Born in Westfield, Massachusetts in 1780, by age twenty-one John Mather was a merchant running a store in Hartford. In 1806 he started a glass works in Manchester (then still a part of East Hartford). It was soon destroyed in a fire, but the following year Mather was back in business, producing a variety of glass bottles. A hurricane in 1821 destroyed his glass factory and there is no evidence it was ever rebuilt. The location of the glass works was behind the current brick homes in the area of 109-119 Mather Street in Manchester. Mather’s home in Manchester, where he lived from 1827 to 1844, is located at 97 Mather Street, at the corner of Eastfield Street. Mather was a Mason and the local Lodge met in his house from 1829 to 1844. A painting of the house by Manchester artist Russell Cheney (1881-1945) is in the Masonic Temple on East Center Street in Manchester. A hearth with original paneling, taken from the Mather House, is also now located in the Masonic Temple with an inscription recognizing Mather’s contributions to Masonry.
The house at 26 Hurlbut Road in Gales Ferry, Ledyard, was built in 1844 for George A. Bailey, a whaling captain, who owned it until 1861. After passing through other owners, it was purchased by Elizabeth Frost of New Jersey, whose family used it as a summer home. The Frosts modified the house, adding the current wraparound porch. In later decades, Nelson Parker could often be seen sitting on the porch. He bought the house in 1921 and his family owned it for 52 years. Active in local community affairs, Nelson Parker was known as an unofficial mayor of Ledyard. He had earlier been in business in Norwich, as described in Vol. III of A Modern History of New London County (1922):
Nelson Parker, the seventh child of Richard Samuel and Mary M. (Selsor) Parker, was reared and educated in Brooklyn, New York, receiving his formal training in the public schools. He then learned the paint manufacturing business with his father, and the two worked side by side in carrying on the business, until the elder Parker’s death. At that time Mrs. Parker became president of the company, and Mr. Nelson Parker secretary and treasurer, as well as general manager. This arrangement still continues, and the business is now one of the important industries of Norwich. The original name of Parker, Preston & Company is still retained. Besides being one of the foremost manufacturers of Norwich, Mr. Parker is interested in every phase of public life, and stands for the best in civic development and progress. In political choice he is a Republican. He is a member of Somerset Lodge, No. 34, Free and Accepted Masons, and is a member of the Chamber of Commerce. The family are members of the Central Baptist Church. On September 17, 1911, Nelson Parker married Mary H. Hurlbutt, of Gales Ferry, Connecticut, daughter of Henry W. and Lydia (Perkins) Hurlbutt. Mr. and Mrs. Parker are the parents of one daughter, Margaret H. Parker.
At 156 South Main Street in Colchester is a Greek Revival house with Colonial Revival additions that include an elliptical attic light, long gabled wing on the right side and a one-story veranda. The house was built circa 1840 to 1850, being purchased in the latter year from David Carroll by Dr. Solomon Everest Swift (1819-1895), a dentist who practiced homeopathic medicine. After Dr. Swift‘s death, his widow Almira Lathrop Swift (1822-1904) (who had attended Bacon Academy) lived in the house until her own death. Their daughter, Caroline Swift Willard (1863-1950), probably made the Colonial Revival alterations/additions between 1896 and 1919, the year she eventually sold the house, having moved to Redlands, California. From the late 1990s until 2006, the house was used as a gift shop and is now lawyers’ offices.
The section of South Glastonbury just north of the Portland town line is a district called Taylortown because of the many members of the Taylor family who lived there. The 1869 atlas of Hartford County lists the house at 194 Main Street in Taylortown (built c. 1840) as the residence of O. Taylor. This was most likely Oswin Taylor (1809-1898), who once owned the Consolidated Feldspar Quarry on the west side of Main Street.
A mill was first constructed at the site of the future Hockanum Mill on the Hockanum River in Rockville in Vernon in 1814 by Bingham & Nash. The mill produced satinet, a finely woven fabric that resembles satin but is made from wool. New owners acquired the mill in 1821 and soon expanded it by constructing a mirror image of the earlier building. These became known as the Twin Mills. The Hockanum Company was formed in 1836. They built new and larger mill was built on the site in 1849. After it burned down in 1854, it was rebuilt the following year to the same design. A wood-frame Greek Revival structure on a brick basement, it is the only wood-framed mill building surviving in Rockville. In 1881, the Hockanum Company built a three and a half story brick Romanesque Revival building, adjacent to the original wooden structure.
After George Maxwell became president of the company in 1869, he converted the mill’s production over to a higer-quality worsted cloth for menswear. By the turn-of-the-century the company was booming under the presidency of George Sykes. It produced the cloth for the inaugural suit worn by President William H. McKinley in 1897. The Hockanum Mill consolidated with three other Rockville mills in 1906 forming the Hockanum Mills Company, which was sold to M.T. Stevens in 1934. The Rockville mills were shut down in 1951. The Hockanum Mill recently received funds from the state to assist in the cleanup and reuse of the building for commercial and light industrial purposes. The site is also planned to be the home of the proposed New England Motorcycle Museum.
Built around 1810, the house at 736 Main Street (at Cedar Street) in Branford was dated in a W.P.A. survey to c. 1834, perhaps because it has a later Greek Revival doorway. The house was likely constructed by Linus Robinson who soon sold it to John Hobart and Edmund Palmer. The house remained in the Palmer family through the nineteenth century and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Isaac Palmer House.
The Woodbridge Tavern, where George Washington was entertained on November 9, 1789, once stood at the west end of the triangular green located at the intersections of East Center Street, Middle Turnpike East, and Woodbridge Street in Manchester. At the time, this was the village of Manchester Green. The Tavern was owned by Deodat Woodbridge (1757-1836), who owned many acres of land in Manchester Green. By his will of 1820 he divided his property among his sons with the youngest, Deodatus Woodbridge (1800-1857), inheriting his father’s residence and 130 acres to the north, across the street from the tavern. The Woodbridge Farmstead then passed through generations of Deodatus’ direct descendants. Around 1830 to 1835, Deodatus built the surviving family house, which has an address of 495 Middle Turnpike East. For almost two centuries, the Woodbridge Farmstead was part of the Meadow Brook dairy farm, run by the Woodbridge family. Most of the farm acreage was sold off in 1951 for residential development, but the house and remaining property were left to the Manchester Historical Society by Thelma Carr Woodbridge (1911-2009), wife of Raymond Brewster Woodbridge (1912-1997), subject to her lifetime use. Two historic barns also survive on the property.