A Brief History of Sharon, Connecticut
Litchfield County, Connecticut
on the north: Salisbury
on the south: Kent
on the east: the Housatonic River and the town of Cornwall
on the west: Dutchess County, New York State
Villages and hamlets:
hilly and mountainous in the east, rolling upland
the area adjacent to the New York State border is part of a large valley running in a north-to-south direction.
Principle river is the Housatonic. Other streams include Forge Brook, Mill (formerly Guinea) Brook, and Webatuck Creek (Ten Mile River).
Mudge Pond and Indian Pond lie in Sharon.
Mountains/Hills: Red Mountain (1,310), Mine Mountain (1.275), Skiff Mountain (1,266), and Ellsworth Hill.
The first inhabitants of the area they called Poconnuck were the Mattabesec Indians. They became part of the Wappinger confederacy which in turn belonged to the loose Algonquin confederacy. Their principal village stood on the eastern edge of Indian Pond. Other settlements were in the valley of Ten Mile River (Webatuck Creek) and in a large meadow at the south end of Mudge Pond.
1713 settlement of the western boundary with New York.
1732 the General Court created a committee to inspect the area west of the Housatonic River. The report was positive about starting settlements. The committee laid out Salisbury, denominated the "township of M" and N. S.
1738 the General Court ordered that the southern portion of the Housatonic lands be auctioned at New Haven.
Richard Sackett may have been the first white inhabitant in the larger region. He resided at Wassaic in New York, and as was the pattern in New York, was affiliated with the Livingston family and Manor.
c. 1738 the Jackson-Winegar gristmill at Amenia Union built.
1739 Sharon incorporated. It is named after the Plain of Sharon in Israel. Among the original 50 proprietors who purchased shares in Sharon were: Stephen Calkin, Ebenezer Mudge, Jonathan Peck, and Nathaniel Skinner. Newcomers followed: Jonathan Dunham, Caleb Jewett, and John Williams.
Nathaniel Skinner, Esq. was the first magistrate, first town clerk and first deacon of the church. He was one of the principal proprietors of the town of Sharon. He had four sons: Nathaniel, Thomas, Joseph and Josiah.
Capt. Jonathan Dunham was a leading man in the settlement of the town. He was appointed to call the first town meeting. (He died in 1745 at the age of 59.)
1739 Sarah Bates (daughter of John Bates) was the first white child born in Sharon, "except Jehiel Jackson."
1740 -- at the western foot of Indian Mountain, on the New York State line, lies Indian Pond, now called Wequagnock Lake. On the edge of this lake was an Indian village where the Moravians established a mission to work among the Indians. To the Moravians it was known as "Gnadensee," the Lake of Grace.
1740 Joseph Skinner produced iron at a new forge just south of and at the outlet of Mudge Pond (later the site of Benedicts Mill).
1740 Peter Pratt, a recent Yale graduate, became the towns first minister.
1743 Joseph Skinner sold the forge, tools, and stock of ore to Jonathan and Samuel Dunham of Sharon, Thomas North of Wethersfield, and Jonathan Fairbanks of Middletown. Jonathan Pratt was also an early partner.
1743 Sharons first meeting house was built of logs and stood near the present clock tower in Sharon center.
1743 Ebenezer Mudge settled on the western border of Skinners Pond (the original name of Mudge Pond). He had six sons: Samuel, Mica, Abraham, Ebenezer, Jarvis and Joseph.
1743 arrival of Col. John Williams (originally a physician).
1743 John Corbet came to Sharon from Lebanon; he built a saw mill.
1743 John Gay, Esq. settled in Sharon. Mr. Gay purchased land from Israel Holly. He lived to be 94 years of age. His sons were John, Ebenezer, Fisher and Perez.
1744 Theophilus Smith operated a gristmill near Cornwall Bridge Road that was later sold to Colonel Gay.
1745 Joel Herveys Sharon Valley mill built. It lasted for more then 60 years.
1745 Rev. Peter Pratt dismissed for intemperance. John Searle was the replacement.
1745 Col. John Williams elected town clerk. (Served until his death in 1774.)
mid 1740s -- when warfare broke out with the Indians along the northern frontier, New Yorks governor broke up the Moravian and other outreaches to the Indians.
