Friday, November 9, 2007

Jamaica Plain Becomes Boston

In October of 1873, the residents of the City of Boston, along with the residents of West Roxbury, Charlestown, Brighton and Brookline voted on the issue of annexation of each of the four latter towns to the city proper. The Boston Globe, in true booster spirit, editorialized strongly in favor of the expansion of the city. Bigger was better, and cities to the west were surpassing Boston in population. The following article, published the day before the referendum, gives a taste of the boosterism in its reporting of the two sides of the issue. Below the article is result of the vote the next day.

Boston Daily Globe October 7, 1873

West Roxbury

Enthusiastic Meetings in Favor of Union with Boston.

A large audience, composed in great part of the working classes of the town, assembled in the Town Hall of West Roxbury, last evening, to ratify the annexation project. Upon the platform were seated about twenty-five of the best known citizens, and the Eliot Brass Band was in attendance to furnish music for the occasion. The meeting was called to order by A.S. Brown, Esq., and Mr. John C. Pratt was chosen for permanent Chairman with a large number of Vice-presidents. John M. Galvin acted as Secretary. On taking the chair, Mr. Pratt made a brief speech in favor of the object for which the meeting was called, and introduced , as the first speaker, Mr. John M. Galvin of West Roxbury, who was received with hearty applause. Mr. Galvin, in a few eloquent words, spoke of annexation as sure to benefit the working class, in spite of all reports to the contrary. He hoped that not only would the estates of the rich be benefited, but that the humbler homes of the poor would be made more valuable, as well as more comfortable, and within reach of all the conveniences which appertain to a city.

The Hon. Patrick A. Collins of Boston was introduced amid great applause, and music by the band. He proceeded to deliver an earnest address in favor of annexation, and said that this was the era of great cities, when men were learning to consolidate interests; yet here was Boston, the second city of importance in the land, and at the head of art and literature, reckoned as below Chicago and St Louis by people in foreign lands, because its area is so circumscribed. St Louis could number 460,000 by taking in a circuit of fifteen miles; but Boston, by taking in the few towns within a circle of ten miles, as she should do, would increase her population to 500,000, and give her a rightful place among the cities of the world. Population, said Mr. Colling, has a great deal to do with inducing people to settle; but besides that, a great city can always incur expenses at less cost to its citizens, in proportion, than any small town. Having answered the general arguments against annexation, Mr. Collins proceeded to refute certain statements made in a circular issued by West Roxbury anti-annexationists, entitled "Independence better than Annexation." Boston proposed, said the speaker, to give West Roxbury pure water, more street lamps and better light, public music and the advantages of the renowned public library; and only those who are never in favor of improvement are opposed to annexation. The Bussey farm, that great extent of land paying nothing into the town treasury, would probably be taken by the City of Boston for a public park,instead of going to that land-grabbing educational institution, Harvard College. And if the town was annexed, not only would the public health be secured by a suitable and complete system of draining and sewerage, but steady and permenent work be found to a much greater extent then under the picayune Town Government which now prevails.

After some more music, Mr. L. Foster Morse of the Highlands was introduced as one of the Commissioners, appointed by the city to investigate the subject of annexing the towns adjacent. He read from statistics to show that Roxbury and Dorchester had been greatly benefited by united with Boston. The number of street lamps had been increased, and more policemen furnished, all from among the residents of the district. West Roxbury, with her seventy miles of streets, has 325 street lamps, mostly kerosene, and only ten policemen to guard that vast district. The Fire Department in Roxbury and Dorchester, so inefficient before annexation, has been excellently managed within the last few years. Why does Boston spend so much money on these newly annexed districts? Because the valuation of the land is greatly increased thereby; and the election of Gaston and Pierce to the Mayoralty is sufficient to show that Boston does not neglect its suburbs. The question of draining Stony Brook would be taken care of by Boston, if West Roxbury shall be a part of her, but cannot be properly cared for by the town as it is.

The Chairman, in referring to the statements in the anti-annexation circular that five-sixths of the land-holders in town were opposed to annexation, said that it was because they did not pay their proper share of taxation. Poor people are paying the taxes of the rich; land, however, does not vote in this country, but men, and these who are asking you to continue to pay their taxes will find out this fact tomorrow.

Mr. Albert Palmer, Representative from West Roxbury in the last Legislature, denounced the spirit of landed aristocracy, which calls the proposition of allowing the people to vote on annexation a "fraud," and would have only landlords vote on the question, as shown in the last opposition circular. After some further remarks by the Chairman and others, and some good music by the band, the meeting adjourned with cheers for annexation.

The friends of Town Government held no rally, but continued their efforts to the distribution of circulars setting forth the annexation project as having been "conceived in iniquity," and from which no good had or could come. The working men were warned that there would be a dearth of work for them in case of annexation, but, judging from the number of "hard-handed artisans" in attendence at the annexation meetin, and the enthusiasm which prevailed amongst them, the arguments of the "antis" produced very little effect. A crowd of unnaturalized persons beseiged the Selectmen's room, last evening, and were made voters in season to participate in the important contest which is to be decided today.

October 8, 1873

West Roxbury Annexation Vote

Yes: 720

No: 613

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