Samuel Adams Drake.

Historic fields and mansions of Middlesex online

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" On our journey past through Mistick which is a small Town
of abt a hundred Houses, Pleasantly Situated, near to which is a Fine
Country Seat belonging to Mr. Isaac Royall being one of the Grand-
est in N. America."

When the Revolution begun Colonel Eoyall fell upon evil
times. He was appointed a councillor by mandamus, but de-
clined serving, as Gage says to Lord Dartmouth, from timidity.
His own account of his movements after the beginning of
" these troubles " is such as to confirm the governor's opinion,
while it exhibits him as a loyalist of a very moderate cast.

He had prepared to take passage for the West Indies, intend-
ing to embark from Salem for Antigua, but, having gone into
Boston the Sunday previous to the battle of Lexington, and


remained there until that affair occurred, he was, by the course
of events, shut up in the town. He sailed for Halifax very
soon, still intending, as he says, for Antigua, but on the arrival
of his son-in-law, George Erving, and his daughter, with the
troops from Boston, he was by them persuaded to sail for Eng-
land, whither his other son-in-law. Sir William Peppered, had
preceded him.

Upon his arrival in England he waited upon Lord Dartmouth
and Lord Germaine, but was not received by them. Governor
PoAvnall, in the course of a long conversation with Colonel
Eoyall, expressed a strong regard for the Province in general,
as being a very fine country and a good sort of people, and,
while lamenting the difficulties, said that if his advice had pre-
vailed they would not haA^e happened. Eoyall also exchanged
visits with Governors Bernard and Hutchinson, but, neglecting
an invitation to dine with the latter, the acquaintance dropped.

Colonel Eoyall, after the loss of some of liis nearest relatives
and of his own health, begged earnestly to be allowed to return
" home " to Medford, and to be relieved from the acts wliich
had been passed afi'ecting the absentees. The estate had, how-
ever, been taken out of the hands of liis agent, Dr. Tufts, in

1788, under the Act of Confiscation.

In Colonel Eoyall's plea to be permitted to return home, in

1789, half ludicrous, lialf j^athetic, he declares he was ever a
true friend of the ProA'ince, and expresses the wish to marry
again in his OAvn country, Avhere, having already had one good
wife, he Avas in hopes to get another, and in some degree repair
his loss. Penelope Eoyall, sister of Isaac, Avas married to
Colonel Henry Vassall of Cambridge.

Peace be Avith the absconding royalist for an inoffensiA^e,
Avell-meaning, but shockingly timid old tory ! He Avould fain
haA'e liA^ed in amity Avith all men and Avith his king too, but
the crisis engulfed him cA'en as his A'alor forsook him. His
fears counselled him to run, and he obeyed. But he is not for-
gotten. His large-hearted bencA^olence shoAA''ed itself in many
bequests to that coimtry to Avhich he Avas alien only in name.
The Eoyall Professorship of LaAv at HarA^ard Avas founded by


his bounty. He has a town (Eoyalston) in Massachusetts
named for him, and is remembered with afiection in the place
of his former abode.

After inspecting the kitchen, with its monstrous brick oven
still in perfect repair, its iron chimney-back, with the Eoyall
arms impressed upon it, we inquired of the lady who had kindly
attended us if she had ever been disturbed by strange visions
or frightful dreams. She looked somewhat perplexed at the
question, but replied in the negative. " They were all good
people, you know, who dwelt here in bygone times," she said.

"When the yeomen began pouring into the environs of Boston,
encircling it with a belt of steel, the New Hampshire levies
pitched their tents in Medford. They found the Eoyall man-
sion in the occupancy of Madam Eoyall and her accomplished
daughters, who willingly received Colonel John Stark into the
house as a safeguard against insult or any invasion of the estate
the soldiery might attempt. A few rooms were set apart for
the use of the blufi' old ranger, and he, on his part, treated the
family with considerate respect. Stark's wife afterwards fol-
lowed him to camp, and when Dorchester Heights were occu-
pied was by him directed to mount on horseback and watch
the passage of liis detachment over to West Boston. If his
landing was opposed, she was to ride into the country and
spread the alarm. These were the men and women of 1776.

