History of Boston, Massachusetts

Boston was made a city in 1822, and John Phillips, father of Wendell Phillips, was elected the first mayor. The first city government was organized on the 1st of May that year.

Among American cities Boston holds a unique position. It is today at once the most famous of the few historic cities of the republic and in the best sense the most progressive. In no other city of our bounding country is there such a peculiar blending of the old and the new, the ancient and the modern, as here in Boston. In its business quarters are well-preserved landmarks of the colonial, the provincial, and the revolutionary periods cheek by jowl with the most modern structures of this age of progress. Sterling citizens successfully maintain conservative business methods, while enterprises of the greatest importance and magnitude in distant parts of the country, as well as within the city's boundaries, are fostered and advanced by Boston merchants and Boston capitalists. Possessing the genius and sagacity of the merchants of the earlier Boston who won the famous sobriquet of " solid," the men of the Boston of Today also display the characteristics which are found in the best type of the enterprising American of these times. While Boston men have developed from the compact little commercial town of fifty years ago the substantial modern metropolis, Boston capital has built great Western cities and established great Western railways, developing the resources of the country and opening up its incalculable agricultural and mineral wealth.

For many years after the settlement, the North End, the earliest "court end" of the town, was the greater part of Boston proper. The original Boston consisted of a "pear-shaped peninsula" about two miles long, and one mile wide at its broadest part, broken by little creeks and coves and diversified by three hills. The loftiest of these reduced into our present Beacon hill was described by the early chroniclers as "a high mountaine with three little hills on the top of it." And it was this formation of the highest hill that suggested the name "Trimontaine," first given the place by the settlers at Charlestown, and which Winthrop's men changed to "Boston " when they moved across the river, in October, 1630, and established the new town. Until after the Revolution the topographical features of the town were not greatly changed. Towards the close of the last century, in 1754, Shurtleff relates, the North End, which had then " begun to lose its former prestige and gave unquestionable evidence of decay and unpopularity," contained about 680 dwelling-houses and tenements and 6 meeting-houses; " New Boston," or that portion we now call the " Old West End," including Beacon hill, about 170 dwelling-houses and tenements; and the South End, then extending from the "Mill bridge " in Hanover street, over the old canal, to the fortifications on " the Neck," near Dover street, about 1,250 dwelling-houses, 10 meeting-houses, all the public buildings, and the principal shops and warehouses. " Some of the mansion-houses of this part," says Shurtleff, writing twenty years ago, " would now be considered magnificent; and the Common, although perhaps not so artistically laid out, with paths and malls as now, was as delightful a training-ground and public walk as at the present time." No streets had then been constructed west of Pleasant street and the Common.

Early in the present century, in 1803, Charles street was laid out; the next year Dorchester Neck and Point, the territory forming the greater part of what is now South Boston, were annexed to Boston; twenty years later, when the town had become a city, came the great improvements of the elder Quincy, the second mayor, whose administration covered six terms, from 1823 to 1829. These included the building of the Quincy Markethouse, officially termed the Faneuil Hall, to the confusion of citizens as well as strangers; the opening of six new streets and the enlargement of a seventh; and the acquisition of flats, docks, and wharf rights to the extent of 142,000 square feet; "all this," says Quincy's Municipal History, "accomplished in the centre of a populous city not only without any tax, debt, or burden upon its pecuniary resources, but with large permanent additions to its real and productive property." Next, in 1830, the development of the newer South End, south of Dover street to the Roxbury line, was begun, though not systematically pursued until about twenty years later; in 1833 the upbuilding of " Noddie's Island," before that time a " barren waste," we are told, but none the less a picturesque spot and a favorite with fishing-parties, was energetically started, when its name was changed to " East Boston; " in 1857 the great " Back Bay Improvement," the result of which is the beautiful " New West End " of today, began; at the same time the " marsh at the bottom of the Common," over which there had been controversy for years, was formally set apart for the Public Garden, and soon after systematic plans for its development made; in 1867 the city of Roxbury was annexed to Boston by popular vote (becoming officially connected in January, 1868), in 1869 the town of Dorchester (officially joined in January, 1870), and in 1873 the city of Charlestown and the towns of Brighton and West Roxbury (officially, in January, 1874); and after the great fire of November, 1872, which burned over sixty-five acres in the heart of the business quarter and destroyed property valued at $75,000,000, immense street improvements were made through the widening and straightening of old thoroughfares and the opening of new ones, and a more substantial and more modern business quarter, architecturally finer in some respects than any similar quarter in any other American city, was built up.

