My first knowledge of Square 51 and its adjoining territory commenced - I almost fear to tell you how long ago. It was in the year of the pumpkin flood. I, with others of our family, was dropped from a second story window down town into a flat boat and, with other animals, was conveyed to the old house which then fronted Putnam Street, now Third Street.
At that time there was upon this square the house which we entered and the old Court House and Jail. Square 50 upon the east was not built upon. Square 57, immediately west, had upon it three buildings. Square 44, immediately north, had five houses upon it. Square 45, immediately northwest, had four buildings upon it. Square 44, immediately north, had six buildings upon it. Square 43, immediately northeast, not built upon. Therefore, at that time there were thirteen houses in the six squares, where there are now to be found one hundred and eighty-eight.
*Note. The Unitarian church stands on the northwest corner of Square 50; the City Hall on the southwest corner of Square 43; the Court House on the southwest corner of Square 44; the Citizens' Bank on the southeast corner of Square 45; the store building occupied by Rodick Bros. on the northeast corner of Square 57.
The improvement of Second Street seems to have occupied the thoughts of some of the residents of the portion of the town bordering on it, and in reply to a communication calling the attention of the road supervisor to that subject, the annexed communication of Caleb Emerson, Esq., a graduate of an eastern college and a well informed lawyer, will be read with interest, especially by those who remember that old and much esteemed citizen:
D. Woodbridge, Esq.:
Dear Sir: Yours of to-day is received. I have occasionally sought the office of supervisor - the only one for which I ever allowed myself to electioneer - from a love of mending ways. In my first tour of duty, some twelve or fifteen years ago, I found White's Road in wretched condition - abounding with stumps, deep cuts and mud holes. I changed the custom of calling out all hands in two days - to drink and play - had the stumps removed, the bad places mended, introduced the scraper and the custom of working on roads.
The people murmured, and a system was adopted of electing supervisors who would work nearer home. The road was systematically neglected, and of course, very bad - to the scandal of the town. A few years there appeared some difficulty in retaining the accustomed avenue from that road to the Court House - a difficult road at best to keep in repair. I broke ground on Putnam Street and built a bridge in the most convenient place - which last, like most others in this country, has failed - in a great measure owing to neglect of supervisors - though I admit the attempt to succeed by a cheap arch has failed. The ascent of Putnam Street has gone out of repair for want of a little timely labor. Hence a wonderful clamor has been maintained against me - aided by my neighbor, who promised, and has kept it faithfully, to do me all the harm in his power, because I would not assist him to get some road funds to which he had no right.
When I obtained the office last spring, I hoped, with the aid of the taxes and a balance of said fund, now in the hands of Hartshorne, to put the road lying without the corporation in such condition that hereafter a great portion of the road means might remain within. The execrated end of Putnam Street and the bridge I had not specially in view - since part of the difficulties respecting the other path are removed. The stones of the bridge will not speedily wash away - the ascent may be easily made good when my heed is low, and its ruins are no longer needed as a theme of execration. I believe, after all, that the repairs ought to be made in preference to any road work of the district coming within the corporation.
After this detail you will readily conceive my feelings, independent of all disparaging associations, arising from the proposition to commit the road funds of this district to the supervisor of another. In deciding on places and manner of laying out funds and work, I have, if I mistake not, looked at the public interest. I know that assertions to the contrary are somewhat current, and from these I shall probably, as in many other points, have no appeal, except to that final and unerring account, to which we are all hastening. As to the spot you desire improved, I have the same desire, but not the same views. The county road is one of great travel, and there is no substitute without great inconvenience. Second Street is convenient, but not essential to the
public. The road has special need of funds, for team work. There is an ample fund in the corporation, which might have been applied to the street, and during two years past, a few rods of that street have engrossed the most efficient means of the road district - probably the greatest amount - while large sums of money belonging to the ward were lying idle in the corporation treasury - the road in the meantime going into such disrepair, as with such an amount of road funds in my hands, I should not feel myself safe from prosecution, in suffering. There is a part of the road, which is usually bad, now partly turnpike, to which the team work which seven or eight dollars would procure, would be essential - and for want thereof, it must be done with hands, spades, mattocks and wheelbarrows, or revert to its accustomed state of scandalous disrepair.
I am, very respectfully,
Sept. 21, 1829.
I could write a whole article about Second Street and its changes, but I must forbear and only say a few things. As you know, this street in passing over Butler Street, also crosses Tiber Creek. Long ago the wagon way passed down one bank of this creek and up the other. During a dry time, foot passengers took the same course, but during the wet season of the year they, as a foot path, used a log which extended from bank to bank and with its huge surface furnished a walking place.
This passage way was once the scene of a very amusing occurrence. Old Christie Carpenter, who lived on Greene Street, early one evening, on his way to the Methodist meeting house, on Second Street north of Scammel Street, singing along as was his wont, entered upon the south end of this log. He soon encountered a large, full grown bear who on his way to his owner's home, as there was considerable water in the creek, had chosen the log crossing. Soon they met; Christie feeling that he had a right of way, waved his hand and said, shoo Bruin, but he not being disposed to back out, raised his paw and gently pushed old Christie off the log. As he came out of the water, he turned to Bruin and said you must be a Baptist.
How changed now, the creek is arched and more than 20 railroad trains each day pass over it.
The changes above spoken of are but a sample of the mutations everywhere visible in our town and county. At the period first named the population of our town was but a handful and large portions of our county an unbroken wilderness, there being over sixty thousand acres of unoccupied land. Now there is not a forty acre lot that has not an individual owner. The wilderness is but of yore.