East Bank: Old Lyme To Hartford
( Originally Published 1919 )
R. 10 § 1. East Bank: Old Lyme to Hartford. 51.5 m.
From Old Lyme this route runs northward through Lyme, East Haddam, Portland, and Glastonbury to East Hartford. The road is a trunk line State Road incomplete in portions.
From Old Lyme the State Road follows northward over Lord Hill. To the north we look up the deep, narrow valley of the river. To the east is Rogers Lake surrounded by beautiful hills on which are numerous residences of old and modern times. To the west extends the broad estuary of the Connecticut with its numerous islands and coves. The river front is for the most part high, but is indented by Lords Cove, a famous resort for lovers of duck and rail shooting.
At the summit of Lord Hill we cross the line into the town-ship of Lyme, and the road descends to the village of Hamburg (5.0), at the head of Hamburg Cove, the channel of which has recently been deepened by the Federal Government, making the village of Hamburg accessible for all small craft.
Here Eight Mile River, coming down from the hills, flows into tidewater. The country to the north and east is one of especial beauty. On Grassy Hill, two miles east, is a considerable colony of artists, including leading members of the profession. Nickersons Hill nearby is the highest spot in the county west of the Thames. The shores of Cedar, Norwich, Hogg, and Rogers ponds are lined with cottages and summer camps. On Rams Horn Creek is the retaining pond of the State Fish Hatchery. On Falls River there is a birch and witch hazel distillery, and a wood pulverizing mill on Eight Mile River. During the spring and fall the shad fisheries en-gage many of the men. The region, too, is noted for the production of Devon steers and working OXen.
From Hamburg the State Road, not yet complete, approaches the river. To the west is Seldens Neck and the picturesque Selden Cove. We cross the town line into the township of East Haddam and the village of Hadlyme (9.0), with a steamer landing a mile t0 the west. There is a casket factory here.
12.0 EAST HADDAM. Pop (twp) 2422. Middlesex Co. Settled 1662. Mfg. cotton twine and sailcloth. Hartford-New York daily steamboat during season.
The village of East Haddam lies directly on the river, where Salmon River comes down from the hills. A bridge across the Connecticut connects East Haddam and Moodus station on the valley division of the N.Y., N.H. & H. R.R. "The little old red school house," dating from about 1750, in which Nathan Hale, then eighteen, taught school in 1773, is still preserved.
This is a region of especial scenic charm, and on the abruptly rising hills are many homelike-appearing residences and estates. The hills rise in Mt. Parnassus, three miles from the river, to a height of 616 feet. From East Haddam the still uncompleted State Road leads northward through the hills to Moodus (15.0).
The village is situated on Moodus River, a swift stream rising from Salmon River Cove 350 feet in a distance of a little more than two and one half miles. Here was manufactured the first cotton seine twine, and that is now the principal industry, although cotton duck is also made. Its name is contracted from the Indian Machimoodus, "the place of noises."
The Rev. Stephen Hosmer in 1729 wrote to a friend in Boston, describing these strange noises: `Earthquakes have been here; as has been observed ... for more than thirty years.... An old Indian was asked the reason of the noises in this place, to which he replied, that `the Indians' God was very angry that the Englishmen's God was come there.' Now, whether there be anything diabolical in these things, I know not. . . . I have myself heard eight or ten sounds successively, and imitating small arms, in the space of five minutes. I have, I suppose, heard several hundred of them within twenty years; some more, some less terrible. . . . They have in a manner ceased since the great earthquake."
On the night of May 18, 1791, occurred an earthquake so violent as to be felt in both New York and Boston. Although but two shocks were felt at a distance, in Moodus there were between twenty and thirty. The ground was cracked, walls and chimneys were thrown down. An account written in 1831 by a gentleman who had resided • here for "almost thirty years" tells us: "The awful noises about which Mr. Hosmer gave an account . . . continue to the present time. The effects they produce are various as the intermediate degrees between the roar of a cannon and the noise of a pistol."
The early white settlers were as superstitious about this place as the Indians had been. A tradition tells of a "Dr. Steele" who imposed upon the good natives with his magic quackery whereby he sought to cure "the great carbuncle" he had discovered in the bowels of the earth, that caused these tremors.
The highway, still under construction, runs northward over the hills, crossing the deep valley of Salmon River.
22.0 EAST HAMPTON. Alt 411 ft. Pop (twp) 2390. Middlesex Co. Inc. 1767. Mfg. bells, thread, and toys. Hartford-New York steamboat daily in season.
This secluded industrial village lies a mile and a half to the east on the southern boundary of Lake Pocotopaug with its Twin Islands.
In the eighteenth century East Hampton was a center of iron manufactures, and early in the nineteenth century factories were established here for the manufacture of bells, brass kettles, pistols, and irons.
Rev. John Norton, the minister here for thirty years from 1748, was one of the most famous "fighting parsons" of his time. A graduate of Yale, he had first served at Bernardston (p 329) and had been taken captive to Canada. In 1755 he joined the expedition to Crown Point as chaplain. The house of the Rev. Joel West, who was ordained minister here in 1792, still stands. His pretty wife Betsy was the sensation of the village. She arrived in a carriage—the first seen here, and she had the first carpet that ever came to the village. Her hair `banged,' her gown of changeable silk over which she wore a red coat, and her swansdown-trimmed bonnet created sufficient comment to be recorded in the annals of the time. The cradle in which her twelve children were rocked is still preserved.
The route turns left, paralleling the Willimantic division of the N.Y., N.H. & H. R.R., then enters the hamlet of Cobalt (25.0), which lies on a slope 200 feet above the river. A mile and a half to the south is Middle Haddam, formerly an important boatbuilding place. From 1805 to 1835, III vessels, mostly seagoing, with a total tonnage of 27,000, were built.
