Homesteads [1/4]

CHAPTER XXXIV.

———

Homesteads.

———

[The author’s purpose in this section is to locate the founders of the town in their respective homes, and show the subdivisions of farms. The estates are designated by the present or recent ownership, in order to accommodate the student.]

Each of these landlords walked amidst his farm,
Saying, “‘Tis mine, my children’s, and my name’s;
How sweet the west wind sounds in my own trees!
How graceful climb those shadows on my hill!
I fancy these pure waters and the flags
Know me, as does my dog; we sympathize;
And, I affirm, my actions smack of the soil.”

Where are these men? Asleep beneath their grounds;
And strangers, fond as they, their furrows plough. [*1][*2]

Emerson.

———

[ object sketch ]
[[ Old Oaken Bucket. ]]

How dear to this heart are the scenes of my childhood,
When fond recollection presents them to view!

Woodworth.

———

Mrs. Lawrence’s Estate, or Domine Manse. [*3] When the scattered settlers had secured the incorporation of the town of Bedford, in the autumn of 1729, they set about building a meeting-house, and called a preacher. The act of incorporation required them, within three years,

“to settle an Orthodox minister of good conversation, and provide for his support.”

Rev. Nicholas Bowes was ordained as the first minister in June, 1730. The town gave him a


settlement fee of £200, agreeable to custom, besides his annual salary. He took sixteen acres of land, at £8 per acre, in part for his “settlement.” On this land he built his mansion, and with his young bride, the beautiful and accomplished daughter of Rev. John Hancock, of Lexington, began the work of a New England clergyman of one hundred and sixty years ago.

Dressed in powdered wig and short clothes, with silver knee and shoe buckles glistening in the sun, he moved among his people as the man of all, to be respected. Injudicious parochial work, however, brought an end to his usefulness, in 1754, and he entered the service of the colony as chaplain in the army during the French and Indian wars, and died at Brookfield on his way home.

His oldest daughter became the wife of Rev. Jonas Clark, of Lexington, and as such was the entertainer of John Hancock and Samuel Adams at the Lexington parsonage, when they were warned of their danger by the midnight call of Paul Revere.

The old manse was sold by the heirs of the deceased minister to John Reed, Esq., in 1767. Here he and his young wife, Ruhamah Brown, instituted the Reed family of Bedford. Seven children were born to them in this mansion, and reared after the true New England style. The principles of patriotism were faithfully inculcated by parents who looked at the vital questions of their day from the standpoint of superior intellect and deep-seated principle.

The leading townsmen congregated here, and debated the great questions during the years preceding the Revolution. The owner of the place was made one of the committee of inspection, and was the town’s mouth-piece in the conventions and congresses that were often held by the dissenting colony. He represented the town in the convention to form the constitution of the state, and until his death, in 1805, was a prominent citizen, and his dwelling and farm formed the leading estate of the town.

The manse then became the property of his son, John, whose widow, Hannah Reed, was in full possession of the estate for several years. At her decease it went to the daughter of her son, Otis, he having died before his mother. Annie Reed, wife of Thomas Stiles, Esq., was of the fourth generation in possession. At her death it became the property of her sister, Mrs. Melvina Reed Lawrence.

The spreading elms that shelter the croquet ground of the sixth generation shaded the mother of the first generation when giving her daugh-

[ p 94 ]

ter lessons at the spinning-wheel one hundred and twenty-three years earlier, and the old wheel stands dumb in the spacious drawing-room where the notes of the piano are substituted for its once busy hum. [*4]

The well-kept wainscoting makes an excellent background for the faces in oil that have kept their silent vigil there for more than a century, while in every nook may be seen precious heirlooms of the family.

The old Bible is open at the favorite morning lesson of the hero of the Revolution,—

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.” [*5]

The foot-stove, carried by the young hands of the present owner for her venerable grandmother to the cold meeting-house, is a well-kept relic, decked in ribbons; and the warming-pan stands on the broad staircase as of yore, when it was used to remove the chill from the homespun sheets of a hundred years ago. The traveller of to-day drinks at the “dominie well,” and receives a cordial welcome at this house, as have the hundreds who have gone before him across the same threshold.

