Beginning in 1798, sea captain John Bickford (1765-1813), purchased a 127-acre farm which extended from the newly laid turnpike to the Oyster River. Bickford was a resident of Salem, Massachusetts, but owned his family’s homestead across the river on Durham Point and also purchased five other farms in the area but did not live on any of them. The Wagon Hill farmhouse was built in 1804 and is a great example of a vernacular Federal style house. In 1814 while on a voyage to the southern tip of Africa, Captain Bickford died. All of his New Hampshire property was sold except for this Durham farm which remained under the management of his widow, Mary Bickford. She worked as a housekeeper for Captain Joseph White in Salem, and rented out the Durham farm. In 1830, the farm was sold to Samuel Chesley, and it remained in the ownership of four generations of the Chesley family. Here, the family ran a diversified farm, from sheep, to ducks, to apple orchards. In 1960, the farm was sold to Loring and Mary Tirrell. Farming had ceased entirely by the time the Tirrells moved into the house but the fields were kept open and it’s agricultural past was honored by the placement of an old wagon on the crest of the hill. Over the years, the farm has become known to local residents as Wagon Hill Farm. It was purchased by the town in 1989, and serves as a lasting remnant of agricultural history and an amazing preserved open space in the town.
One thing I really love about small towns in New England is the prevalence of amazing old homes on the winding back roads. Located in Boxborough, MA, the Jacob Littlefield Farmhouse showcases the agricultural character and charm seen in the town. The farmhouse and outbuildings were built by Jacob Littlefield, who likely hired a housewright from town as the home is a near match to a home built on a nearby street. Mr. Littlefield was a farmer from Wells, Maine with seven children and a wife named Anna. After his death, his wife Anna owned the farm, until her death in 1896. Their son Albert ran the farm from about 1896-1922, after which time Jacob’s grandson Earl was the owner. Earl was taxed in 1928 for ownership of two horses, 17 cows, a bull, the house, barn and shed, tool house, ice house, root house, hen house, garage, and a second house on 101 acres. He resided here until 1929 when it was sold out of the family. Since then, subsequent owners have restored the home and the various outbuildings to maintain the architectural and historic integrity of the property. We need more stewards of old homes like this!
On the backroads of the rural town of Wilmot, NH, I stumbled upon this perfect Greek Revival cottage tucked away on a dirt road. The home was built in 1840 by Col. Samuel Thompson, likely operated as a farm. The property was purchased by the Tewksbury Family decades later, who likely gave the home its name “Breezy Cottage”, after an older colonial home nearby, and subsequently the name of the street in which it is sited. The Greek Revival home is symmetrical with a wide, gabled roof and upper floors overhanging the recessed front porch. The home features bold corner and entry pilasters.
Land that Mount Hope Farm sits upon in Bristol, Rhode Island was formerly council lands of the Wampanoag Indians, where King Philip’s War of 1675 may be said to have begun and ended. For those of you who do not know about the war, it was an armed conflict running 1675–1678 between indigenous peoples of New England and New England colonists and their indigenous allies. Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag, had maintained a long-standing alliance with the colonists. Metacom (c. 1638–1676) was his younger son, and he became “sachem” (elected chief) in 1662 after Massasoit’s death. Metacom, however, forwent his father’s alliance between the Wampanoags and the colonists and they fought back. Metacom’s forces could not beat the growing numbers of the colonists, and he was eventually killed near Mount Hope, in Bristol. After his death, his wife and nine-year-old son were captured and sold as slaves in Bermuda. Philip’s head was mounted on a pike at the entrance to Plymouth, Massachusetts, where it remained for more than two decades. His body was cut into quarters and hung in trees. This story, shows how American history is built upon death and suffering and has often been whitewashed to portray early settlers treating native peoples with respect and as equals, which was rarely the case.
Mount Hope Farm as we know in colonial times, was originally 550 acres in size, owned in 1680 by Nathaniel Byfield. In 1744, the estate was acquired by Isaac Royall. Royall began construction of the house soon after. Isaac Royall Jr. was the son of Isaac Royall Sr. (1677–1739) a slave owner, slave trader, and Antiguan plantation owner who had a home and slave quarters (both extant) in Medford, MA. After his father’s death, Royall Jr. inherited his immense wealth, built upon the backs of others, and built this Georgian farmhouse. It is unknown to me if he ever resided there or had slaves maintain the property, but the home was rented for some time. In 1776, Mount Hope Farm was confiscated by the state, after Royall, a loyalist to England, fled to Nova Scotia. The property was added onto in the 19th and 20th centuries and now sits on 127-acres of land, and is run as a park, inn, and event space.
