The Girl Scouts’ Camp Townshend

 

ctcabin

One of the remnants of Camp Townshend cabins

Beyond the White Memorial Foundation, Alain and May White contributed money and land to dozens of other ventures that have greatly impacted the Litchfield County landscape.   Among these are the Connecticut State Police barracks in Litchfield, Community Field, the land for Litchfield Intermediate and High Schools, Wamogo Regional High School, and the Bantam Civic Association.  They also donated 5,745 acres to 14 Connecticut state parks, most in northwestern Connecticut.

latrine

A latrine

The Foundation supported the Boy Scouts by leasing Camp Boyd, adjacent to Sandy Beach (the cabin burned in the 1970s) and the Girl Scouts through Camp Townshend, located along Alain White Road in Morris. Townshend opened in 1940, and by the end of that decade over 700 campers visited the property. The property could house 100 campers and 28 staff members for each two-week camp session, which began in late June.   In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Mrs. Barbara Cutler served as camp director, and the facility was overseen by a 22-member Budget, Planning, and Maintenance Committee.

cabin interior

The interior of a cabin. The writing on the wall says “Cloud, Lightning, Sun, Moon, Star, Rainbow, Rainbow, Bean Sprout, Corn, Blossom, Warrior Mark, Mark of Some Offices”

telephone

Remnants of old telephones?

While Camp Townshend closed in the mid-1970s, and was utlized by the Morris and Litchfield fire departments for  training exercises, a walk through the remains of Camp Townshend has the feel of visiting a Wild West ghost town. Even in the darkest days of fall and winter, it is easy to imagine the sounds of summer coming from the lake.

shore

The Camp Townshend shore line

Advertisement

Hidden Nearby: An Autumn Walk Along the CCC Road at Macedonia State Park

Camp Macedonia Brook operated as a base for the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1933 to 1936, during the New Deal. The camp was charged with building a new road to Macedonia Brook State Park and a road to the top of Kent Falls. The road to Macedonia, which still exists, was especially difficult, requiring many cuts into the rocks and filling. The New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad ran alongside the camp, allowing for direct delivery of supplies. The men of the camp were also involved in flood relief during the 1936 floods of the Housatonic.

Fall is a wonderful time to explore the history of Litchfield County. At Macedonia State Park, a road built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression offers insights into the area's history.

Fall is a wonderful time to explore the history of Litchfield County. At Macedonia State Park, a road built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression offers insights into the area’s history.

An old grindstone can be seen along the roadside, certainly pre-dating the CCC.

An old grindstone can be seen along the roadside, certainly pre-dating the CCC.

The explorer can appreciate the beauty of the CCC's stonewalls. The CCC was established by the Roosevelt Administration as a New Deal agency to both protect the environment and give work to 18-24 year old men.

The explorer can appreciate the beauty of the CCC’s stonewalls. The CCC was established by the Roosevelt Administration as a New Deal agency to both protect the environment and give work to 18-24 year old men.

drainage

The above two photographs provide a glimpse into the drainage system developed by the CCC. Even after a heavy rainfall the previous day, the road was dry.

The two photographs above provide a glimpse into the drainage system developed by the CCC. Even after a heavy rainfall the previous day, the road was dry.

CCC members cut rocks to crate the roadwa.

CCC members cut rocks to create the roadway.

Where the men didn't build stonewalls, they put coping stones in place to serve as guardrails.

Where the men didn’t build stonewalls, they put coping stones in place to serve as guardrails.

IMG_2731IMG_2733

A true appreciation for the scope of the work done by the CCC can be gained by examining the sheer size of the road's retaining walls.

A true appreciation for the scope of the work done by the CCC can be gained by examining the sheer size of the road’s retaining walls.

Hidden Nearby: The Birthplace of General Benjamin Foulois

IMG_2699

Benjamin “Benny” Foulois, a pioneer of aviation in the American military, was born on December 9, 1879, in the white building on Route 47 in Washington Depot that once housed the Washington Pharmacy. (The building is across Route 47 from The Hickory Stick Bookshop.) His mother was a nurse and his father a pipe fitter who had emigrated from France. At eighteen he enlisted in the army to serve in the Spanish-American War, serving in Puerto Rico, and spent time with American occupation forces in Cuba and the Philippines.

