This north and south route through the heart of New England follows the valley of the Thames and its tributary, the Quinebaug, thence crosses the eastern hill country of Massachusetts, and from Peterboro follows the valley of the Contoocook northward. It traverses varied and interesting scenic regions, passes through many industrial towns, where one may feel the pulse of New England, and joins the east and west route across New Hampshire from Concord to Claremont.
Though chiefly State Road it is a route which will probably be of avail chiefly in short sections for connecting links.
From New London to Thompson and Worcester this route follows one of the primary north and south trunk lines of State Highway, throughout its course marked by blue markers. The first stretch is along the beautiful valley of the Thames, the scene of the Harvard-Yale boat races. Norwich is a manufacturing city of great antiquarian interest. At the water-powers of the Quinebaug are numerous small industrial towns, each manufacturing its Yankee specialty. Timothy Dwight a century ago wrote of the road from New London to Norwich: “The road is a turnpike, the first which was made in the United States. The former road was perfectly fitted to force upon the public mind the utility of turnpike roads.”
From the Parade, New London, the route proceeds north-ward on State and Huntington Sts., or along Main St. past the Old Town Mill (p 163), both of which come together on William St. The route to the right, Mohegan Ave., followed by the trolley, is the old Mohegan Indian Trail. To the right and left are. the extensive grounds of the new Connecticut College for Women, the buildings of which are on the hill to the left (p 164). The route runs straight ahead over Quaker Hill (200 ft). Below to the right we overlook the broad and beautiful estuary of the Thames river and the four-mile course, the scene since 1878 of the annual Harvard-Yale boat races. On the opposite shore is the United States Naval Torpedo Station, and just above, Red Top, the quarters of the Harvard crews, directly on the bank of the river.
A mile further north on the further shore, on a beautiful peninsula, is Gales Ferry, the headquarters in June of the Yale crews, and during the summer of a Yale tutoring school. During the War of 1812 Commodore Decatur with three vessels was blockaded for over a year in the river above by the British ship “Wasp,” which was long at anchor here. It is said that more than one Gales Ferry lassie perhaps disloyally lost her heart to the British naval officers. Decatur built a re-doubt on Allyn’s Mountain to the north, now marked by a tablet on one of the boundary boulders.
The route crosses Oxoboxo Brook. To the left lies the hamlet of Uncasville, named from the famous sachem who had so much to do with the early history of this region. Beyond the State Road crosses the crest of Mohegan Hill (300 ft). Below, on the river, is the village of Mohegan.
In 1640 Uncas, the sachem of the Mohegans, ceded most of the territory about Norwich to the Connecticut Colony, and when the white settlers came he removed with his tribe to this point. On the highest hill in the village are the remains of his old fortress, and on the Mohegan reservation in the vicinity there still dwells a small colony of half-breeds, the remnant of this once powerful tribe.
The route continues along Thames St. through the manufacturing suburb of Thamesville. Here is located the paper-board mill of the American Straw Board Company, one of the largest in the world, with a daily capacity of 125 tons.
As we approach Norwich we have a fine view of the city with its commanding position on rising ground between the valleys of the Yantic and the Shetucket. Crossing the Yantic river by a bridge which reaches across intervening islands, the route follows Main St. into the center of
13.0 NORWICH. Alt 33 ft. Pop 24,637 (1910), 30,000 (loc. est. 1915); one fifth foreign-born. New London Co. Settled 1659. Mfg. cotton, woolens, velvet, paper, firearms, thermos bottles, boilers, envelope machinery, trunks. Value of Product, $10,000,000.
Norwich, called the `Rose of New England,’ is one of the most beautiful cities of the State, occupying a sightly position between the valleys of the Yantic and the Shetucket, which here unite to form the Thames. This is the head of navigation and considerable commerce is carried on. The city and its surrounding suburbs have a hundred manufacturing plants and also many interesting memorials of Colonial days.
