Connecticut Athletes in the 1912 Summer Olympics


Allan Briggs won a gold medal, but fate interceded to deny the remarkably talented Howard Drew the gold medals he deserved.


One hundred years ago, the 1912 summer Olympics took place in Stockholm, Sweden. It was a momentous event, in part because of the number of participants. In just 16 years, the number of athletes had exploded from 163 in 1896 to more than 2,400 in 1912.

The most famous Olympic athlete in the 1912 Olympics was clearly America's Jim Thorpe, a Native American from Oklahoma. Thorpe won the decathlon and thus the title "world's greatest athlete." Another notable American to compete in Stockholm was George S. Patton, future legendary general in World War II, who finished fifth in the pentathlon behind four Swedes.

Of the 176 Americans in Stockholm — a number greater than the total number of all of the 1896 Olympians — there were two notable athletes with Connecticut connections: Captain Allan L. Briggs and Howard P. Drew.

Allan Briggs was born in Bridgeport on February 14, 1873. At age 39, Briggs won a gold medal in the team military rifle competition. Briggs also competed in three individual shooting events but did not earn a medal. His best individual effort was in the 600 meter free rifle shoot, where he finished 4th.

Though born in Lexington, VA, in 1890, Howard P. Drew was raised in Springfield, MA, but spent most of his adult life in Connecticut. A veteran of World War I, Drew is buried in Northwood Cemetery in Windsor, CT, a veterans' cemetery. Though he did not earn a medal in Stockholm, he was arguably the most accomplished American athlete — besides Jim Thorpe — in the 1912 Olympics. In fact, both he and Thorpe were teammates on the Olympic demonstration baseball team. A true scholar-athlete, Drew was also a respected journalist, lawyer, and judge in Connecticut, overcoming the considerable racial barriers that faced any black man who lived in the early to middle decades of the 20th century.

Howard P. Drew was the first sprinter referred to as the "world's fastest human." Drew set a world record time for the 100 meter sprint in a time trial at Stockholm. He then won both of the preliminary trials for the 100 but badly pulled a tendon in the second trial, preventing him from further competition; instead, teammate Roger Craig won the 100 and 200. Drew had never lost to Craig. Drew later lowered the world record time for the 100 to 10.3 seconds. Craig's winning time of 10.8 seconds would have placed him a distant second behind Drew.

Unfortunately, fate interceded a second time four years later to deny Drew Olympic medals. The 1916 Olympic Games were to be held in Berlin, Germany; however, World War I was raging at the time, and the games would not reconvene until 1924 — the same year in which the first Winter Olympics would be held.

Instead, Howard P. Drew joined the 809th Pioneer Infantry Regiment and traveled to France onboard the USS President Grant. He miraculously survived a Spanish Flu outbreak en route, an outbreak that killed hundreds of his comrades on the Grant. Drew served as a supply sergeant during the war and dominated the makeshift Olympic games — known as the "Pershing Olympics" — held by the American soldiers. A 1918 article in Popular Science Magazine featured Drew as having "the greatest speed attained by any man" when he ran 100 yards in 9.6 seconds in 1914.

Following the war, USC grad Howard Drew attended law school at Drake University. He passed the bar exam in Connecticut and settled in Hartford to practice law. Drew was elected to eight terms as a justice of the peace in Hartford. Additionally, he was the first black man to be appointed as assistant city clerk, and became the first black judge in Connecticut history when he was appointed to be a judge in the police court in Hartford. Drew also served on governor's commissions and was a delegate to state party conventions.

Holder of dozens of world and American records in various sprint events and an outstanding football and baseball player as well, Howard Porter Drew distinguished himself in all that he did. He epitomized the term scholar-athlete, and although fate intercede twice to deny him the accolades and lasting fame of being a multiple gold medal winner in the Olympic games, Howard P. Drew remained undaunted and relentlessly pursued excellence in all that he did.

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Three Connecticut quilts, Johnny Mulberryseed and America’s most famous embroider


