Avon
From the Memorial History of Hartford County, CT
Edited by: J Hammond Trumbull LL.D.
Published by Edward L. Osgood, 1886

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BY M. H. BARTLETT.


AVON was incorporated in 1880. Previously it was the north parish in the town of Farmington, and went by the name of Northington. On the north it is bounded by Canton and Sirnsbury, and on the south by Farmington, while on the east and west it has as natural boundaries the Talcott Mountain range and the Farmington River respectively. Until 1845 the western boundary was somewhat to the east of the river; but in that year the portion of Burliugtoii which lay east of Farmington River was annexed to Avon, excepting a block of about eighty rods square, which was at the same time annexed to Canton.

The area of Avon is about thirty-three square miles. A considerable portion is level fertile land in the valley of the Farrnington River. This river passes through the town twice, first flowing south along its western boundary, and then, after describing a semicircle in Farmington, re-entering Avon on its eastern side near the base of Talcott Mountain, and passing to the north into the town of Simsbury.

The northeastern corner of the town is remarkable for the beauty of its natural scenery. Here is the highest ridge, south of Mount Tom, Massachusetts, of that trap formation which intersects the State from north to south. On its highest point, and within the boundary of Avon, winch follows the top of the ridge for five miles, stands the observatory known as Bartlett's Tower, built in 1867, a short distance from the site of the towers erected by Daniel Wadsworth in 1810 and 1840, which were successively destroyed, one by wind and the other by fire. Near by, too, is Mr. Wadsworth's former summer residence, called Monte Video.' Professor Benjamin Silliman, in his "Tour from Hartford to Quebec," published in 1824, speaks of "the beautiful and grand scenery of Monte Video, which makes this villa, with its surrounding objects, quite without a parallel in America, and probably with few in the world."

The view from the top of the tower looks out and down eastward upon a vast plain of a thousand square miles, Ä the Connecticut valley,Ästretching from Mounts Tom and Holyoke to the Haddam Hills, a distance of sixty miles, bounded on the east by the Wilbraham and Bolton ranges, and dotted with fifty cities, towns, and villages. In the dim northern outline stand perched upon their summits the houses of Mounts Tom and Holyoke, on either side of the Connecticut River, as if guarding its entrance to the beautiful valley below; while above and beyond appears the white tower of Mount Toby, more than fifty miles away in an air-line. In a clear atmosphere and good light the rocky summit of Mount Monadnock, in New Hampshire (the first land to be seen on entering Boston Harbor), stands out distinctly, although eightythree miles distant. Nearer appear the cities of Holyoke and Springfield, while nearer still, and more prominent to the view, stands Hartford, its towers and graceful spires, and, above all, the gilded dome of the Capitol, rising from the elms and maples which shade its streets. Farther to the south, the cities of Middletown, New Britain, and Meriden appear; and all through the broad valley, here
and there, villages, towns, and farms make up the panorama.

1st Tower

Turning to the west, a narrower but still longer valley is in view, reaching from New Haven to Deerfield in Massachusetts, a distance of ninety miles, through which passed the New Haven and Northampton Railroad. In the extreme north, at the apparent head of the valley, appears the white house on the summit of Sugar Loaf Mountain, not far from the confines of Vermont and New Hampshire. Immediately to the west, and almost beneath, lies spread the picturesque Farmington valley. All these make up a picture of quiet beauty, of peace and loveliness, rarely seen ; and on every side are exhibited the neatness and order and thrift so characteristic of New England. Beyond this pleasant valley rises range after range of hills; and over all tops Mount Everett, away among time Berkshire Hills, whose western base lies in the State of New York. Apart from time magnificent view thus obtained from the tower, one chief object of interest in this remarkable region is the beautiful lake, about one mile in circumference, which lies in a shallow basin almost at the very top of the ridge, and only a short walk from the tower, being fully eight hundred feet above the Connecticut River.

