Frank Arthur Harris: 1873 – 1955
Herman Winfield Smith: 1864 – 1951
By Amanda Forrestt and Kathleen Sasso
Herman Smith Frank Harris
Birth and Early Life
Frank Arthur Harris, son of Frank Albert Harris and Julia Priscilla Smith, was born on December 6, 1873, in Niantic, Connecticut. Both parents were 26 years old at the time of his birth. Frank’s mother died at age 27 on April 21, 1875, when Frank was few months past his first birthday. The cause of death is unknown.
Although his father lived until age 69, 1880 census records show Frank Harris living with his grandparents, William Henry Smith, Lousia Starkey Smith and Herman Winfield Smith (Julia’s brother and Frank’s Uncle) at age 6 at the Society Road farmhouse. Ancestry records indicate that his father, Frank Albert Harris went on to married twice after the death of his first wife to Sarah Angell Gorton, a widow from Cranston, RI in 1888 and Angeline Harris from New York (recorded on the 1910 Census Report). Frank Albert Harris died in 1916, the cause unknown.
Herman Winfield Smith was born August 30, 1864. He was the youngest child of William Henry Smith and Louisa Starkey Smith.
It is difficult to determine for sure the residence location based on census reports because the earlier records do not indicate an address. One indication of the residence being the same property over the years is the fact that some of the neighbors are the same. From what we can tell, Frank and Herman and their family stayed in the same residence from 1880 and farmed the same property now known as the Brookside Farm Museum until the day they died. According to East Lyme town records, land deeds show that Frank’s uncle, William H.H. Smith purchased the Brookside Farm property from William Avery’s widowed wife and children in 1877. Census records indicate that it was William H. H. Smith’s parents who actually lived there. There is an ancestral connection between Thomas Avery and Frank Harris’ mother Julia Priscilla Smith and her brother Herman Smith. Their great grandfather, Daniel Smith was married to Hannah Avery, sister of Jonathan Avery, who was Thomas Avery’s grandfather. So, Julia Priscilla Smith and Herman Winfield Smith were Thomas Avery’s 2nd cousins, 1X removed.
Residents at Society Road Farmhouse Based on Census Reports
As depicted in the table below, William Henry Smith lived at Brookside Farm from at least 1880, up until 1900, and possibly until his death. His wife, Louisa Smith died in 1890 and William Henry continued to live with Frank and Herman. Herman married Lula Munger in 1899 and the 1900 Census reports shows Frank Harris and William Henry Smith living with Herman and Lula Smith in the house. Frank married Florence Munger in 1904 and Florence moved in as well. By 1905, William Henry had died and the Smith and Harris couples lived together in the house for the next 50 years. William Henry was listed as Head of house until his death. In the 1910 and 1920 Census, Herman and Frank are both listed as head of house and renting the property. East Lyme land records show that on October 13, 1921, William H. H. Smith transferred title of the farm from himself to his brother Herman W. Smith and their nephew Frank A. Harris. The 1930 Census records that Herman and Frank are now owners of the property.
It appears that the house was always set up for at least two families, even when Thomas Avery lived there with his children. When his wife Elizabeth died, his sisters moved in presumably to help with the children. The Smith and Harris couples also lived separately. Based on information provided to us from Munger family members, we know the house was split between the first floor and the second floor for the two couples. Herman and his wife Lula lived on the first floor of the house, while Frank and Florence lived on the second floor.
|Year||Address as recorded on Census Report||Age of Frank and Herman||Living With||Neighbors|
|1880||Appears to be prev. Avery property||Frank – 6
|Wm. Henry & Louisa -Grandparents, Ella, Alice, Ida, Herman children and Frank||Beebe, Webb, Miner, Clark, Tubbs|
|1900||Frank – 26
Herman – 35
|Wm. Henry Smith, Frank
Herman & Lula
|Beebe, Dart, Clark, Perkins, Loomis, Watrous, Havens|
|1910||In between Cross Rd. and Flanders Rd.||Frank – 36
Herman – 45
|Florence, Herman and Lula||Miner, Solstoroff,
Turner, Horner, Beebe, Dart, Havens, Gada
|1920||Farm, 235 Society Rd.||Frank – 46
Herman – 55
|Florence, Herman and Lula||Perkins, Miner, Solstoroff, Gada|
|1930||45 Society Rd.||Frank – 56
Herman – 65
|Florence, Herman and Lula|
|1940||Society Rd (Riverview Road)||Frank – 66
Herman – 75
|Florence, Herman and Lula|
According to church records, Herman Smith and Lula Munger married sometime in 1899 and Frank Harris married Florence Munger on April 5, 1904.
