Running Hounds

Hunting racoon at night with hounds is something that most people firmly associate with the southern United States, perhaps as far north as Tennessee.  But usually New England does not come to mind.

However, northwest Connecticut had a strong tradition of running hounds on racoon trails well into the twentieth century.  One of the favored areas for the coon hunters was the East Branch of the Farmington River. At the top of the valley, in Hartland, the Newgate Coon Club flourished with dozens of members and a clubhouse.  The Newgate Coon Club primarily ran its hounds on the upper streams and steep hills of the East Branch in Hartland, Granby, Barkhamsted, and Granville (Mass).  Today its land is part of the Barkhamsted Reservoir watershed owned by the Metropolitan District Commission.

Farther down the valley, it was Ratlum Mountain that attracted the hunters. In particular, the Warner family, especially Harry and Lena, and the neighboring Bradley family were ardent coon hunters.  Their hounds ranged over the Ratlum mountain area, including the land that is now Ski Sundown; the hunters followed on foot scrambling over ledge and through laurel, their path lit by lantern and moonlight.

Today the baying of a hound is unlikely to be heard on the mountain, but the racoons remain.

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Delivery Wagon

The NHHS archives have many interesting pictures in them. This photograph of a cream delivery wagon was taken in Nepaug around 1900.  The church in the background gives us the location, but it is startling to think of Route 202 as such a small, narrow road. The horses look like they were probably a fast team, which would make sense for a dairy delivery.

It is a reminder of a different world, with door to door delivery of a highly perishable agricultural product, one which probably came from a local farm.

1972.47.57.91 Cream wagon delivery

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Ice skating in New Hartford

On my way to the historical society tonight, I noticed that the Pine Meadow ice rink, located on the green, was full and frozen. This rink generally appears in January and depending on the weather can last through February or even into March. It is an ideal place for that first time trying out skates or a hockey stick.
Years ago, there were a number of options. Before 1936, the Greenwoods pond above the center of town provided excellent skating, though it was also used for ice manufacture which tend to limit some areas. But at over two miles long, this was hardly a serious issue. This was a mill pond with a consistent flow.

It is not recorded, but it is possible that the power canal for the Chapin Company, which ran through Pine Meadow behind Wickett Street, was also used for skating. Certainly, the numerous other small mill ponds located in town also provided good spots to skate. The mill ponds located on the Nepaug and other tributaries tended to freeze fairly consistently, since they lacked springs. This, of course, was the problem with West Hill Pond, which is spring fed and therefore can have odd patches or, worse, holes in the ice.

The Farmington River below Pine Meadow could also have some decent skating locations on it, especially in the area just before the Canton line. Upstream, on the East Branch, the Compensating Reservoir was also used for skating at times, after the completion of the dam in 1919. However, it too had springs and, as a major source of water power (hence the local name of Compensating) was prone to abrupt draw downs that led to cracked or buckled ice.

Home made rinks could also be created when the weather cooperated. Ben Warner recalled in his book ‘Pike Place’ that if the weather conditions were right and the ground froze solid before a heavy rain, their old orchard would flood and freeze. Hockey pucks could be manufactured from frozen cow-flops; the real article being hard to come by.

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Puzzles answered

One of the minor questions that came up quite some time ago was the question of where Yadack road was in town.  When even the town clerk isn’t very sure of it, you know it is a mystery. Yet one would think that a road would be easy.  Yadack not so much, until now.

Yadack road, which I first encountered on the list of roads formally abandoned by the town in the 1960’s, was not mentioned anywhere in anything.  Or so it seemed.

I finally hit it tonight, looking through a book for something.  It turns out that Yadack road is now a jeep track heading off from Ratlum road. Now the question is, which jeep track is it? There are several options.  The hunt continues!

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Happy New Year!

2016 already?

We have at least one presentation planned for the spring, by David Krimmel, whose specialty is the early history of New Hartford. Hopefully, we will also have a presentation on some 20th century history as well.  Details to follow.

We have a variety of new donations or items we are scanning ranging from a child’s scrapbook from the mid twentieth century to some early nineteenth century letters from a New Hartford resident to relatives in the southern United States.

As always, we are here in New Hartford opposite the Town Hall on Wednesday nights from 7 to 9 pm.

Hope to see you!

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Town Functions

Function at Monaghan's basement

Sometime just before or around 1911.

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Why we like donations!

1815 Asher Merrell

(Double click on the underlined to get the link to the pdf)

This letter from 1815, discussing a lawsuit to recover some money, is part of a long series of letters concerning the Merrill family and others in New Hartford and elsewhere. Some volunteers have been steadily scanning them in; once finished the letters will be returned to the family. Isn’t the 21st century digital age wonderful!? It might have solved Mr. Meacham and Mr. Merrill’s issue of payment (running almost a decade) quite quickly. Or maybe not.

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Revisionist History

We constantly rewrite our history. The events can’t change, but the emphasis and the facts that are taught or not taught can be changed.

It is hardest to do this with names. Place names often out last the culture or country that created them. Perhaps with the rise of Google, sweeping changes will begin to occur; but for the most part names take generations to shift. Nonetheless they do shift. The fastest to shift are roads. The slowest are hills. Which perhaps says something!

In New Hartford….Shepard’s Pond becomes Lake Wonsunkamunk becomes West Hill Pond becomes West Hill Lake

Mast Swamp becomes Greenwoods Pond becomes (once more) Farmington River

Skunk Hollow turns into Maple Hollow

Puddletown into River Run

N—-town into Farmington Turnpike

Nepash into Nepaug

East Mountain become Jones Mountain

Greenwoods Turnpike is Route 44

Tunxis River becomes the Farmington River

Albany Turnpike turns into Johnny Cake Lane

And so forth

The changes reflect the sensibilities of the times during which they change, what offends, concerns, or should be memorialized. Equally important are those that don’t change. Town Hill, Pine Meadow, Pussy Lane, Steele Road, Baker(s)ville, North End, Cedar Swamp, Litchfield Turnpike, Cotton Hill.




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New Hartford Little League, 1956

Anybody recognize these boys? The photograph was taken in 1956 in New Hartford, Ct by T. Auburn.

New Hartford Little League Team 1956


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Bridge Street, New Hartford

These photographs were taken sometime shortly before the 1955 Flood. It shows the Bridge Street bridge, rebuilt after the 1936 flood, that connected Bridge and Cottage Street. This alignment was changed completely after the 1955 Flood, with the creation of Route 219.

What is particularly interesting in these photographs is the building behind the bridge: the old Village Firehouse. Very few photographs exist of this structure, which also went down the river. In the second photograph old Greenwoods factory complex is visible. At the time of the picture, it was being used by the Underwood company, which made everything from gun fittings to vacuum cleaners.

Today the site of the old Firehouse is part of the town garage parking lot. The new firehouse is slightly back from the river, roughly where the substation (visible on the right in the first picture) was.  Only a few traces of the bridge remain: the abutments on the Bridge Street side are buried in the lawn/river bank, on the Cottage Street side a few traces of rebar and stone work can be found.

2003.295.01.a Bridge Street Bridge before 1955 flood firehouse in back

2000.46.1.0 Bridge Street Bridge in NH Center

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