About Me

Growing up in a small New England town with a mother who was an antiquarian it was inevitable that I would be exposed to old things. After graduating from UMass/Amherst I lived in Connecticut, taught school, married, and raised three children in suburbia. A move to Newburyport MA renewed my interest in all things old. This background has now evolved into research, writing, consulting and all the things I love to do.

Prudence Fish

Monday, March 30, 2015










While all the work and other details were being tended to at the house and in the office, Nancy was hard at work on the old Waycott furniture. The pieces most interesting were probably left from Mrs. Waycott’s  parents, the Eilenbergers, who had lived there before the Waycotts and the Orcutts.

Most of it was dismal but some of it salable with Nancy’s help.  The best was in the attic and consisted of Larkin chairs and bureaus.  You know, that oak furniture that was earned by saving Larkin soap wrappers?  What was thrown away not too many years ago was now in vogue.  Press backed chairs could be sold and were sold.

Typical of chairs found in the attic.
In the lean-to was the bottom of an old oak sideboard.  It was filthy.  Oil had spilled on it.  Old tools were in the drawers and remnants of linens that had been attacked by mice.  It did seem as though it might have possibilities with work.  Suddenly I remembered something under the eaves in the attic.  It was the etegere top for the sideboard with what-not shelves and beveled mirror soaring for several feet above the sideboard base.  It was a big job to clean and refinish it.   When it was back to its original condition we took it to Bob’s shop and he put it in the show window with a a spotlight on it.  It was gone in a day!  I can’t remember the price but it may have been $800.

Very similar to the oak sideboard found in lean-to and attic.
This was found on eBay.
Another gem was a pine cupboard.  That went equally fast for similar money. There was also a cottage chest or two, part of late 19th century paint decorated bedroom set.

This is a typical Victorian painted cottage bedroom set.  We found chairs and chests of drawers from these sets but
nothing complete...just miscellaneous pieces in poor condition,   These sets are so charming it is too bed we only found
fragments of these sets retired to the attic,  Internet photo.
 The remainder of the things were so unremarkable that today I can’t even recall them but little by little it was all sold.  Actually they were typical of what one might expect to find in an old run-down farmhouse.

Similar to pine cupboard found in house and sold.  This
example is from the Internet.
Two large sterling serving spoons had and “E” on the handle, probably for Eilenberger.  The pattern was Towle Canterbury from the 1890s. I gave these beautiful spoons to the new owners. 

This is a Canterbury serving spoon from Towle Silversmiths.  The pattern dates
to the 1890s and had the monogram "E".  That probably stood for Eilenberger,
the family name of Mrs. Waycott.  These I gave to Hugh and Jerry.  This example
is listed on eBay for $225.00.

 I think I kept a doorstop and give it to Hugh and Jerry later but don’t recall that there was anything else worth keeping or even vaguely memorable.


Distasteful as it was, we had to think about our ace in the hole.  We could subdivide and sell off two lots.  But first we were a little short of the necessary frontage.  Our lawyer confided to us that our neighbors, the Barneys, needed to replace their septic system and it might be just the right time to negotiate the purchase of a few feet from them to make the subdivision work.  We let our lawyer, George Hayes do the negotiating.  The deal was accepted and completed.

Now we could offer the whole package for $180,000 or the house alone for $150,000.  I prayed for a buyer to come along who would want the whole thing.  I didn’t want to be a party to subdividing.  Spring turned to summer and summer to fall.  We were more nervous than you can imagine.  We couldn’t give it back to the bank nor could we continue to struggle under the weight of this construction loan with the highest interest rates ever.

One day a Realtor from our office, Dottie, said cheerfully, “Pru, I have good news for you.  I have an offer for one of the lots.”  My heart sank.  This would bail us out but I had been holding my breath that we wouldn’t have to do this.  But do it, we did.  We had no choice.  The contract was signed.

In just a few days another Realtor from the office, Sandra, took two buyers from New York out to look at property.  She took them all over Rockport and Gloucester.  Late in the day they returned to the office.  They had not found anything they wanted.  They were introduced and I chatted with them.  They were selling a business in Manhatten and wanted to move to New England.

My brain clicked into gear.  Here were two people escaping New York City for a taste of New England.  What was more New England than our Moses Jewett house sitting there waiting? What could fit the bill more than our picture-perfect Currier and Ives farmhouse in the country?  “Sandra”, I said.  “Didn’t you show them the Moses Jewett house?”  “No.” she replied. “I didn’t even think of it.”  She didn’t think of it?  Our own office listing!  And she had dragged them all over Cape Ann for nothing. I had trouble containing myself and bit my tongue.

I proceeded to tell them about the house, got them excited, gave them the listing material, gave Sandra the key and told her to get them up there on the double.  They went and just as I fantasized, they loved it.  In fact, they were infatuated with the history, the restoration and everything about it.  And, better still, they bought it!

