South Parlor, Josiah Cooley House, Longmeadow, Massachusetts

The south parlor of the Josiah Cooley House, located at the northwest corner of Longmeadow Street and Emerson Road in Longmeadow, on April 9, 1920. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Paesiello Emerson Collection.

The scene in 2023:

The Josiah Cooley House has been the subject of several recent posts that show the exterior of the house in the early 20th century and in the present day. This photo shows the interior of the house, facing the east wall of the south parlor. When the front of the house is viewed from the exterior, this room is located on the left side of the house. The room features these two windows, which face east towards Longmeadow Street, along with another window on the south wall, facing Emerson Road. The open door on the left side of both photos leads to the front entryway and front staircase, and when the first photo was taken there was also an exterior door just out of view on the south wall on the right side of this scene. This type of door is sometimes termed a “coffin door” because of its supposed use in facilitating the removal of a coffin from the parlor.

This house was likely built sometime around 1760, and its original residents were Josiah and Experience Cooley. It would remain in their family for over a century, until their great grandson Josiah Cooley Colton sold it in 1869. Three years later, it was purchased by William G. Emerson, whose children would live here well into the 20th century. Among his children was Paesiello Emerson, an amateur photographer who took the top photo in this post, along with the other historic photos of the house that have been featured in previous posts.

The house was originally much smaller than its present-day appearance. It was originally built as a saltbox-style house, featuring two rooms in the front on the first floor, two bedrooms above them, and a room in the back part of the house, which likely would have been the kitchen. These rooms were warmed by fireplaces, which were all connected to the same central chimney.

This was a fairly typical layout for a colonial New England house. There does not appear to be any surviving documentation on exactly how the front rooms of this house were utilized during the colonial era, but such homes often had one room that was more formal and was used for special guests. The other room tended to be somewhat less formal, and was used more by the family members themselves.

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the rooms in this house, including this one, are the wide pine floorboards. During the colonial era, the harvesting of large pine trees was restricted by British authorities, because these tall, straight trees were valuable as masts for the ships of the Royal Navy. This led to a series of White Pine Acts, which by 1722 had outlawed the cutting of any pine tree with a diameter of greater than 12 inches, unless it was located within the boundaries of a township.

However, these laws were openly flaunted by many colonists, and Josiah Cooley may very well have been one of them, since there are many pine boards on the floors of this house that are greater than 12 inches in width. It is entirely possible that these were all cut legally within the boundaries of an incorporated municipality. But, given the prevalence of poaching during the time that this house was built, it is also possible that these were from illegally harvested trees. Interestingly, the boards here in this room tend to be smaller than some of the other rooms in the house, generally measuring about 11 to 11.5 inches wide. Was this a deliberate effort to avoid installing incriminating evidence in the most public room of the house? It is impossible to say with any certainty, and the Pine Tree Acts would later give rise to many tales about colonists deliberately defying the king in order to build their homes, making it difficult at times to separate fact from romanticized fiction.

Aside from the floorboards, the parlor was also built with wainscoting on the lower part of the walls. This was removed sometime around the 1820s or 1830s as part of a modernization effort, and it was reinstalled in a new room that had been built in the back of the house on the second floor. By the time the first photo was taken, the parlor here was wallpapered. The old interior shutters were also removed during these renovations, and the shutters are said to have been repurposed for a cupboard in the back of the house.

Likewise, the original 12-over-12 windows were removed from the front of the house during this same renovation work. By that point, glassmaking had advanced to the point where larger panes were easier to produce, enabling 6-over-6 windows. However, like the wainscoting and interior shutters, these windows were not discarded. Instead, they were installed in the new rooms in the back of the house, presumably where they would be less visible to the public and to guests.

By the time the first photo was taken in 1920, the room looked very different from how it would have appeared during the 18th century. However, around the late 1940s or early 1950s the house underwent yet another renovation. Some of this included modernizing the house, such as installing two new bathrooms upstairs, but the owners also restored other parts of the house. The wainscoting that had been moved upstairs in the 19th century was evidently brought back downstairs, where it was reinstalled in this room and in the north parlor. It does not seem clear as to how accurate this was done, though, including whether all of the panels were placed in their original locations. It is also possible that some of the panels are reproductions, since this renovation also involved removing two doorways from the room: the “coffin door,” and a door that had been located just to the right of the fireplace. Without those doors, there is now more wall space than there had previously been, which raises questions about whether some of the panels are modern replicas.

