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ONE of the most picturesque houses in all Middlesex County is the Royall house at Medford, a place to which Sir Harry Frankland and his lady used often to resort. Few of the great names in colonial history are lacking, indeed, in the list of guests who were here entertained in the brave days of old.
The house stands on the left-hand side of the old Boston Road as you approach Medford, and to-day attracts the admiration of electric car travellers just as a century and a half ago it was the focus for all stage passenger's eyes. Externally the building presents three stories, the upper tier of windows being, as is usual in houses of even a much later date, smaller than those underneath. The house is of brick, but is on three. sides entirely sheathed in wood, while the south end stands exposed. Like several of the houses we are noting, it seems to turn its back on the high road. I am, however, inclined to a belief that the Royall house set the fashion in this matter, for Isaac, the Indian nabob, was just the man to assume an attitude of fine indifference to the world outside his gates. When in 1837, he came, a successful Antigua merchant, to establish his seat here in old Charlestown, and to rule on his large estate, sole monarch of twenty-seven slaves, he probably, felt quite indifferent, if not superior, to strangers and casual passers-by.
His petition of December, 1737, in regard to the "chattels" in his train, addressed to the General Court, reads:
"Petition of Isaac Royall, late of Antigua, now of Charlestown, in the county of Middlesex, that he removed from Antigua and brought with him among other things and chattels a parcel of negroes, designed for his own use, and not any of them for merchandise. He prays that he may not be taxed with impost."
The brick quarters which the slaves occupied are situated on the south side of the mansion, and front upon the courtyard, one side of which they enclose. These may be seen on the extreme right of the picture, and will remind the reader who is familiar with Washington's home at Mount Vernon of the quaint little stone buildings in which the Father of his Country was want to house his slaves. The slave buildings in Medford have remained practically unchanged, and according to good authority are the last visible relics of slavery in New England.
The Royall estate offered a fine example of the old-fashioned garden. Fruit trees and shrubbery, pungent box bordering trim gravel paths, and a wealth of sweet-scented roses and geraniums were here to be found. Even to-day the trees, the ruins of the flower-beds, and the relics of magnificent vines, are imposing as one walks from the street gate seventy paces back to the house-door.
The carriage visitor and in the old days all the Royall guests came under this head either alighted by the front entrance or passed by the broad drive under the shade of the fine old elms around into the courtyard paved with small white pebbles. The driveway has now become a side street, and what was once an enclosed garden of half an acre or more, with walks, fruit, and a summer-house at the farther extremity, is now the site of modern dwellings.
This summer-house, long the favourite resort of the family and their guests, was a veritable curiosity in its way. Placed upon an artificial mound with two terraces, and reached by broad flights of red sandstone steps, it was architecturally a model of its kind. Hither, to pay their court to the daughters of the. house, used to come George Erving and the young Sir William Pepperell, and if the dilapidated walls (now taken dawn, but still carefully preserved) could speak, they might tell of many an historic love tryst. The little house is octagonal in form, and on its bell-shaped roof, surmounted by a cupola, there poises what was originally a figure of Mercury. At present, however, the statue, bereft of both wings and arms, cannot be said greatly to resemble the dashing god.
The exterior of the summer-house is highly ornamented with Ionic pilasters, and taken as a whole is quaintly ruinous. It is interesting to discover that it was utility that led to the elevation of the mound, within which was an ice-house! And to get at the ice the slaves went through a trap-door in the floor of this Greek structure!
Isaac Royall, the builder of the fine old mansion, did not long live to enjoy his noble estate, but he was succeeded by a second Isaac, who, though a "colonel," was altogether inclined to take more care for his patrimony than for his king. When the Revolution began, Colonel Royall fell upon evil times. Appointed a councillor by mandamus, he declined serving "from timidity," as Gage says to Lord Dartmouth. Royall's own account of his movements after the beginning of "these troubles," is such as to confirm the governor's opinion.
He had prepared, it seems, to take passage for the west Indies, intending to embark from Salem for Antigua, but having gone into Boston the Sunday previous to the battle of Lexington, and remained there until that affair occurred, be was by the course of events shut up in the town. He sailed for Halifax very soon, still intending, as he says, to go to Antigua, but on the arrival of his son-in-law, George Erving, and his daughter, with the troops from Boston, he was by them persuaded to sail for England, whither his other son-in-law, Sir William Pepperell (grandson of the hero of Louisburg), had preceded him. It is with this young Sir William Pepperell that our story particularly deals.
