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;
In 1848 the railroads came, and it
was the biggest event of all. Nothing will ever equal the first impression
made by the iron horses. We have had since then the telegraph, the
telephone and all the wonders of electricity, but they have come
so thick and fast that we are now
prepared for anything, and surprised at nothing.
The railroad had long been heralded, yet it was to most people an incomprehensible
thing that the engine should go right along without
anybody pushing or anything drawing, and no sign of a motive power but
little puffs of smoke and steam
It is reportedbut I have not been able to fathom its accuracythat
one good old lady along the South Windham outskirts stood within hailing
distance of the track one morning soon after the cars appeared, and waved
her apron so frantically that the engineer stopped and asked her what
the matter was. She inquired if they took summer squashes.
As the first railroad appeared here in the fall, there is an apparent
anachronism in the seasonableness of the squashes if not of the story.
The great Air Line was the first to be talked of and the
last to be built. The first road appearing here was the New London, Willimantic
and Palmer, now the New London Northern. The first train arrived here
from Norwich in the fall of 1849, with an engine and two passenger cars.
It stopped down back of John Moultons house, and the passengers
were transferred by teams up to the place opposite Hardin Fitchs
where the tracks from Palmer had reached. Large crowds were gathered
at both points to see the sight.
It was several weeks later before the tracks were connected, but then
a grand free excursion was given from New London to Palmer and a large
number of people went along, General L.E. Baldwin among them.
The Hartford, Providence and Fishkill road came through in 1853. John
F. Lester, the first station agent, met the first train from Hartford
up near the Smithville Cos., before the depot was built, and
it is said to have sold the first tickets while standing by the track
in the open air.
William Storrs of Ashford, and before this date one of the teachers in
the old stone school house, and to-day a wealthy director in the Reading
Coal Co., in Scranton, Pa., became the agent of the New London Northern
road. The depot was built in 1850, and did passenger service until 1880,
when the present structure was built with the daily death trap of four
tracks before it.
[Corrections and Additions in the back of the book state: The H.P. &
F.R.R. reached Willimantic from Hartford in 1849, and was opened to
Providence in 1853.]
Nearly twenty years later the long agitated Boston, Hartford and Erie
railroad, now main line of the New England, was completed from Boston
to Willimantic, and in 1872, the New Haven, Middletown and Willimantic,
(now the Air Line) entered the town, thus completing the quartet of railway
outlets to all important points which make Willimantic to-day one of
the most convenient and accessible railway centers in the country.
What Willimantic ought to have is a handsome new union passenger station,
and I believe proper effort on the part of the citizens could
induce the railroads to build it. The recent move of the Consolidated
road makes the time opportune for united action. There too, on that
magnificent location in front of the Windham Cos., is just the
place for the union station. It would help both the town and the railroads
every way to built it., Such a move too, would give a fair chance for
the prompt and convenient handling of freight in the present yard, and
thus prove a great help to our mercantile interests.
The coming of the railroads broke up not only the stage coach business,
but also the great teaming industry which preceded the modern
freight traffic. The teaming thoroughfares from Willimantic led to Providence
and Norwich, then our chief sources of supply. The Windham
Company had a six horse team; Henry Brainard and Grant Swift were for
many years their principal teamsters to Providence. Charles Huntington,
the elder Ephraim Herrick and Martin Harris were among the teamsters