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History Corner: Where Should We Go Today?

History Corner: Where Should We Go Today?

I hope you were able to visit some of the towns I highlighted in my last article.  I understand from a friend that upon visiting a site, the shopkeepers, that were approached, were so excited to be asked to sign the Connecticut 169 Book which I told you gives a short story about each of the towns in our State.  So here goes with some more stories and don’t forget, a copy of the Connecticut 169 Book is available from the Orange Historical Society at the Academy, 605 Orange Center Road, on Saturdays from 10-3 and remember to take it with you when you “cruise” around Connecticut.

Now I am going to take you to Tolland County where the leaves are turning their beautiful fall colors and the air is brisk and clear.  One of the towns is Tolland, settled in 1715, 20 miles northeast of Hartford.  This lovely rural and hilly town was part of Windsor and incorporated as Connecticut’s 49th town in 1722.  Designated as the county seat in 1785 led residents to build a courthouse and a jail which is located on the Tolland Green.  The district features historic homes and buildings exhibiting typical features of Colonial Connecticut with additional homes with the Italianate, Federal and Greek influence.

The idea behind the Connecticut 169 Book is to encourage folks to travel to all of the towns and while doing so, seek out a business or town hall employee to make a note on the town page to show that it was visited.  Unfortunately, the historical society buildings, including the jail, are closed now but there is a little corner store, built in 1815, that offers antiques, candies, jewelry, toys and books with the name Tolland Red & White, 46 Tolland Green.  Its history features the original corner store supplying everything but dental work, a harness shop, a workshop for a local inventor and a company that made hoops for hoop skirts.

Hopefully, the historical society will once again be able to open its buildings which included a 1720 homestead, a mirror image of our own Bryan-Andrew House.

Andover may be a small town but a mighty force during the Revolutionary War.  Volunteers for Washington’s army are part of its history with General Rochambeau riding through town to meet with him in Wethersfield.  The Kingsbury family offered him a cool drink on his way and Washington followed the same route on his way to Newport.  Rochambeau later brought his troops through Andover on the old Route 6 describing it as “a pretty little valley where several brooks flow into the river (Hop River).  After his victory in New York, part of his army spent the winter in tents near the First Congregational Church off Route 6.

In 1873, the Air Line rail from Boston to New Haven ran through Andover, so named as its route was as the crow flies.  Today the Airline Rail Trail follows the old tracks with biking, hiking, horseback riding from East Hampton to Willimantic to Andover and onto Bolton and Vernon.  The scenic covered bridge spans Route 316 with trails offering views of rivers, swamps and bridges which were once tall, railroad trestles.

Bolton also figured into the Revolutionary War with a road.  Yes, a road.  The trails once belonging to the Native Mohegans meeting at what is called Bolton Notch.  The most famous of these trails in known as “Ye Olde Connecticut Path.”  It was this route that traders and settlers took from the Bay Colony to settle in Connecticut.  This inland route was safe from any British Naval surprise attack which then made it the first choice for marching the Colonial and French armies from Boston to their destinations south camping in Bolton.  Both Washington and Rochambeau stayed at the Bolon Heritage Farm House several times…yes, Washington did sleep here folks.  That route was designated the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route in 2012.

Bolton, according to their section of the Connecticut 169 Book boasts many interesting places to visit; Bolton Lake for Kayaking, Bolton Notch State Park for hiking, Fish Family Ice Cream Shop, Hop River Trail, a Veteran’s Memorial and not to be left out, Munson’s Chocolates!

Now this one you probably know.  Coventry.  The Mohegans called the area Wongumbaug or crooked pond for the curved shape of the 380-acre glacial lake in the center of town.  During the early 18th century, the town was mostly agrarian centered around the 2nd Church on the Boston Turnpike and the 1st Church on the Windham Turnpike.  Its most famous townsman was none other than Nathan Hale who was hung by the British in1776 as a spy.  There are several tales about this young teacher and how he met his demise but to get the whole story, one must visit his homestead.

In the summer and into the fall, The Coventry Farmer’s Market is set up on Sundays adjacent to the Hale homestead.  Filled with produce, handmade items, mom & pop shops and food trucks, this market is a must see, no don’t just see it, walk around the various tents and avail yourself of good eats.

Coventry was the home to Lorenzo Dow, a revivalist preacher who was called crazy for his methods of luring crowds to his camp meetings.  But to another side of Coventry is the over 100 men who responded to the Lexington Alarm in 1775 with the town providing substantial amounts of clothing, cider, and pork for the Continental Army.  In fact, Jeremiah Ripley kept a military provisioning depot on Ripley Hill Road to serve the armed forces.

From the early 1800s Coventry Village was a hub of manufacturing with 15 water-powered mills on the Mill Brook.  By 1870, more than 50 mill buildings were located there making wool carding machinery, handmade paper, cotton shirting, wool flannel, iron forgings, percussion caps, woolen hats, wagons, paper boxes, cider vinegar and the list goes on.  By 1813, the Coventry Glass Works was producing pocket bottles, medicine containers, and collectible whisky flasks decorated with railroad scenes and busts of George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Lafayette.

Adelma Simmons developed herbal gardening into a popular hobby showcasing her Caprilands Farm.  Hundreds of us attended her luncheons and lectures and what we at the historical society know about herbs and herbal foods, we learned from her.  The potato lovage soup that we serve at the Bryan-Andrew House was one of her delicacies as lovage was not well-known down here but grown at her farm.  We now grow and dry our own for sale at the Academy.  Well, this should take you about 2 weeks to “cruise” so by the time you finish your visits, I will have more places for you to conquer…remember to bring your book with you!


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