HISTORY OF THE CARY FAMILY OF CHELSEA
Most of the history of Chelsea's important Cary family was obtained through CARY LETTERS described by Margaret Cary and recorded by Caroline Curtis.
The first Cary to land in America was James Cary, who sailed from Bristol, England in 1639. James settled in Charlestown and at various times had been Clerk of the Writs, Recorder and Tithingman for the town. James' great grandson, Samuel Cary, a sea captain was born in Charlestown in 1713 and married in 1741 to Margaret Graves (Greaves) a descendant of the family of Governor Winslow. Through his marraige to Margaret, Samuel Cary came into possession of the extensive piece of property in Chelsea, orignally part of the Governor Bellingham estate.
In 1742 Samuel Cary Jr. was born and upon his graduation from Harvard was given 1000 pounds by his father to seek his fortune. Samuel Jr. went to the West Indies where he eventually purchased a sugar cane plantation in Grenada. Captain Cary Sr. died in 1769 and Samuel Jr. obtained full possession, from his brothers, of the House and property in Chelsea. In 1772, Samuel married Sarah Gray and moved into the Chelsea home. Samuel had to return to Grenada to be joined by Sarah after the birth of their first child. Eighteen years and eight more children later Samuel and Sarah returned to Chelsea to begin the real Cary epic in 1791.
Samuel Cary immediately set about improving and remodeling the house, restocking the farm and extensive landscaping. All his improvements had come to a very great expense. The imported paneling for the house alone had cost twelve thousand dollars, a large sum for that day. Samuel built and planted terraced banks before the house. The two roads leading to the house were planted with rows of Lombardy poplars, elms and chestnuts. There were already many fruit trees on the property that had been planted by previous tenants. When the improvements were finished, "The Retreat" as it was called, was the showplace of the east. Samuel Cary passed away in 1812.
The oldest daughter Margaret, was schooled at an expensive school in England. Margaret used the dining room as a schoolroom teaching her younger brothers and sisters. On the left, inside the front door, was the West parlor. On winter evenings Margaret would sit on the deep window seat with the other children sitting on the floor before the fire place and she would read Sir Walter Scott's novels or Shakespeare plays to them. Meanwhile the mother and father would be sitting in straight-back armchairs looking on. Many times Margaret would spend the evening playing the harpsichord.
Samuel, the first born, was watching his father's estate in Grenada when the Insurrection of 1795-96 broke out. As the plantations were being burned young Samuel joined the Light Company of St. George's Militia and distinguished himself throughout the conflict. Samuel died a very young man while in Chelsea. Charles served in various positions of the Chelsea Town government serving a number of years as treasurer. Robert became an important lawyer in New Hampshire. Sarah married Joseph Tuckerman, ordained minister of the first Unitarian Church in Chelsea (Revere). Harriet and Anne were the last remaining of the Cary Children neither married. Harriet was about eighty years old when she fell and broke her hip. Harriet was confined to a chair for two years before passing away. Anne lived until the age of ninety-four, passing away in 1881. Robert's daughter Elizabeth married world renown naturalist Louis Agassiz from Switzland, Elizabeth distinguished herself at Radcliffe College as an administrator where a building, "The Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Building is named in her honor.
When the Cary's came back to Chelsea in 1791, they brought three slaves, one female and two males, who requested to travel with them. A house was built for them behind the mansion on what is today the corner of Tudor and John Street. The female, Fanny Merriwether, became the nanny for the Cary Children. Fanny was well loved by the Cary children and by the grandchildren that followed. When Fanny became too feeble and unable to care for herself she was moved to the mansion where she could get better care. She died being tended by the Cary girls.
In 1852 the Cary heirs sold all but about one acre and the house to the Cary Improvement Company for $150,000.