Charles Bancroft Gillespie.

Illustrated history of South Boston : issued in conjunction with and under auspices of the South Boston Citizens' Association : comprising an historic record and pictorial description of the district, past and present online

. (page 1 of 27)
Online LibraryCharles Bancroft GillespieIllustrated history of South Boston : issued in conjunction with and under auspices of the South Boston Citizens' Association : comprising an historic record and pictorial description of the district, past and present → online text (page 1 of 27)
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COPYRIGHT

BY C. BANCROFT GILLESPIE

190I



XUustratcd



HISTORY OF SOUTH BOSTON



issrini IN roNjUNcrioN \vi i ii ami unduk aisi'm t.s oi'

11 IK sorrii r.osTox ciiizi-ns' association



COMPRISING



AN HISTORIC RECORD AND PICTORIAL DESCRIPTION
OF THE DISTRICT, PAST AND PRESENT



t(i.Ml'll.KI) i;v

C. BANCROFT GII.LI-SPIE

( I



«r



CONTENTS

Altiii'-niic Orii.iNi; IIimokv: I-;.\i<i.v Sc i:ni;^ and I.anhmakks; Ciukc iiiis

Siiiooi.s: Ins II I r I IONS : Xotkd Kakin and I'kicsicn i' I\i;sii)1;.n is. wirii

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SOUTH BOSTON



A SKK'I'CH of the EARLY FI-'.RIOI) of ITS HISTORY



Fl\( ).M iIk' cDunticb of 1 'c\ on. Doisit.
and Si)mci'set in England, canic in
if> V^ ;t- stuixly set of people to seek
their fulure home on this side of the At-
lantic. Long preparation had been made
for this voyasic. and after manv discour-
agements. incidental to a journey of this
kiiul in those early years of the history of
this continent, llieir hojK-s were at last
partly gratified, when they set sail on the
2oth of March in ihe ship '• Mary and
|ohn." 'I'hev were nearl\- sixty days on
the deep. I he coast of Massacluiselts
came to view on Ah\y 29. i^.^o. liy an
agreement with the captain of the abo\e
vessel, their place of landing was to l)e on
the l)aid<s of the Charles l\.i\ er. hut doubt-
less, for .some good reason, they touched
the soil of the new country at NaiUaskel
point. 'I'hree days after this, in coming
up the old harbor, they sighted the pen-
insula, now known as South Hoston, and
]ironouiued it a good place for the pas-
turage of cattle. I'hey erected, however,
their tents and caljins in the locality now
known as 1 )orchester. formerly called Mat-
tapan. and recognized the adjoining pen-
insula as iMattaiiannock. I lad I )orches-
terbay answered the commercial interests
of these early settlers, there is good reason
to believe, that Shawmut. the former name
of Boston would ne\er ha\e superseded
the other ad\anl.iges of 1 )()rchester. Soon
after their arri\al at this spot, not a few
removed to the locality of jJo^ion. 1 )or-
chester likewise owes a debt to South
lioston, for it was the attracti\e pasturage
of the latter, that induced these adven-
turers from the old country to make their
first landing spot in this localit}'. I'hey
undoubtedly would soon have abandoned
it, had not the advantages of the penin-



sular di^tiict appi'aled to them strongly
in this direction.

These settlers tculed hard and long to
make the rough places ]ial)ilable. Trees
were felled, soil was broken, and the
Indians took unUindly to their appear-
ance. Their hardships were increased
by unfordable tidewater ri\ers and wet
meadows. l-Aervthing appeared to.be
against them. The lesson of their en-
durance looms up before us. as a precious
legacy of their bra\eiy, and their cleter-




01, i> iioisK ON Foikru s ruicicr
wni.Ki'. IUI-. iMKsr si'.uvicKs (>|- rill, niiii.ii's

(111 UCII WKKK IIKI.h.

