This well-preserved mid-eighteenth century farmhouse was built for Deacon Solomon Dodge (1721-1812) about 1769. Dea. Solomon Dodge (Phineas, John, John, Richard) was born in Wenham, 18 June, 1721, and died in Topsfield, 16 January, 1812. He married first, the widow Hannah (Green) Dodge, 30 December, 1742. She died 7 October, 1788, aged 74 in Topsfield. He married second, the widow Martha Dodge of Ipswich, published 12 January, 1791.
Dodge was an active soldier during the American Revolution. On Monday, December 5, 1774, in obedience to the instruction of the Provincial Congress, the men of Topsfield of military age, assembled on common land and formed themselves into the Topsfield militia. By election they chose Joseph Gould and Stephen Perkins as the captains of the two companies. Captain Gould’s Company consisted of fifty-nine privates and non-commissioned officers. Captain Perkins’ Company consisted of forty-seven privates and non-commissioned officers. Perkins’ Company elected Solomon Dodge as Lieutenant and David Perkins as ensign. Dodge served as a minuteman in Lexington and Concord and later under General George Washington.
In the early nineteenth century Ebenezer Dodge sold to Cyrus Cummings (1772-1827). Cummings was the proprietor of the Topsfield Hotel on the Newburyport Turnpike, now Boston Street, and was the first postmaster of Topsfield from 1813 until his death in 1827.
In 1822 Cummings sold this property to the Town of Topsfield as an almshouse. Residents were required to work on the farm to earn their lodging. The property continued as a poor farm until 1900 with the number of its occupants ranging from approximately 225 poor lodging here during 1874 to only six occupants in 1889. A newspaper account of 1875 notes that William J. Savage, was the superintendent and that the house was updated. The article noted that on the 100 acre farm, corn, potatoes, squashes, hay and other general produce were grown by the residents, as well as a sow with thirty piglets.
Town farms began to lose favor after writer Dorothea Dix in 1843 exposed the terrible confinement conditions in prisons and almshouses in Massachusetts. In the late 19th Century, the town farm system was no longer cost-effective, remaining primarily as a place of last resort for the elderly poor. By 1900 the Town decided to sell the farm to Dr. Henry F. Sears of Boston. Soon thereafter the property was purchased by Thomas E. Proctor (1873-1949) of 87 Perkins Row. The adjoining 1872 barn which may have been used by the Town Farm is no longer part of the property.
Features of this house include corner-beaded boards over beams, trim and corner posts, gunstock posts upstairs, a large brick vault supporting the four fireplaces and chimneys. Windows are double-hung from the late 19th or early 20th Century, as determined by purple manganese glass in several of the sashes. The front stairway is original, and pine panels throughout the house are up to 24″ wide.
The Capt. Joseph Gould house is an enigma; a substantial early 18th Century house constructed in at least two stages, and the only First Period house in our area believed to have been constructed two rooms deep (aka bays or piles) deep. The 1710 Gould Barn that once sat on this property was dismantled and reconstructed at the foot of Howlett St.
The three bay east side of the house is the oldest, and the house achieved its present appearance when the left side, also of three bays was added c. 1725. Typical of the period, spacing of the windows is irregular, although most are vertically aligned. The chimney on the right original side is more substantial, and the fireplace below it in the downstairs room is the largest in the house. The roof is of substantial principal rafter and common purlin construction on the two sides of the house. In addition to the depth of the house, another transitional feature is the eaves, which appear to have originally featured a plaster cove.
Inside the house, framing is doubled at the junction of the earlier and later sections, and is exposed in several rooms in both sides of the house. Transverse summer beams (instead of longitudinal) are on both sides, measuring 11 1/4″ in general, featuring flat chamfers with “lambs tongue” taper stops. Summer beams in the upstairs of the west side are unchamfered. Story posts in the rear section are elaborately molded, similar to several houses in Salem. Simpler gunstock posts are found in other rooms. Downstairs in the entrance and rear room west (later) part of the house, posts and beams have narrower flat chamfers and simple triangular taper stops. Measurements for the joist spacing is about 25″ on center. A reused chamfered summer beam can be seen in the cellar.
The MACRIS listing and nomination papers for the Joseph Gould house state that the oldest section was always two rooms deep and dates to before the 18th Century.
The “Old House Whisper” John Cole and Eleanor Bailey studied the house, and wrote that the earliest part was a one over one room “half house” structure built for Joseph Gould about 1712 at the time of his marriage to Priscilla Perkins. Cole observed a reused summer beam in the basement, and believes the house was expanded to the west and in the rear around 1751 at the marriage of Joseph Gould 2 to Elizabeth Emerson. He does not, however, reconcile the preponderance of First Period (pre-1725) architecture throughout the house with mid-18th Century.
