The Story of Fairhaven
by Thomas Tripp
Compiled in 1929
The Fairhaven village of early days owed its inception to an ambitious real estate scheme. Perhaps it is fair to say, operators in real estate are still active. For those who have more recently moved to Fairhaven, may I say that the town of Dartmouth originally included the present area of Westport, Dartmouth, New Bedford, Fairhaven and Acushnet. It was bought from the Indian Chief Massasoit and his son, Wamsutta, in 1652.
The price paid, according to the old deed of sale, was “thirty yards of cloth, eight moose skins, fifteen axes, fifteen hoes, fifteen pair of breeches, eight blankets, two kettles, one cloak, 2 in wampum, eight pair stockings, eight pair shoes, one iron pot and ten shillings in other commoditie.”
Massasoit agreed to remove all Indians from the locality within a year. The part of the township that is now New Bedford was known to the Indians as Cushena, meaning “as far as the river;” that now Fairhaven as Sconticut; Dartmouth as Ponaganset; and Westport as Coakset.
There were thirty-six original purchases of the township of Dartmouth and among them was Captain Miles Standish. He sold his share to John Russell on “March ye 9th, 1664.”
The above details are from “New Bedford’s Story,” edited by Emma L. Gartland.
Fairhaven, including the present town of Acushnet, was separated from New Bedford in 1812 and Acushnet was set off from Fairhaven in 1861.
Tradition recites that whaling and ship building began at Padanaram, but that about 1760, through the influence of one Joseph Russell, owner of land on the west bank of the Acushnet river, the industries were transferred to his locality and he sold land to those interested in those pursuits.
This plan worked out so successfully in the case of Joseph Russell that Noah Allen, a dweller on the back road now called Alden road, conceived a similar scheme, for he, with thirteen other fathers in Israel, some bearing the names of Delano, Taber, Nye, Eldridge, Wady, Negus, Church and Hathaway, bought twenty acres of land from Elnathan Pope, known historically as “the twenty acre purchase.”
The land extended, according to the map, from the waterfront to 130 feet east of the present east line of Main street and from the present north line of the steam railroad to 130 feet north of the north line of Washington street.
The area was divided into forty lots, Noah Allen himself taking one-fourth of the whole. In this restricted area Fairhaven village developed under the influence and enterprise of Wady, Church, Eldridge and the Delanos, the more wealthy members of the syndicate, until in 1770 or 1780 its prosperity was nearly equal to that of the opposite village of Bedford, under the guidance of Joseph Russell.
In 1790 Back street, now Main street was extended south to the water at the corner of the present Church street and north across herring river, the outlet of which was the pond filled in to make Cushman park, to the Village of Oxford. Previously the only entrance to the village by land was out Centre street to Rotch, north to Spring thence east via Spring and north via Adams.
In 1765 Joseph Rotch of Nantucket purchased the balance of the Pope farm at the east of the village and for 65 years, during the remainder of his life and that of his son William, prevented the extension of the village to the east.
A tradition once prevailed that because Joseph Rotch could not purchase certain portions of the so-called twenty acre purchase at a price he considered fair, he decided not to sell his holdings east of the village and transferred his interest to Bedford. The people of Fairhaven had money to build good homes with ample surroundings but could not buy the land.
In 1760 William Wood deeded to Elnathan Eldridge six acres at the point where was later developed the Village of Oxford.
Lot 1 was sold in 1774 to Samuel Proctor. His house was different from any other but in 1780 was considered among the six first houses in Dartmouth. It is still standing, but unnoticed by those not familiar with its history and age, located just north of Washington street and West of Middle street.
Lot 2 was owned in 1800 by John Alden, who built the house at the northwest corner of Middle and Washington street, later occupied by Rufus Dunham and Mr. Weed, a shoemaker with a shop in the basement.
At the west end of this lot was built a store and warehouse and also a so-called “long wharf,” later known as “north wharf.” Old north wharf was so named to distinguish it form the present Kelley’s wharf, known as “old south wharf.” In 1892 this north wharf property came into possession of Captain Warren Delano whose descendents still possess it. Richard Delano, the first owner, had a try works here This was in the days when boats went out from the shore, caught whales and brought blubber back to be tried out.
The Daniel Egery house, on lot 3 at the southwest corner of Middle and Washington street was built soon after 1764. The original house has been added to and has had various owners.
The Atkins Adams house, on Lot 4, on the west side of Water street, south of the corner, now owned by heirs of Mrs. John Hanna, was built in 1820. Atkins Adams was an important personage in the town and the first person here to have a tomb. It was located in the old cemetery now Willow park, in the extreme southeast corner. One of his heirs was the wife of Captain Warren Delano. In 1863 she gave the property to Mrs. Hanna, in recognition of the faithfulness of her service to the Delano family.
The south part of lot five, included Eldredge lane, on the north side of which is one of the oldest houses in the town, and interesting center chimney house, built by Noah Allen, which in 1796 passed into and remained in the Eldredge family until 1881.
