HANCOCK — On April 19, 1775, James Hosley, town clerk and captain of the militia of Townsend, Mass., led a group of 53 men to answer the call when the British marched on Concord, Mass.
Arriving too late to join in the battle, he and his men were sent to assist in the defense of Cambridge while the exhausted and frustrated British Regulars returned to Boston. Hosley later served in the Long Island Campaign, and in 1777 was elected captain of a group of men from the Townsend area who assisted Gen. Horatio Gates against Gen. John Burgoyne at Saratoga.
During the war years, the Hosley family lost three children in 26 months: James Jr., 17, died in the Long Island Campaign in 1776; John, also 17, home on furlough in November 1778, died of disease contracted while serving in the army; and Rachel, 9, died just six days after her brother in December 1778, of disease, likely caught from John.
At the end of the war, the Hosleys left Townsend for New Hampshire, living briefly in New Ipswich before moving to Hancock in 1786.
In January 1785, James Hosley purchased 400 acres of land in Hancock. That purchase extended from Norway Pond southwest along what was once referred to as “The Road to James Hosley’s” (now Route 137 South) and also included a good part of what would later become Hancock’s Main Street.
In December 1785, the Hosley family donated land to the town of Hancock, which included Pine Ridge Cemetery, the common and land for building the church.
By 1786, Hosley; his wife, Sarah Shedd Hosley; and their seven remaining children (including young James, born in 1779 and named for his deceased brother) were living at what is now 47 Bonds Corner Road. Their first shelter was probably a story-and-a-half Cape that later became part of an ell attached to the two-story Colonial-style house that soon became the Hosley homestead. Four generations of Hosleys lived in the homestead until the last Hosley left Hancock in 1855.
David Matthews, who operated the Matthews Tannery on land adjacent to the Hosleys’, bought the homestead while he operated the tannery. After his death, ownership passed to his son George W. Matthews, a veteran of the Civil War; then to David’s daughter, Mary Jane Matthews, and her husband, George Washington Hayward. The Haywards, in turn, sold the homestead and land to Dr. Albert E. Ware at the time of Dr. Ware’s marriage in 1881.
Dr. Ware ran the farm, which included an orchard and maple syrup business, while he served as dentist to the people of Hancock. Dr. and Mrs. Ware changed the appearance of the house when they added bay windows and a porch just before the turn of the 20th century.
Dr. Ware’s daughter-in-law, Bertha Clark Ware, and his five grandchildren survived a harrowing experience in the homestead during the Hurricane of 1938, when the back of the house and the ell were severely damaged, and the barn was moved partly off its foundation by the intense winds of the storm.
Dr. Ware’s grandchildren rented the house to tenants during World War II, while they were absent from Hancock because of the war effort.
After the war, the Wares sold the farm and homestead to the Paul Daly family. The Dalys installed central heat and modern plumbing and raised their six children in the homestead. During the 1950s, they regretfully removed the shaky barn and the ell, which had become dangerous due to the hurricane damage. In 1989, the homestead passed to the Dalys’ daughter, Roberta, and her husband, Russell Nylander.
The Nylanders briefly considered “restoring” the original homestead by removing the bay windows and the porch, but decided to preserve the total history of the homestead by maintaining the contributions of all the previous owners. They have replaced the ell and added a garage, ending up with a house not exactly like any other. Today, they frequently host the current three generations of Daly/Nylander descendants who come home to Hancock whenever they can.