Members of the Brookline Historical Society
BROOKLINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
ANNUAL MEETING, JANUARY 28, 1903
PUBLISHED BY THE SOCIETY
Ladies and Gentlemen,-The second annual meeting of your Society, I am pleased to report, finds it in a flourishing condition with 147 members upon its roll, a gain of 35 during the year. The losses have been five, three by death, Messrs. John Emory Hoar, your Vice-President, Edward B. Hill, and Mrs. Tirza S. Emerson; and two by resignation, Messrs. Charles Knowles Bolton and Hiller C. Willman, who have removed to other fields of usefulness without the town.
There has been received in the year past for membership fees, the sum of $441.00 and there has been paid out for expenses $141.45, leaving a balance of $648.75 in the treasury January 1, 1903, and there remain a number of fees and dues yet to be collected.
It is hoped and much desired that in the year we are now entering the gain in numbers and financial strength of the Society will be greatly enlarged, as it ought to be, to enable it to do the work it ought to do. If each member will make an effort to bring in one additional, the membership would be doubled, and that does not seem to be a great task in a population of 22,000. Doubling the membership would double the energy and financial ability of the society to perform the work for which it was organized, a work which organized efforts alone can hope to accomplish. Brookline, as it has been before stated, is a rich field of historical research, and only energy and means are needed to enable this Society to till and to reap a bountiful harvest, for the benefit of the townspeople and for all lovers of New England history.
In the year past, eight valuable historical papers have been read before the Society, all of which should be printed and placed in the hands of its members and in New England historical libraries as safe repositories, and they will be, if the funds needed for that purpose shall be forthcoming.
The officers of your Society are much interested m its work and have devoted time and thought to make it a Society of which its members may feel proud. Your president takes this opportunity to thank them, and all members, for their aid and assistance contributed for the success of the Society.
In the year upon which we now enter, as well as in the year past, it will be the aim of your officers and committees to advance the interests of the Society in all ways within their power, and to have a paper prepared and read at each of its stated meetings. In that effort they most cordially invite the aid and co-operation of each and every member. United effort can accomplish much, where unaided individual effort might prove a failure.
The papers read before the Society in the past year have been as follows: - Jan. 28, "The Sewall Family," by Mr. Charles H. Stearns; Feb. 26, a letter describing the battle of Bunker Hill, by Mr. Charles F. Read; March 26, "Mrs. Deming's Journal of the Flight from Boston after the Battle of Lexington," by Capt. O. O. Folsom; April 23, "The Goddard House, Warren street, built about 1730, its Owners and Occupants," by Miss Julia Goddard; May 28, " Machias and some of its Early Settlers," by Mr. Watts H. Bowker; October 22, "Jeremy Gridley, Esq.," by R. G. F. Candage; Nov. 19, "Muddy River or Colonial Brookline," by Mrs. Emeline C. Ricker; Dec. 17, "Brookline Village from 1865 to the Present Time," by Mr. Martin Kingman.
SOME OLD HOUSES IN BROOKLINE
have been demolished in the past with histories, of which, it is to be regretted, no photographs or pictures are known to be in existence. The Andem House of Andem place, erected about 1670 and taken down in 1879 was one of them. That house had an exceedingly interesting history, which at a future day, it is hoped, will be written out and read before the Society.
The old Punch Bowl in the village, built in 1740 by John Ellis, was another old building with an exceedingly interesting history, which it is to be hoped some member of the Society will write up and read for our pleasure and edification. Miss Woods in "Historical Sketches of Brookline" states that "the extent of the patronage of the old Punch Bowl may be roughly estimated from the fact that it was common for a row of teams to occupy the side of the street above and below the tavern, from what is now Harrison place (Kent street) to the gas works (corner of Brookline avenue) in a continuous line, while the men and horses were being fed and rested. The Punch Bowl was not patronized by this class alone, however, but was a famous place of resort for gay parties, not only from the surrounding towns, but even from Boston, and was much frequented by British officers just before the Revolution. The mill-dam, the bridges and the opening of the Worcester railroad, at last took all the business away from the old Punch Bowl. It was bought by Mr. Isaac Thayer about 1833 and torn down."
THE OLD WHITE OR COREY HOUSE, WASHINGTON street.
On the right hand side of Washington street, between Beacon street and the Brighton line, stood a lone house built and occupied by Major Edward White, who died in 1769, aged 76. In that house was born his son Benjamin and his grandson Oliver, who was Postmaster and Town Clerk many years, and whose house at the foot of Walnut street stood until taken down for the extension of High street in the early sixties.
