Recent HistoryIn 2000, the Town of Killingworth purchased the 131-acre property for $670,000. Plans for a major recreation complex were developed but failed to win approval in town referendums in 2003 and 2004. The property went unused until 2007, when Peg Scofield requested permission to establish a community garden.
In April 2009, the Board of Selectmen established the Parmelee Farm Steering Committee (PFSC) to develop long-range plans for the use of this unique property. The Steering Committee supports the continued use by the Killingworth Community Gardens, use of the Parmelee Farmhouse by the Killingworth Historical Society, creation of walking trails, restoration of the farm buildings and hayfields, conducting workshops, as well as additional projects being discussed and developed on an on-going basis.
In early 2011, the property was listed on the State Register of Histoic Places by State Historic Preservation Office. The State Register of Historic Places is an official listing of properties and sites important to the historical development of Connecticut.
According to town records, ownership includes: Town of Killingworth, 2000-present
Anthony J. Bosco, 1994-2000
Maria Bosco, 1956-1994
Edward T. and Martha McGrath, 1948-1956
Anna Bertha Pavelka, 1936-1948
Frank Pavelka, 1922-1936
John Pavelka, 1906-1922
William Kathotka, 1904-1906 "...being homestead lately occupied by Horace Parmelee and jointly owned by Horace Parmelee and Eunice M. Parmelee."
Horace L. Parmelee and Eunice M. Parmelee, 1847-1904
Horace L. Parmelee to Eunice Parmelee. Three and a half acres “together with one half of the dwelling house thereon standing which is now in process of building, during her natural life for her the said Eunice Parmelee to use and occupy…” Vol. 28, p. 519, July 29, 1847.
Eunice Parmelee to Horace L. Parmelee. Three and a half acres. The parcel is described as bounded westerly by the Killingworth and Haddam Turnpike, northerly by the heirs of Oren Parmelee, easterly by highway, and southerly by Eunice Parmelee. The south line is a stone wall that runs the greater part of the way between the turnpike and old road (highway). Vol. 28, p. 264, July 29, 1847.
The above deeds show that Eunice Parmelee, mother of Horace’s wife Eunice M. Parmelee, sold property to Horace Parmelee bounded on the west by the Killingworth and Haddam Turnpike (now Route 81). Horace then deeded to Eunice half of the property and half of a house in the “process of building.” This indicates the house was built in 1847 and that Eunice Parmelee was allowed to occupy the house. Prior to this, Eunice, and probably Horace and Eunice M., lived in a house to the south, presumably the Josiah Parmelee house (1752). The “highway” or “old road” that runs behind the house is still present.
The Parmelee Farm
By Thomas L. Lentz, Municipal Historian
The Horace Parmelee house, formerly known as the Bosco house, was built in 1847 and occupied by Horace and Eunice Parmelee. Architecturally, the house is a late example of the post-colonial or Federal style. Horace L. Parmelee was born June 28, 1819, the son of Moses and Ruth Parmelee. Eunice Maria Parmelee was born on August 2, 1822, the daughter of Rufus and Eunice Parmelee. They were married on June 11, 1843, by the Rev. E. Swift in the Congregational Church. H. L. Parmelee is shown as occupant of the house on the 1859 map of Middlesex County. Horace died August 5, 1898 and Eunice November 8, 1905.
The house is set back over 350 feet from Route 81, then the Haddam and Killingworth Turnpike. The Turnpike was chartered in October, 1813 and completed in 1817. Tolls were collected on the Turnpike until 1850. Immediately behind the house is an old road, now abandoned. This road was possibly part of the original north-south road prior to the Turnpike.
The Parmelee Farm was a large and active farm in the nineteenth century. Much of the land is flat and suitable for growing crops. Rocky and hilly sections of land were used for pasturage. The 1880 census lists Horace’s occupation as “Farmer.” When the farm was sold in 1904, it was 150 acres in size. Exhibits at the Agricultural Fairs, ledgers, and old newspaper articles shed light on the agricultural activities in Killingworth at the time. The major crops were corn, oats, rye, flax, wheat, turnips, peas, beans, potatoes, onions, grapes, strawberries, and a variety of vegetables. Crops were often followed by a planting of clover, timothy, and other grasses to replenish the soil. Animals included horses, cattle, sheep, oxen, swine, and poultry. Hay was grown to feed animals. Killingworth was a supplier of beef, pork, mutton, leather, wool, eggs, cheese, and butter. Most farms had an orchard with apple, pear, and peach trees. Apples were used to make cider at local cider mills. Witch hazel grows abundantly in Killingworth and was harvested to supply manufacturers of medicinal witch hazel extracts in Essex and Clinton. The Agricultural Census of 1850 shows that many of these crops were grown on the Parmelee Farm.
