William Willder] [Wheildon.

Letters from Nahant, historical, descriptive and miscellaneous (Volume 2) online

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Once Nahant was the resort of the savage, and
our readers have seen what kind of a resort it
was to them. It is now the resort of the most
refined of civilized life, and we have seen what
kind of a resort it is for them. The Indian en-
joyed it in all its natural beauty and freshness;



S7

Tve enjoy ir, shorn of much of its original beauty
but unimpaired in its solid and sublime gran-
deur.

Those of our readers who have fnllowed these
pages thus far, if they have never visited Na-
hant, must have formed some idea of it; but
it nevertheless, may be proper that we should
attempt some iurther description. Nahant may
be called an arm of land extending into the sea,
or a ^'necke of land," as Mr Wood called it. It
extends over three miles from the shore of Lynn :
passing over the Beach from Lynn, nearly a
mile and three quarters, we come to Little Na-
hant, (an island, except the beach connections,)
containing nearly 50 acres, and consisting of two
principal elevations or hills; then passing over
the lesser Beach, one half mile in length, we
come to the larger nebulae, or island, called
Great Nahant. On this is the village, the cot-
tages, the church, the hotels, landing, &c. A
very considerable part of the lesser Nahant is
under good cultivation, being covered with
fields of "waving corn" and other productions
of the farmer.

Besides the two principal beaches, there are
eight or nine shorter beaches around the two
Nahants, and excepting these, the shore is en-
tirely rock-bound, so that the "very aspect of
the place is fortification enough to keepe off an
unknown enemie." To pass around the entire
shore of the Nahants, the distance would pro-
bably be from eight to ten miles.

Nahant does not extend in a straight line from
4



88



ihe shore of Lynn into the Ocean. The long
heach runs in a curved line, and the short beach
with Great Nahant, somewhat resembles a boot
in shape, having, to be sure, a rather large foot.
The long beach is a great protection to the har-
bor of Lynn, and its preservation has been
deemed so essential that in 1824, a cause-
way of planks, filled in with sand, was construct-
ed, at the joint expense of the State and the
town of Lynn, each appropriating the sum of
$1500. The subject of preserving this beach
and harbor was introduced at the session of Con-
gress in 1838, and an appropriation ol $39,000
determined upon, but lost among the mass of
other unfinished business.

The beach has no doubt undergone very con-
siderable changes, and is in fact perpetually
changing. Wiihin the last half century, its
breadth is supposed to have been reduced ono
half, and it has become more curved than for-
merly. It is a question whether there was not
some extent of soil on this beach, in early time,
as stumps of large trees are now to be seen in
some places. On some gf the smaller beaches
also, stumps of large trees are found. The soil
of the long beach has undoubtedly aided in the
formation of the extensive marshes of Lynn,
which have been formed by the wash of theses.
The original surface of these marshes is five
feet below the present surface.



CURIOSITIES OF NAHANT.




Egg Rock is said to be two miles N.E. of Na-
hant in the midst of a broad expanse of water.
It appears from the hotel to be a naked rock,
but contains two or three acres of land. It is
seldom visited except by sea birds, on account of
the danger of landing. We saw some time
since, a bolt of lightning strike on the summit of
this rock, with a tremendous crash. It appear-
ed to be, as ii descended from the dense, black
cloud, nearly as large round as a man's body,
and the concussion almost stunned persons who
w^ere witnessing the storm from the piazzas of
the hotel. In years past, many eggs of sea-
birds have been obtained on this rock. Its sum-
mit is higher than the observatory on the hotel.



40



The Swallow's Cave is a passage under a
high cliff on the west side of Nahant, a few
rods south of the steamboat wharf. It is easily
accessible, is from 6 to 20 feet high, and from
5 to 14 feet in breadth; extending about 70
feet, opening to the water. It can be entered at




about half tide. The swallows have built their
neets in the upper part of this cavern, on ledges
or notches in the rocks. The passage through
it is rather uneven, but may nevertheless be ac-
complished by ladies with ease and safety. Pass-
ing throujo-h this cave, you may ascend by climb-
ing over the rocks, to the height above, without
returning the way you descend to the opening.

The Spouting Horn is a peculiar fissure in
ihe rocks, on the eastern shore of Nahant, near
Lindsey's Hill. The water is driven in by the
waves through a deep channel, a hundred feet



41



before it enters the Spouting Horn, and is then,
(at about half tide,) forced into a cavernous tun-
nel about SO feet, from thence the water is ht-
erally "spouted," and thus returns in froth and
spray to meet the next wave. In a storm, it is
a grand sight, and is at all times worth a visit.
A path leads to it, and it is about half a mile
from the hotel. The cliff of rocks in which it is
formed, is about 50 feet above the sea^ but the
spectator may descend to the entrance of the
tunnel.

PULPIT ROCK.




