Samuel Adams Drake.

Historic fields and mansions of Middlesex online

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the most important eA'ents. At the instance of William Brattle,
at that time major-general of the Massachusetts militia, General
Gage sent an expedition to seize the poAvder in this magazine
belonging to the province. About four o'clock on the morning
of September 1, 1 774, tAvo hundred and sixty soldiers embarked
from Long "Wharf, in Boston, in thirteen boats, and proceeded



112 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

up the Mystic Eiver, landing at Ten Hills Farm, less than a
mile from the Powder House. The magazine, which then con-
tained two hundred and hfty half-barrels of powder, was speed-
ily emptied, and the explosive mixture transported to the
Castle, while a detachment of the expedition proceeded to
Cambridge and brought off two field-pieces there. At the
time of this occurrence William Gamage was keeper of the
magazine.

The news of the seizure circulated with amazing rapidity,
and on the following morning several thousand of the inhabi-
tants of the neighboring towns had assembled on Cambridge
Common. This appears to have been the very first occasion on
which the provincials assembled in arms Avith the intention of
opposing the forces of their king. Those men who repaired to
the Common at Cambridge were the men of Middlesex ; when,
therefore, we place Massachusetts in the front of the Revolu-
tion, we must put Middlesex in the van. It was at this time
that the lieutenant-governor (Oliver) and several of the coun-
cillors were compelled to resign. The Eevolution had fully
begun, and accident alone prevented the first blood being shed
on Cambridge, instead of Lexington, Common.

We will not leave the old mill until we consider for a
moment what a centre of anxious solicitude it had become in
1775, when the word "powder" set the whole camp in a shiver.
Putnam prayed for it ; Greene, SuUivan, and the rest begged
it of their provincial committees. A terrible mistake had
occurred through the inadvertence of the Massachusetts Com-
mittee, which had returned four hundred and eighty-five quar-
ter-casks as on hand, Avhen there were actually but thirty-eight
barrels in the magazine. When Washington was apprised of
this startling error, he sat for half an hour without uttering
a word. The generals present — the discovery was made at a
general council — felt with him as if the army and the cause
had received its deatli-blow. " The Avord 'Powder' in a letter,"
says Eeed, " sets us all a-tiptoe." The heavy artillery was use-
less ; they were obliged to bear with the cannonade of the
rascals on Bunker Hill in silence ; and, what was Avorse than



THE OLD WAYSIDE MILL. 113

all the rest, there were only nine rounds for the small-arms in
the hands of the men. In the whole contest there was not a
more dangerous hour for America.

We have had occasion elsewhere to mention this scarcity of
ammunition. At no time was the army in possession of abun-
dance. Before Boston the cartridges were taken from the men
that left camp, and fourpence was charged for every one ex-
pended without proper account. The inhabitants were called
upon to give up their window-weights to be moulded into bul-
lets, and even the churchyards were laid under contribution for
the leaden coats-of-arms of the deceased. The metal pipes of
the English Church of Cambridge were appropriated for a like
purpose. On the lines the men plucked the fuses from the
enemy's shells, or chased the spent shot with boyish eagerness.
In this way missiles were sometimes actually returned to the
enemy before they had cooled.

The old name of the eminence on which the Powder House
stands was Quarry Hill, from the c^uarries opened at its base
more than a century and a half ago. The region round about
was, from the earliest times, known as the Stinted Pasture, and
the little ri\nilet near at hand was called Two Penny Brook.
When the province bought the Old Mill there was but a quar-
ter of an acre of land belonging to it. After the Old War the
Powder House continued to be used by the State until the erec-
tion, more than forty years ago, of the magazine at Cambridge-
port. It was then sold, and j^assed into the possession of
Xathan Tufts, from whom the place is usually known as the
" Tufts Farm," but it has never lost its designation as the "Old
Powder-House Farm," and we hope it never will.

Except that the sides of the edifice are somewhat bulged out,
which gives it a portly, aldermanic appearance, and that it
shows a few fissures traversing its outward crust, the Powder
House is good for another century if for a day. Fortunately
the iconoclasts have not yet begun to sap its foundations.
Nothing is wanting but its long arms, for the Old Mill to have
stepped bodily out of a canvas of Eembrandt or a cartoon of
Albert Diirer. It carries us in imagination beyond seas to the

H



114 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

banks of the Scheldt, — to the land of burgomasters, dikes,
and guilders.