Mrs. Lydia H. Sigourney, born in a house still standing at 380 Washington St., describes Norwich viewed from the eastern acclivity as “like a citadel, guarded by parapets of rock, and embosomed in an amphitheater of hills, whose summits mark the horizon with a waving line of forest green.”
Edmund Clarence Stedman, though not a native of Norwich, spent his younger years here and wrote affectionately:
“Guarded by circling streams and wooded mountains, Like sentinels round a queen;
Dotted with groves and musical with fountains, The city lies serene.”
Norwich was settled in 1659 by colonists from Saybrook under the leadership of Captain John Mason (1600-72), who had crushed the power of the Pequots at Fort Mystic in 1637, and the Rev. James Fitch, the pastor of the church, who became much interested in the welfare of the Mohegans. Previous to that time this site had been one of the principal residences of the Mohegans.
As the counselor and friend of Uncas, the wise Mohegan sachem, Captain Mason was doubtless largely responsible for the deed of conveyance signed by Uncas and his two sons at Saybrook in June, 1659, granting thirty-five proprietors the title to a tract nine miles square, called Mohegan until 1662, when it was renamed for the old English town. During the Revolution the citizens of Norwich were ardent patriots, and among their leaders were the Huntingtons, several of whom took part in the war and were members of Congress. Samuel Huntington was a member of the Continental Congress from 1775 to 1780, its president from 1779 to 1781, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Governor of Connecticut from 1786 to 1796. His house still stands on East Town St.
In December, 1767, in reply to the message from Boston, a town-meeting forbade the use of tea, wines, liquors, and foreign manufactures, and in 1770 the citizens were forbidden to hold intercourse with a school master who persisted in drinking tea.
Norwich was chartered as a city in 1784 and at this time carried on a thriving commerce with the West Indies and the Atlantic ports. The embargo of 1807 and the War of 1812 proved a death-blow to the commerce; but the protectionism of 1813 resulted in a rapid development of manufacturing. Later John Fox Slater was interested in cotton mills at Taftville and Jewett City, and he and his son, William A. Slater, have been liberal benefactors of the town. The older parts of the city remain residential and the factories are on the outskirts, as at Thamesville, Greenville, Taftville, Yantic, and Occum.
The city occupies the narrow strips between the rivers, the gneiss ledges of the hills, and the little island formed by the division of the Yantic river. The business part of the city forms a sort of semicircle, from which the residential streets rise in terraces. At Chelsea Parade is the Norwich Free Academy (1856), which takes the place of a public high school, and here is the Slater Memorial Hall, in which are the Peck Library and the Converse Art Collection. From this point Sachem Street leads to the falls of the Yantic, with their “beetling cliffs, the compressed channel, the confused mass of granite, and the roaring, foaming river.” A dam diverts the water by an artificial channel to the numerous factories.
Mohegan Park, a tract of natural woodland in the heart of the city, the gift of private individuals, is accessible for vehicles and pedestrians from Washington St. and Rockwell St. Chelsea Parade and the Little Plain on Broadway were also gifts of generous citizens, as were the Meeting House Rocks uptown and Lowthorpe Meadows opposite the Coit Elms.
On Sachem St., near the falls, is the little Indian cemetery with the grave of Uncas, marked by a granite shaft, the corner-stone of which was laid by Andrew Jackson in 1833. Uncas was a Pequot who in 1634 revolted against the Sachem Sassacus and joined the Mohegans, who elected him sachem of the tribe, over which he ruled for fifty years until his death in 1683. He always remained a firm friend of the colonists. The Pequots and Mohegans were of the same race as the Hudson River Mohegans, but shortly before 1600 migrated eastward, fighting their way into southeastern Connecticut. This spot has always been the burial ground for the “royal blood of Mohegan,” and many of the grand sachems are buried here. The last of the line was Mazeen, who was buried here in 1826.
Northeast of the Catholic Cemetery beyond Greenville, on a rocky bluff in the extreme eastern part of the city, is a monument erected in 1841 to Miantonomoh, a sachem of the Narragansetts who was captured here in 1643 by the Mohegans and taken to Hartford, where Uncas had him executed.
