The History of Middlesex County 1635-1885
J. H. Beers & Co., 36 Vesey Street, New York

Pages 9-60

[transcribed by Janece Streig]




Middlesex county was incorporated by an act of the Legislature passed at the May session, 1785, and at that time consisted of six towns. Of these, Middletown, Chatham, Haddam, and East Haddam were taken from the county of Hartford, and Saybrook and Killingworth from New London county. Durham was annexed to the county in May 1799, from the county of New Haven. New towns have been erected from the original six till the number is now fifteen. From the first Middletown and Haddam have been half shire towns, and public buildings have been erected and maintained in each.

The form of the county is irregular. Its average length between north and south is twenty-seven miles, and its average width from east to west is about fourteen. Its general boundaries are Hartford county on the north, New London county on the east, Long Island Sound on the south, and New Haven county on the west.

The surface of Middlesex county is generally uneven. On the margin of the sound is an area of from half a mile to two miles in width that is comparatively level, as are also small areas in other parts of the county.

A range of wide hills passes obliquely through the county from southwest to northeast, crossing the Connecticut River at a place called the "Straits," and passing thence to the interior of New England. On the western borders of Middletown and Durham are Wallingford Mountains, some of which are known by distinct names, as HIGBY Mountain, from a settler near it, and Lamentation Mountain, the origin of the name of which is uncertain.

From the sides and bases of the many hills in the county issue springs from form brooks that gather into larger streams. These, as they pass onward to discharge their waters into the Connecticut river, afford valuable water power, which is extensively utilized for mills and manufactories.

The Connecticut River passes in a general southeasterly course through the county, separating the towns of Portland, Chatham, and East Haddam on the east from the other towns on the west of it. The same name (spelled Conneciquot) was applied by the Indians on Long Island to a river in Suffolk county, N. Y. In the Indian tongue it meant the Long River, and here it gave its name to the State. It rises in Canada, on the southern side of the water shed which separates the waters that pass through the St. Lawrence from those that go south through New England. At the point where it enters the United States it is no more than ten rods in width. For a distance of about two hundred miles it forms the boundary between Vermont and New Hampshire, receiving affluents from the Green Mountains on the west, and from the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It passes centrally through Franklin, Hampshire, and Hamden counties in Massachusetts, and Hartford county in this State, receiving in its course through these counties large affluents on both sides. It passes through the northern part of Middlesex county and between this and New London counties to its mouth in Long Island Sound.

The river varies in width through and along this county from thirty-five rods at the straits to more than one hundred in other places. The tide sets back in this river as far as Hartford, to which point it is navigated by steamboats as well as sailing vessels. Its minimum depth is about ten feet at high tide, and it has an average depth of fifteen feet. The ship channels in the river undergo changes from time to time by reason of natural or artificial changes along its banks.

There are several islands in the course of the river through this county. These undergo gradual changes, some of them being augmented in area by the deposit of sediment, especially during freshets, and some are diminished or even obliterated by the erosion of their shores, while others are formed around temporary obstructions of the current, then increased by the deposit of sediment in the eddies below them.

The current of the river is usually gentle, except at the Straits, some two miles below Middletown, and here it is necessarily more violent, especially during the ebbing of the tide.

The river is subject to freshets, especially at the melting of the snows in this vicinity in the spring, and later, when the snow and ice dissolve at the sources of the river and its tributaries in the mountains above. At such times the obstruction, at the Straits, of the large volume of the water tends to increase and prolong the floods above, and ice-packs have been known to occur at this narrow part of the river's course, which, by damming the waters, have occasioned much damage. These freshets, however, greatly fertilize the lands which are overflowed.

This river and its tributaries formerly abounded with fish, and the taking of these in their season was once an important branch of industry; but the number that frequent these waters, especially of the more valuable varieties has so diminished, that the business had dwindled into comparative insignificance. Field said, in 1818: "There are eighty places where shad are now caught in the season of fishing, beginning about the middle of April and ending in the middle of June, viz.: 26 in Saybrook, 17 in Haddam, 16 or 17 in Middletown, 13 in Chatham, and 5 in East Haddam. At the fish places in Saybrook there were salted, in 1817, according to the report of the deputy inspector, 2,194 barrels of shad; at the fish places in Haddam, 146 barrels; and at those in East Haddam, 169; making a total of 2,509 barrels."

Middlesex county was, when first settled, covered with a heavy growth of timber. The principal varieties were oak, walnut, and chestnut on the high grounds, and maple, birch, beech, elm, ash, and hemlock on the declivities of the hills and in the valleys. Interspersed among these were other varieties, and, in some portions of the county, pitch pine, as well as white pine and cedar, were found. The grand old trees of the primitive forests have long since fallen "beneath the woodman's sturdy strokes," and a later growth is permitted to flourish only on lands least valuable for other purposes. At first much of this timber had so little value, that it was often burned to make way for the plough. The more valuable varieties were converted into lumber for building houses or ships, and, as the demand for fuel in neighboring cities and towns increased, greater economy was exercised with the less valuable varieties. But for the substitution of mineral coal for fuel which the timber growth formerly supplied, the entire surface would long since have been denuded of even the meager growth which remains.

The wild animals that traversed the forests on the hills and in the valleys of this region have long since disappeared. The bear was destroyed, because of his depredations on the pig-styes and corn-fields of the early inhabitants; the wolf, that once made night hideous with his howls, that ravaged the sheep folds of the settlers, and was at time the terror of the belated traveler, has been exterminated or driven to northern forests; the stealthy panther and lynx have fled before the advance of civilization; and the harmless and timid deer, that cropped the herbage on the hillsides, has been hunted for his palatable flesh and useful skin till the last of his kind long since ceased to exist here. Other animals appeared as their changing environments became unfavorable to their continuance, and many years have elapsed since any of the original denizens of the forests here have been seen.