The old Washington street house was for a long time owned by Captain Timothy Corey and his heirs, later by James Bartlett, who sold it with the farm, running up to the top of Corey Hill to the late Eben D. Jordan, who removed the house and improved the land near where it stood. There is no picture of that old house, so far as is known, which is much to be regretted as it was one of the historical places in Brookline. Around that house and its occupants, the Whites, Coreys and Bartletts, center incidents and historical data of the old town of Brookline-a mine of historical wealth which we hope will be worked, and its result laid before this Society at some future day.
THE VINCENT DRUCE OR EBENEZER CRAFT HOUSE, NEWTON street.
The old farmhouse that stood on the Denny Farm, Newton street, was taken down and blotted from the map in 1902, thereby removing the oldest building in that section of the town.
It was built by Vincent Druce in the latter part of the 17th century and had attained to the age of more than two hundred years. In "Brookline a Favored Town" the date of its building is stated to have been between 1660 and 1670.
Obadiah Druce, son of John, and supposed nephew of Vincent, inherited the property and house, and spent the remainder of his life in it. John Druce, the third of that name, was a graduate of Harvard College in 1738, and settled as a physician in Wrentham, Mass. The first John Druce was a soldier in Captain Prentice's company, a troop of horse in King Philip's War, and was mortally wounded in July, 1675, in a battle near Swansea, Mass. He was brought home and died in his own house, aged thirty-four years. His son John, then a child, was probably father of the Wrentham physician.
Deacon Ebenezer Crafts of Roxbury was the next owner of the house. The family and all its branches in Roxbury and Brookline trace their line of descent from Griffin Crafts, who came to this country with the early settlers of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Griffin Crafts' son Ebenezer built the house which until within a year stood on Tremont street, now Huntington avenue, opposite Hillside, with the date 1709 on its chimney. In that house the Deacon Ebenezer Crafts first mentioned, lived in his youth. He married Susannah, daughter of Mr. Samuel White of Brookline. His son, Caleb Crafts, held a Lieutenant's commission in the war of the Revolution. Many of the old military orders which he received are still extant, and Miss Harriet Woods in her "Historical Sketches of Brookline" quotes several of them.
During the greater part of the Revolutionary War, Lieutenant Caleb Crafts was in a Brookline company under Captain Thomas White. He was a deacon of the church; he died in 1791, aged eighty-six years. His son Samuel received from his grandfather, Samuel White, a farm on what is now the corner of South and Grove streets, long and until recently known as the Crafts place. Samuel Crafts was about to marry Ann, daughter of Deacon David Weld, when he died at the age of thirty-nine in 1775, and the farm came into possession of his father.In 1791 it was purchased by Lieutenant Caleb Crafts, his brother, who still lived in the Druce house, Newton street, and continued to live there until his marriage in 1812 to his third wife Jerusha, daughter of Benjamin White and Sarah (Aspinwall) White, daughter of Captain Samuel Aspinwall. From him and his first wife Eleanor White, sister of Jerusha, descended the Crafts of South street. His second marriage was to Sarah, daughter of Robert Sharp, from whom descended the Crafts of Washington street. Caleb Crafts died in 1826, aged upward of eighty years, in the house on South street. His son Caleb and a grandson Caleb lived on the South street farm, and the last of the family to reside there were George and his maiden sisters.
The Newton street house was sold by Samuel Crafts, who removed to the lower part of the town. Members of the Crafts family have settled elsewhere, and the name is now nearly if not entirely extinct in Brookline. Mr. William A. Crafts, secretary of the Railroad Commission, who lives opposite Hillside, Roxbury, on Huntington avenue, is of the Newton street family.
The old Newton street house and farm passed in the early sixties into the possession of Mr. Francis P. Denny. He built a new house upon the hill, and the old house was the residence of his farmer, Mr. Charles R. Dow, who lived in it until about 1891, when it was sold by the Denny heirs to Mr. George F. Bouve, who held possession until his death in 1898, when the estate was sold to a company of gentlemen for the purpose of improvement. The farm has been cut up by streets, divided into lots, and several houses have been built thereon and the appearance much changed. A large tract on the north side of Newton street has been purchased by the town for park purposes, and the old house, after an existence of more than two hundred years, has been torn down to give place to the march of improvement.
Like the demise of an historical person, the old house, so long a landmark in that part of the town, has passed away. In writing this meager account of it, one's own feelings are like unto his who is called to write an obituary of a long and well known friend who has gone upon "that journey from whence no traveler returns."
