The Impressive Isabella Beecher Hooker




Author: Meghan Buchanan


Farmington, CT is the quintessential picturesque New England town. Though many have not heard its name, this little town nestled in the Farmington Valley has a rich and fascinating history. But even more interestingly, this little town had Isabella Beecher Hooker.

Born in Litchfield in 1822, Isabella Beecher Hooker was a fascinating woman. The daughter of well-known preacher, Lyman Beecher, Isabella grew up in a family full of powerful and influential people. Her father, Lyman Beecher, was a distinguished minister who preached throughout country about the perils of intemperance. Her eldest sister, Catharine Beecher, pioneered early women’s education. And her older sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, was an abolitionist and author of the famous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.


Growing up the youngest daughter of such a profound family instilled within Isabella the desires for education, self-determination, and ultimately the desire for the right to vote. Isabella Beecher Hooker was a proud suffragette who campaigned for years for the right to vote. Her husband, John Hooker, played a major role in inspiring her in her pursuit of this goal. One night, John and Isabella stumbled upon a passage pertaining to a married woman’s status under the law. According to the law, a married woman and man were considered one person. Therefore, a woman had no legal rights separate from her husband. This both shocked and troubled Isabella greatly. It was at that moment she decided to dedicate her life to the suffrage movement.

After her marriage to John Hooker in 1841, Isabella resided in the Edward Hooker House, High Street in Farmington where she lived for over 10 years.


Though she spent the majority of her time raising her three children, she became increasingly involved within the suffrage movement. Isabella was especially supportive of a bill that would allow women the right to vote on issues regarding the sale of liquor. She argued that the issue of temperance affected women more strongly than men and that because of that, women should have the right to vote on it. Isabella knew that women were dependent on their husbands for their livelihood. Therefore, if a woman’s husband squandered money on liquor, her own wellbeing—and that of her children’s— was at stake.

After moving to Nook Farm in Hartford in the early 1850s, Isabella sought to form a suffrage organization. In 1869 she succeeded and founded the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association. After forming her association, she began to spend more of her time traveling, speaking at conventions, and addressing Congress. What brought Isabella to suffrage initially, the idea that a woman had no legal rights separate from her husband, is what spurred her in her first goal – to pass a bill that would allow women to own property. In 1877, after fighting to have it passed for seven years, Isabella was finally successful. With the help of her husband, who helped write it, a bill was passed by the state legislature that allowed married women the right to own property.

Mrs. Hooker became very well know for her work regarding suffrage not just throughout Connecticut, but throughout the country as well. During her lifetime, she worked with prominent women within the movement such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. In her own right, Isabella was just as influential as these prominent well-known women. She worked tirelessly in her efforts and never wavered in her belief that women deserved the right to vote.




Anthony, Susan B., and Isabella Beecher Hooker and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Memorial of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Isabella Beecher Hooker, Elizabeth L. Bladen, Olympia Brown, Susan B. Anthony, and Josephine L. Griffing, to the Congress of the United States, and the Arguments Thereon Before the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Senate. Chronicle Publishing Company, 1872.


Campbell, Susan. Tempest Tossed, The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University press, 2014

Hooker, John. “WOMAN SUFFRAGE.” Hartford Daily Courant (1840-1887), Mar 06, 1879.

“The Senate And Woman Suffrage.” New York Times (1857-1922), Feb 23, 1878.

White, Barbara A. The Beecher Sisters. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003.




Joseph Johnson and the Farmington Indian School (ca. 1772/3)

Author: Katherine Cotuc

It was a usual busy day on January 22, 1776 for Joseph Johnson. Back in Mohegan, Johnson was living on a farm and spending most of his time completing everyday chores. He looked over his horses, worked on construction around the house, cut wood, and questioned the state of his immortal soul.

