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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:--

By virtue of a Grant made by the Great & General Court to ye town of Medford I the subscriber have surveyed and Laid out with the assistance of Lt John Goffe and Mr. Ephraim Bushnall Chanemen one Thousand acres of Land in the following manner viz. bounded southerly by a tract of Land Laid out to the grantees of ye town Whys * called by the name of Olld Harrys town Westerly by Province Land northerly and Easterly by Pefcataquogg River the lines beginning att a pitch pine tree on the bank of Sd River (about two miles west of Merrimack River) markt M F then running due West by ye needle with a line of markt trees 693 perch then turning No 15 Degrees E to a Maple tree standing on the bank of the aforsd Pefcataquogg River markt M F 400 perch then turning and running with sd Pescataquogg River until it come to ye

* Which is. [p. 38] pitch pine first mentioned, which plan is Protracted by a scale of So poles or perch to one inch

June the 16 1736

By me Caleb Brooks G Surveyr--

In surveying this farm there was Given one Chain in fifty for Broken Land and Sagg of Chain

Middlesex June 18 1736

Personally appearing be fore me the Subscriber Calap Brooks Survayor John Goff and Ephram Busnall Chanmen mad oath that in the Survayin and meafuring a thousand acrs of Land Granted by Gener Cout to the Town of Medford thay did dewe faithfoully and Impertially

Eleazar Tyng, just Peace

On file with the plan and the above is the following:

In the House of Representatives, June 22, 1736.
Read and ordered That the plat be accepted and the lands therein delineated and described be and hereby are confirmed to the town of Medford, in the County of Middlesex, the better to enable them to support the ministry and keep a school in the town agreeable to the prayer of the petition of said town presented to the court in June last: provided the plat exceeds not the quantity of a thousand acres and does not interfere with any former grant. Sent up for concurrence

J. Quincy, Spkr.

In House of Representatives Dec. 22, 1736
Read again and question put whether the plat shall be accepted, It passed in the negative

Dec. 29, 1736. Read again and reconsidered and ordered Sent up for concurrence,

J. Quincy, Spkr.

In Council Dec. 31, 1736.
Read and concurred

Simon Frost.Dep. Sec.

Jan. 1, 1737.
Consented to

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.

[p. 40]

As already stated, this town farm was procured in the interest of religion and education. Its development and care seems to have been the subject of town meetings for a period of fourteen years, and the ancient town record is of much interest.

Mr. Morss, in his excellent article on Medford schools, Register, Vol. III, p. 12, alludes to it, and locates it ‘between the Piscataqua and Merrimac rivers,’ evidently quoting from Brooks' history. But his entire article contains carefully made quotations from the town records relative to school matters. As will be seen from the above, this town farm was two miles westward from the Merrimack and bordered on its small tributary, the Piscataquogg, and not nearly forty miles eastward on the larger Piscataqua.

The old town record book is surely interesting. We found it so as we sat in the present cramped quarters of the city clerk's office with the book in our lap and copied verbatim the town's doings of nearly two centuries agone, and were reminded of the flight of present time every quarter hour by the cathedral chimes just outside. Evidently that ‘the king's business demands haste’ was the thought in those days, as the town warrant, dated February 3, 1735-6, called a town meeting three days later and some others in lesser time.

Att a town meeting legally convened In Medford february ye 6th Day 1735-6 Capt Ebenezer Brooks chosen Moderator . . . Voted to Chuse a commitee of Two Persons to Lookout Sum Sutable Place in the unappropriated Lands of this Provence to Lay out the thousand Acres of Land Granted to the said town of Medford by the Genrl Court in the year one thousand seven hundred and thirty-five where it may be most advantageous to the town and the Said Commtee are hereby Empowered to Imploy Such men for Surveyor and Chain men as they shall Judg most Proper and they are to Procicute said afaier as soon as the Season of ye year will Permit and likewise to make Report to the Town of their Reasonable Charge in Mannaging the Same and the Town to Reamburft ye same; At Sd meting

Mr Wm Willis chosen for the ends aforsaid & Capt John Hall chosen for the ends aforsaid

[p. 41]

Att Said meet put to Vote whether ye Selectmen should Draw an order on the Tresurer for Ten pounds to be payd to ye above Sd Committe for to enable them att present to manage the aforsfd afaires

Voted in the affirmative

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 Committe

By 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 Lovell

We 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 interest

At 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 farm

And 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 affirmative

It 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:—

Nov 28. 1748 Put to vote whether the Town Farm shall be sold at Public Vendue to the highest bidder on Monday the fifth day of December next at the house of Mrs. Sarah Floyd Inholder to begin at three o'clock in ye afternoon and be put up at two thousand pounds Old Tenor.

Voted in the affirmative

[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.

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,

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 Farm

certainly 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.’

M. W. M.

1 The word chairman in Brooks' history is doubtless a misprint that escaped detection, as Rev. Mr. Brooks must have known that the surveyor's assistant was called a chainman.

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