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HomeNewsHaddam Town NewsMilitary Service of the Scovil-Porter Family in Higganum: Part One

Military Service of the Scovil-Porter Family in Higganum: Part One

In honor of Memorial Day 2019, we are highlighting one of the founding members of Haddam who had a history of military service in this three part series written and compiled by Stew Gillmor.

Part One

The Scovil family arrived in Haddam in the late 17th century and soon thereafter moved also to Higganum. They early on married in with other pioneer families (Spencer, Clark, Burr, Bonfoey, Bailey…) and later with the Porters. Hezekiah Scovil Sr. (1788-1849) was father to Daniel Scovil and Hezekiah Scovil, Jr. Hezekiah began as a blacksmith and made hoes, hammers and farm tools. He apprenticed with Eli Whitney as a young man and learned to weld gun barrels, some of which he made for the U.S. Government for the War of 1812. Hezekiah Sr.’s home was the 1810 Federal style brick house at the intersection of Candlewood Hill, Little City and Foothills Roads and his water power and shop were located on the pond just across Candlewood Hill Road. Hezekiah also tutored his sons Daniel and Hezekiah, Jr. These young men formed a business in 1844 as the D & H Scovil factory further down the Candlewood Hill brook and engaged in several toolmaking ventures – famously with the improved Scovil “Higganum Hoe,” the Southern Farmer’s Friend. This was a self-sharpening planter’s hoe for chopping cotton and general farm work, the first such hoe made mostly by machinery in lieu of all hand work. The hoes were advertised widely in 19th century agricultural magazines. [Some years ago I saw one of these hoes at a historical plantation site on the Mississippi River in Louisiana].

The Scovil factories used the power of the Candlewood Brook, flowing down to Higganum Center and giving power to the Upper Shop, the Black Shop and eventually to the other shops of the four Scovil mills. The water flow was harnessed and controlled by dams. The original 1844 buildings and dam were along the “Haddam-Durham Turnpike Road,” which turned west at what is now Brainard Hill Road just uphill from Christian Hill Road and turned southwest, then across a bridge over the Upper Shop Pond to continue on Candlewood Hill Road toward Durham. The dam on Upper Shop Pond washed out in 1982, the pond returned to being part of Candlewood Hill brook, and the turnpike road along this site has been gone for many decades. Brother Hezekiah Jr. built the very elegant brick house on Maple Avenue in 1875, following Daniel’s construction of a similar “mansion” in 1871. Hezekiah Jr. was father of a large family and his daughter Fanny married John Porter, whose son Wallace Porter and wife Florence Wells had seven children. We will center here on two sons, Philip Wells Porter Sr. and Hezekiah “Hez” Scovil Porter and on Philip’s son “Bud” (Philip Wells Porter Jr.) and their military careers in service with the United States Army, Army Air Corps, and Navy. Philip, Sr. was born in 1888 and younger brother “Hez” in 1896. Their mother Florence and father Wallace Porter died in 1910 and 1915, respectively. Young “Hez” entered the Choate school in Wallingford in 1910 just two months after his mother’s death. His older brother Phil went to the Worcester Academy in Massachusetts, Worcester schools being somewhat of a tradition in the family. Phil finished in 1908 and headed west to the Colorado Rockies to become a mining engineer. This was a booming time for mining engineering. The most famous mining engineer at the time was Herbert Hoover, later Secretary of Commerce and U.S. President, who had graduated in Stanford University’s first engineering class and had made a fortune in mining exploration. Phil Porter spent three years at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado and then went to the Michigan College of Mines for a year.

With America’s entrance into WWI, Phil joined the US Military’s “School of Military Aeronautics” at Cornell University. In 1917 the French Government had asked the U.S. to supply 5000 pilots and planes to aid in the war. Eight universities, including Cornell, Princeton and M.I.T., had instituted pre-flight courses of 8 to 12 weeks for aspiring military airmen, to be followed by actual flight training at hastily enlarged airfields. “Hez” admired his older brother. Both had spent their childhood on Christian Hill Road, just across from the company buildings on Brainerd Hill. Phil and Hez would have known many of the children of the parents who worked at one of the four D & H Scovil mills. Mill workers lived near the plants, often boarding at houses in the area or living in houses built for D & H Scovil, such as several houses built about 1893 on Thayer Road by Charles Bailey for housing of D & H Scovil employees, or in houses such as the much older Increase Brainerd House, Jonathan Crook House, and Bailey-Treadwell House, along Spencer Road.

While older brother Phil was off at college, young Hez became quite the athlete, His father wrote to brother Phil that Hez and buddies were cooking and camping at the “shack” in summer and having a great time. Hez had pitched for the Higganum baseball team, the “Higganums.” In his senior year at Choate, Hez was the starting pitcher and Captain of the Choate baseball team and was voted the most admired and most popular, and the boy who had done the most for his school. In the fall of 1916 Hez enrolled at Yale. The next year he joined a Yale fraternity and at the big Spring fraternity dance, Hez listed in his leather-bound dance book the name of each girl with whom he danced- Margaret Beebe, Lucile Boyle, Beatrice Morse… and the particular dance- Fox Trot, One Step, Waltz. [Even in the 1950’s proper society dances expected that the boy sign up on a dance card with a different girl for each dance.]

But this youthful period would end for each young man. To be continued…

Part two of this series can be found HERE.

I am grateful to several persons for information and photographs for this article. Especially I am in debt to Charles Rounds, Jr, and members of the larger Porter family, to the Choate Rosemary Hall School archives, to Elizabeth Malloy and the Haddam Historical Society, to the Haddam Veteran’s Museum, and to Bud’s life-long friend and neighbor Jack Calhoun.

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