Monday, December 29, 2014


Historical societies love scrapbooks, because they are time capsules that help us connect to both the person who made them and the place where they were made.

We have a small collection of scrapbooks at the Cornwall Historical Society. Here are highlights of some of them.

Emily Marsh's WWII Scrapbook

During World War II, Cornwall librarian Emily Marsh compiled photographs, newspaper clippings, service badges, letters, and hand-written notations in a simple three-ring binder.

Emily Marsh WWII scrapbook.

Emily Marsh WWII scrapbook.

Emily Marsh WWII scrapbook.

Emily Marsh WWII scrapbook.

Emily Marsh WWII scrapbook.

West Cornwall News Clippings, 1880s

An unknown person pasted newspaper clippings into an old account book during the 1880s, preserving a slice of life for future generations.

West Cornwall news clippings scrapbook, 1880s.

West Cornwall news clippings scrapbook, 1880s.

West Cornwall news clippings scrapbook, 1880s.

West Cornwall news clippings scrapbook, 1880s.

West Cornwall news clippings scrapbook, 1880s.

Emeline L. Merz Scrapbook, 1941

Emeline Merz pasted newspaper clippings of her own writings, as well as a Letter to the Editor written by her husband, Kenneth Merz, in this scrap book.
Emeline L. Merz scrapbook, 1941.

Emeline L. Merz scrapbook, 1941.

Harriet Bennett Scrapbook, early 1900s

Suffragist Harriet Wilcox Bennett used this scrapbook to preserve newspaper clippings that interested her, sometimes with annotations indicating a personal connection to the clipping. A significant portion of the clippings relate to Bennett's activity as a supporter of women's suffrage.

Harriet Bennett scrapbook, early 1900s.

Harriet Bennett scrapbook, early 1900s.

Harriet Bennett scrapbook, early 1900s.

Katherine W. Pratt Scrapbook, 1914

Katherine Willston Pratt's scrapbook, marketed for young women graduating from high school, includes photographs of her classmates, treasured letters, and other mementos of her social activities. Pratt was the daughter of Rev. Dwight Mallory Pratt, originally from West Cornwall, who served as the minister of the Walnut Hills Congregational Church at Cincinnati from 1900 to 1914, when Katherine created this book of memories.

Katherine W. Pratt scrapbook, 1914.

Katherine W. Pratt scrapbook, 1914.

Katherine W. Pratt scrapbook, 1914.

Katherine W. Pratt scrapbook, 1914.

Katherine W. Pratt scrapbook, 1914.

Friday, December 5, 2014

David Johnson's Housatonic River

Christmas has come early to the Cornwall Historical Society! We are delighted to share the most recent donation to our collection--a wonderful oil painting of the Housatonic River at West Cornwall by David Johnson (1827-1908).

David Johnson, Housatonic River at West Cornwall, 1870s.

Johnson was born and raised in New York City and began his art career by painting landscapes in the Catskills, studying with Jasper Crospsey. Johnson joined the National Academy of Design in 1859 and continued traveling in the Northeast, painting landscapes in the White Mountains, at Lake George, and in central New York state. He painted at West Cornwall and other Connecticut locations during the 1870s.

Detail showing a man fishing and smoking a pipe.

Johnson won a first-class medal for art at the 1876 Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia and an award from the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association of Boston in 1878. He exhibit a painting of the Housatonic River at the Paris Salon of 1877.

Detail showing two people on the opposite bank of the river, possibly on a boat.

Reverse of the painting, showing Johnson's signature and the painting's title.

Another painting of West Cornwall, done in 1875 by David Johnson, is in the collection of the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, CT.

Monday, December 1, 2014

CHS at the Christmas Fair

Looking for some unique gift ideas? How about a Cornwall Historical Society jigsaw puzzle, Cornwall pottery, or a CHS gift basket? We'll have all of these and more at the Christmas Fair this Saturday, December 6, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the United Church of Christ, 8 Bolton Hill Road.

New! 500+ piece jigsaw puzzle featuring bottles from the Cornwall Historical Society collection.