On the east end of this lot on Middle street was once a hip-roofed house built by Noah Allen and sold by him in 1764. It is not now standing. It was the first house built in the village. In its place is the house of Miss Georgia Fairfield.
The Luther Cole house, on lot six, now occupied by his son, was built by Thomas Huttleston in 1804 and soon after was sold to Lemuel Tripp and in 1866 to Luther Cole. This is at the east end of lot six.
The Dr. Fairchild house, now the house of C. F. Swift, was on the east end of lot seven, facing Middle street. It was originally the homestead of one Joshua Loring, later occupied by Jabez Delano, the father of Miss Frances Delano, until he built the stone house on Washington street. In 1852 it passed on to Dr. Isaac Fairchild. I have had more than one tooth pulled in the front parlor of that home.
The Gamaliel Church house, the largest house in the village, was on lot seven, located on the east side of Water street, built by one Abram Davis, a shop-keeper, which he sold in 1763 to Gamaliel Church, one of the leading men. He had an inn holder’s license and a liquor license when one was needed. He it was who made the beginnings of old South wharf, so called, which in 1795 was sold to Peleg Huttleston and his son, Henry. It was greatly enlarged. Since 1880 it has been in the Kelley family, having been purchased by David N. Kelley’s father.
The Swift house occupied a portion of lot eight, fronting west on Water street. The house was bought by Asa Swift in 1798, being built by Jethro Allen in 1791. The east end of this lot was occupied by a store now torn down. The store was kept by Isaac Sherman and Samuel Proctor until 1827 when it was sold to Asa Swift.
Centre street was extended from Middle street to the river about 1801. The middle lot on the north side of lot nine was owned by Joseph and William Rotch. On the northeast corner of Water and Centre streets was built one of the most pretentious homes of the village. The fine stone steps, iron rail and the character of the house indicate the taste and refinement of the builder, Isaac Sherman. This house was later acquired by Ezekiel Sawin and was later occupied by his brother, Albert.
The east end of lot nine in 1796 was occupied by a store run by Henry Huttleston, the grandfather of Henry H. Rogers. He was one of a dozen or so store keepers who had a liquor license. The holders of these licenses were the highly respected men of the community and members of the Congregational society.
About 1830 the property was sold to Ezekiel Sawin, the grandfather of Mrs. Stoddard, who built the very attractive house now standing at the northwest corner of Middle and Centre streets. When Ezekiel, senior, moved out of this house, his son, Mrs. Stoddard’s father, moved in.
The south side of Centre street, on lot ten, was occupied by a house built by Elisha Allen about 1796. Later it was the home of Levi Jenney and still later the home of Nathan Church, the wealthiest man in town, until he built the brick house at the northeast comer of Centre and Green streets. It is said that Nathan Church and his son Henry examined every brick which went into the construction.
John Delano and Levin Stott built the very large house on the west side of Middle street on lot twelve, about 1806. It later renewed its youth under the ownership of Charles F. Perry, who purchased it in 1920 from the heirs of R. W. Pease.
Lot fourteen is on the north side of Union street. The house now owned by Mrs. Zenas Winsor was built in 1774 by Levin Stott, afterward owned by Rufus Men, Jr., and after him his daughters, the Allen girls, so-called. Rufus’ store in the basement on Union street was a popular place in my boyhood days, and, no doubt, did a fine business with those who went down to the main ships, when the going down was profitable. It still bears the marks of an English cannon ball from the raid of 1778.
Now not Jacob’s but Rufus’ well was there. With the aid of a very tall pump log placing the handle above the reach of boys, one Nicolas Hathaway, he of the brass ear rings, stood on a cask and pumping through a long length of leather hose and the long length of a day filled the whaling cask with water for the vessels tied at Union wharf, the busiest place in town when Fairhaven was in its prime.
The west end of this lot was sold to Noah Stoddard in 1804 and he with others purchased lots fifteen, sixteen and seventeen, organizing an association which built Union wharf. This was lined with stores and workshops of all kinds kindred to the shipping interests on each side of Union street.
This wharf registers the locality where fortunes were made and lost. In 1887 it came into possession of Henry H. Rogers. About 1892 he offered to give it to me, if I would arrange for an industry which would give employment to Fairhaven people.
In 1789 Joseph Stetson built the house at the southwest corner of Middle and Union streets which was later sold to Solomon Williams, and when you pass it please remember that he was the great-grandfather of Miss Georgia Fairfield.
He was one of the so-called master builders of his day and built the present Methodist parsonage, the house at the northeast corner of Union and Main streets, the Francis Stoddard house on the opposite corner to mine and the home of Mrs. Susan Perry on lower Middle street. Remember too, that his shop was in the basement of his house.
The Alden house at the northwest corner of Main and Washington street shows as we pass on the trolley, the great difference in size of the homes of the olden time and those now being built. Evidently the families were large or expected to be.
