Mighill-Perley House, Rowley MA

Mighill-Perley House, 100 Main St., Rowley MA (1737 /c. 1820)

George Brainard Blodgett in Early settlers of Rowley, Massachusetts wrote that the Mighill – Perley House at 100 Main St. was built for Capt. Nathaniel Mighill (1684 – 1762) at about 1737. A deed search finds that Nathaniel Mighill made dozens of land purchases in Rowley during the period when he presumably constructed the house.

Historian M.V. B. Perley was told that the house was constructed in 1769 by John Perley (1748 – 1811), who married Capt. Nathaniel Mighil’s daughter Hannah. The tradition is not born out by a search of purchases by John Perley during that period, and it is likely that John Perley inherited the house from his wife’s father. The house originally had a central chimney, which was replaced by John and Hannah’s son Captain Nathaniel Mighill Perley (1781-1836) with paired chimneys in a major renovation that included corner quoins and central hallway, sometime in the early 19th Century.

Members of the Mighill family played an important role in the Town during the American Revolution. On December 30, 1772, a town meeting was held regarding a letter from members of the Boston Committee of Correspondence concerning the rights of British American colonists now known as the “Boston Pamphlet. The Town appointed a committee of a dozen men, including Stephen, Nathaniel and Thomas Mighill to take into consideration the said letter and pamphlet, and to report to the town, at an adjourned meeting, “what they shall think proper for the town to do relative thereto.” Nathaniel Mighill, Esq., was chosen in July, 1775 to represent the town in “the Great and General Court to be holden at Watertown” on July 19, known as the Third Provincial Congress.

Image from Early settlers of Rowley, Massachusetts by George Brainard Blodgette, who attributed the builder of the house as Nathaniel Mighill.
Image from History and Genealogy of the Perley Family by M.V. B, Perley, page 99, who attributed the builder of the house as John Perley in 1769.
Georgian doorways, paneling and fireplace at 100 Main St. in Rowley (Realtor photo)
Nathaniel Perley created this wide and attractive hall by replacing the early central chimney with paired chimneys at either end of the house. (Realtor photo)

The following text is primarily from the History and Genealogy of the Perley Family by Martin Van Buren Perley:

John and Hannah Mighill Perley

John Perley, son of Samuel, was born in Linebrook Parish, Ipswich, 22 Nov., 1743, and was a 5th generation descendant of Ipswich settler Alan Perley. He removed to Rowley shortly after 3 Jan., 1769, and there made his home. It is said that Mr. Perley’s residence was located at the southern corner of the Common, on the right going south, and that the house now located there is the same; it has a curb roof, and in Mr. Perley’s day had an immense chimney in the center, which, it is said, his son Nathaniel removed when he thoroughly repaired the old mansion, running through it from front to rear door a wide and attractive hall, after the English pattern, erecting the two chimneys and covering its frame entirely new.

“John Perley was called captain. He might have been a sea captain, as one of his brothers and his son were. He married Lucy Holland, daughter of Joseph and Mary, in Linebrook, 2 May, 1765. She was born in Ipswich, where she was baptized 7 Jan., 1738. She died in Linebrook, 21 Feb., 1766. He married, second, Hannah Mighill of Rowley, 21 Sept., 1769. He was drowned, 28 Nov., 1811, at the age of sixty-eight years. His widow survived him only about ten months, dying 8 Sept., 1812, at the age of fifty-nine years. His first child was born in Linebrook, the other children in Rowley. Hannah’s descent was honorable. Her father, born 17l5, was Nathaniel Mighill, Esq., and her mother was Elizabeth Appleton, daughter of Col. Samuel Appleton. Her grandfather, born 1684, was Capt. Nathaniel Mighill, active against the Indians, and her grandmother was Priscilla Pearson, a descendant of John who built the first fulling mill and clothier’s works in America. Her great-grandfather, born 1651, was Stephen Mighill (son of Thomas the immigrant and his wife Ellen), who married Sarah Phillips, daughter of Rev. Samuel Phillips, second minister of Rowley, and Sarah Appleton, daughter of Samuel Appleton of Ipswich.

Captain and Mrs. Nathaniel M. Perley
Captain and Mrs. Nathaniel M. Perley, from “History and Genealogy of the Perley Family” by M.V.B. Perley

Captain Nathaniel Mighill Perley

CAPTAIN NATHANIEL MIGHILL PERLEY was born 6 July, 1781, in Rowley, the son of John Perley and Hannah Mighill. The residuary part of his mother’s estate fell to him and his brother John. He died in 1836 at age 55, and the Mighill-Perley house remained in the possession of his brother.

Captain Nathaniel Mighill Perley built the ship, “Country’s Wonder” in 1814 across the street on the common. This ship was then hauled with 100 yoke of oxen to the warehouse landing. This was a remarkable feat of the times, the vessel being of 100 tons burden, and the Warehouse Landing being over 2 miles from the common, where it was built. An account of the “Country’s Wonder” was published in both the “Essex Register,” a newspaper published at Salem under date of 7 May, 1814 and the “Salem Gazette” of 10 May, and a folksy quotation from The Bodleys on Wheels” by Horace Elisha Scudder, mixing the stories of Nathaniel Mighill Perley and his father:

“Captain Burly was a great man about here. He was a mighty smart man. Why, that fellow had command of a merchant vessel before he was twenty-one, and that meant something in those days. It meant that he was a merchant as well as a captain. He carried his cargo to the East Indies and sold it, and bought a cargo and brought it home. It took a good deal to make a captain in those days. Well, he had about the most iron-bound will of any man that was ever born, I guess. He had thirteen children. I knew ’em; stiff, unyielding men and women that knew their minds and could stand up to anybody. I never saw their like, but they bent like reeds before “Captain Burly.” Captain Burly wanted a snip, and he said he wasn’t going down to the river to build it. He’d build it by his own door, on Rowley Common. People laughed at him, and said they guessed Captain Burly was one too few this time, but the more they said the more he stuck to it. The people shook their heads, and some said he was Noah building an ark; and others said he was Robinson Crusoe that built his boat and couldn’t launch it ; but the old man knew better. When he was all ready, he went and hired all the oxen in the country round. Yes, sir, he had a hundred yoke of oxen here, and he hitched ’em to the vessel, and by the jumping gingerbread he hauled it down to the water. Pretty much all the country was there to see it.”

