Willimantic in Eighteen Fifty:

(Compiled by Allen B. Lincoln for the Bi-Centennial but not read for lack of time, and now published by request of the Committee.)

I wish to give you a picture of Willimantic as it was about the year 1850, at the height of its growth and prosperity as a “Factory Village,” at the beginnings of the days of the railroad, and showing the foundations on which the present growth to extensive manufacturing, and the beginnings of an educational center, has been reared. Follow me with your mind on the Willimantic of to-day, and you will get a comparative picture of great interest. I do not lay claim to accuracy, but the picture is approximately correct, as to the chief features and families of the town at that date. I am indebted chiefly to General Lloyd E. Baldwin for information.

At the west end, stood the Windham Company’s mills and store substantially as they are now, with the “Savings Institute” in the second story of the store building; and the six houses of the “Yellow row” beyond, and the “White row” on Main street opposite. Just west of the store on Main street stood Agent A.C. Tingley’s residence, a pretentious mansion in those days, now the home of Agent Thomas C. Chandler. North-east of “White Row” and near the present site, stood the First district school house. Away at the west end, as now, stood alone in the wilderness the Harden Fitch place, occupied then as now by him, and one of the oldest houses, if not the oldest, in town. Between the “White row” and the Hardin Fitch place there were scattered a dozen or fifteen house, among which were the residences of Deacon D. Terry, occupied now as then by him; opposite him lived William H. Cranston, in the house now occupied by his grandson, Allen L. Cranston; next east in the corner of Hooper’s Lane (now Winter street) lived Harry Boss; a few rods east lived Warren Atwood, and nearly opposite from him, in the house now the second east of Mansfield avenue, lived Dr. Asahel Tarbox.

Over the river, at the west end of what is now Pleasant street, was the principal residence district. Then as now the first house east of “Card Road,” stood the spacious white mansion of Stephen Hosmer, afterwards the home of William H. Hosmer, his son, and of James Martin, “the old sexton.” At what is now the northwest corner of Bridge and Pleasant streets, stood the toll gate, which even in 1850 had fallen into “innocuous desuetude,” but whose old red toll-house has been torn down within only a few years past, and its ruined foundations are still to be seen. About opposite the toll-house lived Thomas Jordan, brother of Lyman, in the house now modernized and occupied by George Tiffany.
Elisha Burnham lived where his son Abel now lives, and Ralph Williams lived in the house now occupied by Samuel G. Adams.

Further down Pleasant street was the James D. Hosmer residence, still occupied by his daughter; then the home of Fred Campbell, now occupied by Conductor Edward Stone; then the home of General L.E. Baldwin, now occupied by E.F. Reed. Next came William Morrison’s little brick house, also still standing, and occupied to-day by James N. Bailey.
Down on the main road towards the bridge (Bridge street) came the house built by George W. Manahan, occupied later by the Rev. Samuel G. Willard, and then by Chauncey Turner, the present occupant; then the old “Eagle house,” built by William Porter in 1833, and afterwards occupied successively by Jefferson Campbell, and his brother, Thomas Campbell, the latter dying there; and next north Miss Sara Porter’s place, now occupied by William C. Cargell. The street has been much cut down, as plainly appears. On what is now River street stood first on the south side the Stephen Bromley place, and all the houses on that side now occupied by the King family, Alonzo Green, Judge Wheeler and George B. McCracken, and on the other side of the street, as now, lived Ira Sweetland, and also the late Deacon Luther Martin of the M.E. Church.

From the junction of River and Pleasant streets east there was then no house until we reach that now occupied by Lawyer John L. Hunter, then next east was Deacon A.H. Fuller’s home, now occupied by his widow and after her bequeathed to become the Baptist parsonage; Edwin H. Hall lived next east in the house lately sold to E.S. Page by George Lincoln; opposite stood then as now the Alfred Youngs place; then no house to the east until we reach what is now the “boarding house” on high knoll, and which in 1850 was the spacious residence of Asa Jillson. Next east was the Joseph C. Bassett place, then as now occupied by him; next east the home of Josiah Dean, Jr.; then the old Hebard tavern, now a tenement house; nearly opposite was the residence of Col.William Jillson, now occupied by his son, William C. Jillson; then diagonally southeast across the street, as now, the Tingley house, and next east the house of lawyer Joel R. Arnold, now occupied by Charles R. Utley. Next on the north side came the house of Col. Roswell Moulton, where now his son John H. Moulton lives. Next east of him dwelt Ulysses Young then, and now his widow.

