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In the absence of town-records, we are obliged to resort to notices incidentally made in deeds, wills, and legislative enactments.
They dignified a cow-path with the name of road. In the earliest years of the Medford plantation, there were but few people, and they had small occasion to travel. The laying-out of roads, therefore, was a secondary consideration, and the order of their location oftentimes conjectural in history.
The FORD, ten rods west of the bridge, meant the place where travellers crossed the Mystic River. At first it was little used, but afterwards became a popular way, not only for the inhabitants of Medford, but for those of the northern towns who took loads on horseback to Boston. If the earliest records of the town had been preserved, we should doubtless have found in them some notices of the Ford, and some regulations concerning it.
May 3, 1642: The General Court say: “It is declared by this Court, that the selected town's men have power to lay out particular and private ways concerning their own town only.” The road from the landing, called “No Man's Friend” (now Mr. Lapham's ship-yard), was made by Charlestown, 1641, to their land north of Medford. The road is now called Cross and Fulton Streets.
To have free access to the river, the great highway, they opened private roads for the use of owners of lands, and what were called “range-ways
” for the free use of the public. Many of these are found in Charlestown. One of these was Cross Street; the next, west of it, was at the Ford, and the “Governor Lane" was a part of it ; the next was by the easterly side of Mr. T. Magoun's house; the next was east of Mr. Turell's house, the lane is yet open; the next was at the Rock Hill, and the old “Woburn Road” was part of it; the next was above the Lowell Railroad Depot, in High Street, and connected with Grove Street, formerly called “the road round the woods." These roads to the river, in Medford, were opened soon after the main thoroughfare. The first public road laid out in Medford was Main Street, leading from the Ford to Boston; the second was Salem Street, leading to Malden ; the third was High Street, leading to West Cambridge; the fourth was the road leading to Stoneham.
These sufficed for all necessary uses during half a century. The road on the south bank of the river (South Street), connecting the brick-yards with the wharf and the lighters, was early opened. No new public roads were opened after these for nearly a hundred years.
Oct. 5, 1675, the town passes the following vote: To levy a fine of ten shillings upon any one who shall take a load of earth out of the public road. They also vote, that every man may work out his own highway tax, and they fix the prices for a day's labor of man, and of a man and team.
In 1715, Rev. Aaron Porter, Peter Seccomb, Peter Waite, Thomas Tufts, and Benjamin Parker, wish some enlargement of the road near the bridge, they being residents there; and the town direct a Committee to see about the matter. They fix the width of the road at the bridge at two rods and twelve feet; and report the road leading to Woburn wide enough already.
Feb. 20, 1746: Several gentlemen of Medford agree to open a road from the market to “ Wade's Bank, or Sandy Bank” (Cross Street), and build a bridge over “Gravelly Creek.”
It was done; and made a convenient way to the tide-mill. See further account under the head of “ Mills."
Med ford Turnpike. — The construction of turnpikes in New England made an era in travelling and in speculations. Medford had long felt the need of a way to the metropolis more convenient for the transportation of heavy loads than that over Winter Hill. The first movement for a turnpike was made, about the year 1800, by citizens of Medford ; and, in 1803, Benjamin Hall, John Brooks, Fitch Hall, Ebenezer Hall, 2d, and Samuel Buel, petitioned the Legislature for an act of incorporation. It was granted March 2d of that year. The name was “Medford Turnpike Corporation.” The act required them to run the road easterly of Winter Hill and Plowed Hill. It must be three rods on the upland, and not more than six on the marsh. If not completed within three years, the grant was to be null and void. The Corporation were required to build all extra bridges over Middlesex Canal, and keep them and the sluices in repair. They could hold real estate to the amount of six thousand dollars. Shares in the stock were deemed personal property. Moderate tolls have made this the most frequented route to Boston. Attempts have several times been made to open it free of toll to the public; and the town of Medford voted their con
sent, in 1838, to its conversion to a free road. This was not done ; and it yet continues as at the first. On this road, near the Charlestown line, the canal, turnpike, and river come into such close contact that a coachman, with a long whip, touched the waters of the river and canal without leaving his seat.
About the year 1810, the turnpike began to be used as a race-course, and races and trotting-matches were quite common.