From Cobalt the completed State Road runs westward beside the river and t00 feet or more above it. To the northeast is Great Hill (700 ft), about a mile north of Cobalt, which rises precipitously from the pond at its western foot.
This hill was long called the `Governor's Ring.' Governor John Winthrop was in 1661 granted the privilege of all gold mines as well as whale fishing in the neighborhood. There is little evidence that he accumulated wealth from this, but the people supposed that the gold rings he wore came from this hill. A mine was opened here in 1762 from which cobalt ore was obtained, which was exported to Europe and even to China.
President Stiles of Yale wrote in his diary under date of Jan. 1, 1787, the following entry: "Mr. Erkelens visited me full of his Cobalt mine and his China voyage. He some years ago bought the Governor's Ring, as it is called, or a mountain in the N.W. corner of East Haddam, comprehending about 800 acres, or about a square mile area. Here he finds plenty of Cobalt, which he manufactures into smalt; with which is made the beautiful blue on China ware, &c. Governor Trumbull has often told me that this was the place to which Governor Winthrop of N. London used to resort with his servant, and after spending three weeks in the woods of this mountain, in roasting ores and assaying metals and casting gold rings, he used to return home to New London with plenty of gold. Hence this is called the Gov. Winthrop's ring to this day." At various intervals during the first half of the nineteenth century adventurous individuals sank much good money in exploring the mineral contents of this hill.
31.0 PORTLAND. Alt 90 ft. Pop (twp) 3425. Middlesex Co. Settled 1690. Mfg. shipbuilding and mineral products.
This little riverside town is opposite Middletown (p 294), with which it is connected by a bridge. From here have come most of the brownstone fronts so essential to respectability in eastern cities, particularly New York and Brooklyn,—during the latter half of the nineteenth century. As brownstone has become less fashionable the importance of the quarries has somewhat declined. The stone here quarried is the sandstone deposited during the Triassic period in the broad estuary that occupied the Connecticut valley lowland at that time, which because of its relative softness has weathered away more rapidly than the crystalline rock forming the Connecticut Valley lowland of today.
From Portland the State Road runs northward, complete except for a stretch of a few miles near South Glastonbury (40.0).
Here Roaring Brook, most picturesque of streams, comes tumbling down through a narrow gorge from the highlands above. On the river a mile west of the high road and village is the steamer landing. An oldtime ferry connects South Glastonbury with Rocky Hill. The broad meadow extending northward along the bank of the river still bears its Indian name of Hanabuc, or Nayaug, "noisy water."
Everywhere there is abundant evidence of glaciation, and much of the pasture and farm land consists of a tumbled mass of washed drift in the form of irregular hills known to geologists as kames. A post-glacial terrace lying at a high level above Connecticut is very conspicuous in the valley at Glastonbury.
At the time of the white settlement Glastonbury was the site of a permanent village, near the mouth of Roaring Brook, of a small band of Mohawks located here to keep watch over the tributary Indian tribe and to make their lives a burden by the fear they inspired. They maintained two outlooks on the summit of Red Hill and Chestnut Hill, and in the bed of the brook may still be seen a pot-hole used by the Indians as a mortar for pounding samp.
45.0 GLASTONBURY. Alt 30 ft. Pop (twp) 4796. Hartford Co. Settled 1680.
It was J. H. Hale, the `Peach King,' who more than any other man in its history put Glastonbury on the map. He began in a small way with upland farms worth $10 an acre, and on this "barren" land proved that peaches could be produced, unequaled in flavor, which would bring the highest prices in the nearby New England markets. Wealth has poured in upon him and is utilized in developing at Fort Valley in Georgia the greatest peach-growing industry 0f the world.
This portion of the river is known as `The Straits.' Its channel is deep and narrow, with the hills rising on either side abruptly to 300 feet.
The village lies back from the river at the base of the eastern hills. `The Street,' lined by noble trees planted before the Revolution, has along its sides many old houses built by the early settlers, some of which are still occupied by lineal descendants. The Hollister and the Talcott houses have the oldtime jutting upper stories. The Welles family was one of the original proprietors of the town and has given many prominent men to the nation. The Welles estate was purchased by Thomas Welles from the great Indian sachem Sequasson, generally known as Sowheag, and remained in the family for more than 200 years. The beautiful old house of Gideon Welles still stands. He was a member of Lincoln's cabinet and has been brought to the public mind of late by the recent publication of his journal of war times and his intimate view of inner political doings.
Tobacco and peaches are important products, and the water-powers of the streams coursing down from the hills are used for various manufacturing industries. Once the Glastonburys had important shipyards and a share in the West India trade. The J. B. Williams Company, manufacturers of shaving soap and toilet articles, carry on the leading industry here today. Their plant covers several acres. A brand of men's under-wear, much illustrated in the backs of the magazines, is also made here. On the north hills are historic lead mines which supplied the Continental armies.
The Glastonbury granite-gneiss forms the prominent ridges in this region, rising to heights of 600 feet. It is exposed on the hill north of the Great Hill Pond, where there is a quarry. The stone is a dark foliated gneiss of fine texture, with grains of yellow and green epidote. In the granite are pegmatite veins in which occur a great variety of minerals, some of them rare: "albite, quartz, muscovite, microcline, damourite, spodumene (and its alteration products), apatite, microlite, columbite, garnet, tourmaline, staurolite, eosphorite, dickinsonite, triploidite, rhodochroside, reddingite, amblygonite (hebronite), vivianite, lithiophilite, uraninite, fairfieldite, fillowite, chabazite, killinite, natrophilite, hureaulite."
From Glastonbury the State trunk line highway continues its level course through the meadows to
51.5 HARTFORD (R. 1).