THE GEOLOGY OF MIDDLESEX COUNTY. BY WILLIAM NORTH RICE, PH. D., Professor of Geology in Wesleyan University.

1.-The Metamorphic Rocks.

The area of Middlesex county may be divided geologically into two very well marked portions, which require separate description. The boundary between the two extends from a point in the north line of Portland, about a mile east of the Connecticut River, in a direction approximately south-southwest, to a point not far from the middle of the south line of Durham. The boundary crosses the river a short distance west of the range of hills called the White Rocks in Middletown.

The district east of this boundary consists entirely of highly crystalline rocks. The predominant rock is a micaceous rock, varying from a gneiss to a mica schist, according to the proportion of the mica to the quarts and feldspar, and the consequently varying degree of development of the schistose structure. Sometimes the gneiss becomes granitoid, almost losing its stratification. Sometimes the mica and feldspar disappear, so that the rock becomes a quartz-rock. A stratum of this quartz-rock forms the summit of the ridge called Great Hill, or Cobalt Mountain, on the boundary between Portland and Chatham. The extreme hardness of this rock, enabling it so effectively to resist the erosive action of water and ice, is doubtless the reason for the existence of the ridge, the softer rocks around it having been worn away. In other localities the mica gives place to hornblende, so that the rock becomes a hornblende schist. Such a hornblende schist is the rock in which the ores of cobalt and nickel are contained, which were formerly worked at Chatham. The granitoid gneisses of this formation afford good building stones, and have been quarried in various places for this purpose. The piers of the bridge over the Connecticut at Middletown are built of gneiss from Collins Hill, in Portland. A gneiss from Haddam Neck has been used in the building of some of the fortifications in New York Harbor. The more schistose strata afford an excellent material for cub-stones, and have been quarried for this purpose at various localities in Haddam and elsewhere. These schists have been used to some extent for flag-stones, but the surfaces of the layers are not usually smooth enough to adapt them well for that purpose.

The rocks above described have been entitled metamorphic rocks, and there can be no reasonable doubt that that name expresses truly their nature and history. They were originally deposited as sedimentary rocks, derived from the disintegration of older rocks. Subsequently, by the joint action of heat and moisture, they suffered a molecular re-arrangement by which they assumed their present crystalline texture. They may once have been fossiliferous; but whatever fossils they may formerly have contained, have been entirely obliterated by the process of metamorphism. At the time of their metamorphism the strata were subjected to extreme dislocation, being folded and broken in the most complicated ways. The evidence of these disturbances is seen in the extremely varying dips throughout the region. In some places, as at ARNOLD's curb-stone quarry at Haddam, the strata are nearly vertical.

The region of metamorphic rocks in which the larger part of Middlesex county is included, occupies the greater part of New England, and extends southwestward, nearly the whole length of the eastern border of the United States. In New England this belt of metamorphic rocks lies immediately upon the coast, but southwardly it is separated from the sea by a strip of Tertiary and Quaternary deposits.

It was formerly the belief of geologists that all highly crystalline rocks must be of the greatest antiquity, and such rocks were formerly called primitive, or primary, with reference to that belief. It is, however, now well established, that rocks of the most highly crystalline character have been produced at various periods, so that the crystalline character of the rocks of the Appalachian region is in itself no proof of their great antiquity. All that is certainly known of the age of a large part of this belt of metamorphic rock, is that it is not later than the Carboniferous Period; the last great epoch of dislocation, with its usual accompaniment of metamorphism, in the Appalachian region, having been at the close of the Carboniferous. The opinion held by some geologists, that all these crystalline rocks of the Appalachian region are of ArchŠan age, is certainly not proved, and is probably not true. The lithological character of strata is of very little value as evidence of age. Fossils afford the only reliable criterion of age, and the age of a non-fossiliferous stratum can be determined only by reference to fossiliferous strata which it overlies or underlies. It is not at all unlikely that rocks of various ages, ArchŠan and Paleozoic, may be included in this region of metamorphic rock. The only way by which the problem of the age of these rocks can be solved, is by searching for the patches of rock, here and there, in which the metamorphism has been less complete than usual, and in which, therefore, traces of fossils have been preserved (as at Bernardston, Massachusetts, where upper Silurian or Devonian fossils have been discovered), and then carefully tracing the relations of these patches of fossiliferous rock to the underlying and overlying masses of rock in which the fossils have been completely obliterated. The patches fossiliferous rock appear to be so few and small, and the dislocations of the strata have been so complex, that it is doubtful whether it will ever be practicable to solve the problem completely; but confessed ignorance is better than imaginary knowledge.

Associated with these metamorphic rocks are numerous veins. Probably at the time of the dislocation and metamorphism of the strata numerous fissures were made, which were filled with crystalline material deposited from the hot waters which had held it in solution. These veins are sometimes very irregular, and cut across the strata in every direction; but often they coincide closely for considerable distances in dip and strike with the strata themselves. Some of the veins are very thin, resulting from the filling of mere cracks. Others are many yards in perpendicular thickness. Most of the larger veins are of a course granite. This granite has been quarried at numerous localities in Middletown, Portland, and Chatham, for the sake of feldspar, which is used in the manufacture of porcelain. The mica n these granites occurs often in large sheets, but they are too irregular to have any commercial value. These granite veins are the chief repository of the minerals which have rendered the towns of Middletown, Haddam, Portland, and Chatham famous among mineralogists. The feldspar (chiefly orthoclase, but in part albite) often occurs crystallized; and the crystals are sometimes of very large size, occasionally two feet or more in dimensions. The mica (muscovite) is often in beautiful crystals. The quartz, though generally of a smoky gray, is sometimes of a fine rose color. The accessory minerals, occurring more or less abundantly in these granites, are very numerous. The following is probably not a complete list of the minerals which have been recognized in these granite veins: sphalerite, chrysoberyl, rhodonite, beryl, garnet, epidote, iolite (usually altered to fahlunite), lepidolite, obligoclase, tourmaline (black, green, and red), columbite, samarskite, apatite, monazite, torbernite, autunite. Besides these granite veins, there are numerous quartz veins, though the latter are of generally of small size. In the southeastern part of Middletown is a large vein containing argentiferous galenite, associated with pyrite, chalcopyrite, and sphalerite, in a gangue consisting chiefly of quartz, with some calcite and fluorite. This vein was extensively worked for lead in colonial and Revolutionary times, and has been worked more recently for silver; but the workings have been abandoned.