Our new puzzles were developed by CHS Board member Karen Doeblin, who put some extra effort into finding just the right puzzle-maker:
Every great museum shop has a puzzle with an image from its collection;  so why shouldn't the shop at the Cornwall Historical Society have one?  As a jigsaw puzzle fan, however, I know how frustrating a poorly made puzzle can be, so we went to the premier, small custom puzzle maker at Eureka Puzzles in Brookline, Massachusetts.  He has created a beautifully made puzzle that all skill levels can enjoy with an image of beautiful bottles from our own collection. We hope you enjoy them!

Original photograph used for the new jigsaw puzzle.

Cornwall Historical Society gift basket, ready for giving!

Todd Piker's Cornwall Bridge pottery.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Coltsfoot Farm Milk Bottle

Our collections include this fun milk bottle from the Coltsfoot Farm.

Coltsfoot Farm was started in 1885 by John Edward Calhoun, taking its name from the Coltsfoot Valley, where his cattle grazed.

The slogan, "a bottle of milk is a bottle of health," was introduced by the Thatcher glass manufacturing company of New York and soon became a nationally used slogan.

The Calhoun family sold off their dairy cattle and equipment at a two day auction in 1966. The farm property was leased and the dairy operations continued on site by Ronald Laigle, Robert Laigle, and Raymond Thuillard.

Coltsfoot Farm closed permanently in the mid-1980s.

View of Coltsfoot Valley today.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cornwall's Dairy Farms

Our 2014 exhibit, Cornwall and the Civil War, has come to a close. Although there are a few Civil War "treats" still to come, our focus is shifting to next year's exhibit and programs.

As you might be able to guess from these photos, we'll be exploring the history of Cornwall's dairy farms next year. If you have any photographs, objects, or stories to share, we'd love to hear from you. You can contact our Executive Director/Curator, Raechel Guest, at

Cows grazing near Popple Swamp Road, late 1800s.

William Hart dairy farm, 1908.

Cows on the Sandmeyer dairy farm, early 1900s.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Letters & Lyrics Video and Program

In case you missed it, or if you want to experience it again, here is the video of our final program of 2014, Letters & Lyrics with Rick Spencer and Richard Schlesinger. Transcripts of the letters and the titles of the songs are below.


[Letter written by Pvt. Josiah Corban to his wife and children. Corban was a Cornwall farmer who enlisted in 1862, when he was 41 years old.]

Camp near Fort Worth, Virginia Feb 12th 1862
         Dearest of earth, I received yours of the 6th to day and wonder why it should be so long on its way here. I sent one this morning that I had written by having two or three spells at it before I finished it. They keep us very busy now a days so I cannot often get a chance to write but a short time at once without writing nights, and then I generally have to buy a candle to see by, if I have a chance to see well enough to write. We use sperm Candles here, they cost five cents apiece. One will last nearly two evenings if we don’t sit up long after Roll call, which is at half past eight.
        ...the Lord only knows what trials we may be called to pass through before peace will be declared and the Rebels be made to give up their Rebellion. The Governor of Connecticut, Buckingham, was here yesterday. He came on to the ground where we were on Battallion drill. In a short time after he came on to the Parade ground. We were ordered to form a square, and he and those that were with him besides all our Commissioned Officers went inside the square. The Lieutenant Col. introduced them as well as all the rest of us to the Chief Magistrate the Governor of Connecticut William A. Buckingham and told them they could speak to him, any of them that wished to. The Captains and Lieutenants all went up and shook hands with him and some of them talked with him a few minutes. Then he took off his hat and made a short Speech to us. He spoke with a great deal of feeling in our behalf and told us how much he thought of us as well as all the rest of the troops from our state and said that he would be glad to shake hands with every one of us. He praised us for our Patriotism in leaving our homes and friends to come down here to fight for our Country and said if we never went to the field of battle we were doing as much good as if we did. He said it was better to sacrafice [sic] a whole Generation than to have our Government destroyed. He is a plain looking man and I don’t think it makes him feel lifted up any by being Governor. He did not talk as if he had any idea of the North ever giving up the Contest till the Rebels are Conquered and made to return to the Union. It brought tears to my eyes to hear him speak of the loved ones at home. It touches my feelings very sensibly to hear anything that relates to my loved ones at home for they are nearer my heart than any other earthly object. May God grant that I may meet them and all the rest of my friends once more in Cornwall, and also in Heaven at last.
                 Yours with undying affection,
                 J. B. Corban


Henry Clay Work’s “The Girls at Home.”

