THE HANCOCK MANSION, BOSTON, MASS.
SAMUEL ADAMS ^RAKE
AUTHOR OF "OLD LANDMARKS OF BOSTON" - BURGOYNE S INVASION OF 1777" "Tun TAKING
OF LOUISBURG" "THE BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG" ETC.
* All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. " LONGFELLOW.
LEE AND SHEPARD PUBLISHERS
10 MILK S T R K E T
COPYRIGHT, 1893, BY SAMUEL ADAMS DRAKE
All Rights Reserved
OUR COLONIAL HOMES
TYFE-SETTINT, AND Kl.F.CTROTY I INC; BY
C. J. PETERS SON. BOSTON, U.S.A.
ROCKWELL & Ciit KCHiLL, PRINTERS, BOSTON, U.S.A.
ONE end which I proposed to myself in this book, besides
presenting house and home historically, was to gather up as many
distinct types of the colonial architecture of New England as pos
sible, from the rude farmhouse of the first settlers to the elegant
mansion of a later generation, as it seems to me nothing could give
half so clear a picture of a century and a half of colonial life. It
was this idea alone which could give cohesion to a series of sketches
having little connection in themselves, except as recording fragments
of history that had become scattered with the lapse of time. Most
of them were written some years ago for Appletori s Journal ; but
by the addition of several new subjects, besides re-writing the old
ones, the collection bears out, I think, the idea conveyed by the
title of OUR COLONIAL HOMES.
The selections are typical in another sense. I have considered
each of these old houses as one of the bricks belonging to the
American foundation. All have their interesting story, their admi
rable lesson, or patriotic inspiration. They are a legacy from the past,
of which our generation is only the trustee. They are the parent
hives, from which the outswarms have gone forth over the length
and breadth of the land we love. I think myself that the New
Englander has some good qualities, one among others being his
veneration for the things that have a history or embody a sentiment,
like the homes of his fathers.
THE HANCOCK MANSION, BOSTON, MASS i
THE HOME OF PAUL REVERE, BOSTON, MASS 17
THE GOVERNOR CRADOCK HorsE, MEDFORD, MASS 26
HOBGOBLIN HALL, MEDFORD, MASS 37
EDWARD EVERETT S BIRTHPLACE, DORCHESTER, MASS 47
THE MINOT HOMESTEAD, DORCHESTER, MASS 57
-THE QUINCY MANSION, QUINCY, MASS 65
BIRTHPLACES OF THE Two PRESIDENTS ADAMS, QUINCY, MASS 76
THE ADAMS MANSION, OUINCY, iMASS 91
THE OLD SHIP, HINGHAM, MASS 105
THE OLD WITCH HOUSE, SALEM, MASS 117
THE COLLINS HOUSE, DANVERS, MASS 128
BIRTHPLACE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM, DANVERS, MASS 143
THE LAST RESIDENCE OF JAMES OTIS, ANDOVER, MASS 150
THE RED HORSE (WAYSIDE INN), SUDBURY, MASS 160
-THE PEPPERELLS OF KITTERY POINT 169
THE EARLY HOME OF JOHN- HOWARD PAYNE, EAST HAMPTON, L.I 176
THE OLD INDIAN HOUSE, DEERFIELD, MASS 184
THE OLD GOTHIC HOUSE, RAYNHAM, MASS . . 194
THE OLD STONE HOUSE, GUILFORD, CONN 203
THE HANCOCK HOUSE Frontispiece
THE HOME OF PAUL REVERE -j^.
THE GOVERNOR CRADOCK HOUSE 35
HOBGOBLIN HALL . . . 38
BIRTHPLACE OF EDWARD EVERETT 50
THE Mi NOT HOMESTEAD 58
THE QUINCY MANSION 67
HOME OF JOHN ADAMS . 81
HOME OF JOHN QUINCY ADAMS . . 88
THE ADAMS MANSION . 92
THE OLD SHIP , 106
THE OLD WITCH-HOUSE . 122
THE COLLINS HOUSE 131
BIRTHPLACE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM 146
THE LAST RESIDENCE OF JAMES OTIS 151
THK RED HORSE (WAYSIDE INN) 163
HOME OF SIR JOHN PEPPERELL 171
EARLY HOME OF JOHN HOWARD PAYNE 177
THE OLD INDIAN HOUSE 187
RUINS OF THE LEONARD FORGE 195
THE OLD STONE HOUSE 208
OUR COLONIAL HOMES
THE HANCOCK MANSION
THE old Hancock mansion is seldom mentioned nowadays unac
companied by regrets that it could not have been preserved in all its
elegant simplicity. Nothing was more easy. The opportunity was in
deed urged upon the State as one not to be neglected, if the historic
mansion were to be saved at all ; but the appeal, though eloquently made,
and strongly supported, was looked upon with suspicion by some, with
indifference by others, as a waste of the people s money by more, and
finally met defeat at the hands of its enemies in the legislature, not so
much on the score of economy as of a short-sighted public policy.
