etc. [p. 45] He is said to have constructed more than fifty thousand hat bodies per year.

Thomas R. Peck & Co. had, on Mystic avenue, a factory for making fur (commonly called beaver) hats, of which the product some years had been about ten thousand, valued at about $40,000.

But soon after the time of which we write, that department of industry was entirely ruined by the growing popularity and sale of the silk variety which, having been then a few years upon the market, obtained and held undisputed sway till a new style, with low crowns, was set by Kossuth on his visit to the United States in December, 1851.

In 1837 George L. and Henry L. Stearns commenced, on Union street, the manufacture of linseed oil from seed purchased in Calcutta. In one year they made 13,500 gallons from 7,300 bushels of seed. January 30, 1849,1 their factory was burned and never rebuilt. Its tall chimney was afterwards moved intact across the branch canal to the shipyard of J. O. Curtis, where it now stands, minus a few of its top bricks.

The tide mill on Riverside avenue, recently managed by F. E. Foster & Co., was simply a grist mill in 1847, and was run by Gershom Cutter.

All the above named industries, so far as Medford is concerned, are now ‘things of the past,’ but the famous Withington Bakery, carried on by machinery and without the use of fagots; the more famous Lawrence Distillery, by greatly improved methods; the Teel Carriage Factory, immensely enlarged, and the South Medford brick-making, by the ancient methods, all of which were then prosperous, are still in successful operation, but under different owners.

Public Conveyances.

After the completion of the Lowell Railroad in 1835 the few who resided near ‘the Gates’ (i. e., West Medford), or ‘the Steps’ (i. e., Hillside), which was a signal [p. 46] station, could easily reach Boston by that route, but the people at the centre, who did not own horses, were dependent upon other means. Just what those means were, patient research has failed to satisfactorily determine. The Boston Almanac credited Medford with four omnibus trips per day from Elm street in 1845, and six trips (at 9.30 A. M., 12 M., 2, 4, 6, 8 P. M.) in 1846. But memory declares them to have ceased before the winter of 1846-7, and to have given the monopoly of passenger travel to a stage coach, which made several daily trips between the Medford House and Wild's Hotel in Elm street, till the more frequent and cheaper transits by rail supplanted it. The fare was twenty-five cents.

Prior to July 1, 1845, the Boston & Maine had sent its cars from Andover to Boston, via the Wilmington Junction & Lowell Road, but a more direct route through Maiden being in the process of construction, six of Medford's progressive citizens, foreseeing the advantage that would accrue to the town if a branch were built from the centre to connect with it, petitioned the Legislature for a charter, which was granted March 7, 1845, and required the road to be built within two years.

A heated discussion arose among the citizens as to which side of the river the road should be constructed. After the present location was agreed upon and the work was commenced, there were found to be forty-three persons, who either owned land through which the road was to pass, or who fancied their property would suffer by its construction, and were unwilling to accept the award of damages made by the Boston & Maine Corporation, which owned the charter. Appeal was made to the County Commissioners, who, to adjust the disagreement, held a meeting at the Medford House, August 10, 1846. The road was completed and the first train went over it, as we suppose, early in March, 1847.2 According to a time table issued October 4 of that year, trains were run as follows: From Boston at 7 1/2 A. M., 12 M., [p. 47] 2 1/4, 4 1/2 and 6 P. M. From Medford at 7 and 8 1/4 A. M., 1 1/2, 3 1/4 and 5 P. M., with an extra train on Saturday from Medford at 6 1/2 and from Boston at 9 P. M. One year later there were seven trains each way.

Single fares were twelve cents, but, by the hundred, tickets were sold at first for $8, later for $10, and in 1851, for 11.25. John F. Sanborn was the first conductor. Several years later he became an engineer on the road till the great ‘strike’ cost him his position.

Commencing in 1850, Samuel S. Blanchard drove a daily omnibus to Boston for several years. Fare, fifteen cents.


