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Farmington: Franklin County's Shiretown

Early Settlers

Click the icon for a map of the locations of early settler's homesteads

By Nancy Porter, Researcher & Page Creator
With images from Farmington Historical Society and Nordica Memorial Association

Farmington’s early settlers were a brave bunch, coming up the Kennebec River and over land by foot or horse through unsettled areas following the trails of early trappers or Indians. Some of the men who came to Farmington prior to 1800 and who left their footprint on the community were:

Supply Belcher - 1751 - 1836

Supply Belcher Portrait
Supply Belcher Portrait

Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society
Supply Belcher Homestead, Farmington, circa 1905
Supply Belcher Homestead, Farmington, circa 1905

Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society

Mr. Belcher came to Farmington out of the Taunton, Mass. area. He was born in Stoughton (now Sharon, Mass) in 1751. He had received a “superior English education” (Butler’s History of Farmington) there. He suffered financial losses after the Revolution War, deciding then to make a new start in a new country. He settled first in Hallowell, Maine, where he remained for about six years. During his tenure there, he may have become acquainted with others who eventually settled in Farmington, because about 1791 he traveled here with his family, along with John Church.

He secured respect in the new settlement because of his level of education and knowledge. He was elected the first Town Clerk and later taught school for some years. He also provided some rudimentary medical aid to settlers until a physician, Dr. Aaron Stoyell, arrived in 1794. (Butler’s History of Farmington)

Because of his educated status, he was enlisted to help with the incorporation of the township, traveling to Boston with others to secure approval from the Commonwealth. He later served as a selectman and representative to the General Court.

Supply Belcher's Fowling Piece,c a. 1775
Supply Belcher's Fowling Piece,c a. 1775

Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society

Mr. Belcher’s home remains in Farmington, although its exterior has changed. It is located at the intersection of Route 4 North (Main Street) and Box Shop Hill Road. His home is one of many that was built prior to 1800 and still stands as a testament to the talents of these early settlers.

Mr. Belcher’s early “fowling piece” is presently in the collection of Farmington Historical Society. We can only guess at its age.

His talent as a musician and composer is the thing that insures his memory. He composed some pieces and published a collection of music known as the “Harmony of Maine”, which netted him the name of “Handel of Maine” after conducting a musical presentation in Hallowell 1796. (Butler’s History of Farmington) Both Colby College and Bowdoin College have some of his early music, which includes some musical presentations, in their library collections.

Jonathan Russ

Jonthan Russ' Ledger
Jonthan Russ' LedgerThis Ledger is one of the earliest in the Historical Society's Collection dating back to 1797
Jonathan Russ's house, Farmington, ca. 1950
Jonathan Russ's house, Farmington, ca. 1950

Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society

While so very little is known about Jonathan Russ’s ancestry or even where he lived before coming to Farmington, Jonathan left an article that sheds light on questions that survive his lifetime. In our collection, we have a “Day Book” or ledger dating back to 1797. This ledger appears to track his business – some sort of store. What is most interesting is that he trades with “Indians”. One page shows the name ‘Pierpole’ and another entry shows the name ‘Plosway’ and ‘Plosway Lewey’.

On another page of the ledger, Plosway is called ‘Indian Plosway’. We wonder why it was important to make note that Plosway was an Indian, but for us, 200 years later, that is significant.

For genealogists, this ledger is also important. It shows the names of the early settlers, dating their residence in the area. When so many of the early records are non-existent, this proves that a family did indeed live in the Farmington area and actually traded at Russ’ store in Farmington Falls.

Jonathan Poor's murals in Farmington, circa 1950
Jonathan Poor's murals in Farmington, circa 1950

Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society

F. G. Butler’s History of Farmington briefly mentions Jonathan Russ. Natalie & Ben Butler’s History of Farmington Falls sheds a little more light on Jonathan. They tell us Jonathan owned a mill in Farmington Falls for a short time. He is reputed to have had a son Henry and Henry apparently took over Jonathan’s store and turned it into a tavern.
Their place of abode was near the riverbank, behind what is now the Nazarene Church (once Blake Memorial Congregational Church) in the Farmington Falls Village. Two pictures survive of the building itself showing murals on the walls. The Ben Butlers tell us these murals were painted by Jonathan Poor, nephew of Rufus Porter. Other Farmington Falls homes boast walls with similar murals.

Daniel Stewart's Chair
Daniel Stewart's Chair
Child's size
Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society

The Stewart Family

The Stewarts hailed from Martha’s Vineyard – an island just off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass. Their roots went back several generations on the Vineyard, and in addition to being survival farmers, the Stewarts were also talented furniture makers and “joiners” [carpenters]. They brought that talent to the Sandy River Valley when they migrated prior to 1800. Hugh Stewart, a Revolutionary soldier, was the first Stewart here, bringing his family with him. Butler’s History of Farmington tells us he “built a commodious set of buildings” in the Holley neighborhood. His son Henry carried on furniture building in the village. Daniel was located at Backus Corner (now the intersection of Route 4 and the Holley Road). The Historical Society is fortunate to have two examples of Daniel’s chairs. Keep in mind that Daniel died in 1827 so that helps date these chairs.

