Voluntown Peace Trust History
The Campbell Farmhouse
Built circa 1750 for Dr. John Campbell, the local physician, the Farmhouse is the central building as you enter the VPT property from Beach Pond Road (CT-165).
It features a traditional central chimney with a main hearth in the kitchen and fireplaces in a number of the bedrooms, and is said to have been a stop on the underground railroad, with slaves hiding in the secret rooms built into the central stonework of the basement.
The Farmhouse has been renovated on numerous occasions, most recently in the mid-90s under the direction of Chuck Matthei, Equity Trust founder and former Executive Director.
In 1962, the property, historically known as the Campbell Farm, was purchased by Mary Meigs for $12,500 from Homer and Helena Herbert. The family was unaware that Meigs' intention was to turn the property over to Robert and Marjorie Swann. The Swanns were an activist couple who had been doing anti-militarism work as part of the New England Committee for Nonviolent Action (NECNVA).
The Swanns met Meigs through her then-partner Barbara Deming in the summer of 1960. That summer, Deming, a journalist, had attended a sixteen-day Peacemaker training session held at their apartment house in New London. Deming, at the time a reporter for The Nation magazine, had become a pacifist after traveling with Meigs through India in 1959 and reading the writings of Mohandas Gandhi. She was further politicized after traveling earlier that year to Cuba where, interviewing both ordinary citizens and Fidel Castro, she came to see the extent to which the US government was demonizing both Cuba and Castro.
Deming, Meigs, and the Swanns remained friends for many years, and the Swanns were frequent summer visitors to Meigs and Deming's home in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Although Meigs was primarily an artist and author, she and Deming were deeply involved in the development of NECNVA, both served on the Regional Committee and Deming on the Executive Committee.
Despite the NECNVA's diligent efforts at peace-building, challenges from oppositionally-minded groups occurred from time to time. These challenges even became violent.
At the Voluntown Peace Trust art show, March 28, 2009, a small orange notice that hung beneath a volley of bullet holes in the Campbell House wall attracted significant attention from the local community.
Some residents, as well as long-standing members of our organization, still remember the events it references.
Click on the image below to read the notice.
We are very grateful to the recently-departed VPT partners who enthusiastically built bridges into the Voluntown community, helping to dispel misgivings that some residents may have had about the peace farm. We continue to reach out, building on the important efforts the partners began.
Please read newsletter articles about the original VPT partners, Mary Novak, Danny Malec, and Harold Burns in this newsletter (Adobe Acrobat reader required). More information about their work and that of additional partners, such as Steve Borla, Kate Foran, and Mary Hill, is available through our "News" link at the top of the page.