On exhibit at the Darien Historical Society




Editor’s Note: Crazy for Quilts — Scrapbooks in Silk and Satin: Elegant, silk and crazy quilts from the collection of the Darien Historical Society, closes Sunday, July 29, with a party that day from 3:30-5:30 ($5 suggested donation for non-members). Crazy for Quilts is open from noon to 5, Tuesday to Thursday and on Sunday (Bates-Scofield Homestead, 45 Old Kings Highway North in Darien, 203.655.9233). The following i from material written by Darien Historical Society Board Members Alison Hughes and Marian Castell and Jack Gault, the executive director.
The Historical Society’s 1860 Norwalk Hat Factory quilt is too geometric to be a crazy quilt. However, it is a most stunning, pieced quilt in a “rail fence” pattern made of colorful silk that was used in hat linings from a Norwalk hat factory. Consisting of 1,680 silk bars of about 3 3/4 by 5/8 inches each, the quilt’s columns alternate between multi-colored boxes with seven bars and more uniform boxes with four richly-colored bars of a single color against three neutral or ivory bars.
Crazy quilts were a wildly popular craze from 1880 into the early 1900s and were inspired, along with all of Western art, by the Japanese Exhibit at the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia. This exhibition celebrated the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and 10 million visitors attended, or about 20% of the U.S. population. At the Fair, America fell in love with Japan and their ages-old venerable attention to detail, high quality craftsmanship and a style that emphasized asymmetrical design and elegant, clean lines; all in contrast to the gaudy Victorian style embraced by the supposedly more culturally sophisticated West.
Of the Japanese exhibit, the July 1876 Atlantic Weekly marveled “workmanship which rivals and excels the marvels of Italian art at its zenith … after the Japanese collection everything looks in a measure commonplace, almost vulgar.” As a sidebar, one Darien resident, Vincent Colyer, liked the fair so much that he brought a big piece of it to Darien: Coyler purchased the New York State Building and brought it from Philadelphia to Contentment Island by barge!
Our Farrell Family quilt (1881) is a most excellent example of an elegant crazy quilt made of velvet and silk, beautifully embroidered, lithographed and painted with initials “H.A.K.” A family heirloom, the quilt belonged to James A. Farrell (1863-1943) who built the Rock Ledge estate on Highland Avenue in Rowayton. Farrell was a self-made man who rose from humble beginnings as a salesman to become the president of U.S. Steel (1911 to 1932). As President, he expanded the business by five-fold and grew it into America’s first billion-dollar company.
Our 1860 Norwalk Hat Factory quilt is too geometric to be a crazy quilt. However, it is a most stunning, pieced quilt in a “rail fence” pattern made of colorful silk that was used in hat linings from a Norwalk hat factory. Consisting of 1,680 silk bars of about 3 3/4 by 5/8 inches each, the quilt’s columns alternate between multi-colored boxes with seven bars and more uniform boxes with four richly-colored bars of a single color against three neutral or ivory bars.
The E. A. Scofield quilt, rests on a 1700 folding press bed (i.e., a Murphy bed) in the Darien Historical Society’s Bates-Scofield house, the same house where Esther Scofield made it in 1850. This cotton quilt has a pattern of eight-point stars and appliquéd oak leaves. The oak leaves proclaim pride in Connecticut’s Charter Oak as an early symbol of American move towards independence.
Both hat making and silk making were prominent industries in Connecticut for over 200 years. At one time, Norwalk had 45 different hat manufacturers and, along with Danbury, was known as a hat making capital of America. Norwalk’s Crofut & Knapp made the first Derby hat in America in 1860, and John Stetson learned his skills there.
For silk-making, Johnny Mulberryseed is our nom de plume for Ezra Stiles, a Congregational minister who collected mulberry seeds and distributed half an ounce of seeds to every parish in Connecticut. He had determined that this was enough seed to grow 5,000 trees, and he asked that every family in the parish receive seeds to plant. Then six years later, the mulberry tree owners received silkworm eggs and a packet of instructions.
Ezra continued his interest in silkworms after he became the president of Yale in 1778. In the summer of the next year, he witnessed the British invasion of New Haven by a force of 48 British ships with 2,600 troops and 2,000 sailors and marines. Fairfield, Green’s Farms and Norwalk were also invaded the same week.
These invasions were ones of shock and awe with multitudes of ships and landing parties in vastly superior numbers to the Patriot’s coastal guards and their local militia of mostly old and young men. Norwalk and Fairfield were burnt severely: in Norwalk’s case, only six homes remained standing: a town of 5,000 residents suddenly found themselves homeless.
New Haven’s defense consisted of 150 Patriot and Yale student militia. Being so far outnumbered, their fight was essentially a delay tactic to allow as many women and children to flee to the north as possible. After a day of “plunder, rape, murder, bayoneting, indelicacies towards the sex (Ezra Stiles),” the British officers dinned with Loyalist gentlemen of the town, while their “soldiers were mostly all dead drunk and lying in open air on the Green, surrounded by a few sober ones who stood guard to keep them from getting more rum.” New Haven’s port and its buildings, harbor vessels and storage facilities were burnt. However, the attack was not as bad as it might have been; the town was spared. As some good luck for Yale, the British raiding party included Colonel Edmund Fanning, a secretary to British General Tryon who led the attack. Fanning was a 1757 Yale graduate who plead with Tryon not to burn his college to the ground.
A blight in 1844 killed most of Connecticut’s mulberry trees and effectively ended silk production in the State, but not its manufacturing. Mansfield, Connecticut (twenty-five miles east of Hartford) had embraced silk making as early as 1760 and by 1916, the Mansfield mills of the Cheney Brothers had over 36 acres of floor space devoted to silk manufacturing.
Our third quilt pictured, the E. A. Scofield quilt, rests on a 1700 folding press bed (i.e., a Murphy bed) in the Bates-Scofield house, the same house where Esther Scofield made it in 1850. This cotton quilt has a pattern of eight-point stars and appliquéd oak leaves. The oak leaves proclaim pride in Connecticut’s Charter Oak as an early symbol of American move towards independence. Esther Scofield was born in Darien the same year that we finally became a town (1820), and in 1853, she married Dr. Samuel Sands.
America’s most beloved embroider from 1876 onwards
America’s most famous needleworker in 1876 had already died 40 years earlier after having lived a relatively unknown life. Her name was Betsy Ross, who, through the marketing genius of her grandsons, was credited with sew

Roger Sherman, Revolutionary and Dedicated Public Servant



Roger Sherman is the only person to have signed all four of the most significant documents in our nation’s early history: the Continental Association from the first Continental Congress, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the United States Constitution. He began life as a surveyor and a cordwainer (someone who makes shoes and other items from leather) before establishing himself as a political icon of the American Revolution. He spent the last 30 years of his life devoted to public service, often simultaneously holding multiple high-profile political and judicial positions. Known for his sensibility and control over his emotions, Sherman was, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, “a man who never said a foolish thing in his life.”
Born in Newton, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1721, Roger Sherman was the second of seven children born to William and Mehetabel Sherman. William was a farmer, as well as a cordwainer, and helped teach Roger his early trade. A natural ability with numbers helped Roger teach himself surveying. When Roger was 19, William died and Roger assumed responsibility for his father’s estate. He moved the family in June of 1743 to join oldest brother William in New Milford.



Sherman’s self-discipline with his surveyor training paid off two years later, when the Connecticut General Assembly appointed him the surveyor of New Haven County and, later, Litchfield County, a post he held until resigning in 1758. It was during these years in New Milford that Roger began to actively participate in town affairs, perhaps motivated by his growing interest in land speculation. It was also at this time that he married his wife, Elizabeth Hartwell. Roger and Elizabeth wed on November 17, 1749, and had seven children. His three oldest sons would serve as officers in the Continental army.
Roger soon expanded his interests into retail, opening a store that sold tables, chairs, brooms, razors, and other household items. He also began publishing almanacs. In his almanacs, Sherman included entries on astronomy, religious festivals, weather, and his views on the values of colonial currencies. These pursuits did not keep his attention for long, however. Roger began spending more time surveying and also took up the study of the law. Sherman passed the bar in February of 1754 and the following year became justice of the peace for Litchfield County, an appointment that coincided with his election to Connecticut’s General Assembly. Shortly after the death of his wife in October of 1760, he resigned his political post and moved his children to New Haven.
Civic Service in New Haven

