The William Pearl House in Hampton

Sitting at the curve of old Route 6 where it meets Main Street in Hampton, Conn. is a unique house that has stood as witness to Hampton events and history for some 80 years.  It is an amazing house which reigns large in my memories from childhood.

William Austin Pearl, 1880-1971
William Austin Pearl, 1880-1971

My mother, Dorothy Pearl Overbaugh grew up in Hampton with her 2 sisters and brother in a farmhouse at the foot of Hammond Hill.  My Grandpa William A. and Grandma Mabel Pearl farmed there for many years.  After her death in 1929 and their daughters marrying and moving away, Grandpa, who avidly read the National Geographic magazines he subscribed to, took a train trip to fulfill a dream of traveling to some of those marvelous places he’d read about.  On that train trip, he met a widow, Elizabeth McDuffee Fero.  They fell in love and soon married.  In the early 1930’s, Will and Elizabeth sold the farm to Will’s son, Bill, and moved to the top of Hampton Hill into a newly built home on Main Street and Route 6.

I grew up in Waterbury, Conn.  Our family made summer pilgrimages to Hampton to escape the city and revel in the clean air and loveliness of the old village of Hampton.  For Mom it was a coming home.  For me, as a child, Hampton was a new world of freedom, family and fun.  We often stayed with Grandpa and Grandma Elizabeth in that big house on Hampton hill.  Entering the house from the big front porch one was immediately aware of the sweet, fresh smell of wood.  Even today, most of the beautiful wood trim in the house is unpainted and the wood smell is still detectable.  The rooms were large and filled with light, the large, open kitchen where Grandma made the most delectable pancakes, fried chicken, baked beans and pies, always smelled inviting.  I am sure that she was a star at church pot luck suppers!

William Austin and Elizabeth (McDuffee Fero) Pearl
William Austin and Elizabeth (McDuffee Fero) Pearl

Immediately upon entering my grandparents home, I would first stop to enjoy a winter scene of miniature people skiing and iceskating in the little landscape of a snow covered hill and pond.  It sat in a glassed-in book cabinet directly opposite the front door.  I would then make my way into the kitchen where there was an old secretary desk with space underneath covered by a little curtain that held an old wooden box of blocks and toys.  That toy box was brought up to one of the front bedrooms on the 2nd floor for me and set on the wood floor at the foot of a bed where I was free to create imaginary cities, towns, castles, etc. to my heart’s content.

The Pearl House, Front View
The Pearl House, Front View

To me as a child, this house was a marvel, and it evoked wonder, pleasure and memories that I have never experienced from any other place.  It struck me, when I had a wonderful opportunity in recent years to revisit this special place, that as an adult it still seemed very large and still held a kind of magic for me.

The Pearl House of Hampton, Rear View
The Pearl House of Hampton, Rear View

As a child visiting there, I had the run of the house.  Large, easy to climb stairs linked the different floors of the home. I explored everywhere and developed definite feelings for certain special spots.   One was the sun room on the 2nd floor where Grandma had a day bed, wicker chairs and many flowering plants.  It was open and bright and had gorgeous views of the valley and her perennial garden below.  The attic was floored and held all sorts of treasures  stored there.  At each end of the attic were large windows which at the front overlooked the street and at the back overlooked the back yard and the valley.  The large basement also had windows and was well lit.  Grandpa had his workshop there and Grandma had shelves filled with her preserves and canned goods.

This house is an inviting and well designed treasure, very well constructed, and handily withstood the Hurricane of 1938 despite major wind damage to neighboring homes and structures.  When we retired back to New England, had it been offered for sale, we would likely have purchased it. To me, this place in the heart of the beautiful village of  Hampton, has a warm and embracing aura.

Hampton Social Life During the Thirties & Forties

This was related to me by one of our cousins and he tells it from the standpoint of an observant child.

“Many families seemed to go to church back in those days. After the service, most people would stand around for awhile, in groups, the women talking and the men talking a little less, but appearing to be happy just to be there. I was a shy kid and therefore quiet most of the time, but I liked to watch and listen to what the older folks were doing and saying. Amy Saunders would go home after church and open up her store, located across the street from the church, just long enough for those who needed something. Because it was depression years, folks could save on gas by combining trips and do their weekly grocery shopping after church.

Meeting on the front porch of the Hampton Store was a social opportunity. In those days, the Post Office was housed in the same building as the store, an annex in the area of what would eventually become the store’s deli. Folks would meet as they came to get groceries, or their mail, and they would tarry to chat with each other.

