1 Chestnut Hill Road & Chestnut Hill Farm ~ Historical Narrative
Chestnut Hill Farm encompasses not only the largest historic farm landscape visible from any road in Southborough, but also includes two well-preserved eighteenth-century farmhouses and a variety of auxilliary buildings and structures spanning several eras of the town's history.
Now a combination of five large parcels, with seven separate residences, this area is significant throughout most of Southborough's history as one farm. It belonged to at least three generations of the Fay family in the eighteenth- and nineteenth centuries, and to at least three more "gentleman" farmers in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Chestnut Hill Farm, a name the property apparently acquired in about 1880, still comprises one of Southborough's most beautiful collections of agricultural resources. While some outbuildings have been lost, others added or converted to residential use, and an early-twentieth-century Cape Cod cottage stands on the site of a former barn, the historic character of the buildings, structures, and landscape here represents a rare survival of rural resources that have evolved over the course of nearly 250 years.
The beginnings of the farm are represented by the house at 1 Chestnut Hil l Road. Singled out on the map of 1898 as being 200 years old, more reliable sources imply that this half-house/saltbox was built sometime between the 1727 incorporation of the town and about 1770. By one account, part of this structure is the house of William Johnson, Jr . (1689-1757), eldest son of William Johnson, one of the first proprietors and principal founder, with William Ward, of the town. William Johnson, Jr. was a blacksmith as well as a farmer. He moved to Worcester well before his death, and apparently sold the house and surrounding farm to his brother, Ebenezer Fay.
Other sources put the construction date of the house to its acquisition in about 1757 (the year of William Johnson, Jr.'s death,) by John Lyscom, who sold it, with 21 acres, to Josiah Fay in 1772. The deeds for that transfer refer to it as being in the northeast angle of the roads, and the house "where Justice [Samuel] Lyscom died." Samuel Lyscom was also one of the original town residents, and may have been the first or second owner of the house.
When at a Town Meeting in the fall of 1774 it was decided to have just one, rather than two town military companies, Josiah Fay (1731-1776) was unanimously chosen as its Captain. As such, he led the Southborough company of Minute Men to Concord on April 19, 1775. He also served in Boston during the British occupation. He enlisted in the Continental Army, and was promoted to Major. He became Southborough's best-known casualty of the Revolution when he was killed by poison in New York City in August of 1776. Born in Westborough, he had come to Southborough about 1750, and married Mary Bent in 1758. At the time of his death he owned 210 acres of land in four parcels, with two houses and a barn. Mary Bent Fay lived on at 1 Chestnut Hill Road for many years, apparently until her death in 1833. Josiah and Mary had at least ten children, of whom their youngest son Peter Fay, Esq. (1760-1833) built the house at 2 Chestnut Hil l Road, probably about 1787. He was a Southborough Selectman, and apparently a Justice of the Peace. In his last years, Peter Fay was one of the major founders of the Pilgrim Evangelical Society, the orthodox Congregationalist group which split off from the town church in 1831, and built its own church southeast of the intersection of Main Street and Cordaville Road in 1834 (Form #31). Before the church was built, most of their early meetings, including one the previous October, when the Rev. George Trask of Framingham preached to 150 "newly awakened people" squeezed into four rooms, were held in the house at 2 Chestnut Hill Road.
Upon Peter Fay's death, the farm and both houses were inherited by his two sons, Temple and Peter Fay. At that time Temple was thirty-four and Peter twenty-six. They apparently ran the farm together for many years, and both may have been operating it for some years while their father was still alive. In 1849, the younger Peter Fay (known in local records as "Deacon" Peter Fay, as he was a longtime Deacon of the Pilgrim Church,) bought out his brother's interest, and became sole owner.
Although it was not quite the largest of Southborough's farms, at $15,000 in 1850 Dea. Peter Fay's farm, then 182 acres, had the highest value of any in town. He had the largest herd of cattle, at 30 head, and grew among the largest amounts of agricultural products, including 400 bushels of corn, 200 of oats, and 40 tons of hay in thay year. His production of 1100 pounds of butter for the commercial market was greater than most of his colleagues,' and of the farmers who were still making cheese, he produced by far the largest amount, 250 pounds. A self-proclaimed "horticulturalist", by his own assessment he had "the best apple orchard in Worcester County," consisting of 2000 trees, and is credited with introducing the Northern Spy apple to the Southborough area. He also grew peaches, cherries, and plums. A progressive and knowledgeable farmer in the forefront of agriculture for his day, he is known to have corresponded with landscape authority Andrew Jackson Downing, from whom he ordered some apple trees. He wrote and lectured widely on fruit culture in particular, and some of his articles appeared in the Massachusetts Ploughman. Dea. Fay served for nine years as a Southorough Selectman, represented the town in the General Court in 1845, and was President of the local temperance society for fifteen years.
History from Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System. Read Below More from Massachusetts Historical Commission's Inventory