A few weeks ago, a friend & I took a drive down to the Casey Farm in Saunderstown, Rhode Island. At this point in my journey, I have been to 14 Historic New England homes (still 23 to go!). Some of tours I’ve been the only tourist, and others I’ve been accompanied by a handful other folks. I knew that the farm was still very active and that on Saturday mornings they hosted a Farmers Market – but I wasn’t prepared for just how crowded it was! We were unprepared to purchase produce or other yummy items that were for sale (we didn’t pack a cooler, would have been too practical), but other folks were cleaning up at booths, so I recommend you plan better than I did and go home with some yummy veggies and treats!
- Joseph Morey purchased the property that the home & farm stand on today in 1702, and is the first Casey ancestor to own it. Six more generations would follow in his footsteps and was in the family one way or another until 1925. The location of the farm was very important, as it overlooked Narraganset Bay very close to Newport, RI which was the second largest shipping port in New England in the eighteenth & nineteenth century.
- The home you see today was built in 1750 by Daniel Coggeshall Jr. and his wife Mary. The impressive “gable on hip” roof design was a showy feature for that period, and was actually used as a landmark by sailors in the bay. They were successful farmers growing corn, wheat, apples, making Narragansett cheese and they kept livestock as well. Daniel & Mary are attributed with the creation of the cemetery that is on property, and was in use for family burials up until the 1940’s.
- The Revolutionary War had a big impact on the farm. While British troops were in Newport they spotted a group of revolutionaries gathering at the home. The British fired their guns at the house from the bay and sent soldiers ashore. A bullet hole from this attack still remains on a door – more on this below!
- From the late eighteenth to the early nineteenth century, there were seemingly many complicated divisions of the land between different family members – but it stayed within the family. While the farm was always an important part of family life (even if that just included summer visits), a few of the men became well known for other careers. For instance, Silas Casey fought in Revolutionary War and met the Marquis de Layfette (“Oui oui, mon ami, je m’apelle Layfayette!” #Hamilton), Thomas Lincoln Casey wrote The Historical Sketch of the Casey Farm, Boston Neck, Rhode Island, and Thomas Lincoln Casey who fought in the Civil War and completed the construction on the Washington Monument in 1884.
- In 1925, the farm was owned by Edward Pearce Casey after the sudden death of his brother. Edward and his wife had no heirs, but were good friends with William Sumner Appleton, founder of Historic New England. Edward quickly created a will leaving the home & its land to the organization, who continues to care for it today. It is still very much a working farm and does a lot to educate the community on how important agriculture is to society today!
This wasn’t what I would call a farm house – and maybe that is why I liked it so much! The tour did take you inside the entryway and to one other room (where there are a ton of artifacts that were dug up on property – including a plate dug up by one of their archaeologist pigs out back!) but the remainder of the tour was outside on the grounds. I loved the glass detail above the door and the “gable on hip” roof!
British Bullet Hole
As I referenced above, the hole in this door is from a bullet shot by the British Army during an attack around 1777. One curious note – this is not an outside door, so the soldier was either a really bad shot or a really good shot depending on which way you look at it!
I’m told there are over 10 miles of stone wall on this property – that is so much work! The sections that I saw I thought were so typically “New England”, but apparently they were not so typical. Stone walls would only have been built to knee height or lower, but these were more like waist height. 10 miles is a lot of wall, which goes to show just how much property they had!
Since this was such a beloved family home, it wasn’t surprising that there was a family cemetery on site. What was surprising was that family was being buried here up until 1940 – which really isn’t all that long ago. It was neat to walk thru and know these people lived and died here, and to see all the different styles of headstones (and foot stones – which I didn’t even know were a thing!)
- Ducks! Pigs! Chickens! Rabbits! Gorgeous gardens! This working farm has it all. Kids would love this place (or those of us who are kids at heart).
- The weather-vane on the barn was amazing- make sure to ask your tour guide about helicopters in the 1980s and weather-vanes, it’s a story that has changed the way I look at weather-vanes.
- Inside the home there is a funny closet smack in the middle of the stair case – this was for access to the chimney, but also was the demise of one unfortunate British soldier who thought this was a normal closet to hide in. Yikes.
- It was a disgustingly humid day when we visited, so views of the bay were super hazy and hard to see. But, I’m sure the view is amazing on a clear day!
- Bring a produce bag and some cash – the farmers market was great! Plus, skip breakfast and try some of the delish looking pastries & chia tea they had!
- As mentioned, the tour is mostly outdoors through fields & such so flip flops were a bad choice on my part that day.
- Across the bay we could see Watson Farm, another Historic New England property. Had I known it was so close I would have planned better! I’m told its a self guided tour so would be easy to tag on before of after this one!