Hello from sunny Easton! The sun is shining brightly this morning as children gather at Shovel Shop Pond for the annual Easton Lions Club Fishing Derby. Hopefully the fish will cooperate and provide fun and fodder for some good fishing stories and memories for these young outdoors boys and girls.
This week we venture back into the wilds of the area once known as “Poquanticut” as we take a look at Poquanticut Avenue yesterday and today. The road was accepted by the Town in 1763, and probably began life as a cart path as early as the 1750’s when there was a need to connect the early foundry industry at Furnace Village with supplies of bog iron and charcoal makers to the north and east of the village. The 1825 map of Easton clearly shows a well-developed road with a handful of houses stretched out along its path. One of these houses was built by the Harlow family before 1825. Called the Tisdale Harlow farm, the house was probably built by Reuben Harlow (1773-1823) who married Hannah Fuller before 1800. When their son Tisdale Harlow (1804-1883) was born there were two older siblings, so it is likely that the main portion of the house was built by that time. Following Reuben’s death, the house and farm were inhabited by Tisdale, then his son Tisdale Jesse Harlow (1860-1927). His son Tisdale Harlow (1904-1986) whom I knew for many years, told me that his great-grandfather Reuben built the old farm house on Poquanticut Avenue. The various maps of Easton (1825, 1855, 1871, 1886) all attach the name Harlow to the property. The 1895 map changes the name to William McLeod, who purchased the farm from the Harlow family and later sold it to the Wilbur family, who still owns and runs a farming operation there. When I was a kid in the 1960’s, the farm was called Clover Valley Farm, and was an active dairy farm for many years prior. I also remember a small meat packing plant there for a few years. Today, after a number of years boarding horses and operating a riding stable, the farm has returned to its roots with a herd of cattle populating the fields along Poquanticut Avenue and Chestnut Street.
This photo, taken before 1900, looks towards Chestnut Street which lurks just behind the barn. You can see the farmhouse on the right, and the dairy barn on the left. Dead center are two small storage buildings. Although they appear to be in the middle of the road, they are not, as the road takes a hard corner directly in front of them. One gets a good feel for the rural life in Easton that once permeated much of the Town. Picture, if you will, George White and his band of thieves galloping through here on a raid, or returning to their nearby hideout with stolen goods, through an area that was sparsely populated and already had a poor reputation. Picture if you will one hundred years later when men in cars, disguised in robes, drove their cars through here and the back roads of Mansfield in the years before the Great Depression. Their “hideout” was not far away either.
Today this area retains much of its rural beauty. The farmhouse is partially hidden on the right by growth along the road, but farmyards and fields on both sides of the road are evident that farming still proudly takes place there by hard-working people. The old dairy barn and a silo stand on the left, and you can see the later long addition to the barn as well. The two old buildings in the center were replaced by a cement block building in the 1950’s. That bend in the road caused a few headaches over the years as cars would not navigate the turn and run into the buildings. When the cement garage was built, several cars ran into the corner of the building, prompting the family to place a large boulder there. Unfortunately, at least one car hit the boulder so hard that it was pushed into the corner of the building. The farm continues nonetheless, and it is the last vestige of the many farms that once populated Easton. Hopefully that will continue for many more years to come.
Until next time, stay well,
Curator: Frank Meninno