Cyrus Page. — The Page farm in Bedford has been in the family and name two hundred and four years, and been owned by eight successive generations. It was part of a grant from the Colonial Court to Edward Oakes, and sold by him in 1661 to George Farley and others. Farley sold to Timothy Brooks, who at the opening of King Philip’s War was directed by the town to secure his family in garrison No. 10, that was near by. Brooks sold to George Grimes, of whom the estate was bought in 1687 by Nathaniel Page, 1st. He had come from England three years before, and early received an appointment from Gov. Joseph Dudley as sheriff or marshal of Suffolk County. Nathaniel Page, 1st, died April 12, 1692, and was succeeded on his farm by his son, Nathaniel, 2d, who was followed by Christopher, John, Nathaniel, 3d, Nathaniel, 4th, and Cyrus, each in his generation. [^1] They have all been known in the community as “well-to-do farmers.”

Cyrus, of the seventh generation, and last farmer in possession, died in 1887, and the homestead is now in possession of his heirs. [*6] Cyrus Andrew Page, of the Beacon Publishing Company, Boston, is the only living son and male representative of the eighth generation, in present possession. Yet there are members of the ninth generation who have great reverence for their ancestral estate.

The dwelling that has stood fully two centuries has been recently removed to another loca-


tion, and a modern dwelling marks the identical spot where more than fifty of the name of Page have begun life. An elm tree that has sheltered eight generations seems ready to serve several more.

The original farm has been shorn of its acres from time to time. Several farms have been taken from it, and yet there are more than one hundred acres left.

The name of Page was prominent in the history of Billerica, and foremost in the business of incorporating the town of Bedford in 1729. The occupants of this farm have always held important offices in town, and been noted for their candor, stability, and straightforward dealing. The spirit of patriotism was cradled in that dwelling as in but few others. The love of country, town, and home has led the Pages to sacrifice much for public interest. One of the family was a colonel in the French and Indian War, and several were in the ranks. A messenger sent out by Paul Revere alarmed the inmates of that house on the night of April 18, 1775, and aroused Nathaniel, 3d, who left his young wife and babe of a few hours, to serve the colony. Four of the name were in the battle of Concord. Christopher was sergeant of the Minute Men, and the name is seen in various campaigns until the close of the struggle for independence. Timothy was killed at White Plains, N.Y., Oct. 28, 1776.

Seven of the family were in the company of militia when they marched to the defence of Boston in 1812. When Sumter was fired upon in 1861, Cyrus, who had served as captain of the militia, then past sixty years of age, followed in the footsteps of his ancestors from that dwelling, and enlisted for three years or the war. Cyrus Page was the town’s oracle in local history for more than a half century; he had a wonderful memory, and the towns-people turned to this old mansion for the one who seemed to embody the wisdom of seven generations of Pages.

The old house had sheltered for more than two centuries the colonial banner. In Nathaniel’s haste at early dawn of April 19, 1775, he did not fail to carry the standard, which he bore from his home at the head of the Minute Men and in the heat of the struggle of that memorable day. (See military chapter.) [*7]

Benjamin Josiah Davis. — This estate has been in the family and name almost two centuries.

Dolor Davis came from England about 1634, and was soon followed by his wife and several young children. After living at the new town,

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[ house photo ]
Page Homestead.

[ p 95 ]

Cambridge, and later in the Plymouth Colony, the family settled in Concord, Mass., in 1655. Here his three younger children, born in America, married and settled.

Samuel purchased, in 1696, the homestead in the west part of Bedford, then Concord. [*8] It was conveyed to Samuel, Sr., by John Jones, Jr., Samuel Hartwell, Sr., Joseph Dean, and Nathaniel Harwood, of Concord.

“In the eighth year of the Raine of our Souvereign Lord William the third, by the Grace of God, over England, Scotland, France and Ireland, King and defender of the faith.”

The original deed is in the present owner’s possession.

The dwelling marks the site of the original house. It is on a height of land overlooking the Concord River. It faces the south, after the plan of the pioneers. It has stood for a century and a half, was first painted red, but in recent repairs was given a coat of white.

