It’s Halloween, and I’m tempted to write about some of the more ghostly buildings in Ashland, but this is probably going to more of a history lesson.

John Stone’s Inn is probably one of the more recognizable buildings in Ashland. At least from an outsider’s perspective. There are other landmarks well worthy, but most people associate John Stone’s Inn, or Stone’s Public House as it is known today as being a big part of Ashland’s history. The reoccurring theme seems to be “Stone’s” in one form or another, and the owners of late are willing to focus on the history of the man: Captain John Stone.

The Stone family can be traced back to 1635. Coming over from England, John’s great grandfather, Gregory Stone, settled in Watertown, MA. There are a lot of common names here so you might want to get your pencils out. And I doubt could follow this Willow tree, but here we go. Gregory had a son John, who moved to Sudbury in 1639 and had a son Daniel. Daniel made his home in Saxonville, and had a son Abijah. One of five boys and a sister, Abijah was less than a year old when his father died, and he was raised by Daniels’s cousin, Michah Stone, who happened to live in Framingham.

Once Abijah grew, he moved to Hopkinton, Hubbardston, and eventually to Windom, NY where he married Experience Stimson. The happy couple had a son John who left New York, and returned to Hopkinton where he married Nancy Stimpson, the daughter of local doctor Jeremy Stimpson, and granddaughter of Col. John Jones Jr., the original owner of the Ocean House where the Ashland Historical Society currently resides. Confused yet?

John and his wife had seven children and lived on Union Street. He was a farmer by trade and served in the militia, rising to the rank of Captain. Capt. John Stone also owned a large portion of the land which is now downtown Ashland. He was also aware that the Boston and Worcester Railroad was in the planning stages and was to run right through his property. The railroad, from our previous visits, was originally planned to run from Boston to Worcester to the north of Ashland, but it would involve the turnpike which was a toll road. The owners did not want to lose the revenue so the tracks were to be laid further south. John Stone saw the potential and built a hotel adjacent to the tracks.

The hotel was to be named the Railroad House. It included a barn and cow yard, and was the official platform for the dedication of the new railroad featuring Governor Davis in a grand celebration on September 20, 1834.

Although John Stone is the name most associated with the hotel, he was there for a little less than two years. 1835 was a transition year for the property, and Capt. Stone transferred operation to his son Napolean. He continued to live “only a few rods” to the west of the hotel until his death on December 11th, 1858.

Now begins the long list of lessees and owners. According to Framingham historian George Higley in the late 1800s, the list at that time included Reignolds, Fuller, Angler, Atherton, Barber, Warren, Bates & Thayer, and finally Scott. Higley also writes: “Smith Bates and Silas Thayer bought out Silas Warren in 1858. The business included the livery stable. In the spring following, Thayer sold to his partner the hotel business, but retained the livery. Thayer carried on the livery stable nine years and then sold to W.A. Scott, himself moving to Hopkinton. Bates sold the hotel furniture and business to Scott in 1849.”

Scott renamed the hotel W.A. Scott and Sons Livery and Hotel. He operated the business for about 50 years which by all appearances seemed to be the longest to date. After John Stone’s death, the estate and hotel was auctioned September 28th, 1868 and Scott was the new owner. Scott kept the hotel until 1904 when it is sold to Archie Brooks. Brooks kept the hotel for six years selling to John Williams in 1910. Williams sold to Julius Knight of Barre, MA in 1912 and renamed the hotel the Ashland Hotel.

Again, there seemed to be a long term of ownership. It wasn’t until 1949 that Amos and Herve Beaudoin took over the reins. This is the era I am more familiar with. The Ashland Hotel had a certain “local colour” if you know what I mean. The Beaudoins operated the business until 1976 when Cappy Fornier purchased it for $70,000.00. Cappy renovated the hotel and renamed it John Stone’s Inn where it flourished through the better times of the late ’70s and ’80’s until 1991 when he was forced to file for bankruptcy.

There was a long string of short term owners, bankruptcies, and tax takings until 2005 when SAK Realty, LLC purchased the property from John Stone’s Inn, LLC.

The inn operates today as Stone’s Public House, and appears to be doing fine. Music of all genres can be heard on the weekends, including one of my favorites, The Bobby Watson Band. And even though I wasn’t going to mention the supernatural aspect of the inn, I swear I caught a glimpse of the old Captain himself one Saturday night. But as we all know, that’s another chapter of Ashland’s history.

Steve Leacu for Ashland Directions
November 2011