Category Archives: Excerpts

Coming work

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.’

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Current Affairs

Despite the long silence, we are working on things!

Currently in the works: the next issue of the newsletter will look at the Baker(s)ville Methodist Church, a continuation of our exploration of the town’s many churches. (Thank you, Tammy!)

We are also continuing to develop our presentation on the Flood of 1955, with several interviews of survivors already accomplished. (Thank you, Pat!)

Here is an excerpt from a transcribed letter talking about the Flood:

“When I got down stairs it was just beginning to be light. And I looked out the kitchen window and thought ‘what a low lying fog,’ then realized that I was looking at the river, halfway up on my back lawn. I looked out in front and Main Street was a swift river. I watched the water creep up to my back porch, meanwhile getting my mower and car out. Mr. Gates helped me put the mower on the front veranda, and I left the car just north of the dining room. I then got the contents out of the safe and moved a few other things upstairs. I went down to the cellar to try to get some things, but heard a crack and a roar and made a dash for the stairs just as the hatchway started spouting streams of muddy water. ”

What happened next?

As always, if you have any information about New Hartford, we would love to hear about it!

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New Material!

If any one is interested: check out the Personal Recollections page of our website and the sub-page ‘Plain Tales’

We always appreciate donations of material and we like it even more when we can share it with you!

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From Sarah Jones’s inimitable ‘Sketches’ an anecdote about John Cotton Smith, one of the founders of the Greenwoods Textile Mills in the 1850’s:

“He was eminently the friend of the poor, and a promoter of law and good order in the town. And yet, he was not a man to be easily imposed upon, as the following anecdote will illustrate. An employee of the mill, thinking to perpetrate a fine joke on his employer on one occasion, rang the bell for dismissing the hands five minutes ahead of time.  Mr. Smith said nothing, and the weeks ran on until the next pay day, when instructions were issued to send the self appointed bell-ringer to headquarters for settlement of his accounts, where he was shown a paper with the loss to the company of five minutes time for each hand carefully figured thereon, and informed that it amounted to something over the quarter’s wages then due. After that it was not considered a wise thing to attempt a joke on ‘Capt. John’ as he was familiarly called not from any military rank, but because he was a born leader of men.”

From Sketches of the People and Places of New Hartford in the Past and Present; Sarah Lucia Jones, 1883

Reprints for sale from the New Hartford Historical Society, 537 Main Street, New Hartford, Ct. Open 7-9pm Wednesdays.

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John Blakesly

As a gardener, descriptions of old gardens always catch my eye:

Here in Sarah Jones’ book is the description of a house and garden in the West Hill area built by one John Blakesly in 1842:

“Mr. Blakesly was an industrious, honest man, and although he had but an acre and a half of land, he always found enough to do upon it, and his place, for neatness and high culture, could not be excelled in Litchfield County. It was by many considered a treat to look his little place over, so nicely was everything kept. He raised celery, garden vegetables and some tobacco, and from his own exclusive production made very good cigars.”

Tobacco  was a cash crop and luxury item for many farmers in the area. One of the largest tobacco farms in the region was the Case Farm in Barkhamsted Hollow. Commercial production of tobacco was a primary focus on several other farms on the Farmington River above Satan’s Kingdom. It was an ideal export crop, for it stored well, was easily transported, and even small amounts could always be sold in Hartford for cash. Most people relied on barter for goods and services, but cash was always welcome. And, as the above passage suggests, many farmers grew tobacco for their own personal use.

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A bicycle path?

From a 1946 newspaper:

‘More and more matters of interest are coming to light relative to the old New Hartford Bicycle or Club (eds. note, I know of only Two clippings connected to them, more information would be lovely) We have just learned that at the town meeting held in October, 1898, the town made an appropriation of $100 for a cycle track or path leading from Satan’s Kingdom to the Barkhamsted town line, the wheelmen themselves giving $75 towards the project. This cycle path was evidently on the easterly side of the Farmington River, up along the ‘Niggertown Road’ (eds. note, the Farmington River Tpke) and perhaps was advocated for the express purpose of seeing the bicyclists and other wheel men safely through that region known as Satan’s Kingdom. We can find no record of the cycle path, as such, having been constructed, though the road was improved.”

An interesting story, this would have been one of the earliest bike paths to have been built.  Its exact purpose seems a little unclear, since that section of road is actually above Satan’s Kingdom.  And, at the time of the purposed route, the only flat ground in the Kingdom was already occupied with several rail tracks and a road.  It may have been designed more to route the bikers along a more scenic and quieter path through Pine Meadow and North Village, since that is the section of river actually under discussion.

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The Taxman Cometh

A newspaper clipping announcing a special Bridge tax for New Hartford in 1909 inadvertently recorded important meeting point’s in town as well:

“The Collector will be at Jones’ Blacksmith Shop in Bakersville on Saturday, Jan. 7th from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m.; at the church in Nepaug from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. the same day; at the Town Clerk’s office in Town Building on Friday, Jan. 13th, from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m.; at Haddad’s store in Pine Meadow on Saturday, Jan. 14th from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. and at his home in Loveland House on Main Street, New Hartford Village, each evening from 7 to 9 o’clock during the month of January to receive taxes.”

We go to the taxman these days (or send our taxes to them); at that time the taxman did, indeed, come to us.

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