Monday, August 6, 2018

A Visit to The Fairbanks House

The Fairbanks house is located at 511 East Street, Dedham, Massachusetts.  It was about an hour and twenty minutes from Manchester, New Hampshire, and located just outside of Boston.  The website has driving directions, and directions for anyone arriving by public transportation (bus or the commuter train).  This building is the oldest known wooden structure in North America, and was built by my ancestor Jonathan Fairbanks sometime between 1637 and 1641.  Jonathan, his wife Grace, and six children arrived from England in 1633, and lived in this house, which was passed down through the family for eight generations!  

1630       1930
Oldest house in Dedham.
Part of it built about 1636. Home-
stead of Jonathan Fairbanks
who, with his sons, John, George,
and Jonathan, Junior.  Signed
the Dedham Covenant September
10, 1636.  Ancestral home of the
late vice-president Fairbanks
Massachusetts Bay Colony                
                       Tercentenary Commission

Although the 1930 sign and the chimney say that the house was built in 1636, dendrochronology tests show that the oldest wood in the house was from a tree felled in 1637.   Over the years many additions and rooms were added to this house.  The last changes were added in 1820, when the family fell unto hard times.  After this time period no modern conveniences were ever added to this house, so the building remains trapped in time.  There were never any plumbing, heat or electricity added to the building.  When you visit, you see the house as it was when the Fairbanks family lived here. 

The Fairbanks house remained in the Fairbanks family until it was the home of Rebecca Fairbanks (1827 - 1908), the unmarried 6th great granddaughter of Jonathan and Grace (Smith) Fairbanks.  The building became a museum in 1904, operated by the Fairbanks Family in America, a family association.  It is open for tours from May to October.   The family association still has an annual reunion, and this year it will held on Saturday August 11th.  See the website (below) for more information on the family association. 

Built 1636 by
Here lived eight generations
to preserve and perpetuate this historic spot
The Fairbanks Family Association
acquired the property in 1903

Tablet placed by
Massachusetts Society Daughters of the American Colonists

During our tour of the Fairbanks House the curator took apart this model, and rebuilt it as he showed how each generation added additions and rooms onto the original homestead.  

Jonathan Fairbanks came from Yorkshire, where he was built spinning wheels for his living. When he arrived in New England, he was the only settler for many miles who knew this skill.  As a result, he became very wealthy, since the people of the Massachusetts Bay Colony needed spinning wheels to produce their own clothing, rugs, blankets and other textiles.

The kitchen of the Fairbanks House

My Fairbanks genealogy:

Generation 1:  Jonathan Fairbanks, son of John Fairbanks and Isabella Staincliffe, born about 1594 in Halifax, Yorkshire, England, died 5 December 1668 in Dedham, Massachusetts; married on 20 May 1617 in Halifax to Grace Smith, daughter of Samuel Smith and Grace Gawkroger.  She was born 6 January 1600 in Warley, Halifax Parish, Yorkshire and died 28 November 1673 in Dedham.  Six children.

Generation 2: Jonas Fairbanks, born 6 March 1624/5 Sowerby, Halifax, and died 10 February 1676 in Lancaster, Massachusetts when he was killed during an Indian massacre; married on 28 May 1658 in Lancaster to Lydia Prescott, daughter of John Prescott and Mary Gawkroger.  She was born 15 August 1641 in Watertown, Massachusetts and died 31 December 1723 in Watertown.  She married second to Elias Barron.  Six Fairbanks children.

Generation 3:  Grace Fairbanks, born 15 September 1663 in Lancaster, died 11 August 1689 in Sherborn, Massachusetts; married about 1680 to Ephraim Bullen, son of Samuel Bullen and Mary Morse.  He was born 18 July 1653 in Sherborn and died 1690 in Sherborn.  Four children.

Generation 4:  John Bullen m. Sarah Underwood
Generation 5:  Grace Bullen m. Ebenezer Healy
Generation 6:  Comfort Haley m. Abigail Allen
Generation 7:  Comfort Haley m. Rebecca Crosby
Generation 8:  Joseph Edwin Healy m. Matilda Weston
Generation 9:  Mary Etta Healey m. Peter Hoogerzeil
Generation 10:  Florence Etta Hoogerzeil m. Arthur Treadwell Hitchings

Generation 11:  Gertrude Matilda Hitchings m. Stanley Elmer Allen (my grandparents)


The genealogy of the Fairbanks family members who lived in this house:

Generation 1:  Jonathan Fairbanks (about 1595 - 1668) and Grace Smith
Generation 2:  John Fairbanks (1618 - 1684) and his wife Sarah
Generation 3:  Joseph Fairbanks (1656 - 1734) and his wife Dorcas
Generation 4:  Joseph Fairbanks (1687 - 1753) and his wife Abigail
Generation 5:  Joseph Fairbanks (1717 - 1794) and his wife Frances, and his younger brother Ebenezer Fairbanks (1732- 1812) lived here with his wife Prudence.
Generation 6:  Ebenezer Fairbanks, Jr. (1758 - 1832) and his wife Mary
Generation 7:  Prudence (1781 - 1871), Sally (1790 - 1877), and Nancy (1794 - 1879) - three unmarried daughters of Ebenezer, Jr. left the house to an unmarried neice-
Generation 8:  Rebecca Fairbanks (1827 - 1908)

This painting "Old Fairbanks House, Dedham, Massachusetts", by Childe Hassam (1859 -1935) is at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.  It is on display in the Lorraine and Alan Bressler Gallery (Gallery 222).    The artist is related to my mother through her LEACH, CHOATE and ALLEN lineages.  The artist was born Frederick Childe Hassam, son of Frederick Fitch Hassam and Rose Delia Hathorne.  

For the truly curious:

The Fairbanks House website (including the Fairbanks Family Association): 

The Fairbanks House Facebook page 

The Genealogy of the Fairbanks Family in America, 1633 - 1897, by Lorenzo Sayles Fairbanks,  1897.

The Fairbanks House: A History of the Oldest Timber-Frame Building in New England, by Abbott Lowell Cummings, published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2002.


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "A Visit to The Fairbanks House", Nutfield Genealogy, posted August 6, 2018, ( accessed [accesss date]).


  1. Happpy 9th blogiversary, Heather. I love reading your posts and discovering another cousin line in common. I don't have a Fairbanks line, but one of my best genealogy friends does. :)

  2. 13th Generation on Grandma Willis’s Side... Mother’s, Mother. Her brother Darrell had a “Power Horn”, where they Butchered a OX from the “Battle of Bunker Hill...”

  3. Hi - so you have what we say in Yorkshire & ' Yorkshire Roots ' - my 2X Great Uncle James McKenzie - lived in Holmfirth near Huddersfield - then after the Great War - he and wife Edith McKenzie emigrated to Michigan in 1921 for Full Permancy ' - son , James McKenzie emigrated to Ohio 1928, married Redmille Raicevick - lived in Michigan 1940
    I have not been able to find James + Edith McKenzie's daughters - Edith May and Emma here in UK or USA

    1. Yes, and my grandmother was born in Leeds, Yorkshire and immigrated to the United States in 1915 when she was only 18 years old. Hopefully someone might see your post about the McKenzies and help you out!