Category Archives: Uncategorized

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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New Research!

David Krimmel, our town historian, came in tonight with some wonderful new research: the complete title records for all the brick houses (18) in New Hartford built between 1820 and 1900.  These houses are scattered throughout the town and belonged to both farmers and merchants.  While they exhibit some overall similarities in architecture, they each have their own histories.

It is hoped that with this sort of title record, research into their histories will be easier.

Thank you!

We have also begun to add historical pictures to our website gallery.  Just two so far, ‘Animals’ as a test file. We’ll be adding more as we have the chance.

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July 4, 1776

In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness of his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States   of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and   that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


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The Church that Stabbed Itself

Local history is built from a multitude of stories, tragic and funny, beautiful and horrible.  One of New Hartford’s more peculiar stories is that of ‘The Church that Stabbed Itself’, otherwise known as the Town Hill Congregational Church.  At the corner of Hoppen Rd and Town Hill is the Town Hill Memorial Park, built on the foundations of this church.  Currently, the bell is down for renovation, see a New Hartford Plus article of a few weeks ago.  This was the site of the first church and meeting house in town, dating back to the 1739.  Its history as a church site and as a park has been long.  However, it is best known for a windy day in January, 1910.

The church that stood there in 1910 had been built in 1829, a postcard perfect of example of Connecticut Congregational Church architecture: a classical white church surrounded by a small farming village and green fields.  But even as it was being built, its congregation was leaving.   By the 1840’s, the centers of Nepaug and North Village were rapidly expanding industrial centers.  The villagers saw no reason to climb all the way up Town Hill, building instead two new churches: North Congregational and Nepaug to serve their communities.  Town Hill’s population was declining as marginal farms were abandoned, what congregation was left would eventually shift to the other churches.  The church gradually fell out of use and in to disrepair.  By 1910 it stood vacant, damaged by lightning and time.

On that January day the steeple was lifted by the wind; it snapped off just above the bell and flipped backwards.  It had been well built, the roof was old, and, as luck had it, it fell just right.  The spire went right through the roof and lodged in the old balcony.  This failure may have been due to the removal, presumably accidental, of the iron tie rods that secured the spire.  The roof patched; but the steeple was never rebuilt.  In 1929, the church was completely removed, only its bell and the foundation stones remain.  A few pieces of the church can still be found: some deacon’s chairs in a private home, a finial at the Historical Society, and rumor has it, quite a few floorboards and beams in houses built around that time on Town Hill.

The memory of the event survives though, enshrined in any number of postcards and for many years as part of the town’s official seal.

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Why Stanclift Cove?

Before 1936, the people of New Hartford used Greenwood’s Pond, the impoundment of the Farmington River above the North Village, as their local swimming hole and as an ideal location for yacht races.   Following the failure of the dam, boats obviously could no longer use the area, though people still recall swimming above the remains of the dam abutments during their lunch hours, as the dam was right next to the Greenwoods Factory buildings.  It is probable that swimming in New Hartford would have been confined to West Hill Lake and the rivers, had it not been for the construction of the reservoirs.  The MDC’s purchase of substantial amounts of land in New Hartford and Barkhamsted, nearly a quarter of the latter town and about a sixth of New Hartford, caused local outrage.  One of the issues was that neither town gained any benefits from the reservoirs.  Though today, the open space preserved by them is a clear benefit; at the time, the issue of open space was unheard of.

An agreement was reached that the two towns could use the Compensating Reservoir for recreation.  This was possible because the Compensating is not a drinking water supply, instead it maintains the appropriate stream flow downstream of the Nepaug and Barkhamsted Reservoirs.  Stanclift Cove, therefore, was created as a park open only to residents of those two towns.  The MDC would later open another area as a recreation site for the general public; but Stanclift Cove remains an essentially private park.

It was named after the Stanclift family, who had farmed in that area for many years.  They had been prominent in the affairs of both towns, serving in local offices and running a livery and freight service.


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A Walking Tour

Now that it is finally spring, the center of New Hartford is quite busy.  Although stretched along Route 44, it is a very pleasant place to take a short walk.  There is, of course, the Farmington River and a variety of older commercial buildings; but there is also a surprising number of interesting houses still present.  These houses range from quite early Greek Revival to much later in the nineteenth century.    Many of these buildings have been remodeled; and sometimes entirely repurposed: for example the North End School, which is now an apartment building; however, in many cases the age of construction and building history can be discerned from the street.  This is not a village of ornate houses.  It is a village of well-built, upper middle-class homes and tenements supporting a prosperous mill town.  In fact, it is precisely what one would expect given the town’s history.

The Historical society did create a short walking tour pamphlet that covers some of these buildings, it is available at the society.

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Freeborn Garretson Baker

In the 1800’s music was a common mode of entertainment.  Music teachers, singing masters, piano teachers, and dancing masters were all common careers.

Freeborn Garretson Baker took his first and second name from a prominent Methodist minister of the early 1800’s, Freeborn Garretson.  Baker was a native of Bakersville, born August 19, 1813.  He taught singing schools in Bakerville, Winsted, Torrington, and other neighbouring towns.  He also led concerts, probably held in the dance hall in the Bakerville Tannery, and often played the cello as an accompanist.   In 1856, he moved to Wheaton, Illinois were he was the first director of music and remained a professor until his death.  He was well regarded by the university, and became a Trustee of Wheaton in 1857.  The 1882 Register of Wheaton College stated that: “He was beloved as a neighbor, respected as a man, revered as a Christian, and honored as an officer of the College and the Church.”

He died in Bakerville, July 12, 1879. His funeral was held in Bakersville.  Ironically, until his grand-nephew stepped in, there was no music.

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