1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Watertown (Massachusetts)

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WATERTOWN, a township of Middlesex county, Massachusetts, U.S.A., on the Charles river, about 6 m. W. of Boston. Pop. (1890) 7073; (1900) 9706, of whom 2885 were foreign-born and 53 were negroes; (1910 census) 12,875. Area, 4.1 sq. m. Watertown is served by the Fitchburg division of the Boston & Maine railway, and is connected with Boston, Cambridge, Newton (immediately adjacent and served by the New York, New Haven & Hartford railway) and neighbouring towns by electric railways. It is a residential and manufacturing suburb of Boston. The township is at the head of navigation on the Charles, and occupies the fertile undulating plains along the liver running back to a range of hills, the highest of which are Whitney Hill (200 ft.) and Meeting House Hill (250 ft.). Within the township are several noteworthy examples of colonial architecture. There are several small parks and squares, including Central Square, Beacon Square, about which the business portion of the township is centred, and Saltonstall Park, in which is a monument to the memory of Watertown's soldiers who died in the Civil War, and near which are the Town House and the Free Public Library, containing a valuable collection of 60,000 books and pamphlets and historical memorials. There are two interesting old burying-grounds: one on Grove Street, near the Cambridge line, first used in 1642, contains a monument to John Coolidge, killed during the British retreat from Concord and Lexington on the 19th of April 1775; the other is near the centre of the village about the former site of the First Parish Church. In Coolidge's Tavern (still standing) Washington was entertained on his New England tour in 1789; and in a house recently moved from Mt Auburn Street to Marshall Street the Committee of Safety met in 1775. Within the township are mounds and earthworks which Professor E. N. Horsford thought were the remains of a Norse settlement in the 11th century, and which include a semicircular amphitheatre of six tiers or terraces which he thought was an assembly place, and a portion of a stone wall or dam. The Federal government maintains at Watertown one of its principal arsenals, occupying grounds of about 100 acres along the river. Several of the original low brick buildings, built between 1816 and 1820, still stand. In 1905 the value of Watertown's factory products was $15,524,675.

Watertown was one of the earliest of the Massachusetts Bay settlements, having been begun early in 1630 by a group of settlers led by Sir Richard Saltonstall and the Rev. George Phillips. The first buildings were upon land now included within the limits of Cambridge. For the first quarter century Watertown ranked next to Boston in population and area. Since then its limits have been greatly reduced. Thrice portions have been added to Cambridge, and it has contributed territory to form the new townships of Weston (1712), Waltham (1738), and Belmont (1859). In 1632 the residents of Watertown protested against being compelled to pay a tax for the erection of a stockade fort at Cambridge; this was the first protest in America against taxation without representation and led to the establishment of representative government in the colony. As early as the close of the 17th century Watertown was the chief horse and cattle market in New England and was known for its fertile gardens and fine estates. Here about 1632 was erected the first grist mill in the colony, and in 1662 one of the first woollen mills in America was built here. In the First Parish Church, the site of which is marked by a monument. the Provincial Congress, after adjournment from Concord, met from April to July 1775; the Massachusetts General Court held its sessions here from 1775 to 1778, and the Boston town meetings were held here during the siege of Boston, when many of the well-known Boston families made their homes in the neighbourhood. For several months early in the War of Independence the Committees of Safety and Correspondence made Watertown their headquarters and it was from here that General Joseph Warren set out for Bunker Hill. In 1832–1834 Theodore Parker conducted a private school here and his name is still preserved in the Parker School.

See S. A. Drake, History of Middlesex County (2 vols., Boston, 1880); Convers Francis, A Historical Sketch of Watertown to the close of its Second Century (Cambridge, 1830); S. F. Whitney, Historical Sketch of Watertown (Boston, 1906); and " Watertown," by S. F. Whitney, in vol. iii. of D. Hamilton Hurd's History of Middlesex County (Philadelphia, 1890). The Watertown Records (4 vols., Watertown and Boston, 1894–1906) have been published by the Historical Society of Watertown (organized in 1888 and incorporated in 1891).