Rochester History: Moving house

Feb 23, 2021

The writer of this piece, Connie Eshbach, is the vice president of the Rochester Historical Society. This is part of a series of Rochester history briefs.

The phrase "moving house" is most often used by people who are packing up their belongings and moving to a new location.

But in Rochester, that phrase has had a more literal meaning over the years.

In the 1800s, Nathan Willis purchased a large two story house built by Stephen Winslow and located on Mendall Road. Willis cut it in half and using a team of 20 oxen pulled it across frozen fields to the foot of Mary's Pond Road. It became a home, store, and post office and is still there today and is owned by the Carr family.

Homes weren't the only things moved. Often, buildings were moved and repurposed rather than torn down. In 1892 when a new town house and library building was constructed on Rochester Common, the old 1811 town house was moved to the Pratt cranberry bog where it became a screen house.

At least two Rochester schoolhouses, the North Rochester School in 1932 and the Stuart School in 1941, were moved across town to be additions to the Waterman School. They were later sold and moved away when the Waterman became the fire station. Other schools were also moved. The Davis School once on the corner of Hartley and Snipatuit Rd. was moved across the street to be turned into a family home. The Church School on Mattapoisett Rd. was moved a short way north and later was also used as a home.

George Church, a well-known Rochester resident, was a professional building mover. Running his business out of his home for over 40 years, he moved a church in Freetown, houses in New Bedford (some to make room for Rte. 195), and, putting his equipment on barges, houses on Block Island. Presented with the job of moving Jenkins' barn on New Bedford Road to the Gilmore property on Walnut Plain Road, he dismantled it, labeling all the bits and pieces, and then moved and reassembled them in the barn's new location.

The picture included with this article is of a small house, once on the corner of Snipatuit and Hartley Road. In September of 1989, it was moved down Snow's Pond Road to a new spot near Gilmore's cranberry bog.