THE SWEEP OF TIME

“Taylor-Bray Farm is unique. I can’t think of another site like this.”
 
Craig Chartier, Principal Archaeologist
Plymouth Archaeological Recovery Project

“I’m always treading ancient paths — walking atop other people’s stories … Who was here first? When? Why here?”
 
Karl Meyer, American author and environmentalist

10,000 years of human history …

Ancient Taylor-Bray Farm is like a time machine revealing a kaleidoscope of images. Geologists see land shaped by the Laurentide Glacier 25,000 years ago. Archaeologists have a time horizon that stretches back 10,000 years to the evidence left  behind by Native peoples, the first humans to call this piece of Yarmouth home. Historians see an outlier farm begun in the 1640s by Richard & Ruth Taylor in one of the earliest towns of Plymouth Colony. Modern day visitors might imagine scenes from all those periods or perhaps just enjoy a summer picnic with a scenic view of Black Flats marsh or new spring lambs.

This large glacial erratic was probably a landmark to Native peoples long before Richard “Of the Rock” Taylor chose to settle here. The “rock” moniker was used by Yarmouth residents because there was another Richard Taylor in town in the 17th century who also happened to be a tailor.

Close your eyes and use your imagination to travel back to any point in the farm’s ten thousand years of documented human history to envision what it was like for a nomadic Native hunter searching for game, or a 17th century Plymouth Colony settler trying to scratch out a living, or two teen-aged boys about to become Revolutionary War soldiers who would see action at the Battles of Saratoga and Monmouth and endure the brutal winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge or a wife shouldering the burden of caring for a large family while her mariner husband went to sea for months at a time.

Archaeology Volunteers on the Job Volunteers working at the site of the farm’s original 17th century house under the leadership of Craig Chartier, the farm’s principal archaeologist since 2010.

A lot of human drama big and small has played itself out this small fragment of land in a 21st century residential neighborhood. Uncovering the farm’s history is still very much a work in progress as archaeologists and local historians work to fill gaps in our knowledge and contend with the vagaries of fragmentary evidence. The farm still has secrets to give up, but a story is emerging that connects to America’s past by illuminating the daily lives of ordinary people who from time to time got caught up in historic events.

The Bray brothers move in …

In the 1940s, today’s Samuel Taylor House had seen better days. But after the Williams family purchased the property, the house underwent major rehab work arresting the deterioration while preserving many of historic elements of the original half cape and its two additions.

Seven generations of Taylors gave way to Brays in 1896 when Luther Taylor’s widow sold the farm to George & Willie Bray, bachelor brothers with long-standing roots in Yarmouth. The Yarmouth Register took note of this significant passage of ownership with a simple announcement: “George F. Bray and William F. Bray have purchased the old James Taylor homestead in Hockanom and are going to engage in farming there.” And they did just that for almost fifty years.

Saved from development …

The farmhouse in the 1950s. The Williams family renovations saved the house from long years of neglect while for the first time adding electricity, running water and central heating .

After George Bray’s death in 1941 the property fell into a brief period of stagnation until the Williams family acquired the farm in the late 1940s and began to breathe new life into the land. From the 1940s through the 1980s the Williams and Karras families kept the farming tradition alive until the town of Yarmouth purchased the property in 1987 for “historic preservation and conservation purposes” thus saving the farm for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.

The Taylor-Bray Farm Preservation Association …

Recognizing the need to protect the farm’s unique legacy, a neighborhood group formed the non-profit Taylor-Bray Farm Preservation Association in 2001 Since then one of the oldest farming sites in the country has been run as a successful public-private partnership between the Town of Yarmouth and the Association. Generous funding from the town’s Community Preservation Grant Program has been a key to the farm’s 21st century revival.

Taylor-Bray Farm Preservation Association
P.O. Box 66 – 108 Bray Farm Road North, Yarmouth Port, MA 02675