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This name was applied to a freighting business, carried on extensively through Mystic River, between Medford and Boston. The craft generally used were sloops ranging from fifty to one hundred tons' burden. They were introduced for the transportation of bricks, and afforded the only mode of transfer before Charlestown Bridge was built. Mystic River, to our fathers, was bridge, turnpike, and railroad. When adventurers settle in a forest, it is the first wisdom to fix themselves near a river; because a river is an easy highway, always kept in good repair, and free from all taxation. The business of lightering employed many men; and the inhabitants at first used these sloops as passenger-packets to Boston and Salem. So important had become this mode of conveyance for bricks, merchandise, and people, that, when a petition was started for permission to build Charlestown Bridge, Medford opposed it with unanimity and zeal, “ because it would destroy the lightering business.” The result was much as our citizens had foretold : bricks soon began to be carried by oxen in carts; thus saving both the loading and unloading in the sloop, where many were necessarily broken.
The labor of lightering was very hard ; for, at times, it became necessary for men to walk on the banks, and thus tow the sloop by means of long ropes. This toil was often undertaken in the night, and during stormy weather. Wood and bark were freighted from Maine, and rockweed from Boston Harbor. A business that was suspended during two or three months of each year, on account of ice, was not attractive to those who wished steady employment, and was not likely therefore to secure the best laborers.
The building of a mill required more iron and stone work than our fathers in Medford were at first prepared to carry through : they therefore adopted the Indian's mill; which was a rock hollowed out in the shape of a half-globe, and a stone pestle. The mortar held half a bushel, and the pestle weighed forty or fifty pounds. A small, flexible tree was bent down, and the pestle so tied to its top as to keep it suspended immediately over the mortar. When the pestle was set in motion, the elastic spring of the tree would continue its blows on the grain for a minute or more.
They found a mill driven by wind cheaper than one driven by water: nevertheless, the water-power here was sufficient, and so convenient that it soon became serviceable. April 20, 1659: Thomas Broughton sold to Edward Collins, for six hundred and fifty pounds, “his two water-mills, which he built in Mistick River.”. They were then occupied by Thomas Eames.
There was a mill a short distance below the Wear Bridge ; but who built it, and how long it stood, we have not been able to discover. The place is yet occupied. In 1660, Edward Collins conveyed a “gristmill on the Menotomy side” to Thomas Danforth, Thomas Brooks, and Timothy Wheeler. This mill was previously occupied by Richard Cooke.
There was a mill at the place now called the “ Bower,” about one mile north of the meeting-house of the first parish, carried by the water of Marble Brook. The banks, race, canal, and cellar are yet traceable. This was used for grinding grain and sawing timber. It was on land now owned by Mr. Dudley Hall.
The remains of another water-mill are still visible on land now owned by Mr. W. A. Russell, near the north-west border of the town. It was carried by the water of Whitmore Brook. This mill must have been among the earliest in Medford.
The first action of the town respecting mills was May 30, 1698, and the record reads thus : “Put to vote, whether the inhabitants of Medford will petition the General Court for liberty to build a gristmill on the river, near and above Mistick Bridge. Voted in the affirmative.” This was not successful; nor was the following, -- Nov. 26, 1700: “ Whether the town will petition the General Court for liberty to build a corn-mill in their town, at Gravelly Bank, near Mistick Bridge. This was voted in the affirmative.”
When the circular stone windmill, now standing on Quarry Hill, in Somerville, was built, the inhabitants of Medford carried their grain there. Before the Revolution, the mill was converted into a powder-house, and has been used as such to our day.
1730: Mr. John Albree built a mill upon his own land, on a branch of Marble Brook. It stood about six rods west of Purchase Street, on land now owned by Mr. P. C. Hall, where it joins the land of Mr. B. L. Swan. The supply of water was small, as the present banks indicate. There he, and his only son Joseph, wove cloth by water, prepared wool for spinning, and had lathes for turning wood. His house, of two stories, which he built, stood about six rods north-east from his mill. The mill stood more than forty years, and was once used for the manufacture of pomatum and starch.
1746 : This year the tidemill, near Sandy Bank, was built; and it was the first of the kind in that part of the town. As it is now standing, it may be worth while to state a few facts touching its origin. Articles of agreement were concluded, Feb. 20, 1746, between Richard Sprague, cooper, Samuel Page, yeoman, Simon Tufts, Esq., physician, John Willis, yeoman, Stephen Hall, trader, Stephen Bradshaw, yeoman, Simon Bradshaw, leather-dresser, and Benjamin Parker, blacksmith, on the one part, all of Medford, and owners of land; and, on the other part, Stephen Hall, Samuel Page, and Stephen Willis, of Medford, husbandmen, and Benjamin Parker, of Charlestown, housewright, as undertakers. They, of the first part, give the portions of land they own lying between the market and Cross Street, on condition that they, of the second part, will open a straight road, two rods wide, from the market to Cross Street, and build a stone bridge over Gravelly Creek. This was introductory to building the tidemill. Benjamin Parker gave the land on which the mill was built, — thirty-one feet long, and twentyfive wide. John Willis and Benjamin Parker gave liberty to the undertakers to cut a ditch from Gravelly Creek to the mill, and to build a dam. Dr. Tufts, John Willis, Samuel Page, Thomas Oakes, and Nathaniel Hall, bind themselves never to obstruct the free flow of water to the mill. The undertakers then bind themselves “to erect a good gristmill on the spot of land above mentioned ; and said mill shall be ready to go at or before the last day of September next.” As guaranty for each party, they “ bind themselves in the penal sum of five hundred pounds."
