1692-1892; A Memorial Volume of the Bi-Centennial Celebration of
the Town of Windham, Connecticut, containing the historical addresses,
poems, and a description of events connected with the observance
of the two hundreth anniversary of the incorporation of the town,
as held in the year 1892."
Published by the Committee, Hartford, CT, 1893
Windhams Second Century &SHY;
Landmarks in Willimantic:
There are at least five dwelling houses
now standing in Willimantic borough which date back into the century
preceding this. Two of them,
the Hardin Fitch place at the west end, the old Josiah Dean (now called
Cranstons) place at the east end on South Main street, are rivals
the claim of the oldest house in town, and date back at least two centuries.
The other three are the Alfred Youngs (now Charles Young)
place at the corner of South and Pleasant streets, the Waldo Cary (late
John Smiths) place on Ash street by the North Windham road, and
the Scott Smith place, corner of Brook and Main streets.
There is a noteworthy absence of business houses that have preserved
their identity from the earliest days. There is no firm name in the
borough now that was here in the beginning, except that of the Windham
Manufacturing Company. Frank Wilsons drug store has been at the
same stand since started in 1828, but with changing names. Thomas R.
Congdon is the man who has been longest in business and is in actual
trade today, with the Carpenter Bros. of West Main street as close
followers. J.C. Bassett, John G. Keigwin, Turner and Wilson have long
records but they have retired.
The most striking figure of the older parts of the town is the venerable
Charles Smith of South Windham, a pioneer in the great industry of Smith,
Winchester and Co., and now in his 85th year. He is yet in active business,
and keeps in line with current events. He has been a man of marvelous
energy, indomitable will, unflinching courage, sterling integrity and
strong public spirit. His heart was shown in the small-pox scourge of
1874, when he fearlessly helped his suffering neighbors and saw that
Willimantic was protected.
The most interesting figure on Willimantic streets is General Lloyd
E. Baldwin, now in his 82nd year. Born in Norwich in 1810, he removed
to Mansfield, and as a boy he learned the builders trade in Willimantic,
working on the Windham Co.s new mill in 1828 and 29.
In 1831 he set up in business for himself in Willimantic, and became
the leading builder of early Willimantic. Among the buildings put up
by him were the old Franklin Hall, Willimantics first public building;
also Joshua Lords, Dr. Witters, Elisha Williamss and
Col. William L. Jillsons residences; the Linen Co.s No. 3
mill, the Smithville Co.s mill and three of their large dwelling
houses, and a large share of the dwelling houses that stood in Willimantic
in 1850. He also built churches at Danielsonville, Bozrah, Westchester,
West Granby, Haddam, West Suffield, South Coventry and the old Broadway
church in Norwich, also the first railway stations at Andover, Bolton,
Vernon and Manchester; the first district school-house, center building
of the present group. No man had more to do with the building of early
Willimantic. He was postmaster here in 1843, and took the responsibility
of moving the office uptown. He was a prominent figure in the old State
Militia, and in politics in the 40s and 50s. He was colonel
of the Fifth regiment an at one time general of the Fifth brigade, comprising
the militia of Windham, Tolland and part of New London counties. He was
candidate for state comptroller for three years, and member of the McClellan
convention of 64, and candidate for presidential elector on the
Seymour ticket of 68. He once served as escort for Andrew Jackson,
marching across Norwich by his side, and he has remained to this day
a staunch Democrat of the Jacksonian order, whom modern degeneracies
cannot swerve from the strong faith of the fathers. He retains remarkable
vigor and memory, and is daily seen on our streets, taking a lively
interest in affairs.
Ex-Postmaster John Brown, long known as the Republican War-horse,
is another familiar figure. A sterling old patriot, his stirring words
were wont to rouse the highest enthusiasm at public gatherings. He
was a favorite moderator at town meetings for many years. For thirty-one
years he has been connected with the post office, twelve years as Postmaster,
and he still serves the public there.
One of the most significant and valuable of modern landmarks is the handsome
iron fence that surrounds the Willimantic cemetery, the loving gift of
George H. Chase of Stamford to the town that gave him birth, and in memory
of his boyhood days at the old Laban Chase homestead. The spirit that
prompted such a substantial gift was noble, and Windham owes him a lasting
debt of gratitude.
I have discovered one instance of the continuance of the same occupation
from generation to generation, in the same family, which is
quite noteworthy and perhaps not paralleled in the town. In the early 30s
William Tew, a venerable blacksmith, came from Rhode Island
toWillimantic and occupied the large white house now standing on the
southeast corner of Hoopers Lane (Winter street.) The old gentleman
did not engage in blacksmithing here, but his son William did. Williams
son John is now the veteran blacksmith of the Willimantic of to-day,
and Johns son James is following the same honorable trade on Bank
street. Robert Brown tells me that he has had horses shod by three generations
of Tews, and hale and hearty at 70 he is waiting for a son of James to
grow up and give him a fourth generations shoeing. But Jims
only boy is thus far a girl, and Mr. Brown is getting a little discouraged.
I have learned, however, that there is a woman in Worcester who shoes
horses, and as women have already entered 4000 different occupations,
horseshoeing may become as popular as type-writing, so that Mr. Brown
must be patient and meanwhile Jim may be blessed with a boy!