Samuel Pomeroy Colt (1855-1921), a Bristol industrialist, purchased three farms on Poppasquash Neck, in Bristol, Rhode Island in 1905. One of the farms he aquired, Coggeshall Farm, was featured in my last post. On the newly consolidated farmland, just outside the hustle-and-bustle of Bristol’s downtown core, Colt built a large summer dwelling called ‘The Casino’. He lived at his family estate in town a majority of the year, but used ‘The Casino’ as a gentleman’s farm and a space to raise his prize-winning Jersey cattle and Berkshire sows. Colt wished that the citizens of town share his enjoyment of the property and had an open invitation carved onto the marble piers at the estate entrance which reads, “Private Property, Public Welcome”; access was freely allowed at the farm and shoreline. The two marble piers at the entrance to the estate are topped with massive bronze bulls modeled after two of Colt’s bulls, and were cast in Paris by Val d’Onse Company. Colt died in 1921. His will specified that Colt Farm not be sold and that it remain accessible to the public. Though he left a sum to operate the farm, it ran a deficit. The Casino was demolished in the 1960s as it was consistently destroyed by vandals, and became a public safety concern. The lasting cow barn was built in 1917, from designs by architect Wallis E. Howe. The barn utilized field stone from existing stone walls on the property and is capped with a red tile roof. The barn is unlike anything I have ever seen, and now is park offices. In 1965, after approval by Bristol voters, the State of Rhode Island purchased 466 acres of the Colt estate and created the largest public park in the Bristol County, known as Colt State Park.
Located on the Poppasquash Peninsula, in my favorite Rhode Island town of Bristol, the Coggeshall Farmhouse showcases the historic rural farming character of the town, which saw much development by the 19th century. In 1723, Samuel Viall (1667-1749 purchased farmland from Nathaniel Byfield, who had acquired most of the north part of Poppasquash as one of the original “founders” of Bristol (though the Wampanoag people had been already living here for centuries). Viall or a descendent likely had this small Georgian farmhouse built on the land, along with outbuildings to farm the beautiful land here. In the early nineteenth-century Wilbour and Eliza Coggeshall were tenant farmers at the farm. The Coggeshall’s son, Chandler Coggeshall, later became a politician and helped to found the Rhode Island College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in 1888, which became known as the University of Rhode Island. The farm eventually was acquired by industrialist Samuel P. Colt, nephew of firearms manufacturer Samuel Colt, who created a massive estate on the land. In 1965 the State of Rhode Island purchased the Colt Estate for use as a state park, and the Bristol Historical Society petitioned the state for permission to preserve the old Coggeshall farm house on the property as a museum. Coggeshall Farm Museum was established in 1973 to educate modern Americans about eighteenth century New England farm life.
Appleton Farms, spanning between Hamilton and Ispwich, MA, is a stunning historic property of historic buildings, rolling hills, and agricultural sites. Appleton Farms is the oldest continuously operating farm in New England and perhaps in America. Farming activities here can be document under continuous operation from 1638, at the time of the original land grant to Samuel Appleton (1586-1770), to the present day. The majority of agricultural buildings and residential dwellings date to the period of the farm’s most productive era, 1857-1904, under seventh generation owner Daniel Fuller Appleton. Appleton Farms has been a leading survivor of northeastern Massachusetts’ agricultural economy, an area replete with rural and small village community character. As the primarily dwelling for farm owners since at least 1794 and perhaps earlier, this home has seen numerous renovations and additions over its lifetime. The main beams of the building are believed to date to 1794 when Isaac Appleton passed the farm to his son, Samuel, though the original house may date as early as 1769, when Samuel Appleton married Mary White and managed the farm with his 65-year-old father. Today, the 658-acre property, operated by the Trustees of Reservations, is open to the public to go for long walks, horseback rides, and history lessons on the significance of agriculture in this part of the state.
All I want for Christmas is a brick Federal house! This home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts was constructed in 1830 by Thomas Carter (1777-1863) and his wife Anna. The couple farmed the property and had eleven children (plus two who died in childbirth). According to a family history, the lime for the mortar on the home was burned in a kiln on the property by Thomas. The ancestral home remained in the family for generations, including by John Calvin Calhoun Carter, a town selectman, who added a full-length porch on the home in the mid-late 19th century (since removed). The home’s rural charm remains even-though it sits on a busy road in the Berkshires.
Without question, this property is the most photographed site in the tiny town of Pomfret, Vermont, if not the state. The property dates to the late 18th century when John and Samuel Doten moved to the newly settled town of Pomfret Vermont, overlooking the growing town of Woodstock in the valley below. The two brothers acquired vast farmland on the hills of Pomfret and each built farmhouses adjacent to eachother, with Samuel getting elevated land and John developing the land sunken off what is now known as Cloudland Road into this stunning property. Sleepy Hollow Farm remained in the Doten family for centuries until the 1950s, when the owners sold the property to move to Woodstock and work for Laurance Rockefeller, the famous philanthropist and conservationist, who later donated his Summer home in Woodstock to the National Park Service. The property sold numerous times in the late 20th century, and is presently owned by Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry and his wife, Billie. They are clearly great stewards to the property’s rich history and various outbuildings, and must not care too much to have swarms of photographers at the end of their driveway year-round!
What I love about Vermont is that you can drive down a random road and stumble upon amazing old farms! This home was built around 1830 by Benjamin Holmes Cushman (1778-1880) who lived to be over 101 years old! Cushman opened a brickyard on the White River just north of his soon-to-be home in the early 1820s, likely having his home built soon after as an advertisement to the quality of his bricks. The home was probably the first brick home built in town, and due to the successful brickworks, many others were later built. Cushman bricks were probably used in the construction of the South Tunbridge M.E. Church. The Cushman Family apparently lived in the home until 1975 when a fire destroyed a portion of the home and it was subsequently sold.