Aaron Bascom House, Chester, Massachusetts (2)

The house across from the corner of Skyline Trail and Bromley Road in Chester, Massachusetts, in April 1938. Photo by Arthur C. Haskell, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

The house in 2024:

As explained in more detail in the previous post, this house was built in 1769 as the home of the Reverend Aaron Bascom, the first pastor of the church in Chester. He lived here until his death in 1814, and then in 1832 it was purchased by Dr. Thaddeus DeWolf. It would remain in his family for over a century, and during this time several of his children went on to become prominent figures. His oldest son, Oscar DeWolf, became a physician and moved to Chicago, where he served as the city’s commissioner of health. Thaddeus’s youngest son, DeWitt C. DeWolf, was active in state politics during the early 20th century, including serving as executive secretary to Governor Joseph Ely in the early 1930s, and as the state commissioner of labor and industries.

DeWitt DeWolf died in 1935, and the top photo was taken three years later as part of the documentation of this house for the Historic American Buildings Survey. It was still owned by his family at the time, but a few months later the property was put up for auction. The house had several other owners during the 20th century, but it has been vacant for many years. All of the other outbuildings on the property are gone, and the land around the house is overgrown with trees. The historic house still has many of its original features, including the 12-over-8 windows on the second floor, but overall the house is in poor condition, as shown in the second photo.

Aaron Bascom House, Chester, Massachusetts

The house across from the corner of Skyline Trail and Bromley Road in Chester, Massachusetts, in April 1938. Photo by Arthur C. Haskell, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

The scene in 2024:

This house is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Chester, and it was built in 1769 as the home of the Reverend Aaron Bascom, the first pastor of the town’s church. The town had been incorporated several years earlier in 1765, but it was originally named Murrayfield, although it was later renamed Chester in 1783. At the time, this area on modern-day Skyline Trail was the town center. It was located along a ridgeline of rolling hills between the Middle Branch and West Branch of the Westfield River, and it was fairly close to the geographic center of the town. The center consisted of the meeting house, a schoolhouse, Rev. Bascom’s house, and several other nearby homes.

Aaron Bascom was originally from Warren, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard in 1768, and a year later he accepted the position as the pastor of the church here in Murrayfield. He was ordained on December 20, 1769, at the age of 23. According to the 1963 publication The First Congregational Church of Chester, his compensation included an initial settlement of 70 pounds, along with an annual salary of 40 pounds for three years, which would then increase five pounds per year until it reached 60 pounds. In addition, he was provided with firewood and, most significantly, a house, which is shown here in these two photos.

The house is typical for mid-18th century homes in Massachusetts. It features a front façade with four windows and a central door on the first floor, and five windows on the second floor. It originally had a large central chimney, but as was often the case, this chimney was later removed in order to create more space for a staircase and entry hall. Over the years, the exterior of the house also saw alterations and additions. The shutters in the top photo would not have been original to the house, and it seems likely that the Greek Revival style front entryway was probably a mid-19th century alteration.

Aaron Bascom lived here until his death in 1814, and the house was later purchased by Dr. Thaddeus Kingsley DeWolf in 1832. He was a noted local physician, and he lived here with his first wife Correlia Benham and their children Oscar, Homer, Sarah, and Martha. Correlia died of dysentery on August 7, 1847, and young Martha likewise died of dysentery five days later. However, Dr. DeWolf remarried rather quickly. Less than two months later, on September 28, the 46-year-old widower married 19-year-old Mary Phelps. They had two children together: Henry Clay DeWolf, who was born in 1850; and DeWitt Clinton DeWolf, who was born in 1864. DeWitt is known to have been born in this house, and the older children presumably were as well.

By the time the younger children were born, the town of Chester had undergone significant changes. In 1841 the Western Railroad was built along the West Branch of the Westfield River, in the southern and western part of the town. This spurred new developments in the valley, with the village of Chester Factories eventually becoming the town center, in place of the old town center here on Chester Hill, as it came to be called.

This shift was part of a broader trend in the rural hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. With more productive farmland available in the west, and new opportunities in the nation’s industrial cities, many towns and villages experienced population decline in the second half of the 19th century. Among those who left the area was Dr. DeWolf’s oldest son Oscar. He went to medical school, served as a surgeon in the U.S. Army during the Civil War, and then moved to Northampton before relocating to Chicago in 1873. There he became the city’s commissioner of health, a position that he held for 14 years.