Mohegan meetinghouse, 1831

Mohegan meetinghouse, 1831

Johnson was born and raised in Mohegan, Connecticut as a Christian Indian. He was baptized in a Christian church and sent to Eleazar Wheelock’s Charity School in Lebanon, Connecticut, commonly known as Moor’s Charity School (named for the donor of the land). During the eighteenth century many colonists were investing their time and money in creating Indian schools where they could assimilate Native Americans into European culture. While at Moor’s Charity School, Johnson learned English, Greek, and Latin, and studied the Bible. Johnson also participated in chores around the school and worked in the fields or washed dishes. His time at the Charity School was rough. He constantly found himself feeling alone and confused about the kind of person he was. His teacher, Eleazar Wheelock, constantly made him feel inferior because of his Native American roots. In many of Johnson’s letters to Wheelock he closes them by referring to himself as his “poor good for nothing Black Indian.” With doubt filling his mind, Johnson constantly wondered what his purpose in life was. He questioned his faith and whether he would ever be able to amount to anything, like his teacher Wheelock.

During 1769, Johnson began his travels throughout the colonies. Stepping into different towns and encountering new tribes, Johnson realized how distant he felt from his Native American roots. Finished with collecting money for the Charity school, Johnson wanted to do something for himself. Later in the year he signed onto a whaling ship as a sailor and was able to travel without the expectations to preach or teach. With the sea and whole world at his feet, Johnson could not stop thinking about God. He constantly found himself questioning whether God would be able to forgive him for his sins and whether he would be able to fully accept God and His plan. Late in 1771, after his personal battles, Johnson decided to return back to Mohegan where he had an epiphany about his true identity.

In Mohegan, Johnson kept various diaries describing his every day activities and thoughts. Even though he grew up in Mohegan and viewed himself as an Indian, it was tough to identify with the community. Wheelock’s teachings about Native Americans instilled in his mind that the traditional Native American lifestyle was demonic. Wheelock’s teaching made Johnson believe he was a savage. Even with his internal doubts, he kept attending church and practiced Wheelock’s teachings. He had always managed to keep his faith in God even though he knew that he rebelled against Him many times. Throughout his writings he constantly called for God to give him an answer on how he could be saved.

On May 24, 1772, Johnson declared his dedication to God. Throughout his whole life Johnson had wondered whether he would ever be worthy to accept God. He questioned if he was ready to take on the responsibility of preaching and truly place his life in God’s hand. Knowing that he is not perfect and will never reach perfection, he believed that with constant help from God one day he will be able to go to heaven and live in peace. This epiphany made him realize that it is not about being perfect or a certain race, it was about being ready to change into a holy person. Johnson was ready to embark on a whole new phase in his life, and he did so in Farmington, Connecticut.

The Tunxis Indians, who were indigenous to the Farmington area, sold their land in 1640 to the governor of the Connecticut Colony. The Tunxis’ relationship with the English settlers was uneasy. They found it difficult to keep their identity and customs as they constantly found themselves in disputes with neighboring tribes. Local farmers eventually bought the land they owned in Indian Neck and they lost their livelihood. Since conversion was a goal for many settlers, in 1706 the General Assembly of Connecticut prepared a plan to assimilate the Tunxis Indians. In 1727 it was ordered that all Tunxis Indians parents had to teach their children how to read in English and catechize them.

Throughout the years the relationship between the Tunxis and the settlers of Farmington did get better. With the help of assimilation they were able to communicate and work out their differences. The settlers stated, “…the greater part of Indians, descendants of s[ai]d tribe that now continue in said Farmington are persons duly taught the use of letters and are well instructed in economy and are well able to bargain and contract for themselves.” Joseph Johnson visited Farmington in 1772 and was accepted by both the white population and Native Americans. After Johnson gave a sermon, written by Christian Indian Samson Occom, on the execution of Moses Paul, a Native American who was tried for murder, he was offered a teaching position in the local Indian school. The entire town was inspired by the sermon’s explanation of sin eventually led to death. Johnson was given work at a school in Farmington and kept a diary about his experiences both in the school and his time in Farmington.

