The Manning Association

Incorporated in 1901 to Preserve the

Manning Manse of North Billerica, Massachusetts

 

Home The Manse History News Letters Events Store How to Join Our Board Weather at the Manse

 

History of the Manning Association


Warren H. Manning (b. Nov. 7, 1860; d. 1938). Click Here for more information

Founder of the Manning Association (June 17, 1901).

Renowned botanist and landscape architect. Donated land in the vicinity of the Manse to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which land has become the Warren H. Manning State Forest, and which surrounds the Manse.

The Library of American Landscape History has been conducting an extensive historical investigation on the life and work of Warren H. Manning. You can visit their Main Page at http://www.lalh.org, or pages related to their Manning Research Project at http://www.lalh.org/research.

 

Samuel Manning was born July 21, 1644 at Cambridge, Mass. Around 1666 he moved to Billerica. He had an excellent education and had handsome penmanship. He was asked between 1677 and 1700 to manage the repair and rebuilding of "the great bridge" over the Concord River.

He ultimately acquired about 225 acres of land. The Manning Manse was built on his land in 1696. At the time the area often had Indian outbreaks and massacres. This house was officially appointed a "garrison house". A garrison house is one in which particular families could gather during an Indian attack. Although there are no records that show the Manning house was attacked, Indian attacks didn't stop until 1724, it was a good possibility that this home was filled with frightened families at one time or another.

This house was passed down from Samuel to his son, William, then to his son, William, then to his son William. Many family members were born and died in this home and area of town.

In 1752, the second William was licensed as an innholder by the Middlesex Co. Court, and The Manning Manse became a tavern under his management. In existence currently are tavern account books dating back to 1753. Entries of liquids sold include "rhum, cyder, todda, flip, and cheary drame."
The cost of a pound of sugar was 4 shillings, a pair of shoes was 2 pounds and 7 shillings, and a gallon of cider was 6 shillings.

In the 1770's, an outbuilding was used in the manufacture of saltpeter, an ingredient in the black powder which armed soldiers in the Revolutionary War. The great iron kettles used in the boiling off of the saltpeter would eventually become vessels for the boiling of laundry, and around 1880, the last of them was broken up and sold for scrap. Some were five or six feet in diameter, and up to 5 inches thick.

After his death in 1814, William Manning, who was then the owner, passed it down to his children. One by one these children moved on and raised families of their own. The last of these children was Miss Lucinda Manning. She stayed single by choice. She was a religious women. She enjoyed sitting by the east window, the one that currently looks out towards the parking lot.

Lucinda was born in 1790 in the home, and died in nearby Chelmsford in 1880. In her will she left the Manning home to trustees to be leased, and the funds to be put towards public worship and religious instruction in that part of the town of Billerica, which was School District Number 4. The Manse was the place where life and began and ended for many of Lucinda's closest of kin. She is remembered as a tall and dignified woman in spotless cap and snowy lace parted on her neck with precision learned in the school room. She was a teacher for many years. She was remarkable for activity, earnestness, cordiality, and hospitality.

While Lucinda was the only person in the home, gypsies took advantage. The home started to deteriorate with no protectors nearby, and work was not done to make improvements. Lucinda decided to move, and paid for a new house to be built in Chelsmford, a few miles away. The great age of the house was showing. Above the first floor all beams remained uninjured and indeed were iron-like solid. However, clapboards were literally crumbling into dust. A party of young men at one time planned to set fire on a holiday as a diversion, and were barely prevented from completing the destruction.


The Manning Manse, circa 1900

By 1898, the building was in much need of repair. It was at this time that Warren H. Manning became interested in it, and in 1899, acquired a ten year lease on the house and surrounding land, and successfully began making repairs to the Manse. He made this building his summer home.

In June of 1901, with the assistance of the compiler of the Manning Genealogy (William H. Manning) he was able to assemble about 100 descendants of William and Samuel Manning, and on June 17, 1901 the Manning Association came into existence.

During an early Manning family reunion at the Manse the following was written.

Behold, where yon the ancient homestead stands
With ever anxious look and outstretched hands!
What says the voice that comes from out its door?
"When I was young, in stirring days of yore,
I sheltered those you loved from heat and cold.
Who volunteers to save me now I'm old?
This last piece of writing is poetic, true, and just. Who will stand up and preserve our heritage for present and future generations, will you?

Reunion gatherings of the Manning clan have been held at the Manse, usually on or near the June 17 Anniversary of the Association's founding, since that era. Click Here to read an article published locally in 1913, describing one such event.

The Manning Association has since held ownership of and taken responsibility for the Manning Manse. A disastrous fire in 1994 partially destroyed the Manse, and extensive repairs were required to render the building safe, and to keep its construction consistent with methods and materials as used in its original version. The Association operates the building in part as a public facility, operated by a tenant as an Inn or Restaurant, while maintaining the remainder of the building as a historically important structure, the oldest still standing in the Billerica area.