Eunice Parmelee is listed as “Owner, Agent, or Manager of the Farm” in the Agricultural Census for the Productions of Agriculture in Killingworth during the year ending on June 1, 1850. Eunice, whose husband Rufus died in 1845, owned the land adjacent to the 3½ acres she deeded to Horace in 1847 and upon which the house was built. Eunice lived in the house with Eunice M. and Horace. The census lists 110 Acres of Improved Land; Cash value of Farming Implements, $75; Value of Farming Implements and Machinery, $3000; Horses, 1; Milch Cows, 2; Working Oxen, 4; Other Cattle, 4; Sheep, 10; Swine, 3; Value of Live Stock, $325; Rye, bushels of, 60; Indian corn, bushels of, 30; Oats, bushels of, 30; Wool, lbs. of, 20; Peas and Beans, bush. of, 30; Irish Potatoes, bush. of, 125; Butter, lbs of, 400; Cheese, lbs. of, 100; Hay, tons of, 12; Value of Home-made Manufactures, $100; Value of Animals slaughtered, $60.
Other buildings on the property included a large red English barn with hewn timber frame, an “old” barn, a stone barn, and a pole barn. The red barn was in the form of a classic English barn with a central aisle with two double doors in the center of both sides of the barn. The Boscos related a story that the doors were large enough that a pair of Percheron horses and a hay wagon could be outfitted inside the barn and driven out through the double doors. The large barn was used for housing animals, storage of hay, and threshing. This barn was in poor condition and underwent further deterioration during a storm in 2010 and was removed for safety reasons. An older barn stood on the east side of the old highway behind the house. This barn had deteriorated and was destroyed by hurricane Gloria in 1985. The stone barn was used by the Boscos for processing turkeys and the pole barn was used for raising capons.
During an Environmental Review of the property in 2000, the Office of State Archaeology noted that the area has a high probability of Native American resources. It would be expected to locate a series of small hunting and gathering camps that may date back to as long as 6,000 years ago. These would be camps where Native Americans were utilizing the natural resources of the area especially the area where the brook flows into the Menunketesuck River. Confluences of two water systems were often desirable as campsites for Native American populations. The junction of the two waterways is within Cockaponset State Forest but the Parmelee farm property is in close proximity. An archaeological survey of the property has not been done so the archeological remnants are relatively unknown.
Horace Parmelee died in 1898 and left no last will and testament so that there is no inventory of his estate. The property went to his wife, Eunice, who sold the property to William Kathotka of Manhattan, New York in 1904. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, many of the descendants of the original families left Killingworth for better farmland in the Midwest. The old homesteads were sold to land agents who sold the farms to European immigrants. The Parmelee farm was sold to the Pavelka family in 1906 which continued to farm the property.
In the 1950s, the house was run by the McGraths as a summer resort known as “Farm in the Dell.” There was a pool slightly to the northwest of the house. A lighted shuffleboard court was located just south of the house. A carriage shed was located at the northeast corner of the house. The McGraths converted the shed into four rooms with porcelain sinks and toilets and shower stalls to provide rentable lodging for workers who were employed in the construction of The Connecticut Turnpike (I-95). When the road was completed, they used the building, known as “The Lodges,” to house their guests. The building was demolished in 2007.
Anthony and Maria Bosco purchased the property in 1956 and with Anthony Jr. ran a turkey farm on the property until around 1970. It was known as Bosco’s Turkey Farm and sold turkeys as “Bosco’s Birds of Killingworth, Prime Young Native Turkey.” Tony Bosco Jr., Greg Bosco, and Betty Bosco have related considerable history on the farm which has been recorded by Bruce Dodson. Turkeys were raised to eight weeks in the English barn (which they called the animal barn), then let outside during the day to free range in the area of the Community Gardens. A large addition to the English barn was built for raising turkeys. The 40 x 140 foot pole barn was built and used for raising capons (neutered roosters). There was a grain silo on the southwest end of the pole barn. The stone barn and a cinder block addition were used for processing the turkeys. At its peak, the operation produced 7,500 free range (bronze) turkeys and 6,000 capon chickens each year. The pond southeast of the house was dug around 1964 and stocked with trout and bass. Another pond, now dry part of the year, called the “turkey gut pond” was located southwest of the stone barn along the old highway. A pipe from the stone barn carried residue from the processing of turkeys into this pond.
