Anne Tripp Hopkins
The Manchester Family
Abraham Manchester was my great-great uncle. He had an older sister named Lydia Maria, and he had two younger sisters, Sarah Elizabeth and Deborah Taber. The two younger sisters were well-known in the town as Debbie worked in the store with Abe and Lizzie kept house for her sister and cooked meals for Abe. The oldest sister, who was my great-grandmother, married Stafford Andrew Wheeler and they moved to Brooklyn, New York.
Lydia Maria and Stafford Andrew Wheeler had two children, my grandmother, Agema Villette Wheeler and Philip Manchester Wheeler, my great-uncle. Then very sadly, Lydia Maria and her husband died of consumption leaving my grandmother and my great-uncle orphans. From then on they were brought up half of the year in Brooklyn, New York by a Wheeler relative, and they came to Adamsville for six months of the year and lived with Debbie and Lizzie. They had a hard life. The Manchesters were well to do, and so were the Wheelers in Brooklyn, so they were fine that way, but emotionally, I think they felt that they didn’t belong in either place.
When Abraham was six years old Ebenezer Church owned the store and lived in it. He invited little Abraham to stay with him there. His parents gave permission so off he went, and from the time he was six years old, he lived in that store. When you think that it was cold, there was no central heating, and there was no plumbing. There was no kitchen. He went down the street for meals with his family. It seems very strange. They did things differently in those days. It’s just something you’d never think of letting a child do today.
Debbie died the year I was born, but I do remember Lizzie. She was quite a character. She dressed like a man with a shirt and bow tie or neck tie and had a man’s haircut. I would drop in to see her after school, and she would always get a brand new one dollar bill out of her pocketbook for me and tell me to spend it. I always put it into savings stamps because World War II was on, and we put everything into the war effort.
Aunt Debbie had diabetes and lost a leg. They put a little glass porch on the front of their house so that she could visit with the neighbors as they passed by. The porch is still there on their cute little white house with the gingerbread.
The Ball Field
Debbie did something wonderful for Adamsville in that she gave the land for the ball field to the town. It is in memory of Debbie’s nephew, Philip Manchester Wheeler, and Stafford Andrew Wheeler, her great-nephew. The latter was killed in World War II.
My story starts in 1919 when my grandfather, Philip Tripp, bought the land that became Bojuma Farm. He named it for his three children: Borden (Bo) Judy and Mary. After college my father and mother went to New York City where my father had a job in advertising. He soon lost it due to the Depression so they decided to leave the city and move to Westport where they had this family land. My parents lived at the farm for a while, and in 1939 the adjacent farm became available, and my father bought that. That is where I grew up and still own a house. The farm was quite large, employed ten people at its busiest and produced dairy products and poultry.
The building itself was built in 1820 by Ebenezer Church, and he took on Philip Manchester in 1836 when Philip was sixteen. Then Philip’s son, Abraham, began working as soon as he was old enough. Abraham basically spent the rest of his life there. He had been educated at the Friends’ School in Providence. When Abraham died in 1919 his sister Debbie helped some, and then my great-uncle, Philip Wheeler took over the store, and he ran it until he died in 1945. At that point, my parents, Alice and Borden Tripp, said to themselves, “We really can’t let this go out of the family,” so my parents bought it and ran it until 1961.
Of course, it was never much of a money-maker. My parents were sort of unusual. My father had graduated from Harvard and my mother from Wellesley. One might think it funny that they wanted to run this old village store, but they loved the country life.
When my parents bought it in 1945 Abraham’s bedroom was still intact on the second floor. I can remember seeing the single bed and framed items on the walls, documents showing his appointment as postmaster.
After my parents owned it for a while they made a big change to the building. On the west side of the store there was a carriage shed with a big room above it that had been a sail loft. That was where my great-great grandparents, Philip and Sarah Manchester met stitching sails. In the early fifties that was moved over and attached to the store. After the sixties, when Manchester’s became a restaurant, that became the bar. I spent a lot of time in the store because I was too young to be home alone. I was fascinated by all the characters who came by to chat with my father and George Carr. They didn’t seem to buy very much, but there were a lot of colorful and humorous stories.
Based on an oral history interview with Anne Tripp Hopkins.
First published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society, 2013.