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1640: As emigration ceased at this time, the provisions brought from England were very cheap. The fall of prices was remarkable ; and Gov. Winthrop says: “ This evil was very notorious, that most men would buy as cheap as they could, and sell as dear. Corn would bring nothing; a cow, which last year cost £20, might now be bought for four or five."
MONUMENTS OF EARLY TIMES.
That there were many defences raised against the Indians and the wild beasts, by the early settlers of Massachusetts, is most true; and that many of them were not needed is also true. Not knowing at first how many Indians there were, nor what were their feelings towards the white men; not knowing what ferocious wild beasts there were, nor what their modes of attack; not knowing what the winters might be, nor the extent of the rainy seasons, it was natural that an isolated, few, and defenceless people, thus situated, should take counsel of their fears, and erect more defences than were needful. That such a course was anticipated, appears from the following provision by the Company in London, passed Oct. 16, 1629: Ordered, “ That, for the charge of fortifications, the Company's joint stock to bear the one half, and the planters to defray the other; viz., for ordinance, munition, powder, &c. But, for laborers in building of forts, &c., all men to be employed in an equal proportion, according to the number of men upon the plantation, and so to continue until such fit and necessary works be finished.”
Any plantation, disposed to build a place of retreat and defence, was authorized by the above vote to do so, and to call upon the Company to pay half the expense. Undoubtedly, Mr. Cradock's house was so built. That forts were thought to be necessary appears from the following history of Charlestown: “1631: It was concluded to build a fort on the hill at Moulton's Point, and mount the six guns left by the Company last year upon the beach of this town, for defence, in case ships should come up on the back-side of Mistick River. The project was abandoned. By sounding the mouth of Mistick River, the channel lies so far off from Moulton's Point, towards Winnesemit side, that the erecting a fort on the hill will not reach that end.”
Governor Cradock's House. - The old two-story brick house in East Medford, on Ship Street, is one of the most precious relics of antiquity in New England. That it was built by Mr. Cradock soon after the arrival of his company of carpenters, fishermen, and farmers, will appear from the following facts.
The land on which it stands was given by the General Court to Mr. Cradock. When the heirs of Mr. Cradock gave a deed of their property, June 2, 1652, they mentioned houses, barns, and many other buildings, but did not so specify these objects as to render them cognizable by us. There is no deed of this house given by any other person. There was no other person that could own it. It was on Mr. Cradock's land, and just where his business made it necessary: the conclusion, therefore, is inevitable that Mr. Cradock built it. There is every reason to believe that it was commenced early in the spring of 1634. Clay was known to abound; and bricks were made in Salem in 1629. Mr. Cradock made such an outlay in money as showed that he intended to carry on a large business for a long time, and doubtless proposed visiting his extensive plantation. The very first necessity in such an enterprise was a sufficient house. The sooner it was finished, the better; and it was commenced as soon as the land was granted, which was March, 1634. Who, in that day, could afford to build such a house but the rich London merchant ? and would he delay doing a work which every day showed to be indispensable ? He was the only man then who had the funds to build such a house, and he was the only man who needed it. Taking all these circumstances into consideration, the inference is clear, that the “old fort,” so called, was Governor Cradock's house, built in 1634. It is an invaluable historical jewel.
It has been called the “Fort " and the “Garrison House," because its walls were so thick, and because it had close outside shutters and port-holes.
It is certainly well placed for a house of defence. It is on land slightly elevated, where no higher land or rocks could be used by enemies to assail it, and is so near the river as to allow of reinforcements from Boston. Its walls are eighteen inches thick. There were heavy iron bars across the two large arched windows, which are near the ground, in the back of the house; and there are several fire-proof closets within the building. The house stood in an open field for a
century and a half, and could be approached only by a private road through gates. As the outside door was cased with iron, it is certain that it was intended to be fire-proof. There was one pane of glass, set in iron, placed in the back wall of the western chimney, so as to afford a sight of persons coming from the town.
It was probably built for retreat and defence; but some of the reasons for calling it a fort are not conclusive. Outside shutters were in common use in England at the time above mentioned ; and so was it common to ornament houses with round or oval openings on each side of the front. These ovals are twenty inches by sixteen. Mr. Cradock's company was large, and he was very rich, and had told them to build whatever houses they needed for shelter and defence. It is probable, that, as soon as the spring opened, they began to dig the clay, which was abundant in that place; and very soon they had their bricks ready for use. That they should build such a house as now stands where their first settlement took place, is most natural. The bricks are not English bricks either in size, color, or workmanship. They are from eight to eight and a half inches long, from four to four and a quarter inches wide, and from two and a quarter to two and three-quarters thick. They have the color of the bricks made afterwards in East Medford. They are hastily made, but very well burned. They are not like the English bricks of the Old South Church in Boston. The house has undergone few changes. Mr. Francis Shedd, who bought it about fifty years ago, found the east end so decayed and leaky that he took a part of it down and rebuilt it. There is a tradition, that in early times Indians were discovered lurking around it for several days and nights, and that a skirmish took place between them and the white men; but we have not been able to verify the facts or fix the date. The park impaled by Mr. Cradock probably included this house. It is undoubtedly one of the oldest buildings in the United States; perhaps the oldest that retains its first form. It has always been in use, and, by some of its tenants, has not been honored for its age. Its walls are yet strong, and we hope it may be allowed to stand for a century to come. We wish some rich antiquarian would purchase it, restore to it its ancient appendages, and make it a depository for Medford antiquities, for an historical library, and a museum of natural curiosities. It would then be an honor to our town; be