The Old Cross Farm at 41 Linebrook Road was restored in 1999 by the Copithorne family. Information for this article is from a grant study conducted by Sue Nelson for the Ipswich Historical Commission documenting the deeds and each family that lived in the home.
According to the 1725 will of John Denison the elder, his home consisted of two parts: a “Back Room” with a chamber above it, and “the Westerly End of my Dwelling House”, with a cellar beneath it. Since an empty parcel of land passed to Denison in 1716, this puts a construction date range of 1716-1725 on the west parlor, the present living room. Sometime after 1725 and before 1754, the east half of the main house was added, creating one more room downstairs and another upstairs, creating the center-chimney central-entrance house. In 1754 John Denison the younger wrote his will, and after his death in 1761 the house passed out of his heirs’ hands to Nathaniel Cross. It became a 25-acre working farm.
In 1800 a caretakers wing was built. About 1850, the roof was raised on the Cross Farm, obliterating any evidence of the earlier “salt-box” roof of the lean-to, and giving the rear of the house two full stories. Then between 1872 and 1884, a two-story ell was added to the rear of the house on its northeast corner, completing the footprint of the building that stands on the land today.
The three John Denisons and the Cross family
The house’s history is one of almost continuous joint ownership and joint tenancy. As early as 1725 when John Denison made his will, the house was split up among family members. Several generations of the Cross family lived together in the house between 1769-1878. The Crosses prospered in the house, with the family retaining their hold on the property until 1878. Serving as weaver’s shop, farm, fruit farm, and poultry operation, the Cross farm was home to both families and family businesses. By the twentieth century, the house also lodged renters as well as multiple generations of the Underhill and Christian families.
John Denison “Joyner” (apparently no relation to the famous General Daniel Denison) received rights to Ipswich’s Common Lands from Joseph and Martha Woodbridge in 1716. He was the son of another John Denison, a weaver and Ipswich resident, who died in 1683. John Denison, “joyner” died on August 12, 1725.
John Denison the younger married Rebecca Wallis in 1727, about eight months after his father’s will was finally probated. The Denisons had no children of their own, and so Rebecca Manning, the daughter of Rebecca Wallis Denison’s sister Elizabeth, moved into the house. She evidently became very dear to the Denisons and was an integral part of their family life. She may well have also been an integral part of the family weaving business.
When John Denison the younger died in 1761, he left his niece Rebecca the east half of his home, all of the furnishings brought to the marriage by his wife, her aunt Rebecca Wallis Denison, and tools of the weaving trade. These included looms, flax, wool, and “wharping barrs”, all part of Denison’s “Weaving tackling.”
In Denison’s dead, the western half of the house was split three ways between his sisters Ruth Kingsbury and Hannah Kingsbury and his nephew Daniel Denison.
Eventually the westerly and eastern halves of the Dennison house and homestead was conveyed separately to Nathaniel Cross. Nathaniel Cross was the first owner of the property with the Cross surname, and his descendants lived there for more than one hundred years. After the death of Nathaniel Cross in 1771, the house does not come into a single ownership again until J.D. Cross acquires all the shares of it in the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1878, J. D. Cross sold the property to Nathaniel Underhill.
Living Room – West Parlor
The present living room’s early origins have been disguised by intricate and graceful finish work typical of Federal period architecture, and unusually fine for a country farmhouse. The ornamentation of the west parlor was almost certainly installed to mark the marriage of Dudley Cross to Sarah Harris in December of 1812. The west parlor was updated with a mantel, wainscoting and ceiling cornice that incorporated carved reed motifs. This very unusual and delicate ornamentation should be compared to Samuel McIntyre’s 1801 updating of the Peirce-Nichols house in Salem.
The kitchen has a fireplace 42 ½” high by 63 ½” wide, with splayed sides and a built-in oven to the right (west) of the firebox. These dimensions, as well as the splayed sides, are typical of eighteenth century work. The fireplace opening is presently set off by a handsome Federal style mantel, with a Grecian ogee and bead molding. The earlier origins of the fireplace are signified by the presence of a fine lintel below the mantel. The lintel boasts quarter-round chamfering with lamb’s tongue stops on each end of the fireplace opening. An examination of the back side of the lintel from inside the firebox indicates that it was carved to fit the firebox precisely, rather than being reused from an earlier building.
The earliest roof was of the principal rafter/common rafter type, with a bridled apex joint. The mortise pockets and tenon holes for this roof are still visible on the south rafters of the roof. When the roof was raised, timbers were butted up against the earlier rafters and nailed in place. Plank patches were added on one side of each of these joints to prevent them from separating.
The foundation is composed of dressed stone, dry-laid, with later cement parging. Each half of the cellar has a summer beam about 10” high by 12” wide running north/south. In the west, or earliest half of the cellar, sleepers are butt-cogged into the summer beam, west sill and chimney girt. The sills, summer beam and girts all show evidence of adze marks. The east side cellar is virtually the mirror image of the west side of the cellar. The brick arch supporting the chimney mass is the most obvious and interesting feature of the main cellar.