[Letter written by Brigadier General John Sedgwick to his sister Emily, following the First Battle of Bull Run, the first major battle of the Civil War.]

Washington, D.C., July 23, 1861
       My dear sister:
       Our army has suffered one of the most terrible defeats on record—one of the most disgraceful! We have lost everything, even our honour.
       When I last wrote you the army had marched in high spirits, and every one predicted a prosperous result, and some little success was obtained; but a panic seized the volunteers, they threw away everything they had, and fled in terrible disorder. Whole regiments fled without giving a shot or getting near the enemy. Our artillery behaved bravely; they maintained their position till they lost so many men and horses that many were obliged to leave their guns. The loss of property was immense; it is hoped the loss of life not great, but no reports are made yet. We are disorganized, and if the enemy had not suffered severely, as we hope they have, they could have marched into Washington last night. I went to bed night before last believing that everything was going on well, and yesterday was ill in my room all day till three o’clock, when I learned of the terrible disaster. I have no heart to write more.
             Your affectionate brother,


George F. Root’s “The Prisoner’s Hope.”

[Letter written by Josiah Corban while recovering in a military hospital after being released from a Confederate prison camp]

Annapolis Junction, Dec. 10th 1864
           Dear Wife & Children
            I thought I would write a few lines again this morning & send so you need not be looking in vain for news from me. I can’t tell much but I suppose just seeing a few lines I have written will be better than nothing. The Doctors, one of them, came around yesterday to get the names of the Parole Prisoners; also when & where they were captured, when & where released, so they could make arrangements to pay them all their back pay & also their ration money while they were prisoners. They are going to pay us up pretty soon, & then give us 30 days furlough to go home. That is an order from the war department. & I suppose I can have another furlough if I want it. We all have to wear Hospital shirts. I wear a woolen one under the cotton one that they furnish. They brought in some Drawers but they were so short & small I could not wear them. The most of them were just so, but I shall get along if they will let me wear my own. ...My boils have got pretty much done running, but I am so sore yet I can’t sit with much comfort & my Scurvy comes out as bad as ever yet. How long it will continue so, I don’t know, but guess the way I am doctering for it will prove a remedy after a while. I have only just begun on my butter & my Sausage... I shall have to let some one help [me] eat it, I guess, for they don’t allow me to have much meat & I intend to be as careful as possible about eating such things as will hinder me about getting rid of my scurvy. I suppose that will be one thing that will worry you for fear I will be imprudent about eating, but you need not worry for I don’t mean to. I begin to feel as if I could not wait much longer to get a letter from home. Suppose I may have one [waiting] at the Parole camp, hope they will send it here shortly.
                   Keep up good courage & trust in God for protection & he will sustain you through every trial. Yours the same as ever with much love to all,
                    Josiah B. Corban


“The Brass Mounted Army”

[Letter written by Mark Nickerson to his niece in 1910, describing his experiences at the Battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862]

