More About Jonathan Danforth Homestead, Site of

As someone who would have known Martha Carrier when she lived in Billerica, Jonathan Danforth was summoned by court clerk Stephen Sewall on July 30, 1692 to give testimony about Martha’s behavior and the charges against her. While fellow Billerica resident John Rogers Jr. complied, apparently Jonathan’s standing in the community (or his relationship with the Deputy Governor) gave him license to decline. Said Billerica Constable James Paterson, “According to this warrant, I have showed it to Captain Danforth, and his answer is that he can say nothing in the case that is worth mentioning.” And that was that.


Jonathan Danforth was born in England in 1628, the youngest of seven children. His mother died days after his birth and the Danforth family – Jonathan, his father Nicholas, and his siblings – emigrated to the New World in 1635, first settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Nicholas died in 1638, when Jonathan was only ten years old, and the young boy was likely raised by a married sister.  Danforth was one of the original twelve people who signed the 1654 petition requesting Billerica be set off from Cambridge. That year he also married his first wife, Elizabeth Poulter. The couple had eleven children, eight of whom lived to adulthood. Elizabeth died in 1689 and Jonathan married his second wife, Esther Champney, in 1690. That year, he also took part in William Phips’ disastrous expedition to Canada, when the New Englanders’ effort to seize Quebec failed.


Beginning in 1659, Danforth became a well-known and influential surveyor, actively laying out lots and towns in Massachusetts and New Hampshire – the Merrimack River Valley – for his entire career. His last known plan is dated 1702, when he was 74 years old. He died in 1712, at the age of 84, and is buried in the South Cemetery in Billerica.


A historic sign marks the site at 381 Boston Road. The house that stands there today is a Private residence. Not open to the public. A plaque across the street gives additional history about Danforth’s home, which was erected in 1682, modified as a tavern in 1702, and operated as Solomon Pollard’s Tavern from 1768-1803. The original building was destroyed by fire in 1977.