In researching John Oliver, (c. 1750s-1840, Revolutionary War soldier), we used written records to determine who his neighbors were, but we were disappointed that we did not have an exact location for his farm. It does not appear on the Tuttle map. However, it turns out that this omission was corrected around 1906. Based on Acton residents’ memories, D. Henry Scarlett created his own map of Acton, meticulously adding features to Tuttle’s work. Where the Tuttle map had a blank space in North Acton between John Handley’s land and the railroad, Scarlett placed John Oliver’s farm. He also drew a “cart road” leading from what is now Great Road through John Handley’s property up to Oliver’s, as well as the Reed and Temple properties.
Scarlett’s location for Oliver’s farm jibes with the written materials that we have. Given John Oliver’s location away from any roads, it makes sense that access would be needed. Town records show that in September, 1800 “the Selectmen proposed and laid out a bridle way to accomidate John Oliver by Said Olivers and John Handleys erecting gates on bars where it is necessary.” The approved right-of-way, a rod and a half wide, started east of John Handley’s house “near the old way where Said Olivers used formerly to pass” then went northwest through Handley’s property and common land to “John Olivers land near the Southeast corner of Said Olivers House.” Though the exact route of the “cart road” in Scarlett’s map may not be perfect, it seems close. The map shows a gate, an open field, and a route ending just southeast of Oliver’s house. An 1821 deed held by the Society also jibes with the location of Oliver’s property on the Scarlett map. The deed states that the wood lot being sold was bounded “southwesterly by John Oliver’s to a heap of stones in the swamp.” Scarlett’s map shows John Oliver’s location on a brook with wetland nearby; parts of his property undoubtedly were wet, at least seasonally.
We are grateful to Henry Scarlett for answering our question about John Oliver’s farm. But seeing Scarlett's careful work made us curious about him. Research into his life story provided us with several surprises that will require a future blog post.