Without exception, the Forbush Farm (and later the tavern) was by virtue of its location, the young settlement’s first “meeting house” and the most important landmark of the early development of Westborough, the 100th Town. The farm became the focal point of all matters that confronted the new town. The most important decisions regarding religious concerns and political development were made here. The farm was located at the corner of what is today Oak and Lyman Streets and was believed built in c1699 by Samuel Forbush, a first settler of Chauncy. (reference Forbush Farm/Tavern picture)
Daniel (Farrabas, Fforbes, Forbes) Forbush, a Scotsman, was believed exiled to the colonies after being captured by Lord Cromwell at the battle of Dunbar, Scotland. He settled first in Cambridge. Then in 1671, he moved to Marlborough. Daniel, with his sons Samuel and Thomas, were among the first settlers of that part of Marlborough called Chauncy.
Samuel was born 1674 in Marlborough and married Abigail Rice in 1699. Although he and others signed a petition to establish the new town in 1702, it wasn’t until 1717 that Westborough became the 100th town of provincial Massachusetts. The first church of Westborough was founded by 12 men, among them was Thomas Forbush. Samuel and his wife Abigail Rice Forbush were later admitted to the new church.
In 1711, Samuel’s house along with the Edmund Rice homestead and the Gale Tavern were garrisoned as safe retreats during Indian attacks. Thomas Forbush as well as Thomas Bradish and the James Gleason families were assigned to it. From this point, Samuel is referred to as Captain, a title given to those men that were in charge of a garrisoned home for the protection of the residents and as guardians of the frontier from Indian attacks.
At the first “March Meeting” of the new town held at the Forbush Farm in 1718, Daniel Forbush was appointed as the moderator. Samuel Forbush and Daniel Warren were appointed fence viewers, and Samuel was also appointed a member of the committee to establish the unseated minister’s farm lot. In 1721, he was elected a selectman, and in 1723 he became the town treasurer.
Authors note: We can draw a reasonable inference that Samuel was not a strong supporter of Reverend Ebenezer Parkman. In 1729, Parkman became seriously ill to the point that he was unable to perform his duties as town minister. The town voted to pay Parkman despite his absence from the pulpit. Samuel and Samuel Fay, however, adamantly dissented against the pay and voted against the minister. It is also ironic that Samuel was not a founder of the church and never maintained a seat in the meetinghouse, while his brother Thomas did.
In 1766, Samuel died and deeded the homestead to his son Samuel, Jr. Samuel, Jr. continued his father’s legacy in town affairs and involvements as well as resolving a fifty year rift with Reverend Parkman. Samuel was elected a selectman (1773-74, 1787-88 1791-92) and served as a captain in the Revolutionary War.
A customary practice of inviting the local minister to a barn raising was noted by Parkman in June 1779 when Samuel Forbush raised a large barn located across the road from the tavern. Parkman wrote, “At eve, but before Sunsetting. I by Request of Mr. Samuel Forbush went to his House. He has been raising a new barn and moving part of an Old One. I was at their Supper, after which we sang part of Psalm 112.”
In December of that year, Parkman notes that Forbush, with his team, made several deliveries totaling 10 cord of fire wood from the minister’s lot while only 7 cord was authorized by the town for the parish home in the center of town.
In 1789, Lambert Forbush was deeded the property on condition that the farm be designated as a Public House of Entertainment and officially became the Forbush Tavern. The tavern was also a working farm with a private barn for the owners’ livestock. There were 120 acres of land that supported many dairy cows and also sheep for wool to make into clothes. Flax was grown to make table linen and sheets.
Over the generations, the farm-tavern changed many times. As each son inherited the property, he made the necessary changes to accommodate his needs. The east side was the original part of the house and had six rooms. That was considered large for that period. Later, three rooms were added creating a second story. The house had a large fieldstone chimney with a fireplace in the middle of the house for heat. It later became the tavern.
The front door led into a hallway with a center staircase. To the right was the barroom with a dance hall on the second floor that had the only closet upstairs. The dance hall was often used as a multi purpose meeting room as well as for social events. To the left of the hall was the living room and beyond that was the dinning room. Adjacent to that was the kitchen. The kitchen had an additional fireplace with a brick oven and settle kettle for cooking and heat. The rooms on the second floor were all bedrooms.
The west side was the newer part and was used exclusively by the Forbush family. It had exposed beams and wainscot walls. The construction was typical post and beam of the period consisting of exposed oak beams held together by oak pins and metal nails. Hinges and door latches were pounded metal.
In 1791, Lambert deeded 1/3 of the property to his son Isaac of which 20 acres was the homestead. The remainder of the land went to his wife and daughter. Lambert continued to run the Tavern. For many years, Isacc ran the farm and conducted a general store and farmers market in the tap room under the name Forbush & Warren.
In 1805, members of the District 8 school district met at the Tavern to formulate a plan to locate and build a new schoolhouse. It was decided that a new brick schoolhouse would be built on land donated by Asa Forbush on Oak Street.
Lambert was elected a selectman 1806. It is believed that the Worcester Turnpike Charter was signed by selectmen at the Tavern around 1806.
The Turnpike was opened in 1810 and ran directly in front of the Tavern. The Forbush Tavern became a popular baiting place for stage drivers and teamsters. In 1813, soldiers stayed in the big stagecoach barn awaiting orders for deployment.
From 1820-25, Captain Silas Wesson operated the Forbush Tavern and established Westborough’s first unofficial post office there. The most recent news from Boston and Worcester came thru the Tavern by express rider and stagecoach and disseminated to the rest of the community. The Tavern was doing a brisk business.
In 1824, Lambert died. A year later, Lovett Peters became administrator and deeded the entire homestead, 16 acres, the Tavern and barns to Samuel Forbush, an uncle of Lambert. Samuel ran the Tavern until 1827 when he suddenly died.
In 1828, the family heirs sold the estate to Elam Stearns, thus ending the Forbush family ownership of the historic landmark.
Although the Turnpike continued to experience a brisk stagecoach and freight hauling business, the Tavern began experiencing a loss of business. Capt. Silas Wesson had moved his tavern and post office business to his new site a half mile west on the Turnpike. Then in 1834, the Boston and Worcester Railroad that bisected the center of town was opened. The new railroad dramatically reduced the Turnpike traffic, and by 1840 the Turnpike had become virtually abandoned.
The Tavern business was discontinued, and the building returned to a private residence and working farm. After a number of owners, the ancient tavern went vacant in the late 1960s. It was purchased by the Rosefsky family in 1970. At that time, a historic restoration committee was established to save the building from demolition and relocate it to a temporary site. The building was raised and relocated to a site on Lyman St. near Lake Chauncy where it sat awaiting a permanent location and restoration.
However, in July 1973 and before a site could be obtained, the Tavern was repeatedly vandalized and burned by an arsonist.
The former site of the Forbush Tavern became a strip mall.