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The Dating of the Francis Wyman House

The brothers Francis and John Wyman signed the original town orders for the town of Woburn, MA in 1640. Their homes were soon built in the center of town where they established a tannery, the first in the colony. They were given several grants of land in the town as time went on. In 1655 when the Rev. Henry Dunster was removed as president of Harvard College because of his Baptist leanings, he sold his 500 acre grant which was to be located in the Woburn area to the Wyman brothers. While the deed was not registered until 1665, the dates are certain and stated in the deed. At this time Billerica was just being established.

In 1657 The Woburn selectmen agreed to exchanged 94 acres of land which the Wymans already possessed in the town for an equal amount "...adjoining to their land at Billerica..." and again in 1661 Francis exchanged "...a parcel of land lying in the treasury...(for land at)...his farm next Billerica." The same year Billerica granted 70 acres in the same area to the Wyman brothers which was laid out and the return made in 1663. This same year both Wymans paid the Billerica minister's rate.

In 1665 the Coytmore Grant of 500 acres was purchased from the Coytmore heirs, and a Billerica grant formerly of Capt. Prentice amounting to 80 acres was granted to Francis by the Billerica selectmen. The following year, 1666, the general court directed that the Coytmore grant was to be laid out at the same time that the Billerica-Woburn line was to be settled. It was stated that the grant was to be laid out "...in Woobourne bounds, next adjoining to the land and houses of the said Waymens, apprehending it to be most convenient and profitable for them so to lye." Again the next year, 1667, in the same dispute there is a reference to "...where their houses stand."

An early map of the Daniel's farm in Billerica dated 1668 shows the two Wyman houses on land adjacent, although it must be admitted that the map leaves much to be desired in the way of scale; nonetheless, the houses appear in an approximately correct position.

By 1669 the Wyman farm had developed to the point that Billerica says in a boundary dispute that what they were really after was the tax on the "...great farme which the Wymans bought...(amounting to)...8 or 9 lbs. p. annum." The same year reference is made to Francis Wymans present habitation "...neere the line..." and to the fact that the Wyman paid tax to both Billerica and Woburn.

As early as 1672 reference is made to Francis' "old" house in Woburn center, and in the rates for 1674 and 1675 Woburn lists separately his farm, as well as his house and estate near the center of town.

In 1675 the King Philip's War caused Francis to remove to his house near the center of Woburn so at this time he leased the farm to Edward Farmer. The three year lease is extant and mentions a sizable estate consisting of a dwelling house, barn, outhouse, cornfields, orchards, gardens, pastures, yards, and fences together with 3 cows, 2 oxen, 35 sheep, a mare, one servant and "a hair cloth for the kell" By this time the orchard apparently bore fruit for arrangements were made for the disposition of the fruit. At the expiration of the lease in 1679 lawsuits arose over the condition of the property and mention is made of the crops of corn, barley, hops, and 6 or 7 acres of rye, as well as 700 poles of fences in a "ruinous condition" which three years earlier had been "sufficient."

In brief, the evidence indicates that the Wymans had 500 acres of land to farm as early as 1655. This, together with the several significant town grants as well as the 500 additional acres of the 1665 Coytmore grant indicate considerable activity in developing the land, enough to account for each brother to build a house. These houses are referred to in 1666. Less than nine years later the estate was considerable indicating a continued development of the land and the farm.

The next question to be asked is whether the present Francis Wyman house is the one built before 1666.

Architecturally the house is a complete unit and not one which had been added to over the years. It was suitable for the large family of seven children which Francis had in 1666 (with five more yet to come). Prior to 1675 Woburn had no significant Indian troubles which would cause settlers to fear to live on the outskirts of the town despite some earlier historians assuming that such was the case. The fact is that the town of Billerica was established in 1655 just beyond the Wyman land.

As for the present Francis Wyman house, George Francis Dow of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities delivered a paper at a meeting of the Wyman Association in 1921 in which he concludes that the house may have been built sometime before 1700. He was told about the 1666 Coytmore grant but was not aware of the earlier land purchases nor of the mentions of the Wyman houses in the records.

It might be assumed that there was an earlier house on the site which was replaced at a later date, but there is no evidence supporting that assumption. An archeological dig by Brown University in 1977 located two sherds of slip-decorated red earthenware as well as two pipe stems of the 1620-1650 period and one of the 1650-1680 period. The study was, however, brief and of limited scope. it is apparent that the present site is that of the original farm. There being no evidence that an original house was destroyed and replaced with the present one, it may be assumed that the present house dates sometime before 1666.

APPENDIX

1. Middlesex Registry of Deeds 3:138

"The 10th day of the 3rd month 1655" Henry and Elizabeth Dunster sold to "...ffrancis Wyman & John his brother" some 500 acres of land "...at shawshin betwixt the lands of Capt. Gookin...and Edward Collin." The deed was acknowledged 2 June 1657 and recorded 10 April 1665. Included is deed 14. 5m. 1660 for laying out the farm at Shawshin & other considerations



Dating the Francis Wyman House




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