THE CLARK HOUSE, WALNUT street.
Walnut street was first called "the Sherburne Road," and is the oldest road in Brookline, and one of the earlier roads in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was extended to Framingham, then the frontier of civilization, which was considered the bound of Colonial need in that direction, as it was deemed not likely that white people would ever go farther west into the wilderness to make a home. It was at first little if any better than an Indian trail, stretching its winding way from the abode of one settler to another with spaces of forest trees
between, out of which the traveler at any moment was liable to hear the growl of the wolf, or war-whoop of the savage.
And yet, in less than twenty years after William Blackstone had settled in Shawmut and called it Trimountain, Muddy River Hamlet had three highways through it, and the Sherburne Road began to be called "the old road."
The land at the now village end of that road on the right as far as "Cat Alley," and on the left to what is now Cypress street, is said to have been " the great lott," granted to Thomas Leverett, which afterwards became the property of his son Governor John Leverett, governor of the Colony from 1671 to 1673, who used the land for pasturage of cattle. A part of that land later came into the possession of the Whites, who were once numerous in Brookline. John the immigrant was born in England, came to Watertown, and then to Brookline. Some of that name have gone back to the original spelling, ascertained from English records to have been Whyte.
The early settlers on the Sherburne Road began to build west of the present Cypress street, the history of the lower part being more modern. The old garrison house for the protection of the town's early settlement, supposed to be near the center, was just behind the site of the old Clark house on the corner of Chestnut and Walnut streets.
The Clark house was built by Deacon Samuel Clark, son of Samuel, about 1715. He was a carpenter by trade and built the first church edifice in Brookline in 1714, and he was the first to be published in it after its completion. He was married the year after the church was built, and erected his house about that time, as it is known that it was standing a year or two later. Deacon Clark died in 1766, aged eighty-one years.
He had a son Samuel who preceded him to the grave, but left a son, Samuel 4th, who succeeded to the ownership of his grandfather's house and land. He, too, was a Deacon of the First Church, and he married Mary, daughter of Robert Sharp 4th of Brookline. He lived to be sixty-one years of age and died in 1814, leaving the homestead to his son Caleb.
Caleb Clark was born in the old house October 21, 1789, married Nancy Murdock in 1817, and died March 7, 1849, aged fifty-nine years.
At his death the homestead went to his son Samuel, born July 8, 1819, and died September 15, 1898, aged seventy-nine years two months and seven days. He occupied the old house until he built the house in which he died, on a part of the homestead lot, a short distance from the old house.
His daughter Helen, married William S. Cutler of Brookline, and they set up housekeeping in the old house, where their first child was born, this making the sixth generation of the Clark family born within the walls of the old historic house.
When the Cutlers removed to their new house upon a part of the old homestead lot, Mrs. Macallister rented the old house, and she with her family occupied it for a dozen years or more, and until within a few years. After that it remained vacant, and being more or less out of repair, it was taken down in 1902.
We are fortunate in being possessed of a photograph of the old house copied by permission from one owned by Mrs. Macallister, which will be a reminder of that interesting colonial mansion when the present generation, like the dwelling itself, shall have passed away.
THE ASPINWALL HOUSE ON ASPINWALL HILL.
This old house, with its associations dating from the early years of the last century, after occupation for nearly a hundred years, a landmark in the town, was torn down in December, 1900, to make way for the erection of a more modern dwelling. The land upon which it stood and was surrounded originally consisted of forty acres purchased of Mr. Benjamin White in 1788, by Dr. William Aspinwall, who built the house in 1803. Dr. Aspinwall resided in the house until his death in 1823, at the age of eighty years. His body was buried in the Walnut street cemetery.
The spot on which the house was built commanded a fine view of Boston, the Charles River, towns and villages for miles around, and a beautiful part of Brookline in the foreground. It is said that when the house was built there were but six other houses in Brookline to be seen from its front.
