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The Tufts Family in Somerville

by Edward C. Booth, M. D.

Amos Tufts, the second son of Nathan, Sr., was almost entirely identified with Charlestown proper, where some of his descendants still live.

Nathan, the youngest son of Nathan, Sr., was also a resident of Charlestown after his boyhood, and was an extensive butcher and tanner there. He also possessed much landed property in Somerville, owning the large farms around the Powder House and Walnut hill afterwards owned by his nephews, Charles and Nathan.

Peter, the second son of Peter of Milk Row, born in 1728, was established on a farm on Winter hill. Many remember the old house near the westerly corner of Central street and Broadway, before its removal to Lowell street. Peter married an elder sister of his brother Nathan's wife,—Anne Adams, for whom the Somerville Daughters of the Revolution named their chapter. They had a large family of children, of whom only Peter, John, Joseph, and Sarah were especially connected with this town. ‘Peter Tufts of Winter Hill,’ as this Peter is styled, was a farmer and large landholder. He served on the board of selectmen of old Charlestown in 1781. He died in 1791, and his wife in 1813.

These sisters—Anne and Mary (Adams) Tufts were women of strong character and great natural vigor of constitution. The elder brother married the younger sister, the younger brother the elder sister. In their respective homes in the early days of the Revolution they rendered service to their country no less important [22] than that of the male members of their families. After the battle of Bunker Hill, Anne Tufts assisted in binding up the wounds of eight wounded soldiers who were brought to her house; and later in the war when a part of Burgoyne's army was encamped as prisoners on Winter hill, she went to the camp and nursed all night the dying wife of one of the prisoners. Years afterward that soldier journeyed from Canada, where he had settled after the war, and sought out Mrs. Tufts to thank her again for that service and to ask her to point out the spot of his wife's grave.

Peter, the eldest son of Peter and Anne (Adams) Tufts, was born in the old house on Winter hill in 1753. He married Hannah Adams, a niece of Anne Adams. He settled in early life on the Royal farm in Medford on the site of the present trottingpark, and here all of his children were born. It is related that Peter was one of the party that fortified Dorchester Heights, which compelled the evacuation of Boston. Such precautions were observed that the wheels of the wagons were muffled, and the men themselves were in their stocking feet. In 1788, Peter bought of his cousin, Daniel Tufts, the farm opposite the Powder House, afterwards owned by Charles Tufts, and in 1806 built upon it the large three-storied mansion house taken down a few years ago. This house was within the limits of Medford till 1811, when, through the efforts of Mr. Tufts, a small triangular piece of land, including the house-lot at the corner of Broadway and Elm street, was set off to Charlestown. Mr. Tufts died in 1832. Of his eleven children, Peter and Joel were the only ones especially identified with Somerville. Sons Thomas and Aaron settled in New York state, and have numerous descendants; the daughters Hannah and Anne married respectively Samuel Tufts, Jr., and Isaac Tufts.

Peter Tufts, Jr., son of the Peter last named, was born in 1774. He twice married,—first Martha, the daughter of Lieutenant Samuel and Margaret (Adams) Locke, of West Cambridge; and second, Anne Benjamin, daughter of Deacon Ephraim Cutter. [23] He had twelve children. Peter Tufts, Jr., lived a life of great activity. He was keeper of the Powder House, and when in 1815 the powder was transferred to the new storehouse at the end of Magazine street, Cambridgeport, he continued as keeper, took up his residence near the magazine and died there in 1825. Mr. Tufts was a civil engineer by profession, and among the many Peters is designated as ‘Peter, the surveyor.’ He drew a plan of Charlestown in 1818, and the mass of plans that he left behind him shows how laboriously he was engaged in the surveys of public and private property. In public life he was prominent, having been trustee of schools, selectman for most of the years between 1806 and 1817, assessor for several terms and representative to the General Court for six terms, between the years 1809 and 1819. His numerous descendants are scattered far and wide through many states, but have been but little identified with Somerville.

John Tufts, the second son of Peter of Winter Hill, was a scientific farmer and gardener. During the Revolution, his father established him on the farm the house of which is now rented by the Somerville Historical society. This house has been in possession of the family ever since, being now owned by Mrs. Dr. Fletcher, the only child of the late Oliver Tufts. So much has been written of this—the headquarters of General Lee,—that it is unnecessary to repeat what is well-known to the members of the society. John Tufts was born in 1755. He married Elizabeth Perry, who was a granddaughter of James Tufts of Medford, a descendant of the first Peter's second son James. It may be observed in passing that this branch of the Tufts family, though not connected with Somerville, from early times owned a large tract of land on and about the northeasterly slope of Walnut hill, now partly occupied by Tufts College. John and Elizabeth Tufts had thirteen children. Of these, John, Jr., lived for some time in the so-called Caleb Leland house in Elm street. He had descendants living in town till recent years; Benjamin lived in the Hawkins house in Washington street just beyond the abutment, and carried [24] on a milk farm there. He has descendants still living in: town. Oliver lived in the old Lee house, and carried on his farm till his death in 1883. Leonard, who lived in Charlestown, was the father of James W. Tufts, who was at one time an apothecary in Somerville avenue, near the Bleachery. Mr. Tufts has since become well-known as a manufacturer of soda-water apparatus. Asa lived in Boston, and was the father of Mrs. Franklin Henderson and the late William Sumner Tufts.

