Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts

Last week we took a walk by the Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts.  I have never seen the inside of this historic house museum, even though I am related to the Emerson family of Concord.  It was built in 1770 by the Reverend William Emerson, just in time to experience one of the first battles of the American Revolution.  It is located by Concord’s Old North Bridge where the battle of April 19, 1775 was fought between the American patriots and the British.

First, a little family history! The Rev. William Emerson is my 2nd cousin, seven generations removed. We share Joseph Emerson (about 1621 – 1680) and his wife Elizabeth Bulkely (1638 – 1693) as our common ancestor.  My line of Emerson ancestors lived nearby Concord in Reading, Massachusetts until the 1800s when my ancestor Romanus Emerson (1782 – 1852) removed to South Boston.  He was from a family of eleven children, and eight brothers.  Of those eight brothers, four lived to adulthood and became ministers. Romanus studied for the ministry, too, but due to a “speech impediment” (according to a compiled genealogy of the family) he went to Boston and became a famous atheist!

The great writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882) lived in Concord and was the grandson of Rev. Phebe Bliss. Ralph Waldo Emerson was from a line of five out of six generations of minister Emerson ancestors in a row, and he studied to be a minister, too. His brief ministry included being ordained at Boston's Second Church and being the chaplain of the Massachusetts legislature, but it all ended when he began to doubt his faith. He went to Europe and returned to Concord to become a popular lecturer, and later a philosopher and writer.  It was perhaps the influence of this famous writer and his transcendentalist friends, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, that made this house so important and historic. 

From this sign by the Old Manse:

"The Reverend William Emerson (1743 - 1776), grandfather of writer Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882), built this house in 1769-70.  On April 19, 1775, family members watched from the house as British soldiers and local militia fought the battle that started the American Revolution.

The Old Manse then played an important role in America's literary and cultural revolutions.  Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) wrote Nature here in 1834-35, an essay that sparked the Transcendental movement.  Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 - 64) lived here from 1842 - 45).  His collection of short stories, Mosses from an Old Manse, gave the house its nickname, a Scottish term for 'minister's house." 

Rev. William Emerson became a chaplain to the Continental Army, then died in October 1776 on his way home from Fort Ticonderoga. His widow remarried to his successor, the Rev. Ezra Ripley, and continued living at the Old Manse.  Ralph Waldo Emerson lived here with his step-grandfather in 1834 while writing Nature

Nathaniel Hawthorne and his new bride, Sophia Peabody, moved here in 1842, and Henry David Thoreau dug them a garden.  One famous legacy that Hawthorne and his wife left at the Old Manse was a a short passage they etched in the window of his study with her wedding ring diamond. He also wrote many of his tales here, some which were included in Mosses from an Old Manse (1846), and others published later. New Hampshire's only US president, Franklin Pierce, was a guest of the Hawthorne's while they lived at the Old Manse.  Hawthorne removed to Salem in 1845, and returned to Concord in 1852 to live at the historic house called The Wayside.  

The house was owned by the Ripley family until 1939 when it was donated to the Trustees of Reservations.  It was a National Historic Landmark in 1966.  The house is open for guided tours by the Trustees of Reservations in the summer, see the website (below) for more information. It is located adjacent to the Old North Bridge, the Minuteman Statue, and the battlefield.  There is a restroom across the path to the Old North Bridge, and if you follow across the bridge and up the hill, you will reach the US National Historic Site interpretive center with more restrooms, giftshop, and small museum. It is also within walking distance of the Concord Common and the Sleep Hollow Cemetery with Author's Ridge where Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Ellery Channing, Louisa May Alcott and others are buried. 

For the truly curious:

The Old Manse, 269 Monument Street, Concord, Massachusetts

The Old Manse website:   https://thetrustees.org/place/the-old-manse/   

The US National Park Service website:  https://www.nps.gov/places/the-old-manse.htm   

My EMERSON Surname Saturday sketch, with eight generations of Emersons from Thomas Emerson the immigrant to Ipswich, Massachusetts down to my great great grandmother, Mary Katharine Emerson (1847 - 1932):  https://nutfieldgenealogy.blogspot.com/2015/01/surname-saturday-emerson-of-ipswich.html    


To Cite/Link to this post: Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "The Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts", Nutfield Genealogy, posted January 12, 2021, ( https://nutfieldgenealogy.blogspot.com/2021/01/the-old-manse-in-concord-massachusetts.html: accessed [access date]).

1 comment:

  1. Great story thank you. Hope you get to go inside one day...