The mid-20th century renovations also included replacing the doorknobs with older-style latches and hinges, as shown in the second photo. The door itself seems to be the same in both photos, though. Other features that have remained the same are the windows, which appear to still have many of the same panes of glass. Most of these panes have waves, bubbles, and other imperfections that were characteristic of 19th century glassmaking. These windows are not technically historically accurate to the colonial era, but at nearly 200 years old they are nonetheless historic in their own right.

Josiah Cooley House, Longmeadow, Massachusetts (4)

The northwest corner of Longmeadow Street and Emerson Road in Longmeadow, in October 1912. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Paesiello Emerson Collection.

The scene in 2023:

These photos show the same house as the ones in the previous three posts, but from further away. As discussed in more detail in the first of these posts, the house was built around 1760 as the home of Josiah and Experience Cooley. However, the property itself had been in the Cooley family for many years prior to that, and Josiah’s father Eliakim lived in a house that was built here on this same site around the 1710s or 1720s. The current house would remain in the family for another century, until Josiah’s great grandson, Josiah Cooley Colton, sold it in 1869.

In 1872, the house was purchased by William G. Emerson, who lived here until his death in 1887. His daughter Annie subsequently inherited the property, and by the time the first photo was taken she was living here with her younger brother Henry and her older half brother Paesiello. It was Paesiello who took the first photo, sometime in October 1912, and it shows the house from the corner of Longmeadow Street and Emerson Road.

At the time, the house included a significant amount of land. As was the case for most of the old houses on Longmeadow Street, it had a relatively narrow frontage on the street, but the property extended for about a third of a mile beyond the house, almost all the way to where Interstate 91 is now located. Annie’s brother Henry farmed this land, and according to his 1943 obituary he was, at one point, one of the largest raspberry producers in western Massachusetts. His obituary also noted that he farmed asparagus, and later in his life shifted to poultry and eggs. Not much of the farmland is visible in the first photo, although a portion of the large barn can be seen in the distance on the far left side of the photo.

By the time the first photo was taken, the house had already undergone many changes since its construction a century and a half earlier. It originally had a saltbox-style roof with two second story rooms in the front and a long, sloping roof in the back. This was  altered around the 1820s or 1830s, when the roof was raised to create a full second story. Along with this, a new two-story wing was added to the north side of the house, and it may have also been during this renovation that the one-story wing was added to the back of the house. Along with this, the original 12-over-12 windows in the front part of the house were replaced with 6-over-6 ones, the interior shutters were replaced with exterior ones, and the current doorway was likely added around this time too.

The Emersons were the last family to use this property for farming, and after Henry’s death in 1943 the property was sold. At some point afterwards, the land that extended beyond the house was subdivided, and new houses were built on the former farmland, as Longmeadow transitioned from a quiet farming community and into a full-fledged suburb of Springfield. The barn in the back was demolished at some point during this time, but the house itself survived, and it underwent some restoration work during the mid 20th century, on both the interior and exterior.

Today, the house still stands as one of the many historic 18th century homes on Longmeadow Street. Its surroundings have changed, including the subdividing of its former property and the redevelopment of adjacent parcels, and most of the trees in the front yard are now gone. Most significantly, these included the massive elm tree on the right side of the first photo. This tree was likely much older than the house itself, but it likely fell victim to Dutch Elm Disease in the decades after the first photo was taken. However, at least one tree from the first photo appears to still be standing. The small maple tree just to the left of the doorway in the first photo is likely the same one in the center of the second photo, where it now towers over the house and partially hides it from view in this scene.

Josiah Cooley House, Longmeadow, Massachusetts (3)

The house at the northwest corner of Longmeadow Street and Emerson Road in Longmeadow, on August 1, 1924. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Paesiello Emerson Collection.

