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Day 33 (10.4.07) - We Make it to Boston

But we're not really visiting Boston yet, just the Fairbanks House in Dedham, MA

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Miles Driven: 213
Ending Mileage: 115199
Weather: Sunny, Some haze, Very Warm (86 F)

Yesterday, Mom absolutely did not want to take the Interstate. This morning, she said "Take the Interstate" - so today there are few photo's. We did see some lovely fall colors (they are starting in Massachusetts) and some interesting ponds, but the Turnpike had many signs saying "No stopping except for emergencies". Unfortunately, taking pictures isn't an emergency - so we'll have to share the pretty colors later.

We did actually make it out of New York finally and drove across Massachusetts in about a half day (most of you could do it in two or three hours). Spending a day or so on the Interstate in this RV is quite tiring, it is noisy, easily blown around, and we can't do much sightseeing - but we did finally make some time.


I'm not sure why Mom had the change of heart about taking the interestate, but we are both watching the calendar so we can make it out of New England before winter hits, so maybe she got a little worried after we didn't even get out of New York yesterday? We will go up to Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine next - which we originally planned to visit first. However, the web site for the Fairbanks House said it closed by October 15th (now it says Oct. 31st, who knew?), and it was a "Must See" objective on our trip - so I decided to high tail it here first, then go back to our original route. So far, the weather has been unusually warm for this time of year in New England - if this continues we may have a little more time here then we anticipated (of course, all the campgrounds close by the end of the month).

I have heard stories about the "Fairbanks House" since I was a kid. It is the oldest frame built house (or "Timber-Frame" house according to their brochure) in North America. Mom's grandmother, Maude Cumming's mother was Marianne Houghton Fairbanks, seventh generation after Jonathan & Grace Fairbanks who had the house built (if I read the family tree correctly). My uncle Bob was kind enough to print out the family tree before we left Berrien Springs, MI - and Mom proudly took this section with her when we toured the house. The volunteer, Paul, was glad to show the house to somebody related to the family.

Eight generations of Fairbanks actually lived in the house, the last being Rebecca Fairbanks, who remaind there until 1902! The family came together in the early 1900's to preserve the house to hold as a historic structure. Family lore had thought the house was built in 1636, however recent tree ring dating shows it was probably built between 1637 and 1641 - either way, it is VERY OLD! Considering that the Pilgrams landed at Plymouth, MA (reputed to be Plymouth Rock) in 1620, the Fairbanks House was built only about 20 years after this. A Timber-Frame house would require considerably more skill and better tools than a simple log cabin or the other types of structures built by the Pilgrams.

Johathan Fairbanks was born in 1854 in Yorkshire, England. He and his wife Grace had six children in England. They were farmers and raised primarily sheep and swine, but were also Puritans. The King of England at the time, Charles I, was an Anglican and wasn't particularly fond of Puritans. However he also wanted to encourage settlement of New England (in North America) and offered a Land Grant to anyone who willing to pay their own passage to America.

Sometime probably around 1633, Jonathan and Grace brought their children to America and received this land grant in Dedham, MA for 12 tillable acres and four acres of marsh (used for grazing goats & sheep and for firewood). Just like the Homesteader's later on the Prairie, not all immigrants were successful, and at some point the Fairbanks were able to purchase additional land for a total of 32 acres.

Here are some views of the exterior of the house. The well is at the far left. The original portion is in the center, rooms at the ends and behind the house were added over the years for varioius reasons, most before 1812 however.


The original house had four rooms, a combination living room/sleeping room (lower floor on the right), a combination kitchen/dining room with a beehive oven in the front on the left (called a 'hall' at the time), and two rooms upstairs. The kitchen also had a flat harth (level with the floor). This was so hot coals could be brought out from the fire and kettles placed on iron trivits above the coals for cooking.

The house was built on a wood foundation. People in England stored their vegetables above ground during the winter, which worked just fine back home in England, so they assumed they could do the same thing in America. They didn't realize how much colder the winters were in New England and that above ground storage wouldn't work here. So one of the reasons the bedroom was added on the left was to build a workable cellar for storing winter vegetables All future additions had cellars as well.


By the "Federal Period" (after the Revolutionary War), Ebenezer Fairbanks added a building that was moved from another location and added to the original house so it could have a proper parlor (in about 1812). The fireplace was added after the building was added to the house. The parlor contains an 1815 square piano made by Chickering in Boston.


We loved the tour and all the great information, but were not allowed to take pictures inside the house. There are some photo's at the web site however:


We were pretty tired at this point, so located the nearest state park and have bedded down there for the night. We'll be heading North tomorrow, probably on the Interstate as far as Concord, then who knows? We'll be back to see the rest of Boston after we come down the Maine coast.

Posted by jl98584 17:29 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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very cool...I showed Ana. It is amazing that it is still in such great condition.

by rllomas

I'm glad to see you made it to the Fairbanks House. I read the story of Jason--interesting, especially since the Gov. Strong who ordered his hanging is MY relative! When I was last in England ('97), I hunted up the very ancient Strong Cottage from which came the original George Strong immigrant. There's a Strong house in MA, too, and a family association.

Do you plan to include CT at all--a beautiful state? And in MA you should certainly go to Old Sturbridge Village--and many other places of historical interest.

by msj

Yes, the house looks old and small on the inside, but when you realize it's almost 400 years old - it is in unbelievable condition!

I think I remember seeing Old Sturbridge Village in one of our guidebooks. Thanks for the reminder, sometimes it's hard to sort out the guidebook stuff! We are almost back on our original route, so will be going back through MA after we come down the coast from Maine. We'll have a much better idea how much time we can spend there once we see how long it takes us to get back to it (& how the weather is holding out). It looks like I was wrong about Gettysburg as well, it is open year round, so if the weather holds up, we may be able to spend a little longer in NE.

by jl98584

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