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[p. 78]

Bottled history.

We read sometimes of bottled records cast up by the sea; here is one that sixteen years later came to light after no journeying, but once in peril of destruction by fire, addressed to the Medford Historical Society. The following is self-explanatory:—

September 9, 1917.
dear Sir:

I was shingling on a job in W. Medford; under a chimney flashing I found this letter which is enclosed. It was sealed in a bottle.

The Finder


R. J. Dutra 27 Garrison Ave., W. Somerville, Mass.

The ‘letter’ the finder mentions was rolled in a separate paper, on which was written:—

Will the finder kindly send the enclosed paper and this wrapper (after reading) to the Medford Historical Society and oblige the writer.

[Name here.]

West Medford, May 25, 1901.
The street railway track in Boston Ave. was laid this week.

The above was visible through the glass of the bottle, attracting the finder's attention to the following enclosure:

This house (the two-story 32 ft. portion) was the L, or wing of the tavern belonging to the Middlesex canal, and formerly stood between the present Arlington and Tontine streets and fronting on the present Boston avenue.

The writer first made its acquaintance in May, 1870, when he made extensive repairs upon it; the first work he did in Medford. At that time there were but fifteen houses on this side the railroad, between High street and the river, and but two beyond the river on the slope of the hill. The course of the canal was plainly visible, and the ruins of the aqueduct over the river still remained, though the gates and timber of the lock had been removed.

The old tavern was removed from its former location in May, 1889, to its present sites. This portion is undoubtedly older than its larger main house, and sat upon a separate foundation of trench wall, but no cellar. Under the present kitchen was a well, some [p. 79] of the curved bricks of which are in the base of the present chimney. It had a large fire-place, brick oven, and set boiler for laundry work. These were removed in 1870, and an ordinary chimney built in their place and under that in the second story. Before the removal of the house all the chimneys were taken down and the bricks used in rebuilding. The old chimney stood in the place where the patch of planed boards will be found. The shingles just now removed were of white cedar of fair quality and of the kind known in the market at that time as ‘shaved,’ i.e., split from the wood and formed by hand with a draw-knife instead of being sawed. These were laid on the roof in 1870 in the month of June, thus making nearly thirty-one years of service. The shingles they replaced were of pine and made in the same way. The boards of the roof at the present show but three sets of nailing for shingles. It is safe to conclude that the original shingles lasted from forty to fifty years. In removing the shingles of 1870 at this time the workmen found one of those removed in 1870 in the cornice. It was much more worn by the weather during its service than its successor.

Near the present location of the house was a willow which was over four feet in diameter when removed in 1889 to make room for this and new buildings. The willow now in the adjoining lot is a sprout from its stump.

The Middlesex canal, which for fifty years was a waterway from the Charles to the Merrimac river, passed along the location of Boston avenue and was, at its construction, the greatest inland improvement of the country. Begun in the closing years of the eighteenth and opened in the early years of the nineteenth, we may contrast it with the means of travel and carriage of this present year of the new century, and wonder if the coming years will witness as much change, and as many improvements.

Just how old this house is we have no means of knowing, but it is probably much more than a century, and has not outlived its usefullness.

West Medford, May 25, 1901.
[Name here.]

At the meeting of the Society on September 24, the above was read by Mr. Weitz, who was Secretary at the time of the writing in 1901, and the papers are deposited in the Society's archives. The writer was then a new member and willing to ‘do his bit’ toward the preservation of Medford history. Knowing something of the old house and its connection with the old waterway, he placed this account of it where it would be readily found at the [p. 80] renewal of the roof covering. He scarcely expected ever to see it again, much less to receive it officially, or editorially to make note of the same.

In our reprint, the name of the writer is for obvious reasons omitted, but at its reading the President remarked, ‘It seems like ‘chickens coming home to roost’.’ There was some delay in the completion of the work in 1901, during which time the railway track was laid near by, and so mention was made of the fact and a new date ‘25’ written above the original ‘13’

As a matter of present record it is well to state that this house is located at right of the end of Canal street, numbered 81 and 83, and the ‘larger main house’ referred to now at the left and numbered 84. This house was undoubtedly built many years before the canal's inception, as its manner of construction is much different from that of the larger house built in 1802, and which was built directly against this one without removing any of its exterior boards or clapboarding. This was found to be the case on their removal from their old site in 1889. It might be an interesting antiquarian study to ascertain what old Medfordite built and first lived in it.

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