The house in 2023:

This house was the subject of the past two posts, including one that provides a detailed account of its history. The house was built around 1760, but it was significantly expanded around the 1820s or 1830s. This included raising the earlier saltbox-style roof to create a full second story, along with building an addition to the north side of the house, as seen on the right side of these photos. The 6-over-6 windows were also added during this time, as were the shutters in the first photo, and the front doorway was probably also installed as part of this project.

By the time the first photo was taken, the house was the home of Annie Emerson, a retired schoolteacher who was also the town’s leading historian. She also lived here with her older half brother Paesiello Emerson, a Civil War veteran and retired boot manufacturer. In his later years, he became an amateur photographer, and he extensively documented life in early 20th century Longmeadow. Their house was a frequent subject of his photographs, including the first one here at the top of this post, which he took in 1924 when he was 92 years old.

Since then, the house has undergone some exterior changes in the past 99 years, including the removal of the shutters and the “coffin door” on the left side of the house. Overall, though, the house still retains much of its 18th and early 19th century material, including the 6-over-6 windows here in the front, along with many of the original 12-over-12 windows in the back of the house. It is one of the many historic homes on Longmeadow Street, and it stands as a good example of a colonial New England home.

Josiah Cooley House, Longmeadow, Massachusetts (2)

The house at the northwest corner of Longmeadow Street and Emerson Road in Longmeadow, around the 1910s or 1920s. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Paesiello Emerson Collection.

The house in 2023:

As explained in more detail in the previous post, this house was built around 1760 as the home of Josiah Cooley (1716-1778), his wife Experience (1714-1798), and their children. It would be owned by their descendants for more than a century, and it was the home of five generations of the family before it was sold in 1869. It was later purchased by the Emerson family in 1872, who would own it until 1943. Residents during this time included town historian Annie Emerson, who wrote a detailed historical account of this house. Her brother Paesiello also lived here in the early 20th century. He was a prolific amateur photographer, and he took many photos of this house, including the first one here in this post.

This house has seen many changes over the years, both before and after the first photo was taken. The house originally had a saltbox-style design, which was common in mid-18th century New England. Such homes generally had two stories in the front part of the house, with a long sloping roof in the back. However, this was altered around the 1820s or 1830s. The roof was raised on the back part of the house to create a full second story, and a wing was added to the north side of the house, as shown on the right side of this scene. The rear addition to the house was also probably built during this time.

Aside from major structural changes, the appearance of the house was also modernized around the 1820s and 1830s. This included installing new 6-over-6 windows in place of the original 12-over-12 ones, which were then reinstalled in less visible locations in the back part of the house. As part of this, the original interior shutters were removed, and were replaced with the exterior ones that are shown in the first photo. The current front doorway was likely also added during this time.

In the century since the first photo was taken, the house has seen further changes, although these have generally been less drastic than the early 19th century changes. Many of these occurred in the late 1940s and 1950s, and included restoring portions of the interior while also modernizing other parts of it. On the exterior, the so-called “coffin door” on the left side of the house was removed, and at some point around this time the shutters were removed. Other changes included a larger window on the ground floor of the north wing, which is now the location of the modern kitchen.

Overall, despite these changes the house retains a high degree of historic integrity, on both the interior and exterior. Most of the windows in the front part of the house date to the early 19th century renovation, and many of the windows in the back are the original 12-over-12 windows from the 1760s. On the interior, most rooms still have their original pine floors, along with original wainscoting and paneling. It stands as a good example of an 18th century New England home, and it is one of the many historic properties that still line Longmeadow Street.


Josiah Cooley House, Longmeadow, Massachusetts

The house at the northwest corner of Longmeadow Street and Emerson Road in Longmeadow, in 1924. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Paesiello Emerson Collection.

The house in 2023:

The exact date of construction for this house is uncertain, but it has been variously estimated as being anywhere from 1755 to 1775, with 1760 being the most commonly cited date. It was built by Josiah Cooley (1716-1778), but a portion of the foundation is believed to be even older, dating back to perhaps the 1710s or 1720s, when Josiah’s father Eliakim (1681-1758) built a house here on this site. The Cooley family was among the first of the European colonists to settle in the land that would become Longmeadow. Like many of these colonists, they initially settled in the meadows near the Connecticut River, but by the early 1700s they had begun to move up the hill, to modern-day Longmeadow Street.

