HISTORY OF CANAAN, CONNECTICUT

Litchfield County, Connecticut


Town of Canaan:

Pine Grove
South Canaan
Falls Village -- once a thriving iron producing village.
Huntsville


Borders:

Canaan is bordered on the north by North Canaan; on the east by Norfolk; on the west by the Housatonic River and Salisbury; and on the south by the Housatonic River and Cornwall. It is about 9 miles in length from north to south, and its average breadth about six.


Geology:

The town is made up of mountains on the south and east, with a plain along the Housatonic, from which cultivated valleys reach back into the hills.

The Housatonic Falls are located on a ledge of limestone rocks at a perpendicular height of about 60 feet. There were much smaller falls and rapids both above and below the main cataract, forming an entire descent of about 130 feet.


Roads in the 1930s:

U.S. 7 crossed from Salisbury at Lime Rock Station, and continued north under the cliffs of Canaan Mt.

Rt. 43 led west to Falls Village, where the Housatonic Gorge has folded limestone below the dam, with many characteristic limestone plants.

Rt. 43 ran southeast up the Hollenbeck Valley to Cornwall.  Farther east Rt. 43 passed the hamlet of Huntsville, seat of an early iron forge.  One could cross at this point to the Undermountain Rd., along the south slope of Canaan Mt., with remarkable views of the mountains to the northwest. On Canaan Mt. one had to guard against rattlesnakes.

Steep Road climbed north through an attractive ravine to a cultivated plateau, and past Wangum Lake to Norfolk.  The abandoned Crissy Road, which forked to the right about 1 mile before the Lake, could be followed to Norfolk on foot. About a mile northwest of Wangum Lake by an old wood road, was a Red Spruce Swamp, with trees 30 inches in diameter.

From Meekerstown Road, which leaves the Undermountain Rd. farther east, a half mile climb led west to Ojibway Tower, with a good horizon, on the site of an old Indian lookout.

The Appalachian Trail came down from Cornwall through the Housatonic State Forest and Deane's Ravine, a cascade brook of great beauty, reached by road 1.5 miles southeast from Lime Rock Station, with a short walk up the stream. The Trail climbed over rock ledges to Barrack Mountain, with good views of the Housatonic Valley, and down to the crossing at Falls Village.


History:

1738 the Town of Canaan was auctioned at New London.

The first inhabitants all came about the same time. Among them were Daniel and Isaac Lawrence, and John Franklin

1739 the town was incorporated.  The town was named for the Biblical land of Canaan.

1740 Rev. Elisha Webster was ordained. He became the first clergyman in the town.

1741 -- a saw mill and grist mill constructed at the Great Falls of the Housatonic.

1743 -- ironworks constructed at the Great Falls.

The buildings connected with the "Salisbury Iron Manufacturing Co." are situated a short distance above the main fall, on the Salisbury side of the Housatonic; there are also iron works below the falls, a forge and anchor shop are on the Canaan side.

1747 -- a fulling mill constructed at the Great Falls.

1802 at South Canaan, the Congregational Church was erected.

1840  --  Falls Village born as a station stop on the new Housatonic Railroad. 

1861-1865  -- the Civil War.  Falls Village flourished through the Civil War with the success of the nearby Ames Iron Works.

1890s  --  when technological advances made the steel-making center obsolete, Falls Village became a sleepy economic backwater that progress bypassed for over a century.

1912-1913 -- a power company dam was built at the Great Falls of the Housatonic River.

1930s --  About 1.5 miles from South Canaan, a road climbs south 1 mile to Music Mountain, where the Gordon Musical Foundation established a summer school, and concerts were given weekly during the season.


Sources:

Canaan, Connecticut; from the Connecticut Guide, 1935. http://members.skyweb.net/~channy/CTGuideCan.html

Canaan, Connecticut History 1837  http://www.rockvillemama.com/canaanhistory.htm

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