Please help the Historical Society save this home

By Bob Harding | Sep 29, 2016
Courtesy of: Bob Harding 7 Eliza Lane

I am writing this note with the anticipation that someone receiving it will find this intriguing old farmhouse to have enough historical worth to preserve it.

I must explain that I have special reasons to write this epistle. As a boy in the 1940s, I delivered newspapers to this house as one of a few along Old Westport Road. I remember that a Mrs. Tripp and Loren Thatcher lived there at the time, and that it was at the top of a lane leading south from the road. Now, all has been reconfigured, the lane is gone and a new housing development has been built, but the old house still stands. At present, it is on the west side of Eliza Lane.

Since I have retired, I have been deeply involved in local historic preservation via roles on the Dartmouth Historical Commission and as President of the Dartmouth Historical & Arts Society. Both of these organizations are committed to the preservation of Dartmouth history and that, of course, includes historic dwellings, which unfortunately have been disappearing from our town.

The present owner of this old house has graciously consented to a six month delay in his plans to replace the structure and is open to saving. Because of this, I seek input on how to save the dwelling. One idea put forward included giving the structure up as a free gift, with the idea that it could be moved — either in sections or as a whole — to another location. This could provide a good solid home for a very low net cost per square foot. Perhaps it could become a project for someone wanting to provide a low cost dwelling for a family.

Historical background.

One of the most ancient paths in Old Dartmouth was this section of Old Westport Road in Dartmouth and Old County Road in Westport. It was known as the Plymouth Path when traveling east and the Rhode Island Way when going west. This was part of the colonial route connecting Plymouth with Portsmouth and Newport.

Some of the oldest houses in the area are located along this path. Still standing is the 1702 Cummings house in North Dartmouth. After burning down, the old Othniel Tripp place across from the entrance to UMASS Dartmouth has been replaced with a modern structure. A few others still exist as well.

The house at 7 Eliza Lane, and others, represent a collection of the earliest settlers of the town of Dartmouth.

The land on which the house sits was part of that originally set off to Edmund Sherman, son of Philip who was the first Secretary of Rhode Island. After Edmund’s death of an unknown date — although his will dates to 1719 — several of his sons conveyed the house lot to Joseph, their brother and the youngest son of Edmund. A deed of 1817 conveys the property from Joseph's grandson, George Sherman, to William White.

White is a descendent of William White and Elizabeth Cadman, builders of the so-called Handy House of Westport, currently owned by the Westport Historical Society. This is a Mayflower lineage going back to pilgrim William White and wife Elizabeth through their son Peregrine. From William (of the Handy House) the dwelling and land transferred on his death to his single daughter Sophia White.

Sophia was once the landlord for Charlotte White, a native American healer. As the descendant of slaves, Charlotte lived on her namesake road in Westport.

Likewise, in the ascendancy of Silas G. Sherman, the last Sherman to own the house and as he left no heirs, we find Christopher Holder. Holder was the great missionary of the Quakers, credited with introducing the Quaker faith to Sandwich in the Plymouth Bay Colony.

Others family members connected to owners of the property include Governor Thomas Prence of the Plymouth Bay Colony; Benjamin Church, a participant in the war with the Native Americans known as “King Philip’s War”; and Richard Warren, one of the Mayflower passengers.

We are seeking creative ideas for saving this historic structure for the Town of Dartmouth and for posterity. Anyone with an idea for sharing, please contact the Dartmouth Historical Commission via Bob Harding at the email address sir_ice_man@hotmail.com. Likewise, if you have questions regarding this property, drop me a line.

Respectfully,

Bob Harding

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