HISTORY OF CORNWALL, CONNECTICUT

Cornwall, Litchfield County, Connecticut


Villages of :

Cornwall

Cornwall Center

Cornwall Bridge

Cornwall Hollow

North Cornwall

West Cornwall


Geology:

Cornwall consists of mountains and upland farms surrounding a small central valley. The first settlers avoided the area because of its heavy stand of pine, which made land clearing difficult.

The town is characterized by pine groves, stone walls and wide off-looks.


History:

1738 the town of Cornwall auctioned off at Fairfield and settlement began the same year, largely from eastern Connecticut. The town was named for one of the counties of England

soon after 1738  --  James Douglas and his family settled Cream Hill.  His family and the Gold family were the principal farmers in Cream Hill.

late 1740s  --  in Cornwall Hollow, the families of Benjamin Sedgwick and Jonathan Hurlburt bought huge tracts of land.

1740 the town incorporated.

1746  --  the first Hurlburt, Jonathan Hurlburt, arrived in Cornwall from Farmington. 

1750 James Douglas built his house, in 1935 the oldest in Cornwall. (It was demolished in the 1950s.)

c. 1750  --  in Cornwall Bridge, Dr. Reuben Dean built the Red Mill, Cornwall's first mill.

1758  -- in Cornwall Center, the Emmons Tavern built to serve travelers.

1765  --  Theodore Sedgwick, who green up in Cornwall Hollow, graduated from Yale Colle and went on to be a member of Congress from Massachusetts and served as Speaker of the House.

1774  --- Daniel Rexford begins farming part of Cream Hill.  (Several generations of Rexfords continued the tradition.)

1775 with a population of only 1,000 people, there were 19 black slaves and 19 free blacks.

1775-1783  -- the American Revolutionary War.

1781  --  a part of Rochambeau's French army marched through Cornwall Hollow. 

1790  --  the "great schism" within Cornwall's Congregational church led to the First Church abandoning Cornwall Center for a new church in Cornwall Village.

Cornwall was part of the Salisbury District iron region and iron manufacturing was a major industry for Cornwall.

prior to 1800 three forges or ironworks were in operation in Cornwall.

During the 19th century  -- Cornwall was known for its schools, and the iron that was smelted at Cornwall Bridge and West Cornwall, utilizing local charcoal.

1808  --  a Methodist Episcopal Church built in Cornwall Center, replacing the abandoned First Church. 

c. 1810 Connecticut agriculture started to decline.

1813  --  birth of the future Major General John Sedgwick in Cornwall Hollow.

1817-1827 the Cornwall Mission School instituted in Cornwall Village.

1818 student Henre Obookiah died while a student at the Mission School, after giving the impetus for missionary work in the Sandwich Islands.

1820s  --  the marriage of two local white girls to Indians attending Cornwall's Foreign Mission School led to near riot and the closing of the school.

1825 Erie Canal opens, attracting many farmers and farmhands out west.

1826 North Cornwall Second Congregational Church built.

as early as 1830  --  the Cornwall Bridge Methodist Episcopal Church built.

1833-1897  --  industrial span of the Cornwall Bridge Iron Company's blast furnace.  Sited on Furnace Brook, the company was Cornwall's largest factory building.

1835  --  H. W. Breen's General Merchandise store built in Cornwall Bridge near the east end of the new bridge. 

1836  --  Westlands estate built by Colonel Dwight Wellington Pierce.  (Later owners were Mr. and Mrs. William Church Bennett.)

class of 1837  --  John Sedgwick attended West Point and became a career soldier. 

early 1840s the Housatonic Railroad reached Cornwall; because they were railroad stops, Cornwall Bridge and West Cornwall became the commercial centers of the town.

1840s  --  in West Cornwall, a weir erected on the Housatonic River to provide power for industry. 

1840  --  dedication of the Methodist Episcopal Church (erected on land given by George Wheaton). 

1840  -- in Cornwall Center, the home of John R. Harrison built.  Son George C. Harrison was born in the home in the same year.

1841  --  when the Housatonic Railroad reached the settlement of Hart's Bridge, its name was changed to West Cornwall.  Situated where the Mill Brook enters the Housatonic River, the water power helped make West Cornwall the business center of town. 

1842  -- in Cornwall Village, the First Congregational Church dedicated. 

1844  --  the South Cornwall Baptist Church held its first service.

1845 industrial employees were 78 in number.

1845-1869 Cream Hill Agricultural School, one of the first in the U. S., established by Dr. Samuel Gold and his son T. S. Gold, and continued until 1869.

1847 in Cornwall Village, the Adelphic Institute, a boy's boarding school, founded by Ambrose Rogers.

1848  --  in Cornwall Village, the Alger Institute, a private boy's school, founded.  The structure was later home to the Housatonic Valley Institute and Rumsey Hall. 

1850  --  town population was 2,041.

