History of Land Development in Waltham, Mass.
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Joseph Morse married Elizabeth Park in 1720. She was the daughter of John Park and niece of Jonathan Park, who had witnessed the deed of land to Morse. Her great grandfather had been Richard Park, who was a proprietor of Cambridge in 1636, and had purchased a 600-acre farm in what became Newton in 1650. The Park Farm was just to the east and adjacent to the Fuller and Williams farms. In addition, Francis Jackson stated that Morse had been living on the Williams Farm before he married Elizabeth Park, that the Park Farm was divided among Elizabeth's brothers around this time, and that her brothers John and Solomon then conveyed some land to Joseph Morse. There is a deed from 1721 from Joseph and Elizabeth Morse to John and Solomon Park, but its meaning is not clear (MLR 36/532).
Exactly what land Joseph Morse owned is also not completely clear, but there is evidence it stretched from well east of today's Moody/Lexington Street to The Island. In 1757, Joseph Morse sold his 78 acre farm to his son, Nathan Morse (MLR 81/115). The farm was bounded by Josiah Goddard and the heirs of Isaac Fuller on the west; Josiah Goddard and Ensign Josiah Fuller on the north; Josiah Goddard and Samuel Hastings on the east; and Dr. Samuel Wheat, Jonathan Williams, and Isaac Williams on the south. The Samuel Wheat House from c. 1735 still stands at 399 Waltham Street in Newton, about opposite Holden Road. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. According to Thelma Fleishman of the Newton Historical Society in Newton's Tricentennial book, the house may have been built by a grandson of Isaac Williams for Wheat. Joseph Morse died in 1780 at the age of 87, and was one of the first burials in the West Parish Cemetery on the corner of River and Cherry Streets.
In 1785, the executor of Nathan Morse's estate sold at least some of this land to John Gardiner (MLR 113/326). In 1794, Gardiner and Anna Morse, Nathan's daughter, sold about 31 acres of the land to Josiah Fuller, along with her rights to her mother's dower lands (MLR 121/393 & 394). In 1800, Fuller passed on some of this land to Thomas Pratt (MLR 136/98), and in 1803, Pratt passed it along to Josiah Knapp (MLR 153/254). In 1809, Knapp passed it on to Josiah Seaverns (MLR 182/319), who sold at least some of it to John Fitzgerald in 1842 (MLR 409/545). The 1874 Newton Atlas shows the Fitzgerald land lying north of River Street, in Newton, and east of Moody/Lexington Street, but deeds from the time show that it originally stretched west of Moody/Lexington Street (see MLR 586/546 and 665/149). The original John Fitzgerald House from c.1850 still stands at 22 James Street in Newton (listed in MACRIS).
In 1824, Daniel Hastings sold some land in Newton to George Hall (MLR 260/231). In the deed, Hastings said that he had inherited the land from his mother, who was the daughter of Nathan Morse. In 1858, Adelaide Hall deeded a 10-acre woodlot on "Morse Island" to William Hill (MLR 783/177). In this deed, Hall stated she had inherited the land from her late husband, George Hall in 1848. In the following year, 1859, Hill flipped the land to Stephen B. Cram (MLR 814/377). According to MACRIS forms for houses on the Island, Cram used the land mainly for piggeries. Cram lived in the former John E. Tolman house on the southwest corner of Crescent and Moody Streets (see Section 8, below), but did not, apparently, own the land between his house lot and what is called today Cram's Cove.
The name "Cram's Cove" first appeared on the 1900 map, where the cove is labeled "Night Cap or Cram's Cove". On the 1870 boating map of the Charles River, the cove is just called "Nightcap Cove". It is possible the name "Nightcap" came from the cove's shape, which, as shown on old maps, used to be bent over at its end, like an old, floppy night cap. Even though there may have been some bootlegging going on in the early 20th Century in what is today referred to as "Night Cap's Corner", where Lexington and River Streets meet in Newton, it seems unlikely that this would have been a cause to name the cove "nightcap" in 1870.
