Brass City/Grass Roots: Bucks Hill: Waterbury’s Rural Holdout

This article is part of the digital exhibit  Brass City/Grass Roots: The Persistence of Farming in Waterbury, ConnecticutUse the arrows at the bottom of the page to navigate to other parts of the exhibit.


Colored map of Buck's Hill as it appeared in 1932. Different parcels of land are denoted. There is a lake at the bottom right corner. Smaller land parcels are concentrated in the bottom left corner of the map while larger parcels are in the middle to top of the map.

Buck’s Hill, 1932 – Map courtesy of David Perrier, click to enlarge

Although Yankee settlers lived in Buck’s Hill since the early 1700s, in the late 19th century the area was still a thriving agricultural enclave virtually untouched by the industry spreading throughout much of Waterbury. Neighborhood residents belonged to the 4H Club and the Farm Bureau and held 4th of July picnics and other celebrations. Religious life was also contained in the community: the Faber family donated land on which residents built the Bucks Hill Union Chapel and then went down in a buggy to pick up a preacher to preside over services. Children attended a two-room schoolhouse until the middle of the 20th century. In fact, residents had to work hard just a few decades ago to get basic services such as water and sewers into the area. As Ann Dellorfano put it, “We went downtown to city hall all the time. That’s how we got sewers, that’s how we got our schools.” Ironically, the modernization that helped the neighborhood’s farm families also made the area more attractive for the development of suburban-style housing tracts, hastening the decline of the farms and diminishing the community’s rural feel.

Here are stories of some of the farms of the distant and recent past and present that have given the area its character.

My brother went to get manure, and him and his friend, two city boys, went down to Southbury, and the farmer asked them do you want the fresh or the dried manure. They thought they were buying bread! They wanted the fresh one, and they gagged all the way home, dumped it out, and me and my mother had to shovel and spread it. My father enjoyed being out there until he really couldn’t do it anymore, and my mother did, too. When we first moved here, it was in the fall, and the next spring she wanted to make a garden right away and he didn’t want to do it because he didn’t even have the property landscaped. So she walked down to Schmidt’s and Serafine’s [local hardware store], bought a pitchfork, and walked back up the hill with it on her shoulder and started digging.

—Anne Mary Summa

Black and white illustration of a portrait of an older man. He is mostly bald with a bushy mustache and is wearing a three piece suit. Inscribed at the bottom of the image in cursive is "William H. Perkins".

William H. Perkins – Commemorative Biographical Record of New Haven County, 1902, click to enlarge

William H. Perkins was “an enterprising and progressive gentleman farmer of Buck’s Hill” who also owned property in Waterville. His father had been a carpenter and contractor who built a number of prominent Waterbury buildings. Perkins Sr. helped establish the city mill around 1850. It turned the first water wheel in Waterbury that was used specifically for manufacturing. William H. was also a carpenter, but “in 1887, he removed to what is now Perkins avenue, on Buck’s Hill, and turned his attention to the operation of the Holt farm, upon which he has made extensive improvements, including the erection of a fine residence, beautifully located, and supplied with all modern conveniences. He has built an artificial lake which is well stocked with fine fish, and on which he has a pleasure boat. He keeps about twenty head of cattle, to supply the family wants. Fancy dogs and game chickens are bred here with much success, and Mr. Perkins’ Great Dane ‘Grover’ is one of the best dogs in New England. Mr. Perkins is erecting, regardless of expense, extensive chicken barns, completely furnished with numerous incubators.”

Commemorative Biographical Record of New Haven County (Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co., 1902)

William M. Tyler was “one of the most successful and progressive agriculturalists on Buck’s Hill…He devotes considerable attention to fruit growing and dairy farming.” Tyler was born in Middlebury in 1837, where his family had farmed for generations. He settled first in Bunker Hill in 1859, but then took over the “Col. Welton farm” in Buck’s Hill in 1869, “a tract of 140 acres, which he has greatly improved. He is still extensively engaged in the dairy business, and is one of the largest peach growers in the Naugatuck Valley, having over thirty-five acres of land devoted to peaches. He also buys and sells produce.”

Commemorative Biographical Record of New Haven County (Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co., 1902)


George Faber (1826-1916) may have been the first German-born farmer in Waterbury. A tailor’s apprentice in the old country, he came to the US at the age of 17, working on the railroad in Pennsylvania, and as a farm hand in New Jersey and Washington, Connecticut, before coming to Waterbury and working on Hobart Welton’s farm. He married Sarah Frisbie, who was from an old local farming family. While Faber worked in the brass industry for over three decades, “fearing the effect of city life on his sons, he purchased a farm on Buck’s Hill, building thereon a fine residence.”

Commemorative Biographical Record of New Haven County (Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co., 1902)


The pasture up there where the tennis courts are, that’s where the pigpens were. Yeah, and way up where the other tennis courts are up on top, that was all meadows, that was all hay fields up there. You go in and up the parking lot to Wilby High School, all that was hay fields.

—Bill Gagliardi


Most women were listed as having no occupation in the census or as being housekeepers, even when they were landowners, so it is difficult to tell who were farmers. But, Mrs. Hannah Webb is in Waterbury’s 1880 agricultural census, showing that she was actually considered a farmer.

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