Seth Cowles (1763-1842), together with his four brothers, was a successful merchant in Farmington. When he died in 1842, his daughter Susan Cowles (1815-1894) inherited his homelot on Main Street in Farmington. Susan and her husband, Augustus Ward (1811-1883), originally from Massachusetts, removed the existing house and replaced it with the current residence, at 56 Main Street, around 1842. As related in Farmington, Connecticut, the Village of Beautiful Homes (1906):
Augustus Ward was born December 4, 1811. and died April 6, 1883. son of Comfort and Plumea Ward. He was a merchant in New Britain in its earlier days. Marrying a daughter of Mr. Seth Cowles in 1840, he removed to this village and built a new house on the site of the old Cowles mansion. He was a farmer, but had much to do with the Farmington Savings Bank after its organization in 1851, being one of its most able and efficient directors.
In 1891, Susan Cowles Ward sold the house to Henry R. Hatch of Ohio. Within a few days he sold it to Sarah Porter, headmistress of Miss Porter’s School. The house has been owned by the school ever since and is a dormitory called “Ward.” An addition was built in 1902. Read the rest of this entry »
Some would date the house at 22 Main Street in Farmington to c. 1855 based on stylistic considerations (it combines Greek Revival and Italianate characteristics). The house, however, does not appear on an 1869 map of Farmington, so it has also been dated to c. 1870. It was built by William Gay, who operated a store in Farmington. In 1875 William Gay sold the property to his son Richard H. Gay. According to American Biography: A New Cyclopedia, Volume 12 (1922):
Richard Holmes Gay, the oldest son of William Gay, was born April 7, 1832, and died March 30, 1903. He married, September 25, 1856, Gertrude Rivington Palmer, who was born in Whitehall, New York, September 25, 1835, daughter of Hunloke and Mary (Rivington) Palmer. Their children were: Mary Rivington, Margaret Palmer, Anna Rivington, and Gertrude Holmes.
The complex of buildings along the Farmington River at 37 Mill Street in Unionville were once the factory of the Upson Nut Company. The company, which produced nuts and bolts, was founded by Andrew S. Upson (1835-1911), as described in his obituary in The Iron Trade Review, Vol. XLVIII, No. 14 (April 6, 1911):
After receiving his early education in public and private schools, he entered business on his own account. He bought a stock of nuts and bolts made by his brother-in-law, Dwight Langdon, in his shops at Farmington, and with horse and wagon sold his goods throughout New England. Finally he was engaged as regular salesman by Langdon. Upon the death of Langdon, in 1860, Mr. Upson and George Dunham bought the works, adding improved machinery. In 1863 a company formed including Messrs. Upson and Dunham, Samuel Frisbie, Dr. William H. Sage and Gilbert J. Hines, to purchase a patented hot forged nut machine, and in 1864 they organized the Union Nut Co. to manufacture hot forged nuts. In 1865, Mr. Upson purchased Mr. Dunham’s interests and in 1866 he sold out to the Union Nut Co., of Unionville, Conn.
In 1872 the Union company established a western branch in Cleveland, in partnership with the Aetna Nut Co., of Southington, Conn., and the Lamson & Sessions Co., of Cleveland, the organization being known as the Cleveland Nut Co., and erecting a large factory there. By 1877 the interests of the other partners had been purchased by the Union Nut Co., and in 1883, by act of the Connecticut legislature, the name was changed to the Upson Nut Co., the capital being increased finally to $300,000. In 1890 the Upson company absorbed the bolt works of Hotchkiss & Upson, Cleveland, and of Welch & Lea, of Philadelphia. Mr. Upson was elected president and treasurer of the company Sept. 3, 1864, and held the former office until his death. In 1866 he resigned the treasurership and was succeeded by Samuel Frisbie, who held this office and that of secretary until his death in 1897. In 1889, Mr. Upson removed his residence to Cleveland and from that time forward the Cleveland end of the company became the more important, although the works at Unionville have been maintained.
A gable-roofed brick building (c. 1860) is the oldest on the site, while another long flat-roofed building [pictured above] (29 Mill Street, c. 1870) has a facade enhanced by a stepped parapet. The buildings were later owned by the Pioneer Steel Ball Company (established in 1946), but they had been vacant for twenty years when restoration work began in 2013 to develop them for commercial and residential use.
Before being subdivided in the twentieth century, the land around the Woodruff House at 126 Woodruff Road in Farmington was farmland. Major Ozem Woodruff (1773-1849), who built the brick house around 1821, was a farmer who raised various livestock and operated a saw and grist mill. He also had an orchard and made gin, cider and brandy. In 1794 Ozem Woodruff married Martha Scott (1775-1843). Woodruff left Farmington in 1847 to join his oldest son Ozem in Louisiana. His youngest son George continued to run the farm in Farmington, which remained in the family into the twentieth century (c. 1934). The house has a large stone masonry addition dating to the twentieth century.
