THE STORY OF THE FULLER FARM
Barnstable Land Trust celebrated its conservation of over 1000 acres of land this year with the purchase of the historic Fuller Farm in Marstons Mills.
The farm, one of the last working farms on Cape Cod is located on the road to West Barnstable Road (Route 149), on the west shore of Middle Pond, also known as Run Pond. Its fertile alluvial soils were probably worked by Indians before the first white settlers came to the region in the mid-1600s. The pioneers on the land were the Hamblin family, who gave their name to Hamblins Plains and Hamblins Pond.
Near the present farmhouse, to the northwest overlooking Turtle Cove, lay the homestead of Lewis Hamblin (1768-1838) and his wife–and cousin–Abigail. It must have been a big house, for they had 15 children. In later years, two of those children ended up dividing the house, the west half going to Stephen Hamblin, and the east side, including the brick oven, going to Calvin Hamblin.
The last resident of the present house, Barbara Fuller, now 91, said that about 1790 or 1800 a new house was built on the site of the present one. It became the residence of yeoman farmer Ansel B. Fuller (1808-92), a descendant of the town’s first physician, Dr. Matthew Fuller, the hot-headed surgeon general of the colonial troops in King Philip’s War, whose parents came to this country on the Mayflower. The house may have been inherited from the Hamblins by Ansel B. Fuller’s son Ansel E. Fuller (1841-1924) whose wife Olive was the daughter of Calvin Hamblin.
The Fullers converted the neighboring swamp into a productive cranberry bog, producing 90 barrels of fruit in 1903. At the peak of cranberry harvest in 1887 the old house burned down. “Ma” Olive Fuller had left her ironing hanging by the fire to check how the harvest was going, and a fresh breeze blew sparks onto the clothes. By the time she got back the fire was beyond control, and all but a few boards were burned. Today one can see scorched boards in the pantry. Lost in the cellar were 50 bushels of recently harvested potatoes. The only thing saved was Ansel’s pension papers, which he put behind the clock on the mantle.
Neighbors–the Hamblins, Joneses and Cammetts–all joined in to rebuild the house. It was redone in the popular French Empire Mansard style, with sloping roofs on the second story. This style had been introduced by the China trade heir Augustus Thorndyke Perkins’s mansion “Sandanwood” in Cotuit. According to Mrs. Fuller, “While the house was being built, the women slept in the downstairs bedrooms and the men climbed a ladder in the kitchen to go through a hatch to the upstairs to sleep in the attic until the second floor was finished and the stairs built.”
Ansel and Olive’s daughter “Carrie” Caroline Fuller Coleman (1875-1937) was only two at the time of the fire. She married John A. Coleman and served as longtime village librarian for a quarter of a century, from 1908 to 1936. Her initial salary was 50 cents a week for opening the building for one afternoon and one evening a week, including lighting a fire.
Carrie and her brothers, Calvin and Austin Fuller, inherited the house and 142 acres of pasture, cranberry bogs and woodland, and carried on farming, especially producing milk. When Calvin married in 1892 the brothers added the south wing, and shared the house in family tradition. Calvin’s daughter Ada married Loring Jones Sr. and the couple ran the Marstons Mills Market for many years. Their son “Junior Jones” took over the grocery in 1943.
Austin had three children. The oldest, Lizzie (Elizabeth Fuller) married Lorenzo Gifford Jr., son of neighbor farmer and postmistress Nora Gifford. The middle child, Orrin, became an electrician in Hyannis, and the youngest, Alfred, took over the house and farm. His collection of farm machinery next to the house attracted many offers, which were always refused. Al and his wife Barbara were active in the Cotuit Grange, and ran the farm until his death in 2002.
In 1939 Alfred sold the waterfront area along Middle Pond on the Fuller farm property to Lillian and Mark Budd. They opened Camp Alpine summer camp for Jewish children in 1939, one of the first co-ed camps in New England. Musical performances of shows such as “Oklahoma” and “Oliver” were produced by talented drama counselors, and the children were accompanied by Lillian Budd, a former concert pianist.
Even the yard of the Fuller farm is full of history. The old dairy barn and its silo fell down a few years ago, but there’s a cluster of farm buildings nearby. A neighbor thought one might be the ancient Fish House which stood by the herring run on Route 28, but local historian Barbara Hill saw a similar building that was the Barnstable County Fair ticket booth being moved to the farm, so she thinks it was that building rather than the Fish House.
In 2012 Barnstable Land Trust raised funds to place the historic farm in conservation. The state and town each contributed half a million dollars, added to an equal amount from private individuals.
Jaci Barton, the founding director of the Trust, says that the handsome Mansard roofed Fuller homestead might make a fine headquarters for the organization. If the 125 year old frame, built by loving care of Marstons Mills villagers after the fire, is sound, Barnstable Land Trust will have its first permanent home on 23 acres of rolling meadows overlooking Middle Pond.
And we might even see sheep grazing as we drive by on Route 149.
Published in the Barnstable Enterprise 30 Nov. 2012