The large Colonial Revival house at 1420 Main Street in Glastonbury, which now contains medical offices, was built in 1911 for J. H. Hale (1853-1917). Known as the “Peach King,” John Howard Hale, with his brother George H. Hale, transformed the 200-year old Hale farm into a nationally-known peach-growing empire. He developed peach trees that could better withstand the northern climate. His accomplishments are described in Men of Mark in Connecticut (1906):
Mr. Hale is now sole owner and manager of the J. H. Hale’s Nursery and Fruit Farms at Glastonbury, president of the Hale Georgia Orchard Company, at Fort Valley, Georgia, and president and general manager of the Hale and Coleman Orchard Company at Seymour, Connecticut. He was the first American orchardist to sort, grade, and pack fruit, and label and guarantee it according to its grade. He was the first in America to use trolley transportation in the fruit business, and is one of the very few Americans who ship peaches to Europe. He is fittingly called the “Father of Peach Culture in New England.” Mr. Hale has also initiated many new ideas in fruit advertising. Another novel feature introduced by him is that of having an orchestra play in the packing rooms at the Georgia orchards. Aside from bettering and developing horticulture all over America, Mr. Hale has done a valuable service to his state in making many acres of so-called “abandoned” hill lands of Connecticut and New England to bloom with beautiful orchards.
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Mr. Hale has written numerous articles on horticultural topics for the World’s Work, Country Life in America, and other periodicals. For twelve years he was associate editor of the Philadelphia Farm Journal, and for fifteen years he edited the agricultural column of the Hartford Courant. He has had important positions in the State Grange, and has sacrificed a great deal of time and money in strengthening that organization, being at the head of same from 1886 to 1890, and now chairman of the executive committee. He was also first president of the Glastonbury Business Men’s Association.
Hale also served as a state representative, during which time he played a role in forming the Storrs Agricultural College (now UCONN). You can read more about Hale in my post about the house of his grandfather, Ebenezer Hale.
The house (which combines Gothic Revival and Italianate features) at 100 Main Street in South Glastonbury was built around 1878 by George S. Andrews (1819-1891). In 1866, he opened a feldspar quarry in South Glastonbury and started what is said to have been the first feldspar mill in Connecticut. What is now called “Old Maids Lane” was built by Andrews to transport the feldspar to the family’s dock on the Connecticut River.
In 1906, Louis Howe (1870-1968) leased the feldspar quarry and mill on Roaring Brook in South Glastonbury and made it the largest feldspar supplier in Connecticut, producing 65,000-70,000 tons of the mineral between 1906 and 1928, when the quarry became inactive. Howe was also a merchant and owned a water company that supplied South Glastonbury from his reservoir on Evergreen Lane near Chestnut Hill. Louis W. Howe also served in the state legislature. The Colonial Revival house at 1062 Main Street in Glastonbury was built for him in 1908.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Grove Street in Glastonbury was the home to a diverse immigrant community that included Germans, Poles and Ukrainians. Many residents worked nearby at the Williams Brothers Silver Company. A German Lutheran Church, built on Grove Street in 1902, became St. John The Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in 1925. The area was redeveloped in the 1970s and the church was in the path of a new road linking Main Street and the New London Turnpike. In 1973, developer David MacClain was given approval for a residential project to be built across from his Glen Lochen Marketplace (completed 1975). His proposal included providing a new home for the church at the corner of a new Grove Street. He only charged the church for moving fees that were within the $45,000 the Redevelopment Agency had paid for the building. The church was moved to its current address at 26 New London Turnpike early in 1974.
Sources: “Ukrainian Church, a Landmark, Seen Surviving Redevelopment,” by George Graves (Hartford Courant, August 19, 1973); “Redevelopment Agency Vows To Keep Church,” by George Graves (Hartford Courant, September 28, 1973); “Ukrainian Church Expected To Be Relocated This Week,” (Hartford Courant, February 10, 1974).
The house at 1559 Main Street in Glastonbury was the home of William Welles, a prominent citizen of the town. Welles was a tutor at Yale. During the Revolutionary War, when students were dispersed away from New Haven, Yale classes were held in the house (May 1777 to June 1778). Welles left Glastonbury c. 1798 and the house was acquired by Joseph Stephens, who operated a forge behind the house near the river. Originally having a saltbox form, the house was later expanded and updated in the Georgian style. It also has a later Greek Revival front doorway.
The sign on the house at 534-536 Naubuc Avenue in Glastonbury indicates that it was built c. 1820 by George Wrisley. The Commemorative Biographical Record of Hartford County, Connecticut (1901) mentions a George Wrisley who built a house later occupied by his son, George Smith Wrisley, and grandson, Ransom Wrisley, but that house must have been built earlier than 1820 if it was built by George, Sr. The 1855 map of Hartford county indicates an “H. Risley” living about where the house is located.
In 1798 Ebenezer Hale (1771-1843) of Glastonbury married Sarah Cornwall of Portland. The couple shared the house at 1381 Main Street in Glastonbury with Ebenezer’s brother Gideon Hale, Jr., who married Anna Case in 1803. Eventually the house became too small for two families and Ebenezer Hale built his own house at 1378 Main Street in 1806. Ebenezer’s grandsons, George and John Howard Hale, started a peach orchard in 1866. The farm paymaster would pay the orchard workers at the long window on the north side of the house. John H. Hale developed peach trees that could better withstand the northern climate. The first to grade their fruit, the brothers developed their business on a national scale with 1200 acres in Connecticut and Georgia by 1915. As related in A Handbook of New England (second edition, 1917):
It was J. H. Hale, the ‘Peach King,’ who more than any other man in its history put Glastonbury on the map. He began in a small way with upland farms worth $10 an acre, and on this “barren” land proved that peaches could be produced, unequaled in flavor, which would bring the highest prices in the nearby New England markets. Wealth has poured in upon him and is utilized in developing at Fort Valley in Georgia the greatest peach-growing industry of the world.
An interesting recollection of J.H. Hale appears in a speech made by Frank B. White of Chicago at the annual convention of the Wisconcin State Board of Agriculture and printed in the 1905 Annual Report of the Wisconsin State Board of Agriculture:
I had occasion to speak to a gentleman this morning about the Hon. J. H. Hale, of South Glastonbury, Conn. We call him the “Peach King.” When he began the production of peaches in Connecticut, he at once sought to specialize his work and to send forth “Hale’s” peaches as the best product in the market, and he has made a great reputation simply by the peach itself. He had each peach carefully wrapped and on each wrapper it was advertised that it was a “Hale” peach, and in putting up packages, he was careful that every peach should be the same, from the top to the bottom of the package. In doing that, he said he found great difficulty, because he even had to discharge men who insisted upon putting nicer peaches at the top. He said, “I had to discharge my men and employ girls, because the girls are more honest than the men.” After that he had no trouble whatever. But when he put these peaches in the great markets of the east, he found that the commission merchants rather discouraged the idea, they didn’t care to bother with them. He demanded a better price, and he just asked the privilege of putting them in that people might know what Hale’s peaches really were, and it was but a short time before he had them coming for his peaches; letters were being sent to him from different parts of the country, saying, “Send on your peaches, our customers want them,” and from that little beginning he now has 2,300 acres of peaches in a bearing condition, and last year he shipped 210 large refrigerator cars from his Georgia orchard to the markets of the north and had a ready market for all he could produce. He made that market by judicious advertising of the article itself.
Bear in mind, it is the man on the farm that will make the success just as surely as it is the man behind the gun that will win the victory.