Oral History Cover Sheet
Narrator: Lucille Singleton fish
Interviewee: Frank O. Reed
Place of Interview: White hart inn, and her home
Summary of talk: Her marriage and his family background; deserted Lime Rock; her home for 50 years, a workman’s house and the improvement she made, it’s sale; grandson’s work experience, Mr. Block bought her house, house purchases along Old furnace Road, moved a gate house, moved the old house built 1735.; purchases of colonial houses in three states, bought 12-15 houses in township of Salisbury/Lime Rock; Ethan Allen House( 1982 Appleyard lived there); moved the freight station, a park in its place; the Tupper House; sold all brick houses, but must keep colonial feeling; the Reed House behind the Appleyard’s house off Rt. 44; bank’s Christmas spirit; childhood in Florida, train passes on RR; a baseball game and backing up the train 18 miles; after marriage came to Lime Rock, bought first coeducational school in America in Lime Rock, racketeer’s club, fire, copy of it on Belgo Road; her child and grandchildren, husband’s relations; oldest house in Milbrook; Sugar Hill, house next to Ragamont Inn, Institute of Applied Philosophy, and other stories of her adventures.
Date: March 4, 1982
Property of the Oral History Project
The Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library
Salisbury, Conn. 06068
Tape #12 Mrs. Lucille Singleton Fish
FR:Mrs. Lucille Singleton Fish, Mrs. Rutgers Fish of Salisbury. I’m Frank Reed. I’m going to ask her
some questions about how she came to live in Salisbury and Lime Rock, and then get her to tell us something of what she remembers of the first days when she was here. Mrs. Fish, you said that you were married about 1928 in New York City, is that right?
LF:I was married in Scarsdale where my husband lived.
FR:Oh in Scarsdale. That’s where your husband used to live, and he was related to whom?
LF:Hamilton Fish and Stuyvesant Fish. They now live in Middlebrook. He was 28 times
Congressman. Part of that time I entertained them. In the same way they gave the Episcopal Church in Scarsdale, and he’s buried in the churchyard, just where the Fish is. Of course they gave the church. His ancestors came from England. They came to see me just 2 or 3 years ago. The Mayor of Salisbury, England came over and saw my house. I was away, but Mitchell Finlay brought them. I’ve known him since he was a child. My husband’s partner came up here with a broker from Bronxville. He was coming to look a property for a client. The whole town of Lime Rock was a deserted village from the iron company.
FR:Why was that? Was that because of the Depression?
LF:They found an iron substitute, and it was also the Depression. The Manor House sold for
$1,500. I’m sure it’s worth $150,000 now. That’s right across the field from me. My garden looked at this stone tower with gothic archways, and the water falls on the lower bank retained by a stone wall built during the Revolution.
FR:That’s the foundry isn’t it? in Lime Rock?
LF:Yes, and he came back and said, “Oh Lucille, you should have been with me today. I saw a place
you’d love; all along the lower bank willow trees and this stone tower, out of this world.” I said, “I want it.” I picked up the phone and ordered it by telephone without ever seeing it. I got up here and found there was a workman’s house on the grounds. I later moved it across the grounds, raised it up 2 stories, built a stone foundation under it, it had a cellar. I built…I loved it so. I had the blacksmith come and build a French balcony and an outside stairway. I planted wisteria vines, and they covered the whole terrace which was handmade brick. I loved the place and worked on it for 50 years. A lady came by and wanted to buy it, and I didn’t have it for sale. But her son was brought here by a broker, and she sold him the place, Mrs. Titus. He wanted my grandson to work for him, and he wouldn’t leave his job for a year on Long island. Finally he sent him to Chicago. He had a wonderful Samoyed dog, and he boxed the dog. He gave his wife a job. He trained him to be an executive, and he has made millions for his boss. His boss had 3 factories; Chicago, London, and New York.
FR:What is their name?
LF:Block, Richard H. Block
FR:They now have the house that you used to live in, in Lime Rock.2.
LF:They were such beautiful buyers; they didn’t complain. I just let them have it for the first bid
that they made. I had a little gatehouse that I had moved from Ethan Allen Iron Works over here. I made a gate house out of sight of the main house. I bought every house along Old Furnace Road. The men often sold the house and kept the land going to the brook. Salmon Kill brook goes through the grounds and out to the main highway #112. I used to rent the gatehouse for $130 a month, and Mr. Block rents it for $300.
FR:You were telling me about how you moved the old house which was only one story high, and
you built it up on…
LF:Yes, it was all handmadeand beautiful construction.
FR:How old do you supposeit was?
