The name Medford is thought to have come from "the ford by the meadow" or "Meadford" thus commemorating the importance of the fordable part of the Mystic River located just west of present-day Medford Square.
The original area of Medford was owned by Mathew Cradock, the first Governor of the Massachusetts colonies. Although Cradock never saw it, he employed men to develop his land into a plantation. After his death, the plantation passed to his heirs and then was sold en masse in 1652 to Edward Collins. The area was designated a "peculiar" which signified that it was private property and not a properly incorporated town. Collins began selling pieces of land to others after 1656. In 1684, Medford was granted the right to raise its own money by the General Court. In 1892, Medford became incorporated as a city.