Our first stop is Avon, originally named Northington in 1754 when the first meeting house was built. The Farmington Canal was completed in 1835, linking Avon to New Haven and Northampton, Mass. Passengers, produce and freight could easily make the trip from the Connecticut Valley to other regions in the state thus making more opportunities for economic growth. As we were celebrating women’s right to vote in 2020, Avon’s 860-acre boys’ boarding school was designed and built by our country’s first woman architect, Theodate Pope Riddle in 1927. Her home is open to the public as a museum.
The town of Berlin is in the geographic center of Connecticut, once the home of the Wangunks who lived along the Mattabessett River. As early as 1659, Richard Beckley of New Haven purchased 300 acres from Chief Taramaugus and settled in Western Wethersfield. Several groups moved from Farmington and New Britain, each adding a piece of their territory to form Berlin. Tinware, in the colonies was especially prized as it could be made locally and not dependent on buying iron goods from England. Pewter was finding fewer and fewer markets as one of its contents was lead which George Washington was most adamant about in his refusal to eat from a pewter plate while eating his morning meal at the Clark Tavern in Milford. The tin industry was one of Berlin’s first industries.
The travelling tin peddler has been made popular through former tv shows as The Waltons but let me tell you that as the number of tinsmiths grew in Berlin, the marketing of tinware expanded by the hiring of young salesmen to travel up and down the east coast via horse and wagon with their wares. The sound of the tinware clanking as the horse and wagon lumbered up the road was a delight to families in need of something “new” from the tin peddler. Little did the Irish immigrants, Edward and William Pattison envision in 1794, an industry which would become so successful. The Yankee Peddler became the iconic symbol of Berlin.
Another industry which connects one of my earlier stories is the flint-lock pistols used in the War of 1812, the war which has been associated with our recent turmoil in Washington, D.C. It was in Berlin, that Simeon North developed a milling machine to produce the first interchangeable parts for the flint-lock. It’s no wonder that Connecticut has many old brick buildings since Berlin, after discovering clay deposits while laying RR tracks, produced 90,000 bricks a day!
The history of the early inhabitants of both Milford and Burlington with the Native Americans comes from their mutual association. Both the Tunxis and Paugussets had the same fears from the war-like Mohawks from the west and the Pequots from the east in their annual raids on their villages, pillaging their food they had in readiness for the winter. The Tunxis Tribe signed a deed for land known as Tunxis Plantation in 1640, just one year after Milford signed deeds from the Paugussets. Burlington is located on the western edge of Hartford County, a scenic hill town with many forests and waterways with almost half of the land in town owned by three
public water supply companies and the State of Connecticut. For many years, the town was
undeveloped due to its rugged terrain and as with other towns, religious travel was difficult, causing changes in the towns. Settlement increased after the Revolutionary War with farmers adding another trade as a blacksmith, clockmaker and the tinsmith. Burlington’s State Fish Hatchery in Nassahegon State Forest raises brown and rainbow trout to be distributed into states lakes, ponds, rivers and streams with public access.
A note about North Milford (Orange). During the Revolutionary War, the building of one of the Treat houses on Grassy Hill Road ceased due to the fact that none of the blacksmiths or farmers with blacksmith knowledge were left after they enlisted in the war effort. Why did the building stop? There were no nails!
How about a change of pace? Who knows where the Turkey Hills Ecclesiastical Society was?
Where were mulberry trees planted to feed the silk worms? How about the New England Air Museum? Another hint: Old Newgate Prison. (I wrote about it in one of my stories). And now for the giveaway, Bradley International Airport. Ok so the front “door” is in Windsor Locks but it’s still on the eastern border of……drum roll please! Yes, it’s East Granby!
As with most Connecticut towns, farmers established the towns and East Granby is one of the last towns to be established by the General Assembly of Connecticut. Not every town has as notable person but to the kids in your family who like the I Spy books, the author lives in East Granby.
One town, a suburb of Hartford has maintained its agrarian roots in the growing of tobacco, not the kind for cigarettes but the wrapping for cigars. During the 20th century, East Windsor was one of the largest tobacco producing towns in Connecticut with barns as far as you could see.
This town of 11,000 is comprised of 5 villages, Warehouse Point, Broad Brook, Windsorville, Scantic and Melrose. The first steamboat service in the United States began in East Windsor and can boast that it is one of the largest trolley museums in New England!
Glastonbury puts this story in perspective as to how important our little state was and is to the whole 50 states. As you know, I wrote the section for Orange in the Connecticut 169 Club book but I have to tell you that there are some very interesting items of history up north. It was formally founded on the banks of the Connecticut River in 1693 with settlers having first arrived in 1636. With a land area of 52 square miles it’s the 11th largest town named after the town of Glastonbury in Somerset, England. It’s the home of the oldest continuously operating ferry in the U.S. dating back to 1655 and up until 1870, over 250 major sailing vessels were built exporting supplies to as far as the West Indies (Milford did that too, just in case you didn’t remember that. Not that many ships but the West Indies part). It is believed to have had the first commercial soap manufacturing business in the world and if you like peaches, remember the name John Hale, known as Peach King Hale, as he developed a peach that would withstand New England winters and was disease resistant.
We all grew up with the Smith Brothers cough drops, right? Well, Glastonbury had the “Smith Sisters”, five of them all abolitionists and supporters of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Through their efforts, changes were not only made in Connecticut but throughout the United States.
Well, “You have reached your destination. You may get out now but I’m not going to help you carry your bags. From now on, you’re on your own.” *
*Don Cleese – Tom Tom GPS