"An ancient dwelling nestled amid
Of orchard, trellised vine, and
The winding road, the ? upon the
The heart responsive to the wild
The restful mummer of the stream
Afar the church spire's holy gleam
The boulder, relic of the ? hour,
A touch of poetry and of power.
Here far removed from turmoil and
The struggles, victories and defeats
This nook so near to nature, heart
The tired spirit and with courage
“The Boulder’s” name and fame were
first made known when the article entitled “The Abandoned Farm Found” appeared
in the Century Magazine of October, 1901, written by Prof. W. H. Bishop,
of Yale University. This most fascinating place is in the tiny village of
Oxford (New Haven County, Conn.), four miles from Seymour, Conn., up the
“Little River” Valley. Oxford is about 13 miles from New’ Haven. and perhaps
20 from Bridgeport. Seymour, the railroad station on the N.Y., N.H. &
H.R.R., is in the Naugatuck Valley, and is the next station north of Ansonia,
is two hours ride on train from New York (being 75 miles) with SIX trains
a day each way. On some trains it is necessary to change cars at Bridgeport,
others (two a day) are through expresses from New York.
Oxford is a lovely little hamlet
with two churches, Congregational and Episcopal; one store, two inns and
about twelve or fifteen residences in the “Centre.” "Little River” is a beautiful
stream with its rocks and waterfalls, glens, coves and pools, which the river
road follows closely from Seymour to Oxford and on beyond to “Red City,”
Southford and so on. The Boulder, which is so charming in itself that words
will faintly describe its beauties, derived its name from the large boulder
When I read Prof. Bishop’s article
describing the place I wrote him a line expressing my admiration for the
style of the article and saying it was a deep desire of mine to find a country
home. Some time thereafter, to my great surprise, Prof. Bishop wrote. and
offered me the place. saying he had been appointed consul to Genoa and was
going to live in that part of the world the balance of his days. Thereupon
I went up to look at it. It was during November and I recall it was quite
a cold and disagreeable day; of course all leaves were off and everything
bare and brown and bleak, but as we have since learned there is no time of
the year when it is not beautiful in that valley among the hills and rocks..
While I saw none of the wonderful wealth of vivid green that exists there
when the foliage is on, yet the place and the landscape seemed entrancingly
Aside from the beauty of it, I
was impressed with the nearness to New York, because our summer home had
been in far away Vermont, to reach which it took us from 9 a.m. at Grand
Central Station until 5.30 p.m. steady railroad riding. So when we found
so pretty a place only two hours by railroad from Grand Central Station and
forty minutes or less by drive, it seemed a haven indeed.
There are six daily trains, telephone
connection, mail regular.
The Boulder consists of eight acres
of land, fronting on the main road that for two hundred years has been the
through route to New Haven and New York from the various towns and villages
in northwest Connecticut. and in early days it was a very busy and active
thoroughfare, stages and wagons making frequent trips to New Haven or Bridgeport,
and on to New York. The land lies charmingly—even on this small patch are
tiny but beautiful bits of landscape; and the more distant views of the hills—the
village, the church. and old cemetery. one never ceases to admire. The buildings
consist of first the old house close by the road, and the pavilion. A pergola,
built by Prof. Bishop, leads to the latter. These two buildings are the first
seen as one drives in.
The old house is very queer add
unique, with many curious corners, turns and angles. The house proper consists
of, on the first floor, the “blue room,” “red room,” the spaceway, the kitchen,
the “well room,” and the “green room,” and the big pantry or store room.
The little, crooked, quaint old stairway inside the house (and I say inside,
as you will understand later on), leads to a small hall upstairs, off of
which are four rooms, the first, large and covering all the front of the
house; the others smaller, and having been built on and enlarged, they are
queer and odd enough. From one room (the bathroom), leading down to the ground,
is the outside stairway. These stairs are most frequently used, and are extremely
convenient and withal quite unusual. The “green room” is somewhat separate
and yet attached to the rest of the old house. This room is but one story.
It was in years long gone by a cooper shop, and has in it now the huge great
fireplace of stone and brick. This is a charming room, long and quite spacious,
with an east door and porch, and a door also opening on to a porch or veranda
entering the old house. Prof. Bishop used this room in cool or inclement
weather as a dining room. We use it as a bedroom for guests, nursery, etc.,
as the occasion requires. The old house has many entrances and porches, one
east and one west, one north and one south. The pavilion is our constant
resort, open on front and side, sheltered by a great old apple tree and covered
with vines. In it we hang two or three hammocks and here we keep a table
and chairs. Here the mother sits and reads or sews; here she and others often
take a nap; here the children swing and play, sheltered from sun and rain,
with all the freedom and freshness of outdoors. Next comes the “annex.” This
building is 200 feet north of the pavilion and old house, up a little incline
path. Here is where the more prosaic part of our Boulder life is played.
The “annex” Prof. B. called his studio and had changed but little. I saw
that we would have to make much use of it, and so after planning and talking,
we built in the basement a kitchen, large and ample; a bedroom and a large
pantry. This necessitated building a big chimney running way up on outside
of the north end of the building, cutting windows, putting in pump and drain
and countless other things.
On the floor directly above is
our dining room, occupying the entire floor. The great old sliding door is
unchanged and is kept constantly open, letting in air, sunshine, view and
health. Overhead we built four bedrooms, for use of the children or guests.
All cooking, etc. is done at the “annex,” and when mealtime comes we assemble
in the big dining room, having found that to
one and all, guests as well, the
walk to the annex has given appetite, zest and health. We have never had
a guest that was not delighted with it, never a servant that did not grow
fat and healthy from life at the “Boulder.”
Then I built the barn, and room
for man and storage, etc. Each year has found its charm in some added improvement,
the chicken house and yard, the big garden, the strawberry bed, the raspberry
bed, the countless vines planted everywhere, the roses covering now the front
of the house, and in clusters and clumps over the ground; the many shrubs
and flowers, and finally our tennis court made after much work of blasting,
planning and study. Oh! the charm of Spring, of Summer, of early and late
Fall, each day to be wondered at, exclaimed over, enjoyed. There are no mosquitoes
at the “Boulder.” One may enjoy out of doors as far as mosquitoes are concerned.
The nights are invariably (cool?), the "Little River," just down the hill
across the road in front of the house, bubbles and ripples night and day,
and we fall asleep with its music in our ears. It was a famous trout
stream in its day, and is even yet. Up the stream a few miles fine strings
of trout are caught each year, and the writer saw an 18-inch trout caught
under one of the numerous waterfalls by an urchin scarcely more than 18 inches
The foliage in this part of Connecticut
is very dense: chestnut trees growing everywhere and chestnuts are gathered
in great quantities each Fall. There is a considerable variety of trees —
maple, oak, hickory, walnut, butternut, poplar, birch and others. It is a
terribly hilly, rocky part of the world. many of the hills are steep and
in the woods and other places the rocks are precipitous. Well I know
this, from hunting quail, ruffed grouse, squirrel and rabbit, for strange
to (s?) so near such a big city as New York to say nothing of New Haven,
Bridgeport and the many towns around, hunting is good. I have made excellent
bags of quail and ruffed grouse. killing both of these magnificent game birds
within call of our door, last Fall a grouse just in front of the house across
the brook and again several in the woods adjoining our eight acres.
Our two wells of water are something
to rejoice over: The one in the old house is so cold, even in the hottest
weather, that ice is never used,, and there is something about it that makes
you long for it and drink quantities. We know, as do our visitors and friends
quickly discover, that it has properties which are very beneficial. How,
when one can have such a home as this, such real rural life, such freedom
and closeness to nature, one can stay in the cities, or even go to hotels
and boarding houses, or rent cottages at crowded seaside resorts, is a mystery
to us. We one and all love the Boulder, revel in its joys during the Summer,
and talk of it during the Winter and plan for it each year. We find ourselves
going up there earlier each Spring and staying later each Fall. Were it not
for our children’s schooling, we would stay through November, although of
course it is getting cold up there then; but we enjoy it with the big fires
in our fireplaces, and the frosty mornings seem perfectly delightful. Mrs.
