“Beginning at a stake and stones…”

Stephen Lincoln house

According to John Emory Morris’ Stephen Lincoln of Oakham, Massachusetts, His Ancestors and Descendants (1895), Stephen Lincoln first built a home in Oakham, Worcester County, Massachusetts, in 1784. As late as 1895, this house stood on the road leading from Rutland to Barre Plains, near the home of his father-in-law, Lieutenant Ebenezer Foster. In theory, locating the Lincoln house – or, rather, where it once stood – should be fairly straight forward, right?

Determining where your colonial ancestor lived can be a challenging and frustrating endeavor.  For most of us, the homes of our colonial ancestors were demolished long ago. Abutting homes and landmarks used to describe their locations have since been lost, and sometimes the once busy roads they stood upon are now simply well-worn trails through local woods. More often than not, examining land deeds can help piece together the general vicinity in which your ancestor lived. But, sometimes, as in the case of Stephen Lincoln, they simply serve to confuse the issue.

Stephen Lincoln first purchased land in Oakham in 1783 from the estate of Silas Hill, and it was likely that he built his home on this parcel the following year. The location of the property was described as follows:

Beginning at a stake and stones on the lines of Lott Number 8 thence turning South 35 degrees East 165 rods and one half to a heap of stones thence East 5 degrees South 99 rods to a heap of stones thence North 35 degrees West 156 rods and one half to a heap of stones thence West 5 degrees North 99 rods to the corner first mentioned being the same farm or tract of land the said Silas Hill.

So where do we go from here? Examining a map may help narrow our search.  When viewing a modern day map of Oakham, one would presume that the road leading from Rutland to Barre Plains was probably Route 122, which runs northeast from Rutland to Barre, transecting the northeastern section of Oakham. But without any clues, how can we determine where on Route 122 the home of Stephen Lincoln stood?

Here at NEHGS, we have a wonderful collection of atlases and historic maps. Many of these maps include the names of historic roads, natural landmarks, and often, the locations of homes that have been since been demolished. Some of these colonial houses survived well into the nineteenth century, and their locations were carefully documented. They are a wonderful resource for tracking down our ancestors’ elusive homes.

: Piper Publishing, c2002)
Luckily for us, a map of Oakham was included in the 1870 F.W. Beers atlas of Worcester County.  According to this map, there were two homes located just off of the town center. Both homes were labeled “S. Lincoln.” These homes were located on what is today Coldbrook Road, a road that runs northeast towards Barre, and intersects with Route 122.

Stephen Lincoln, Jr., the third son of Stephen Lincoln and Lydia Foster, settled near his father. According to the F.W. Beers atlas, it would appear that father and son lived side by side on Coldbrook Road in Oakham, just outside the center of town. Without this atlas, the exact location of Stephen Lincoln’s home might still remain a mystery.

Sheilagh Doerfler

About Sheilagh Doerfler

Sheilagh, a native of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, received her B.A. in History and Communication from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her research interests include New England, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Westward Migration, and adoptions.View all posts by Sheilagh Doerfler