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This little book is not so much a guide book in itself as an introduction or key to local guides,or a preparation for conversation with intelligent Boston people, who will meet a newcomer into that town. Every summer there arrive people from different parts of the world who have a curiosity about the history of Boston, or about its activities in past times, which they would gladly gratifiy, as well as possible, in a few days' stay there.
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Historic Boston and its Neighbourhood
A Historical Pilgrimage
EDWARD EVERETT HALE
Historic Boston, E. Everett Hale
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
Wars And Rumors Of Wars.5
John Eliot And His Indians.17
To Find One's Way.23
The State House.42
Another Day In Old Boston.48
The Islands And The Forts.57
This little book is not so much a guide book in itself as an introduction or key to local guides, or a preparation for conversation with intelligent Boston people, who will meet a new comer into that town.
Every summer there arrive people from different parts of the nation who have a curiosity about the history of Boston, or about its present activities, which they would gladly gratify, as well as possible, in a few days' stay here. Perhaps they have ancestors among the fifteen thousand people who united in the capture of Louisburg, or the twenty thousand people who, thirty years later, defied King George. I recollect what I would gladly have done and said, first, had my friends the Inghams and their children ever materialized far enough to appear at the station in Park Square, and, second, if my own deserts and desires had ever materialized so far that I could send my coachman and carriage to meet them. I have written to Colonel Ingham, the head of that little host, the traveling directions which the reader has in hand. At various places, if he need them, as at Concord, at Lexington, or at Cambridge, he will find local guide books which will be of use to preserve, for memoranda which, at the moment, one has not time to write down.
Before leading the reader on any of the separate excursions proposed, it will be well that he should know something of the original make-up of the peninsula on which the town of "Boston proper" has been built, for the original Boston of the Fathers has been enlarged by the filling in of coves and the building of sea walls. The district north of the line which separated old Boston from the mainland has more than twice the area of the "Neck," as they called it, which then appeared above the water.
In our day we are apt to use the word "neck" for the isthmus which connects a peninsula with the mainland. Linguists may interest themselves in observing the connection between nexus, the bond which unites two bodies, and the neck which connects one's head with his shoulders. In our earlier days, however, the Neck, as a geographical term, meant the whole peninsula. And on the New England shore now people use the word in the same way. Thus they speak of Marblehead Neck, as the peninsula which a short neck between two coves connects with the mainland.
The phrase "Boston Neck" has of late days been given only to the ridge of gravel which connected the town with the mainland.
To the peninsula itself different names were given by the early adventurers. It had originally the outline of a "fiddle—or, if you please, of a pear. It projected northward from the mainland, and on the other side of the channel of Charles River, Charlestown, another "neck," not dissimilar, projected southward as if to meet it. Geologically each of the two peninsulas is a large "drumlin," such as were left in all eastern Massachusetts by the progress and by the receding of the great glacial wave which swept over our part of North America somewhat less than ten thousand years ago. In the debris of this wave you pick up pebbles which have been ground off from the rocks of the White Mountains, and regions farther north than they.
Different observers of the olden times describe the peninsula in different ways. William Wood, an Englishman who came over before 1630 and staid till 1635, says of it: "His situation is very pleasant, being a Peninsula hem'd in on the South side with the Bay of Roxberry, on the North-side with Charles River, the Marshes on the backe-side, being not halfe a qvarter of a mile over; so that a little fencing will secure their cattle from the Woolves. Their greatest wants be Wood and Medow-ground which never were in that place; being constrayned to fetch their building-timber and firewood from the Islands in Boates, and their Hay in Loyters.
It being a Necke and bare of wood, they are not troubled with the great annoyances of Woolves, Rattlesnakes, and Musketoes."
Edward Johnson, in the Wonder-Working Providence, wrote about 1650: "The chief edifice of this City-like Towne is crowded on the Sea-bankes, and wharfed out with great industry and cost, the buildings beautiful and large, some fairely set forth with Brick, Tile, Stone, and Slate, and orderly placed with comly streets, whose continuall enlargement presages some sumptuous city. . . . But now behold the admirable Acts of Christ: at this his peoples landing, the hideous Thickets in this place were such that Wolfes and Bears nurst up their young from the eyes of all beholders, in those very places where the streetes are full of Girles and Boys sporting up and downe, with a continual concourse of people. Good store of Shipping is here yearly built, and some very faire ones."
In 1665 the Royal Commissioners, or some person employed by them, wrote in describing Boston: "Their houses are generally wooden, their streets crooked, with little decency and no uniformity."
