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Bowles’ Farm Postcard

While exploring eBay for Longmeadow memorabilia I discovered this 1907 Bowles’ Farm postcard and purchased it for the Longmeadow Historical Society. I was unaware of Bowles’ Farm, as it does not exist today, but believed there must be an interesting history behind it and sought to uncover it.

The postcard was sent from 71-year-old Julia Bowles to 7-year-old Ruth Coolidge in Vermont. The nature of their relationship is unclear, but Julia was originally from Vermont, born in 1846. She had been widowed since 1871 and her three children (Henry Bowles, Caleb Bowles, and Angie Hammatt) lived in the Longmeadow area. The farm’s main house, as seen on the postcard, is located at 878 Longmeadow Street and is known as the Dr. Benjamin Stebbins House. It was built in 1795 for Lucy Colton Stebbins as a wedding gift from her late father's estate. Her father, Marchant Samuel Colton, was one of the wealthiest men in the Connecticut Valley.

Over the years, the house passed through several owners (see more here) and was eventually purchased in 1888 by John Stanton Carr of Springfield, owner of the J.S. Carr & Company, manufacturers of crackers and biscuits, as a country home and farm known as the Carr Place. At that time the property encompassed 75 acres and extended from Main Street (Longmeadow Street) to the Connecticut River.

The house was expanded after this and a 2nd floor was added. After J.S. Carr’s death in 1894, the property was sold to Reverend Rufus S. Underwood in 1896.

The farm became known as Sunset Farm and became recognized for its strawberries. In 1904 the home and approximately 60 acres of land were purchased by Henry Leland Bowles for his widowed mother Julia Bowles. Henry Bowles was a very successful restauranteur with a chain of restaurants located across the country and into Canada. He would go on to serve two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1925-1929) and was instrumental in developing the Agawam airport, opening in 1930, and became known as Bowles Field. There were two barns and a carriage house on the property.

The farm became well known for raising and showing chickens, but as seen on the postcard there were cows and pigs as well.

Apparently, in 1908 a fire destroyed the second floor of the home which was rebuilt and a third floor was added. Two cottages were built on the property in 1913 - one for the farm’s manager and the other for Mr. Bowles's chauffeur. These homes remain and, eventually, the road to access them became Farmlea Road. According to The Springfield Republican December 29, 1913, “to provide for 1000 or more poultry a new two-story house 16 by 172 feet for laying hens has been built. A second house is nearly completed 82 by 16 … with an incubator with a capacity for hatching 3000 chickens at one setting.”

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find any information on the commercial success of the Bowles Farm and how long it remained an active farm. Julia Bowles died at age 83 on May 8, 1923. Her daughter, Angie Bowles Hammatt, and her family remained in the home until 1946. Angie was married to Rev Albert Hammatt who preached in various nearby communities.

The last farm-related transaction I could find was in 1945.

The recipient of the postcard, Miss Ruth Coolidge, was born in Waterville Quebec on July 29, 1900, and grew up in Bellows Falls Vermont. She graduated from Middlebury College and earned a master's degree from Columbia University and taught high school in Bellows Falls, Walpole New Hampshire, and Jackson, Michigan. She died on August 30, 1969. Julia Bowles’ son-in-law Arthur Hammatt was a Universalist minister in Bellows Falls, Vermont at the time that the postcard was written and this may have been a basis for the correspondence.

The property today consists of only 0.73 acres as most of the land has been sold. Bay Path University owns the homes to the south and west. Longmeadow’s farming past is extensive and little remains of it fun to uncover the stories of these bygone days of our community.

-Contributed by Lenny Shaker, Longmeadow Historical Society Board Member


Springfield Republican Wikipedia Longmeadow Annual Town Report Massachusetts Cultural Resource System

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