BROOKLINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
ANNUAL MEETING, JANUARY 26, 1909
PUBLISHED BY THE SOCIETY
BROOKLINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
EIGHTH ANNUAL MEETING.
The eighth annual meeting of the Brookline Historical Society was held in the G. A. R. Room, Town Hall, Brookline, Mass., on Tuesday, January 26, 1909, at 8 p. m., in accordance with a notice mailed to every member. President Rufus G. F. Candage was in the chair.
The records of the last annual and monthly meetings were read by Charles F. Read, who was elected
Clerk, pro tem
, in the absence of Edward W. Baker, Clerk of the Society.
The President then read his annual address.
Members of the Brookline Historical Society and Friends
We have met at this eighth annual meeting of our Society to hear reports of officers and committees of the year passed, elect officers for the current year, and to confer and consider plans for the future. In the year
just closed the Society has carried forward its work, and has held regular meetings at which the following papers have been read : -
January 22, The President's Annual Address.
February 26, "The Edward Devotion Fund," by Edward W. Baker.
April 1, "Some Interesting Events Preceding the Battles of Lexing-
ton and Concord," by Alexander Starbuck of Waltham. Mass.
May 27, "Milestones In and Near Boston," by Charles F. Read.
October 28, "Mrs. Amanda Maria Edmond, a Brookline Poetess,"
by Rufus G. F. Candage.
November 25, "Gouvemeur Morris," by George S. Mann.
December 23, "Old Harvard Street, The Road from Boston to the
Colleges," by Edward W. Baker.
The Society entertained the Bay State Historical League on April 18, 1908. The meeting was largely attended and the courtesy of our Society was appreciated.
There are at present one hundred and seventy-five members in the Society. We have lost by death two members, Caleb Chase and McPherson LeMoyne, who died at their homes in Brookline near the close of the year.
DEATHS IN BROOKLINE IN 1908
There were 390 deaths in Brookline during the past year, ten less than in 1907. Of that number 99 had reached and passed the three score and ten limit; 34 were between 70 and 75; 28 were between 75 and 80; 17 were between 80 and 85; 14 were between 85 and 90; one was between 90 and 95, and 4 were between 95 and 100. Of the latter, one was 96 yrs. 7 mos. 6 dys.; one 97 yrs. 9 mos. 4 dys.; one 98 yrs. 6 mos., and one 98 yrs. 7 mos. 14 dys.
During the past year many persons of prominence in this and other countries have died, and the appalling loss of life in Italy and Sicily, December 28, 1908, by the earthquake, which called forth the aid and sympathy of the civilized world, will take place in history as a shocking calamity.
SOME HISTORICAL OCCURRENCES OF THE PAST
This is probably the last annual address I shall write for this Society, and I wish to thank the members for their uniform courtesy, friendship and forbearance to me in the eight years of my incumbency as president. I have in the past been deeply interested in the Society's welfare and shall continue my interest in it, but am warned by advancing years that the direction of its affairs should rest upon younger shoulders, with more active bodies and minds to carry forward the work so happily begun and maintained to the present time.
I shall now call your attention to some historical occurrences of the past, which have transpired since my life began, in the year 1826. John Quincy Adams, the sixth President, then sat in the Presidential chair of a nation of twenty-nine states and 11,500,000 people. Since then twenty others have filled that high office, and on March fourth President-elect Taft will be inaugurated the twenty-seventh President from Washington, the Executive of forty-six states and a population bordering upon 90,000,000!
Massachusetts had in 1826 a population of 575,000; it now has over 3,000,000; Boston then had a population of 58,000, it has now 600,000; Brookline then had a little over 900 population, while today it has 25,000 or more. Chicago, now the second city in our country in population and the fourth upon the globe, with its present 2,050,000 inhabitants, had no existence even as a town until 1833. London, New York and Paris, in the order here named, only exceed it, and the latter by less than half a million. To have reached its site from Boston would have been a long journey by stagecoach, canal and lake conveyance, and would have taken as many or more days than it now takes hours by modern railway transportation.
In 1826, at the date of my birth, there was not a foot of steam railroad in our country, and scarcely any on the globe. Now, in this country alone there are 250,000 miles, equal to a belt wound round the globe at the equator more than ten times, and representing an invested capital of $13,000,000,000. This vast achievement, all accomplished within the lifetime of many persons now living, with its graded roadbeds, its cuttings, fillings, tunnelings and bridges, with the iron required for them, for the rails, rolling, etc., then ore in the bowels of the earth, has been brought out and wrought into use for this stupendous work within the period mentioned.