Foulois and Orville Wright

Foulois and Orville Wright

While in the Philippines, Foulois was assigned to the Engineering Corps, where he was tasked with creating maps of the area. This led to an assignment at the army’s Signal School and an expertise in the use of dirigibles in reconnaissance. From this vantage point he predicted that airplanes would soon become the military’s main source of intelligence, a prediction which resulted in Foulois being appointed to the army’s aeronautical board. In this capacity, he was charged with evaluating aircraft for potential purchase by the army. He earned a spot in the record books by serving as the navigator for Orville Wright on a July 30, 1909, flight from Fort Myer, Virginia to Alexandria, which achieved unprecedented average speed (42.5 miles per hour), altitude (400 feet) and distance cross country (10 miles). The army soon after purchased the Wright Model A Military Flyer.

Foulois in the cockpit.

Foulois in the cockpit.

Between 1911 and 1916, Foulois served in Texas, assisting General John Pershing in his operations against the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. In March 1911, Foulois and a flying partner accidentally shut off an engine, and their plane crashed into the Rio Grande. They both escaped without injury. During these operations, Foulois became the first man to conduct military intelligence operations from a plane, and the first to do so over a foreign country.

Foulois (left) with General John J. Pershing, commander of American forces in World War I.

Foulois (left) with General John J. Pershing, commander of American forces in World War I.

Foulois essentially built the American air corps for World War I. With a French request for 4,500 pilots and 12,000 combat planes, Foulois oversaw the production, maintenance, organization and operations of aeronautical personnel and equipment in the United States. He ultimately oversaw a budget of $640 million and was promoted to Brigadier General. After the armistice, Foulois drafted the air clauses of the Treaty of Versailles.

Sent to Germany after the war, Foulois found himself frequently discussing the potentials of air power with Hermann Goering, future commander of the Nazi Luftwaffe. Goering invited Foulois to join top German aeronautical organizations, and Foulois took advantage of this to gather enormous amounts of intelligence, which he sent back to the American government. He eventually sounded warnings about German capabilities and intent.

Foulois in 1962

Foulois in 1962

In 1931, Foulois was promoted to Major General and named Chief of the Air Corps by Herbert Hoover, and he put into place the development of new aircraft that would eventually include the B-17 and B-24 bombers, which became the workhorses of American forces in World War II. A clash with army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur led to Foulois’s retirement in 1934. He offered to return to the skies for World War II if offered a combat command, but when none came he spent the war directing civil defense operations in New Jersey. In 1963, Foulois appeared on the popular television show I’ve Got a Secret, with the secret that he had once been the entire United States Air Force. He died in 1967, and is buried in his native Washington.

East Cemetery: The Grave of Jeph Africa

Rev. Judah Champion (Courtesy of Litchfield Historical Society)

Rev. Judah Champion (Courtesy of Litchfield Historical Society)

Judah Champion was minister of Litchfield’s Congregational Church from 1753 to 1798. This was a prominent position, one that came with a commensurate salary. For Champion, moving to Litchfield came with a 2,000 pound bonus, an 800 pound salary, and 20 acres of land. Alain White, in his history of Litchfield, describes how only the most prominent of Litchfield were in a financial position to own slaves. This clearly included Champion who owned several slaves, including Samson, Kate, and Jeph.

IMG_2668

Jeph’s grave in the East Cemetery indicates he was a Revolutionary War veteran, but his name does not appear in the Roll of Honor of Litchfield County Revolutionary Soldiers. Jeph’s grave is interesting at several levels. It is an impressive stone, inscribed “Here lies the body of Jeph Africa servant of the Rev. Judah Champion, who died June the 5th 1793.” The text as well as the magnitude of the headstone suggest that it was paid for by the Champion family.

