The "Sweep of Time" at Taylor-Bray Farm in Yarmouth Port

Jun 18, 2018

The Taylor-Bray Farm in Yarmouth Port
Credit Brian Morris

The Taylor-Bray Farm in Yarmouth Port is a 23-acre swath of land fronting the marshes near Cape Cod Bay in an area of Yarmouth Port known as Hockanom. Richard and Ruth Taylor first came here from England and began farming the land in 1639. Over the course of a few hundred years, there were seven generations of Taylors.

Hank Teuwen is one of the volunteers who keep the farm running. He says the restored farmhouse on the property dates to the late 1700’s. It was built by Samuel Taylor, who served five years in the Revolutionary War.

“If there was something significant (that) happened, he seemed to be there. He was at Bunker Hill…Valley Forge…crossing the Delaware with Washington…even down to the point to being down in Yorktown at the end of the war,” says Teuwen.

Samuel Taylor later became a sailor and ship master, making roughly thirty voyages across the Atlantic. The last Taylor owner died in 1886, after which the Bray brothers – Willie and George – took over the farm. The property eventually fell into neglect until 1947, when a New Jersey family bought it and stayed until 1977. Developers began eying the property in the 1980’s, which prompted the town of Yarmouth to acquire Taylor-Bray Farm in 1987 as a preserved farm open to the public.

But the history of this land stretches back long before the first generation of Taylors arrived. 

“This land was probably already cleared when Richard Taylor picked this out,” says Jack Duggan, another volunteer.

Jack Duggan and Hank Teuwen are volunteers at the farm.
Credit Brian Morris

“If you look at a map of Yarmouth in the 1640’s, you’ll see that practically everybody lives up by the town green, and Richard Taylor is down here by himself. So, it leads you to at least ask yourself, ‘Why did he choose here,’ says Duggan. “Plymouth Colony became kind of a granary for the Boston Massachusetts Bay Colony, and corn was raised and traded,” he added. “We have on oral history tale that has Richard Taylor bragging about how much corn he raised.”

Native Americans were cultivating this land thousands of years before the Taylors began trading their corn. That’s been confirmed by an ongoing archaeology dig at the farm.

“There’s basically three time periods of Native American occupation that the archaeology program can sorta pinpoint: the eight to to ten-thousand-year-old spear-point fragments indicate the first human beings who came to this area as the glacier retreated, and then there’s a period of three to six-thousand years ago where Native Americans were using this as a place to fish and hunt,” says Duggan.

And then the last period is what archaeologists call the “woodland period,” where pottery starts to show up. That’s perhaps when farming would have begun, along with the gathering of nuts and wild edible things, and fishing and clamming out in the marsh.

The generations of people who lived here subsisted mainly on what they were able to extract from the land, and archaeologists continue to discover artifacts from their daily life.

Some of those items sit in a display case inside the restored farmhouse: spear points dating back thousands of years, as well as delicate pipe fragments and broken shards of pottery from the more recent past.

“The oldest thing that we found here that represents the Taylor phase of the farm is the handle of something called the seal-and-ballister spoon, that was pretty much (in) common usage back in the 1650’s. and so we think that, if you want you could say ‘I could tell you Richard Taylor ate his porridge using that spoon missing the business end of the spoon- it’s just the handle,’ says Duggan.

Inside the farmhouse at the Taylor-Bray Farm.
Credit Brian Morris

The Taylor-Bray Preservation Association was formed in 2001, and these days, numerous volunteers work to maintain the property and look after the farm animals which include lambs, chickens, sheep, and a Scottish longhorn cow. One upcoming task on their to-do list is restoring the old barn.

Jack Duggan says that when he looks out over the Taylor-Bray Farm property to the marshes beyond, he’s always struck by what he calls the “sweep of time.”

“When you come down here and you stand on this last twenty-three acres, you can close your eyes and you can imagine anything you want between today and ten-thousand years ago,” says Duggan. “It’s probably demonstrated here in one fashion or another. This is just a very unique place.”