Sherman home, Main Street, New Milford


After arriving in New Haven, Sherman gave up practicing law, as well as surveying, and once again settled into life as a merchant, opening a store of books and general merchandise located across from Yale College. Not long after, as he was returning from a visit to his brother in Woburn, Massachusetts, Rebecca Prescott, the niece of his brother’s wife, passed by him on the road. Roger turned his horse around and headed back toward Woburn to begin a courtship that ended in his marriage to the 20-year-old Prescott on May 12, 1763. Roger’s second marriage resulted in the birth of eight more children.
A rapid succession of political appointments followed Sherman’s marriage. In 1764 he was again elected to the General Assembly and in 1765 appointed justice of the peace for New Haven County. Shortly after, he took on the additional responsibility of being the treasurer of Yale College, a post he held until 1776.
“no laws bind the people but such as they consent to be Governed by”
The tide of sentiment that was rising in the colonies at this time did not fail to capture Sherman’s interest. The increasingly restrictive policies of the British parliament resulted in the passing of numerous acts aimed at garnering revenue from the American colonies. Parliament passed these acts without colonial consent. The announcement of the 1773 Tea Act motivated Sherman to declare his belief “that no laws bind the people but such as they consent to be Governed by.” His reputation of service to the colony, along with his strong patriot sentiment, got him elected as a delegate to the first Continental Congress.
Sherman excelled in his new work at the national level. Throughout the Revolutionary Era, he was known as a steadfast worker and an informed, attentive legislator. He is reported to have risen every morning at 5:00 a.m., begun work at 7:00 a.m., and continued working until around 10:00 p.m. Sherman was placed on the committees that drew up the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation (the new nation’s first constitution). He involved himself in issues of supply purchasing, Native American affairs, and the administration of the post office. In addition, he served on the Board of War in 1776 and on the Board of Treasury. Sherman proved a capable and efficient legislator, despite what some perceived as a lack of polish in his oratory skills. His good friend John Adams described him as “one of the most sensible men in the world,” possessing the “clearest head and steadiest heart,” but poked fun at his manner of public speaking. “Sherman’s air,” Adams quipped, “is the reverse of grace; there cannot be a more striking contrast to beautiful action than the motion of his hands…it is stiffness and awkwardness itself, rigid as starched linen.”
In 1784, Sherman returned from Congress and was elected the first mayor of the newly incorporated city of New Haven. Three years later, while still mayor of New Haven and a judge of the Superior Court in Connecticut, he was sent to represent Connecticut at the Philadelphia Convention. At the convention, Sherman was integral in shaping the country’s new constitution. In addition to being a vocal supporter of Alexander Hamilton’s proposal for federal assumption of states’ debts, he is credited with fathering the Connecticut Compromise, which ultimately led to the formation of a bicameral legislature (with the size of representation in the House being based on a state’s population, but the size of each state’s representation in the Senate being equal).
A Lasting Legacy to the Nation
After his service at the Philadelphia Convention, the Connecticut General Assembly elected Roger to serve in the US House of Representatives in 1789. The posting conflicted with his judicial responsibilities and Sherman was forced to resign from his judgeship. Two years later, William Samuel Johnson resigned his Senate seat to concentrate on his duties at Columbia College in New York City. Sherman was quickly named as Johnson’s replacement. His service only lasted until March of 1793, however, when he returned home to New Haven due to failing health. On July 23, 1793, Roger Sherman died of typhoid fever.
Sherman’s legacy is one of dedicated public service. Not only did he devote a large portion of his life to politics, but his grandson, Roger Sherman Baldwin, went on to serve both as a US senator and as governor of Connecticut. Two of his other grandsons, George F. Hoar and William M. Evarts, also served as US senators, with Evarts serving as secretary of state under President Rutherford B. Hayes. Sherman’s meticulous nature and ability to control his emotions made him a leader in many critical decision-making processes during the founding of the United States. Fisher Ames, a leader in the House of Representatives, once remarked that if he [Ames] was ever absent from a debate, when it came time to vote on the issue, he “always felt safe in voting as Mr. Sherman did; for he always voted right.”


Learn More
Connecticut Historical Society – Roger Sherman diary, 1779, Roger Sherman papers 1781-1782
New Haven Museum – Sherman Family Papers, 1745-1945
Yale University – Guide to the Roger Sherman (1721-1793) Collection
Boardman, Roger Sherman. Roger Sherman, Signer and Statesman. New York, NY: Da Capo Press, 1971.
Boutell, Lewis Henry. The Life of Roger Sherman. Chicago, IL: A. C. McClurg and Company, 1896.
Collier, Christopher. Roger Sherman’s Connecticut; Yankee Politics and the American Revolution. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1971.
Paltsits, Victor Hugo, and Roger Sherman. The Almanacs of Roger Sherman, 1750-1761. Worcester, MA: The Davis Press, 1907.
Rommel, John G., and American Revolution Bicentennial Commission of Connecticut. Connecticut’s Yankee Patriot, Roger Sherman. Hartford, CT: American Revolution Bicentennial Commission of Connecticut, 1979.

 

Trinity Professor Details Connecticut's Opposition To War Of 1812



If you thought Connecticut residents disagreed about the wars in Vietnam or Iraq, the arguments were nothing compared to the War of 1812, said Trinity College history professor Eugene Leach.
"There was serious consideration of secession and Connecticut's governor disobeyed a direct federal order," Leach noted during his lecture, "America's Most Unpopular War: Dissension, Debate And The War of 1812" at the Old State House Tuesday.
"In December 1814, representatives from all the New England states met right here to talk secession," Leach recounted, gesturing around the room. "Fortunately, the Treaty of Ghent ended the war a week later."
Leach spoke Tuesday as part of the Old State House's "Conversations At Noon" series, with his lecture timed to the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812's declaration last month.
Leach contended that the fervent opposition could be explained primarily by pronounced regional differences.
"Geographically, New England was the only region unable to expand, with Canada up north and ocean to the east," Leach said. "But while New England thrived on friendly trans-Atlantic trade relations with Europe, the other regions thrived on expansion, and thus, conflict."
After the British decreed "the Orders in Council" to restrict American trade with France, President Thomas Jefferson countered with an embargo closing domestic ports to international commerce. This "economic warfare" inadvertently hurt America more than Europe. The value of American exports plummeted from $108 million to $22 million in one year, particularly affecting New England.
When war was declared, Connecticut Gov. Roger Griswold refused President James Madison's federal order to nationalize state militias. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled in Madison's favor, now considered a critical legal precedent regarding division of federal and state powers.
Great Britain's subsequent naval blockade of the American east coast exempted New England, likely as a reward.
"Griswold's stand was not intended as treason," Leach contended, "but as a quarantine from what was perceived as the viruses of the time."
A panel discussion afterwards featured Leach; Nancy Steenburg, assistant director of the Bachelor of General Studies program at the University of Connecticut; and former Courant columnist Susan Campbell.
"A British naval blockade right outside American shores," Steenburg said, "was like Al Qaeda right outside a subway."
Steenburg claimed that the Hartford Convention, led primarily by leaders of the state Federalist party, backfired and "ultimately killed Federalist power in Connecticut." Indeed, despite seven consecutive Federalist governors at the time, none were elected again.
Campbell referenced the Courant's hardly-impartial coverage during the era. "Their news articles were openly critical of the war," Campbell noted, "not in the opinion section, but on the front page. The idea of unbiased journalism is relatively new in American history."
"Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of Connecticut dissension in the War of 1812," Leach concluded, "is that not the fringe, but the center was most vocally opposed."

