Chestnut Hill Memories

By Gladys E. Shippee from Windham County Transcript, March 18, 1948

East Killingly is one of the first places to have been settled in the town of Killingly. Its original name was Chestnut Hill, the first settlement being in Kentuck Woods around 1711. There are still cellar holes and the old road is still visible, although overgrown with brush and the like. The next houses were built on what is now known as the North End of the hill between the Elmer Mathewson and Otis Chase Farms, gradually settling East Killingly as it is now. The original church at the North End was built in 1776 and was named the Free Will Baptist Church. The church now being used was constructed in 1836 and is known as the East Killingly Union Baptist Church.

The town was once one of the town's leading industrial centers, having had seven mills in operation at one time. When the new direct road was made from Hartford to Providence called the Hartford Turnpike, the route ran through the center of East Killingly and residents had access to fast travel to points afar via the stage coach. Later the trolleys afforded faster transportation.

The village is noted for its old-fashioned clambakes and Old Home Days that were begun 44 years ago by the superintendents and overseers of the mills. The Union Baptist Church has taken over the annual affair that becomes more and more successful each year, and is looked forward to by young and old alike as a big event in the yearly span. George Jacques (King George) was bake master for many years and following death, Anthony Shippee, one of his pupils carried on the tradition.

The main section of the village is beautifully located on several hills and visitors exclaim at the beauty of the scenery. There is a post office, two general stores, two gas stations and two churches, a volunteer fire department and station, a small restaurant and the Byron A. Carroll V. F. W. Post No. 4908 Memorial Hall that was recently given the post in memory of our veterans.

There are a great many stories that may be told on the subject of Chestnut Hill or East Killingly as one soon learns from talking with the older residents.

Memories of An Old Timer

For eighty years Mr. John Wade has been living in the same house on Slater Hill Road. He has many recollections of the times gone by when things were not as convenient as they are now but life was easier in other ways. The pace of living was slower and the costs were less. Because there were no child labor laws, he was allowed to work a seventy-two hour week at three cents an hour when he was thirteen years of age.

Roadmen received the fine wage of one dollar and a quarter for a day's work of ten hours. Of course one could buy a suit of clothes for eight dollars. The mail was brought on the stage coach and that was also the means of travel. Drawn by four horses it sped over the ground in all kinds of weather and had accommodation for eight or ten passengers inside and three or four on top. Then there was the problem of getting the "Transcript" and other papers. This was solved by Mr. F. S. Luther who lived in Brooklyn. He peddled papers and schoolbooks from one place to another in his horse drawn wagon. Once a week he would put up at Alden Angell's house for the night. There one could buy the weekly papers.

Politics, then, as now was important and afforded a great deal of excitement. It was an old custom to have a flag raising during the election campaigns. There were also speaking, singing and refreshments. Mr. Wade remembers the flag raising during the Grover Cleveland campaign. The spokesman for the Democratic candidate urged everyone to be there saying, "I shall talk; I shall sing; and there shall be pie, both apple and mince. Each pie shall be cut into quarters and each man shall have one quarter. There shall probably be beans!" There was a great gathering when the day came and the outstanding feature was the singing of a song especially made for the Republicans. To the tune of "The Vacant Chair," they sang "Farewell Grover, you will never enter in the White House chair." It was a great day for all.

Paging the Past

Gone are the days when their hearts were young and gay, when their daily deeds made news, but the "Old Timers" will remember them as their friends or neighbors, while the younger generations have heard of them in story.