Dr. Aspinwall was descended from Peter Aspinwall, the first of the name to settle in Brookline, who built the house in 1660 that stood, until 1891, on what is now known as Aspinwall avenue, opposite St. Paul's Episcopal Church. He was born in Brookline in 1743, was a graduate of Harvard College, and married a daughter of Captain Isaac Gardner of Brookline, the first man killed at the battle of Lexington. The Doctor, also, took part in that battle, and followed the retreating British to Charlestown, and then returned through Cambridge to attend to the removal of the body of Captain Gardner to his late home in Brookline. Dr. Aspinwall was accounted to be a skillful physician with a large practice, and it is said that he frequently rode forty miles on horseback to visit patients. His son Augustus succeeded to the house and estate and continued, with a sister as housekeeper and companion, to occupy the house until his death in 1865, aged seventy-seven years seven months and thirteen days. He was a widower, whose wife died young, leaving no children, and he gave to his garden and greenhouse a tender care in his relaxation from business, which made them famous for the cultivation of roses and other flowers and plants. His love for them amounted to almost a passion, and it seemed as if the affection which might otherwise have centered upon kindred and family found expression and occupation among the roses. He had many varieties, blooming successfully through the seasons, which he shared with his friends who could appreciate their rare beauty. His choice selection of vines and fruit trees was also an attraction of the garden and farm.
Thomas Aspinwall, a brother of Augustus, was a graduate of Harvard and was admitted to the bar, but the second war with England found him in the ranks of the defenders of his country. He was commissioned a Colonel and lost an arm in 1814 in the defense of Port Erie.
In June, 1815, he was appointed United States Consul at London, a place he continued to hold for thirty-seven years until removed by President Pierce. The Colonel died in 1876, at the house of his brother on Hancock street, Boston.
Colonel Aspinwall's son William, born in London during his father's consulship, a graduate of Harvard, a lawyer and man of affairs, was the next occupant of the old house on the hill. He will long be remembered for his activity in matters pertaining to the government, and improvements of the town. He had served the town as a Representative to the General Court, Town Clerk, Selectman, Assessor, Water Commissioner, Trustee of the Public Library, and on many committees. He died October 25, 1892, aged seventy-three years eight months and nine days.
Since the death of William Aspinwall, the old house has been occupied by different parties, not connected with the family of its builder, until it was taken down, never more to be a landmark, or to be known and remembered by future generations.
THE THAYER-MILLER-FOXCROFT HOUSE, KENT street.
The village end of what is now Kent street in early days was a cart road across the Davis farm, from what is now Harvard Square down to the marsh, where salt hay was cut. The Davis farm was a part of a large tract of land allotted to the Rev. John Cotton, the second minister in Boston. It included all the land between the two brooks, from Muddy River westward to the Blake estate. But so far as is known Rev. John Cotton only used the land for pasturage. He left it to his heirs Rowland and Thomas Cotton.
Deacon Thomas Cotton built a house upon the land between Andem place and Kent street some two hundred and thirty or forty years ago, and afterwards sold it to Deacon Ebenezer Davis, who, with his heirs, occupied it until the beginning of 1800, when it was sold to Moses Andem and became known as the old Andem house. After Mr. Andem's death it was occupied by various parties, the last being Mr. Michael Driscoll, who took it down in 1879 for the purpose of erecting on its site the brick block owned by him and his brother James.
Between that old house and Perry's lane, now Aspinwall avenue, there was no house east of Harvard street until 1833
when David R. Griggs, Esq., built and occupied the old mansion house in the rear of the Brookline National Bank building. Harrison place was laid out by Mr. Griggs in 1840, and named in honor of Gen. William Henry Harrison, who was that year elected to the presidency of the United States. In 1837, when Harrison place was only a cart path, though laid out as an unnamed way that year, Mr. Luther Thayer built the house taken down in 1902, but died soon after, and it then passed into possession of Mr. Mellen, the father of Mrs. Charles H. Stearns, who occupied it for several years. After Mr. Mellen's occupancy, it became known as the Foxcroft estate, and was occupied by the Philips family until three or four years ago, when it was sold to Mr. James C. Rooney, who took it down and erected upon its site a three-story brick apartment house.
Through the courtesy of Mr. Rooney, this Society, of which he is also a member, is in possession of a fine photograph of the old house.
In the past year your president has had photographs taken of a number of old Brookline houses, which he takes pleasure in presenting to the Society. It is to be hoped that his lead may be followed by other members of the Society, so that in future no Brookline house with a history worth preservation, shall be torn down and blotted from the map of the town, without the Society having a picture of it.
In the march of so-called improvement, many old houses have been sacrificed, and others must of necessity follow. It is our duty and privilege to preserve their outward semblance through photography, and to commemorate the historical events and incidents surrounding them by written papers, even if not published, to be safely kept in the archives of our Society.
The Society needs a permanent home in which to hold its meetings, display its pictures, collect a library and preserve whatever antiquities may be placed in its keeping. This it is hoped it may have at some future day. It already has a respectable number of books as a nucleus for a library.