The homestead has passed through six generations from Samuel, in each of which there has been an Eleazer. The first was born in 1680, the second in 1705–6, the third in 1734, the fourth in 1768, and the fifth in 1805.

The possession has always been in the male line, and until the present, the owner has been Eleazer. The last of the name settled on an adjoining farm, and a brother, Benjamin Josiah who was born in 1810, is the owner.

There is living with Josiah a brother, Samuel, born in 1815. The eighth generation lives on an adjoining farm, and is often seen in the family group. Thirty-eight children, in five generations of the name of Davis, have been born on this estate.

The Davises have been noted in military affairs. Three of the family went from this place with Lovewell in his famous expedition of 1724–5 in pursuit of the Indians to the wilderness of Maine; one, Josiah, lost his life, and Eleazer was maimed for life.

Two of the family were in the French and Indian wars, where Paul lost his life in 1763. Eleazer, 3d, was lieutenant of the company of militia at the opening of the Revolution, and foremost of the Bedford men at the battle of Concord, April 19, 1775.

His commission as lieutenant bears date of April, 1775, and is treasured among the relics of the family, of which there are many in the ancient dwelling. [*9]

The sword used by Eleazer at the battle of Concord, and in later campaigns of the war, together with the old flint-lock musket, are kept near the bed of the venerable owner. [*10][*11] The musket was used by the family in the Revolution,


and bought by Eleazer, 3d. for eleven pounds two shillings, at a “vendue,” in 1778, held by the town to sell its firearms, etc., for the purpose of raising money to pay public demands. [*12]

The old “timepiece,” fully six feet tall, stands in the same corner where it has stood for more than a century and done faithful service for four generations.

This estate is regarded as remarkably well located for healthfulness. Longevity is noticeable in the family. The present owner now (1890) is fourscore years old, and conducts the business of his large farm in person. [*13]

The family has been prominent in the history of the town and church ever since the incorporation, in 1729.

Hosmer and Muzzy. — This was the Hartwell homestead, and is on the Concord side of the town. It originally included about two hundred and forty-seven acres, and fell to William Hartwell in the allotment of common ground about 1666. The present dwelling was erected in 1758, and sold, with a portion of the land, by Joseph Hartwell, of the sixth generation, to the parents of the present owners. [*14] Other farms have been taken from the Hartwell allotment, and a good portion of the forest land is still retained in the family.

William Parker. — This estate, and those between it and Concord line, were in the Wheeler name about a century. It is probable that the whole land was included in the twenty-nine lots of three hundred and fifty-seven acres taxed to Joseph Wheeler in 1666. Richard Wheeler is mentioned in the petition for a new town in 1728. Richard, Joseph, and Jonathan Wheeler are all mentioned as land owners in this vicinity in the description of the boundaries of the new town, in 1729. The last house on the Bedford side of the line was an early “block house,” and probably erected by a Wheeler before the year 1700. William Page, born in 1737, married Patte Hill in 1763, settled on this farm, occupying the Wheeler house. [*15] He died in 1812, and the estate went to his nephew, Mather Hayward, who came from Boxboro, married Lucy Page in May, 1800, and settled here. The dwelling opposite the Wheeler house was originally Page’s cider-mill, and turned into a dwelling by Ebenezer, son of Mather Hayward. [*16] William, son of Mather Hayward, built the William Parker house, and carried on farming there for a series of years. [*17] George M. Parker built the modern house standing on the farm.

Eleazer P. Davis. — Patrick Murry, Stephen Haynes, and the other small estates on this road, were included in the shares of the common lands

[ p 96 ]

of Concord that fell to Dean. Thomas Dean was in Concord in 1645, and died in 1676. His son, Joseph, married Elizabeth Fuller, in 1662, and died in 1718. He, with his sons, Joseph and Thomas, have been located here; for their estates are each mentioned as bounding on land sold by Joseph Bulkley to William Hartwell 1696. The northern boundary of the Dean lands was the Winthrop farm, the southern was Hartwell’s, and that of Joseph French was west of it. Winship, Eliab Lee, and Nathan Reed were each owners of the Davis estate before it came to that family, and the latter sold to Eleazer P. Davis, whose son, George P., is the present owner.