The first Sir William had been what is called a "self-made man," and had raised himself from the ranks of the soldiery through native genius backed by strength of will. His father is first noticed in the annals of the Isles of Shoals. The mansion now seen in Kittery Point was built, indeed, partly by this oldest Pepperell known to us, and partly by his more eminent son. The building was once much more extensive than it now appears, having been some years ago shortened at either end. Until the death of the elder Pepperell, in 1734, the house was occupied by his own and his son's families. The lawn in front reached to the sea, and an avenue a quarter of a mile in length, bordered by fine old trees, led to the neighbouring house of Colonel Sparhawk, east of the village church. The first Sir William, by his will, made the son of his daughter Elizabeth and of Colonel Sparhawk, his residuary legatee, requiring him at the same time to relinquish the name of Sparhawk for that of Pepperell. Thus it was that the baronetcy, extinct with the death of the hero of Louisburg, was revived by the king, in 1774, for the benefit of this grandson.
ROYALL HOUSE, MEDFORD, MASS.
PEPPERELL HOUSE, KITTERY, MAINE
In the Essex Institute at Salem, is preserved a two-thirds length picture of the first Sir William Pepperell, painted in 1751 by Smibert, when the baronet was in London. Of this picture, Hawthorne once wrote the humorous description which follows: "Sir William Pepperell, in coat, waistcoat and breeches, all of scarlet broadcloth, is in the cabinet of the Society; he holds a general's truncheon in his right hand, and points his left toward the army of New Englanders before the walls of Louisburg. A bomb is represented as falling through the air it has certainly been a long time in its descent."
The young William Pepperell was graduated from Cambridge in 1766, and the next year married the beautiful Elizabeth Royall. In 1774 he was chosen a member of the governor's council. But when this council was reorganised under the act of Parliament, he fell into disgrace because of his loyalty to the king. On November 16, 1774, the people of his own county (York), passed at Wells a resolution in which he was declared to have " forfeited the confidence and friendship of all true friends of American liberty, and ought to be detested by all good men."
Thus denounced, the baronet retired to Boston, and sailed, shortly before his father-in-law's departure, for England. His beautiful lady, one is saddened to learn, died of smallpox ere the vessel had been many days out, and was buried at Halifax. In England, Sir William was allowed £500 per annum by the British government, and was treated with much deference. He was the good friend of all refugees from America, and entertained hospitably at his pleasant home. His private life was irreproachable, and he died in Portman Square, London, in December, 1816, at the age of seventy. His vast possessions and landed estate in Maine were confiscated, except for the widow's dower enjoyed by Lady Mary, relict of the hero of Louisburg, and her daughter, Mrs. Sparhawk.
Colonel Royall, though he acted not unlike his son-in-law, Sir William, has, because of his vacillation, far less of our respect than the younger man in the matter of his refusal to cast in his lot with that of the Revolution. In 1778 he was publicly proscribed and formally banished from Massachusetts. He thereupon took up his abode in Kensington, Middlesex, and from this place, in 1189, he begged earnestly to be allowed to return " home " to Medford, declaring he was "ever a good friend of the Province," and expressing the wish to marry again in his own country, "where, having already had one good wife, he was in hopes to get another, and in some degree repair his loss." His prayer was, however, refused, and he died of smallpox in England, October, 1781. By his will, Harvard College was given a tract of land in Worcester County, for the foundation of a professorship, which still bears his name.
It is not, however, to be supposed that in war time so fine a place as the Royall mansion should have been left unoccupied.
When the yeomen began pouring into the environs of Boston, encircling it with a belt of steel, the New Hampshire levies pitched their tents in Medford. They found the Royall mansion in the occupancy of Madam Royall and her accomplished daughters, who willingly received Colonel John Stark into the house as a safeguard against insult, or any invasion of the estate the soldiers might attempt. A few rooms were accordingly set apart for the use of the bluff old ranger, and he, on his part, treated the family of the deserter with considerable respect and courtesy. It is odd to think that while the stately Royalls were living in one part of this house, General Stark and his plucky wife, Molly, occupied quarters under the same roof.
The second American general to be attracted by the luxury of the Royall mansion was that General Lee whose history furnishes material for a separate chapter. General Lee it was to whom the house's echoing corridors suggested the name, Hobgoblin Hall. So far as known, however, no inhabitant of the Royall house has ever been disturbed by strange. visions or frightful dreams. After Lee, by order of Washington, removed to a house situated nearer his command, General Sullivan, attracted, no doubt, by the superior comfort of the old country-seat, laid himself open to similar correction by his chief. In these two cases it will be seen Washington enforced his own maxim that a general should sleep among his troops.
In 1810, the Royall mansion came into the possession of Jacob Tidd, in whose family it remained half a century, until it had almost lost its identity with the timid old colonel and his kin. As "Mrs. Tidd's house" it was long known in Medford. The place was subsequently owned by George L. Barr, and by George C. Nichols, from whose hands it passed to that of Mr. Geer, the present owner. To be sure, it has sadly fallen from its high estate, but it still remains one of the most interesting and romantic houses in all New England, and when, as happens once or twice a year, the charming ladies of the local patriotic society powder their hair, don their great-grandmother's wedding gowns and entertain in the fine old rooms, it requires only a slight gift of fancy to see Sir William Pepperell's lovely bride one among the gay throng of fair women.
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