Abbott Lowell Cummings is known to have visited the house but his notes and observations have not been discovered.
Kari Ann Federer did a comprehensive study of the house in 1989 which is copied in part below.
The Joseph Gould House and barn
Kari Ann Federer, Boston University, December 18, 1989 (excerpt)
This is a study of two late first period buildings in Topsfield, Massachusetts, the Joseph Gould House and the barn which stood on the property, until it was dismantled in 1983. Both house and barn were constructed in two phases, the second doubling the original in size and following its plan and form quite closely.
The resulting six bay dwelling was essentially two end chimney houses built back to back, with chimneys up against each other, creating something like a central chimney house. The barn totaling nine bays, consisted of two classic five bay barns side by side with one bay overlapping.
This double house and a double barn existed by the mid-1700s and were occupied, at that time, by two different, though probably related families. Traditionally, the older half of the house was said to date prior to 1700 and the second half shortly thereafter. The popular tale was that the later section was added to make the house into a duplex for father and son. However, research into deeds and probate records has suggested that both of these traditions are inaccurate.
This study is an attempt to shed light on the history of the Joseph Gould farm by examining the original framing and construction of the house and the barn, as well as the overall layout of the farmyard and the changing uses of these spaces.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION OF THE JOSEPH GOULD HOUSE
The eastern half of the Joseph Gould house was the first portion to be constructed. It was initially an end chimney house, two and a half stories high, one room wide and two deep, with the chimney at the west end of the dwelling. The house measured twenty seven and a half feet wide and twenty eight and a half feet deep. The rear rooms were about two thirds as deep as the front ones.
The Gould house is now covered in clapboards, attached with wire nails, which must all be replacements. However, the original house would also have been sheathed in unpainted clapboards. The roof cornice overhangs about a foot along the front of the house and diagonal boarding is said to cover a plaster cove.
The nine over six sash windows now on the Gould house are later eighteenth century replacements. The current configuration of this eastern section of the house is not original, as the chimney has been moved to the east and a room created in what had been the chimney bay. Evidence of this alteration includes Federal mantels on the fireplaces of the southeast rooms upstairs and down, well as the fact the transverse summer beams were off center in these rooms lying closer to the chimney wall than would be expected.
Due to this alteration in the chimney bay of the Joseph Gould house, no evidence of the original entry door, staircase, or fireplaces can be seen. It might be assumed that the configuration of the chimney bay was fairly typical of the late first period. In New England houses of the First Period, the staircase and entry were usually combined, with the stairs rising up across the front of the chimney.
The staircase from the first to second floors of the Gould house may have been a straight run composed partially of winders. The open balustrade, with turned balusters and molded hand railing would have housed within a closed string.
Under the stairs would have been molded vertical sheathing and perhaps a door to the cellar stairs. However, a trapdoor to the root cellar currently exists in the northeast corner room of the house and there is no reason to believe this is not its original location.
In this first half of the Joseph Gould House, the frame would have been entirely exposed, though some members are now boxed. All summer beams are transverse and these timbers are continuous from the front to the back of the house, proving that both stories were always two rooms deep. Joist spacing in this part of the house, is twenty five inches on center; a measurement consistent with the late first period date of the house. Where visible, all summer beams and girts have flat chamfers with lambs tongue stops except for those of the chimney girt in the rear room, which have triangular stops.
As in many other houses with transverse summer beams, the most highly embellished parts of the frame are the story and chimney posts. These have elaborately molded heads with a deep quarter round and two fillets. It seems to be only the rear posts that are fancy, however. Most of the front framing members are now boxed, but the front chimney post can be seen, and this is much simpler with only a very wide flat chamfer on its sides. The rear corner posts are similar to this one, as are all visible posts on the second floor.
In the attic, one can see that both halves of the Joseph Gould house are constructed with a principal rafter, common purlin roof system. Each half of the house consists of four pairs of rafters, bridled at the ridge, creating two three bay sections. On each slope of the roof are five purlins trenched over rafters, with the ridge purlin resting in a notch cut into the upper rafter. Massive long collar beams tie together the rafters in the older (eastern) half of the house. These ties, along with the rafters, are finished with narrow flat chamfers.
