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Bethuel Harris

This substantial brick home in the center of Harrisville was built c. 1819 by Bethuel Harris.  He was born in Medway, Massachusetts in 1769 the eighth child of Erastus and Rebecca Harris’ nine children. He moved with his parents to Packersfield at about age 12.

Bethuel married Deborah Twitchell, daughter of Abel Twitchell, the owner of a grist mill on Goose Brook which empties Harrisville Pond The mill was just south of the Dublin/Packersfield line. It was to be a fruitful and fortuitous marriage. The first of their ten children arrived three years later.

Bethuel’s father, Erastus, was either a blacksmith or carpenter by trade with a farm on the west side of Harrisville Pond and a shop on Goose Brook. At first Bethuel chose farming as his vocation buying about two hundred acres on the Dublin line east of Harrisville Pond and just east of his father-in-law’s own farm. Soon however he became interested in developing a woolen mill on Goose Brook. In this he was aided by his new family connections.

Deborah Harris

Abel Twitchell and is son, Abel JR. owned and operated a grist mill on Goose Brook in Dublin just south of the Nelson (formerly, Packersfield) line. They had a lot of experience with waterpower and running a business.They also had a site with room to add the mill Bethuel planned to build. Indeed they owned a small lot just east of the canal that fed water to the mills there, Bethel bought a half interest in their land for $1,000 in 1816. The deed which recorded the transaction reveals much about the site and his plans. The deed can be found at the Cheshire Registry of Deeds in book 84  page. 268. Here is some of the fascinating detail:

Beginning at a stake and stones 12’ north of the rock marked “D” is 1 rod north of the fulling mill dam. ….. Thence East 2 d. North to a large rock about 2 rods from the clothiers mill. …… With the privilege of setting up and keeping tenter bars [for drying cloth] from the rock marked “D” to within about 30’ from the bridge below the sawmill lake with the machinery and tools and all property that has been hitherto belonged to the firm of B. Harris and Company ….. And we the said Twitchell and Twitchell JR engage to maintain a gate in our dam for the said Harris to draw water at all times for the purpose of carding wool and manufacturing wool cloth in all its branches and forms and other uses.

Three years later he began construction of the fine brick home that stands there today. Interestingly, the house straddles the old Dublin/Nelson town line. Historic Harrisville’s website describes the building in detail. That description reads in part:

Bethuel Harris married Deborah Twitchell, daughter of the first settlers. Their house, the most consciously stylish house in the village, is an unpretentious interpretation of a Federal style Bulfinch Boston house, with hip roof, four side chimneys, large windows, graceful doorway, and fine proportions.

As the first village house built of red brick, it set a standard for Harris family houses that followed. The two sides facing the streets are the village’s only example of bricks laid in Flemish Bond. The more private sides were laid in common bond, as were all the other brick structures. It is interesting to note that windows lack exterior lintels to support the brick above them; support probably comes from wooden lintels imbedded within the brick walls. https://www.historicharrisville.org/bethuel-harris-house

Bethuel chose Nelson as his town of residence and held many important town offices before his death in 1851. He and Deborah (d. 1855) are buried in the Island Cemetery in Harrisville. Their children materially expanded and modernized the operation Bethuel had  founded. When Harrisville was formed of parts of Nelson and Dublin in 1870, Bethuel, Deborah and their home “moved” to Harrisville.