Waltham Massachusetts, 1890
WALTHAM, the " City of Watches," is situated in the southeasterly section of Middlesex County, 10 miles west of Boston, with which it is conveniently connected by a branch and main line of the Fitchburg Railroad, and by the Central Massachusetts Railroad. The outlying villages are Bleachery, Chemistry, Robert's Crossing (railroad stations) and Prospectville. Other stations are Stony Brook, Beaver Brook and Clematis Brook, on the first road; and the latter and Hammond Street on the second, with "Waltham" on both. The latter is the post-office.
The city boundaries are Lexington on the north, Belmont on the northeast and east, Watertown on the southeast, Newton on the south, and Lincoln on the west. The assessed area. is 7,560 acres; of which over 1,000 are forest, containing chiefly, oak, cedar and. spruce. Apple, pear, peach and quince trees are numerous on the farms. A range of low hills marks the northeastern border, while the southwestern section is largely occupied with wooded hills, of which the most central and highest is Mount Prospect, 482 feet in altitude; while Little Prospect is 434 feet, and Bear Hill, 360.
Charles River winds in at the southeast as a broad and lakelike stream, flowing out in a narrower stream at the east, after turning the vast machinery of the mills in that section. Beaver Brook is a tributary from Means Pond in the north, and another is Stony Brook, which receives Hobb's Brook from the western part, and. forms a large part of the line between this city and Weston, next the Charles; where it furnishes power for a paper-mill. In the angle between the two streams—a beautiful secluded locality—is the Norse tower, of stone, 50 feet in height, erected at a cost of several thousand dollars by Prof. E. N. Horsford, to mark what he considers to be the site of the mythical city of Norumbega, and the neighborhood of extensive operations on the river, and of traffic with the Indians by the Norse voyagers; of whom Lief Erikson, in, A.D. 1,000, was the avant-courier.*
Whatever may have been done in ancient times by other peoples on the banks of this beautiful river, the beginning of its manufactures by the race at present occupying it was in 1802, when the making of a coarse wrapping paper was commenced. In 1812 the Waltham Cotton and Woollen Manufacturing Company was incorporated; and in 1813 Francis C. Lowell and Patrick T. Jackson, of Boston, purchased Boil's paper-mill and the water-power at the upper falls, and in connection with Nathan Appleton and others, incorporated as the Boston Manufacturing Company, with a capital of $400,000, and began the erection of a cotton mill. In the autumn of 1814, a power-loom was put in operation in Waltham by the last company, — said to have been the first in the country. The business continued to be developed, until in 1879 the two companies had 40,000 spindles and 700 looms, and gave employment to over 1,200 persons. Besides the cotton cloth made, some 5,000 dozen pair of stockings were turned out weekly. The number of spindles is now above 60,000. In 1835, Dr. F. F. Field invented a process for the manufacture of crayons of all kinds, which now employs a large factory. The largest and most important manufacture in the city, that of watches, was commenced in 1854, by the American Watch Company, with a capital of $200,000, and employing 75 hands.
The present establishments are the American Waltham Watch Company, employing 2,700 persons; the United States Watch Company, which is still young; the American Watch-Tool Company, employing 65; the Davis and Farnum Foundry, 125; and the Boston Manufacturing Company, 2,000. There is also a bleachery, employing about 150 persons. Other important manufactures are iron castings, machinery, lumber, leather, paper, carriages, boots and shoes, furniture, emery goods, tobacco, beverages and other food preparations. The number of establishments in 188S was 147; and the value of their aggregate product, $4,491,614. The 96 farms yielded products amounting to $213,416 in value. The value of the milk alone was $83,884. There is one national bank, with a capital stock of $150,000; a savings hank, carrying deposits, at the close of last year, to the amount of $1,893,385; also a co-operative bank with a thriving business. The population in 1885 was 14,609, including 3,231 legal voters; and in 1887 it was found to be about 16,000, and has doubtless increased since. The valuation in 1888 was $13,148,810, with a, tax-rate of $13.80 on $1,000. There were 2,871 taxed dwelling-houses.
Among the best buildings are Welch's Block, Music Hall, the United Workmen Building, the new passenger station of the Fitchburg Railroad, the central fire station, the national bank building, and the American Waltham Watch Factory, whose main building is about 350 feet long, and has five acres of flooring. The populous part of the city is situated on both sides of the Charles; and the terms, "North Side, "South Side," are frequent in colloquial intercourse. The city owns the old Rumford Institute buildings and a public library of nearly 15,000 volumes. There are capacious water-works, a street railway, and excellent roads throughout the town. The schools are superior, including a high school and the lower grades. They occupy 17 school buildings, valued at nearly $200,000. The Roman Catholics have recently erected a fine building, at a cost of $55,000, for St. Mary's parochial school, with a capacity for 1,000 children. Provision has been made by the city for school industrial instruction; and there are also evening, common, commercial and drawing schools. The Swedenborgians have here an unsectarian "New-Church school," which is finely provided with buildings and apparatus. The churches embrace one each of the Baptists, Congregationalists, Unitarians, Methodists, Protestant Episcopalians, Universalists, Roman Catholics, and the New (Jerusalem) Church (Swedenborgian). The publication here of the "Daily Times" and the "Daily Tribune," the weekly "Charles River Laborer," the "Free Press" and the "Record," shows the local spirit of the place, and provides amply for its families.
A monument to the memory of her soldier defenders of the Union was erected in Mt. Feake Cemetery in 1889. It consists of the figure of a soldier of heroic size on a panelled and inscribed pedestal; the entire monument being of Blue Hill granite, and 16 feet in height.
Waltham was taken from Watertown, and incorporated, January 4, 1737. It was probably named from Waltham Abbey, Essex County, England; from the vicinity of which came the Rev. John Eliot and other settlers in this region. A city charter was granted June 2, 1884, and was accepted by the citizens on the 16th of July.
* A beautiful bronze statue representing this hardy explorer stands in the Commonwealth Avenue entrance of Back Bay Park, in Boston.
pp. 655-657 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890