II. The Connecticut Valley Sandstone.

The northwestern portion of the county, including the towns of Cromwell and Middlefield, the larger part of Middletown and Durham, and a small part of Portland, is occupied by a group of rocks very different from the preceding. In the district now under consideration the predominant rock is a red sandstone. The rock varies much in texture, sometimes becoming courser and passing into a conglomerate, sometimes becoming a finer and passing into a shale. The color is usually a decidedly reddish brown, owing to the presence of ferric oxide, but some of the layers are gray rather than red. Here and there the percolation of waters charged with decomposing organic matter has effected a local deoxydation of the iron, and has thus produced spots and streaks of a greenish color. The sandstone proper (in distinction from the more shaly strata) is thick-bedded and massive, and can be quarried in large blocks of very uniform texture. It makes an excellent building stone, and has been quarried at various localities in the Connecticut Valley and elsewhere. Especially famous are the quarries at Portland, which have been worked for many years, and are still being worked on a most extensive scale. Great quantities of the stone are sent every year to New York and other cities, besides what is used in the immediate vicinity. Besides the red sandstone (including the red shale and conglomerate), two other rocks occur in small quantity in this formation. At several localities in Middletown, Middlefield, and Durham (the localities all lying nearly in one north and south line), may be observed onterops of a black, highly carbonaceous shale, containing thin seams and small nodules of bituminous coal. Associated closely with the black shale is a stratum of dark gray impure limestone. A characteristic locality for these rocks is the little gorge of Laurel Brook, near the Middletown reservoir, in Middlefield. This black shale has unhappily proved a delusion and a snare to some of the farmer in the vicinity, who have expended considerable money in boring in search of coal. It is perfectly safe to say that no coal in workable quantities is to be found. A boring prosecuted with sufficient persistence will pass through various alternation of sandstone, conglomerate, and shale, with perhaps an occasional sheet of trap, and will eventually reach metamorphic rocks like those which have been already described. A very simple consideration will make this evident even to the non-geological reader. The strata of the sandstone formation, in most parts of the Connecticut Valley, dip pretty uniformly to the east, the average inclination being not far from twenty degrees. It is therefore evident that a stratum which is underground at any particular locality is likely to come to the surface further west. If a Durham farmer wishes to know what rocks underlie his farm, it will be much cheaper for him to take a walk through Wallingford and Cheshire, and examine the surface rocks, than to employ an adventurer with a diamond drill.

The formation now under consideration occupies a strip of territory extending from New Haven nearly to the northern boundary of Massachusetts, and varying from four miles to somewhat more than twenty miles in width. From the northern boundary of Massachusetts as far down as Middletown the course of the Connecticut River lies in this formation, but below Middletown the river has carved a channel for itself through the metamorphic rocks. There are several other basins at intervals along the Atlantic coast occupied by formations similar to that of the Connecticut Valley. One is in Nova Scotia; another, the most extensive, extends from the palisades on the Hudson southwestward across New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Other basins occur in Virginia and North Carolina. All these localities present about the same variety of rocks. The rocks (with the exception of the limestone and coal) have evidently been derived from the disintegration of the older rocks outside of the basin, the strata of conglomerate often containing pebbles whose source can be recognized with some degree of definiteness. The beds appear to have been deposited in the brackish waters of shallow estuaries. The troughs in which these estuaries lay were probably formed at the time of the folding and dislocation of the older metamorphic rocks. The question is often asked whether the Connecticut River ever emptied into the Sound at New Haven. The old Connecticut estuary (as we have seen) communicated with Sound at New Haven. But it is probable that, at the close of the period of the deposition of the sandstone and associated rocks, the region southwest of Middletown was so much elevated, that the waters of the upper part of the valley found a lower path to the eastward, and accordingly commenced cutting the valley in which they now flow through the metamorphic rocks. It is probable, therefore, that the Connecticut River, ever since it became a true river, has occupied substantially its present valley.

The rocks of the formation under consideration contain a variety of fossils, which serve as memorials of the life of the period in which the rocks were deposited. The black shales contain impressions of cycads and ferns, and more abundant remains of ganoid fishes. The cycads are a group of plants exceedingly abundant in the earlier part of the Mesozoic age, but at present very scantily represented. A familiar example is the beautiful plant commonly (though incorrectly) called the sago palm, which is not infrequently seen in conservatories. The cycads superficially resemble palms and tree-ferns, but they are really much more closely related to the pines and other coniferous trees. The ganoid fishes are also a group now nearly extinct, though very abundant throughout the latter part of Paleozoic and the earlier part of Mesozoic times. One of the few modern examples of ganoid fishes is seen in the bony pike, or garfish, of the rivers of the Mississippi valley. The ganoids are generally, though not always, covered with an armor ob bony scales or scutes; and the internal skeleton is generally less perfectly developed than in ordinary fishes. In the fossil specimens of ganoids, accordingly, little or nothing is usually preserved excepting the scales.

