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.
Born in Farmington in 1795, John Treadwell Norton (d. 1869) became successful in the hardware business in Albany, New York. Treadwelll, who had been a surveyor and engineer for the Erie Canal, returned to Farnmington to construct a feeder canal that would supply water to the Farmington Canal from the Farmington River in Unionville. On land inherited in 1824 from his grandfather, he built a Georgian-style mansion at 11 Mountain Spring Road in Farmington in 1832, where he lived as a gentleman farmer. The house of his grandfather, John Treadwell (1745-1823), who served as Governor of Connecticut, had been a station on the Underground Railroad. John Treadwell Norton was also an abolitionist. He was one of the first people to visit the Amistad captives who were confined in a jail in New Haven. He played a major role in bringing the captives to Farmington, where they lived for 8 months before returning to Africa. The property was later owned by Austin Dunham Barney and was called the Barney House. For a time, the house was a used as a conference center and bed and breakfast by the University of Connecticut. In 2001, it was sold to its current owners, who have returned to calling the house its original name of Glenbrook.
Samuel Deming‘s father and uncle built the store he later ran in Farmington in 1809 which sold local goods and imported items. The store originally stood next to Deming’s house on Main Street, but was moved to Mill Lane in the 1930s, when a new town hall was built (now the site of a fire station). John Hooker, attorney and husband of women’s rights activist Isabella Beecher Hooker, rented an office on the store’s second floor in the 1840s. It was also on the second floor that the African men from the Amistad stayed during their first two months in Farmington in 1841. The space was then used as a school, where the Africans attended classes for five hours a day, six days a week. Today, Deming’s store is still a private commercial establishment called “Your Village Store.”
Faith Congregational Church, located on Main Street, across from Spring Grove Cemetery, in Hartford’s North End, was originally built as the Windsor Avenue Congregational Church in 1871. The Romanesque Revival and High Victorian Gothic style church was constructed by the Pavillion Congregational Society, organized in 1870. Among the church’s ministers was Charles E. Stowe, pastor from 1883 to 1890. Stowe was the son of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who attended church there regularly during her son’s ministry. Since 1953, the church has been the home of Faith Congregational Church, a congregation formed from a merger of Talcott Street Congregational Church and Mother Bethel Methodist Church. Talcott Street Congregational was Hartford’s first black church, founded by the African Religious Society in 1826. Members of the Society had become weary of being assigned seats in the rear of churches and wished to found a church where there would be no assigned seating. The church became an important institution for Hartford’s black community and a center for abolitionist activity. An early minister was James W.C. Pennington, who had escaped slavery in Maryland. Rev. Pennington feared being dragged back to slavery, until John Hooker, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s brother-in-law, purchased his freedom from the estate of his former owner. The African Religious Society also founded Hartford’s first black public school in 1829. Faith Congregational Church is a site on the Connecticut Freedom Trail.
The Thomas Hart Hooker House, on Main Street in Farmington, was built in 1770 by Judah Woodruff for Hooker, a descendant of Thomas Hooker and of Stephen Hart, one of the founders of Farmington. Hooker had married Sarah Whitman Hooker in 1769 and in 1773 they moved to what is now West Hartford. The house was later owned by Samuel Deming, an abolitionist who used his home as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Deming also joined with Austin Williams and John Treadwell Norton in bringing the Africans from the Amistad to Farmington in 1841. The house, now owned by Miss Porter’s School, is on the Connecticut Freedom Trail.
United Church on the Green, located on New Haven Green just northeast of First Church, was built 1812-1815. The Congregation dates back to the Great Awakening of the eighteenth century. In 1796, two congregations united: the White Haven church (formed in 1742) and the Fair Haven church (formed 1769). Their church building, originally known as North Church, was designed by Ebenezer Johnson, a member of the church committee, who made reference to the design of All Saints Church in Southampton, England (designed by C. L. Stieglitz; built 1792-5; destroyed 1940) as featured in a French architectural book. North Church was built by the noted Connecticut architect, David Hoadley. In 1849, the interior was totally remodeled by Sidney Mason Stone. In 1884, North Church joined with Third Church to form United Church. Both congregations had been involved with abolitionism: Third Church’s Simeon Jocelyn was a founding member of the Amistad Committee and North Church’s Roger Sherman Baldwin was a lawyer who defended the Amistad African’s rights.
On High Street in Farmington is an 1811 Federal-style house built for Edward Hooker, a descendant of Thomas Hooker (Hartford’s first minister) and Samuel Hooker (Farmington’s second minister). Edward Hooker was a farmer and operated a small preparatory school for boys, called the “Old Red College,” in his parents old farmhouse in Farmington. He closed the school in 1816, when the town was planning to open its own academy in the village center. Deacon Edward Hooker’s daughter, Elizabeth, married Francis Gillette, a future senator. The house was inherited, after Edward Hooker’s death in 1846, by his son, John Hooker, a lawyer, who in 1841 had married Isabella Beecher Hooker, the younger half-sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe. The couple lived in Farmington until they moved to Hartford in the early 1850s, establishing the neighborhood of Nook Farm together with the Gillettes. The Farmington house remained in the Hooker family until it was sold in 1864.
John Hooker was an abolitionist. On Mill Lane in Farmington is Deming’s Store, where Hooker rented an office, next to a room used by the Africans from the Amistad during their stay in Farmington. John Hooker also helped the Rev. James Pennington, a former slave in Maryland who had escaped to Connecticut, attended Yale and become a Congregational minister. After the Fugitive Slave Law was passed in 1850, African-Americans living in the North who were still regarded as slaves in the southern states were in great danger. In 1851, Hooker legally purchased Pennington’s freedom from slavery from the estate of his former owner. Pennington wrote a book about his experiences, called The Fugitive Blacksmith, published in 1849. Later, influenced by his wife Isabella, Hooker became involved in the Women’s Suffrage Movement, presenting a bill in the state legislature making husbands and wives equal in property rights, which finally passed in 1877.