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John Potter's Account Book

About the Potter House

The Potter House was built by Captain John Potter of Brookfield, Massachusetts. The house stood in the `North Precinct,’ the part that was later set off as the town of North Brookfield. It was in the center of the village – near the meeting house, the schoolhouse, and tavern. Captain Potter was interested and active in town affairs and served as Town Clerk.

John Potter was born in Brookfield, Massachusetts in 1746 where he lived until his death in 1818. During the American Revolution, Potter became a lieutenant and paymaster in the Worcester County Regiment. John Potter received the rank of Captain in the Massachusetts Militia after the period of the American Revolution. On two occasions, Captain Potter’s Brookfield Company was called on to suppress the tumult of Shay’s Rebellion in this area.

John Potter built his house entirely with his own hands; he made every bit of carving, the nails, latches, and hinges. He started the house before the Revolutionary War, building it over another house in which he lived. The only parts of the older house that were torn down were those which hindered the progress of the new construction. He finished building when he returned from the war.
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A clock maker by trade but so adept at all handiwork, mechanical work, carpentry, farming, and surveying that townspeople sought Potter’s help in all matters of “makings and mending.” There was no public or steeple clock for the town, so Captain Potter made one with three dials which he placed on the outside of his house for all to read the time as well as the day of the week and phases of the moon. This intricate chiming clock played a different tune every quarter-hour; hymns on Sundays and dancing tunes on weekdays. The clockworks were inside the house in a little room behind the dials.

Captain Potter’s first wife, Lydia, gave birth to seven children before her death. Early in the 1780s John married again, this time to Rhoda Burnap, and together they had eight children. His patriotism is evidenced by the names of his children – along with Betsy, Cheney and Rhoda were George Washington Potter and Benjamin Franklin Potter. Needless to say, a large mansion was necessary. This house was occupied by generations of Potters, passing from father to son, until 1920 when the house passed out of the family. Potter House was moved to Storrowton in 1929.

Captain Potter built a large hall or “ball” room in his house, which was used for dancing and public gatherings, with an arched ceiling and ornamentation on the woodwork . There was a support pole ready in the dining room below, which could be set up when a dance was being held.

The room to the left of the entrance is the parlor and to the right is the dining room with its interesting woodwork, china closet, mantel, and brick oven. The pine-sheathed kitchen includes two large, long wooden cranes at either side of the fireplace which were swung out into the room in exceedingly cold weather and blankets thrown over them which made a warm enclosure, protected from drafts, in front of the fire.

The Potter family was one of the prosperous families in the community of North Brookfield. Their parlor would have been used for entertaining guests, courting, and family gatherings on the Sabbath and other special occasions.

The tall case clock with its brass and pewter dial is another indicator that the family was above average in economic status. These case pieces were quite expensive, even in their most modest form. This clock is an actual example of the work of John Potter.

Pictured below is John Potter’s Account Book, recently donated to the Museum and on display in the Village’s Potter Mansion.
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