During that time, Oscar’s younger half brother DeWitt joined him in Chicago, moving to the city around the late 1870s when he was 15. Rather than pursuing medicine like his father and brother, DeWitt went into business. He first worked for a shoe company, but then became involved in the coal industry, eventually serving as president of one coal company and vice president of another.

However, both brothers would eventually return home to Chester in their later years. Oscar left Chicago in 1891 and moved to London, where he practiced medicine for 12 years before retiring and moving back across the Atlantic to his old hometown. He had inherited the family home after his father’s death in 1890, and the 1894 county atlas indicated that he owned several other nearby homes. When he returned to Chester in 1903, he appears to have moved into the neighboring home at 346 Skyline Trail, which still stands just to the left of the old house, out of view in these photos.

Oscar DeWolf died in 1910, and then in 1915 his brother DeWitt moved back to Chester. Because DeWitt owned multiple properties, none of which had street numbers at the time, it is difficult to trace exactly where he lived, but it was apparently either his birthplace house here in these photos, or in the house next door that his brother had lived in. It seems that, over the course of his 20 years in Chester, he may have lived in both houses at different times.

The 1920 census does not indicate which house DeWitt DeWolf was living in, but it shows him in Chester with his wife Harriet and their daughters Elsie, Louise, and Virginia. Their household also included James H. Ellis, who was listed as a lodger. He later married their oldest daughter Elsie in 1926.

Shortly after his return to Chester, DeWitt DeWolf became involved in politics. He served in a variety of town offices, but he was also active in the state’s Democratic Party. He was a delegate at the Democratic National Convention in 1924 and again in 1928, and both times he was a strong advocate for New York Governor Al Smith, who earned the party’s nomination in 1928 but ultimately lost to Herbert Hoover in the general election. During the 1930 state gubernatorial election, DeWitt campaigned on behalf of his friend Joseph B. Ely of Westfield. Ely won the election, and he served as governor from 1931 to 1935. Upon taking office, Ely appointed DeWitt as his executive secretary, and DeWitt later became the state commissioner of labor and industries.

Despite working on Beacon Hill, DeWitt DeWolf continued to live here in Chester. His wife Harriet had died in 1922, and by 1930 he was living alone, probably in the house next door to this one. A 1930 article in the Springfield Republican, written after his appointment as executive secretary to Governor-elect Ely, indicated that his daughter Elsie was living in the old house, and also implied that DeWitt was not living in it at the time. However, DeWitt died in 1935, and the newspaper coverage stated that he died in the house where he was born, suggesting that at some point before his death he moved back into the old house.

The top photo was taken in April 1938, a few years after DeWitt’s death. The family still owned the house at this point, and the outbuilding on the left even had a sign that said “DeWitt C. DeWolf.” The building was photographed as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey, a Depression-era federal program that documented historic resources across the country.

The property was evidently sold a few months after the photo was taken, based on an auction notice that was published in the Republican in September 1938. The house would subsequently change hands several more times over the course of the 20th century, and in 1988 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing property in the Chester Center Historic District. This historic district is comprised of several other historic 18th and early 19th century buildings that all date back to when this small village was the town center.

The photographs that accompanied the National Register nomination form in the 1980s show the exterior of the house in reasonably good repair. However, the house has since been vacant for many years. All of the barns and other outbuildings are now gone, the property is overgrown, and the house itself is badly deteriorated. As shown in the second photo, the ground floor windows and doors are boarded up, and there is a sign next to the front door from the board of health, stating that it is unfit for human habitation. It is an important historic house, but in its current condition it is in danger of being permanently lost.

Buttolph-Williams House, Wethersfield, Connecticut (3)

The east side of the Buttolph-Williams House in Wethersfield, in August 1938. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

The house in 2024:

These two photos show the east side of the Buttolph-Williams House. Built around 1711, the house is one of the oldest in Wethersfield, and it is one of the many historic homes that line the streets of the town center. The top photo was taken as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey in 1938, and by this point the house had undergone many alterations from its original appearance, including newer windows and clapboards, and an ell on the back of the house.

At the time that the top phot was taken, the house was the home of siblings Kate and Frank Vibert. They had grown up in the house in the late 19th century, and they lived here until their deaths in the 1940s. The house was then acquired by the Connecticut Antiquarian and Landmarks Society—now known as Connecticut Landmarks—and it was restored to its original appearance in the late 1940s. This included re-installing diamond-paned casement windows, removing the rear ell, and removing the newer clapboards that had covered the original second-story overhang.