As we travel along the roads of memory one can see Charley Morey grinding corn in his gristmill on Slater Hill Road; not too far away was the farm of Allan Wade, carpenter, who sold eggs and cider. Soon we pass the farm of Charles Hargraves, Civil War veteran and farmer, who hitched his horse and wagon early in the morning and carted his fine vegetables to Danielson. Then we come to the place of the traveling butcher, Will Law, a civic minded man who had a bandstand on the front of his house where public concerts were given. East Killingly was a music-loving community with its own volunteer band, managed by the well-loved Frank Wood, teamster and town constable. At the foot of MacDougal Hill was Dan Cutler in his blacksmith shop, conveniently located for Albert Dunfield, who operated a livery nearby and rented horses and buggies to the boys who drove on Sunday out into the country with their best girls. Across from Dunfield lived George Jacques, known as King George, who with the lady known as Queen Elizabeth was famous beyond the county lines for their sumptuous clambakes. On the road to South Killingly lived Judge Tucker, "Transcript" correspondent for many years and they say he wrote a very good column. At the trolley station was the store operated by Merrill Gleason, Civil War veteran, Joe Seaman, another storekeeper near there is said to have had a daughter who won fame and prestige. As we go on we remember Byron Lewis and Harley Place, dealers in lumber, cord wood and hauling. Lute Whitney, a well liked teamster, worked for Byron. Herbert Oatley, unassuming and capable mechanic, had the good will of all. Job Dolly, always associated with his oxen, plowed the gardens here and there. Jim Curtis, fine dark skinned man, was beloved by everyone.

Chestnut Hill was a busy place. It was there that George Smith, a barber about five feet tall, stood on a box to cut the hair of his customers and was frequently interrupted in the process by having to wait on customers at his hardware counter. William (Beel) Prey, George's brother-in-law took over the store later on. Across the road Dummy Bartlett used to make and repair shoes. His shop building is still standing in the rear of Al and Mickey's gas station. Up the road apiece lived Albert Shippee who peddled milk from a big can and rented boats on Old Killingly Pond. Elisha Soule, Civil War veteran, serious and conservative, worked in Allie Paine's store. Horatio (Rusha) Collins, a happy-go-lucky Civil War veteran who sold oysters every Friday and had a great deal of leisure, liked to sit on the large wooden bread box in Paine's store, much to the disgust of Elisha who objected for sanitary reasons. Across the North Road from Paine's, Albert (Butt) Sayles also had a store. Square dancing is held there now. On this road lived Miss Emily Paine in the beautiful Colonial house, later bought by the mill; George Shippee, farmer and active church member; Andrew Potter, taxidermist, up by the school house where Will Smith taught school many years, and Mrs. Irving French, fondly remembered as a most vivacious lady.

As we walk toward the "Pike", (Route No. 101), we think of Old Pop Sheldon who fiddled when he wasn't farming; Roxy Bartlett who farmed where Hillshire is at present; Arnold Rich; Gib Larkin and Irving Hill, another farmer. Down Chestnut Hill we go and still the names and faces come back. We pass by the home of Albert Brooks, deacon of the Union Baptist Church, a great walker who enjoyed walking from East Killingly to Providence and back. We remember Dr. Charles Hill, son of the doctor by the same name. Often he shoveled several miles of snow on the roads so that he could drive his horse and buggy to the homes of his patients. Many times he was paid with a bag of potatoes and many other times, not at all.

Very nearby was the home of Clarke Lewis, Civil War veteran who had a harness shop. Next door in a little house, originally a tavern in the stage coach days, lived Willis Williams, carpenter. In the old hotel building across the way, Barber Chase did his barbering. Not far from there "Old Man" Reynolds carried on as postmaster and grocer. There, each evening, Henry Wallace would gather up his mail and directly go to visit Frank Smith's blacksmith shop on the corner of the "new road". Sitting on a nail keg, puffing his pipe, he would speak on any subject, all the while fondling his handle bar mustache or his cherished gold watch chain. Not to be forgotten are: Israel Chase, successful farmer, and John Chase, the first business man and town selectman for many years. Alcott Sayles was another selectman and so well liked that he held office without opposition for over twenty years. One of the very most successful farmers of this time in this area was Frank Warren whose son, Ernest Warren, is one of our foremost citizens.

{To the memory of those East Killingly-ites and to those not mentioned, we pay our sincere respects and may their lives in some way be an inspiration for those of us who journey after them.}