The red sandstones and shales have afforded few fossils except casts of trunks of trees and foot-prints of animals. The tracks are very abundant in certain layers, and are in great variety. Some of them indicate animals of very large size. One of the larges was a quadruped whose hind feet made a four-toes track eighteen inches in length. It is believed to haven an amphibian of the order of labyrinthodonts-an order now entirely extinct. The majority of the tracks are three-toed, and were apparently made by animals which at least ordinarily moved as bipeds, supporting themselves exclusively on their posterior limbs. Three-toed tracks of a biped naturally suggests to the mind the idea of a bird, and the tracks are popularly known as bird-tracks. Some eminent geologists have coincided with the popular opinion. It seems probable, however, that the opinion is erroneous. While the tracks are acknowledged to resemble exactly those of birds, it is now well known that there was in the Mesozoic age another order of animals to which the tracks might be referred-animals, in fact, whose tracks would be indistinguishable from those of birds. The animals referred to are the dinosaurs-an order of reptiles remarkable for their approximation to birds in many parts of the skeleton, and in particularly in the structure of the pelvis and hind limb. The dinosaurs were not clothed with feathers, and did not have the anterior limbs developed as wings. But many of them were completely bipedal in their mode of progression, and their three-toed tracts would exactly resemble those of birds. So far as the appearance of the tracks goes, they might be referred with equal likelihood to birds or dinosaurs. Two reasons, however, render the dinosaurian character of the animals much the more probable. First, it is certain that dinosaurs were n existence at the time of the deposition of the sandstones, while it is very doubtful whether there were any birds. It is still in doubt whether the age of these sandstones is Triassic or Jurassic. Now dinosaurs are known to have existed throughout these two periods, while the earliest skeletons of birds have been found in the beds of the later part of the Jurassic. Secondly, the colossal size of some of these tracks is strongly against their avian character; for all the unquestionable birds of the Mesozoic age were comparatively small animals, while among the dinosaurs were included the larges land animals that have ever lived. Of course, any determination of the affinities of the animals which made the tracks, must be regarded as merely provisional, in the absence of actual skeletons. But it is altogether probable that the three-toed tracks were those of dinosaurs.

No mammalian remains have been found in the sandstones of the Connecticut Valley; but a portion of a skeleton found in the corresponding formation in North Carolina has shown that at that period small marsupials, allied to the modern opossums, were already in existence.

As has already been remarked, the age of the Connecticut Valley sandstone and the associated rocks is either Triassic or Jurassic. They are certainly newer than the Carboniferous, for they overlie unconformably a system of folded rocks in which the Carboniferous is included. It is equally certain that these rocks are older than the Cretaceous, of which well characterized deposits are found in New Jersey. It is, however, at present impossible to fix the age more definitely. The characteristic fossils of the respective subdivisions of the Triassic and Jurassic periods, as recognized in other parts of the world, are chiefly remains of marine animals, the fossiliferous rocks being mostly marine. The Connecticut Valley sandstones and associated rocks contain no marine fossils whatsoever-scarcely any fossils, in fact, except fresh water fishes, impressions of land plants, and tracts of land animals. Hence it has been impossible to correlate these rocks exactly with any particular group of strata in other parts of the world. Lithologically the much resemble the New Red Sandston of England, and the Bunter Sandstein of Germany, which are of Triassic age. Lithological resemblance, however, in rocks of widely separated areas, is no reliable proof of contemporaneity.

III. The Trap Rocks.

Closely connected with the Connecticut Valley sandstones are remarkable developments of igneous rock. The typical rock in the trap dikes and sheets is a dolerite or diabase, consisting chiefly of pyroxene and labradorite, but containing also more or less of magnetite and some other minerals. The presence of magnetite gives a remarkable magnetic property to much of the rock. If a compass be moved upon a surface of the trap rock, it will often be found that at different points within an area of a square yard the needle will point in every possible direction. Even hand specimens of the rock often exhibit strikingly this magnetic property. Some of the trap rock has become hydrated by the penetration of water and aqueous vapor into the mass, more or less of the pyroxene being converted into chlorite. The hydrous traps are often amygdaloidal, the cavities being filled with datolite, prehnite, calcite, and other crystalline minerals. Fine specimens of datolite in the cavities of an amygdaloid were obtained from a cutting near Westfield, in the building of the Berlin Branch Railroad. The trap rocks of the Connecticut Valley often show, more or less distinctly, the columnar structure, resulting from contraction in cooling, which is so characteristic of igneous rocks. Very perfect examples of such columns may be seen at Mount Holyoke, in Massachusetts, and at Rabbit Rock, near New Haven. No very good examples have been observed within the limits of Middlesex county. The trap has been used very extensively for macadamizing roads, and to some extent as a building stone. For the former purpose it is exceedingly well adapted.

The trap has been spoken of as an igneous rock, and there can be no doubt that it came up in a melted state from the interior of the earth. The sandstone in many places shows, along the line of contact with the trap, the most unmistakable effects of heat, being sometimes strongly indurated, sometimes rendered vesicular and almost scoriaceous by the conversion into steam of the moisture present in the sandstone, sometimes impregnated with crystalline minerals. A remarkably fine example of this local metamorphism of the sandstone may be seen in Middlefield, at Rice's Cut on the Air Line Railroad, about a mile northeast of Reeds's Gap.

