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Walton Home in Centennial Story (Dr. Bessac)


By dhowell - Posted on 03 January 2008

The Twentieth Century Club entertained people whose birth dates are before the World War I period at a lawn party Tuesday, July 25, 1967, on the spacious lawn of the Thomas Walton home on West Main Street.

This was held in conjunction with the Sidewalk Sales where older folks could "stop a spell and sip lemonade and eat cookies." There were antiques on display and waitresses wore centennial costumes.

The Walton house has been selected as a "landmark" house by the Washtenaw County Historical Society. It was built in 1842, by Jabez Fountain. At that time it was a one-story structure. According to the historical account by Annetta English, Fountain was a wealthy flour mill owner. He wanted a home nicer than the one built by his rival, John D. Kief.

Four years later he sold to Dr. William Bessac. Dr. Bessac was born in Corsackie, New York, and graduated from Woodstock College, New York, 1835. He and his family moved to Michigan and settled first in Lima Center when he thought the Michigan Central Railroad was going through there. When he learned the railroad was to pass through Manchester he moved to the Walton home.

His daughter, Mary, married George Haeussler. George Haeussler and his son Raynor later owned the drug store, now known as Uphaus Drug. George's son, Raynor, built a home directly north of the Walton home where Mrs. Haeussler lives now.

After Dr. Bessac bought the Fountain home he added the second story. The Thomas Waltons bought the place in 1943. In 1949 they enlisted the help of the late Prof. Emil Lorch, former dean of the College of Architecture at the University of Michigan, to help them restore the old home.

It took over a year of work to preserve the interior framework. One bedroom on a west wing was removed. Historical accounts say "it was a fine old place with hand-wrought woodwork, three old fireplaces with andirons, which were made by hand."

The home has six graceful fluted columns with Roman Ionic caps. The maples in front of the house were set for Mrs. Fountain by George Greene Matthews, who brought them from the timberland near their farm.