We find Col. Timothy Jones at the Murry place very early. The present dwelling was built by him very soon after the Revolutionary War. [*18] It was a superior house of that day. Reuben Duren of the town was the architect. At the “raising,” Rev. Mr. Penniman offered a most eccentric prayer, after having indulged too freely in the “mixed drink” of the occasion. The council at the ordination of Rev. Samuel Stearns was entertained here in a manner befitting the occasion. The farm is now owned by Temple and Beard, and occupied for a nursery.

It is evident that the Haynes estate is covered by the Pellet and Dean shares of the common grounds of Concord. In Walcott’s “Concord,” p. 133, is the following:

“Thomas Pellet, being in great present want, the selectmen gave him a cow, July 13, 1693.” [*19]

The Pellet and Dean families were united by marriage. Dean sold to Moore. Capt. John Moore was living here at the opening of the Revolution, and probably inherited the estate from his father, John, who was established before the incorporation. His wife, Elizabeth, died March 28, 1732, and John, Sr., died Aug. 21, 1765. He was killed by falling from a load of hay when entering the barn. Bradley Bowers married Lydia Moore Feb. 19, 1793, hence the Bowers’ possession, which was followed by Stephen Haynes and others to the present John McGovern.

James Kavanaugh. — The Moore farm included this, with the other small homesteads in the vicinity. Leander Hosmer started the Kavanaugh home. [*20]

McGovern. — These farms were included in the Hartwell estate. Stephen, son of William, born 1716, is thought to have established the home. [*21] He was followed by his son, Samuel, who married, Oct. 26, 1779, Mrs. Desire (Batchelder) Brown. They adopted Hannah Evans, a granddaughter of Mrs. Desire Hartwell, who married, first, Jonas Putnam and, second, Moses


Page. Through inheritance the farm was divided, and has since been held in separate shares. The discontinued road by this house was originally a part of a highway from Billerica to Concord.

Nathan B. Smith and Henry Bacon. — These farms were included in one for many years. The location is that of the farm of Thomas Woolley, son of Christopher, who was in Concord in 1646, according to Shattuck. [*22] Thomas Woolley bought of Nathan Stow, in October, 1689, one hundred acres of land for forty-five pounds. It is described as being near a place called “Shawshine” (Billerica), bounded on the north by land of Joseph French, on the west by land of Moses Wheat and Timothy Wheeler, on the south by land of John Hartwell, and on the east and southeast by land of Joseph Taylor and John Merriam. There were three generations of Woolleys in possession successively, each of them being Thomas. The first died in 1721. The second, with his wife, Mary Chandler, deeded, April 4, 1761, one-half of ninety-six acres of land, in the southerly part of Bedford, to Zachariah Fitch, for one hundred and seventy pounds. This was the easterly part of the farm. Capt. Joseph Fitch married, second, about 1750, Mrs. Rachel Converse, and settled here. He died February, 1769, and left the estate to his sons, Joseph and Thaddeus. Joseph Fitch, then living in New Hampshire, sold, in September, 1769, to Joseph Converse, who, with Thaddeus Fitch, his half brother, became the owners. Converse carried on the business of a tanner and currier here. In 1804 Ebenezer Clark bought an estate of two hundred and seventeen and one-half acres, for six thousand six hundred and sixty-six dollars, which included the Converse property. In the following year fifty acres were sold to Benjamin Simonds, Sr., and later, in 1812, the homestead was purchased by William Hartwell, who sold his half of the Hartwell homestead to his brother, Joseph, and relocated at the Converse place. William Hartwell died here in 1819. He was followed by his son, Amos, and later by Benjamin F., who sold to his son-in-law, Hannibal S. Pond, who was followed by others to the present. Zebedee Simonds, with his brother, Benjamin, came, with their parents, to Bedford, and located in the south part of the town, about 1805, and started shoe manufacturing. They bought real estate of different parties. Thaddeus Fitch sold his farm to them in 1813, and there Zebedee Simonds built his residence, which was sold after his decease, in 1826, to Obed Stearns, and passed from that family, through temporary possession to the present. [*23]

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[ house photo ]
[[ David Fitch Home. ]]
John Lane.     David Fitch.     Mary (Fitch) Hartwell.

