This past week, the city of Boston seized a neglected property in the Mattapan section. It is in a less affluent section of the city, so one might not be entirely surprised, thinking this sort of thing happens all the time, especially in a city as large as Boston. While that may be true, this property has specific historical significance. And the story of this property might help you in your own research.
The property is the Fowler-Clark Farm. The farm includes a house, stable, and a half acre of undeveloped property. The stable dates from around 1860, but the house itself was built at least between 1786 and 1806, and possibly earlier. The process of the seizure of the property has taken more then seven years, and that process created a wonderful paper trail.
In 2005, the city started the process of getting historic landmark status designated for the farm. Not much of colonial Boston remains standing today. Much of it was destroyed by fires, especially the Great Fire of 1876. In addition, much was lost in the name of public improvement. The farm is located in Mattapan, a section of Dorchester. Dorchester was not a part of the city until 1870 when it was annexed to Boston. Until annexation, Dorchester was very rural and agricultural whose farms produced food for the city. After annexation, many of the large landowners subdivided and developed their properties into small plots for homes for the burgeoning population of the city.
Back in 2005 a study was commissioned on the Fowler-Clark property to support a declaration of landmark status. The report includes a section on the historic significance of the area and the farm itself. It includes source citations for primary and secondary sources that were used to trace the history of the farm as well as Dorchester and Boston.
Tracing the history of the farm also shows a bit of genealogy. It shows the original owner Stephen Fowler passing it to his grandson Samuel in 1786. From Samuel it passed to his wife Mary, then to their son Samuel, Jr., who passed 1820. Part of it is then sold at auction, and part goes to his siblings and their heirs. From there it went to the Baker family and the Sanderson family in 1824. In 1837 it was sold to the Clark family, in whose possession it remained for more than a century. In 1940 it was sold to the Millers, who sold it in 1941 to Jorge and Ida Epstein. Ownership was transferred to a trust in Ida Epstein’s name. The property was seized from the trust last week.
When researching your family, look for historical properties in the area. Of special interest should be the ones that have received landmark status. Looking at the paperwork generated for the historical commissions will give you a better understanding of the area, and provide you with resources that they used to compile the report which may be of assistance to you in your research. You can read the Fowler-Clark Farm report online as an example of what you might find.