IMG_2670

Also interesting is the carving at the top of the stone. The modern explorer might associate it with a pinwheel, but pinwheels didn’t appear until the next century. The whirligig was a medieval predecessor of the pinwheel, but it seems unlikely that a toy would be carved on to an 18th century gravestone. Is it perhaps a representation of the rising sun, which carries both religious connotation and harkens to the continent of Africa? Or could it be a wheel, representative of divine power, prominently featured in Ezekiel 1: “Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne

The grave is also notable as the inspiration for an 1838 writing of Nathaniel Hawthorne. In his American Notebooks, the author shared his observations of Litchfield, which include his reflections on Africa’s grave (although he incorrectly cites it as the grave of Julia Africa):

“In Connecticut, and also sometimes in Berkshire, the villages
are situated on the most elevated ground that can be found, so that
they are visible for miles around. Litchfield is a remarkable instance,
occupying a high plain, without the least shelter from the winds,
and with almost as wide an expanse of view as from a mountain-
top. The streets are very wide, two or three hundred feet, at
least, with wide, green margins, and sometimes there is a wide
green space between the two road tracks. Nothing can be neater
than the churches and houses. The graveyard is on the slope, and at
the foot of a swell, filled with old and new gravestones, some of
red freestone, some of grey granite, most of them of white marble,
and one of cast-iron with an inscription of raised letters. There
was one of the date of about 1776, on which was represented the
third-length, bas-relief portrait of a gentleman in a wig and other
costume of that day; and as a framework about this portrait was
wreathed a garland of vine-leaves and heavy clusters of grapes.
The deceased should have been a jolly bottleman; but the epitaph
indicated nothing of the kind.

“In a remote part of the graveyard, remote from the main body
of dead people, I noticed a humble, mossy stone, on which I traced
out ‘To the memory of Julia Africa, servant of Rev.’ somebody.
There were also the half obliterated traces of other graves, without
any monuments, in the vicinity of this one. Doubtless the slaves
here mingled their dark clay with the earth.” 

60 Years Ago: The Flood of 1955

The Prospect Street bridge over the Naugatuck River in Torrington (Connecticuthistory.org)

The Prospect Street bridge over the Naugatuck River in Torrington (Connecticuthistory.org)

The Flood of 1955, the worst natural disaster in Connecticut history, resulted from the approximately two feet of rain dropped by Hurricanes Connie and Diane that August. Low-lying areas were already flooded on the morning of August 18th when the second storm dumped fourteen more inches that afternoon and on August 19th. The Housatonic stood at 24.5 feet deep and the Mad and Still Rivers in Winsted raged at 50 miles per hour.  In Torrington, the Naugatuck River, so peaceful looking today, swept away lumber, rocks, even buildings. Stores along East Main Street were filled with six feet of water. The city suffered an estimated $22 million dollars in damage.

Memorial to flood victims in Winsted

Memorial to flood victims in Winsted

A similar scene played out in Winsted, while the Shepaug River carried away an apartment building in Washington Depot.  Concrete sections of Route 44 were washed away and across the county, Bailey bridges – made famous during World War II – were used to provide temporary river crossings.  Twenty-five helicopters searched for survivors or dropped clean food and water.  Statewide, 87 people were killed, and over 8,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed. Twenty five of the dead were from Litchfield County. Memorials stand in Torrington and Winsted to those who lost their lives.

American Brass factory, Torrington

American Brass factory, Torrington

Extraordinary acts of heroism by police, firemen, and ordinary citizens kept the death toll from growing. In its August 26th, 1955 edition the Torrington Register proclaimed, “So numerous were the many acts of heroism, rescue of the sick and invalid, neighbors’ concern for neighbors, that it would impossible to chronicle them without slighting someone deserving of great credit.

dam

Thomaston Dam

In addition to severely (in some places irreparably) damaging the state’s industrial infrastructure, the floods forced the Army Corps of Engineers to take action so that such a disaster never happened again.  The army constructed the Thomaston Dam (1960), Northfield Brook Dam (1965), and Colebrook Dam (1969), at a cost of $70 million.  The Naugatuck River, with its many tributaries, had been especially prone to flooding and the dams constructed along that river provided over 77,000 acres of flood capacity, while returning over 1,000 acres to forest.  This protection came at a price as construction displaced the communities of Fluteville and Campville in Litchfield.  Still, it is perhaps fortunate that the traveler through Torrington today has difficulty in imagining the destructive power of the now-controlled Naugatuck River. 

