The House of Elias Ware of Wrentham, Massachusetts (Updated)

1853 Map Designating the Elias Ware Home, marked by P. (Preston) Ware

Courtesy of Fred Button

From Reid Farm of Blake’s Hill by Dorothy S. Chevers Dec 16, 1982

The Elias Ware Homestead

WRENTHAM– There once was a house, All tattered and torn, With a hole in the roof, and without a barn. Then along came a couple with a love for the old. Of this old house. This tale is told.” This is the narrative of the Elias Ware homestead, the original part of which was built around 1700, and which was built about 15 years ago to be in the center of Route 495. By a turn of fate, the roadbed was moved to the west, and the old house was spared. Elias Ware, Sr. was a Minute Man who marched to Concord and Lexington. He was a private and a yeoman. His trade was that of blacksmith and he had his shop across the road where cannonballs have been found. There was also a powder house there. Elias Ware was the son of Timothy, the grandson of Robert 2d, and the great-grandson of Robert Ware the 1st. Robert the 1st was born in England and arrived in Dedham in 1642. He married Margaret Hunting in 1644, and came to North Wrentham and built a home. He was referred to subsequently as Robert Ware, the aged, and his name stands second in point of wealth on the tax records. He was a member of the Artillery in 1644, and was one of six men ‘impressed by virtue of warrant from ye Major’ in Dedham, to serve in King Philip’s Wars, He died in North Wrentham, April 19, 1699, and his estate was appraised at 250 pounds, 2 shillings, 10 d’s. It was probably Robert 2d who settled his family in the Bald Hill area of Wrentham in a one-room and loft home (as determined by the foundation when the present restoration was begun). There was a large fireplace at the northerly end of this little home which accepted four-foot logs. There was a sleeping loft above, and this home had a dirt floor. The grant for this farm was approximately 173 acres, as has been recorded by a subsequent sale. In the middle to late 1700’s, Elias Ware built a two-story addition to this original home. The date is determined by the construction and by the feather-edged paneling, as well as by records. When Elias, Jr., was old enough to be on his own, he was given a five-acre piece of land to farm and on which to build his home. This was to the east of the Elias, Sr. homestead. During the early to middle 1800’s, upon the death of Elias. Sr., the home was left to two daughters, each inheriting one-half of the house, divided up and down each side, much like present-day condominiums. Upon the death of the surviving sister, sometime after the Civil War, the property was auctioned and purchased by a lawyer named Ely.


This was about 1876. After that, it was owned for a short time by a minister, who in turn sold it to a family by the name of Rogers.

Fred Button thinks this information found regarding Farms in Massachusetts Abandoned or Partially Abandoned in the year 1891 may pertain to Mr. Rogers.

Mr. Rogers apparently survived all the members of his family, for we find that in his later years, he turned the farm over to the town, and the town took care of him until his death. At that time, it was auctioned again, with the Peterson family being the purchasers. This was in 1904 and the 173 acres, house and barn, were bought for $600, including Checkerberry Creek and Sink Meadow, and extending to Lake Pearl, where there was a boat mooring for the Petersons. The farm also had a perpetual spring which fed to Lake Pearl. The Petersons sold to the Buttons, who in turn, sold to the present owners. There are still many old-time trees on the farm, including buttonwoods and larches. There were many chestnuts, also, but they succumbed to the blight in the 1920’s. The house has been lovingly restored, after having been completely taken apart and rebuilt. The frame was strong, but the outer boards needed replacing, as did the sills, and the present owner carefully set aside all of the good old paneling to be put back again when rebuilding. The windows had to be replaced, and they have been done in keeping with the period, with 12 over 12 downstairs and 8 over 12 up. The present owner carefully reproduced the original house after having found the foundation during excavation. (The original was torn down about ten years ago). This was rebuilt before they were given an old photo, and, much to their amazement, they had put the door and windows in exactly the same places. There are all the old wide-board floors and six fireplaces plus a flue for a stove in the family room. The dining room has a working beehive oven in which bread and beans are baked. This was the old kitchen of the” new” house. In excavating, slipware, sprigware, redware and old cooking utensils were found, as was a toy cannon. The herb garden includes both the scents and the cooking herbs. There is also an old perennial garden which is being restored to its former beauty. So this old house: Once tattered and torn, Has been lovingly restored, And once again born. ******************************************************************************************************* Fred Button, the son of George and Shirley, was raised in this old house, which the Button’s owned from the mid-50’s, until they sold it to David and Roberta Brown in the early 1980’s along with land. Fred contacted me via-email awhile ago and offered to tell me about the house when he, his parents and siblings lived there.

