The Domine Manse- 1730

Excerpts from Wilderness Town, Louise K. Brown

John Reed's Home

The Act of Incorporation of September 23, 1729, had given the people of Bedford three years in which to find a proper minister and settle him in the community. So eager were the citizens to complete the last of the requirements of incorporation that they selected a committee at once for this purpose. The young man called to be the spiritual guide of the new town was Nicholas Bowes, a brilliant young man just recently graduated from Harvard College. He was ordained on July 15, 1730, and he remained as leader of the town's religious and civic life for twenty­-four years. Part of his settlement fee was a portion of land adjacent to the meeting house, consisting of about sixteen acres. He started to build his mansion house almost immediately, and when it was completed it was worthy of the esteem that belonged to his office. His farm, with its fertile acres and its convenient and necessary barns and shops, was a dignified and proud estate from the first.

According to the laws of the province, whenever a town was incor­porated it became at the same time a parish, and for this reason our town and the church were one for all purposes. Until the year 1833, when by a vote of the town the ecclesiastic and the civic were forever separated, all acts governing the church, its ministers, and every petty or important detail concerning the religious life of the people, were incorporated in the town warrants and voted on in town meetings. When we wish to learn about Nicholas Bowes and his home and his life among the people of Bedford, we therefore turn to the old town records.

Nicholas Bowes was married to Lucie Hancock, the beautiful and talented daughter of the Reverend John Hancock of Lexington. Seven of their eight children were raised in the "Domine's Manse." However, with the exception of two of these children, the vital statistics have very little information on the young members of the Bowes family. The records of baptism show that William (the eldest) was born in December, and that three days later he was christened in the new meeting house by his maternal grandfather, the Reverend John Hancock of Lexington. When Nicholas Bowes left this parish to become a chaplain in the army, his daughter Lucy went to Lexington to live with her grandparents. Here in the old parsonage she met a young minister of distinction and ability, Jonas Clark. As his wife, Lucy Bowes was to be privileged to entertain the great people of the Revolutionary War days. It was to her home that Paul Revere came on the morning of. April 19, 1775, to warn her guests, John Hancock and Samuel Adams. 

Today people from all over the world visit the Hancock-Clark house in Lexington, the home of Bedford's own Lucy Bowes Clark. In Bedford there still stands on its original sweeping lawns, little changed over the years, Lucy Bowes' birthplace, one of the most important buildings of this historic area. Domine Manse, after it passed from the Bowes family, became the home of John Reed, the well-known leader of Revolutionary times. In 1767 John Reed brought to this beautiful home his bride, Ruhama Brown, and here they established a large and important family. During the grave and often terrifying days before the Revolutionary War, John Reed used this house for meetings of leading townsmen of Bedford, Lexington and Concord. When organizational meetings were held, they were held in the back rooms of the old mansion, where plans could be prepared and serious matters discussed safe from the spying eyes of the English. 

John Reed became active on the "Committee of Correspondence" elected June 30, 1774. On February 27, 1775, he was chosen to represent us at the Provincial Congress, where he became a prominent figure. On the recommendation of the Continental Congress a "Committee of Inspection" was chosen, on which John Reed once more showed his ability as a statesman and a patriot. 

The Reed Name was associated with the old manse for many years, and until very recently the heirs of John Reed have been in possession. The last owner was Kenneth Blake, who sold to the present owners, the John F. Brown family. Time has been very good to this venerable building, and in a changing world it is good to know that here and there in the Town of Bedford there remain such examples of the glorious past of this country as Domine Manse.

Contemporary use is as much a part of the history of a building as is the old tradition. In the current century Kenneth Blake, the last Reed descendant to own the Manse, operated a fine restaurant. The brick floor of the greenhouse/dining room area can still be seen in part of the rear office area.

Text Box: Since 1960 the old building has provided office accommodation for Brown and Brown Attorneys and other professional services. In 1985 the rear addition was built, designed to complement the old house, whose original character has been preserved and maintained.







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