Stephen Dent Greenwich CT
Colchester, Connecticut is a charming rural town in New London County comprised of four principal communities – each with its own unique histories. These include the Colchester Center with the quaint Colchester Village Historic District, the Golden Hill Paugussette Native American Reservation, North Westchester and Westchester proper. The combination of Colchester’s rural charm together with its close proximity to Hartford, Middletown and New London make it one of Connecticut’s best cities for your home and family.
The area that is now Colchester was once inhabited by the Paugussette Indians, an Algonquian-speaking group of Native Americans who occupied much of western Connecticut before the coming of the Europeans. They were both a farming and fishing culture, cultivating corn, beans, squash, and tobacco – as well as fishing the rivers and the sea.
The size of their midden heaps along the coast and the amount of cleared land under cultivation inland along the Housatonic River and Naugatuck River as far as they were navigable by canoe attest to a long habitation and high degree of social organization before the coming of Europeans. The Paugussette’s numbers were first decimated by a smallpox epidemic in 1633. Then English colonist fleeing religious persecution of Puritans in England and news of the war against the Pequot Indians in 1637 brought many settlers into Paugussette lands in 1638.
Stephen Dent Greenwich CT
Colonies were established in New Haven, Milford, Stratford and Guilford, Connecticut – greatly reducing the size of their traditional homeland within a very short period of time. The Paugussette were left with only a handful of small reservations, including Golden Hill, site of a spring sacred to them in present-day Bridgeport. The Golden Hill Band of the Paugussette later moved to the 106-acre reservation now located in the city of Colchester that constitutes one of the city’s main districts.
The first European settlers arrived in the area that is now Colchester in 1695. The town was founded in 1698 slightly north of the present day Town Green by Nathaniel Foote, whose father had come from Colchester, England earlier in the 1600s with the hope of establishing a plantation in the new world.
Within a short period of time, several saw mills and grist mills were constructed in Colchester to provide lumber and grain. The first street was laid out in 1706 called Town Street that was nearly 200 feet wide and is now the southern end of Old Hebron Road. Almost 50 European families had settled in the area by 1714.
One of America’s first textile mills started production in 1780 in Westchester. Iron works, potash works and brick kilns were other early industries in the area. However, it wasn’t until the Hartford-New London turnpike was opened in 1800 that the town became a nucleus of local highways and an influx of industry moved into the area.
In 1847, Nathaniel Hayward opened the Hayward Rubber Company, who along with Charles Goodyear discovered the process of vulcanized rubber. It is said Hayward was the inventor, Goodyear put up the cash to fund the experiments. He based his factory in Colchester producing rubber products including boots and shoes and was responsible for the rapid growth of the city in the latter half of the 19th Century.
In the second half of the 20th Century suburban dwellers found Colchester to be an excellent “bedroom” community due to a greatly improved highway system. Today Colchester is one of the fastest growing towns in Connecticut with CNN in 2005 ranking Colchester 57th of the “100 Best Places to Live” in the entire United States.
The town center is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Colchester Village Historic District. The Town Green is located at the center of the district with several 19th Century buildings surrounding the Green in Colonial, Greek Revival and Federal styles including the Hayward House built in 1767, the Bacon Academy built in 1803, and Wheeler Block, the original town hall.
The combination of Colchester’s quaint rural feeling with its close proximity to Hartford, Middletown and the Norwich/New London areas, together with it being one of the state’s fastest growing communities makes Colchester one of Connecticut’s best cities for your home and family.