previous next
[p. 72]

A relic of the Royall house.

Published by request.

[Read before the Medford Historical Society, October 19, 1909.]

THE Medford of earliest days comprised a strip of territory on this side the Mystic, supposed to extend back therefrom a mile for nearly the entire length of the river. After a time portions of old Charlestown were annexed to it, until in 1754 that portion beyond the river was added, and the locality we know as Medford Square was no longer within twenty rods of the boundary, and the Great Bridge was wholly within the limits of the town.

Our society is supposed to be especially interested in Medford history and incidents, and though the one of which I wish to speak occurred in ancient Charlestown, yet because of our Medford acquisition I feel sufficient warrant for so doing.

Governor Winthrop's farm limit was at the Great or Cradock bridge, but his farm house was just beyond the farther end of our acquired territory. He had been there less than two years when in a spirit of exploration he took an evening ramble to the westward. Far different was it than one we might take over the same ground. No clay-pits or race-tracks, brick-yards or railway cuts were there; no houses or barns, but a heavy growth of forest, through which coursed the streamlet called Two-penny brook. As wolves had been prowling around, the Governor took his gun along for safety, and had his tinderbox also. These enabled him to light a fire, when a little later at nightfall he found himself lost in the solitude of the forest.

As the governor wandered along he crossed the ‘Sorrelly Plain,’ treading down the undergrowth and doubtless pressed into the soil the seeds fallen from the pine cones of the forest monarchs. Somewhere thereabout one of them took root in friendly soil, and overcoming all adverse conditions grew, year after year, till well-nigh [p. 73] a century had rolled away. During that century the governor had served the colony well and had passed away, and many of his successors also. The charter he had brought oversea had been annulled and the province had succeeded the colonies. The king who had granted it had been dethroned and beheaded and the provincial Governor Andros had been ousted, but one of his adherents and favorites had come to live in the house that stood on the Governor's farm.

For a time he did so with a deal of state and style, for he was Lieutenant Governor of New Hampshire, till at last his fortunes declined, and after his death his estate passed into other hands. It was then the scene of busy labor for a time, for the old mansion, already venerable, was enlarged and made ‘the grandest in North America.’ We may never know who the workmen were, though we do know the name of the new owner.

Doubtless some of the artisans were men of Medford and Charlestown, and perhaps there labored the sable sons of Ham, the slaves of their master Royall, beside the dutiful subjects of their royal master King George.

But to return to our pine tree, that was a seedling in Governor Winthrop's day. It had grown tall, strong and stately with the sun and rains, winds and storms of the long years of its growth, and one day the woodman's axe laid it low. The timber hewers squared it, and the marks of their shining steel are yet visible. Then the sawyers laboriously reduced it in size, by taking from two adjoining sides a plank of generous thickness, leaving it a timber seven inches square, straight and comely.

A moulding was needed to form the base of the mansion's western front, which was to rise stately and beautiful; and the architect's design was put into the hands of the master workman. The moulding was to be solid, as befitted its place at the base of the building; and so this solid square timber was selected and a third of its substance cut away ere the moulding's curves were formed. I wish I might know who the workman was that labored [p. 74] so patiently and faithfully one hundred and seventy years or more ago.

I have done quite a little of the same kind of work myself, by the same slow process of hand labor, as well as by the modern moulding machine driven by steam power; but I would deem myself as having achieved some fame thereat, could I be assured that my productions would last as long as have his. But the artisan of that longgone and far away time probably little dreamed, that after his work had been exposed to the sunshine and snows, the rain and winds of a century and three quarters, another of his craft would take it up and fashion it into an article of use by the methods of this later day, and call the attention of an assembly of Medford people to it. He had, however, the advantage over the artisans of the present day in having an abundance of good material to select from and to use. Such tools as he worked with seem to us uncouth and clumsy, but he knew how to use them, and did his work well.

Mr. President,—It affords me pleasure to present to the Medford Historical Society at this time, as we begin another season's work—and by your forbearance with my somewhat circumlocutory remarks, the bracket on yonder wall over which is the picture of the house well known to us (and which we are all glad to know is to be preserved) from which it was recently taken, and of which as I have said it was a part.

The forces of nature began the same soon after the advent of the white man to these shores. Artisans who will ever be to us by name unknown, fashioned it almost two centuries ago. In the lapse of the years, its ‘face with time and storm was tanned.’ Simply as a passing incident I have added a little of my own work in shaping its ends to the same curves, and I trust our society will preserve it for many years to come, as a relic of provincial days taken from the Royall House.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
North America (1)
New Hampshire (New Hampshire, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
John Winthrop (2)
Frank W. Ham (1)
King George (1)
Andros (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
October 19th, 1909 AD (1)
1754 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: