Manchester’s North End, listed as “Union Village” on the National Register in 2002, once hummed with industry, commerce,
and a railroad station. Newer residents of Manchester will not remember old Depot Square, razed in the 1960s during urban
redevelopment, but I count myself among the many people who walked along the railroad tracks to go to Larson’s Hardware
store or the North End Pharmacy, located around a small parklet near the railroad depot.
Many interesting and historic places remain along North Main Street, and nearby Golway, Union and North Streets. In fact, there had to be enough history to get the National Register nomination approved. I recommend strolling along the side streets leading to Union Pond, to see Kelly’s Pub and worker housing for the Union cotton mills, and get a sense of what life might have been like a hundred and more years ago.
Many of the jobs no longer exist – not just gone from the North End, but pretty much from our world. We don’t need many livery stable hands, for example, or milliners’ apprentices, or itinerant knife sharpeners and sewing-notion peddlers.
Walter Hibbard (1792-1856) was a North End resident who might be out of work today. He was a tinsmith, traveling the area to fix tin pots and pans and other metal-ware. Today, of course, instead of fixing a hole in the bottom of a pot, we would buy a new one. But in those leaner days, farmers and householders would want to repair the old tin pail and save the expense of buying new.
Walter taught his son, Edwin Bishop Hibbard (1819-1877), the tinsmith trade, which he taught to his son William.
In 1848, the Hibbard store opened. In “The Manchester Storytellers” published by the Historical Society, an interview with William Hibbard’s daughter, Lenore Hibbard Geissler, tells that the store, at 280 North Main Street, had, in the front, “a salesroom and an office partitioned off – in the back was the workroom and there were all these tinsmiths’ lathes, folders, stakes, pipes and tin, which at the present time are in Sturbridge Village, Mass. Sturbridge Village came down to me before I sold the house, and they took ... all of the old tools of the tinsmith and the blacksmith.” The store also sold stoves and hardware.
Fortunately, some of the old tin itself found its way through an anonymous collector, to the Manchester Historical Society, where it is displayed in the buttery, a room at the back of the Cheney Homestead. This same collector also salvaged the wooden sign that used to sit above the storefront (see photo below).
Lenore also pointed out in her 1972 interview that her grandfather, Edwin, also known as E.B. Hibbard, “was one of the
early promoters ... of Manchester. He was interested in the railroad which was to be put through Manchester and the depot
was to have been in Parker Village [further east, in today’s Salter’s Pond/Parker/Mather Street area]. But due to his
efforts with Warren Coopercut and William Jones, they bought land from the White tract and gave it to the town of
Manchester so that the depot could be situated on Depot Square. We, as a family, always felt very proud that it was our
ancestor that was the means of having the station where it was.”
Having the railroad depot in the North End beginning in 1849 was economically important, providing for bringing in raw materials, supplies, and coal, and shipping out completed products, such as cotton, from the prosperous Union Mills, and paper from mills along the Hockanum River owned by the Keeney, White, Wood, and Bunce families. The North End grew and prospered, and the Hibbards contributed to the community as it grew.
Walter, Edwin, Lucinda, and Elizabeth Hibbard were all charter members of the Methodist Episcopal Church (today’s North Methodist, on Parker Street), along with members of the Cowles and Buckland families. Edwin’s pastor, the Reverend James H. Nutting, noted the death of “a most useful official, Edwin B. Hibbard,” when in 1877, Hibbard “was removed by death, leaving a devoted wife to take up much of his labor.” The church was active in Temperance Reform and in revivals which brought more parishioners into the church, according to “Souvenir History of the New England Southern Conference in Three Volumes” by Micah Jones Talbot, copyright 1897.
It was noted that in 1897, both William and Elizabeth Hibbard were stewards of the church. William was also an original director of the Manchester Trust Company, founded in 1905, which became a prominent bank. The Saving Bank of Manchester, a mutual savings bank, was housed right in the same building as the Trust company, and the building, somewhat altered, still serves a financial institution at 923 Main Street in our Downtown, although with recent bank changes, we can never be sure about the future of this beautiful old building.
On a lighter topic, a Hartford Courant tidbit from October 9, 1855 notes: “There is a cucumber on our desk over four feet long; it was raised by Walter Hibbard, of Manchester, and is of South American origin. Mr. H. raised from one hill 16 cucumbers, whose aggregate length was 65 feet 8 inches – length of the longest, 4 feet 6 inches – circumference 13 inches.”
A Hartford Courant article from November 3, 1863, lists some familiar names, in this case North End residents whose
family names are now names of Manchester streets:
“What Little Girls Can Do For the Sick and Wounded Soldiers. – In North Manchester thirteen little girls have been busy in piecing bedquilts for sick and wounded soldiers in the hospitals. They have already made six, and the following acknowledgment has been received by the Hartford Soldiers’ Association of two which were forwarded to a hospital in Harper’s Ferry: ‘We must express our thanks for the beautiful bed-quilts which we understand were pieced by the young girls for the sick in the hospital. They have been given to men from Connecticut who are now made comfortable by them, and more quilts of the same kind could be used to the very best advantage in this hospital.’ This is signed by several Connecticut men of different regiments. The matron of the same hospital says: ‘I hope the little girls that made those quilts will go on with the good work, and they would if they knew how comfortable the sick men and how pleased they were to think that little girls cared for the poor soldiers who are far away from their homes.’ The names of these industrious little girls are as follows: Misses Alice Norton, Josephene Hibbard, Hattie Chapman, Mary Calhoun, Sara Barry, Jenny Bidwell, Lottie Bidwell, Alice White, Alice Marble, Alice Fuller, Leah White, Hattie Spencer, Alice Griswold. We commend their example as worthy of general imitation, and would say to all the little girls in every town in the State, ‘Go and do likewise.’ Send your quilts to the Hartford Soldiers’ Aid Association and you shall be informed to whom they are sent, and gratefully they are received.”
Manchester Historical Society member Bob Harrison has informed us that W.E. Hibbard was the agent for the Mobile Steam Carriages made by the Mobile Company of America, manufactured at the Stanley Works which was then located in Tarrytown, NY. This firm was an early manufacturer of steam automobiles. It was one of two spinoff companies resulting from a breakup of an automotive partnership, the other being what became the Locomobile Company of Bridgeport, CT.
The Manchester Historical Society has copies for sale of both the Storytellers book, quoted above, and of “Old
Manchester ... A Picture Book,” from which some accompanying pictures were taken. These books can be purchased at the
museum store at 175 Pine Street, open 10 to 2 Monday through Friday (except holidays and snow days).
You can also find pictures and stories in this web site, in particular the "Manchester History" page and elsewhere in these "Reprints" pages.
|This drawing is on the 1914 panoramic map of Manchester, available online through the Library of Congress web site. Go to http://memory.loc.gov and in the search box, type Aero view of Manchester Connecticut 1914 – note that you should leave out punctuation in the search box.|
Susan Barlow is a member of the Historical Society’s board of directors and serves as webmaster.