The rafters are doubled at the transition point between the two sections of the house. When the second half was added, another complete house frame was built up against the old one. Visible in the ridge between these two frames, are original clapboards from the exterior west gable end of the earlier house. The roofing system of the second half of Joseph Gould house is very similar to that of the first. The frames line up exactly, though the later section has slightly heavier purlins and no collar beams, but struts rising up from tie beam to rafter instead.
In plan, the second half of the Gould house copied the original. However, the west half is about six feet narrower, being only twenty one feet wide. The basic configuration of this half of the house has not been altered. The five foot wide western chimney bay is in its original location, though the chimney stack is now smaller than it would have been.
The stairs from the first to the second floor and also up to the attic, are still in their initial location in front of the chimney. The staircase is typical of the late First Period, with turned balusters, but a plain newel post. Molded paneling under stairs makes it clear that there were never cellar stairs there. A trap door to the root cellar also exists under this half of the house. The staircase was probably a double run with landing, originally. The current unusual configuration was most likely created when the chimney was rebuilt and narrowed. An empty space was left behind the chimney and it was logical to use this as an easier way to reach the rear chamber.
The summer beams are also transverse in this second half of the Joseph Gould house. Much of the frame is now boxed, but it is visible in the rear rooms, upstairs and down, and in the front entry. Typical of the less decorative embellishments of the end of the First Period, very narrow chamfers with taper stops can be seen in rear rooms. The rear story post has a fancy molded head, similar to those in the older half of the house. However, all other posts in the rear room are simple with only very narrow flat chamfers on their sides. In the west front entry hall, the front chimney and corner post can be seen and these are very plain with almost no chamfers at all. Upstairs, the rear posts are undecorated and here the summer beam is the only chamfered member.
Sometime later in the 18th century, the frames in the west front rooms of the Joseph Gould house were boxed and the first floor room was embellished with a corner cupboard. Some of the feather edged panels on the fireplace wall of this room may date from the construction of the house, as this became very popular in the early 18th century. The raised paneling in the west front chamber may also be original. This type of decoration came into use by about 1725 and like other new fashions, was often tried upstairs in the chambers first.
Typical of the First Period, the Joseph Gould house was built facing due south, while the barn backed up to the north west wind.This created a sheltered farm yard in front of house and barn and later outbuildings added between the two protected it even more.First Period barns were often located in front of the house, closer to the road, in order to show off the family’s stock and store of supplies. As the location of man-made structures helped to bring coherence into a chaotic world, the forty five degree angle between the ridgepoles of the Gould house and barn enforced the disjunction between the artificial rational world of man and the irrational dirty world of livestock.
BACKGROUND OF THE GOULD FAMILY AND THE SETTLEMENT OF TOPSFIELD
The area which is now the town of Topsfield, Massachusetts was originally part of the seventeenth century plantations of Ipswich and Salem. During the 1630s and 1640s, large grants of Topsfield land were given to Ipswich Residents. The land where the Joseph Gould house stands was part of the Captain Patrick Grant, which like many of these large land holdings, was soon divided and sold. In 1644, three hundred acres of it were purchased by Zaccheus Gould (1589-1668), who had arrived from England in 1639 and decided to settle in the newly developing community of Topsfield. Twenty years later, in 1664, it is estimated that Zaccheus Gould owned some 3000 acres, 580 in Topsfield and the rest in neighboring Boxford. At this tine, Zaccheus sold his entire estate and house in Topsfield to his only son John Gould (1635-1710), who had come with him from England as a young child. John Gould lived in his father’s house, past which Washington Street was laid out late in the 1660s. He and his wife Sara (Baker), who were married in 1660, raised eight children, one of whom was Joseph, born in 1677.
CONSTRUCTION HISTORY OF THE JOSEPH GOULD HOUSE AND BARN
Although Joseph Gould is traditionally said to have built his original house prior to 1700, there is no recorded deed giving him land until March of 1709. At this time, John Gould, who was nearing the end of his life, divided his estate among his surviving sons. Joseph was given sundry parcels of upland, meadow, and woodland in Topsfield and Boxford. This deed was not specific about the boundaries or acreage of the property, but it should be noted that it did not mention any buildings on the land, nor does it indicate that Joseph Gould owned any of the abutting land previously.
In 1709, Joseph Gould would have been 32 years old, but still unmarried. It seems quite likely that the first half of his house was not constructed prior to this time. This conclusion is supported by a map of Topsfield printed in 1950 for the town Tercentenary, which labels the house “Abbott 1709” (Abbott being the owner at the time). This date also coincides with that which First Period barn expert Robert Blair St. George has assigned to the earlier half of the Gould barn.
