Phelps-Hatheway House, Suffield Connecticut

The Phelps-Hatheway House on South Main Street in Suffield, around 1920. Image from Celebration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Settlement of Suffield, Connecticut (1921).

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The house in 2015:


The present-day view of this historic house is dominated by a massive sycamore tree that is even older than the house itself. The tree is estimated to be about 300 years old, while the house was built sometime in the mid 1700s. Sources seem to indicate either 1736 or 1761, but either way the house predates the American Revolution. It was originally owned by Abraham Burbank, and subsequently by his son, Shem, who was a wealthy Tory businessman during the American Revolution. Following the war, his loyalty to the British cost him a lot of his business, so his subsequent financial issues forced him to sell the house to Oliver Phelps. The new owner did not hold the property for too long, though, before he had his own monetary problems; Phelps sold the house around 1800 after losing money in a failed land investment.

The new owner was Asahel Hatheway, whose family owned the house for the rest of the century.  During this time, an addition was made to the north (right) side, to go along with the previous addition that Phelps had built in 1794. The house has been well-preserved over the years, even down to the rare 1794 French wallpaper that is still on the walls. Today it is owned by Connecticut Landmarks and open to the public as a museum, providing a glimpse into the 18th and 19th century life of the upper class in the Connecticut River Valley.

Samuel Warner House, Wilbraham Mass

The Samuel Warner House on Stony Hill Road in Wilbraham, on September 3, 1923. Image from Register of the Ancestors of Samuel Warner and his Descendants (1924).

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The house in 2015:


This house on Stony Hill Road was probably built in the late 1700s, and for many years it was home to some of my ancestors, starting with Samuel Warner Jr., my great-great-great-great-great grandfather.  He was a veteran of two wars, having served with his father in the French and Indian War, where they fought at Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Crown Point in New York.  He returned to Ticonderoga several decades later, when he was stationed at Fort Ticonderoga in 1776-1777 during the American Revolution.  His son, Samuel Warner III, later took over the farm, and lived here his entire life.  He died in 1824 and his son, Samuel Warner IV, my great-great-great grandfather, acquired the property following his marriage in 1827.  He was a fairly prominent citizen of Wilbraham, serving as a town selectman in 1857 and as a member of the Wesleyan Academy Board of Trustees from 1848 until 1858.  He died in 1859, and the house was later owned by two more generations until 1893, when it was sold to someone outside the family for the first time in probably over a century.

The first photo was taken during a family reunion for the Samuel Warner Association, which consists of descendants of the third Samuel Warner, who lived from 1763 to 1824.  Several of my family members are visible in the photo, including my great grandmother, who is standing 6th from the right, in the white outfit.  Her three daughters are seated together in the front row on the right, and my grandmother is the one furthest to the left, just to the right of the tear in the paper.

Today, the house is still there, but with significant modifications.  It now serves as offices for the Country Club of Wilbraham, which is located on the former Warner property.  There have been some significant additions behind and to the right of the house for dining and banquet facilities, but overall the historic house itself is still relatively intact on the exterior.

Rockingham Meeting House, Rockingham, Vermont

The Rockingham Meeting House around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company collection.

The meeting house in 2018:

The Rockingham Meeting House is one of the two oldest existing church buildings in Vermont. It is so old, in fact, that it was not built in the United States – construction began in 1787, four years before Vermont became a state. At the time, Vermont was an independent republic, and although the citizens overwhelmingly favored joining the Union, there were issues over conflicting land claims between New York and New Hampshire. By the time the building was completed in 1801, however, Vermont had since joined as the 14th state.

Although it was built at the end of the 18th century, its architecture is fairly conservative, and it looks more like meeting houses from the first half of the century.  Probably the most conspicuous difference between it and most other churches built in the late 18th and early 19th century is its lack of a steeple.  Many early 18th century churches did not have steeples, although by the time the Rockingham Meeting House was built they were fairly commonplace.  Another difference is the interior layout; the main entrance, as seen in this view, is located in the middle of the long side of the building, and inside the pulpit is directly opposite it.  Again, this was common in the mid 18th century, but by the start of the 19th century most churches were being built with the central aisle running the length of the building.

Like many other meeting houses of the era, this building was used for both church services and town meetings, and at the time of its construction it was in the center of the main village in the town of Rockingham.  However, as time went on, and as industry replaced farming as the livelihood for many residents of the town, the village of Bellows Falls along the Connecticut River became Rockingham’s center of population.  Church services here ended in 1839, and town meetings continued until 1869.  After that, the building was mostly vacant until the early 20th century, when the historical significance of the building came to be appreciated.  The first photo was probably taken around the time of its restoration 1907.  Overall, the building is one of the best-preserved meeting houses in New England, in part because of its relatively brief use as a church and meeting house.  Today, the building is owned by the town of Rockingham, and is rented out for weddings and other functions.  However, because the building was never really updated or renovated since its completion, neither electricity nor heat was ever installed, so it is only usable in the summer months.

Isaac Brewer House, Wilbraham Mass

The Isaac Brewer House on Main Street in Wilbraham in 1898. Image courtesy of the Wilbraham Public Library.

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The house in 2015:


The Isaac Brewer House is one of the oldest existing buildings in Wilbraham; it dates to about 1748, and was originally the home of Isaac Brewer, a prominent early settler of what is today the town of Wilbraham.  Present-day Wilbraham was settled beginning in the 1730s, and at the time it was part of Springfield.  Known as the Outward Commons, this area was on the extreme eastern edge of Springfield’s borders, which once stretched as far as Wilbraham to the east and Westfield to the west.  Isaac Brewer was the son of Daniel Brewer, who served as the pastor of the church in Springfield from 1694 to 1733.  Following Reverend Brewer’s death in 1733, a dispute arose in Springfield regarding his replacement, Robert Breck, whose views were considered unorthodox to the more conservative Calvinists in Springfield.  This was perhaps a factor in Isaac Brewer’s decision to move to Wilbraham around the same time that Breck became the pastor, and in 1741 he was one of the eight original members of the newly-created Wilbraham church.

