The Harrington House Story

The Harrington House Story: More Pieces Revealed

While we have long known the broad outline of the story of Harrington House, Freeport Historical Society’s headquarters, recent research has shed new light on some of the details, and filled in a few missing pieces of the story. In large part we have former Yarmouth Historical Society Executive Director Marilyn Hinckley to thank.  Marilyn graciously agreed to help us find out more about life at Harrington House during the 1880s to prepare for our “1880s Coastal Christmas” program. We knew that the house was built ca. 1830 by Freeport merchant Enoch Harrington.  In 1830 he married Eliza Nye, the daughter of his business partner, Nathan Nye, who gave him the land on which he built the house. At that time the land was a 14-acre parcel that included extensive gardens and orchards across the street and behind the carriage barn.  Enoch Harrington died in 1848, and for many years we have assumed that his widow, Eliza, owned it for the rest of the 19th century, with title passing to Levi and Nettie Patterson at the beginning of the 20th century. However, records in the Cumberland County Registry of Deeds, US Census returns, and in our own Freeport Tax Valuation books, tell a somewhat different story.  Around 1876, census records reveal that Eliza Nye was living in Massachusetts with her son, John.  In the early 1880s a man named Henry Sturdivant was living in the Main Street house; the valuation book of 1885 lists him as renting from the Harringtons, who still owned the house. Sturdivant himself has an interesting story. He was born in 1823 in Cumberland to Ephraim and Rachel Sturdivant, and in 1850 he shows up in the census in El Dorado, California, where he lived with three other miners from Maine, in the home of a merchant from Massachusetts.  He married Delia Day in 1852, with whom he eventually had four children. By 1860 he was back in Cumberland, where he remained at least through 1870, working as a farmer.  By 1880 he was in Freeport, as a “dealer in hay”. The Harringtons sold the house to Lydia Fogg in 1886. She and her husband, Isaac H. Fogg, were born in New Hampshire.  They apparently moved to Freeport from West Milan, New Hampshire, where he was “keeping a boarding house.” Earlier census returns had him as laborer at the age of 17, a farmer at 27, and a day laborer at 37. In 1900, the household consisted of the Isaac and Lydia, their son Norman, daughter-in-law Addie, grandson Harry, and, perhaps most interestingly, two boarders. In 1908 Lydia J. Fogg sold the property to Frank W. Edwards, who owned it for less than a year, selling it to Eben Patterson in 1909.  Eben then sold it to his son, Levi T. Patterson.  The Patterson tenancy was already quite well-known to us. Levi Patterson was a prominent Freeport citizen who served a number of terms in the State Legislature, and the Pattersons rented some of the second floor and attic rooms to workers in the shoe factories.  We had not previously realized, however, that this was the continuation of a practice of renting all or part of the house that had been taking place, at least off and on, for twenty years or more before the Pattersons moved in.  The Pattersons owned the house for over five decades, and celebrated their golden wedding anniversary here. In early January, we found another little bit of information about the Pattersons, when Levi Patterson’s granddaughter, Betty Bibber contacted us.  Levi owned a number of properties in Freeport, and often attended auctions to buy furnishings for these properties.  One store owner who rented from him was not always able to pay his rent in cash, but he repaired furniture and re-caned chairs for his landlord, as payment in kind.