PRIME TIME: A glimpse at the life of Florence Emlyn Downs Muzzy

Published on Sunday, 1 August 2021 18:46
Written by BOB MONTGOMERY

Correspondent

This is my first step in eventually writing a complete “Builders of Bristol” series biography of Florence Emlyn Downs Muzzy, and it started with a recent conversation with Maya Bringe, the president of the Bristol Historical Society. Maya has an interest in the Muzzy family with an eye on Florence.

Maya provided me with a brief history of Florence, and I am drawing on it to start this biography:

FLORENCE EMLYN DOWNS MUZZY: May 22, 1851 - July 5, 1939

First of all, Florence came from a well-known Bristol family. Her father, Franklin, ran the family Down’s Feed Mill which was located at the foot of Downs Street, and the west end of Memorial Boulevard. I believe there is a rock in that area identifying it for boulevard walkers. This is near where the new bridge is currently being constructed in that area.

Her mother was Emeline Upson Downs, and her uncle was Ash Upton who enjoyed his niece’s company in calling her “Hurricane” for her many endeavors. Uncle Ash was a journalist who left Bristol and eventually ended up in New Mexico.

In her early 20s, Florence, prior to marrying Adrian Muzzy, traveled and was close to her Uncle Ash. In fact, she is part of western history in being shown in one of five tintypes discovered a decade ago at a tag sale. Among them was one capturing Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, his killer, and a couple of no-good friends of the kid. Anyway, that’s another story to be told, one I shared with Bristol Press readers four years ago. More to come on that.

Florence would become a teacher in Bristol, practicing the vocation at East Bristol (Mary A. Callen) School. When the school reached its 100th anniversary in 1932, Florence addressed those in attendance.

Florence married Adrian J. Muzzy in 1873 and he owned the A.J. Muzzy store, which sold dry goods at the corner of Main Street and Riverside Avenue. Muzzy’s became one of Bristol’s most prized downtown operations. This took place when his brothers, Franklin and Arthur, joined the operation in changing the name to Muzzy Brothers Department Store. When the McCann brothers took over in the early 1930s, it became Bristol’s largest department store.

Florence and Adrian had two sons, Leslie and Floyd, who died in infancy and Muzzy Field is named after them. Adrian Muzzy had donated the property, then known as being on Hickory Street before it was changed to Muzzy Street.

The couple also had a daughter, who would become a librarian at the New York Library.

Florence would accompany her father, an out-of-state businessman, also, to interests in New Mexico and somewhere in between may be where uncle Ashton and all came into the scene.

And, like her uncle, Florence became a writer in her own right, publishing several books and articles for magazines and this included the biological sketch of Katherine Gaylord. She wrote two volumes of poetry and genealogies of the Downs and Upson families. Those should be an interesting read. The Bristol Historical Society has a copy of the Gaylord sketch.

Florence lived up to her “Hurricane” moniker as she got older in staying busy and being involved with a number of organizations. This included being the organizing regent of the Katherine Gaylord Chapter of the D.A.R.; an honorary member of the Eugene Field Society of New York and the Edgar Alan Poe Society; Beta Reading Club of the Colonial Dames of Vermont; and the League of American Pen Women.

Her husband died from an automobile accident on South Street around Christmas of 1923, and Florence never remarried. However, she remained a member of Trinity Episcopal Church and when she died in 1939 her funeral was held at Barnes Memorial Chapel. She was buried next to Adrian and their sons at West Cemetery.

Contact Bob Montgomery at bmontgomery@bristolpress.com or by calling 860-583-5132.



Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Sunday, 1 August 2021 18:46. Updated: Sunday, 1 August 2021 18:49.