JOSEPH ALLEN LEWIS

BIOGRAPHY

AS RECORDED IN:

COMMEMORATIVE BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD OF 
TOLLAND AND WINDHAM COUNTIES CONNECTICUT.

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF PROMINENT AND REPRESENTATIVE  CITIZENS AND OF MANY OF THE EARLY SETTLED FAMILIES
PUBLISHER: J.H.BEERS & CO., CHICAGO; 1903      P.  541

JOSEPH ALLEN LEWIS  (deceased), than whom (***see footnote) there was not a more respected old citizen of Willimantic, Windham county, was the pioneer in the gardening, nursery and fruit business in the town, where his residence of more than forty years was marked by an honorable and upright career, second to none of the business men of his time.  Mr. Lewis was born Jan. 5, 1829, at Exeter, R.I., a son of Arnold and Mary A. (Tillinghast) Lewis.

Arnold Lewis was born in 1791, at Exeter, R.I., son of Stephen Lewis, who belonged to an old New England family, and was descended from William Lewis, who came to New England, in the ship, “Lion,” landing at Boston Sept. 16, 1632.  On Oct. 10, 1822, he married Mary A. Tillinghast who was born in 1800.  They engaged in farming, and spent their lives in Exeter, where they reared the following family:  Eunice, born May 11, 1823, married Stephen A. Tift;  Gardiner, born Aug. 9, 1825, was thrown from a horse and killed when a boy;  Joseph Allen;  Sarah, born Oct. 17, 1830, married John T. Lewis, and died in West Greenwich, R.I.;  Eliza P., born Feb. 17, 1832, married Joseph R. Frye, now deceased, and is living in Willimantic;  John, born Oct. 6, 1833, was in the nursery business at Dighton, Mass., where he died;  Mary Abbie, born Nov. 28, 1838, married the late Elijah Kenyon, of Kenyonville, R.I., where he was long a wealthy manufacturer and where his sons are conducting the extensive business he founded;  Miss Hannah E., born March 28, 1841, lives in Willimantic; and Henry Byron, born June 19, 1846, is superintendent of the repair shops of the N.Y., N.H., & H. Railroad at Providence, Rhode Island.

Joseph Allen Lewis attended the public school at Exeter, R.I., where he proved himself an apt pupil, and made rapid progress.  When he became a young man he taught school and was a fine instructor, being a thorough master of everything which he undertook to teach.  In his early manhood he was employed in Moore's nursery at Providence, R.I., and acquired a good knowledge of the business in which he afterwards became distinguished.  At Springfield, Mass., Mr. Lewis was also employed in the nursery business, and also at Dighton, Mass., where he worked for the late Dr. Wood.  In his last position Mr. Lewis taught winter school, working for Dr. Wood in the summer.

Mr. Lewis was married Jan. 25, 1853, to Miss Caroline Frye, a native of West Greenwich, R.I., where she was born Oct. 15, 1829, sixth child and fourth daughter of John and Alice (Nichols) Frye.  John Frye was a farmer, and had a family of seven children, of whom two were boys.  Joseph R., a brother of Mrs. Lewis, was a resident of Willimantic.

Mr. Lewis began housekeeping in Dighton, where he was employed at the time of his marriage, and where he lived until his coming to Willimantic in 1858.  That year, in company with his brother-in-law, Joseph R. Frye, he bought nine acres of land from Martin Harris on Jackson street.  To this original purchase they added more land as their business demanded it.  The tree and vegetable business was at once established, and soon grew to be one of the largest of its kind in the State.  Mr. Lewis removed his family to the residence where he spent the rest of his life in April, 1862.  The handsome maple trees which now adorn Jackson street in front of his home were set out by him, and the Norway maples around the works of the Willimantic Linen Co. were raised by him from the seed.  Mr. Lewis at first made a specialty of forest and fruit seedlings, but later devoted his attention very largely to fruit and vegetables.  In growing tomatoes alone, at one time he had as many as seventy acres under cultivation, growing and canning for the wholesale trade.  Mr. Lewis built a large canning factory at the head of North street in 1892, which he operated for several years.  This plant was a very extensive one, and at times over 40,000 bushels of apples were canned in a single season, as well as the immense quantity of tomatoes, which were the best goods sold in New England, commanding always the highest price.  The building was later destroyed by fire.

Mr. Lewis was characterized by much energy and push, and was a good business man, a fact his career establishes beyond question.  His dealings were straightforward, and personally he was a most modest and unassuming man, never given to boasting.  Universal respect attended him, and he found much help and encouragement in his hard struggle with the world in the excellent woman who became his wife.  She is still living on the old homestead, and is a remarkably well preserved lady.

Mr. Lewis was a man of strong character, clear in his convictions and outspoken in their expression.  In early life he was a Republican and the campaign of 1856 found him a strong supporter of John C. Fremont.  In 1872, feeling that he could not endorse the re-nomination of Gen. Grant, nor yet willing to follow Greeley into the Democratic party, he became a Prohibitionist, and as long as he lived was earnest in the advocacy of the principles of that organization.  His remains rest in Willimantic.

To Joseph A. Lewis and wife came the following children:  Cora A., born Jan. 22, 1855, at Dighton, Mass., was married Nov. 5, 1879, to Clark O. Terry;  Mary F., born Sept. 15, 1859, in Willimantic, graduated from the Normal School at Worcester, Mass., becoming a successful teacher, and she was married Oct. 24, 1889, to Edward E. Johnson, of White Bear Lake, Minn., by whom she has three children:  Donald R., Mildred F. and Alice E.;  Ella C., born June 24, 1861, in Willimantic, died when three years old; and Arthur L., born Oct. 21, 1867, was married in Willimantic, Nov. 20, 1890, to Miss Lottie E. Holt, and has his home in Willimantic.

***footnote:  “than whom” is per the publication.

Reproduced by:

Linda D. Pingel

 

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