Minute Man National Historical Park | CAPTAIN WILLIAM SMITH HOUSE

Captain William Smith House in Minute Man National Historical Park

Captain William Smith House in Minute Man National Historical Park

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Captain William Smith was the commander of the Lincoln Minute Men, the first company of militia to arrive at Concord after hearing the British were on their way. It is in this house where he lived with his wife, Catherine. The house did not sit right along Battle Road (called Concord Road or Bay Road in 1775) like the Hartwell Tavern, but was situated back a ways on what was the second largest farm in Lincoln at the time. The reason it appears to be next to the road today is because the path in front of the house is not Battle Road. It is a portion of the Battle Road Trail that veers from the original road due to the fact that in this area Battle Road is now Route 2A. Only about 40 percent of the Battle Road Trail follows the original road.

The Smith House is thought to have been built around 1692 by Benjamin Whittemore, though this is not known for sure. The date stems from the fact that Whittemore, the landowner at the time, was married in 1692, and it was traditional for wealthy landowners to build a new house when getting married. However, he had also purchased three parcels of land, one with a house on it that was built in 1680. Thus, the current Smith House could be the 1680 house. (Whittemore was the uncle of Jacob Whittemore, whose house is located east of the Smith House along the original Battle Road and within the boundaries of Minute Man National Historical Park.)

The farm and land remained in the Whittemore Family until being sold to William and Elizabeth Dodge in 1758. The Dodges never lived on the farm, but instead used it as a rental property. They eventually moved to New Hampshire and gave the house and 100 acres to their only daughter, Catherine Louisa. In 1771, she married Captain William Smith.

Captain William Smith House in Minute Man National Historical Park

Captain William Smith House in Minute Man National Historical Park

Captain Smith was the son of Reverend William Smith and brother of Abigail Smith, who later married John Adams (2nd president of the United States). Reverend Smith bought the land around Catherine Louisa’s property, including the remainder of what her father owned. Captain Smith had borrowed money from his father to buy land and was not able to pay it back, so in lieu of payment, the couple signed over their land to the Reverend, who now owned the entire farm. William and Catherine were allowed to remain living in the house.

While a heroic soldier in the American Revolution, Captain Smith’s personal life was not as exemplary. He supposedly had a drinking problem and ran up a considerable amount of debt, causing John and Abigail Adams to sever ties with him. He was so despised by the family that Charles Francis Adams, grandson of John and Abigail and son of John Quincy Adams, in a commemorative speech given in 1904 for the town of Lincoln, said of his great uncle, “The name is so common that I do not feel assured the Captain William Smith of Lincoln was the brother of Abigail Adams.” When Reverend Smith died in 1783, he didn’t leave the house and farm to his son, but to Catherine. In fact, his will stated that if Catherine were to die before his son, the Judge of Probate should appoint an administrator to run the farm. This indicates that either William wasn’t dependable enough or that he had left the family, which included six children. There are no written records of William Smith after 1783, and nobody even knows when or where he died and was buried.

Catherine began selling off parcels of land in 1788, though she did keep her original 100 acres and the house. She eventually moved away in 1796 and rented the property to tenant farmers. Upon her death in 1824, the property went to her daughter, Louisa Catherine. Louisa lived with the Adamses in Quincy and eventually gave the farm to her sister, Elizabeth, in 1854. The farm stayed in the family until being sold to Augustus Russ in 1890, who turned around and sold it to James Butcher the same day he bought it.

Once the Butchers owned the farm, it was subdivided and sold a number of times. The house itself was constantly lived in until the National Park Service purchased it in 1975 for inclusion in Minute Man National Historical Park. In the early 1980s, it was restored to its 1775 appearance. Additions made in the 18- and 1900s were removed, and a lean-to that had been added in 1730 but later torn down was added back, leaving the exterior as it was when Captain Smith owned it.

Today, the Smith House is only open to the public on rare occasions, perhaps a couple of times each year. The best way to find out about the next scheduled open house is to call Minute Man National Historical Park at (978) 369-6993. You can also check the National Park Service’s Calendar web page. Search for “William Smith” using the Keyword search option.

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Last updated on September 4, 2023
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