John Stark was formed by nature for a leader. Though the
reins of discipline chafed his impetuous spirit, few men pos-
sessed in a greater degree the confidence of his soldiers. The
very hairs of his head seem bristling for the fray. A counte-
nance stropgly marked, high cheek-bones, eyes keen and thought-
ful, nose prominent, — in short, the aspect of an eagle of his
own mountains, Avith a soul as void of fear. He Avas at times
somewhat " splenetive and rash." While stationed here he one
day sent a file of his men to arrest and bring to camp a civilian
accused of some extortion towards his men. Such acts, with-
out the knowledge of his general, were sure to bring reproof
upon Stark, Avhich he received with tolerable grace. But he
was always ready to render ample satisfaction for a wrong. The


election for colonel of the New Hampshire regiment was held
in the puhlic hall of Billings's tavern in Medford, afterwards
called the JSTew Hampshire Hall. It was a hand vote, and
some, they say, held up both hands for John Stark.

In the fall of 1776 a small party of the British came up the
lake before Ticonderoga to take soundings of the depth of
water. From the prospect of attack Gates summoned a council
of war. There were no officers who had been in actual service
except Gates and Stark. Gates took Stark aside, and the fol-
lowing dialogue ensued : —

Gates. What do you think of it, John 1
• Stark. 1 think if they come we must fight them.
Oates. Psho, John ! Tell me what your opinion is, seriously.
Stark. My opinion is, that they will not fire a shot against this
place this season, but whoever is here next must look out.

Stark and Gates were very intimate ; they addressed each
other familiarly by their given names. The events justified
Stark's sagacity.

It is also related that at the memorable council of war where
the movement to Trenton was decided upon. Stark, who came
in late, said to Washington, " Your men have long been accus-
tomed to place dependence upon spades, pickaxes, and hoes for
safety, but if you ever mean to establish the independence of
the United States, you must teach them to put confidence in
their fire-arms." Washington ansAvered, "That is what we
have agreed upon ; we are to march to-morrow to the attack of
Trenton ; you are to take command of the right wing of the
advanced guard, and General Greene the left." Stark observed
he could not have been better suited. It is notiaeable that
several officers attached to the brigade on Winter Hill served in
this action, namely, Sullivan, Stark, Scammell, and Wilkinson.

One of Washington's most trusted officers thus wrote to a
friend in Boston of the battle of Bennington : —

" The news of the A-ictory at the northward, under General Stark,
must give you singular satisfaction; indeed, it was a most noble
stroke for the oldest troops, but the achievement by militia doubly
enhances the value of the action. America will ever be free if all
her sons exert themselves equally."


This battle, like that of Trenton, was an act of inspiration.
We cannot, at this distance of time, appreciate its electric
effect upon the public mind, then sunk in despondency by the
fall of Ticonderoga, and the rapid and unchecked advance of
Burgoyne. It was generally believed that .Boston was the
British general's destination. Great alarm prevailed in conse-
quence, and many families removed from the town. The news
of Bennington, therefore, was received with great joy. At
sundown about one hundred of the first gentlemen of the town,
with all the strangers then in Boston, met at the Bunch of
(trapes in State Street, where good liquors and a side table
were provided. In the street were two brass field-pieces with
a detachment of Colonel Craft's regiment. In the balcony of
the Old State House all the musicians of Henry Jackson's regi-
ment were assembled, with their fifes and drums. The ball
was opened by the discharge of thirteen cannon, and at every
toast three guns were fired, followed by a flight of rockets.
About nine o'clock two barrels of grog were brought into the
street for the people that had collected there. The whole affair
was conducted with the greatest propriety, and by ten o'clock
every man Avas at his home.

The effect on enlistments was equally happy. In the back
parts of the State the militia turned out to a man. The best
farmers went into the ranks, and Massachusetts soon enrolled
the finest body of militia that had taken the field. The sea-
ports Avere more backward. The towns that had not secured
their quotas for the continental army were giving £100, lawful
money, bounty for men. Some towns gave as much as five
hundred dollars for each man enlisted.

Captain Barns, who brought the news of the battle of Ben-
nington to Boston, related that, " after the first action, General
Stark ordered a hogshead of rum for the refreshment of the
militia ; but so eager were they to attack the enemy, upon be-
ing reinforced, that they tarried not to taste of it, but rushed
on the enemy with an ardor perhaps unparalleled."