In the process of establishing his own farm, Joseph Gould probably built the first halves of his house and his barn in 1709 to 1710. A few years later, in 1712/13, Joseph married 23 year old Priscilla Perkins. The two immediately began a family, Priscilla giving birth to their first child in 1714. The Goulds had eleven children, but only six survived past early childhood. The only surviving boy being Joseph Gould (2).
The second half of the Joseph Gould house was traditionally thought to have been added to the west of the existing house, built between 1700 and 1720. Perhaps the later end of this range is correct. No documentary evidence could be found for the construction date of this portion of the house. According to the probate inventory of Joseph Gould (1) it was certainly in existence by 1753. The features of this western end of the house are typical of the late First Period and thus it is unlikely that it could have been added any later than the 1720s. The second half of the barn was also standing by 1753 and Robert St. George felt it must date from between 1720 and 1750.
The traditional story tells that the second half of the Joseph Gould house was built to make a duplex for father and son. However, as Joseph (2), the only surviving Gould son, was not even born until 1725, it seems impossible that it could have been constructed specifically for his use. None of the Gould girls were grown and married by the 1720s either.
On the other hand, there are no deeds indicating that Joseph Gould sold off a portion of the house, or even any land near his house. It has been suggested that the addition of the western half of the Gould house was simply an unusual way of enlarging the original dwelling. Building two complete frames up against each other makes the house appear to have been constructed as a duplex, but this was not necessarily the case. Perhaps Joseph Gould made the addition to his home during the 1720s in order to house his growing family. He may have had in mind that one of his children would occupy half of the house, later when the family had grown, and thus built the house so it could easily accommodate this purpose.
The farm was indeed being used as a two family home in 1753, when Joseph Gould’s inventory included only the easterly end of the dwelling house and half of the barn. The inventory does not make clear who owned the other halves of the buildings and there is no evidence that Joseph Gould (1) ever sold them to anyone else. Therefore, it does seem probable that Joseph Gould (2), who was married in 1751 at age 24, was the occupant of the western half of the house and barn by the time of his father’s death. This could have been the origin of the story about the father and son duplex. Joseph (2) was willed the remainder of his father’s real estate and by the 1760s was being taxed for the entire farm.
–Kari Ann Federer
Capt. John Gould (1635-1709)
John Gould inherited part of the 3000 acres of land owned by his father Zaccheus Gould (1589-1668), whose home is believed to have been nearby on Washington St., and was already an important citizen of the town of Topsfield. During the Revolution of 1686 for which Ipswich claims fame, Capt. John Gould was imprisoned for opposing Gov. Andros. He served as selectman, and gave a depositoin agains Sarah Wilds, his neighbor, who was hung as a witch during the Salem hysteria. Capt. John Gould and his wife Sarah (Baker) Gold conveyed their farmlands to their five sons.
Capt. Joseph Gould (1677-1753)
Joseph, who married Priscilla Perkins, received the homestead. Like his father, he served as selectman, and was elected to the General Court for seven terms. In his will, dated March 1753, Capt. Gould gave his household goods to his wife, and one third of the use of the estate, as was customary at the time, with “the liberty of the Great Room in my Dwelling House and the improvement of half the cellar und Said Room.”
Major Joseph Gould (1726-1803)
At the time of Joseph Sr.’s death, Joseph Jr. was living in the westerly wing with his wife Elizabeth Emerson Gould, and assumed ownership of the farm. Joseph Gould Jr. is said to have played an important role in the Battle of Concord and was made a major in Col. John Cogswell’s Regiment. At his death, the house was inherited by Joseph 3, who married Ruth Porter of Danvers. In 1867, the house passed out of the Gould family.
The home of Joseph Capen, minister at Topsfield for many years, the Parson Capen House is a surviving example of Elizabethan architecture in America, the home of minister Joseph Capen on a lot granted by the Town in 1682. The house was purchased by the Topsfield Historical Society in 1913 and was restored under the direction of Topsfield historian George Francis Dow.
Joseph Capen served the Church in Topsfield for 44 years until his death. He was born in Dorchester, the son of John and Mary Bass Capen, an established family in Dorchester with its ancestral roots in Dorchester, on the southwest coast of England. His wife was Priscilla Appleton, daughter of John Appleton of Ipswich MA. He was closely related to Bernard Capen, a Dorchester settler, whose pre-1658 house was moved to Milton in 1909, but was disassembled in 2007 by Landmark Services. The fate of the saved timbers from that house is uncertain.