I liked the Sunday before Christmas better than Christmas day, when we went to the afternoon church service with all the carol singing and Santa coming in with a huge bag of gifts. He gave a gift to each child there, and there were a lot of us, including those who never came the rest of the year. Besides that, I liked the feeling or spirit of friendliness and happiness that was there before, during and after the service. one good reason for my liking that day even better than Christmas was my mother, as the Postmaster, had to work half a day on Christmas, unless it fell on a Sunday. Dad had to go milk the cows at Goodwin’s farm morning and evening, every day, just like Bill Pearl, Uncle Reuben and all the other farm folks. Christmas he would go very early so to be back home in time for my sister and me to have our stocking presents before Mother went to the Post Office. She would sort through the mail to give anything that had arrived on the morning train to those who came to the office on Christmas looking for the presents they had ordered from Sears or Monkey Wards. I went over to watch sometimes. The group waiting, mostly husbands, formed a small friendly social group. It was sad to see the faces of those who turned away when Mother said, “Sorry it didn’t come, I’ve looked through everything.” I felt sorry for those guys when they got home and had to tell their wives and children. Mother would hurry home after the last person left, which was about noon time. Then she would hurry to prepare our Christmas dinner. After that we could open the presents under our tree. Then it was time for Dad to go milk the cows again.

A new social group developed at the Post Office as a result of the war. Parents and wives of guys serving in WWII would gather on the store-post office porch to wait for the evening mail to be brought from the evening train by either Will Jewett, or sometimes my Dad. Mother would sort the mail and call out the names of those there who got a letter from their son or their husband. I would hang around there sometimes to enjoy the friendly ‘we are in this together’ spirit of the group. I guess they felt it too, because most arrived very early.

The Pearl family had some good social events other than the annual Jewett and Pearl Reunions. Rotational Whist parties were held quite often at one Pearl house or another. My parents had several while living in Flora’s house (on Rt. 97). Others would bring card tables and folding chairs and food. Usually, they needed the dining table and 5 or more card tables. If someone could not come, which left an empty chair, they would let me sit in to play the dummy hand. By 2nd grade, I had observed enough to become a player, the only kid in the group. I thought that Uncle Ernest Emmons was the best player and I tried to copy his style. One thing he did was to draw out all the trump cards instead of hoarding them for a trump play later in the game, which was what the others did. He was a good mathematician. He explained the basics of algebra to me so I could understand it in a couple of hours, which the high school teacher had not been able to do. Besides just playing cards, it was a fun time. I never heard all those uncles, aunts, older cousins and my parents talk so animatedly, and laugh so much and so loudly as at those Whist parties.

Formal Whist parties were held in the Grange Hall several times a year, open to anyone, with prizes going to the top three or four winners. A large bag of groceries was a very good prize. I don’t know if the Grange ran these Whist parties or some other group. Lots of social events went on at the Grange Hall besides Grange meetings.

The Grange meetings themselves were social events, too. Every meeting had an entertainment segment which was really good. Members would create plays sometimes, or they did a musical number, or a comedy bit. Occasionally there was a guest speaker. Many Hampton families had radios and some could afford to go to a movie once or twice a month, but that was about it. So, all that free ‘homegrown’ entertainment at the Grange was enjoyed and much appreciated. They put on dinners also. Besides the good food there was the special enjoyment going to a country ham, bean, salad and pie dinner. The menu would depend on who the cooks were, but the theme was similar. Some people refer to that as ‘Americana food’ now.

The Saturday night square dances at the Grange hall were wonderful and they were held once or twice a month for several years while I was growing up. Entire families would attend.

Sorry to say, but I didn’t care much for those family Reunions when very young. The early ones were run by the Jewetts and they all seemed very serious and tended to be business-like. Then at some point, when I was a little older, the Pearls started their own reunions. Most of the Pearl reunions were held at Uncle Reuben’s and Aunt Gertrude’s place. To me, they were much nicer; just a nice big, friendly picnic.
In later years when I was working as an engineer and then in management, we had to work during the July vacation shutdown of my company to install new equipment and make major repairs. Every year we had to work 27 to 34 days in a row. That prevented me and my family from attending the reunions for years. I realize now how much I missed. Today I live far from New England. Age and health reasons prevent me from traveling that far to see friends, family and to attend reunions. That is the only downside, or negative to living where I do. Funny, I can still hear the words in my head from some of those old folks, like in Uncle Will’s voice, ‘He had no business moving way out there; he shoulda stayed home!’

If you live close enough to go to a reunion, enjoy them while you can.”