Nearly opposite, and next east of Judge John M. Hall’s present residence, and where now Superintendent John Scott of the Linen Company lives, dwelt in 1850 Seth Jillson, and later Allen B. Burleson. Then the turnpike stretched away towards Old Windham, with the Anson Young place, then a small red house (now supplanted by a large double frame dwelling), and the Josiah Dean (now Earl Cranston’s) place, and the Deacon Eleazer Bill place, in recent years known as the “Maple House,” between Willimantic’s outskirts and Natchaug river on the Windham road; --so it appears that this region has not changed much since 1850.

Now let us return to the west end, and start with the Smithville Company’s mills, which were flourishing in 1850, with their stone row alongside the railway track, and the white row on south side of Main street and the two houses built by Deacon Lee. On the corner of Main and what is now Bridge street stood their supply store, in the basement of the building, to-day unoccupied, but the main portion of the building
was then as now, a boarding or tenement house. West of what is now Carpenter Bros., in “School House Lane,” dwelt Israel Robinson, next east “Aunt Lucy Crane,” and about on the present site of Carpenters’ store was the house of Robert Prentice; then came the house of Azariah
Lathrop, with Laban Chase’s shoe store in the basement.

On the northwest corner of Main and High Streets dwelt Laban Chase, in the house now there standing. On the opposite corner of High street was the Elias Rathburn place, later known as the home of Dr. William Witter, the first long-resident physician of Willimantic. High street was open at this time. Robert Hooper’s house was the first one built on that street and was then as now occupied by him. Next south of him Wightman Williams lived, in the house now owned and occupied by Edmund Crane. Egbert Hall and later Samuel B. Ford and Courtland Babcock lived successively in the house lately bought and remodeled by Robert Truscott. James Sterry lived in the little house opposite Robert Hooper’s, and George P. Heap, afterwards husband of Mrs. Kellogg of Heap will fame, built and occupied the house lately vacated by Giles H. Alford, northeast corner of Valley and High streets.
Returning now on Main street, next below the Rathburn or Witter place on the site of the present Levi Frink block, but in the cottage now standing rear of Frink’s block, dwelt Nathan Fish, father of Angeline Fish, who lately died at the age of eighty years or more. Next dwelt William F. Essex, in the house which stood on the site where Farley’s new building is now going up. Next was the Nathan Hall place, a brick
block now occupied for stores beneath and tenements above, and which in 1850 was occupied for a short time by Parson Willard and wife of the Congregational church. Then came the Thomas Cunningham residence, that large white building occupied in recent years by Archambeault’s store beneath and tenements above; and next east of this, near what is now the Walnut street corner, stood in 1850 Thomas Cunningham’s grog shop. There was then no Walnut street, and all north of Main street in this section was meadow and forest.

Then a few rods east again stood the first Dr. Witter place, built for him in 1831, but in 1850 and until his death in 1885 the home of Horace hall, for many years a leading citizen and father of his honor, Judge John M. Hall of to-day. The house is now occupied by John M. Gray, the bill poster. Next stood the little Harrington house on the site of Thomas Haran’s new block. Then Niles Potter’s hotel, called then the Tremont house, now Young’s hotel.

Let us cross now to the south side, and just opposite Potter’s hotel was Stephen Kimbel’s house, (now replaced by the new Kimbel block) and in the little one-story addition to his house Stephen Kimbel sat for many years as the village shoe-maker. The old building next east now occupied as a saloon was then a store, and occupied at times by different parties, of whom John C. Keigwin was one, he having begun the
clothing business there. Next east was the old Congregational Church, now remodeled into Meloney’s block; then came George C. Elliott’s house and tailor shop and the famous little twin-buildings, on the sites now occupied by the Arnold and Chapman blocks respectively. Then the old Franklin building, a large frame structure, the first public building in Willimantic, built by Gen. Baldwin in 1847 and in 1850 occupied by William L. Weaver’s book-store, L. & H. Feldman’s dry goods house (afterwards Alpaugh and Hooper’s); and Lawyers Joel R. Arnold and Jairus H. Carpenter had offices in the second story, while in the third was a hall for public gatherings.