Meadow at Deerclift

The history of the community subsequently forming the town of Avon begins with the formation of the parish of Northington (a name contracted from North Farmington). in May, 1746, Preserved Marshall, Daniel Wilcox, Joseph Woodforcl, Joseph Woodford, Jr., Joim Woodford, amid William Woodford petitioned the General Assembly, representing that they lived in the northern part of Farmington, near the boundary line of Simsbury, and that they attended worship in. Simsbury, and wished to be annexed to that society, so that they might pay their taxes where they worshipped. This petition was opposed by Farmington, on the ground that it would be better to form a society among themselves, as there were thirty-one families, embracing more than one hundred and sixty souls. This remonstrance was accompanied by a petition for "winter privileges," Ä that is, the right to hire a minister four months in a year, from December 1 to March 31, with exemption from a like proportion of taxes for the support Of preaching in the Farmington society. Neither petition was granted at this time, but at the October session in the same year the petition for winter privileges was renewed and granted. After four winters of these privileges, enjoyed from house to house, it was felt that time imad come for a separate religious organization. Accordingly a petition to that effect was addressed to the General Assembly at the May session, 1750. The Farmington society declaring its free consent, the petition was granted, and on the 20th of November of time next year the church was organized. One week later the Rev. Ebemiezer Booge was ordained the pastor, and continued in the office
until his death, Feb. 2, 1767. The new society, named in the act of incorporation Northington Parish, worshipped in the house of Mr. Benjamin Lewis until the completion of the meeting-house in 1754. This house was located on the east side of Farmington River, near the old burying-ground. No relics of it now remain.

Entrance to Deercliff

Mr. Booge was succeeded by the Rev. Rufus Hawley, whose pastorate continued fifty-six years. During this time occurred the wars of time Revolution and of 1812, which made large drafts on this parish; yet the number of families had increased to one hundred in 1800, and in 1826 it was one hundred amid seventy-five, the population of the parish being about one thousand.

Dissensions which had long existed in the society as to the location of a new meeting-house led to its division, in 1818, on time passing of a. vote by a small majority (44 to 37) to locate the new house on the spot now occupied, in West Avon. This decision was hastened by the burning of the old meeting-house in December, 1817, as was supposed by an incendiary. On the passage of this vote the minority seceded, and in the same year organized the parish now known as East Avon, under the name of the United Religious Association of Farmington. The separation was finally made with kind expressions of Christian love and fellowship, and the new church was constituted by the Hartford North Consociation, the Rev. Abel Flint, Moderator, as time third church in Farmington. Besides erecting their meeting-house, the new society raised by subscription more than $5,000 for a permanent fund to support preaching. Upwards of $15,000 was raised for church purposes, in this population of less than a thousand, within a year after the secession of the new church.

By the addition to the parish of Northington in May, 1817, of the "new lots" known as Lovely Street and Whortleberry Hill, the centre of population had been moved westward, and the division just recorded became inevitable. But by this removal of the old society to time westward, and its loss of nearly half of its eastern members, it was placed in a position of comparative hardship and trial. About sixteen years later a church was organized in Collinsville, and in 1841 another in Unionville ; so that the old parish, now become the first church of Avon, lost, in the twenty-five years following the burning of its first house of worship in 1817, fully two thirds of its territory and more than one half of its financial strength. And yet it has had a large measure of prosperity, and liberally maintained church privileges.

In 1820 the Rev. Ludovicus Robbins became Mr. Hawley's colleague. He was succeeded in 1824 by the Rev. Harvey Bushnell, who became pastor of the church on Mr. Hawley's death in 1826, remaining till 1834. He was followed by the Rev. John Bartlett (1835 - 1847), whose successors have been as follows: Rev's Joel Grant, 1848 - 1852; William S. Wright, 1853 - 1859; J. M. Smith, 1859 - 1864; William M. Gay, 1864 - 1866; William M. Atwater, 1866 - 1868; A. Goldsmith, 1868 - 1876; William Howard, 1877 - 1880, and S. D. Gaylord. Of the last five only Mr. Atwater was regularly settled.. The present membership of the church is about one hundred and forty, or four times the number after the separation in 1818.

