Historic home for sale in Hollis held by Patch/Davison family since 1874

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HOLLIS – Bob Davison is the fifth generation of his family to live in the white house with the old cooper shop out back at 11 Main St., just two doors down from Four Corners at the center of town. The house dates to 1810, and was purchased by Davison’s great-great-grandfather, Jerome Patch, in 1874.

“The property comes from my father’s mother’s side of the family, the Patches,” Davison said.

Davison met his wife, Ellen, while in the Army in Texas, and they moved into the house, located in Hollis, in 1971 when they got married. They raised their two children here, both adults on their own now. After much consideration, they have decided to put the family homestead on the market so they can move closer to family in warmer climates for their retirement. For the first time in six generations and more than 200 years, the historic property will change hands.

The house now has all the comforts of modern life, like electricity, central heat and indoor plumbing, but walking through it is like stepping inside a history lesson. There are original support beams still visible in the kitchen, antique tools and furniture throughout, fireplaces and an ice chest, and if you are willing to duck a little, you can walk around the basement, where the original well can still be seen.

Patch family history

Thomas Patch, Jerome’s grandfather, was born in 1714 and arrived in the area, then known as West Dunstable, in 1742 following his marriage to Anna Gilson. The couple built their home on One Pine Hill. He worked as a cooper in Groton, Mass. and became a deacon in the Hollis Church in 1745. When the official charter of Hollis was drawn in 1746, there was some disagreement over which state One Pine Hill belonged to. It was declared part of Dunstable, which did not sit well with some families. Most of the One Pine Hill settlers worshiped at the Hollis Church and paid taxes to support it, and they did not want to be on the “wrong side of the tracks.”

Thomas Patch was one of many who fought to have One Pine Hill annexed by Hollis, but he died in 1754 while the dispute continued. Anna kept up the fight, and following several petitions, where she was the lone female signatory, the neighborhood was finally declared part of Hollis in 1763.

By the end of the Revolutionary War, one of Thomas’ and Anna’s children had opened the Patch Corner Store, where Woodmont Orchards now stands on Route 122. Joseph Patch’s enterprise had seven cooper shops, a blacksmith, a shoe shop and a cider mill and was the place to go for dances and parties. The store also did a brisk business selling rum, but eventually fell into decline with the rise of the temperance movement in the early 1800s and years later with Prohibition.

In the next generation, cousins Jerome and Edward Patch moved closer to town and built or purchased homes on Main Street. Jerome (1826-1911) was a woodworker, and his workshop eventually housed his son Edgar’s business who was a cabinetmaker. Edgar (1856-1937) worked for the Payne Furniture Company in Boston for many years honing his craft, and returned to Hollis and the family homestead in 1922.

The Colburn side of the family

Davison’s roots also trace back to the Colburns, another of the first families to settle in Hollis. William Colburn arrived in West Dunstable in 1738. His son, Robert, helped build the meetinghouse in Hollis. Robert’s grandson, Enoch Colburn (1830-1905) was a surveyor who produced many maps of Hollis in the late 1800s. Enoch’s daughter, Ella Colburn, married Edgar Patch in 1881, and they lived in the house at 11 Main St.

Edgar and Ella Patch’s daughter, Ethel, was Bob Davison’s paternal grandmother, and was the third generation of his family to grow up in the house. Ethel married George Davison, from Malden, Mass. Their son, Robert, was Bob Davison’s father, who grew up in Malden, Mass., eventually moving to Reading, where Bob grew up.

George Davison was a school teacher, and Davison said his grandfather would bring his father and the rest of the family to spend the summer in Hollis. They stayed in the cooper shop, which had been renovated to serve as a summer home.

“My grandmother, Ethel Patch, grew up in the house,” Davison said, “but my father, the fourth generation, never lived in the main house.”

There was the main house, the cooper shop and a barn on the property. As was often the custom, another house was moved and connected to the house. The original vertical beams are still visible in the Davisons’ kitchen today and along the back wall of the kitchen that leads to an alcove workshop. What would have been the summer kitchen is currently the laundry/utility room.

Inside the house

The house was remodeled in 1928 while Edgar and Ella Patch lived there, and Davison said Edgar built the desk, china cabinet and china hutch that he still uses today. He points out where the original staircase would have been, behind the current setting of the hutch. When the house was redone, the Patches added a porch and two dormers and replaced the original stairway.

“The dining room is the most unchanged room,” Davison said. “The original wainscoting is still here, and these are the old doors. In the old days, the front door that faced Main Street was the door you came in through.”

In another corner of the dining room is a well-preserved ice chest.

“This used to be in the cooper shop,” Davison said. “I can remember the ice man used to come with huge blocks of ice in the ’50s.”

The original basement is still there, with two separate cellars. The stonework around the original well is still there, and Davison indicates where the ropes for a bucket would have been to bring water upstairs.

“It’s a pretty solid house,” he said. “It’s nice and cool down here. In the 1800s, it was probably used as a root cellar to store vegetables over the winter.”

“There was no central heating when I grew up,” he said. “In the 1960s there was a coal furnace upstairs with four radiators, a fireplace and a wood stove in the kitchen. In 1968 they put in baseboard heat and hot water.”

Summers in the cooper shop

The main house was rented out for a time, but Davison has fond memories of staying in the cooper shop when he was a boy, which had been converted to a summer home.

“The cooper shop had electricity but no running water, so we used an outhouse,” he recalled. Indoor plumbing was installed in the main house in the 1950s for the tenants.

Inside the shop, the original beams are still there, as is the fireplace that would have been used to heat the metal for barrel hoops. A gaping hole in the woodwork above the fireplace suggests that a long stovepipe may have run to the other side of the room for warmth.

“I slept upstairs,” he said. “The bedroom walls were covered with old postcards.”

The Davisons today

The table Davison uses in the dining room used to be in the shop, along with a big desk. He enjoys woodworking, and believes that the old tools he used probably belonged to his great-grandfather Edgar, the cabinetmaker.

Davison’s grandfather died young, and when the Patch cousins decided they no longer wanted to maintain the property, it went to his grandmother, with his father taking care of it. Davison’s father deeded the property to him in 1968, and three years later, he returned to Hollis with his bride.

Davison retired in February from a lengthy career as a civil engineer, spending the last 14 years working at Hayner/Swanson Inc. in Nashua. Ellen Davison teaches at Jesse Remington High School in Candia, and plans to retire at the end of the current school year. She is also an accomplished artist and teaches painting classes at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester.

Daughter Rebecca holds a degree in fiber arts and lives and works in San Francisco. Son Daniel is self-employed as a carpenter and in construction and plans to live in northern New Hampshire.

“They both loved it here,” he said. “It’s a hard time for us to make this transition but it seems that Hollis is not a good fit for them. They could live here but it would be difficult for them to get established.”

The Davisons aren’t certain where they will move, but since Ellen has several siblings in the Carolinas, and the weather certainly is milder there, that’s a good possibility.

Real estate listing

The home has three bedrooms, one and a half baths, 1,981-square-feet and 8.9 acres, and includes the main house, original barn and cooper shop. For more information, visit the listing on the Coldwell Banker page, www.new


Genealogy information was taken from “The Hollis Family Album: Folk Tales and Family Trees of the First Settlers of Hollis, New Hampshire,” by Joan Child Tinklepaugh, which was copyrighted in 1997.