As the colonists began to create Indian schools, they each had a specific goal in mind. Depending on where the schools were located, the goals were different. For example in New England many of the Indian schools focused on spreading Christianity because of the Puritan population. In the south they were more focused on teaching Native Americans about trade and business. Margaret Szasz, a historian of Native American education, found three common major criteria to the success in most Indian schools. First, each organization focused on, “the need to Christianize and civilize the natives.” Second, a colonist advertised the importance of Indian schools and willing to visit different Native American tribes to retrieve students. Finally, the most important aspect of success for an Indian school was the support and involvement of a Native American student. Having a Native American who had extensive knowledge in European culture, language, literature, and Christianity was vital. It created a middle ground between the colonists and Native Americans. Being able to relate to an instructor created a safer environment where students showed willingness to participate and learn. Joseph Johnson became a middleman between the two cultures and showed the benefits of assimilating into European culture.

During Johnson’s time at Farmington he taught at the Indian school in the west end, near a bend in the Farmington River, in a classroom that started off with nine students.

Currently a public school district, this area was once home to Joseph Johnson's Indian School.

Currently a public school district, this area was once home to Joseph Johnson’s Indian School.

Johnson opened and closed the school day with prayer, making Christianity the core of all lessons. He also prepared songbooks for his students because enjoyed music. He held practices where his students prepared for upcoming performances. His students performed for several people around Farmington and by the end of ten weeks he had sixteen students in total. Johnson’s experience at the Farmington school set forth his final mission.

Johnson noticed that Native Americans had the chance to advance in the changing world around them. He began to communicate with Samson Occom about opportunities for Christianized Indians. He believed that a new settlement composed of Christianized Indian could succeed using European laws and regulations. Occom did not see a place for Christianized Indians in European settlements. He believed that even though they successfully acquired knowledge from their teachers and were fluent in English and dedicated Christians, the settlers still viewed them in a negative light because of their heritage. Occom believed that Christianized Indians were capable of doing more than farming or taking orders from settlers. Both Johnson and Occom decided to use their relationship with the Native Americans from Oneida to acquire land and start the new settlement of Brothertown in New York. In 1797, 14,662 acres were bought for Brothertown.

Current Oneida Indian Reservation was the eastern border of Brothertown; the Falls were the western border.

Current Oneida Indian Reservation was the eastern border of Brothertown; the Falls were the western border.

Almost all of the Tunxis Indians followed Johnson in his new mission and moved to Brothertown. Brothertown’s government closely mirrored the Connecticut Colony. Brothertown was not successful in their attempts of creating a new settlement and Johnson died in 1776 before being able to name the settlement. Yet he inspired several Native Americans, not only with Brothertown but also with teaching and preaching. At Occom’s funeral, over 300 Native Americans from different tribes attended. Even with the failed mission, it motivated other Christianized Indians to find a voice of their own.

Recommended Reading:

Johnson, Joseph, To Do Good to My Indian Brethren the Writings of Joseph Johnson, 1751-1776,  ed., Laura J. Murray. Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.

Johnson, Joseph. “Joseph Johnson’s Diary: Manuscripts Related to Samson Occom and Eleazar Wheelock’s Early Indian Students.” October 9, 1771.

Samson Occom, “Sermon Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul, an Indian.” Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1800,

Ava Chamberlain, “The Execution of Moses Paul: A Story of Crime and Contact in Eighteenth-Century Connecticut,” New England Quarterly 77, no. 3 (2004): 414.

Julius Gay, Farmington Papers. Salem, Massachusetts: Lockwood and Brainard Co., 1997.

Lopenzina, Drew. “‘The Whole Wilderness Shall Blossom as the Rose:’ Samson Occom, Joseph Johnson, and the Question of Native Settlement on Cooper’s Frontier.” American Quarterly 58, no. 4 (2006): 1119-1145.

For more information about Native American literacy:

“On the Education of Indian Youth,” The Theological Magazine, or, Synopsis of Modern Religious Sentiment. American Periodicals,

Wyss, Hilary E. “Mary Occom and Sarah Simon: Gender and Native Literacy in Colonial New England.” New England Quarterly 79, no. 3 (2006): 387-412.