In 1728, Eliakim Cooley’s house on this site gained attention when it was struck by lightning on May 19. Based on an account that was published in the New England Weekly Journal a little over a month later, the lightning caused considerable damage to the house while also injuring Eliakim and his daughter Griswold Cooley (1709-1764). Eliakim’s injuries were relatively minor, but Griswold never fully recovered, despite living another 36 years after the incident. According to family tradition, this long-term disability was the reason why she never married.

It seems unclear as to exactly what happened to the original house. Around 1750, Eliakim Cooley transferred his property here to his sons Josiah and Hezekiah (1720-1796), and they subsequently divided the land. Josiah received the southern part here where their father’s house stood, and Hezekiah received the northern part. According to tradition, the two brothers then built identical homes on their respective properties sometime around 1755-1760, although it does not seem clear whether Josiah’s house was a completely new structure, or whether he incorporated portions of his father’s house into his own home.

Regardless of exactly when it was built, Josiah Cooley’s house looked very different in the 18th century than it does now. It originally had a saltbox-style design, with two stories at the front of the house and one story in the back. The first floor of the house had two rooms in the front and a kitchen in the back, and there were two bedrooms on the second floor. As was often the case for New England homes of this period, it had a large central chimney, which measured about ten feet square at its base.

Josiah Cooley was a prominent local resident. At the time, Longmeadow was still a part of Springfield, but it was governed by a committee of the precinct, which functioned in much the same way as a town board of selectmen. Josiah frequently served on this committee throughout much of the 1750s and early 1760s, and he often served as an assessor as well.

Josiah Cooley had married Experience Hale (1714-1798) in 1739, probably about 20 years before he built this house. Their first child, a daughter who was also named Experience (1739-1771), was born just five months after the wedding, which likely would have raised a few eyebrows here in their small community. They had six more children: Hannah (1742-1820), Eleanor (1745-1777), Sabinah (1747-1823), Josiah (1749-1824), Rebecca (1752-1775), and Simeon (1755-1757). This was an era of large families and also high infant mortality rates, but remarkably all of their children survived to adulthood except for their youngest, Simeon, who died at the age of two.

Assuming that the 1760 date is accurate, Josiah and Experience were in their early to mid-40s when they moved into this house. All of their surviving children were likely still living here with them at the time, although their four older daughters would all get married in the 1760s and presumably left home afterwards. Their daughter Sabinah married John Keep in 1767, and one of her children was the Rev. John Keep, a prominent 19th century pastor and abolitionist who served on the board of trustees of Oberlin College for many years.

Their oldest daughter Experience died in 1771, and the Rev. Stephen Williams mentioned her death in his diary. Williams (1694-1782) served as pastor of the Longmeadow church from 1716 until his death in 1782, and he kept a detailed diary throughout this time. The Cooley family made frequent appearances in the diary, especially in the early years of his ministry, when the Cooleys, including Josiah’s father Eliakim, opposed Williams’s controversial decision to sing Psalms during Sunday worship services. By the time Experience died in 1771, more than a half century had passed since this theological dispute, but it is hard to tell whether there was any lingering animosity between Williams and the Cooleys. Either way, after Experience’s death Williams paid a visit to Josiah Cooley, presumably here at his house. His diary entry for that day, July 3, 1771, states:

this day I visitd Sergt Jos: Cooley & family (yt have lately burrd a daughtr) they appeard to take ye visitt in good part – the Lord Grant me prudence & discretion, & Grant my visitts may be profitable – & oh yt I might mySelf be Sanctifyd thro out in Spirit, Soul & Body -.