The Capen House sits on a knoll, and faces south, which was common in First Period construction. The hall is on the east end, is the smaller of the two downstairs rooms at 20 ft. by 16 ft., and features a large fireplace with rounded inside corners. The parlor is 20 ft. by 17 ft. 6 inches. The front entry enters to a winding staircase in front of the massive chimney, almost universally found in First Period houses. Carved oak newels, panels and turned balusters shield the staircase. The hall fireplace is 8 ft., 4 inches wide, 4 ft. high, and 3 ft. deep. while the parlor fireplace is 4 feet high, 6 feet long and 2 1/2 feet deep.
Downstairs summer beams in the Capen house are transverse, a west Anglia form more commonly found in the Salem-Beverly-Wenham area, and rarely in the Ipswich-Essex area, whose inhabitants came primarily from East Anglia. The framed overhangs on the front and the gables are more substantial than the more modest hewn overhangs found at the turn of the 18th Century. The front jetties are supported by the two chimney girts, and the end girts, which are original, and is the method used in the 1682 Hooper-Hathaway house which was moved to the grounds of the House of Seven Gables in Salem.
The Parson Capen House has been owned and maintained by the Topsfield Historical Society since 1913, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. Also on the property is the restored 1710 Gould Barn.
PARSON CAPEN HOUSE
by C. Lawrence Bond, A.B., S.B. Published by The Topsfield Historical Society in 1989
John H. Towne writes in 1902, “This two story house was built for “Parson” Joseph Capen about 1684-88. It was long in the possession of the Emerson family. It has an overhanging second story and is a very interesting type of the 17th century dwelling.” George Francis Dow’s History of Topsfield, page 447, states it was built in 1683 and bases this on what he claims was discovered while the house was being renovated in 1913, viz: “Under the northern ends of the summers (beams) is incised with a chisel the date July Ye 8th 1683, so there exists here what is not to be found elsewhere in so old a house, the exact date when the frame was raised.” (Note: July ye 8, 1683 might have been the date the timbers were cut and marked for drying.)
The authenticity of the carved date would appear to be in doubt, for in his Historical Address given at the 250th celebration of the Town’s incorporation, Dow stated “some- time after May 14th 1686, he erected on the twelve acre lot granted him by the town, the two story house which still stands near the common.” As Capen was not ordained until 1684, the year he was married, it seems very unlikely that he would have started a house in 1683.
By comparison with houses of similar date built in Ipswich, it is obvious that this house was no ordinary structure. His wife, Priscilla, was an Appleton, and her family undoubtedly paid for its construction since Capen agreed to take up “ye worke of ye ministery” for £75 in country pay (produce, pork and beef). Rev. Capen died in 1725 and his widow in 1743. Rev. John Emerson became the leader of the church in 1728 and after two or three transfers he became owner of the house in 1758. Billy Emerson, a grandson, known as Forty Farm Emerson, had farms located strategically between Maine and Boston, so located that cattle could be driven for a day, penned up for the night in pasture, and then driven another day until they reached the slaughter houses in Brighton.
The Capen house was used to put up the drovers and was in pretty dilapidated condition by the time Mr. Dow acquired it in 1913 for the Historical Society. Mr. Proctor (whose middle name was Emerson) was a descendant of Rev. John Emerson, which undoubtedly had something to do with his generous contribution to the restoration. The upstairs was made into an apartment and rented throughout the years to various tenants. During World War I Henry Beston, famous author, lived there and wrote the Fireside Fairy Tales. His wife, Elizabeth Coatesworth, was a children’s author.
A detailed study of its architectural details has been written in 1970 by Deborah Dupouy and illustrated by Jane English, both of Topsfield. Capen’s marriage does not appear in the Vital Records of either Topsfield or Ipswich, but the Ipswich Public Library has a book on the Appleton genealogy and just above the line giving Priscilla, wid. Rev. Joseph Capen of Topsfield, is written m. Joseph Capen, 1684
Records indicate that the house was built by Jacob Peabody (1) between 1685 when he reached the age of 21 and no later than 1689 when he died. The listing with the National Register of Historic Places estimates circa 1700, with structural indication of 17th Century construction. The 1985 MACRIS inventory with the Massachusetts Historical Commission written by Ann Grady gives a construction date of 1680 – 1700.
The massive frame, deeply jowled corner posts and tall summer beams are also found in Topsfield’s 1683 Parson Capen House and the Zaccheus Gould House, a unique feature of local architecture. The First Period Buildings of Eastern Massachusetts resource sheet states, “On the basis of nearly identical molded post-heads in two Topsfield houses, we can assign both the ca. 1670 Zaccheus Gould House and the Stephen Foster House to one unknown carpenter.”
