WALTER WING COWLES has done his full share in adding luster to a name already respected and "familiar as household words" in Hartford County, especially in Manchester and neighboring towns. His trout preserve, one of the finest., if not the finest, in the State of Connecticut, is known to all who have any interest in that direction in this part of the country.
Mr. Cowles was born Feb. 15, 1844, on the farm in the town of Manchester where he makes his home, son of Francis W. Cowles, and grandson of Stephen Cowles, a native of Springfield, Vermont, who in about 1834 came with his family to Hartford County, Connecticut, locating at Hilliardville, where he began work in the woolen mills. The trip was made in the wintertime, with sled and ox-team. Stephen Cowles passed away in 1847, at the advanced age of ninety-two years. He was tall and spare in build. His family consisted of nine children: Stephen, Austin, Eliza, Francis W., Paulina, Nancy, Martha, Mary and Walter.
Francis W. Cowles was born July 4, 1805, in Springfield, Vermont, and in early manhood came to Hartford County, where he became one of the most influential men of his day. He was a self-made man, having few opportunities in younger life for when he was a mere boy he began work in the Hilliard woolen mills, and when 16 years of age he went to Buckland's Corners, where at that time there was a hotel and stage stables located on the old stage road between Boston and Hartford. Here he was employed until he reached his majority when he purchased the old tavern, and he conducted it successfully until 1846, when he removed to the farm now owned and operated by his son Walter W. in Manchester town. He carried on general farming and stock raising, breeding Jersey cattle, and for the first few years had a general store in connection at Buckland's Corners. Mr. Cowles became intimately identified with the history and advancement of Hartford County, and his personal worth and popularity may be estimated from the fact that up to the time of his death he and Dr. C. W. Jacques and Richard Cheney were the only Democrats who had represented the town of Manchester in the Legislature since it was set off from the town of East Hartford, in 1834. A more complete mention of this esteemed citizen will be found in the sketch of his son, Clinton W., elsewhere.
On Nov. 12, 1834, Francis W. Cowles was married to Miss Harriet Wing, of East Hartford, daughter of Sylvanus Wing, and they had a family of five children: Albert F., who is a farmer of Manchester town; Harriet, who died in 1858; Clinton W., a prominent citizen of Manchester; Walter W.; and Martha J., deceased wife of Dwight A. Moulton, of California, who is at present assistant state treasurer of that State. Mr. Cowles' death occurred in Manchester, March 10, 1880, when he was 74 years of age.
During his early life Walter W. Cowles received every opportunity for obtaining a good education, attending the common schools of the home neighborhood, the Suffield high schools and the Literary Institute of Suffield, and East Greenwich Seminary, remaining at school until he was 20 years of age. Returning to the home farm, he was engaged thereon until in 1869 he and his brother, Clinton W., engaged in the hotel business at Manchester, having purchased the "Weaver Hotel", which has since been known as the "Cowles Hotel". After 1873 our subject had entire charge of the business until 1881, when he again took up his residence on the farm, and here he has since remained. This is a highly improved and valuable tract of 200 acres, and in addition to extensive operations in general farming Mr. Cowles is engaged in stock-raising and the care of his trout preserve, breeding Jersey cattle and a standard grade of fine driving horses.
While on a summer visit to the seashore, in the vicinity of Plymouth, Massachusetts, Mr. Cowles became interested in the trout preserves so numerous in that locality, and recalling the fact that large number of springs start up on his farm in various parts of the estate, feeding the brook which runs its entire length, he was convinced that he could make a success of that industry at home. The idea took substantial form in 1895, when he had his first pond, covering an area of three acres, made, and in 1897 a.second, about the same size, was constructed. Besides these there are dozens of pools along the little stream, and Mr. Cowles at present has at least 500,000 young trout, and about four tons of two and three-year-old fish. The place is equipped with every facility for the successful conduct of this business, our subject owning his own trout hatchery, etc., and in 1899 he gave 4 million trout eggs to the State to be used in stocking streams.. His fish find a ready market, selling at from 60 cents to $1 per pound. In this connection Mr. Cowles has become especially well-known, for he was instrumental in passing a bill through the Legislature during the past session making it lawful to market trout from Feb. 1 to Oct. 1, the previous law having limited the time to three months in the year, from April 1, to July 1. Mr. Cowles has also been closely identified with the affairs of his own locality, and has served efficiently as road commissioner (for 11 years) and justice of the peace, giving unbounded satisfaction. Like all members of his family, he is a staunch supporter of the Democratic party. Fraternally he was a member of Manchester Lodge, No. 73, A. F. & A. M.
On May 28, 1879, Walter W. Cowles was married to Miss Hattie Fuller, a native of Manchester, and the union has been blessed with five children: Florence born June 6, 1880; Clinton W., Dec. 7, 1882; Arline, Nov. 17, 1888 (who died Feb. 1, 1893); Robert, Oct. 8, 1894; and Mark, July 23, 1899.