East Greenwich’s Richard Briggs Farm, also known as Boesch Farm or the Briggs Boesch Farm is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The history of the farm dates back to 1672, when Englishman John Briggs (c.1630-1708) settled in what is now North Kingstown. He made two substantial real estate investments that year: a large tract of land in present-day western East Greenwich purchased with five partners, and a 57-acre parcel directly to its south. Thanks to a series of gifts, trades, and presumably an inheritance, Briggs’s son Richard (1675-1733) held a 144-acre farm extending for nearly a mile along the south side of South Road by 1716.
Although the Briggs family was present on the land by the early 1700s, the existing farmhouse does not date to this period. Documentary research and structural examination of the house by architectural historian Kathryn Cavanaugh suggest that the house was likely built between 1740 and 1760 for Richard’s son John Briggs II sometime after Richard’s death in 1733. Between 1759 and 1851, various portions of the farm changed hands within the family, and presumably some of the extant stone walls date from this period, erected to mark new boundaries.
As Briggs Farm evolved, so did East Greenwich’s economy. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, agricultural products from East Greenwich farms were shipped from the town port. By 1837, the new railroad made external markets available to local farmers. The 1850 agricultural census of East Greenwich indicates that he 180-acre farm yielded both crops and dairy products, including corn, potatoes, hay, butter, and wool as well as livestock including horses, cattle oxen, sheep, and pigs.
In 1853, the Briggs family divided the property and sold a 90-acre farm (including the present-day property) to Paul Hendricks. The farm changed hands seven more times between 1887 and 1954, when it was sold to Donald and Teresa Boesch of Baltimore. The Boesch family maintained some limited agricultural production in corn, hay, and a Christmas tree farm, and also kept some sheep and cows on the property.
Between the late 19th century and the mid-20th century, the number of active farms in Rhode Island declined, while the average size of farms increased. Small farms like the Briggs Farm were unable to compete with larger, more mechanized properties. Meanwhile, the value of farm real estate more than doubled between 1880 and 1950, reflecting the market for suburban development. Despite the trends, the Briggs Farm survived. Its legacy was ensured in 2001, when the East Greenwich Municipal Land Trust purchased the property from the Boesch family with the intention of preserving the property as open space.
The latest chapter in the farm story occurred in September, 2011 when Pat McNiff signed the lease for the Briggs-Boesch Farm in East Greenwich, RI and Pat's Pastured became the current caretaker of this historic property.
More information on the East Greenwich Land Trust can be found here.
If you are interested in other properties on the National Register of Historic Places, check out their website.