Connecticut and Passumpsic - History

Connecticut and Passumpsic  - History

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Massawippi Valley Railway

The Massawippi Valley Railway was a short line railway established 1870 between Lennoxville, Quebec, and the Vermont border. Part of the Quebec Central Railway from 1926, the line was abandoned in 1990 and removed in 1992. Most of the former railway's path is now bicycle trails.

Massawippi Valley Railway
HeadquartersSherbrooke (as QCRR)
Dates of operation1870–1923
SuccessorQuébec Central (CPR)
last passenger 1960
abandoned 1990
tracks removed 1992
Track gauge 4 ft 8 + 1 ⁄ 2 in ( 1,435 mm ) standard gauge
Length51 kilometres (32 mi)

The Connecticut River Division of the Connecticut and Passumpsic Rivers Railroad had completed its line from White River Junction, Vermont to Newport in October 1863 and to the Canada–US border in May 1867. [1] The Canadian Pacific Railway already served Sherbrooke and Lennoxville, Quebec the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railway (later part of the Grand Trunk Railway) linked Montréal via Sherbrooke to Portland, Maine. [2]

This left a gap where passengers and freight would be transferred to stagecoaches upon arriving in the Eastern Townships from Vermont.

The border gap was bridged in 1870 by the Massawippi Valley Railway Company, a 31 miles (50 km) short line railway extending from Beebe Junction (on the US border) to Lennoxville (on the CPR line).

A 2.4 miles (3.9 km) branch brought a rail link from Beebe Junction into Stanstead, Quebec. [3] [4] Service was initially provided using steam locomotives. [5]

Distance (from Sherbrooke) [6]
0 miles (0 km) Sherbrooke (CPR)
2.9 miles (4.7 km) Lennoxville
3.3 miles (5.3 km) Adams
12.4 miles (20.0 km) North Hatley
21.3 miles (34.3 km) Ayers Cliff
33.9 miles (54.6 km) Beebe Junction
40.2 miles (64.7 km) Newport (Vermont)

A leasehold on this Massawippi line extended the reach of the 110 miles (180 km) Connecticut and Passumpsic Rivers Railroad line (White River Junction - Newport) northward to the Canadian Pacific Railway at Sherbrooke. Onward connections could then be made to Montréal or Québec City in the north and to Boston and New York in the south.

The rail line encouraged growth of the individual villages which it served, bringing new summer visitors to rural communities such as North Hatley, Quebec while facilitating the export of Canadian wood, produce and natural resources. [7]

In 1884, Massawippi Valley Railway's management included John Gilman Foster (1859-1931) as president, [8] Stephen Foster as vice-president and William S. Foster as treasurer. [9] All three simultaneously held positions of authority at the National Bank of Derby Line.

On April 8, 1895, a southbound Boston & Maine Railroad passenger train derailed upon striking a boulder on the track the engineer and fireman, injured by burns from steam, were transported to Newport but did not survive. [10]

By 1909, Beebe Junction had become the main point of entry to the North Derby, Vermont / Stanstead, Quebec region for customs purposes, a rôle it would only relinquish in the late 1920s as U.S. Route 5 led to increased road traffic at the expense of the railways. [11]

Massawippi Valley Railway was operated by the Connecticut & Passumpsic Rivers Railroad from 1870 to 1919, then leased by the Boston & Maine Railroad from 1919 to 1926. [10]

CPR had leased the Quebec Central Railway in 1912 [12] that railway in turn leased both the line north from Newport and the connecting Massawippi Valley Railway in June 1926. [13]

Throughout the 1930s passenger service ran from Quebec City to Newport, allowing travellers to make onward connections.

The number of Quebec City - Sherbrooke passenger runs which continued to Newport was progressively curtailed during the 1940s and 1950s, ending entirely by 1960. [14] The Quebec Central Railway was out of the passenger business by 1967 and abandoned the Massawippi line in 1990, ceasing all operations by 1994. The rails through Beebe Junction were removed in 1992. [15]

Much of the former right-of-way is now bicycle trail:

  • Lennoxville maintains a section southward to North Hatley, Quebec as a municipal cycle trail. [16]
  • Since 1993, 19 kilometres (12 mi) from Quebec Route 141 in Ayers Cliff to rue Principale (route 247) in Beebe has been cyclable as the Tomifobia nature trail. [17]
  • The international portion between rue Principale and North Derby Road within the divided village of Beebe Plain is permanently closed. [18]
  • The 6.2 miles (10.0 km) of US rail from Beebe Plain, Vermont to Waterfront Park on Main Street, Newport is now the Newport Bike Path.
  • The spur from Stanstead to Beebe Junction is now a Stanstead municipal cycle path. [19]

The 1870 Massawippi Valley Railway station on the main street of Beebe Plain, Quebec still stands but is now a private residence. [20] [21] Likewise, North Hatley's former railway station is now a private residence, having previously been the town hall for the village of North Hatley and Hatley Township, as well as housing a coin laundry. The station at Ayer's Cliff was demolished ca 1970.

