American History and Genealogy Project

Boston City Massachusetts

Boston, city, the capital of Massachusetts, m Suffolk county, is principally situated on a peninsula, 3 miles long and 1 broad, at the western extremity of Massachusetts Bay. It lies in 42° 21' 23" n. lat. and 71° 4' 9 " w. lon. from Greenwich, and 5° 58' e. lon. from Washington. It is 115 s s. w. from Portland, Me.; 63 s. s. e. Concord N. H.; 158 e. by s. Albany; 40 n. n. e. Providence, R. I.; 97 e. n. e. Hartford, Ct.; 207 n. e. by e. New York; 440 N . E . from W. Population m 1790 was 18,038; in 1800 24,933; in 1810, 33,250; in 1820, 43,298; in 1830 61,391; in 1840, 93,383. Employed in commerce 2,040; in manufactures and trades, 5,333 in navigating the ocean, 10,813; do. canals and rivers, 19; learned professions and engineers, 586. Boston consists of three parts, Old Boston, on the peninsula; South Boston, formerly a part of Dorchester, but united to Boston in 1804; and East Boston, formerly Noddle's Island. The only original communication of the peninsula with the main land was denominated the "Neck," a little over a mile in length, which connected it with Roxbury. By the fortification of this neck, at the commencement of the revolutionary war, the British were able to control the intercourse between Boston and the surrounding country. But by a number of bridges a communication is now opened in various directions. Charles River bridge, 1 ,503 feet long, connects Boston to Charlestown; West Boston bridge, 2,753 feet, with a causeway 3,432 feet, leads to Cambridge; South Boston bridge, 1,550 feet, leads from the "Neck" to S. Boston; Canal Bridge, 2,796 feet, leads to E. Cambridge, from the middle of which an arm extends to States Prison Point, in Charlestown; Boston Free Bridge, 1,828 feet, connects Boston with S. Boston; Warren Bridge, 1,390 feet, leads to Charlestown. Besides these, the Western Avenue, a mile and a half long, leads to Brooklyn, and constitutes a tide-dam, enclosing a pond of 600 acres, which, by a partition, makes an avenue from the main dam to Roxbury, and forms a full and receiving basin; so that the flowing of the tide creates a great water power, at all times available. The peninsula of Boston had originally an uneven surface; and the necessity of the case, and the good taste of the inhabitants, have extensively prevented the attempt to level these inequalities of surface; and from various points of view, the city presents a picturesque appearance. The streets, however, were originally laid out upon no systematic plan; and accommodated to the convenience of the ground, they are often crooked and narrow; though modern improvements have greatly remedied these inconveniences. The Common, originally a town cow-pasture, has escaped a private appropriation, and is one of the finest public grounds in any city of the United States. The numerous eminences, rising from 50 to 110 feet above the level of the sea, furnish many admirable sites for buildings. Some of the public buildings are commanding, but are exceeded by some in other principal cities; but many of the private residences are unsurpassed in elegance and taste by those of any other city of the Union. South Boston extends about 2 miles along the s. side of the harbor. It contains about 600 acres, regularly laid out into streets and squares, with a diversified surface. About in the centre of this tract are the "Dorchester Heights," 130 feet high, famous in the Revolutionary war, as the site of a fortification which compelled the British to abandon the harbor. East Boston is on an island, containing about 660 acres of land, and a large body of flats. Its connection with Old Boston is by a steam ferry, which starts every five minutes from each side. It is connected to Chelsea on the main land by a bridge of 600 feet; and the Eastern railroad commences here. This portion of the city has wholly grown up since 1833. The surface is agreeably diversified. A wharf 1,000 feet long is devoted to the use of the Liverpool steamships. These several parts of Boston, with the town of Chelsea, constitute the county of Suffolk. The harbor of Boston is one of the best in the United States, being spacious, safe, and easily and well defended. The whole passage to it is not more than four miles in width, with several islands obstructing it, so that the main entrance will scarcely admit two vessels to pass abreast; while within, 500 vessels may ride at anchor, with a good depth of water. The outer harbor has about 40 small islands, about 15 of which afford excellent pasture. The wharves of Boston are extensive and (con't)

