The Harlow Old Fort House The Harlow Old Fort House
Where The Present May Gain a Better Understanding Of The Past
Written by: Ruth B. Wagner - Research by: Jane Baker

Half-a-mile south of the center of Plymouth stands the Harlow Old Fort House, a small story and a half dwelling with grayed shingles, gambrel roof, and a large central chimney. This type of house was often built in the area south of Boston. The gable faces Sandwich Street, the old "hieway" connecting Plymouth with Sandwich on Cape Cod.

The house presents much the same appearance it did in 1677 when it was completed and occupied by William Harlow, a cooper by trade, who had obtained the land at a town meeting in 1669. Harlow, a 'freeman' or voter of the colony, and a Selectman of the town which he also represented in various minor offices, was typical of the responsible, sober and hardworking men who carried on the pilgrim tradition in the second generation of Plymouth Colony. His house projects the Pilgrim home and way of life.

Sergeant William Harlow was born in England about 1624 but is first mentioned in Plymouth (Massachusetts) town records as a voter in 1646.

His first wife, Rebecca Bartlett, to whom he was married in 1648, was the granddaughter of Richard Warren, who arrived in Plymouth in 1620 as a passenger on the Mayflower. Mary Faunce was his second wife. He married the third time to Mary Shelley.

Many families today trace their ancestry back to Sergeant William Harlow through his fourteen children.

Local church history, as well as town sources, reveal his many contributions to the community. His title was obtained as a leader of the military company and he had charge of the old fort and saw much military service. In 1621 the Pilgrims built the old fort on Burial Hill where their religious services were held. At the end of King Philip's War (1676) the fort was torn down and its timbers used by Sergeant William Harlow for the construction of this house.

After nearly 250 years in the Harlow Family, the Plymouth Antiquarian Society acquired the property and restored and refurnished it to its original appearance and then opened to the public in 1921. It is supported by the generosity of the people whose national heritage is here preserved. Anyone interested in helping is cordially invited to become a member of the Society or to contribute to the Plymouth Antiquarian Society, Plymouth, Mass.

This is a working museum that presents to the visitor an intimate glimpse into the daily life of our 17th century settlers. A costumed hostess demonstrates how wool is washed, carded and spun on the spinning wheel; and how the thread is skeined, dyed and woven on the loom. She shows the process of making linen from the flax plant to the finished product. She dips bayberry candles by hand as they were made in Pilgrim times, and there are some demonstrations of fireplace cooking.

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