Lesser Known Facts About the Life of Connecticut's Ernest Borgnine




Atop the old Greyhound bus station in Hartford during the 1940's could be found the Randall School of Dramatic Arts. It was here that Connecticut natives Ernest Borgnine and Ted Knight first honed their acting skills.

Knight and Borgnine — both World War II combat veterans — went on to star in many movies and TV shows. Knight, of Terryville, is best known as bumbling newscaster Ted Baxter of the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" during the 1970's. Borgnine, who lived both in Hamden and in North Haven, became most famous in his role as Lt. Commander Quinton McHale in the TV sitcom, "McHale's Navy." Both actors used the G.I. Bill to attend Randall.

Interestingly, both Knight and Borgnine were multi-lingual; Knight was fluent both in Polish and in German — the latter coming in handy when he played a German officer on several occasions in the hit TV series "Combat" in the 1960's. Borgnine, who actually lived with his mother in Italy for a couple of years, could speak fluent Italian. His given name was actually Ermes Effron Borgnino.

Knight's career was cut short by cancer. He died in 1986 at age 63. Borgnine, however, lived to be 95, dying earlier this week on July 8. Borgnine, an Oscar winner in 1955 for his role in the movie "Marty," is the first and only Best Actor Oscar winner to be alive into his 90's. He started acting rather late, taking his first role at age 34 in 1951 and continued acting right up to this year; in fact, Borgnine was nominated for an Emmy for a role he played on "ER" when he was 92!

Here are some other interesting and less publicized facts about Ernest Borgnine's life, according to the Internet Movie Database site (IMDB):

Borgnine was in the Navy for 10 years before he began to study acting. His first 5-year stint ended in 1941. During that time, the gap-toothed native of Hamden went from 135 lbs. to 235 lbs. Then, after the Pearl Harbor attack in late 1941, he rejoined for the duration of the war, patroling the Atlantic coast looking for German U-Boats. Undoubtedly, his naval experience proved useful for his starring role in "McHale's Navy" from 1962- 1966. Late in life, the U.S. Navy made him an Honorary Chief Petty Officer — an honor that pleased him greatly.

Ernest was the very first center square on "Hollywood Squares" when that show debuted in September of 1965. He was a regular for years.

His car license plate in California is BORG9.

Borgnine was married five times. He married Broadway star Ethel Merman in 1964. The temperamental Merman minded that Ernie got more attention when they were out in public, and the marriage lasted only 32 days. Borgnine said that their marriage was the "worst mistake" in his life. Merman, in writing about their marriage in her autobiography, included a one page chapter on their marriage: she deliberately left the page blank! He has been married to his fifth wife, Tova, who is 25 years younger, for the last 39 years.

Tortilla Flats, a well-known Manhattan restaurant, has had a major preoccupation with Ernest Borgnine since the 1980's. Many of the restaurant walls are covered with his photos; additionally, the wait staff undergoes rigorous Ernest Borgnine trivia training as part of the job! Borgnine has visited the establishment several times.

Borgnine was quite conservative. He has been a lifelong member of the Republican party. His conservative outlook can be seen in some of his better known quotations. For example, here is what he had to say regarding Clark Gable's famous expletive in "Gone With The Wind":

"Ever since they opened the floodgates with Clark Gable saying, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," somebody's ears pricked up and said, "Oh, Boy, here we go!" Writers used to make such wonderful pictures without all that swearing, all that cursing. And now it seems that you can't say three words without cursing. And I don't think that's right."

Here's what Borgnine had to say about the 1960's counterculture: "I hate hippies and dope heads. Just hate them. I'm glad we sent the men off to war. They came back with a sense of responsibility and respect."

President Grant Celebrates Independence Day in Woodstock




On July 4, 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant attended Independence Day celebrations at Roseland Cottage in Woodstock. His host, Woodstock-native Henry C. Bowen, had gained success in the dry goods and newspaper businesses in Brooklyn, New York, and, in 1846, had established a summer retreat in his hometown.

The patriotic festivities that Bowen initiated in 1870 evolved into an annual tradition that continued for more than two decades. Year after year, politicians, ambassadors, literary celebrities, important social figures—and the press—journeyed to Woodstock. There, they and other attendees partook of a program that included speeches, music, and food held in tastefully decorated surroundings. Over the years, famous guests included the likes of Presidents Benjamin Harrison and Rutherford B. Hayes, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

To accommodate the growing crowds, Bowen opened Roseland Park in 1876. Set on roughly 60 acres, it included a boat house, private bungalows, fountains, and statuary among its amenities. Though few of its Victorian features remain, the park is still open to the public as is Roseland Cottage, a National Historic Landmark and Historic New England property.

Old State House visit offers fresh produce, lots of history


This summer, state residents and visitors, friends and family will have the opportunity to soak up some history while doing a bit of produce shopping -- all the while participating in a tradition that dates to more than 350 years ago.

Now until Oct. 26, the 2012 Farmers' Market at Connecticut's Old State House, in Hartford, will operate Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The market is offered outdoors on the Old State House plaza; admission is free.

The Old State House Farmers' Market is considered the oldest such market in Connecticut, spokesman William Bevacqua said.

As the epicenter of the original Connecticut Colony, the General Court ordered on July 5, 1643, that a "weekly market" take place on Meeting House Square, where townspeople gathered to "learn the news, and exchange goods and services," including cattle.

The modern farmers' market has been in continuous operation at Connecticut's Old State House since 1978.

Nowadays, residents and visitors can explore what area farmers have to offer while helping the state's agricultural industry and economy, he said.

Bevacqua said that paired with the annual summer/fall market, a tour indoors at the Old State House makes for an educational and fun day-trip family destination.

"Where else in Connecticut (or the world for that matter) can you go to see an original Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, a two-headed calf and Mark Twain's bicycle, all in the same place?

"For more than 375 years, the Old State House (initially built in 1636) and the land it sits on have been at the center of Connecticut's history and mythology. Our democracy was born here, some of the most historic events you've never heard about (and some you have) happened here.

