18.  Historic Structures

Much of this material comes from Grace Wheeler's book, "Old Homes in Stonington", which has more complete descriptions of the structures and their occupants.  It is available in reprint from the Stonington Historical Society.

18.1  Home of the Stanton Brothers

The Stanton Bros. home, between Pequot Trail and the upper dam

In 1836 Benjamin Stanton 2nd bought land from James Dean and Charles Smith21, page 192, adjacent to the farm that his father Benjamin had purchased in 1817.  Here he built this house and outbuildings.  After father Benjamin died in 1836, his estate was divided among his kids - John, Daniel, and Paul chose this farm.  

Paul was the only brother to marry  - marrying Marcia Denison in 1864.  His brothers moved out, and Paul and Marcia lived in the house.  In 1895 the other brothers died the heirs gave the house to Marcia for life.  From "A History of Old Mystic"21 page 192:

A newspaper article of March 15, 1919 reported that "The Alutra, the first boat launched from Stonington Ship Construction & Trading Co. for the U.S. Government had as part of her frame, wood from a tree from the farm of Mrs. Marcia P. Stanton which was planted 100 years ago by Benjamin F. Stanton Sr. when he stuck his oak stick in the ground after breaking ice on his pond for his cattle to get drinking water.

Built "long before the Revolution" according to Grace Wheeler10, page 32, the home of the Stanton Brothers is south of Pequot Trail, along what was once a public road between Pequot Trail and the upper dam across the reservoir.  The road is now a very long driveway; I expect few have intruded enough to see this magnificent house.  Grace mentions Frank Stanton's large family (five sons and four daughters): "...a great part of the pleasure of the nearby society would center about them; many a sleighing party and dance was quickly gotten up".  She goes on to further describe the road down to the upper dam:

The path from the Stanton House to the Dean's pond is a most romantic, winding road.  This has been an historic place in the town's history.  The old house at Deans Mills was built by James Dean Jr., in 1700, and it was burned down in 1848.  Mr. James Dean Sr., lived at Quiambaug, just east of the Quarry ledges.  Very near this second Dean house was an immense rock, which still stands a silent and immovable reminder of bygone days.  James Dean was a blacksmith and had also learned the trade of fulling and dressing woolen cloth.  He built a dam and fulling mill on Mistuxet brook and he and his son, James Dean, built another which was enlarged in 1807 into a factory building, with grist mill and new machinery for cloth dressing, wool carding and for the manufacture of cotton and woolen goods, by Mr. John Dean and son, James.  Here was where many young men of the first families were employed, and every Sabbath morning they could be seen on their way, walking to meeting at the Road.

The Dean pond, woods and the old Lover's Lane are now again made prominent features of the town.  The pond is the head of the Mystic Valley Water Co., from whence the villages are supplied with water.  The woods furnish a most picturesque picnic ground, which has been provided with tables, chairs, seats, and everything for a summer day's delightful outing.  The Lover's Lane is a most charming drive, which has been again opened to the public during this last year... This road begins at the bridge, and passes the spring, where a cool, refreshing draught can be had from its clear depths.  It received its name from the fact that during the time when these young men were employed at the factory there, one of them, a young Englishman, was much pleased with one of the young ladies of the Dean family and they often wandered through this lovely bridle path, where amid nature's environments, they could converse of things dear to the heart of youth, but the family of this young girl were not pleased with his attentions, and so this place was more stealthily frequented by these lovers...  They were often meet at the edge of the evening on this romantic path, so the name of "Lovers Lane" has ever clung to the spot.

The reservoir has effectively changed the water level so that the area doesn't look the same nowadays, though when there is a drought, or some other reason to drain down the upper reservoir, the old foundations of the Mills may be seen.

Looking at the upper dam from the South; the channel and walls visible are now all under water.

 

Here is an image from Grace Wheeler's book of the mill structures that once were present:

The structures of Dean's Mill, where the upper dam is now, just north of I-95.  About the only recognizable feature is
the large stone hill at the right.

 

 

(Precise location not known, but the large boulder may be the rock 
on the western side of the reservoir just north of the upper dam).

18.2  The Whiting House

Built by Mr. John Whiting in the early part of 1700, who lived here when he was deacon of the Road Church in 173910, page 77.  Occupants have included Captain Ben Noyes (b. 1780), who commanded a ship which ran between New York and Italy for a number of years.  During one renovation, old wallpaper from England was discovered, as well as an indian moccasin.  In the attic was an iron ring, likely intended to secure someone, perhaps an insane relative.  

