History


For over two hundred years, the Golden Ball Tavern has stood on the "great country road" in Weston, Massachusetts, weathering changes of fortune and time. And yet, it is today as alive and vibrant as ever in its past, for the house has a story to tell. It is a story of a colonial tavern, a gracious home, and the six generations of the family that lived in it. It is a detective story, filled with clues about the changes that were made to this house. But mostly, it is a story of the man who built it.


The Golden Ball Tavern was one of several taverns on Weston's well-traveled Post Road. Not simply a place for food and drink, eighteenth century taverns served as a location for travelers to exchange news, gossip and mail. Taverns also functioned as important community centers, where militiamen met after drills, churchgoers gathered between services, and political meetings were held. Among the most popular drinks served to tavern patrons in Isaac's day were rum, beer and cider. But the beverage that would become most significant at the Golden Ball Tavern was tea.


Tea drinking was an important social custom in eighteenth century Britain - a custom which, along with the tea itself, was imported to the American colonies. But by 1773, more than tea was brewing in colonial Massachusetts. Many colonists rebelled against British laws that restricted American merchants from trading in tea, and the drink became a symbol of British tyranny.


Yet, even after American patriots issued a boycott of the once popular beverage and had brazenly dumped it into Boston Harbor, tea was still served at the Sign of the Golden Ball. Isaac Jones it seems, was a Tory.


A deeply patriotic British subject, Isaac had even named his second son William Pitt Jones, after the British statesman who had championed the cause of the colonies. Living in a fairly conservative town, Isaac may have misjudged the patriotic outrage he aroused by continuing to serve Dutch tea. Isaac issued an apology after being accused as a traitor in the Massachusetts Spy in 1774, but it was not enough to stop the uprising that came to be known as "The Weston Tea Party." In March of 1774, Isaac's house was raided by patriots with painted faces. Isaac was away, having gone to Uxbridge, but the patriots broke down doors, and stole liquor, raisins and lemons.


Even though patriot committees urged in January, 1775, that Isaac's tavern should be closed, the Golden Ball Tavern remained open, a mark of respect for Isaac's position in the community. And yet, less than one month later, he entertained two British spies, sent by General Gage in Boston, who were looking for the safest route to Worcester to capture patriot stores of ammunition. The spies were more than pleased with their reception.


When they chanced on Isaac's tavern, he offered them tea or coffee. The spies, recalling the event said, "...We immediately found out with whom we were and were not a little pleased to find, on some conversation that he was a friend to " government " indicating that Isaac's loyalties were still with the British. But his loyalties were to change. Within two years he must have signed an oath of loyalty, for by January, 1777, he was working for the revolutionary army, hauling supplies to the French in New York. The house holds fascinating clues to the factors which caused Isaac to change his loyalties.


After the war, Isaac once again became a prominent and prosperous citizen of Weston. He continued running his tavern until 1793 when the house became a private residence. In 1803, in keeping with a common practice of the day, Isaac deeded one-half of his property to his oldest surviving son, William Pitt Jones. William and his family shared the house with his father until Isaac's death in 1813, and then with his widowed mother. Of William's nine living children, two of his sons moved westward, and a grandson died in the Civil War. But the house would remain in the family for four more generations, until the death of Ralph Frost Jones in 1963. In 1964 the house was set up as a Trust and became a museum.


As the trustees explored the best methods to preserve the house, they wrestled with an intriguing dilemma. Should they restore it to an eighteenth century appearance, or should they retain some of the equally important features of later generations? In 1964, the decision was made to let the house tell its own story of change through time rather than returning it to a single period. The house now is a rich social document -- an above ground archaeological and historical museum presenting and illustrating architectural, decorative and social change occurring over the 200 years of the Jones family occupation.


Unearthing clues about the past, whether above ground or below, is an essential part of the mission of the Golden Ball Tavern Museum. Isaac's back kitchen, the east ell of the house, has been the site of archeological excavations conducted by both Brown and Boston Universities. In all, a total of six archeological digs have uncovered a wealth of information about the house and its inhabitants. A permanent exhibit displays many of these finds.


Education is another important part of the mission of the museum. There are programs to help enlighten as well as entertain the public--lectures, collaborative programs with the public schools and with the private schools in the area, vacation workshops, and public days. There is the Annual Outdoor Antique Show, renowned as one of the best antique shows in New England and beyond, taking place on the last Saturday of September.


The Golden Ball Tavern Museum is a rich historic fabric--a quilt composed of many patches. There is the story of a tavern in the colonial period; the story of a gracious Georgian home and how it changed through time; the story of Isaac Jones and the coming of the revolution; and the story of the changing Jones family over 200 years. Today the Golden Ball Tavern Museum continues to explore and interpret the fabric of its own unique story.


Join in the Golden Ball Tavern Museum and participate in the adventure.
(Adapted from script by Laura Scott Lowell, Yesterday's News)