At the northeast corner of Middle and Washington streets was once a store which was fitted into a paper collar factory, about 1865 for Fred Ellis and his brother. Paper collars were the thing at that time. The business was moved away after a brief existence and the lower floor was fitted for a school taught by Fred Hitch. I was a pupil for a year and here took my first Latin lessons from the Principia Latina.
Mr. Hitch was a fine teacher and later, as a tutor, prepared T. R. for Harvard College. His home at that time was directly across from my present home on Green street.
Lot 3A is interesting. It was the homestead of Isaiah Eldredge, one of the original twenty acre purchasers. This house was at the southwest corner of the lot and at his death descended to his daughter, Ruby Allen. It was later purchased by Henry Huttleston for his daughter Mary, the mother of Henry H. Rogers.
The old part of this house probably antedates the Revolution. At the northwest corner of the lot was the home of Alfred Nye, built about 1807. It was also the home of the son, Alfred Nye, Jr. during his life time. In the basement he kept many of the goods which he sold in the store located in the basement of the house next east, at the corner of Main and Washington streets.
The George Hitch house, built about 1807 is still in the Hitch family and was the summer home of Mrs. Joseph Hitch until her death in 1922. Property which they acquired in 1829, then known as Hitches’ grove, was transferred to Charles F. Perry.
The Damon house, owned by the father of Mrs. John Clark, is a fine example of a type of house much in vogue previous to 1830. It was built about 1800 by Levi Jenny as his homestead.
The Methodist parsonage, built by Solomon Williams in 1802 for Isaac Weston “clerk.” The term clerk in those days meant he was a minister and he it was who presided over the congregation which then met in Phoenix hall – but not Phoenix hall as it may be now seen.
Lot five connects in the memory of some of us the past with the present, the ancient with the modem. It was on the north side of Centre street, at its southeast corner that John Delano in 1764 built a gambrel roofed house. It was removed when the Masonic building was erected. This was a vine-clad cottage in which dwelt Horatio Jenny, one of the interesting people of the town.
At the southeast corner of Centre and Middle streets is a house built in 1798 by John Delano, owned as the years have passed, by Enoch Jenney, Joseph B. Taber, Robert W. Pease and the Savings bank. This is of the centre chimney type. The bank management tore down the old shop at the east and thereby removed one of the sore spots of the town.
Another centre chimney house was built at the northeast corner of Union and Middle streets before the Revolution by George Hitch. It finally became the home of Dr. Jeremiah Miller, the grandfather of Mrs. George Tripp.
Just opposite the Bryden apartments is a typical house of the period of 1830 and later – two chimneys on the south – the doorway is one of the fine ones of the town – which was built by John H. Thompson in 1830, later owned by Captain Thomas F. Lambert. I well remember the day about 1870 when his son Frank, an intimate friend of my teacher, Fred Hitch, was drowned in the bay.
The Wilson Pope house at the southwest corner of Union and Main streets was built by Nicholas Stoddard in 1798. I surmise he was the father of Alden Stoddard. Alden Stoddard sold the house to Wilson Pope and his grandchildren, William and Sarah Allen, now possess it. This dwelling is of the two interior chimney type, but had a Dutch cap or hip roof, a style very uncommon in the village.
Previous to the Revolution very few buildings stood on the east side of the “back street” as Main Street was then called, but when Main Street, in 1795, was opened at the north by a bridge across the herring river and to the south to the shore, conditions changed somewhat.
William Stevens built a house about 1798 where his granddaughter, Cora A. Stevens now lives. The two small houses next south were built by Job Tripp, George Tripp’s great grandfather, previously in about 1772. The Woodland market building was built by George Hitch who lived opposite about 1803. Reuben Taber built where Mrs. Perry now lives. The property of Mr. Morton, treasurer of the Fairhaven Iron Foundry, was built by Joseph Taber about 1804, and in my early recollection was occupied by Jethro Taber, a blacksmith.
With the decline in the catching of big fish, if we may so class whales, Jethro caught small fish. Each day, weather permitting, found him with his boat on the bay and the same evening with his barrow on the corner dispensing fish really fresh.
Would that Jethro might return and with him the striped bass, the rock bass and the bluefish from unpolluted waters at 5¢ a pound!
In 1790 the Congregational society purchased the lot where now stands a part of Phoenix block for a meeting house. Previously the nearest meeting house was in Acushnet. A one story structure was built on the corner facing south. It was occupied until 1853 when the brick church was built. The old building was sold to Barnabus Ewer. The building was turned to face west, raised up and stores built beneath it. We now call it the Phoenix block.
As early as 1764 Gamaliel Church kept an inn on Water street, but it was apparently a short-lived business. The village was too thickly settled for convivial spirits to hold sway unnoticed and unheard as in the taverns of the post roads. In 1831, Joseph Wing thought a hotel feasible and he purchased the land now occupied by the Bryden apartments. Soon after the temperance crusade entered and the liquor selling terminated. Mr. Wing found a mortgage to the Savings bank necessary, later the bank found a foreclosure also necessary.