Wyss, Hilary E. English Letters and Indian Literacies: Reading, Writing, and New England Missionary Schools, 1750-1830. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.

Taverns of Colonial Farmington

Author: Alex Tremblay

There was no place more necessary to early American life than the tavern. For travelers it was a much needed place for rest and food, and for locals, a place of fun and respite from daily life. Yet taverns were a constant thorn in the side of those trying to keep civil order or lead a religiously upright life.

In a meeting of the General Court of Connecticut on June 3, 1644, representatives passed a law requiring all towns in the colony to have at least one ordinary with the abilities to house, feed, and entertain any traveler. These laws were revised periodically in an effort to control what happened in them. Ordinary was the term that was originally given to all public houses such as inns, taverns, and alehouses. Even moreso than in England, taverns served as meeting places, libraries, and post offices, in addition to being places of recreation and drinking. Especially during the winter, church services were sometimes held in them.

One situation unique to the New World was whether taverns ought to entertain Indians. In Connecticut, Indians could and did legally visit taverns. Yet there were laws banning the sale of alcohol to Indians. In a letter to the editor printed in the Boston Evening-Post, the writer discussed how, even with the ban in place, people were still giving and selling alcohol to Indians, knowing full well that they became violent when intoxicated. The writer was saddened by the practice, because he saw it as corrupting an otherwise good and peaceful people, breaking both their bodies and souls. Despite the strong feelings of fear and concern about giving Indians alcohol, there was a popular belief that it was more wrong to “deprive the Indians of any lawful comfort which God alloweth to all men.” Connecticut lawmakers struggled over the dilemma.

Taverns were located along main routes of travel to make it easier for travelers to find them, though the travelers never fully knew what to expect upon arriving at one. The requirements were to be able to house any horses safely, have food for the travelers, and put them in a bed during their stay. Lodgings could range from a room not unlike the shed where the horses were tied up for the night with bread and water for a meal and some mats to sleep on, to a room and services that were more like the equivalent of a modern bed and breakfast.

Between 1741 and 1789 Farmington had at least 39 new registered taverns and inns open their doors. To register a tavern or inn, a person had to be chosen by the people of the town and then approved by two magistrates from the state (later from the county). That did not keep others from opening up unlicensed establishments. The main reason for the licensing of a tavern or inn was to regulate the sale of alcohol, required to be in standard measures so the excise (tax) man could collect his due.

The Elm Tree Inn, 785 Farmington Avenue

The Elm Tree Inn, 785 Farmington Avenue

Both the Elm Tree Inn (ca. 1760-1800), run by Capt. Phineas Lewis as a tavern in Farmington, and the Fuller Tavern (1769-1846), now in a part of Farmington known as Berlin, were well-known stops along a travel route from New York to Springfield, Boston, or Providence. They are also noted as having the distinction of entertaining General George Washington on two separate occasions when he was traveling through Connecticut. Rochambeau’s map of his camp in Farmington prominently shows the location of a tavern.

Barnes' Tavern. Rochambeau's Farmington camp, 1782.

Barnes’ Tavern. Rochambeau’s Farmington camp, 1782.

Established taverns on well traveled routes had staying power. Cook’s Tavern started operation as a tavern in 1769 in a part of Farmington that is now Plainville. This tavern has the rare distinction of never fully ending its business, just transforming itself into a restaurant in 1934. The ownership changed hands from the Cooks to its current owners, who now run it as the restaurant J. Timothy’s Taverne.


“Historic Buildings of Connecticut » Blog Archive » Elm Tree Inn (1655).” Accessed May 11, 2015.

“Historic Buildings of Connecticut » Blog Archive » Fuller’s Tavern (1769).” Accessed May 11, 2015.

“History.” J Timothy’s Taverne. Accessed May 11, 2015.

Hammond (James Hammond) Trumbull, ed. The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, April 1636 – April 1665. Vol. 1. Hartford, Ct: Brown & Parsons, 1850.

Lanning, Anne Digan. “Women Tavern-Keepers in the Connecticut River Valley, 1750-1810.” New England Celebrates: Spectacle, Commemoration, and Festivity, The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife Annual Proceedings 2000, 25 (2000): 202–14.

