The Somerville Times Historical Fact of the Week – July 12

On July 12, 2017, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

Eagle Feathers #133 –A Walk Up Winter Hill

By Bob (Monty) Doherty

It roughly encompasses the area between Magoun Square to McGrath Highway and Medford Street to the Mystic River. Rising 135 feet, it has been called Winter Hill since the Puritan fathers settled there in the early sixteen hundreds. In 1621, Captain Myles Standish, military protector of the Plymouth Pilgrims, was the first European to explore the area. Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop was the first to become a Winter Hill resident.

History runs deep on this historic ground. On September 1, 1774, after disembarking from the Mystic River, 260 British troops marched over Winter Hill and one mile beyond to the Powder House. This secret raid proved to be the dress rehearsal for the attack on Concord eight months later.

On April 18, 1775, Colonel Paul Revere crossed over its crown on his midnight ride to Lexington. Two months later, organized by Anne Adams Tufts, a field hospital for Bunker Hill’s wounded soldiers was first formed at the summit of Winter Hill. At this same time, the patriots fortified the hill. This kept the British at bay during the siege of Boston for the following year.

From November, 1777, until November, 1778, two thousand Hessian/German prisoners of war were held at this site. They brought with them the practice of Christmas trees and the sport of keg legging, now known as bowling. For over half of the eight-year Revolutionary War, Winter Hill residents suffered greatly.

From the 1800’s to the 1900’s, it was different. Peaceful strollers over the Hill would witness much development and change. As years went by, the residences grew more impressive, as did the notables who settled there. Let’s take a walk up the Hill and meet some of them.


  • Captain Nathan Hale – The last year of his life was at Winter Hill. “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
  • Saxton Foss – The park’s namesake, lost his life in France during World War I. 
  • The Fisher brothers – Myron and Edmund, founded Winter Hill Business College in 1903, now Fisher College.
  • Rufus Stickney – Creator of the oldest spice company in America, Stickney & Poors. It is 202 years old and counting.
  • Daniel Stillson – Inventor of one of the country’s most common wrenches, the Genuine Stillson.
  • William “Willie” Nickerson – Co-inventor of the Gillette razor.
  • Thatcher Magoun – From the view on Winter Hill, he was inspired to build the first of his 84 sailing ships.
  • Frederick Hastings Rindge – Philanthropist who donated Paul Revere Park to the city.
  • Jacob Hittinger – Ice business pioneer before the invention of electricity.
  • James Sanborn – Coffee baron who co-founded the Chase and Sanborn Coffee Company.
  • Dr. George Parkman – Donated land for the Harvard Medical School and was the brother-in-law of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw of the famous Massachusetts 54th Infantry noted in the movie, Glory.
  • Elias Haskett Derby – America’s first millionaire. Derby Street was named after him.
  • Edward Everett – Massachusetts Congressman, Senator and Governor. He was President of Harvard College, Ambassador to England, and the keynote speaker at Gettysburg. The City of Everett was named after him.
  • Florentine Ariosto Jones – Founder of the International Watch Company.
  • United States Marine Sgt. Henry O. Hansen – Iwo Jima flag raiser.
  • Leonard Nimoy – Student and later fundraiser for the Elizabeth Peabody House. He was “Spock” in the Star Trek series.
  • President Barack Obama – Forty-fourth President of the United States who lived at Langmaid Terrace, 365 Broadway from 1988 to 1991 while attending Harvard Law School.
  • Amelia Earhart – First female to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. She departed on June 17, 1928, Bunker Hill Day. In her honor, a parade began in Winter Hill’s Magoun Square and ended in Medford Square. She disappeared over the Pacific Ocean 80 years ago this month on July 2, 1937, attempting to circle the earth. Somerville’s largest memorial, the Amelia Earhart Dam at Assembly Row, celebrates her life.

This is Winter Hill … the heart of Somerville!


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