Were this the only great achievement, it would be marvelous to contemplate; but there have been many, and our minds have become accustomed to think of things which to a past generation would have exceeded imagination.
The steam railroad displaced the stagecoach and revolutionized travel on long distances, then came the horse railroad on short routes, abolishing the omnibus, and this in turn has been superseded by the electrical trolley car. This does an amount of work which would seem incredible were it not sustained by figures and reports. A vast amount of capital is invested in this enterprise, and every city and large town in the country is webbed with radiating and cross lines of rails and wires. What they are doing in the way of transporting passengers may well be illustrated by a glance at what is being done in Brookline.
Previous to 1848, when the Brookline branch of the Boston&Worcester Railroad went into operation, an hourly omnibus accommodated public travel between here and Boston. As travel increased, the omnibus was displaced by a single line of horse-cars via Tremont street, and later that was superseded by the trolley cars, and instead of one line there are now entering and crossing the town nine or ten lines of cars, making more than 500 daily trips, and all are well patronized. Even now, at certain hours of the day, the cars are too crowded to obtain seats or even standing room. And all this notwithstanding the number of automobiles seen passing and repassing! It is a convincing proof of the fact that "facilities invite travel."
In 1840 the Cunard steamship line was established, previous to which, mails and passengers were carried across the Atlantic in sailing ships, with average passages of 30 to 40 days. It then took a year for a merchant in this country to receive answers from letters sent to China and India, and it was not an unusual occurrence for his ship to make a voyage out and home without reporting her arrival outward. The first Cunard steamship made passages of 18 to 20 days, a gain of nearly one half the time taken by the sailing ship. Now the Cunarders make the passage in a week or less, and other steamship lines in a little longer time. The sailing ship has been abandoned for Atlantic mail and passenger service, and in fact for most other service, the steamship having taken her place.
In 1844 the electric telegraph was patented and put into operation, and spread over the world, across deserts, ravines, rivers, over mountains, under the sea, its tiny wires stretching from city to city, from state to state, from nation to nation, in the iron grasp of friendliness. It is a vehicle of human speech outdistancing the wind, competing with the lightning's flash, swift as thought,-the wonder of the past and of the present. Along its wires with lightning speed human speech flies to the uttermost parts of the globe, in all languages, gathering intelligence for the merchant, scientist, statesman and all conditions of men, to be published in the daily morning paper, so that he may read at home, upon the train, or elsewhere. It has put an end to time and distance in the matter of disseminating human intelligence, and with the steam engine has done more than any other agency to unify the nations of the earth. Through its wires the merchant sends his message to China and India, and instead of waiting nine months or a year for a reply, as was once the case, the reply comes in a few hours, or a few days at most.
The accession of Texas to the Union, the Mexican War and the acquisition of territory, including California, with the discovery of gold there in 1848, set many new enterprises in motion, of which I shall mention one,-our merchant marine.
The ships under the American flag in the Atlantic packet service, in the China and other trades, held a prominent position on the ocean, and culminated in the clipper ship called into being by the demand for shorter passages round Cape Horn to California. She was the pride of her owner and master, the pet of her crew, and her fine lines, graceful model and tapering spars were the admiration of landsmen. She was the leader of the world's fleets in sailing and in freights; her flag was seen and honored on every sea. Other nations recognized her superiority, bought her, built after her model and lines, and the day of her supremacy was a glorious one for the flag and country. Then came the Civil War. Alabamas and Floridas, with aid and sympathy of those who by ties of blood, religion and humanity, should have been our friends, destroyed many and drove others to shelter under foreign flags. Steamships got the ascendancy during the national struggle; the war ceased, after lasting four years; and the sailing ship in the struggle against steam was driven from the ocean; Congress looked on and did nothing; and the consequence now is that steamships flying alien flags do our foreign carrying trade, and the flag of an American ship, which once flew so gracefully on every sea, is now seldom seen many leagues from our coast on a merchant ship.
The voyage around Cape Horn to California in the old days averaged 150 days, and round the world from one to two years. Now one may go from Boston across the continent, in a luxurious Pullman car, inside of five days, and may keep on round the globe and reach home in less than sixty days.
In my early schooldays I studied Olney's Geography, which described that part of our country beyond the Mississippi and Missouri as the "Great American Desert,"-they are now fertile states of the Middle West, which railroads and modern appliances have been the means of settling and making prosperous.