Stark sent to Boston not long after the battle the trophies,
presented to the State, now placed in the Senate Chamber.


The drum is one of several captured ou the field, while the
sword, carried by one of Eiedesel's dragoons, required no pygmy
to wield it ; in fact, the hat and sword of a German dragoon
were as heavy as the whole equipment of a British soldier.

There are other memorials of the battles of Bennington and
of Saratoga preserved in Boston. The original orders of Bur-
goyne to Baum were deposited Avith the Massachusetts Histori-
cal Society by General Lincoln, while the capitulation of Sara-
toga is in the Public Library. It is not a little remarkable,
too, that tlie original draft of the surrender of Cormvallis was
found among the papers of General Knox, now in the archives
of the Historic Genealogical Society. All these are memorials
of great events, and are of inestimable value. "What is really
noticeable about the battle of Bennington is, that Baum, find-
ing himself surrounded, had strongly intrenched himself. His
Avorks Avere attacked and carried by raAV militia, of whom
Baum took little note because they Avere in their shirt-sleeves.
He held his adA'ersaries cheaply and paid dearly for his confi-
dence. Of Stark he doubtless thought as one

" That never set a squadron in the field,
Nor the division of a battle knows
More than a spinster. "

The Bennington prisoners arrived at Boston on Friday, Sep-
tember 5, 1777, and Avere confined on board guard-ships in
the harbor. Some of the officers Avere permitted to quarter
in farm-houses along the route, Avhere they soon had the
melancholy pleasure of Avelcoming their brethren of the main
army. .

Of the Hessians confined on board the guard-shij)s, ten
made their escape on the night of the 26th of October, in a
most daring manner. Having, through the connivance of their
friends outside, obtained a boat, in Avhich arms Avere j^rovided,
they boarded the sloop Julia off the Hardings, took possession
of her, and bore away for the southAvard, expecting, no doubt,
to fall in with some of the enemy's vessels of war in Long
Island Sound.

Some of the guns captured at Bennington by Stark fell


again iuto British possession at the surrender of Detroit. The
inscriptions Avere read with much curiosity by the captors, who
observed that they would now add a line to the history. The
British officer of the day directed the evening salutes to be fired
from them. When Stark heard of the loss of his guns he was
much incensed. These pieces again became American at the
capture of Fort George. Two of the lightest metal were pre-
sented by Congress to the State of Vermont.

In 1819 Stark was still living, the last survivor of the
American generals of the Bevolution. His recollections were
then more distinct in relation to the CA'ents of the Old French
Wav tlian of that for independence. Bunker Hill, Trenton,
and Bennington should be inscribed upon his tomb.

Xot long after his arrival at the camp General Lee took up
his quarters in the Itoyall mansion, Avhose echoing corridors
suggested to his fancy the name of Hobgoblin Hall. But
Washington, as elsewhere related, caused him to remove to a
point nearer his command. After Lee, Sullivan, attracted no
doubt by the superior comforts of the old country-seat, unwa-
rily fell into the same error. He, too, was remanded tp his
brigade by the chief, who knew the impulsive SulliA'an would
not readily forgive himself if anything befell the left wing
of the army in his absence. In these two cases Washington
exhibited his adhesion to the maxim that a general should
sleep among his troops.

The Eoyall mansion came, in 1810, into the possession of
Jacob Tidd, in whose family it remained half a century, until
its identity with the old royalist had become merged in the new
proprietor. It has been subsequently owned by George L.
Barr and by George C. jSTichols, who at present occupies it.
The Tidd House is the name by which it is now known, and
all old citizens have a presentiment that it Avill not much longer
retain a foothold among its modern neighbors. The surveyor
has appeared on the scene with compass and level. Only one
of the granite gate-posts remains in the driveway, while the
stumps of the once splendid elms, planted by Boyall, lie scat-
tered about.