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convenient, and some of them are very long. Long in fisheries $25,000; machinery wharf, at the termination of State-street, is 1,650 feet long; and Central wharf is 1,240 feet. Among the public buildings, the State House is the principal. It was built in 1798, and has a fine location on Beacon Hill, 110 feet above the level of the sea, and fronting the spacious common. It is 173 feet long and 61 wide, built of brick, but painted to imitate stone; and has a fine dome 52 feet in diameter, and a cupola 230 feet above the level of the harbor, from which the view is probably the finest in the United States, and scarcely surpassed in the world. From this grand elevation, the spectator looks down upon the city as upon a map; before him stretches the extensive harbor and bay on the E., sprinkled over with islands; and in other directions, numerous beautiful villages, and a highly cultivated country, with many elegant country seats, are visible. Faneuil Hall Market is built of granite, 536 feet long, 50 feet wide, and two stories high; and is the most elegant market-house in the U. States. Faneuil Hall is in Dock Square, 100 feet long by 80 feet wide, 3 stories high, and is celebrated as the spot where the revolutionary orators roused the people to resist British oppression. The hall is 76 feet square, with deep galleries on three sides. The City Hall or Old State House, is another venerable building of revolutionary memory, and is used for public offices. The Massachusetts Hospital, in the western part of the city, is a beautiful granite building, 168 feet long and 54 feet wide, with an open ground of 4 acres around it, on the bank of Charles river. The Custom House, near the head of Central wharf, is a splendid granite building of Grecian architecture. The houses of Industry, Correction, and Reformation, are valuable establishments, situated in South Boston. Trinity church, and St. Paul's church, are considered fine specimens of architecture; and Park-street church has a lofty and beautiful steeple. The Tremont House is one of the finest hotels in the United States. Among the public places, the Common is by far the most distinguished. It occupies the southern declivity of Beacon Hill, and contains nearly 50 acres of ground, surrounded by a wall, shaded by trees. The whole is enclosed by an iron fence about 1 mile in length, on the outside of which is a broad street. A Botanical Garden of 25 acres is on the western side of the Common. Boston, in point of commerce, is the second place in the Union. Her wealth and enterprise ave long been actively employed in foreign commerce, to which her fine harbor has materially contributed. Several large steamships form an important packet line between this city and Great Britain, stopping at Halifax. This line has generally performed its trips in the short space of 125 days. Lines of packets exist to every port of importance throughout the U. States, making about fifty in the whole. And by means of the Middlesex canal, which extends to the Merrimac, it has a boatable communication to Concord, N. H; and recently a railroad communication has been completed to Albany, which will enable it to share in the vast trade of the west. The capitalists of Boston are large proprietors in the manufacturing establishments at Waltham and at Lowell. The tonage of Boston in 1840 was 220,243 tons. The imports are about $16,000,000; and the exports about $10,000,000. There were in 1840, 142 commercial houses and 89 commission houses engaged in foreign trade, with a capital of $11,676,000; 572 retail stores, with a capital of $4,184,220; 31 lumber yards, with a capital of manufactured to the amount of $135,900; precious metals $26,650; various metals $284,400; 6 furnaces, cap. $130,000; 17 distilleries and 2 breweries, with a cap. of $820,000; paints, drills, &c., cap. $20,000; 3 glass fac, cap. $37,000; 2 sugar refineries, 3 rope walks, cap. $101,500; 1 grist m., cap. $50,000; furniture to the amount of $329,000. There were built 217 brick and stone, and 148 wooden houses, to the value of $1,061,100; 24 printing offices, 28 binderies, 7 daily, 11 weekly, and 7 semi-weekly newspapers, and 7 periodicals, employed 437 persons, with a cap. of $236,450. Total amount of cap. in manufac. $2,770,250. There were 15 acad., or gram, sch., with 2,629 students, 137 com. and primary sch. with 14,003 scholars. The are 25 banks, with an aggregate capital of $17,300,000, and 28 insurance companies, with a capital of $6,600,000. Boston has long been celebrated for the excellence of its schools. About a quarter part of the inhabitants are kept at school throughout the year, at an expense of $200,000. In addition to numerous private schools, the public free schools are a Latin grammar school; a high school, in which the mathematics and higher branches of learning are taught; 10 grammar and writing schools; 75 primary schools, and one African school. The Medical Branch of Harvard University has its seat in Boston, where its professors reside. It was founded in 1782, has 6 professors and 88 students, and a library of over 5,000 volumes. There is a highly respectable institution for the blind, which has a handsome edifice. The Boston Athenaeum has two large buildings, one containing a library of about 30,000 volumes, the other a picture gallery, and a hall for public lectures, and other rooms for scientific purposes. This city has about 100 literary, religious, and charitable societies. Among the literary societies of a high order are the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which has published four volumes of transactions; the Massachusetts Historical Society, which has published 22 volumes of collections; and the Boston Natural History Society, which has a fine cabinet. Among the religious and charitable societies, are the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, which has an agency, and holds its anniversaries in the city of New York; the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions; the American Education Society; the American Unitarian Association; the American Peace Society; the Seamen's Friend Society; the Massachusetts Bible Society; the Prison Discipline Society; and various others. There are (1842) 30 newspapers published in Boston, 8 of which are daily. Besides these, there is a number of Magazines and Reviews, the most important of which is the North American Review, which has long had a high reputation, not only in the United States, but in Europe. There are 75 churches, of which 15 are Unitarians, 12 Congregationalists; 8 Episcopalians; 11 Baptists; 9 Methodists; 4 Universalists; 4 Roman Catholics; 3 Freewill Baptists; 2 African, one of which is Baptist, and the other Methodist. There are also some New Jerusalem, German Protestants, and Friends, and a few others. There are two theatres in Boston, the Tremont and the National Theatre. This city continued a town, and was governed by a body of select men, according to the common custom of the towns of New England, until (con't)

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1821 Before this, the people could not be brought to consent to adopt a city government. But the vote was at length carried, and the city has since been governed by a mayor, 8 aldermen and a common council of 48 members. Besides these, each ward has 1 warden, 1 overseer of the poor, 1 clerk, 5 inspectors, and 2 school committeemen. Boston was founded in August 1630. The first church was built in 1632. The American revolution had its commencement in Boston. The British army in 1775, to the number of 10,000, had possession of the place. From this place the troops went out to open the war at Lexington, and to engage in the hard-fought battle of Bunker Hill. They were compelled at length, by the American troops, entrenched on Dorchester Heights, to withdraw from the town and harbor, in March, 1776, whence they proceeded to New York. No portion of the United States engaged more actively in the cause of American freedom than the inhabitants of Boston, or contributed more largely towards its accomplishment. John Hancock, who was first president of the American Congress, and first set his bold hand to the Declaration of Independence, was a citizen of Boston; as were also several other of the leaders of the revolution. It has, also, the honor of being the birth-place of Benjamin Franklin, who was born here Jan. 17th, 1706.

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Source: A Complete Descriptive And Statistical Gazetteer Of The United States Of America, By Daniel Haskel, A. M and J. Calvin Smith, Published By Sherman & Smith, 1843

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