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[p. 90]

The first Medford Journal.

On Thursday, January 8, 1857, there appeared in our old town its first local newspaper, bearing this title in ornamental capitals ‘The Medford Journal.’ It styled itself, ‘A paper devoted to News, Literature, Science and Art.’ This was followed by a quotation from Burns, ‘A chiel's amang ye takina notes, an faith he'll print them.’

It was published by C. C. P. Moody and edited by George G. W. Morgan. Its subscription price was $1.50 per annum, in advance. It was of eight pages, 10 × 12 inches in size. A brief allusion has been made to it in recent years in ‘Medford Past and Present,’ as a small four page venture of four columns each, placing it at about 1850. Possibly there may have been at that time such a one, but as that writer placed Mr. Usher's Medford journal next in order, he doubtless referred to the subject of this sketch.

The first article was under the caption, ‘Original Poetry,’ and consisted of four eight-line verses, entitled ‘The Poet's Aspirations,’ ‘by the editor,’ who began,

I ask not wealth nor honor,
Nor proud or broad domain.

Next came ‘Our Introductory,’ which occupied three columns, stating the purpose, scope and intentions of the new venture. Then a little over a column (reprinted from the Boston Journal) told the story of the murder of Warden Tenney of the Massachusetts State Prison, at Charlestown, by one of the prisoners. Just two weeks had elapsed since Deputy Warden Walker had been there murdered, and this created wide spread excitement. Two columns followed about the filibustering General Walker in Nicaragua; and then three eight-line verses, ‘The Old Year.’ The editor was next indebted to the Lowell Courier for an account of a train ‘Off the Track,’ on the B. & M. R. R., in Wilmington. A great shake-up, but one person injured, and he only slightly.

On the preceding Thursday, the Universalist Church [p. 91] at Maiden was dedicated. The account tells of the dedication hymn by Mrs. M. A. Livermore, and prayer by Rev. C. H. Leonard. Then there was a bunch of choice bits gathered up; here is one.

I'd rather black my visage o'er,
And put the gloss on boots and shoes,
Than stand within a liquor store
And wash the glasses drunkards use.

John Pierpont.

Rev. Mr. Pierpont was at that time the Unitarian minister in Medford, and he was accustomed to expressing his sentiments forcibly.

Medford had a course of ‘Lyceum Lectures’ in those days and two and a half columns were devoted to an account of Rev. Dr. Adams' ‘Ideal of a Merchant.’ These were usually in the Town Hall, but on this occasion American Hall was used. A comment was, ‘The hall was well lighted, warmed and very convenient.’

The ‘Ladies' Fair and Levee,’ on December 30, 1856, (same evening as the lecture) in the Town Hall, drew together, ‘a highly respectable company.’ The Methodist ladies were raising money to buy an organ for their church, (beside Gravelly brook then). The Universalist minister (Maxham), and the ‘Orthodox’ (Marvin), were present and spoke encouraging words. And be it noticed, the levee was opened by singing of hymns and prayer. Their minister was Rev. E. S. Best. Hon. J. M. Usher was there (of course he was) and in his remarks, for he was always ready with a speech, he alluded to the ‘Best Methodists.’ Mr. Usher's wit seems to have been lost on the Journal man, as he alludes to Mr. Bess several times, and reports Mr. Usher as saying, ‘they have a good organ at one end and soon will have another at the other.’ Mr. Usher probably put the Best organ in the pulpit end. Samuel Blanchard officiated as auctioneer at the close of the ‘levee.’

Next came an account, one and a quarter columns, of a meeting in relation to the proposed Medford Horse [p. 92] Railroad. This was on January 2, 1857. One of the three routes proposed was down Ship street. J. O. Curtis was Chairman, J. M. Usher, Secretary. At this meeting Mr. Usher took opportunity to introduce the editor and to bespeak popular favor toward the coming paper. Perhaps he did so because it was ‘a highly respectable meeting of the citizens,’ at least the Journal said so. The words were used by other writers of the time. The historian of a near city alluded to ‘the present highly respectable Baptist Church.’

A brief review of the Lyceum Lectures, given weekly in the previous December, then followed. Then came a caution to householders as to care of fires, danger of suffocation, etc., enforced by a local incident, entitled ‘A Warm Bedfellow.’

It appears that a servant girl at Colonel Usher's (Henry Usher, at West Medford) had placed a heated brick in her bed, scorching the bed-clothes and setting fire to the carpet afterward. Mrs. Usher discovered the fire, which was extinguished none too soon by the Colonel.

Nearly two columns were devoted to ‘Foreign Affairs,’ among them an account of the return of the Arctic ship Resolute by our government to England.

In ‘Domestic Intelligence’ was a communication, ‘Is hanging a remedy for crime?’ containing allusions to the recent murders at the State Prison.

The ‘World as it is’ contained seventeen paragraphs. One alluded to the closing of President Pierce's administration.