The trap is sometimes seen to form unquestionable dikes cutting across the sandstone strata; but it more commonly occurs in sheets which coincide in dip and strike with the underlying and overlying sandstones. The latter mode of occurrence admits of two explanations. The trap may have been poured out on the surface as a lava overflow after the deposition of the underlying sandstone, and the overlying sandstone may have been subsequently deposited upon the cooled and hardened surface of the trap. Or, after the deposition of both the underlying and the overlying sandstone, some strain the crust of the globe may have split them apart, forming a crack parallel with the planes of stratification, unto which flowed the molten rock. In briefer technical language, the trap in intercalculated sheets may have been either contemporaneous or intrusive. A pretty good criterion to distinguish the two cases is afforded by the contact with the overlying sandstone, where that contact can be observed. For it is obvious that, in the case of contemporaneous trap, only the underlying sandstone should show the characteristic effect s of heat; while, in the case of intrusive trap, the underlying and overlying sandstones should show those effects in about equal degree. Unfortunately, contacts between the trap and the overlying sandstone are seldom accessible, the overlying sandstone having been removed by erosion form the surface of the trap hills, and the lines of contact on lower ground being generally covered by Quaternary deposits and by vegetation. The most probable conclusion from the somewhat scanty evidence thus far collected is that some of the trap sheets are contemporaneous, and some of them are intrusive. The trap was probably erupted, not all at once, but at intervals through a period of time commencing before, and continuing after, the close of the period of the deposition of the sandstone.

The intercalculated sheets of trap are much harder than the associated sandstones, and this fact has produced a characteristic effect upon the topography of the district. The Connecticut Valley, since its elevation above the sea level, has suffered a great amount of erosion by the action of water and ice. The trap, owing to its greater hardness, has offered much greater resistance to erosion than the comparatively soft sandstones and shales. Hence, the trap sheets generally reveal themselves, in the topography of the district, as north-and-south ridges.

These ridges are remarkably uniform in character, present generally an almost precipitous face to the west; while the eastward slope is gentle, corresponding nearly with the dip of the strata. The summit of the ridge is formed by the sheet of trap, while the baked strata of the underlying sandstone may often be seen beneath the trap on the steep west face. The most extensive trap ridge of the Connecticut Valley is the one which extends from the Hanging Hills of Meriden to Mount Holyoke, in Massachusetts. A considerable ridge lies just on the western boundary of Middlesex county, extending from Paug Mountain, in the southwest corner of Durham, to Higby Mountain, on the western border of Middletown. Similar trap ridges are found in the sandstone basin of New Jersey; but in those the steep face is eastward, the dip of the strata being westward. The palisades on the Hudson afford a classical example of such a ridge.

While the development of igneous rock in connection with the Connecticut Valley sandstones is so extensive, there is remarkably little exhibition of igneous rock in the metamorphic region which occupies the larger part of Middlesex county. There is, however, one remarkable dike of trap, which extends almost continuously across the metamorphic region of Connecticut, from Branford on the south, to Stafford on the north, and continues thence northward into Massachusetts. This dike crosses the towns of Killingworth, Haddam, and Chatham, in Middlesex county.

IV. The Quaternary.

No rocks of Cretaceous or Tertiary age occur in Middlesex county. The only geological phenomena, therefore, which remain for consideration, are those relating to the Quaternary age. In the earliest epoch of the Quaternary-the Glacial epoch-as is now well known, all the territory of the northeastern United States and Canada was covered by a vast glacier-a glacier such as those now existing in Greenland and in the Antarctic. The terminal moraine marking the southern boundary of the ice-sheet has been traced on Long Island, and westward across New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Middlesex county shows the same characteristic evidences of glacial action which are found in other glaciated regions. These evidences are twofold. One class of signs is seen in the peculiar forms and surfaces of rocks, resulting from glacial erosion-the rounded forms of roches moutonnÚs and the smoothed, polished and striated surfaces. The markings are often well preserved on the harder rocks, as the quartzite of the Cobalt Mountain and the trap rocks. They may be seen even on the softer rocks, when a fresh surface is laid bare by the removal of the superficial drift; but of course on soft rocks the marks are speedily effaced by weathering. The other characteristic evidence of glacial action is the ubiquitous deposit of drift-the irregularly stratified or entirely unstratified superficial mass of clay, sand, and gravel, often containing large boulders. Sometimes isolated boulders are perched on the summits of hills composed of an entirely different kind of rock.

The melting of the continental glacier in the Champlain epoch produced, of course, great floods in all the rivers. There is no more interesting chapter n the geological history of Middlesex county than that which relates to the post-glacial flood in the Connecticut River.

Every one who has observed, at all attentively, the lower Connecticut (or the lower, non-torrential portion of almost any river), has learned to recognize the alluvial meadows or flood-plains by which the river is bordered. They are ordinarily dry, but in times of flood are covered by water; and their elevation above the ordinary water level is an indication of the height of the floods. Now the valley of the Connecticut is bordered, in many places, by strips of plain elevated far above the modern flood-plains, but exhibiting the same characteristically level surface, and bearing indubitable testimony to the height of the water in the post-glacial floods. These ancient flood-plains, elevated above the modern flood-plains, are called terraces. The highest terrace, marking the maximum height of the flood, increases in altitude as we go northward. At the Shore Line Railroad bridge, at Saybrook, the highest terrace is 36 feet above mean tide level; At Essex, 58 feet; at Chester, 78 feet; at Goodspeeds, 94 feet; at Higganum, 125 feet; at Maromas, 152 feet; at Middletown, 193 feet; at Hartford 210 feet; at Springfield, 240 feet.

A part of the enormous height of water is undoubtedly due to the subsidence of the land. Strata containing marine shells of recent species, now elevated above the sea level, prove that in the Champlain epoch the northern part of North America stood at a lower level than at present, and that the amount of the subsidence increased progressively northward. On the shore of Long Island Sound the amount of subsidence below the present level was about twenty-five feet; at Montreal, it was five hundred feet; and, in the Artic regions, it was more than a thousand feet. As the amount of this subsidence can be indicated only by marine formations, we have no exact measure of the subsidence in districts remote from the coast. In the Connecticut Valley the subsidence undoubtedly increased northward; but whether at a uniform or at a varying rate we know not. Probably the amount of the subsidence at Middletown was not far from fifty feet, and at Springfield not far from one hundred feet.