1850  --  in order to serve the growing population of Irish immigrants in town, the first Roman Catholic mission church was founded.

1850  -- Cornwall Village acquired a post office. (Because the area had been so dominated by huge trees it was the last area in Cornwall to be settled.)

1855  --  there were 17 school districts in Cornwall, each with its own schoolhouse.

1859  --  the Cornwall home of General Sedgwick burned down. 

early 1860s  --  elm trees set out on Pine Street in Cornwall Village where they stayed many a year (until Dutch Elm disease came on the scene).

1860 industrial employees had grown to 129. Charcoal-making for the iron works was another major industry; so much so that Cornwall's forests were cut over every 20 to 30 years.

1860  --  Ambrose S. Rogers moved his Adelphic Institute to New Milford.

1860  --  in Cornwall Center, the farm and home of Judge George C. Harrison, known as Plainview, built. 

1860  --  shear-manufacturing enterprise found by Joseph Mallinson.  The firm manufactured nickel-plated steel shears and scissors. It became West Cornwall's largest employer.

1861-1865 Civil War.

1862  --  recovering from wounds received at the Battle of Antietam, General Sedgwick stayed at the new home that replaced the one that burned in 1859.  He only lived in this house for a few months. 

1864 Major General John Sedgwick of Cornwall killed by a sharpshooter at the Battle of Spottsylvania. He also played a role in the battles of Antietam, Gettysburg, and the Wilderness.

1864  --  Cornwall Village native Sergeant Joseph Payne killed at the battle of Cold Harbor.

Post-Civil War at Cornwall Hollow, the Sedgwick Monument, with a Mexican War cannon, erected in honor of Major General John Sedgwick, killed in 1864, whose home was in the neighborhood.

1870  --  Theodore Kellogg  elected town hayward with the responsibility of making sure farm animal were securely fenced.

1875  --  the Gold Sanitary Heater Company formed to manufacture items such as the Gold's Patent steam heater and the Magic Heater stove.

1877  --  the Canadian-born artist James Henry Moser married Martha Scoville. 

1877  --  in West Cornwall, the chapel, an offshoot of the Second Congregational Church in North Cornwall, built. 

1880 there were over 125 summer visitors in the village.

1880  --  a drug store established and run by W. H. Porter, West Cornwall's druggist.

1880  -- in Cornwall Bridge, Reuben Dean's Red Mill burned down.  (It was replaced by Charles Everett's feed mill.)

1882  --  Cornwall's first phones installed.

1882  --  the first Mohawk Mountain tower built.  Nina White raised the money for the tower.

1883  --  the Mohawk Association built a log cabin near the Mohawk Mountain tower.

1886  --  the Cornwall Bridge railroad station built. 

late 19th and early 20th century --   the town began a long period of de-industrialization along with the accompanying decline in population. 

1890  --  in Cream Hill, The Cottage built for the Hubbard children and their families.  

1896  --  James Henry Moser painted the Scoville barn and corn crib. 

1896  --  rural free delivery began.

1898  --  vandals cut the guy wires and the Mohawk Mountain tower fell.

1900  --  From Seneca Falls, New York, Lillias Rumsey Sanford founded a school in her father's mansion (called Rumsey Hall). 

early 20th century  --  in West Cornwall, the Mansion House hotel was run for many years by the Miller family.

20th century Cream Hill was a favorite location for Cornwall artists and writers.

1900  --  the monument to General Sedgwick dedicated at Memorial Day ceremonies. 

1901 in Cornwall Village, Rumsey Hall, a school for younger boys, established.

1901  --  in Cornwall Hollow, George C. Harrison built the first lakeshore cabin, Laurel Lodge, on Cream Hill Lake.

1904  --  death of the senior Mallinson followed in a few years by the closing of the Mallinson firm. 

1905 photo  --  artist James H. Moser took a photograph of the congregation of the North Cornwall Church after a Sunday service. They are a very properly dressed-up group. 

1906 Theodore S. Gold died. He was the father of modern agriculture in Connecticut, starting the Agricultural College at Storrs, the Experiment Station, the State Board of Agriculture, for which he served as secretary, and for editing the New England Homestead.

1907  --  Mrs. Sanford moved her school to Cornwall Village.

1908 in Cornwall Village, John E. Calhoun gave the Town Hall.

c. 1910  --founding of Cream Hill Lake Association to fund the restoration of a boathouse and a dock on Scoville family land at Cream Hill Lake.  Among other activities, the Association sponsored Saturday "teas" that became "the" social occasion of the week.

1911  --  the Cornwall Village home of John E. Calhoun (one of the first members of the Connecticut State Park Commission) burned.

1912  --  John E. Calhoun build a brick home with many fire-prevention features.

1912  -- in Cream Hill, the Jasper P. Brewster-Hubbard farm photographed shortly after it was rebuilt following a fire. 