1750 grist mill for Micah Mudge built along Guinea Brook (Mill River). (Conflicting information on the dates here from the sources. All that can be said is that Micah eventually sold the grist mill to Theophilus Smith.)
1751 Samuel Hutchinson. Esq. (one of the towns first settlers, as well as the second magistrate) purchased the lot of Rev. Peter Pratt. (His house later became Perry Loucks tavern.) He had three sons: Samuel, Ezra and Solomon.
1754 Rev. John Searle dismissed for feeble health. Rev. Cotton Mather Smith of Suffield was his replacement.
1754 formation of the towns first Episcopal Society and soon they built a small church on the upper Green. They were led by Rev. Ebenezer Dibble, who was succeeded by Thomas Davies and Solomon Palmer.
1755 the Indians relinquished any surviving property rights and relocated to Kent.
1755 Lieut. John Pardee elected to be one of the first representatives of the town in the legislature. He was a leading man in the town.
1756 the population was 1,205. Seven slaves made up one-half of one percent of Sharons population.
1756 a smallpox epidemic killed many, including Dr. Abner Peck.
1757 the C. C. Tiffany house built.
1758 death of Ebenezer Mudge. Son Jarvis Mudge settled on the Mudge homestead but soon sold it to Noah Munroe and afterwards left town.
1760 Nathaniel Skinner, Esq. moved to Salisbury.
c. 1763 the Hutchinson brothers built a forge on the east slope of Sharon Mountain.
1765 John Cotton Smith, a prominent Connecticut politician, born in Sharon. He later became Governor of Connecticut. He was the son of the Rev. Cotton Mather Smith.
1766 Sharons first meeting house replaced by a larger one located in the middle of the upper Green.
1766 Lieut. John Pardee died at age 69. He had six sons: Thomas, Jehiel, John, James, George and Moses.
c. 1768 merchant Ebenezer Gay commenced his business and had his own store. (In the Revolutionary War his business failed. His brick house on the Green is now the home of the Sharon Historical Society.)
As late as 1770 the Great Awakening preacher Whitefield spoke in Sharon, Canaan, and elsewhere. Conservative churchgoers, who opposed the greater democratic spirt of the Great Awakening, shifted to Anglicanism and that denomination gained adherents throughout the region.
1774 at least 26 blacks resided in Sharon.
1774 after the Boston Tea Party, Sharon sent money and supplies to Boston.
1774 death of town clerk Col. John Williams. Daniel Griswold, Esq. appointed town clerk.
1775 a fire started on the premises of Joel Hervey in Sharon Valley that destroyed two barns and a threshing mill. Transient John Thomas was convicted of arson.
1775-1783 American Revolution. Dutchess County Tories tried, unsuccessfully, to destroy Mudges grist mill.
1775-1776 Sharon men joined in the siege of Boston, then held by the British. They also served in the invasion of Canada, the failed defense of New York City, and the defense against the British raid on Danbury (1777).
1775 Rev. Cotton Mather Smith became a regiment chaplain.
1776 Josiah Coleman taken prisoner at Fort Washington; on his return from captivity he died of disease contracted in the British prison ships.
soon after the Revolutionary War Capt. Edmund Bennett came to Sharon. He held many important offices in the town.
1782 the population of Sharon, 2,230.
1782 the old Pardee brick house built by the Stone Bridge.
1783 John Cotton Smith graduated from Yale College.
1784 another smallpox epidemic, killing, among others, Amos Marchant and John Bates and his wife (parents of the "first" white child born in Sharon). The Rev. Cotton Mather Smith and his wife ministered to the ill.
1786 the Hon. John Canfield elected a member of the Continental Congress. He did not live to take his seat in Congress.
1786 John Cotton Smith admitted to the bar.
1787 Dr. John Hurlbert of Massachusetts came to Sharon for the purpose of stirring up support for Shays rebellion.
1789 Dr. Simeon Blackman came to Sharon from Newtown.
1792 Col. Samuel Canfield became town clerk, replacing Daniel Griswold , Esq.. (He served until 1815.)
1793 John Cotton Smith elected to the legislature.
1799 death of Theophilus Smith, grist mill owner.