While the rail line from Newport southward remains in operation as the Washington County Railroad, the only onward Canadian rail connection at Newport is westward through Richford, Vermont via a branch of the Central Maine and Quebec Railway which joins that company's mainline between Cowansville and Farnham, Quebec. There is no direct, straight-line rail connection from Newport to Sherbrooke.

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One of the original 13 colonies and one of the six New England states, Connecticut is located in the northeastern corner of the country. Initially an agricultural community, by the mid-19th century textile and machine manufacturing had become the dominant industries. The home of Eli Whitney and Samuel Colt, Connecticut was a leading manufacturer of guns and other arms. Today Connecticut lies in the midst of the great urban-industrial complex along the Atlantic coast, bordering Massachusetts to the north, Rhode Island to the east, Long Island Sound to the south and New York to the west. Hartford, in the north-central part of the state, is the capital. The state is roughly rectangular in shape, with a panhandle extending to the southwest on the New York border. In area it is the third smallest U.S. state, but it ranks among the most densely populated. The state’s greatest east-west length is about 110 miles, and its maximum north-south extent is about 70 miles. Connecticut takes its name from an Algonquian word meaning “land on the long tidal river.” “Nutmeg State,” 𠇌onstitution State” and “Land of Steady Habits” are all nicknames that have been applied to Connecticut.

Date of Statehood: January 9, 1788

Capital: Hartford

Population: 3,574,097 (2010)

Size: 5,544 square miles

Nickname(s):Constitution State Nutmeg State Land of Steady Habits Provisions State

Motto: Qui Transtulit Sustinet (“He who transplanted still sustains”)

Connecticut History Timeline

Before Europeans arrive in what is now Connecticut, the area is home to thousands of Native Americans of various Algonquin tribes, including the Pequot and the Mohicans. The Native Americans give the state its name: Connecticut comes from the Native American word Quinatucquet, meaning "beside the long tidal river."

One of the original 13 colonies and one of the six New England states, Connecticut is located in the northeastern corner of the country. Initially an agricultural community, by the mid-19th century textile and machine manufacturing had become the dominant industries. In area it is the third smallest U.S. state, but it ranks among the most densely populated.

17th Century Connecticut History Timeline

1614 - The first Europeans we saw landing on Connecticut shores were Dutch traders who sailed up the Connecticut River around the year 1614, and landed near Hartford.

  • Dutch traders had purchased land from the Pequot Tribe and made a permanent settlement.
  • John Oldham and others explore and trade along the Connecticut River.
  • Plymouth Colony sends William Holmes to found a trading post at Windsor.

1634 - Wethersfield founded by people from Massachusetts

  • First English settlers in Windsor arrive in summer.
  • Fort erected at Saybrook by Lion Gardiner.
  • Group from Dorchester, Massachusetts join Windsor settlement.

1636 - One of the most famous early Connecticut settlers, the Reverend Thomas Hooker, traveled from Massachusetts with a group of colonists. They founded the town of Hartford, which soon became an important center of government and trade.

1637 - Trouble began between the settlers and the Pequot Indians. The Indians wanted to take the lands that had been purchased from the Mohegans. In that year, Captain John Mason led the colonists to victory over the Pequots.

1639 - Because they wanted to create a plan for the type of government they wanted, Thomas Hooker, John Haynes and Roger Ludlow wrote a document which has been called the first written constitution. This was the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut Many historians have said that this was the basis for the United States Constitution. It was adopted in 1639 by Freeman of Hartford, Wethersfield and Windsor. At the same time, the first Governor, John Haynes, was chosen.

1643 - Connecticut joins in forming the New England Confederation.

1646 - New London founded by John Winthrop, Jr.

1650 - Code of laws drawn up by Roger Ludlow and adopted by legislature.

1660 - the colonists had become uneasy about their legal standing with England. The colonies were still under English rule then, but there were many disagreements about land claims.

1662 - Governor John Winthrop went to England in 1662 to talk to King Charles II. He returned with a royal charter This document was important because it gave the colony a legal basis and the approval of the King.

  • Union of New Haven and Connecticut Colonies completed.
  • The first division of any Connecticut town - Lyme's separation from Saybrook.

