The Peter Rice Homestead (1688)

The history of the Homestead and its owners

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Edmund Rice and his family came to this new land from England about the year 1638. Edmund was a prominent figure in the settlement of both Sudbury and Marlborough.  His numerous descendants included a grandson named Peter Rice. 

Peter Rice was one of thirteen children born to Thomas and Mary (___) Rice.  At the time of his birth on October 24, 1658, the family was living in Sudbury.  Thomas had received a grant of land in Sudbury during 1655, and shortly thereafter a grant of land in Marlborough.  Upon filling a contractual obligation with Sudbury in 1664/1665, the family moved to Marlborough.

Indian uprisings threatened the settlement and the Thomas Rice home became one of the eight garrisons established in October, 1675.  A few months later, on March 26, 1676, Marlborough was ravaged by Indians, and most of the inhabitants sought sanctuary in other towns.  It is not known if Thomas took his family to Watertown as did many others, or if they returned to Sudbury.

Thomas died in Sudbury in 1681.  He bequeathed one half his house lot at Marlborough to his son Thomas.  To his son Peter he left the other half of the house lot (seventeen acres) and a parcel of meadow ground called Three Corner Meadow.  (No house or buildings are mentioned.)

It is interesting to note that Charles Hudson, in his History of Marlborough, Mass. (view - buy) does not list the brothers Peter and Thomas as being among the principal inhabitants of the town in 1686, though both men were by then over the age of twenty-five.

Marriage and eleven children

The marriage of Peter Rice to Rebecca Howe, daughter of Abraham and Hannah (Ward) Howe took place in 1688.  According to tradition, he brought her to his homestead site. 

While no description of that first dwelling has been found, if it was like most others of that time, it consisted of a low house of one or two rooms with a fireplace for heat and cooking and an overhead loft

Peter and Rebecca had eleven children: Elisha, 1690; Zipporah and Zephania, 1691; Cyprian, 1693; Pelatiah, 1697; Elnathan, 1698; Peter, 1700; Abigail, 1702; Deborah, 1704; Rebecca, 1706; and, Abraham, 1709. 

Elnathan died at a young age, and no information has been found about the twins.  The others all married and settled in central Massachusetts.

Peter had cattle, horses, sheep, and hogs.  Crops included corn, rye, barley, wheat, flax, and oats.  Apples were grown for cider.  No mention of poultry or the kitchen garden has been found in the archives.

Peter was active in civil affairs.  He served as Representative to the General Court of Massachusetts in 1709 - 11, 1714, 1720, 1721, and 1728 - 30.  At the time of Queen Ann's War in 1711, he was one of a committee who designated garrison houses.  He also was captain of the train band.

A full life

Peter's wife Rebecca died at age 81 on May 10, 1749, and Peter at age 95 on November 28, 1753.  They are buried in the Old Common Cemetery, which is behind the Walker Building.

One would certainly consider Peter Rice and his family among the prominent households in early Marlborough.  In the sixty years since 1686, Peter Rice raised his family, acquired land that extended well into Westborough and Northborough, was active in civic affairs, and provided his wife and children with substantial  monetary bequests.

 A timeline of the ownership of the Peter Rice Homestead

1681     Thomas Rice to Peter Rice

1854     Dennis Witherbee

1855     Henry Russell

1894     Laura A. Fitch

1914     Edward McLeod

1939     Marlborough Savings Bank

1939     Anna Labelle

1945     Emile Labelle

1967     Honeywell, Inc.

1968     The Marlborough Historical Society

The Peter Rice Homestead was included in the Marlborough Survey of Historic, Architectural, and Cultural Resources.  View the listing on Elm Street here.

Visiting the Peter Rice Homestead

Today the Peter Rice Homestead is the home of the Marlborough Historical Society and is open during monthly programs and special events held at the homestead, and for research and tours with at least ten days notice.  For additional hours when the homestead is open, see our home page.

You can also download this detailed self-guided tour [PDF] of the homestead to learn more about what's inside and about the history of the home's earlier owners.

For additional information:

377 Elm Street                                                                      Mailing address: Box 513
Marlborough, MA 01752                                                    Marlborough, MA 01752-0153

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Restoring and maintaining the Peter Rice Homestead

The home is owned and maintained by the members of the Society and others who support historic preservation in Marlborough through their membership in, purchases from, and contributions to the Society, as well as their attendance at Society special events, including the annual "Festival of Trees" and "Christmas at the Farm" (2010, 2011).

With this support, the roof of the Homestead was repaired, the boiler replaced (2011) with one that is modern and more fuel-efficient, and the front entrance was restored (2012) with one representative of the mid-18th century, when the property was in its prime. (See inset photo; the large photo below was taken prior to the installation of the new door.) 

The entrance itself was designed and built by Architectural Components Inc. of Montigue Massachusetts, owned and operated by Chuck Bellanger.   Long-time Marlborough resident and historic preservation advocate Ernie Ginnetti, who serves on the Society Board as treasurer, oversaw the project and stipulated, based on his extensive research,  that the design should be as simple as possible, with no  fluted columns or dental work on the cornice, for example.

The door that was replaced had not been centered below the window above, and this was corrected.
Joe Mullen did the interior work, removing, reframing, and reproducing and installing 17th century sheathing that matched the lone remaining piece on the interior  wall. 

The hardware on which the door swings and the handle and locks are the real thing, made in the 18th century by some long-forgotten blacksmith and slightly modified for our specific need.  These were supplied by Rob Lyon of West Brookfield Massachusetts, master blacksmith and an instructor at Old Sturbridge Village.  

(In addition to leading this restoration effort, Ernie opened his home, the Deacon Mathias Rice House (c. 1731), as part of the 2012 Historic Home Tour.)

Thanks to Ellen Bailey, past archivist of the Society, for researching and compiling the information about Captain Peter Rice.

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