Friday, April 27, 2007
This old house: how ours came to be
The Bloods were one of the first families to settle in Carlisle in the 17th century. Jonathan Blood, Sr. was granted 500+ acres, which was the usual grant at that time. He lived and ran a sawmill on what is now Kimball Farm, the former Bates Farm. The house, sawmill and some property not given to his sons — David and Jonathan, Jr. — was sold to William Green in the early 1800s. It is apparent that the land which Mr. Green later gave to the town for a cemetery had already been used to bury some of the Bloods. They are in the front section of Green Cemetery, nearest the center of Carlisle.
Jonathan Jr. was given the land furthest from the homestead. His road to Billerica, now Maple Street, joined his father's road to Billerica, now East Street. Jonathan Jr. built a house at 517 Bedford Road, where we now live, in about 1879. As far as I know, his wife was deceased, leaving him with a daughter, Elizabeth. Unfortunately, Jonathan had a problem and was "sleeping in chains" [21st-century explanation: he was mentally ill and occasionally violent].
Elizabeth Blood, Jonathan's daughter, sold 3/4 of an acre of land to Paul Forbush for 40 pounds, or about $1,800 in those days. This was too much for a 3/4-acre lot, proof that there was a building on the land. It was common practice at the time to write deeds reflecting only the land sold and not the buildings.
The "spite house"
I have a picture that my neighbor John Davis gave me, showing the then-standing barn. The photo is dated 1800, reflecting the date Mr. Forbush bought the house and barn. Elizabeth retained all the rest of her father's land, including property across the street at 516 Bedford Road. John Davis told me that that house, now owned by Joan Duffy, was built as a "spite house" to block the view of the fields from our house. He didn't tell me why, it seemed to be a secret, but I am making a guess that Elizabeth thought that she and Paul Forbush would marry. I am basing it on one fact — in the past people living in a home would write their names on the back of a closet door, as did visitors to the home. When I removed several coats of paint from the door of a dish cabinet, one of the names I could read was Elizabeth Forbush. As far as I know, there was no Elizabeth Forbush. That may also explain why she sold only 3/4 of an acre to Mr. Forbush.
Was she jilted? If so, I suppose it was sweet revenge to build a house across the road to block the view from her old home! That house was later occupied by the maiden aunts of her new husband, Ezekiel Proctor. It later became the home of Sterling Davis , then Roger Davis and it is now the Duffy home. Elizabeth and her husband built a home next door to her old home, which later became the John Davis house at 549 Bedford Road, now the location of Carlisle Antiques. The Proctor aunts were moved in when the additions were built.
Mr. Forbush bought land where he could, and was able to farm. An addition was built on the house for the live-in farmhands and the kitchen was moved to that section of the house.
Mrs. Harriet Patch, Mr. Bates's sister, bought the old David Blood house, now the Ruettgers' property, and our house, from the Forbush estate at an auction in about 1930. She sold our house to the Hills from whom we bought it in 1961. The Hills had built a dormer on the back of the house to put in two bathrooms. They also built the garage in the configuration of the old barn buildings which had burned, but on a smaller scale.
At the time I was doing this research, all the Carlisle deeds were in Lowell. When the last of our three children started school, I could go to Lowell, handle and read the old deeds. It was great to be able to do that! Now all the deeds for Carlisle are in Cambridge and on microfilm. Better for the deeds surely, but not so easy or so much fun!
P.S. We like our neighbors in the "spite house!"
Editor's note: Mrs. Japp, a long-time Carlisle resident, has traced the history of her historical house. If you want to learn more about your own historical house, you might start with Martha Fifield Wilkins' Old Houses and Families of Carlisle, Massachusetts (1941) at the Gleason Public Library.
© 2007 The Carlisle Mosquito