mination to succeed. When threatened
with hunger. Captain Clap tells us,
•• \\ hen 1 could have meal and water and
salt l)oiled together, it was so good, who
could wish belter ? And it was not ac-
counted a strange thing in these days to
drink water, and to eat Sam]3 or Hominy
without butter or .Milk. I ndeed it would
ha\e been a strange thing to see a piece
of roast beef, nuitlon. or veal, though
it was not long before there was roast
goal.-

In 1 1) j; I there was not a loaf of bread
in anvl)odv's house but the governor's,
but iheie was no despair. Through the




M I \ I'olN I IN I 741J.
l.oA.Mh UV FRAN'CIS K. lil.AKK



(A)



HISTORY OF SOUTH BOSTON.



5



request of the governor, Ireland was
appealed to for a supply of food. A
ship, known as the •' Lion " brought over
a good supply of provisions, and there
was rejoicing everywhere. Care, fore-
sight, wisdom in the details of managing
the colony were rewarded. The next few
years improvements appeared on every
hand. Ships kept coming. New pros-
pects kept opening. With the Rev.
Richard Mather, who chose the lot of
these colonists of Dorchester, came in the
same ship with him, in the year 1635, one
hundred passengers, tw^enty-three seamen,
twentv-three cows and heifers, three



grass, its hills and meadows, its large and
shady trees, and here and there scattered
over the fields the cattle, standing and
watching their turn at the closing of the
day, to be taken back along that pathway,
that so conspicuously marked the approach
to the Neck, as it was commonly called
in those davs. Laws and regulations
were introduced for the preser\-ation of
the pasturage, and in 1639 no swine
could be kept at the great Neck. Every
precaution was taken to keep up the
appearance of the peninsula, and at a
regular town meeting in 1657, it was
ordered that the " proprietors of the Neck




JMAP OF SOUTH BOSTON, DRAWN BY BRITISH OFFICER IN 1 7 74.

(Generally considered ineorrcet.)



sucking calves, and eight mares. These
were all pastured in South Boston.
' Everyone had a right, up to 1637, to
use the peninsular district for their live
stock. A time came for some distinction
to be made. This was rendered necessary
for obvious reasons. The town records
of Dorchester give the names of those
persons who were entitled to this pri\-i-
lege. Among them, with many others,
appear the names of William Blake, Ber-
nard Capen, Roger Clap, Widow Foster,
Christopher Gibson, Richard Hawes,
George Minot and George Proctor.

Beautiful indeed was the South Boston
of those days, with its rich growth of



be requested to repair the fence and
causeway, and in default of so doing, they
be prosecuted under the law in regard to
roads and fences."

The time came for the Neck to be
settled. Captain Hopestill Foster, who
died in 1676, owned a large lot of land,
known as Leek hill, near the present
junctionof Second and Dorchester streets.
This eminence was fortified by the Ameri-
cans during the Revolutionary war. His
son came over to live at the Neck some-
where near 1674. Besides other property
owned bv this Englishman, wdio came
over in 1635, ^"'"'^7 ^^ mentioned the
'' quarry " near the corner of E and Bowen



HISTORY OF SOUTH BOSTON.



streets. This yielded a good profit
in its day. Many of the gravestones in
the old burying ground at Dorchester
were prepared here. A boat also plied
between Boston and Charlestown and the
Neck laden with the stone from this quarry.
This industry was well known. It is
probable that the first house erected in
South Boston was on the site occupied in
later years by the E Street Congrega-
tional Church. Captain Foster set apart
a lot in 1676 to be used for the erection
of a meeting house. This was never
carried out. His son, James Foster, in-
herited lands which are now occupied by
seven religious buildings. The Blake
house, the property of Deacon James







FIRST BAPTIST MEETING HOUSE.
CORNER BROADWAY AND C STREET.

Blake, at the point, was not erected until
1680, and this was doubtless the second
dwelling house, and not the first as often
supposed. Mr. Abraham Gould, through
marriage, inherited a large portion of the
Foster estate.

