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Wethersfield Historical Society

Wethersfield Historical Society
150 Main Street

History :

In 1634, at a deep bend in the Connecticut River, John Oldham and nine other adventurers from Watertown, Massachusetts were welcomed by the Wongunk Indians, anxious to trade beaver pelts. Marsh hay in the low meadows and the rich alluvial soil soon attracted settlers who planted their farms on the broad terrace above the River. The surrounding forest gave up timber for houses, and the town was laid out with a Common alongside the present Cove. The settlers named the town Wethersfield. At that time it included the parishes of Rocky Hill to the south, Newington to the west, and Glastonbury to the east, across the River, where they pastured their livestock.

Soon roads and turnpikes connected farmers with merchants and markets beyond the town. Ship masters of locally built vessels carried products of farm, forest and fishery to New York, to Barbados and beyond. The now famous red onion was especially developed for trade and today remains a symbol of the Town's roots in an agricultural past. According to Samuel Peter's 18th century story, the Onion maidens were the young women who earned money for silk dresses by weeding and hoeing the onions while the men pursued other tasks. Flax for seed, spear grass for bonnets, broom corn and garden seeds were also raised in support of local industries.

Lacking water power, windmills and dams were employed to process grain and cloth, and, in the Griswoldville section of town, to manufacture edged tools and run spindles. However, many inhabitants specialized in agriculture, and farms and fields persisted into the 20th century.

Rural Wethersfield became a refuge for workers in Hartford's shops and offices and the Cove provided a recreation spot. The same broad terrace that attracted early farmers provided choice sites for the residential developments of the 1920s that introduced a suburban character to the Town. In the 1950s, ribbons of highway tied Wethersfield to Insurance City just minutes away.

Today, the meadows are preserved, as are the houses in Connecticut's largest historic district. The 1764 brick church continues to monitor the crossroads near the ancient burying ground, and the Cove still invites contemplation. Old country roads and new highways connect visitors to any destination, making Wethersfield Connecticut's crossroads.

Wethersfield Historical Society is not affiliated with AmericanTowns Media