Thomas E. Porter
Thomas E. Porter was born August 28, 1830. He was born in Coventry, Connecticut and educated in private and public schools and academies of his native state. He then taught school in Tolland and Hartford Counties. Desiring a larger field of labor, he removed to New York City and worked in Western trade. In 1859, he embarked on his own and his previous influenced his success and contributed to his material wealth. During the summer months, he would come to the farm seeking relaxation from the cares and responsibilities of an active city life.
Like his father, Thomas was always interested in educational affairs. He was a liberal contributor to the library in Andover, which was considered the best in proportion to its size in Eastern Connecticut. In compliment to his family, the library was called the Porter Library.
The Strong-Porter Homestead
The Strong-Porter House is really two houses built over a long period of time. The eastern half (toward Hale Homestead) was built by Aaron Strong who lived here in the 1750's. About this time, Aaron's niece Elizabeth Strong, married Richard Hale from Newburyport, Massachusetts and the couple moved to South Street in Coventry. Though Elizabeth had been living in another part of town with her parents, she
probably was very familiar with the early part of this house.
In 1758, the Strongs sold the house to the Porter family. It was the large and growing Porter family that built the rest of the house. By about 1777, the western half, and the lean-to across the back (containing 2 kitchens) had been added. A censes taken in 1790 that 9 Porters were living in the western half, making a total 21 Porter family members in the house!
By the time of the Revolutionary War, this house had two chimneys and a Georgian floor plan - the very latest style! The Porters occupied the house for about 170 years and continued to live and farm at this site through the entire 19th century!
The Strong-Porter , like the Hale Homestead was bought and restored by the well known Connecticut antiquarian , George Dudley Seymour (1859-1945). Seymour that that Nathan Hale's mother Elizabeth Strong, had been born in this house. We have since discovered that it was her uncle who built the first part of the Strong-Porter house around 1730 and that Elizabeth strong did not live here.
When Seymour purchased the house from the Porters he decided to call it the "Northampton House" because so many early Coventry settlers came from Northampton, Massachusetts.
The Strong-Porter Barn
Not a great deal is known about the Great
Barn at Strong-Porter House. According to George Dudley Seymour, the barn was built by Thomas E. Porter unclear exactly when the barn was built, but evidence suggest that it was built in the 1850's. The barn burned down sometime around 1890.
The above view is taken from an illustration from Cole's History of Tolland County, published in 1888 presumably represents the Porter Homestead as it appeared about that time. The great barn built by Mr. Thomas E. Porter, the" last of the Porters" was burned about 40 years ago. It stood more to the northwest than is shown in the picture. Quoting from GW Seymour, May 1930.
The large wooden barn included a basement, a main floor and a second story with a large cupola on the roof, on the gable ends led to the main floor of the barn. The basement level had one wall open to the north and may have been to store wagons and other large pieces of equipment. The sketch of the barn shows a four-bay carriage shed with an enclosed office at the southwestern corner. Apparently the office and shed were not destroyed when the rest of the barn burned. This section disappeared sometime after 1890, although the exact date is uncertain.
William and Sarah Cheney Porter, Thomas' parents moved to the farm in 1809 at the time of their marriage William was deeply interested in educational affairs and contributed liberally
in maintaining private schools in the neighborhood. He was a good agriculturist. The farm was productive and responsive to good treatment. Besides the staple articles, wool, flax and silk were grown and manufactured on the farm until 1842. In 1845, home textile production was replaced by animal husbandry. Perhaps the barn was built for this new industry.
Eagle Scout Project
In November 2001, Chris Ferguson, a Coventry Eagle Scout with an interest and public service and preserving history, undertook the daunting task of reclaiming the Strong Porter great Barn Foundation from years of neglect. He and a group of dedicated Boy Scout volunteers cleaned brush and trees from around the old barn foundation. A path to the site and a split rail fence were added allowing visitors to safely to look in the foundation from above. The project was completed in September 2002.