But Josselyn, who had been here but a short time before, said of the town: "The houses are for the most part raised on the sea-banks, many of them standing upon piles, close together on each side of the streets as in London, and furnished with many fair shops; their materials are brick, stone, lime, handsomely contrived, with three meetinghouses or churches, and a town-house built upon pillars, where the merchants may confer; in the chamber above they keep their monthly courts. Their streets are many and large, paved with pebble stones, and the south side adorned with gardens and orchards."
The shape of the "drumlin" and its three hills has given the direction of the older streets, and determined the map of the present city. The settlers were not such fools as to suppose that streets must be straight, or that they must ran along astronomical meridians or parallels. Where a street went in from the sea, it went at right angles from the shore or nearly so. Where Beacon Hill, or Copp's Hill, or Fort Hill rose, the roadway at the base went round them and not through them.
Given these preliminary streets—curves around the bases of the hills, and radii, so to speak, running from the water's edge to meet them—run the main street north, midway between the shores of the coves, and you have the key to what a stranger calls the intricacy of the streets of the town.
The winding line of the shore, deeply indented by coves, suggested at once operations for artificial embankments. The rise and fall of the tide is from eight to twelve feet. It occurred to the settlers very early that by making a causeway, where Causeway Street now runs, and adjusting gates to open inward, and close when the water flowed out, a mill basin could be made from the great northern cove, and kept nearly at the level tide. They therefore built this causeway, and thus, by cutting a narrow canal eastward across the town, they commanded, perhaps half the time, a waterfall from the high tide level to that of low tide, sufficient to carry a mill for grinding their corn. The tide basin thus made was called the Mill Pond.
In 1804 it was clear that the land it covered would have value, if reclaimed, of much more account than the little water power which had been used for nearly two centuries.
Enough of Beacon Hill was cut down, therefore, to fill up the Mill Pond. The canal was filled up, and became Canal Street. Here is the reason why, in the heart of the devious plan of the North End, there come in straight streets which mark the site of the original Mill Pond. And thus the original Beacon Hill lost its crest, which rose behind the State House of that day.
At the same time the old enterprise for creating tide power was renewed on the Back Bay. The region of elegant houses now known as the Back Bay was then really the bay, back of the town to one who approached it from the sea.
By building the Western Avenue across this bay—from Beacon Street exactly west to Brookline—a basin was located, in which the water could be kept at any level. Southward across this basin a mill dam was built, which is now Parker Street, and thus there were two basins. The western of these two, about where the Charlesgate Fens now are, was kept nearly at the level of high tide, and was called the "full basin." The eastern basin was kept at the lowest level possible, and was called the "empty basin." From the full to the empty basin was an average waterfall of salt water of perhaps eight feet. The water power thus created carried several mills.
My father had printing presses there, which were kept at work by the use of this power.
By this cutting off of the high tide from the foot of the Common, the present parade ground was created, where till then there had been only an unsightly salt marsh. And Charles Street, on a causeway again, was extended south from Beacon Street to Park Square.
All this was done under the mayoralty of the first Quincy. The trees now making so fine an avenue of the Charles Street Mall were planted then. Virtually the Common was almost doubled in size by these improvements. Fifty years ago, under the masterly lead of Mr. Samuel E. Guild, the Public Garden was created on what had been an unsightly beach of salt mud on the western side of Charles Street.
When in 1831 the construction of the Worcester and Western Railway was made certain, another set of adventurers filled up the "South Cove," which indented the shore on the east side. Here again, therefore, is a series of rectangular and level streets. Washington Street curves as the crest of the old isthmus curves. In the old days it was the only street between the South Cove on the east and the Back Bay on the west.
Go through Union Park Street from Washington, and turn in by the side of the Temple Shalom. You can see from the steps the remains of a wooden wharf where your grandfather bought cabbages and firewood "imported" from Maine. The Temple Shalom stands where the schooner lay from which they were landed.
The traces of this history are found by the pilgrim on the spot and in the names of streets and squares. Beacon Street commemorates the beacon which was ready to summon the soldiers of the bay in the event of any attack. General Gage was sadly frightened when he received a report one morning that a tar-barrel had been found in the iron basket of the beacon. I cannot find that the beacon was ever really fired.
And here I may say that, of six forts built in succession where Fort Independence now stands, no one ever fired a shot in anger.
But the tower of Brattle Street Meeting House preserved to the last an iron cannon ball which struck it in a cannonade ordered by Washington in the siege of Boston. Mr. Holmes's lines on this are these:
"Wears on her bosom as a bride might do
The iron breastpin which the rebels threw."