1913  --  drypoint etching expert Armin Landeck, one of Cornwall's most notable artists, purchased a house on Great Hill Road, East Cornwall.

1913  --  the abandoned William Strattman home on Mohawk Mountain demolished.

during WWI  --  Carl Van Doren, brother of writer Mark Van Doren, bought a house in Cream Hill.  A mile from his house was Cream Hill Lake where he and his family swam every afternoon. 

1915  -- in West Cornwall,  Ransom Smith sold his store to F. A. Yutzler.  The store stayed in the family for 60 years.

1917  --  Cornwall's Home Guard company formed.  For a short time, Dr., R. J. Grand-Lienard, was captain of the company. 

c. 1918  --  Rev. Fred Smith and his wife introduced North Cornwallers to Old Home Week.  This was a kind of home-coming celebration complete with a costumed pageant to dramatize key points of the town's history.

1918  --  West Cornwall war hero, Dr. R. J. Grand-Lienard, welcomed home.

before the 1920s  --  because of the clear cutting for charcoal making, photographs of Cornwall show a mostly deforested environment.

1920  -- town population reached a low of 834. 

1920  --  the co-educational Camp Mohawk founded.

1920s photo  -- in Cornwall Bridge,  a worker cuts block of ice from Winchell's Pond. 

1920s  --  in Cornwall Bridge, the covered bridge retired to foot traffic after a modern bridge built.

1920s  --  Puffingham, south of Cornwall Bridge, became a Jewish settlement. 

1921  --  a group of six faculty families at Vassar or Yale bought the old Yelping Hill Farm in North Cornwall and established a summer literary community called Yelping Hill. The moving spirit in starting the literary colony was Henry Seidel Canby (founder of the Saturday Review and the Book-of-the-Month Club). 

1922  --  George Crosby, master carpenter, built the houses and cottages for the Yelping Hill Association. 

1922  --  Cornwall citizens dedicated a monument to the pioneers of Cornwall at the Allen Cemetery.

1923  --  Bradfords lived in a house in Cornwall Hollow from 1790 to 1923.  In 1923 the writer Mark Van Doren bought the house. 

1923  --  prominent Cornwall lawyer Leonard J. Nickerson appointed to the Litchfield superior court bench.

1923  --  Mrs. Sanford brought Dr. W.  Bradford Walker to Cornwall Village where he stayed for many years.

1924  -- in West Cornwall, the Mansion House hotel burned down.

1925  -- Italian immigrant Vincenzo Rondinone established  the Narrow Valley Pottery at the southern end of Great Hollow Road in Cornwall Village. (It ceased operation around 1940.)

by 1926  --  no manufacturing remained in Cornwall.

1926  --  death of the artist Ben Foster, who loved to paint Cornwall scenes, at age 75; his ashes were buried in Cornwall Hollow.

1930s switch-over to dairy farming among Litchfield County farms.

1930  --  a new concrete bridge built over the Housatonic River in Cornwall Bridge. 

1930s there were considerable summer colonies. Cornwall also became a center of literary culture with such known figures as James Thurber, Carl and Mark Van Doren, Henry Seidel Canby, and Lewis Gannett.

1930s Cornwall Village had a white Colonial church, the Calhoun Memorial Library and the Town Hall of gray granite.

1933  --  a Civilian Conservation Corps camp, Camp Toumey, was established just over the West Goshen line in Cornwall, on Mohawk Mountain.  Among many other tasks, the 173rd Company of CCC built the road system for Mohawk State Park. 

1937  --  Armin Landeck did a drypoint etching of Corban's Silo in rural Cornwall.

1936  --  in Cornwall Bridge, a covered bride was washed away in the flood.

1938  --  the waters brought by a hurricane did a lot of damage in West Cornwall including Adam Yutzler's tailor shop falling into the brook. 

1939 the six towns of the Northwest Corner established the Housatonic Valley Regional High School. (It was the first regional high school in New England.)

1940  -- Mark Van Doren publishes his Collected Poems, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

1941  -- the closing of CCC Camp Toumey.

1950s-1961 in later years James G. Thurber, writer and cartoonist, lived with his second wife Helen Wismer, a magazine editor, at West Cornwall, Connecticut.

1950s  --  the James Douglas house on Cream Hill demolished.  It was for many years the oldest occupied structure in Cornwall.

1961 James Thurber died of a blood clot on the brain in New York.

1972  --  death of Mark Van Doren; buried at Cornwall Hollow.


Sam Waterston, actor, lives in West Cornwall.


Source:

Jeremy Brecher, et. al. Cornwall in Pictures: A Visual Reminiscence 1868-1941.  Cornwall, CT: the Cornwall Historical Society.

Cornwall, Connecticut from the Connecticut Guide, 1935:  http://members.skyweb.net/~channy/CTGuideCorn.html

Cornwall Connecticut http://www.cornwallct.org/

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