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Ashley House

History always seems to happen somewhere else. Unless we live in Boston or Gettysburg, or other sites of historical importance, we seldom recognize the history in our own back yards. But on a narrow road in Sheffield, Mass., is a little house with a huge legacy.

The Ashley House was present at the birth of freedom - twice. The Sheffield Resolves, a document that in its Lockean phrases and sentiments presaged the Declaration of Independence, written three years later, was crafted upstairs in the elegant, wood-paneled parlor of wealthy John Ashley.

The author of the Sheffield document was jurist Theodore Sedgewick, later delegate to the Continental Congress. But more importantly, he was also became an instrument in ending slavery in Massachusetts when an Ashley slave, Mum Bett, who had overheard “all that freedom talk,” asked his help in suing Ashley for her freedom.

The Ashley House, owned by the Trustees of Reservations, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It opens May 31, 10 a.m.-5 p.m, for “Home Sweet Home,” a celebration of the independent spirits who worked there. The house opens for tours weekends in July and August.