This week marks four years since my wife and I bought our house in the Boston suburb of Woburn, so I wanted to highlight one of my adopted city’s most noted citizens with this Grave of the Week.
Loammi Baldwin was born in Woburn in 1744. His first brush with history came in April of 1775 when he commanded the small Woburn militia at the Battle of Concord, the first real battle of the Revolution. He served with distinction in the Continental Army until late 1777. Upon his return to his hometown, he went into politics and held a few elected positions in Woburn and in Middlesex County. His most notable contribution to his hometown, his state and his country, however, was in the area of engineering.
Boston was not the only active port on the Massachusetts coast in the early days of the republic, and as the country grew its need for lumber grew as well. Newburyport, which sat at the end of the Merrimack River and therefore on the receiving end of Maine and New Hampshire lumber, was a rival to Boston trade. Baldwin, making use of canal building technology and knowhow from Europe, proposed, surveyed and helped build the United States’ first long travel canal, the Middlesex Canal, between Boston and what is today Lowell, on the Merrimack. The path of the canal cut straight through Woburn, and indeed directly past Baldwin’s own house, which still stands and holds within it an excellent Chinese restaurant (seriously). Its path also happens to cut right past my own house on Arlington Road, right next to what was at one point one of the locks on the canals course. The Middlesex Canal served its purpose, reasserting Boston as the hub of New England trade, and it established Woburn’s Horn Pond as a tourist destination now reachable via canal packboat. Several sections of the canal still remain visible today, and Baldwin’s grave is the only monumental one in Woburn’s small First Burial Ground, just off Woburn Center.