The beginning of the charming Job Lane house and farm date back to 1637, when Governor John Winthrop was granted about 1500 acres of land in what is now the town of Bedford, Mass. But it would be nearly 80 years before anything was built on it.
When Winthrop’s grandson inherited the property in 1664, he transferred it to builder Job Lane (1620-1697), in exchange for a house he constructed in Connecticut. Lane improved the land and brought his family here to live.
His grandson, also named Job Lane (1689-1782), inherited 280 acres of farm. One of the founders of Bedford, a militia member and a church deacon, Lane built a small house around 1713 when he married.
“It was just the east side of the house we see today: a saltbox consisting of a great hall, kitchen and storage room downstairs; a bedchamber and a garret and a high attic,” says an information sign on the property.
After being passed down through generations, the last family owner was Oliver Reed Abbott (1800-1842), Lane’s step-great-grandson. He doubled the size of the house, even commissioning Rufus Porter to create a mural on the new parlor walls. (Porter was an American painter, inventor and the founder of Scientific American magazine, which is still in print today.)
The house was sold out of the family after his death.
Hiram Lee Dutton bought the property, and his family lived there for 130 years. Hiram’s grandson, Warren and his wife, Lillian, eventually inherited the place. Lillian was known as “The Herb Lady,” running a successful mail-order herb business from the property.
A period herb garden still remains here, featuring plants that are descendants of Lillian’s. Bedford Garden Club maintains it.
When the house went on market in 1972, town historian Louise K Brown purchased it, in hopes it would someday be used as museum. A year later, the town Bedford bought it, to be overseen by the Bedford Historic Preservation Committee.
Several community organizations funded restoration of the building and the museum opened in 1983.