Making allowance for the subsidence of the land, we should still have a flood at Middletown one hundred and forty feet or more above mean tide level. That amount of elevation may be assumed to be due to the increase in the volume of water by melting of the glacier. The Connecticut River, at the maximum of the post-glacial flood, must have been indeed a colossal stream. From Hartford to Springfield and beyond, it averaged fifteen miles in width. Only a part of that vast flood found its way to the sea thorough the present channel of the lower Connecticut. In at least three places-the first north of Mount Tom, the second between Springfield and Westfield, Massachusetts, the third between Hartford and Meriden-the Connecticut overflowed westward into the valley now occupied in various parts by the Farmington, Quinnipiac, and Mill Rivers. A part of the waters of the Connecticut resumed, therefore, in the post-glacial flood, the position of the old Triassic estuary, and reached the Sound at New Haven.

The subsidence of the post-glacial floods, and the re-elevation of the land which had sunk below its present level, brought the region substantially into its present condition, and formed the conclusion of its geological history.

NOTE.-In such an article as the foregoing, elaborate bibliographic references seem unnecessary. It may be well, however, to mention the principal authorities on this subject. PERCIVAL's "Geology of Connecticut" gives a very full and accurate account of the distribution of the different rocks, and from his work the map (see p. 1), illustrating the present article has been taken. The main authority on the Quaternary Geology is Prof. J. D. DANA. His papers on the subject have been published in the "American Journal of Science," and the "Transactions of the Connecticut Academy." Important papers on the trap rocks have been published by W. M. DAVIS and B. K. EMERSON, in the "Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology," and in the "American Journal of Science." Information on many points bearing on the geology of our county may be obtained from DANA's "Manual of Geology," DANA's "System of Mineralogy," and HITCHCOCK's "Geology of Massachusetts."


It is not possible now to learn when the first settlers came into the territory now included in Middlesex county. It has been stated that English settlements commenced in Saybrook in 1635, and in Middletown in 1650; but probably there were settlers in both towns prior to those dates. The first settlers were almost wholly of English descent. Some came directly from England, but more from older settlements in the colonies of Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Dr. TRUMBULL estimated the number of inhabitants of Connecticut in 1713 at 17,000; and probably the towns now included in Middlesex county had 3,000 of these. The population of these towns at different periods if given elsewhere. It may here be remarked that from the first slavery existed among the people here, and that there were in the county in 1790, 208 slaves; in 1800, 72; in 1810, 57; in 1820, 8; in 1830, 2; and in 1840, but one. The slavery which existed here had practically but few of the odious features that characterized the institution in some portions of the country. The slaves were generally kindly treated, and care was taken that in their gradual manumission they should not be cast helpless on the world, but that they should be cared for in their youth by their owners, and provided for in their declining years by those whom they had served.

The first settlers of New England left Europe and came here in order that they might worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences. To accomplish this object they renounced the luxuries of the Old World, and encountered hardships of which their descendants can have but a slight conception. Field says they were "strict in their religious principles and practices. Attentive to public and family worship, they caused their religion to appear in all their conduct. They were also distinguished by some customs which owed their existence either to their particular religious sentiments or to the circumstances in which they were placed."

"United together for the purpose of enjoying the ordinances of the Lord, as they believed them to be taught in the Scriptures, and exposed to the same enemies and dangers, they settled in bodies, and abounded in mutual affections and kind offices. A man of common standing they called a good man, while the title of Sir was given to magistrates, ministers, and men of liberal education."

Exposed constantly to the attacks from the Indians, they were careful to acquire the use of arms. They spent six and sometimes more days annually in military exercise. In plantations where there were 100 soldiers, 20 were required to serve on guard on the Sabbath and on other days of public worship, and in no plantation less than 8, with a sergeant. In times of war and special danger guards were kept constantly in every town, and in some instances several in the same town. The practice of keeping guard on seasons of public worship continued till May 1814, when the towns were excused from it by statute, except in time of war.

This practice, probably, produced the custom of assembling people for public worship by the beat of the drum, which prevailed for a time in Middletown, Haddam, Saybrook, Killingworth, and Durham, whether it was ever introduced into Chatham and East Haddam is unknown.

"The circumstances of these people were exceedingly straitened. They had sacrificed a large portion of their property by removing to America; were unacquainted with the business of subduing a wilderness; had no commerce, and scarcely any means for acquiring property. In the meantime their families were to be supported, their children educated, and the institutions of the Gospel established and maintained; and these things were to be done in the midst of enemies whose motions they were obliged perpetually to watch, and against whose apprehended attacks they were obliged to provide the means of defense. Necessity, therefore, compelled them to the most rigid economy. Everything about them bore the marks of simplicity. Their houses were constructed in the plainest manner, their furniture consisted of a few indispensable articles, their dress was made of course cloths, wrought in the family, and their tables were spread with the homeliest of fare. Scarcely an article of luxury was used in Connecticut for a century after English settlements began, and very few articles were introduced for a considerable period afterward."

