254 Main St. W. Newbury, the William Follansbe house (c. 1720)

William Follansbee house, West Newbury MA

The house at 254 Main St. is close to two other 18th Century houses still standing on the north side of Main St. Traditionally known as the William Follansbe house, it appears in the 1729 map of the Inhabitants of the West Parish of Newbury by John J. Currier. In the 19th Century it was associated with the large W. Newbury comb industry, and in the 20th Century was the home of Pulitzer Prize winner Margaret Louise Coit, who married Albert Elwell of Maple Crest Farm on Moulton Street.

(Download this report as a PDF document.)

1729 West Newbury map, Main St.
The 1729 Plan of the West Parish of Newbury identifies 90 as Thomas Follansbe at the corner of Main St. and today’s Whetstone St. (known then as Follinsby Lane). The house marked 91 immediately to the west is the home of William Follansbe. The next house on the west marked 92 was the home of John Noyes, and is probably no longer standing.

Thomas Follansbe Sr. (1637-1725) was the patriarch of all American Follansbes. Born in Rockwood Hill, parish of Hamsterly, Durham, England, first settled in Portsmouth, and removed to West Newbury previous to 1677, with his wife Mary, who died. His second wife was Sarah. He had several children, including Thomas jr., (1674-1755) who died in West Newbury.

In November 1713, Thomas Follansbe Sr. of Newbury, “joiner,” sold a dwelling house and all the land adjoining “upon ye plaine” for £56,to his son-in-law Thomas Chase, “house carpenter,” bordering on Moulton northerly (Essex Co. Deeds, 26: 281). Mention is made of “my new dwelling house,” but the photocopy of the deed is difficult to read. Two years later, Thomas Chase “for love” sold the same property to his son Aquila Chase, 2 Apr. 1713. (source: Seven generations of the descendants of Aquila and Thomas Chase.

William Follansbe (1700-1774), son of Thomas Sr. and Abigail Follansbe was born in Newbury and married Mary Robinson. He lived in West Newbury until at least 1757, when he sold 14 acres to William Haseltine, and an 8 acre parcel to Ezekiel Bayley. Both bordered on land of Francis Follansbe, and his homestead and other buildings are not mentioned in those deeds. William Follansbe’s gravestone, dated 19 Nov 1774, is in Hampstead, NH where he and his last wife, Elizabeth (Gilbert) (Huse) Follansbe apparently moved. She died there in 1794.

Emery-Noyes ownership

Closeup of 254 Main St. in the 1850 West Newbury Map
254 Main St. in the 1850 map of West Newbury

The 1850 map of West Newbury appears to show John Emery, comb maker, as the owner of 254 Main St. One of the Osgood houses to the right is the Thomas Follansbe Jr. House at 262 Main St, the brother of William Follansbe. To the right is the Enoch Noyes-Loring house at 238 Main St., traditionally dated at 1746. The Noyes family was instrumental in the West Newbury comb industry.

The 1872 D.G. Beers Atlas of West Newbury appears to show C. H. Emery at the present 254 Main St. The lot was subsequently divided. A barn still standing behind the house at #260 Main St. appears to have once been John Emery’s comb shop.

254 Main St. in the 1884 W. Newbury map
254 Main St. in the 1884 West Newbury map.

In the 1884 West Newbury map, the home of J. S. Noyes has the same configuration as the present house when it had a side porch. The Noyes lost was split into two parcels in the early 20th Century, and the Moses B. Noyes house was replaced by today’s #260 Main St., constructed in 1912, according to the W. Newbury Patriot Properties site.

West Newbury comb makers Noyes family
The Noyes family were early West Newbury comb makers

The West Newbury comb industry

The area that became West Newbury was primarily a farming community until the late 1700s. Enoch Noyes began making horn buttons and coarse combs in 1759 at his home near 127 Main Street, and by the 1830s and 1840s there were 32 comb shops in town. The following excerpt is from Establishment of the comb-making industry in America:

