POST # 38 – Boaz Stearns House, Chestnut Hill
In 1772, Boaz Stearns (1702-1796) left his farm in Killingly, Connecticut to his older sons and moved to Mansfield with his wife, Lydia, and his youngest son, Shepard, and his wife. Boaz was in his 70th year when he established a new farm in the Chestnut Hill section of Mansfield. The family selected a beautiful hilltop site, with a commanding view of the valley, upon which to erect their new homestead.
The house (first photo) can be securely dated to 1773. According to a deed dated December 28, 1773, Boaz Stearns referred to “my dwelling newly erected”. It was one of the very few salt-box houses in Mansfield. However, the odd configuration and sizes of the gable end windows reveal that the roof was extended at a later date to incorporate an addition, thus creating the salt-box form. It must have originally been a two-story colonial-style dwelling. The vertical treatment given the 9 over 6 windows and the oddly ornamented front entrance are characteristic of the late 18th century.
About 1867, the original house was demolished and a new house was built on the site. It was a modernized version of the older home. The new house was embellished with corner pilasters characteristic of the Greek revival style, popular from the 1830s through the 1860s. This house still stands at 40 Stearns Road (2nd photo).
Ten generations of the Stearns family have now lived on the land where Boaz settled in 1772. Today it is home to Mountain Dairy, a commercial dairy operation begun in 1871. The dairy farm and business are still owned and run by members of the Stearns family.
In recognition of Mansfield’s 300th anniversary, 10th generation descendants of Boaz Stearns – 8-year-old Timmy, his mother Carolyn, and an uncle, 13-year-old Shepherd Stearns – recreated their ancestor’s journey from Killingly to Mansfield 230 years previous. Beginning on June 15, 2002, the entourage traveled by foot for more than 20 miles, traveling mostly on trails and back roads. They were accompanied by two pairs of young oxen, 7-month-old twins Shaggy and Scooby Doo and 10-month-old Zeke and Shin, all raised and trained by the boys as 4-H projects. For the protection of the children and calves, everyone was trucked home each night and then returned to where they had left off the next morning. They completed their trek on June 19 with the grueling up-hill climb from the congregational church in Mansfield Center to their final destination at the old family homestead. At the conclusion of their family adventure, Carolyn Stearns wrote in her e-mail journal, “Generations have come up the hill and seen the farm rise in the distance but no view sweeter than that we saw today after the journey of a lifetime to mark the ages and our family tree.”