The house was once believed to have been built in the 1690s, but subsequent research has shown that it was actually built around 1711. Either way, though, it has many of the post-medieval architectural elements that were common on 17th century New England homes, and it survives as an excellent example of a First Period House. It is still owned by Connecticut Landmarks, and it is operated as a museum by the nearby Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum.

Granite Railway Incline, Quincy, Massachusetts (2)

The view looking down the Granite Railway Incline in Quincy, around 1922. Image courtesy of the Thomas Crane Public Library.

The scene in 2021:

As explained in more detail in the previous post, these two photos show the inclined plane of the Granite Railway in Quincy. Unlike the photos in that post, though, which were taken from the base looking up, these ones show the view looking down from partway up the inclined plane.

The Granite Railway was arguably the first commercial railroad in the United States. It began operations on October 7, 1826, and it consisted of horse-drawn cars that transported granite from the quarries in Quincy to the wharves on the Neponset River. From there, the granite was transported by boat to the Bunker Hill Monument, which was the project that had initially led to the construction of the railway.

The railway was expanded in 1830 with the construction of a small branch that led to the Pine Hill Quarry, located at the top of the hill behind where these photos were taken. To reach the top of the hill, civil engineer Gridley Bryant designed an 315-foot-long inclined plane that rose 84 feet in elevation. It consisted of two parallel tracks, one for empty cars ascending to the quarry and another for cars that were descending with granite blocks. The rails were made of granite topped by iron straps, and the tracks also included a cable that ran on pulleys in the center of the tracks. The cable formed an endless loop, and pulled the empty cars up to the top while also controlling the descent of the loaded cars.

Only two years after it opened, the inclined plane was the site of one of the first fatal railroad accidents in the United States. On July 25, 1832, a group of four visitors was ascending the inclined plane in an empty car when the cable failed near the summit, sending the car plummeting down the tracks. Contemporary accounts estimated that the car reached speeds of around 60 miles per hour before derailing at the base. One occupant was killed, two others were seriously injured, and the fourth walked away with minor injuries.

Aside from this accident, there do not appear to have been any other serious incidents here on the inclined plane, and it remained in use into the 20th century. In 1871, the Granite Railway was acquired by the Old Colony Railroad, which in turn became part of the New York, New Haven and Hartford in 1893. Although it was originally built for horse-drawn trains, most of the old Granite Railway was converted into a conventional railroad, as shown in the distance of the top photo. However, because the inclined plane was too steep for regular trains to use, it remained largely unchanged.

In 1901, new railroad tracks were placed atop the old granite rails, and then in 1920 it was converted for truck use, with metal channels to guide the wheels as the trucks ascended and descended. These are visible on the left side of the top photo, while the track in the center of the photo remained in its original 1830 configuration with the old granite blocks, metal strap rails, and pulleys. Then, in 1921, two obelisks were installed at the base of the incline, to commemorate its role in the early history of railroading.

At some point around the mid-20th century, the upper part of the inclined plane was removed when that part of the hillside was quarried. The landscape was further altered when the Southeast Expressway—modern-day Interstate 93—was built along the former mainline of the old Granite Railway in the 1950s. This did not directly affect the inclined plane, but it dramatically changed the view from this particular spot, as shown in the bottom photo.

The last quarry closed in 1963, and the land eventually became part of the Quincy Quarries State Reservation in 1985. This included the surviving portion of the inclined plane, which remains an important civil engineering landmark. Despite all of the changes over the years, the original granite track has remained well preserved over the years, and it still features the pulleys along with portions of the iron straps that were installed atop the granite rails.

Granite Railway Incline, Quincy, Massachusetts

The Granite Railway Incline on Granite Rail Court in Quincy, Massachusetts, in April 1934. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

The scene in 2021:

These two photos show the Granite Railway Incline, an important civil engineering landmark from the early days of railroads. It opened in 1830 as a branch of the Granite Railway, a 3-mile-long horse-drawn railroad that is often regarded as the first commercial railroad in the United States. The railroad itself had been established four years earlier, in 1826, for the purpose of supplying granite for the construction of the Bunker Hill Monument. The original 1826 route of the railroad extended about three miles from the Quincy quarries to the wharves on the Neponset River, and from there the quarried stone was transported by boat to Charlestown.

