Medford's town farm.This title does not refer to the present “City home,” nor yet to the tract invaded by the pioneer railroad of 1835, but refers to a broader domain of a thousand acres which Medford obtained in province days “when we were under the king.” The more recent and present town farms have been for the housing and use of the town's poor, within the town limits; this one was gotten for the purpose of enabling the ancient Medfordites to maintain the ministry and school master. Mr. Brooks, in his history, makes brief mention of its grant, and says, “It was not of great value,” and “It was sold soon after.” He also located it on the Piscataqua river, which stream is one of the principal rivers of New Hampshire, reaching the ocean at Portsmouth. What is the story of this Medford “Town farm” ? In the “Archives” at the State House may be found a plan of the same, made by a Medford man, with his accompanying description and certificate, as follows:--
On file with the plan and the above is the following:
All the above is self-explanatory, but where was the Old Harry's Town? The N. H. Manual, page 41, under the head of Manchester, says:--
This territory was originally known as Harry town or Old Harry Town-. . . Granted by Mason Apr. 17, 1735, to Capt Wm Tyng's “Snow-shoe men” and hence called Tyngstown Incorporated as Derryfield Sep 3 1751[p. 39]
|Medford's town farm.|
As seen in the State Archives, the committee secured the services of Caleb Brooks, who had the assistance of Lieutenant Goffe (who was resident in that vicinity) and another, not a chairman, as Brooks' history says, but ‘chanemen,’ as is clearly spelled in his certificate.1 This Caleb Brooks was doubtless the son of the moderator and an early teacher in Medford. At the town meeting, July 19, 1738, was discussed
The affier of plan of Medford and the land voted to be petitioned for should be left to ye Discretion of the CommitteBy this it would appear that a map, or plan, of Medford and its distant ‘farm’ had been contemplated. Had the committeemen's (Willis and Hall) ‘judg meet for the Town's interest’ that such should have been made, it would have antedated the Ephraim Jones plan noted by Judge Wait (Register, Vol. I, p. 128), the earliest plan of Medford, by sixteen years. But the plan of the distant farm had been made and filed with the province authorities two years before, and perhaps the committee deemed that enough. An interesting entry in the Medford record is this:—
We the Subscribers being appointed July 14, 1740 a committee to perfect the lines of the farm granted by the Genl Court 1735 which Lyeth on Pescatequogg River according to the Plan of the Same accordingly we Repaird to said farm on the 19th of Augt 1740 and on the 21 and 22d Dayes of Said month with the assistance of Mr John Goff and Mr. John LovellWe dislike to criticise harshly the worthy committeemen of so long ago, but do wish that they, or Clerk Willis, had finished the statement so well begun on the thirtieth page of Vol. III, Medford Records. About two [p. 42] inches at the bottom of that page and nearly as much at top of the next is still blank, and is mute testimony that a complete report was intended, but by some means neglected or omitted. On the 29th of June, 1740, the committee were
Impowered to Do what they may Judg will be most for the Towns Advantage in building a small House on the Farm or by other ways Desposing by Leting out the said farm for a Term or other wayes as may be for the towns interestAt this time fifteen pounds were appropriated. On March 15, 1741-2, the same committee were given further power as to the ‘Town Farm,’ ‘inasmuch as it has now fallen into the province of Hamp shier.’ Ten pounds were appropriated, and Benjamin Parker and Benjamin Willis added to the committee. There is an indication of the boundary controversy, based on the ‘three miles north of the Merrimack,’ in the charter given by King Charles. Massachusetts had claimed and had placed a boundary stone in the bed of Winnepesaukee river as the three-mile north limit from which the ‘westward to the South Sea’ line was to extend. The stone, with the initials of governor and commissioners, is there today under a granite canopy recently erected by the state of New Hampshire. But the boundary controversy was accompanied by the Mason grant and Gorges patent difficulties, as we may later notice. On July 11, 1743, the town voted
150 pounds old tenor money to be paid Benja Parker, Town Treasurer on the 14 September next to sattisfye the debts and charges and what may yet arise in the affairs of the said Towns farmAnd on the 14th of May, 1744, 250 pounds more were voted to pay debts about the town farm. At that time there seems to have been a change of administration, as Capt. Samuel Brooks, Joseph Tufts and Ebenezer Cutter were chosen ‘Committe to Take care of the Towns farm lying at a place called Pascattequag.’ On November 1, 1744, the town meeting's attention was diverted somewhat from the farm matters to paying [p. 43] for the past ringing of the newly acquired bell on the meeting-house and providing for its future service, and adjournment was had to the 15th, to receive account of audit of accounts of town farm, when the same was allowed and accepted. At the meeting of March 4, 1744-5 the same committee was continued. On May 6, 1745, the freeholders in land of forty pounds or other estate of fifty at least were warned to meet on May 20. Thomas Seccomb had become the town clerk, and his entry of record is today as clear-cut and legible as print. The business was election of deputy, defraying necessary charges, report of committees, ‘to find the mind of the town as to charge of ringing bell; if swine to go at large till first Monday in March next and to take measures to prevent their Dogs from coming into the Public assembly on Sabbath.’ The farm matters are not in evidence till October 25, 1748, when a warrant called a meeting on the 28th.