Until the end of the 20th Century, this small house sat on a stone foundation that is well-preserved in the front of the present extended building. A substantial stone shelf in the rear may have been used for keeping dairy products cool. After the house was moved to its current location a few yards to the right, the present owners turned the old foundation into a wildflower garden.
Although the old foundation has the dimensions of the preserved structure, cut-off purlins at the right end of the attic indicate that the house was once extended. A small addition on the right was removed when the current owners moved the house a few feet to make it part of their larger house on a modern concrete foundation.
Listing on the National Register of Historic Places
The house is listed in the National Register as the Stephen Foster house after an 18th Century owner who married the sister of Jacob Peabody III. Ann Grady wrote the documentation for this house when it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980:
“The house is unusual in that it retains on the exterior the First Period single cell massing usually obscured by later additions. The retention of a branch on the rear plate to serve as a brace is an unusual example of vernacular carpentry practice. While related to the occasional use by First Period carpenters of ships’ knees to strengthen the frame, the branch brace represents the inventive solution of a single carpenter. A straight-run staircase has replaced the original chimney in the chimney bay at the right hand end. On the second floor, the summer tie beam is embellished with 1 3/4” flat chamfers and a stylized variant of the lamb’s tongue stop.
Roof framing visible in the attic is comprised of principal rafters bridle jointed at the ridge, four large purlins per slope and a purlin at the ridge. The purlins, 5 l/2″-6″ wide and 3″ deep, are hewn, like the major framing members. The roof over the chimney bay was rebuilt probably at the time that the central chimney was removed in the late 19th century. The cut off ends of the purlins which spanned the chimney bay remained trenched behind the rafters over the chimney beam.
The collar beam over the chimney tie was lapped and was a foot lower than the tenoned collar beams which remain in the two left hand-most sets of rafters. In the left end wall, the studs are lapped behind the collar beam. Although traditionally dated c. 1700, the house has a completely oak frame of substantial dimensions. These characteristics of the frame might suggest either an earlier construction date or retardataire methods.”
Matching faces on the undersides of the wide second floor floorboards are scribed with Roman numerals, sometimes partially hidden by the supporting floor joists.
In 1717 Jacob Peabody II transferred some of the property to Jacob Foster, who married Rebecca Peabody (1). Their Son Stephen married Rebecca Peabody (2).
Jacob Peabody 1, Born 28 Jul 1664 in Topsfield, Son of Francis (Pabodie). Died 24 Nov. 14, 1689. He married on Jan. 12, 1686, Abigail, daughter of Edmund and Mary (Browning) Towne, born Aug. 6, 1664. He died Nov. 24, 1689. His brother Isaac was joined with the widow in the administration of the estate. She maintained the children and paid their portions in due time. She married second, Jan. 14, 1696, Thomas Perley.
Rebecca Peabody (2) (Jacob, Jacob, Mary (Foster) Peabody, Reginald Foster) married Stephen Foster of Ipswich on Apr 21, 1737. Rebecca Peabody, born 3 Feb. 1714/5, died 23 Mar 23, 1790. (Topsfield Vital Records).
Deacon Stephen Foster, born February 3, 1715, in Topsfield. died January 7, 1781 at about 71 years of age. (Caleb, Abraham, Reginald), born Ipswich, Mass., Apr. 24, 1710; married Apr. 21. 1736/7, Rebecca Peabody, daughter of Deacon Jacob and Rebecca (Barker) Peabody. He died January 15, 1781. There is no settlement of his estate on record.
The Will of Francis Peabody (aka Pabody, Pebody)
On March 7, 1671, the town voted that it was “willing that Lieut. Peabody shall set up a saw mill provided it does not do damage to any of the townsmen in their meadows.” The saw mill was built in 1672 on Howlett Brook at this location. (Read more)
Francis Pabody died in 1697/98. In his last will and testimony, he gave his mill and a dwelling house on the south side of Howlett Brook to his son Isaac. He gave the home of his son Jacob, deceased, to his grandson Jacob II, who was born only a few days before his father’s death in 1689. This suggests that the Jacob Peabody house was constructed by Jacob Peabody (1) between 1685 when he reached the age of 21 and no later than 1689 when he died.
Item: I do give to my son Isaac Pebody all the land y’ I do now live upon which I bought] of Mr. Simons & my will is y’ my son Isaac shall have all y’ said Land which lyeth on [ye] south side of ye brook.