In 1854 some of the leading men felt a hotel would benefit the community and organized the Union hotel company. It started with a mortgage to the Savings bank as a part of the price and in 1865 the bank foreclosed again and after holding the property for nearly twenty years conveyed it to Miss Bryden’s mother and later to other owners.
The W.L.B. Gibbs house at the northeast comer of Main and Union streets is one of the best examples of this type of house. Mr. Gibbs was a whaling merchant and looked the part. He went down financially in the crash of 1857. His partner, W. P. Jenney, bought the house, moving from his own expensive property. With the death of his daughter, Miss Addie Jenney, the property finally passed to other hands.
The north third of lot SB was sold in 1798 to William Hitch, no doubt because he wished, in the language of the day, “to fling out a street to his farm at the east.” This was known as the wind mill. The windmill stood on the east side of Main street in what is now Union street. When this north section was sold, the mill was torn down, a tide mill having already in 1792 been built on the west side of the present main street at the outlet of the mill pond.
Some of the inhabitants remember the old stones and machinery and the dilapidated building. These tide mills seem to have been the only successful attempts to harness in a limited fashion the unlimited power of the ocean tides.
The south part of the windmill lot was built on by Henry Huttleston in 1808. It was sold to Henry Stackpole in 1827 and still remains in the hands of his descendents. It was a typical centre chimney house.
The next house south was built in about 1797 and purchased by Henry Huttleston in 1798. It was his residence until finally sold by Betsey Huttleston to Reuben Fish in 1852.
The house on the south part of lot 9B, and that on the north part of 10B have figured in the most interesting title suit known in Bristol county records. In 1836 the north house was conveyed by Captain Rufus Allen of West Island to his son, Captain Silas, the grandfather of the late Walter P. Winsor. He married an English lady, Miss Sarah Pellington, a sister of the wife of Captain Phineas Terry who trekked from Goshen, N.Y. to Sconticut Neck.
The south house was built by Jethro Delano about 1817. A part of this house stands on land to which the owners never had a title or a deed and thereon hangs a tale and a lawsuit which came to my notice when I bought the Silas Allen property for my aunt’s home in 1891.
Thus far I have noted only homes built within the twenty acre purchase. There was ample land beyond the Rotch farm at the east and north. John Cook, the first white settler in Fairhaven had his home on the ridge just south of the Oxford school. West Island and Sconticut Neck were not without attractions.
West Island was named for Stephen West. His house on the east side of Sconticut Neck was opposite the road leading to Pope beach, built by Stephen West about 1700. He married one of John Cook’s daughters.
Stephen West’s house came to his son, John, who died in 1789, leaving part of his property to the care of the New Bedford Monthly Meeting of Friends. The fund is still in charge of trustees appointed by the meeting. The house was taken down in 1895 but the commodious and many-flued chimney stood until 1905.
These trustees and their successors in office have continued for 135 years the distribution of this income in accordance with the wording of the will to the industrious poor of this vicinity, and I think I may say, without loss of principal or interest and without cost for service.
Sconticut Neck was a surprisingly popular place for homes in the early days. Tradition says one Spooner and one Delano each built homes near the former location of the late Daniel W. Deane’s home and before either house was ready the first white child born on the Neck came into the world under the protecting shelter of a large rock.
Those of us who visited the Neck before the warfare against mosquitoes was made have wondered why people sought this section. Mr. Deane felt the location had many advantages. Wild fowl were most abundant, fish and shellfish equally so. With gun, line or hoe one need not have missed a meal, even if other sources failed.
But the real attraction was the heavy white oak timber with which the Neck was wooded. This timber was much sought for by the ship builders of this section. A gear load of branching white oaks, drawn by two yoke of oxen with a horse in the lead was not an unusual sight in my boyhood. A great deal of this fine timber was destroyed by the very high tide flooding the woods in the gale of 1815.
In Mr. Deane’s boyhood, nineteen farms embraced the whole of the Neck. Now some single farms have from 19 to 119 owners if the weekend travel is a criterion. The oldest house on the Neck now standing was built by Yet Seth Pope and now belongs to H.P. Dunn.
The D.C. Potter home was built about 100 years ago by Captain Seth Pope, the son of Yet Seth Pope.
The Captain Marcellus P. Whitfield house is one of the old homes of Sconticut Neck. It is located some distance east of the present main road but was located on the road existing when there were only nineteen farms on the Neck. This is interesting and historic because it is the first house in America in which the little Japanese boy, Manjiro Nakahama, lived after his rescue by Captain Whitfield. It is deserving of a tablet.
