From the Mansfield Historical Society Newsletter, Vol. 37, No. 1, January 2001
Harriet (Haskell) Maclean wrote the commentary and the poem below. She was born in Stafford Springs and lived in Eagleville, Willimantic, and Hartford while she was growing up. Harriet now lives in San Diego. When Nora and I visit her she often talks about her maternal grandparents’ farm that was on the northeast corner of Four Corners. She sent us a copy of “Scents of Home” and I sent her some information about the exhibit at the Mansfield Historical Society about Four Corners. The commentary below is taken from a letter dated July 18, 2000 that she sent us after that exchange of information. The sections in brackets are my additions to what she wrote. The Old House files at the Mansfield Historical Society also contains two letters, dating from 1941-1942, from Nellie W. Bingham to Mrs. Brundage that describe the house as it was when Nellie lived there prior to 1905.
–Norman D Stevens.
My maternal grandparents John and Mary (née Narsansky) Tomaskovic were both born in a small village near the city of Kosice in what is now the Republic of Slovakia. They came to the United States in 1898 and worked in New York for a number of years to save up money to buy a farm. They probably chose to move to Mansfield because my grandmother’s younger brother John Narsanky [or Nasansky which is used by his descendants who still live on Hanks Hill Road] lived in Storrs, there was a cousin of my grandfather’s nearby, and other people from their part of Europe were living in the area. They both spoke Hungarian and Polish as well as the Czech dialect. My grandmother was the eldest of twelve children, a number of whom also came to the United States.
I think they bought the farm in 1912-1914 or so. [The Mansfield land records (volume 49, page 390) indicate that John and Mary Tomaskovic bought 60.5 acres, more or less, on the northeast corner of Four Corners on July 26, 1915. They bought the property from Benjamin and Alice Robbins who had, in turn, purchased it on November 24, 1913. The Robbins, in the interim, had sold 6 acres to John Fish who owned land just to the east. The Tomaskovics paid “one and more dollars” for the property; their purchase also included one cow, sixteen fowls, stove, ice chest, and grindstone. The hay on two lots sold by Robbins to Eugene Haskell for the season of 1915.” Eugene Haskell was a cousin of Harriet’s father.]
The following recollections of the Tomaskovic farm date primarily from 1924 through 1930 when Harriet and her sister stayed at the farm during the summer, and, to a lesser extent, from the 1930s when they visited it frequently.
It was a very simple life of hard work for my grandparents. My grandfather’s dream was to own his own land. He didn’t mind how hard he had to work as long as it was on his own place.
My sister and I had chores to do: feed the chickens, gather eggs, pick vegetables, herbs, and fruit, and help my grandmother water her flowerbeds. She loved flowers and always found a few minutes to care for them. I especially remember the lilacs, the huge oriental poppies, and the marigolds. We also brought the cows in from the pasture and went there – sometimes accompanied by neighbors and friends – to pick wild blueberries and blackberries. There was a huge old mulberry tree near the barn; perhaps it was a vestige of the earlier efforts in Mansfield to raise silkworms and produce silk.
During summers a constant stream of relatives from New York and Pennsylvania came and went. Neighbors and friends walked by almost daily on their way to Sabin’s store on the southeast corner of Four Corners. They sometimes stopped to buy eggs or vegetables from the farm. We were often sent to Sabin’s store to pick up something but mostly the farm was self-sufficient. The farm was too close to the post office, which was just east of the farm at the Fish house, to have the mail delivered so we would also go there to fetch the mail. My grandfather had no car and had to rely on friends to get him places. When we went visiting it was usually to places within walking distance and often over dusty, dirty roads.
My grandmother churned butter, made cottage cheese as well as jams and jellies, and put up vegetables and fruits. The kitchen was always hot and busy in the hot summer months. Neighbors helped with some of the haying and my grandmother fixed big noon meals for them on such occasions.
Scents of Home By: Harriet McLean
Back home the lilac perfumed May,
And June the rose, in sweet array.
July brought tangy marigold;
August, tiger lilies bold.
Autumn months breathed harvest air:
Tart, crisp apple, velvet pear.
Berries and herbs their savors lent,
Mingled with mum’s exotic scent.
Quiet all slept through winter ‘till
April’s fragrant daffodil.
There were no movies or television, of course, but we always had books to read. My uncle had left an old victrola and some records that we played. Our games with the neighborhood children were very simple. It was felt that we could entertain ourselves and nobody worried about amusing us! Most of the neighborhood kids had chores, as we did, and knew how to amuse themselves. We were usually in the company of adults so while they worked or gossiped we played our games.
[John and Mary Tomaskovic sold their house and land to Augustus J. and Ruth M. Brundage on August 31, 1940 (Mansfield land records volume 63, page 1800).] After the sale we all went to see them after they moved in. They were making renovations that included opening up fireplaces, scraping off wallpaper to disclose some very old stencils, and building a new more convenient staircase. I visited Mrs. Brundage at the house [now 661 Middle Turnpike] on my last visit to Mansfield in 1981. I still remember the time I spent there with great fondness. -Harriet Maclean