The Wedding Dress of Louisa Chase Rosebrooks

Historical Article Series May 17, 2020 > The Wedding Dress of Louisa Chase Rosebrooks

From the Mansfield Historical Society Newsletter, Vol. 54, No. 3, September 2018

This beautiful two-piece wedding dress of brilliant blue silk stands out in our current exhibit. It was worn by Louisa Jane Chase when she married George Lewis Rosebrooks on New Year’s Day in 1872. Both were employed by Augustus Storrs at his Mansfield estate – she as his housekeeper and he as his farm manager. As his wedding gift to the bride, Mr. Storrs purchased the silk fabric for the gown in New York City.

Louis Rosebrooks Wedding Dress
Louis Rosebrooks Wedding Dress

On January 9, 1922, the Hartford Courant reported on the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary. The celebration was attended by some 50 guests, including four generations of the family. For the occasion Louisa Rosebrooks again wore her wedding dress and her husband wore his wedding suit. How many of us could fit into our wedding attire 50 years later?! Both garments were preserved by couple’s descendants and were given to the Mansfield Historical Society in 2010 (Estate of Lucille Storrs Manning, through Mary Ann Thonen).

Laura Crow provided these comments on the dress: “With the invention of coal tar dyes in the mid nineteenth century, there was a passion for new vibrant colors mainly in the blue, green and purple palettes. This brilliant turquoise was the color of the moment and often seen in gowns of this period.

In 1867 Butterick produced a magazine titled The Ladies Quarterly of Broadway Fashions that was so popular that it became a new monthly magazine The Metropolitan. In 1873 Butterick created yet another magazine with many other subjects of interest for women along with the latest patterns – The Delineator. It included articles about manners, tips about cooking and many articles about craft projects from bonnet making instructions to patterns for embroideries. The result was that a middle-class woman like Louisa Chase could have her wedding gown created in the latest fashion with the fullness of the silk taffeta swept to the back, with a long train that has not yet been gathered up into a bustle.

The Rosebrooks of Mansfield

The Rosebrooks family is closely associated with the early history of the University of Connecticut. Born on September 8, 1841, George L. Rosebrooks was raised on his family’s farm in Oxford, Massachusetts. As a young adult, he put his farming experience to use in managing other people’s farms. He came to Mansfield in 1868 to take charge of the Augustus Storrs farm. He would serve as its superintendent and manager for the next 30 years.

In 1869 his younger brother Charles also came to Mansfield. He worked for three years on the farm of Otis Storrs and then took another farming job in Upton, Massachusetts. He returned to Mansfield two years later and married Julia Chapman on April 8, 1874. They settled on her parent’s farm which adjoined the Augustus Storrs estate. Charles purchased the farm in 1878. The two Rosebrooks brothers were now close neighbors and their children would grow up together.

For the greater part of each year, Augustus Storrs lived in New York City, where he operated a business with his brothers, Charles and Royal Otis. During his absence, George Rosebrooks was fully in charge of the Storrs farm while his wife, Louisa, managed the household. In the summers, Mr. Storrs would return to Mansfield to assume the role of “gentleman farmer.” He envisioned creating a model farm. He had the funds to do so and had hired the right man to bring his plans to fruition.

According to the Commemorative Biographical Record of Tolland and Windham Counties, Connecticut (J. H. Beers & Co., 1903), the Storrs farm was not self-supporting at the time that George Rosebrooks took charge of it. Under his management, it would become one of the finest in the state. “A herd of 150 cattle was established… new buildings were put up, the appearance of the place radically changed…”

His model farm achieved, Augustus Storrs had another dream – the establishment of a state agricultural school. In 1880, Augustus and Charles Storrs offered the state 170 acres with buildings and $5,000 in cash for this purpose. The gift included acreage from Augustus Storrs’ farm and the buildings and land of the former Connecticut Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home which he had purchased in 1876. Charles Storrs provided the seed money.