             Many of the men dropped on the ground and were soon fast asleep— others were talking in low tones, telling their Chums what to do, or where to write in case they were killed. I had a package of letters I had received from my young Lady Friends—I tore them up into small pieces + scattered them on the ground. No one should read those letters if I was killed. As we lay there in the woods, the silence was oppressive—not a leaf stirred on the trees—not a puff of air—the only sounds we could hear, was the low subdued tones of the men talking to each other, + off to the front in the woods, we could hear at a distance what sounded like the tramping of Soldiers + giving of orders. It was the calm before the storm. As the ominous sounds in the woods on our front grew louder + seemed to be coming nearer, the men who were asleep were quietly awakened, + we were all told to examine our guns. The Rebs had set out on this Campaign to crush the Army of the Potomac + we knew full well that they would not give it up without another bloody Battle. So here we were awaiting the attack. We had been able to get but little snatches of sleep for 7 days + nights. Most of that time we had been on the move. Our Haversacks were empty + we had been out of rations for 24 + 36 hours. We were a hollow-eyed, wild looking set of men, + a dangerous set to tackle. Suddenly the storm broke in all its fury, like a thunder shower in Summer when the wind gets into it + brings it up from the North West, only a thousand times more fearful than any thunder Shower. At a given signal, Battery after Battery came out of their hiding place on a gallop, wheeled quickly into position + limbered up for action. The Infantry came out of their hiding places, + quickly formed in line of Battle. ... As we were marching by the flank to take our place in line of Battle, I noticed running Black Berries on the ground and stooped down several times to pick a Black Berry, as I was hungry + Thirsty. The Orderly Sergeant spoke to me quite sharply, + told me to mind what I was about. I told him I knew what I was about, + before the Battle was over had had a chance to see that I knew what I was about.
              Before reaching our lines the Rebs had to cross quite a large open field in range of our Artillery, and when near to our lines, they would be lost to our sight for a short time, as they crossed a lower stretch of ground, then they would come into plain view again on a level with our line of Battle. It seems terrible to think of now the way those brave men were cut down by the fire of our Artillery to say nothing of the Rifle fire from the Infantry, but we Just gloried in it then. Our fighting blood was up. They were after us—would kill us if they could—and the more we killed of them the better chance we stood for our own lives.


Walter Kitteridge’s “Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground”

[Letter from Corporal Joseph Payne to his cousin Samuel F. Gold]

Camp near Alexandria, Va
December 13th 1862
           Dear Cousin Sam,
            I received your welcome letter yesterday the 12th and was happy to learn that you were well and thriving. I hope you will continue so and I hope also that we shall meet again both of us hale & hearty. I am very well now. I have had some cold but it is now disappearing fast. I weighed 160 when I entered the U.S. Service. I now weigh 183: a gain of 28 lbs, which isn’t so slow, taking into consideration the diet furnished by Uncle “Sam”. But we that is the 19th ought to be thankfull for the good fare we have had compared with other Regiments. Since we have been here we have had good nice bread, good pork, occasionally potatoes and beef; but the beef, I might say, is old enough to speak for itself. In addition to this we have Sibley tents, stoves and plenty of good wood. Oh as long as we live here we certainly cannot complain but somehow this kind of life don’t seem to satisfy, to be sure. It is perfectly safe here, but deeds of bravery and scars are an honor to a person, therefore I think I should like to be with Burnside, where things are stirring now. I expect success attend his efforts. You asked me my opinion of the removal of McClellan. I like the idea very much. He no doubt was or is a good general, but too slow for the present time and emergencies. Burnside I believe is the man for the times, quick to take advantage of any and all successes which he may achieve. We have good telegraphic news from Burnside to night but somehow the operators won’t tell us what it is, only that it is good, with which we have got to be satisfied for the present. The reason why I made that mistake in directing your letter was that I sent the letter to the Capt [Edward F. Gold] to read and he lost it and I had to direct the letter from memory.
            The Capt is well and growing fat every day. Our Co., those who you are acquainted, are all well. I believe some of them have been sick but all have now pretty much recovered their health. I shall be very happy to receive your picture. I will send you another one soon after receiving it you much been[?] the first one up. Give all my love to all of your folks. Write soon.
              I remain Truly yours,
              Cousin Joe


George F. Root’s “The Battle Cry of Freedom” 

[Letter from Sedgwick’s aide, Capt. Richard Halsted, to Sedgwick’s sister, Emily]