Joseph Tufts was the third son of Peter of Winter Hill, and was born in 1760. He married a daughter of James and Tabitha (Binford) Tufts, of Medford, and had eleven children. Joseph inherited the homestead of his father, and lived in it till his death in 1819. He was a representative to the General Court in 1814, and, a selectman for the years 1815-16-17. His eldest son was a graduate of Harvard College, and a lawyer of Charlestown within the Neck. Sons Bernard and Asa married and left town. Abigail, the eldest daughter, and Edmund, the youngest son, lived in the old homestead. Edmund was intimately connected with the early history of this town, and his sign on the old house, ‘Edmund Tufts, Printer,’ is still remembered. For some years he did the printing for the new town of Somerville and its inhabitants, and we find his name on most of the early town reports. He issued a Somerville Directory in 1851, a pamphlet of thirty-two pages. Edmund was a cultivated, genial man of somewhat portly figure, and in the words of his sister was ‘a very pleasant brother.’ All the children loved him and well up the hill near the tower in Mt. Auburn cemetery a stone was erected to ‘Uncle Edmund Tufts.’

The two younger sons of Peter were Asa and Thomas. The former is the ancestor of the highly respected family of Dover, N. H.; the latter settled in Lexington, but grandchildren in the persons of Mrs. S. Z. Bowman and the late Albert N. Tufts, returned to live near the old domain of their ancestor.

Peter's youngest daughter, Sarah, was the wife of Joseph Adams, a daughter of whom was the wife of the late John C. [25] Magoun. Sarah Tufts has left descendants in the Magouns, Fitzes, Woodses, Hawkinses, and Mrs. Heald, the regent of the Anne Adams Tufts chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution—all of whom have dwelt in town for longer or shorter periods.

Timothy, the third son of Peter of Milk Row, who was born in 1735, received from his father a farm on Elm street, at the corner of Willow avenue. The dwelling house of this farm is familiar as being the one standing in Elm street, the second from Willow avenue. This house was built about a year before the Revolution, and replaced an older one which stood on a knoll by a large elm tree somewhat farther back from the street. Timothy Tufts was a prominent man in public affairs. He was frequently chosen moderator of the town meeting and was a selectman for most of the years between 1780 and 1792. He is always spoken of in the records as Timothy Tufts, Esquire, and his commission as justice of the peace, signed by Governor John Hancock, may be still seen hanging in the sitting-room of the old house. Timothy married Anne Adams, a niece of the wife of his brothers, Nathan and Peter. They had sons Timothy, Abijah, Isaac, and Joseph.

Timothy, the eldest son, lived in Broadway at the westerly corner of Cross street. This was an ancient house facing the road, with a long roof sloping nearly to the ground in the rear. Forty years ago, an old grass-grown cellar and a well were the only traces of its having been. Timothy, Jr., married, first, Beulah Prentice, and had children of whom Timothy, the eldest, is the only one especially connected with Somerville territory; second, Submit Flagg, by whom he also had children. Timothy, Jr., who was a considerable holder of real estate in town, died in 1802, three years before his father. The third Timothy married Susan Cutter, and had a large family, scarcely any of whom reached adult age. Mr.Tufts and Mrs. Tufts died in middle life. This Timothy built the spacious brick house in Broadway, near the corner of Cross street, afterwards owned by the late Edward Cutter. Jonas, a half-brother of the last-named Timothy, removed [26] to Walpole. N. H., and became a prominent and esteemed citizen of that town.

Abijah, the second son of Timothy, Sr., graduated from Harvard College in 1790, taught school in town, studied medicine and removed to Virginia, where he practiced till his death in 1815.

Isaac, third son of Timothy, inherited the homestead and lived on it all his life. He married twice and had many children. Mr. Timothy Tufts, who now owns and occupies the ancestral house, is the only surviving child of Isaac, and, in fact, is the only descendant of the first Timothy of the Tufts name now living in Somerville. Isaac, like most of the residents of Milk Row, carried on a milk farm, and carried milk to market, through Charlestown, and sometimes through Roxbury to Boston.

Joseph Tufts, youngest son of Timothy, Sr., built the Caleb Leland house in Elm street. He subsequently removed to Kingfield, Me., and is the ancestor of a large family of Tuftses in that and neighboring towns.

Samuel Tufts, fourth son of Peter of Milk Row, lived with his father and inherited the homestead. He long survived his brothers, and died in 1828, at the age of ninety. He is remembered by some of the family as a tall, white-haired, rather stern old gentleman, who would often be sunning himself on his porch as the children from the old schoolhouse at the corner of the burying ground would come to his house for water. He was selectman in 1780–‘81, and held other positions of trust. In 1808, the records say, he was employed to build for $235 the bridge over the creek, where the Fitchburg railroad now crosses Washington street. The record also informs us that he exceeded the appropriation by $3.30. There are no descendants of Samuel of the Tufts name now living in Somerville; but his daughters have left descendants in this city now represented by the Frost, Raymond, Johnson, Loring, and Edmands families.

Aaron, the youngest son of Peter of Milk Row, settled in Medford and there died in early manhood. His only son, the Hon. Aaron Tufts, lived in central Massachusetts, and was a physician, [27] manufacturer, representative, state senator, and justice of the court of sessions.

We have thus imperfectly thrown together a few memorials, partly of record, partly hearsay, regarding a family that once owned more than a tenth part of the acreage of our territory, who were so numerous that at evening parties of sixty or seventy persons, on Winter Hill, there would be none but Tuftses or their relatives present, and a family that, in the words of Wyman, ‘may justly be considered among the benefactors to the material interests of the town.’ That there should have been such a concentration of one family in Charlestown, Medford, and Malden as in the case of the Tuftses is natural and incident to the undeveloped condition of the country. But when the country became settled, and means of communication became easy, it was likewise natural that a family should scatter far and wide through all the northern and western, and most of the southern states, as has been the case with the Tufts family.

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