History of Ownership of the David Field House
623 Green Hill Road
owned the house c. 1722- 1770
In 1697 David Field, son of Ebenezer Field and Mary Dudley, was born in East Guilford, Connecticut, possibly in a house built by his father “60 rods northwesterly” of the town green. In 1706 Ebenezer moved his family to a site probably on Green Hill Road. In 1720 David Field married Ann Bishop, and, probably soon after their marriage, he built the house at 623 Green Hill Road, exactly three miles from the town green. The couple had four children before Ann died about 1731. Soon after Ann’s death David married Catherine Bishop, who gave birth to three more children before her death sometime around 1740. David married his third wife, the widow Abigail (Tyler) Stone, in 1742. Together they had four more children. In all, David had eleven children; five were girls, and six were boys.
On June 20, 1747, David was appointed “Ensign of the 6th company of the 7th Regiment of His Majesty’s Colony of Connecticut.” He was “a man of great uprightness, of the strictest of integrity, and of devout piety. He was the owner of large tracts of land in Madison and Killingworth.” Part of the inventory of David’s estate included a “Sabbath Day House” where the Field family could enjoy a warm place to have a meal between the morning and afternoon services at the meetinghouse on the town green.
owned the house 1770-1776
David Field died in 1770, and the house was distributed to his son, Ebenezer Field, with widow’s rights to his wife, Abigail. Ebenezer was born in 1736, the seventh child of David. His mother was David’s second wife, Catherine Bishop.
In 1756, Ebenezer married Rachel Scranton, and the couple had seven children, two of whom died young. Ebenezer and his family were living in the David Field house when his father David died. Although Ebenezer inherited the house, his stepmother Abigail had the dower right to occupy one third of the house for the rest of her life. Only six years after inheriting the house, Ebenezer died in 1776 in the Revolutionary War. Possibly his wife, Rachel, and his stepmother continued to live in the house.
owned the house 1776-1810
Although no documentation has been found at this time, the property seems to have passed to Ebenezer’s brother, Timothy Field. Timothy, born in 1744, was the youngest son of David Field and his third wife, Abigail (Tyler) Stone. He married Ann Dudley in 1767, and they had seven children who lived to adulthood. In 1776 Timothy joined the 7th Regiment and served under Washington in the defense of New York Island. He was later captain of a coast guard vessel and defended the area from a raid by Tories on June 17, 1781. It is said that Captain Timothy Field was present at President Washington’s inauguration. “Captain Field was a fine specimen of the old Continentals who united the character of the farmer with that of the soldier. The older inhabitants of the town recall his striking figure. One who says ‘he can see him now’ describes him as a large, broad breasted, well-built man. Even while engaged in peaceful pursuits he kept up the military style of dress of other days. He always wore a cocked hat, short breeches, long stockings and bright silver shoe buckles, and I never saw him, either on the farm or abroad, that he was not dressed in this manner.”
Luther and Mina Doud
owned the house 1810-1843
Luther Doud, born in 1771, was the son of Ebenezer and Tamsen Wilcox. In 1793 he married Mina Field, a daughter of Timothy Field. Luther and Mina originally settled in Saybrook where all but two or three of their eleven children were probably born. However, in 1810, the Douds moved back into Mina’s family home when Luther bought the house from his father-in-law, giving a lifetime lease to Timothy and Ann for one-half the house. At this time, Timothy was about 66 years of age and perhaps needed some help on the farm. Adjoining the property to the north lived another Field daughter, Lois, who had married Elijah Wilcox. Farming the large adjoining properties must have taken many hands; the numerous children of Luther and Mina (as well as the eleven children of Lois and Elijah Wilcox) were probably a tremendous help to Timothy.
Timothy Field died in 1817, and his wife Ann died a year later. At this time Luther and Mina Doud became sole possessors of the house and property. Unfortunately, Luther died only a few years later in 1820. Mina was left a widow at age forty-seven with children age five to twenty-six. Luther’s estate was not divided until Mina died in 1843; the probate court, at that time, took charge of distributing the property, which was divided between eleven children.
Julius N. Doud
owned the house 1844-1858
Julius N. Doud, the second son of Luther and Mina Doud, purchased the house and land from his brothers and sisters. Luther was born in 1800 and married Eliza P. Wilcox in 1831. Unfortunately, Eliza died the following year, probably in relation to the birth of their daughter, Ann Eliza. In 1837 Julius married Mary Ann Munson; they had one daughter, Grace Victoria. The family lived in the house and farmed the land until 1858 when the property was sold to Henry Rolfe. Up until the time of the Rolfe purchase, the house had been owned by the Field family for 138 years before it was sold out of the family.
owned the house 1858-1888
Henry Rolfe and his wife Sarah, both born in England in 1823, arrived at the port of New York City on April 18, 1850, with their three-year-old son, George. Henry was listed as a “bricklayer,” as were two other men traveling with them. Why they came to Madison, Connecticut, three years later is not known, but it is known that in 1853 Henry Rolfe bought a house near the Woods District School. He sold this house on the same day in 1858 when he bought the Field homestead. It is said that the old Field house was very much dilapidated when it was purchased by Henry Rolfe, but, with his masonry skills, Henry made many “repairs,” which included closing the fireplaces. He also divided some rooms by adding partitions to them.