East of the Franklin building there was in 1850 nothing south of Main street but an alder swamp (save the old brick depot of dingy memory which stood about fifty feet south of the present station) until you came to the “old stone row” of tenement houses belonging to the Jillson mill, and which then stood near the river shore a few rods southwest of the present Main street railway crossing. There was no broad Railroad street then—only a lane to the depot in the swamp!

Returning to the Potter hotel (now Young’s hotel), the building next east, on the north side of the street, was a little shop on the site of the present Hooker house, built by Albert Sherman, “gentleman fashioner,” as his sign read, and afterwards occupied by General Baldwin
with the post office. Bank street was not thought of and all back of it was swamp near by, and forest in the distance. Jairus Littlefield’s house stood where the Savings Institute now is; then Mrs. Lavinia Loomis’s house, where the United Bank Building now is; then the house occupied now as then by Melancthon Turner, and the late Isaac Wilson, with the livery stable in the rear as now. The old William C. Boon
place, (now Dr. Card’s Block) came next, and then, on the site of the present opera house, stood the junior Chester Tilden’s little candy and fruit shop, right on the corner of Main street and Tanner’s lane, (now North street); and high up on the bank, behind the little shop, stood the senior (Rev.) Chester Tilden’s dwelling house. Tanner’s lane led up a sharp hill and then down again to the old slaughter house, which then stood where Johnson’s livery stable now is, and a part of which was afterwards worked into the building of Warren Tanner’s (now Johnson’s) livery.

Across the lane from Chester Tilden’s stood the dwelling house built by Samuel Barrows in 1828 and in 1850 owned by General Baldwin, afterwards bought by Warren Tanner and gradually enlarged to the present Tanner Block. Then came Dr. Jason Safford’s drug store in a little building afterwards enlarged by L.J. Fuller and Son to its present size, and where Frank Wilson and Company’s Pharmacy, in direct line of succession, still dispenses drugs as did Dr. Safford of old, and his predecessors Messrs. Alfred Howes, John A. Perkins and Newton Fitch, the last named of whom founded the store in 1828.
Next stood the original M.E. church, which about this time was removed to Church street and became the old Christian boarding house, lately supplanted by Johnsons’ new block now occupied by Perkins and Blish; and the old church site on Main street was soon occupied by the Atwood Block build by Warren Atwood; and in 1850 the new M.E. Church was built, on the present site on Church street, thus giving the street its name.

Next east of the old church on Main street, stood the building now known as the Brainard house, the main part of which was built by Sheffield Lewis in 1848, and was in 1850 occupied by stores and for tenements, but was soon afterwards bought b6y Henry Brainard and by him made into a hotel bearing the present name. Next east of the Lewis (now Brainard) building, the corner lot (present site of the Windham” hotel) was then vacant, and on the site of the present Commercial Block stood the mansion of Joshua B. Lord; --the house has since been removed and is now standing on Turner street opposite James Walden’s residence.
I well remember that old Lord mansion. It stood well back from the street, with portico and bay windows, marvelous luxuries for those days, and in front was a lawn varied by shrubbery and flower beds, while along the street line was a handsome hedge, the whole making a picture to my childish eyes which only the word “grandeur” could adequately convey. Here dwelt Marian Lord, the sole heiress of her father’s (Daniel Lord’s) score or more of thousands, and she died on what was to have been her wedding day, at the age of eighteen, and they buried her with her diamond ring on. Her father had died some time before, and her broken-hearted grandmother, Eunice Richmond Kellogg, her nearest of kin, sought legal advice to retain as a keepsake a fine old lace shawl which she and Marian had worn together, but which other claimants to the estate had taken, with all the rest of the property. Mrs. Kellogg found that she was the rightful heir, not only to the shawl keepsake, but to all of Marian’s property, and she thus came into possession of it. In after years she married George P. Heap, the English tailor; and after his death E. McCall Cushman became her advisor, counselor and friend, and she finally left to him the property, which by the accidents of death had been diverted from the Lord line that accumulated it, to entirely foreign channels. Hence arose the famous Heap will case, or Richmond’s appeal from probate, so lately “settled out of court,” after two fruitless trials.

