1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Charlestown

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

CHARLESTOWN, formerly a separate city of Middlesex county, Massachusetts, U.S.A., but since 1874 a part of the city of Boston, with which it had long before been in many respects practically one. It is situated on a small peninsula on Boston harbour, between the mouths of the Mystic and Charles rivers; the first bridge across the Charles, built in 1786, connected Charlestown and Boston. A United States navy yard (1800), occupying about 87 acres, and the Massachusetts state prison (1805) are here; the old burying-ground contains the grave of John Harvard and that of Thomas Beccher, the first American member of the famous Beecher family; and there is a soldiers' and sailors' monument (1872), designed by Martin Milmore. Charlestown was founded in 1628 or 1629, being the oldest part of Boston, and soon rose into importance; it was organized as a township in 1630, and was chartered as a city in 1847. Within its limits was fought, on the 17th of June 1775, the battle of Bunker Hill (q.v.), when Charlestown was almost completely destroyed by the British. The Bunker Hill Monument commemorates the battle; and the navy yard at Moulton's Point was the landing-place of the attacking British troops. Little was done toward the rebuilding of Charlestown until 1783. The original territory of the township was very large, and from parts of it were formed Woburn (1642), Malden (1649), Stoneham (1725), and Somerville (1842); other parts were annexed to Cambridge, to Medford and to Arlington. S. F. B. Morse, the inventor of the electric telegraph, was born here; and Charlestown was the birthplace and home of Nathaniel Gorham (1738-1796), a member of the Continental Congress in 1782-1783 and 1785-1787, and its president in 1786; and was the home of Loammi Baldwin (1780-1838), a well-known civil engineer; of Samuel Dexter (1761-1816), an eminent lawyer, secretary of war and for a short time secretary of the treasury in the cabinet of President John Adams; and of Oliver Holden (1765-1831), a composer of hymn-tunes, including “Coronation.”

See R. Frothingham, History of Charlestown (Boston, 1845), covering 1629-1775; J. F. Hunnewell, A Century of Town Life . . . 1775-1887 (Boston, 1888); and Timothy T. Sawyer, Old Charlestown (1902).