Watertown Massachusetts, 1890

Watertown, on the north bank of the Charles River, in the southeasterly section of Middlesex County, is one of the most ancient and beautiful towns in the Commonwealth. It has Belmont on the north, Cambridge on the northeast, the Brighton District of Boston on the southeast, Newton on the south, and Waltham on the northwest. Its length east and west is some 3½ miles; and its width about 1½ miles. The assessed area is 2,030 acres. A branch of the Fitchburg Railroad winds through the entire length of the town; this and the West End Street Railway furnishing convenient and frequent communication with Boston.

[the residence of Myron W. Whitney, the vocalist.]

The Charles River forms the boundary line on all sides except the north and west, and is navigable for sloops to the dam near the middle line of the town. Cook's Pond and the lake-like expanses of the river afford many fine water views. There are several beautiful elevations occupied by elegant private mansions and villas embowered by ancient trees. The Cushing and the Adams estates, at the border of Belmont, are among the finest in the country. There is but little stone visible, and the soil is in parts a yellow and in others a black loam. Market gardening is largely pursued. The number of pear trees is remarkable, yielding a large crop.

The value of the product of the 18 farms (embracing 757 acres, and employing about 100 men) in 1885 was $84,551. The Ætna Mills, employing nearly 200 persons, and manufacturing woollens; the Walker and Pratt Iron Foundery, employing nearly 100 men; the Hollingsworth and Whitney Paper Mill, employing about the same number of persons, are all long-established concerns, and occupy substantial brick buildings. The Color Works here employ about 75 persons. There are also a grain mill, a starch factory, a factory making rubber and elastic goods, and one making indurated ware. Sixty women and girls were engaged in making shirts. Stoves, carriages, leather, boots and shoes, hosiery and knit goods, are also made to a considerable extent. The value of iron goods made in 1885 was stated in the recent State census at $241,824; of clothing, $176,300; and of food preparations, $92,881. The value of the aggregate product was $1,665,519. Many persons are engaged in business in Boston, Brighton, Cambridge, and on the various transportation lines. The population is 6,238; of whom 1,439 are legal voters. The national bank here has a capital of $100,000; and the savings bank, at the close of last year, carried $317,697 in de posits. The valuation in 1888 was $6,910,988, with a tax-rate of $12.50 on $1,000. The number of taxed dwelling-houses was 1,210.

The United States Arsenal, established here in 1816, occupies an area of about 40 acres on the left margin of the river, and contains machinery for the manufacture of many kinds of military weapons and munitions of war; and, when in full operation, requires some 800 men. The schools comprise the grades of primary, grammar and high, and occupy eight buildings valued at $102,780. There is a free public library of about 6,000 volumes contained in a fine building erected at a cost of over $31,000. The local newspaper is the weekly "Enterprise." The Episcopalians have here a handsome stone church; the Congregationalists and the Roman Catholics have brick edifices. The other churches are a Baptist and a Unitarian. The post-offices are Watertown and Bemis. The other villages are Ætna Mills, Arsenal, Mount Auburn, Union Market and East Watertown. Along the streets and about some private grounds are many old elms; maples also are numerous. The groves consist mostly of oak and chestnut. The Galen Street Bridge, the first built over the Charles River, and one of the oldest in New England, is an object of much interest.

Watertown called by the Indians Pigsgusset was incorporated September 7, 1630. Its territory was then much larger than now, embracing Waltham, Weston and a considerable part of Lincoln. In the early period the town was much infested by wolves, but the Indians gave but little trouble . The town suffered, however, in the person of John Oldham, a citizen, whose murder by the savages of Block Island formed an episode in our colonial history. The site of the church and house used by the Provincial Congress in 1775 is still pointed out. It was from this place that General Warren set out, on the morning of the 17th of June, for the battle-ground where he fell.

Watertown furnished 392 men for the Union service during the war of the Rebellion, and lost 16. In 1889 a handsome monument was erected to their memory near the public library. It consists of a column 18 feet in height, of Hallowell granite, with inscribed panels about the base, and surmounted by a statue representing a Union soldier.

The following eminent persons were natives of this town : Marshall Spring, M.D. (1742-1818), a skilful physician; Henry Bond (1790-1859), author of "The Genealogies and History of Watertown;" Benjamin R. Curtis, LL.D. (1809), an eminent jurist and legal writer; George Tyler Bigelow, LL.D. (1810), a distinguished legist; George T. Curtis (1810), an eminent biographer, essayist and legal author; Harriet G. Hosmer (1830) and Miss Anne Whitney, both eminent as sculptors.


pp.665-667 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890

Gazetteer