Curtis Family Homestead

1884 G.W. Bromley map showing Curtis family properties on Centre St.

1884 G.W. Bromley map showing Curtis family properties on Centre St.

Among the few remaining homesteads of history-making families of the trying days of the Pilgrims and Revolutionary period is the old Joseph Curtis place in Jamaica Plain, or what was known as the West Roxbury District. It is situated opposite Paul Gore St. on Centre St., formerly the old road to Dedham and outlying towns. The house was built in 1722 for Joseph Curtis by his father, Samuel Curtis.

Samuel Curtis was a grandson of William Curtis, the founder of the family, who came from England in 1632 on the ship Lion. The originator of the Curtis family married the sister of John Eliot, apostle to the Indians. The farm given to Joseph Curtis by his father contained about 32 acres, but many acres were added during Joseph’s lifetime. His wife kept a shop of British goods on Boylston St., a short distance from the house. The Curtis family has aided its country materially, and many of its members have achieved great things and attained high, honorable positions.

The following was copied from notes made by Miss Frances H. Curtis, which were taken from the diary of Katherine Curtis, who resided in the house during those troublous Revolutionary days:

My great-great-grandfather Curtis, he was a patriot, for after the battle of Lexington, Mr. Joseph Curtis opened his house and gave quarters to a company of 100 men from Farmington, Conn.

He reserved for his own family only his wife’s shop and one chamber.

This company was composed of young men of good station, and during the three months they occupied the Curtis house perfect discipline was preserved.

There were many alarms that the British were coming out of Boston, and one night, being suddenly called arms, every man brought his watch and purse and deposited it with Mrs. Curtis.

What shall I do with them?’ she asked.

The men replied: ‘If we come back, we shall know our own, and if we do not, we would rather you had them than the British.’

The house is, in many respects, up to date, having some modern improvements, but for the most part remains as it was when erected 185 years ago.  The well-preserved beams and supports - with their peculiar fastenings, massive chimneys, arched hearths and old ovens are still to be seen.  The attic is in an unfinished state, just as it was when the household slaves were quartered there.

A great deal of the original house furnishings are still in use. There are among the contents a Paul Revere lantern, which hangs in the front hall, the old clock, warming pan, chairs, pictures and many other things.

There are two very old pictures in the sitting room, one, an engraving by H. Kingsbury, dated October 20, 1775, taken from Kitchingman’s painting, "Beggar and His Dog;" the other is from a painting by W.R. Bigg, entitled "Saturday Evening, the Husband’s Return From Labor," engraved January 31, 1705 by W. Nutter.

About 30 years ago the late Mrs. Abigail Reed, a great-great-granddaughter of Joseph Curtis, had extensive repairs made upon the house, tinting the walls the original colors, and bringing it generally as it was at first. During the repairs three small cannon balls were taken from the rafters, where they were embedded.  A larger cannon ball was found on the farm, presumably relics of the British occupation of Boston. In one of the closets, there are the imprints of a pair of tiny hands in the plaster.  

A number of years ago a grandson of Joseph was sent into the closet as punishment, and he evidently stood repentantly with his head resting on the backs of his hands.  The plaster was soft, and the young man left an interesting memento.

The homestead has been continually in possession of the Curtis family and is now occupied by direct descendants, the fifth generation from Joseph Curtis or the eighth from the founder of the family.

The house was a great attraction during Old-Home Week, having a descriptive tablet upon it.

This article originally appeared in the Boston Daily Globe on November 10, 1907.