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New Board

After a number of years, we finally have a full board for the historical society once more. We would like to thank the long serving board members, in particular the Caseys, for all of their hard work and years of service. As always, we are open on Wednesdays between 7 and 9 p.m. We don’t bite and would love to talk to you!

Pat Casey: President

Chris Sihpol: Vice President

Natalie Sihpol: Treasurer

Anne Hall: Secretary

Tammy Casey

Heather Rankin

David Krimmel

Ginny Worrest

Bob Worrest

David Cravanzola

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Wine Tasting!

Save the date: Twelfth Annual New Hartford Historical Society Wine Tasting!!!

September 9th, 2016

6 pm to 9 pm at Ski Sundown, New Hartford, CT

$25 per person, tickets available at the door.

The New Hartford Historical Society’s main fundraiser is truly becoming an historic event. As always we will have a wide selection of local food, with some new vendors, along with (of course) dozens of wines and beers. The wine is international, and there just might be anything from Moonshine to Tequila (there was Chocolate last year!) While the food ranges from Pizza to Thai, and maybe figs, or chocolate, or European cheese for desert.  It is a great evening: excellent food, excellent wine and beer, and excellent company at a beautiful location.


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Coming up

Twelfth Annual New Hartford Historical Society Wine Tasting!!!

It is truly becoming an historic event. As always we will have a wide selection of local food, with some new vendors, along with (of course) dozens of wines and beers. It is a great evening: excellent food, excellent wine and beer, and excellent company at a beautiful location.

Save the date: September 9th, 2016 from 6 to 9 pm at Ski Sundown, New Hartford. Tickets are $25 and are available at the door.

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Wouldn’t happen this year

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.

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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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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 Information!

Winter is coming!

Actually, this is an older article written by the late Walter Landgraf and Jim Smith. Walt Landgraf was the foremost expert on Native Americans and early history in the region. Jim Smith was, for many years, the president of the New Hartford Historical Society.

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During New Hartford’s first century (1720-1820), the main occupation for most of its citizens was farming. It is likely that some commercial agriculture, as defined as produce grown explicitly for a market beyond the town, took place. However, most of it was probably in the form of rough grazing for livestock: cattle, sheep, and hogs. Timber would have been another source of income, but probably was largely played out by the Revolution.

From 1820, or earlier, New Hartford began to develop a manufacturing base. Dams were built on both the Farmington and Nepaug rivers. The variety of manufacturing was impressive: ranging from textiles to specialty tools. The building of tenement or factory housing in Pine Meadow and the North Village during the mid/late 1800’s testified to the increasing population whose livelihoods depended on industry. The growth of an ‘urban’ population encouraged the growth of other supporting businesses: from livery stable, to coal delivery, to taverns and hotels. In addition, of course, the town supported a number of specialized tradesman: blacksmiths, coopers, cartwrights, and others. Farming also continued; but not quite as extensively. Some of the smaller, subsistence/general farms vanished. By the late 1800’s, farms that could claim to focus on only one major item were more common. While these farms likely grew almost everything that was needed on the farm, they focused on a few primary products for export: dairy, tobacco, and apples were the main exports. These farmers also made use of the tradesmen in the village centers.

By 1920 New Hartford looked quite different. A gradual decline, almost unnoticeable, had begun after the Civil War. The opportunities for farming in the midwest combined with lower labor costs for industry in the south and New Hartford, like many New England towns, slowly lost population. By World War II, many of the big factories had left the region; the days of producing bulk items had passed. Farming, however, had fared worse. It had collapsed completely. The only ‘growth’ industry was in tourism. New Hartford was an ideal retreat from the urban centers: fishing, boating, and hiking all appealed.

The late twentieth century saw another shift. The town’s position as a ‘bedroom’ community: where the majority of the population worked and played elsewhere was established. Specialization continues to occur. The remaining manufacturers produce a few, high value items, often for the aerospace industry; but employ only a handful of people. Relatively little commercial/trade exists, but what does exist tends to be focused and keenly aware of a competitive environment. Gone are the general stores, in their place are stores catering towards fly fishermen, artists, and specialty retailers. Farming has also become more focused: vineyards, orchards, Christmas trees, and a few general farms that concentrate on CSA’s and the local food movement. Most of the land has been given over to houses and is not farmed or managed for timber. Yet, the land’s indirect value is incredibly high. Skiers, hikers, fishermen, all benefit from several major areas: among them Ski Sundown, West Hill Lake, and Nepaug state forest. New Hartford falls within several vital watersheds: safeguarding not only the rivers that are popular with fishermen and boaters, but also a major water supply for the greater Hartford region. Water is a product of New Hartford.

What will be next?

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