In the midst of such surroundings "the hardy sons of New England" were reared; but it must not be imagined by those whose lot has been cast in pleasanter places that their lives were wholly without enjoyment, or that the hardships to which they were subjected produced in them either physical or mental degeneracy. On the contrary, the sum of their happiness was fully equal to that of those who consider themselves more highly favored by fortune; for their enjoyment of the few comforts which they possessed was not abridged by unavailing repinings and longings after luxuries that were beyond their reach. They partook of their homely fare with that relish which only an appetite sharpened by active exercise can give; they slept sweetly on their humble couches, for their daily toil gave them robust health; and their homespun garments were worn with a feeling of laudable pride rather than shame, for they were the products of their own industry, and vanity had not crept in among them. They lived by their industry and frugality, erected their humble school-houses and churches, and reared their families in the rigid faith to which they held. Their children were not the effeminate sons and languid daughters of luxury, with pampered appetites that required to be temped with delicacies. They inherited the strong physical systems, the active intelligence, and the indomitable energies of their parents; and they were reared in the midst of circumstances that tended to develop and strengthen these qualities. Thus was produced in the midst of the inhospitable surroundings of these pioneers, the race of men who are everywhere distinguished for their intelligence, their thrift, and their ready adaptability to any circumstances in the midst of which they may be placed.



The geography, topography, and geology of this county are elsewhere treated of. The soil in the count is fertile. There are, however, mountains and rocky hills, too rough for culture, and only suited to forest growth and pasturage. In the three towns of Clinton, Westbrook, and Old Saybrook, there is considerable land in the highest state of cultivation, producing crops which would be considered enormous in the virgin soil of the west, and specimens of corn and vegetables grown on these lands have gone abroad to other States as wonders of eastern products; while in other towns in the county there is more or less land equal in fertility, especially in Middletown, Middlefield, Cromwell, and the northwestern part of Portland, and the northern part of Durham. Much land is admirably adapted to produce the largest and finest crops of tobacco, grain, market truck, and fruits, large and small, these fruits being superior in intrinsic richness to the same grown South or West. The pasturage on the hills of Middlesex county is superior, the fine natural grasses abounding, and the butter from milk of cows fed on it having an exquisite delicacy.

We often wonder, as we travel in other States, how sons of New England can leave the green hills of the East and squat on the low prairies of the West, enduring the fierce winds, the poor water, and the course, inferior products of that region. It is a noticeable fact, that at the State fair held in Connecticut in 1879 or 1880, where a special list of premiums was offered for fine butter, four out of five of these premiums were awarded for butter produced on the hill-farms in northern Middlesex, and the other on an adjoining hill-farm in Hartford county, just across the line. Fine strains of Jersey blood in cows, pure air, pure water, and the sweetest of pasturage are the necessary conditions for such superior production.

Now, while butter, fat beef, veal, and mutton are produced in such fine quality, choice and superior fruits are grown. The Rhode Island Greening apple grown on the Middlefield hills, and analyzed at the Middletown Experiment Station a few year since, was found to have a greater specific gravity and a better analysis than any European samples on record. The Newtown Pippins, as grown in western New York, and in Michigan, while being superior in smoothness, are greatly inferior in intrinsic excellence, and the Baldwin, the great apple of New England, and a staple for European markets, although planted largely in western New York, Ohio, and Michigan, nowhere equals in quality that of best grown New England specimens.

Grass is here, as elsewhere in New England, the leading product, and the county is adapted to produce good crops of hay of excellent quality. From an examination of the census sheets of a single town, it is found that the larges average yield per acre of a single farm was 1 ton and 171 pounds, which at $20 per ton, would be $21,71 per acre; so there is no doubt that the hay crop of the county is a paying one, and when the farmers come to make two blades of grass grow where but one grew before it will be still better.

Corn.-There is hardly a farm in the county that does not raise maize or Indian corn successfully. A yield of 100 bushels per acre is occasionally reached, and 75 bushels frequently. In Middlefield, according to the last census, the highest farm yield was 80 bushels of shelled corn per acre, while the average town yield was 10 7/10 bushels. This shows beyond all question, that on suitable land this crop is a paying one. It is undoubtedly so all through the county, and particularly in the warm, rich lands of the Connecticut River valley, and the shore towns. Clinton, Westbrook, and Saybrook have been especially noted for their superb fields of corn, and ears of wonderful size and perfection are always exhibited at their autumn fairs, and at the winter meetings of the Board of Agriculture. A gentleman from Illinois, the great corn State, once said at one of these meetings, speaking of the Clinton corn, that in his State he never saw finer specimens of ears than those. The corn fodder, well cured, is of such value as often to pay the entire cost of cultivation. By freeing land from stones, rocks, stumps, and all unnecessary fences, and by the use of Thomas's smoothing harrow and good horse culture in rows both ways, corn may be, and it has been, produced at a cost of thirty to forty center per bushel, while the current price is usually more than twice those figures. There is usually much to encourage the plating of sufficient corn for home consumption.

Potatoes and other root crops.-There is, on nearly every farm in the county, land well adapted to the culture of potatoes. Suitable land of good fertility, a suitable variety, and good culture, will usually secure a good crop.

According to the census sheets of Middlefield, the larges yield was 400 and the smallest 40 bushels per acre. The average yield per acre n the town was 128 1/10 bushels. Other towns may have made a better average, but we have not seen their returns.

Onions on suitable land, particularly for the past few years, have given paying returns. There is considerable land in the several towns of the county, especially the river and shore towns, well adapted for onions, or any other root crops.

Mangolds, and English and Swedish turnips can readily be raised, and are produced, both for stock and for market, in all the towns of the county.

Oats generally yield good returns. They are usually sowed on land previously planted with corn or potatoes. In 1880 the highest yield in Middlefield was 70 bushels per acre, the average yield 36 4/10.

Tobacco.-In Middlefield, in 1880, the largest yield was 2,180 lbs. per acre, the lowest 1,400 lbs. The average as 1,794 lbs. Recently, however, the average of tobacco has decreased, and other corps have taken its place to some extent.

Wheat.-In Middlefield, in 1880, the highest yield was 34 bushels per acre; the average was 23 bushels.

