The William Haskell House - Haskell History
The William Haskell House - Haskell History

Haskell History

William Haskell was born in November, 1617 in Charlton Musgrove, Somerset England and died August 20, 1693 in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Along with his brothers, Roger and Mark, and a sister and stepfather and mother, he came to America from England in 1635. The family settled near, what is now, Beverly, Massachusetts. He and his wife, Mary (Tybott,) moved to Gloucester in 1645 where they owned property on Planter's Neck.

William did not have any one particular trade. In order to have firewood, he had cut all of the timber from his property on Planter's Neck. There was not enough land to plant a cash crop there. He needed a different property so that he could provide for his family and earn income. He found and purchased Richard Window's property on Walker's Creek. Dated August 4, 1652, the records show a transfer of a house, barn, and 10 acres from Richard Window to William Haskell on the west side of Walker's Creek and Annisquam River (which is now Gloucester.) The property Haskell purchased from Window is where the Haskell House is located.

In his book, "Beyond New England Thresholds," Samuel Chamberlain says the house was built by Richard Window. Window came to America in a small ship, landing in 1627. He was a millwright and a joiner. According to research done by Howard Williams, Window was quite a character. He found himself in court from time to time. Once he was charged for living without a wife and another for cursing, both against Puritan beliefs. Window must have had great respect for Haskell. When he made his will, Haskell was named as one of the three overseers of his estate. He gave them full power to dispose of his estate to his daughter's best advantage. After reviewing extensive research completed by local historians, Pru Fish and John Cole and previous owner, Howard Williams, we are certain that Window did not build the house that is known as the William Haskell House.

On November 16, 1643, William married Mary Tybott. They had nine children and lived the rest of their lives in Gloucester. Mary died August 16, 1693. Four days later, William died. When he died, his estate was valued at 548 pounds, 23s.

The property on Walker's Creek where the Haskell House is located had many advantages. It abutted his mother-in-law's farm, which his wife would inherit. William would have plenty of timber and farmland. The salt marsh offered many advantages. It brought wildlife that could be hunted, fished or trapped, and clams and mussels could be dug. The salt marsh provided hay without much work and it did not spoil, if it was kept outside. In the winter months the salt marsh hay provided food for his livestock, and he could transport it across the ice for sale. William planned around the tides. He moved his livestock accordingly. He would have travelled by boat or canoe on Walker's Creek depending on the tide. In order to farm his land, he had to remove rocks from his fields. He built fences with the rocks, some to trace the line of the high water. Some remnants of the original stone fencing can still be seen. He grew most of his food, took care of the cattle, and cared for his house and buildings. His wife and children also cared for the livestock. Mary cooked, cleaned, laundered, sewed clothing and took care of the children. She grew her own flax and spun it into linen yarn. She grew vegetables and medicinal herbs. Over the next seven years, William made twelve additional purchases of salt marsh land, totaling 36 acres.

When William moved to Walker's Creek, he was looking to secure his own prosperity and that of his children. William was a mariner and involved in the fishing business. He was also engaged in farming. Research indicated he may have been a Puritan and a deacon in his church. In 1672, William was elected to be Selectman and was also chosen to be Gloucester's representative to the First Great and General Court in Boston. He was a prominent citizen, being selected as a representative of the General Court many times. Haskell was appointed lieutenant of the local militia and later became a captain. His title was "Captain Haskell" for which he was known until his death. William made time to fish with friends and hunt for food and sport. On Saturdays, he was involved in militia training, followed by drinks and talk. Because they feared attack from Native American Indians, the French and the Dutch, they were required by law to have a militia.

According to "The Descendants of William Haskell," by Ulysses G. Haskell, in 1688, "some feeble but magnanimous efforts of expiring freedom were exhibited in the refusal of several towns to assess the taxes which the Governor, Sir Edmond Andros, and Council of New England had levied upon them." One of these towns was Gloucester, seven of whose citizens, and one being William Haskell, were fined at the Superior Court for non-compliance and served a warrant for the assessment of "odious taxes." He was fined 40 shillings with 3 pounds and a shilling for fees. Also, according to Ulysses Haskell, "in 1681, William was one of the petitioners to the King praying for the crown's interposition to prevent the disturbance of titles to real estate at Gloucester by Robert Mason, who had made claims thereto."

The 1700s. William II, referred to as Junior, was the first born of William I and Mary (August 26, 1644.) On July 3, 1667, he married Mary Walker, the girl next door. They had 12 children. On April 20, 1670, their second child was born, William Haskell III. Referring to Ulysses Haskell, William II owned a successful grist and saw mill on Cape Ann in the town now known as Rockport. He lived his entire life in the Gloucester area. On June 5, 1708, he died at age 64. At his death, his estate was valued at 666 pounds. This included land buildings and farm animals. (We believe that one of Haskell's other sons may have lived in the family home during this time.)

William III (1670) was known as "Ensign Haskell." He lived his entire life in Gloucester. In Ulysses Haskell's book it states, "He settled on or near the ancestral property, which being favorably situated for maritime pursuits, he engaged in both fishing and agricultural employments." Although he inherited part of his father's grist and saw mill businesses, Ensign was a very successful fisherman. He became known as Ensign from the office he held in the military. On September 8, 1692, he married Abigail Davis. They had eight children. Their first child was William IV, born in 1698. William III died January 17, 1731. According to Ulysses Haskell, William III died "leaving an estate of 2, 565 pounds, of which vessels, warehouse, salt and a negro man formed a part."

William IV (1693) lived in Gloucester his entire life. His first wife was Abigail, who died in 1737. They had five children, the first being William V, who was born December 10, 1719. Then, he married Susanna Parsons in 1739. They had six children. William IV died in 1752.

In the book "The Descendants of William Haskell," William V is believed to be the William Haskell "who was killed in the King's service in 1759." He married Ruth Bennett in October, 1742. They had seven children. William VI was their first child, born June 8, 1751. This was the sixth lineage of William Haskell I.

From 1727-1864 the Haskell House was not owned by only one Haskell. Different parts of the house were owned and lived in by two and sometimes three different Haskell families. In 1864, Elijah Haskell was the sole owner, for the first time in 137 years. There is some evidence that the next two owners, from 1872-1924, were related to the Haskells. Certainly, the house stayed in the Haskell family for nearly 200 years.

Shortly after the current owners, Fred and Pam Grote, purchased the Haskell House, they learned that William Haskell was Fred's great-grandfather 10 generations removed.

*Much of this information was provided through extensive research by Pru Fish, author and historian, John Cole, historian, and Howard Williams, the previous owner.