18.3  The Robert Denison house

 In 1770 was occupied by Robert Denison, whose daughter Deborah was known as the "Quiambaug Beauty"10, page 41.  From Grace Wheeler:

She, of course, had many admirers, and the story is truly told of a gentleman, who riding on horseback, one Sunday evening in the latter half of 1770, alighted at her father's door, and after greeting her, enquired (sic) (as was the custom in those days), "If he might have the pleasure of her company that evening," but upon her replying that she was otherwise engaged, he responded, "Very well, Madam, I bid you good evening, I have a good horse and an extensive acquaintance," and rapidly cantered away, albeit his heart may have remained behind.  Miss Denison afterward married Dea. Charles Lewis, and went west, as New York state was called in those times, where her descendants are still living.

 

The Robert Denison house

 

18.4  The Derias Denison house

George Woodcock, an Englishman, lived here; he was a "sean-maker" - presumably "seine-maker", that is a maker of nets.  (It is interesting that the indian word "Quiambaug" refers to a place good for netting fish, and in 1749 a net maker lived here, and then again in the 19th century it became the home to the various Wilcox businesses, which now provide commercial fish nets.  

The Derias Denison house

 

18.5  Whippituck Farm

The west half of this house was built in 1750 by the carpenter Thomas Palmer for David Miner; the east half was build by his sone, Jesse Miner.  It remains in the same family until today.  

To the left of the farmhouse, showing the hill and barn The farmhouse

 

18.6  The Perkins Farm

The Perkins farm is now abandoned, and decaying.

The Perkins farm in the 1970's; it was an active dairy farm.  The roof of the house may be seen
over a barn at the right edge of the photo.

 

The Perkins house in 2007 - the barns have been torn down, the Stoneridge retirement 
community has taken up one of the fields across the road (from where this photo was taken).  
The old house has a sparse elegance, but probably won't remain for long.

From "A History of Old Mystic"21, page 261:

This house was built by Randall Brown in 1878.  The land had been in the Brown family since the 1700's.  The original old house built close by [site unknown] was built by Joshua Brown, who bought the land with a partially built house from Robert Williams in 1786.

According to the Brown Genealogy the old house was removed in 1878 and Randall Brown, Joshua's grandson, built this one.  ... They ran a large farm here and while his firve sisters and a brother married and moved on, Jerry never married and stayed and ran the farm with his father.  After Randall's death the house and land were turned over to his son Jerry...  Jerry continued to run the farm and in 1901 the Stonington Chronology states that "Horace Vose's annual Thanksgiving turkey to the President was raised by Jere Brown on his Mystic farm."  

As President McKinley was assassinated on September 14, 1901, it's likely that Theodore Roosevelt enjoyed the bird.

"Jere", or "Jerry" Brown (or Browne) fought in the Civil War with the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry, and may have been in the battles of Fredericksburg and Gettysburg.  The National Park Service's Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database lists him as Jerry B. Brown, who went in as a Private and finished up as a Corporal.

From 1897:

Text not available (Click above for full text)

This property was purchased in 1940 by Mr. Chester Perkins.

 

18.7  Stone House

What remains of the Quoketaug Hill house built by Elias Brown 

What the house originally looked like

What the house looked like after the 1900 renovations

 

Elias Brown acquired 175 acres on the hilltop from his father-in-law, the shipbuilder Enoch Burrows.  He built his house in 1825 using granite from quarries at Candlewood Hill in Groton.  Initially it was 54 feet by 45 feet, with a two-story open porch on the southwest side.

Elias "Squire" Brown became president of the Mystic Bank in 1833, and he built the "House of 1833" in Old Mystic - he sold the stone house and land to the Stanton brothers, who owned the farm adjacent to the west (see section 16.1 above).  

From "A History of Old Mystic"21, page 167:

For 40 years the stone house was the home of the "Stanton Boys" as they were familiarly called.  They were well known as successful farmers.  During the late 1800's the local boys from Old Mystic would trudge up the hill in the early all until late November to taste the cider that was made in their cider mill, which was operated by a combination of horse and man power.  There were no children in the Stanton house so the house went to their grandneice, Josephine Williams Cottrell Middleton.  The Middleton's of New York city inherited the house in 1895.  They were importers of Japanese silk and traveled extensively while conducting their business.  In 1900 Mrs. Middleton improved the house, making it into a summer residence.  She added servants quarters as a third story, renovated the interior of the first two floors and adorned the home with furnishings, carpets and silks from around the world.

She rented the house in September 1914 to Rev. Frederic Hollister and his wife; they opened the Home School of the Open Country, a boarding school for children between 4 and 12 years old.  They later moved the school to Mystic.

