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.
In 1870, Father Patrick Duggett bought an old building (a former clock shop) on Farmington Avenue to serve Farmington Catholics. In 1885 Farmington became a mission of Plainville’s Catholic church and in 1918 St. Patrick’s Parish was established. A basement church on Main Street was dedicated on November 27, 1919. The completed fieldstone church was dedicated on June 11, 1922. The donated fieldstone came from stone walls on local farms. Located at 110 Main Street, the Church of Saint Patrick has a pew with a brass plaque reading “Misses Bouvier” – it was donated by the future Mrs. John F. Kennedy and her sister in the 1940s when they attended Miss Porter’s School.
At 671 Farmington Avenue in Farmington is a saltbox colonial house built in 1704 by by Timothy North (the date of 1704 is probably a traditional date: it may date to much later, circa 1780; or it may have been built by Timothy’s father, Thomas North, as Timothy North was not even born until 1714). It was later home to Timothy’s son, Seth North (1752-1822), who was known as “Sinner North” because he never attended Sunday services in the meeting house and refused to pay the fines that he was then charged as a punishment. The village boys used to refer to him in a deferential manner as “Mr. Sinner.” As related in Farmington, Connecticut, The Village of Beautiful Homes (1906):
He was otherwise so much in accordance with modern ideas, that as he drew near his end, he ordered his body to be cremated, the place a lonely spot on the mountain between two rocks, and his friend, Adam Stewart, chief cremator, who was to inherit the house for his kindly services. The civil authority, however, interposed and insisted on giving him what they deemed a Christian burial, but Adam Stewart got the house and it remained in the family many years.
In 1898, when Alfred A. Pope was acquiring the various parcels that would make up the Hillstead estate, he purchased the North House. The house was remodeled, an old barn on the property was replaced with a new hay barn and an attached cow barn was also constructed, as well as two other small buildings (a shed and a shop) designed by Pope’s daughter, Theodate. In the resulting farm complex she raised a Guernsey herd.
The house at 27 Main Street in Farmington was built for Samuel Smith in 1769. It was later the home of Horace Cowles (1782-1841) and his wife Mary Ann (1784-1837). In the years before the Civil War, they were stationmasters on the Underground Railroad who his fugitive slaves in their home. One day they had to go out and they left their young daughter, Mary Ann (1826-1899), in charge. She sat at the front door all day long and refused to let anyone enter, including a slave catcher from the South who had to leave empty handed. One of the three Mende girls from the Amistad stayed with the Cowles family when the captives from that ship were staying in Farmington. After Cowles died, his son, Samuel Smith Cowles inherited the house and continued his father’s work aiding fugitive slaves. He also edited an anti-slavery newspaper, The Charter Oak. Samuel Smith Cowles also became Treasurer of the Farmington Savings Bank.