By Nancy Porter, author of "Chester . . . More than Ear Muffs"
Chester Greenwood, one of Farmington’s most famous citizens, was born here, son of Zina and Emily (Fellows) Greenwood. He married Isabel Whittier and was the father of four children.
Chester’s mechanical and creative ability likely came through his father’s family. Zina was a bridge builder, a wagon & carriage builder and a businessman in the Corn Canning Industry. All of the boys in the family had that same tendency to the creative and the mechanical.
Chester did indeed patent Ear Muffs when he was 15 years old. And before too many years passed, Chester was producing earmuffs in a factory in West Farmington. He continued production of earmuffs until his death in 1937 – nearly 60 years – providing jobs for many women. Women were suited for the work because of their ability to sew.
While Farmington and the world remembers Chester for his “ear protectors”, there was a lot more to Chester than that. He ran a bicycle shop – selling and repairing “wheels”. He sold Florida Boilers, a business that grew rapidly. He later sold that business because he couldn’t provide the service it required.
At the end of the 19th century, Chester became involved in the Telephone & Telegraph business. He owned and operated Franklin Telephone & Telegraph, which he expanded east toward New Sharon and north to the Phillips area. He later sold this business to a competitor.
Chester continued to invent and receive patents. He created a tea kettle with a special bottom. He invented an advertising match box, which he likely didn’t mass produce. He built and patented a boring machine, which was used in the wood turning industry. The last thing he patented was a spring-tooth rake. He invented other things – a pipe vise, an umbrella holder, and a portable camp. These were never patented.
He built a beautiful Victorian house for his family. It stands today. He was active in town affairs and participated in a committee to research and build better roads for the town. He was active in the Unitarian Church with his wife, Isabel. And he and Isabel were staunch supporters of the Grange. All the while, Chester provided jobs for folks who needed work, and he invented.
He built solid buildings in Farmington Village for his businesses – he preferred brick. He had foresight in construction because his buildings had solid bases, which could be expanded. He purchased land, subdivided it, and created a new neighborhood near his home and with it, came a street that still bears his name. And he supported education, presumably because he didn’t have a lot of formal education himself. All of his children attended college.
There truly was a lot more to Chester than just being the inventor of ear protectors.