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Scovil Hoe: More than Hoes (Part Two)

Submitted by R. Thurston Clark

(March 27, 2024) —- In Part One, we talked about the origin of the name Scovil and the business in Higganum.  This time we’ll talk about Arthur Scovil and brother John’s son Sargent John’s family of Waterbury.

Richard de Scoville, was born 16 May 1604 at Wholeplace, Dorset, England and died 1642 at Shapwick, Dorset.  He married Mary Magdaline, or Cook.  They had two sons who came to the Colonies in the 1660s, probably Boston first, then Hartford.  John Scoville, born about 1635, died before 18 November 1670.  He married Sarah Barnes at Hartford 29 May 1666.  She was born 1651 and died 1720.  Brother Arthur Scoville, was born about 1640, died 7 Feb 1706/7.  He married Joanna Shepard, born 1637, who died in the Fall of 1678, in Middletown.

Arthur and Joanna removed to Middletown before the birth of their son, John, in 1671/2.  They had six children in all: Elizabeth 1st and 2nd, both of whom died young; Elizabeth 3rd; Arthur, Jr.; James; and John.  They had land in Lyme, but it doesn’t appear that they resided there; however, many of his descendants did, particularly Stephan and his descendants.  Arthur probably married a second time with the result of a seventh child, Stephan born about 1680.  This paragraph leads me into a discussion about another branch of the family in this area.  It is probable that they are descended from one of Arthur’s children of Middletown, East Haddam, Essex and Lyme.

William Henry Scoville, descendant of Arthur, but not the one at Waterbury, was born 7 July 1857.  His early employment was in silver plating at L. Boardman & Sons.  Later he worked at J. B. Ray’s coffin trimming business and still later purchased a half-interest in G. W. Swan’s meat business, which became Swan & Scoville.

Next, William H. became the proprietor of the Gelston House at East Haddam.  He sold that interest to R. B. Swan so that he could concentrate on running the livery stable associated with the hotel and restaurant.  At this point his business interest evolved into politics, where he became county commissioner in 1885.  Next he became deputy sheriff in Haddam and in July of 1901 was appointed Jailer at Haddam.  Other jobs he held were constable, tax collector and representative to the General Assembly in Hartford.

The Waterbury Branch of the Family

Sargent John’s descendants were brothers James Mitchel Lamson and William Henry Scoville.  J. M. L. was born 4 September 1789 and started his business career early by working for his father at age 17.  Then, at just 19, he went into business for himself.  At 22, in 1811, he was one of three to form the firm of Leavenworth, Hayden & Scovil at Waterbury, manufacturing many items out of brass, including a line of buttons.

Waterbury is known as the “Brass City,” since there were as many as fifty-two firms that manufactured buttons and other products made from brass.  The Scovils had purchased this business from Abel Porter & Company, who had begun it in 1802.  In 1820 a significant change occurred when they hired James Croff, originally of Birmingham, England, who had some knowledge of brass button plating.  They sent him back to England to obtain more extensive knowledge.  They also hired Samuel Frost to assist him.

Brass Gilding/Gilting is a process that involves brushing mercury and gold onto the face of the buttons before they are baked.  These buttons, some silver or nickel, were made in one, two or three pieces.  They were typically stamped on the front with a design, then on the back with the manufacturer’s name, where a hook was soldered on.  The Nutmeg Button Club gives talks and holds swap meets throughout the year.  By 1834 the Scovils were manufacturing coins, tokens and medals out of brass, copper and tin.

James M. L.’s brother William H. was born 27 July 1796, and also started his business career at 17 when he hired on as a clerk for Mr. Peck in New Haven.  Three years later he was back at Waterbury working a couple of years for his Uncle William K. Lamson in a dry goods store.

Instead of moving to Berwick, Pennsylvania with Mr. Lamson he moved to North Carolina to establish himself in a business.  In 1827 he returned home for a visit. His brother talked him into buying Dr. Frederick and David Hayden out of their business for $10,000.  The firm became the J. M. L. and W. H. Scovil Company.  During this time the brothers were buying up other related business in the area that were making cloth and brass buttons, snuffer trays, belt ornaments and other small brass goods.

At some point they hired Hiram Hayden, a skilled engraver, who was related to David Hayden.  In 1850 they incorporated the firm by consolidating the various business into the Scovil Manufacturing Company where J. M. L. was President and Director 1850-1857, and brother William H. was Treasurer and Director 1850-1854.  In 1866, the firm started manufacturing coin blanks for the United States Mint.  They also were selling coins to many South American states.  In 1893 they manufactured a set of 23,757 medals for the Columbian Exposition, and in 1902 they made a three-inch diameter commemorative bronze medal for the firm’s 100th anniversary.  In 1914, as the first world war was going on, they switched to the manufacture of munitions; for example, time fuses and shell cases.  In 1957 the firm relocated to Clarksville, Georgia.

J. L. M. Scovil, born 4 September 1789, died 16 May 1857, married 9 October 1849, at age 60, to Sarah Ann Merrimar. She was born 27 September 1811 and died 19 October 1896.  She had first married Thomas C. Morton.  J. L. M. and Sarah had J. L. M. Jr 3 September 1850; Sarah Alathea born 14 February 1852; and Henry William born 11 November 1853.

William Henry Scovill, born 27 July 1796, died 27 March 1854 at Charleston, South Carolina, married Eunice Ruth Davies on 2 July 1827.  She died 25 November 1839.  He then married Rebecca Hopkins Smith on 22 March 1841, she died 2 August 1854.  There were seven children by the two marriages: Alathea Ruth; Mary Ann; Thomas John; Sarah Hannah; William Henry, Jr.; J. M. L.; and Nathan Smith.


History of Waterbury, by Dr. Henry Bronson 1858

History of Middlesex County, J. B. Beers 1884

The Middletown Tribune, Souvenir Edition 1896

Commemorative Biographical Record of Middlesex County, by J. B. Beers 1903

(John & Arthur) Scoville Family Records, by Charles Eastman 1910

A Survey of the Scovils or Scovills in England and America, by Homer Worthington Brainerd 1915

Waterbury and Naugatuck Valley, by William J. Pape 1918

Arthur Scoville and His descendants 1660-1900, by Jennie M. (Scoville) Holley & Homer Worthington Brainerd 1941

A (John) Scoville Branch in America, by Lynda Sue Scoville Ward 1990

Landmarks, The Haddam Historical Society 2008

Higganum’s Industrial architecture: D&H Scovil Hoe Buildings, Haddam Bulletin 55-6 2014, by Lisa Malloy

Military Service of the Scovil-Porter Family: Part I, II, & III H-K News May 2019

A Way Through the Woods, by Janice (Billian) Falvey 2022

Lindamae Peck, a direct relative of the Scovil family, thru the Porter line, talks 2021 – 2024

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