Lexington Massachusetts, 1890
Lexington, famous from being the scene of the opening conflict of the Revolution, lies in the southeast section of Middlesex County, 10 miles northwest of Boston, on the Middlesex Railroad, — a branch of the Lowell system of the Boston and Maine Railroad. It is bounded on the north by Bedford, Burlington and Woburn; on the northeast by the last two and Winchester; on the southeast by the latter, Arlington and Belmont; on the southwest by Waltham; and on the west by Lincoln and Bedford. Lexington village, at the centre, and East Lexington, are the post-offices; the railway stations being these, and Munroe's, Pierce's Bridge and North Lexington.
The assessed area of the town is 9,331 acres, of which 2,022 are woodland. The land is undulating, but rises here and there into handsome eminences; as Buck's Hill in the northeast, Mount Independence in the southeast, and Turner's, Merriam's, Loring's hills and Hancock Heights, near the central village. The underlying rock is sienite, with a section of dolerite in the eastern part. The soil is in some parts light and sandy; in others, strong and fertile. The elevated land near the village constitutes the water-shed between the Shawsheen and the Charles rivers; the fine little rivulet called "Vine Brook," and Farley's Brook, draining the slope towards the former, and Beaver Brook running southerly towards the latter stream. Farley's Brook and its tributaries flow through an extensive marsh called "Tophet Swamp," in the northwest section of the town.
Much attention is paid to gardening and dairying for the Boston market. In the last census year the vegetable product was valued at $51,207; the greenhouse, at $10,500; and the dairy at $108,349. The apple orchards are extensive, and generally in fine condition. The aggregate farm products reached the sum of $335,682. There are no large manufacturing establishments, but a full tale of those common to New England towns; and the aggregate value of goods made in the year mentioned was $152,393. There is a savings bank holding deposits at the opening of this year to the amount of $165,316. The number of dwelling-houses was 576; the inhabitants 2,718; and the legal voters 654. The valuation in 1888 was $3,259,957, with a tax-rate of $10.50 on $1,000.
There are two town-halls, with a seating capacity for about 500 and 800 persons,— one containing memorial tablets in honor of its men lost in war; and two statues of soldiers,— one of the Revolution and the other of the late Rebellion. The Massachusetts House, one of the hotels of this place, was the Massachusetts Building at the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876; having been taken apart, shipped to Lexington, and again put together. A new library building in the old colonial style was given by Hon. William A. Tower, to contain the library of upwards of 10,000 volumes founded a few years ago by Mrs. Martha H. Cary. The town schools are graded from primary to high; and are provided with seven school buildings, valued in 1885 at about $25,000. There is a spirited weekly paper published here, bearing the appropriate name, "The Minute-Man." The Congregationalists, Baptists, American Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholics have each a church edifice here, while the Unitarians have two. In the village at the centre, especially, are many attractive buildings and beautiful residences.
Lexington was originally known as "Cambridge Farms." Among its early settlers were John Bridge and Herbert Pelham (who had grants of land here in 1642), Edward Winship (who built the first saw mill about 1650), Francis Whitmore, James Cutler and Nathaniel Bowman. The town was incorporated March 29, 1712, receiving its name, perhaps, from the parish of Lexington (variously, Laxington and Laxton), in Nottingham County, England. A church was organized October 21, 1696; and the Rev. Benjamin Estabrook was ordained as pastor. He was followed in 1698 by the Rev. John Hancock, who was a native of the place, and the father of Governor John Hancock.
On the night of April 18, 1775, General Thomas Gage sent a detachment of 800 men from Boston to destroy some military stores at Concord. They arrived at Lexington very early on the morning of the 19th, where they found about 70 Americans under arms on the green near the church. Major John Pitcairn, who led the advance battalions of the British, riding up to the militia, and brandishing his sword, cried out, "Disperse, you rebels ! Down with your arms and disperse." As they gave no indication of obedience, he discharged his pistol, and ordered his men to fire. Eight Americans were killed, and several wounded. The British then went on to Concord. The green or park on which occurred the fight is of triangular form, and contains about two acres. It is now well shaded with elm, ash and other handsome trees. The town sent 244 men into the late war, of whom it lost 20.
[the Battle of Lexington, April 19, 1775.]
Lexington Academy, incorporated in 1822, had a varying success until 1838. Its building had the distinction of being occupied by the first State Normal School in America, which opened in the summer of 1839. The Rev. Cyrus Peirce ("Father Peirce"), who had conducted a flourishing academy at Andover, was called to take charge of this school. Of him, the Hon. Horace Mann said "He is, on the whole, the best teacher I have ever seen, in Europe or America." Theodore Parker, a distinguished clergyman and author, was a native of Lexington; and his grandfather was the Captain John Parker who commanded the minute-men on the famous 19th of April. Ex-Governor George D. Robinson, also, was a Lexington boy. A good history of Lexington was published in 1868, written by Hon. Charles Hudson, a resident of the town.
pp. 414-417 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890