Soon after Samuel Taylor retuned from his Revolutionary War soldiering, he married Lucretia Taylor in 1783 and built the half-Cape house that stands at the farm. This circa 1863 photo is the earliest known picture of the farmhouse.
Samuel followed thrifty Yankee custom by reusing building material from the original home. Colonial architecture specialists have identified re-purposed lumber from the original 17th century house and tree ring dating tests have confirmed that some of the timbers date to the mid-to-late 17th century. Gunstock posts, a common structural feature of early colonial housing, have been adapted in the half-Cape as joists and rafters.
A preponderance of household archaeological artifacts found under and immediately around the half-Cape reflect a modest life-style for the large extended Taylor families, which included grandparents living under the same roof throughout the 1800s.
Samuel Taylor, a veteran of the Revolutionary War and master mariner, earned the respect of his fellow townsmen over a life spanning 85 years. From his teenage years he was an ardent Whig advocating for the patriot cause and was an active participant in town politics although never holding elective office. His obituary may be seen here.
After Samuel returned home a penniless soldier he began a notable maritime career working his way up from ordinary seaman to captain, making thirty-four voyages to Europe and one to Africa. Twice his merchant vessels were seized by Spanish and French privateers. During one of those occasions he spent almost five months in southwest France appealing to local courts to negate his capture. In the end a French Tribunal ruled against Captain Taylor and he lost his vessel and cargo. He and his crew had to find their way home by what means we know not.
After Samuel’s retirement from a life at sea, he and his son James operated a salt works in the marsh directly behind this farmhouse. Some of that salt works lumber was recycled in building the extant barn at the farm sometime during the 19th century.
By the time Samuel built his house in the late 18th century, a Taylor seafaring tradition was emerging with a father-son-grandson pattern of men who made a living as coastal and blue water sailors. With this development came inevitable tragedies. During his lifetime for instance, three of Samuel’s grandsons were lost at sea and a fourth died of yellow fever in New Orleans.
In 1896 after Luther Taylor, the last in a line of seven generations of Taylors died childless, his widow Lucy Taylor sold the farm to George & Willie Bray. The bachelor brothers with deep family ties to the town had probably leased the land for a number of years before taking title of the property. They raised cranberries, peddled strawberries from a wheelbarrow on the side of nearby King’s Highway and developed reputations as eccentric characters which probably belied their true commercial skills. The brothers, seen here about 1937 with antique dealer Ruth Pfeiffer, also ran a successful antique business amassing a collection of local and exotic artifacts from around the world that were donated to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities when George died in 1941.
In the 21st century the farm is on its way to becoming an historic tourism destination because the people of Yarmouth had the foresight to purchase this remarkable site “for historic preservation and conservation purposes.” Community Preservation grants from the town paved the way for the major renovation work in 2011 that rescued the farmhouse from permanent decline.