The Joining of the Jewett and Pearl Families

The Pearl and Jewett lines merged with the marriage of John Porter Pearl and Maria Jennings Jewett.  Maria, the daughter of Ebenezer Jewett II and Nancy Jennings, was born  in Hampton, CT on 23 January 1826.  John Porter Pearl, the son of Jerome Pearl and Amaryllis Allworth, was born on 14 October 1813 in Wethersfield, CT.  They were married 23 February 1847.  John and Maria had 8 children, one of whom, was Austen Eugene Pearl from whom we are descended.  In Marian Arlene Pearl’s genealogy, “John Porter Pearl was a farmer and a carpenter.  He was a Democrat and in his early years held town offices in Hampton.  He attended the Congregational Church and was held in high esteem by those who knew him.”

A cute little story is told by Marian Arlene Pearl about how Marie Jennings Pearl’s mother, Nancy Jennings, met Marie’s father, Ebenezer Jewett II, a carpenter.  “Ebenezer, II raised the first frame house in town and a large crowd gathered to see it go up, among them was the young Nancy Jennings whom he had never met.  Nancy’s father had jokingly promised her, should the new building go up without a hitch, she might marry the young contractor.  There was never any doubt as to Ebenezer’s ability.  He and Nancy were married in 1824.   Ebenezer, II also built the Bell School House in Hampton, which is still standing to this day.”

A little side note about the Jewett’s of Hampton is that Ebenezer Jewett I, Maria (Jennings) (Jewett) Pearl’s grandfather, was one of the Minutemen who responded to General Gage’s call for reinforcements in 1774, and in return for military service was given homestead lands on the hills east of Hampton.  Thus the Jewett’s came to Hampton.

Dot Vander Meulen, Pearl Family Historian.

Just A Short Story

Jerome Pearl 1775 – 1825 married Amaryllis Alworth in 1800.  They had 9 children, one of whom was our Hampton Pearl’s direct ancestor, John Porter Pearl.  Two of John Porter Pearl’s sisters were Beulah Moseley Pearl and Sarah Alworth Pearl.  Sarah was baptized 12 Aug 1810 in Wethersfield, CT.  She died on 23 Nov. 1876 in Hampton, CT.

Sarah and her sister Beulah were co-administrators of their mother’s estate in 1850.  On their mother’s death, they received the bulk of the estate, including the home and furnishings thereof.  After Beulah died in 1852, Sarah continued to live in the home.  She never married, though she apparently had several offers.  It is said that she confided to her last suitor, a Captain, that now that Beulah was dead, if the right man called she might accept his proposal of marriage.  “And whom” asked the Captain, “might the right man be?”  Sarah thought about that for a moment and answered, “He must not drink, smoke or take snuff, he must be a Democrat and belong to the Congregational Church.”  “Goodbye Sarah” said the Captain, “You will never find that kind of a Democrat!”

The only relatives mentioned in Sarah’s will were John and Samuel, one received $25 and the other $50.  The remainder of Sarah’s estate went to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions

….D. Vander Meulen, Pearl Historian.  The information on Sarah came from Norton Lee Bretz’s History of John Pearl

Memories of a Hampton Long Gone

The following is a letter sent to me by Pearl Scarpino in 1999.  She was responding to a question I had about the farm where my Mom and her siblings grew up.  My grandfather, William Austin Pearl, and my grandma, Mabel Waite Pearl, purchased the home in the first decade of the 20th Century. It was situated near the bottom of Hammond Hill Rd and had a good view of Little River, the valley and North Cemetery.  I had asked Pearl if she knew from whom they bought the homestead?  Names placed in parenthesis are additions made by me to clarify the identity of that person ……..  Dot Vander Meulen.

Pearl Scarpino wrote, “Your question piqued my curiosity so I went up to the town hall and looked in the land records.  I found that in 1906 a deed was recorded to Uncle Will for the farm.  His original purchase was for about 2 acres of land with a dwelling house thereon.  The deed was signed by Frank Pearl as Administrator of the estate of Charles Pearl.  For this land with house your grandfather paid $500.00!  There are several purchases of land listed for the next couple of decades at least, but I was just interested in the original purchase.  It would have taken quite a bit of time to research every one of those deeds.

