In my previous article, Prindle-Goldstein House, I’d cited an account by local historian Mabel P. Stivers of how Dr. Frederick C. Goldstein had donated a Bible once owned by Rev. Richard Mansfield, to the Mansfield House collection.
This past Saturday, I visited the General David Humphreys House, the Derby Historical Society’s museum home in Ansonia, Connecticut, where this very same Bible, along with a number of other artifacts owned by Rev. Mansfield, are on permanent display. [ The Derby Historical Society owned the Mansfield House since the early 1960s, until I acquired it from them last December. ] My good friend Joy Donini spent considerable time with me that afternoon, providing me with a personal tour of all these items, for which I’m incredibly grateful.
Rev. Mansfield’s Bibles, and several prayer books, are currently displayed in a 17th century Bible box, in the “Ansonia Room” (the former North parlor) of the Humphreys House, with a cloth protecting the contents underneath the glass cover from exposure to light:
The table on which the Bible box sits had been donated by Reverend Archibald Romaine Mansfield, D.D., and his sister, Mrs. Mary Mansfield Duffield, to the Mansfield House, most likely following its 1926 restoration:
Inside is the Bible of Rev. Mansfield’s that had been donated to the Mansfield House by Dr. Frederick C. Goldstein. Sukey Philips was the former slave of Rev. Mansfield who had been in possession of the Bible in the later half of the nineteenth century, and had given it to the Goldstein family. In 1926, Dr. Goldstein donated this Bible to the Mansfield House, where it was finally displayed to the public:
Joy held the Bible open so I could take a photo of its pages. Here is the Book of Nehemiah:
[ Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, by the way, and as such, was an early restorer and preservationist of antiquities. Should I take this as some prophetic sign? ]
The Bible box also protects another Mansfield Bible, and two prayer books of the Reverend’s:
A close look at the much worn inside cover, on the left, seems to reveal the year “1798″, inscribed just above the words “his Book”, while the endsheet, on the right, clearly reads “Richard Mansfield’s Book”, in what appears to be the same handwriting:
Are these the inscriptions of Rev. Mansfield himself? Possibly. Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought at the time to inspect the inside cover of the Bible to see if there were any similar inscriptions, but I shall on my next visit.
On the wall just above the Bible hangs a portrait of Rev. Mansfield, as well as a drawing of the First Episcopal Church of Derby, where Rev. Mansfield preached. My guess is this is the same portrait that once hung above the fireplace in the south parlor of the Mansfield House, as described by Mrs. Stivers:
Some time after 1799, the small, single room Episcopal Church, having outlived its usefulness to Derby’s growing Episcopal community, and having been supplanted by a larger building down the road, was moved across the street and attached to the David Humphrey’s house as an extension. The surrounding land later became the Elm Street Cemetery, with Rev. Mansfield and his immediate family being buried at the exact location where Rev. Mansfield’s original pulpit once stood.
Today, the old Episcopal Church serves as the Humphreys House’s museum gift shop. Below is a photo of part of its interior. The far wall is deliberately exposed here, and consists of 2x vertical oak planks, all of large, varying widths. The chalky white, horizontal lines are traces of an old lath and plaster covering that had been fastened directly to the interior sides of the planks.
This so called plank frame style of construction appears to have been very popular in the earliest buildings of the Naugatuck Valley, and according to famed New Haven architect J. Frederick Kelly, was used quite often throughout Connecticut, generally (as opposed to, for example, stud walls with clay and straw infill).
A viewing port on the other side of the wall reveals some of the original exterior clapboards of the old church building:
Another viewing port inside the old church likewise reveals the original exterior clapboards of the Humphreys House:
I don’t know who thought up having dual, opposing viewing ports of both former exterior walls, but I think it’s a pretty novel idea.
Finally, Rev. Mansfield’s old rocking chair also is on display in a corner of the Ansonia room of the David Humphreys House:
An earlier article of mine, Christine of the Mansfield House, shows an old photo that includes this same rocker, right next to the fireplace of the Mansfield House south parlor, while it’s being tended to by a little girl in colonial dress, named Christine Ryan. The photo, taken when the Mansfield House was still a museum, appears in the booklet “A History of Ansonia: Bicentennial-1976″, published by the Derby Historical Society.
Much thanks, once again, to Joy Donini, for taking the time to give me a personal and detailed tour of the Mansfield family artifacts maintained by the Derby Historical Society, as well as imparting to me many of the histories associated with the General David Humphreys House, and its various collections.