Item: I do give to my Grand child Jacob Pebody y* son of my son Jacob Pebody deceased, y* house which his father dwelt in together with all y* upland on y* North side of y* aforesaid brook, as also all y* meadow on y* same side of y* brook & y* bridge & so upward.
“Franklin Magraw, North St.: This two-story house was built for Stephen Foster in 1748 and was owned by Nathaniel Foster in 1798. In 1877, a part of the old house was taken down and the remaining part was remodeled by John H. Potter, who came into possession of the property by way of exchange with John Smith, the owner for the house on Central street which he had just built. About five hundred feet in a northwesterly direction from the Magraw house is the cellar of the old Stephen Foster house. It is about one hundred and fifty feet over the Ipswich boundary line and is still a very deep cellar. The house was probably taken down not long after the new house was built.”
Potter sold to Franklin Magraw in 1901, Bk.l660, pg.438.
Magraw sold to Gerrish in 1902, and he to Mary Tarbox, Bk.1692, pg.226.
Tarbox sold to Fred Deering in 1906.
Fred Deering put the property in joint ownership with his wife, Della, who was the daughter of Francis Frame, and sister to the two Tilton wives, whose farms adjoined on Boston Street. Fred’s daughter, Lila, married James Wildes.
In 1944 the Deerings conveyed the property to Louis Greenwood, dog trainer, who has occupied the house for forty years and maintained dog kennels there.
The 1910 Topsfield map shows F. W. Deering as the owner of this home. and Franklin MacGraw owning a house on North St. near Ipswich Road across from Mill Pond.
“The c. 1718 frame, characteristic of late First Period treatment in its minimal decoration, nevertheless embodies certain features which link to earlier buildings in the Topsfield area, and even to the earliest buildings in Massachusetts. The massiveness of the frame and the use of beams which are deeper than they are wide relate the structure to the Parson Capen house of 1683. The deeply jowled corner posts are found also in the Stephen Foster house and the Zaccheus Gould house of c. 1700, suggesting a persistent local style of post treatment. The framing of door posts for interior doors into chimney girts and tie beams is a structural technique found in the earliest houses in Massachusetts including the Fairbanks house and directly derived from English practices. Normally superseded by other methods of framing doors in later houses, the use of such door posts in the French Andrews House is a rare and conservative expression of direct transfer framing practices.
“The house is also significant for the survival of original finish in situ. The fireplace trim in the left-hand room and particularly the wide board feather-edged sheathing in the right-hand chamber are noteworthy and up-to-date examples of late First Period finish. On the basis of these features and the minimal chamfering of the frame, Cummings felt that the house was built after Joseph Andrews of Boxford acquired the property in 1718, although earlier there was a single cell house on the site owned in 1693 by John French Sr.
“The structure was restored in 1919 under the direction of George Francis Dow to its present First Period appearance. Diamond-paned, leaded glass casement windows were installed and the chimney rebuilt from the attic floor with a decorative exterior pilaster modeled after the one on the Parson Barnard House in North Andover. First Period features are found in all four front rooms and the lobby. During the 1919 restoration later finishes were removed and the framing exposed. Remaining original finish was carefully preserved and new finishes matching the old ones were installed in many areas. The frame is a particularly massive one, the summer beams and tie beams being c. 8 inches wide and 12 inches deep. In both upstairs and downstairs rooms, front, rear and end beams show peg holes for the studs which flanked the original windows. The original windows at the center of each wall were approximately 28 inches wide. Joist spacing in the First floor ceilings is 21 inches on centers, while those of the second floor are spaced 25 inches on centers.
“In the left-hand room, the large kitchen fireplace with rear ovens appears to retain its original trim. Boards with a wide bead at the edge cover the jambs and lintel of the fireplace which is recessed about 8 inches, and is 58 inches high by 107 inches wide. The chimney girt and post are covered with boards also finished with a broad bead in this case almost a quarter round, at the edge. The rest of the framing is exposed. The summer beam has 2 inch wide flat chamfers and taper stops, while the girts are plain. The horizontal feather-edged sheathing which covers the outer walls was presumably installed during the restoration in 1919.
“In the lobby, vertical feather-edged sheathing enclosed the staircase, again presumably restoration finish of 1919. Cummings noted that posts for interior doors are framed into the chimney girts and tie beams, a very conservative construction technique. The door posts are molded along the outer edge. he attic displays a principal rafter, common purlin roof. In the cellar, there are two massive spanning beams each similarly decorated with 2 inch wide flat chamfers but for unexplained reasons running in different directions. There is a large fireplace with ovens in the right-hand cellar. Much of the firebox appears to have been rebuilt during the 1919 work. Because of the slope of the land, the right-hand cellar is at ground level.