[ p 97 ]

[ house sketch ]
[[ Benjamin F. Hartwell Home (South Bedford). ]]

Between broad fields of wheat and corn
Is the lowly home where I was born;
The peach tree leans against the wall,
And the woodbine wanders over all.

[ house sketch ]
[[ Benjamin F. Hartwell Home (South Bedford). ]]

There is the barn,— and, as of yore,
I can smell the hay from the open door,
And see the busy swallows throng,
And hear the peewee‘s mournful song.
Oh, ye who daily cross the sill,
Step lightly, for I love it still!

And when you crowd the old barn eaves,
Then think what countless harvest sheaves
Have passed within that scented door,
To gladden eyes that are no more. [*24]

Thomas Buchanan Read.

Benjamin F. Hartwell. — This estate was included in the Patrick Fassett share of the squadron division made in 1708. [*25] It passed from Fassett to John Lemon, and in 1721 to Israel Putnam, whose dwelling, one of the earliest in this part of the town, was on this estate in 1729. He gave the land for the burial ground “as it was first laid out,” and was a prominent citizen, being chosen the first deacon of the church, in 1730. He was also one of the first constables, and a collector of the “rates” at the the beginning of the town’s municipal history. John Lane was a subsequent


owner of the estate, and was succeeded by David Fitch, who occupied it after leaving the mill farm. He was succeeded by his daughter, Mary Fitch, wife of Benjamin F. Hartwell; and her daughter, Mary Alzina, wife of Matthew R. Fletcher, followed in the possession. “Fletcher Avenue” runs through this farm, and the land is offered for building purposes. Five handsome dwellings are already seen there, in addition to the Fitch house, which was removed and relocated on the avenue. [*26] Mrs. Fletcher has given a lot to the town for a public library, as a memorial of her mother. [*27]


SOURCE TEXT


EMENDATIONS

  1. followed ∨ folowed

WORKS CITED


ANNOTATIONS

  1. “fond”: foolish
  2. cf. Emerson’s “Hamatreya”
    in his Poems (1847) pp 53-56
  3. “Domine Manse”: 110 Great Road
  4. “dumb”: silent
  5. cf. KJV’s Psalm 23:4
  6. “the homestead”: the Nathaniel Page homestead
    Formerly stood at 85 Page Road. (BS1) p 14
    Moved. Now at 89 Page Road. (HPN) p 282
  7. cf. (in this volume) pp 23-25
  8. “the homestead”: the Eleazer Davis homestead: 245 Davis Road (HPN) p 372
  9. Davis’s commission is kept by the Bedford Historical Society. (BS1) p 128
  10. Davis’s sword is now kept by the Bedford Historical Society. (BS1) p 128
  11. Davis’s musket was formally given to the Town of Bedford in 1892.
    Stolen from the Bedford Historical Society in 1965! (BS1) p 128
  12. “vendue”: public auction
  13. “fourscore”: eighty
  14. “the present dwelling”: [ research ]
  15. “the Wheeler house”: the Richard Wheeler house: 445 Concord Road (HPN) pp 199-200
  16. “the dwelling”: since demolished (HPN) p 200
  17. “the William Parker house”: 426 Concord Road (HPN) pp 202-203
  18. “the present dwelling”: the Colonel Timothy Jones house: 231 Concord Road (HPN) pp 200-201
  19. cf. Walcott’s Concord in the colonial period (1884) pp 133-134
  20. “the Kavanaugh home”: 165 Concord Road (HPN) p 203
  21. “the home”: [ evidently ] no longer extant (HPN) p 387
  22. cf. Shattuck’s History of the town of Concord (1835) p 389
  23. “his residence”: [ research ]
  24. cf. Read’s “The stranger on the sill”
    in his Lays and ballads (1849) pp 9-11
  25. “squadron”: district
  26. “the Fitch house”: the Lane–Fitch house: 78-80 Fletcher Road (HPN) pp 227-228
  27. “a lot”: now the site of 53 Fletcher Road (HPN) p 228
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