There is not the smallest doubt that Washington has often
dismounted at the Old Mill, or that Knox came here seeking
daily food for his Crown Point murtherers. SuUivan, in whose
command it was, watched over it with anxious care. Will not
the enterprising young city keep its ancient tower] Once
destroyed, it can never be replaced ; and, while it may not be
practicable to preserve lines of intrenchments, such an edifice
may easily be saved for those who will come after us. ' The
battle-fields of the Old World have their monuments. Un-
numbered pilgrims pay yearly homage before the lion of
Waterloo. Our Old Mill may fairly claim to illustrate a higher
principle than brave men fallen in defence of despotic power ;
and long may it stand to remind the passer-by of the Siege of
Boston !

In furtherance of such a design, we would gladly see a tablet
placed on the mill which should record its claims to public
protection by reciting the following passages from its history : —

" This edifice, a windmill of the early settlers, Avas erected before
1720. Sold to the Province in 1747 for a magazine, the seizure,
September 1, 1774, by General Gage of the Colony's store of powder
led to the first mustering in arms of the yeomanry of Middlesex,
September 2, 1774, on Cambridge Common. September 3 the
avenues into Boston were closed by the cannon of the army and
fleet. In 1775 it became the magazine of. the American army be-
sieging Boston."

The monument is already standing. All it asks at our
hands is protection. We commend to the people of ancient
Charlestown the good taste and example of the citizens of jN^ew-
port, Avho have surrounded their old mill with a railing, and
look upon it as one of the chief attractions of their famous
resort. The forty rods square and way into the road of Old
Mallet should remain, Avith the mill, the property of the
inhabitants. If this lie done, our word for it, the plan will
early reward its adoption, and prove a precious legacy of care
weU bestowed, as well as a landmark of the ramparts of the
devolution.



THE OLD WAYSIDE MILL. 115

Sir Walter Scott has said, " Nothing is easier than to make
a legend." We need not invent, but only repeat one of which
the Old Mill is the subject.

A Legend of the Powder House.

In the day of Mallet, the miller, it Avas no unusual occurrence
for a customer to dismount before the farm-house door after
dark ; so that when, one sombre November evening, the good-
man sat at his evening meal, he was not surprised to hear a
horse neigh, and a faint halloo from the rider.

Going to the door, the miller saw, by the liglit of the lan-
tern he held aloft, a youth mounted on a strong beast, whose
steaming flanks gave evidence that he had been pushed at the
top of his speed, and whose neck was already stretched wist-
fully in the direction of the miller's crib.

Mallet, — when was your miller aught else in song or story
but a downright jolly fellow, — in cheery tones, bade the lad
dismount and enter, at the same time calling his son Andre to
lead the stranger's horse to the stable, and have a care for the
brace of well-filled bags that were slung across the crupper.

Once Avithin the house the new-comer seemed to shrink from
the scrutiny of the miller's wife and daughters, and, notwith-
standing his evident fatigue, could scarcely be prevailed upon
to touch the relics of the evening repast, which the goodwife
placed before him. He swallowed a few mouthfuls, and then
withdrew into the darkest corner of the cavernous- fireplace,
where a rousing fire blazed on the hearth, crackling, and dif-
fusing a generous warmth through the apartment.

The stranger was a mere stripling, with a face the natural
pallor of which was heightened by a pair of large, restless black
eyes, that seemed never to rest on any object at which the}'
were directed, but glanced furtively from the glistening fire-
irons to the spinning-wheel at which Goodwife Mallet was em^
ployed, and from the rude pictures on the wall back to the
queen's arm which hung by its hooks above the chimney-piece.
" Certes," muttered INIallet, under his breath, " this fellow is no
brigand, I '11 be sworn."



116 HISTOEIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

The habit of those days among the poorer classes was early
to bed, and soon the miller set the example by taking a greasy
dip-candle and saying : " Come, wife, Marie, Ivan, to bed ; and
you, Andre, see that all is secured. Come, lad," — beckoning
to his guest, — " follow me."

Leading the way up the rickety stairs, the miller reached
the garret, and, pointing to the only bed it contained, bade the
wayfarer share a good night's rest with his son Andre. The
startled expression of the stranger's face, and the painful flush
that lingered there, were not observed by the bluff old miller.
They were plain folk, and used to entertain guests as they
might.

