Hidden Nearby: Goshen’s Animal Pound

Pound1

The History of Litchfield County, published in 1881 by the J.W. Lewis Company in Philadelphia, suggests that North Goshen was once a thriving community.  The book offers a house-by-house guide of the area, describing the residents and their commercial and religious activities.

Pound sign

Today, nearly all vestiges of the community are gone, the land owned by the Torrington Water Company.  There are a few hints remaining, however, to the history of this area.  Along East Street North stands an animal pound, a sign suggesting that it was built “circa 1800.”

cattle

Animal pounds were a common sight in early America, as livestock often roamed free.  In fact, at the meetings that established the town of Goshen in 1739, the residents appointed three horse branders whose task was to apply a distinctive mark to each resident’s animals.  That year, 66 distinct marks were recorded in Goshen.

At that same meeting, two men were given permission to build town pounds.  Livestock, by town ordinance, could roam free from March to November.  However, those not in their owner’s barns by November would be impounded and cared for by the town’s pound keeper.  When the owner arrived at the pound to claim his animal, he would pay a fee to the keeper.  Town records in Goshen also indicate that those delinquent in paying their taxes could work off their debt by supervising the town pounds.

Pound 2

The walls of the pound had to be wide enough so that an animal couldn’t step over them.

As part of Goshen’s 250th anniversary in 1989, the Torrington Water Company restored this pound.  Its walls are 35 feet long and 25 feet wide, and stand 4 feet high.

Structures like the Goshen animal pound offer the 21st century explorer a glimpse of life nearly three centuries ago, and remind us of the centrality of livestock to the daily existence of those who inhabited Litchfield County.

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