The history of the Suffolk Resolves House has challenged the Milton Historical Society for over a century. Our investigation began in 1912, when two founding members, Ellen Vose and Eleanor Martin, presented a paper pointing out how little of the traditional history of the house was based on historical documents. For our fledgling society, founded for "the study of the history of the town of Milton," the thesis was apropos, but bold.
Vose and Martin did not yet have the right to vote, but they asserted that in 1874 a former mayor of Boston, a director the New England Historic Genealogical Society, founders of the Dorchester and Canton Historical Societies, and two co-authors of A.K. Teele's The History of Milton were all mistaken in their claim that the Suffolk Resolves were signed in the house. These men, among them a grandson and two great-grandsons of Daniel Vose, had gathered in the parlor of the house to commemorate the centennial of the Resolves, and so established the tradition which remains firm in the town today.
In the century following, members of the society have made several efforts to decipher the history of this fascinating house. In 1924, members Lauriston and Roger Scaife -- father and son -- found themselves leading opposite sides of an impassioned controversy over that history. Founding member Arthur H. Tucker steadfastly refused to join either side, while studying accounts of the 1874 meeting and using his experience as a builder and architect to provide us with the most detailed study of the house to date. Professional historian Edward Pierce Hamilton tackled the house's history in 1950, as did his friends and fellow members, Hannah Ayer -- the historical society president who saved the house from destruction -- and William Morris Hunt II, the house's restoration architect. Each reached a different conclusion, and their friendly disagreements continue within the society today.
In 2011, I discovered that the walls of the house held the dates of construction, dates which had eluded all these researchers. With 2012 being the 350th anniversary of the town, it was clear that our best contribution to that celebration was to learn those dates. We engaged the Oxford Dendrochronology Lab to perform a tree-ring analysis, sampling 35 oak timbers from the house, spread over three phases of construction.
This page compiles the clues gathered by the society over one hundred years of research. Click on one at left to get a summary and often a link to the document on which it is based. You are invited to take up this riddle yourself, to follow the clues wherever you see them leading, and to solve at last the mystery of the Suffolk Resolves House!