1800 John Cotton Smith elected to Congress.
1806 death of the Rev. Cotton Mather Smith.
1811 John Cotton Smith elected Lieutenant Governor.
1813-1817 -- John Cotton Smith served as Governor of Connecticut.
1812 still another smallpox epidemic hit, killing among others three sons of Rev. Ebenezer Knibloe.
1817 John Cotton Smith returns to a private life in Sharon.
1829 at the age of 3, Benjamin Berkeley Hotchkiss, moved with his family to Sharon from Watertown.
1845 -- death of Gov. John Cotton Smith.
Mid-19th century Hotchkiss Brothers factory built in Sharon Valley.
1861-1865 -- the Civil War. Public support for the Union was very strong in Sharon. Munitions were made in the town. At The Hotchkiss Company, the Hotchkiss explosive shell for rifled guns was invented. The company expanded and then moved to Bridgeport.
1885 Emily O. Wheeler of New York City presented the plans for a Soldiers Monument to interested citizens of Sharon. Later in the year the Monument was dedicated.
1885 Benjamin Berkeley Hotchkiss died in Paris, France.
1892-1893 -- the Hotchkiss Memorial Library erected. It was a gift of Maria Bissell Hotchkiss in memory of her husband Benjamin Berkeley Hotchkiss of Sharon, Connecticut. The building's style is Romanesque Revival. Its outer walls are limestone quarried in Sharon. The interior walls and floors are solid oak with 10 panels of stained glass windows depicting world renowned authors.
1911 The Sharon Historical Society formed under the name Poconnuck Historical Society (Poconnuck referring to a tribe of Native Americans which had resided in the area).
1918 the name of the Poconnuck Historical Society changed to the Sharon Historical Society.
1919 The Street, 200 feet wide and two miles long was bordered by grand elm trees forming a natural arbor. The village attracted many summer boarders.
late 1920's and 1930's a group of Sharon residents formed a play-reading group, the predecessor of TriArts at the Sharon Playhouse.
1925 -- William F. Buckley, Jr. born. As a young man he moved with his family to Sharon.
c. 1940 the informal reading group was taken over by the well-known mystery writer Judson Phillips. He created a small regional Equity theater in the red barn (todays The Sharon Playhouse).
1941-1945 -- World War II.
1944 Christ Episcopal Church at Sharon was vandalized using honey mixed with feathers that was smeared on seats and including obscene pictures placed in prayer books, and other acts of desecration. Author Gore Vidal suggests it had something to do with the negative reaction to a real estate agent (whose husband was the pastor of the church) for allowing a Jewish family to purchase a house on the green in Sharon.
1951 Anne Sherman Hoyt, former president of the board of trustees, bequeathed the brick Gay-Hoyt House to the Sharon Historical Society.
1960 Young Americans for Freedom founded at the estate of columnist William F. Buckley, Jr. in Sharon.
1980s and 1990s The Sharon Playhouse was too often closed.
1988 the Sharon Historical Society hired Sarah D. Luker as curator.
1989 -- Ray Roderick of Pine Plains, New York directed The Music Man at The Sharon Playhouse. Meeting with great enthusiasm, this became the start of the formation of a new theatre company named the Tri-State Center for the Arts (popularly known today as TriArts).
1998 death of Sarah D. Luker.
1999 TriArts moved to Sharon.
2003 TriArts completed the purchase of the Sharon Playhouse complex.
Charles F. Sedgwick, A.M. 2000 (but originally published in 1842.) General History of the Town of Sharon, Litchfield County, Conn. from its First Settlement. Sharon, CT: The Sharon Historical Society.
History of TriArts: http://www.triarts.net/hisoftriar.html
Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of Sharon, Connecticut, printed under the jurisdiction of the State of Connecticut and the Connecticut Historical Commission, July, 2000. Project Historian/author Geoffrey Rossano, Ph.D. http://www.sharonhist.org/Sharonhistory.htm
Gore Vidal. 1969 (September) issue of Esquire. A Distasteful Encounter with William F. Buckley Jr. http://www.columbia.edu/~tdk3/vidalesquire69.html
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