Williams would subsequently make more visits to the house in the early 1770s. By that point, both Josiah Cooley and his youngest daughter Rebecca were in declining health. On May 11, 1772, he wrote “this day I visitd Sergt Jos: Cooley, who is very low, & apprehendd to be near his End – ye Lord have mercy on him.” However, two days later Williams was more optimistic, noting that “Sergt J Cooley may yet live.” That proved to be the case, but in the meantime Rebecca fell ill, and Williams visited her on November 15, 1773. She was 21 years old at the time, but was “indeed in a Low & Languishing State (tis feard is consumptive).” His diary recorded at least three other visits, and she ultimately died on January 21, 1775, at the age of 22. In the meantime, Josiah evidently never fully recovered his health, and he died after having “been Languishing Sometime” on September 7, 1778, at the age of 61.

Josiah Cooley had written his will during his health scare back in May 1772. In it, he left one third of his land, buildings, and household furniture to his wife Experience. Most of his remaining property went to their only surviving son, who was also named Josiah. The younger Josiah would go on to live here in this house for the rest of his life, although in 1777 he gave half of his property and half of this house to his only surviving son, Josiah Jr.

Also in 1777, the younger Josiah married Abiel Bliss (1758-1830) of Wilbraham. They had eight children: Rebecca (1778-1833), John Bliss (1781-1786), Sylvia (1785-1834), Lydia (1787-1823), Lucy (1789-1869), John Bliss (1793-1858), Eliza (1799-1851), and Harriet (1802-1880). All of their children survived to adulthood with the exception of the first John Bliss. He died at the age of five, and his name was subsequently given to their other son, who was born seven years later.

Like his father, Josiah Cooley Jr. was a prominent figure in the local community. He served on the committee of the precinct from 1780 to 1783, just before Longmeadow was incorporated as a separate town in 1783. He also held a number of other town offices over the years, including variously serving as a warden, constable, tithingman, fence viewer, surveyor of highways, field howard, field driver, bull committee member, and school committee member. Throughout this time, he also served a mix of different ad hoc committees, often relating to roads, bridges, and other public works projects.

Aside from his roles in the town government, Josiah Cooley Jr. also served as a soldier during the American Revolution. On April 21, 1775, two days after the start of the war, he was a corporal in a company of Longmeadow minutemen that marched in response to the Lexington Alarm. He did not see any combat, and his service on this particular occasion only lasted for three days. However, he subsequently enlisted as a corporal on September 24, 1777 serving for 32 days in Colonel Charles Pynchon’s regiment during the Saratoga campaign.

Josiah Cooley was living here during the first federal census in 1790. However, prior to 1850 the census did not record names or demographic information about individual people within each household. Instead, only the head of the household was identified by name. The rest of the household members were identified only based on the number of people in each age range, gender, and race. In 1790, there were, including Josiah, a total of two free white males aged 16 and older, one free white male under 16, and seven free female residents. At the time, Josiah and Abiel had four daughters and no living sons, which means that there were four other people living here aside from them and their children. This probably included Josiah’s mother Experience, who was still alive in 1790 and was presumably still residing here at this house.

The next three censuses likewise showed more people living here than just Josiah, Abiel, and their children. They may have included extended family members, or perhaps hired farm hands. For example, in 1820 there was one male aged 10-15, and another aged 16-18. Based on their ages and gender, neither of them could have been Josiah and Abiel’s children.

Josiah Cooley Jr. died on February 13, 1824 at the age of 74, and his daughter Lucy subsequently inherited the house. Lucy had married Luther Colton (1787-1857) in 1809, and they had four children: Luther Woolworth (1812-1851), Francis Stebbins (1815-1815), Lucy Ann (1817-1879), and Josiah Cooley Colton (1825-1895). Francis died in infancy, but their other three children were evidently living here with them in 1830, based on the census records. The 1830 census also shows a woman aged 70 to 79 living here, which may have been Lucy’s mother Abiel. She would have been 72 at the time, although she died in July 1830, only a month after the official census enumeration date.

During Lucy and Luther Colton’s ownership, the house underwent its first major renovation. Some sources say that this occurred in 1827, while others say 1835, but given the scope of the work it is possible that it was a long-term project that took several years to complete everything. The renovations included replacing the old saltbox-style roof with a full second story, along with a two-story wing on the right side of the house. This wing is set back from the front of the main part of the house, so it is not visible from this particular angle in these two photos. The house also has a large one-story addition in the back, which may have been added during this 1820s-1830s renovation.