LF:It went back to 1735.
FR:Really, the upper half of Mr. Block’s house is the old pre-revolutionary part.
FR:It is practically almost touching the furnace, the old furnace, is that right?
LF:Yes, I moved it to line it up together, and I kept it. They asked me if I wanted a cupola on the
garage, and I said, “Got to have something for the birds to live in.” It cost me so much to fix it; I have to live on something, fish and birds. I was so busy that I never fished for more than 10 minutes. Mr. Fish wasn’t in the…of the Depression. I bought up a lot of old colonials and turned them over.
FR:Did you really? all in this town?
LF:In three states
FR:Oh 3 states, I see. How many did you buy in Salisbury’s town?
LF:In the township of Lime Rock oh about 12 to 15 houses. I own the house that is on the lake. I
own the houses on Montgomery Street where this house is.
FR:Is that where…?
LF:That’s where Dr. Wieler’s daughter lived. I didn’t know her. Wagner, my lawyer, bought it for
her, Mrs. Fudali. Mrs. Fudali lives on…
FR:Elm Street, around the corner.
LF:She lives in that big house that Fudali owns.
FR:Now the Ethan Allen House is along where the rail road ran through town, isn’t it? off of 3.
LF:When I bought the house, oh I have bought so many houses. Then I owned the house we call
the Ethan Allen House. It was moved and used as a toll gate house. The Appleyards live in it.
FR:Out on Route 44.
LF:I bought that whole Reed estate, and I bought it just to do it over, that little house. It had a
Dutch oven hidden in the wall. I scraped it out, and scraped all of the wood work. I looked through the plaster and saw a beaded board. I wondered what it was doing behind plaster so I took it all off and found the wide wooden boards that made the cheese room in Ethan Allen’s original house on Ethan Allen Street. I bought it and did it over and put in a beautiful front door. I sold it to Dr. Smith.
FR:Did he used to live down there in Lakeville?
FR:He bought the house, but lived up here in Salisbury.
LF:I don’t know if he ever lived in that house or not. I bought the freight station and moved it away
because the house looked at the freight station, and they made a park where the freight station had been tried to use it for a parking lot, and I think they scotched that. Oh Heavens, I bought the Tupper House and the house next door to it on Montgomery Street. (Sharon Road) I have three pictures back there I gave the Ethan Allen House on 100, no, it’s on the main road to Millerton. I sold all the brick houses, what’s the name of that man? He’s in St. Thomas now; I forget his name-DeGangee. I sold those brick houses, and I told them they had to keep them colonial in feeling. The Reed House up on the hill that was bought.
FR:Which is the Reed House? On which hill?
LF:In back of the Appleyard house.
FR:Oh yes, I know off route 44.1 don’t believe that was my Reeds, was it?
LF:I don’t think so.
FR:My Reeds are Johnny come lately; they came here in 1939. But you had been here for 10 years
maybe before that?
LF:I never know those years.
FR:You said about 50 years you’d been here, that’s about 1932.
LC:Christmas time came and the banker, I congratulated him on having the Christmas spirit. I said,
“You’ve got red letters on my statement.” He said, “Mrs. Fish that’s when you didn’t meet your checks.”
“\Ne knew you’d be in, so we just credited your account.” That’s all I know about figures. It’s awful, but I could sit down at a title closing and tell 12 lawyers what to do.4.
FR:Good for you.
LF:1 don’t know why.
FR:How long did you live in Lime Rock in the house there by the furnace?
LF:50 years, oh my goodness.
LF:I had the same house all my life in Florida.
FR:Were you born in Florida?
LF:Yes, I happened to be one of ten. Two of us were born while my mother was taking a trip from
New Orleans to Florida. My father’s father’s sister was …into Florida before the railroad. We gave a mile and a half through an orange grove so Flagler could put his train down to Miami. He said he’d give us passes all our lives. My father was as business-like as nobody, and he never got it in writing, and they never gave us a pass.
FR:Oh, what a shame.
LF:Well, I made them back up the Key West Limited 18 miles to let me off at my station. I was only
16 years old. I have a very ….
