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[p. 31]

A Medford guide-post.

The reading of a paper on milestones by Mr. Read at our Historical Society suggested to one of his hearers the writing of a letter, from which we quote:—
At the corner of Main and High streets there was once a granite guide-post. On its top was a large square block of stone with the faces lettered

5 miles.

20 miles.

When Lowell was started, a great many tip-carts and truck of all sorts passed through the square. Because the natives were so often asked the way to Lole by emigrants on foot, John Howe, a selectman whose business was near by, insisted on lettering this post thus for their information. As very few of them could read, the guide-post was called ‘Howe's Folly.’

The first mill employees at Lowell were from the country towns of New England; but later came the deluge.

James Ewell, who was employed on the highways many years, said that after its removal the stone post was built into a bridge over Gravelly brook, and that the heavy cap-stone lay for a time in the department yard on Swan street.

We well remember the old way-mark at the street corner, a portion painted white to receive the black letters. As we recall it, there was a lantern projected cornerwise from it over the sidewalk and lighted with gas.

Mr. Wait's letter suggests a study of the view of Medford Square shown in Brooks' history. In that steel engraving (from a daguerreotype by Wilkinson) the tall stone post is clearly shown, surmounted by another (probably of iron) bearing a lantern at its top. The lantern was nearly level with the window-sills in the town hall. This picture is of itself an interesting study, a record of conditions of sixty years ago. The classic town house, that has been styled the ‘Parthenon of Medford,’ is the central figure and stands at a higher elevation than now, evidenced by the steps on either side. It lacks, however, the stone bases of the columns, and of course the flag-staff, balcony and door in the High [p. 32] street end, as also the plate-glass window that now lights the city clerk's office. Instead, in the gable there is a fan-shaped window, which was in harmony with its architecture. Six buildings (one, two and three stories) were adjoining on High street—now all gone. Next was the meeting-house of the Second Church (burned in 860), with its columned front and storied steeple. A high fence enclosed the site of the Grand Army Hall, on which was a large spreading tree. A low barn-like structure and trees end the view on the left, while opposite, the Hall residences are shown. Two immense trees stood opposite the town house and cut off the view up the right of High street as far as the Hall houses. One tree casts its shadow clearly against the front of the old house of Dr. Tufts, then already leaning and decrepit with age. Against the dark, massive bole of the second tree stands a barber's pole, almost as high as the guide-post lantern opposite. The present three-story brick building fills the adjacent space hiding the Seccomb house (in 1870 the Simpson tavern) and the horse-chestnut tree that still remains. A stage-coach, with driver atop and trunks behind, stands before the tavern, a lady beside it evidently talking with the driver. The old town pump, which the fire engineers annually reported in working order, leans somewhat away from a horse and rider. Two canvas-covered wagons in the square, with another in the distance, pedestrians on the sidewalks, several groups of people, as well as children at play, are to be noticed. Half way from town to meeting-house was another barber's pole, and nearer, in the square, an animal that looks like porcus, with a dog disputing his right of way. It was no uncommon sight in the fifties to see a stray pig in the street, and ‘cattle day’ (Tuesday afternoon) was each week dreaded by the women folk. Only the ‘end-seat hog’ now goes through the present more elevated Medford Square, such in the trolley car, or perhaps in automobile, to the terror of the timid passer.

Why was the old guide-post removed? [p. 33]

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