The house remained in the Brewer family for 150 years, until it was sold in 1898 to merchant Frank Gurney, the owner of Gurney’s Store just a short distance away (his home is almost visible on the far right of the 1904 photo in that post). The first photo must’ve been taken either right before or right after he moved in; perhaps his family is the one photographed in the front yard.  Like the historic photo in this post, I suspect that this photo may have been taken by the Howes Brothers, photographers from Ashfield Massachusetts who traveled around New England during the late 1890s and early 1900s, often photographing people in front of their homes.

Sometime soon after Gurney moved in, he made some alterations that are apparent in the present-day scene, including the front porch, second story bay window, and the altered windows on the first floor.  By the 1950s, the Gurneys were no longer living here, and the house was divided into a two-family residence.  However, overall the building remains in good condition, and aside from Gurney’s alterations it is still recognizable as a historic colonial-era house.

John Hooker House, Springfield Mass

The Railroad House, formerly the home of Judge John Hooker, on Railroad Row in Springfield around 1893. Photo from Sketches of the Old Inhabitants and Other Citizens of Old Springfield (1893).

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The location in 2015:


This building was originally located on Main Street opposite Lyman Street, and was owned by John Hooker, a lawyer who served as a town selectman, probate judge, and bank president in the early 1800s.  He died in 1829, and ten years later the railroad came to Springfield.  The property was right next to the railroad station, so several local businessmen had the foresight to buy the property and build a hotel, the Massasoit House.  This proved to be a successful plan, but rather than demolishing the old building, it was moved around the corner onto Railroad Row, or what is today called Gridiron Street.  At some point, a third story was added, and the building was used as a hotel and boarding house, operating under several names, including Greundler’s Hotel, Germania Hotel, and the Railroad House.  It was probably not one of Springfield’s higher-end hotels, but it likely offered affordable rates to middle-class travelers, and was conveniently located just across the street from the old railroad station.  I don’t know what became of the building, other than that it clearly no longer exists – its location on Gridiron Street is now a parking lot behind the Paramount Theater.

Timothy Merrick House, Wilbraham Mass

The Timothy Merrick House on Main Street in Wilbraham, probably sometime in the late 1800s. Photo courtesy of the Wilbraham Public Library.

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The same location in 2015:



Massachusetts is home to only two species of venomous snakes: the timber rattlesnake and the northern copperhead.  Both are exceedingly rare in the state, but they must have been more common in Wilbraham in the past, as they make several appearances into town lore. This house was built around 1761 for Timothy Merrick, the only son of my 6th great grandfather, Thomas Merrick.  Merrick was engaged to Sarah Lamb, and they were to live in this house after their marriage.  However, according to the records of the town clerk, Samuel Warner (who was also my 6th great grandfather, from a different branch of the family):

Timothy, son of Thomas Mirick and Mary Mirick, was Bit By a Ratel Snake one Aug. the 7th, 1761, and Dyed within about two or three ours he being twenty two years two months and three Days old and vary near the point of marridge.

Merrick’s death is believed to be the last recorded fatal snake bite in Massachusetts history, but even if not it is certainly the most famous.  Because of the tragic nature of the story, this event formed the basis for one of the earliest American ballads, “On Springfield Mountain.”  It was written in the late 1700s or early 1800s, and there are many different versions of this song, some of which include a number of embellishments beyond what Warner wrote in the town records.  One such version, recorded in the 1964 History of Wilbraham book, is asserted to be the original Merrick family version:

On Springfield Mountain there did dwell
A likely youth was known full well
Lieutenant Mirick’s only son
A likely youth nigh twenty one

One Friday morning he did go
Into the medow for to mow
A round or two and he did feel
A pisin sarpent at his heel

When he received his deadly wound
he dropt his sithe apon the ground
And strate for home was his intent
calling aloude still as he went

O Molly Molly Molly dear
come see this pesky sarpent here
Tho all around his voice was heered
none of his friends to him apiered

So soon his carful father went
to seek his son with discontent
And there his onley son he found
ded as a stone apon the ground

His father vieude his track with consarn
where he had rund across the corn
Uneven tracks where he did go
appeared to stagger to and fro

And there he lay suppose to rest
with both his hands acrost his brest
His mouth and eyes were closed fast
and there poor man he slept his last

The seventh of August sixty one
this fatal axsident was done
let this a warning be to all
to be prepared when God doth call.

Today, as seen in the second photo, Timothy Merrick’s house is gone; it burned in 1955 was was replaced soon after with a modern house.  The location of the snake bite has not been conclusively identified, but it was across Main Street and a little to the south of the house, which would place it right along the present-day Hampden-Wilbraham border.  This area is now a suburban residential development, and the History of Wilbraham book places the location at around the spot where Oakland Street crosses a small stream.  Although both the house and the farmland that Merrick was once mowing are now gone, there are still a few reminders around town.  Behind the location of the Merrick house is the Pesky Sarpent Conservation Area, and further up the hill is a rocky outcropping called Rattlesnake Peak.  Timothy Merrick’s gravestone can also still be seen, in the Adams Cemetery on Tinkham Road.  There is no direct mention of the rattlesnake on the stone, but the epitaph, taken from Job 14:2, seems appropriate for the sudden, tragic death of a young man: “He cometh forth like a flower and is cut down.  He fleeth also as a Shadow and continueth not.”