Wagon Hill Farm // 1804

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.