The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 6, 2001


Coppermine Farm: This Staunch House . . .

Coppermine Farm on Concord Street, expected to be the new home of the Carlisle Historical Society, is the topic of the latest installment of the Carlisle Oral History Project.

An old copper mine, hordes of black snakes, deaths by fire and bee stingingredients for a gothic novel? Perhaps, but the setting for these non-fictional events is right here in Carlisle and remains an important part of the town's rich history.

Coppermine Farm at 698 Concord Street was for 185 years the home of one of Carlisle's founding families, the Healds. Described by Martha F. Wilkins as a "staunch house" in Old Houses and Families of Carlisle (1941), Coppermine Farm has seen more than two and a half centuries of Carlisle history pass by its front door.

It wasn't always called Coppermine Farm; in fact, this is its contemporary name. It is believed that the original house, a traditional salt box with a lean-to, was built around 1740 by Samuel Heald, the son of John and Mary Chandler Heald of North Acton. Samuel, who was born in 1705, married Rebecca Fletcher in 1742 and the young couple were the first inhabitants of the original house.

Disastrous fire

On April 18, 1784, the home suffered a disastrous fire in which Samuel died trying to rescue his mentally retarded son John, who also perished. Although Carlisle historians Sidney Bull, Martha F. Wilkins and Donald Lapham all report that the house burned to the ground, architect and historian Larry Sorli believes that the structure remained "pretty much intact," noting that, "The old pre-fire frame is visible in the cased summer beams and flared posts of the main house." Further evidence of the fire and the surviving structure was revealed some years ago when Judy Petit, the last owner, renovated the kitchen (located in the northwest corner of the original lean-to) and found old charred joists in the ceiling.

1788 expansion

Based on physical evidence in the attic, Larry has documented in slides and sketches how the house was restored and expanded after the fire. The work was completed around 1788 by Samuel's son, Captain Samuel Heald, who expanded the house laterally (to the east) in the front and added another story in the back. The large barn, so visible from Concord Street, was a later addition, built in 1849, and other structural changes were made during the Victorian era.

Captain Samuel Heald, who was born in Carlisle in 1743 (most likely in the house's "borning room") married Mary Hunt in 1768, and they had seven children, also presumably born in the house. One of Samuel's sons, Thomas, born in 1768, married Abi Hildreth of Westford in 1791, and they stayed on the farm to cultivate the fields. Thomas and Abi parented nine children (they were outdone by their son, Benjamin Franklin Heald, and his wife, Susan, who had ten children!). We can only imagine how lively the house was, populated by gaggles of Heald children over the generations. It is conceivable that more than one Heald family occupied the house simultaneously, considering its generous size.

Thomas Heald died in 1843, and according to Mrs. Wilkins, "It was decided to give the farm to Benjamin Franklin if he would 'see his mother through,' which he did." Abi Heald died in 1859. Major Benjamin Franklin Heald, born in the house in 1809, held many town offices and was elected state representative in 1848. He was the donor of the Civil War relics to the Gleason Library, having found them himself on the Battlefield of Gettysburg, He died in 1892.

The next Heald owner of the farm was Ai (pronounced eh-eye), the youngest son of Thomas and Abi, who was born in 1812. Ai married Luranah Forbush Green in 1837; they had a daughter in 1846, also called Luranah. Daughter Luranah Heald married Edward John Carr in 1869 and the Carrs settled down on Russell Street for the next twenty years. According to records left by Guy Clark and generously shared by Dorothy Clark, Luranah Carr inherited the farm from her father, Ai, who died in 1892, and in 1893, she and her husband moved there.

The "Carr Estate"

One of the Carrs' five children was Rena Maria Carr, born in 1871. She became a schoolteacher at the North School and married William A. Clark in the United Church in 1899 in a double wedding ceremony with her brother on Easter Sunday. The gala wedding reception was held at the farm, now called the Carr Estate. Just before her wedding, Rena Carr bought the Clark Farm on Concord Street, where Guy was born in 1902. Their other children were Edward Joseph, Myrtle, and Maria (Myrtle married Irving Puffer and died at 21 when their son, Irving M. Puffer, was only six months old. Raised on the Clark Farm, he still lives in Carlisle on Bellows Hill Road.)

Edward John Carr, Guy Clark's grandfather, died on the Carr Estate of a bee sting in 1906. As Dot Clark describes it, "Guy's grandfather was mowing in the hay field with a team of horses when he was stung by a swarm of bees. The horses came back to the barn on their own, and his grandmother knew something was wrong." Luranah Carr found her husband under a tree where he had been stung to death. She then stayed on at the farm, renting out several rooms to families who could take care of the farm which, at this point in its history, was known as the Carr-Peterson house. (As a child, Inga MacRae, long-time South Street resident, lived there with her family for three years starting in 1920.)

The Heald family ownership of the farm ended in 1925 when Luranah Carr sold it to S. Waldo Lapham, who sold it almost immediately to Mr. and Mrs. Christian Peterson, described in Mrs. Wilkins' book as "thrifty Scandinavians who have taken excellent care of this staunch house." Luranah Carr went to live with her daughter, Rena, at the Clark Farm.

The copper mine

Thereafter, the Carr-Peterson House had several owners, but the dates of their ownership are not available. They include an Osgood family, Fletcher Carr (brother of Edward John Carr), Deacon S.G. Bailey, George Cogswell, Lawrence Sanford, and most recently, Judy Petit who gave the farm its current name, Coppermine Farm. The name evokes the 19th-century Carlisle copper mine, located on the Captain Wilson estate (now Assurance Technology) on South Street and on the Heald farm. Copper was mined there intermittently for ten years, starting in 1840, by Henry N. Hooper & Company of Boston. This company was then the leading church bell founders and casters in the country. Major Benjamin F. Heald was general superintendent for the mine, which was a thriving operation during its brieflife-span. A small community even grew up around the mine, consisting of four miners' houses, a shaft house, blacksmith shop, cook house, bar and other buildings, and even a store on the Heald property.

Copper ore was hauled by ox teams to Boston for smelting. This was an expensive operation and Hooper & Company decided to build their own smelter on the property to cut down costs. But fumes from the smelter would have damaged vegetation on adjoining farms, which might have prompted lawsuits against Hooper. The company looked into purchasing the adjoining farms, but the high price tag in addition to local opposition to the smelter led Hooper to abandon plans for a Carlisle smelter.

End of copper mining in Carlisle

In 1849, copper ore was discovered at the Lake Superior Copper Mines in Michigan, which could be sold for less than the Carlisle copper. This sealed the fate of the expensive but productive Carlisle operation and the mine was abandoned. Legend has it that hordes of black snakes took up residence in the abandoned mine shaft and in the spring Carlisle men, armed with clubs, sticks and other weapons, killed the snakes as they emerged into the spring sunshine.

The snakes are gone, fortunately, but the staunch old house still stands, a stately and silent reminder of an all-but-forgotten chapter in Carlisle history.

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