Prior to its construction, there had been a few small railroads in Britain and the United States, and there were even some early steam locomotives that had been developed, but the long-term viability of railroads was still very much uncertain in 1826. The Erie Canal had been completed just a year earlier, and many Americans viewed long-distance canals as the future of transportation. Nonetheless, the engineer for this project, Gridley Bryant, set out to build a horse-drawn railroad. And, because railroad technology was still in its infancy, he had to essentially design it from scratch. As a result, he is credited with developing turntables and switches, among other railroad innovations. He also had to design his own rails, which were made of wood and topped with iron straps except for at road crossings, where the rails were granite and iron.

The Granite Railway opened on October 7, 1826, and over the next few years it overcame skepticism as it steadily delivered cut granite blocks to the wharves on the river. Then, in 1830 Bryant expanded the railroad with a short branch that connected it to the Pine Hill Quarry. Because of the elevation change, this involved constructing a large inclined plane up to the quarry, as shown here in these two photos. In total, it was 315 feet long, and rose 84 feet in elevation, for an average grade of nearly 27%. This is significantly steeper than a conventional railroad, and by way of comparison it is even stepper than the average grade of the Mount Washington Cog Railway, although obviously much shorter. And, because of the need for durable materials here on the slope, Bryant constructed it of granite rails with iron straps, rather than the wooden rails that were used on most of the other sections of track on the railroad.

The inclined plane was built with two parallel sets of track, one for ascending cars and one for descending ones. In the center of each track was a chain that ran on pulleys. It formed a continuous loop up and down the inclined plane, pulling the empty cars up the hill while also controlling the descent of the fully-loaded cars that were leaving the quarry. Bryant later described the operation of the inclined plane in a letter that he wrote in 1859 to Charles B. Stuart:

It had an endless chain, to which the cars were attached in ascending or descending; at the head of this inclined plane I constructed a swing platform to receive the loaded cars as they came from the quarry. This platform was balanced by weights, and had gearing attached to it in such a manner that it would always return (after having dumped) to a horizontal position, being firmly supported on the periphery of an eccentric cam. When the cars were out on the platform there was danger of their running entirely over, and I constructed a self-acting guard, that would rise above the surface of the rail upon the platform as it rose from its connection with the inclined plain, or receded out of the way when the loaded car passed on to the track; the weight of the car depressing the platform as it was lowered down.

Overall, it was an important technological innovation, but the inclined plane also became the site of one of the first fatal railroad accidents in American history. This occurred on July 25, 1832, when a group of four visitors ascended an empty car. On the way up, the chain broke, sending the car on an uncontrolled descent. The resulting derailment killed one passenger and seriously injured two others, as described in an article published in the next day’s Boston Evening Transcript:

Yesterday a party of four Gentlemen, boarders at the Tremont House, consisting of Messrs Andrew E. Belknap and John G. Gibson of this city,—Mr Thomas Backus of St Jago de Cuba, and Wm B. Bend of New York, (formerly of Baltimore) rode out to the Quincy Rail-way. Whilst ascending the inclined plane, near the Granite quarry in one of the cars, and when near the summit, the chain parted and the car descended with frightful rapidity.

The force with which it struck the resting place, at the foot of the declivity, was so great that the car and passengers were thrown by the percussion twenty feet into the air, from whence it fell down a precipice of more than thirty feet, amongst the rocks beneath.

Mr Backus was killed instantly. Mr Bend had three ribs broken, and the sinews of a leg parted. Mr Gibson’s head was fractured, jaw broke, and leg broke. Mr Belknap escaped without injury to his bones, but his body is severely bruised.

Messrs Gibson and Bend are at the Railway House, too ill to be removed. Mr Belknap has returned to the city. Mr Backus, we understand, was to be buried this afternoon at Quincy Church. The plane which they were ascending is said to be inclined at angle of nearly forty degrees; and it is supposed that when the car struck, it must have acquired a velocity of sixty miles an hour.

Aside from this accident, the inclined plane appears to have had a good safety record, and it remained in use into the 20th century. The Granite Railway was eventually acquired by the Old Colony Railroad in 1871, and most of the old track was upgraded. However, the inclined plane was too steep to operate steam trains on, so it remained in use in its original configuration until 1901, when modern rails were laid atop the granite track.

It underwent more changes in 1920, when the 1901 rails were removed and replaced by metal channels, which enabled it to be used by trucks. The top photo shows these channels, along with a pair of obelisks that were installed at the base of the inclined plane in 1921 in order to commemorate its role in the early history of railroads.

The inclined plane remained in use until the 1940s, but at some point the upper part of it was removed during quarrying operations. As a result, only the lower portion of it still exists, as shown in the bottom photo. The quarry at the top of the hill eventually closed in 1963, and in 1985 the site of the quarry was acquired by the Metropolitan District Commission.

