Category Archives: Collections

Digging up Marshfield history behind the Winslow House

Thank you to Plymouth Archaeological Rediscovery Project’s Craig Chartier and Greg Lott for giving our members and guests the opportunity to connect to local and Winslow history and learn that taking out the trash can be an educational experience.

Our appreciation also  to the Marshfield Mariner for their recent cover story about the Saturday program (10/22/16).  A link to the story is available here:

Join the Marshfield Mariner on a Tour of the House

The Marshfield Marnier came for a visit to the Winslow House earlier this season and met up with Aaron Dougherty.

We were privileged to have Mariner Intern Nick Arena film a tour of the House. Thank you to the Mariner, Mr. Arena and Editor Kristi Funderburk.

In case you haven’t had a chance to visit the property and learn the history of the Winslows, here’s a brief taste of the experience from

Wicked Local Link: Join us for a tour of the Winslow House

The Words of the Winslows

When we want to learn something about history, we turn to the text books, or in this day and age, we go to Google and type in the topic we’re interested in. It’s fascinating to hear what the books and articles have to say, but more often than not, it’s what the people from his- tory themselves have to say that is the most captivating. “How is that possible?” you might ask. After all, the historical people of interest may be long dead, and are therefore no longer speaking out loud. However, they do speak, and what they have to say is right there for historians (or anyone who has the time and patience) to read.

I’m talking about primary source documents. Primary sources are documents that were created or written by or about the subject which you are researching. They are letters, essays, newspaper articles, account books, diaries, wills and so forth. These documents are a window into the past, and sometimes into the minds of their creators. They can tell us so many things about who made or wrote them and the time they lived in and are invaluable when it comes to quality historical research.

Unfortunately primary sources can often be few and far between, and sometimes entirely nonexistent. For example, the United States census of 1890 was completely destroyed by a fire in the building that was housing the documents. Now genealogists are left trying to put the pieces together and fill in the missing spaces when researching their family history.

Lucky for us, the Winslow family and those who knew them left quite a bit of primary source material that helps us learn about who they were, what they did, and what was important to them. John Winslow, (1703-1774), kept a diary and letters, many of which are preserved by the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Pilgrim Hall Museum. In a series of letters written between Winslow and Governor William Shirley, it becomes evident to the reader just how much military power John Winslow had. In a letter written in March of 1755, Governor Shirley invested significant military authority in John Winslow:

“I do hereby authorise, and im- power John Winslow Esqr. to beat his Drum any where within this Province, for enlisting Voluntiers for his Majts. Service in a Regiment to be forthwith raised, for the Service and Defence of His Majest. Colonies in North America, and to be Commanded by his Excelly. William Shirley Esqr. and the Coll. with the other officers of the Regiments within this Province, are hereby Commanded not to glve the sd. Jon. Winslow any Obstructions, or Molustations herein; but on the Contrary to afford him all necessary Encouragement, and assistance, for which this a sufficient Warrant.”

Primary source documents relating to military and government, although very telling, are typically easily attainable. Private documents, though, often are not. However when they are available they can give us unparalleled details into the lives of our forefathers.

One such type of document is the will, which most people who owned property would have made later in their lives and in which the person typically named who they wanted to in- herit their property. After the person died, the execu- tors of the estate usually conducted an inventory of the deceased belongings which gives historians excellent clues about the financial and socio-economic status of those in the household.

The will of Isaac Winslow, written in 1736, lists specific material belongings that were important to him. Winslow wrote: “I Give to my Son John Winslow my Seel Ring. I Give to my Son Edward all my other Rings & my Sword or Rapiers: Also, I Give to my Sons all my armes & wareing apparrel to be Equally Divided Between them “. In the inventory conducted of Isaac Winslow’s estate (including the current Winslow House), it is clear that he was a man of means with “looking glasses”, “Armes” and “Servants” being listed. It is also evident that he operated a working farm, with “Cattle” “Plows, Hoes, Chains, Yokes, Horse Gears” and “Dung Forks” also listed.

Women are sometimes underrepresented in primary source documents especially in the earlier periods. However, Sarah Wensley Winslow, wife of Isaac Winslow, left a will when she died in 1756 that gives us great insight into her life . Among her belongings were a “feather bed”, a “Velvet Cloak”, a “Velvet Handkerchief”, a “Silk Handker- chief” a “Gold necklass & locket”, a “pr Gold buttons” and a “pr Gold Earrings.” One can only assume that with so much gold jewelry and velvet clothing Sarah Winslow was living quite a comfortable life at Careswell!

Although the Winslows can no longer speak to us out loud, their voices are certainly not silent. Walking through the Winslow House gives us a way to step back in time, but primary source documents—letters, wills and diaries—gives the Winslows a voice and allows them to tell their stories.

-Erica Dumont

Executive Director, Historic 1699 Winslow House and Cultural Center

A special thanks to board member Cynthia Krusell who has spent a significant amount of time with the Winslow Family’s primary source documents and who has done a remarkable job at bringing their history to life.

Thanks also to Karin Goldstein, Curator at Plimoth Plantation, who has made these records available to me.

Winslow House Welcomes Two Interns

We all know that the Winslow House has an incredible collection; from the 17th century furniture to 19th century photographs, the collection helps tell the story of the Winslow House and Marshfield’s past. However, there’s so much more than meets the eye. The Winslow House objects have incredible histories themselves, and we want them to be told!

In order to even begin interpreting the objects in an historic house, a museum must do a proper inventory and assessment of its whole collection. The last time our inventory was taken was several years ago, so it needs an update! Keeping up with 21st century museum practices, the Winslow House has decided to use Past Perfect museum software. Fortunately, our friends at the Marshfield Historical Society have graciously offered to share their software with the Winslow House, so we’ll be able to move forward with this important project.

After careful consideration, our director Erica Dumont has chosen two interns to help her inventory and digitize the collection. Andrew Talbot is a recent graduate of Bridgewater State University. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History, and hopes to teach at a high school in the area. A local history enthusiast, he is eager to begin exploring the Winslow House collection and to delve deeper into Winslow history!

Matt Howe is in his last leg of coursework at Bridgewater State University. Majoring in history, Matt also hopes to become a high school teacher. He is currently student teaching at Boston College High School in Boston. He is a resident of Marshfield and has done quite a bit of community service in town. Matt is excited to be part of the Winslow House and is looking forward to become more involved in the Marshfield community.

Andrew and Matt will be a valuable addition to the Wins- low House family, and we are excited to have them begin in May! Please stop by this summer to see their progress and to take a tour to see our collection! Welcome Andrew and Matt!