Agriculture in the West since that day has made rapid progress, and in some states corn and wheat fields larger than many a New England township are plowed and planted, and their harvests are threshed, bagged, loaded upon cars and sent to market by machinery unknown to the farmer of sixty years ago, and without being put under cover of a roof.
In my early boyhood there were no friction matches, the flint, steel and tinder box being the dependence in lighting a fire, aided by a homemade brimstone match. There were no furnaces nor stoves in country houses, and I fancy much the same conditions obtained in the cities. The fuel was wood, and it was burned in large fireplaces which heated the house, and over the fire was the iron crane, with hooks and trammels upon which pots and kettles hung for cooking purposes; to the right of the fireplace was the brick oven for baking, with a place beneath for the preservation of wood ashes to be used in making soap for the family. In front of the fire the rye and corn cakes were baked, and in a tin kitchen in front the meats were roasted. The house was lighted by tallow candles, fish or whale oil lamps; and other household comforts were equally crude. Care was taken to keep the ashes over the burning backlog at night so that there might be coals to start the morning fire, for should there not be and the tinder become damp, fire had to be obtained from a neighboring house.
It was as important to keep the tinder dry and ready for use as for the soldier and hunter to keep his powder dry. This was all changed by the discovery and invention of the friction match, which is easily ignited when fire and light are needed, and is kept in the home, shop and pocket, always ready for use; it is said to be the most useful of all discoveries and inventions the world has known.
Coming down to later time, the telephone, patented in 1876 and soon after put to use, was a wonderful discovery,- more wonderful than the telegraph in the fact that it is not only a chariot of speech, but a transmitter of the sound and tones of the human voice, a hundred or a thousand miles. It is more direct than the telegraph, being installed in home, office, shop or elsewhere, and is more serviceable for distances within its radius, although probably it will not supplant the telegraph on long distances. Many millions of dollars have been invested in it in this and other countries, and it is entitled to rank as a great discovery and convenience of modern times.
Still later, Marconi brings to our attention his discovery of wireless telegraphy, by which messages are sent over land and sea, the atmosphere being the conductor. It is an established fact that messages have been and are being sent through his device, but how far it will affect the electric telegraph is not yet apparent. The public mind has become so accustomed to modern discoveries and inventions for the speedy transmission of news and wants in the world's activity that this wonderful discovery causes little astonishment or comment.
Since the foregoing sentence was first penned a wireless message has been received reporting a collision on the twenty-third instant in a dense fog, twenty-six miles south of Nantucket, between the steamships Republic and Florida; in one hour four steamships at sea received the message and hurried to the scene of the disaster, and four others from ports between Boston and New York. There were 1650 persons on the two colliding vessels, all of whom, except four, who lost their lives, were three days later landed at New York. The Florida arrived at that port with her bows stove in and forward compartments full of water, but the Republic, which was struck near abreast of the engine room, into which water entered, flooding and extinguishing her boiler fires, sank off No Man's Land while in tow for New York.
This disaster proves beyond doubt the utility of wireless telegraphy upon the ocean, and indicates its adoption by all seagoing steamships and a wide field of usefulness in the future.
"Following close on the heels of the marine disaster which sent the Republic to the bottom of the sea, comes the introduction of a bill into Congress requiring ocean passenger steamers, which ply between American ports and distant foreign ports, to be equipped with wireless telegraph instruments.
"Wireless telegraphy has ceased to be a plaything or a scientific experiment. Through the air over New England at all hours of the day and night fly messages from ships, and from naval and commercial stations on land. Even ingenious boys, who have fashioned their own apparatus, are talking from house to house."
The modern development and use of electricity only needs to be mentioned to bring to mind what we see daily in the lighting of buildings and streets, in the moving trolley car seen on every hand, and in hundreds of other ways which make the present a wonderful age of discovery and invention unknown and unanticipated a few decades ago.
We see countless horseless carriages propelled by electricity, steam and other power, a means of conveyance unknown a few years since, and they are now so common as to cause us no thought, except to keep out of their way.
In 1856 the ship Victor Emmanuel
of Liverpool was rigged with wire standing rigging, and was the first to be thus rigged. She made her first voyage to Bombay, where in that year she was visited by hundreds (I being one) to see, examine and comment upon the strange device, little anticipating that the time was near at hand when all vessels would be thus rigged, and hemp superseded. But such was the case, and in modern eyes hemp would seem as strange as wire did to men at that time.