Please see “The Lost,” a special section of the Hartford Courant for tributes to those who died in the Flood of 1955: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-55flood-casualties-htmlstory.html

Also see the Torrington Register-Citizen’s photo archive of the flood: https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/albumMap?uname=kaitlynmyeager&aid=5547678124797887025#map

Frederick Bacon and the United States Exploring Expedition

IMG_2168

Tucked into a tree in Litchfield’s East Cemetery is a marker commemorating the life of Frederick Asa Bacon, who was born in Litchfield in 1812. His father attended the Litchfield Law School, and he, his mother and two brothers attended the Litchfield Female Academy. A voyage to England in 1829 sparked an interest in a life at sea, and he joined the United States Navy as a midshipman in 1832. In 1838, while serving as a passed midshipman – one who has passed the examination to be a lieutenant but is waiting for a vacancy at that rank – Bacon was one of two officers named to command the U.S.S. Sea Gull, a schooner that was part of the United States Exploring Expedition (known as the US Ex Ex).

The U.S.S. Sea Gull, in distress of Cape Horn

The U.S.S. Sea Gull, in distress of Cape Horn. A drawing by Alfred Thomas Agate, a member of the U.S. Ex Ex

The US Ex Ex was one of several 19th century voyages of discovery sponsored by the United States government. Under the command of Charles Wilkes, this expedition was sent circumnavigate the globe in order to search for the magnetic south pole, map the western coast of North America, and explore the islands of the south Pacific. Bacon’s Sea Gull was formerly a New York harbor pilot boat called the New Jersey. Wilkes included two schooners in his six-ship squadron because he believed the agility would be highly prized in the ice around the South Pole.

Deception Island

Deception Island

The ships left Norfolk, Virginia, on August 18, 1838, bound for the tip of South America. There they would survey and collect specimens before making a February (summer in the southern hemisphere) exploration of the Antarctic. Enormous icebergs – some reportedly as big as the United States Capitol – and huge waves caused Wilkes to order the Sea Gull out of danger in search of scientific equipment left behind on Deception Island by an earlier British expedition. The crew did not find the thermometer, but did determine that Deception Island was an active volcano.

Memorial to the men who died during the U.S. Ex Ex in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA. Courtesy of findagrave.com

Memorial to the men who died during the U.S. Ex Ex in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA. Courtesy of findagrave.com

By mid-April, Wilkes ordered part of the squadron to sail for Valparaiso, Chile, while the Sea Gull and her sister schooner Flying Fish waited for a supply ship. While the latter vessel arrived in Chile by mid-May, there was no sign of the Sea Gull, which was last seen waiting out strong winds at Staten Island off the coast of South America’s Cape Horn. When after a month the Sea Gull still had not arrived, the officers of the Ex Ex assumed that she was lost; Wilkes later speculated that in the gales off Cape Horn, the schooner might have tripped her foremast, which would have ripped up the foredeck and made her unseaworthy. A collection for a monument in memory of the ship’s crew was taken up by the expedition’s officers; the monument still stands in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution

The Ex Ex continued on its voyage, achieving the first sighting of the Antarctic continent, making invaluable maps of the South Pacific islands and the currents off the American Pacific coast, and gathering enormous numbers – in excess of 60,000 – specimens of birds, fish, plants, and shells. These specimens would later form the backbone of the Smithsonian Institution. At least five books were published on the scientific and maritime discoveries of the expedition.

Captain Charles Wilkes, commander of the United States Exploring Expedition

Captain Charles Wilkes, commander of the United States Exploring Expedition

Captain Charles Wilkes would become embroiled in controversy for his actions during the expedition, and in fact when Lieutenant Robert Pinkney brought court martial proceedings against Wilkes, the commander criticized his accuser by contrasting “the intelligence, attention to duty, and untiring activity of the lamented Reid and Bacon with all that is opposite in the character of Lieutenant Pinkney.”