The youth entreated that if he might not have a couch to
himself, he might at least sit by the kitchen fire till morning ;
but his request Avas sternly refused by the miller, with marks
of evident displeasure. "Harkye, lad," he blurted out, '-'your
speech is fair, and you do not look as if you would cut our
throats in the dark, but if ye can't sleep with the miller's son
for a bedfellow, your highness must e'en couch .with the rats at
the mill, for other place there is none." To his surprise the
boy caught eagerly at the proposal, and, after no little per-
suasion, he yielded, and conducted his fastidious visitor out
into the open air, muttering his disapproval in no stinted
phrase as he took the well-trod path that led to the mill.

The old miU loomed large in the obscurity, its scarce dis-
tinguishable outline seeming a piece fitted into the surromiding
darkness. The sails, idly flapping in the night wind, gave to
the whole structure the appearance of some antique, winged
monster, just stooping for a flight. The boy shivered, and drew
his rocpielaure closer around him.

Entering the mill, the youth ascended by a ladder to the loft ;
the miller fastened the oaken door and withdrew. Left alone,
the strange lad turned to the narrow loophole, through which a
single star was visible in the heavens, and, taking some object
from his breast, pressed it to his lips. He then threw himself,
sobbing, on a heap of empty bags. Silence fell upon the
old mill.



THE OLD WAYSIDE MILL. 117

The slumbers of the lonely occupant Avere erelong rudely
disturbed by the sound of voices, among which he distinguished
that of the miller, who appeared to be engaged in unfastening
his locks in a manner far too leisurely to satisfy the haste of his
companions. Another voice, one which seemed to terrify the
boy by its harsh yet familiar accents, bade the miller despatch
for a bungling fool. The boy, moved with a sudden impulse,
drew the ladder by which he had gained the loft up to his
retreat; and, placing it agaiiLst the scuttle, ascended yet higher.

The flash of lights below showed that the men were within,
as a volley of oaths betrayed the disappointment of the princi-
pal speaker at finding access cut off to the object of his pursuit.
" Ho there, Claudine ! " exclaimed this person, " descend, and
you shall be forgiven this escapade ; come down, I say. Curse
the girl ! — Miller ! another ladder, and I '11 bring her down, or
my name 's not Dick Wynne."

Another ladder was brought, which the speaker, uttering
wild threats, mounted, but, not finding his victim as he ex-
pected at the first stage, he was compelled to climb to that
above. The fugitive, crouched panting in a corner, betrayed
her presence only by her quickened breathing, while the man,
whose eyes Avere yet unaccustomed to the darkness, could only
grope cautiously around the cramped area.

Finding it impossible longer to elude her pursuer, the girl,
with a piercing cry for help, attemjited to reach the ladder,
when the man, making a sudden efi'ort to grasp her, missed his
footing, and fell headlong through the opening. In his descent,
his hand coming in contact with something, he grasped it
instinctively, and felt his flight arrested at the moment a yell
of horror smote upon his ears. " Damnation ! " screamed the
miller, " let go the cord, or you 're a dead man."

It Avas too late. In an instant the old mill, shaking off its
lethargy, Avas all astir Avith life. The ponderous arms Avere
already in quick rcA^olution, and the man AA-as caught and
crushed Avithin the mechanism he had set in motion. The mill
Avas stopped ; the helpless suft'erer extricated and conA^eyed to
the farm-house. He uttered but one word, " Claudine," and
became insensible.



118 HISTOIilC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

The poor Acadian peasant girl was one of those who had
been separated from their homes by the rigorous policy of their
conquerors. These victims were parcelled out among the dif-
ferent towns like so many brutes, and Claudine had fallen into
the power of a wretch*. This man, who wished to degrade the
pretty French girl to the position of his mistress, had pushed
his importunities so far that at last the girl had obtained a dis-
guise, and, watching her opportunity, saddled her master's horse
and fled. The man, with a warrant and an officer, was; as we
have seen, close upon her track.

At break of day the officer returned from the town with a
chirurgeon and a clergyman. The examination of the man of
medicine left no room for hope, and he gave place to the man
of God. Consciousness returns for a moment to the bruised
and bleeding Wynne. Powerless to move, his eyes turn to the
bedside, where stands, in her proper attire, the object of his
fatal passion, bitterly weeping, and holding a crucifix in her
hands. The morning sun gilds the old mill with touches a
Turner could not reproduce. His rays fall aslant the farm-
house, and penetrate through the little diamond panes within
the chamber, where a stricken group stand hushed and awe-
struck in the presence of death.



