This is a guest post from Colleen Cunningham, one of our most experienced tour guides at the Jason Russell House. She talks about why she enjoys showing visitors around the house.
Entertaining Jason Russell House visitors with stories of life in Menotomy (as Arlington was then called) is the most fun part of being a tour guide. As I walk with the tourists, I begin with telling them briefly who Jason Russell was, describing his farm and family and then “setting the stage” at the painting of the particular events of April 19, 1775. I focus there on the retreat of the British regulars, Lord Percy and his flankers, and Jason making his “stand” at the homestead.
When I open the door to the 1740 house, all visitors are impressed with original kitchen…the cookware, the description of the children’s jobs, the dots on the ceiling, Jonathan Harrington’s rolling pin, spinning wheels, Amos Whittemore’s card factory etc. I love to connect the story of the young boys saving Deacon Adams’ house to the blanket chest, communion silver retrieval and the photo of baby Ann Adams when she grew up. Of course everyone is interested in the action that took place in the house, including the Beverly men hiding in the basement, the militiamen jumping out the window, and the unfortunate scene Elizabeth Russell returned to witness.
Sometimes my favorite part of the tour is the entryway. Again, I can make the Deacon Adams connection with the clock story. Then I get to speak of Menotomy in general…Thomas Russell’s store, Winship and Wyman drinking flip at Cooper’s tavern, the “old men of Menotomy” capturing the supply wagon, and my favorite character of the times, Samuel Whittemore.
As we talk about the sleepy village of Menotomy and the transition to becoming W. Cambridge and then Arlington, I love to point out cool things we have which capture life through the centuries; the ice skates, the doll house, scribblings of generations of Russell children over the fireplace. The “secret compartment” to hide valuables always intrigues children visiting. And I always end the tour with how lucky we are to still have a Russell family cane!
So many visitors comment about how much they learned on the tours. They ask interesting questions sometimes, which makes us learn a bit more too.
If you’re interested in learning more, please visit the Jason Russell House – site of intense fighting between colonists and British Regulars on April 19th, 1775. One of our expert tour guides will be glad to show you through the house. They will explain the role it played in the American Revolution, talk about how our colonial forefathers lived, and recount to you the stories of events which took place on the day of the British retreat – stories which have achieved the status of legend in present-day Arlington.
The Jason Russell House is open on weekend afternoons from Patriot’s Day to Columbus Day.