The Town of Killingworth purchased the house and 131 acres for $670,000 in 2000. The property was named the Parmelee Farm to reflect its historical past. The Killingworth Community Gardens were established in 2008 by Peg Scofield. The gardens provide residents the opportunity to maintain a garden for food production. In 2009, the Board of Selectmen established the Parmelee Farm Steering Committee to develop long-range plans for the use of this unique property. The Steering Committee is currently chaired by Tim Gannon. The Steering Committee supports the continued use by the Killingworth Community Gardens, use of the Parmelee Farmhouse by the Killingworth Historical Society, creation of walking trails, restoration of the farm buildings and hayfields, conducting workshops, and additional projects being discussed and developed on an on-going basis. The Town was awarded a Historic Preservation Technical Assistance Grant from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation to conduct a feasibility study of the farm. The farm received a $150,000 grant under the Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP). The farm has also received assistance from the Killingworth Lions Club and Killingworth Foundation. The Killingworth Land Conservation Trust has established hiking trails on the land under the direction of Bruce Dodson. Painting and repairs to the house were done in 2009. In 2010, a 99 year lease was signed granting use of the house to the Killingworth Historical Society. The Historical Society plans on restoring the interior of the farmhouse and using it to store and exhibit its collections. Also in 2010, The Town of Killingworth obtained the Pine Orchard District schoolhouse built in 1853. The schoolhouse, which stood on Route 148, was dismantled and moved to the Parmelee Farm. After selection of a suitable site, the schoolhouse will be reconstructed and used for community events. Long-range plans also include replacing the barns that have been lost.
In December 2010, a Schematic Landscape Master Plan was prepared for the Parmelee Steering Committee by Thomas J. Elmore of Elmore Design Collaborative, Inc., Historical Landscape Architects. The purpose of this plan is to layout a road map for creating a long-range plan for Parmelee Farm that encourages its use while preserving its heritage. Recommendations are made for improving and developing the Parmelee Farm into an active open space that retains its agricultural heritage, its sense of place, and its scenic beauty while providing opportunities and specific places for the diverse activities identified on the Steering Committee’s List of Priorities.
Bosco Family Farming
Summary of conversation with Tony Bosco, Jr.
Friday, 12/10/10, Brattleboro, VT
Anthony (Sr.) and Maria Bosco raised turkeys in the Mt. Carmel section of Hamden on a 3 acre property and needed a larger farm to expand. They purchased the Parmelee Farm in 1956. Tony (Jr.), then 21, had recently graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in agriculture and was the first to move to the farm. The turkey business was his parents’ and although it was a substantial operation, it was never able to fully support two generations of Boscos.
At its peak the operation produced 7,500 free range (bronze) turkeys and 6,000 capon chickens each year. The birds were raised in two batches. The turkeys were started out in the English/red barn, and chickens were raised in the pole barn. Later on white turkeys were raised. When young, the turkey’s beaks were seared (blunted), to minimize injury from pecking one another, and a right wing joint tendon was cut to prevent them from flying, although they could still get up into trees at night for safety.
Tom turkeys for the restaurant trade weighed as much as 50 pounds, but many of the hens weighed 12 to 16 pounds. At one time the Boscos also had a small breeding operation and kept between 200 and 250 breeding hens to supply fertilized bronze turkey eggs to Gozzi’s Turkey Farm in Guilford. The turkey farm was in operation from 1957 to about 1980, when “western birds” from Ohio and other states could be purchased for 29 cents a pound. Bosco turkeys had sold for 59 to 69 cents a pound.