Norwich contains a number of old houses which will interest the antiquarian. The Thomas Lathrop house, in which Mrs. Lydia H. Sigourney was born and passed her girlhood, is described in her “Letters of Life” and “Connecticut Forty Years Since.” The homes of General Jabez Huntington and his sons of Revolutionary fame, the Coit homestead, and the Coit Elms are alluded to by Holmes in the “Autocrat of the Breakfast Table.” The house in which David A. Wells, the famous economist, lived for several years stands on Washing-ton St. below Broad. Norwich was the birthplace of Benedict Arnold, the traitor, Donald G. Mitchell, ‘Ik Marvel,’ and of Daniel C. Gilman, President of Johns Hopkins University. The house of Aaron Cleveland, great-grandfather of Grover, still stands on West Town St. at Bean Hill. Nearby is the shop in which he carried on the business of a silversmith. The fore-bears of Presidents Fillmore, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, and Cleveland lived in Norwich. The Adams Express Company was first started as a route between Norwich, New London, and New York by the boat lines.
At Norwich and in the surrounding villages, located at available waterpowers, are some of the largest cotton mills of the country. The J. B. Martin Company produces 1,000,000 yards of velvet annually, the U.S. Finishing Company 85,000,000 yards per annum, the Totokett Mills, to the north at Occum, 2,000,000 yards of cotton goods, and the Falls Company 5,500,000 yards of fine cotton goods and awnings. The Hopkins & Allen Arms Company’s plant has a large output of firearms of all descriptions, and has recently been manufacturing military rifles for the Belgian Government. The American Thermos Bottle Company has its large factory here and ships its products to all parts of the world.
Leaving Norwich we follow North Main St. and Central Ave., parallel with the Shetucket river, bearing left with trolley through Greenville (14.5). The mills of the Shetucket Company here produce annually 6,000,000 yards of denims.
At Taft Station the road forks, the lefthand road leading north along the valley of the Shetucket to Taftville, one of the most important of the manufacturing suburbs of Norwich. Here are the great Ponemah Cotton Mills, among the largest in the country, with an output of 22,000,000 yards a year.
The main route bears right with the blue markers, following the valley of the Quinebaug. At Jewett City (22.0) bear left, crossing R.R., curving right by Clayville Pond, and passing straight through the village of
28.5 PLAINFIELD. Alt 177 ft. Pop (twp) 6719. Windham Co. Settled 1689. Mfg. cotton and woolen goods.
Plainfield was settled in 1689 from Chelmsford, Mass. Its `plains’ were called Egypt by the surrounding settlements on account of the great quantities of corn which were raised.
Note. A mile and a half beyond the village the righthand road leads to Moosup and Providence. See Conn., and R.I. Maps.
At Central Village (31.5) keep to the right, following the blue markers on telegraph poles to
38.0 DANIELSON. Alt 226 ft. Pop (twp) 2934. Windham Co. Mfg. shoes, cotton, woolen, shuttles, and mill supplies.
Danielson is a pleasantly situated village with several cotton mills and shoe factories which utilize the power furnished by the Quinebaug and the Five Mile rivers, which join here. Originally part of Killingly, it was named for General James Danielson, the builder of the first house in the settlement.
Note. The righthand road leads to Providence.
From Danielson we continue to ascend through a hilly and well wooded country along the valley of Five Mile River. This region was formerly a part of the Indian districts of Attawaugan and Minnetixit.
The Narragansetts once gave the Nipmucks, who inhabited this region, a great seashore feast, and the following year they were invited to these uplands to eat venison. A quarrel arose during the banquet and the Narragansetts were massacred. Their tribe marched a strong force int0 the Nipmuck country to seek revenge, but received a severe defeat at the fords of the Quinebaug.
41.0 KILLINGLY. Alt 250 ft. Pop (twp) 6564. Windham Co. Inc. 1708. Mfg. cotton and woolens, and whip-sockets.
The first contribution to the college which later became Yale was the gift of John Fitch of Norwich of 637 acres of land in Killingly. With this he gave enough glass and nails for a college hall. Cotton mills were established here early in the nineteenth century.