Andover Turnpike. This road encountered the usual amount of opposition from those who saw it would lead travel away from their houses, and those who thought its passage through their farms would ruin them. But the saving of three miles travel, for loads of ship-timber and country produce, was too great a gain of time, space, and money, to be wholly abandoned. The first projectors, therefore, persevered, and subscriptions for stock were opened in 1804, and Medford was deeply interested in it. An act of incorporation was obtained, June 15, 1805, by Jonathan Porter, Joseph Hurd, Nathan Parker, Oliver Holden, and Fitch Hall. The route was designated in the act. It was to run from the house of John Russell, in Andover, in an easterly direction, to the east of Martin's Pond; nearly on a straight line to the house of J. Nichols, in Reading; thence to Stoneham, by the west side of Spot Pond, to the market-place in Medford. No time for its construction was named in the legislative grant, as the distance was considerable and the country hilly. A much longer time and much more money than were at first supposed, were required for its completion. Not proving a very profitable investment, there were propositions made, in 1828, for its sale. These were not accepted; and, finally, it was concluded to abandon the road, offering it as a free highway to the several towns through which it passed. In 1803, the town of Medford vote to accept and support that part of it which is in Medford, whenever it shall be free of toll. Again, in 1831, the town express the wish that it may become a free road, and promise to keep their part in good repair. This disposition having been made of it, the town has performed its promise; and to-day, under the name of Forest Street, it is one of the most popular localities for country seats.
Medford has always kept its roads in very good condition, and the blue gravel found here has made it comparatively
easy. May 15, 1758: “Voted £10 for the repair of the roads." This is the first vote of the kind on record. Till this time, each citizen had worked out his “highway tax by himself or hired man. Straightening and widening roads became each year a more imperative duty, since the first ones were little better than cow-paths. Seventy years ago began conversations on the expediency and importance of opening new routes for travel between this and the neighboring villages. March 9, 1761: Many inhabitants of the town petitioned the Court of Sessions for a road across the marshes at “Labor in Vain ;” thus connecting the eastern part of the town with the Boston road. The petition was granted, and the Commissioners laid out the road and assessed the damages ; but it was concluded not to build it. March 5, 1787, the town voted, " That Benjamin Hall, Esq., Gen. John Brook, and Thomas Brooks, Esq., be a Committee to petition the Court of Sessions to obtain a new road through a part of Col. Royall's and Capt. Nicholson's farms.” This was never obtained.
Dec. 7, 1795: Voted to measure the route from Jonathan Brooks's Corner to Lexington. This road was not accepted. Voted to erect sign-posts through the town.
Nov. 18, 1801 : “ Voted to choose a Committee to oppose the opening of a new road to Charlestown."
May 10, 1802: A Committee was chosen “to lay out a road between Medford, Stoneham, and Reading, through the woods ;” also to see if a road from the meeting-house to Joseph Wyman's was feasible. Purchase Street was opened many years after, according to this suggestion.
Sept. 13, 1802: The Court of Sessions direct, “that the road from Jonathan Brooks's Corner to West Cambridge shall be widened, Medford and Charlestown paying for the lands taken.” Labor of a man on the highways, one dollar for eight hours; and two dollars for a team. In 1819, one dollar and twenty-five cents, and two dollars and fifty cents
May 7, 1804: The town chose a Committee “to stake out the private ways in the town.” The intention of the town doubtless was, that those avenues, paths, or range-ways, through which the public have a right of way, should be marked out and recorded. It is very important that these rights should be preserved, and as important that they should not be unjustly claimed. Settling near a river gave superior facilities for transportation in early times; and, therefore, free
access to a landing place was important. This accounts for so many of these “private” ways in New England. Nov. 9, 1846: The town chose a Committee of three, to ascertain what right of way exists for the use of “Rock Hill Landing." The owner of the land denies all rights; and a suit is now pending, amicably to settle the question.
As soon as ship-building laid its first keel in Medford, the town felt a new impulse, and began to increase in numbers by a new ratio. This required new streets; and from 1810 to the present time they have been constantly opening, either by municipal authority or by private experiment. These may be seen, and will be preserved, on the map of Medford, now just completed.
The only streets named in the records before 1843 are Main, South, Union, High, Purchase, Cross, Ship, Park, Salem, Fulton, and Forest.
It has become a fashion to lay out small townships or districts anywhere within twenty and thirty miles of the capital. Private gentlemen open roads through their grounds, mark (f many acres into small “ lots,” publish a map of the un
rn city, and on the appointed day begin to sell the little unclosures at public auction. Many people are thus happily tempted to desert the city, and live in the more healthful country. By these means, the number of public roads has been doubled, in some towns, within the last twenty years. The town of Medford is not without such enterprise, and such results. Edmund T. Hastings, Esq., originated for West Medford a beneficence of this kind in 1845; and, in conjunction with Mr. Samuel Teel, jun., has opened ten new streets; and, within nine years, there have been erected thirty-five dwelling-houses within the enclosures and the neighborhood.
Å similar outlay has been made (1852) by a Company whose enterprising agent, Mr. T. P. Smith, was promising great improvements in buildings and orchards, when death suddenly took him in 1854. The streets there are named Harvard Avenue; Bower, Monument, Myrtle, Marian Streets ; Gorham Park, Lake Park.
Mr. John Bishop has done the same thing on his paternal estate north of “Gravelly Bridge,” and also on the deep forest south of Pine Hill. This last he calls Bellevue. On the first area, several dwelling-houses are built; but on the second, none. He has pierced the woods by streets, which