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.
Sources and further reading:
- MACRIS listing
- 1856, 1872, 1884 maps showing the Town Farm
- 1910 map showing T.E. Proctor
- Bond, Lawrence: Houses and Buildings in Topsfield, 1989.
- Topsfield Historical Collections: Vol. 34
- Petition of Stephen Perkins and Solomon Dodge, 1778
- Genealogy of the Dodge Family
- Topsfield Town Records: Record of the Poor, 1821-1862 (Digitized microfilm reel, Courtesy Topsfield Historical Society)
- Topsfield Town Records: Account Book Kept by the Superintendent of the Poor Farm, 1825-1835; (Digitized microfilm reel, Courtesy Topsfield Historical Society)