LF:The man that builds Felsmere, Florida builds here in the …in Chicago. They were playing
baseball, and we went to the baseball game. They were going back to Felsmere, and they said, “Come on, you get off at Rock Ledge near your home. It’s only 4 miles and come with us on the train.” So we bought tickets, got on the train and went breezing through our station. I called the conductor, and he said, “We don’t stop there.” I said, “My ticket reads there; I’m a minor, you’re responsible to put me off.” “I have no responsibility; I am only one of 18 coaches. I can’t take any responsibility.” I said, “Well, who does?” He said, “The head Conductor”. I said,” Well, where is he?” “He’s two coaches up ahead.” I had to walk up the ….I walked those 13 coaches. My father had always said, “Always go to the top.” So I went to the Head Conductor and I said, “You come back here and talk to this conductor. You’ve gone past my station; you’re miles passed it. I get off at the Rock Ledge Station.” He came back and they looked at each other over my head, sort of winked and they stopped the train, and it was 18 miles south. I said,” Do you think two young ladies are going to walk the tracks 18 miles with dusk coming on?” A dead silence. You know we never went alone in an orange grove even. I said, “I’m not getting off this train; you’ll back it up and letting me off at the Rock Ledge Station. How would this receipt or ticket look in a court room? My father is a friend of the Attorney General of the railroad. What are you going to do about it?” They gave each other a wise look and they began to back the train up. They got to the
Rock Ledge Station and I pulled my friend off. The baseball crowd wanted us to go on down and spend the night and go to a dance with them, but I couldn’t do that. We got off the train and waved to them, and heads turned to look in all of the 18 coaches wondering what we were doing backing up the Key West Limited. We waved goodbye.
FR:That’s before you met Mr. Fish.
FR:You were only 16.
LF:I was only 16, andIhad on high little French heels. We weren’t dress to…
FR:Walking down the railroad tracks.
LF:Well, anyway women in Florida don’t walk along the railroad tracks. We had come a mile and a
half through our orange grove on the fifty foot right of way. You back me up, and they did. I had a sister, Caston Weeks’ mother, living just 40 miles below, but I wouldn’t tell them. I could have gone down there and spent the night, but they were so rude. A year later, going through Jacksonville, a man plucked my sleeve going through the gate. He said, “Aren’t you the young lady made us back the train 18 miles?” I said, “Yes, I hope it taught you some manners. I have a sister that I could have spent the night with, if you had been polite enough to say you’d telegram my father. I wouldn’t do it. I hope it taught you a lesson.” He said, “We were suspended 60 days.”
FR:Now let’s get back to the town of Salisbury. I am very much interested in this Flagler story, but I
also want to know about your living up here. You had been married how long when you came to Salisbury to live?
LF:Oh, just a year or two, we had a home in Scarsdale.
FR:Did you keep that home even after you built?
LF:Mr. Fish lost that home. He lost everything. It saved our lives to have this place to come to with
low overhead. It was so lovely to me living there, and I began to rent a little house and buy other houses and live in them until they sold. I bought the first coeducational school in America there in Lime Rock. It’s the one with the big gallery across; as you go up the hill in Lime Rock, you come to a post office, it’s just a …now it’s owned by an Italian woman. It had apartments in it; then Jack Leve bought it, and put in a racketeer’s night club. I said to him, “You’re not going to make a cent. You’re selling big steaks, and people have to be so old they can’t chew to come to your place. You want to serve fillet mignons.” He just laughed at me, but he failed. He set it on fire to get the insurance, and burned six rooms off the back. It has fireplaces and Dutch ovens. You know O’Neil that writes for the paper, his
parents copied it up on Belgo Road. I sold them the biggest house in Lakeville overlooking the lake, Hugh O’Neil and Richard O’Neil. They lived in that house, and so they copied it.6.
FR:Were your children born here in Salisbury?
LF:I only had one child.
FR:One child, was that a son?
FR:Oh, your daughter had two sons and a daughter, and it was one of her sons that is the grandson
that you said was in Chicago.
FR:Working for him, very nice. Your daughter was born here in Salisbury, was she?
LF:No, she was born in White Plains. The worst case in the history of the hospital; the doctors told
me not to have any more children, they wouldn’t be responsible. I had her during that flu epidemic. All the nurses were gone, and they got a nurse who had been excommunicated from every nursing place in Scarsdale. She was a paranoid. She let me stay three days, and she put her foot against the door, and told the doctor I was doing fine, when I’d be suffering so that I was biting my pillow to keep from screaming. I didn’t know; I had never held a baby in my life. I felt all mothers had to go through that. I have a …pelvis, and I went to the woman doctor that treats birth control, and could send me to doctors who could tell me what to do; never again.
FR:But your daughter survived, and so did you. Was your daughter married here in Salisbury?
FR:She grew up here though, didn’t she?
LF:Yes, she was married in the little church in Lime Rock. One of our ancestors married the
daughter of the architect of that church.
