Norwich To Worcester Via Willimantic, Stafford Springs, And Southbridge


This route leads through the heart of the hill towns of northwestern Connecticut and southern Massachusetts. It follows the Connecticut State Highway to the Massachusetts line, the course of which is clearly marked by blue bands on telegraph poles and fence posts. Through Massachusetts it follows, for the most part, State Highway.

R. 11 § 1. Norwich to Willimantic. 17.0 m. From Norwich (p 370) follow Broadway to the right of the City Hall along the general course of the Yantic river, the route marked in blue, to Yantic (4.0). The waterpower of the river here is utilized by local factories.

At the fork the route bears right, crossing R.R. at the station and the iron bridge over the Yantic river. The course is now across the hills, amid attractive scenery, through

9.5 NORTH FRANKLIN. Pop (Franklin twp) 527. Inc. 1786.

Note. From North Franklin the road to the right leads to Lebanon Station and Lebanon (4.0). Lebanon is now an unspoiled New England village, uninvaded by summer people, yet wears the well-preserved air that results from thrift. The Common, of more than a hundred acres, extends through the center of the village. In pre-Revolutionary times Lebanon was a place of some importance. Here was the home of the Trumbulls, a family which vies with the Wolcotts and Griswolds in the number of its prominent men. Colonel John Trumbull, an aide to Washington, is best known as a painter, but still more famous was his brother Jonathan, who was Governor of Connecticut from 176o to 1783. He was Washington’s chief counselor during the northern campaigns, and when perplexing difficulties arose Washington would say, “Let us see what Brother Jonathan can do.” `Brother Jonathan’ has become the United States equivalent of John Bull, and the popular depiction of Uncle Sam perpetuates some of the physical characteristics of Governor Trumbull. The Trumbull mansion, on the main street, was the residence of the Governor during the Revolution, where he entertained Washington, Lafayette, Rochambeau, Jefferson, and Franklin. The Revolutionary war office is also still preserved, which supplied more men and money than any other State save Massachusetts. Eleazar Wheelock, while pastor at North Lebanon, now Columbia, established a school for Indians which, transferred to Hanover, N.H., became Dartmouth College.

The route continues downgrade into the valley of the Shetucket river through South Windham (13.5) to

17.0 WILLIMANTIC (R.3, p 214). (366)

R. 11 § 2. Willimantic to Worcester. 67.0 m.

From Willimantic follow Main St. westward, and at the fork beyond the Town Farm turn left on Coventry Road, following the blue markers. Columbia Road to the left, red markers, leads by Route 3 (p 214) to Hartford. The route follows the valley of the Willimantic river through Eagleville (6.6) to Mansfield Station (8.5). The village of Mansfield, two miles to the northeast, was the place of origin of the Connecticut silk industry. In 1793 the inhabitants received a bounty on 265 pounds of raw silk, and in 1829 the Mansfield Silk Company built the first factory for the production of sewing-silk.

At Storrs, three miles east of Mansfield Station, is the Connecticut State Agricultural College, founded in 1879, on a tract 0f 600 acres among the beautiful hills and streams of Tolland County. It is a well equipped institution attended by about 300 students.

The route continues on up the valley of the Willimantic river through the hamlets of Merrow and South Willington, and past Tolland Station (14.0).

The village of Tolland lies five miles west. It is a beautiful New England village, one of those `flies preserved in amber’ which have undergone little change in a century,—once a county-seat and a town of considerable importance. The jail, no longer used, recalls departed glory.

20.0 STAFFORD SPRINGS. Alt 460 ft. Pop (twp) 5233. Tolland Co. Settled 1719. Mfg. woolen goods.

This is a thriving little manufacturing town. The park in the center is the gift of a Massachusetts scion of the Hyde family of the town. The hospital and its endowment, in all $$300,000, were given by the late Mr. and Mrs. Cyril Johnson. The Agricultural Society holds an annual fair.

The mineral springs here were used by the Indians. About 1765 they began to attract visitors and for more than fifty years remained the principal health resort and watering place of New England. John Adams, afterward President, journeyed here on horseback from his home in Quincy and remained several days at a time. In his diary of June 2, 1791, he wrote, “Thirty people have been here today; the halt, the lame, the vapory, hypochondriac, scrofulous, etc., all resort here.” In 1774 Dr. Joseph Warren established a sanitarium here. Of their decline in popularity Edward Everett Hale writes:

“I am almost sorry to see that Stafford Springs is becoming a great manufacturing town. But the dear old hotel, where the invalids of a century ago repaired in their own carriages with their own spans of horses and their own negro drivers, is still extant, and, if you ask at the right place, they will show you the sign board which used to be displayed over the bath-house with this verse of Dr. Dwight’s:

“`O health, thou dearest source of bliss to man, I woo thee here, here at this far famed Spring.”‘

The State Road follows the valley of Furnace Brook through Stafford (22.5) and Staffordsville (24.5), and crosses the Massachusetts line, marked by a monument (27.5), steadily ascending past Wales Pond on the right to

30.5 WALES. Alt 900 ft. Pop (twp) 345 (1910), 337 (1915). Hampden Co. Inc. 1762.

Originally a part of Brimfield, the village was named in 1828 in honor of James Lawrence Wales. Mt. Pisgah (1280 ft) rises to the west. The State Road, without markers, follows down the valley of Wells Brook to

34.5 BRIMFIELD. Alt 660 ft. Pop (twp) 866 (1910), 934 (1915). Hampden Co. Inc. 1731.

In the Brimfield churchyard is buried General William Eaton, a U.S. army officer and afterward Consul at Tunis.

In 1800 with a force of 400 Moslems and 100 Christians he marched from Cairo, Egypt, across the desert to Tripoli. With reckless bravery he stormed the ramparts of Derne and would have restored Hamet, the rightful Pasha, had not the United States meantime concluded a peace with the reigning Pasha. Eaton was forced to abandon his self-imposed task, and six years later died here in his home town. Derne Street, back of the State House in Boston, is the only commemoration of this remarkable exploit.

Note. Route 1, connecting with central and western New England, is reached by the lefthand road, to Palmer (p 131). See Connecticut Map.

The State Road follows the valley of Mill Brook through East Brimfield and Fiskdale (40.0) to

42.0 STURBRIDGE. Pop (twp) 1957 (1910),1618 (1915). Worcester Co. Indian name Tanquesque. Mfg. augers and bits.

From Sturbridge the route passes to the south of Fisk Hill and through Globe Village to

46.0 SOUTHBRIDGE. Alt 500 ft. Pop (twp) 12,592 (1910), 14,217 (1915). Worcester Co. Inc. 1816. Mfg. optical goods, cotton and woolen goods, cutlery, and shuttles.

Southbridge, formerly known as `Honest Town,’ and now as `Eyeglass Town,’ is a busy manufacturing village on the Quinebaug river. It is the home of the American Optical Company, the largest makers of lenses in the country.

The State Road leads northward along the valley of Cady Brook to Charlton City (52.0), where it turns west to

53.0 CHARLTON. Alt 888 ft. Pop (twp) 2032 (1910), 2213 (1915). Worcester Co. Inc. 1764.

This was the birthplace of Dr. Wm. T. G. Morton (b. 1819), discoverer of the use of ether as an anesthetic. He obtained a patent for his great discovery under the name of “Letheon.”

The State Road runs across the hills to North Oxford (58.5), where it joins Route 12 (p 375), with blue markers, to 67.0 WORCESTER (R. 1.).