It appears that the Joseph Morse Farm probably covered from well east of Moody/Lexington Street to what is today referred to as The Island. It included upland in the east, woodland on the Island, and meadow between. Later, when the dam by Moody Street was built, parts of the meadow became "flowed" (i.e. flooded) and Cram's and Purgatory Coves were created. There are numerous deeds from the early to mid-1800s referring to Morse's Island (or "Morse Island") and Morse's Meadow (sometimes as "Moss Meadow" or just "Meadow"), as well as labels on maps from that period (see MLR 209/171, 322/358, 446/378/527/458, 566/500, 814/377, and 951/527; and 1831 and 1848 maps).
Apparently, Stephen B. Cram eventually acquired ownership of all of the Island. In addition to the approximately 17 acres on the Island he obtained from William Hill in 1859 (MLR 814/377), he obtained another large chunk of it from Patrick Sweeney in 1865 (MLR 944/101), which appears to be traceable back to Joel Fuller (MLR 527/458, 529/61, and 706/528). He also acquired the meadowland between Lexington Street and the Island just south of the Waltham line in 1867 from the Fuller family (MLR 1018/310 & 311). There is also a deed to Cram from George Hastings in 1865 for 23 acres of what appears to be mostly meadowland, but it is not clear from the description exactly where it was, except anchored by the ancient causeway, today's Rumford Avenue (MLR 951/527). This land appears to trace back to Harriet and Lucretia Wiswall in 1833 (MLR 322/358) and George Stearns in 1844 (MLR 446/378) – see MLR 339/207; 722/39, 40, and 84; 824/195; 948/227. The Stearns land was said to come from the will of Joseph Knapp in 1818.
In 1890, Cram transferred his land on the Island to the O'Haras (of O'Hara Waltham Dial Company fame), who then transferred it to the Crescent Park Land Association (MLR 1972/41 & 42, 1979/249, 1994/329, and 1999/322). This was the land development company associated with Harvey Bartlett. Also in 1890, the first bridge was built over the inlet to Cram's Cove extending Woerd Avenue onto the Island. Subsequently, during the 1890s the southern part of the Island was developed primarily for industrial sites, while the northern part was developed as residential.
In 1894, Charles H. Metz bought a lot off the southern part of Riverview Avenue (approximately where No. 186 Riverview Avenue is, today), from the Crescent Park Land Association, where he established his bicycle factory, the Waltham Manufacturing Company (MLR 2339/303). Metz had a huge influence on the development of bicycling in America, and went on to invent the motorcycle in his Crescent Park factory. He and his wife, Elizabeth, bought a house lot from the Crescent Park Land Association in 1901 at the north end of the Island, and had the noted local architect and builder Robert E. Glancy build a house for them there, which still stands at 57 Riverview Avenue (MLR 2933/93, and MACRIS form). However, the Metzes only lived there for a couple of years, selling the house in 1904 (MLR 3104/171, city directories and voting lists). He later transitioned into the manufacturing of automobiles, for which he established the Metz Company factories on Seyon and River Streets, south of Gore Place. He bought Gore Place and used it as offices and for his private residence. Before World War I, the Metz Company was the largest manufacturer of automobiles east of Detroit.
Two other major manufacturers subsequently moved onto the southern part of the Island, in 1897. In that year, Charles Vander Woerd, Jr., established the Waltham Screw Company at No. 77 Rumford Avenue. The brick building is still there, today. His father, Charles Vander Woerd, Sr., was a major contributor to the development of the American (Waltham) Watch Company on Crescent Street, having developed an automatic machine lathe for manufacturing the tiny screws used in watches. Woerd Avenue is named after him. The other major industry that moved onto the Island in 1897 was the O'Hara Waltham Dial Company. This company was also associated with the American (Waltham) Watch Company. Founded by Daniel O'Hara, it manufactured the dial faces of watches, clocks, and other types of meters. The factory stood opposite the Waltham Screw Company on Rumford Avenue until recently. Unfortunately, radium was used in the manufacture of some dial faces, and the residual radiation hazard precluded the buildings being rehabilitated for modern use.