Then there were three ‘Answers to Correspondents,’ and three selections of poetry under the head of ‘Culled Flowers.’ ‘Chips from a Dry Stick’ made half a column of interesting and amusing sayings and jokes. The Honolulu Advertiser furnished ‘A Hawaiian Funeral.’

On the last page was the announcement of the Medford Lyceum for January 8. H. M. Ticknor was to read selections from popular authors, among them, Saxe,

Fields and Whittier. [p. 93]

The ordination of William C. Brooks as pastor of the Universalist Church at Malden was reported; Rev. C. H. Leonard making the address to the church and society.

The names and tonnage of eight vessels built during the year in Medford, also names of builders were given. The Bunker Hill, 1000 tons (Curtis), was on ‘the stocks for launching in the spring.’

Four advertisements of real estate, and one of T. W. Savage, 1 and 2 American Block, next followed. Mr. Savage sold dry goods, millinery, clothing, boots and shoes. Davis & Wright (over B. & M. station in Boston) advertised carpets. C. C. P. Moody, 52 Washington street, Boston, advertised printing of all kinds. It was probably there the Journal was printed; and creditable work it was.

One marriage notice there was; ‘On Christmas eve, by Rev. Theodore Parker, Wm. Mumford to Caroline Griffin, of East Medford.’

One death; ‘Lizzie Rich (14 years), of Malden.’ This was followed by three verses of sympathy, ‘sent by a friend.’

The last item was the quarterly list of letters remaining in the Medford Post Office, and advertised by Postmaster James C. Winnek. There were 131 of them.

Such was the first venture in Medford journalism, and certainly Editor Morgan and Publisher Moody made a creditable showing, and deserved success.

Possibly the readers of the Register may inquire: Did the Medford people of a half century ago appreciate the effort and rally to its support? We regret to say that evidently they did not, as in the third issue, on January 22, there was in its columns ‘A Last Appeal,’ in which the editor and publisher, while not expecting large things, confessed disappointment. They, however, continued its publication for three months, during which time, several correspondents made use of its columns in letters of encouragement, on public improvements and appeal for action at town meeting on various matters. [p. 94]

The various lectures of the Medford Lyceum were reported, and this seems to have been well attended. Then there was the Literary Institute, a young men's society. Mr. N. H. Bishop's lecture before the latter is fully given. Mr. Bishop and Mr. T. P. Smith seem to have been very friendly to the paper. In the ‘Introductory’ it was said, ‘We have been seriously contemplating whether to allow advertisements of any kind,’ wishing the paper to ‘stand on its merits.’ A few availed of its columns to advertise, but in meager number, as the publisher announced a discrimination.

The last number, the 13th, appeared on April 2, the opening article being ‘Our Valedictory.’ In this, Editor Morgan told something of the efforts made toward its establishment, but felt that they were in the main unappreciated, as not over forty subscriptions had been received, while the weekly sales had not exceeded sixty. The weekly income had been about five dollars and while the advertisements had added but little, the expenses had been over twenty,—and we may wonder how it could have been done for that. Some friends wished to assist by contribution, but the editor's ‘self respect would not permit’ such action, and so ended the publication of Medford's first local paper.

The editor was evidently a man of genius, education and ability, and during that winter gave a lecture, in the Lyceum course, on ‘Poets and Poetry,’ closing with an ‘Epic on Napoleon,’ an original composition. Like another editor we know, he sometimes found it needful to find subject matter and copy. Number 1 contains his poem, ‘Old Oscar and His Sons.’ He remarked in his lecture:—

I've always found the same old hen
Who'd peck for one, could peck for ten,

But peck and scratch as well as editor may, subscribers need to be multiplied by ten (and this applies to the Register as well) to make any publication successful. [p. 95]

Mr. Moody, the publisher, also was the author of ‘Moody's Proverbs,’ which the writer remembers seeing in the Boston papers long ago, as well as a review of current political events in the ‘Chronicles of Moody.’

In that final number he issued notice of the publication of the Malden Messenger, and stated that it would be sent to the Journal subscribers, and any dissatisfied ones could be reimbursed for the unexpired portion, by calling at his office.

In that number was a letter wherein ‘Eureka’ proposed a shorter route to Boston by the erection of a ‘suspension bridge, from Ship street near the Craddock Fort to the highland in Somerville,’ stating that ‘the ideals of to-day become the actual of succeeding age.’ The ‘horse railroad’ resultant on that ‘highly respectable’ meeting had its day. Twenty years later the Mystic was bridged at Wellington; but it has taken fifty-one years to get a rapid transit from the ‘highland in Somerville.’

Possibly ere this, both editor and publisher have passed on, but in the Medford Public Library is preserved a file of their paper (the only one we know of), which someone was thoughtful enough to save.

The writer has made this review of its earliest issue to perpetuate in our columns a record of the effort made, thus adding a little to Medford history.

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