January 2021:

Layne Nason

The morning of Friday, January 5, 1917 may have been a normal early winter morning for many Farmingtonians. Florence Norton was getting her candy store, located on the first floor of the Drummond Hall building (where the House of Pizza building is today), ready for the day. Headmaster George Dudley Church was preparing for the arrival of a group of rambunctious Abbott School boys, who would be arriving by Pullman train on Wednesday after a restful Christmas recess. Rev. Paul Gordon Favor (future movie star Bette Davis’s maternal uncle) of the Old South Congregational Church was, perhaps, putting the finishing touches on his sermon to be given the following Sunday, “The Challenge and the Comfort of Our Invisible Witnesses”. Company K, which had returned home the previous October from the Mexican border, was enjoying some much-needed rest and recreation in the form of dances (unaware that in April, the United States would join the Great War). Life in Farmington was quite peaceful.

But, amongst the usual goings-on in the town, a new machine was roaring to life. A new Miehle printing press, with the capability to print 2,200 newspapers per hour, was being utilized for the first time by the Franklin Journal. The Franklin Journal, which at that time was one cent for Tuesday papers, two cents for Friday papers, or $1.50 for a year’s subscription, had bought the new machine the past November. Not only did the newspaper buy a new printing press, but they had also, just that very day, moved into a new building! This structure, located on Main Street, would be known from this point forward as the Franklin Journal Building. (State Farm auto insurance is currently occupying the building as of January 2021. Another important thing to note is that the building’s exterior was extensively altered in years after the Franklin Journal acquired it to be more Colonial Revival/Philadelphian in style).

The building, as seen prior to 1917, was known by a different name: the Richard Hiscock Building. It was constructed around 1852, two years after the August 7, 1850 fire which burned several buildings in the area. Hiscock, who did not wish to have his building burn again in the future, implemented several fire-preventative measures. While other proprietors around him just built their structures out of brick with slate rooves to prevent conflagration, Hiscock took things a step further by not building his floors into the walls, leaving a space of air between the floor and the wall. This proved to be a good method, as great fires swept through downtown in 1874 and 1886, with both leaving the Hiscock Building untouched (It’s quite interesting to note that a serious fire did strike the building the following year in 1918, as seen in one of Arbo Norton’s photo albums, but the building survived). These unique floors greatly aided in the light renovation of the building before the Franklin Journal moved there from their old Broadway office on the morning of Friday, January 5, 1917 (Stories sourced from the Franklin Journal).

Author’s note: The word “Anemoia” is a new word that means, roughly, “having nostalgic feelings for a time in which you never personally experienced”. It is a feeling that I am all-too familiar with. This new column will be a place for me tell stories, events, shenanigans, and vicarious recollections of Farmington’s history from my historical predecessors. I would like to compose something similar to what Richard P. Mallett (Farmington Historian) used to do for the Franklin Journal years ago. Anything from the daring fire on the roof of the Abbott School dormitory in December 1917 to the great UMF Dining Room walkout of the early 1950s, I have a plethora of interesting historical stories I’d love to share with the Farmington and Franklin County community. I do tend to have a fondness for the 1910s, but I will look to other eras as well. Stories will be sourced from the Franklin Journal, conversations I have had with town historians, primary sources, old yearbooks, and other books.

Layne Nason is a Farmington historian, specializing in the history of the Abbott School for Boys and Farmington during the era of the Great War.

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