Daniel Stewart's Other Chair
Daniel Stewart's Other Chair
Child's Size
Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society
Henry Stewart Portrait
Henry Stewart Portrait

Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society
Henry Stewart's Ledger
Henry Stewart's Ledger

Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society

Henry, a furniture and cabinet maker, survives in a different manner. A portrait of Henry recently came to the Historical Society. We can only wonder if he and Daniel looked similar. Henry’s ledger also survives, and this sheds light on what a furniture maker might have done in these early years. The early Town Warrants tell us the town hired Henry to build a box for their town records and to make a roller for the town maps. [1803-1804] So it appears he was a reputable businessman.

The Hillman Family

This family also came from Martha’s Vineyard and was headed by Uriel Hillman, one of Farmington’s earlier settlers. He was a house-joiner by profession, but turned into an industrious farmer when he settled here. He was the father of 10 children; two of those children, Gilbert and Alexander, were major contributors to Farmington in its early years.

Mary Pettengill Hillman carte de visite, circa 1875
Mary Pettengill Hillman carte de visite, circa 1875

Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society
Mary Hillman's Sampler
Mary Hillman's Sampler

Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society

Gilbert Hillman, a bit of a wanderer, went to sea on a whaling ship that sailed around Cape Horn. He settled in California where he transported freight up the Sacramento River. At some point, he came back to Farmington where he settled in the north part of town. He married Mary Pettengill in 1826. We know very little of Mary, but what we do know is that she was a whiz with a needle. One of Mary’s samplers survives in the Farmington Historical Society’s collection, thanks to her great granddaughter, Freda Hillman Weymouth. We also have a picture of Mary.

Alexander Hillman, an ambitious man, owned a farm near the town limits toward Industry and was reputed to have had one of the largest farms in town. Pictures of his home survive. And he was the owner of a saw mill near his home. For further information on Alexander, see the Mill Section.

While Alexander and Gilbert were successful farmers, their sister, Sophronia, spent some time to create the needlework which survives to grace the walls of the Titcomb House.

Sophronia Hillman's Sampler
Sophronia Hillman's Sampler

Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society
Polly (Mary) Adams' Sampler
Polly (Mary) Adams' Sampler

Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society

Extended families lived together in those early years, and another member of the Hillman family created a sampler that also survives. This was made by Polly Adams. Research reveals Uriel’s wife, Elizabeth [betsey] was an Adams before marriage, and this sampler was likely made by her sister Mary [polly]. Perhaps Mary came from Martha’s Vineyard after her parents died and lived with the Hillmans, as Mary is buried in the Holley Cemetery in Farmington.

The Norton Family

This family can trace its roots back to Nicholas Norton who came to American shortly after it was settled. Branches of the family spread out all over New England but the branch of Nortons that came to the Franklin County area lived on Martha’s Vineyard. Each generation left its mark on the towns where they lived. Farmington, Industry and New Vineyard can boast many families with the Norton name; each town benefiting from the industrious nature of the families’ members. They participated in town affairs, built large homes and farms, and were staunchly religious in their beliefs. (Butler’s History of Farmington & Hatch’s History of Industry)

Amanda Allen Norton of Farmington
Amanda Allen Norton of Farmington

Item Contributed by
Nordica Memorial Association
Lillian Nordica in diamond tiara
Lillian Nordica in diamond tiara

Item Contributed by
Nordica Memorial Association

One member of the Norton family was Lillian Norton a/k/a Madame Nordica. Her parents, Edwin Norton and Amada Allen, were born here, but Amada would be known as a “Stage Mom”, believing in the talents of her daughter Wilhelmina. Amanda took her family to the Boston area, obtaining a connection into the music world through opera, where Wilhelmina was being trained in voice. Wilhelmina’s career was cut short with a fatal disease; this devastated the family. However, Lillian’s voice was equally as good, and Amanda then channeled her energy into Lillian’s career. Amanda and her daughters worked at menial jobs to support themselves, living in sparse conditions, all the while supporting Lillian’s dreams. (A Yankee Diva by Ira Glacken). Eventually, Lillian was able to break into the operatic world, and became the delight of the European music community. With her success, Lillian was able to live a lot more comfortably, bringing her sisters to Europe to spend time with her. The sisters all eventually married, had children, and settled into comfortable lives themselves.

Madame Lillian Nordica's birthplace, 1936
Madame Lillian Nordica's birthplace, 1936

Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society

In the early 1900’s, two of the sisters came back to Farmington and purchased the old Norton homestead on Holley Road. As time went on, funds were donated for its care and the Nordica Homestead became the home of many of Lillian’s gowns and other pieces of memorabilia. It is visited by many folks during the summer months, and usually hosts the Norton Reunion in August.