1675 - 76 - Connecticut participates in King Philip's War which was fought in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

1687 - In October of 1687, the English Governor, Sir Edmund Andros, who had been appointed by King James, came to Connecticut to take away the charter and the colonists' legal rights. A large assembly was called to discuss the situation, and the charter was put on a table. Suddenly, someone put out the candles, and in the darkness the charter was taken away. Captain Wadsworth of Hartford is credited with taking the charter and placing it in a hollow spot in a large oak tree. This tree became known as the Charter Oak. I like to think that some of my ancestors who had not yet left for the winter, sat in the branches of the tree and guarded the charter.

1689 - Connecticut resumes government under charter.

18th Century Connecticut History Timeline

1701 - Collegiate School authorized by General Assembly.

1708 - Saybrook Platform permits churches to join regional consociations.

  • New Haven State House erected on the Green.
  • Collegiate School moves to New Haven called Yale the next year.
  • Manufacture of tinware begun at Berlin by Edward and William Pattison.
  • Height of religious "Great Awakening".

1745 - Connecticut troops under Roger Wolcott help capture Louisburg.

1755 - Connecticut Gazette of New Haven, the Colony's first newspaper, printed by James Parker at New Haven.

1763 - Brick State House erected on New Haven Green.

1764 - Connecticut Courant, the oldest American newspaper in continuous existence to the present, launched at Hartford by Thomas Green.

1765 - The English Parliament passed a law called the Stamp Act . This law said that the American Colonies would have to pay to have official seals, or stamps, as they were called, placed on all printed documents such as deeds, licenses or newspapers. Newspapers included the Connecticut Gazette of New Haven, the Colony's first newspaper (1755), and the Connecticut (Hartford) Courant (1764), the oldest American newspaper in continuous existence.

1766 - Governor Thomas Fitch who refused to reject the Stamp Act defeated by William Pitkin.

1767 - Still needing to raise money, the English Parliament again attempted to tax the American Colonies by passing the Townshend Act in 1767. This act placed a tax on goods sent to the American Colonies from England. The most famous example of this was the tax on tea. In 1767, tea was as important to most people as coffee is to many people today. So, they were not happy about a higher price for their tea. For awhile some people refused to buy the tea, but that that did not last long.

  • Connecticut officially extends jurisdiction over Susquehanna Company area in Northern Pennsylvania.
  • The First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to begin to establish the rights of the colonies. All of the colonies sent representatives. Silas Deane, Eliphalet Dyer and Roger Sherman represented Connecticut.
  • Connecticut men help plan and carry out seizure of Ft. Ticonderoga.
  • First gun powder mill in Connecticut started in East Hartford.
  • As soon as the news of the uprising at Lexington, Massachusetts in April of 1775 reached Connecticut, several thousand militiamen left Connecticut for Massachusetts. They were under the command of Colonel Israel Putnam from Pomfret. Soon promoted to General, it was General Putnam who said at the Battle of Bunker Hill in Boston, "Don't fire until you see the white of their eyes."

1776 - Samuel Huntington, Roger Sherman, William Williams and Oliver Wolcott signed the Declaration of Independence for Connecticut. Most Connecticut citizens supported it, but not all. In that same year, a young Connecticut patriot, Nathan Hale, was captured by the British while on a spy mission for General Washington. Before he was executed, Nathan Hale said, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." You may see the statue of Nathan Hale at the State Capitol Building.

1777 - British troops under General Tryon raid Danbury.

  • British troops under General Tryon raid New Haven, Fairfield and Norwalk.
  • Eli Whitney procures his first Federal musket contract. In his Haddam armory, Whitney produces high quality, machine made muskets with standard, interchangeable parts using unskilled labor. This was a major contribution to modern manufacturing processes.
  • One major Revolutionary War battle was fought in Connecticut. This was at New London. On September 6, 1781, British forces under Benedict Arnold landed at New London on the banks of the Thames River. They captured Fort Griswold and burned many buildings in the town.
  • Washington and Rochambeau confer at Webb House in Wethersfield.

1783 - Meeting of 10 Anglican clergy at Glebe House, Woodbury, leads to consecration of Bishop Samuel Seabury and beginning of Protestant Episcopal Church in United States.

  • Tapping Reeve established the first law school in the United States in Litchfield.
  • Earliest Connecticut cities incorporated - Hartford, Middletown, New Haven, New London and Norwich.
  • Governor Trumbull retires from governorship.
  • Connecticut relinquishes Westmoreland area to Pennsylvania.
  • Act passed providing for emancipation at age of twenty - five of all Negroes born after March 1784.

1785 - First Register and Manual published.

1787 - Connecticut sent three representatives to the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention Oliver Ellsworth, William Samuel Johnson and Roger Sherman. They made a great contribution to the new Constitution by proposing the "Connecticut Compromise." This compromise settled the issue of representation in the new congress. In the Senate all states would be represented equally. In the House of Representatives they would be represented according to the size of their populations. This compromise is still part of the United States Constitution.

