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The First 250 Years of Town History

As told the day when the swing bridge first swung in 1913

Haddam and East Haddam were once one colony.  It was about 1662 when this tract of land, lying fifteen miles from the mouth of the Connecticut and 30 miles south of Hartford, was purchased from the Indians by a party of young men for a value not exceeding $100.00 The name of Haddam, which was given to the town about 1668 was presumably taken from the name Great Haddam in England. There were no settlements on the east side of the river until around 1670. There was but one ecclesiastical society before 1700, when the inhabitants formed the second. But it was not until 1754 that the community was formally and agreeably divided into two towns, the colony on the west bank keeping the name of Haddam and the one on the east taking the name of East Haddam.

The original settlers of East Haddam laid out the town into nine sections, each three-fourths of a mile square, and the roads were laid out that distance apart as boundaries. Among some of the old turnpikes or post-roads were the "East Haddam and Colchester Turnpike", granted in 1809: a post road from Middletown, through Chatham to East Haddam Landing, and thence to New London and one from Norwich to New Haven, granted in 1817.

This town, lying along the eastern bank of the Connecticut River, is situated at one of the most beautiful points in the valley. It is about eight miles square, containing 39,900 acres, extending from the town of Chatham on the north to Lyme on the south, with Salem on the east and the Salmon and Connecticut Rivers on the west. The Salmon River is the one from which the power is developed that is used in turning the draw of our new bridge, and the Connecticut is well known for its beauty. The meanderings of this river with high ledges on one side, meadows on the other and rolling hills in the background are well known sources of charming picturesqueness. The diversified scenery has always been an object of admiration to travelers who have visited many other states. Prom some of the higher elevations, which are between 500 and 600 feet above sea level, the landscape furnishes excellent material for the artists, as well as those who are looking for quiet and rest.

As we enter the town, whether from the river steamers or by crossing the new bridge, we find ourselves at East Haddam Landing, formerly Goodspeed's Landing. The building just at the right of the approach to the bridge is owned by the Hartford and New York Transportation Co. This was formerly known as Goodspeed's Opera House, and contains the freight offices of the Transportation Company, general store, the Post Office, office rooms, (in some of which the Bridge Commission's work has been carried on), and a large hall. Facing the old ferry landing is a well kept slope on the summit of which stands the commodious hotel, "Riverside Inn". In years gone by this inn was known as the Gelston House, and later as the Hotel Swan, But the appearance of this lawn contrasts greatly with the appearance of the same lawn in the early forties, when ship-building was carried on extensively here.

At the Landing, manufacturing is carried on to some extent; but during the Summer months the whir of machinery is drowned by the "honk" of autos and the din of merry vacationists. Numerous Summer homes and bungalows have been erected all along the river. The residents take advantage of the fertility of the soil and agriculture is one of the chief occupations in this part of the town. On account of having easy access to the New York and Hartford markets by means of the river, produce may be raised here at the minimum cost and receive the maximum price in the cities.

Following the macadam road which runs northerly along the river bank, we pass many neat and attractive homes on either side of the highway. These are exemplary of many of the homes in the town. We also pass the St. Stephens Episcopal Church, whose stone structure is indeed a credit to its architect. This church can boast of having the oldest bell, in existence suspended in its tower. The bell was cast in 815. Above its on our right, but hidden from our view, stands the old Episcopal Church, an old land mark of the town, commanding a most sightly view up and down the valley. We have now reached the Upper Landing and on our left we see the large four-story brick building with its broad verandas, which is known as the Champion House. From this point in the drive there is an unobstructed view directly tip the Connecticut River for nearly six miles.

Leaving the river and traveling along a shady drive for a distance of four miles, one reaches the village of Moodus, but before we spend much time here, let us run over to the little village of Leesville, located on the Salmon River. Here it is that the electricity is generated that turns the draw of our new bridge. This hamlet, which is in the northwestern corner of the town, lies along the east bank of the Salmon River (a tributary of the Connecticut), the scenery of which rivals that of the Connecticut. To see this river in the Summer time, flowing placidly along, one could hardly realize that during the previous Spring it had been a rushing torrent and had risen to such a height that it flooded cellars and highways along its course, so that the portion below the power house, after it has submerged the island, looks more like a lake than a river.