"Folks who spend the day with us get to see a mixture of the inspiring, the unusual and the downright surprising, while learning a little bit about Connecticut's history, its government and what pulls us together as one big community.

"We offer guided and self-guided tours, and we feature a combination of beautifully restored historic rooms and an interactive multimedia exhibit spanning more than 10,000 square feet on the lower level (in addition to) the Farmers' Market three days a week" and hands-on activities for kids.

The building served as the Constitution State's original seat of government from 1796 to 1878.

Lectures and other special events also are planned throughout the summer. "America's Most Unpopular War: What Really Happened at the Hartford Convention of 1815, and Why" will be discussed on Tuesday, July 10, noon to 1 p.m. by historians Jack Chatfield and Wesley Horton. Noted author and television host Diane Smith will be the moderator.

Connecticut's Old State House will validate parking tickets from the State Street South Parking Garage (formerly the Constitution Plaza garage). The cost, after validating, is $5.

Connecticut's Old State House, 800 Main St., Hartford. Summer hours: July Fourth through Columbus Day, Oct. 8, Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Open Monday-Friday all other times of the year.) $6, $3 ages 6-17 and seniors. 860-522-6766, www.ctoldstatehouse.org.

Cameron: Ride Connecticut rail history on your next day trip



If you’re looking for family fun this summer, consider visiting one of Connecticut’s many living museums celebrating our rail heritage.
The Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven (shorelinetrolley.com) was founded in 1945 and now boasts more than 100 trolley cars in its collection. It still runs excursion trolleys for a short run on tracks once used by the Connecticut Company for its F Line from New Haven to Branford. You can walk through the car barns and watch volunteers painstakingly restoring the old cars. There’s also a small museum exhibit and gift shop.
The Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor (ceraonline.org) began in 1940, making it the oldest trolley museum in the U.S. It too was started on an existing right-of-way, the Rockville branch of the Hartford & Springfield Street Railway Company. You can ride a couple of different trolleys a few miles into the woods and back, perhaps disembarking to tour their collection of streetcars, elevated and inter-urbans in the museum’s sheds and barns.
Both museums also offer you the chance to “drive a streetcar” under supervision and after a little training. Passengers are not allowed, but your friends can join you if they are brave. If you’re looking for a day-trip, especially for kids, I can highly recommend either museum.
If you’re looking for trains, you’re also in luck.
The Danbury Railroad Museum (danbury.org/drm) is walking distance from the Metro-North station, making this a potential full-day, all-rail adventure. On weekends they offer train rides and for a premium you can even ride in the caboose or the engine. They have a great collection of old rail cars and a well stocked gift shop.
For nostalgia fans, the Essex Steam Train (essexsteamtrain.com) offers not only daily rides on a classic steam train, but connecting riverboat rides up to the vicinity of Gillette Castle and back. The first Saturday of each month there’s even a free shuttle train from Old Saybrook rail station, which is served by Amtrak and Shore Line East. In addition to coach seating you can ride on an open-air car or in a plush, first class coach. There’s also a great dinner train, the Essex Clipper, which offers a 2.5 hour, four-course meal and a cash bar.
In downtown South Norwalk you can visit what once was a busy switch tower, now the SoNo Switch Tower Museum (westctnrhs.org/towerinfo.htm). Admission is free (donations welcome) weekends, noon to 5.
Also open only on weekends is the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum in Willimantic (cteastrrmuseum.org). In addition to guided tours, visitors can operate a replica 1850’s-style pump car along a section of rail that once was part of the New Haven Railroad’s Air Line.
The Railroad Museum of New England in Thomaston (rmne.org) offers rail trips on Sundays and Tuesdays along the scenic Naugatuck River in addition to a large collection of restored engines and passenger cars including the last of its kind 1929 New Haven RR first class smoker complete with leather bucket seats.
All of these museums are run by volunteers who will appreciate your patronage and support. They love working on the railroad and will tell you why if you express even the slightest interest in their passion. Try ’em.
Jim Cameron has been a commuter out of Darien for 21 years. He is chairman of the Connecticut Metro-North/Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council, and a member of the Coastal Corridor TIA and the Darien RTM. You can reach him at CTRailCommuterCouncil@gmail.com or trainweb.org/ct . For a full collection of Talking Transportation columns, see DarienTimes.com/category/opinion

Family to sell Lou Gehrig baseball for son's education



STAMFORD, Conn. (WTNH) -- A Stamford family is hoping that a piece of history will help make their son's school debt history.

The Gott family is selling a baseball they own that Lou Gehrig hit a home run with in the 1928 World Series. At the time fellow New York Yankee Babe Ruth was on base. St. Louis Cardinals' Grover Cleveland Alexander was pitching.

"I just had it sitting in a drawer," said Elizabeth Gott, baseball owner. "And I was thinking it's gonna get lost one of these days and it should really be in the hands of someone who is a true collector."

"If you're a Yankee fan that's one of the holy grails, something Lou Gehrig actually hit," said Paul Salerno, A Timeless Journey owner. "The story goes that Babe Ruth was on base at the time, Grover Cleveland Alexander was the pitcher at the time. Those are three Hall of Fame players that were involved in this game, plus it was a World Series game, and a significant game in the World Series back in 1928, so this is a very valuable piece of memorabilia."

However, Gott says nothing is more valuable to her than her 30-year-old son's education.

"It's actually sports medicine, and he loves it," Gott said. "My son is equally passionate about his career as Lou Gehrig was about baseball."

The story has a lot of people talking in Stamford, especially about what they would do if they owned the baseball.

"I, uh that's a tough question. It all depends on the price," said Salerno. "I would hope I would keep it and pass it along to future generations as more of an heirloom kind of thing, but money's a big temptation, but in my heart I think I would keep it."

"We would have liked to kept it in the family, but finances are necessary to finance the debt and my son reluctantly decided it was time," Gott said.

The ball will be auctioned off Tuesday at the All-Star FanFest in Kansas City.

If you'd like to bid on the historic baseball visit the auction page .


Boulder is a giant piece of history



MONTVILLE, Conn. (WTNH) -- Mohegan Sun may be the tallest building in eastern Connecticut, but it's the tribe's hidden gem which could capture bragging rights for the region.

After a trek through the woods, you come upon what is said to be the biggest boulder in New England and possibly North America. It's called Cochegan Rock and it is believed to be carried in by a glacier.

"It came from Labrador perhaps about 20 thousand years ago," explained Bill Champagne from the Norwich Historical Society.

In more recent history, close to the hearts of many here in Montville, it is also said to be where Chief Uncas held court with his lieutenants. The rock may have also served as a watch tower for enemies.