The Pulpit Rock is a great curiosity. It

stands off the south end of Nahant, not far from

the Swallow's Cave. It is an immense square

block of rock, about 30 feet high, having a square

S



45

open space at top, resembling in shape, an easy
chair, Tvhich is called the pulpit. It is difficult
to reach the top by climbing, the sides are so
perpendicular. In storms the waves dash over
this rock with great foree, the wind driving the
spray like rain all around, for some distance. Its
location is on the extreme southerly end of Na-
hant, only a minute's walk from the hotel. It is
well worth a visit.

"The Sisters," which are two tall slender
rocks, toward the S. W. point of Nahantj a
short distance from Pulpit rock, resemble each
other so exactly as to have obtained the name
of the sisters.

The Smoker's Cave is a recent discovery,
and is on the headland, directly below the Bill-
iard Room. It is a nice cool cover, under the
immense shelving rocks, where several persons
may ait and smoke their choice cigar. It is fur-
nished with a spring of fresh water.

The "Roaring CAVER^" is near the Smok-
er's Cave, on the left of it, among the same
cluster of rocks. It is a thin shelving cavern,
which extends under a point of rocks, and the
eea breaking in on the opposite side, gives forth
a roaring sound, resembling at times, the rum-
bling of distant thunder.

The Natural Bridge is near the Pulpit
Rock, and is a wedge of rocks, as it were, sus-
pended like an arch, over a deep and broad fis-
sure. It is not easy to cross the Bridge, as it is
below the surrounding ground.



45

There are various other formations^ pos^^ess-
ing much interest, about the rocky shore and the
high cliffs of Nahant, which the curious observer
will readily discover. On the Little Nahant
(nearest Lynn,) is the Grotto, Wolf's Cavern,
Fox Cavern, &c. On the Great Nahant, there
are also, the Dashing Rock, Iron Mine, &c.

The Indians used the Long Beach as their
play ground, for running, leaping, shooting,
dancing, foot-ball, &c.

The harbors and coves about Nahant were
famous for Ducks, so that persons have killed
"50 Duckes at a shot." Sportsmen frequent
Nahant now for the same game, in the winter
season, but seldom do so well as the above.



HISTOPaCAL MEMORANDA-

In 1633, Thomas Dexter, (the purchaser of
Nahant,) was ordered to be "setin the bilbowes,
disfranchised and fined X£. for speaking re-
proachful and seditious U'orc/s against the gov-
ernment here established."

The same year, the poor Indian, Black Wil !
Ham, (who sold Nahant to farmer Dexter,) was
hung at Richman's Island, Scarborough, Me.,
"in revenge for the murder of Walter Bagnall,
who was killed by the Indians on the 3d of Oc-
lober, 1631." It does not appear that Black
William had any part in the murder, and if he



44

had, Gov. Winthrop says that Bagnall was *'a
wicked fellow and had much wronged the In-
dians."

In 16S4, on training-day, by direction of Mr
Humphrey, Capt. Turner went with his compa-
ny to Nahant, to hunt the wolves by which it
was infested.

In 1635, Jan. 11, it was '^voled by the free-
man of the towne, that these men underwritten
shall have liberty to plant and .build at Nahant,
and shall possess each man land for the said pur-
pose, and proceeding in the trade of fishing. —
Mr Humfreys, Daniel How, Mr Ballard, Joseph
Belknap, Francis Dent, Timothy Tomlins,
Richard Walker, Thomas Talmage, Henry
Fenkes."

Jan. 18, *'It is ordered by the freemen of the
towne, that all such persons as are assigned ar>y
land at Nahant, to further the trade of making
fish, that if they do not proceed accordingly to
forward the said trade, but either doe grow re-
miss, or else give it quite over, that then all
such lotts shall be forfeited againe to the towne,
to dispose of as shall be thought fit."

1637, on the 15th November, the name of the
town was changed from Saugus to Lynn. The
Court record is, "Saugust is called Lin."

1638, on 15th March, "Lynn was granted 6
miles into the country; and M r Hawthorne and
Leift Davenport to view and inform how the
land beyond lyeth, whether it be fit for another
plantation or no." From this sprung Lynnfieid.

In 1646, Thomas Dexter was presented at the



45

Quarterly sessions in August, for a common
sleeper in meetings for public worship, and fined.
1652, Winnepurkitt, on the 1st of April, mort-
gaged "all that tract of land commonly called
Nahant," to Nicholas Davison of Charlestown,
"for twenty pounds sterling dew many yeer."

In 1660, three acres of land at Nahant, apart
of Edward Holyoke's estate, were sold for £6.
Two oxen were sold at the same time for £12.

1668. ISth June, Robert Paige of Boston,
was presented, "for settinge saille from Nahant,
in his boate, being Loaden with vvood, there by
Profaining the Lord's daye."

Christopher Lindsey, (whose name is preserv-
ed in Lindsey's Hill,) died this year. He lived
on Nahant.

1678, James Mills lived on Nahant, one of
the first inhabitants. Rice's tavern now stands
on the spot where he lived. He was a shep-
herd and had seven children. Dorothy's Cove
was so named after one of his daughters, who
used to bathe there very frequently.

