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256 South Street


Jeremiah Lincoln House

The dignified Jeremiah Lincoln House offers no clue to the dramatic history of its builder. Jeremiah Lincoln, blacksmith, had just bought the 1740s Elijah Hersey house on this site in 1766, when it was entirely consumed by a late night fire. Everyone abed, they all would have perished if an apprentice hadn’t just then arrived home from a courting visit and noticed the fire, already blazing. Lincoln’s 6-year-old daughter was rescued by breaking an upper floor window and pulling her out, still asleep.

As near neighbors, Dr. Ezekiel Hersey and his wife Sarah (later Sarah Derby) would have seen the fire from their home on the hill approaching the South Shore Country Club. Though it was customary and expected for neighbors to help put out fires—every  household had at least two buckets for that purpose—Hingham’s streets were more sparsely populated in those days. The time it took for neighbors to reach a nearby house once the alarm had gone off certainly hindered their ability to conquer a fire. Two to three serious fires per week were not uncommon in that era.

Nine years before the fire Jeremiah had survived a brutal ambush by the French-allied Hurons at Fort William Henry and had been taken to Canada as a prisoner. He escaped, enduring a months-long journey home in which he and a companion nearly starved to death. They survived on tree bark. He maintained his commission as a Lieutenant, but, understandably perhaps, sat out the Revolutionary War, serving instead as town constable. At age 66, after rearing 10 children, Jeremiah and his wife, Sarah, sold the house to Dr. Levi Lincoln (grand-nephew of Job Lincoln, who built the house at 45 Lincoln Street, also on this year’s tour). Dr. Lincoln’s widow sold the house thirty years later in 1830, and for many decades, the homestead was farmed by Herseys who were bricklayers, shoemakers and farmers.

The house is in the “Georgian” taste, typical of the 1760s when Jeremiah rebuilt after the fire: a large central chimney, a prominent, projecting front entrance and quoins on the corners are all hallmarks of that era. Hingham Journal records note that successive owners put the house through several renovations. A large Victorian “piazza” was even added in the early 1890s, when the popularity of socializing on the front porch was at its height. Visiting the barn and grounds are encouraged.

A few doors down from the South Shore Country Club and on the same side of the street.