Then ships were built of wood and propelled by sail. Now nearly all long-voyage ships are built of steel and are propelled by steam. Then the American flag was in the ascendency among the merchant fleets of the world. Now it has vanished from the ocean and the great marts of oversea trade.
The naval fleets of the world were encased in wooden hulls; now they are of steel, with armament that would have astonished the mind of mankind in its calibre, carrying power and effect, managed and used by machinery of modern invention and construction.
In the period under review, that of a human life, the mines of California, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, our Rocky Mountain region, Alaska and elsewhere have been opened and developed, bringing from the bowels of the earth their long hidden treasures of gold, silver, copper, tin, zinc and other metals to enrich the people not only of our country but of the entire world. The use of natural gas for domestic and manufacturing purposes, the refining of crude petroleum, and its discovery in various parts of our land have been an agency in the march of progress. The mining and use of coal and iron have gone on, hand in hand, to bless the world and its people, in the household, upon the farm, in the whirr of machinery of every name and nature, in all the great enterprises we have been considering, and in thousands of other ways, being of greater importance to the human race than all other products of mines the world over, and perhaps of all other products of the earth, that of agriculture alone excepted.
In schools, public, private and technical, in colleges and universities, education has made great advancement. Through museums, public libraries, general literature and the public press, general knowledge has been disseminated in the past half century and has exerted a greater influence than ever in the world's history. Old theories have been set aside, new ones have been adopted, and the wheels of progress have been started. I say started advisedly, for what may seem progress today may be as far behind the attainments of fifty years hence as those of fifty years ago are now behind the present.
The world's activities have been revolutionized by the discoveries and inventions which have taken place in a lifetime. Manufactures and mechanical works of almost every kind have multiplied, industries which did not exist fifty years ago have come into being and are now indispensable to our needs. Wealth has accumulated as never before, and its lavish display is seen on every hand. It endows schools, colleges and universities, founds museums and libraries, establishes asylums, hospitals, homes, institutions and retreats for all classes, aids in moral, intellectual, philanthropic and religious objects, and every enterprise, public or private, for the betterment, comfort and well-being of mankind as never before. The things we have enumerated are some of those, and their results, which have aided in the progressive march of a lifetime.
And yet, notwithstanding it all, the pessimist claims to see in it a wider cleavage between rich and poor. To admit that would be to admit that modern civilization and all Christian effort is but a backward step, in "peace on earth and good will to man."
When changes in social conditions, advocated by impatient agitators, are not immediately put into operation, it is customary to assail the wealthy and educated classes of society for the delay. Such malcontents do not take into consideration that time as we measure it counts but little in the economy of the ages, and that He who rules the universe rules in accordance with His plan to bring about the millennium. Wholesale denunciation of what is called the upper classes is unmanly, and a poor apology for a ladder upon which to climb to a higher plane.
How little the busy man, of this busy age, realizes the changes which have taken place, except those which are near and affect him directly, until his attention is called to the subject. The human mind and memory are so constituted that they grasp and hold but a slight portion of things, and occurrences near at hand soon make us forget the distant ones, and leave us without power to penetrate into the future.
In my boyhood I heard a gentleman say that he had lived in the most progressive age of the world's history, and that it did not seem possible to him that there could be so much advancement and progress in the next fifty or sixty years as had taken place in a past period of that length of time. He was born in 1781, died in 1852, and has been in another sphere of existence fifty-six years. If he from that other sphere has been permitted to pass in review the great changes and wonderful progress of the past fifty or sixty which we have been considering, how astonished he must be at his former shortsightedness! And yet we know of no safer guide for future occurrences than the history of the past.
It is the self-appointed province of an historical society to delve into the past, bring to light, record and preserve the things reposing in the gulf of forgetfulness, that in reviving their memories the present may be enriched by the lessons they teach. In that line of work the Brookline Historical Society in the eight years of its life and activity has accomplished much; there remains much for it yet to accomplish, and it is desired and hoped that in the years to come it shall prove to act vigorously, be more useful to the town and community, and produce greater satisfaction than in the past. There are hundreds of subjects relating to the town, thousands relating to the vicinity and the commonwealth and New England, and an unlimited number relating to the country, which can be written up, read before the Society for the benefit of its members, and preserved in its archives to form a rich collection for future generations. Every member is capable of doing something to aid in that work, and where "there is a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull all together" the accomplishment is easy and the result surprisingly satisfactory.