Could that house be restored to-day, we think it is entirely safe to
say that the vote which doomed it to irrevocable destruction would be
overwhelmingly reversed. The house, however, has gone beyond a
possible resurrection ; the regrets we still have with us.
After all, time does bring its revenges. The Old Bay State, rich,
polite, learned ; high in honor among the great sisterhood John Han
cock helped to found with a stroke of that intrepid pen of his, has just
caused to be erected at Chicago, for the Columbian Exposition of 1893,
a copy of the Hancock mansion, as near as may be to the original, as
the expression not only of what she would hold highest before the
world, but of what the world best knows and most prizes in her great
history. When the citizen of Dakota or of Washington shall innocently
OUR COLONIAL HOMES
ask what has become of the original, that State pride, of which we pos
sess our full share, must and will be heavily discounted.
There is still another phase to the matter. Our architects, those
xnctefa!:igab.e purveyors to public caprice, after ransacking the whole
earth, in search of novelty, wearied with turning all the old orders
upside down and inside out, suddenly discovered that the colonial resi
dences of their own country had some merit. Our renaissance has come
in with the discovery. Old colonial is at present the only proper style
for a country house ; old colonial is the vogue for household furnishings,
and we know not what else. To go through our suburban villages or
seaside resorts, one would really imagine that old colonial was something
new, or at least a fetich before which our national pride loves to pros
trate itself. Let us not deceive ourselves. Reverence for the shadow
is in this case a vicarious atonement for our sins against the substance.
To use a popular phrase a vile phrase indeed there is money in it.
But we may not longer indulge in vain regrets. We can only lift a
warning finger to those esthetic souls whom the sight of one of these
old landmarks so grievously offends, and who are ever crying out, in
season and out of season, ecrasons rinfame.
Thomas Hancock, the builder of the mansion in question, com
menced life as a stationer s apprentice in King, now State, Street, and
ended the richest man in Boston. From selling goose-quills and car
tridge-paper in a stuffy little shop, behind a counter, he boldly struck
out into the broader field for which he was so eminently fitted, and in
no long time had built up the great fortime without which it is more
than doubtful if his needy young kinsman would either have become
very rich or greatly renowned. Midas-like, everything he touched
turned to gold with such rapidity that it was currently reported, and
actually believed by the common people, that he had bought for a
song an enormously valuable diamond which he afterwards sold for a
great price. Hutchinson, who did not like John Hancock any too well,
accounts for the uncle s rise to wealth in a very different way. He says
the secret lay in importing from St. Eustatia great quantities of tea in
THE HANCOCK MANSION 3
molasses hogsheads, which sold at a very great advance ; and that by
importing, at the same time, a few chests from England, the rest was
freed from suspicion, and Hancock s reputation as a fair trader did not
suffer thereby. Be that as it may, Hancock only toiled and schemed to
pile up wealth for others to spend, and spend it they did.
There is now lying before me, yellow with age, an advertisement cut
from an old newspaper, which runs as follows : " Excellent good Bohea
Tea, imported in the last ship from London : sold by Tho. Hancock.
N.B. If it don t suit the ladies taste, they may return the tea and
receive their money again." Nothing, it seems to us, could be fairer.
Yet, only a very few years later, the Boston ladies" were signing a
pledge not to drink the detested herb ; John Hancock was offering one
of his uncle s ships to carry a cargo of it back to England in ; and, in
short, tea had really become such a drug in the market that it was
being thrown overboard to the fishes.