Mrs. Middleton rented the house to the artist Peter Marcus (one of the first members of the Mystic Art Association) for the summer of 1924; on November 4 the Marcus family were packed to head back to New York, and left the Chinese cook in charge while they did errands.  A fire started and consumed everything but the stone.  Family stories say that the servant called the fire department on the telephone saying "Fire, Fire, come quick" but didn't say where the fire was.

 

There is an excellent article on the house in "Historical Footnotes", the bulletin of the Stonington Historical Society, November 1969, Vol. Vii No. 1.

 

18.8  Denison Homestead

18.9  The Lord House

This house was built in 1804 by Samuel Langworthy, a prominent sheep farmer; it later became property of the Lord family. It had an addition circa 1860 that added 1600 square feet of space to the original 2,400 square feet. It was remodeled again in 2001.

18.10  House on the original Miner house site

The current house (the third one on this site) on the location of the original Miner farm.

 

18.11 The Grist Mill

The Grist Mill, on the site where Aquarion Water Co. is now

 

18.12 The Chapel


From Wheeler's "History of Stonington"16, page 98:

Quiambaug Chapel. - Formerly religious meetings and Sunday schools were in held in Quiambaug school-house in Stonington, composed of all religious denominations in that region roundabout.  Some of the people in that vicinity had repeatedly expressed an opinion that a school-house was not a proper place for such meetings, especially during school terms, so an effort was made and generally concurred in to raise by subscription money sufficient to build a chapel of adequate dimensions to accomodate the people of that vicinity.  The money was raised, a site was procured and the corner-stone of the chapel was laid December 27, 1889, and the building was erected and dedicated in April, 1890.  Sunday school sessions and other religious services have been held in the chape to the present time, productive of great and lasting good.

The Quiambaug Chapel was dedicated April 30, 1890; the land had been donated by Thos. P. Wilcox Sr. From an article in Carol Kimball's "Historic Glimpses":

Ann Denison and her sister, Fayolyn Main, shared Quiambaug Chapel memories with me one warm August morning. When she was a little girl, Gayolyn attended Sunday School there.

Her teacher was Mary Abby Davis, who was almost like a mother to the pupils. Ann was Sunday School superintendent there in later days.

The chapel that Ann and Fayolyn remember was built in 1890, replacing an earlier "Sunday School house" which stood in back of Quiambaug School.

This building had fallen into disrepair, and on January 14, 1889 a committee composed of Capt. Elias Wilcox, Thomas P. Wilcox Sr., and William C. Tuttle had reported the old structure beyond repair and advised building a new one.

Thomas P. Wilcox took his own advice seriously enough to donate land on the northwest side of the road overlooking Quiambaug Cove for the purpose.

One day later, on Jan. 15, the Quiambaug Ladies Society came into being with 29 members, ready to raise money for the new building.

Men in the neighborhood prepared the foundation and the Cromwell brothers of Mystic built the chapel for $850.

It was dedicated April 13, 1890, filled to overflowing with Quiambaug families.
Four ministers from Mystic and Stonington led the service, including Dr. George Miner of the Union Baptist Church and Rev. Wilson from the Road Church.

The benches had been restored and refinished by George Hewitt; the bell was donated by Dwight Ashbey. Leander Wilcox was the first Sunday School superintendent. Notably revival services occurred in 1932 (Rev. Kneeland) and 1936 (Rev. Ed Knapp). The Rev. Norman Dusen was the first regular minister at the chapel, starting in 1948. According to Carol Kimball, the Willing Helpers Society raised money by food and rummage sales, teas, and suppers to pay his salary and also to pay for a bus to transport children to the Sunday School.

Fayolyn remembers the Sunday School library. She and her sister, Alice, and Elizabeth Thorp would borrow books even during the week. Elizabeth played the chapel organ, and she had the keys, so they could exchange their reading materials.

Rev. Van Dusen at Quiambaug Chapel in 1948

 

18.13  The Schoolhouse

There were two schoolhouses built; the first was very near the second, but was too close to the stream.
The second schoolhouse
The schoolhouse today as a private home

 

18.14 The Road Church

The Road Church

The Road Church is on the eastern fringe of the eastern ridge of the valley, and as such is barely fit to be included in this history.  It might be more clearly seen as part of the eastern ridge if the current roads near it ran north-south or east-west, but they don't; and the nearby cut of I-95 further obscures the topology of the area.  In addition, its existence has long affected the nearby area in terms of travel, house construction, and so forth.

