By Bob (Monty) Doherty
His name was Samuel Jaques, or “Colonel” Jaques to his friends and neighbors. During the mid 1800’s, he owned the biggest farm in Somerville, the Ten Hills Farm, which encompassed an impressive location with 600 acres overlooking the Mystic River. The Farm had a two hundred year history of notable owners, beginning with the first Governor of Massachusetts, John Winthrop, the first Governor of Connecticut, John Winthrop, Jr., two successful sea captains, and America’s first millionaire, Elias Hasket Derby.
Jaques’ gardens and orchards were always ripe with fruits and vegetables, which he willingly shared with neighbors and friends. He acquired his military rank of Colonel from his many years in the militia and his defense work of Charlestown Bay during the War of 1812. He was held in high regard for protecting the nuns from harm at the hands of a ruthless mob during the 1834 attack on the Ursuline Convent.
Colonel Jaques’ real love was spending time outdoors with his animals, both domestic and hunting breeds. He stocked the farm with the best breed of sheep, cows, goats, and other cattle. He became an expert at animal care, so much so, that he spent a year nursing the first gorilla brought to America back to health. It was a tale not unlike that of King Kong, but with a happier ending. He was a celebrity of his time and attracted other celebrities as visitors, such as Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, and Henry Clay.
The sky wasn’t the limit, because his “poultry” collection, like his horse stables, produced nationally acclaimed winners of speed and breed. He once owned the fastest horse in the country. For sports, his game was the hunt, fox hunting in particular, where his horsemanship and famous kennel of hounds could be put to the test. He loved his game, the sport of kings. His nickname was “Nimrod,” a term that although has a different connotation today, meant “great hunter” or “leader of the pack” at that time. He was considered the Nimrod of Greater Boston’s gentry. It’s hard to believe in today’s City of Somerville that in his time, it wasn’t baseball, basketball, football, or hockey that ruled, but the early morning sound of bugles, horses, and hounds. Tallyho!