“The house is associated with the early preservation movement, having been restored in 1919 under the supervision of George Francis Dow for Thomas Emerson Proctor. Dow, who was restoring the Parson Capen house further down Howlett St. at the same time was associated for many years with the society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. Dow made careful observations of the structure during restoration, recording the presence of early red paint or stain on the cover board of the plate hidden under a later cornice and the presence of an original attic window frame, “nailed to the exterior under-boarding through horns at the corners of the frame.” Dow installed a great deal of feather-edged sheathing in the house, both horizontal and vertical which resembles the surviving original finish to the extent that it is sometimes difficult to tell new from old. Most of what appears to be new sheathing, however, has an extra small molding on the feather-edge. Possibly Dow was sophisticated enough to add the extra molding as a label so that the new sheathing could be readily distinguished from the old. “
“#86 HOWLETT STREET🙂 J. H. Towne writes concerning this site: “A one story house built for John French stood upon this site about 1675. In 1718 it was sold to Joseph Andrews and, some time before 1798, it was raised to two stories and the easterly end was added. In the spring of 1693 H0wlett Street was laid out as a town way which passed (between Corp. French, his house, and barn). The barn originally stood in the orchard on the westerly side of the road. Towne does not give any information on the house during the 19th century, but it was still in the Andrews family when he was writing, and in the 1908 valuation it was assessed to Joseph E. Andrews’ heirs. About the time of World War I, it was purchased by Thomas E. Proctor and added to his extensive holdings, which included all of Great Hill on both sides of the Turnpike. After Mr. Proctor’s death, the Trustee for his estate sold the house and four acres of land in 1949 to Chalmer J. Carothers Jr., who had to do considerable work to make it livable. In 1955 John Healey, Jr. acquired title and occupies at this writing. “(1989)
“Here stands the French-Andrews house, a one-story house built for John French stood upon this site about 1675. In 1718 it was sold to Joseph Andrews and some time before 1798 it was raised to two stories and the easterly end was added. In the spring of 1693, Howlett Street was laid out as a town way which passed “between Corpll French his house and barne.” The barn originally stood in the orchard on the westerly side of the road. Here is where Thomas French’s son John lived. He was b. ca. 1637 in Ipswich, MA, and died ca. 1706 in Topsfield. Photos below are dated 1987 before remodeling.
“The French home of Thomas French and later belonging to his son John in Topsfield, MA, was built in 1675, and probably the second to the oldest standing French home in the country. The oldest French house in the U.S. is that of Richard French in Marshfield, MA. John was a tailor and moved to Topsfield, MA, about 1664. The house is located on Howlett St. This first period antique saltbox colonial house built in 1675 has been extensively restored. It is considered the oldest continuously occupied house in the town and is also part of the National Historic Registry. The home is very privately situated on 4 lush, botanical acres. Diamond leaded glass windows, 5 fireplaces, exposed beams and brick, wide pine floors, wide paneled wood walls and a wood roof all provide historical ambience. Each bedroom has its own full bath! A separate wing can be used as an in-law potential or as an extended master suite. The grounds are set up for entertaining and are professionally landscaped. ” House was for sale in 2006. and was again renovated. The House sold again in 2019.”
Architectural survey by Abbot Lowell Cummings, Architecture in Colonial Massachusetts, September 1974:
“TOPSFIELD: FRENCH-ANDREWS HOUSE (so-called), 86 Hewlett Street c. 1718: John French, Sr., had a dwelling here by 1693, presumably the same conveyed with his farm to John French, Jr., on December 2, 1701, in return for support throughout the balance of the elder French’s life. An agreement among the latter’s heirs on August 25,1707, would suggest that the dwelling deeded in 1701 was still in existence. That structure, however, as described in 1701, seems to have had but a single chamber, whereas the present house is of two-room, central-chimney plan and in terms of style and character of construction was probably not built until Joseph Andrews of Boxford bought the property from John French, Jr., on June 16, 1718. The house was purchased on October 11, 1917, by Thomas Emerson Proctor and restored in 1919 under the direction of George Francis Dow, at which time a modern leanto was added (although nineteenth-century photographs reveal the presence of an earlier leanto and a one-and-a-half-story ell at the west end) and a new chimney top constructed, modeled on that of the Parson Barnard House in North Andover. Privately owned.”