If to any persons some of the foregoing pictures seem to represent the town in a somewhat unfavorable aspect, they will do well to consider that the Medford of 1847 should be compared with contemporary municipalities, and not with the Medford of 1902. The town was relatively wealthy. By the State census of 1845, it was number twenty-six in that respect, while fifty-two others had a larger number of polls.

Genealogy of Gilbert Blanchard, grocer, and his wife, Mary Blanchard.

I. Thomas Blanchard, the emigrant ancestor of Gilbert Blanchard and his wife, came from England in 1639, and is noticed at length in Medford Historical Register, vol. 6, p. 20.

II. Samuel, son of Thomas and——, was born in England, August 6, 1627. He married, 1st, Mary, daughter of Seth Sweetser, January 3, 1655, and 2d, Hannah Doggett, June 24, 1673. He lived on the Blanchard farm till 1686, and had ten children born there. In 1686 he removed to Andover, where he was a prominent citizen. He died there, April 22, 1707, aged 80. [p. 48]

III. Joshua, son of Samuel and Mary (Sweetser), a carpenter and mason, was born in Charlestown, August 6, 1661, and lived on that part of the Blanchard farm owned by his father. He married, 1st, Elizabeth——, who died July 15, 1688, aged 21; 2d, Mehitabel——, who died January 10, 1742, aged 76. He died July 15, 1716, in his 55th year. The three gravestones can be seen in the old burying ground in Malden. He had eight children.

IV. Samuel, son of Joshua and Mehitabel, was born in Charlestown, June 19, 1695; husbandman; married, May 23, 1717, Sarah Pratt of Rumney Marsh (Chelsea); lived on a part of Blanchard farm which was annexed to Malden during his lifetime; had eleven children.

V. Hezekiah, sixth child of Samuel and Sarah Pratt, was born in Malden, January 4, 1728; married, 1st, Susanna Dexter of Malden (grandmother of Gilbert Blanchard), February 22, 1754; 2d, Sarah Hall, of Medford (grandmother of Mary Blanchard), October 6, 1763; he settled in Medford; occupation, tavern keeper; died in Medford, August 24, 1803.

VI. Hezekiah, Jr., son of Hezekiah (V.) and Susanna (Dexter), was born in Medford, September 3, 1758; married, 1st, Esther Tufts of Medford, December 16, 1784; 2d, Eunice Floyd of Medford, January I, 1797; succeeded his father as tavern-keeper; died in Medford, March 17, 1818.

VI. Andrew, son of Hezekiah (V.) and Sarah (Hall), was born July 27, 1764; married Mary Waters of Charlestown, September 14, 1786; died in Medford, March 13, 1857, aged 92.

VII. Gilbert, son of Hezekiah, Jr. (VI.), and Esther (Tufts), was born in Boston, August 3, 1787; married Mary Blanchard, daughter of Andrew (VI.) and Mary (Waters), November 26, 1818; he died in Medford, June 21, 1852. His wife was born October 27, 1789, and died in Medford, April 9, 1876. [p. 49]

The Medford Historical Society has given two delightful entertainments this winter. On New Year's Eve a colonial ball was held in the Opera House. The hall was decorated in buff and blue in a very artistic manner, the music was of the best, and everyone who attended attested that it was one of the prettiest parties ever given in Medford.

The second was the ‘Parada,’ which for four nights was a constantly growing attraction. The entertainment consisted almost entirely of fancy dances, in which about two hundred of the young people of the city participated, under the supervision of Capt. Charles W. Eddy of Boston.

Several very valuable articles have lately been added to the historical treasures of the society, among them a collection of ship builders' tools, donated by men who in their youth worked upon the vessels launched on the Mystic river.

The society is the owner of several valuable portraits of citizens of Medford in times gone by. Lifts of this kind are always gratefully received.

1 ‘Loss, $12,000; insurance, $8,000.’ Boston Post, February 1, 1849.

2 Persistent effort by the writer and others to ascertain the exact date has been of no avail.

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