Thirty-six acres lying between Dor-
chester, Third, Old Harbour and G streets
belonged to Oliver Wiswell. He lived on
Fourth street, near the Bird school house,
and plied the trade of cord winder. Dor-
chester Heights were owned by Messrs.
Wiswell and Bird, and before 1800 no
families lived in this locality, except those
represented by these names. The Bird
brothers in 1677 purchased of Samuel
Farnsworth eighteen acres of land upon
the Neck for fifty-five pounds. Thomas



Bird purchased the rights of his other
brothers a few years later, and his son
Benjamin inherited his property, and
other lands acquired by himself, in all
thirty acres, which were bounded by the
old road, or Emerson street on the north,
and Old Harbor on the south, running
from G to I street. The house erected,
together with others, was afterwards
destroyed by the British in 1776.

Twenty-four acres of ploughed land on
the Neck fell through inheritance to Cap-
tain John Withington. In all probability,
upon his marriage, he built a house upon
his land. In 1690 he was living there,
and being of adventuresome spirit, he,
with others, undertook an expedition
under Sir \\illiam Phips against Quebec.
It was not a success. No one ever re-
turned to tell of his fate. After his
relatives had waited four years to get
some tidings of his whereabouts, and
failed, it was decided that his death was
no longer to be doubted, and an inventory
of his estate would be made. This is in-
teresting, for it is the earliest record of
its kind. A dwelling house and barn, to-
gether with forty-nine acres of land
adjoining, is mentioned, and valued at
£t)']']. He owned also thirteen acres of
land, and the same number in the salt
marsh and meadows, making twenty-six
in all. This did not include seventy
acres of woodland, which is set down
at £66.

He was, apparently, a land owner of
recognized prominence in his time. His
estate was on the south side of the road
to Fort Independence. (This was re-
ferred to in those days as Castle William,
which was built in 1633.)

This road to the castle took the line of
the present Dorchester street to Emerson,
then passed into Fourth street unto the
shore. His house stood somewhere be-
tween I and K streets, near Sixth street,
but the property went as far as Old
Harbor on the south.

West of K street the road to Powwow
point was found, and this allowed an en-
trance to the large estate. The house
had a garden in front, with a well near
by, and in the background was a large
orchard. Richard, the son of the captain,







<



O
Pi



u

CO

W

K
u

o




l;ORCHESTER NECK, I 725. SOUTH BOSTON, 1S75.

(8)



HISTORY OF SOUTH BOSTON.



came finally into the possession of this
property, and his son. Hopestill, made
many improvements in it. The British
soldiers put the torch to it in 1776. Part
of this property was afterwards purchased
by the Rev. John Hawes, who erected a
house upon it in 1805, or thereabouts,
known afterwards as the " Capen house."
Richard Mather owned thirty-two acres
at the Neck in 1686. He often sent his
bull to feed upon the very ground, Avhere
now stands a school bearing this name.
His property was mortgaged in 1687, and
was afterwards sold for ;^2 5o to Isaac
Jones. This family held it for fifty years.
Ebenezer, his son, worked upon this
farm, and was a quiet inoffensive person.



estate. The wine at his funeral cost
£^ i2s., and the gloves went up to ;{J"i2.
Husking parties were popular, and it re-
quired some skill in making preparation
for these. A charge was often made for
admission. In this way, the Blakes, Wis-
wells, Birds, Fosters, and Withingtons
spent many a happy social hour together,
and went around to one another's houses
to drive dull care away.

James and Hopestill Foster afterwards
purchased this property, and the house
was one among the few, which escaped de-
struction by the British in February, 1776.
A larger part of the estate was sold in 1785
to Ephraim Mann, and as the Mann es-
tate, it was familiarily known to many old








SOUTH



BOSTON IN 1832



His humility marked itself upon his neigh-
bors, and his care in the administration of
his affairs is noticeable in the few family
documents, A\hich have come down to us.

The estate went north of the road to
the castle, and was near the limits of I
and K streets down to the shore.