Camp Near Berlin, Maryland, July 17, 1863
              My dear Miss Sedgwick:
              As you no doubt already know, from newspapers if not from letters, we have been for the past few weeks having a very active campaign, so far as marching is concerned at least. It does now and then occur that well-ordered marches as effectually beat an enemy as the most decisive battle could do, and something must be set down to the saving of life. There is not much doubt that some of our marching has been much to Mr. Lee’s damage, but still the battle of Gettysburg had to be fought. No amount of marching with the forces we then had could have obviated the necessity for a fight like that one somewhere. It was a terrible fight. The losses show that. The common talk among the prisoners taken by us is that Lee lost at Gettysburg alone not less than thirty thousand men. Our own loss is about twenty thousand men. I wish I could give you an idea of the artillery fire. It was terrific. We at the 6th Corps headquarters were in a good position to judge of it, for, singular as it may seem, almost the only spot along the whole line not under fire was that occupied by us.  ...I cannot tell you anything of any consequence about the fight. Some of the newspaper accounts were very good. I saw so little of it that I cannot describe it. Our progress in pursuit of Lee was necessarily slow and cautious. Two such armies, having fought each other so often, having known each other so long and intimately, cannot very well afford to play at fast and loose.
               Now, as I write, a staff-officer from headquarters comes to bring information which looks to an immediate move—to-day, if possible.... The officer does not know the direction in which we are to go. I wish that one small portion of the 6th Corps might move in the direction of, and have for its ultimate destination the region known as, Cornwall Hollow....
              Very sincerely yours,
              R.F. Halsted


E.W. Locke, “We Will Not Retreat Any More”

"We will not Retreat any More," sheet music sent to Miner Rogers in Cornwall
by Sgt. William Cogswell in Washington, D.C., 1862

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Truth About Dudleytown

Every fall, as we get closer to Halloween, the Cornwall Historical Society receives an increased number of requests to visit "Dudleytown." The answer is always NO. Here's why:

First of all, the Society does not have the right to grant permission. The area of Cornwall popularly known as "Dudleytown" is private property. It does not belong to the town, and it certainly does not belong to the Historical Society.

Secondly, the people who live in "Dudleytown" are completely fed up with thrill-seeking, would-be ghost hunters. Imagine if someone wrote that your home was haunted, even though it wasn't, and you suddenly had total strangers wandering around your yard, peering in through your windows, setting fires and leaving litter, invading your privacy on a regular basis. You wouldn't like it very much, and neither does anyone in Cornwall.

Be forewarned that if you should, unfortunately, decide that your curiosity is more important than the privacy and property rights of Cornwall residents, you will be arrested for trespassing.

If you would like to visit the forested ruins of old buildings, or if you would like to visit a stunningly beautiful forest, Mohawk State Forest will satisfy your interests. Cunningham Tower is full of eerie ambiance, if that's what you're looking for.

Gargoyle, Cunningham Tower, Mohawk State Forest

If you would like to pursue the thrills and chills of possible supernatural encounters, book yourself a room at the Yankee Pedlar Inn in nearby Torrington. Even before The Innkeepers was filmed there, it offered a spooky atmosphere for those who looked for it.

Historical Background of Dudleytown

Some of you might be interested in knowing the true story of Dudleytown. Our research has uncovered the following information:

Dudleytown was never an actual town. The name (nickname, really) was given at an unknown date to a portion of Cornwall that included several members of the Dudley family. The area that became known as Dudleytown was settled in the early 1740s by Thomas Griffis, followed by Gideon Dudley and, by 1753, Barzillai Dudley and Abiel Dudley; Martin Dudley joined them a few years later. Other families also settled there.

Chimney stone from a Dudleytown house. Collection of Cornwall Historical Society.

As with every other part of Cornwall, Dudleytown was converted from forest to farm land. Families tilled the land for generations. Located on top of a high, steep hill, Dudleytown was not ideally suited for farming. Access is difficult, and the growing season is shorter than down in the valleys.

When more fertile and spacious land opened up in the mid-West in the late 19th century, and as the local iron industry wound down, Cornwall's population declined. Those residents who remained in Cornwall tended to live close to the train stations or the Town Green, the commercial hubs of the community, or on farms that were better suited for farming than those at Dudleytown.

