Notable Places of Wrentham
As part of Wrentham’s 350th anniversary celebration, the committee planning this year’s events has asked residents to submit memories of significant people and places in the town’s history. The following is a submission Local Town Pages received from Jim and Sue Nelson about the Joseph Fales House, 384 East Street, one of the oldest homes in Wrentham. It has been edited and condensed for inclusion here but will be available in its entirety on wrentham350.com.
Wrentham’s Joseph Fales House and its 300 Years of History
Part of our home at 384 East Street in Wrentham is the old Joseph Fales house and was once operated by us as an antique shop. Many residents of this town have already seen its interior and have heard this history. But now that the shop is closed, for those who may have missed that opportunity, or who are new to Wrentham, this story may help acquaint you with one of the old original homestead dwelling houses of Wrentham that has been a part of this town’s history for the past 305 years.
We moved to Wrentham in 1973 during its 300th anniversary, which stimulated our interest in the history of our house. Our restoration efforts revealed that part of this house was much older than we had thought, and our search of town and county records allowed us to determine
who had lived in it. Our research, presented to the Wrentham Historical Commission, resulted in two plaques affixed to our home showing that this structure was originally two separate dwelling houses, built by two different people at two different times. The main house facing East Street was built by Hartford Pond, circa 1825, while the back ell, which faces south towards Thurston Street, was built by Joseph Fales, circa 1718.
In 1989 we began our antique business and decided to use the older Fales house as our antique shop. We chose the name Fales House Antiques to honor Wrentham’s early Fales family, one of the original families who came from Dedham to settle the new plantation of Wollomonopoag. In our presentation to the Wrentham Historical Commission, we traced the ownership of our property from the beginning of the town up to the point at which we acquired it in 1972. We found the land where our house sits was originally the James Fales home lot which was granted to the family by the town of Dedham when Wollomonopoag was one of its villages. The Fales lot was one of the first house lots granted in the first division of the original 600 acres that were purchased from the Indians in 1662.
It appears that James Fales never actually moved to Wrentham even though records indicate that he had permission to cut hay there, and on November 2, 1670 was chosen as a surveyor for the families in Wollomonopoag. During the 1670s, both James and his son John Fales were granted additional parcels of land which increased their family holdings to about 15 acres.
In 1684, after King Philip’s War, John Fales married Abigail Hawes and returned to Wrentham to begin raising a family. Over the next 50 years, Fales’ total land holdings grew to 106 acres, 57 of which formed his home lot on both sides of East Street and included our house lot.
In 1717 John Fales’ second son, Joseph, born in 1691, began receiving his own land grants from the town along with land given to him by his father. In 1718 Joseph married Hannah Pond and began raising a family. These facts, plus physical evidence, suggest he built his dwelling house (the back ell of our home and our former antique shop) around 1718. While we know the Fales home remained in the family for most of the eighteenth century, things get murky due to lack of record keeping during the Revolutionary War. Later deeds recorded after the war show that most land transfers were to members of the Fales, Hawes, or Pond families which were all interrelated.
We do know that by 1784 Jonathan Head was living in Joseph Fales’ house and lived there throughout most of the Revolutionary War. Jonathan was a shoemaker who had a shop across the street, and although records show that he lived in the Fales house, no record could be found of him purchasing this property. Perhaps he rented it, but later deeds confirm that he must have had ownership, since he later sold his title to it. This property’s list of deeds shows that it was transferred from Jonathan Head to Samuel Bugbee to Benjamin Shepherd to David Tyler and eventually to Hartford Fond, and then to his son Charles Pond, and then to four others until we bought it in 1972.
We often told our children that they have experienced our nation’s history without ever leaving home. They lived in a home that belonged, successively, to the Indians (Wollomonopoag), England, Suffolk County, the town of Dedham, and eventually a new, independent country. During all these historical changes, their home never moved from the very spot where it still stands today.
Living in this home has been a privilege that has helped our family understand and appreciate both our town’s and our country’s fascinating history. The inconveniences of living in an old house, with its creak, groans, and strange bumps in the night, do not bother us. They are hopefully just the ghosts of past residents who are as happy to have us as company as we are to have them.
Our home has centuries of wear, blemishes, beauty marks, and the fine patina of the generations of interesting people who lived in it before us. It has several old fireplaces, the largest of which is in the keeping room of the original house which we still use as a convenient place to gather around for conversations and discussions about the state of our family, our town, our country, and our world. This well-used old fireplace, with its distressed hearth, reminds us that we are not the first to gather around it, nor the first to dwell on important issues. The realization that many other generations have gathered at this same place to discuss the issues of their day, such as how their King of England was treating them, whether or not they would be patriots or Tories, or whether it would be a wise decision to have a revolution for freedom or independence, makes this place within our home hallowed ground. A place that brings us so close to history that we feel a part of it. And by being a part of it, it reminds us, as all history should, that each generation has an important place in our country’s cultural heritage.