The Ancient Ell, c.1675
at the Old Oaken Bucket Homestead, c.1825
47 Old Oaken Bucket Road, Scituate
This historic homestead is open to the public on Society’s Open House dates, posted each year. Limited parking is available at the site.
This place and its well were made famous one Manhattan summer afternoon in 1817. On that hot day, America’s beloved poet Samuel Woodworth wrote The Old Oaken Bucket, a nostalgic poem about a cool well – thus immortalizing his childhood days spent on this Scituate farm.
How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood
When fond recollection presents them to view!
The orchard, the meadow, the deep-tangled wildwood,
And every loved spot which my infancy knew;
The wide-spreading pond, and the mill which stood by it,
The bridge, and the rock where the cataract fell;
The cot of my father, the dairy-house nigh it,
And e’en the rude bucket which hung in the well –
The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket,
The moss-covered bucket which hung in the well.
Samuel Woodworth, excerpt from The Old Oaken Bucket
About the Ancient Ell and the Evolution of the Old Oaken Bucket Homestead
As important as the literary association to Samuel Woodworth is, the Old Oaken Bucket Homestead also has historical and architectural significance completely separate from the poet. Long before this place came to be known as the Old Oaken Bucket Homestead, it was the Northey Farm.
Young Samuel Woodworth did not arrive at this spot until 1798. Indeed, by the time the Woodworth family arrived here, seven generations of Northey’s – some of the earliest of the Massachusetts settlers – had already been clearing and cultivating this land!
Today, all that remains from this early colonial period is the Ancient Ell, an extremely rare one-room house built in 1675 by settler John Northey.
Within an open section of the walls, the original nogging from 1675 can be seen. Nogging helped to keep out the cold, but – as was the custom of the time – also served to prevent arrows from penetrating the walls.
It was a horrific time, witnessed by this unassuming little structure.
While the Ancient Ell was part of Samuel Woodworth’s boyhood home in the late 1700’s – early 1800’s, the farmhouse in which he was raised no longer stands.
The home “of the deep-tangled wildwood” was illustrated many years later by Scituate artist C. Wellington Furlong. As Furlong notes, this rare view of the home, as it looked during Woodworth’s youth, is “after a copy of a sketch drawn from memory by Samuel Woodworth, the poet.”
In 1825, the home known by Samuel Woodworth gave place to “a modern farmhouse of more comfortable dimensions”. A carriage house and ice storage shed were added in 1916, and porches soon after, thus completing the property as seen today. The Northey Family continued to farm and care for this property well into the twentieth century. The Scituate Historical Society acquired the property in 1980.
The Old Oaken Bucket Homestead is listed on the National Registry of Historical Homes. Thank you to the townspeople of Scituate and funding from the Community Preservation Act for the support in preserving this important and beloved site.
Woodworth’s personality always breathed of the same tender, loving spirit that so strongly characterizes his writings.
He attracted to his side the worthiest and the best, winning and holding the friendship and esteem of all with whom he came into contact.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 12 Dec 1842
America’s Poet Samuel Woodworth
Samuel Woodworth was born at Scituate Harbor in 1784.
Tragically, Samuel’s mother died when he was only twelve years old. Two years later, his father – Revolutionary War veteran Benjamin Woodworth – married Betsy Northey. In 1798, the new family relocated to the Northey Farm in Greenbush.
As young boy, Samuel helped his father farm this land. Tired and thirsty, Samuel would often drink from its well. Woodworth later moved to New York City to pursue a career in publishing.
In 1817, on an exceptionally hot summer’s day, Samuel recalled his boyhood days in Scituate and the fresh, cool water of the farm’s well. These recollections resulted in the sweet poem known and later sung the world over… “The Old Oaken Bucket”.
Literary lights of the day frequently gathered at the Woodworth’s modest home in lower Manhattan. Among his close friends were Washington Irving, Edgar Allen Poe, and James Fenimore Cooper.
Widely beloved, Samuel Woodworth died in 1842, at age 58, leaving behind his dear wife and their ten children.