Imágenes de páginas



THE Boston over which the Mathers reluctantly relinquished ascendency was, in its outward aspect, pretty much that which Franklin has described for all time in his matchless Autobiography. Their reign had covered a period of many changes. When Increase Mather had been at the height of his power the taxable polls of the town numbered a little less than nine hundred and the estates were valued (in 1680) at about £23,877. By 1722 there were more than eighteen thousand inhabitants in Boston.

To be sure this estimate of the earlier date followed closely two pretty serious fires. That of November, 1676, was thus described by a contemporary writer: “ It pleased God to alarm the town of Boston, and in them the whole country, by a sad fire, accidentally kindled by the carelessness of an apprentice that sat up too late over' night, as was conceived [the lad was rising before daylight to go to his work and fell asleep while dressing, the result being that his candle set the house on fire] ; the fire continued three or four hours in which time it burned down to the ground forty-six dwelling houses, besides other buildings, together with a meeting-house of considerable bigness." This meeting-house of “considerable bigness" was the Second Church, the church of the Mathers, the first sermon in which had been preached in June, 1650. Rebuilt on its old site immediately after this fire, the edifice stood at the head of North Square until the British soldiers, in 1775, pulled it down for firewood. Mr. Mather's dwelling was destroyed in the same fire which deprived him of his parish church,“ but not an hundred of his books from above a thousand" were lost. The town did not yet possess any fireengine, but this great conflagration hastened the acquiring of one, and, two years later, Boston had its first organized fire company.

Then, on August 7, 1680, there came another “ terrible fire,” which raged about twelve hours. Capt. John Hull, who kept a Diary, records that this fire began “about midnight in an alehouse, which by sunrise consumed the body of the trading part of the Towne; from

[graphic][merged small]



the Mill creek to Mr. Oliver's house, not one house nor warehouse left; and went from my warehouse to Mrs. Leveret's hence to Mr. Hez. Usher's, thence to Mrs. Thacher's thence to Thomas Fitch's." Another contemporary manuscript account adds that “the number of houses burnt was 77 and of ware houses 35." This fire was believed to have been of incendiary origin, and one Peter Lorphelin, who was suspected of having set it, was sent to jail and then “sentenced to stand two hours in the Pillory, have both ears cut off, give bond of £500 (with two sureties), pay charges of prosecution, fees of Court, and to stand committed till the sentence be performed."

After this fire the burnt district was rebuilt with such rapidity that lumber could not be had fast enough for the purpose and an attempt was made to prohibit, temporarily, its exportation. One of the buildings then erected survived until 1860 and was long known as the Old Feather store. It stood in Dock (now Adams) Square so close, in early days, to tidewater that the prows of vessels moored in the dock almost touched it. The frame was of hewn oak and the outside walls were finished in rough-cast cement, with broken glass so firmly imbedded in it that time produced no

« AnteriorContinuar »