The Richard Delano house is an old house standing back from the east side of Rotch street south of Spring street. It has the distinction of appearing in the Delano Genealogy. It was one of the homes sacked by the English soldiers in the raid of 1778 and still bears evidence of the jabs of British bayonets. It was built in 1773. My father told me he seriously considered the purchase of this property, but finally decided on the house at 6 William street. He bought it in 1857 from Isaac Norton.
The Seth Delano house, located on the south side of Spring street about 1,000 feet east of Rotch street has that interesting and typical old-fashioned style of roof with a short pitch on the street front and a long pitch at the back, sometimes called a lean-to. To me it is a distinct, likeable and homey type for the country, speaking in greater praise for the architecture of Spring street in 1811 than for that of some other streets in 1929. This house is also honored by its appearance in the Delano Genealogy.
When I pass a house of this type in the country I can imagine the spare room, with an airtight stove for quick heating and the large living room with panelled wainscoating and ample fireplaces. Let’s have more lean-to’s. More homes like homes which harmonize with the environment. There is a great difference between a house and a home.
The Summerton house1 so-called, on the north side of the road from Parting Ways to Acushnet was built about 1711. This1 the oldest gambrel roofed house in old Dartmouth or in this section of Mass., was built by Samuel D. Hunt, the young Congregational minister of Acushnet village who had recently married the daughter of Seth Pope, the wealthiest man of the town. Seth Pope lived on the east side of the Alden road just north of Washington street. He was the great-grandfather of Miss Mary Alice Fish.
The Nathaniel Pope house now belongs to A. E. Rose, situated next west of his store. I cannot locate the date of building, but it was conveyed by Matthew Howland, a carpenter, in 1790 to Nathaniel Pope, the grandfather of Miss Mary Alice Fish. It was in this house that she was born in 1835.
Her grandfather and two great uncles, Lemuel and Seth, were naval officers in the Revolution and captured the first British prize brought into port in this section.
This was the first naval battle of the Revolution. The building on the corner, now Rose’s store, was originally Nathaniel Pope’s carriage room. The house where Miss Fish now lives was a schoolhouse. I have a picture of the house before the brick church was built and the street cut down. There was quite a hill originally between Main and William streets at this place and when the hill was cut away it left the Pope house high up. It also developed that the present level of the street was solid ledge.
History repeats itself, those things which the people in some of the newer sections of the town have recently done, the people of the village did in 1831 and the years immediately following, with this important difference- they did them distinctively better.
The opportunity for the village people came in 1830, brought about by the death of William Rotch, Jr., in June, 1829. His home was the large mansion at the northeast corner of Union and Second street in New Bedford, destroyed by a fire a couple of years ago. This mansion was reported to have been built by the firm of East and West, one a carpenter, the other a mason.
After the death of William Rotch, Jr., the mansion was utilized as a hotel and known to most of us for many years as the Mansion House. Nathan Gifford, a cousin of my grandfather, lived in his boyhood with Mr. Rotch as a chore boy and pointed out to me the window of his room on the Second street side of the house, and also told me that he helped in the hay fields of the Rotch farm where now are the homes of the people living on William, Walnut, Green, Union and Centre streets.
I remember Mr. Gifford very well. He lived to be ninety-six years of age, hale and hearty to the last. He was one of the early settlers of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He early secured a competence and built a fine home for those days on the banks of the Hudson, where he could see the traffic on the river and view the passing of the famous passenger steamers of the New York and Albany Day line. On the same street was the brewery of Matthew Vassar who brewed beer with such success that he endowed the college which bears his name.
The record books at the Registry for 1830 and 1831 are full of deeds from the Rotch heirs to the people of this town – Nathaniel Higgins, Isaac Norton, Melvin, Bradford, Reuben Fish, Hiram Tripp, Roland Fish, Mary Pope, Weston Robinson, Warren Delano and others.
A home letter written at this time to Miss Alice Fish’s mother, then absent in the south, gives the news of the day. “William Jenney and Philip Nye have bought lots on the new street going from the water (meaning Union street.) Melvin Bradford has bought on the hill (i.e. comer of Washington and William.) Almost all the lots are taken around us -mother hopes to get a good price for her land. Francis Stoddard and Miss E. Terry are engaged and Captain Gibbs has gone the way of all living.”
The records state that “5/8/30 Hiram Tripp (father of George H. Tripp) bought for $183.65 from the Rotch heirs a lot of land situated on the east side of a street running from the Burying ground northerly through our land at a point 100 feet from a street easterly by the Congregational meeting house.” This lot was 100 feet square. The house built thereon was moved first to accommodate the library, again to accommodate the Memorial church and is now the property of Mr. Percy I. Fletcher at the foot of Walnut street.
Roland Fish, Miss Fish’s father, and Weston Robinson, his partner in house and ship building, bought the land on the north side of Centre street between William and Walnut streets, eighty feet deep for $352.80. They built, about 1836, a large double house. Mr. Fish occupied the west part, Mr. Robinson the east.
