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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What’s in a Name?

In historical study, place names are invaluable tools that can illuminate waves of settlement, previous languages, or the political, economic and cultural priorities of a time period. New Hartford is hardly immune from the importance of names.
For example, on early maps a place is called Mast Swamp, becomes Greenwoods Pond, becomes nameless. This is the stretch of the Farmington River above town running up almost to the local dump in Barkhamsted. Today, the river winds through a broad, flat, marshy floodplain. There is essentially no human activity in the area, aside from those passing through on the river. But the area’s former names, and indeed its namelessness, reflect Connecticut history.
It was first called Mast Swamp because the broad valley of the river contained numerous pine trees ideally suited for building ship timbers and masts. The need for quality timber spurred British exploration and control of North America in the 1700’s, as the British Navy grew in its arms and trade race against France. Marine grade timber was also a valuable resource for the colonists who relied on coastal vessels for contact with the other colonies along the eastern seaboard, in addition to the growth of their own, independent trans-Atlantic trade networks. The name Mast Swamp not only gives clues to the ecological history of the area, but also that the area was valued primarily for its resource potential when the name was given. It was not Pine Swamp, but Mast Swamp.
It then became Greenwoods Pond. I am uncertain as to whether the company takes the name from the area or whether the company’s name is given to the area. Greenwoods was a major textile company, established in New Hartford. It gave its name to the pond (or lake) that it created. When its factories were built in the 1800’s, water power was the industrial power source. In order to power the textile mill, Greenwoods Company built a dam just above the town center and turned Mast Swamp into Greenwoods Pond. The name, therefore, is closely linked to Connecticut’s history as a manufacturing powerhouse. During which time, every river that could be harnessed for power was, and the great red brick mills in the valleys became as ubiquitous as the small red barns of the older, hilltop farms.
But, in 1901 Greenwoods left, moving south searching for cheaper labour and cheaper, more efficient coal power. The dam, and the name, remained until the flood in 1936. When the dam failed, the reason for the name vanished.
Today, it is seen as a part of the Farmington River, the current emphasis being placed on the river itself, as a both a recreational and economic resource.

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The Villages of New Hartford

Like all New England towns, New Hartford is actually composed of several villages. Originally these were distinct areas of settlement, surrounded by outlying pasture and woodland regions. Today, extensive development has blurred the distinct nature of these villages. A village’s location was determined by a number of different factors: convenient road intersections or river crossings, geographically and politically important locations, prime agricultural land, or access to water power. Not surprisingly, all of these factors had some role in the location of New Hartford’s five villages. All three had their schools, stores, churches and graveyards.

The first village was that of Town Hill. Its center was located at the corner of Rte. 219 and Hoppen Road, now the Memorial Bell Park. This location was probably selected for two reasons: it is about a quarter mile from the geographic center of town and it is a broad, flat hilltop reasonably well suited for farming. However, it was not on main highway and with poorer soils than those of the river valleys, along with no water-power, Town Hill was essentially abandoned as a village by the mid-1800’s.

The second village was that of Nepaug, originally called the town center. Located on the Nepaug River on what is now Rte. 202, but was then the Hartford-Litchfield Turnpike, this village had access to superior farmland in the Nepaug Valley and was on a main road, unlike Town Hill.

Bakerville and Pine Meadow were established shortly thereafter in the mid to late 1700’s. Like Nepaug they had the advantage of riparian agricultural land, easy access to water-power, and transportation links. All three river villages were centers of light industry, as well as trade and postal centers throughout the nineteenth century. Stagecoaches stopped daily in all three.

The last village was the North center. This is now what we consider the center of town. Although the Prospect and Holcomb Hill areas, which were part of the North Village, were farming areas, this center truly began to grow, along with Pine Meadow, in the 1820’s when the Farmington River was dammed and diverted in order to generate large amounts of power. The advent of the railway gave a further boost to Pine Meadow and North Villages, as the mainline of the eventual Central New England Railway and a line of New Haven and Hartford Railway ran through the villages.

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What is in a name?

New Hartford is, of course, named after Hartford; probably for the very simple reason that the first settlers of the new township in 1733 were all from Hartford families. Yet, there is always a tendency to consider other relationships. Hartford sits on the Connecticut River just below the last point of navigation, Windsor Locks; it is, therefore, a sort of gateway into the upper reaches of the Connecticut. A point of transition. New Hartford occupies another point of transition.
As one travels west from Hartford on Route 44, also known as the Albany Turnpike, the Old North Road, or the Great North Road, the first twenty miles are relatively flat (leaving aside Avon Mountain!). But as you cross into New Hartford you hit the first ridge of hills that reach clost to or above a thousand feet. Looking at a map you will see that Ratlum, Satan’s Kingdom, Jones Mountain, Yellow Mountain form the first line of the Berkshires; from here on the road will become a winding road between steadily rising hills. It no longer seems so clear with today’s modern roads, cars and multitude of other state highways; but in the 1700’s New Hartford was a gateway on the main road, just as Hartford was a gateway on the main river.

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