The' house stood some distance from
the road, with a narrow path leading to
it. '; The barn was nearly to the north.
The house had two stories. The well was
in front, and a pond for watering the
cattle stood at the back of the barn. This
water was like the spring of clear water
which was at the foot of K street, at
Powwow point.

The peculiar customs of the times are
revealed in the inventorv of Mr. Jones'



South Bostonians. The first wharf pro-
jected from this property, westerly in the
neighborhood of K street into the harbor.

Mr. Ebenezer Jones was very careful
of his personal effects. \\'hen Messrs.
\Mswell, Bird, and Blake took it upon
themselves to make an inventory of his
personal property, they valued one suit
of clothes belonging to him at;^i2; a
hat at £2 ; three old hats are down upon
the list at los. The land of the salt
marsh at Little Neck i.e., Washington
village, over five acres, is valued at ^176.

Mr. James ^^'hite, another owner of
Neck lands was fortunate in his marriages.
His first wife, Sarah Baker, put him into
possession of thirteen acres with a dwell-
ing house. Eight years after she died



lO



HISTORY OF SOUTH BOSTON.



he courted and won the hand of Captain
John ^^'ithington's widow, and Uved in
her dwelling for many years. Before he
died, he sold to James Blake a house
and barn with seventeen acres of land,
located on the northern side of the Neck,
between M and N streets, which after-
wards became known as the property of
the city. East of Independence square
in this neighborhood was the site of the
dwelling. Oliver W'iswell, Jr., in 1738,



way leading to the castle, being about six
and thirty acres," said Mr. James Blake,
in his will, who died in 1700, "I give
to my son James, and all my land at
Dorchester Neck adjoining his house that
he dwells in." This, house was the second
one erected at the Neck. It was located
at the extreme end, near the southeastern
corner of Broadway and P street. The
house of Mr. Foster was a mile distant.
Such a site for a dwelling had an un-



.X..



— r




I^lMMSHi^Sini^B Oil ^p




ajfr-' . - - r •'■■



i^








BROADWAY IN 1 85 2, SHOWING PERKINS INSTITUTION.



became the owner of the property with
seven acres additional. The house was
not very substantial, and was taxed for
£1 14s. The barn was afterwards des-
troyed, but nothing definite is known of
the fate of the house. Probably the
British soldiers spared it for their own
use. Eventuallv, this whole estate was
owned by the city and public buildings
were erected here in later years.

'' All my lands on both sides of the



obstructed view of the harbor, and was
little frequented, except by a few neigh-
bors and the soldiers, whose duties called
them to Castle William. Along the main
road, which was Dorchester street to
Emerson, thence into Fourth, and then on
to the shore, passed either to mill or
meeting. Deacon Blake, as he was often
called. He was well-known and highly
respected. Not only did he till the
ground, but he was an " all round man,'"



HISTORY OF SOUTH BOSTON.



1 1



and often consulted upon matters bearing
upon the welfare of the town and country,
and for nearly fifty years went in and out
among his neighbors, as a wise coun-
sellor and an upright townsman. He
sleeps in the old cemetery in Dorchester.
;^43 were paid at his funeral for crape
"siprus, handkerchiefs, hatband crape
silk, qually binding, etc."

His son James acquired through in-
heritance and purchase, the house and
property on the road to Castle William,
comprising forty-four acres. This was
improved during
the lifetime of Mr.
Blake by a n e w
dwelling and barn.
He made a popular
public servant. As
town clerk, for
twenty - four years,
he rendered admir-
able assistance in
keeping the rec-
ords, which show
care and faithful-
ness, and it is e\i-
dent that his liv-
ing so far from the
centre of the town
did not in any way
detract from h i s
popularity and use-
fulness as a town
officer. The presi-
dent of Harvard
c ol 1 e g e consulted
him about the lands
at the Neck, and
he was a recognized
authority upon this