Nothing goes to our heart more than to see one of these
gigantic old trees, Avhich it has cost a century to grow, struck
clown in an hour ; but when whole ranks of them are swept
away, how quickly the scene changes from picturesque beauty
to insignificance ! At the forks of every road leading into their
villages the old settlers were wont to plant an elm, where
weary travellers and footsore beasts might, in time, gather under
its spreading branches, sheltered from the burning rays of the
noonday sun. In the market-place, too, they dug their wells,
but planted the tree beside. JNIany of these yet remain ; and if
in any one. thing our Xew England towns may claim pre-emi-
nence, it is in the beauty of these trees, — the admiration of every
beholder, the gigantic fans that cool and purify the air around
our habitations. Dickens, no mean observer, said our country-
houses, in their spruce tidiness, their white paint, and green
blinds, looked like houses built of cards, which a breath might
blow away, so fragile and unsubstantial did they appear.
Eeader, if you could stand upon one of those bluffs that rise
out of our Western prairies, like headlands out of the ocean,
and, after looking down upon the town at your feet, wellnigh
treeless and blistering in the sun, could then descend into the
brown and dusty streets, and note the care bestowed upon the
growth of a few puny poplars or maples, you would come back
to your Isew England home, all glorious in its luxuriance and
wealth of every form of forest beauty, prepared to make the
destruction of one of these ancestral elms a penal offence.

" God the first garden made, and the first city Cain ! "

Medford possesses other elements of attraction to the anti-
quary besides jts old houses. Until Maiden Bridge Avas built'
the great tide of travel north and east passed through the town.
The A'^isitor now finds it a very staid, quiet sort of place. Travel
has so changed both its mode and its channels that we can
form little idea of a country highAvay even fifty years ago.
Travellers of every condition then pursued their route by the
public roads : the wealthy or well-to-do generally in chaises
or phaetons ; the professional gentleman on horseback, — a cus-


torn SO graceful and health-giving that we should not be sorry
to see its revival in Xew England. Whole families — men,
women, and even little children — passed and repassed on foot,
carrying with them their scanty effects. Then there Avas the
mail-coach, — ■ a puffy, groaning vehicle, bulging out at the top
and sides, and hung on thoroughbraces. On a rough road it
lurched like a Chinese junk in a heavy sea-way, and the pas-
sengers not unfrequently provided themselves with brandy,
lemons, and other palliatives against sea-sickness. Besides these
well-marked constituents of the stream, a nondescript element
of stragglers drifted along the edges of the current until caught
in some eddy which cast them up at the tavern door.

The public inn then had a relative importance to the world
of wayfarers that is not now represented by any brown-stone or
marble front hotel. The distances from Boston in every direc-
tion were reckoned to the taverns. The landlord was a man of
note. He was the village newsmonger, oracle, and referee in
all disputes. "When he had a full house his guests were dis-
tributed about the floors, and the dining-table commanded a
premium. The charge for meals or for baiting a horse was
a quarter of a dollar. If the world moved then more slowly
than it noAV does, it Avas not the less content.

The tavern Avas also the political centre Avhere caucuses w^ero
held- and the state of the country discussed. It was ofttimes
there toAvn-meetings AA^ere convened, and in war times it was
the recruiting rendezvous. Proclamations, notices of that mul-
tifarious character pertaining to the interior economy of the
village, from the reward for the apprehension of a thief to the
loss of a favorite brooch, Avere affixed to the bar-room Avails.
The smell of old Santa Cruz or other strong AA^aters saluted tlie
nostrils of all who entered the public room, and yet there Avas
call for neither fumigation nor exorcism. The mail-coach,
Avhich only stopped to change horses, occupied forty-eight hours
in going over this route from Boston to Portland. Concord
coaches succeeded the old English pattern, and still traverse
here and there a feAv byways into which the raihvay disdains
to turn aside.


The mail-coach, too, bore, its fixed relation to the population
along the line. It marked the time of day for the laborers in
the fields, who leaned on hoe or scythe vintil it was lost to
view. The plough stopped in the furrow, the smith rested his
sledge on his anvil, while the faces of young and old were glued
to the "wdndow-panes as this moving piece of the far-away
metropolis rolled along. Entering the town, the driver cracked
his whip, his leaders sprang out into a brisker gait, and the
lumbering vehicle drew np with a flourish beside the tavern

The first of the Medford ordinaries, so far as known, goes
back to about 1690, Nathaniel Pierce being mine host. The
General Court Kcensed him to sell not less than a gallon of
liquor at a time to one person, and prohibited the sale of
smaller quantities by retail. The house was at one time owned
by Colonel Royall, being known at different times by the name
of the "Eoyal Oak" and "Admiral Vernon." In 1775 it
became the Eevolutionary headquarters, kept by Roger Billings,
and was long afterward the principal tavern in the town. The
house stood on the corner of Main and Union Streets, and was
destroyed by fire in 1850.

