Category Archives: Names

Greenwoods Canadian Brass Band

A short-lived band, it almost certainly died when the Greenwoods Company left town in 1907. The article is from the New Hartford Tribune, an undated clipping in a series about local businesses.

Note the names, there is a good reason it was the Canadian band. New Hartford had, and still does have, a number of families who came down from Quebec and the Maritimes; a common migration throughout the Champlain and Berkshire regions.

“New Hartford is well favored in the musical line by the Greenwoods Canadian Brass Band. This band was organized in December, 1899, with Anthony Bedore as manager and Alfred Dechamplain was leader and musical instructor. The members of the band with their respective pieces follow: Alfred Dechamplain, cornet; Remi Pauquet, cornet; David Russett, cornet; Felix Guilbeault, piccalo; Barney Moran, alto; Arthur Christian, alto; Arthur Parren, alto; Regis Gagnon, trombone; Peter Gelina, trombone; Arthur Cote, baritone; Isaac Moran, bass; Lawrence H. Hotchkiss, snare drum; Peter Dechamplain, bass drum and symbols.”

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Defining Center

The term ‘town center’ is one of those terms with assumed knowledge.  We all ‘know’ where the town center is.  Except, of course, when we actually try to define it….

New Hartford’s first town center was the geographic center.  This is an unchanging point, in terms of geography, but it has little social weight.  New Hartford’s geographic town center, supposedly marked by a stone cairn, is deep in a particularly dense and swampy section of forests up on Yellow Mountain, which is the southern nose and flank of Town Hill.

The first social town center was Town Hill.  This point, several thousand yards north of Yellow Mountain, claimed the title between the 1720’s and the 1820’s.  Here the first cemetery, the meeting house, the first Congregational Church, a school, parade ground, and a number of houses created a classic rural New England town center.

In the 1820’s the rise of industry created two new villages: Nepaug and North Village.  Nepaug, just below Yellow Mountain, claimed the title of ‘town center’ at that point.  On several maps from this time period it is labelled as the town center.

However, North Village’s industrial base, which was supported by the water power created by the Greenwoods Dam, outstripped Nepaug in size.  In the 1830’s, ahead of Nepaug, it built a church which replaced Town Hill church.  At this time, the location of a Congregational Church was a statement of the location’s central importance.

Between the 1830’s and the 1870’s, Nepaug and North Village split the pre-eminent function that usually determines the location of a town center: the location of a town meeting.  New Hartford did not have a Town Hall in this period, instead meetings were held on an alternating schedule between the two centers.

In the 1870’s the greater size of North Village won out: the Town Hall was built in it. The maps from this time on no longer label Nepaug as the center.  For most people, the North Village is the town center.

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On Naming Things

New Hartford has several places which have debated names.  The most widely known is the Bakersville/Bakerville headache, which revolves around whether one believes the oldest inhabitants (no ‘s’) or the US Postal Service (yes to the ‘s’).  The state solved the problem for a number of years with one sign, going one way, saying ‘Bakersville’ and the one going the other way saying ‘Bakerville’.

Another headache is West Hill Lake, or West Hill Pond, or Shepard’s Pond, or Lake Wonksunk-a-munk….  The last was the purported Native American name for either the pond, or a local chief.  It had brief popularity at the turn of the last century.  Shepard’s Pond was a title given to the water-body after the first settler, one Daniel Shepard.  West Hill (X) has become its accepted title. But is it a Lake or a Pond?  Officially, it is a lake; but for strict geographers or cartographers, its size is more that of a pond…

We also have Maple Hollow, Stub Hollow, Skunk Hollow: all the same road.  The last name went out of use about a century ago.  Technically, Maple Hollow its entire length; the older name of Stub Hollow, named after a section of roughly cleared land on it, still crops up.

Or perhaps one wishes to debate the question of ‘Townline Road’ versus ‘Torringford East’  The latter is the Torrington name for that road. It has become widely accepted due to the fact that more people live on the Torrington side of the road, in the Torringford district of Torrington. But it is literally the Town line, and is labelled as such on the older maps of New Hartford, hence the New Hartford name of ‘Townline’.

There is too Route 44, also the Old North Road, the Albany Road, the Greenwoods Road….but those names are now almost entirely forgotten and remain only as records of the old system of Post Roads.  More common is the local name for a numbered route: Town Hill is Route 219, the Litchfield Turnpike is Route 202, Main Street is Route 44.

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Lost Industries

‘Buggy Whip industries’ are a shorthand for industries that no longer exist.  Industries relating to horses are, of course, far less common than they were in 1900.  Of the over forty companies that made carriage whips in the late 1800’s, only one still exists: Westfield Whip, in Westfield, Massachusetts which still operates out of the orginal brick factory, covered in ivy, and endlessly fascinating to the would-be historian driving by.  It looks abandoned, and yet isn’t.  Still, the industry, as an industry, is very dead.

This digression to Massachusetts was brought about by finding a business card for a dealer in New Hartford. One E.R. Carter was a dealer in: Cutter Whip Sockets, along with Carriage, Tire, Whiffletree, and Shaft bolts; all of which were advertised as being made out of Norway iron, which had a reputation for high quality.  Whip sockets have to be even more arcane an item than the whips themselves, and yet clearly there was enough of a demand for Mr. Carter to print up business cards advertising these wares. He also sold wagons, carriages, sleighs, surreys, and other horse or ox drawn equipment.  Carter might be compared to an independent car dealer, with plenty of after-factory or custom parts available for purchase.

