The basic needs of the townspeople came from the work done on six adjoining pieces of land in the northern corner of Dorchester, lots 74 through 79. They were owned in the mid-1700s by Edward Vanvelson and his son-in-law, James Rousham. Vanvelson was a tanner and shoemaker and Rousham was a carpenter. A tanner, a craftsman who turned rough animal hides into usable leather, was an indispensable craftsman to a community of the 1700s. Leather was needed to make shoes, clothing, harnesses, and other items that were used every day.
Edward Vanvelson might have been plying his trade at the site where an earlier tannery had operated. In 1732 a tanyard in an unknown location in Dorchester, owned by a recently deceased man named McColume, was offered for sale. A bridge crossing nearby Dorchester Creek was known as McCollum's Bridge. This same bridge was later called Vanvelson's Bridge.
Edward Vanvelson died sometime in 1748, leaving his tanyard to his son Charles once the boy turned twenty-one, if he decided to become a tanner like his father. If not, the property was to be sold. Proceeds from the sale of Vanvelson's property were to be used to support his children and grandchildren until they turned fourteen. They were "then to be Bound out Apprentices to trade untill they shall attain the age of twenty-one years." Although Edward Vanvelson had mastered a craft, operated a business, and acquired substantial property, including eighteen slaves, he apparently never learned to write. He did not sign his name to his will; he left a mark.
Among the children Edward Vanvelson provided for in his will were the offspring of his daughter Catherine Rousham. She was married to a carpenter named James Rousham, who owned lots 78 and 79 near his father-in-law's property. Rousham was in Dorchester by the early 1730s. In 1732 he placed an ad in the newspaper requesting information about his tools that had been stolen from a house in the village.
Did Rousham thrive as a carpenter in Dorchester? Available historical evidence doesn't allow us to make any definite conclusions. In 1733 he mortgaged most of his house and most of his personal property to secure a debt. In 1745 he was doing well enough to own a small schooner, a six-ton vessel called the "House Carpenter." The following year he offered for sale two slaves, some livestock, buildings, furniture, tools, and a pew in St. George's Church.
Shortly before he died, Rousham wrote a will in which he left his two lots in Dorchester and all the structures on them to his wife; the property was to pass to his daughters upon their mother's death. His inventory, an item-by-item list and appraisal of his personal property, shows the most valuable things in the carpenter's possession: a slave, a light carriage called a "riding chair," and a pew in St. George's Church.
Vanvelson's and Rousham's lots are not currently accessible by the public and are overgrown with trees and shrubs.