1788 - On January 9, 1788, the Convention at Hartford approved the Federal Constitution by a vote of 128 to 40. Connecticut became the fifth state to ratify the Constitution and to become a state in the United States of America.

1789 - Oliver Ellsworth and William Samuel Johnson begin service as first United States Senators from Connecticut.

  • First turnpike road company, New London to Norwich, incorporated.
  • First banks established at Hartford, New London and New Haven.

1793 - 96 - Old State House, Hartford, erected designed by Charles Bulfinch.

  • Connecticut Western Reserve lands (now Northeastern Ohio) sold for $1,200,000 and the proceeds were used to establish the School Fund.
  • First insurance company incorporated as the Mutual Assurance Company of the City of Norwich.

1796 - Thomas Hubbard starts Courier at Norwich. In 1860 paper merges with the Morning Bulletin and continues as Norwich Bulletin to present.

1799 - Eli Whitney procures his first Federal musket contract within next decade develops a system of interchangable parts, applicable to industries.

19th Century Connecticut History Timeline

1802 - Brass industry begun at Waterbury by Abel Porter and associates.

1806 - Noah Webster publishes the first abbreviated edition of his dictionary of the American language. The full edition published in 1828 contained 70,000 entries and largely replaced English dictionaries. The American language now had a legitimate reference source.

1810 - Hartford Fire Insurance Company incorporated.

1812 - Joseph Barber starts Columbian Register at New Haven. In 1911 combined with New Haven Register and continues as Register to present.

1812 - 14 - War of 1812 unpopular in Connecticut new manufactures, especially textiles, boom.

1814 - The Hartford Convention was held at the Old State House. This meeting of Federalist leaders from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, secretly adopted seven proposed amendments to the Federal Constitution that were later accused of being treasonous.

1815 - First steamboat voyage up the Connecticut River to Hartford.

  • Hartford Times founded by Frederick D. Bolles and John M. Niles.
  • Federalists defeated by reformers in political revolution.
  • Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet establishes a school for the deaf in West Hartford on April 15, 1817. Among his first pupils is Alice Cogswell, the daughter of a Hartford Doctor who was a member of the group who asked Reverend Gallaudet to leave France and open this badly needed school.

1818 - New Constitution adopted by convention in Hartford and approved by voters ends system of established church.

1820 - Captain Nathaniel Palmer of Stonington discovers the continent of Antarctica.

1822 - Captain John Davis of New Haven becomes first man to set foot on the Antarctic Continent.

1823 - Washington College (now Trinity) founded in Hartford.

1827 - "New" State House erected in New Haven Ithiel Town, architect.

1828 - The Farmington Canal is opened. Running from New Haven through Farmington to the Massachusetts line, the canal operated until 1844. Boats on the canal carried goods such as sugar, coffee and flour. Canals were eventually replaced by railroads.

  • Wesleyan University founded in Middletown.
  • Mutual Insurance Company of Hartford founded.

1832 - First Connecticut railroad incorporated as the Boston, Norwich and New London.

  • Revolver patented by Colt.
  • The First American music school is opened in Salem, Connecticut. Oramel Whittlesey establishes Music Vale Seminary.

1838 - Railroad completed between New Haven and Hartford.

1839 to 1841 - The Amistad affair.

1840's and 1850's - Peak of whaling from Connecticut ports and especially from New London.

1842 - The Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford's first public museum, was established.

  • Charles Goodyear develops vulcanizing process for rubber.
  • Civil rights of Jews protected through act guaranteeing equal privileges with Christians in forming religious societies.

1844 - Dr. Horace Wells uses anesthesia at Hartford.

1846 - Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company, the first life insurance company, chartered in Connecticut.

1847 - First American agricultural experiment station - at Yale.

1848 - Slavery is abolished in Connecticut.

1849 - First teachers' college founded at New Britain (now Central Connecticut State University).

1851 - Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company started (under another name) in Hartford.

1853 - Aetna Life Insurance Company started in Hartford.

1860 - Lincoln speaks in several Connecticut cities.

1861-65 - Approximately 55,000 men serve in Union Army William Buckingham wartime governor.

1864 - Travelers Insurance issues its first policy.

1865 - Connecticut General Life Insurance Company founded.

1868 - Land at Groton given by Connecticut to US Navy for a naval station in April.

1875 - Hartford made sole capital city.

1877 - The first telephone exchange in the world is opened in New Haven, Connecticut.

1879 - New Capitol building in Hartford completed Richard Upjohn, architect.

