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1750 Farm – The Old Homestead

161 W Norwalk Rd, Norwalk, CT 06850, USA
$699,000

Description

Steeped in Connecticut Revolutionary History –

Listing at https://www.raveis.com/raveis/170120649/161westnorwalkroad_norwalk_ct

Colonial-Revolutionary History:
This property, the “1750 Farm,” is listed in the Norwalk Registry of Historic Homes as the “Edward Nash House.” However, in addition to the history done for the registry, genealogical work and title research takes the property back to the Richards family. Kenneth Reiss’ History of Darien reveals many additional events. What follows is a chronology that combines the oral traditions with the written history of the area, colonial church, and the families who have accompanied the house for 250 years.

The history of this house begins in the mid-1700s as the populations of Stamford and Norwalk Connecticut expanded into border lands of the Five Mile River valley and both sides of the 1685 “Perambulation wall.” Avenues such as Richards, Brookside, and West Norwalk Rd. were the penetration roads up from the “Kings Highway” for these early colonists. In 1690 the town of Stamford authorized the “Five Mile River Colony.” The Richards family was among the families acquiring land and establishing farms. Samuel Richards, Jr. (1716-1777) and his wife Abigail Waring (1723-1784) owned extensive lands in the Five Mile River Valley including the future site of the “1750 Farm.”

In the late 1730s the Congregationalists on both sides of the Perambulation Wall were tired of long trips to the churches in Norwalk and Stanford; they requested and were granted permission to establish a new parish – the Middlesex Parish. This effort required a search for a pastor that culminated with the ordination of young Rev. Moses Mather in 1744. The minutes of the meeting show that Samuel Richards and Abigail were among the forty or so families present in the Bates-Scofield house when the elders made that fateful decision to take a chance on the young pastor. Moreover, according to a receipt in the church records, Samuel Richards, Jr. was among the elders who paid Reverend Mather his first compensation of 240 pounds in January of 1750. By then the good Reverend had baptized Samuel and Abigail’s first and only son, Samuel III (1745 – 1785).

The fateful part of the ordination revealed itself when the Rev. Mather became the Connecticut revolutionary pastor calling for and establishing the moral basis for the American Independence movement in his 1775 tract, “America’s Appeal to the Impartial World.” He stated,
“Can anything be more absurd, than that a man should be tied to a government, bound to yield subjection and contribute to support, wherever he is, on the face of the Earth, without having any part or voice in its administration, or power to enjoy its immunities?”

Many, but not all of the parish, became involved in the defense of the local coast from Tory raiding parties who sought crops and animals. The revolution had started. It is probable that the these families, from “1750 Farm,” saw the smoke when Gen. William Tryon burned Norwalk in 1779 because, by then, the area had been cleared of trees for crops and pasture. Indeed, some of these families may have been part of the defending forces that were overcome by the Tories. In hours the news was carried to Stamford.

Samuel III was by then a member of the local revolutionary militia like so many members of the area. In 1768 he married Esther Hayden (1751 – 1776). As per the tradition, Samuel III probably began farming on the land from his father when he married. They had three sons and a daughter. The youngest son, Noyes (1775~18??) was to become the second Richards to own “1750 Farm.”

When the British Capt. Frost and eight disaffected Tory members of the Congregation surrounded the Darien Congregational church on Sunday the 22nd of July, 1781, Samuel III, along with the revolutionary pastor Mather and 46 other members of the congregation were taken as hostages to Long Island. After half of them were freed, Samuel III and the remaining hostages were taken to NY City. This ordeal was described in a long poem – “The Descent on Middlesex” – by a Peter St. John, a Norwalk school master who was one of hostages. During the Revolution, prisoners (combatants) as well as hostages (non-combatants) were exchanged for Tories held by the revolutionaries. The Rev. Mather was exchanged for the Rev. Badoin who was the pastor of an Episcopal parish. The ordeal for some of the prisoners lasted five-months, until December; six never returned.

As described by Thaddeus Bell (1728-1806) in his request for war compensation from the new government, some of the men returned, but broken in health after those 5 months in prison. Disease was a constant threat. Thaddeus had enlisted a few times and had become an officer in the coastal defense force. He had been a compatriot prisoner with the Rev. Mather, Samuel Richards III and the others. Samuel III was one of the broken men in more ways: he had been widowed in 1776 only a year after their son Noyes was born, and he died in 1785.