Today, the old quarry and the inclined plane are part of the Quincy Quarries Reservation. Although significantly smaller than it had been when the top photo was taken, the inclined plane is nonetheless the best-preserved remnant of the old Granite Railway. It still features the old granite rails, some of the iron straps atop them, and the old pulleys. Because of its historic significance, the inclined plane was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and it survives as an important landmark from the early days of railroad development.

First Church of Christ, Farmington, Connecticut

The First Church of Christ, Congregational, on Main Street in Farmington, on July 29, 1940. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

The church in 2021:

Farmington’s First Church of Christ, shown here in these two photos, stands as one of the best surviving examples of a colonial-era meetinghouse in Connecticut. It was completed in 1772, and it was designed and constructed by Judah Woodruff, a local builder who was responsible for many houses in Farmington during this period. As was the case for other meetinghouses of the era, it served as the religious, social, and political center of the town, functioning as a place not only for church services, but also for town meetings and other gatherings.

The church was established in 1652, and it occupied two earlier meetinghouses. The details of the first one are unclear, but the second one was completed in 1714, and it stood here in the vicinity of the present-day structure. This second meetinghouse was small and poorly built, and it had to serve the needs of a growing town. At the time, Farmington was significantly larger geographically, and included present-day towns such as Avon, Berlin, Bristol, Burlington, New Britain, Plainville, and Southington. Many of these places had their own parish churches by the mid-1700s, but their inhabitants still had to come here to Farmington for the town meetings.

By the late 1760s, the town had begun the process of planning for a new meetinghouse, and the construction work began in 1771, as indicated by the “July AD 1771” inscribed on one of the foundation stones. It was completed a little over a year later, and the dedication ceremony occurred on November 25, 1772. The architecture of the building is typical for colonial meetinghouses of its era, with a main entrance on the long side of the building and a steeple that is set off to the side. It would not be until the late 18th century that this trend shifted, and it became more common for meetinghouses to have main entrances on the gabled end of the building, and a steeple that rises from the roof above that entrance.

The interior of the Farmington meeting house likewise reflected colonial-era styles. The pulpit was located in the middle of the long side of the building, so that the interior was much wider than it was long, in contrast to later church designs. On the main floor were a series of box pews that were rented by families, and there were more pews on the gallery, along with rows of benches in front of them. As was the case in most colonial meetinghouses, seating reflected social status, and the more prominent families generally occupied the pews closer to the front, while young unmarried people, along with people of color, were usually in the less desirable seats in the gallery.

When the current meetinghouse was constructed, the pastor of the church was Timothy Pitkin. A 1747 graduate of Yale, Pitkin had subsequently married Temperance Clap, daughter of Yale president Thomas Clap, and then became the pastor here in Farmington in 1752. He came from a prominent Connecticut family; his father, William Pitkin, was the colonial governor from 1766 to 1769, and Timothy’s son, also named Timothy, was in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1805 to 1819. Aside from serving as pastor, Pitkin was also a benefactor of the new meetinghouse; he contributed 20 pounds toward its construction, which was a significant part of his 125 pound annual salary.

The meetinghouse was completed right around the time when Connecticut and the other colonies were dealing with questions relating to British authority. Here in Farmington, residents condemned the so-called Intolerable Acts, which Parliament had passed in response to the Boston Tea Party. At a June 1774 town meeting here, the voters of Farmington declared their opposition to “such arbitrary and tyrannical acts,” and they approved a measure to gather food and transport it to Boston to aid the beleaguered residents there.

Then, in September the town approved the purchase of stockpiles of lead, flints, and powder, and in December it indicated its support for the resolutions of the First Continental Congress. However, not everyone in the town was apparently united in their support. The town records also indicate that, at the December meeting, Matthias Loaming, and Nehemiah Royce were declared to be “Open Enemies to their country” for refusing to vote on the measure. As a result, the town voted to “withdraw all connection from them, untill they shall make Public Retraction of their Principles and Sentiments in the matters aforesaid.”

Once the Revolution started, Farmington supported the Patriot cause. At a town meeting here in March 1777, voters approved a bonus system to encourage residents to enlist in the Continental Army. Soldiers would receive five pounds upon enlistment, followed by another five pounds after completing one year of service. Then, in September the town approved providing two shirts and two pairs of stockings to those who were in the army.