Aside from expanding the living space in the house, this renovation also included stylistic updates. The house was originally built with 12-over-12 windows, which were typical for homes of the colonial period. However, improvements in glassmaking technology in the early 19th century enabled larger panes, the 6-over-6 windows became the predominant style. Here in the front of the house, the original windows were removed and replaced with 6-over-6 ones, as shown in these two photos. But, many of the old windows were saved and reinstalled in the back part of the house. The shutters were also updated, with the old interior shutters being removed and replaced with exterior ones. According to an early 20th century account, some of the old interior shutters were repurposed as a cupboard.

It was also apparently during this renovation that the original front doorway was replaced with the current one. This style, with the windows above and on either side of the door, and the entablature above it, would not have been original to the house. How1ever, it was popular during the Greek Revival era of the 1820s and 1830s, and many 18th century homes in Longmeadow were updated with doorways similar to this one during the 19th century.

The interior of the house was also updated during this time, particularly in the two front rooms. The intent seems to have been to modernize the more public areas of the house, with less of an emphasis placed on the back part of the house and the second floor. This work included removing the original wainscoting from the front rooms, which was then reinstalled in the newly-created second-floor space.

Part of the reason for these renovations was to accommodate the growing Colton family. In 1835, Luther and Lucy’s oldest son, Luther W. Colton, married Abigail R. Morris (1812-1848) of Longmeadow. The couple moved into this house with Luther’s parents, and they lived in the new wing on the north side of the house.

The older Luther Colton served as a captain in the town militia, and he also held a variety of town offices, including tithingman, surveyor of highways, fence viewer, and fire ward. However, his primary occupation appears to have been farming. In the 1850 census, he owned 30 acres of improved land and another 30 acres of unimproved land, which was collectively valued at $3,000. His livestock included 2 horses, 8 milk cows, 5 other cattle, and 3 swine, and during the previous year his farm’s agricultural output consisted of 80 bushels of rye, 150 bushels of Indian corn, 25 bushels of oats, 150 bushels of Irish potatoes, 500 pounds of butter, and 15 tons of hay.

The 1850 census was also the first to list each individual household member. At the time, Luther and Lucy were both in their early 60s, and both of their sons were also still living here. Luther W. Colton’s first wife Abigail died in 1848, and a year later he remarried to Julia Bliss (1811-1897). They were here during the 1850 census, along with his children from his first marriage, Henry (1837-1888) and Emma (1845-1869). Luther and Lucy’s younger son Josiah was also living here at the time, along with his newlywed wife Nancy Burt (1826-1895).

Luther W. Colton died in 1851 at the age of 38, but his widow Julia and his younger child Emma were still living here with Luther and Lucy during the 1855 state census. Other residents included Julia McDermott, a 23-year-old Irish immigrant who was here with two-year-old John M. McDermott, who was presumably her son. The census does not list her occupation, but she may have been a domestic servant. The other two residents in 1855 were 25-year-old Joseph H. Booth and 21-year-old Isaac W. Coomes. They appear to have been boarders, and they both worked as spectacle makers, which was one of the few industries that existed in the primarily farming community.

Just two years after the census, the elder Luther Colton died at the age of 69. Under the terms of his will, his widow Lucy received the south half of the house, along with “one half of the pantry at the north end of the kitchen. She was also granted the right to use the oven as needed, along with the wood house and cellar. Along with this, she received the south half of the house lot, the south half of the wheat field, and all of his household furniture. She was also allotted one cow, of her choosing. Luther also left bequests of $100 each for his grandchildren Henry and Emma, and the rest of his estate, including the remainder of this house, went to his only surviving son, Josiah Cooley Colton.

Josiah was not living here in the 1855 census, but he evidently returned to care for his aging mother after his father’s death. He was here in 1860, along with his wife Nancy and their children: Charles (1851-1917), Harriet (1856-1905), and Lizzie (1859-1913). The household also included his mother Lucy, along with ten-year-old Julia Gargan, whose relationship to the family seems unclear. They also employed 15-year-old Bridget McMamery, an Irish immigrant who worked and lived here as a servant. The last member of the household was 27-year-old Peter Ward, who was also from Ireland. He was listed as a “laborer,” although it does not seem clear as to whether this means he was a laborer who worked for the Colton family, or whether he worked elsewhere but boarded here at the house.