matter, and his services were often in
demand as an executor, administrator,
guardian, or compiler of public records.
His death occurred in 1750. Samuel, his
son, inherited all his property, but he died
a few years after his father. Airs. Patience
Blake was left with nine children, and
when the first school was started in 1762,
she became the teacher. Mr. James
Blake, the brother of Samuel, lived with
her for many years. The British became
troublesome, and in 1775 matters took
the shape of warlike operations, and



many people at the Neck removed to safe
quarters. When the son of Mr. James
Blake was seni upon the mission of re-
movingthe window glass from the house, a
shot from the fort opposite whizzed through
the window in close proximity to where the
vouns: man was working. From this, he
took the hint that the Britishers were
bound to trouble an}-one who came to
protect their property. This house Avas
burned, February 13, 1776. The family,
from a slight elevation in Dorchester,
afterwards saw the old homestead made




OLD SUFFOLK GLASS WORKS IN 1849.



a prey to the flames. In 1784 a larger
house was erected, and the property re-
mained in the hands of the Blake family
till 1 866. Upon the original portion of
the Blake estate, Mr. Adam Bent built a
house near the corner of Q and Fourth
streets in or near the year 181 o.

The few inhabitants of the peninsula
in those days, did nothing, comparatively
speaking, to warrant the unmerciful and
cruel raids perpetrated by the British sol-
diers, and it is much to their credit that
they maintained their courage.



12



HISTORY OF SOUTH BOSTON.



DORCHESTER HEIGHTS.

A map of the Revolutionary War, in
representing tiie Neck, would give two
hills, East and West hills, Twin hills as
they were commonly called. Foster's
hill was to the extreme west. Upon this
spot now stands the Lawrence school and
accepted as the place to mark the evacu-
ation of Boston by the British troops.
Independence square was called Bush
Tree hill. Leek hill was at the north of
Dorchester-street, on the water side. The
extreme eastern hill was known as the
Battery.

The British conspicuously blundered



The Heights were fortified in JMarch.i 776,
by the request of General \\'ashington.
Action like this rendered the British ner-
vous, as their troops were in Boston.
The Americans made a sharp and deci-
sive move. England was watching, and
pronounced it to be this. Lieutenant
Leslie went with a detachment from
Castle William, and his instructions were
to destrov everv house and barn on the
Neck. Six of the American guards were
taken prisoner, besides an old man. Six
dwellings out of eleven, and ten barns
and shops, or sheds, were burned.

Matters were getting warmer for a closer
contact. General ^^'ashingt()n had his




RESIDENCE OF NOAH BROOKS, IN 1825.



in not taking possession of Dorchester
Heights. When the twelve families were
forced to leave their dwellings upon the
Neck, they did so for the reason that they
thought all along this spot would have
been seized and fortified by the British.
The only road leading from the Neck to
Dorchester was often flooded at high tide,
and to be caught in the peninsular district
by the tide, and by the tyranny and op-
pression of the British soldiers was not
very appetizing to the Yankee of those
days. Consequently, in 1775, South
Boston was deserted. The Americans
were wise where the British were foolish.



eye upon fortifying Dorchester Heights.
From Cambridge, shot and shell fell upon
the British in Boston, and heavy firing
was kept up by both sides.

On March 4, active preparations were
under way. In silence, with not a word
above a whisper, passed two thousand
Americans, covered by a party of eight
hundred not far away, up to Dorchester
Heights. The night was favorable. The
stars in their courses were fighting against
the British. Even the moon, later on,
crept silently over the horizon, and sent
her silvery rays over the bended forms of
laborers, farmers, soldiers, working with



HISTORY OF SOUTH BOSTON.






W^ICS^f^, -■- '-i-




alger's irox foundry in 1854.



■fc>
Their

brought



a will to make I )orchester Heights as for-
midable as possible. The well-known
engineer of Bunker Hill, Colonel Richard
Gridley was there, superintending the de-
tails of the work. Night wore away,
amid the continued flash and booming of
cannon in the distance. \Aith reso-
lute hearts, the
Americans wel-
comed the dawn
wdth two strong for
tifications.
work had
forth fruit.