When Thomas Hancock, the rich merchant, built this house, in 1737,
all the near neighborhood was a waste place covered with scrubby bushes,
like any other rough pasture ground ; all the broad green slope running
off in front of it a common grazing-field, into which the town s cows
were regularly driven every day of the week. This was that lesser
Boston, at which modern estheticism now turns up its super-sensitive
nose. This was Beacon Hill. Most emphatically Beacon Hill, a name
derived from the old signal mast and crate that stood here, was one of
the high places of the town. So long as the great field, spreading out
beneath it, should remain a common, nothing was ever likely to obstruct
the view ; and as it originally had been set apart for this use forever, the
old merchant s mind was in all likelihood quite at rest on that score.
From the time their fathers had first landed at Shawmut, this breezy
hill-top had been a lookout. Ever since then the people of Boston have
been in the habit of climbing it for the sake of the enrapturing view it
unfolds, though they must now toil up the crooked stairway leading to
the cupola of the State House, instead of leisurely following the wind
ings of the old paths. The ground then finely overlooked all Boston,
4 OCR COLONIAL HOMES
all its spacious harbor, all its islands, far out into the sparkling sea. At
its highest point, which rose a little behind the house, the view swept
grandly over all the country round the north side of the town, and out
among many " tall spires and smoking villages remote."
Thomas Hancock may well have struck his gold-headed cane upon
the ground, as filled with the delights of this lovely panorama he
resolved within himself to build him a house of stone, here on this
secluded spot, quite removed from the stir and bustle of the town. No
sooner said than begun. His fellow-citizens marvelled not a little how
he could ever have chosen such an out-of-the-way site as this for his
future residence. It was like going out of the world the fashionable
world, of course.
While learning the stationer s trade, Thomas Hancock had also
learned to love the stationer s daughter, Lydia Henchman. Like
everything else he touched, his suit prospered, and he married her.
There is every reason to believe that the match was a happy one. Her
niece, who was in a position to know whereof she spoke, pronounced
Madam Hancock as ladylike a person as ever lived ; and that is by no
means faint praise from a woman who had moved in the very best circles
of both the Puritan and Quaker capitals.
The house was built. In four words we have said it ; yet such
houses are not now built in a day, even when materials are so easily
transported from a distance, and so quickly hoisted up into position,
and this one was long in building. All that a full purse could do or
good taste suggest was, however, lavished on the construction. The
work was thoroughly done, as all such work was in those days, and
when completed looked as if meant to last till doomsday. At the great
fire in Boston of 1872 it was remarked that the oldest buildings with
stood the flames longest ; this one withstood the attacks of an army of
laborers, like a fortress, yielding itself only stone by stone, and after a
Behold, then, the actual founders of the Boston branch of the
Hancock family duly installed in their new home, from which, in a
THE HANCOCK MANSION 5
double sense, they could look down upon all the rest of the admir
It was a grand old house, even when hemmed in by modern build
ings, imposing only by their height, and the breadth of their polished
door-plates, and surely must have been little short of a wonder when
it was a new and fresh-looking one. Fifty-six feet front is not often
seen among the residences that crowd each other on our fashionable
thoroughfares to-day. Then the grounds, beautifully laid out in walks
and terraces, reached all the way from Mount Vernon to Joy Street.
This merchant wanted elbow-room, and would have it ; breathing-
space, with light, air, and sunshine all around him, and plenty of it.
The house either began or closely followed upon the era of better
building. Even when mellow with age, its gray walls of rough-dressed
granite were a most picturesque object. Every passing pedestrian
mechanically slackened his pace to look at it. In every one it aroused
some new train of thought. It taught history ; it awakened patriotic
aspirations ; it stimulated honest endeavor ; it lent an indefinable charm
to the neighborhood ; it fitted admirably into its semi-rural surround
ings. Indeed, it was a charming old house such a one as one s
fancy delights to run riot in, and one s actual body aches to get into.
So at least I often thought when I passed it on my way to school. To
me it had an atmosphere all its own. It fairly radiated luxury. Pull
down that house ! I would as soon have thought of their chopping
down the Old Elm, or blowing up Bunker Hill Monument.
Thomas Hancock had taken into his counting-house on the Dock
a nephew, John, whom he designed making a merchant of like himself.
Being himself childless, I think he must have looked forward to per
petuating the house of Hancock in this way. It happened that the
house on the hill was built the very year John Hancock was born.
He grew up a high-spirited, impulsive, and strikingly good-looking
young man, who, though only the son of a poor country clergyman,
soon showed a ready aptitude for the career his uncle had chosen for
him. Men said that he was cut out for a merchant. At any rate,
6 -OUR COLONIAL HOMES
from the day that his uncle adopted him, after his own father s early
death, the gossiping world knew that John Hancock s fortune was
made. His uncle sent him to Harvard, sent him abroad to polish off
his provincial manners, inducted him into all the mysteries of business,
and, in short, set the lucky youngster s foot firmly upon the rounds
of the ladder to fame and fortune.