Lathrop, Elise. Early American Inns and Taverns. New York: Tudor Publishing Company, 1935.

“Ordinary, N.” OED Online. Oxford University Press. Accessed May 6, 2015.

Sismondo, Christine. America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2011.

Recommended Reading:

Brennan, Thomas E., David Hancock, and Michelle McDonald, eds. Public Drinking in the Early Modern World: Voices From the Tavern, 1500-1800. Vol. 4. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011.

Conroy, David W. “Puritans in Taverns: Law and Popular Culture in Colonial Massachusetts.” In Drinking: Behavior and Belief in Modern History, edited by Susanna Barrows and Robin Room. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1991.

Daniels, Bruce C. Puritans at Play: Leisure and Recreation in Colonial New England. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1995.


Sickness and Disease in Colonial Farmington

Author: Samantha Kissko

Various diseases and illnesses have plagued people for centuries, and Farmington, Connecticut, was not without its fair share. Disease often spread quickly in colonial Farmington. If one household became ill, chances were that several more would fall ill before anyone even had the chance to stop the disease from spreading. One of the diseases that spread the most rapidly during this time period was smallpox. Smallpox, named “The King of Terrors” by the United States’ second president John Adams, was a highly contagious disease, and lasted for several weeks. While many people died from the disease, the ones who lived were not entirely lucky. They were often left deformed, scarred, and occasionally blind. Because smallpox spread from person to person so quickly, an epidemic outbreak was extremely possible. One such epidemic occurred in 1771 and took many lives, including the life of Farmington resident Abigail Hart, who left behind her husband Stephen Hart. Abigail Hart was just one of the several victims of the epidemic of 1771 that was sweeping through New England.

Tombstones were found near Colombia Lake in 1913. The stones were buried farther from town and all the people had died around the same time. This led people to believe that these stones were those of other people who died from smallpox in 1771.

While smallpox spread quickly and often left behind lifelong effects, there was a way to prevent the illness, inoculation. People who were inoculated were given the illness in a small dose and taken care of until they healed. After they recovered the inoculation made them immune and they were no longer able to contract or spread the illness.


Fig.2: New-England Weekly Journal, Jan. 5, 1730

While inoculations could help prevent people from getting the illness again, it was still a painful process, and there was no guarantee that the illness would not spread from the inoculation house, such as Hospital Rock in Farmington, to the general public in town. For this reason inoculation was the occasion of great debate. In addition to debating inoculations’ safety there was also the cost of inoculating people. Only the rich with strong family roots could afford the treatment. Thaddeus Betts, a physician in Norwalk, offered inoculations around the colony. Betts’ advertisement from 1771 lists the price of the inoculation as “three pounds lawful money,” which might be a month’s earning for an ordinary family. Rev. Timothy Pitkin was able to inoculate his daughter, Mary, because of his income as minister of the Farmington Congregational church. His doing so encouraged others with the means to follow suit.

While smallpox was a major disease of the time, there were many other illnesses that spread quickly and killed many people. These illnesses helped the people of Farmington to solidify their faith in God, sometimes increasing church membership. One example of this was Polly Cowles, whose story is told through her sister Julia Cowles’ memoir. Polly Cowles was sick with consumption (tuberculosis) and had seen many of her friends die from the same illness. Her illness strengthened her belief in God, as she prayed to get well. Polly Cowles later died of her illness at age 17.

Diseases in colonial Farmington were a major part of people’s lives; many died, lost loved ones or were scarred from illness. Despite the diseases that spread throughout Farmington the people remained strong through their faith and belief in God.


“Article 7 — no Title.” The Connecticut Courant (1764-1774), Jan 08, 1771.

Betts, Thaddeus. Connecticut Journal, January 30, 1771.

Charles Leach, “Hospital Rock,” Hog River Journal 2, no. 2 (Spring, 2004):

Special to The Courant. “Epitaphs About The Smallpox.” The Hartford Courant (1887-1922), Jan 11, 1913.

