CONCORD - Time had all but forgotten Colonel James Barrett and his
Three centuries have weathered the Colonial home's timber
beams, rusted its door hinges, and faded its King of Prussia
marble hearth. The home's original floorboards, 23-inch-wide
hardwood planks, have buckled.
But little has changed in the muster room where Barrett, a
colonel in the Colonial militia, met with John Adams, John
Hancock, Paul Revere, and other patriots in the days before the
Battle of Lexington and Concord. History reveres those men as
founding fathers yet scarcely remembers Barrett and his farm,
which was also a massive munitions hold that provoked the British
march to Concord that April morning in 1775.
The British arrived too late.
Colonists had already armed themselves with the weapons and
made their way to Old North Bridge, where the American Revolution
While thousands come every year to Concord's Old North Bridge
to pay homage to the hallowed battleground, few find their way to
Barrett's farm, or know its history.
Historical preservationists are hoping to change all that.
They want to designate the small Concord farm a national
landmark and restore Barrett's crumbling home to its original
glory. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, with support from Senator John
F. Kerry, is leading a legislative campaign to make the 5-acre
property part of the nearby Minute Man National Historical Park,
and US Representative Niki Tsongas is proposing similar
legislation in the House.
Area historians envision the former Minuteman stronghold as a
"Everyone knows that Paul Revere rode out to Concord to
warn that the British were coming," said Jim Cunningham, a
Lincoln resident who is managing the restoration of the farmhouse.
"But why were they coming? For munitions that were hidden
right here at this farm. This was their objective."
Kennedy said in a statement yesterday that the farm should be
"protected for generations to come" as a key site in the
history of the American Revolution.
Inside the muster room yesterday, its original beam
construction and brick fireplace creating an eerie historical
echo, Cunningham told the story.
British spies had learned that Barrett, a leader of the
Middlesex Militia, had amassed an impressive arsenal of guns,
powder, and ammunition on his farm. Of particular concern were
four cannons the colonists had stolen from British troops in
"When they heard about the cannons, the British knew they
meant business," Cunningham said. "There were enough
weapons for an army of 15,000 men."
Several companies of British regulars marched to the farm to
confiscate the supplies, but the colonists had already moved most
of the weapons, buried the rest in a freshly plowed field, and
vacated the premises.
As fighting broke out about 1 1/2 miles away at the Old North
Bridge, where Barrett commanded the Colonial forces who pushed the
British to retreat, redcoats sat down to breakfast at Barrett's
farm. As history tells it, Barrett's wife grudgingly fed them, but
refused their offer to pay. When they tossed a few shillings into
her lap, she told them, "This is the price of blood."
Preservationists call the property the most
important unrestored Revolutionary War landmark in Massachusetts,
perhaps anywhere, and say it deserves its rightful place in the
"It's a living history," said Anna Winter, executive
director of Save Our Heritage, a nonprofit preservation group that
bought the property three years ago and oversees the restoration.
"There are things that have fallen out of the story that
have to be told, that have to live on."
Since the Revolutionary War, the farmhouse had been owned by
just two families, the Barretts and the McGraths, who sold the
property to Save Our Heritage in 2005 for almost $2 million.
The McGrath family had allowed the building to fall into
"Instead of being a monument of incredible importance, it
was almost an eyesore," Winter said.
But that neglect was a historical blessing, preservationists
said, leaving the farmhouse essentially untouched over the years.
Today, it largely retains its original structure, including the
staircase, floors, and low ceilings and doorways - one of the few
houses from that time that remain intact.
"They understood what the house was and wanted to preserve
it," Cunningham said. "Just not great on
The McGrath family lives adjacent to the property and still
farms the land, growing corn, beans, peas, and blueberries.
Save Our Heritage hopes to raise $1.5 million for the
renovation, which is likely to take at least three years, and is
seeking donations in the hopes of turning the house over to the
National Park Service in "museum quality," Winter said.
Workers are restoring the house in the same fashion as it was
built, using painstaking manual techniques to re-create the
They will then comb historical records to reproduce the home
decor and furnishings, with the goal of giving visitors a
realistic glimpse of the site where the Founding Fathers met at
the dawn of a nation.
"This is the little house that time forgot," Winter
said. "For historians, that's a miracle."
Nancy Nelson, superintendent of the Minute Man National
Historical Park, said opening Barrett's farm to the public would
help complete the story of the "shot heard 'round the
"It's a fascinating historical resource, and it's
definitely a key part of the story," she said. "For it
to still be standing and in overall good condition is
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