It was therefore here that John Hancock first displayed that ample
autograph, since so much admired, which to a reader of character in
handwriting shows about equal parts of vanity, decision, and confidence
in himself. He was a much prouder man, I doubt not, when he first
signed the name of Thomas Hancock and Company, than when signing
the Declaration of Independence.
Though already the richest man in the province, Thomas Hancock s
wealth continued to roll up, snowball like, during the war for the sub
jugation of Canada, from which as banker and factor for the royal
forces he reaped a rich harvest ; and just as that war ended he died,
leaving his nephew John his principal heir, as well as the inheritor
of his extensive business.
To the imagination of the people of that day the inheritance was
something immense. Probably it was somewhat exaggerated. Still,
for some time it continued to be the chief topic of conversation in the
street, in the counting-house, and by the fireside, all the more because
the few really great fortunes then held in the Province could be counted
on one s fingers ; and next to counting one s own money, counting that
of your neighbors is a most fascinating employment.
Thomas Hancock, peace to his ashes ! was not one of the sort of men
who never leave a penny out of the family. If not generous by nature,
he was at least endowed with a little public spirit. The world had made
him ; the world should be a little better off for what it had done for
him. He did something that no one had clone before him. By the
gift of a thousand pounds he became the first native of New England
to found a professorship at Harvard University that of Hebrew and
the Oriental tongues. So, too, when Harvard Hall was burnt in 1764,
THE HANCOCK MANSION 7
the great merchant had expressed his intention of subscribing five hun
dred pounds toward furnishing a new library and philosophical appara
tus, in room of that destroyed ; but death cut him off from the fulfilment
of that purpose. His nephew, however, very honorably carried out his
uncle s wishes in this respect, as well he might, considering how little
that item would have subtracted from the total footing of seventy-five
thousand pounds, clean money, in the late merchant s inventory.
From this day forth (he was only twenty-seven), John Hancock be
came a public character ; and though he began so low down the ladder
as selectman of the town, he lived to be president of the first congress
of the Thirteen Colonies, or, as one might say, selectman of the nation.
If there is to be found anywhere an instance of a more rapid rise to fame
and fortune, I have not yet met with it.
Of the habitues of the mansion in Thomas Hancock s time we know
little. There were then no society journals, and it is not our trade to
draw upon the imagination in matters of this kind. It would be entirely
safe, however, to say that every personage of note who visited Boston
hastened to put his legs under Thomas Hancock s mahogany. From
the day it was first thrown open, the corner-stone of the mansion was
hospitality. We know that Generals Amherst, Moncton, and Lawrence,
besides many others of lesser note, were entertained there. We have
looked over the monthly butcher s bill ; and we have imbibed a very
distinct notion therefrom that there were some rousing dinners given
in that house, and much heady arrack-punch drank on such occasions
as the King s birthday, for instance. What would we not give to have
witnessed the stately formality with which the Honorable So and So
bowed himself into the drawing-room, where the owners of the best
names in the town were assembling, one by one, or to have seen the
antique courtesy with which Madam Hancock received him ? There
was -a liveried black servant to take his three-cornered hat and gold-
headed cane ; another to laclle him out a generous bumper of cool punch.
Then there was the host, beaming with punch and good-humor, to offer
his own snuff-box, well filled with fragrant rappee of his own importa-
8 OUR COLONIAL HOMES
tion. As dinner was announced, all the company filed out into the
spacious dining-hall, now blazing with lights, and hung round with
rare old paintings. A rattle of chairs, and the guests were seated.
Then began the feast. When the master of the house, his face red
with punch and emotion, got up to propose the one toast sacred to all
loyal Britons the world over (prefaced by " Fill your glasses ; bumpers,
gentlemen, bumpers!"), which word of command instantly brought
every guest to his feet, and every eye upon the speaker, " I give you
his Majesty the King, God bless him ! " what a clatter of glasses went
round that board, and what a dimness was in the eyes of our honest
Thomas when the company sat down again !
There was such a thing as ripe old Madeira in those days ; and there
was such a thing as the gout.
And to think that foremost among them all, was that young man,
whom but a little later on King George would so gladly have seen
hanged, at government expense, if he could have caught him !