General H o w- e
ate his breakfast
March 5 with little
relish. South Bos-
ton had during the
night
g r e s s i \



become ag-
e wit h
American enter-
prise. The Twin
hills stared the
British general with
eyes of vengeance.
No wonder his
heart failed, for
when he saw the
forts he exclaimed.



•• 1 know not what 1 shall do 1 The rebels
ha\e done more in one night than my
whole army would hav'e done in a month."
"Drive the Americans from Dorchester
Heio'hts," this was the thought that
rankled in his breast. The Americans
saw events were hourl\- becoming more




INTERIOR OF
C.A.S



alger's iron foundry in 1850.

TING 25,000 POUND CANNON.



14



HISTORY OF SOUTH BOSTON.



serious. \\'ashington went in and out
among the soldiers, saying " Remember
it is the fifth of March, and avenge the
death of vour brethren." Over a hun-
dred years after this, a similar cry ■• Re-
member the Maine," went reverberating
through this land. Both cries meant
action. A violent storm beat upon the
British troops embarking for the castle.
Rain came down in sheets. Plan after
plan was intercepted. The secluded
Americans added piece to piece on the



Heights.



Their courage grew stronsier.



and the fortifications were frowning upon
the enemy. The news got abroad that
General Howe would not attempt any



the only persons who lost their lives in
Mattanpannock during this exciting
interval.

In all eight hundred shot were heard
from the American side on March lo,
which was Sunday. The action became
demonstrative. Americans were over
eager to make a more decisive opposition.
The suspense was trying, and Washington
was careful to save life, as \vell as to
watch the hesitation of General Howe
about evacuating the city. Hook's hill
was more strongly fortified. There the
mouths of the cannons were opened upon
the veiy centre of the town. Noddle's
Island was about to be cro^^■ned with



(..u-.;\.v' -



UV VKii






WMMWgfc gi g. ' i. . ' JM\Sti.m i^;^^ *r^^^g^



TABLET PLACED ON LAWRENCE SCHOOL BV SONS OF THE REVOLUTION.



attack. The Tories were crazed at the
announcement of this decision and thev
beat a hasty retreat. Even his soldiers
took advantage of this, and went to plun-
dering the houses of Boston. South Bos-
ton had terrorized British Boston. Boston
must be destroyed, yelled the Americans,
and they meant it. Batteries were placed
upon Leak and Bird's hill, and these
turned among the fieet in the harbnr, if
necessaiy. When the British saw a bat-
tery on Hook's hill, their fear increased,
and they poured their shot from the
■ Green Store battery in it. On this hill
four soldiers and a surgeon were killed,

' This was located at the corner of Washington and
Dover streets.



guns. On March 17, 1776, the army of
General Howe took the strong hint that
had been given them for over a week. They
left the wharves of Boston and eyed, as
they sailed down the harbor, the silent
fortifications that would have effectively
answered any sort of opposition. England
felt crestfallen at the departui'e of her
troops. The beginning of the reverses
had started, and other events were to
follow in the wake of this one, which
would proclaim for ever American inde-
pendence.

To South Boston, as a locality, belongs
rightly the honor of effectively dislodging
the British from their stronghold in Bos-
ton. The event by itself did more to



HISTORY OF SOUTH BOSTON.



15



^._.ir_/^







m




OLD ST. Matthew's ix iSiS.

BROADWAY BETWEEN' D AND E STREf;TS.




OLD ST. PETER AND ST. PAIL S,
BEFORE KEINO DESTROYED BY FIRE.








HAWES PI VCE CHURCH. ERECTED 1853.




SOUTH BO.STON M. E. CHURCH IN 1S4O.
D STREET BETWEEN FOURTH AND BRO.A^DWAY.



Online LibraryCharles Bancroft GillespieIllustrated history of South Boston : issued in conjunction with and under auspices of the South Boston Citizens' Association : comprising an historic record and pictorial description of the district, past and present → online text (page 1 of 27)