"It's very meaningful," said Champagne, "it's one of their sacred spaces."

This is why News 8 is not disclosing it's exact location, although some have discovered the sacred spot.

"One couple was a little bit spooked by the Native American presence and the others were just very comforted," said Champagne.

To put in perspective the size of this rock, it goes up about fifty feet high. News 8 was told it weighs about ten thousand tons. The idea that a glacier actually moved it over hundreds of miles of land to hear in Uncasville is what has many people amazed. The enormity may be more evident when you see someone standing on top of it.

The land, which was owned by the Boy Scouts, is now back in the hands of the Mohegan Tribe, where many believe it belongs.

Connecticut during the War of 1812


By Kristina Dorsey

When five groups from southeastern Connecticut came together to create a commemoration of the War of 1812's bicenntenial, they first decided to fashion an exhibit.

Out of that notion came one for a companion book.

The resulting publication, "The Rockets' Red Glare - The War of 1812 and Connecticut," dives into the local history of the time and ties it to what was going on nationally and internationally.

Glenn S. Gordiner, the Robert G. Albion Historian at Mystic Seaport, was the primary author on the project, writing three chapters.

One of the aims of the book - and the accompanying exhibit, on view through Jan. 5 at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum - is to show the important role that the War of 1812 played in America's development.

"I knew this would be essentially a local market, so I wanted from the get-go to have the Connecticut experience cast within the national context," Gordinier says. "So that our people who are used to (the Battle of) Stonington and the (USS) Constitution and all of that would be thinking, 'Okay, this is only part of a much larger story.'

"I also wanted to put in the much larger context - which is what historians are usually interested in - of why did we go to war anyway? ... It seems ultimately to have boiled down to a sense of national impotence and a sense of our national pride being assaulted again and again."

Others in the organizing group wanted to make sure to include the impact of the war, too. The War of 1812 was something of a turning point for national identity, Gordinier says. In Connecticut, it affected the political and economic makeup of the state.

Gordinier did the main chronology for the book, and other authorities brought their expertise to bear.

Nancy H. Steenburg discovered in the New London Historical Society's vault historian and author Frances Manwaring Caulkins' essay on the Battle of Stonington. Fourteen years after the event, she interviewed people who fought off the British during that skirmish, and she visited the sites.

"That was a new voice. That was a take on the battle that no one had seen. We thought, let's use that as our telling of the Battle of Stonington," Gordinier says.

The book includes more about that battle, too, in James Tertius de Kay's chapter, with the author drawing from his book "The Battle of Stonington."

Other contributing authors for "The Rockets' Red Glare" include James Boylan, Meredith Brown, Fred Calabretta, Jerry Roberts, Matt Warshauer, and Andrew W. German. German was also the editor, and the Edward Baker served as the publisher for the historical society. Trish LaPointe was the designer.

"We had a local team that we knew would be first-rate," Gordinier says.

Gordinier had done his dissertation on the years leading up to the War of 1812, so he was familiar with the era. With this project, he says, "What was really great fun was to see these sources that we were not aware of, or only a few of us were aware of, come to the fore."

In addition to the Caulkins piece, that includes the journal of Samuel Goodrich, a militiaman who wrote eloquently about what it meant to be on the front lines at the banks of the Thames River; the journal of Silvanus Griswold of Waterford; and reports published in the Connecticut Gazette.

Gordinier hopes that readers will get a real sense of how intense the War of 1812 was here.

He says enemy warships "came up the Connecticut River. They came up the Mystic River. They bombarded Stonington. We were trying to kidnap British officers from Long Island. Just like (during) the Revolution, the Long Island Sound - the Connecticut Shore - was a theater of war."


Restoration of the Trumbull Monument Is Underway



A piece of North Haven history — the monument marking the grave of Benjamin Trumbull (1735-1820) in the Old Center Cemetery — is undergoing restoration, having sustained damage last month not once but twice.

Trumbull was author of the 2-vol. Complete History of Connecticut from 1630 till 1713, which remains in the Yale University Library, and his grandson became a senator from Illinois.

The statue sustained damage when a black oak tree crashed in the cemetery in early June. The damage was exacerbated when four pieces of the marble monument — corner pieces above flat, horizontal panels — disappeared later in the month.

And although a police report has been filed regarding the corner pieces, there have been no arrests.

The restoration is “rather complicated. It takes time to do it,” said Martin Johnson Thursday morning, just before leaving the Norfolk, Conn.-based Monument Conservation Collaborative (MCC) where he serves as partner and vice-president.

Johnson, who has worked on monument sites on the mainland and also American Somoa, was at work in North Haven in June when he realized that the oak tree had crashed, according to Cemetery Commission Chairman Lynn Fredericksen. She said the colloborative is restoring the monument on an emergency basis.

Fredericksen said the monument seemed to sustain the brunt of the impact from the fallen tree. “It was a jungle,” said Fredericksen of the site before the tree was carefully removed. “We couldn’t even assess the damage.”

“This is an anomaly,” said Johnson yesterday of the damage caused by the oak as he and Irving Slavid, president, partner and senior conservator of the collaborative, worked at the site.

He said there was some damage to cemeteries in Massachusetts last year as tornadoes passed through the area in June, and that damage had also taken place in cemeteries in Connecticut near the Massachusetts border.

Yet, he remarked as he looked at a tree near the one that fell that the tree that remained was, to all appearances, a “beautiful, healthy tree.”

“We’re rebuilding the whole monument,” he said of the project that is underway now.

He said the monument has already received structural adhesion and that it will also receive some reconstructive mortar work.

Before sustaining damage, Johnson said the Trumbull monument was held together by gravity, aided by clever elements in its design. As a result, he said, the monument came apart rather easily when the tree fell.

And as for the corner pieces that are now missing, those, he said, will be reconstructed from new marble sourced possibly in Vermont.

Said Johnson of the repair overall: “The minute I get those pieces it’ll go rather quickly.”

Johnson said the marble in the original monument is weathered and also quite typical of the marble in local New England quarries.

At present, the foliated finial that crowns the monument, which Fredericksen said weighs roughly 100 pounds, has been removed from the cemetery grounds for safekeeping.

“We do have a lot more problems with Mother Nature than with vandalism,” said Fredericksen of the one-two punch that the monument sustained.

Battle of Wyoming is commemorated



MARK GUYDISH

The wool uniforms are hot, the muzzle-loaded muskets heavy, the time in the spotlight exceptionally brief, but West Wyoming resident and Revolutionary War-era re-enactor Terry Salek puffed on his period-piece pipe and looked the epitome of equanimity.