It seems that the first meeting house was somewhere on what is now called Montauk Avenue (a site I would very much like to identify), and was replaced with the forerunner of the current structure, which dates from 1829.  From the church's web page on the history of the church:

The Road Meetinghouse, First Congregational Church of Stonington, Connecticut, is the oldest church in the town of Stonington and the seventh oldest church in Connecticut. Established in 1674 under British rule, the church has enjoyed a productive, colorful and sometimes stormy history over the past 325 years.

The early history of the Road church is, in a sense, the history of the town of Stonington. In 1649, William Chesebrough became the first settler of Stonington. The first religious service in Stonington was held on March 22, 1657 at the home of Walter Palmer with Reverend William Thompson, a Harvard graduate, officiating. At the time, Reverend Thompson served as missionary to the Pequot Indians, dividing his time between the Pequots and the settlers. In 1661, the town erected a small meetinghouse on Montauk Avenue where town business and religious services were conducted.

In 1672 a new meetinghouse was built on Agreement Hill, a compromise location at a spot a few "rods" west of the present building. The meetinghouse became known as the "Road Church" because it was located midway on the only road of the time. This road, laid out in 1669, ran from the head of the Mystic River (in Old Mystic) through the town platt to Kichemaug (now Westerly), Rhode Island. The Road Church, standing at the geographical center of town, was poised to become a religious, social and political center of activity.

On June 3, 1674 the First Congregational Church of Stonington was officially established with nine members: Rev. James Noyes; Thomas Stanton, Sr.; Thomas Stanton, Jr.; Nathaniel Chesebrough; Thomas Miner; his son Ephraim; the brothers Nehemiah and Moses Palmer; and Thomas Wheeler. Descendants of many of these families still attend services at the church today.

A small house with a fireplace where Rev. Noyes could keep warm between morning and afternoon meetings was erected in 1690 across the street from our current parish hall. Although it no longer exists, the church did acquire from the town the nearby one-room schoolhouse, which currently serves as a gathering place and library.

The meetinghouse as completed in 1673 stood until 1729, when it was taken down and rebuilt on a larger site. Since the town gave the land on which the meetinghouse stood, it had the right to hold the King's Court and the Magistrate's Court there from the time of the first meetinghouse was built in 1661 until 1828, when arrangements were made with the town and the Ecclesiastical Society to build one structure containing a basement to use for town purposes, and a meetinghouse for religious purposes. Some opposed this plan because separation of church and state had been instituted in 1818. However, a structure with basement was completed in 1829, and remains the meetinghouse for services today. It was built using timbers and posts from the former structure. They can still be seen today on the east and west sides of the building.

The town of Stonington retained ownership of the church basement and used it as a town hall until 1929, and as a voting place until the late 1960s. The last election held in the basement of the church was October 2, 1967. It was with a great deal of sadness that the voters of the Road district bade farewell to the covered-dish luncheons and the day-long festivities that prevailed on voting days. In 1980, the basement was converted to classrooms for Sunday school and other church activities.

The Rev. James Noyes came from Massachusetts to Stonington; he married Dorothy Stanton.  His sister Sarah (married to Rev. John Hale of Beverly) was accused of witchcraft in the Salem frenzy of accusations.  James's cousin Nicholas was pastor at Salem.  James and other clergymen met in 1701 and established the Collegiate School of Connecticut, later known as Yale College.  He became one of the founders and was chosen to be its senior trustee; he is reported to have given the largest number of books towards the college library at that time.  He's buried in Wequetequock Cemetery.

From the elder Wheeler's "History"16, page 114 we have:

The layout of the town lots on both sides of this road on Agreement Hill in Stonington, and the erection of the meeting-house there in 1673-74 made it the business center of town, and in consequence thereof it received the name of the Road, which is still applied to the region around the town all and the present meeting-house there.  It was at the Road in the first meeting-house there, that the King's commissioners met repeatedly to hear and determine the matter of jurisdiction between Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.  The commissioners to hear and report to the king the evidence in the celebrated case between the colony of Connecticut and the Mohegan Indians as supported by the Mason family, relative to various land titles, met and held their sessions for several days in this meeting-house in 1704.  Such Commissioners' Courts were called the King's Courts and were regarded with great respect and consideration and the occasion of their sitting drew together almost the entire population of the town at the time to witness their proceedings.

 

18.15 Elisha Gallup House

Built in 1740 by Elisha Gallup, or possibly 1747.  According to Kathleen Greenhalgh19, page 58, Elisha married Marcy Denison in January 1747, and the land for this house (and including 100 acres) was given to them by Marcy's father George Denison.  They sold the house in 1760 to Phineas Stanton, when they had 6 children and it was getting too small - eventually they would have 12.  Captain Phineas Stanton served in the Cape Breton campaign in the French and Indian War.

