Our intrepid volunteers are hard at work on the next newsletter, and perhaps a presentation. It has to do with another anniversary and another flood… March 18th, 1936 and the failure of the Greenwoods Dam.
Here is a little teaser from a newspaper account of the event:
“Gray skies pressed close to the nearby hills and from them a drizzling rain fell steadily on the town and on the Farmington River which divides it. It fell too on the great bulk of the Greenwoods dam which bulwarked a great reservoir of water above the city.
Mr. Langevin rubbed his eyes. He could almost have sworn the dam moved. Then while he watched the dam did move.
Slowly – almost carefully- a great crack spread across the downstream surface of the dam. Slowly a huge section bulged outward. A trickle of water filtered through and then the whole section eased out. Millions of gallons of water fought through the opening. In a moment they shouldered away remnants of the dam crashed to the river and fell forward. Mr. Langevin saw them take the first bridge and shoulder its steel girders from their path.’
With today’s warm weather: well into the 70’s and dry, following a mild winter; it is with some amusement that I found this snippet from 1900: On January 3rd, the Greenwoods Ice Company began cutting ice. They finished the yearly harvest on March 22nd. Their total for the year was 27,000 Tons of ice. Ice could be harvested once the ice was between 7 and half to 8 inches in thickness. The Greenwoods company ‘owned’ the ice taken from Greenwoods pond, the 2 mile long stretch of water backed up on the West Branch of the Farmington above the center of town by the Greenwoods dam.
In addition to selling ice, they also used about 500 tons of it themselves. This was probably sold to company employees, since their operations (textiles) would not have required ice. The ice was shipped out of town by the railroad, headed for Hartford.
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.
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.
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.
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!