IMG_2167 (1)

Bacon was remembered by Wilkes as “among the most promising young officers in the squadron.” Lieutenant Reynolds of the expedition highlighted the Bacon’s personal tragedy by remembering,“Poor, poor fellows, what a terrible lot. The two officers were young men of my age, one if he indeed be gone, leaving a wife more youthful than himself and a child that he has never seen.”

For more information on the Sea Gull and the U.S. Ex Ex, see Nathaniel Philbrick’s book, Sea of Glory.

The 4th of July: Benjamin Tallmadge’s Grave

Major Benjamin Tallmadge

Major Benjamin Tallmadge

While associated with Litchfield, Benjamin Tallmadge was born in Setauket, on Long Island, in 1754. A Yale graduate and classmate of Nathan Hale, Tallmadge was serving as superintendent of schools in Wethersfield, Connecticut, when the Revolutionary War broke out. Tallmadge was initially a major in the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons, but gained his fame as the organizer of the famed Culper spy ring, gathering information in the New York City area for relay to George Washington.

General_George_Washington_at_Trenton_by_John_Trumbull

Tallmadge led several small unit actions during the Revolution, which later generations might term “commando raids.” Perhaps the most famous of these was a raid on Manor St. George on Long Island which was followed by the destruction of a stockpile of hay intended as winter fodder for British horses. This earned Tallmadge a commendation from General Washington, who wrote “I have received with much pleasure the report of your successful enterprise upon fort St. George, and was pleased with the destruction of the hay at Coram, which must be severely felt by the enemy at this time. I beg you to accept my thanks for your spirited execution of this business.” Tallmadge concluded his service as Washington’s chief of intelligence, which earned him the rank of colonel. In this role, Tallmadge was present for Washington’s famed 1783 farewell to his army at Fraunces Tavern in Manhattan.

Tallmadge's home on Litchfield's North Street.

Tallmadge’s home on Litchfield’s North Street.

During the war, Tallmadge and his brother had begun a mercantile business in Litchfield, and it was in this town that the Colonel settled when the war was over. As a businessman, investor, banker and member of Congress and associate of Washington, Tallmadge was certainly among the town’s most respected citizens. Tallmadge’s wife, Mary, was also a prominent resident, and her father William Floyd was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

IMG_2166

Tallmadge died in Litchfield in 1835 and is buried in the East Cemetery, where a ceremony commemorates his contributions to American independence every July 4th.

Seth Numrich as Benjamin Tallmadge on AMC's Turn.

Seth Numrich as Benjamin Tallmadge on AMC’s Turn.

Tallmadge has recently come to the public’s attention through the AMC Revolutionary War spy drama “Turn,” which features his exploits. A tip of the hat to reader C.S. Moore for reminding me of this!

Louis Fenn Wadsworth: Litchfield’s Baseball Pioneer

The grave of Amos Wadsworth, father of Louis Fenn Wadsworth, in Litchfield's East Cemetery.

The grave of Amos Wadsworth, father of Louis Fenn Wadsworth, in Litchfield’s East Cemetery.

The man responsible for baseball as we know it today was a Litchfield native.

Louis Fenn Wadsworth was born to Amos and Amanda (Mann) Wadsworth in 1825. Amos and Amanda were both Farmington natives. It seems likely that the extended Wadsworth family (including Amos’s brother James and his family) lived at 94 North Street, property they bought in 1819 after taking out a loan with the Phoenix Bank.  Amos and his brother ran a business, J.C. & A. Wadsworth, located “one door west of the court house,” which sold clocks they manufactured in a factory on South Street (where Route 63 intersects with Camp Dutton Road. In fact, one of the few extant references to Amos Wadsworth is a complaint filed against him with the Litchfield Nuisance Committee for putting a fence across what is now Camp Dutton Road). Louis graduated from Hartford’s Washington College (now Trinity College) in 1844, moved to Michigan where his father had land interests (and where Amanda moved after Amos’s 1850 death), and returned to the east coast to practice law in New York City in 1848. Louis is listed as living there in probate records from 1850, when Amos died insolvent in Litchfield, his fortunes fading after a fire destroyed the factory around 1833. While Louis would go on to a career as a judge in New Jersey, it was baseball that was his great passion.