“When I was small my mother (Mary Almeda Pearl Emmons) and us children spent quite a bit of time on that farm.  One of my very earliest memories was when I was not quite 3 years old and I heard a baby crying in the night.  In the morning I asked my mother if Uncle Arthur (Arthur Eugene Pearl) had been here with his baby during the night.  Little Arthur (Bennett) Pearl had been born about 3 weeks previously.  She told me that no, but that during the night Dr. Marsh had brought me a baby brother (Austin Edwin Emmons).  Austin and Arthur were so near the same age that they spent a lot of their growing up years together.  Your grandmother, my Aunt Mabel, had helped with the delivery and took care of my mother afterward.  (Mabel Waite Pearl was a midwife and delivered many babies in Hampton.)

“When I was 6 years old I spent several weeks there.  Grandpa Pearl (Austin Eugene Pearl) was terminally ill and my mother stayed up at his house with Aunt Evelyn (Pearl Estabrooks) and Aunt Flora (Pearl) and the three of them provided round-the-clock care he needed.  I went to the Center School for those weeks with Bill (William Waite Pearl).  He was in the 6th grade and I was in the 3rd.  There was only one other student in the third grade, and it was a boy.  Since there was only one set of third grade books, I would have to sit with him!!  So I chose to take my lessons with the second grade all the time I attended the Center School.

“One of the things I remember fondly about Aunt Mabel was that she always gave Bill and me hot cocoa to take to school with our lunch.  Also, she made the very best rice pudding in the world.

“In those days Hammond Hill Road was a dirt road and there were a number of ‘thank you maams’ on the road.  These were spots in the road that were leveled off so that horses could take a rest as they toiled up the hill pulling the wagons.  Sometimes we would take a sled to school and what a wonderful ride it was down the hill coming home!

“I remember someone climbing up the tallest pine tree up at Uncle Reuben’s, but I am not sure if it was when your mother (Dorothy Pearl ) did it or possibly Idamay (Pearl) who also would have tried it, particularly if your mother had already done it.  I remember whoever it was that time calling down they could see Uncle Will’s house in the valley.  Have you talked with Idamay?  Next to your mother she was the tomboy of the family.  She and Bill were always putting on circus acts, with emphasis on acrobatics, and I am sure she could give you some stories,  I was devastated when your mother showed me her engagement ring and told me she was getting married and moving away.  After all, she was teaching me how to do hand stands and cartwheels, and who else could teach me that stuff?

“During the various times I stayed on the farm I also helped with the morning ritual of cleaning out the chamber pots.  These were usually quite beautiful and often were part of a set which included a washbowl, pitcher and the pot.  A typical set would be made of white china, with a gold rim, and probably roses painted on the side.

You mention that the farm was one of the last places in Hampton to be electrified.  I vividly remember the gas lamps that were there when I was small.  Outside the house there was a supply of what I think was carbide  Adding water produced a gas which was piped into the house.  In the various rooms were small pipes running up the wall and they would terminate at a lamp.  Voila–modern lighting, at least very modern for those times. ”

“Love,  Pearl”

The Story of One Pearl Family During the Time of the American Revolution

It was recently suggested to me that it would be interesting to know about our Pearl ancestors and their involvement in the American Revolution. I have been unable to discover any of our particular Pearl line who did serve in that war. (I would be very interested if any of our readers could provide information to the contrary.) Whether or not they fought in the Revolution, Pearl families were impacted by that war. I did find an interesting story illustrating this in Marian Arlene Pearl’s History which I will relate here. This story is about David Pearl who is the grandson of John the immigrant and the son of Timothy, both our direct ancestors.  He was a younger brother of James, our direct ancestor.

David Pearl was born 9 Feb. 1743 in Hampton to Timothy and Mary (Leach) Pearl.  He married on 20 March 1769 to Eunice Allen in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.  She was born in April 1751 in Manchester, MA.  She and her parents had moved to Kelley’s Cove, Nova Scotia in 1766.  David arrived in 1764 from Saybrook, CT and he settled at the mouth of Broad Brook on 458 acres.  Other families were arriving from Connecticut at this time.  Eight children were born to David and Eunice in Yarmouth.

In about 1780 David returned to Windham, CT to settle some affairs relating to the will of his father (Timothy) who had died in 1773.  Since the Revolution had ended only a few years before, the colonies were somewhat sensitive to the comings and goings of its citizens living on British soil.  David had to petition the Boston General Assembly to return to Yarmouth.  In this petition (quoted below) he asks the court to grant his petition because he is going to return with his family to New England. The following is copied from ‘The Family Tree of John Pearl’, by Norton Lee Bretz:

“To the Council at Boston and General Assembly May 31, 1780, the petition of David Pearl of Yarmouth, in the Province of Nova Scotia, Humbly Sheweth,