The mill was completed, and answered its purpose. It afterwards came into the possession of Timothy Waite, jun. He sold it to Seth Blodget, March 9, 1761. Mr. Blodget sold it to Matthew Bridge, Oct. 18, 1780. Mr. Bridge sold one half of it to John Bishop, April 7, 1783; and sold the other half to John Bishop, jun., April 29, 1784. John Bishop sold
the whole to Gershom Cutter, who sold to Samuel Cutter, who sold to George T. Goodwin, its present owner.
This mill has had various fortunes, and, by turns, has done all sorts of work. Whether it has been most successful in grinding grain or mustard-seeds or paints, or in sawing mahogany and turning wood, we know not.
May 10, 1766: It was again suggested “to build a gristmill near the great bridge." But it was not done.
May 12, 1791: The town voted “not to allow any one to build a mill near the great bridge.”
The mills of Baconville are mentioned under the head of manufactures. They had at first a checkered fortune, as devoted to clothing and fulling, as saw and grist mills, as screw-factory, foundery, door and sash, leather, and snuff factories. To their present owners they would have been very profitable, if frequent fires had not consumed them.
Mills carried by steam-engines are now becoming common; and families are supplied with meal by the regular traders.
This was the first canal in New England, if not the first in the New World, which was opened under a charter derived from a legislature, with tolls regulated by law. The enterprising citizens of Medford were among the first movers of the project, and the steadiest helpers of the work. It contributed so much to the wealth of our town, by inducing ship-builders to settle and work among us, that a notice of it belongs to our records.
I find the following statistics in an “ Historical Sketch of the Middlesex Canal,” gathered by their faithful agent, Caleb Eddy, Esq., and dated 1843: –
“In the month of May, 1793, a number of gentlemen associated • for opening a canal from the waters of the Merrimac, by Concord River, or in some other way, through the waters of Mystic River, to the town of Boston. There were present at this meeting the Hon. James Sullivan, Benjamin Hall, Willis Hall, Ebenezer Hall, Jonathan Porter, Loammi Baldwin, Ebenezer Hall, jun., Andrew Hall, and Samuel Swan, Esq.
“ After organizing, by the choice of Benjamin Hall as chairman, and Samuel Swan as clerk, 'the Hon. James Sullivan, Loammi Baldwin, and Captain Ebenezer Hall, were chosen a committee to attend the General Court, in order to obtain an act of incorporation, with suitable powers relating to the premises. In conformity with this vote, a petition was presented to the General Court, and a charter obtained (“incorporating James Sullivan, Esq., and others, by the name of the Proprietors of the Middlesex Canal'), bearing date June 22, 1793; and on the same day was signed by his excellency John Hancock, Governor of the Commonwealth.
“ By this charter, the proprietors were authorized to lay assessments, from time to time, as might be required for the construction of said canal. At the first meeting of the proprietors, after the choice of James Sullivan as moderator, and Samuel Swan as clerk, the following votes were passed; viz., “That the Hon. James Sullivan, Hon. James Winthrop, and Christopher Gore, Esq., be a committee to arrange the business of the meeting, which they reported in the following order :
" * Voted that the business of the corporation be transacted by a committee, annually elected, consisting of thirteen directors, who shall choose their president and vice-president out of their own number.
“ « Voted that the Hon. James Sullivan, Loammi Baldwin, Esq., the Hon. Thomas Russell, Hon. James Winthrop, Christopher Gore, Esq., Joseph Barrell, Esq., Andrew Cragie, Esq., Hon. John Brooks, Captain Ebenezer Hall, Jonathan Porter, Esq., Ebenezer Storer, Esq., Caleb Swan, and Samuel Jaques, be directors for pursuing the business of the canal for the present year.'
“At a meeting of the directors, Oct. 11, the following vote was passed :
66 Voted that the Hon. James Sullivan be president; Loammi Baldwin, Esq., first vice-president; and Hon. John Brooks, second vice-president.'
“The board of directors being duly organized, the next duty was to commence the necessary surveys of the most eligible route between Medford River and Chelmsford, by the Concord River.' Here the committee were met by an almost insurmountable difficulty: the science of civil-engineering was almost unknown to any one in this part of the country. They were, however, determined to persevere; and appointed Mr. Samuel Thompson, of Woburn, who began his work, and proceeded from Medford River, at a place near the location of the present lock, and followed up the river to Mystic Pond, through the pond and Symmes's River, to Horn Pond in Woburn, and through said pond to the head thereof. Meeting here bars they could neither let down nor remove, they went back to Richardson's Mill, on Symmes's River, and passed up the valley, through the east part of Woburn, to Wilmington, and found an easy and very regular ascent until they reached Concord River; a distance travelled, as the surveyor says, 'from Medford Bridge to the Billerica Bridge, about twenty three miles; and the ascent he found to be, from Medford River to the Concord, sixty-eight and one-half feet.' The actual elevation, when afterwards surveyed by a prac