“I love the history,” Salek said as he and others from the 24th Connecticut Militia Regiment waited to fire a tribute volley during the annual commemorative service of the Battle of Wyoming.

“I always hunted with a flintlock, that’s how I met people from the 24th Connecticut local unit. I knew I wanted to be a big part of it.”

The July 4th service, marking the 234th anniversary of what many call the Massacre of Wyoming, began with lively a concert by the Wyoming Valley Band, turned solemn with the presentation of numerous floral tributes laid before the monument by representatives of community groups and descendants of battle survivors, and was topped by a keynote speech by Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commissioner William Lewis.

Through it all, the re-enactors mulled off to the side, generally in the shade of the large trees that dot the monument site – trees that were reduced by three recently, Wyoming Monument Association President Marcella Starr pointed out during a speech she promised would be “Shorter than the novel I gave last year.”

Starr said three grand old trees had been taken down after consultation with urban forester Vinnie Cotrone, who noted the three were at risk of falling on the recently-restored monument. Shortly after they were removed, Starr noted, a storm blew through that felled one tree and broke a branch off another near the back of the monument property.

Salek and fellow re-enactor Frank Prussia of Mt. Cobb talked of the motivation that makes them give up many weekends and usually a small fortune to pursue their hobby. “Everything’s custom made. This gun alone cost $3,000,” he said holding out the 10-pound, 46-inch-barrel-long replica.

Prussia said his great-grandfather fought in the battle of Wyoming. Most re-enactors, he added, have similar connections..

During its long wait, the militia mingled with Standard Guard of the 109th Field Artillery First Battalion, presenting a mix of modern professional soldier in dress uniform toting M-16 rifles, and re-enactors with musket and blunderbuss.

After Lewis spoke about the architect believed to have designed the obelisk monument – Thomas Walker, who went on to design the Capitol dome in Washington, D.C. – the militia had it’s moment, firing a single, smoke-filled volley into the air.

Horse Guard keeps history alive


Written by Kate Czaplinski


It may no longer be charged with escorting and defending the governor — that is, unless New York invades Connecticut — but the Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard is keeping a tradition and history intact each week.

 Shelton resident Jay Francino-Quinn, who is also an elected member of the Board of Education, is a member of the all-volunteer state militia unit. It runs cavalry drills every week on the bucolic grounds of Fairfield Hills in Newtown. It is one of the last cavalry units in the country that still works with horses. Troopers ride in 1928 McClallan saddles, the last issue by the U.S. Army.

 “We are here keeping Connecticut and U.S. history alive,” Francino-Quinn said.

When the second company was formed in 1808, the First Company Horse Guard already existed and served in the “other” Connecticut capital, Hartford. At the time, New Haven was also considered a capital of the state. The Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard was formed in October 1808 by an act of the General Assembly. The duties of the original company were “to attend upon and escort him [the Governor] in times of peace and war” to New Haven. The group also escorted visiting diplomats.

 The horse guard still serves the governor and state as a dress and ceremonial unit of the Connecticut Army National Guard.

The guard run events throughout the year, including an annual horse show that will be held on Sunday, July 22. The group also holds riding lessons for people with disabilities.

 Francino-Quinn became involved about four years ago. He was afraid of horses and decided he would conquer his fear, since his daughter had just started taking riding lessons.

 “I served in the U.S. Army for eight years of active duty,” he said. “I saw a recruitment poster for the horse guard and thought it was a good way to extend my service.”

 Horses are now a love of the Shelton resident.

 “When I’m away from here for two weeks I feel like I’m missing something,” Francino-Quinn said before his drills in Newtown.

 There are currently 39 volunteer members, and anyone is welcome to apply. Due to state budget constraints there are fewer horses than members so the drills are split in groups between marching and riding.

 The guard is always looking for new recruits.

 “They don’t need to know anything about horses,” Francino-Quinn said. “We have people who served in the military and who didn’t. That first day of training, everyone is on the same sheet of music.”

 To learn more about the Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard visit thehorseguard.org or call 203-426-9046.


Signs of the Revolution are all around

John Burgeson

For most, the Fourth of July is the day to fly Old Glory, fire up the barbecue and feast on hot dogs, baked beans and potato salad.

But lest we forget why we're all here, it's also a good time to peel back the layers of time and rediscover the past. Although the American Revolution ended in 1783, there is still plenty of evidence of the conflict about, if you know where to look.

Many of these artifacts are in museums, some can be seen from the road and others are in private hands.

Take Richard Platt's British musket, for example, which hangs from a beam in the living room of his home in Milford.

"It belonged to Joseph Platt, my great-great-great-great-grandfather," he said. "He was fighting under Washington in the Battle of Long Island."

Also known as the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, it was the first of several defeats that the newly assembled Continental Army was to suffer at the hands of the British, on Aug. 26, 1776.

"He tripped over a dead British soldier, so he took his musket, and hiked all the way back to Milford," Platt said.

The weapon, Platt said, is a Brown Bess Type 2, the standard-issue flintlock made for British troops. It's missing its bayonet, perhaps the deadliest part, given its reload time of about 30 to 45 seconds and the firing delay after the pull of the trigger.

"It wasn't terribly accurate, either," Platt said. "But it still has the ramrod -- in fact, I was told to check to make sure that the ramrod went all the way down, to make sure it wasn't loaded."

Milford also has a very public artifact, Liberty Rock, which sits along Route 1 in Devon, near an Interstate 95 entrance ramp. Also known as Hog Rock, it was used by "The Liberty Boys" to spot the arrival of British ships on Long Island Sound and the Housatonic River.

The park in which it sits can be accessed from Oldroyd Street and Hackett Avenue.

"Back then, there weren't many trees or buildings, so by standing on the rock, you could see all the way across Long Island Sound and across the river to Stratford," Platt said. "Plus, it's been moved at least once or twice over the years."

Ansonia has a number of Revolutionary War-era sites, not the least of which is the David Humphreys birthplace at 37 Elm St.

Humphreys was George Washington's aide-de-camp during the war and the nation's first ambassador to Portugal and Spain. His red clapboard childhood home is maintained by the Derby Historical Society; it's filled with artifacts from the Revolutionary War era, also offering a slice of life from Colonial times. Julia Baldini, director of the society, which maintains the house, said it was built in 1698.

Some household implements in the house are from the mid-1700s, including a spinning wheel discovered in the attic after the society took over in 1961.