The house at 118 Main Street in Farmington was built by Reverend Joseph Washburn (1766-1805) shortly after he acquired the land in 1796. Rev. Washburn was the sixth pastor of Farmington’s Congregational Church, serving from 1795 to 1805. Suffering from consumption, he left home with his wife and four children in October 1805 to spend the winter in a southern climate. He died on Christmas Day and was buried at sea while on his way from Norfolk, VA to Charleston, SC. His widow, Sarah Boardman Washburn, later married her second husband, Deacon Elijah Porter (1761-1845). In 1846, she and her son Horace sold the house to Chauncey Rowe (1815-1900), who operated a store on Main Street with Chauncey Deming Cowles. Rowe, who was an original trustee of the Farmington Bank, owned the house until 1897.
Mark Twain had a complex and ultimately troubled relationship with Isabel Lyon (1863-1958), who served as his secretary in his later years. It eventually resulted in her dismissal in April 1909 and Twain’s writing of the infamous Ashcroft-Lyon Manuscript, a 429-page diatribe that attacked Lyon and her husband, Ralph Ashcroft, who with Lyon had for a time controlled all of the author’s business matters. Many years before Lyon would live near Mark Twain in Redding, Connecticut, she had resided with her mother, Georgiana Van Kleek Lyon (1838-1926), in Farmington. In the early 1890s, the widowed Georgiana lived with her children, Isabel, Louise and Charles, at Oldagate, an historic house at 148 Main Street in Farmington. Louise married Jesse Moore, a bond salesman with Richter & Co. in Hartford, who joined the Lyon household. The family engaged Henry H. Mason to build two houses across the street from Oldgate, which they moved into in 1893. The Moores and their new baby occupied 141 Main Street. Isabel built a house for herself and her mother, Georgiana, next door at 143 Main Street. Charles H. Lyon, Jr., Isabel’s brother, died in 1893, probably a suicide.
The building at 1 Waterville Road (AKA 820 Farmington Avenue) in Farmington contains sections of two much earlier houses. In 1807, Pomeroy Strong (1777-1861) purchased the land, which included the gambrel-roofed one-story Woodford House, built c. 1666 by Joseph Woodford Sr. Strong also acquired the Newell Homeasted, built some time earlier (perhaps as early as 1650) by Thomas Newell. Woodford and Newell were among the original 84 proprietors of the town of Farmington and in 1666 Woodford married Newell’s daughter Rebecca. By 1807 the Farmington Canal was being constructed and its path went right through where the Newell House stood. Strong moved the house to the east and, attaching it to the south of the Woodford House. He remodeled the structure, adding a second story. At Strong’s death his estate passed to his two daughters, Julia and Ellen Root Bartlett. In 1862 Ellen sold her interest to Julia and her husband, Dr. Chauncey Brown (1808-1879). He is described in Farmington, Connecticut, the Village of Beautiful Homes (1906):
Dr. Chauncey Brown was born in Canterbury, Conn. He went to Brown University for one year and then to Union College, whence he was graduated with honor. He was a student of Greek, reading the Greek Testament with great pleasure during the remainder of his life. From the medical school of Bowdoin he returned to Canterbury. In the last year and a half of the Civil War he was physician and surgeon in one of the hospitals of Washington. He came to Farmington about 1835 and in 1837 married Julia M. Strong. He was a strenuous believer in abstinence from alcoholic drink and also in anti-slavery when both beliefs were unpopular.
When the Amistad Committee arranged for the Amistad captives to stay in Farmington before returning to Africa, the girl named Temme was to be housed with the family of Horace Cowles. By the time she arrived at the Cowles residence on March 19, 1841, Horace Cowles had passed away and his widow soon moved to West Hartford. Temme then went to the house of Dr. Chauncey Brown, where she lived for most of her stay in Farmington. Dr. Brown’s wife, Julia Strong Brown, described her experiences with Tamme in The Farmington Magazine in February 1901:
It was a most singular episode in the quiet life of Farmington which brought to us the band of Mendians in which were included three Mendian girls.
One of these, by name Tamie, was sent directly to and remained with me until their departure for their native land, and she proved a most interesting personality. About fourteen years of age, she was tall, straight as an arrow, and lithe as a willow, with a soft low voice and a sweet smile which so far as I remember, never developed into a laugh. Her nature was rather serious and yet she was uniformly cheerful.
[ . . .] she was fond of flowers and particularly enjoyed a little garden which she tended carefully. I remember her joy when I had been preparing pineapples, she asked for the green crowns to plant and was so delighted when they began to grow. Her perceptions were keen and her questions innumerable.
The house later passed to the Browns’ son, Philip Brown, and then to his cousin, Eleanor Bartlett Phelps, who owned it until 1963. Since then it has been a commercial property. In 2011 the house was added to the town’s blighted building list because the property had deteriorated and had a shabby appearance. In 2014 there were plans to tear down the rear section (the 1666 Woodford House), but these later fell through. The building is currently vacant and is still a threatened building.