Inasmuch as we have been informed by sundry persons that there is danger of some Peoples getting Possession of it . . . Put to vote whether the Committe be impowered to agree with some suitable persons to Dwell in said Farm and also to take care that said Farm be Fenced with a Possession Fence as soon as may be at the charge of the town Voted in the affirmativeIt would be very interesting to know just what conditions then existed as the committee found them. Evidently the town was not finding its thousand-acre farm a bonanza for ministry or school support, and was ready to sell out and do business nearer home, as witness the following, a month later:—
We are unable to find any record of any vendue at Mrs. Floyd's tavern in the old Medford market-place a week later, and have grave doubt thereof: because on January 23, 1748-9, a warrant was issued, calling a town meeting at 6 o'clock in the afternoon of that day, at the house of Mrs. Sarah Floyd,
[p. 44] The condition of Sale is as follows viz The said Commite to take good Security for the Money at Interest at £ 6 p cent for two years and . . . give a Quitclaim of said Farm according to the Grant of the General Court with the House and Fences with all the Emprovements and Utensils thereon and said Purchasers are to pay down the sum of Fifty Pounds Old Tenor to be deducted out of said Sum sold for and none to bid less than £ 5 Old Tenor at a time. Voted in the affirmative.
inasmuch as we find that it may be of great service to ye town as to their Farm at Piscataquogge (so called) that some person or persons should be forthwith sent to Portsmouth in the Province of New Hampshire in order to discourse with the Gentlemen that have purchased Mason's Right or Patent and to determine what will be best for the Town to do with Respect to said Farm.And here again we are left with our curiosity unsatisfied. But on May 1 the town voted to sell, and immediately after voted ‘to sell their Farm at Piscataquogge within twelve months.’ As to what the result of the discourse forthwith with the ‘Gentlemen’ at Portsmouth was, and whether a sale was made or not, we are not informed, but the town's vote a year later
July 31, 1750 Selectmen sell the utensils of the Town Farmcertainly has an ominous look. Historian Brooks says the vote to sell at auction was reconsidered, and that May 15, 1749, ‘Andrew Hall, Capt. Saml Brooks, and Richard Sprague were chosen to manage the affairs for selling the Town's farm,’ and adds his own statement, ‘It was sold soon after.’ Our own opinion is, that as the grant of the provincial legislature was, ‘provided that it does not interfere with any former grant,’ the Mason grant was valid, and the ‘discourse’ at Portsmouth convinced the Medford committee [p. 45] that the house and fencing were a dead loss to Medford, and that the ‘utensils’ only remained for the town to realize anything from. Just what the ‘Possession Fence’ was, that Medford erected on the two land boundaries, which were something over a half mile in length, we do not know, probably not of barbed wire, though the pitch pine and maple trees on the river bank would have made good terminal posts for such. In 1746 the last surviving heir of Mason had sold his rights to twelve gentlemen of Portsmouth, who, to conciliate, recorded quit claims to towns where settlement had been made, but we have found no indication of Medford being thus favored. It might be interesting to know how the old tenor basal price named for the vendue compared with the standard hard money of the time. By careful comparison of the foregoing plat and its bounds and courses with the map of the New Hampshire county of Hillsborough, it is evident that the town farm was within the territory incorporated by Gov. Benning Wentworth on June 16, 1761, as Goffstown, in honor of Col. John Goffe, a resident of the adjoining town of Bedford, and one of the chainmen named in the certificate of Caleb Brooks. The Masonian proprietors had made a grant in 1748 to Rev. Thomas Parker of Dracut, and to others. These last were probably the ‘some Peoples’ and the Portsmouth gentlemen referred to in Medford records, and by or under them the first settling thought to have been begun in 1742. The decision of the crown as to boundary was in 1740, and gave to New Hampshire territory fourteen miles further south than she had ever claimed. Piscataquogg meant ‘great deer place.’ The usual reservation of ‘masts for our royal navy’ was in the charter of all the scores of towns chartered by Wentworth, and perhaps after province days some of the timber of that region found its way to Medford ship yards. [p. 46] ‘Squog’ village, within the two miles west of the Merrimack, has been annexed to, and is now a part of, Manchester. In 1812 there was built, perhaps on quite this old Medford town farm, a canal boat called the Experiment. It was hauled by forty yoke of oxen to the Merrimack, launched on the river, loaded, and made the trip down stream under the charge of Captain Isaac Riddle. It left the river at Chelmsford and came through the Middlesex canal, thus voyaging through Medford to Boston, where its arrival was hailed with cannon salute. It is recorded that the enterprise boomed Bedford, the ‘Hamp shier’ town, but we find no record of any material boom coming to Medford by the grant of the General Court and the town's outlay thereon, or any help in the support of minister or schoolmaster from the ‘town's farm’ in ‘Old Harry's town.’