Sarah Hickling Bradford supervised the initial construction stages of this Federal-style home while her husband, Capt. Gershom Bradford, was held captive by the French. This dramatic beginning was the start of a lively and full household in which the Bradfords raised their young children and maintained an extended family. But the story of the Bradford House did not end with Gershom’s death….in fact, for the remainder of the 19th century, the house was owned and operated by women, his wife and daughters. In an age when female autonomy was rare, the accomplishments of these women should not be underestimated.
During the 19th century the Bradford family was active in many of the social movements of the day, including anti-slavery, temperance, vegetarianism and alternative medicine. They knew and were related to famous Transcendentalists. They were educated and vibrant. Indeed, all four Bradford daughters raised in the house were accomplished women: Maria was an educator who married the abolitionist minister, Rev. Claudius Bradford; Elizabeth was a painter and amateur botanist; and Lucia and Charlotte were both Civil War nurses. Charlotte’s extraordinary war experience spanned stints on Civil War transport ships, in major D.C. hospitals under her mentor, Dorothea Dix, and finally as the Matron for the Home for Wives and Mothers under the U.S. Sanitary Commission. Charlotte Bradford’s Civil War career was exemplary and worthy of recognition as one of Duxbury’s major historical figures.
In addition to a household of Bradford furnishings, the family also preserved thousands of letters, log books, journals and other documents, making them one of the best documented families in Duxbury. Their stories, both particular to the family and yet universal to the time they lived, are told against the backdrop of this unique house.
The Duxbury Rural & Historical Society is embarking on a multi-year project to preserve the structural integrity of the Bradford House and to re-invigorate the family history. We intend to offer new exhibits, facilities and stimulating programs that will engage the public, be more varied & inclusive and will appeal to audiences today.
As of December 2016, we have reached 82% of our goal, with about $97,000 of the $540,430 goal left to raise by fall 2017 to complete repairs to the building and to fully fund the exhibition design and fabrication. Initial phases of this project completed include architectural assessment, paint analysis, branding & planning materials, and archaeological examination. In fall 2015, the DRHS was able to fund and complete Phase 1 “Urgent” repairs on the Bradford House.
We have been talking about Bradford’s importance for years. Now we need the help of our Members and the public to create a new era in Duxbury’s history. Donate now and help to “Re-imagine Bradford.” Every dollar counts in preserving this Duxbury gem.
Full project details and online donations at www.duxburyhistory.org/historic-houses/bradford-house. Your donations are tax deductible. Please also consider the Bradford House Project for corporate matching gifts, planned giving, and gifts of stock. Thank you.
*The Architectural Assessment was completed with funding provided by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Community Preservation Act of Duxbury, and the Felicia Foundation.
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