The New York Knickerbockers and Excelsiors, 1859.

The New York Knickerbockers and Excelsiors, 1859.

In a playing career that lasted from approximately 1850 to 1862, Louis was the first baseman for the New York Gothams, and later the famed New York Knickerbockers. Why he switched playing allegiances remains a mystery, but there is speculation that Wadsworth was paid to do so by the Knickerbockers, an allegation that if true would make Wadsworth one of – if not the – first professional baseball player. Regardless, after four seasons with the Knickerbockers, Wadsworth returned to the Gothams, whom he represented in the Fashion Race Course Games. These were three games played in 1858, pitting the best players from Manhattan against the best of Brooklyn. These games featured many of baseball’s “firsts”: first All-Star game, first games with paid admission, first game played in an enclosed park, and the first time a batter was called out for looking at strike three. (Wadsworth apparently played in the first and third games of the series, which his Manhattan team won, 2 games to 1.)

A baseball player, c. 1860.

A baseball player, c. 1860.

A Knickerbocker teammate remembered Wadsworth this way:

I had almost forgotten the most most important man on the team and that is Lew             Wadsworth. He was the life of the club. Part of his club suit consisted of a white shirt on the back of which was stamped a black devil. It makes me laugh still when I recall how he used to go after a ball. His hands were very large and when he went for a ball they looked like the tongs of an oyster rake. He got there all the same and but few balls passed him.

loc_baseball

The game that Wadsworth played in 1850 bore only slight resemblance to today’s National Pastime. The distance between the bases had not yet been set to 90 feet, nor was there an officially established distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate. A rules committee meeting was held on February 25, 1857 to decide these and other provisions for the game. Popular opinion held that games should be seven innings, with teams’ fielding seven players. Wadsworth was something of a lone wolf, arguing that both the number of innings and players be set at nine.

Abner Doubleday

Abner Doubleday

In 1905, a commission was established nominally to establish the origins of the game of baseball, but with the unstated goal of demonstrating that baseball was a uniquely American invention, not a descendant of the English games of cricket or rounders. The commission, the brainchild of sporting goods magnate Albert G. Spalding, was chaired by Abraham G. Mills, a Civil War veteran, attorney, and president of the National League. In 1907, Mills (who was pressured by Spalding into naming Abner Doubleday the inventor of the game), wrote that a Knickerbocker player by the name of Curry made a statement that “a diagram, showing the ball field laid out substantially as it is today, was brought to the field one day by a Mr. Wadsworth.” (There is a discrepancy here, for the Mills Commission states that Wadsworth did this in 1845, a time when Wadsworth was likely living in Michigan.  Did they mean 1854?)

The 1908 Spalding Guide, which contained the report of the Mills Commission on the origins of baseball.

The 1908 Spalding Guide, which contained the report of the Mills Commission on the origins of baseball.

The Mills Commission’s conclusions were first published in Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guide, on March 20, 1908. Wadsworth died eight days later. His last years were unhappy ones. Alcohol led to his professional life falling into disarray, and he squandered a $300,000 fortune (the equivalent of roughly $8,000,000 in today’s money). Wadsworth ultimately committed himself to a New Jersey poorhouse. His obituary in the Hartford Times stated that “in the summer he was particularly interested in following the scores of the ballgames of the big leagues, and of later years, the game was of great object interest to him.”

Many thanks to my friend and colleague Mike DeMazza for his contributions to the research for this post. For more information on Wadsworth and early baseball, see John Thorn, Baseball in the Garden of Eden, (Simon & Schuster, 2012)

Hidden Nearby: Local Baseball Legends

An early Litchfield baseball team. (Courtesy of the Litchfield Historical Society)

An early Litchfield baseball team. (Courtesy of the Litchfield Historical Society)

After Litchfield’s seemingly endless winter, the arrival of warm temperatures and of baseball’s opening day finally let us think spring has arrived. Fittingly, markers denote sites pertinent to the lives of two local baseball legends.