LF:Yes, married by a Fish. Major Parkham, Parkham Road in Scarsdale is the main road. That’s
named after his mother’s family. Major Parkham, Parkham Beech Lane is one of the towns that came over here early. They owned half a dozen historical old houses. They owned the hotel there. They owned the whole block down by the station. Old Mr. Fish was so charming; I told him I married him to get next to his father. He was so charming; he was like a Southern Colonel. He had a Van Dyke. He could walk in any bank, given any amount of money, just signed. He was loved and when the firm got so big, he couldn’t handle the … of the saleroom. He was killed by a train in Scarsdale.
FR:What was his name?
LF:Cornelius Varian Fish.7.
FR:Was he an uncle of Stuyvesant Fish and Hamilton Fish?
LF:Yes, they are all related. I never saw them; they were politicians, and didn’t have my politics. He
married at age 85 for the second time. His son is Senator now in New York.
FR:Who is this that married at 85 your father-in-law?
FR:Oh, Hamilton Fish married at 85.
LF:I bought the oldest house in Millbrook, and didn’t know then they hadn’t….Millbrook was named
for the house I bought. It had fireplacesit had 15 acres and the brook that Millbrook is named for. On a back road was an estate left to the Fishes by Queen Anne. It’s still there, I guess. I never….
FR:My mother and father moved here in 1939.
LF:Oh, I didn’t know that.
FR:You were already here; you had been here for maybe ten years. Something like that. You said
you were married the year before the Depression started. That started with the big crash in Wall Street in 1929, so you must have been married about 1928. Then you moved up here. As you think back over the time you have lived here in the town of Salisbury, you were here before the Lime Rock Race Track (1950’s) was started, weren’t you?
FR:You were protected from it by the hill so you didn’t hear the noise, but what are the things that
happened in the 50 years that you have owned property in Lime Rock and here that you think of as the most interesting things that happened in Salisbury?
LF:On Sugar Hill I owned several houses in Salisbury town ship, and I sold them all. I sold to Mr.
LaFoss from Wall Street the Fitch house in…, and his wife died shortly after he bought, and his children went to Indian Mountain School and lived in the house. It was….then. I tried to get it for sale again, but they wouldn’t sell it. I sold to Mrs. Sherwood the house next to the Ragamont Inn. Susan Ayers owns our house now. I sold so many prominent people that settled this country. I am not prejudice but I never would sell to Jewish people. Then they began buying all these estates. I sold one woman … the Shah, an estate over in Norfolk, and sold her hill on Wells Hill first and then sold her up here in Twin Lakes. She thinks I am wonderful because I sold her a house, and she sold the furniture for what she paid for the whole house. It was next to Mulville’s in Norfolk; next to his home.
FR:Is that the same Mulville that has the plant here; I mean the company here is Salisbury?
FR.You were here when the railroad was still running through Salisbury, weren’t you? 8.
FR:It didn’t gothough Lime Rock did it?
FR:But it came thought right past where we live now. (next to the library on Library Street)
LF:It went to Canaan and went thorough one … I sold one place and 6 ladies bought it. Imagine 6
ladies buying one place. It was called the Institute of…
FR:Of World Affairs?
LF:No, the Institute of Applied Philosophy. They asked me to name the place, and we walked the
railroad tracks in the heat of the day. I said, “We’ll call it ‘Broken Arches’.” It had stone archways. They nearly died. Anyway they bought it, and they raised kittens. This is their philosophy; they petted some kittens and they ignored other kittens. They had a ….made; just a cult. The man that bought the place, it was very where they had a park for…. The son of the woman running that cult bought the place, and he was batty too. He put a sign up he’d shoot anybody that came in his road. Well, I went sailing in there, and nobody shot me. It’s a wonder I wasn’t shot. I sold all those places from the Sharon clock going to Cornwall Bridge. They were all deserted, and Roosevelt stated that business. I’d take an iron pipe and put it up my sleeve, and drive in. They had police dogs that would come out and attack me, try to and I’d jump in the car. One man, I drove the car right up on the porch. I said, “I’ll knock your whole house down.” He was renting. He didn’t want me to see bootleg liquor that was hidden in the cellar. I wasn’t afraid of anybody. Why I wasn’t shot, I don’t know. One lady came out with a butch knife; she lived in theVan Row… and I stayed in the car and turned around and left. All those places are fixed up now. This was a 200 acre place.
FR:Which is that?
LF:It was a place that was turned into a kennels; 200 acres on the road from Sharon to Cornwall
FR:Oh, route 4?
LF:Yes. I have letters that were written so long ago, they don’t have stamps. They have some
written. I’ve got newspapers, too. Let me get you a cup of coffee.