During the early 20th century, many old farms in Cornwall were sold to New Yorkers seeking a better life in the countryside. Much of the Dudleytown area land was acquired by the Dark Entry Forest Association, which planted thousands of trees. During the 1930s, New York's Skidreiverein Club spent their winter weekends skiing on trails they built in Dudleytown; in the summers, they canoed down the Housatonic River.

What was once farm land has been re-cultivated as forest, part of a vital ecosystem for neotropical migratory birds and other wildlife.

It should be noted that none of 20th century residents or vacationers have ever noticed anything supernatural going on in Dudleytown. Descendents of the original members of the Dark Entry Forest Association still live in Dudleytown today, free from any curses or other supernatural activity.

The Dudleytown Legend

According to popular legend, the area of Cornwall known as Dudleytown is home to supernatural activities ranging from hauntings to untimely deaths. Would-be ghost hunters make frequent trips to Cornwall hoping for a thrilling adventure, much to the consternation of the people who live there.

The Dudleytown area is private property. Because so many of the ghost hunters visiting the area have caused problems ranging from littering to rude behavior to setting fires, residents have no patience for trespassers. Police are notified whenever there are trespassers and arrive promptly to make arrests.

For Cornwall residents, Dudleytown is nothing more than a beautiful forest in the southwestern part of town, one of the many breathtaking forests found here. Dudleytown's residents include families who have lived there for generations without a single supernatural encounter. One resident, in fact, likes to tell the story of when she and her horse were mistaken for ghosts by a large group of trespassing ghost-hunters-the newspaper account the next day declared that she was a spectral figure and that her horse's hoofs never touched the ground.

The "Curse" Begins

The supposed "curse of Dudleytown" appears to have begun with the 1926 publication of Edward C. Starr's History of Cornwall. For reasons that have yet to be explained, Starr wove together a fanciful and inaccurate two-page account of Dudleytown residents over the centuries. No accounts of the supernatural in Dudleytown have been found prior to the publication of his book.

It should be noted that Starr's history of Dudleytown did not allude to anything supernatural. He placed emphasis on anecdotes of misfortune and bad luck, adding a little bit of name dropping to spice things up. Starr's use of the phrase "doom of Dudleytown" was not intended to be supernatural. It was strictly an unfortunate, hyperbolic, literary flourish.

Starr's account has formed the basis of every story published since then about Dudleytown. Sometimes Starr's account is reprinted almost word for word, with an emphasis on anything that sounds even remotely spooky. Other times it is embellished to make it more exciting for new readers. Still other times portions are reworked, changing names and other details. The Dudleytown legend is strictly one of fiction, spun out from repeated retellings of Starr's fanciful account.

The true story of Dark Entry Forest's first few decades was presented in our 2012 exhibition, "Out of the Woods: The Story of Cornwall's Forests." The forest that exists there today was largely planted by the Dark Entry Forest group, and continues to be maintained by them today.

Myth vs. Fact 

Dudleytown enthusiasts should note the following corrections and clarifications to Starr's history and a few of the more popular Dudleytown myths:

  • MYTH: The Dudleys of Cornwall were descended from cursed English royals. 
  • FACT: The Dudley family of Cornwall has no connection to English nobility. 

  • MYTH: Horace Greeley's wife, Mary Cheney, grew up in Dudleytown and later committed suicide because of the Dudleytown curse. 
  • FACT: Mary Cheney Greeley never lived anywhere in Cornwall. She and the rest of the Cheneys lived in Litchfield. Visit the Litchfield Historical Society's website for more information. 

  • MYTH: Abiel Dudley was driven insane by the Dudleytown curse. 
  • FACT: Abiel Dudley did not go insane. His neighbors described him as "distracted" and unable to care for himself beginning around 1756 or earlier. In their 1771 petition to the Connecticut General Assembly for reimbursement for taking care of him, Dudley's neighbors made no mention of anything unusual about him or his mental incapacities. They noted that he never had any wealth, only land that he did not cultivate. Most likely, Dudley suffered from a very ordinary form of senility.

