The History of Spring Manor Farm (Part 1)

Historical Article Series April 12, 2020 > The History of Spring Manor Farm (Part 1)

From the Mansfield Historical Society Newsletter, Vol. 40, No. 4, July 2004 

Spring Manor Farm was a major component of the Mansfield Training School, providing food for its tables and occupational training for its clients. However the farm has an interesting history that predates the founding of the institution. It was originally the country home of George H. Reynolds, a local farm boy who became a prominent mechanical engineer. His life story is recounted in The Commemorative Biographical Record of Tolland and Windham Counties Connecticut. (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1903). An excerpt is below: 

Spring Manor Farm
Spring Manor Farm. Above right is the house built by George H. Reynolds in 1885

“George Huntington Reynolds was born Feb. 8, 1829, in Mansfield, and like his brothers, early became responsible for his own support. When quite young he showed signs of that genius that has placed him in the front rank of the calling he is pursuing at the present time. As a mere boy he and his brothers would erect bridges, make wagons, sleds, and other play things with a touch of genuine skill. The bridges which they erected across the small streams on the family homestead, they used in hauling stone and wood, often overloading their wagons so as to break down the bridges that they might build them up in better form. 

At the age of eleven years George H. was employed on the farm of Mr. Tillinghast, who had given his father employment thirty years before. Three months’ schooling was allowed him each year; the first year he had $9, out of which he bought his clothing for the year; the second year, $11; the third, $13; and the fourth, $16. Work began at daylight and lasted until long after dark. By trapping game, picking nuts, and other side labors, the boy managed to earn enough extra money with which to buy paper, pencils and ink, for use in drawing bridges, vessels, houses and other things in spare moments. The children of today can hardly comprehend the amount of work a farm boy at that time was expected to accomplish. During his third year with Mr. Tillinghast, Mr. Reynolds picked sixteen bushels of hazel nuts, which sold for a dollar a bushel, thus netting his employer three dollars more than his year’s wages. As it is said to take sixteen bushels of nuts in the bur to make one bushel of nuts, the lad must have picked 256 bushels of burs. These nuts were picked on land now owned by Mr. Reynolds, and also on land then and now owned by the Merrows… 

When he was fifteen he engaged with Chauncey Dunham, of Mansfield, for $6 a month. Mr. Dunham lived in the house now owned by Mr. Edwin Reynolds [brother of George] as a summer home, and the brick house still standing was made from clay hauled by our subject’s father [Christopher Reynolds] when he was eighteen years old. [This house later served as the superintendent’s home for the Connecticut Colony of Epileptics, then as the Administrative Building and later, the Physical Plant Building for the Mansfield Training School.] 

Soon after this George H. Reynolds attended a select school in August, September and October, taught by a Mr. Dimock, a student from Yale, who was a thorough instructor, and gave Mr. Reynolds more insight into his studies than he had secured from all his previous schooling, particularly in mathematics, in which he was quite bright. 

After leaving Mr. Dimock’s school Mr. Reynolds was employed as a spinner in woolen mills in Ludlow, Mass. and at Broad Brook, Wilsonville and Merrow, Conn. He was a master of the trade, and at Merrow he could do his work in half the time his predecessor had needed. It was at Merrow that his first mechanical construction work was done. The mill owners were putting in new machinery, and the boss machinist… selected as his assistant Mr. Reynolds, who showed such an aptitude for the work that the “jealousy of the “boss” was aroused, lest his place might be lost. As a result Mr. Reynolds left the spinning trade and devoted himself to mechanical work. Going to Leominster, Mass., he began work on steam machinery, which has been his work to the present day. In 1856 he exhibited a steam engine of his own designing, and a decided improvement on what had gone before to the American Institute Fair, held at the Crystal Palace, New York, for which hewas awarded the golden medal of the Institute, and was made superintendent of the Fair the following year.

In 1859, Mr. Reynolds became chief draughtsman of the Delamater Iron Works, and in 1862 he was made superintendent and general manager of Mystic Iron Works, of Mystic Bridge, Conn. These works were established for the purpose of building ships and engines for the Government during the Civil war, and when the war was over Mr. Reynolds returned to the Delamater works to assume the position of superintendent, which he held until 1884, when he resigned to take a similar position with the Crane Elevator Company of Chicago. He has done more to improve and perfect the passenger elevator, perhaps, than any other one man living, and is still engaged in the study of its problems. His services in this connection are much sought after by builders of elevators, not only in this country but in Europe as well. The dynamite gun greatly interests him, and all the guns so far constructed have been made under his patents. He is consulting engineer of the Pneumatic Dynamite Gun Company of New York, and superintended the gun construction of the dynamite cruiser “Vesuvius.” He has also built guns for Italy and England. When the Crane Elevator Company was absorbed by the Otis Elevator Company, Mr. Reynolds was still continued as engineer for the combination. The Locomobile Company of America has engaged him as its engineer. He is one of the foremost engineers of this generation, and has taken out more than a hundred patents in his line of work.

For many years Mr. Reynolds had his home in Pelham Manor, N. Y. In 1885 he built a handsome and attractive home on land in Mansfield, which he has reclaimed from its primitive condition of forest and boulder, and with the aid of the landscape gardener, has made it one of the most picturesque and charming places in the town. This romantic spot has received the name of Spring Manor, from the many springs of clear cold water that well up on the grounds. The entire estate consists of about a thousand acres of land, on which, as a boy, he spent years of hard work for Mr. Tillinghast, as noted above.” 

History of the Spring Manor Farm Part 2 

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