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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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Stories Wanted!

We are organizing our exhibition on the Flood of 1955, while we have a number of letters and memoirs in our archive; we would love to have more stories. Although we are looking primarily for New Hartford history, if you lived in the general area, the stories would be just as valuable. The Flood was a regional event that changed the landscape of the entire state.

If you want to write us your memories, or the memories of your family; you can email us or send us snail mail at New Hartford Historical Society, P.O. Box 41, 537 Main St, New Hartford Ct, 06057.

If you are in the area and wouldn’t mind being interviewed about the Flood, or about other history, we will be working on setting up interviews with people. We will want to videotape them for the historical society and for posterity! Please contact us.

Local history is always your stories and your contributions, we welcome them all.

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morbid curiosity

The burial permits for the town of New Hartford from 1893 to 1975 are available on our website, look at ‘Archives>Burial Records’. In addition to being an excellent source for genealogical information, these records are a fascinating glimpse into daily life. They record the lives, and the tragedies, of the people of the town. We can see through these permits how life has changed: diseases and accidents that were once common place have become rare, while unheard of accidents have become common.  The records are sometimes sobering: children dying of appendicitis or cholera, virtually unheard of in our modern world, men in the prime of their life dying from accidents that today would be survivable.  They are also reminders that some people lived long lives, dying in their 80’s, even a few in their 90’s.

On Page 7 of the burial and transit records though, we come to the first real indication of the modern world: 2nd Lieut. Henry C. Smith died on December 22, 1918 in an airplane (aeroplane was the spelling then) accident in France. The first car accident victim in New Hartford’s records was a child, Albert Pompa, age 11, in 1927.

The starkness of the burial records makes them almost more poignant. Who were these people, summed up in such a few short sentences?

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Looking to the Future

Historical Societies are dependent on the good faith of the citizens of the town. It has been said that history has been written by the victors.  A more correct statement might be that history is written by those who value their culture.

The New Hartford Historical Society needs more members if it is to survive. I write this looking at a number of file cabinets, shelves, and ranks of boxes: the archives of the society, encompassing well over a century of information, photos, recollections, letters, the memories of hundreds of people.  Without members, the memories will be consigned to the dark recesses of some location somewhere.  Should New Hartford be an orphan, without an history, or a proud child of its ancestors? New Hartford embodies all the great strands of New England history, whether of tragedy or joy.  Shall these events, these people, these dreams be forgotten? From Floods to Fires, the canvas of the great racing yachts, the guitars of great artists, the working man, the farmers, the authors, the actors, the thousands of lives? Shall we consign them to oblivion?

Membership in the New Hartford Historical Society:

Supporter: $25-$49

Patron: $50-$99

Greystone Circle: $100+

Please make checks payable to New Hartford Historical Society and mail NHHS, P.O. Box 41, New Hartford, CT 06057 or stop by and see us, Wednesday nights between 7 and 9pm.

Thank You!



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Welcome to the New Year

Hi everyone! Back from a winter break.

We are always looking for new things to write about here at the Historical Society.  Let us know if you have a question or a particular topic of interest in the comments section!

In the meantime from the archives: we don’t have any snow here this year; but this scene was taken in the New Hartford area about a century ago.


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