Next east of the Lord mansions stood the Baptist church, on its present site. Then came the Hanover block, still standing, and where in 1850 George W. Hanover and Thomas Turner carried on the millinery and dry goods business, and manufactured hoop-skirts. Later Mrs. Hanover conducted the business, calling her place the “Temple of Fashion;” hence the name of Temple street. Then came the James Howes place, now remodeled into the double-verandahed dwelling house on the corner of Union and Center streets.  At the junction of Main and Union streets, where now stands theCushman block, there stood about 1850 a small shop.
About opposite the Hanover building on Union street stood Dr. William K. Otis’s little office building, where patient sought him for many years; and the same building may be found standing to-day on the southwest corner of Temple and Valley streets. Next beyond Dr. Otis’s  ffice was a stretch of grass land to the old Fitch house, to-day standing as the big and dingy white tenement house opposite A.B. Adams’s; then came the Cushman residence, now owned as a tenement by Durkee, Stiles & Co., but then the home of J.E. Cushman, who has now removed to California.

A few rods to the east of Mr. Cushman’s stood the stone mansion of William Jillson, standing to-day just north of the Main street railroad crossing, and then called one of the finest residences in town. Next east of the Howes place on Union street was a stretch of meadow to the house now occupied by Mrs. Vilatia Loomer and Dr.C.H. Colgrove, but about 1850 occupied by Capt. Roger Gurley and Joseph Woodward. Then came the house now occupied by Charles Bliven; next the house occupied for many years by Merrick Johnson, and still standing but now set back from the road. On the corner of Union and Jackson streets was the store of Roderick Davison, later the firm of Davison and (John H.) Moulton.
In all the region north of Main street, and between High and Jackson streets, there stood in 1850, besides the old slaughter house and the M.E. church already mentioned, only two houses;--one that of Davis Weaver, grandfather of Editor Thomas Snell Weaver, (it was here that our “Journal” editor was born) and at this time the house was occupied by Zelotes Chaffee, and to-day is the home of Frank S. Fowler at the corner of Maple avenue and Bellevue street; the other was the George Bull place, so-called, the little white cottage still standing next east of James McAvoy’s residence. All the rest of this great tract, now so thickly settled, was a swampy valley with a brook running through it, (the brook still runs but now into our sewers) and stretched away up the hillside into chestnut forests and wild fields.

“Prospect street” was not dreamed of and “Summit street” and “Lewiston avenue” and the rest, were unimaginable! On Jackson street, the first house, now standing, on the east side, was the Jesse Wilson place. Abel Clark lived in the first house on the west side, now owned by William F. Gates. The house now so long owned by William H. Osborn was built and then occupied by Sidney Brewster. The house now standing next north of Montgomery hose house was the home of John Chipman, for many years night watchman for the Jillsons. Across the street east from what is now Grant’s grain store stood the Douglas Vaughn place, the same house still remaining. The site of Grants’s store was then a lawn studded with shade tress and behind it stood the house of William Branch, who afterwards went to Utah and became a Mormon priest. This house became the home of Editor William L. Weaver of “The Journal,” and on the hill to the west of it stood for many years a magnificent tall and wide-spreading oak, the solace of his later years, but which the advent of Loomer’s lumber yard in 1865 destroyed, to the great personal grief of Mr. Weaver.

On the site of the present Catholic church stood the house of Capt. Calvin Davison, brother of Roderick, and nearly opposite was the home of the venerable Luke Flynn, father of Willimantic’s present superintendent of streets, of the same name; and the old Flynn house stands to-day just off the Mansfield road near the little bridge beyond Whittemore park watering-trough. Henry Youngs lived where John Hickey now lives and William Godfrey lived in James Murray’s present house. Albert Moulton lived where he does now, and Jackson, the colored man from whom the street was named, and who was a respected citizen here for many years, lived in the white cottage which stood until lately on the site of John Killourey’s present house, but is now moved to the rear of the latter. Mr. Jackson at that time held the whole of the Hewitt property (to-day so-called), and which has lately been opened and been developed into a residence district, and it was of Mr. Jackson that Mr. Hewitt secured this land. [Corrections and Additions in the back of the book state: The Jackson street lands were never owned by the colored man, whose name was Lyman Jackson, though long occupied by him and named from him. The late Eli Hewitt bought the property of Edwin Eaton of Chaplin and his daughter, Miss Mary A. Hewitt of South Windham now holds the deed.]
There were no other houses north of the Hewitt and Jackson property until you came to the old stone house now at the cross roads of Ash and Jackson streets, and which was then the Nathaniel Robinson place, and later the Gordon place. To the west on the north side of Chestnut-hill road stood the Calvin Robinson place, then a red house, but since painted white, and to-day known as the Whittemore place, and on the south side, the Luther Robinson place, still to be seen as “the old red house.” No other houses were in this region in 1850.