Carter, who was active in town in the 1900-1915 era was a wealthy man, in addition to his shop he owned six houses in town and some vacant land.  His property was primarily in the North Village, High Street, and Steele Road areas. His family was also associated with Barkhamsted, quite a bit of space in his office memorandum book is taken up by the purchase and exchange of cemetery plots in the Pleasant Valley cemetery in Barkhamsted.  The New Hartford Carters may be connected to the Carter family who built the Soldier’s Monument now located in the Center Hill Cemetery in Barkhamsted, but that is not presently known.

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Considering road names

Your author wishes to merely, randomly contemplate history rather than work…

The names of New Hartford’s roads fall, as one might expect, into several categories: strictly descriptive (West Hill, Main Street, High Street, Black Bridge, South Road, etc); ‘evocative’ (Willow Lane, Maple Hollow, Timberline, Honey Hill Road etc); and people….lots of people.  The evocative names merge rather uneasily with the descriptive.  There are no trout anywhere near Troutwood, but it is possible that at one time a trout stream might have existed nearby; knowing that it is a modern name for a subdivision, one knows it wasn’t named after actual fish, but rather after the idea of the fish.  Nor are there any notable stands of willow on Willow Lane nor were there when the road was created, but the idea was pleasant.  On the other hand Maple Hollow, a very old name, still describes the area accurately, yet it appears to be in the same class as Willow Lane.  Difficult.  The people are generally easier.

There is Burgoyne Heights, named after General Burgoyne and his army, marching through these long years since on the Albany Road.

Kinsey, Steele, Gillette, Beeney, Dutton, Turnbull, Holcomb, Hoppen, Cotton, Spencer Brook, Marsh (deceptive for it runs along a Marsh, but the Marsh family lived there), Niles, Bruning, Henderson, Hayward, Sabolcik, Dings, Carpenter, Bruning, Ratlum, Ramstein, Loomis, Whitbeck, Stedman,  the list goes on.  The map becomes a roll call of history, family names and forgotten images etched on the printer’s plate.  It would be an interesting project to tell the story of the town through those names.

The Black Bridge is long washed away in a flood, but the name lingers, a passerby might be forgiven their confusion for the modern span is most assuredly not black; the Cotton family entirely forgotten…but Cotton Hill remains.

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What’s in a Name?

Place names have an astonishing tendency towards repetition; they are usually very local designations.  Frequently, they simply modify more basic geographic terms: farm, town, ford, hill, pond and in the various dialects and languages: a farm is also ‘by’ for example; while ‘town’, ‘ton’, ‘burg’, ‘burgh’, ‘wick’, ‘borough’…etc., all reflect various types of cities, and those terms are not the total list for ones in the English language.  These then tend to be modified by a fairly limited set of adjectives.  In New Hartford, an excellent example of this is ‘West Hill Pond’….there are plenty of hills, and ponds, farther west.  But if one considers the fact that New Hartford also has an East Hill (now Jones Mountain) and a Town Hill, then West Hill makes literal sense: the hill to the west of the town center.

West Hill pond has had two other designations in the past three centuries: ‘Lake Wonksunkmunk’ and ‘Shepard’s Pond’.  Unlike its current name, these two reflect the other common tendency amongst place names: connection to an individual.  Supposedly, Wonksunkmunk was the name of the chief of the Native American tribe, unidentified, that used the area as a seasonal hunting ground in the pre-colonial era.  The other name, ‘Shepard’s Pond, remembers the purported first settler on the pond’s shore: one Daniel Shephard in 1738.

There is, of course, also the issue of whether it is properly a lake or a pond….


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A brief foray into immigration

In today’s census, New Hartford is generally considered to be nearly ethnically homogeneous and nearly entirely white. However, this is a modern view of ethnicity, quite different from that of a century or more past. A glance at the phone book reveals an array of last names from across Europe.
The first settlers of New Hartford were not, by and large, immigrants as the majority of them came from families who had moved to New England in earlier generations. The vast majority of the families in the town’s first century were of English, with some Scottish and Irish, descent. Strikingly, under the modern definition of ethnicity, the early town also had a diverse population: a small, but well known, community of Native American and African families lived in the town.
In the 1800’s the larger immigration patterns began to shift due to the combination of unrest in Europe and increasing opportunities in North America. Following the general trend, New Hartford had an influx of Irish families in the mid 1800’s. These families primarily found work in the factories, and established the Upper and Lower Dublin district off of Holcomb Hill. The street of Upper Dublin still exists and several outstanding examples of factory row houses remain.
The Irish immigration was followed by Italian and, somewhat unusually, French Canadian. The French Canadian immigration, taking advantage of long standing trading links running north to Montreal, is a particularly interior New England trend. Unlike the Italian and Irish immigrations, which embraced most of North America. In New Hartford, the French Canadian group was and remains very large. The establishment of the Catholic CHurch, along with the former nunnery and Catholic school the latter two formerly stood on Town Hill next to the Immaculate Conception Cemetery, owed a great deal the French Canadian population. This group primarily settled in the village center and established a number of long running businesses, such as Roberge’s shoe store.
During the late 1800’s through to the mid 20th century, a steady influx of East European immigrants, primarily Polish but also German, Czech and Slovakian, settled in New Hartford. Many of these families took up farming. One of the last big dairy farms in town, Intervale, which milked over a hundred head until nearly 1970, was run by Hal Glowski, a Polish immigrant who bought the property in the mid 1930’s.

Obviously, these are general observations!

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