In 1689, Sir Edmund Andros, then Governor
of Massachusetts, assumed the ownership of Na-
hant with the intention of bestowing it on Ed-
ward Randolph, his Secretar}^, as a reward for
his services. This caused more trouble to the
people of the plantation. Randolph petitioned
Andros for the gift.

In remonstrating against this proceeding, the
town state, that they have possessed and im-
proved Nahantj "well onward to sixty years;"
that they "have paid iheir monies b3^ way of pur-
chase" for it, and that it is the only secure place



46

they have -'for the grazing of some thousands
of sheep."

There is a ledge of rocks on the northern
shore of Nahant, once thought to be valuable,
as an Iron Mine. In 1791, the town voted, that
"Mr Hubbard of Braintree, should give three
shillings for every ton of Rock Mine, that he
has from Nahant, to the town, for the town's use,
and he to have so much as ihe town sees conve-
nient." We suspect he did not use much of it.

In 1695, the Nahant was claimed by Mrs Mary
Daffern and Mrs Martha Padish^ll, widows and
heiresses of Richard Woodey, Jr. then late
of Boston, deceased. They were defaulted by
the Court. Their claim was Ibunded on Dexter's
purchase.

In 1698, this year James Milh killed five fox-
es on Nahant.

The town ordered that no person should cut
more than seven trees on Nahant, under a pen-
alty of forty shillings for each tree exceeding
that number.

In 1704, 6th March, the town took measures
to prevent the cutting down of trees, &c. at Na-
hant. "Being informed that several persons had
cut down several trees or bushes in Nahant,
whereby there is likely to be no shade for the crea-
tures, voted, that no person hereafter should cut
any tree or bush theie, under penalty of IPs.

In 1706, at Lynn, the lands held "in common,"
including Nahant and excepting only the train-
ingfield, were divided among the freeholders. —
Nahant was laid out in ranges, and in small lots
of from 20 Poles to five acres.



47

In the great snow storm of 1717, a great num-
ber of Deer came from the woods for food, and
some fled to Nahant, and being chased hy the
wolves, leaped into the sea, and were drowned,

1722. Betwen 1698 and 1722, there were kil-
led in Lynn woods and on Nahant, 428 foxes,
for which the town paid 2s each.

1749. An extremely hot and dry summer. —
Immense multitudes of grasshoppers appeared.
They were «o numerous at Nahant that the in-
habitants walked together with bushes in their
hands, and drove them by thousands, into the
Bea. Hay was scarce and imported from England

Before the year 1800, there were only three
dwelling houses at Nahant, viz. the houses of
Jonathan Johnson, Nehemiah Breed, and Abner
Hood. The frame of the first named house, built
about 120 yrs. ago, is now in the house of Caleb
Johnson.

In 1803, Aug. 23, a hotel on the western part
of Nahant was burnt — the only house ever burnt
there. It was owned by Capt. Joseph Johnson,
and was soon after rebuilt.

In 1809, Sept. 20, a f^ock of sheep on Nahant
was struck by lightning, and 18 killed.

In 1817, the first of the new cottages Avas built
by Hon. Thos. H. Perkins, near the Spouting
Horn.

The Sea Serpent is said first to have been
seen this year, at Gloucester, Cape Ann.

In 1818, a neat stone building was erected for
a school house and library, in which divine ser-
vice was occasionally performed. An elegant
folio Prayer Book, once the property of Geo.



48

IV. of England, was presented to this library by
the lady of Governor Gore. Several hundred
volumes were received as donations, from Bos-
ton and other places.

This year a committee of five persons from
different towns was appointed to settle ihe long
existing- difficulties between the proprietors of Na-
hant lots and ihe people of Lynn, to the right to
take sea weed, sand, stone, drift wood, &c. from
the coves and beaches of Nahant. The Commit-
tee, however, did not decide upon the matter.

In 1820, June, the steam boat Eagle run be-
tween Hingham and Boston, and Boston and
Nahant, leaving Hingham at 6 a. m.; Boston at
9; Nahant at 3 1-2 p. m. and Boston for Hing-
ham again, at 5.

The Hotel wasbuilt this year, by Hon. Thos.
H. Perkins, Dr Edw. H. Robbins, and others.

In July, the Sea Serpent was again seen. On
5th Aug. it was seen off Phillips's Point, about
a quarter of a mile distant — sea calm. J. B.
Lewis, Andrew Reynolds and Benj. King, went
out in a boat after him, and got within 30 yards
of him. One of them counted 23 bunches on
his back; head black, resembling common ser-
pents, two feet above the water, and about the
size of a common fire bucket. Was seen again
the next day.

t 1832. A new and beautiful church was buili
this year, by funds furnished chiefly by the lib-
eral subscriptions of the summer residents.

1842. This year the residents at Nahant pe-
tioned for incorporation as a separate town.



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Online LibraryWilliam Willder] [WheildonLetters from Nahant, historical, descriptive and miscellaneous (Volume 2) → online text (page 3 of 3)