This was one of the conspicuous and fine homes of the town but was taken down to accommodate the Town hall. The fine large elm trees along this block were planted by Roland Fish. He did this planting evenings while his young wife held the lantern and steadied the tree. This would seem to be an embryo improvement association in action.
Perhaps we would say today the most important purchase in the new area was made by “Mary Pope, widow” as the deed recites. She was the widow of Captain Nathaniel Pope who as stated previously sailed out into the bay in the early morning of May 14, 1775, and with Yankee wit and strategy, with little use of shot or shell or sword captured two British vessels and brought them and their crews to the village wharf. This was the first naval engagement of the Revolution. It registered a victory for Captain Pope and his crew. A tablet commemorating this engagement was erected at Fort Phoenix overlooking the scene and dedicated on September 17th, 1927 by the New Bedford Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution.
The widow Mary evidently had a keen real estate instinct for she was one of the very first purchasers of the new lots, buying in 1830 a lot 100 feet square, bounded on the east by a way leading from the burying ground (now Willow Park) northerly through my land (the deed recites) on the south by a street running easterly by the meeting house (which was built facing south, corner Main and Centre streets, afterward turned to face west, raised up a story and called Phoenix block.) Thus the widow Pope, with commendable foresight, buys a lot 100 feet square right in the center of things for $280.03 and expects to double her money – perhaps she did better.
One gathers from the price mentioned in this deed that people of those days looked after the pennies. Other deeds of this period indicate that half pennies were not neglected, for the same land owner sold to Joshua Grinnell a lot 80 feet on the east side of this same way from the burying ground and 100 feet deep for $146.87½ and another lot of the same size just north to Capt. Benjarnin Ellis for $146.87½. The Benjamin Ellis lot is the property next north of the Town Hall but the Joshua Grinnell house was torn down and the lot became a part of the Town hall site.
William Rotch’s cart path leading through his land to the burying ground (now Willow Park) which we call William street – has several houses of interest. Marlboro Bradford purchased the 100 foot lot next north of the Benjamin Ellis house for $175 in 1834.
Marlboro was one of the men of affairs. He was as chary of words as the ex-president, he did not choose to talk much. He was a typical uncle, his wife a typical aunt, so that everyone younger including nephews and nieces called them Uncle Marlboro and Aunt Dolly.
I well remember Aunt Dolly’s cookies which were kept in a crock in that immaculate pantry on the north side of the house now numbered 37 William Street. Aunt Dolly’s cookies cannot be reproduced, modern chemistry and the age-old motion we call centrifugal have robbed molasses of some of its sweet and cookiemaking qualities, neither can the molasses candy in the sticks be reproduced which her niece, another Aunt Dolly, made for her son to sell on Town Meeting days and other days as well. Until her death a few months ago here at 37 William street lived one who “went down to the sea in ships” even if she did not “do business in great waters.” Mrs. Frederick N. Gifford was born in Mauritius, that far-off isle of the sea.
One would not say today that the corner of Washington and William streets was on a hill, but once it was so considered, for in Miss Pope’s letter to her sister, she writes: “Mr. Melvin 0. Bradford has bought on the hill.”
His purchase was at the northeast corner of William and Washington streets, 100 feet square for $238, even dollars this time. This is now the attractively furnished home of Mr. and Mrs. Stuart M. Briggs. To this corner Melvin and Hannah, his wife, moved when the house was finished and with them the little son William who was destined later to become one of America’s most distinguished artists.
Philemon Fuller was another purchaser on the hill. His lot, the southeast corner of William and Washington, 67 feet on William and 100 feet deep, cost $167.40. Samuel Eldredge bought the next lot south 60 feet on William, 100 feet deep for $110.25. Recently the Eldredge house was torn down, Philemon’s turned around, built over, added to and became the home of the late Mr. L. C. Lapham. The records indicate that the original cost of Mr. Lapham’s house lot was $277.65.
Whatever of interest the east side of the way from the burying ground may have for us, the west side possesses the most ambitious developments of those flourishing days. Mary Pope’s land on the corner became a church site. The little meeting house at Centre and Main streets no longer satisfied the Congregational people. A New York architect was sought. The Brick church, so-called, erected in 1845, impressed the worshipper within and the wayfarer without, with the beauty of its Gothic lines, while the original steeple towering 200 feet high, was a welcome beacon for the sailor on the bay.
When success in whaling ceased, many Fairhaven fortunes tottered and fell, and even the beautiful church steeple itself tottered and fell in that wild September gale of 1869.
Ezekiel Sawin was not the first purchaser of some of the new lots placed on the market, but he was the first to erect a real mansion in Fairhaven. He built a noble home, laid out a magnificent garden of flowers, shrubs and trees. It passed into the hands of Captain Weston Howland of New Bedford and is now owned and occupied by his daughters.