1881 - Storrs Agricultural College founded (became University of Connecticut in 1939).

1890 - Disputed election causes Morgan Bulkeley to continue two extra years as governor (1891 - 93).

1897 - Manufacture of automobiles begun by Pope Manufacturing Company of

20th Century Connecticut History Timeline

1900 - First United States Navy Submarine, Holland, constructed by Electric Boat Company.

1901 - First American state law regulating automobile speeds.

1902 - Constitutional Convention held proposed new constitution defeated in a statewide referendum.

1905 - General Assembly adopted public accommodations act ordering full and equal service in all places of public accommodation.

1907 - The first Boy Scout Troop in Connecticut (Troop 1) was established in East Hartford.

1910 - US Coast Guard Academy moves to New London.

1911 - Connecticut College for Women founded at New London.

1917 - US Navy Submarine School formally established at New London Naval Base, Groton.

1917-18 - Approximately 67,000 Connecticut men serve in World War 1.

1920 - University of New Haven founded.

1927 - University of Bridgeport founded.

1932 - St. Joseph College founded in West Hartford.

1936 - Floods cause enormous damage in Connecticut River Valley.

  • The 1938 hurricane produces heavy loss of life and property. Want to know about the Great Hurricane of 1938?
  • First section of Merritt Parkway opened.

1939 - First section of Wilbur Cross Parkway opened.

1941-45 - Approximately 210,000 Connecticut men serve in World War II.

1943 - General Assembly established Inter - Racial Commission, recognized as the nation's first statutory civil rights agency.

1944 - Ringling Brothers Circus tent fire in Hartford.

1947 - Fair Employment Practices Act adopted Outlawing job discrimination.

1950-52 - Approximately 52,000 Connecticut men serve in Korean War,

1954 - Nautilus, world's first atomic - Powered submarine, launched at Groton.

  • Serious floods cause heavy damage and loss of life.
  • Shakespeare Memorial Theater opened at Stratford.
  • University of Hartford founded.
  • Ground broken for first building in New Haven's Oak Street redevelopment area.

1958 - 129 - mile Connecticut Turnpike opened.

1959 - General Assembly votes to abolish county government (effective 1960) also to abolish local justice courts and establish district courts.

1960 - Ground broken for first building in Hartford's Front Street redevelopment area now known as Constitution plaza.

1961 - New state circuit court system goes into effect.

1962-75 - Approximately 104,000 Connecticut men and women served in the armed forces during the Vietnam War era.

1964 - General Assembly creates six Congressional districts reasonably equal in population.

1965 - Constitutional Convention held. New Constitution approved by voters.

1966 - First elections held for reapportioned General Assembly under new Constitution.

1972 - Under constitutional amendment adopted in 1970, General Assembly held first annual session since 1886.

1974 - Ella Grasso, first woman elected Governor in Connecticut.

1978 - Common pleas and juvenile courts become part of the superior court.

1982 - Appellate Court created by Constitutional Amendment (Effective July 1, 1983.)

1990 - Eunice S. Groark, first woman elected lieutenant governor in Connecticut.

21st Century Connecticut History Timeline

2000 - June 1, 2000, the ConneCT Kids Website opens for Connecticut's kids at

2001 - Reapportionment Commission creates five Congressional districts due to national population shifts identified in the 2000 census.

2001 - 9/11 Terrorist attacks on New York City kill 152 Connecticut citizens.

2005 - Connecticut first state to adopt civil unions for same-sex couples without being directed to do so by a court.

2006 - M. Jodi Rell becomes Connecticut's second female Governor elected in her own right.

2008 - Connecticut becomes one of the first three states to perform marriages of same-sex couples.

Source: State of Connecticut. ConneCT
Source: Connecticut Historical Commission

Connecticut and Passumpsic - History

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Connecticut and Passumpsic - History

Before Europeans arrived in Connecticut, the land was inhabited by Native American tribes. Some of the major tribes were the Mohegan, the Pequot, and the Nipmuc. These tribes spoke the Algonquian language and lived in dome shaped homes made from tree saplings covered in bark called wigwams. For food, they hunted deer gathered nuts and berries and grew corn, squash, and beans.

Hartford, Connecticut by Elipongo

The first European to visit Connecticut was Dutch explorer Adriaen Block in 1614. Block and his crew sailed up the Connecticut River, mapping out the region for future Dutch settlers.

In the 1620s, Dutch settlers began moving into the region. They wanted to trade for beaver furs with the Pequot Indians. They built small forts and settlements including the town of Wethersfield in 1634 which is Connecticut's oldest permanent settlement.