“A very extraordinary discovery was made in this town,” says an old gazetteer, “a living frog having been dug out of the earth, 3 feet below the surface. It was enclosed or embodied in a stratum of clay; and, on being disengaged, left a distinct figure of the frog, resembling a mould. The frog when discovered, was in a torpid state; but on coming to the air, it became animated, and acquired strength and power, and soon added one to the race of living animals.”
47.0 PUTNAM(R. 3).
Route 3, from New York and Hartford, here crosses east and west. See Conn. Map.
Note. The shortest route to Thompson leads out School St. through Mechanicsville, at the junction of the Quinebaug and French rivers.
The State Highway, with blue markers, leaves Putnam via Woodstock Ave. and curves north through West Thompson to
53.0 THOMPSON. Alt 428 ft. Pop (twp) 4804. Windham Co. Inc. 1785. Mfg. cotton and woolen goods.
This was an important post road town in Colonial days. The inn was built here in 1831 by Vernon Stiles, an interesting character of the town. It was by means of the complicated stairways in this inn that Governor Dorr, of Dorr’s Rebellion (p 187), escaped from his pursuers.
Note. From Thompson Station a shorter route runs directly north to Lake Chaubunagungamaug.
The State Road, with its blue markers, swings eastward through East Thompson (55.3), in the extreme northeastern corner of the State.
Immediately after crossing the State line (57.0), the State Road skirts the shore of the lake which rejoices in the name of Chaugogagogmanchaugagogchaubunagungamaug. It is “three miles in length,” a local authority says, not specifying whether the name or the sheet of water. In any case it is one of the largest lakes in Massachusetts. The name, usually abbreviated to the last six syllables that on the map it may not extend across the whole of New England and get lost in the ocean, means, “You fish on your side, I fish on my side, nobody shall fish in the middle.” The region about here was much revered by the Nipmuck Indians, who believed it to be the home of the Great Spirit.
East Webster (60.0) lies on the shore at the north end of the lake. A mile to the east is the town of
WEBSTER. Alt 440 ft. Pop (twp) 11,509 (1910), 12,381 (1915). Worcester Co. Inc. 1832. Mfg. cotton and woolen goods, and shoes.
This is one of the mill towns of Massachusetts, utilizing the waterpower of the French river. Its importance dates from 1812, when Samuel Slater founded the cotton mills. In 1832 it was set off from the towns of Oxford and Dudley, and named in honor of Daniel Webster, then at the height of his fame. The Slater Mills have made the town what it is. Here is made most of the cloth for the uniforms of the United States Army, Pullman porters, and much of that used by hotel porters and bell boys throughout the country. In 1912 the company produced 1,250,000 pieces of cotton and 90,000 pieces of woolens and worsteds. At the Slater residences in East Webster, Mrs. Horatio N. Slater and her daughters entertained the mill hands, at the wedding of Miss Esther Slater in 1915, the Boston and Blue Hill residences being more frequented by the family.
64.0 OXFORD. Alt 516 ft. Pop (twp) 3361 (1910), 3407 (1915). Worcester Co. Settled 1683. Indian name Manchaug. Mfg. cotton, woolens, and shoes.
Oxford is a pleasant tree-shaded town with shoe factories and cotton and woolen mills. The town was named in honor of the university in England.
At Fort Hill are the remains of a bastioned fort built by French Huguenots who settled here in 1683. A few years later they were so alarmed by the Indians that they returned to Boston.
At North Oxford (68.5) bear right, following macadam State Road, with blue markers. Route 11 (p 368) enters here from Stafford Springs and Southbridge. Pass through the village of Auburn (73.0) and beyond cross over the R.R., bearing left. As we enter Worcester, Holy Cross College is on a hill to the right. We enter on Southbridge St., curving into Main St. with Route 1, from New York and Springfield.
77.0 WORCESTER (R. 1, p 136).