The house at 202 Main St. was constructed on the 18th Century Ezekiel Northend estate. Nathaniel Mighill’s son Thomas Mighill and Ezekiel’s daughter Sarah Northend were married November 13, 1750.

Section of Anderson map of Rowley, 1830. John Perley is shown at the location of 100 Main St.

William Kilham and Lucy Ann Perley

Captain Nathaniel Perley’s brother John Perley married 4 Dec, 1817, Ann D. Haskell of Newburyport. Her death came by her own hand 22 Sept., 1842. He died of cancer, 24 Feb., 1861. In 1845, William Kilham of Boston, a 40 year old merchant, married the daughter of John and Anna, 25 year old Lucy Ann Perley, who survived her husband. The 1872 Rowley map and the 1880 directory show the owner of 100 Main St. as “Mrs. Lucy Killam.”

Subsequent owners

From the 1920s to the 1960s the owner were Dr. and Mrs. Oliver R. Fountain, who were listed as resident members of the Rowley Historical Society in 1920, and mentioned as owners of the house on Main St. in 1932 in the Mighell Kindred of America. Dr. Oliver R. Fountain is also listed as a resident at 40 Dudley St. in Boston, in the Clarke’s Boston Blue Book of 1908. Dr. Fountain, was the defendant in a 1929 case involving a patient’s visits to Cable Hospital in Ipswich and the hospital in Lynn, and a subsequent leg amputation. The outcome of that case is not known. The 1940 Census lists Oliver R. Fountain, a man born in 1881 in Maine, 59 years old at the time of the census, and living in Rowley.

The next owners in our records are Marjorie and Gordon Story, who moved to Rowley in 1964. Mrs. Story became active in the Rowley community where she belonged to the Congregational Church, the Garden Club, the Historical Society and was active with the Council on Aging. She was a member and past Treasurer of the Florence Jewett Society and was also the Rowley Representative for the Cable Hospital Auxiliary. In 1986 ownership was transferred to their son, Douglas Story and his wife.

Subsequent Deeds

  • June 12, 1897: Lucy Ann Kilham (of Boston) to Charles H. Mooney of Rowley, in consideration of one dollar, a tract of land by the land of Grantor, near the stone monument. (Salem Deeds book 1515, page 472)
  • December 11, 1897: Lucy Ann Kilham, “a widow and not married”, pasture land “formerly of Todd,” to David and Roscoe Perley (Salem Deeds book=1540 page 401)
  • June 3, 1899: Frank E. Simpson, from the Estate of Lucy Ann Kilham, deceased, “being part of the homestead of Hannah Perley, a certain parcel of land on the southeasterly side of Main St. near Rowley Common, previously conveyed to grantor by Lucy Ann Kilham”, transferred for one dollar to Charles H. Mooney. (Salem Deeds book 1576, page 552)
  • Salem Deeds: Marjorie Story to Douglas G. Story, June 1986.

Historic imagery

This house has an account of 1861 written on the paneling in the attic, which tells of men staying the night and departing from this place to go off to the Civil War.

Inscriptions on the wall of the Perley house at 100 Main St. in Rowley.
Inscriptions on the wall of the Perley house at 100 Main St. in Rowley by young men leaving for the Civil War. The inscription reads, “I left these hallowed walls much to their regrets, Saturday, pm 6/ 2 trains, September 1861.” The initials are CF, ERM, MLP, and MNV, but their identities are unknown, “CF” could possibly be Cyrus Foster, who enlisted in Rowley.
Mighill-Perley house, this photo was taken before 1906.
Mighill-Perley house, this photo was taken before 1906
The Mighill Perley house in Rowley, c 1920
The Mighill Perley house in Rowley, c 1920s. The owner of the house at that time was Dr. Fountain.
Mighill-Perley house, before the 20th Century
Mighill-Perley house, photo taken probably just before the 20th Century
Mghill Perley house, Dr. Fountain
Dr. and Mrs. Oliver R. Fountain owned the house from 1920s to the 1960s. This photo was taken during the 1939 Rowley Tercentenary celebration. Dr. Fountain is flanked by his parents. The woman seated in the white dress is his mother. The people on the right are his wife and her parents and one sister, standing to the far right. Mrs. Patricia Fountain is standing behind her parents with the white collar top. She is dressed in costume pertaining to the day’s celebrations on Rowley Common behind the house.
The Mighill-Perley house early in the 20th Century
The Mighill-Perley house early in the 20th Century
MACRIS site photo of the Mighill-Perley House in the 1980s.
MACRIS site photo of the Mighill-Perley House in the 1980s.
Stairs in the Mighill-Perley house
Stairs in the Mighill-Perley house
A room in the Mighill-Perley house at 100 Main St. in Rowley MA
Room in the Mighill-Perley house

Sources and further reading: (To see the deeds, you have to first open a new session at the Salem Deeds site, and then you can click on the deed links on this page.)

2 thoughts on “Mighill-Perley House, 100 Main St., Rowley MA (1737 /c. 1820)”

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