B— and I have run up many times during the Fall for a few days’ hunting.
There is no trouble getting supplies, the store in Oxford Centre carries
much that one needs, and when not so, it is obtained in Seymour, while grocers,
butchers, bakers, etc., almost daily pass our door. We also easily drive
to Seymour or up to Southford for anything desired. We keep a cow and hens,
while the garden, with its great variety and quantity of vegetables, provides
us with a more lavish and far better table than one can get in the city.
I have put out vines and roses,
shrubs, etc., and their growth has been most satisfactory; but every Spring
and Fall I find myself putting in something more, and often changing a location.
We have found our eight acres so fat filling every want of our two boys.
They build huts, climb trees, put up swings, cut hay and do countless things
all on our own little domain.
The place is so full of nooks and
crannies, shaded corners, hiding places for hammocks, camps, quiet nooks
for reading or a nap, that we never tire of wandering and exploring. One
should read Prof. Bishop’s article and learn of how the Boulder appealed
to his artistic temperament. Last Summer he came to the United States and
journeyed to the Boulder. He examined every nook and corner of the buildings
and every foot of ground, and said when he left that he had seen nothing
abroad that he thought was more truly charming. It is all a landscape which
is ever a joy.
Our orchard is a delight. We have
early and late apples. One tree of “Red Astricans” which is close by the
house bears prolifically each year, and the apples are eatable in July and
early August. The orchard proper has in it about forty or fifty trees, and
in the hands of an expert fruit raiser or farmer would yield bountifully.
But apple trees, alas! like other things in this world, require care, such
as spraying. pruning ground plowing, etc., and as we treat the Boulder as
a plaything. our experiments at farming are not a big success.
We have not had any trouble over
servants. All so far like it, stay with us gladly and gain in health.
We have all that the country can give and miss none of the privileges or
so-called advantages of the city. I quote here one original poem from our
guest book, written by a friend:
“Great cities often boast of wealth,
But Oxford is the place for health.
Oxford is noted for aged men,
Black Harry Lou was a hundred and
At Dinah’s Vineyard did Carter
And died at the age of a hundred
Aunt Clara Wooster, we have no
Was a hundred and four and very
Clarissa Williams, a hundred and
Shook hands with Gen'l Washington.
Widow David Peck saw a hundred
Before she left this vale of tears.
William Morris, surviving his mate,
Died at the age of ninety~eight
Many past ninety years ‘tis said,
Were only killed by being bled.
And others had to leave the town
Before pale death could fetch them
Oxfordites are honest and bold,
Living in health and growing old.
Laboring heartily with good cheer—
That’s the way we live up here.”
Sept. 7, 1905
Connecticut and Oxford must be
healthy judging by the number of old people among the residents — plenty
over 70 and upward — All hale and vigorous, attending to their daily duties
of farming or otherwise, most of whom have lived in Oxford the greater part,
if not all their lives.
The following humorous poem was
written at least fifty years ago by an old resident of Oxford who was the
doctor of the village, a very original character, and one of the very first
graduates of Yale University.
When such a home
can be had for a few thousand dollars, we marvel that all the many city workers
and those who travel to one place one summer and another the next, troubled
by crowds, heat, mosquitoes. disagreeable neighbors, noises and the thousand
drawbacks to a Summer, do not flock in to the hills of Connecticut, and we
feel sure the reason must be that they do not know how to find a place. There
is a trolley now from Seymour to New Haven so that it is easy to run down
to New Haven for a day’s shopping. It is rumored there may be a trolley through
Oxford some day, but we feat it would take away much of e rural charm.