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Ashland Historical Society

"Preserving the Past"
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The Thomas Eames House

 

We are all familiar with the “Entering Ashland” signs as we cross over from Framingham, Holliston, Hopkinton, Southboro or Sherborn but the one thing that stands out is our incorporation date of 1846. As a community we are the youngest. Made up of equal parts of Hopkinton and Framingham to the east and west, and a smaller portion of Holliston to the south, Ashland became a town much later in an otherwise colonial community.

Where this is leading centers around property or properties that would now become part of Ashland, and may not easily be forfeited by the surrounding “contributing” towns. From prior visits we saw that the new town of Ashland would have to compensate our neighbors for schools, fire departments, and the like that fell within the new borders. One such property was the Holliston Poor Farm. Located on what is today the corner of Fruit Street and Davis Farm Road, the Holliston Poor Farm was originally the Thomas Eames house.

This is a history lesson in itself. Thomas Eames was a well to do farmer who settled on property owned by a Mr. Danforth of Framingham in 1669. According to “The History of Framingham Mass.” the land was the southern slope of Mt. Wayte, and originally belonged to Richard Wayte. These names are commonly known even to this day. Now let’s consider the time. It is now 1675 and the King Philip’s War is raging.  King Philip is the name given by the English to Metacom, who was also called Philip, and the son of Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoags. Although the war only lasted a year in southern New England before King Philip was hunted down and killed, the Indian uprising took its toll locally. The Colonial government had sent four soldiers to Framingham to protect the farmers, and two of them stayed with the Eames family. A short time later, the two solders were sent to Sudbury to protect the Rev. Edmund Browne leaving the Eames’ family exposed. Thomas immediately went to Boston to enlist aid and ammunition when, you guessed it, the Indians struck.

Thomas was living there with his second wife, six of their own children, and four from a previous marriage. The Indians killed Mrs. Eames and five of the children. They took the rest of the children and whatever provisions they could gather, burned the house and barn, and scattered the livestock.

Obviously Thomas was devastated. He took stock of what was lost and petitioned the Colonial government for compensation which he received. He was awarded a monetary award, 200 acres of land, and 200 acres of land from the Indians. The invading Indians were captured and punished. Some were killed during the capture, and the rest were either executed or sold off to slavery.

As time passed, boundaries changed and the property fell within Holliston after their incorporation in 1724. In 1754, Aaron Eames was born, and most likely fought in the Revolutionary War where he rose to the rank of Captain. He was a Deacon in the church and willed the property to the Town of Holliston which took possession upon his death in 1827. Being on the outskirts of Holliston, the Town felt it would be a great place for the Poor Farm. Everything was fine until Ashland wanted to break out on her own.

We know from history that Ashland failed in its first attempt at incorporation. Framingham and Hopkinton felt they would lose too much, and Holliston was afraid that the new town would start taxing them for their poor farm which would fall within Ashland’s borders. Ashland’s petitioners, which included James Jackson and Calvin Shepard, Jr., worded the second attempt at incorporation with language that would give the Town of Holliston tax-free access to the property as long as they maintained it as a poor farm. Holliston wasn’t entirely satisfied, but this time it worked and Ashland incorporated in 1846. The property remained the poor farm until 1892 when Holliston purchased property within their borders and sold the Ashland property to William Eames for $4698.00. Eames sold the property to Crawford Dearth in 1902 where it remained in the family until it was sold by Rachael Dearth Davis to the Fafard’s Ledgemere Land Corp in 1973. Fafard developed the surrounding properties which include familiar names like Captain Eames Circle and Davis Farm Road.

 

Many thanks to Kay Powers for her research, and material from “The History of Framingham Mass” (Temple 1887).

 

 

 

Steve Leacu for Ashland Directions

June 2012