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Medford on the map.

We often hear the words “on the map” as expressive of publicity or wide-awakeness. Appropriate in its way, for the town or hamlet not shown on some map must be small indeed. Our caption, however, must be taken literally. In the early days of the Medford Historical Society, President Wait prepared and read a valuable paper on Maps of Medford (Register, Vol. I, p. I 19) in which are reproductions, necessarily small, of six maps showing Medford's area as a whole or in part. The latest Medford map thus alluded to was that of 1855, by H. F. Walling, and to this is a half page devoted in Brooks' history of the same year, which says, “The map is accompanied by eleven other maps or sections, on a scale of two hundred feet to an inch, on sheets of twenty-six to thirtynine inches, and all bound together in an atlas.” Diligent inquiry fails to discover such atlas, or any one that has memory of it.1 At the time of the proposed division of [p. 33] the town some printed reproductions (14 1/4 x 15 1/2 inches in size), with six quarter-mile circles around Medford square (showing marshland in yellow, woodland in green, and boundary lines in red) were made for reference at the legislative hearings. Two of these are framed and are in the Society's collection. A later and finer reproduction of this map (17 1/2 x 18 1/2 inches), on fine white paper, shows the new boundary, made by the transfer to Maiden of a strip of Medford of about a fifth of a mile on Salem street. This was issued just as Medford became a city, as it shows no ward divisions. Various maps prepared by the city engineers, showing the water and sewer systems, have been included in the printed city reports.

The latest we notice is that of Engineer Charnock, January I, 1916. This shows the ward and precinct lines, and such streets in Maiden, Somerville and Arlington as cross or are near boundaries. Judge Wait alluded to twenty-two plans of various localities in Medford that were recorded in Middlesex (South) Registry between 1827 and 1855. One of these (August, 1850) in Plan Book 5, p. 8, he styles very interesting. It is called “Land of Brooks,” at West Medford.2. It shows the entire tract between High street, the B. & L. R. R. and the river, with the Middlesex canal and its lock, aqueduct and tavern. Practically the same layout is shown on the Walling map of 1855, but without the names of streets, though the names of Gorham and Lake parks are given. This plan was made in the last days of the canal's operation, which had ceased when the Walling map was made. In the records of the canal company is an allusion by its agent to a company of gentlemen who had laid out this adjoining territory into house-lots, which they called Brooklands, and a suggestion that the canal's property there might be disposed of to the proprietors of “Brooklands.” In the closing of the canal's affairs this strip with a portion beyond the river, was sold to J. M. Usher [p. 34] Of those park names Gorham was a family name (of Brooks), while Lake was appropriate, as a miniature lake or pond was shown therein. Conditions favored the same, as the writer has seen the springy ground there covered with flags and cat-tails.

In Plan Book 8, Plan 1, 1855, is the same territory (see Register, Vol. I, p. 126), being the “Fuller plan of Smith estate.” Here we must “good naturedly” differ a little with His Honor, who styles it “the present laying out.”

Fuller's plan was made in early '50s, but little or no use was made of it until 1870, when, on June 21, there was a land sale on the premises. In 1865 the conduit of the Charlestown water works was built across this entire tract. The Fuller plan (which omitted the “parks” and had a somewhat different arrangement of streets) was modified somewhat. Two new plans were later made by Josiah Hovey covering the entire river border, or half the area of “Brooklands,” which name had been forgotten. Then the county commissioners came and laid out Boston avenue, as they had previously done with Harvard avenue. Therein lies an explanation of the hopeless tangle of lines intersected by the fifth and sixth circles on the plan formerly alluded to. But the subdivision did not end with these, as conveyancers find sometimes to their dismay, for numerous other smaller plans are duly recorded, but not all in this section.