“From the comb shop of Enoch Noyes there sprang up in West Newbury an incredible number of other small comb-making enterprises. The very earliest of which any record remains were those of Ephraim Noyes, Major Josiah Hill, Deacon Tenny, John Parker, S. Follansbe, W. R. Noyes, Josiah Parker, Ephraim Parker, Nehemiah Follansbe, Parker Noyes, Amaziah Bailey, Thomas Carleton, D. N. P. Carleton, Isaac Emery, John Emery, John Chase, Moses Smith, Tappan Bailey, W. K. Bailey, James Chase, Abiel Lovejoy, John Sargent, Joseph Stanwood, Samuel Parker, Newman Follansbe, A. W. Noyes, William P. Bailey, John Carr, John C. Carr, Moses Carr, Moses Stiles, Joseph Danforth, M. K. Emery, Stan- ford Chase, G. F. H. Brown and S. Bailey. Many of these names are familiar to old residents of West Newbury today. These men also were farmers, for at that early date farming was the principal occupation, but as the comb business grew they gave more and more time to it. In all cases the work was done by hand at home, or in small shops similar to the old-time shoe shop.”

Newell-Hazen-Coit ownership

From MACRIS inventory for 254 Main St., West Newbury, WNB.218

“Moses Newell (1822-1868) and his wife, Catherine (1839-1918), lived across the street at Newell Farm, 243 Main Street (WNB.65), listed on National Register of Historic Places in 1978). After Moses’ death, Catherine Newell continued to live at Newell Farm and retained ownership of a large parcel on the north side of Main Street. In 1903, Catherine Newell married again to Daniel M. Hazen (1830-1906). After Daniel Hazen died in 1906. Catherine Newell Hazen lived at 254 Main Street for the remainder of her life.

Upon Catherine Newell Hazen’s death, her son, Moses E. Newell of Nashville, Tennessee, inherited the property. In 1920, Moses Newell sold it to Disa L. Adams and her husband, Ulysses S. Adams Ulysses Adams worked as a mechanic. At the time of the 1940 census, Ulysses Adams was unemployed; the census indicates the couple shared the house with the Fulton family, who had six young children. In that year, the property was sold to Grace L. Coit, who lived here with her husband, Archa, a real estate agent and stockbroker, and their daughters, Grace and Margaret. The Coit family lived here until 1957. Their daughter Margaret Coit (1919-2003) won a Pulitzer Prize in Biography in 1951 for her biography of South Carolina legislator John Calhoun. She also wrote a biography of Bernard Baruch. Coit moved to West Newbury after finishing college circa 1940 to join her parents, who had recently moved to West Newbury. Coit began her career as a newspaper reporter for the Lawrence Daily Eagle and the Newburyport Daily News while working on the Calhoun biography.”

Painting of the William Follinsbee house in the 20th Century, with front and side porches
This 20th Century painting of the house at 254 Main St.
254 Main St., W. Newbury map today
254 Main St., W. Newbury map today

Structural Observations

The William Follansbe house is a fine well-preserved early Georgian house. The form of the front entrance of the house is indicative of its antiquity and is more typically found in a first period hall and parlor house, with small front entryway, winding stairs, massive brick chimney by the stairway, and a small door opening to stairs for the basement. We expect to see a center hallway if it was a typical Georgian house of the mid-18th Century. The “single pile” house is one room deep, measuring 36′ wide x 18′ deep. The rustic rear ell has low ceilings and exposed rough timbers. Sloping floors where it connects to the front section indicate it may be a repurposed utilitarian structure that is seen in early maps.

The chimney is supported by an arched brick vault. Abbott Lowell Cummings wrote that arched brick chimney vaults were invented in the last quarter of the 17th Century, and they are found throughout the 18th Century. The thin 18th Century bricks in the chimney stack have been repointed. The downstairs left side (“hall”) fireplace was used for cooking, and has a bread oven built into the face of the brick masonry. The parlor and upstairs fireplaces are smaller and shallower, and appear to have been influenced by the Rumford design, commonly found between 1790 and 1850, frequently found as updates to the original fireplaces.

Plastered ceilings without visible beams, as well as boxed corner posts are found throughout the original (front) four room house. The doors are typical 1″ Colonial with two panels. Georgian paneling and beading is evident throughout the front (original) section of the house. The attic purlins are sawn, almost square, and are regularly-spaced.

