Reminiscences of Oxford
Homes and People
By B. H. Davis
Published 03-05-1914 in THE SEYMOUR RECORD

Chapter 9

Retracing our steps to the Enos Chatfield corner and following the road toward the center, we pass through a very picturesque region, interspersed with meadow, orchard and forest, until we come to the foot of the hill, to a place known to the older people as the Thomas place.  This house was built by George Thomas many years ago, long before my memory.

After his death it was owned and occupied by John Braton who married the widow who was Mary Sackett of Bethany. Two children were born to them, Emma and Sarah.  After his death Edwin W. Stuart came into the field and married the widow. Mr. Stuart was a blacksmith and conducted the business in a portion of the old hat shop, just north of the corner.  At the commencement of the Civil War he enlisted in Company B, 20th Conn. Vol. and served during the war, after which he returned to Oxford and continued in the blacksmith business for many years until his death.

He was as musician and played the violin to perfection. His services were in great demand during the fall and winter festivities in Oxford and in the surrounding towns.  As a blacksmith he was one of the best in the Naugatuck valley.  Many of the farmers would travel a long distance to get their work done by him.  His untimely death was caused by falling down the stairs leading to the town hall at Oxford Center.

We next cross the bridge over Towantic Brook, well known to fishermen as one of the best trout streams in the Naugatuck Valley.  Above this bridge about a mile are the ruins of an old sawmill which was built by the father of Col. John Davis about the middle of the 17th century, and was used for nearly a century, to convert the logs of the virgin forest into lumber for building purposes. It has long since fallen to decay.

Next we come to the place known as the home of old Mother Couch, where about the year 1850 was noted as a subpostoffice, the mail being left there for the residents of Chestnut Tree Hill.  Each one in their torn would go after it and deliver it across the hill. Nearly every farmer on the hill at that time was a subscriber for the New Haven Register, and it was called the "Farmer's Bible."  Mrs. Couch died at the age of nearly a hundred years, about the year 1847. After her death, the place was sold to Burrett Davis.

The next to occupy the place was William Pardee who came from Middlebury.  He married Sarah Sackett of Bethany. Four daughters were born to them, Ellen, Mary, Martha and Sarah. Mr.  Pardee was a tool grinder and worked for many years for the firm of Ferm & Co. in Seymour, making Axes.

He contracted what is known as Grinders' Consumption, and was obliged to retire from that work. he t hen entered the employ of Burrett Davis and soon after bought this place, and worked long enough to pay for it.  He died in 1865., The family then moved to New Haven where his widow died several years ago. One of the daughters, Martha, married Thomas Worthington of Oxford, a veteran of the Civil war, Com. B., 20th Regt.  He was killed by an automobile in New haven about two years ago. Ellen, the oldest, is married and lives in Hamden. The other girls live in New Haven.

The place is now owned by Mrs. Caroline Bronsen a widow lady, who is fast approaching the century mark and is still quite well preserved. She is often seen on her daily trips to and from the store at the Center.

A little further on the left we come to a very old house known as the Washington Benham homestead. It is located on the corner of the Chestnut Tree Hill road and the Woodbury turnpike and was built about the beginning of the 18th century. It is a house that would attract attention from a stranger, being of the gambrel roof style of architecture that was little known a century ago. Mr.  Benham lived in this many years.  He was married three times. My memory does not serve me in regard to the names of his wives.  He had three children, two sons, and one daughter, John, who married Jessie Perry of Oxford and now lives in Beacon Falls, on the farm formerly owned by Stiles Fairchild.  Geo. Benham lives in Seymour, and the daughter Hattie married Wm. O. Davis and lives in Seymour. Mr. Benham moved to Beacon Falls.

The place then passed into the hands of Orrin Tucker and soon he commenced to make the famous Oxford doughnuts and established a very profitable business in this line and the sale of the Tucker Doughnuts extended from Danbury to New Haven. He carried on this business for many years until from old age and infirmities he retired and moved to Milford where he died several years ago.

(NOTE:  The Washington Benham Homestead is house #81 in the EARLY HOUSES OF OXFORD, CONNECTICUT book, published 1976, Historic House Committee of  Oxford's Bicentennial Commission).

About five years ago the place was bought by Lewellen Andrews. Coming there from Squantuck he also bought the Old Sanford Mill just below. The place has changed hands lately and I understand is now owned by some immigrants.

Passing along a little farther on the right we come to the Loveland Place.  It was owned and occupied by the Lovelands long before my time. Therefore cannot give anything of interest about him only that at the raising of a house in Red City now owned by Mrs. Geo. Hawley, he fell from the building and sustained injuries that caused  his death.

The next to occupy this place was Ely Carley who came form Monroe.  He reared a large family of children.. John, Ely, Jr., Horatio, James, Charles, Emmett, Lucy and Ellen.  The boys left home at an early age and I lost trace of them except Ely, Jr, and Ellen.  Ellen was employed by the Derby Water Company for many years.  About two years ago he met with an accident that caused his death. His sister Lucy, who was with him at the time he was seriously injured and died in the Masonic Home in Wallingford.  Ellen married L. W. Lake of Newtown and lived in Oxford several times until she obtained a divorce and married Wm. Doudge of Seymour who was in the employ of the James Swam Co.  Ellen, his widow, the last of the family, is an inmate of the Masonic Home in Wallingford. The place is now owned and occupied by Miss Fannie Buckingham, sister of the late S. W. Buckingham.

The ruins of an old saw mill are seen opposite the last mentioned place. This saw mill was built in the early part of the last century, by a stock company of which Col. John Davis was at the head, and many of the old residents had a share in the building, which enabled them to get their sawing done at little expense.  About the year 1840 Burrett Davis and George Perry bought the mill from the stockholders and for many years after it was known as the Davis and Perry Sawmill. Many cold days the writer has worked in that old mill and many pleasant memories cluster around its associations, the old stone fire place where I was wont to bake potatoes and warm the dried beef of which I always had an adequate supply furnished by the liberal hand of my good mother. The old mill has long since fallen to decay and is numbered with the things that were.

A little further north we come to the intersecting point of the Riggs Street road with the Woodbury Turnpike. On this point between the two roads stands an old landmark, a house built nearly a century ago. The frame for it was taken from a portion of the old Episcopal church that stood upon the hill near the Episcopal cemetery. It was dismantled when the new church was built on the main road. Joseph Conners owned and occupied this house for many years. He married Phoebe Bunnell of Oxford. Four children were born to them.  Joseph, Jr., David, and twin daughters, Mary and Martha. He was a hatter and was one of the foremost at the time the hatting industry first started in Oxford. This industry proved a failure, and he moved to New York. Joseph Jr. is and has been a traveling salesman for many years, and in former years would visit his old home during the hunting season. The rest of the children, if living, are in New York.

In 1866 this place was purchased by Frank A. Leek, who still resides there. Frank never married and lives alone most of the time and seems to enjoy himself as well if not better than some who have not been afflicted. He plays the violin and is a great reader, also is quite a literary person, and I believe he is a correspondent for several newspapers. He is a very genial companion and has a large circle of friends.

(NOTE:  The Leek house is house #84 in the EARLY HOUSES OF OXFORD, CONNECTICUT book, published 1976, Historic House Committee of  Oxford's Bicentennial Commission).

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