After the founder of the family had been laid away in the family
tomb, with all the ceremonious pomp demanded by custom, his illus
trious nephew stepped into his shoes, so to speak, with an assured
tread. He not only preserved, but so enlarged, the old hospitable
traditions of the mansion, that in no long time he had won the fleeting
distinction of being the most popular man in the Province ; and what is
more, his popularity continued undiminishecl down to the last hours of
an eventful life.
This assured popularity was by no means confined to the male portion
of the community. So long as the great mansion lacked a mistress, its
incompleteness was sure to be the subject of deep and heartfelt concern
to all the scheming mammas of the Puritan capital. It was frightful to
think of this poor, rich young man living all alone in that great, splendid
mansion with nobody but an elderly aunt, in widow s weeds and high
caps, to pour out his tea for him, or comfort his declining years. Cer
tain of the Boston belles and there were some bewitching ones, let
me tell you may have shared this opinion. It was a great catch ! To
be thus insensible was worse than a fault, it was a crime.
THE HANCOCK MANSION 9
Great, therefore, is the pity that we should know no more than we
do about John Hancock s love story : we only know the sequel. At
thirty-seven he was still unmarried, and at thirty-seven one s youthful
illusions are apt to have been more or less rudely dissipated. We will
simply tell what we know, leaving the impartial reader to draw his
It seems that among- all the rest, or perhaps before the rest, Madam
Hancock had picked out a partner for her nephew. This was no other
than Mistress Dolly Ouincy, of whom the widow had made a sort of
protegee since the death of that young lady s mother. Of course Han
cock and Miss Dolly were no strangers to one another. Their families
were related, and hers was every bit as good as his. \Yithout doubt the
lady was a frequent guest at the mansion. She was by all report most
attractive in person and captivating in manners, un pen coquette per
haps, yet no more so than was thought permissible in the line ladies of
the period. It is grievous, however, to have to believe that they flirted
most abominably with the young British officers, who, since they could
not conquer the men, gladly turned to the more congenial employment
of vanquishing the women. If this sort of warfare did not tend greatly
to embitter the political situation, why do we find John Hancock so
vehemently asking in his famous address on the Massacre, delivered a
full year before his marriage :
" Did not our youth forget they were Americans, and regardless of
the admonitions of the wise and aged servilely copy from their tyrants
those vices which must finally overthrow the empire of Great Britain ? "
and then instantly declaring with a well-feigned sorrow, " And must I
be compelled to acknowledge that even the noblest, fairest part of all
the lower creation did not entirely escape the cursed snare." We are
at least permitted to draw our own conclusions.
A man who suffered tortures from the gout before he was fort}* must
have been a pretty high liver even for those days. Doubtless this was
one cause of Hancock s irritable temper.
Mistress Dorothy Ouincy, better known to the present generation as
10 OUR COLONIAL HOMES
Dorothy O- -, was the granddaughter of Judge Edmund Quincy of
Braintree, Mass., and the daughter of his son of the same name. Both
her aunt and grandmother were called Dorothy, so that the name was a
sort of inheritance on the female side. From this aunt, who married
Edward Jackson, many eminent men of that name are descended,
besides the poet, O. W. Holmes, and John Lowell, the founder of that
peculiarly Boston institution, the Lowell Institute.
During ten years the mansion had been the resort of fashionable
Boston. Though plain, its interior was elegant. The old merchant s
taste had run to things rather solid than showy, but his successor had
transformed the house into a veritable palace of luxury, over which he
presided with a courtliness of manner, an urbanity long remembered,
but now, alas ! fast becoming one of the lost arts. He gave capital
dinners, he dressed superbly, his wines were the despair of all the
epicures of the town.
These were the days of bachelorhood, yet not of repose. Dark
clouds were gathering all along the horizon. We may not know what
dreams of domestic happiness had come to the envied master of the
mansion before the evil days befell it and him, and they were now close
at hand. Whatever they were, the awakening was rude indeed.
The trumpet s martial sound had called John Hancock to confront
his destiny. There was no escaping that call. From politician, Han
cock had gradually advanced to patriot and rebel, without which there
would have been no such summons for him. The call was peremptory,
imperious, startling. He could not have helped seeing the hated red
coats pitch their first camp down there on the Common at his feet, or
shut his eyes to its meaning. With the dawn, their bugles rang out the