THE PLANTATION AT MYSTIC SIDE. 119



CHAPTEE VI.

THE PLANTATION AT MYSTIC SIDE.

'■' Come pass about the bowl to me;
A health to our distressed king."

AS you approach Medford by the Old Boston Eoad, you
see at your left hand, standing on a rise of ground not
half a mile out of the village, a mansion so strongly marked
with the evidences of a decayed magnilicence that your atten-
tion is at once arrested, and you will not proceed without a
nearer view of an object which has so justly excited your
interest, or awakened, perhaps, a mere transient curiosity.

Whatever the motive which leads you to thread the broad
avenue that leads up to the entrance door, our word for it you
will not depart with regret that your footsteps have strayed to
its portal. Built by a West-Indian nabob, inhabited by one
whose character and history, have been for a hundred years a
puzzle to historians, — a man " full of strange oaths," the very
prince of egotists, and yet not without claim to our kindly con-
sideration, — the old house fairly challenges our inquiry.

Externally the building presents three stories, the upper tier
of windows being, as is usual in houses of eveu a much later
date, smaller than those underneath. Every pane has rattled
at the boom of the British morning-gun on Bunker Hill ; every
timber shook with the fierce cannonade which warned the in-
vaders to their ships.

The house is of brick, but is on three sides entirely sheathed
in wood, while the south end stands exposed. The reason
which prompted the builder to make the west front by far the
most ornamental does not readily appear ; but certain it is,
that the mansion, in defiance of our homely maxim, " Put
your best foot foremost," seems to have turned its back to the



120 HISTOEIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

highway, as if it would ignore what was passing in the outer
world.

Sufficient unto himself, no doubt, with his gardens, his
slaves, and his rich wines, was the old Antigua merchant, Isaac
Eoyall, who came, in 1737, from his tropical home to establish
his seat here in ancient Charlestown. He is said to have
brought with him twenty-seven slaves. In December, 1737,
he laid before the General Court his petition, as follows, in
regard to these " chattels " : —

" Petition of Isaac Eoyall, late of Antigua, now of Charlestown,
in the county of Middlesex, that he removed irom. Antigua with liis
family, and brought with him, among other things and chattels, a
parcel of negroes, designed for his own use and not any of them for
merchantbse. He jDrays that he may not be taxed with uupost."

The brick cpiarters which the slaves occupied are situated on
the south side of the mansion and front upon the coiu't-yard,
one side of which they enclose. These have remained un-
changed, and are, we believe, the last visible relics of slavery
in XcAV England. The deep fireplace where the blacks pre-
j)ared their food is still there, and the roll of slaves has cer-
tainly been called in sight of Bunker Hill, though never on
its summit.

At either end of the building the brick wall, furnished with
a pair of stout cliimneys, rises above tlie pitched roof. The
cornice and corners are relieved by ornamental wood-work,
while the west face is jDanelled, and further decorated "with
fluted pilasters. On tliis side, too, the original windows are
seen.

The Eoyall House stood in the midst of gromids laid out in
elegant taste, and embellished with fruit-trees and shrubbery.
These grounds were separated from the highway by a low brick
wall, now demolished. The gateway opening upon the grand
avenue was flanked by wooden posts. Farther to the right
was the carriage-drive, on either side of which stood massive
stone gate-posts, as antique in appearance as anything about the
old mansion. Seventy paces back from the road, along the
broad gravelled walk, bordered Avitli box, brings you to
the door.



THE PLANTATION AT MYSTIC SIDE. 121

A visitor arriving in a carriage either alighted at the front
entrance or passed by the broad drive, rmder the shade of mag-
niiicent old elms, around into the conrt-yard previously men-
tioned, and paved with round beach pebbles, through the
interstices of which the grass grows thickly. Emerging from
the west entrance-door, the old proprietor mounted the steps
of the family coach, and rolled away in state to Boston Town-
House, Avhere, as a member of the Great and General Court, he
long served his fellow-citizens of Charlestown. The drivcAvay
has now become a street, to the ruin of its former glory, the
stately trees.

Behind the house, as we view it, was an enclosed garden of
half an acre or more, Avith walks, fruit, and a summer-house at
the farther extremity. jN"o doubt this was the favorite resort
of the family and their guests.