Leaving this village we may climb the steep hills until we come to North Moodus. Here we see some of our best farms. On these rolling fields tobacco growing and general agriculture is carried on. On the hills over which we have climbed, sheep and cattle roam, from which the farmers derive profitable returns. Continuing our journey for a short distance, we arrive at Moodus Center, which we could have reached by retracing our steps from Leesville to the macadam road. In traveling this route, we would have passed Mt. Tom Camp, where many linger through the Summer, enjoying the unrestricted freedom of country life. The village of Moodus has long been noted for the mysterious vibrations of the earth's surface which agitate the river, and the rumblings are heard for a radius of many miles. In fact, the name is a contraction of the Indian word "Machimoodus", meaning place of noises. From this legend one of the hotels of the village, the Machimoodus House, takes its name. The village, however, supports another hotel, the Carrier House, which has always received liberal patronage.

The Moodus River turns the spindles of numerous mills, which change the bales of cotton into bundles of twine. This river is not very large, but lakes and reservoirs store quantities of water, which furnish an adequate supply at periods of low water. Beside the twine industry, the machine and buckle shops do an extensive business. There are three churches at the Center, the denominations represented being Baptist, Catholic and Methodist. The school has recently been remodeled and graded, the capacity being doubled. Since 1888 there has been a Free Public Library, which contains over 7,000 volumes and numerous periodicals. It is supported by voluntary subscriptions and town appropriations.

Leaving the Center; the eastern part of the town may be reached by two routes, either by going directly east on the macadam road, which for a short distance is shaded by luxurious maples, and passes many of our numerous factories at the "Falls"; which locality derives its name from the beautiful falls of the Moodus River in its course from the reservoir and Lake Bashan; or taking a southerly route, we go to Little Haddam, where the Congregational Church, one of the oldest in the community, raises its spire so that it may be seen from neighboring towns. This building was erected in 1794.

Through the wooded ways in an easterly direction we reach the Bashan district. A large part of this district is covered by the waters of Lake Bashan. Around this lake in the past few years numerous cottages have been built and many campers enjoy fishing and boating on its quiet waters. The scenery here is delightful and the view furnished by the reflection of the moonlight on the surface of the lake causes honeymooners to sit on the banks and reflect, hoping their future may be calm and smooth as the rippleless lake.

Continuing on our journey to the eastward, we come to Millington, which was for a number of years the most thickly settled and influential portion of the town. At Chapman's Mills is the head of Eight Mile River, which empties into Hamburg Cove. For a hundred feet the wild leaping of Chapman's Falls over the rocky ledges adds immeasurably to the romantic beauty of the weird scenery in this locality, Following the river at the foot of the Falls down over Kettle Hill, along the old Coal Pit, where graceful birches now lighten its once dark depths, we come to the Hop Yard. Kettle Hill is so called from the holes in its crest, formed by the action of water whirling around, and which the early inhabitants took to be the kettles where the devil brewed his broths of "toil and trouble". The Devil's Hop Yard is a romantic dell extending over a few acres of ground, shaded on one side by a precipitous range of ledges; and spreading out along the borders of the brook a clear surface of dry meadow land -- a garden like spot, surrounded by the wildest and most fantastic forms in Nature, makes an ideal spot for the yearly dance at which may be heard the strains of "The Devil's Ball."

The river flows from here down through the district known as North Plains, which is situated in the southeast corner of the town. General farming and lumbering are carried on here. From this section the Norwich and New London markets are more easily reached. Following the Lyme line in a westerly direction toward the river, we reach Hadlyme, two-thirds of this society being in the town of East Haddam. At this point one of the two remaining ferries on the Connecticut River still plies, crossing same between four and five miles below the East Haddam Bridge.

This sketch shows that the town has been growing and prospering during the last century, and now that we are connected with the other half of the State, and will soon be connected by trolley with the nearby cities, it is only necessary to say that "History repeats itself," and in this progressive age, Fast Haddam will come to the front as one of the leading towns in the Connecticut Valley.

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