The old “Rail Road house” so-called, until recently torn down, stood at the southwest corner of Main street and the railroad. Originally this house stood on the east side of Main street, exactly in the line of the railroad. It was occupied by Rev. William Gould who conducted a young ladies’ seminary there. The house was moved to accommodate the railroad construction, the rear portion being cut off and located on the east side of Fort street just north of the railroad and fitted up for a home.
A Mr. Luscomb lived there in my youth. He was the constable or one of the constables of the town. His sober demeanor backed by his authority cast terror to the small boys of my day. As a side line we may say he twisted fish lines in his cellar and frequently was obliged to open the cellar door and extend the process of twisting across Fort street. His daughter, a classmate and friend of Mr. H.H. Rogers, was a delightful lady.
Rev. William Gould moved his young ladies’ seminary business to the east side of the Alden road about due east of the Woodside cemetery. The house was afterward owned by Mr. Sullings. His son was a member of the High school class of 1875 and was no doubt the tallest boy in town.
The double house at 42 and 44 Spring street, now the home of Mrs. Nathaniel Pope, was built about 1835. It is notable as sheltering one of the earlier schools and has further interest for here the boy Manjiro Nakahama absorbed some of the mysteries of the English language. Mr. Job C. Tripp, his school mate, told me that while other boys played at intermission, Manjiro studied.
Nathan Church, who in his time was the wealthiest man in town, estimated to have been worth $350,000, lived as previously stated at the southwest corner of Centre and Middle streets. He aspired to a more pretentious home and about 1840 built the brick house at the comer of Green and Centre streets for many years the home of Mr. and Mrs. Walter P. Winsor.
Originally the house did not have the piazzas on the west and northwest, nor the projecting one story addition at the south. There used to be a walk from Centre street to a central south entrance for general use. Front doors were reserved for Sunday and company uses in those days. The original cost I do no know but Mr. Winsor bought it about 1878 for $4,000, and moved from my home at 74 Green street where he had brought his bride in 1876 and where the eldest son was born.
The Henry Church house on the west side of Fort street until recently burned was used as a hospital. since its erection it has had many owners, an occasional mortgagee’s sale has been a part of its history. Henry Church was the son of Nathan, the wealthiest man in the town of his time who built the brick house on the corner of Green and Church streets. The plans of the Henry Church house were drawn by Mr. George Bradford, an uncle of Miss Mary E. Bradford. He died before the contract was completed and the architect fees were paid to his estate. I have not learned the name of the contractor, but am told it was built in the winter (an unusual proceeding in those days) and that the walls of the house were put together on the ground and in the spring riggers came, raised up the sides and the carpenters then completed the house.
The Captain James Turner house, now owned and occupied by Mr. Thomas W. Whitfield, was built by my father about 1857. Fort street at that time was having its first epidemic of popularity as a residential section.
Captain Turner was thought to be very well to do, but like many others he flourished with the whaling industry and the reciprocal endorsement of his friends; both proved valueless as collateral at the same time and for the same reasons and when most needed. Another example of the proverbial row of bricks. Captain Turner failed before the house was finished, but through the enforcement of mechanics liens and a subsequent auction, thereunder, the house was sold to Captain James S. Robinson and my father was relieved of what threatened to be a real real-estate burden. It might be of interest to state that Mr. Whitfield now owns not only the house Captain Robinson bought but also the house where Captain Robinson lived, the latter next west of the Masonic block.
The Walter H. Judd house at 114 Green street was also built by father. It was the first house built in town after a period of depression in building during the Civil war. The two story bay window and conical roof was an after development. The contract price for the house as originally built was $1,875 and even at this price it was built and “thrown up,, as some contractors are wont to do today.
The Warren Delano house on Walnut street was built by Captain Warren Delano, the grandfather of Mr. Frederic Delano in the late 1830’s, when Fairhaven was developing so rapidly and so well. The house has been much enlarged in recent years, but when built Captain Delano bought all the materials and the contractor received $750 for the labor of buildings.
Captain Joseph Taber was formerly a neighbor of the wealthy Nathan Church when he lived at the corner of Centre and Middle and saw fit to follow his neighbor’s example and move up to the corner of Green and Church. The house was built by Barzilla Adams the brother of Atkins Adams. The house as originally built was a type unusual in this locality. Within recent months it has undergone radical changes both as to its interior and exterior.
The Captain James V. Cox house at the northwest corner of Centre and Laurel streets is just a little different from any other house in town, the peculiarity being a covered piazza in each of the two south corners. It was built by Atkins Adams, a brother of Barzilla, who built the Joseph Taber house nearly opposite. It is interesting to note that in these cases two sisters later occupied the two houses that two brothers built, Mrs. Joseph Taber being a sister of Mrs. James V. Cox, the latter the mother of Mr. George H. Cox, the present owner.
Many of the readers of the Star remember the William P. Jenney house, located on the site of the Memorial church.
