Nathan Wait's right of way.
The history of the Middlesex canal has been so ably treated by two members of the Historical Society (see Vol. 1, p. 33, and Vol. 7, p. i, also map of canal within the limits of Medford, Vol. I, p. 38) that it would seem as if the subject was nearly exhausted. But an agreement entered into by the proprietors of the canal by their agent, James F. Baldwin, and Nathan Wait of Medford, has recently been placed in my hands with a request that I should locate some of the places referred to in the said agreement. The agreement is as follows, viz.:—
Know all men by these presents. That the Proprietors of the Middlesex Canal by their Agent James F. Baldwin in consideration of a relinquishment by Nathan Wait of Medford of his right to a bridge across the Middlesex Canal in Medford, which was formerly a swing bridge, and stood near the house of Abraham Touro Esq. and also all right to pass and repass across and through said canal where said bridge stood, have granted and conveyed and do by [p. 75] these presents grant and convey unto the said Nathan Wait, his heirs and assigns, a right to pass to and from his land through the said Proprietors land on the southerly side of said canal in Medford, from the passageway or lane (which leads southerly from the canal where said bridge stood) to the great road running from Medford Bridge over Winter Hill in the usual passage way from the great road to the Basin (through the landing or Basin lot so called) and from the Basin on the south side of the canal to the lane aforesaid. Also the privilege of taking gravel from the abutment of the old swing bridge to repair the passageway hereby conveyed in such manner as not to injure the bank or trunk of the canal. . . .This agreement was dated July 15, 1820, and recorded with Middlesex South District Deeds January 1, 1855. The first passageway or lane referred to in the above agreement is what was formerly known as Brick-yard lane, and it extended from South street, near the residence of Mr. Touro (which stood on what is now the corner of South street and Touro avenue and was demolished a few years ago, his house-lot being bounded easterly by Brick-yard lane), across the canal southerly into the brick yard. The lane existed prior to the laying out of the canal. That portion of the lane that extended from South street to the canal, or to Summer street, as now laid out, has been closed, and the portion south of the canal was known in recent years as Oak street until it was widened and renamed Brookings street. The clay lands were on each side of the lane, the greater portion being situated on the easterly side between Summer and George streets. These brick yards were formerly known as the Sodom yards,1 and are now mostly covered with houses. The swing bridge was the connection between the north and south portions of the lane after the construction of the canal and until the agreement before mentioned was signed. There is nothing to indicate the mechanism of this bridge. The canal was thirty feet in width, and the bridge must have been wide enough for the passage of a cart and long enough when weighted [p. 76] on the inshore end to counterbalance the portion that extended over the canal. I recollect the abutment of the bridge on the south side of the canal, but did not then know what its use had been. The right to pass and repass through the canal land granted to Mr. Wait was on the south side of the canal over a passageway thirty-two rods in length and one and one-half rods in width from Brick-yard lane to the basin lot parallel to the canal. The location of the canal was laid out seven rods in width and the way was a part of the location. The basin was an enlargement of the canal for the storage of ship timber floated down from the back country for use in the ship-yards. Some of the timber was transported to the yards over land, and some was floated by the way of the branch canal to the river, and thence by the river to its several destinations. There was another way on the westerly side of the basin lot seventeen and one-half rods in length and one and one-half rods in width that connected with the way above mentioned, and a way thirty-four feet in width on the southerly side of the basin lot. This way was fifty-six rods in length and terminated at the great road (Main street) running from Medford bridge over Winter hill. Both of these ways were included in Mr. Wait's right of way. The Cradock schoolhouse stands on the location of the basin. The annexed plan drawn from deeds shows the location of these several ways. Summer street, formerly Middlesex street, was laid out over the southerly portion of the canal location and did not include all the trunk or water course of the canal, and thus made possible the house-lots on the northerly side of the street. It originally extended from Main street to Brick-yard lane, and when constructed the right of way of Mr. Wait's heirs and assigns became obsolete. In the summer season a party of Penobscot Indians used to camp on the basin lot and make and sell bows, arrows, and baskets, and occasionally a wandering party of gipsies would [p. 77] camp there, trading horses and telling fortunes. The lot was also used as a burial place for deceased animals. It was, in fact, for many years a veritable no-man's land. I wonder if any of my readers ever heard of the shipwreck that once was said to have occurred on the canal, possibly on the very section under consideration. I remember hearing of it when I was younger, it made considerable sport at the time. It was celebrated in verse, and was sung to a Medford audience by the clown of a circus that came to town. There were several verses, but I can recall only one, the rest were in a similar strain:
The chamber-maid she ran on deck
And loudly she did bawl,
“There goes my bed and bedding
In the Middlesex Kinawl.”