In American history, two dates come to mind; 1492 when Columbus discovered the New World and 1620 when the Pilgrims ran ashore of what is today Plymouth, Massachusetts. After the Pilgrim colony was established, an estimated 20,000 individuals made the voyage to New England between 1630-1640. Many settled in what is now Duxbury, Marshfield, Scituate, Conahasset and Bare Cove.
Even though Conahasset was settled first, Bare Cove encompassed all of what is today Hingham and Cohasset. By authority of the Massachusetts Court in 1635, Bare Cove was renamed Hingham and the two towns were separated.
Homes began appearing in Conahasset around 1670 and it was in that year that the area was subdivided from Hingham. Even though, Conahasset still had no central government, taxes, schools or churches. It would take many more years for Conahasset to exist independently of Hingham.
Thomas James married Patience Farrow in 1704. It was during that summer that Thomas began constructing the home that would become The Red Lion Inn. Thomas James lived in the farmhouse until his death on July 31, 1724.
In 1772, Thomas’s great grandson, Christopher, inherited the home. It was he who converted the house into an inn and general store. At this point, Christopher adopted the Red Lion as the name for the Inn. In Scottish lore, the Red Lion represents bravery and courage. Christopher James died in 1810 and left the Red Lion Inn to his son, Eleazar.
Eleazar, a member of the Cohasset Militia, helped save Cohasset town on June 17, 1814 from the British fleet who was positioned off the harbor. Eleazar was also instrumental in saving many injured foreign soldiers when the Brig Copenhagen wrecked outside Cohasset harbor in 1840. Eleazar gave the men shelter, food and rum while they were nursed back to health at the Inn.
Around 1820, a well organized network was established to help escaped slaves reach freedom. This network was called the Underground Railroad. The “Railroad” was neither underground, nor a railroad; however, it did rely on the efforts of numerous individuals and organizations. It is believed that Eleazar was an ardent abolitionist who used the Red Lion Inn as a refuge for those making the trek to freedom. There is evidence of a hidden tunnel under the Red Lion Inn to this day. He would keep the Red Lion Inn in the James family until 1879.
The James ownership lasted over 175 years and the family mark, the famous Red Lion, still watches over the portals today more than 300 years later.