Unlike the previous generations of his family, Josiah Colton was not primarily a farmer. As was the case with many other men of his generation, he was more interested in the opportunities to be found in manufacturing. The 1860 census listed him as a button manufacturer, probably for the Newell Brothers’ Manufacturing Company here in Longmeadow. This company moved to Springfield in 1863, joining a number of other companies in the rapidly industrializing city. Josiah Colton likewise decided to relocated, and in the spring of 1869 he sold the house and 20 acres of land to Bradford W. Palmer for $4,500.

The sale marked the end of more than a century of ownership by the Cooley-Colton family, and at least five generations of the family had lived here during this span of time. The move may have also contributed to the death of Josiah’s mother Lucy, who was reportedly heartbroken about selling the house that she had lived in for nearly her entire life. She died in August 1869 at the age of 79, only a few months after the move to Springfield.

As it turned out, the Palmer family only lived here for three years, before selling it in 1872 to William G. Emerson (1806-1887). He was a carpenter, and he was originally from eastern Massachusetts, but had moved to Holyoke in 1848 to work on the construction of the dam and mills there. He later moved to Springfield, before eventually buying this house in Longmeadow. His first wife Susan had died in 1843, but he subsequently married his second wife, Lovina Fay, in 1847.

By the time Emerson purchased this house, the children from his first marriage had either died or were living on their own. However, he and Lovina had three younger children of their own: William (1849-1930), Annie (1859-1941), and Henry (1865-1943). It does not seem clear whether the younger William lived here in this house with his parents, or if he was already living on his own by 1872, but the two younger children were both living here with William and Lovina during the 1880 census.

Of all the many residents of this house over the years, perhaps none were as instrumental in preserving the house and its history as William’s daughter, Annie Emerson. She was a public school teacher, but she was also the de facto town historian here in Longmeadow, and she did extensive work with the Longmeadow Historical Society. As part of this, she produced a detailed written history of this house, which is now in the archives of the Historical Society. That document was a particularly helpful source for this post, particularly in providing dates and other specific information on major alterations to the house.

Annie’s father William died in 1887, and her mother Lovina died a decade later. By the 1900 census, Annie and her younger brother Henry were the only family members still living her. Neither of them ever married, and they both lived in this house for the rest of their lives, until their deaths in the early 1940s. Henry was a farmer, specializing in raspberries and asparagus. According to his obituary, he was one of the largest growers of raspberries in western Massachusetts. Later in life, he shifted his focus to poultry and eggs, and he appears to have been the last of a long line of residents to operate a commercial farm here on the property.

In 1907, Annie and Henry were joined here by their half brother Paesiello Emerson (1832-1927). He was the eldest child from their father’s first marriage, and at the age of 75 he was significantly older than his half siblings. Originally from Hopkinton, Paesiello later lived in Spencer and Ashland. He married Nancy Hartshorn (1828-1891) in 1855, and later served in the Civil War in the 5th Massachusetts Battery, from 1863 to 1865. During this time, he was wounded in action on June 8, 1864, in the midst of the Overland Campaign. An artillery shell injured his hand, and he carried the scar from it for the rest of his life. However, he recovered from his wound, and continued to serve until the end of the war.

Paesiello Emerson’s primary occupation was as a boot maker, but later in life he took up photography as a hobby. He started around 1902, when he was about 70 years old, and by the time he moved to this house he was already an accomplished amateur photographer. Despite his age, he would continue his photography here in Longmeadow for the next two decades, eventually amassing a portfolio of about 1,500 glass plate negatives. The majority of these were taken in Longmeadow, and they are a valuable resource for studying the history of the town and its development at the turn of the 20th century. Because he lived here in this house, it was a frequent subject for his photographs, including the first one here in this post, which he took when he was about 92 years old.

