Lot Conant house, Linebrook Rd., Ipswich MA

The Lot Conant house

Based on architectural evidence, family history and deed research, the oldest (center) part of this house appears to have been the home of Lot and Elizabeth Conant, the first of that family in Linebrook, constructed in 1717. This would make it an addition to the approximately 60 First Period houses in Ipswich. The Ipswich assessors site gives a date of approximately 1700 for the house, which was supported by structural observations. In the summer of 2019, the purlin roof and central chimney and fireplace were removed in a major reconstruction, and only a few beams in the ceiling remain of its original appearance.

In July 1717, Lot Conant sold his property in Beverly and moved to this location. This house is one of a cluster of homes built by the extensive Conant family in the Linebrook. It appears to have originally been a two-bay-wide, story-and-one-third cottage with the chimney in the right-hand bay. A fireplace with a brick oven is in the oldest section, supported in the cellar by a stone foundation.

This Post and beam construction with a gunstock post was visible in the attic of the Conant house. The original collar beams were cut when the house was extended on either side.

The attic framing of the central original single-cell portion has gunstock posts supporting collar beams that were cut off after the additions were added on either side. The walls are plank construction with diagonal wind braces.

Common purlins supported the plank roofing in the Conant house. The purlin roof was replaced with conventional rafter framing in the summer of 2019

The original roof was of principal rafter and purlin construction, unique to the English colonies of New England during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

The unusually small purlins that were in this house are found in roof construction around the years 1690-1720, as found in the 1701 Matthew Perkins house on East Street and the 1696 Harris-Stanwood house on Water Street. Abbot Lowell Cummings wrote that earlier First Period houses had move massive purlins, and that in the second quarter of the 18th Century, builders returned to using them well into the 19th Century.

Wide-plank construction with windbraces in the Conant house

The walls in the oldest section of the house are wide-plank construction with windbraces, a construction form found in the early 18th Century.

The Records of the Town of Manchester demonstrate the era of plank framing. About 1690, John Knight built a house “of one story, 18 feet long on the front… The frame was of oak, covered with one and a half-inch plank.” And in 1719 the town of Manchester voted to build a new meetinghouse, and that “the hous shall be planket and not studed.”

Abbot Lowell Cummings noted a high concentration of plank framed houses with wind braces in Wenham, originally part of Beverly, more or less from the same decade, and that “it can thus be argued that the plank frame was a known structural variant in New England by the late Seventeenth Century, although the majority of carpenters in all parts of the area clung to the traditional English method of framing walls with studs and nogging.” (The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, 1625-1725, pp 89-92).

Joseph Conant house, Linebrook Road Ipswich MA
Photo circa 1980, Ipswich Historical Commission

The additions

There was a one-room addition to the right by 1860, with typical post and beam construction. Before 1900 a lean-to had been added to the rear of the building. Over the right-hand addition the principal rafters are butted together, suggesting an approximately 1850 construction date. Two bays were added to the left end of the house c. 1900 with modern stick construction, and the lean-to was extended behind it with a concrete slab floor.

The Conant family in Linebrook

Lot Conant

Lot Conant was a direct descendant of Roger Conant, who founded Salem MA in 1626. In July 1717, Lot and Elizabeth Conant sold their property in Beverly and moved to the Linebrook area. On the 30 July, 1717, he bought the homestead of Daniel Foster, of Ipswich, for £460, containing 90 acres of upland and 17 acres of fresh meadow; “also one old common right in the common land of Ipswich.” (Essex Deeds, Vol. 33, p. 16.) Daniel Foster, born in 1660, was the son of Isaac Foster, and grandson of Reginald Foster the settler.

Excerpts from The will of Lot Conant, proved 10 Jan. 1744-5

Item. I Give to my beloved wife Elizabeth all my indoor moveables, viz. Corn of all sorts: and wool and flax and Cider as well as other household goods to use and dispose off as she shall think most convenient and I give her the improvement and benefit of one-third part of my Real Estate both buildings and lands as fully as
she could have it if I made no will, and give sd. wife the use and profit of one-third part of my live stock which shall be Left after my Debts and funeral charges shall l)e paid, During her natural Life and she is to have her firewood brought to the door and cut lit for the tire one half thereof by my son Joshua and the other half by my son William so long as she shall remain my widow, and my said sons Joshua and William are to find a horse for my said wife to ride to meeting on and other where as she shall have occasion so Long as she shall continue my widow, furthermore I give
to my said wife all my money or bills of Public credit that be left at my Decease for her own use.

Item. I give to my son Jonathan all my buildings and Lands in Beverly and all my interest in Land Lying in Marblehead.

Item. I give to my son Joseph one hundred pounds in old Tenor bills of Credit or so much in money or bills of Public Credit as to be equal thereto and to be paid by my son Joshua within live years after my Decease.

Item. I give to my son Joshua one half of all my Lands and meadow lying in Ipswich and Topsfield both for Quantity and Quality with half of the buildings thereon and half of my utensils of husbandry only reserving liberty in my now Dwelling house as
may hereafter be mentioned for my daughter Elizabeth.

Item. I give to my son William one half of all my Lands and meadow lying in Ipswich and Topsfield with half the buildings thereupon reserving liberty in my now Dwelling house as may hereafter be mentioned for my daughter Elizabeth and I give to my son William half of my Utensils of Husbandry and all Sheep that shall be left at my Decease.”

Joshua Conant

Joshua, , b. 19 Oct., 1707, in Beverly, moved to Ipswich with his parents; was a farmer. He died intestate 3 Apr., 1749, and his wife was appointed administratrix. She presented an account 30 May, 1757, and an additional account 6 Dec, 1763, in which she charges herself with various sums paid, including to Joshua’s brother William, for interest in his father’s house. The estate was appraised at £604. (*A history and genealogy of the Conant family, page 184). This shows that the house built by Lot Conant was still standing.

William Conant

The 1744 will of Lot Conant granted land and buildings in “Topsfield and Ipswich” to his sons William and Joshua. William Conant purchased or obtained 53 acres with land and buildings from his brother Joshua. In 1765 he was appointed guardian of his brother Joshua’s sons. He died in 1784; his will lists sons William, Moses and Aaron, and daughters Eunice and Elizabeth.

Moses and William Conant II

Moses Conant transferred the property to William Conant in 1803. William died in 1826. The house was owned by William Conant (3) in the 1832 Ipswich map. and the 1856 map.

Joseph Conant

The owner in the 1872 Ipswich map is Joseph Conant, born 6 Nov. 1811, and died 20 Oct. 1885. He was a farmer and shoe-maker in Linebrook, without issue. The local newspaper wrote of him: “He was a quiet man, a good, obliging, social and esteemed neighbor. In his manhood’s prime he was identified with parish affairs, serving it in various capacities. He was one of the proprietors of the church edifice, and assisted very materially in its erection. His active life earned him a comfortable property, and his sobriety and kindness a good name.”


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