On April 21, 1881, the General Assembly accepted the Storrs brothers’ gift and passed an act that established the Storrs Agricultural School. Its purpose was to “educate boys and young men in the practical knowledge of intelligent and scientific farming.” From its humble beginnings as a small agricultural school, it would grow to become the state’s land grant college and then the University of Connecticut.

On August 17, 1881, a lengthy article about the new school, re-printed from the Hartford Times, appeared in The Willimantic Chronicle. It included this description of the Augustus Storrs farm: “Attention is almost immediately drawn to the large residence and splendid barns of Augustus Storrs, the donor of the property for the school. His house is plain, but exceedingly neat in appearance; his smooth lawn tastefully dotted with variegated flowers; his outbuildings, some of them quite new, constructed on the most improved plan for economy of space, and convenience…

One discovered in rambling over his farm that the best agricultural implements and methods were in use there. The farm is stocked with something like a hundred head of cattle of good breeds, Durham, Ayrshire and Jersey grades, from the sale of which alone Mr. Storrs makes a handsome income. The utter absence of weeds and the neat solid appearance of the walls and fences also impressed the observer with the enterprise, taste and thrift of the ruling genius of this neighborhood.”

In fact, the favorable appearance of the property was in large part due to the hard work of George Rosebrooks. At the direction of Mr. Storrs, he had supervised all the improvements to the farm and oversaw its maintenance and the daily care of its livestock.

George Lewis Rosebrooks
George Lewis Rosebrooks

Between 1872 and 1881, George and Louisa had five children – Fred, Walter L., Louisa J., George L. and Hattie. As their family grew, they moved from the Augustus Storrs residence to the old Crane place – another property owned by Mr. Storrs. The house was located near to where Gulley Hall stands today. Their three sons and oldest daughter all attended the Storrs Agricultural School. When Louisa Jane (named for her mother) began classes in the fall of 1891, she was among the first three women to attend the school. She graduated in 1894, the first year that women were officially admitted to the newly re-named Storrs Agricultural College.

Louisa Jane (Chase) Rosebrooks
Louisa Jane (Chase) Rosebrooks

George Rosebrooks continued to manage the Storrs farm, now part of the agricultural school, later college, until 1898. While residing in Mansfield, he also served ten years as first selectman and in 1883 represented the town in the General Assembly and served on the Committee on Agriculture.

In 1898 he left Mansfield to take charge of Henry F. Dimock’s 400-acre farm in Coventry. Mr. Dimock was a successful lawyer in New York City who, like Augustus Storrs, maintained an estate in his native town and summered there. He too wanted to create an “ideal farm.” George Rosebrooks served as superintendent of Mr. Dimock’s farm until 1917 and oversaw many improvements to the property. Following his retirement, he and his wife moved to Willimantic. She died in 1923 and he in 1927.

Today, more than 100 years later, the Rosebrooks name can still be found about campus. Charles Rosebrooks’ house and barn are still prominent features at the north entrance to campus on Route 195. His 160-acre farm was purchased by the State of Connecticut in 1917. For many years the 18th century house was home to the university’s police dept. and later Parking Services. The red barn, built in 1875, served as a research facility for Nutritional Sciences and today is used for storage.

In 1992, the university celebrated “100 Years of Women at UConn” with a series of special programs. An English knot garden was planted in front of the Edwina Whitney Residence Hall, near to where the Augustus Storrs homestead once stood. At its dedication, a bronze plaque was installed, listing the names of the first female students at the Storrs Agricultural School/College. Heading the list are Louisa Jane Rosebrooks and her 1891/92 classmates.

In 1995 when the new South Campus was constructed, Louisa Rosebrooks and her pioneering female classmates were again recognized. The three new residence halls were named in honor of the first women to attend UConn – Louisa Jane Rosebrooks, Nellie Louise Wilson and Anna Mabel Snow.

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