Hidden Nearby: North Canaan’s Monument to the Convention Army’s March

march1

The monument to the Convention Army’s march, “the Revolution’s longest” on Sand Road in North Canaan.

My last post featured the sign in Southbury commemorating the march of General Rochambeau’s French army across the southern border of the county during the Revolutionary War. A second Revolutionary War army had traveled across the northern edge of the county three years earlier. This march is commemorated by a marker along Sand Road in North Canaan.

Surrender of General Burgoyne by John Trumbull. The original hangs in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol.

Following the victories of the American army at Saratoga in September and October 1777, British General John Burgoyne surrendered his army of about 6,000 men on October 17th. The terms of the surrender – known as the Saratoga Convention – stated that these British soldiers were to be paroled upon a promise to never fight against the Americans again. As the terms required approval by King George III, the British prisoners were marched to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to get them away from the approaching Adirondack winter. They arrived there in early November, taking up quarters that had been built by the British in 1775. Many of these men were sent to work for local farmers during the day. Approximately 1,500 British escaped, as legend holds that they became romantically involved with the daughters of these farmers.

Related image

A Viginia historical marker commemorating the end of the Convention Army’s march in Charlottesville.

In November 1778, with the terms of the convention still unratified and with Burgoyne refusing to provide a list of names of his officers so that Americans could ensure they would not fight again, the terms of the convention were revoked. The remaining British soldiers departed Boston, bound for Charlottesville, Virginia. This was, as the monument in North Canaan testifies, the longest march of the Revolutionary War. Entering Connecticut at Suffield, the British (and German Hessian) prisoners and their American escorts passed through Litchfield County’s Barkhamsted, New Hartford, Winchester, Colebrook, Norfolk, North Canaan, Salisbury and Sharon. A separate column comprised primarily of the Hessian soldiers passed through Kent and New Milford as well. In Sharon, A detachment of Hessians reportedly camped on the Norfolk green, where one prisoner escaped, married a local woman, and settled down. Other Hessian soldiers encamped opposite the Stone House (along what is now Stone House Road), where local residents long remembered the soldiers singing devotional songs in German.

march2

For more on the Convention Army, see this excellent post by Tim Abbott.

 

Hidden Nearby: Housatonic Valley Regional High School’s 75th Anniversary

Housatonic_Valley_Regional_High_School_025

Prior to 1939, the six towns that currently comprise Regional School District #1 – Canaan, Cornwall, Kent, North Canaan, Salisbury, and Sharon – each had their own high school.  The cost of providing secondary education in such small towns, especially in the midst of the Great Depression, was becoming increasingly problematic.  In 1935, to reduce these costs and to provide a broader array of academic and extracurricular activities, William Teague (the state-appointed supervisor of rural education) proposed a consolidated high school for the six towns.  In 1937, the state legislature passed a bill creating the new district and establishing the first regional high school in New England.

Cornerstone

Later that year the Regional School Board purchased 75 acres of the Lorch farm at a central point in the region, overlooking the Housatonic River in Falls Village.  Ernest Sibley was hired as the architect and he designed the school in the Georgian Revival style that was popular among New Deal buildings. In 1938 the cornerstone of the building was laid.

construction

The land, building and equipment associated with the school cost $347,180.  Of this amount, $326,946 came from the Public Works Administration, a New Deal agency designed to build governmental buildings and structures.  Thus, Housatonic became one of the 7,488 schools built by the PWA.

paper

Paul W. Stoddard, an English teacher from Hartford’s Bulkeley High School, was hired as the school’s first principal and oversaw not only the hiring of the entire staff but also the drafting of the school’s curriculum.  When school opened for the first day on September 25, 1939, the school was in an unfinished state.  Its 374 students trod on bare cement floors, had no lockers, and heard no bells.

motto

A motto was selected for the school – Felix Prole Virum – “blest in offspring, wise and strong.”  As the towns of northwest Connecticut celebrate their high school’s 75th anniversary, that motto remains painted above the doors to the school.