By the reclamation of the broad, oozy salt marshes, the estuaries, coverts, and bays once stretching wide on its southern and northern borders, the original 783 acres upon which Boston town was settled was expanded to 1,829 acres of solid land, and by annexation from time to time 21,878 acres were added, 2 making the present (1892) total 23,707 acres, or 37.04 square miles. Where the area was the narrowest it is now the widest, and in place of the compact little town of a hundred years ago on its "pear-shaped peninsula" less than two miles in its extreme length and its greatest breadth only a little more than one, is the greater Boston of Today, extending from north to south eleven miles and spreading nine miles from east to west.

Table of Contents:

By Way Of Introduction
Boston's Business Interests
Trade Centres
Some Noteworthy Buildings
The New West End
The South End
North And Old West Ends
The Common And The Garden
The Theatres
The Clubs
The Outlying Districts
Biographical Sketches And Portraits (300 pages)

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Biography of William Lincoln

Lincoln, William, was born in Falmouth, Mass., March 8, 1808. He was educated at the Derby Academy in Hingham, and graduated fully fitted for college in 182 1, when only thirteen years of age. He did not go to college, however, but coming to Boston, went into Deacon James Boring's printing-office, where he learned to set up type and work the "Rammage" hand-press, used in those days. After serving a year here he went West, to Caledonia, N.Y., and took a position in John Butterfield's store there. In 1826 he returned to Boston and went into Joshua Sears' store. In 1829, then twenty-one years of age, he entered the commission business on his own account, dealing in Nantucket and New Bedford oil, and building up an extensive and active trade. In 1837 he sold out to his brother, Henry Lincoln, and joining Major John Fairfield at Central wharf, established the New Orleans packet-line, which soon became the principal packet-line of Boston, and did a large business for years. When the gold fever broke out in California, in 1849, Mr. Lincoln left this firm and again joined his brother Henry in India street, establishing lines of packets to California and Australia. He built and sailed twenty ships and barks, retaining the managing interests in all of them. But finally, this business proving somewhat disastrous, he returned to the oil business. Now came the oil discoveries and petroleum wells, and Mr. Lincoln was the second man to go into the manufacture of coal oil in this country, forming a partnership with William D. Philbrick, establishing an agency in Titusville, and building a refinery in East Boston. After the dissolution of this firm, Mr. Lincoln built a large manufactory in East Cambridge. The business required the equipment of a line of schooners to ply between Philadelphia and Boston for the transportation of the petroleum. In 1872 the factory was destroyed by fire, and then Mr. Lincoln and his son, William E., entered the real-estate business, in which they have continued ever since, handling a large amount of Brookline property. Mr. Lincoln has been a resident of Brookline for the past thirty-nine years, and for seventeen years was a member of the board of assessors of the town, during most of that time its chairman. He was the first man to suggest the widening of Beacon street, and he has been personally interested in many of the improvements in Brookline and vicinity. His Boston office is at No. 43 Devonshire street. Mr. Lincoln was married in Boston, in 1838, to Miss Mary M., daughter of David Francis, of the famous book-firm of Monroe & Francis, and has four sons: the eldest, David F., is professor in the college at Geneva; the second, William E., is with Mr. Lincoln in the real-estate business; the third, Rev. James Otis, is an Episcopal clergyman in Kansas; and the fourth, Walter Lincoln, is in the insurance business in Boston.