Fort Hill was dug away to a level a generation ago, but a pretty circle of grass preserves the name, though there be no hill.
The reader may now safely be trusted to go out from the center on the excursions described in these letters.
Cranberry Center, July 20, 1898.
My dear Colonel Ingham: I have your letter too late, alas! to meet you at the train.
But William will meet you with this, and take you to the house directly. Meanwhile, you will want to be showing the lions to your wife and to those fine boys. Take this letter with you as your marching guide.
If I know those boys of yours, they will be eager, first of all, about Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill. Why do you not take their broad hints, and at the same time indulge your wife's curiosity about the homes of Emerson, and of Hawthorne, where she will now find Mrs. Lothrop, and where even the "hack-driver" will tell her stories of Thoreau?
Indeed, if you break this open before you leave the station, you can send Mrs. Ingham and the trunks to our house, and you and the children can start on foot.
For, in a sense, when you meet William at the Providence station, you are all standing where you might have been swimming when and where the battle of Lexington began. That was all water then, and you must impress it on the boys that near that spot the boats from King George's squadron met quietly to forward the regiments detached for a surprise excursion on the evening of the 18th of April, 1775.
You may as well take the boys with you through Arlington Street to Beacon Street and then to the Union Boat Club House.
Impress it on them, all the way, that this was all under water then, and that after dark, on that eventful April evening, rather more than a thousand soldiers were being rowed by the seamen of the fleet to East Cambridge—what they then called Phips's Farm. Go in from Beacon Street through a little street they call Otter Street, and almost directly north, nearly parallel with the present land line, these thousand men were taken thus across the mouth of Charles River. The bridge to Cambridge—what Mr. Lowell calls one of our "caterpillar bridges" —crosses their line. But I think you can see a steeple and a chimney on the East Cambridge shore above that bridge.
Do not go any farther with them then, but take them back to the house, and as soon as their mother is ready, after breakfast, you can all start for Lexington and Concord, on the line on which Lord Percy followed the first detachment. The boys will know that he went the next day.
I do not know how you feel about money.
It is well worth what a carriage will cost you. But if I had your legs and the boys', I would do it all, with the help of the trolleys and the steam cars, for half a dollar apiece.
Let that be as madam says.
Percy's brigade slept that night in their tents on the Common. And if you choose you can walk across on the broad path from the Providence station to West Street over the very line of his little camp. With these eyes I have seen the rings, in the green grass of the spring, which showed where his tents were. Colonel Smith had been sent out with his thousand men as a sort of surprise, by night. But he sent word back that the country was alarmed, and Percy was directed to take a large detachment to his relief. Percy was a fine young fellow, a spirited soldier, son of the Duke of Northumberland, whom he succeeded afterward in the dukedom. He was half-brother, by another mother, of that James Smithson who founded the 'Smithsonian Institution. Perhaps the name Smithson is now better known than that of Percy among English-speaking people; certainly James hoped it would be. Percy paraded his men early and marched them out from the Common to what we call Tremont Street, and there they were drawn up across the head of School Street, all ready to march, but that he had to wait for the detachment of marines from the fleet who were to join him.
"Where are those marines ?"
Where, indeed! At last an orderly was summoned, who stated, with true British precision, that he had left the order for Major Pitcairn, the commander of the marines, at his headquarters the evening before. And four hours before this Major Pitcairn had said to the militia on Lexington Green, "Disperse, ye rebels, disperse!" and war had begun. And now his orders are lying sealed on his office table, and he is far away!
As soon as this was found out somebody else got the marines into line, and the column moved out of town over the Neck, exactly away from Concord, where they were going, as the bird flies, but through another country from Colonel Smith's route, so that they might astonish the natives.
Let Mrs. Ingham and the boys understand this. By the way, as you go out, following Lord Percy after one hundred and twenty-two years, you pass between two pretty squares, east and west of Washington Street. Tell the boys that here were the farthest redoubts held by the English troops.
Dr. Weld told me he had often driven his father's cows over them. Ask the driver or conductor to show you the old burial ground at Eustis Street.
Go up the hill to the Norfolk House and Center Street. At Center Street is the "parting stone." Your road is the Cambridge road, the other road is the Rhode Island road.
Now you must leave your car, if you are in it. If you are in a carriage, tell the driver to go to Brookline. If you walk, you have only to go down the hill, and at the great arches of the Providence Railway take a Brookline car. Tell the conductor that you want to go through Harvard Street. Or tell the driver you want to go to Cambridge by the old road, crossing the river by the old bridge at Cambridge.
Now you are on Percy's line of march.
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