Col. Jonathan Samuel Wilcox I House
558 Boston Post Road
Responsibly restored and expanded first in the late twentieth- and further in the early twenty-first centuries, this attractive home was originally constructed in 1830. Its front-entry portico is Federal in design. Its two-storied bay window on the west side was added after its construction, and an original ornamental balustrade along the front edge of the roof was removed decades ago, as was a veranda on the east side and a front fence of unusual design. Today, this stately home’s lovely landscaping and perennial plantings are among its notably charming features. The lawn and gardens extend to Tuxis Brook, which meanders behind nearly all of the homes along this stretch.
Jonathan S. Wilcox (1791-1875) lived in this house from the time of its construction. He was married to Chloe Hand, who was one of the twelve children of Daniel Hand. A colonel in the local militia, Jonathan was also the manager of a tannery that he operated with his brother Curtis, who lived next door. Local historian Mary Evarts recorded that the leather was tanned in large vats located right here on the property, using the bark of certain local trees to dye the leather. The refuse from that process was carted to the swampy part of the common to fill that spongy swale in the days before the green was fully manicured.
Colonel Wilcox contributed financially to the renovation of the green, but apparently he also felt entitled to some of the improvements: Former town historian Warner Lord, among others, tells the tale that one day Wilcox abruptly selected one of the choicest of the forty new elm trees that were slated for planting, claiming it for his own front yard, much to the astonishment of the rest of the committee.
Perhaps the Colonel was beautifying his property in anticipation of the visit of the Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de Lafayette. When President James Monroe invited Lafayette to visit the United States in 1824, partly to celebrate the nation's fiftieth anniversary, Lafayette was celebrated for four days and nights in New York City. He and his son and his secretary then traveled to Boston, stopping along the way.
While Lafayette expected that his journey north might be restful, his route was lined with admirers, and welcome parties were organized in every town. He made stops in Bridgeport, New Haven, and Providence between August 20 and August 24. Local author and Wilcox descendant Elizabeth Todd Nash recorded that Colonel Wilcox received and entertained Lafayette in Madison during that period.
Some records indicate that there was dancing on the green on the day of his visit.
After both Jonathan and Chloe died several months apart in 1875, one of their daughters, Catherine Artemisia Wilcox, married John Nash and continued to live in the house until her death in 1903. Known to open the house for important social gatherings, she hosted many meetings in her expansive dining room, including some meetings of the Madison Historical Society. The house remained in the Wilcox/Nash family until the 1990s.
For a time, Elizabeth Todd Nash lived here. She wrote a volume called One Hundred and One Legends of Flowers (1927) and another called Fifty Puritan Ancestors: 1628-1660 (1902). In the latter book, she noted that her ancestor Jonathan was “prominent in all plans for the public welfare” and was “an intellectual man with very progressive ideas.” We do not know exactly what those ideas were, but we do know that in 1826 Wilcox was elected to Madison’s first Board of Relief and that, in 1838, he formed Madison’s branch of the American Colonization Society, which Elizabeth Nash described as a “plan for relieving slavery.”