Over the River

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The Mystic River is only seven miles long and it’s not very wide. But, it played a large role in American history. The name itself may sound familiar, as it was the title of a popular movie directed by Clint Eastwood and Sean Penn. The movie was an adaptation of the novel by Dennis Lehane, the bestselling Boston author.

On his way to Lexington, Paul Revere crossed the Mystic River by way of what is now the Cradock Bridge in Medford. The first bridge built here, in 1637, was a wooden drawbridge: the first toll bridge in New England. It was rebuilt in 1880 and 1909 according to a nearby sign. Plans are currently underway for another upgrade, at an estimated cost of 8.5 million dollars.

It was along the Mystic’s banks that Massachusetts’s first ship was built in 1631. It was the first of many. Over 500 clipper ships were built here through the 1800’s, many designed for the China trade.

This area was also known for its rum. Old Medford Rum was popular and advertised as “the best rum in the states”.

But most interesting to me, is the connection between this bridge and a song from my childhood: “Over the River and Through the Wood.” The song, which we sang in grade school, was originally written as a poem by Lydia Maria Child, the 1800’s women’s rights activist and abolitionist who grew up in Medford. In the rolling song, Child describes her Thanksgiving trip to her grandparent’s house, over an earlier bridge at this same spot.

Over the river and thru the wood, 
To grandfather’s house we go;
The horse knows the way
To carry the sleigh,
Thru the white and drifted snow, oh!

Over the river and thru the wood, 
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes,
 And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river and thru the wood,
To have a first-rate play;
Oh, hear the bell ring,
”Ting-a-ling-ling!”
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day-ay!

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