FARMINGTON — A clapper from an old bell piqued the interest of Farmington Historical Society member Nancy Porter, who researched volumes of old newspapers for the story behind it.
A collection of details about the Center Meeting House bell, the train arrival to Farmington and the Coronet Band are compiled in a new publication, “Historical Tidbits from the Farmington Historical Society.”
“Historical Tidbits of Farmington adds to Farmington’s already impressive written history from prior historians,” said Society President Taffy Davis. “Nancy’s inquisitiveness makes her an excellent researcher, and she has pulled together several resources, ranging from 1803-1916.”
The Center Meeting House was originally built in 1803, where the county courthouse now sits on Main Street. After the county formed in 1838, the upper floor of the meeting house was remodeled in to a court room. When several churches were built, religious entities who had been instrumental in constructing it sold the building and lot to the county, Porter wrote.
Prior to construction of the present courthouse in 1885-1886, the meeting house was moved to a location on Pleasant Street, but the county kept the bell, Porter said.
When townspeople purchased a clock for the courthouse tower, it wasn’t compatible with the bell so the county sold the bell back to the town. The clock, installed in 1888, is still present in the courthouse tower today.
The town had raised $500 to purchase the clock from the Howard Clock Company, and the county maintained it. Courthouse custodian Greg Roux still winds the clock once a week, she said.
Originally, the meeting house was built for church services and community gatherings like concerts, political rallies and meeting functions. A narrative about the building plans called for “using the best North Jay granite for the foundation,” Porter said.
Center Meeting House was consumed by the Great Fire of 1886, which started in a barn on Pleasant Street. The new courthouse survived.
Hours of research reveal much more detail to the story, Porter said of information gathered for the publication.
“It’s interesting to me,” she said of research she’s done on Farmington over the past 35 years. “I hated history in school, but I like taking stuff from the big picture to make a little picture that people can relate to.”
Her efforts started with genealogical research and grew into an interest in Farmington’s history.
“I like and respect how it became the way it is,” she said of the stories revealed through the newspapers and historical writings about the town. “I have tremendous respect for the people who came here and broke out the roads.”
Tidbits of history can be gleaned from the old newspaper columns, ones rich in detail. It’s the fun stuff, she said.
“I’m curious. I want to know,” she said of the story behind the train to Farmington village in 1870 and formation of the Coronet Band. The train actually came in 1859, but the depot was on the west side of the river, she wrote.
In March of 1873, a group of young men wanted to start a brass band and appealed to the community for funds to buy instruments. German silver instruments were purchased from the Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory.
A teacher was found, and lessons were given. The band started playing publicly in August and performed at the Farmington Fair in September.
It eventually became known as Wheeler’s Band, Porter said.
“Today, one can look at our courthouse, the depot area and rail bed, as well as the Old Crow Indian Band to directly connect back to the information in this booklet,” Davis said.
“Historical Tidbits” is now available for purchase at Sugarwood Gallery on Broadway.