The Boscos built the 40’ x 140’ pole barn to raise chickens and had a feed silo on a concrete pad on the west end of the building to store pelleted feed. The capons were processed at 6 months of age. Tony had a full-time job but worked as many as 40 hours on weekends when they were processing birds. About 8 people were involved catching birds and processing them. After the birds throats were slit, they were put in an automatic dunking machine which would take 2 toms and 3 hens. A cyclone device removed 99% of the feathers. Tony’s mother Maria Bosco removed the remaining pin feathers. They had an ice machine which would quickly cool the birds. Birds were packed in sealed plastic bags which were shrunk in a heated water bath. They were then frozen and packed in cardboard boxes.
Processing was a major undertaking on weekends and took place initially in a shed attached to the English/red barn, then later in the stone barn and later still in the cinder block addition to the stone barn. Initially, packaged birds were moved to rented freezer space in Wallingford every week; later a freezer was built into the north end of the stone barn. A smaller section of the freezer was a room at the northeast corner of the building which was used for initial chilling.
Water from washing the birds drained into the small pond to the southwest of the stone barn. All solid waste material (feathers and innards), were picked up every Monday by a rendering company which produced animal feed.
Tony owned a milk cow and his mother sold raw milk. He maintained “a subsistence operation” and in addition to the milk cow had sheep, pigs, goats and two beef animals which were butchered on alternating years. The animals were kept in the English/red barn which the family called the animal barn.
[The main part of the red barn, razed in 2010, was in the form of a classic English barn with a central aisle with two double doors in the center of both sides of the barn.] Tony said the mix of materials in the foundation was the work of masons hired to replace the flat stones under the barn which had shifted around. He said the masons dug out a short section of the foundation and rebuilt it, then dug out and rebuilt another section. He said the barn was never moved or jacked up. The foundation and poured floor were added to it where it was standing.
The English barn was the barn in which it is said a team of Percheron horses could be harnessed and driven out with a wagon. The double doors in the north and south sides of the barn are clear in the old photographs. The Boscos built a second floor, covered with plywood, and added the large addition on the east end for turkeys. The large double doors were no longer used after the second floor was built.
The stone barn superstructure (wood above the stone), had deteriorated before the Boscos purchased the property and was completely rebuilt by them in the late 1950s or early 1960s. There were originally three animal stalls or stanchions in the north end of the building. Later, they dug out the floor and installed the poured concrete floor, then the freezer. The shed on the west side of the barn, above the concrete slab, was a compressor shed.
The old barn which stood on the east side of the highway north of the stone barn was in such bad shape when the Boscos purchased the property that it was never used by them. It was destroyed by Hurricane Gloria in 1985. There was a huge summer beam which was about one foot square which was too heavy to move, so it was cut up. Any material which might have been saved from this building would have been stored or used in the English barn.
The pole barn was built in the early 1960s. [The poles supporting the pole barn are pressure treated, four feet deep, on cement pads.] When the pole barn was no longer used for raising chickens, it was rented to a local building restorer who stored beams, woodwork and other materials in the barn. In the end, the restorer failed to pay the rent and some of the material was left behind. Most of the material in the barn in 2010 came from other sites.
The McGraths, who owned the property from 1948 to 1956, told Tony “the lodges”, the building to the immediate northeast of the farmhouse, was originally a carriage house. The McGraths said they converted it into four rooms with porcelain sinks and toilets to provide rentable lodging for workers who were employed in the construction of Route 95 – The Connecticut Turnpike. Three rooms opened to the dooryard behind the house and one room opened towards Route 81. When Route 95 was completed the McGraths created a resort for vacationers called “Farm in the Dell” to provide continued rental income.
Tony has no recollection of a shed or small barn at the end of the driveway, however, after seeing the 1899 photograph of the farmhouse he suggested that the building at the end of the driveway might have been “the lodges”, which might have been moved to the location northeast of the house by the McGraths. The buildings he remembers are the farmhouse, the lodges, garage, the old barn which blew down in the hurricane, the English barn, pole barn and stone barn. He said there were lean-to sheds on the south side of the old barn and English barn. He built a small greenhouse on the south side of the English barn, and a small pen was built on the east side of the stone barn (off the cinder block addition), for turkeys
The farm pond is 10 feet deep, and was excavated when Tony and Betty built their house at 459 Route 81 in 1962 - 1963. Their house was built on ledge, and material was needed to cover the ledge. There was a federal program to help farmers build farm ponds at that time, so the pond was designed and built with federal assistance. It was designed and contracted to be 10 feet deep, and Tony is certain it is no deeper since they encountered a 2 inch spring or water seam when they were digging and pumps had to be brought in so the digging could continue. The pond was never used as a water supply because the well at the house supplied all the water they needed. The pond was stocked with trout, which did not thrive, and later with bass by neighbor Andy Kuczma. The pile of dirt to the north of the pond came from the pond.