William Follansbee house, West Newbury MA
William Follansbe house, West Newbury MA
Front entrance and stairway, William Follansbee house, West Newbury MA
The front entrance and stairway in the William Follansbe house indicate its antiquity. In 17th Century entryways, builders gave no more space than was necessary for circulation between the hall, parlor and stairway, with the central chimney inevitably abutting narrow winders. Georgian entryways typically featured central halls with ornamental staircases. Original treads and risers in earlier houses were inevitably replaced because of wear. The cellar was typically accessed through a door under the stairs, although the door in this photo was sealed at some later date.
View from second floor at front stairway, William Follansbee house, Main St., West Newbury MA
View from second floor at front stairway, William Follansbe house. In most 17th and early 18th Century houses, the stairway to the attic were above the principal stairways. In the William Follansbe house, the attic is accessed by a narrow single run accessible from a door in a hallway behind the central chimney.
Arched chimney base at 254 Main St. in W. Newbury
Arched chimney vault base at 254 Main St. in W. Newbury. In the 17th Century stone bases were used for chimneys and fireplaces. Abbot Lowell Cummings wrote that arched brick chimney vaults were invented in the last quarter of the 17th Century, and are found throughout the 18th Century. 
Second floor fireplace in the William Follansbee house
Second floor fireplace in the William Follansbe house
Ceiling framing in rear ell, William Follansbee house, West Newbury
Ceiling framing in the rear ell, William Follansbe house
William Follansbee house, 254 Main St., West Newbury
William Follansbe house, 254 Main St., West Newbury

Research sources and methodology

This study and page were produced by Gordon Harris, also producer of the Historic Ipswich and Historic Massachusetts sites. Information is from a site visit, historic maps, deeds online at the Salem Deeds site, the West Newbury Patriot Properties site, and the recently revised MACRIS Form B inventory, which left undetermined the early history of the house. The present owners were told by the late Esther Osman, former chair of the W. Newbury G1973 historic inventory surveyor Esther Osman that the house dates to 1720, constructed for William Follansbe. This page may contradict some the Form B inventories, yet to be resolved.


  • 1757: William Follansbe to William Haseltine, containing 14 acres and 25 rods, for “244 pounds lawful money,” bounded by Deacon John Noyes and Francis Follansbee; also an 8 acre parcel to Ezekiel Bayley for 57 pounds, both “which my honored father Thomas Follansbee gave to me.” Salem Deeds book 104 page 140. (Follansbe apparently retained his homestead)
  • 1760: William Haseltine, 5 acres with buildings thereon to Benjamin Jaques for 130 pounds, 15 shillings, bordering on Francis Follansbe, Salem Deeds book 109 page 57.
  • 1829: John Follansbee to John Emery, comb maker, lot with buildings thereon, “being the same conveyed to me by Mary Sargent,” bordering southwesterly by land of Moses Newhall, northwesterly by land of widow Sarah Osgood and northeasterly by land of John Osgood, Salem Deeds book 254, page 177. (*The deed from Mary Sargent to John Follansbe has not been discovered. John Moody, Jr. (1787-1859) married Mary Sargent (1791-1867) in 1812. The Moody-Sargent house is at 411 Main St.)
  • 1844: John Emery, comb maker, to John Moody, lot with the buildings thereon, Salem Deeds book 348, page 190 bordering on land of Emery, Newell and Osgood, “being the same transferred to me by John Follansbee.”
  • 1860: John Emery to Joseph Newell, Salem Deeds, book 589, page 148: deed and release of mortgage, lot with buildings thereon.
  • 1863: Isaac Osgood to Somerby Noyes, Salem Deeds book 655, page 216
  • 1880: Catherine Newell to Joseph Noyes, Salem Deeds book 1044, page 59, a piece of land bordering on Joseph Noyes for $7.00.
  • 1880: Catherine Newell to Joseph S. Noyes, Salem Deeds, book 02448, page=369
  • 1920: Joseph O. Noyes to Moses B. Noyes,
  • 1937, Helen Poor, widow, to Alonza Smith Salem Deeds book 03105, page 374 (“for reference, see deed of Joseph O. Noyes”, (borders southwesterly on land of Noyes et al.)
  • 1940: Coit mortgage, Salem Deeds, book 3220, page 501, and Coit to Thurlow, (bordering southeaserly on land formerly of Moses B. Noyes)
  • 1919: Newell to Adams, Salem Deeds Book 2468, page 546 (borders southeasterly on land of Moses B. Noyes)
  • 1920: Sheehan to Newell, Salem Deeds, book 2413, page 125 (borders on land of Moses B. Noyes)


Other Sources and further reading