“Memoir of Julia Cowles.” The Connecticut Evangelical Magazine 4 (July, 1803-June, 1804): 146-156. (also published by Yale Univ. Press, 1931,

Recommended Reading:

Elizabeth A. Fenn, Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82. New York: Hill and Wang, 2001.

Exploring Connecticut and the Slave Trade: April 21 Event

Exploring Connecticut and the Slave Trade

When: Tuesday, April 21, 12pm – 1pm
Where: Connecticut’s Old State House, 800 Main Street, Hartford, CT 06103, United States (map)
Join acclaimed writer and independent historian, Anne Farrow, as she discusses her new book, “The Logbooks Connecticut’s Slave Ships and Human Memory.” Farrow has spent the last decade exploring the content and the meaning of a set of 18th-century New London slave ships’ logbooks. Her book explores the Africa’s (a slave ship) three voyages in 1757, including a journey from New London to the tiny island of Bence in Sierra Leone to take on fresh water and slaves. These voyages, documented by the ship owner’s son, unearth new realities of Connecticut’s slave trade and question how we could have forgotten this part of our past so completely. Following Farrow’s talk, Dr. Allegra di Bonaventura, author of “For Adam’s Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England,” for a panel discussion moderated by the Connecticut Network’s (CT-N) Diane Smith. Following the program, there will be a book signing with Ms. Farrow and Dr. di Bonaventura. This program is co-sponsored with the Stanley Whitman House. Registration is encouraged, but not required. You can register here:
Visit the Captive People website at

Digital Farmington: The Concept and Development

In September, 2014, Prof. Stan Kurkovsky sent this message to other professors at Central Connecticut State University:

“The CCSU Computer Science department regularly offers senior software engineering courses in which student teams participate in design and development of software projects of various sizes and complexity. Usually, the best projects come from working with local non-profits or campus departments and organizations, rather than letting students work on projects that they would make up just for the purposes of this course. In case if your department, any of your faculty, or perhaps a local non-profit that you may have a connection with, might have some software development needs, I will be glad to discuss how CS majors in our software engineering classes could help.”

Prof. Katherine Hermes in the History Department responded. She wanted to collaborate with Lisa Johnson, director of the Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington, Connecticut, to create a website modeled after “Digital Harlem,” which allowed site visitors to use maps and analytical categories to see change over time with respect to events plotted on the map. Dr. Hermes and Ms. Johnson met with Dr. Kurkovsky and his students to discuss the project. They examined various map programs, including MapScholar, and three teams were assigned to develop “Digital Farmington.”

The plan was that once “Digital Farmington” was created, Dr. Hermes’ class on historical methods, History 301: The Historical Imagination, could then develop the points of interest and analytical categories for the map and share their research on Farmington with the public. In Spring, 2015, Dr. Hermes began teaching her first “Digital Farmington” class.

The three teams came up with several different designs, each excellent in its own way. Only one design could be chosen, however, so Lisa Johnson held a focus group event at the Stanley-Whitman House. One prototype, developed by Kevin Gregory, Marianella Rydzewski, and Alex Shorthouse, used a MapScholar-type interface and Google Maps to create an interactive display. Another team was composed of undergraduates, who had thoughtful ideas about security issues. David Benoit, Eric Heidelmark, Jon Montwell, and Aaron Zamojski gave us ideas about how to administer our site safely. The winning model, though, was created by Sweta Mishra, Trung Phung, and Chad Tower, which will be unveiled at the “Making History: a CSU Conference” to be held at Southern Connecticut State University on March 27, 2015. That map will be linked to the blog in the coming weeks.


Blog posts will be written by students in the History 301: Historical Imagination class as they uncover interesting historical events in Farmington, CT. For Spring, 2015, students are working on Colonial Farmington. In the summer, new students will work on Antebellum Farmington, and in the Fall, 2015, on Gilded Age Farmington. This project will continue to gather research on Farmington’s history, ranging from the local to the transoceanic. We’ll go as far as it takes us!