This picture is of a Norton Reunion held at the Nordica Homestead on the Holley Road in Farmington. Lillian is shown on the settee in the front row with her then-husband, George Young. And the little man standing directly behind Madame Nordica was Arbo Norton, a successful business man in Farmington. Thanks to Arbo, we have some amazing snapshots to share with the world.

Bible fly leaf, Farmington, 1852
Bible fly leaf, Farmington, 1852

Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society
Norton Family Reunion, Farmington, early 1900s
Norton Family Reunion, Farmington, early 1900s

Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society

Campmeeting John Allen

John Allen, Farmington, ca. 1888
John Allen, Farmington, ca. 1888

Item Contributed by
Nordica Memorial Association

CAMPMEETING JOHN ALLEN: John’s parents, William Allen & Love Coffin hailed from Chilmark Mass., on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard. William settled in the town of Industry where he and his wife raised eleven children. However, one resource says that John was born in a log-cabin in Farmington. John, in his early years, tended toward wild and reckless. But he was converted to religion and a devotion to Christ at a camp-meeting early on. He would spend the rest of his life preaching wherever he could find an audience. But his biggest audiences would come at the camp meetings that were held in towns near enough to travel. It is said his granddaughters, Wilhelmina and Lillian, learned their love of music from him, and learned to sing above the din when their grandfather sang. It was John’s daughter, Amanda, who married into the Norton Family and would become the mother of a famous Opera Diva into the late 19th century.

The Titcomb Family

Lydia Titcomb's Parchment
Lydia Titcomb's Parchment
This is dated 1819. Penmanship Practice produced in Brunswick
Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society

Stephen Titcomb, reputed to be the first settler, came to Farmington before there was even a settlement. He was instrumental in the town’s early development and left a legacy few can equal. His children, well educated, and equally as industrious, continued his legacy through their efforts. John Titcomb, educated at Farmington Academy, married Lydia, daughter of Benjamin and Phebe Abbott of Temple (no close relationship to Jacob Abbott). Lydia, in her own right, was well educated, having spent some of her early years in an educational facility in Brunswick. She was, at one time, a preceptress of Farmington Academy. (Butler’s History of Farmington)

This parchment, drawn by Lydia Abbott Titcomb and dated 1819, is one of three that has survived. The Maine Historical Society has a similar one in its collection done by Sarah Merry, but Lydia’s has less damage, and in truth, shows much more artistic talent than that of Sarah’s. This was done as a penmanship practice according to Maine Historical Society’s information.

Stereoptic Card of The Titcomb-Linscott House, Farmington, ca. 1890
Stereoptic Card of The Titcomb-Linscott House, Farmington, ca. 1890
Known for years as the Dr. Linscott House, this was the home of John & Lydia Titcomb
Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society

After their marriage, John and Lydia built a large house on Main Street in Farmington, on the lot where Farmington Post Office now stands. Their children were successful in their own right.

While John Abbott Titcomb, son of John and Lydia, didn’t remain in Farmington, his influence does remain. John Abbott’s son, Harold, had a strong affiliation with Farmington, even though he was born in Brooklyn, and spent a lot of time traveling all over the world as an Engineer. His income was comfortable enough so he was able to maintain a beautiful home in Farmington, while traveling, and spending equally as much time in England, his wife’s home.

Green Acres with Keepers Lodge, Farmington, ca. 1890
Green Acres with Keepers Lodge, Farmington, ca. 1890
This was Harold Titcomb's home in Farmington on Orchard Street. The house still stands.
Item Contributed by
Farmington Historical Society

When Harold’s grandfather’s house in Farmington was torn down to make room for the new Post Office prior to 1936, Harold obtained some of the timbers from the old house and kept them in his barn on Orchard Street. (Once named Lady Katherine's and later named Green Acre) Harold’s son, John Abbott Titcomb, a flyer for the RAF in WWII, was killed in combat. To honor his son’s memory, Harold Titcomb donated the timbers for a frame for a ski lodge and other funds to build the lodge. This lodge was built for what had been the Farmington Outing Club, which had been cutting ski trails on a lot of land on Morrison Hill. This turned into the ski area we now know as Titcomb Mountain.

Harold’s daughter, Peggy, after traveling the world with her parents, and living much of her early life in England, moved back to Farmington, and settled in the big house on Orchard Street with her parents. Years later, the family sold the Orchard Street house and Peggy bought Pine Tree Cottage on Academy Street, which had belonged to another Titcomb family member. After Peggy died, Pine Tree Cottage eventually came to the Farmington Historical Society. The members of the Historical Society took great care to set up the Historical Society’s new home tastefully, and make its collection available to all who want to visit.

Titcomb House
Titcomb HouseFarmington Historical Society Today

Sources:
Hatch's History of Industry
F. G. Butler's History of Farmington
Farmington Vital Records
Farmington Early Town Warrants
A Yankee Diva by Ira Glacken
Natalie & Benjamin Butler's Historic Research (unpublished)