Lula Munger Florence and Lillian the Cow
Other Ancestry Facts
Ancestry records show that when Frank was 44 he signed up for a Military registration, but did not serve.
Personal Journal and Family Memories
One of the most important documents we have is Frank Harris’ Five Year journal where he made daily entries from January, 1950 until a few days before his death in September, 1955. His journal entries provide us with a good idea of what life on Brookside Farm was like. His daily chores, types of crops and livestock that he cared for, visitors and personal friendships are all recorded. It demonstrates to the reader that Frank, Herman and their wives were hardworking, simple farm folk, who enjoyed visitors on a regular basis and worked alongside their neighbors, helping each other out when needed.
East Lyme High School student Amanda Forrestt, took on the task of reading Frank’s journal and this was her take on it: “Frank was constantly doing work on the land with very little rest days. His personal journal showed us he didn’t get out much unless it involved gathering wood or tools, attending church services, or some sort of work that needed to be done outside the farm. According to his diary, Frank went over to the Salowitz farm to sell his milk quite often. Frank always stayed connected with friends, whether that be by telephone or inviting them over for company. He kept a tab in his journal on people he cared about, including when friends would go on trips, stopped by for a visit, chatted over the phone or any medical issues one might have. It seems based on his journal, that he and Mrs. Brown were very good friends. He went over quite a bit to help with yard work and other little things she needed assistance with, such as sawing wood and raking hay. When Frank wasn’t working or at night when all his work was complete, he enjoyed having friends over.”
Frequent Sunday vistors were Charles Munger Jr., nephew to Florence and Lula, and his family.
Charles Munger III, who is the great nephew of Lula and Florence, visited and helped with farm work as a young child. We recently reconnected with Charles and he answered a few questions we sent to him to learn more about his memories of the farm. Charles III helped Frank with work around the land. He assisted with harvesting and storing hay, along with carrying firewood to both kitchens. Charles III tells us the typical everyday meals eaten at the farm were garden grown vegetables and “raw” milk. Charles also tells us that Florence was known for and is still remembered by her homemade cookies, which were said to be a treat enjoyed by everyone. When asked what was important for us to know about the Smith and Harris couples? He responded, “They were farmers who attended church in Niantic. Their friends respected them. Nothing more”.
Herman Smith died March 21, 1951 at age 86 from a Pulmonary Embolism according to town records. He is buried in the Old Stone Church Cemetery in Niantic, CT. His wife, Lula Munger Smith died February 16, 1972 at age 94 and is also buried in the Old Stone Cemetery.
Frank Harris passed away on September 11th, 1955 at the age of eighty-one. He had been extremely sick for a week or two previously and passed away due to a Stroke and Arteriosclerosis; which is the thickening and hardening of the artery walls (according to Town Records). His last diary entry: September 1, 1955, Thursday : Rain last night. Pick for tomorrow. Can corn am from last planting of G.C. Bantam. Dig some potatoes. He was working the farm almost to his dying day!
Frank was buried in East Lyme, New London County, Connecticut; in the Old Stone Church Cemetery. According to her obituary, Florence passed away July 8, 1973 at age 89, at Mary Kenny Nursing Home in Waterford, CT., where she had been a patient since Feb. 2, 1972 and is buried with Frank in the Old Stone Church Cemetery.
On, June 30, 1955 – Lula Munger Smith and Frank Harris sold to the Town of East Lyme: “all that certain parcel of land with the buildings thereon situated in the Town of East Lyme beginning at a point on the North line of Society Road.. 103 acres more or less” for a price of $34,000 with the condition that they could continue living in the house for as long as they were physically able.
The town of East Lyme soon converted the farmland into a public complex that included two schools, a public library, senior center and sports fields. The house remained but fell into complete disrepair. When there was talk of destroying the house after the sisters had moved out in the mid 1970’s, a group of concerned citizens (the original Friends of the Smith-Harris House), rallied, raised money and were able to save and restore the house to it’s condition today. (That’s a whole other story which will be featured in a future post!)
The house was named the Smith-Harris House up until last year, when the name was changed to Brookside Farm Musuem.
Frank Harris Happy Trails!