About the McGrath Farm Site

The McGrath Farm site is positioned on Barrett’s Mill Road in Concord, MA, directly across the street from the Col. James Barrett Farm property owned by the Minuteman National Historical Park. The site consists of approximately 17 acres of land, roughly 14 of which are arable. The arable acreage is split between two fields (eastern and western) that are separated by 1.9 acre homelot. The homelot contains a single-family farmhouse (built c.1995, 2,800 sq. ft.), a “bunkhouse” that houses agricultural equipment (1,728 sq. ft.), a greenhouse (648 sq. ft.), and a farm stand (1,024 sq. ft.). Tradition holds that the bunkhouse replaced an earlier, similar structure that once stood immediately north of the current building. This structure was, according to local oral history, once used to house German P.O.W.’s laboring at the site soon after World War II. Several Concord residents also recall that a barn or other outbuilding once stood in the wooded area in the southern edge of the eastern field, along the northern bank of the Assabet River.

The Col. James Barrett Farm has received significant historical attention because of Barrett’s involvement in Concord politics and the start of the American Revolution. Col. James Barrett held a number of town offices, led the local militia, and was responsible for the safekeeping of the town’s military supplies. According to the historical narrative, Col. Barrett hid said supplies, including four buried cannon, on his property when the British attempted to arrest him and seize the town’s military armament. The British troops were met by colonial militias, sparking the Battles of Lexington and Concord. After Col. Barrett’s death in 1779, the Barrett Farm passed through generations of Barrett families. It was eventually sold by Marion Barrett to Patrick McGrath and sons Thomas J. and Bernard W. McGrath in 1905 (Middlesex County Deed [MCD] 3203: 553).

Census data from the late 19th and early 20th centuries permit the reconstruction of several McGrath generations in Concord (Massachusetts Census Data [MACD] 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940 ). Patrick McGrath (age 33) and his wife Margaret (age 28), together with their daughter Mary (age 5) and sons Thomas J. (age 3), John A. (age 2), and Patrick F. (not yet 1 year old), are listed in the 1880 census as living on Bedford Street in Concord. Both Patrick and Margaret are identified as Irish immigrants; not surprisingly, later census data reveals that neither was a native English speaker. Their occupations are specified as “farmer” (Patrick) and “keeping house” (Margaret). By 1890, Margaret had died and Patrick had married another Irish native named Isabella. According to the 1900 census information, Patrick and Isabella resided on Bedford Street with sons Thomas, Francis, and Bernard, and daughters Mary and Margaret. Patrick is still identified as a farmer. Francis’ occupation is listed as “farm laborer” and the two youngest children, Margaret and Bernard, are identified as “at school.” The 1910 census reveals that in the five years after the 1905 purchase of the Barrett Farm, son Thomas J. married his wife Emily and the two occupied the property on Barrett’s Mill Road with their children Frank and Thomas. Patrick, Isabella, and Margaret still lived on Bedford Street while Bernard and his wife Catherine lived in a different home on Bedford Street.

The 1905 Barrett-to-McGrath sale included land north and south of Barrett’s Mill Road (i.e., the parcels now considered to be the Barrett Farm and the McGrath Farm). Judging by census data from the early 20th century, although the property was owned by the McGraths, only Thomas and his family occupied the land. Throughout his life, census data identifies Thomas J. as a farmer. By 1920, Patrick was living with Bernard’s family on Bedford Street, while Thomas J. and his family continued to maintain the McGrath Farm property. After Patrick died, his assets appear to have passed, at least in part, to Thomas J. and Bernard, although the probate documents supporting this belief have not yet been located. Deeds finalized in 1938, however, indicate that Thomas J. and Bernard officially divided ownership the family’s Bedford Street and Barrett’s Mill Road property (MCD 6196: 21–22). Thomas J. quitclaim his share of the Bedford Street property and Bernard did likewise for the Barrett’s Mill farm. At this point, the deed still described the Barrett’s Mill property as including land and buildings on both sides of Barrett’s Mill Road.

While Thomas J., Emily, and their family worked their farm, census data reports that several temporary workers also resided on the property. In 1910, two farm laborers, John Hastings and Thomas Cleary, were listed as living with the family. In 1920, Patrick Mahoney, an Irish laborer, was recorded in the census. In 1930, a “housekeeper” of French Canadian descent named Edith Turner resided on the property. By this time, Emily had died, so Edith likely helped to maintain the home in Emily’s absence. The 1940 census records the family unit at its smallest; it included Thomas J. (then 62 years old), sons Frank and Thomas W., and daughter Emily. The property appears to have been divided in 1968, when Thomas J. granted the property north of Barrett’s Mill Road to Thomas W. and his wife, Anne R. McGrath (who would later pass it to Michael McGrath in 1993) (MCD 10798: 222; MCD 23647: 380). It is unclear what happened to the McGrath Farm site at this stage, but additional documentary research will help complete the chain of title.

Documentary research into the McGrath Farm site’s history is ongoing and it is anticipated that further research will yield additional insight into the property’s mid- and late-20th-century ownership and occupation. For example, according to local tradition, German prisoners of war worked on the McGrath Farm during and after World War II; it is hoped that the veracity of this tradition will be determined via additional documentary and archaeological research. The Town of Concord purchased the McGrath Farm property in 2013 and it is currently undergoing a renaissance of agricultural activity with CSA-managed farm fields and farm worker housing.

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