  • MYTH: General Heman Swift was driven insane by the Dudleytown curse. 
  •  FACT: General Heman Swift lived to be 81 years old; if, as Starr suggests, he suffered from dementia in his later years, natural causes seem far more likely than supernatural ones. 

  • MYTH: General Swift's wife was killed by supernatural forces in the form of lightning. 
  • FACT: Swift's wife, Sarah, was indeed killed by lightning in 1804; however, this was not an uncommon occurrence in the 1800s, when many houses were not protected by lightning rods. Newspapers from all over the country, throughout the 19th century, had frequent accounts of dramatic lightning strikes rolling through living rooms and kitchens.

  • MYTH: John Patrick Brophy's wife died under mysterious circumstances, their children mysteriously vanished, and Brophy was driven insane by the curse. 
  •  FACT: In the original version of the story, in Starr's History of Cornwall, an unnamed Irish laborer suffered a series of misfortunes: his wife died of consumption (a common cause of death in the 1800s); his sons left town after they were caught stealing; and his house burned down. None of these events can be attributed as supernatural. In later retellings, the Irish laborer's name is sometimes John Brophy, sometimes Patrick, sometimes other generic Irish names.

  • MYTH: A Polish immigrant named Joseph Matyas was one of the last residents of Dudleytown and was driven insane by the curse. 
  • FACT: Starr referred to an unnamed "solitary Pole" who "failed to make good, lost his farm, and removed." No mention of insanity was included in the original story. A few retellings have assigned the name Joseph Matyas to this man, while others have left him nameless (while embellishing the story with a surprising amount of detail, considering that his identity is unknown). It seems unlikely that Starr was referring to Matyas, as he lived in Cornwall with his wife and children long after Starr's book was published (and was Hungarian, not Polish).

  • MYTH: Dr. William C. Clarke moved to Dudleytown and built a rustic cabin for himself and his wife. One day, Dr. Clarke was called back to New York City for an emergency, leaving his wife alone in Dudleytown. When he returned, he found that his wife had become completely insane and spent the rest of her life in an insane asylum. 
  • FACT: This is perhaps the strangest piece of misinformation in Starr's History of Cornwall, which relates that Dr. William Clarke's wife slowly lost her mind before committing suicide, and that Dr. Clarke left Cornwall forever. However, Dr. Clarke continued to live in Cornwall, as do his descendents. The true story of Dr. Clarke can be found in our history of Dark Entry Forest Inc. We don't know why Starr chose to include a somewhat cruel and very fanciful story about the death of Dr. Clarke's wife. Perhaps he chose to sacrifice truth for the sake of telling a romantic story that might help the sale of his book; or perhaps he simply didn't do enough research.

  • MYTH: The name "Dark Entry Forest" was chosen because the forest is haunted. 
  • FACT: The name "Dark Entry" does not and never was intended to have ominous overtones. It is actually a fairly common name, found in several other town. The name most likely refers to the cool, dark shadows of a dense forest, something that is usually considered a positive thing, especially on a hot summer day.

  • MYTH: There are no birds or other wildlife in Dark Entry Forest (Dudleytown). 
  • FACT: There are just as many birds singing in the Dark Entry Forest as there are in any other forested area of Connecticut. In fact, Cornwall has one of the largest and most diverse populations of breeding birds anywhere in the country.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New and Improved Museum Shop

Board member Gail Jacobson brought her creative ingenuity to the task of revamping our small museum shop. Here she contributes a description and some photos of what's been done. Be sure to check it out in person! We're open on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m., through the end of October.

There is a welcoming sight at the Cornwall Historical Society: a new museum store. Just before the opening of the Civil War exhibit this summer, three shelving units were joined and placed in the front corner of our former Victorian carriage house to display the various books, notecards, and pamphlets available for sale. The previous blank corner now provides a cheerful and colorful entry to the exhibit. All the society’s publications are individually priced and easily viewed. 

Signed copies of John Demos’ The Heathen School book rest alongside booklets on Dudleytown, the Covered Bridge and a timeline of the history of Cornwall. It is the goal of the Board to expand the museum store offerings in the future. Already there are canvas tote bags embellished with a logo of the iconic Historical Society building and several items from Todd Piker’s Cornwall Bridge Pottery with Cornwall medallions. Each item represents Cornwall and/or the Society. Need a unique gift? Look no farther.