18.16  The Fanning House

Built by Mr. Gilbert Tanning about 1750; later remodeled for the use of the caretaker of the water works.  His oldest son, Captain Nathaniel Fanning, was a midshipman commanding in the main top of John Paul John's Good Man Richard in the battle with the British ship Serapis, in which John Paul Jones said I have not yet begun to fight.

The Gilbert Fanning house

 18.17  The Cavanaugh House

Grace Wheeler10, page 43, 44 has this to say about this house:

...as we make the bend in the road, we see a low, brown, gambrelled roof house set amid its bower of shrubbery, nearly shrouded with climbing roses and trailing vines.  On the north side is the leanto, enclosed by lattice work, while nearby is the well with the old oaken bucket hanging from the sweep, and the water which it brings up to the thirsty one leaning over the side of the curb, is cold, clear, and refreshing.  The large yard encircles the whole house, and in summer time the old fashioned flowers grow in sweet profusion; in the grassy spaces surrounding them grew tall dandelions and daisies, while here and there, knotty and knarled old apple trees throw their shadows over all.  The house stands a little off from the bustling highway, not facing the road, but turned almost at right angles from it as if not caring to hear the rush and rattle of this twentieth century life, so absorbed it seems in its own memories.  This is the old house of William Miner which was built in 1770, where he married Abigail Haley, and went to housekeeping there; it was then only a half one story house, but after a time, the large family of twelve children necessitated a larger house and then the east half was added.  Their third daughter, Abigail, married Joseph McCabe, and their daughter married, and has occupied this house for years as her home, and it is now owned by her children, Joseph Cavanaugh and sister.

1920 photo, George E. Tingley, "The Bend In the Road"

According to Carol Kimball's "Historic Glimpses", The Day newspaper, November 13, 1997:  ".. because of its picturesque, rustic facade, the house was said to tbe the inspiration for the scenery for a Broadway play, "The Old Homestead", in the '20's.  Further the article goes on to describe siblings who lived there, Joseph and Mary Cavanaugh:

My friend, Prudence [Fish, married name Monroe, Ed.], a longtime resident of Cove Road, told me that when she was small she vacationed with her family in the old David Minor house while Joe and Mary lived in the Cavanaugh house.  Joe did odd jobs around the neighborhood, but his sister, Mary, was an unusual person, the stuff of which legends are made.

She was a tall woman, the age of Prudence's grandmother, who for some reason had gone into seclusion years before.  She refused to see anyone and always dressed in black with a heavy black veil hanging over her face.  Some said she had been discarded by a lover; others speculated that her face had been badly burned and scarred.  For whatever reason, she became a recluse and no one was invited to her home.

Prudence remembers driving slowly down the road in the wagon hoping to see the elusive Mary.  Once they came upon her suddenly, but before they could speak, she disappeared without a trace, almost as if by magic.

Years later, when Mary was old and was hospitalized, Prudence's grandmother visited her.  There was nothing wrong with her face and she was friendly and kind.  No one ever solved the mystery of Mary Cavanaugh's black veil or her cloistered life in the old home.  It's one of the mysteries of Cove Road.

The Cavanaugh house

18.18  The William Denison House

At 1225 Pequot Trail - built about 1737 by William Denison, the  great grandson of Capt. George Denison.  He married Prudence Denison, the daughter of the Deacon Daniel Denison, and built this house for her.  They had seven children in the house.  In 1791 the Denisons sold the farm to Samuel Browning, and the Denison family moved to Ohio.  In 1817 he sold to Benjamin Stanton, and remained in their family for 132 years - they termed in their West Homestead farm.

18.19  Nehemiah Williams House

110 Prentice Williams Road 

The Williams family farmed the top of Quoketaug hill for many years. In 1747 Nehemiah the 2nd married Abigail Allen of Groton, they had 6 children; one died at sea, one served in the American Revolution, two died young.  Abigail herself died about 1767, and Nehemiah remarried (to Berthia WIlber).   The 17 room house was built about 1747, in what was then the northern part of the farm.

At Nehemiah's death in 1797, and his estate included many items of expensive clothing, along with 6 horses, 2 colts, 2 steers, 2 yoke of oxen, two heifers, 11 cows, 2 bulls, 3 calves, 6 pigs, 5 piglets, 8 lambs and 25 sheep19, page 57.   

18.20  The Road Schoolhouse

Built 1792