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and sails. They were sometimes drawn with ropes by men who walked on the bank.
There was a ford across this stream at the Wear till 1748. The ford in the centre of Medford continued in use till 1639, and was about ten rods above the bridge. The Penny Ferry, where Malden Bridge now is, was established by Charlestown, April 2, 1640, and continued to September 28, 1787. There was, till recently, but one island in the river, and that is near the shore in Malden, at Moulton's Point, and is called “White Island.” Two have since been made ; one by cutting through “ Labor in Vain," and the other by straightening the passage above the bridge.
The depth of the river is remarkable for one so narrow, and its freedom from sunken rocks and dangerous shoals more remarkable still. Its banks are generally very steep, showing that it becomes wider with age, if it changes at all. It has not probably changed its current much since our fathers first saw it; and the marshes through which it flows look to our eyes as they did to theirs. Few events of extraordinary interest have been witnessed upon its waters. The well-known curve in the bed of the river, near “the rock,” extending more than half a mile, made the passage round it so difficult, especially with sails, that it soon received the name of Labor in Vain. It often became necessary for men to drag boats round a part of this narrow strip of land, by means of ropes stretched to the shore. In 1761, the inhabitants of Medford proposed to cut a canal across this peninsula; and they voted to do it, if it could be done by subscription! The expense was found to fall upon so few that the plan failed. Within our day it has been accomplished.
In the revolutionary war, our river was occasionally a resort for safety. August 6, 1775, Mr. Nowell says: “This day, skirmishing up Mistick River. Several soldiers brought over here (Boston) wounded. The house at Penny Ferry, Malden side, burnt.” August 13th he says: “Several Gondaloes sailed up Mistick River, upon which the Provincials (Med. ford) and they had a skirmish; many shots were exchanged, but nothing decisive.”
Lightering had become so extensive a business as to need every facility; and in April, 1797, the town chose a Committee to examine the bed and banks of the river; and, if they found that any clearing was necessary, they were empowered to do it.
March 7, 1803. — A Committee was appointed by the town " to find out what rights the town has on the river.”
Ship-building made the river an object of vital importance ; and, while the tonnage of the ships was small, the depth of water was deemed sufficient; yet there were many who wished the town might widen and deepen the bed. Several applications were made, but always without success. In June, 1836, an effort was made in earnest; but the impression with the majority of voters was, that no expense need be incurred until some vessel had found it impossible to float down on the highest tides. This misfortune never occurred. It always has had depth of water sufficient to float any empty, unrigged ship of 2,500 tons. March 14, 1843, the town voted to remove and prevent all obstructions to the free ebb and flow of the water.
At the time when Medford was the centre of considerable trade; when vessels were loaded at our wharves for the West India markets; when bark and wood were brought from Maine, and we had rich and active merchants among us; at that time it was no unusual sight to see two, four, or six sloops and schooners at our wharves, and as many in our river.
Soon after Fulton had propelled vessels by steam, a vessel so propelled came up our river to Medford, and was here repaired.
The number of adult persons who have been drowned in Mystic River is not small. In the early records, deaths in this way are often noticed. About fifty years ago, there seemed something like fatality in this matter. One death by drowning occurred each year, through so many years in succession, that the inhabitants got to think that there was a river-god, who would have his annual sacrifice.
On the borders of this stream, there have always existed what are now called “landings.” These were used by the Indians for rendezvous during their annual fishing seasons. Afterwards they were used by our fathers for loading and unloading of sloops and schooners. Later still, they were used by our fishermen for emptying their nets. Some have recently been occupied as ship-yards. In the Wade Family there is a tradition that their ancestor, Major Jonathan Wade, gave to the town, about the year 1680, the landing place now occupied by Mr. J. T. Foster.
Feb. 21, 1698. — At this time the river was frozen, as it is
hehe spor absence presenethe sprint de eve out, the
in our day. Judge Sewall, under this date, says: “I rode over to Charlestown on the ice, then over to Stower's (Chelsea), so to Mr. Wigglesworth. The snow was so deep that I had a hard journey ; could go but a foot-pace on Mystic River, the snow was so deep."
The absence of epidemics in Medford is to be attributed in part to the presence of our river. At high tide the water is brackish ; and, at the spring tides, quite salt. As the banks are wet anew by the rising tide every twelve hours, and are left to dry when the waters run out, the exhalations from this operation are great every day, though invisible; and they salt the atmosphere, and cleanse it, and make it healthy. The exact reverse of this would be the case, if there could be a fresh-water tide, which should leave fresh-water vegetables exposed every day to the action of the sun. This beautiful and breathing stream, which seems to have studied the laws of grace, as it winds and wreathes itself through the intervale, has one more claim to notice, if not to gratitude. To the boys of Medford how welcome are its waters through the warm season! So vivid are our recollections of our daily bath in this beloved river, that we think it worth while for parents to send their children from the country here to school, if only to strengthen and delight them with a salt bath in the Mystic.
That which runs a short distance east of the West Medford Depôt, on the Lowell Railroad, was called Whitmore's Brook after the pious deacon, whose house was on the north side of High Street, about two rods west of the brook. It rises in “Bear Meadow.”
Marble Brook, now called “Meeting-house Brook," crosses High Street about forty rods north-east of “Rock Hill." In spring, smelts resort to it in great numbers.
The brook or creek over which Gravelly Bridge is built was called “Gravelly, Creek,” but more lately “Pine Hill Brook.” The stream is small, but much swelled by winter rains. It has its source in Turkey Swamp.
The brook which crosses the road, at a distance of a quarter of a mile south of the “ Royal House,” was named “ Winter Brook.” It has its source near the foot of Walnut Hill.
ould sustain. af dense a forest town, it is thered nearly
The hill commanding the widest prospect, and most visited by pleasure parties, is “ Pine Hill," in the north-east part of the town, near Spot Pond. As part of the low range of hills, called the “Rocks,” which runs east and west, and nearly marks the northern boundary of the town, it is the highest. It was covered with as dense a forest as its thin soil on the rock could sustain. In early time the wood was burned. When the army was stationed near us, in 1775–6, the wood was cut off, in part, for its supply. After then it grew, and within twenty years has been a thick wood again. Recently the whole hill has been denuded, and much of its poetry lost. The earth looks best with its beard. This eminence -- which commands a view of Chelsea and Boston Harbor on the east; Boston, Roxbury, and Cambridge, on the south ; Brighton, Watertown, and West Cambridge, on the west; and a vast track of woodland on the north — has on its summit a flat rock, called “Lover's Rock;" one of those register-surfaces where a young gentleman, with a hammer and a nail, could engrave the initials of two names provokingly near together. The view from this hill, so diversified and grand, fills the eye with pleasure, and the mind with thought.
“ Pasture Hill,” on which Dr. Swan's summer-house, in his garden, now stands, is high, and commands much of the eastern and southern scenery above noticed. The hill is mostly rock, and will afford, in coming years, a most magnificent site for costly houses.
The next highest and most interesting spot, on the north side of the river, is “Mystic Mount," in West Medford, near the Brooks Schoolhouse. It is owned by the town, and commands much the same view as Pine Hill, only at a lower angle. To some of us who have kept it for more than half a century, as our favorite look-out, it has charms indescribably dear, and we regard it somewhat as we do an ancient member of a family. Its neighbor, “ Rock Hill," on the border of the river, is a barren rock, so high as to overlook the houses situated at the east, and to afford a most delightful view of West Cambridge.
“Walnut Tree Hill,” on the south side of the river, was once covered with walnut-trees. The Tufts College on its top enjoys perhaps an unparalleled site. From the roof of