“That your Petitioners late father Timothy Pearl of Windham, now deceased, by his last Will and testament left you Petitioner one hundred pounds of good and lawful money, hearing of which he left Nova Scotia to see about his affairs and arrived in Salem about 5 weeks ago:  from thence he went to Windham and settled with the executors of his said father’s late Will, of whom he received a small part and left the remainder in the hands of his executor, vizt, his brother Phillip Pearl.  And as your Petitioner intended to return from Nova Scotia with all his other effects and settle in New England as soon as he can settle his business there, which he supposes he will be able to do in the course of the ensuing summer, if he can obtain the leave of this Honorable Court

“Your Petitioner humbly prays you Honor would be pleased to grant him a permit to go to Yarmouth aforesaid and settle his private affairs there and that he may be allowed to carry with him one cask of rum, one cask of molasses, one cask of sugar, and sixteen of eighteen bushels of corn which he has lately purchased in Boston, and your Petitioner will engage to bring up 180 lbs of good Beaver which shall be devoted to the board of War; this your Petitioner is informed that the Officers of this State’s Line in Camp are in great want of hats, he flatters himself, this Honorable Court will indulge him the articles requested as that he may be enabled to get the furs which he assures you Honor is already engaged by him, and that the necessities petitioned for will about discharge the residue of the Debt which he has contracted for the Beaver and bear his other family expenses.  Your Petitioner being ready to give bond that the Board of War shall have the quality of fur (which by sundry Persons intimations they are very desirious of procuring) and any other articles of his property they may want.

“Your Petitioner would beg leave to further inform this Honorable Court, that his family consists of six persons and that the stores requested after paying his arreages for the fur will be but very little more than sufficient to supply them up  and himself down.

“And as in duty Bound shall Pray

David Pearl”

The following is quoted from Marian A. Pearl’s History of the Pearls:

“Boston June 1, 1780

“State of Massachusetts By, In the House of Representatives, June 7, 1780 ‘On the Petition of David Pearl, praying that he may have liberty to go to Yarmouth in Nova Scotia and carry certain effects with him, and return with his family into this State.

“Resolved, that the prayer and Petition be so granted that the said David Pearl have liberty to go to Yarmouth aforesaid, and to carry with him provisions necessary for his passage there and bring off his family and effects to this State.  And all armed vessels of this State are required and the armed vessels of the U.S. of American (sic) are requested not to molest said David Pearl in going to and returning from Yarmouth with aforesaid with his family and effects’

“Sent up for Concurrence in Council June 7, 1780.

Nath. Gorham, Spkr. Pro Tem.

“David Pearl of Yarmouth in Nova Scotia shewing to the Assembly that he is a native of the town of Windham in this State about 15 years removed where he resided without becoming subject to his Majesty Government and desired to return with his family and effects consisting of salt, codfish and bail goods, etc.

“Resolved by Assembly he be given permission to return from Nova Scotia to this State with his family and effects aforesaid residence in the State.”

According to Norton lee Bretz:  “David’s request was granted in the State of Massachusetts House of Representatives June 1, 1780.  However, he was apparently in no hurry about returning to New England because he was listed in Yarmouth in 1785 and 1791.  There is no record of his returning to New England, nor is there a record of the War Board receiving the promised beaver.  This is probably the same David who shows up in 1796 in New York City as a shipwright at First St. Bowery in 1797-1800 at Division St. and in 1803 at Cherry St. where he remains until 1812 running a boarding house.  David died Jan 10, 1818 in NYC”.

……..D. Vander Meulen,  Family Historian

The 72nd Pearl Reunion Report, July 31, 2011

We held our 72nd Reunion and celebrated our family at the Hampton Community Center on the last Sunday of July. This was the second year we have met there and we were blessed with perfect weather. There were 40 of us ‘cousins’ attending, ranging in age from 92 years to twins aged 11 months. We came from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Florida.

While the adults sat and visited in the shade of the big trees surrounding the Center, the children played on the grassy hill next to us, expending a lot of energy and having a lot of fun.

Our pot luck picnic was eagerly consumed and after topping it off with some fantastic desserts, we had our brief business meeting.One of the items discussed was the poor condition of the tombstones in the North and South Cemeteries. They need cleaning to remove moss and lichens. Our Reunion Moderator has been consulting with Quintana Memorials in Chaplin, CT. We are hoping we can get a group rate. If anyone is interested in having their family stones cleaned, let Neal know, or contact me and I will pass your information on to him.

The date for next year’s Reunion was discussed, but no definite date has been set as yet.

Dorothy Vander Meulen, Family Historian