The pastors of the East Avon (originally Farmington third) church have been Rev's Bela Kellogg, 1819 - 1829 ; Francis H. Case, 1830 - 1840; Stephen Hubbell, 1840 - 1853; J. S. Whittlesey (acting), 1853 - 1854; Henry M. Colton (acting), 1855 - 1857; E. P. Murphy, 1859 - 1864; George Curtis, 1866 - 1868; H. G. Marshall (acting), 1869 - 1871; C. P. Croft (acting), 1878 - 1875, and N. J. Seeley. The number of members at the formation of this church was thirty-one. About four hundred and fifty have been added since that time, and the present membership is one hundred and ten.

The Union Baptist Society of Northington was organized Sept. 9, 1817, and built a house of worship in the following year. No church was organized till 1831, when one of twelve members was constituted. It was always a feeble organization, and in 1855 services were discontinued and the house sold for other uses.

Professor Silliman, in his "Tour," gives a charming picture of Avon, describing especially a service in the Congregational church.

Congregational Church

The incorporation of the town of Avon in 1880 followed upon the opening of the New Haven and Northampton Canal in 1828, and the consequent prospect of largely increased business interests. The old turnpike was the thoroughfare of a large amount of travel and traffic, which the canal was expected greatly to develop and increase. To the East Avon people in particular did the canal promise to bring growth of business and population, as at that point it crossed another great thoroughfare, Ä the Albany turnpike from Hartford. Collinsville, too, had grown into importance as a manufacturing village, and this was its nearest point of access to the canal. in 1830 a large three-story hotel was buflt near the canal and turnpike, by Francis Woodford; and soon after several other buildings were erected, among them one long store where a large stock of dry goods and groceries was kept, and on the other side of the church-green another three-story building for commercial purposes. The village then had three hotels, harness, carriage, and blacksmith shops, beside several stores, but no manufactories. It was at this time of stir and hopefulness in the community that the prominent men moved successfully for the incorporation of the town.

A few years later the canal proved a failure, the turnpikes gave place to railroads, and Avon, having no manufacturing interests, made but slow progress as a town. A cotton-factory with a capital of $20,000 was incorporated in 1846, but did not prove a success. Other minor manufactures have been carried on at times, among them those of spokes and hubs, of pedlers' wagons, and of safety-fuse. In 1878 a creamery was incorporated, with a capital of $4,000, and is now in successful operation. During the summer season over three thousand quarts of milk are daily received; this is mostly made into butter, though some cream is sent to Hartford and New Haven. For twenty years there have beeii two or three tobacco warehouses, buying annually from twenty to twenty-five thousand dollars worth of tobacco from the surrounding farmers. In January, 1884, the Climax Fuse Company was formed, to manufacture safety-fuse, and it is now in operation, with a capacity of one hundred thousand feet a day.

Agriculture has been the leading pursuit of the inhabitants of this town, which is favored by the fertility of most of its soil and by its proximity to good markets. Until recently the principal crops were corn, potatoes, rye, oats, buckwheat, and hay, much attention being also given to the making of butter for the Hartford market. Tobacco has now come to the front rank of agricultural products, the soil of this valley producing a very fine quality of leaf, which is used for making the wrappers of cigars. The crop from single farms brings from five hundred to fifteen hundred dollars in a season.

Avon has generally maintained good roads. In 1866 and 1867 a causeway two thousand feet long and fifteen or twenty feet in height was built on the old turnpike as it crosses the Farmington River, carrying the road above high water. Its towii affairs have been managed with good judgment and economy, and it is now entirely free from debt. The population has not increased appreciably, standing as follows at each census since the town was incorporated: 1830, 1,025; 1840, 1,001; 1850, 995; 1860, 1,059; 1870, 987; 1880, 1,058. The number of school-children in town is at present two hundred and fifty-eight, and has probably not been much less at any time since the town was formed. Under the old law there were four schools in the town, managed by as many school societies. Since the passage of the new law abolishing these societies, the number of schools has increased to seven, one being added with new territory set off from Burlington, and two by division of districts. Literary societies and debati*g clubs have existed at various times, and during the war there was a flourishing Union League.

The military history of Avon is necessarily brief, and refers almost wholly to the War of the Rebellion, though for a few years following the Mexican War a volunteer company of seventy-five or eighty men was maintained in the town, and a similar one had an existence for some years after the Rebellion. During the war Avon furnished ninety' six men to the army, being seventeen more than her quota, and paid in bounties $15,000. At least twelve of her soldiers were killed or died in the service.