The new museum store.

Todd Piker's honey pot, pitcher, and tea bowl with Cornwall medallions.

Document boxes "retired" from our archives.

Canvas tote bag.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sedgwick's 1858 Map

At the opening reception for our Civil War exhibit, we were given a map from 1858 owned by Major General John Sedgwick. The map, produced by the War Department Office of Explorations and Surveys, is a sketch of the routes between Fort Laramie and the Great Salt Lake.

At the time, Sedgwick was stationed at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Fort Laramie was further west, in Wyoming. The Great Salt Lake area, even further west, was of great interest to the military: from 1857 to 1858, the U.S. army engaged in what they called the "Utah Expedition." It has also been called the Mormon War.

During the 1850s, the U.S. government considered the Mormons to be a lawless group of religion fanatics. In May, 1857, approximately 2,500 U.S. troops assembled at Fort Leavenworth and marched to Salt Lake to subdue the Mormons and reclaim control of the Utah territory. In response, the Mormons called up the Utah militia to defend them. Both sides spent months posturing, trying very hard to avoid actual combat.

The "bloodless war" continued until June, 1858, when Brigham Young accepted President Buchanan's offering of peace.

Sedgwick's map was made in January 1858, during the middle of the conflict between the U.S. military and the Mormon settlers.

Monday, September 15, 2014

William and Newton Cogswell

William H. Cogswell (1837-1864) was a member of the Schaghticoke tribe and was Connecticut’s first Native American to enlist during the war. He originally attempted to enlist at Winsted when the first companies were being formed. After Cogswell enlisted and was sworn into service, his fellow soldiers demanded that he be kicked out, on the grounds that he was not white. Cogswell’s enlistment was canceled and his name was erased from the muster rolls.

William Cogswell (from T.S. Gold's History of Cornwall)

On June 22, 1861, Cogswell once more tried to enlist, this time at Cornwall. Cogswell grew up in Cornwall, where he was well-known as the town’s fastest runner, easily winning any race held at local fairs. He had no difficulty joining a regiment at his hometown, enlisting as a Sergeant with Company I of the 5th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. During a skirmish at Harrisburg on May 3, 1862, Cogswell was taken prisoner by the Confederates. He was paroled and discharged on May 21, 1862, returning home for two months.

Sheet music sent by William Cogswell in 1862 to his friend, Miner Rogers, in Cornwall.

On July 21, 1862, Cogswell enlisted with Company B of the 19th Infantry (later the 2nd Heavy Artillery). His younger brother, Newton W. Cogswell (1835-1876), joined him in Company B, enlisting on November 21, 1863. The brothers served side-by-side. When Newton was wounded in the arm at the Battle of Cold Harbor on June 1, 1864, William was there to comfort him.

William Cogswell was admired by his fellow soldiers and commanding officers for his endurance and his optimism, despite the racism he encountered when he first attempted to enlist at Winsted. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant on March 5, 1864.

On September 19, 1864, Cogswell was wounded in the leg at the Battle of Winchester. His leg was amputated, and he died from related complications on October 7, 1864. He was given a hero’s burial in the North Cornwall Cemetery.

Cogswell obelisk, North Cornwall Cemetery.

William’s brother Newton survived the war physically, but appears to have suffered from PTSD. After his service ended, Newton returned to Cornwall and to his former life as a day laborer. He married Pauline M. Hoffman in 1867, and for a brief period things went well for him. But in 1875, Cogswell’s wife left him and applied for a divorce.

On December 30, 1875, Newton Cogswell snapped. He went to the Davidson home on Cream Hill, where his wife was staying, and shot at her five times, hitting her twice in the head. Cogswell fled the scene, and was found dead in a barn about a mile from his home in March, having killed himself with poison. His wife eventually recovered from her wounds. Newton was buried next to his brother William in the North Cornwall Cemetery.