Thomas Perkins came to Boston with his parents from Gloucestershire in 1631. The family settled in the outlying part of Ipswich known as New Meadows and engaged in farming. The area was incorporated as Topsfield in 1650. Perkins was chosen Deacon of the Church in Topsfield about 1677, and died in the year 1686. His son Thomas inherited the farm with his brother, and was one of the jurors on the Salem witchcraft cases, about which he expressed regret later in life.

Thomas Perkins house, Topsfield
The Captain Thomas Perkins house, Topsfield MA

Moving ahead several generations, Captain Thomas Perkins (1758-1830) was born in a modest house on Salem Rd. in Topsfield where his father was a farmer and innkeeper. Construction of the Newburyport Turnpike (Route 1) in 1804 contributed to the town becoming a major stop-over point on a busy stagecoach and wagon route from Boston, and the town became prosperous as local businesses catered to wealthy city-dwellers who were attracted to Topsfield for its pastoral beauty and lush topography. Young Perkins trained as a cordwainer and moved to Salem, where in 1770 he shipped out on one of Joseph Peabody’s ships. By the 1790’s the two men formed a partnership as owners of sailing vessels, and reaped their fortunes in the thriving West Indies shipping trade.

In 1807 Thomas Perkins inherited his father’s farm in Topsfield, and hired local builder Samuel Hood to build a high-style Federal country house commensurate with the tastes and ornamentation found in Salem at the time. The interior elaboration included a high-style Federal entry with Ionic half-columns and a gabled and semi-circular fanlight, and was “so fine that many have thought it to be Samuel McIntire of Salem.” The two front interior fireplace surrounds were adorned in the Adamesque manner of Samuel McIntire–with garlands, roping, reeding, shafts of wheat, and fluted pilasters.

Capt. Perkins’ country estate was inherited by his nephew, Asa Pingree, who expanded it to the rear, adding two massive fireplaces and chimneys.

fireplace in the Captain Thomas Perkins house
fireplace in the Captain Thomas Perkins house

Sources:

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