Appleton Farms is one of the oldest continuously operating farms in the country, gifted to the Trustees of Reservations by Francis and Joan Appleton. It was originally granted to Ipswich settler Samuel Appleton. The farm continued in family ownership for seven generations. The property consists of forests, fields, wetlands and small glacial hills. The Hamilton section is known as Appleton Farms Grass Rides on Highland St.
Many generations of the Appleton family lived in the “Old House” at Appleton Farms. The early home of Major Isaac Appleton built in 1688 is said to be the in the core of the Old House but little if any of that First Period structure remains. The 18th Century present house was built by Samuel Appleton, 5th generation, and in 1862 the house was renovated again with Victorian flourishes. The Appleton Farms “Old House” was restored several years ago and is now the farms’ Visitor Center.
by Thomas Franklin Waters
“The farm allotted to Isaac Appleton continued in his direct line to the 20th Century. He bore the title of Major and he had a part in the military operations of his time. He died May 22, 1747, and bequeathed the farm to his son Isaac. The will was refused allowance, on the ground of his lack of mental soundness, but was eventually approved in 1785 (Pro. Rec. 328: 211-215). Isaac, son of the Major, lived to the great age of 91 years. He died Dec. 18, 1791, bequeathing his estate to his son, Samuel, by his will, proved Jan. 5, 1795. The old house built by Major Isaac was replaced with the present dwelling by Samuel Appleton in 1794.”
The Trustees of Reservations assumed responsibility for the farm in 1998, and renovated the 200-year-old house with green technology, restoring it to its Georgian essence. The home had fallen into great disrepair, but the core of the home has been saved. The renovation preserved hand-hewn timbers, heart-pine floorboards, Victorian-era windows, decorative moldings and mementos. The newly opened visitor center includes furniture, portraits, photo albums, books, and other objects original to the house. The house tells the story of one family’s history from settlers to farmers to “gentleman farmers” over the course of 371 years.