159975

Eddie Collins was born Millerton, NY, (just over the border from Litchfield County) in 1887, and graduated from Columbia University at a time when very few major leaguers were college graduates. (Lou Gehrig also attended Columbia). Two years before graduating, Collins had signed with Philadelphia Athletics so he played professionally as Eddie Sullivan to protect his amateur status at Columbia.  Collins went on to play 25 seasons in the Major Leagues, retiring at the age of 43. Over his career he won four World Series titles (3 with A’s, 1 with White Sox),  with a .333 average and 3314 hits. While a member of the infamous 1919 White Sox team that became known as the “Black Sox” for throwing the World Series, Collins was not suspected of being in on the fix, as he was believed to play have played honestly. Bill James, the noted baseball statistical analyst, ranks Collins as the greatest second baseman of all time.

The 1939 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction. Eddie Collins is seated at the left of the front row, next to Babe Ruth.

The 1939 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction. Eddie Collins is seated at the left of the front row, next to Babe Ruth.

Collins was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939 and took part in the first ever induction ceremony. (The first Hall of Fame class was 1936, but there were  no inductions until 1939.) As a participant in that ceremony, Collins stood on the steps of the Baseball Hall of Fame with such luminaries as Grover Cleveland Alexander, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Nap Lajoie, Connie Mack, Babe Ruth, George Sisler, Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner and Cy Young.

BlassSteve

Steve Blass was born Canaan in 1942, and pitched at Housatonic Valley Regional High School (where according to legend he buried his baseball socks in the mound after his last game in 1960). In a ten-year Major League career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Blass went 103-76 with a 3.63 ERA. In 1968, the famous “Year of the Pitcher”, Blass led the National League in winning percentage, going 18-6.  He won 19 games in 1972. The highlight of Blass’s career came with the 1971 World Series, when he won two games – including the decisive 7th game – allowing only 2 runs in 18 innings. Since 1983, Blass has been a TV and radio announcer for Pirates’ games. Canaan’s Steve Blass Field is named in his honor.

field

Steve Blass Field, North Canaan, CT

Hidden Nearby: Sheffield’s Shays’ Rebellion Monument

IMG_2014The United States’s first national government, the Articles of Confederation, was approved by the states beginning in 1777. In Connecticut, this was done through town meetings. Despite this support, the Articles did not solve all the young nation’s problems. Many farmers returning from war found themselves in debt and unable to pay their taxes in the gold or silver that Massachusetts required. When, in 1786, courts in that state began seizing the farms of delinquent taxpayers, angry farmers in western Massachusetts took up arms in an attempt to shut down these courthouses. The leader of the this movement, Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays, gave his name to the rebellion.

Daniel Shays (left) and supporter Jacob Shattuck

Shays and his men marched on courthouses throughout the central part of the state, while other Shaysites closed the court in Great Barrington. In January 1787, Shays led a force in an attempt to seize the federal armory in Springfield.  There they were met and routed by Massachusetts militia led by General Benjamin Lincoln.  Shays’s force dispersed, with many men making their way to New York and Vermont.  Many of those attempting to reach the Empire State were cut off by militia on February 27, 1787, on the road between Sheffield and Egremont.  In the ensuing battle, the last organized part of Shays’s forces was defeated.

Roger Sherman, a one-time resident of New Milford, played a prominent role at the Constitutional Convention.

Roger Sherman, a one-time resident of New Milford, played a prominent role at the Constitutional Convention.

Several of Shays’s men – as well as the spirit of the rebellion – crossed the border into Litchfield County. In the spring of 1787, Dr. John Hurlbert of Alford, Massachusetts, a supporter of Shays, arrived in Sharon to awaken “a similar spirit.” Hurlbert organized a number of men under William Mitchell, who as captain trained his company in secret. Hurlbert, Mitchell, and three others were arrested, but when Shays’ Rebellion collapsed, the prosecutions were discontinued. The alarm raised by Shays’ Rebellion – and the inability of the federal government to act to stop it – resulted later that year in the Constitutional Convention that would meet in Philadelphia.