In 1636, the English arrived when a large group of Puritans from Massachusetts led by Thomas Hooker founded the Colony of Connecticut at the city of Hartford. They came looking for freedom of religion. In 1639 they adopted a constitution called the "Fundamental Orders." It is considered the first document to establish a democratic representative government.

Thomas Hooker by Unknown

As more settlers moved into the land, tensions with the local Native Americans began to mount. The Pequot tribe wanted to control the fur trade. They attacked other tribes who tried to trade furs with the settlers. Some traders didn't like that the Pequot were trying to control the fur trade. They captured Tatobem, the Pequot chief, and held him for ransom. However, they ended up killing the chief and a war broke out between the Pequot and the settlers. In the end, the settlers won the war and the Pequot were nearly eliminated.

During the 1640s and 1650s, more and more English moved into the region. Soon the Dutch were getting pushed out. In 1662, the Connecticut Colony was granted a Royal Charter from the King of England making it an official English colony.

In the 1700s, the American Colonies began to be unhappy with English rule. They especially didn't like taxes such as the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townshend Act of 1767. When war broke out in 1775, Connecticut was one of the first colonies to join in. The Connecticut militia fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill where Connecticut General Putnam made the famous statement "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes." Nathan Hale was another famous patriot from Connecticut. He served as a spy for General George Washington. When Hale was caught by the enemy and sentenced to death he said "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

Connecticut not only provided soldiers for the war, but also helped by supplying the Continental Army with food, supplies, and weapons. For this reason George Washington gave the state the nickname the Provision State.

After the war, Connecticut worked with the rest of the colonies to form a government. Connecticut ratified the new U.S. Constitution on January 9, 1788 and became the fifth state to join the United States.

During the 1800s, Connecticut became more industrialized. Railroads moved into the region linking the state with New York and Massachusetts. New inventions such as vulcanized rubber and the assembly line changed the way people worked. The state became known for the manufacture of all sorts of goods including clocks, guns, hats, and ships.

Connecticut was also a center for the anti-slavery movement in the 1800s. Many abolitionists lived in the state including John Brown, who led the raid on Harper's Ferry, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin. In 1848, Connecticut outlawed slavery. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Connecticut fought on the side of the North. The manufacturing capability of the state helped supply the Union Army with weapons, uniforms, and ships.

Charles Goodyear
from the Project Gutenberg Archives

Connecticut and Passumpsic - History

The Boston & Maine Railroad Historical Society is composed of people who share a common interest in the history and operations of the Boston and Maine Railroad and other related railroads. READ MORE

A Brief History of the Boston and Maine Railroad

The invention of the steam railroad in the 19th Century radically expanded human mobility and commerce. By “annihilating distance” the railroad forever changed the American landscape and patterns of business and domestic life. Originating in the idea of constructing a continuous inland route between Boston and Portland, the Boston and Maine Railroad gradually gained control of other lines until the B&M system linked hundreds of cities, towns, and villages in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York.

Shipments of grain, ice, lumber, meat and produce over its rails contributed to the expansion of Boston as a market center and a great seaport. The B&M and its predecessor companies made possible the development of New England’s manufacturing cities and eliminated the crushing isolation of life in the country. For most communities it became the link to the outside world. It also found markets for the products of each town’s industry and in return brought to every locality the whole range and variety of goods that were the fruit of the Industrial Revolution.

The Boston and Maine Railroad was the successor to the Andover and Wilmington Railroad which opened in 1836. Over the next 65 years the B&M gained control (through lease, purchase, or stock ownership) of the Eastern, Boston and Lowell, Connecticut and Passumpsic Rivers, Concord & Montreal, Connecticut River, Fitchburg, Portland and Rochester, and Worcester and Nashua railroads, most of which themselves were agglomerations of shorter, earlier roads. All had their main lines and branches that wove a tight web of steel through northern Massachusetts, southern Maine, the state of New Hampshire, and eastern New York and Vermont. At its peak B&M maintained over 2,300 route miles of track, 1,200 steam locomotives, and a force of 28,000 employees. The road’s principal shops were located at North Billerica, Mass. and Concord, N.H. Major freight yards were built at Boston, East Deerfield, Rigby, and Mechanicville.

Developing Tourism

The B&M led the charge for the development of tourism in New England. The delights of Lake Winnipesaukee and the White Mountains, the promotion of seacoast resorts, and the romantic attractions of New England’s historic places were captured in B&M view-books, magazines, and extensive newspaper advertising. In the 1930s and 1940s the Boston and Maine Snow Trains were a major boost to the development of the winter sports business.

The B&M’s most famous engineering landmark was the five-mile-long Hoosac Tunnel. Hundreds of the railroad’s bridges enhanced the New England landscape, ranging from picturesque covered bridges to the Greenville and Hillsboro trestles, the Clinton viaduct, and huge steel structures spanning the Merrimack and Connecticut rivers. Notable, also, was the gradual filling in of the flats of Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, and their development as New England’s principal freight distribution center.