The old Fountain Tavern, so called from its sign representing
a fountain pouring forth punch, is still standing on the old
Salem road, at the corner of Fountain Street. Brooks, in his
History of Medford, says it was first called the " Two Palaverers."
The two large trees in front had each a platform in its branches,
connected with each other and with the house by wooden
bridges. In summer these retreats were resorted to by the
guests for tea-parties or punch-drinking. The house was built
in 1725, and is extremely unique in appearance.

The name of Medford is known in every seaport under the
sun for its stanch and well-built ships. Of the thousands that
float the ocean bearing any flag aloft, none sail more proudly
than those of Curtis or Magoun. Tliis industry, which has
dated from the time when Englishmen first set foot on the
shores of the Mystic, has of late years fallen into decay, but
once more the familiar sound of the ship^vl•ight's beetle is


beginning to be heard on its banks. Cradock sent over skilled
artisans, who at once laid down the keels that have increased so
prodigiously. Although we are told his men had a vessel of a
hundred tons on the stocks in 1632, the earlier craft were chiefly
pinnaces, galleys, and snows, — the latter being rigged some-
what after the fashion of our barks. No branch of mechani-
cal skill appears to have developed with such rapidity in New
England as shipbuilding. The timber, which is now brought
hundreds of miles to the yards, then grew along the shores.
We now bring the keel from Virginia, the frame from the Gulf
States, and the masts from Canada. New England, which does
not furnish a single product entering into the construction of
the ship, forges the anchor which holds her to the bottom;
twists the hemp into shrouds, rigging, and those spiders'-webs
aloft whose intricacies confound the eye ; spins the cotton which
hangs from the yards, and weaves the colors that float at the

In the public square of Medford is an excellent specimen of
the architecture of the last century, now occupied as a tavern,
but originally a dwelling. A few rods distant in a westerly
direction is still standing, in tolerable repair, the house Avhich
Governor Brooks inhabited, and at the corner is the stone
where he was accustomed to mount his horse. A plain granite
shaft is erected over the remains of this distinguished soldier
and civilian in the old burial-ground. Behind the governor's
house, on a rising ground, is one of the early garrison-houses,
built of brick, and looking none the worse for its long conflict
with wind and Aveather. It is owned by Daniel Lawrence,
beside whose elegant mansion it stands conspicuous, a foil to
the symmetry and gracefulness of modern art.

As a soldier Governor Brooks appeared to his greatest ad-
vantage in the battle of Bemis's Heights, where he was in com-
mand of the old Eighth, Michael Jackson's regiment. His own
relation of the incidents of that day to General Sumner is not,
even now, devoid of interest.

" On the 7th of October, the day of the last battle with General
Burgoyne, General Arnold and several officers dined with General


Gates. I was among the company, and well remember that one of
the dishes was an ox's heart. While at table we heard a fii'hig from
the advanced picket. The armies were al)out two miles from each
other. The firing increasing, we all rose from table ; and General
Arnold, addressing General Gates, said, ' Shall I go out and see
what is the matter I ' General Gates made no reply, but ujion being
pressed, said, ' I am afraid to trust you, Ai'nold.' To which Arnold
answered, ' Pray let me go ; I will be careful ; and if our advance
does not need support, I will promise not to commit you.' Gates
then told him he might go and see what the firing meant."

Colonel Brooks repaired to liis post, and under the impetuous
Arnold, who seemed fully imbued on this day with the rriffe
militaire, stormed Breyman's Fort, and thus mastered the key
to the enemy's position. Arnold, once in action, forgot lii^
promise to Gates, who vainly endeavored to recall him from
the held. Had his life been laid down there, his name would
have been as much revered as it is now contemned by his

The object of paramount interest which Medford contains is
the plantation house of Governor Cradock, or " Mathias Char-
terparty," as the malcontent Morton styled him. This house is
the monarch of all those now existing hi North America. As we
trace a family hack generation after generation until we bring
all collateral branches to one common soui'ce in the fh^st colo-
nist, so we go from one old house to another until we finally

Online LibrarySamuel Adams DrakeHistoric fields and mansions of Middlesex → online text (page 12 of 39)