Generations of History
The Isaac Winslow House was built circa 1699 for the Hon. Isaac Winslow (1671–1738) at the place named “Careswell” after their family home “Kerswell” in Worcestershire, England. This was the third house built on land granted to Gov. Edward Winslow (1595–1655) in the 1630s who erected the first homestead.
A Mayflower passenger and major leader in the early years of Plymouth Colony, Edward was three-times governor, intermediary with the Native Americans, as well as ambassador from the colony to England. His son Col. Josiah Winslow (1628–1680) also held the governor’s office, the first native-born to hold it, in addition to leading the Colonial Militia in the 1675 “Great Swamp Fight,” the decisive battle of King Phillip’s War.
Judge Isaac Winslow was Josiah’s son. He also held many prominent positions in the colony, both military and civil. He was the judge of the Probate Court at Plymouth, chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and president of the Council of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.
His house was inherited by son Gen. John Winslow (1703–1774) who had an outstanding military career as a major general in the British service. He participated in several military campaigns, starting with the War of Jenkin’s Ear from 1740–1741. At Nova Scotia (Acadia) from 1742–1755 he assisted the British in the removal of the French Acadians, an event commemorated by Longfellow in his epic poem “Evangeline.” Lastly, at Lake Champlain in 1756, he commanded Fort William Henry.
After the death of John, the property was passed to his son, Dr. Isaac Winslow. Isaac had a large medical practice serving southeastern Massachusetts and was well known for his work with the smallpox inoculations. He embraced the British cause during the American Revolution and was one of Marshfield’s leading loyalists, the house becoming the center for Tory activities. When war broke out, most properties belonging to those loyal to England were seized by the Great and General Court of Massachusetts. It is believed that because Isaac was so admired and beloved as a physician by the people, his property was not confiscated.
Dr. Isaac Winslow was the last of the family to occupy the house. After his death in 1822 the estate was sold to honor debt. It then was put up for auction in 1825, divided and purchased by local families. The house and remaining land were later purchased by neighbor Daniel Webster.
Lawyer, statesman, Senator, Secretary of State, and “Farmer of Marshfield,” Daniel Webster held high respect for the vererable house; he called it the “Winslow Place” and was the first to invest in preserving it. While never living in the house, he had tenant farmers. In the parlor, on September 1, 1848, he spoke to the people of Marshfield, at their request, on the subject of slavery and his opposition to President Martin Van Buren’s position. On the day of his funeral in October of 1852, dignitaries in attendance gathered in the same room waiting to be led down the road, now Webster Street, by surviving son Fletcher Webster to the services at their family home. Among the guests was President-Elect Franklin Pierce.
Fletcher inherited the house and sold it at auction in 1855 before dying at the Second Battle of Bull Run in 1862. However, after the Webster mansion burned in 1878, his wife Caroline and three children moved into the house, remaining until 1880 when their house was rebuilt. During her residency, she built the barn that is now used as a meeting room.
Virtually untouched by modernization, the house passed through several more ownerships by Charles and Ezra Wright, Tilden Ames, and lastly Nathan Holbrook who in 1920 sold to three local residents interested in restoring the property: Edward Ford, John Gutterson, and Edgar Sherrill. They called themselves the Winslow Associates, and the Historic Winslow House Association was born. From that day forward, the restoration and preservation of this classic first period colonial mansion that embodies this nation’s early history has been a labor of love for those who have persevered over the years to present is as seen today.