The Rev. Rufus Hawley, the second minister of Avon (then Northington Parish), was a graduate of Yale College in 1767, and was ordained pastor of the Northiugton church, Dec. 20, 1769. His Ministry continued for fifty-six years, until his death in 1826. He was
not a man of brilliant parts, but a useful minister, of whom Professor Silliman gave a graphic description in his "Tour."

The Rev. John Bartlett was born in Lebanon, August 16, 1784, the son of Deacon John and Desire (Loomis) Bartlett. He was a descendant, on his mother's side, of John Carver, the first Governor of Plymouth Colony. He pursued his theological studies under the direction of Dr. Dwight, and was ordained in 1811 at Warren, New York. From 1815 to 1830 he was settled over the church in Wintonbury (now Bloomfield), in this county. Resigning this charge on account of ill health, he acted as agent of the American Bible Society till 1835, when lie was installed in West Avon. In 1847 he retired from the active work of the ministry, and resided in East Avon until his death in 1866, at the age of eighty-one. He married at Warren, New York, September, 1812, Jane, daughter of Judge David Golden, and had eleven children.

David W. Bartlett, son of the preceding, was born in Wintonbury April 16, 1828. He has been an extensive traveller, and. has written several books; among them, "`What I saw in London," "Life of Lady Jane Grey," "Paris with Pen and Pencil," and "Pen-Portraits of Modern Agitators." For twenty years
he was the Washington correspondent of the New York "Independent,"
Springfield "Republican," and New York "Evening Post," and for ten years clerk of the committee on elections, of the National House of Representatives. He is now American Secretary of the Chinese Legation to this country, residing in Washington.

Yung Wing, the distinguished Chinaman, a graduate of Yale College in 1854, Doctor of Laws of the same institution in 1876, founder of the Chinese educational mission to the United States, and at one time Chinese Minister to this country, has been a resident of Avon. His wife is a native of Avon, being a grand-daughter by her father of the Rev. Bela Kellogg, first pastor of the East Avon church, and by her mother of the Rev. John Bartlett, pastor (as stated above) of the first church of Avon.

The Rev. Bela Kellogg, just mentioned, was the son of Martin Kellogg, of Amherst, Mass., and was born in 1781. He was a graduate in 1800 in the sixth class of Williams College, studied theology with the Rev. N. Emmons, D.D., and was ordained in 1818 over the Congregational Church in Brookfield, Conn. He removed to time church in East Avon in 1819, and was dismissed on account of ill health in 1830. He died April 30, 1831. He married, June 6, 1805, Lydia, daughter of Samuel Caudee, of New Haven, and had six children.

John Brocklesby, born in `England in 1811, caine with his father's family to Avon in 1820, was graduated at Yale College in 1835, and received the degree of LL. D. from Hobart College in 1868. He was professor of mathematics, etc., in Trinity College, Hartford, from 1842 to 1881, and has written several scientific treatises of high merit and reputation, among them the following: "Elements of Meteorology," "Views of the Microscopic World," "Elements of Astronomy," "Common-School Astronomy." He resides in Hartford.

General Stewart L. Woodford, time distinguished statesman and orator, is of the family of that name which has been so prominent in the annals of Avon. He was born in New York City, but his father and grandfather were natives and residents of Avon while it existed as Northington Parish.

David W. and Edward Kilbourn removed to the West from Avon. They became the most prominent and wealthy men of Keokuk, Iowa, David being at one time mayor of the city and president of one of its railroads; both filled with ability various offices of responsibility and honor.

"Deercliff," the summer residence of Mr. Richard S. Ely, of New York, occupies one of the most picturesque sites in the State, on the crest of the mountain, some distance south of the tower. Mr. Ely, a native of Hartford, son of the late William Ely, was formerly a merchant in England and in France, and has since retired from active business. At his farm at "Deercliff" he was, one of the earliest breeders of Jersey cattle in the United States, and was influential in introducing them into this country.

Blind


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