Aside from photography, Paesiello Emerson’s other hobbies included travel. Even when he was well into his 70s and 80s, he was still regularly traveling to far-off destinations, including Bermuda, Panama, and California. He also regularly attended Civil War reunions, including one in Fairhaven, Massachusetts in 1927, when he was 95 years old. His family had been opposed to him attending the previous year’s reunion because of his advanced age, so this year he slipped out of the house without telling anyone, prompting the publication of missing persons articles in several newspapers. His sister Annie eventually tracked him down, leading to a follow-up article in the New Britain Herald that stated he “was well enough to sit down and find pleasure in reading newspaper accounts of his reported disappearance.”

As it turned out, that reunion would be his last, and he died a few months later in December 1927. Annie later donated his entire collection of glass plate negatives to the Longmeadow Historical Society, which has since digitized them and made them available online via the Digital Commonwealth website.

In the meantime, by the 1930 census both Annie and Henry were still living here, as was their older brother William F. Emerson. William died later that year, but Annie remained here until her death in 1941 at the age of 81. Henry, the youngest of his siblings and half-siblings, was also the last surviving member of the family, and he died in 1943 at the age of 79.

The Emerson family does not appear to have made any significant changes to the house during their 70 years of ownership, but the subsequent owners in the 1940s and 1950s made some changes in an effort to both modernize the house but also to restore portions of it to its original appearance. It was during this time that two bathrooms were added to the back part of the second story, but other interior work included restoring the wainscoting to its original location in the front rooms, along with replacing the old door latches and hinges. The 19th century shutters, which appear in the first photo, were also evidently removed around this time, as was the “coffin door” on the left side, and at some point in the 20th century a two-car garage was built into the wing in the back of the house, in an area that had evidently once been a shed. Other changes, which likely occurred in the late 20th century, included the addition of a sunroom on the back of the house.

However, despite several major renovations in the 19th and 20th centuries, the house is still remarkably well-preserved, with a significant amount of original material. The 6-over-6 windows from the 1820s-30s renovation are still installed here, while the back of the house still has many of the original 18th century 12-over-12 windows. On the interior, the original central chimney still stands, and most of the rooms feature original wide pine boards and wood paneling. Overall, it stands as an excellent example of an 18th century colonial home, and it is one of the many historic properties that still line Longmeadow Street.

Wash Room, Hancock Shaker Village, Hancock, Massachusetts

The wash room at the laundry and machine shop building at Hancock Shaker Village in 1931. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

The room in 2023:

This room is located on the first floor of the laundry and machine shop at Hancock Shaker Village. It was here that women in the Shaker community would wash garments and other cloth items, which would then be brought upstairs to dry. From there, the dry clothes would be returned to the first floor, where other women would iron them in the adjacent ironing room.

Although today they are often conflated with the Amish, the Shakers were not opposed to technology. On the contrary, Shaker communities are generally credited with a number of important technological advances during the 19th century, including developing early washing machines. Part of this was because the communal nature of the Shaker villages. Because they all lived and worked together, they could take advantage of economies of scale and develop machinery that would not be practical for most individual families.

Here in Hancock, the laundry facilities were located on the west side of this building, which housed the machine shop on the east side. Both the laundry and the machine shop utilized the same water source, with a turbine that powered the machinery here. This made the laundry much more efficient than washing everything by hand, which helped keep up with the needs of the community that, during the mid-19th century, had several hundred members.

The first photo was taken in 1931, when the Shaker community was still active here. As shown in the photo, the floor of the room was marble, which slope upward at the walls. There are also several drain holes in the floor. The equipment in the first photo includes a washing machine in the distance against the far wall, which appears to have been powered by the water turbine via a belt.

The Shaker community here in Hancock ultimately closed in 1960 amid declining numbers, and many of the buildings have since been preserved Hancock Shaker Village, an open-air museum. The laundry and machine shop building is still standing, although the equipment here in the wash room is somewhat different from the first photo. This may have been done in order to interpret the room as it would have looked during an earlier time period, since most of the items here appear to date back to the 19th century. Overall, though, it is still easily recognizable from the first photo, and it provides a good illustration of how the Shakers utilized technology in order to meet the needs of their communities.