At 220 Main Street in Farmington is a former one-room brick school house built in 1829 to serve the town’s South District. It was used as a school until 1904, when Farmington’s schoolhouses were consolidated into a Center School. In 1905 the former school was sold to Theodate Pope, who designed or remodeled five houses in town to become low-income housing. She converted the school house into a residence and it became the home of Reuben and Lucy Lewis and their eleven children. Reuben Lewis worked at the Lodge, a vacation home for girls working in the big city garment industry that was run by a group of Miss Porter’s School graduates. He was also a railroad porter. His father, Richard Lewis, had settled in Farmington before the Civil War after escaping from slavery on the Underground Railroad. In the 1930s the Lewis family moved out and the building has since been used as an antiques shop, a nursery school, a lawyer’s office and, most recently, Farmington Valley Dance & Music, LLC.
Austin Williams was an abolitionist and conductor on the Underground Railroad in Farmington. In 1841 he constructed a building on his property where the Amistad captives stayed until their return to Africa. After their departure, he built his own house (127 Main Street) just to the southeast and converted the dormitory into a carriage house. After the Civil War, Williams was a director of the Freedman’s Bureau of New England and New York.
The rear ell of the house at 107 Main Street in Farmington dates to around 1685. It was built by John Wadsworth, Jr. (1662-1718), nephew of the Joseph Wadsworth (1647-1729) who had hidden the Royal Charter in the Charter Oak. The house remained in the Wadsworth family, eventually passing to John, Jr.’s youngest son, Rev. Daniel Wadsworth (1704-1747), pastor of the First Church of Christ in Hartford (Center Church). In 1771, Asahel Wadsworth (1743-1817) purchased the property from his cousins, the daughters of Daniel Wadsworth. He hired the architect/builder Judah Woodruff to construct the front portion of the house, which was completed between 1776 and 1781. The columned front porch was added much later. During the Revolutionary War, Asahel Wadsworth was appointed to correspond with other towns about “Colonial matters” and transact matters related to the Continental Congress. The Wadsworth farm ceased operation until the 1970s but the house has remained in the Wadsworth family for nine generations.
Austin F. Williams (1805-1885), a leading abolitionist in Farmington, was a member of the defense committee that worked to secure the freedom for the Amistad captives in 1841. Before returning home to Africa, the Mendi captives stayed in Farmington (March through November, 1841) while funds were raised for their return journey. Williams constructed a building on his property where the male members of the group lived. The building was later used by Williams as a carriage house. The picture below shows the west side of the carriage house-the section visible from Main Street-which was not added until after the Mendi departed from Farmington.
Born in Southington, Samuel Frisbie (1838-1897) was the grandson of Ichabod Cullpepper Frisbie of Southington, who had served in the Revolutionary War. As related in an 1898 volume of biographies of Connecticut’s Men of Progress:
[he] received his early education in the public schools, and later attended the Lewis Academy of that place [Southington]. He was brought up, as so many robust representatives of New England who have since won distinction were, as a farmer’s boy. He, however, left the farm at an early age and for three years devoted himself to school-teaching. But with a conscientiousness, as rare as it is invaluable (though in this case unduly exacting, we are sure), he relinquished his position as a teacher from the inner conviction that he was not properly fitted for that vocation; giving up a congenial and remunerative calling for one that was neither the one nor the other. This latter was in the form of mechanical employment and Mr. Frisbie received for his first services thirteen dollars a month, a sum our fastidious youths of today would regard with scorn, but which this more sturdy character accepted with cheerfulness and worked for with energy.
In 1860 he was hired by what would become the Upson Nut Company in Unionville as a bookkeeper. He was named director and treasurer of the company in 1866. He later served five terms in the state General Assembly (1877-1879, 1885 and 1897). On Christmas Day 1863, Frisbie married Minerva Upson Langdon, the widow of Dwight Langdon, who had established the first nut and bolt factory in Unionville. The year of their marriage, she purchased a lot at 101 Main Street, at the corner of Elm Street, in Unionville and by 1869 the couple had built an Italianate house on the property. In 1911, the house was inherited by Minerva Frisbie’s nephews, Samuel, Walter and Henry Graham and it remained in the Graham family until 1935. Today the house is used as a medical office.
At the corner of Church and Hart Streets in Farmington is the old Farmington Academy building, also called Union Hall. It was constructed in 1816 by builder Samuel Dickinson and served as a community assembly hall (Union Hall), a chapel for the Congregational Church and the Farmington Academy, a school operated by the church until the 1840s. In the years before the Civil War, the building’s second floor hall was rented out to both abolitionist and anti-abolitionist groups. Women who were church members gathered here in 1841 to sew clothing for the Africans of the Amistad. Later in the nineteenth century, the building was used as town hall, library and meeting place. The Academy building originally stood next to the church, where the Sarah Porter Memorial Building stands today. It was moved a short distance in 1900 to make way for the Porter Memorial and again in 1917 to its present site to make way for the Barney Library. From 1900 to 1917 it was used to house a school for girls run by Theodate Pope. More recently, the building has been home to the Farmington Art Guild.
The will of Eliphalet Wadsworth, who died in 1823, deeded his land in Farmington to his relative Timothy Wadsworth, but also gave life use of the property to his widow Mary. In 1829, Timothy Wadsworth replaced the original eighteenth-century (1795?) house with a new Greek Revival one. Here he lived with his wife Mary until he died in 1841. She continued to reside there until she passed away in 1862. Their children sold the property in 1865. According to tradition, the house was a station on the Underground Railroad. In helping fugitive slaves, the Wadsworth’s made use of the passenger boats on the Farmington Canal, which ran through their property behind their house. The Timothy Wadsworth House, which is located at 340 Main Street in Farmington, is now used for offices, having been renovated and expanded for that purpose, construction being completed in 2008.