From the Mansfield Historical Society Newsletter, Vol. 43, No. 2, April 2007
Haven’t you often wondered how Mansfield City received its name? Someone has yet to come up with a definitive convincing answer. Early names of this type are difficult or often impossible to ever prove, however, it is fun to try!
The red house on the northwest corner of Mansfield City Road and Browns Road (386 Browns Road) has one of the most complicated histories of any Mansfield house I have so far encountered. During its history it has had at least 25 different owners, complicated by numerous and involved mortgages. While attempting to organize numerous notes and records, collected while assisting a former owner, I became intrigued by references to a store or merchants shop. The shop once stood south of the house near the corner of the two roads.1
In 1756, Gershom Barrows purchased from his elder brother Lemuel Barrows, one acre and eighty-four rod with a dwelling. Later in a 1761 deed, Gershom’s shop is referred to. The Council Meeting minutes of the town in October 20, 1763 record that the highway from the Meetinghouse to the West was being resurveyed and changed.1 Again a reference was made to the corner and Gershom Barrow’s shop. Apparently he operated the shop from the 1750s and 1760s until he sold the property, his dwelling, and other buildings in 1785.
Some interesting asides about Gershom Barrows: At a meeting of the Governor’s Council of Safety held at Lebanon in September 1778, Gershom was voted permission to carry out of State “one cart load of wheat and rice to procure necessaries for his tavern.” Gershom was commissioned an ensign in 1773 in the Fifth Regiment of the Colony, and later rose in rank to Captain in a Regiment ordered by the Assembly “to be raised and put in readiness to march in the shortest notice in case his Excellency General Washington shall call them.”2
A shop or store continued to be mentioned in the deeds of the following owners of the house: Jabez Fitch, Jr.; William Cummings; Ralph Storrs; Amos Hawley; Harvey Clark; Daniel and Eunice Bernam; Amos Clark; Thomas and Peggy Clark who leased it to Cordial S. Hovey and Rescom Coggshead in 1829 for three years; Lemuel Barrows and Heman Storrs; up to Stephen Barrows in 1839. This is the last reference I have located which specifically mentioned the store. So presumably it was a thriving shop up to at least that time.
It is interesting to note there was another store in the Chestnut Hill area later in the 1860s. Victor Scottron, who once owned the John Storrs house (588 Browns Road) thoroughly researched that house and property. He noted that Benjamin Bennett built a store near the John Storrs house and it remained a country store selling meat and produce for over forty years. Perhaps there were other stores in the Chestnut Hill area?
Throughout early Mansfield history the area and the four corners were always referred to as Chestnut Hill, one Mansfield’s lovely old names. The name change to the four corners seems to have occurred about 1834. A land deed dated May 16, 1834 referred to it as “The City”.3 We wonder was this change a bit of whimsy, someone’s sense of humor? Whatever the reason, it stuck and is with us today to continue to puzzle over.
- Mansfield Town Meeting Records, October 20, 1763
- Public Records of Connecticut, Vol. 4, p. 167
- Mansfield Land Records, vol. 22, p. 350, May 16, 1834