The B&M came under the control of J.P. Morgan and the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad about 1910, but shortly thereafter anti-trust forces wrested effective control away from New Haven.

The B&M's consolidation with the Eastern RR included assumption of the Eastern's funded debt. This, combined with the debt incurred in the 1870s for construction of a new route to Portland and fixed lease obligations to acquire the Fitchburg and other railroads, led the B&M into a festering financial crisis that was settled by a reorganization of the road in 1919. Several leased lines voluntarily merged with the B&M to avoid a meltdown of the B&M system.

About 1890 street railways made the first assault on the B&M’s passenger business. Increased use of the automobile, from about 1915, made more trouble for the B&M as a passenger carrier, beginning the erosion of its local and commuter business. In the 20th Century freight business was adversely affected by the decline of New England manufacturing and by short-haul truck competition. Nevertheless, the B&M made valiant attempts to preserve its freight and passenger traffic by abandoning unprofitable branches, improving freight handling facilities, upgrading passenger equipment, and making forays into the airline, motor cargo, and bus businesses.

Advancing through Technology

Never technologically backward, the B&M was an early proponent of switch and signal interlocking, automatic block signaling, automatic train stop, and centralized traffic control. Under president George Hannauer hump yards were established at Boston and Mechanicville and the Freight Cut-Off was established to funnel freight cars away from busy passenger routes. It employed gasoline powered rail motor cars on lightly patronized branches and was one of America’s diesel pioneers its iconic Unit 6000, the Flying Yankee streamliner (1935), symbolized a hopeful new age in railroad innovation.

In 1955 financial operator Patrick B. McGinnis gained control of the Boston and Maine. His principal contribution to B&M history was to oversee the completion of dieselization, the discontinuance of many passenger routes and runs, and the closure and sale of railroad stations and equipment. Ultimately he was convicted of and imprisoned for taking kickbacks on equipment sales.

In the late 1950s and 1960s profitability was elusive Government insisted that the B&M should keep commuter and long-distance passenger trains running in the face of mounting deficits and decreasing patronage and made it impossible for the B&M to break even. Demonstration projects to improve passenger earnings by running more frequent trains were inconclusive, and the drain on assets continued. Expenses were reduced by dieselization and the closure of stations and shops, but the B&M ultimately fell victim to the ever-growing use of motor transportation and the advent of the Interstate Highway System. The railroad gave up on long distance passenger service after 1960 and was able to continue Boston commuter service only by securing subsidies from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).

Reinventing Itself

Bankruptcy came in 1970, but ironically it seems to have been the catalyst that the B&M needed to reinvent itself. Alan Dustin (president 1974-84) reduced operating expenses and plowed the savings back into track improvements. The sale of rights of way in the commuter zone to the MBTA (1976) provided cash to satisfy creditors and in 1980 the B&M had its first profitable year, on an ordinary income basis, since 1957. An improving outlook led to the purchase of the B&M by Timothy Mellon’s Guilford Transportation Industries in 1983 and its emergence from bankruptcy. In addition to its freight service the B&M continued to operate Boston commuter trains under contract to the MBTA.

Guilford had purchased the Maine Central Railroad in 1981 and then, with B&M in the fold, began to operate the two roads as a continuous system. Guilford changed the complexion of freight operations by concentrating on large shippers and experimenting with dedicated, high volume, services. Guilford expanded its operations into Connecticut by the acquisition, in 1982, of several track segments from Conrail. Combining these segments with trackage rights, Guilford extended its reach from Springfield as far south as New Haven and as far west as Waterbury and Derby.

A labor dispute prompted Guilford to lease B&M track (1986-1987) to subsidiary Springfield Terminal Railway, which thus became Guilford’s operating company for freight business. B&M lost the contract for running MBTA commuter service to Amtrak in 1987 Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad ran commuter service over former B&M lines from 2003 to 2014 Keolis Commuter Services took over on July 1, 2014. Short line freight railroads such as Providence and Worcester, New Hampshire Northcoast, and New England Central purchased segments of former B&M right of way and continue to serve online customers.

Guilford acquired Pan American World Airways in 1998, and re-branded itself as Pan Am Railways. In 1999, in cooperation with Norfolk Southern, Pan Am began running a dedicated intermodal train between Ayer and Mechanicville. This evolved into an agreement with Norfolk Southern in 2008 to own, as a joint venture named Pan Am Southern, former B&M track between those two points, and elsewhere, using NS money to upgrade the track and to finance improved distribution facilities. Containerized freight, raw materials for paper mills, forest products, and automobile shipments today constitute a large part of Pan Am business.

