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Longtime Residents Of Newtown: The Brown/Osborne Family



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From Newtown’s humble beginnings in 1705, its population has grown to nearly 28,000 residents, according to the 2017 census.

Many of those who have been born and raised here choose to remain in town and raise their families here as well.

In this series, which originated in 2018, The Newtown Bee is tracing longtime Newtown residents’ family trees and asking its current generation what makes the town such a special place to call home.

Brown Family Ancestors

Family legend has it that Susan (Osborne) White’s grandparents, Robert Young “R.Y.” (born April 5, 1888) and Dorothy (Dalton) Brown (born November 27, 1898), chose Sandy Hook to be their weekend and summer home at random.

With an apartment in Manhattan, the family had been renting homes to accommodate Mr Brown’s bustling career as a coal salesman.

“They always traveled around and never stayed too long in one place, but they were usually in lower Fairfield County,” Ms White explained. “The story is, he took his territory and put a pin in a map.”

The fateful decision landed the couple to purchase a prerevolutionary saltbox on Zoar Road from the Keane Family between 1937 and 1938. With apple trees and berry bushes abounding, they named the dirt road property “Appleberry Farm” and quickly began adding on to their new home.

In their renovations, they made what was known as Connecticut’s first “rat proof barn,” which got its title for its concrete foundation, and they even built a 60-foot-by-20-foot Olympic-size pool with two diving boards.

Their two children — Elizabeth Louise “Betty Lou” (born April 6, 1925) and Robert “R.Y. Junior” (born September 10, 1921) — enjoyed everything the farm had to offer, from swimming in the pool to riding their horses in the fields.

“They wanted their kids to have roots,” Ms White says of why her grandparents created Appleberry Farm.

In 1939, after getting settled into the property that summer, Mrs Brown became ill with what the family now believes was cancer and passed away on December 13.

Ms White’s mother, Betty Lou, was just 10 years old at the time, and she and her older brother became their father’s world.

During their school years, Betty Lou attended Brearley School in Manhattan, while R.Y. Junior went to Choate before going to Williams College.

However, when the war began, R.Y. Junior wanted to become a pilot in the Marines and went on to enlist.

On May 4, 1944, he was killed in the Green Islands. His untimely death left both his family and the girl next door back home (whom he had planned to marry) heartbroken.

“There was a lot of tragedy in a short period of time, so then the farm was just my mom’s and grandfather’s,” Ms White said. “It was a lot of hard memories. They would go up on weekends, then my mom went off to Smith [College in Northampton, Mass.]”

It was during that time, in 1946, that Betty Lou planned to visit her roommate out in Ann Arbor, Mich., and her father insisted he drive her there. He told her that on the way they could stop by to see his friends in Ohio, whom he purchased coal from for his business.

The friends they visited, James and Alice Osborne — known as “Jock and Toot” — just so happened to have a son, James “Jim” M. Osborne, Jr, who would later become Mr Brown’s future son-in-law.

“My parents met through the coal company,” Ms White explained. “One grandfather sold coal, the other dispensed it.”

After that initial meeting, Betty Lou went back to Smith College while James returned to Dartmouth College and went on to serve in the US Navy, but the two began dating.

Osborne Family Ancestors

Two years later, on May 8, 1948, Betty Lou and Jim were married by minister Paul Cullens at the Congregational Church in Newtown (known today as The Meeting House).

“They had their engagement party at the Yankee Drover [on Main Street], then the reception was at the farm in the barn,” Ms White said. “My mother pictured a beautiful spring wedding with lots of lilacs and apple blossoms, and all the pictures of them are them freezing.”

Still, no cold weather could get in the way of it being the perfect day.

“My grandfather, for his only [surviving] child, his only daughter, lassoed the moon,” Ms White said. He did everything he could for Betty Lou, down to making sure they had the most beautiful flowers on the big day.

As a special wedding present, Ms White’s grandfather gifted the newlyweds Appleberry Farm to be the place to start their family. The couple went on to have four children: Bob, Mike, Dorothy “Dody,” and the youngest being Ms White.

She remembers the joy the farm brought to her parents, especially to her mother, who had such a deep passion for animals that her family gave her the biblical ark-maker’s nickname “Mrs Noah.”

“Not everyone has four raccoons, two skunks, and a monkey, but we did when we were growing up,” Ms White said with a laugh.

On top of that, the family never had fewer than three dogs; had lambs that lived in the house and wore diapers; and had many sheep, donkeys, and cats. Ms White even received a pet steer that came from Kearns’ Farm on her tenth birthday, who lived with them for more than 20 years.

“He was as gentle as the day is long, and he was over six feet tall and weighed almost two tons in his prime,” Ms White remembered fondly.

For the Osborne siblings, Appleberry Farm was filled with memories of caring for the animals and spending time with one another, including with their grandfather.

“When my grandfather was ill in New York — he had a stroke — my mom quickly renovated one of the barns on the property and moved him up here with his housekeeper and a nurse,” Ms White explained.

During that time, she and Dody would have dinner with him every Friday night and have a special Sunday family roast together.

“There were a lot of traditions,” Ms White said of the cherished times they shared. Her grandfather passed away on November 10, 1971, at the age of 83.

Growing up, she says, the four children all “went to Sandy Hook Elementary and passed the plaque everyday with our dad’s name on it, as he was on the Board of Ed when it was built.”

In addition to being on the Board of Education, Ms White’s father had coached baseball and softball in the community and was active in the Rotary Club for more than 50 years — where he helped support the establishment of the Heritage Preservation Trust to maintain The Meeting House.