Photos courtesy of Fred Button

“When I was a kid I think we had 75 acres of land.  There was no barn, but there was a big old rock foundation which is where I think the stood.  The animals were for our consumption. We had a couple of pigs, right where the swimming pool is now and also an old two stall outhouse. We had sheep, rabbits and chickens.  The chickens were raised in the house, because there was no place to put them.  There must have been a hundred or so. The vegetable garden was for us and for sale.  People would come to the house to buy and my brother and I would go door to door selling fresh vegetables.  Had to be careful with the tomatoes! We also sold and delivered firewood.  We cut wood from our land and the town would bring us wood from trees that they cut down; maybe the elm trees that died from Dutch elm disease that were on the side of the road. I had a bad injury when I was 6 years old and almost died.  My father had a big saw rig for cutting the fire wood.  The big belt came off the pulley, wrapped around me and pulled me under the engine.  I was unconscious for 3 days and in the hospital for a month. The house did not have hot water, toilet, shower, or furnace.  Sometimes there was no water at all.  Our bathroom consisted of only a 5 gallon bucket which was in the hallway. We had to heat water on the stove to wash dishes and take a bath.  Sometimes we would take a bath outside and sometimes in the rain barrel when it was hot weather. The roof leaked when it rained and I had to move my bed so I would not get wet. It was a big house with many fireplaces.  The back part had fallen down when we lived there.  I think that was the original house.  There was a room there we called the back kitchen. There was a sealed door that at one time went to that part of the house.  There was also a room we called the well-room.  The floor was in bad shape and when I was little, my brother and I were able to see under the floor and found an old well. There was a little door in the wall maybe 2 feet by 2 feet square.  I don’t know what it was used for. A room upstairs had no windows and was very dark.” ********************************************************************************************************

Eerie incidents in the old Elias Ware Home remain a mystery to its 20th-century residents

