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[p. 83]

The Bigelow family.

Eliza M. Gill.
Medford has a special interest in the honor bestowed on Prof. Abbott Lawrence Lowell, by his election to the Presidency of Harvard University, for among the many illustrious families from which he is descended, one goes back to a period of Medford's history when its members for many years occupied important positions in the civic and social life of the town.

In 1806, Hon. Timothy Bigelow, son of the distinguished Revolutionary patriot Col. Timothy Bigelow; made Medford his residence when he removed from Groton to Boston to open a law office, and here he remained till his death, May 18, 1821, aged 54. His widow Lucy, daughter of Oliver Prescott, M. D., of Groton, survived him thirty-one years, dying December 15, 1852, aged 81 years, 9 months.

Mr. Bigelow was an able lawyer, the first in our town, which he served as its Representative in the General Court for many years, and was a highly esteemed citizen. He also served in the broader capacity of Speaker of the House for eleven years, eight of them being consecutive, —the longest term served by any one man. The life of one so estimable and useful to his fellowmen ought to be better known by our people of today.

His fine mansion and extensive grounds were on High street, the site of the present Grace Church and the residence of the late James W. Tufts. His greenhouses were the first probably built on any private estate in this town, and the foundations were used for the greenhouses erected by James W. Tufts.

The estate was filled with trees and shrubbery, which gave it an air of seclusion, and the passer-by caught just glimpse enough to make him long to enter and explore the attractions he knew must lie beyond. [p. 84]

Marshall P. Wilder, who contributed the chapter on ‘The Horticulture of Boston and Vicinity’ for the Memorial History of Boston, describing the fine estates in the towns nearby, says, ‘There were many fine estates in Medford in our own day. Such were those of Timothy Bigelow, Peter C. Brooks, Thatcher Magoun and others, who were interested in horticultural pursuits and had good gardens and greenhouses.’

Martin Burridge, whose descendants are living here, was the gardener, and his certificate of membership in the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, issued a few years after its formation, has recently been presented to that society, and as it had none of this early issue, this relic of its former history has been very gratefully accepted and will be carefully preserved.

Several children were born to Mr.Bigelow and Mrs. Bigelow while living here, and of those who came here young several rose to eminence in public or social life.

Katherine married Abbott Lawrence, the distinguished merchant and philanthropist, who was also the founder of great factories, benefactor of the Public Library of Boston, and of the Scientific School at Harvard, which was named for him. He was Ambassador to England, and one of the merchant princes of Boston, whose history cannot be told without mention of his name. An elegant residence on Park street, Boston, became the home of this Medford bride, and the site of it is now occupied by the Union Club, of Boston. She was married June 28, 1819, and her daughter Katherine Bigelow Lawrence married Augustus Lowell, whose son Abbott Lawrence Lowell has the honor to succeed Charles William Eliot as head of Harvard.

Andrew, a brother of Katherine, after graduating from Harvard, entered the ministry and settled in Medford, succeeding Rev. David Osgood as pastor of the church in the town. Soon after his settlement, differences of opinion in religious belief caused the withdrawal of seventeen members who formed the Second Congregational Church. [p. 85] Rev. Andrew Bigelow was pastor of the Bulfinch Street Chapel (Unitarian) in Boston, 1845-1846.

John Prescott, a brother of the above, was Secretary of State of Massachusetts and was elected Mayor of Boston, December 1848, and served three terms. During his term of office, the completion of the lines of railroads connecting Boston with Canada and the Great Lakes was celebrated with great elaborateness, and he is said to have done ‘the honors of the city very handsomely.’ The first gift of money to the Boston Public Library was from John P. Bigelow. Was he the John P. Bigelow who was Commander of the Medford Light Infantry, 1821-1823?

Elizabeth Prescott, the youngest daughter, was married June 4, 1839. Andrew was married soon after his settlement over the church here, and these marriages with Katherine's also, are found on our Medford records, where also to be found are the deaths of the following: Edward, July 1, 1838, aged 38; Helen, unmarried, April 14, 1865, aged 61 years, 8 months; Francis R., unmarried, June 28 1886, aged 80 years, 6 months.

Helen and her brother Francis each led the life of a recluse, using only a portion of the great house, and naturally they fell into ways under such conditions that made them somewhat peculiar. About the time of the death of Helen, or soon after, Francis left his old home and went to live with Charles Russell, a lawyer, on Forest street, where he spent the remainder of his days. Under the watchful care of the friends in this home circle he regained his manliness, and he is remembered by two generations of our citizens. He had a tall, erect figure, abundant iron-gray hair, and was a familiar sight as he took his daily walk to the square, always wearing a cape and carrying a cane. He was a good Latin scholar and enjoyed talking about the history of Medford. He had been a merchant and the title of Colonel, by which he was always addressed, may have been one of courtesy.

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