The pond along the old highway south of the stone barn was there when the Boscos purchased the property. Tony does not know about the pile of dirt and stones south of the stone barn along the old highway.
Tony said there were two matching maples in front of the house, which Tony called husband and wife trees. He said the husband (north) tree had died. When asked why that one was the husband (and not the wife) tree, he said the husband usually died first… He has no recollection of the house having been painted any color other than red.
Tony rebuilt the kitchen and made all the cabinets by hand. He built out the walls in the upstairs to add insulation. He also built out the walls in the downstairs bathroom and kitchen and insulated those walls, and replaced all the windows upstairs and in his mother’s room and bathroom downstairs. The paneling in the living room was there when the Boscos purchased the property. The second floor door in the back of the house opened onto the small deck on the small back entry which was removed in 2009. Tony thinks it is possible that there might have been outside stairs at one time but does not know.
Tony said the cellar often had water in it and they had a sump pump running a lot of the time. He said there is an old drain, which could be original to the house, which runs from the cellar to the old highway to the northeast. He remembers his mother having to clear it out fairly often. [A similar drain exists in the Broach house northwest of the farmhouse - at 476 Route 81 – also an old Parmelee house.]
There is a black plastic pipe from the house to the pole barn, with a “T” approximately where the old barn (blown down in a hurricane), was located. The “T” took water to the English barn and stone barn. The well in front of the kitchen provided all of the water for the entire farm, and operated with only a ¾ horsepower pump. Tony described this as a “fantastic well” – probably a pounded well. He said the pipe to the barns developed a leak near where the old barn was located. There are turn-off valves underground at the bottom of vertical black plastic pipes at each of the barns [the valves for the English and pole barns have been identified on the west end of both barns].
The two inverted “U” shaped black plastic pipes on the east and north sides of the stone barn are vents for the rock layer below the concrete floor of the stone barn.
The vertical pipe which comes out of the ground on the south side of the stone barn was not there to Tony’s recollection. [This may have been a test pipe for monitoring and may have been installed during the environmental review when the Town purchased the property.]
Tony does not know of any septic tanks or leach fields anywhere on the property other than the system north of the house [which is documented in the Town building records]. The drain from the stone barn is through a black plastic “sewer” pipe to the small pond to the west of the old highway.
The vault to the northeast of the swimming pool was for the pool “mechanicals” (pump, filter, etc.). The Boscos had painted the pool once and intended to fill it but it took too long so they abandoned the idea. Tony said they didn’t have any free time to go swimming anyway.
Tony knows of no underground electrical service or wires.
When asked about possible hazards in the ground or on the property, he pointed out the well on the east side of the old highway on school property [which Greg has identified]. Tony is unaware of the possible foundation site southwest of the well.
The dump site northeast of the farmhouse (on the east side of the old highway) is the only old dump Tony is aware of. He said he’d been asked to let someone dig there for bottles.
A former neighbor to the north stole a lot of stone from the walls along the old highway, as well as the boundary stone wall on the north side of the old road which runs towards Chester. This means that this old road once had walls on both sides [indicating it was probably more than a simple farm or wood road]. Tony said after removing the old boundary wall the former neighbor had his property surveyed and tried to claim ownership of land to the remaining wall on the south side of the road. He said he had the First Selectman come out to talk to the neighbor.
Tony said the woods were selectively timbered in 1957 and again 30 years later by the Rossi Corporation, which manufactures wood pallets. He said the McGraths were going to timber the property before selling it to the Boscos but his father told them that if they did timber the land he wouldn’t buy it - then the Boscos timbered it themselves after buying the property. He said he didn’t spend a lot of time in the woods, but remembers an old mound of charcoal, several feet high and about 8 feet in diameter, which he believed was to the east of the wood road on the Pavelka Trail. [Gary Mala, Superintendent of Schools, said there were two piles of charcoal on the adjacent Pavelka property purchased for the H-K Middles School which were identified by an environmental review and removed during the building of the school.]
[Brackets = observations of the writer.]