By KAREN CUBIE  – Sun Chronicle Correspondent  Nov 1, 1989

The old Elias Ware place at 296 Bennett Street in Wrentham had been beckoning to David and Roberta Brown for years before they finally were able to buy and restore it; so it shouldn’t sound bizarre that one day David actually heard it call his name. “I was upstairs in the attic. There was nothing in the house,” David remembered. “It was a very low, quiet calling. It grew a little bit louder, and then distinct enough that I got up to go downstairs to hear who was calling me.” Roberta didn’t know what he was talking about when he came looking for her to ask what she had called him for. “What did you want?” he asked. “Nothing,” she answered. “I didn’t call you.” “You were at the bottom of the attic stairs calling me,” he insisted. “I heard you.” “I was not,” she said. The first time the Browns saw the house they now own, they were searching for a restorable antique house in the southern Massachusetts area. They drove through Wrentham one afternoon, spotted the old, rambling house, and thought they were capable of handling the repairs it so badly needed. They drove to a nearby real estate office and asked an agent to ask the owners if they would be interested in selling the house. When the owners refused the offer, the Browns bought an antique Cape in Norwell and forgot about the old Wrentham place. David, a fifth grade teacher at Wrentham’s Roderick Elementary School, eventually grew tired of the long commute, and the couple sold their Norwell home. When a real estate agent took them to see a new Bennett Street home, they were surprised to discover it was directly across the street from the place they bad fallen in ‘love’ with 10 years earlier. Only two months after they moved into their new home, the owners of the house across the street were ready to sell, and the Browns were ready to buy.  Roberta, however, was not so sure she was ready to move. “I felt total revulsion,” she said, describing the first time she entered the crumbling building which had been occupied continuously since the late 1600’s, but had never had running water, bathroom facilities, or electricity installed.  “I’ve always had a sense that this has never been a happy home until we got here,” she said. “Just the fact that no one was ever able to put the slightest decorative or modern convenience in it. (Former inhabitants) must have been desperately poor.” After the restoration was underway, however, Roberta agreed that she also loved the house and wanted to live there. Since they moved into the house in 1980, she says they’ve felt completely at home. “We lived in our other antique house for 10 years, It didn’t bother me at all to leave it,” she said. “This is the only house we feel is home. Both of us feel this. This place just fits us. I don’t feel that way about other places. Nothing else ever felt perma­nent. After living in the house for a few years, however, the Browns came to believe they were not  its only contemporary inhabitants. Around Christ­mas of 1983, two friends came to visit the Browns in order to discuss some research they had done on the house. From Wrentham’s Esther Friend and the late Dot Chevers, the Browns learned that Elias Ware had lived in an old section of the house since his birth, and after marching to Lexington to fight in the Revolutionary War, he returned home to Wren­tham, married, opened a blacksmith shop across the street, and built the larger part of the house. Preston, Elias’ son, and his second wife Lectra, eventually lived there and on Christmas Day, 1816 their daughter Mary Hayward Ware was born. Mary died 14 years later, but the Browns’ friends could not tell them how or why. Roberta remembers that she had served cookies that night on a three-tiered 19th century pie server with antique sprig design plates. The pie service sat on a round corner table. While the conversation was still focusing on Mary, the top dish of the pie server, laden with cookies, suddenly flew up to the ceiling, carefully  avoiding the top bar of the pie server. “Then it came crashing down to the table,” Roberta remembered. “It spun on edge, and hit the floor, but it didn’t break. Cookies were everywhere.” “It continued to go around and around,” Brown said. “We all looked. And we said nothing. I don’t think we said anything for several minutes.” A few weeks later, the Browns were discussing the history of Mary Ware and the flight of the antique sprig plate while they cleaned up after New Year’s Eve dinner party. “Suddenly we heard a very loud clash,” Roberta remembered. “It sounded like two metal trash cans colliding.” They both took off through dif­ferent sections of the house to find what had caused the noise or fallen. All the rooms were quiet, however. “There was nothing out of place,” she said, “so we returned to the kitchen. “An old tea cannister (set se­curely behind a two-inch-high wooden lip above a kitchen sofa) had fallen onto the sofa. There’s no way that could have made the loud sound, ” she continued. “The cannister fell onto a soft cushion.” Roberta claims this was when she began to piece things togeth­er. A few years later, in 1985, Mike Digiantommaso, a contract paint­er who painted the outside of the Browns’ home, also felt the pres­ence of unknown residents. “I never bad a good look,” Digiantommaso admits, “I just saw figures around the corner of the outside of the house – kids. I thought one was wearing a wed­ding dress. ” Digiantommaso said he wasn’t h feeling well that afternoon. “I had been painting quite a while,” he remembered. “It was a very hot day, and I was using a very strong stain paint.” Digiantommaso only saw the figures out of the corners of his eyes. Every time he turned his head they’d disappear. “I was mad,” he remembered. “I thought my friends were play­ing a joke on me. It went on throughout the day. I felt definitely like I was being watched.” Digiantommaso left early that day because he didn’t feel well. But before he left, he shared his experience with Roberta. “I asked her if she’d had any problems like this before. It was pretty eerie,” he said. “I was interested, intrigued, by her expe­riences. I had heard something from one of her friends. The house has a good history.” A few years ago, David organ­ized an archaeological dig with his students in part of the yard in an attempt to uncover some of the house’s history. Among the finds were fragments of china that matched exactly Roberta’s sprig design china pattern. The couple views the discovery as an unusual coincidence, al­though they are unsure what other significance to place upon it. The Browns believe every house has a soul. “People walked on these floors and discussed Abraham Lincoln being shot, and George Washing­ton being elected president,” Rob­erta said. “The events of the day were discussed here.” “We’re just caretakers,” David said. “If (the house) disappears, it’s irreplaceable. “If destroyed a tangible, link to the past is gone,” he continued. “That I certainly believe in:” The Browns don’t believe their house is really haunted. ” ‘Haunted’ has an evil, fright­ening sound,” Roberta said. “There’s definitely something here besides us, but I feel very comfortable here.” “There are things that occur, I don’t know,” David said.  “I protect and preserve.  I feel that way about it.” “We saved this house,” Roberta added. “I feel nothing can harm me while I’m in here.  This is here for whoever comes after us.” John Brown, 11 plays a Colonial game while his father David watches. The Browns claim that the night, the top dish on the three-tiered pie server pictured here suddenly flew up to the ceiling, then fell down to the floor and spun around without breaking.