The house lot was the east half of the block. The premises had a high stone wall on Centre street, a high hedge on Green and a fine iron fence on Union. A picture still in existence shows the high banked basement and interesting Gothic architecture of the house. Next to that one on the opposite corner this was perhaps the most conspicuous home of the town. Alas, the fortune such as it was passed with the whaling and Mr. Jenney retired to the less expensive abode at the northeast comer of Main and Union streets. Mr. Jenney entered the insurance business in Boston, making the journey daily over the Fairhaven line. At his death his daughter continued the business and the daily journeys.
The land south of the twenty acre purchase, beginning about the location of the railroad, was bought by Henry Sampson, one of “old Comers” in 1652. He mortgaged it to John Macy of Nantucket, who took possession under the mortgage in 1744. The farm extended from the Acushnet River on the west to Crocked creek on the east. It would be of interest to know what the Indians called this creek. They always named places according to some physical characteristic and if they considered this a crooked creek perhaps they might have called it “Weantet” or if it appeared very crooked it would be called “Weweantet,” doubling the prefix indicating the intensity of the crookedness. From its physical character this was the actual name given to the river between Marion and Wareham, “Weweantet” not as sometimes called “Weweantic” the ending “et” always meaning in Indian language “at or near the place of.”
The Sylvanus Allen house is located on the east side of Fort skeet, the second house south of Church street. This home shows’ the character of the building of this early period and indicates that the building of a house in those days was not merely an incident but a real occasion and as previously stated this house was constructed and not “thrown up.” This was another of the early Fairhaven homes ill adapted to the successful operation of the modern one pipe furnace.
Edmund Allen, the son of Sylvanus, above mentioned, built a house near the present location of Mr. James A. Stetson’s house. It was quite a pretentious affair with a fine stone barn and well remembered by many of the Star readers. With the decline of the whaling Edmund Allen went to Missouri with his family. The house was later purchased by Mr. A. J. Tan who had a somewhat meteoric career financially as the inventor of improved car wheels.
The property was later purchased by Mr. H. H. Rogers and occupied by him as a summer home until it took fire on the 20th 6f February 1894 just as Mr. Rogers was coming with distinguished guests for the dedication of the new Town hall on the 22nd. The house was not restored but torn down together with the barn to make room for the construction of the house which Mr. Rogers built at the foot of Green street.
The house now owned by Mr. Thomas A. Clark on the west Side of Fort street at the beginning of Farmfield street comes to mind as a place of particular interest. The lower part of the building was used as a store and kept at one time by Mr. George Jones. The upper story was one large room where the superintendent of the ship yard, Mr. Moses Delano, “laid down the ship” i.e. he drew out the lines necessary for the various measurements of the vessel to be built.
I launched in several vessels built in this yard and even at the age of ten or twelve rendered some service in the launching process (or thought I did) however strange that may sound. I recall one instance when the boys of the old grammar school on Centre street were excused at eleven o’clock to go to the launching in the ship yard, and in the language of the yard we all helped to “jump her off.”
This “jumping off’ process consisted in all keeping step in a heavy tramp on the deck, so that with the driving of wedges and the jumping tramp even the small boys of the grammar school realized the joy which comes when, “she starts, she moves, she seems to feel the thrill of life along her keel.” As Briggs would say, “Those were the days of real sport.”
When ship building ceased the upper floor of the building was used for a time as a velocipede ring – one paid to go in and paid to ride or to try.
Abner Pease was one of the important men of his time. He lived at the southwest corner of Pease and Main streets, his house having been built about 1800 in a prevailing style of the period – two stories – front door in the middle and two large chimneys, one for the north rooms, one for the south.
He built another house of the same style for his sisters at the northwest corner of Main and Cowen streets. The section of the town north of Pease street, south of Bridge and west of Main, was called “the Pease district.” Abner Pease left a fund for the use of the Pease District school. Some of the Star readers remember the old Pease District schoolhouse as well as the fund for its support.
Abner Pease accumulated his fortune largely through ship building and trading. The ship yard was southwest of his house. Middle street in those days did not extend south of Pease street nor north of Bridge street and was called at that time Priviledge street.
Abner was forehanded, keeping a year’s supply of all things possible to keep. He did an extensive business with the small coasting schooners which carried freight and traded up and down the coast, many of the vessels carrying the products of this region and returning with butter, cheese, and of other supplies from the fertile acres of the Hudson river valley.
In bringing these comments to a close it is proper to acknowledge my dependence upon the painstaking research of Mr. Henry B. Worth and the interesting memories of Deacon Ebenezer Grinnell. It is fitting also that the readers of the Star should join their good wishes with mine that Miss Alice Fish and Mr. Daniel W. Deane should continue in health and strength to the century mark and beyond, for their keen minds and accurate memories have helped to add some personal touches to a prosaic paper.
Map of the original Twenty Acre Purchase drawn in 1823 (122kb jpg)
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Created by Carolyn Longworth,
November 30, 1996