Passenger Service Today

The MBTA’s operation of former B&M commuter service has been a 40-year balancing act of subsidies, fare increases, capital improvements, budget constraints and political maneuvering that comes with public ownership of railroads. A period of line shortenings and service reductions was followed by some extensions of service, notably to Fitchburg, Haverhill, and Newburyport. Venerable Budd rail diesel cars were replaced with push-pull equipment. Station facilities were constructed. Signal upgrades, restoration of double track, and installation of welded rail, have immensely improved the right of way since the seventies.

Long-distance passenger service returned in 2001. Amtrak’s Downeaster makes five round trips daily between Boston and Portland and Brunswick.

The Boston and Maine Corporation still exists. Although its name is no longer used the rail system the B&M began 180 years ago lives on in a form suited to the needs of our time.

Rick Nowell, Archives Chairman
Boston & Maine Railroad Historical Society
August 12, 2016

Connecticut and Passumpsic - History

Announcing Keynotes of Change
Wednesdays in June at 2:00 p.m.

In lieu of CLHO's Annual Conference, this year we will be offering a four-part free virtual lecture series focused on interpreting different strands of underrepresented history. We are pleased to announce our lineup of speakers for this exciting series.

June 2: Indigenizing Historical Narratives
Chris Newell, Abbe Museum

June 9: Latinos: The Not so New Kids on the Block
Juan David Coronado, Central Connecticut State University

June 16: Northern Slavery and the Preservation of Memory
Kyera Singleton, Royall House and Slave Quarters

June 23: Interrogating the Silence: Sharing the LGBTQ Past with Visitors
Susan Ferentinos, Public History Researcher and Consultant

Thanks to our sponsor, Connecticut Explored, for supporting Keynotes of Change.

The League - YO UR League

Since 1950, CLHO has strengthened and sustained members by sharing knowledge and experience, and promoting best practices among museums, historical societies and all who steward Connecticut's heritage collections.

Connecticut — History and Culture

The spirit of Yankee self-determination still dominates much of Connecticut, just as it did in the 1600s when the 13 headstrong colonies entered into an alliance. The state enjoyed its glory early on, with bustling seaports and loads of industry. To experience the colonial face of Connecticut, you need to venture inland to its tiny historic towns or cruise along the coast to see how little things have changed since the 18th century.


Connecticut was one of the 13 original American colonies and established self-governance in 1637. The first English settlers moved inland from the Bay Colony and Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, founding the towns of Windsor (1633), Wethersfield (1634), and Hartford (1636).

The Pequot War was the first major conflict between the Native American tribes and the Europeans. Bouts of smallpox brought on by the Europeans and pressures of regional trading led the Pequot tribe to attack Wethersfield. In retaliation, the English colonists slaughtered the entire tribe and began to expand their settlements further along the fertile river valley.

In 1662, the Connecticut Colony gained a royal charter from England. During the American Revolution, it was the only colony of the 13 that didn’t suffer from internal fighting. Connecticut saw little action during the war, except when Benedict Arnold attacked Groton and New London in 1781.

During the early years of new federal America, Connecticut was a stronghold. The state prospered greatly in the early 1800s, as its seaports like Mystic Harbor boomed with commerce and a textile industry emerged. The residents of Connecticut embodied the Yankee work ethic of New England, and their state attracted top inventors and innovators.

The 18th and 19th centuries were Connecticut’s golden era. After the Civil War, the economy remained totally dependent on industrial production. When the Great Depression hit, Connecticut never really recovered. Its towns and cities fell into a slump that continues even today. In the 1980s, the local Pequot tribe regained some of their ancestral land and opened the Foxwoods Casino in 1992. The revenue from gaming has made the Pequots one of America’s most prosperous tribes.


The real charm of Connecticut lies in its absence of major metropolis cities. Along the coast, traditional seaports like Mystic Harbor and Madison provide wonderful, historic maritime environments. Inland, the river valleys are dotted with colonial-era towns that have been rejuvenated by wealthy newcomers, artists, and craftspeople. There are countless travel destinations in the state, particularly for people with an obsession with antiques.

While the state doesn’t appear to have any obvious economy on the surface, it has plenty of allure for tourists seeking an alternative to touristy New England. The residents of Connecticut tend to be independent Yankees, especially in the small towns. Conservative values dominate, which means the entertainment here is rather sedate. Many historic farms and villages have been converted into living museums, offering a rare look at the origins of America. If Vermont and New Hampshire feel too populated, the unspoken charm of Connecticut may be just the experience you are looking for.

Watch the video: CT, Whats Our History? (June 2022).