Passing now down the south-east road (Ash street) from Jackson street, we come fist to the old Carey place occupied in 1850 by John Smith and now by his son James. Next on the east side lived Joseph Rollison in the house now made over into the “Hawthorne” on the same site. Next on the north side up Main street, on the northeast corner of Main and what is now Brook street still stands the house where Scott Smith, brother of John, lived in 1850. Across the road and on the south side and around the corner towards the mill is today the same row of white tenement houses that Jillson and Capen owned in 1850, and farther to the south by the river was their mill, now the Linen Co.’s No. 3. The
old Capen homestead, first built and occupied by Loren Carpenter, first warden of the borough, stood where it does not, just east of Hennesey’s store, and was until he died in 1890, the home of John H. Capen. The present site of the Linen Company’s “New Village” was then a stretch of hillside and valley and swamp.

Now come back to Union street, where we left it at Jackson. First on the north side below Jackson stood, as now. The two-tenement house, then owned by Lucian Clark, and next east was the residence of Maxon G. Clark, now occupied by his widow and her daughter, Mr. J.C. Robinson. Next came the Ahab Wilkinson place, occupied in 1850 by Mr. Wilkinson’s aunts and the widow of Dr. Kingsley, and now by the Chamberlain family. Then came the house of Elisha Williams’ the large house now standing at the corner of Union and Milk streets; and east across Milk street was the home of Ephraim Herrick, the pioneer truckman, which is still standing. Directly across Union street south from the Herrick house still stands the house where lived in 1850 Addison Safford, whose blacksmith shop was down across the lot to the southeast near the “old stone school house.” Now draw an air line from Addison Safford’s house to Col. William Jillson’s (now William C. Jillson’s) residence, and follow beneath it until you go about half way to the river, and you will stand about where, on a rocky knoll, was the site of the famous “old stone schoolhouse,” which in 1850 was at the height of its fame. The road did not run where it does now, but after coming north across the river, forked at the river side, leading east along the bank to Jillson Capen’s mill, and north-west gradually away from the river up by William Jillson’s stone house, about as now.
To the east of the school house along the site of the present No. 2 mill was the combination paper, grist and saw mill successively owned by Clark & Gray, Smith & Byrne and Col. George Spafford, but in 1850 owned by a Mr. Campbell of New York and run by Page & Son.

To the inland about opposite the present office of the Linen Company stood two or three dwelling houses. What is now the Linen Company’s spool shop at the foot of Jackson street was then the chief mill of A. & S. Jillson. Just to the east by the river bank stood the old Duck mill and next east of that but west of the site of the present No. 1 mill, stood another three-story mill of the Jillsons, but both it and the Duck mill have been removed. No. 1 was not built until 1857 and then by the Linen Company. Opposite the Jillson mill, --now the spool shop—was the old stone store where the employees traded. Next east was the store and dwelling of George Byrne.
Then came the old Universalist church elsewhere referred to; then next east the building now at the northwest corner of Main and Washington streets, occupied above as a dwelling and in the basement by the general store of Waterman C. and Lucian H. Clark. On the opposite corner of Washington street corner was Edward Moulton’s drug store. George Lathrop (now of Windham Centre) kept a general store in the building now occupied by Edward F. Casey’s furniture house. The houses still standing along to the east were occupied as dwellings, that next to Lathrop’s then by Joanna Wilkinson, an elderly maiden lady, now by George Wheeler, the prompter; the next by Martin Harris then, now a tenement house.
This section along Main street in front of the Jillson mills and along by the foot of Washington street, was known as “Exchange Place.” On the south side of Exchange Place, towards the river, stood the old “hay scales.” The post-office had been removed by Gen. L.E. Baldwin from Col. Roswell Moulton’s store, which then stood at the fork of the roads near the river, uptown to the little store opposite Potter’s hotel (now
Young’s,) and the tendency of commercial growth was that way.
Such, practically, was the Willimantic of 1850.