However, in 1783, before Samuel died, he sold 27 acres to Edward Nash. This land was both East and West of West Norwalk Rd. and included “1750 Farm.” It is not clear who cared for 10-year-old, orphaned, Noyes Richards or his older siblings, but in 1797 David Nash sold the property to Noyes. It is probable that Noyes bought the old family farm that year to start his family with Sarah Mather (1780-1873). The Rev. Moses Mather presided on April 9,th 1798 In the New Canaan Congregational church where Sarah’s father, Joseph Mather, was the pastor.

To this point in the history of the “1750 Farm” we can visualize the Richards, Mathers, and neighbors sitting by the hearth – a large hearth – discussing the issues of church and state leading up to and during the American Revolution. They must have commiserated the losses. The Rev. lost his youngest son during imprisonment in 1779 when he and his three sons were taken by the Tories; one of the immediate neighbors, Nathanial Street, was killed over in Westchester fighting the Tories and his body was brought home for burial; after the fall of Westchester there was a constant stream of wounded to be cared for; in March of 1781 Tories marched up Brookside Rd. to raid Joseph Mather’s house where goods of another Five Mile River neighbor, Cpt. Jesse Raymond, and Nathan Reed were hidden. Noyes Richards future wife, Sarah, was babe in her mother’s arms as she dealt with the notorious Tory, John McAlpine and his soldiers who were members of the New York “Board of Associated Loyalists.” Record of Tory raids on West Norwalk Rd, have not been recorded, but in March of 1777, on the east side of the Five Mile River, Capt. Samuel Richards house was raided and he, plus eleven men from the Five Mile River guard, was taken captive. Three months later he died at the age of 60.

The history of these revolutionary families at the “1750 Farm” continued. Thaddeus Bell’s great great grandson, Thaddeus Bell Johnson (1853-???) married Happy Isabel Mather on April 8th 1875 in the New Canaan church. She was the great granddaughter of Moses Mather and the granddaughter of the Rev. Joseph Mather. The initials, “TBJ,” carved into the hearth of the massive fireplace in the Keeping Room were probably done by Thaddeus to commemorate yet another new couple as they started their lives in what was referred to as “The Old Homestead” in the deeds at that time.

The following century brought new families – the Johnsons, Morehouses, Fillows, and, finally, the Merschrods. Their occupations followed previous ones – farmers, ships carpenters, carpenters, and proprietors. Each family added to the original Oak-framed structure: Central Coal hot air, indoor plumbing, in the late 1800s, and a new barn was added around 1900. The last major addition (1957 by Frank and Hellen Merschrod) was the north wing, an early 1800s Chestnut-framed house brought from Easton, CT. Planking for the floors reflects these improvements: random oak, wide Pine, narrow Pine, Buttonwood, and very wide Poplar. An original pine corner cabinet contrasts with the kitchen cabinets made from Chestnut wood from the 1800s house. This is definitely not a “sanitized colonial!” Chestnut wainscoting and bookshelves also add color and texture to the interior along with the exposed beams.

Out buildings include:
A 40’x40’barn built with the tradition post and beam structure and vertical planking about 1900, was probably the work of Samuel Morehouse whose business was building. Behind the barn is a field that was used for the horse through the early 1960s.
A photo from that time shows Samuel Morehouse with his horse and milk cow in front of the barn. To the left is the gate that leads to the Stable section of the Barn which has one stall, a tack room, and workshop. The remainder of the first floor has space for 4 cars. The second floor consists of the hay mow and large 2 story area for stacking hay. In the shop is a “chunk stove” used to heat the shop on a damp rainy day or in the Winter. As the plaque with a quote from Frank Merschrod says, “The barn, A nice place to be on a rainy day.”

A saltbox profiled studio (10’x 14’), originally a chicken coop, was remodeled about 1960 with electricity, gas heat and south-facing windows looking out over the back lawn toward the woods. It has been used as a hobby shed for weaving, but has also been used as a guest room, and as a studio for writing.

The carriage shed next to the studio was built of hand-hewn timbers. It is used for storing firewood, patio furniture, and tools. Its profile is also salt box and its back wall is stone nestled into the hill.

Kris Merschrod July 2019

Listing URL: https://www.raveis.com/raveis/170120649/161westnorwalkroad_norwalk_ct

Listing Agent:

Jeff Palmer  (203) 227-4343

Detail

  • Property ID
    167042
  • 4
    Bedrooms
  • 2.5
    Bathrooms
  • Property Size
    2448 sqft
  • Land Size
    1.48 acres
  • Colonial
    Style
  • Icon
    Year Built
    1750

Updated on July 13, 2019 at 4:23 pm

Address

  • Address: 161 W Norwalk Rd, Norwalk, CT 06850, USA
  • City: Norwalk
  • State/county: Connecticut
  • Zip/Postal Code: 06850
  • Country: United States

Contact Agent

Kris Merschrod
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