More heartbreak when they told us they would like all of the land, all six acres.  There was nothing we could do.  It was under agreement to Dottie’s customers and the die was cast. The last of the Jewett farm of 100 acres was now subdivided into approximately two acre parcels.


On November 17th the lot on the street east of the house was sold to the Fowlers who would build a house on the site.  The closing on the Jewett house was set for December 1, 1982.

The house the Fowlers built  next door later expanded and
improved by neighbors Ron and Gwen.
At this point David decided he would buy the lot in the rear that would be up a long driveway.  His plan was to build a Maine Post and Beam saltbox for himself, Shelley and his boys, Zachary and Spencer.  He would sell his house in Newbury but would need a place to live while building.

Maine Post and Beam house built by David at the end of
the long driveway. He called the address 1 Post Road just for fun..
It turned out that Hugh and Jerry, our buyers, would not be ready to move until the following summer so an agreement was reached whereby David and family would live in the Moses Jewett house until their house was complete.

There would be no mortgage or bank involved in the sale so the closing could take place right there in the house.  Hugh and Jerry arrived from New York and we all gathered around a big table in the old kitchen in front of the fireplace.  We had wine.  A toast was in order.  David conducted the closing and tallied up the assorted checks to make up the total selling price.  After the closing David drove the new buyers to the Registry of Deeds in Salem and the deed was recorded.
The back page of the deed.  The deed was done...literally!
The house that had been part of out lives for so long was
now theirs.
Was that the end of the story?  Not at all! A new chapter was beginning.

Work progressed on David’s new house with its long drive.  He affectionately called his new house the house at “One Post Road” after the name of our group, Post Road Development Corporation, and the historic reference to the old highway called the Post Road.  I guess you could call it a private joke.

It was the summer of 1983 when Hugh and Jerry arrived with a truck and moved into the Moses Jewett house.  David was in his new house.  The Fowlers had a built a new cape next door.  So many lot of changes since that September day when we purchased the old place nearly two years prior.  Following the Fowler a friendly couple, Ron and Gwen took up residence and became good friends and neighbors to Hugh and Jerry.

For their first Christmas, 1983, Hugh and Jerry had a party.  All of their guests were Realtors from the Vernon A. Martin office.  The only people they had met were Realtors but by now everyone in the office knew them.  What a house for a party.  Candles, fires in the fireplaces, great food and drink were in abundance.  This was the first of many. A pattern emerged.  There was a Christmas party each December, usually on a Sunday evening, and another in the late summer on the newly built bluestone patio outside the two back doors.  The numbers grew, people came and went, the cast of characters changed but the routine remains to this day.  No one who has ever crossed that threshold at Christmas can forget the ambiance, the fires, warm friendships and good times.

David and Shelley moved on.  Their house was sold.  The land was further subdivided.  So imagine my surprise when driving past the old place one day a few  years ago to see a new street sign on what had previously been David’s driveway.  And what did they name this new street? Post Road Lane!  I was incredulous. The inside joke from twenty years before had become a reality and now numerous families make their home on Post Road Lane.

Map showing Post Road Lane.  The Fowler house is on the corner of
Post Road Lane improved by Ron and Gwen.  The Moses Jewett House is on the left and  David's
house is near the bend in the road hidden in the trees.
Nearly thirty years later, Hugh and Jerry, our buyers, are still happily in the house.  The neighbors and friends keep coming.  It has been a good quarter century plus for the old Moses Jewett house

The Moses Jewett house in the snow.  Not the true red but very pretty anyway!

One more installment before moving on.  Hang in there!


  1. This is a great series that I have so enjoyed reading.

  2. I am glad to hear the happy ending, although it's too bad the house had to become so hemmed in. One is reminded of the famous real estate motto "Always buy to the horizon!"

    Your mention of the Eilenbergers brought to mind the composer Richard Eilenberg who c.1900 wrote so many orchestral novelties. Right now his pieces, such as The Little Flatterer, and The Nightingale and the Frog, are running through my mind.

  3. Just wondering why you call it the Moses Jewett House. Usually a house would be named for a famous occupant, or for the original occupants (both spouses first names with surname).

    1. Hi Matt, You make a good point! Most houses never had a famous occupant and this farmhouse didn't have any famous owners, just farmers and cordwainers. It is more or less tradition to use the name of the original builder but in many cases that would be an unknown housewright. Abigail Jewett and all other wives deserve respect and recognition even when they were not part of the house raising. I wonder how other readers feel about this and what should go on historic plaques on the house.

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  6. Prudence, I had a question about a different old house, but I can't find a contact link or anything. Long story short, I found an intriguing old home that has been turned into a DMV out near Sturbridge, Mass. and I was curious if you know anything about it, or how I can dig up some information about who owned it and how old it might be (if it's even first period!). Please tell me how I can get in touch, assuming you are willing to help.