Over the next 18 months Milford LIVE will be presenting a virtual record of Milford’s Mispillion Greenway Walking Trail and Tour. The two trails create a connection between city parks, natural areas, historical sites, cultural centers and open spaces. Each month we will present our readers with one location on these trails to promote health and fitness while showcasing our town’s rich history.
By Terry Rogers
When walking through the town of Milford, it is easy to get a feel for how life may have been for the early settlers of the town. Many of the houses and buildings that line the main streets of the town were built during the heyday of the shipbuilding era that made the town what it is today. When many of these buildings were built, homes doubled as businesses as merchants lived in one section of the home and ran stores and banks from another section.
One such home is the Lofland/Abbott-Browning House, located at 115 NW Front Street. The home, which was built around 1810, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and is still in pristine condition. The home underwent renovations some years ago and still shows the style of when it was originally designed and built.
According to Milford Historian David Kenton as published in his book “Images of America: Milford”, the home was built by Purnell Lofland for his son, Dr. James P. Lofland. Dr. Lofland was a beloved physician in the town of Milford, who died at an early age in 1851. His son, James Rush Lofland, a lawyer and politician, lived in the home after his father’s death. Born November 2, 1823 to John and Mary A. Lowber Lofland, James Rush Lofland graduated from Delaware College, now known as the University of Delaware in 1845 and admitted to the bar after studying law in 1848. He became Secretary of State in 1849, a paymaster in the United States Army from 1863 to 1867 and a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1872. In 1874, he was elected to the 43rd Congress, where he served from 1873 to 1875. John Rush Lofland had two brothers, Mark Grier and Peter Lofland, and a sister, Mary Grier Lofland.
On May 27, 1852, James Rush Lofland married Sallie Brown, and together they had three children, Sally Ann, Josephine and Charles. Upon James’ death in 1894, the home was sold to Sylvester John Abbott, a merchant and banker in Milford for many years.
Sylvester Abbott was born March 23, 1852, the son of William Wilson Abbott and Mary Catherine Purnell. He married Rosalie M. Hobart in 1887, and they had two daughters, Mary Pauline and Rosalie. On the 1900 census, Mr. Abbott was listed as a clothing merchant. He, along with his family, lived with Mary Townsend, a domestic servant and their neighbors were Isaac Truitt, a bank clerk, and Mary Welch, a shoemaker.
In 1910, Mr. Abbott was listed as the Deputy Auditor for the U.S. Treasury and Pauline and Rosalie were still living at home. However, in 1914, Mary Pauline Abbott married Professor Richard Mortimer Browning, Jr. who was from Baltimore. Mr. Browning, who listed his occupation on the marriage license as organist, was the son of Richard Mortimer Browning, Sr. and his wife, Catherine Bateman Browning of Baltimore. A local newspaper account of the marriage indicated that Ms. Abbott was the daughter of Senator and Mrs. Sylvester John Abbott, and that Senator Abbott had been appointed by Roosevelt to his position.
Professor and Mrs. Browning resided in Greensboro, North Carolina for a period while Professor Abbott was employed as an organ instructor at Greensboro College for Women. Both Mr. and Mrs. Browning were graduates of the Peabody Conservatory of Music. On May 24, 1915, they had a son, Richard Mortimer Browning, Jr. (who was actually the third) and, at some point, relocated to New York.
The home on NW Front Street in Milford remained the home of Sylvester and Rosalie Abbott. There is no record of a Rosalie Abbott ever marrying, and, in fact, after Sylvester’s death, the final accounting of his estate mentioned a bill to H. Hancher for $40 for “daughter’s care”. Sylvester Abbott died on August 24, 1923 of chronic hepatitis and his death certificate listed his occupation as retired merchant and banker. Rosalie Hobart Abbott, Sylvester’s wife, died a few years later. In her will, she left $25 to her grandson, Mortimer Browning, Jr. Considering that the house is known as the Abbott-Browning house, it appears that the Browning’s may have returned to Milford to take care of Mary Pauline’s sister, Rosalie. The home was deeded to both Mary Pauline and Rosalie on September 10, 1930.
The home currently has 4 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms, with 5 fireplaces and a study. It is a 2-story, 5-bay center hall home with a raised brick foundation, gable roof, interior end chimneys and a triangular dormer with neo-Palladian windows. One unique feature of the home is the walk out basement, which was probably used as a store at one point. This home is currently for sale.
The Abbott family was a prominent family during Milford’s founding years, and many descendants of the family still live in the area today. This home is a testament to the history and legacy of the families that founded Milford and the desire to retain the historical feel of the town.