"In the era before textile mills, the eldest daughter was the one who spun yarn for use by the entire family, hence the name `spinster,' " said docent Paula Norton. "Since they were always spinning wool, they usually never married."

In an upstairs room is a collection of spinning wheels where schoolgirls today try their hand at spinning. "They usually tire of it pretty quickly," she said.

Connecticut has scores of monuments recalling the Revolution. But one of the most overlooked is on Ansonia's Wakelee Avenue in front of a tiny bodega, Klanko's Smoke Shop and Convenience Store.

What looks like a gravestone there marks the site known as Pork Hollow, where a group of rabble-rousers hid a British store of supplies and food in the nearby woods, The marker was placed in 1901 by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Not every town in the region is blessed with Revolutionary War cast-offs.

"Monroe used to have a family, the Lewis family, that had a rapier used in the Revolution which was given to them by a French soldier, but when they moved West, the sword went West with them," said Monroe Historian Ed Coffey.

He added that although there was a troop encampment where St. John's Cemetery is today, nothing of interest has ever been found there.

Ditto for Stratford, according to Carol Lovell, town historian.

"Stratford people were in the war, but the war was not in Stratford," she notes.

A good nearby place to look at local artifacts from the Revolutionary War is the Fairfield Museum and History Center.

"We have on display now a sword and musket that were used in the Revolution," said Walter D. Matis, program and volunteer coordinator.

"There actually isn't a lot of material from the Revolution, as compared with the Civil War, where the battlefields were almost instantly turned into historic sites. After the Revolution, the battlefields returned to their original use -- crops and cattle."

The sword, he said, is a British Navy cutlass carried by a Fairfield man during the conflict. "How he came to own it, we don't know," he said. "It has a few nicks, so apparently it was used in battle."

He said that in addition to the war materiel -- there's also a cannonball and a powder horn -- the museum has letters, clothing, shoes and other items.

The musket was known as a Committee of Safety musket, a weapon cobbled together from parts cannibalized from other muskets, plus some newly manufactured parts.

The museum is sponsoring a walking tour Saturday, beginning at 6:30 p.m., to recall the British burning of Fairfield on July 7, 1779. The walk takes place along the streets surrounding the Fairfield Green, and will begin at the museum, 370 Beach Road.

A few miles north of Fairfield on Black Rock Turnpike in Redding is the Putnam Memorial State Park, which state officials call "Connecticut's Valley Forge."

"We actually have more period above-ground artifacts than you'll find at Valley Forge," says Daniel Cruson, park historian and president of the Connecticut Historical Society.

Cruson spent much of Monday giving Gov. Dannel P. Malloy a tour of the park, where Gen. Israel Putnam's division of the Continental Army, all from New Hampshire, encamped in Redding in the winter of 1778-79. There were about 1,000 men camped there; 27 died of disease.

Cruson spent 12 years excavating artifacts from the site.

"One thing that surprised us was that some of the huts had glazed windows," Cruson said. "The fact that Danbury, which was attacked by the British in April 1777, wasn't attacked again is testament to the effectiveness of this encampment."





Shelton Historical Society Offers Enrichment Program For Kids


Just when you are looking for more things to occupy your children during this long summer, Shelton Historical Society offers Adventures in History, its enrichment program for boys and girls ages 7-12.

It will be held Aug. 13 to 17, 9:00 a.m. to noon, at the Shelton History Center complex, 70 Ripton Rd. Registration is now open and closes Aug. 1.

Disguised between playing forgotten games, creating useful objects using simple tools, and concocting wholesome snacks from fresh ingredients, participants will learn lessons about how life was during the early years of the 1900s.

“In this age when kids spend much of their leisure time with electronic games and devices, we hope to reintroduce them to outdoor fun spent with others and an appreciation for the conveniences that they might take for granted,” explains Ellen Kolesk, the Shelton Historical Society librarian and an organizer of the program.

The cost of the program is $135/child for non-members. For Shelton Historical Society members, the cost is $100/child. Registration is limited and forms are available online at www.sheltonhistoricalsociety.org or at the Plumb Memorial and Huntington Branch Libraries. Aug. 1 is the deadline for registration.

There are six historic 19th century buildings, including the Brownson House, the Trap Fall School, and the Wilson Barn, that comprise Shelton History Center, located one-half mile north of the Huntington Green.

Shelton Historical Society personnel staff the facility and its research library, and care for its collections part-time or by appointment. The mission of the Shelton Historical Society is to preserve elements of the community’s history in order to create lasting and meaningful connections between Shelton’s past, present and future generations through education, maintaining a museum with its collections, and providing a voice in the community regarding matters of historical significance.

Children who participate in Adventures in History will become familiar with all the buildings as they make comparisons between their experiences and those of their ancestors. They just might have some old-fashioned fun, too!


Connecticut's John Brown


By Frederick Hedenberg

In previous blogs I have written much about the Civil War as it pertains to our state. I featured an escaped slave who served as a manservant on the USS MONITOR, during the historic conflict of ironclads. Gideon Welles from Glastonbury who was Lincoln’s Secretary of The Navy. Manasseh Cutler from Killingly who authored the Northwest Ordinance which served as the master plan to expand the new nation.

One historic person from CT that little gets written about is former Torrington native, John Brown. Brown was born in Torrington on May 9 1800 fourth of eight children. Although President Lincoln credited Harriet Beacher Stowe, also of CT, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, with starting the Civil War, many felt Brown played a larger part as an abolitionist who took a violent path to rid the nation of what he felt was an abomination.

Associated with many prominent abolitionists, Brown became furious when the Fugitive Slave Act was passed. It mandated authorities in Free states to return captured slaves or be fined for any complicity in their freedom.

The Northwest Ordinance banned slavery in the new territories but it was decided that they had the right to vote for or against it. When the Kansas Territory attempted to vote in slavery, Brown and his followers went there to protest. Historians believe that he and his supporters kidnapped five pro slavery settlers and hacked them to death at Pottawamie Creek.

Brown ended up at Harper’s Ferry, VA where he captured an armory with over 100,000 rifles stored inside. He planned on arming slaves to fight for freedom. The armory became known as John Brown’s Fort. The locals fought back by firing at Brown and kept them trapped. Finally Capt. Robert E. Lee, and Lt. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, under a white flag asked for Brown’s surrender. Brown refused. The armory was stormed, Brown and his supporters captured, brought to trial and found guilty of treason. All were hanged, and before long a legend in song became popular known as “John Brown’s Body…..”