Amanda Brown, 17, sits in her bedroom holding a plate of her mother’s china. By coincidence, shards of the same pattern were unearthed from the yard outside. Also, a painter working outside Amanda’s bedroom window said he saw figures around the corner of the house one day in 1985. ****************************************************************************************************** Mr. Button also sent the previous article about 296 Bennett St. and its current owners.  I asked him if he experienced anything unusual when he lived there, as a child. “I believe there may have been ghosts.  I remember when I was pushed down the cellar stairs and there was nobody there.  I have a nasty scar on my left hand from it.  (That’s how I remembered left from right.) I had bad dreams; like falling down an endless black hole I had dreams about the ‘well room’ in the cellar. There was a hole in the rock foundation and I would get caught in it. My wife and I went back 20 – 25 years ago. The Browns invited us in. Nice job renovating the house.”

Photo taken by and courtesy of Barbara Larson.

“Strange things happened I said to the Browns. Look the marks on the wall are still there from when my mom measured us to see how much we have grown. They said, “That’s from measuring our children.” The marks were in the same place, Fred stated. There was a child climbing in a tree and fell out of it when we were there. I told them, “That’s the same tree I fell out of when I was a kid.” I have a scar on my nose from that. Mr. Brown died of a heart attack some years ago in the vicinity of the swimming pool. ******************************************************************************************************** “George, my brother, doesn’t remember how old he was, but he remembers someone standing in front of the attic door. He was wearing a military uniform.  Everything was white in color.  I remember reading about some of the wares going to war and I think one of then never returned.  Just another ghost story,” stated Fred in a recent e-mail. ******************************************************************************************************** Whether you believe the evidence given by Fred Button or the Brown’s, as to the presence of ghosts, the story of the house and its occupants is compelling.  I am very grateful to Mr. Button for contacting me and offering its history.  It was difficult for Mr. Button to write about this house and his early childhood, because some of his memories are hurtful and I am not including in them in the story, as per his request. We might think our lives are mundane and routine, or too painful to talk about with others.  However, the sum total of our experiences, the good and the bad, make us who we are.  Writing documented histories, sharing photos and letters and personal mementos is the best way for our descendants to remember us.  As we researchers and genealogists investigate our ancestors, descending generations will want to know about us, also.  Though technology has made it much easier to leave a written or recorded history, no one wants to be remembered as just being born, possibly married and had children, and then died. Our descendants will be as curious about us as we are about those who came before. So let them know who you were. ************************************************************************************************ I was  contacted recently by Mrs. Alayne R. Cox of Brooklyn, New York, regarding more information  she would like me to add to this story.  She is the older sister of Fred Button, by 12 years, and remembered some important details.  Their mother, Shirley, was told by the previous owner, Eva Peterson Gilpatrick, the home had once been an Inn. Mrs. Cox told me more about the room without windows.  She said there was a secret room under the stairs in the room, and she believes the room was a hide-away for travelers on the “Underground Railroad” on their way North and further destinations in Canada.


The House of Elias Ware of Wrentham, Massachusetts (Updated) — 2 Comments

  1. I am the older sister of Fred Button. I have some other very interesting info about my childhood home given by Eva Peterson Gilpatrick to my mother Shirley Button. I live in Brooklyn, New York and can be contacted at xxx-xxx-xxxx (Phone Number blocked by security system to protect poster – Contact Webmaster to override if number is required).

    Alayne R. Cox

  2. It must have taken an act of congress to re-route I-495 around this place. Look at all the memories that would have been destroyed if they hadn’t. A very interesting article.


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