Who knows where Emperor street is? If any one now should make “a laying out with royal names” he might lay himself open to criticism. But in 1855, Plan Book 7, p. 33, is “old road now called Emperor street.” Book 8, p. 26, is a “rough form” of the same by Daniel Ayer, of whom an old resident says, “He had a faculty of developing all sorts of odd places.” The old schoolmaster, Aaron K. Hathaway, made the finished and earlier recorded plan. One house was erected on this royal layout; is now, and has been for sixty years, the farthest removed from neighbors of any in Medford. [p. 35] Emperor street is part of the old lane or wood road leading from Winthrop street by the old railroad cut in Sugar-loaf hill. After crossing the west branch of meetinghouse brook it turns sharply to the left at the foot of a hill on which are the other royalties-King, Queen, and Prince. Emperor was the equivalent of Kaiser sixtythree years ago, but the modern Kaiser will find no place on Medford's modern map.

On the Walling map, midway between the almshouse and Oak Grove Cemetery, is shown the “Meridian Monument, Harvard University,” due north from the observatory at Cambridge. This was torn down four years ago (Register, Vol. XVII, p. 23). In the second number of Vol. XVI may be found a view and description of same; also in an earlier issue of the Medford Mercury.

In the reports of Metropolitan Park Commission are maps showing its various takings in Medford along the river and in the rocky woodland of the Fells. On the latter, various localities like “old silver mine” and others are shown, but we look in vain thereon for the “Od Man of the Fells” (Register, Vol. XV, frontispiece).

To the Water Department report (1893) is attached a map of the vicinity of Wright's pond. We thought we saw on this, at the proper location, the words Indian Profile, but a reading glass only showed the same to be but topographical shading marks. Later reports contain half-tones, showing the dam and water tower in construction; and on page 200 of Medford Reports, 1898, is a fine view of the completed works, which were for a time the high service of Medford's water system, now a thing of the past and partially removed.

The town records show that as long ago as 1738 a map of Medford was suggested, and by vote left to the discretion of a committee, but nothing came of it. Had there been one made then, it would have been of equal interest, and practically contemporary with the Usher plan of the Royall estate across the river, then in Charlestown. The vote of the town (July 19, 1738) was that [p. 36] the affier of plan of Medford and the land voted to petition for should be left to ye Discretion of the Committee the Town have Imployed in that affaier to act therein as they shall judg most for the Towns interest.

Medford had two years before petitioned for a thousand acres of province land and employed a surveyor to lay out the same. A “plat” and description thereof was required and was returned to the General Court in 1736. The grant of December 29 received the signature of Governor Belcher on January I, 1736-7 (see Massachusetts Archives, also elsewhere in this issue). There being no legislation requiring it, that committee probably considered the “plan of Medford” as unnecessary.

In 1898 there was published by G. W. Stadly & Co. an Atlas of Medford, consisting of twenty-one double pages. Upon one of these is the Tufts map of 1794 and the reprint of the Walling map we have alluded to. The first plate shows the entire territory of the city in colors, and has Arabic numerals in each shade referring to the succeeding sectional plates, while the various wards are designated by Roman. A peculiar feature is the section above the Fellsway, then called “Osgood heights,” with its winding streets, thus necessary because of the local elevation and contour. These sections indicate all then existing houses.

The Atlas of Boundaries, 1898 (see Register, Vol. XVIII, p. 90), beside the map, is devoted to description of the boundary lines, and contains half-tone cuts of all the thirty monuments that mark the corners of Medford.

Thus far we have mentioned the maps and plans that ordinarily come under observation. A visit to the office of the city engineer reveals Medford on the map in closer detail. Twenty-eight sheets (5 x 8 feet leonine paper mounted upon cloth) are covered with accurate drawing on the scale of forty feet to the inch, showing the shape and location of every building on its lot, and the property divisions of each owner in the inhabited portions of the city. The brooks and natural water courses are shown, [p. 37] also the stone walls and fences standing at the time of survey, 1893-‘99. Besides, there are the water-mains, sewers and curb-stones. In fact, little has escaped notice, and these surveys are revised every year, showing all alterations or additions made. Thus Medford is on the map up to date.

1 As both history and map were published at nearly the same time and by separate interest, it is probable that the reference to “eleven sections” was made from some prospectus, rather than actual issue.

2 See Register, Vol. I, p. 126.

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