Aside from approving expenditures to fight against British rule, another matter that came up here in the meetinghouse was the need to maintain decorum during worship services. In December 1772, soon after the meetinghouse opened, the town addressed the issue. As quoted in Noah Porter’s 1872 Historical Discourse on the church, the complaint was that:

[I]t is suggested by many members of this society that indecencies are practiced by the young people upon the Sabbath in time of public worship by frequently passing and repassing by one another in the galleries, and intermingling sexes to the great disturbance of many serious and well minded people.

Naturally, such scandalous behavior as unmarried people sitting with members of the opposite sex could not be tolerated here, so the town designated separate gallery staircases for men and women. However, it does not seem to have had the desired effect, because it was still an issue over 40 years later when, in a similar issue was raised in 1813. As quoted by Porter, the church declared:

that the practice of certain young gentlemen in themselves in the pews on the female side of the gallery in times of public worship is disorderly, and ought to be, and is, by this society, wholly disapproved of.

This issue was eventually resolved in the mid-1820s, when the pews in the galleries were replaced with slip pews, and young people were encouraged to sit with their families, rather than being largely unsupervised in the galleries. The old pews on the main floor were later replaced in 1836, and around this same time the original high pulpit was also removed. Another sign of changing times came in 1824, when the first stoves were installed. Prior to this time, as was typical for colonial-era meetinghouses, people would have to bring their own foot stoves if they wanted heat.

Perhaps the single most notable event in the history of this building is its involvement in the Amistad case. Farmington was one stop in the long odyssey of the survivors from La Amistad, as they traveled from Africa to Cuba to Connecticut, before ultimately returning to Africa. It began when a group of Mende people from Sierra Leone were captured and transported to Cuba. From there, 53 of them were sold in Havana and then transported on the schooner La Amistad. During this trip the Mendes, led by Cinqué, overpowered the small crew, killed the captain and cook, and forced the others to sail to Africa. However, the navigators deliberately kept the ship off course, and it was intercepted by U.S. authorities off the coast of New York City in August 1839.

This incident occurred in the midst of rising tensions in the United States surrounding the future of slavery, and it led to several important questions that the courts had to address. These included the issues of whether or not the Mendes had been legally enslaved, since the international slave trade was illegal in the United States, and also whether or not their mutiny had been a justifiable act of self defense. President Martin Van Buren, under pressure from Spanish authorities and from southern slave owners, favored returning them to Cuba. They were ultimately put on trial in Connecticut, with two different court cases in Hartford and New Haven. The court found in their favor, but the Van Buren administration appealed it to the Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court’s ruling in 1841.

With this decision, the Mendes were free, but they still had to get back home. They would end up spending much of 1841 in Farmington, where the abolitionist-minded community provided them with places to live while also working to raise money for their return trip to Africa. There were 36 survivors by the time they arrived in Farmington, with the rest having died at sea or while in prison. One more, a man named Foone, drowned while swimming in the Farmington Canal in August, but the other 35 remained here until November. Throughout this time, they regularly attended church services here in this building.

The town held a farewell service for them on November 17, here in the meetinghouse. The Reverend Joel Hawes of the First Church in Hartford preached a sermon for the occasion, based on the verse “And hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth” from Acts 17:26. In his sermon, Hawes praised African culture, denounced the effects of slavery on the people of Africa, emphasized the sinfulness of racism, and reminded Christians about how all humans are a part of the same family. After the sermon, several of the Mendes spoke and sang, and then Cinqué delivered a narrative of their captivity. He spoke in his native language, and one of the other Amistad captives, Kinna, translated it into English for the crowd. They departed Farmington two days later on a canal boat, headed for New York. There, they attended another farewell service, and then boarded a ship to Sierra Leone, where they arrived in 1842.

In the years that followed, the old meetinghouse continued to stand here in the center of Farmington as an important town landmark. After 1830 it was no longer used for town meetings, a move that reflected changing attitudes surrounding the relationship between church and state, but it continued to be used by the First Church for its worship services. By the time the first photo was taken in 1940, the building was nearly 170 years old, yet its exterior had largely retained its architectural integrity.

Today, the First Church is still an active church congregation, and this building stands as a well-preserved example of a colonial-era New England meetinghouse. From this angle, there have been few changes aside from the addition of several windows and the removal of the shutters. These shutters would not have been original to the building, so they were probably removed in order to reflect its 18th century appearance. In 1972, the building was named as a contributing property in the Farmington Historic District, and then in 1975 it was individually designated as a National Historic Landmark.