This summer-house, a veritable curiosity in its way, is placed
upon an artificial mound, with two terraces, and is reached by
broad flights of red sandstone steps. It is octagonal in form,
with a bell-shaped roof, surmounted by a cupola, on which is
placed a figure of Mercury. At present the statue, with the
loss of both "vvings and arms, cannot be said to resemble the
dashing god. The exterior is highly ornamented with Ionic
pilasters, and, taken as a whole, is delightfully ruinous. "\Ve
discover that utility led to the elevation of the mound, within
wliich was an ice-house, the existence of which is disclosed by
a trap-door in the floor of the summer-house. An artist drew
the plan of tliis little structure, a worthy companion of that
formerly existing in Peter Faneuil's grounds in Boston. Doubt-
less George Erving and Sir William Pepperell came hither to
pay their court to the royalist's daughters, and greatly we mis-
take if its dilapidated walls might not whisper of many a
love-tryst.

After having rambled through the grounds and examined
the surroundings of the mansion, we returned to the house,
prepared to inspect the interior.

Without lingering in the hall of entrance farther than to
mark the elaborately carved balusters and the panelled wainscot,
6



122 HISTOEIC FIELDS AND MxVNSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

we passed into the suite of apartments at the right hand, the
reception-rooms proper of the house. These were divided in
two by an arch, in which folding-doors were concealed ; and
from Hoor to ceihng the walls were panelled in wood, the panels
being of single pieces, some of them -a yard in breadth. In the
rear apartment, and opening to the north, were two alcoves,
each flanked by fluted pilasters, on Avliich rested an arch en-
riched with mouldings and carved ornaments. Each recess had
a window furnished with seats, so inviting for a tete-a-tete, where
the ladies of the household sat with their needlework ; these
windows were sealed up in winter. The heavy cornice formed
an elaborate finish to this truly elegant saloon.

On the right, as the visitor entered, was a sideboard, which
old-time hospitality required should be always garnished with
wines, or a huge bowl of punch. The host first filled himself
a glass, and drank to his guest, who was then expected to pay
the same courtesy to the master of the mansion. K^o little of
Colonel Eoyall's wealth was founded on the traffic in Antigua
rum, and we doiibt not his sideboard was well furnished. In
those days men drank their pint of Antigua, and carried it off,
too, with no dread of any enemy but the gout, nor feared to
present themselves before ladies with the aroma of good old
Xeres upon them. But we have fallen upon sadly degenerate,
weak-headed times, when the young men of to-day cannot make
a brace of JS'ew-Year's caUs without an unsteady gait and tell-
tale tongue.

The second floor was furnished with four chambers, aU open-
ing on a spacious and airy hall. Of these the northwest room
only demands special description. It had alcoves similar to
those already mentioned in the apartment underneath, but
instead of panels the walls were finished above the wainscot
with a covering of leather on which were embossed, in gorgeous
colors, flowers, birds, pagodas, and the concomitants of a Chinese
paradise. On this side the original mndows, with the small
glass and heavy frames, still remain.

The family of Eoyall in this country originated with William
Eoyall, or Eyal, of North Yarmouth, Maine, who was un-



THE PLANTATION AT MYSTIC SIDE. 123

doubtedly the person mentioned by Hazard as being sent over
as a cooper or cleaver in 1629. His son, Samuel, followed the
same trade of cooper in Boston as early as 1663-66, living
with old Samuel Cole, the comfit-maker and keeper of the first
inn mentioned in the annals of Boston. His father, William
Royall, had married Hebe Green, daughter of Margaret, former
wife to Samuel Cole. William, another son of William,
appears to have settled in Dorchester, where he died, in 1724.
His son, Isaac Eoyall, was a soldier in Philip's War, and built
the second meeting-house in Dorchester.

Isaac Royall, the builder of our mansion, did not live long
enough to enjoy his princely estate, dying in 1739, not long
after its completion. His widow, who survived him eight
years, died in this house, but was interred from Colonel Oliver's,
in Dorchester, April 25, 1747. The pair share a common tomb
in the old burying-place of that ancient town.

Isaac Eoyall the Second took good care of his patrimony.
He was the owner of considerable property in Boston and Med-
ford. Among other estates in the latter town, he was the
proprietor of the old Admiral Yernon Tavern, which was stand-
ing in 1743, near the bridge.

A visitor preceding us by a century and a quarter thus speaks
of the same house we are describing : —



Online LibrarySamuel Adams DrakeHistoric fields and mansions of Middlesex → online text (page 11 of 39)