One old story relates that, while sitting down to their midday meal on May 20, 1881, the Rolfe family was surprised by four distinguished visitors, the “Field Brothers.” The brothers were famous nationwide, and the people of Madison were full of pride for these men who had roots in their hometown. David Dudley Field, Jr., was known across the nation as an eminent lawyer of New York City; Cyrus West Field was internationally famed for laying the Atlantic Cable; Rev. Henry M. Field was the editor and proprietor of the New York Evangelist and an extensive traveler and author; and Stephen J. Field was a lawyer and judge of the Superior Court of California and later was appointed associate judge of the Supreme Court of the United States by Abraham Lincoln. The brothers were paying an unannounced visit to the house on the 100th anniversary of the birth of their father, Rev. David Dudley Field. When the brothers left town that May, they gave the Rolfe family a check, along with orders that the old family homestead be painted. The story of the visit was, of course, recorded in local newspapers.
Rev. William D. Mossman
owned the house 1888-1916
The house was purchased in 1888 by a New Haven “missionary minister,” Rev. William D. Mossman. Mossman was born in Massachusetts; his wife Josephine, the daughter of a physician, was born and raised in Kentucky. The couple had three daughters and lived comfortably in New Haven in the winter and summered at the Field House in Madison. The house was especially enjoyed by the Mossman daughters, who loved to ride horses and have adventures with other girls of their age who came to Madison in the summer. Mrs. Mossman, too, enjoyed the house and her flower garden in the yard.
owned the house 1916-1922
In 1916, a few years before his death, Rev. William Mossman gave the house and grounds to his daughter Eva, who was an avid horsewoman. A few years later Eva married Louis Stanton, and the couple built a home on Lover’s Lane in Madison. Most likely, Eva’s mother and Eva’s sister Grace lived in the old house on Green Hill Road. Sadly, only a short time after her marriage, Eva was killed in a horse riding accident. The courts divided her estate and gave the house on Green Hill Road to her mother, Josephine Mossman.
owned the house 1922- 1928
Josephine held title of the house until her death on January 23, 1928. Her only living heir was her daughter, Grace Louise Mossman.
Grace Louise Mossman
owned the house 1928-1949
Grace Mossman was a lover of animals and a great horsewoman. She, at one time, raised Jersey cows on the farm. It is said that she suffered an injury from a horse accident, which left her partially deaf. A talented artist, she enjoyed doing works in watercolor of her Madison friends. During her later years of life, she lived at the house on Lover’s Lane once owned by her sister Eva and probably rented out the house on Green Hill Road.
Julia P. A. Belknap
owned the house 1949-1967
In 1949 the Field homestead once again came into the ownership of a member of the Field family when Mrs. Julia P.A. Belknap, wife of Rear Admiral Andrew R. (Mack) Belknap, purchased the house. The couple had been renting the house as a summer home since 1937 and established permanent residency there when they bought the house. The Belknaps felt a great connection with the Field family and had also owned a house that had once been owned by Rev. David Dudley Field in Massachusetts. Admiral Belknap was somewhat of a carpenter and enjoyed restoring the house to its “original” character. They were the first owners to pipe water into the house.
Ivan and Evelina Kats
owned the house 1967-1977
The Kats family was living in Clinton, Connecticut, when they decided to purchase the Field House from the Belknaps. Ivan was an Associate at the Center for Southeast Asia Studies at Yale. The couple and their four boys were delighted with the house and its history. They were known to have generously opened the house for tours.
Lucinda R. Gray
owned the house 1977-2003
Born and raised in Madisonville, Kentucky, Lucinda attended Bennington College and Vanderbilt University before settling in Connecticut. A talented artist and a skilled horsewoman, she also loved gardening, reading, writing, and traveling. She married Erik Redlich; they had one daughter, Elizabeth, who gave them several grandchildren.
owned the house 2003-2007
Dr. Michael Montanaro of Easton, Connecticut, purchased the house and property with the idea of demolishing the house and subdividing the property into lots on which would stand four or five very large homes. Hoping to take advantage of the tax deduction, Dr. Montanaro contacted the Madison Fire Department on several occasions, offering to give them the house to burn for a structure fire drill. The Fire Department, however, refused to burn the house, knowing that it was a local treasure beloved by many Madison citizens.
After a time, the plan to develop the property failed to materialize, and Dr. Montanaro considered dividing the property as subdivided lots.
John and Diana Herzog
owned the house 2007- 2009
Fortunately, the house was purchased by John and Diana Herzog, residents of Brooklyn Heights, New York, and Madison. (In 1994, the Herzogs purchased and restored an early twentieth-century house on Middle Beach Road.) For some time, the Herzogs had made efforts to purchase the Field House, but Dr. Montanaro was unwilling to sell the property until it was clear that his plans for development failed. Finally, in the summer of 2007, a deal was struck. The Herzogs were able to purchase the house with the entire nine acres of property. Their preservation of this historic home culminated in its complete renovation in 2008. Gulick and Spradlin, a local firm noted for careful and sensitive historic restorations, completed the work with thorough attention to detail. John and Diana Herzog received the Madison Historical Society 2008 Award for Historic Preservation for their work to save this and other endangered houses in Madison.
Stephanie Lesnik and Stephen Bartus
owned the house from 2009 to the present
With imagination, willpower, and hard work, Stephanie Lesnik and her family have transformed the Field House not just into their home but into a working farm, a public education center, and an events venue. Field House Farm utilizes the grounds of the 1720 farmhouse for a sustainable farm operation consisting of a large produce garden, chickens, heritage turkeys, Shetland and Hampshire sheep, Alpine goats, pigs, and other creatures. Practicing humane and responsible farming and animal care practices, Field House Farm offers USDA processed poultry and pork products and maintains a Farmer’s Pledge status with the Northeast Organic Farming Association. Classes for children and adults keep the place lively, and many Madison families enjoy shares in its community-supported agriculture program. Most importantly, the farmhouse and its outbuildings, pastures, and fields are now beautifullypreserved and responsibly stewarded.
Credit: This history was researched and written by Lynn Friedman, chair of the MHS Historic Preservation Committee. It was last reviewed and updated in June 2016.