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.

 

Advertisements

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.

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.

Hidden Nearby: Sharon’s Moravian Monument

Jan_Hus_2

Jan Hus

The Unity of Brethren, better known as the Moravians, also played an important role in the early religious history of the county.  The group’s nickname stems from the refugees from Moravia, an area of the present day Czech Republic.  The Moravians were essentially followers of the Catholic revolutionary Jan Hus, who advocated for giving lay people a more prominent role in the church and having masses said in vernacular languages.  Hus was burned at the stake in 1415.

Nikolaus_Ludwig_von_Zinzendorf_(portrait_by_Balthasar_Denner)

Nicolaus von Zinzendorf

One of the principal tenets of the Moravian church is the “ideal of service,” which emphasizes the importance of educational and missionary work.  At the forefront of these ideals was Count Nicolaus von Zinzendorf, a German social reformer and Moravian bishop who led efforts to spread Christianity through the Native Americans of the Northeast.  Around 1740, von Zinzendorf himself came to America, and preached to Indians in New Milford.  He was so successful in igniting the fire of Moravianism that the natives agreed to move with Zinzendorf to Bethlem (today Bethlehem), Pennsylvania.  Harsh conditions and illness, however, soon led the Native Americans to return.

V05-26

Monument to Rauch in Pine Plains, NY. Courtesy of Ancestry.com

Around the same time, a second Moravian mission was established in Sharon to minister to the settlements at Shekomeko (Pine Plains, NY), Wequagnock (near Sharon), and the Schaghticokes in Kent.  The mission was founded by the Reverend Christian Henry Rauch, who presided for two years before turning the work over to 26 year-old Reverend Gotlieb Buetner, who died two years later, and was buried at the site of the mission.

DSC_0656

New York State chased the Moravians out of their borders in 1745, fearing that the missionaries were secret emissaries of the Catholic Church.  This led numerous Christian Indians to settle around Sharon, where the Moravian mission continued under the leadership of David Bruce, a Moravian teacher from Edinburgh, Scotland.  In 1789, George Loskiel wrote of Bruce’s activities in his History of the Moravian Missioners Among the North American Indians:

Bruce … resided chiefly in a house at Wequagnock … but sometimes resided at         Schaticook, whence he paid visits to Westenhunk, by invitation of the head chief of the Mohikan nation, soweing the seeds of the gospel wherever he came …. Twenty Indians were added to the church by baptism.  Brother Bruce  remained in his station till his happy departure out of time …. He was remarkably cheerful during his illness, and his conversation edified all who saw him.  Perceiving that his end approached, he called his Indian brethren present to his bedside, and, pressing their hands to his breast, besought them fervently to remain faithful unto the end, and immediately fell asleep in the Lord.

DSC_0658

That was July 9, 1749.  A monument to Bruce and Joseph Powel, a later Moravian missionary, was erected in Sharon in October 1859, 110 years after Bruce’s death.  The monument still stands, hidden deep within the woods along Route 361.  On its east face is the following passage from Isaiah:

How beautiful upon the mountains

Are the feet of him that bringeth

Good tidings, that publisheth peace,

That bringeth good tidings of good,

That publisheth salvation.

Special thanks to my friend and colleague Warren Prindle of Sharon for not only bringing this monument to my attention, but also hacking through the woods with me to find it!

Hidden Nearby: Two Monuments to Sportsmen at Housatonic Meadows State Park

flyfish

This blog has typically focused on the history of Litchfield County.  While the region certainly has a rich history, it has an equally rich tradition as a place for outdoorsmen.  These characteristics intersect at Housatonic Meadows State Park.

DSC_0210

Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the legislation establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps on March 31, 1933.  Over the next eight years , millions of men would serve in the CCC, providing income for their families ravaged by the Great Depression.

One of the first camps was Camp Cross in West Cornwall, Connecticut.  Named for Connecticut governor Wilbur Cross, it opened on June 20, 1933 and was one of the original 13 camps in the state.  Commanded by Thomas C. Hood, the camp housed the 182nd Civilian Conservation Corps, which was trained in fighting forest fires, chopping and sawing wood, and identifying trees.

DSC_0211

For their first task, the 182nd cleared 45 acres in the Housatonic Meadows State Park, which had been established in 1927.  (As the park is one the west side of the Housatonic, it is technically in the town of Sharon.) Here they also planted 45,000 red pine trees in 1933, and another 28,500 trees (red and Scotch pine, European larch, hemlock and white spruce) in 1936.  The corps also repaired and maintained roads and constructed stone walls in the park.  By 1936, the 182nd was working 6,800 acres and had mapped topographic and recreational features and catalogued trees on the property.  Their works was not without danger, however, as one corpsman was reportedly injured by a deer, two others killed a nine-foot rattlesnake, and many reported seeing “wild cats.”  The attack on Pearl Harbor eliminated the needs for the camps, but not before the CCC allowed millions of men an opportunity to help provide for their families.

DSC_0213

Housatonic Meadows State Park also contains two monuments that denote the area’s reputation as one of the finest fly fishing locales in the northeast.  In front of the campground office is a monument honoring Ranger Nate Strong that was erected by the Housatonic Fly Fisherman’s Association.

DSC_0212

Further south, near the intersection of Routes 4 and 7 is a second monument, this one honoring Francis L. Sheane, who was the chairman of the state Board of Fisheries and Game in the 1940s.