The Five Davis Brothers: Somers Mountain in its Heyday
Daniel Davis, Jr. (1803-1877) and his four brothers, Alden, Spencer, David, and Noah formed the nucleus of the Davis Clan on Somers Mountain in the 1840's. During the 1820's and 1830's, four farmhouses were built by Deacon Daniel and the family for four of Daniel's five sons (David lived in his father's house) to accomodate the needs of their growing families.
Daniel Jr.'s farm, the only brick structure, was built in 1829 in Somers, about a mile west of his father's farm. It would be home for five generations of the Davis family. When Deacon Daniel died in 1847, operation of the Davis family businesses fell to his sons. Most of the work seems to have been carried on by Alden, Noah, and Spencer. David and Daniel primarily tended their farms. In 1832, Daniel married Marcia Case of Somers. Daniel and Marcia had four children: Emeline, Daniel Marcius (known as Marcius), Merritt Adorno, and Marcia Ellen (known as Ellen or Nell). Daniel's handicap didn't seem to slow him down much. He continued to work his 100 acres in Somers, getting around with canes, crutches, and a custom designed wooden leg.
Daniel's leg was truly an engineering marvel for its time. The leg attached to his thigh with a leather sleeve that was held tight to his thigh with lacings. The bottom portion was a sturdy peg, designed to support his weight. Since he had lost his knee when his leg was amputated, the prosthesis provided one for him. It had a button that when pushed, unlocked its knee joint allowing Daniel to sit naturally. Judging by the size of the leg, Daniel was a hefty man, probably about 6'1" tall.
Tragedy seemed to haunt Daniel during his entire life. In addition to the accident and the amputation (with the only anesthetic likely to have been a good quantity of Davis brandy), his wife Marcia died in 1852, leaving him with the four children. His daughter Emeline also died at the young age of 20, the following year. His leg troubled him throughout his life, and left him in constant pain. In a letter dated January 1, 1857 to his son Marcius away at boarding school in Springfield, he wrote, "I have not got the woodpile all sawed up yet. I work it up as fast as we want to burn it [but] my leg troubbles me a a good deal this winter. There is some loose bone that I have got to cut out before many days."
Daniel's difficulties seem to have drawn him away from the church in which his father had been so deeply involved. We know that he was present in 1854 when the 2nd Congregational Church meeting house was lifted from its foundation and moved down the hill to the center of West Stafford, but involvement in church affairs seems largely to have fallen to his brother Alden, who, like his father, became a deacon. Daniel may have found some consolation in his later years when he remarried a few years after the death of his first wife. Parmelia Sexton became his second wife and helped him take care of domestic duties at the farm. His son Noah's wife Caroline also helped out when she could. Much of the history you are now reading was a result of Parmelia's interest and research in her husband's family history. Daniel died in 1877 and was buried in the Somers North Cemetery, curiously, without his wooden leg which remains in the family as an heirloom. When Daniel died, control of his farm fell to Merritt. Marcius stayed in Springfield after his education, where he bought a home and became a cabinetmaker for the Wason Manufacturing Company.
Merritt Adorno Davis (1841-1918) was the second son of Daniel and Marcia Davis. As his brother Marcius had left the farm to pursue a career in woodworking, Merritt stayed on the farm, working along with his father. In September 1862, Merritt and his cousins Edwin, Albert, and Henry were working to clear the site for a pond just northeast of his father's farm in Somers. The pond, still serene and beautiful, was at the base of Perkin's Mountain. Known by a myriad of names, (Hi-Pease Pond, Hurd's Lake, Lake Aya-Po, the Girls' Camp Pond) Daniel originally called it Mountain Mirror. Here, the hard winters were tempered with the best ice skating on Somers Mountain.
As the boys worked that day, a Union Army recruiter happened along and convinced the boys to sign on to fight for the Union in the Rebellion. They all enlisted together, calling themselves "The Mountain Boys." They were ready for adventure and were determined to make a few Rebels unhappy along the way. The boys traveled to Tolland where they joined Company K, 22nd Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. After electing officers, they were off to Hartford to be mustered into service on September 20th. After two weeks of basic training, Merritt and the boys headed to Virginia. In December, Company K was ordered to Fredericksburg, but their orders were changed at the last minute. This stroke of luck may well have saved Merritt's life, as the fighting there was terrible, with heavy Union losses in a lopsided Confederate victory. Merritt and his cousins never saw much action until the spring of 1863, when they engaged the Rebels along the York River in Suffolk, Virginia. All the Davis boys were unharmed in the fighting. Merritt's tour of duty ended in the summer of 1863.
When Daniel died in 1877, control of the farm fell to Merritt, but his step-mother Parmelia remained a strong influence for many years. Merritt always felt that he had been short-changed when Parmelia was willed a significant interest in the farm by his father. However, after his father's death, Merritt managed to get Parmelia to sign a quit claim deed giving up her share of the farm. Merritt in turn promised that he would care for her for the rest of her years. But to Merritt, this was not a fair exchange; he was determined to make Parmelia's remaining days on the farm as miserable as possible. He is reputed to have made it clear that he'd be a happy man when she died. All of his pent up anger didn't endear Merritt to his family and friends. Marcius used to come to the Davis District regularly to visit. He'd make the rounds and reluctantly tell people that he supposed he had to drop by and say hello to Merritt before he returned home to Springfield. When Parmelia eventually passed away in 1907, Merritt's final years may have become a bit more cheerful. Merritt died in 1918 and was buried in the Somers North Cemetery alongside his wife Rodelia, who had passed away several years earlier.
There was some doubt about Merritt's final spiritual resting place as recently as 1975. In the 1960's and 1970's, visitors to the farm reported experiencing a variety of supernatural occurrences. These included lights turning on and off, hearing footsteps and other noises, and smelling strange odors, like burnt sulfur. Connecticut's renowned ghost-hunters, Ed and Lorraine Warren, were called in to investigate. They concluded that two spirits, one an elderly woman and one an angry man, somewhat younger, were roaming the etherial plane at the farm. Whether these were Parmelia and Merritt, forever at each other's throats, we'll never know, but it makes for an interesting ghost story!
Next: The Decline of the farm on Mountain Road