William A. Dinsmore Homestead

Retaining wall at the William Dinsmore Homestead, Windham, NH.

The William Dinsmore Homestead is one of four sites in Windham, New Hampshire, that were aligned along Old County Road. The other three are the John Dinsmore Homestead, the Misses Dinsmore Homestead, and the Towns-Hunnewell Farmstead. Each of these resources share a kinship tie, harkening back to John “Daddy” Dinsmore (b 1671), who arrived from Ireland in 1723. Following a short stint in Maine, where he was captured by Indians, John Dinsmore settled on 60 acres in Windham. After “Daddy” Dinsmore’s death in 1741, his son Robert moved the family to a 2,800-acre parcel in Windham in the vicinity of the Old County Road. Robert partitioned his vast landholding among his three surviving adult sons (the third generation of Dinsmores), who in turn subdivided and bequeathed their land to a fourth generation of sons. William A. Dinsmore (1821-) was a sixth-generation descendent of “Daddy” John Dinsmore, and his sisters Harriet and Hannah lived next door on the adjoining parcel, known as the Misses Dinsmore site.

The William A. Dinsmore site is a domestic dwelling and farm dating from the late 18th century to the mid-20th century. Only about half of the original farmstead remains, as the eastern portion was destroyed in the 1960s by I-93 highway construction. All that remains today is portions of two foundations on an artificial terrace supported by a 32-m- (105-ft-) long retaining wall.

The 1,566 artifacts collected include domestic artifacts such as ceramics, glass vessels, faunal remains, and metal flatware. Overall there are 450 ceramics, 257 pieces of domestic glass, 41 faunal remains (bone and shell). A handful of artifacts belong in the “personal” category including a button, pipe stem, hair comb fragment and a shoe grommet. In general, the range of ceramics dating from the early to late 1800s corroborates the archival evidence that date the occupation of the William A. Dinsmore Homestead from 1797 and into the twentieth century.

The ware types and decoration choices were readily available and common among northern New England families.The most plentiful ceramic type among the 45 vessels was redware. Redware vessels are used for food preparation and storage and common on domestic sites from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Among the twelve redware vessels, IAC identified at least three milk pans. These unlovely forms are made from local clays and used to separate cream from milk in the household production of butter. They are commonly the most frequent form at farmsteads, as their role in dairying activities is ubiquitous. Around the mid nineteenth century, farming journals began to warn farmers of the effect of lead glaze on redware, which resulted in the abandonment of ceramic milk pans.