Rye in the town of Middlefield for the last census year gave an average yield of 18 4/10 bushels per acre.

The Dairy.-Having examined some records of the Middlefield dairies for the census year, I find as follows, from eight different persons; in all cases a matter of record with the parties respecting: 1st, 5 cows for the year, 925 lbs. of butter and 300 quarts of milk sold; 2d, 6 cows made 1,250 lbs. of butter; 3d 4 cows made 800 lbs.; 4th, 5 cows made 1,000; 5th 1 cow made 300; 6th, 1 cow made 372; 7th, 1 cow made 300; 8th, 1 cow made 408.

The reason for so often quoting from Middlefield instead of Haddam, Clinton, and other towns, is that the full original sheets of the census of 1880 for Middlefield were place din my hands for a short period, and I was thus enabled to glean many items therefrom which I would not otherwise have obtained without difficulty.

The great superiority of dairy cows has its counterpart in other neat stock. Many farmers in former years used thoroughbred bulls of the Devon and Short-horn breeds, and thereby greatly increased the size and beauty of their steers, producing better workers and finer beef.

A change, however, has occurred in the practice of many farmers, and now more attention is given to gilt-edged butter and less to working cattle; indeed, on many farms, horses now, to a great extent, take the pace of oxen.

The popular opinion to-day is that for butter the Jersey and Guernsey cows are the best; for beauty and work, the Devon; for beef, the Short-horn; for large carcass and abundant flow of milk, the Holstein; for milk alone on good moderate pasturage, the Ayrshire; and all are found here and there, through the county.

Several herds of Jerseys have been kept in the northern part of the county during the last sixteen years and the result has been a great improvement in the character of the dairy cows among those who have availed themselves of the advantages which these fine herds afforded for procuring fine thoroughbreds and grades. Dr. J. W. ALSOP has done much to elevate the standard of quality in dairy stock, and the same may be said of Dr. HAZEN, of Haddam.

Lyman A. MILLS, of Middlefield, commenced the breeding of Jersey cattle in 1868, when much prejudice against the breed existed. He has taken care to have at the head of his herd only those animals and their descendants that had shown exceptionally high butter-producing qualities. The grades produced among the cattle in his vicinity by mixture with his thoroughbreds have shown remarkable results, even to the production of from two and a half to three pounds of butter per day. Stock from his herd had been taken to all parts of the United States.

In 1868, M. W. TERRILL commenced breeding Short Horns and continued till 1879, when he changed to Jerseys, which he has since continued to breed. His herd, which now numbers about forty, has sown remarkable results in the production of butter.

A. B. COLEGROVE, of Middletown, has a herd of fifty registered Jerseys of great beauty and excellence. At the State fair of 1884, at Meriden, he was awarded the premiums on herd, bull, and cow; also a large number of first premiums than any other herd. It is believed that this herd will strongly influence for good not only the dairy stock of Middlesex county but of the State and country.

From The Constitution, Sept. 23, 1884, Middletown, Conn.

A. B. COLEGROVE exhibited at the Conn. State Fair at Meriden, thirty head of fine A. J. C. C. herd registered Jerseys, headed by the imported Kedive bull William the Conqueror, No. 7386, with a young herd of nine of his sons and daughters which took the sweepstakes, gold medal. William the Conqueror headed the herd, consisting of Louvie 2d, No. 6181; Thyme 2d, No. 12430; Chief's Louvie, No. 14378; Columbine of Maple Grove, No. 14379; Rosamond of Maple Grove, No. 14389, which took the herd prize, gold medal. Louvie 2d, No. 6181, took the sweepstake, silver medal, as the best breeding cow over 4 years old; Chief's Louvie, 1st premium as 3 year old; Thyme 2d, No. 12430, 2d premium as 3 year old; Rosamond of Maple Grove, No. 14380, 1st premium as 2 year old; Lilly Valeur, No. 20791, 1st premium as yearling; Mary of Maple Grove, 2d premium as heifer calf.

The adaptation of Middlesex county to the raising of poultry and the production of eggs is beyond question. J. COWAN, of Middletown, with more than 1,000 hens, and W. T. CLARK, of Durham, with several hundred, are examples of highly successful egg producers.

Sheep husbandry is successfully conducted by Messrs. LYMAN, of Middlefield, HUBBARD , of Middletown, and other farmers in the county. Much land in the hill towns is well adapted to the keeping of sheep with a decided profit and increased fertility of land. Here, as elsewhere, dogs are the great drawback to sheep husbandry.


Probably Middlesex county is not behind in agricultural progress. The old wooden plough, the old corn fan for winnowing, and many other clumsy devices have given place to better and more convenient implements and machines. Farmers' clubs and agricultural societies are established in most of our towns, and at the exhibitions of choice fruits, grains, vegetables, fancy work, and beautiful flowers we find that all our towns have made very decided progress, and they are fully as far advanced as other parts of the State or country. The improved fruits and vegetables are abundantly found in the farmers' orchards, fields, and gardens. At the recent State fair more than half the fruit premiums were awarded to Middlesex county farmers.

The social status of the farmer and farmers' families is much advanced. The farmer's home is now the abode of intelligence and cheerfulness. The book, the magazine, the daily and weekly journal, the voice of song, the sweet notes of instrumental music, the fragrance of flowers, and sterling independence and manliness of character, with genuine politeness, make the farmer's home often an ideal home, and farmers' sons and daughters are called to fill the highest places of honor, usefulness, and responsibility. This is not a matter of wonder. The educating influence of the farm is potent. A continuous series of object lesions is ever at hand, a constant panorama of nature's choicest views ever before and around us. The accumulated experience of the past is to accelerate future progress, and though the last half century has been unequa

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