“He was huge into Rotary. God, I can still smell him cooking pancakes and sausage,” Ms White said about her father, who participated in the Rotary’s annual Pancake Breakfast.

Ms White’s mother was also greatly involved in helping the community through teaching Sunday school, Girl Scouts, and Cub Scouts as well as being involved on the Edmond Town Hall’s Board of Directors, the Rotary Club, the League of Women Voters, and the Newtown Scholarship Association.

After living the majority of their lives at Appleberry Farm, Ms White’s father passed away at the age of 77 on September 6, 2003; and her mother died at 88 years old on September 11, 2013.

Reasons To Stay

Although Ms White’s oldest brother, Bob Osborne, and his wife, Inge, live in Hamden and her sister, Dody (Osborne) Cox, and her husband, W. Jay Cox, live in Guilford, both her brother, Mike Osborne, and his wife, Deb, and she and her husband, Brian White, have chosen to raise their families in town.

When Ms White and her husband married in September of 1985, they chose to incorporate the beloved farm like her parents did by having their wedding reception there.

When searching for a home to start their family, the couple moved to an older house on Castle Meadow in Newtown. They soon welcomed three sons: Andrew, Ian, and Emmett — the oldest and youngest of whom remain in Newtown to this day.

After living in their original Castle Meadow home for 11 years, Ms White and her family built a newer home next to the original property, which they fittingly called Next Door Farm.

“We sold our house and built a house next door, so we had to put everything in a trailer, and we lived in the same cottage that my grandfather had lived in,” Ms White recalled. “We had six months living right with my parents, and it was an honor. It was really a special time.”

Throughout the years, the cottage has housed numerous relatives at different stages of their lives and has been a constant source of refuge for four generations.

Mike and his wife even purchased the neighboring house to Appleberry Farm after they were married and raised their two children, Becky and Kate, there.

Appleberry Farm has also remained an influential setting for milestone moments in other Brown/Osborne family members’ lives.

According to Ms White, it was where Mike had his rehearsal dinner and post-wedding brunch in August of 1976, where Dody was married and had her wedding reception in June of 1978, and where Andrew and his wife, Caley, had their wedding reception on September 2, 2017.

Just like Ms White’s parents, the current family members remaining in Newtown have continued being active in political and civic groups, too.

“We all were taught the importance of giving back and knowing your community,” Ms White said, citing that her brother Mike has served as a selectman in Newtown twice; her son Andrew is the current chief of the Botsford Fire Rescue; and her sister-in-law, Deb, served on the Newtown Scholarship Association for years and later passed the torch to the third generation when Becky joined its Board.

Today, Appleberry Farm remains in the family, with Ms White’s niece, Becky, living there. The property currently exists as a “quasi-gentleman’s farm,” that the family treasures for its rich history and influence in their lives.

Thinking of all the memories it has served for four generations of her family, Ms White says, “It was a very, very special place.”

If your family has lived in Newtown for four or more generations and would like to be featured in this series, contact Alissa Silber at alissa@thebee.com or 203-426-3141.

Pictured from left is Robert Young “R.Y.” Brown with his daughter, Betty Lou, on her wedding day to James “Jim” Osborne, Jr, on May 8, 1948. Beside Jim are his parents Alice “Toot” and James “Jock” Osborne. —photo courtesy of Susan (Osborne) White
Pictured from left is Ian, Susan, Caley, Andrew, Brian, and Emmett Osborne with their family dogs, Earl and Aries, on Andrew and Caley’s wedding day on September 2, 2017. —Photography by Charles
An aerial image from 1940 shows Appleberry Farm on Zoar Road with its barn and Olympic size pool. —Bee Photo, Silber
Pictured is the modern era of Appleberry Farm on Zoar Road in an aerial photo from 2010. —photo courtesy of Susan (Osborne) White
Newtown resident Susan (Osborne) White’s mother, Betty Lou (Brown) Osborne, and uncle, Robert “R.Y. Junior” Brown, pose for a portrait together. —Bee Photo, Silber
Pictured in the center of this aerial image from 1940 is Appleberry Farm on Zoar Road as well as the surrounding landscape in Sandy Hook. —Bee Photo, Silber
Betty Lou (Brown) Osborne had a lifelong passion for animals, including her beloved horses, two of which are pictured here. —Bee Photo, Silber
An old map of Sandy Hook that hangs in the office of The Newtown Bee shows the original Zoar Road house, bought by Susan (Osborne) White’s grandparents in the late 1930s, when it was owned by John T. Keane. —Bee Photo, Silber
Pictured right is Susan (Osborne) White, holding a kitten, with her grandfather, Robert Young “R.Y.” Brown, and his nurse, Svea Harde. —Bee Photo, Silber
Pictured from the back balcony inside the former Congregational Church (now The Meeting House), is the wedding of James and Betty Lou Osborne on May 8, 1948, with minister Paul Cullens. —photo courtesy of Susan (Osborne) White
Husband and wife Betty Lou and Jim Osborne smile surrounded by their five dogs and sheep. “It’s the perfect picture of my parents,” Susan (Osborne) White said while looking at the image. —photo courtesy of Susan (Osborne) White
Betty Lou and Jim Osborne were married for more than 50 years and resided at the family’s estate, Appleberry Farm, on Zoar Road in Sandy Hook for the majority of their lives. —photo courtesy of Susan (Osborne) White
Andrew and Caley Osborne embrace each other inside the barn at Appleberry Farm on their wedding day in 2017. —Photography by Charles
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