George Seymour Godard
Cossitt Library is celebrating 125 years April 2016 to March 2017. A series of historical articles about the library and North Granby will be featured here.
The latter part of the 19th century saw a "generation of giants" emerge from the one-room schools in the farming town of Granby. Among them were William Mills Maltbie, Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court; Tudor Holcomb, prominent tobacco grower, dairy farmer, philanthropist; James Lee Loomis, insurance executive, banker, author; Edward W. Dewey, state legislator, County Commissioner, County Sheriff; William Scoville Case, lawyer, author, Connecticut Supreme Court Justice; and George Seymour Godard, Connecticut State Librarian.
George Godard was a direct descendant of Daniel Gozzard (Gossard, Goddard) who came from England to Hartford, in 1646. Daniel's son, Nicholas Gozzard, was granted land in the Salmon Brook section of Simsbury (now Granby) in 1683. His probate inventory in 1692 mentions a homestead in what is now Granby Center. Eventually the Goddards came to North Granby and purchased the land around and including Crag Mill. They operated the gristmill at the Crags and later added cider and saw mills.
As in all small and somewhat isolated communities, families intermarried. The Godards married Cossitts, Holcombs, Hayes, Cases and other local families, until land ownership, industries and family relationships were thoroughly entwined.
By 1858, Harvy Godard was operating the mills at the Crags. He married Sabra Beach and they raised six children in their home at 58 Granville Road. Oren Harvy born 1859, Porter Beach 1861, George Seymour 1865, Fred Munyon 1868, Oliver Clifton 1871 and finally a little girl, Grace Minerva who was born in 1874 and died before her fourth birthday.
Harvy owned several farms, large tracts of woodland and the saw, grist and cider mills. Shingles from Godard's Crag Mill covered many of the roofs in the Farmington Valley area. Harvy Godard helped organize the Grange in Granby and was the master from 1875 to 1893, as well as serving as the first master of the State Grange for four years. According to the Encyclopedia of Biography, "He was a man of strict integrity, of generous and social nature and temperate to the last degree."
Young George attended District School 6 on Granville Road. He described it as "the little one-room school house in Granby where my father and his father and his father went to school." With his brothers, George helped his father with the many chores of farm and mill.
He developed a love for libraries and books as a young boy. Godard recalled that it was before 1873 when "I drove into Hartford with my father and visited the State Library. I was surprised to find so many more Connecticut documents than we had in our collection in our attic at home. My interest was noticed and appreciated by Dr. Charles J. Hoadly, State Librarian, who from that time became one of my best friends."
In 1877 12 year-old George was quite ill with a fever. His mother described the rather peculiar medical treatment he was receiving, in a letter to another son, Oren, away at school.
"Poor Georgie is nearly 'done up' in onions, on his feet, under his arms and across his stomach, chopped onions—besides plates of the savory vegetable standing about the room. In addition to this prescription of Harvy's, he is washed thoroughly in saleratus water and rubbed in high wines twice a day. So you see, no common fever can last long with such treatment as that. The Doctor says he is doing as well as could be expected, as he was very bad when we came home." Fortunately, George recovered from his fever, despite being treated like a stew.
While still in his teens, George taught school in Granby for three terms in 1882-83. He was named a state scholar at the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale College in 1884.
Godard went to Wesleyan Academy in Wilbraham, Mass. to prepare for college, and graduated in 1886. He then attended Wesleyan University in Middletown. During his junior year, 1889, the Cossitt legacy to build a public library in North Granby was received. George Godard was chosen to be on the first Board of Directors for the Cossitt Library, was the first librarian, serving 15 years, and remained on the board serving as president from 1918 until he died in 1936.
Postponing his senior year, Godard gave a full year of his life to the building and organization of the library. It was a measure of his ability and a tribute to his talent, that the older men on the Board entrusted this 24 year-old student with almost total responsibility for the library.
Godard competently researched library construction, interior arrangement, planning, selection of books, organization and management. He was involved in every facet of the project. The neatly documented record books of Cossitt Library illustrate the remarkable organizational skills of this man.
He wrote numerous letters, made endless book lists and cataloged, labeled and shelved the books. There were no computers, copiers or fax machines. Everything was transcribed in the precise handwriting of George Godard.
The books he selected "show both his diligent labor in filling the library with a wide selection of important literature, and his efforts to expand the cultural environment of North Granby. He employed 'scientific' cataloging techniques he had learned at college; searching around the region for complete sets of periodicals to which he was subscribing (including three professional educators' publications for Granby schoolteachers); had printed a double-entry catalog so readers could 'send for' books from home; kept detailed statistics of numbers of readers, circulation per reader, and types of books most read; and badgered the board of directors and the architect about everything from designing an inviting reading room to building horse sheds, so readers would stay longer in stormy weather." (Mark Williams)
Despite his heavy involvement in the library, the ambitious Godard also applied for the job of census taker in 1890. Even after George returned to college, he kept the job of librarian. His assistant and future wife, Kate E. Dewey, actually worked in the library.
Godard received his BA from Wesleyan in 1892, attended Northwestern University in Illinois in 1893 and during his vacation, served as a guide at the Chicago World's Fair. In 1895, Godard received a Bachelor of Divinity from Yale and continued his studies for his Ph.D. until 1896 when his father died and he was called home.
He married Kate Dewey the following year and they had three children: George Dewey in 1899, Paul Beach in 1901 and Mary Katharine in 1903.
Godard entered the most illustrious phase of his career in 1898, when his old friend, Dr. Charles J. Hoadly, asked George to be his assistant. When Hoadly died two years later, Godard (only 35 years old) became the third State Librarian in the history of Connecticut.
Under the direction and leadership of Godard, the State Library was reorganized and its activities were widely expanded. He found a wealth of material not cataloged nor indexed and a lack of protection for the state's historic treasures. He was a historian as well as a librarian and earned the title of "Preservation Godard."
He gathered early Connecticut church records, probate records, military history and other important documents. He compiled an inventory of all printed data on the state found throughout Connecticut. He was innovative in his use of a photostat to copy original papers. He was tireless in his efforts to save the history of the state. During his tenure, every book was indexed, the library was open to all, and every item was available.
The State Library soon outgrew its space in the State Capitol and a separate library was approved in 1907 and completed in 1910. Godard supervised every detail of the new Connecticut State Library building, just as he had done with Cossitt Library.
Godard did not limit his activities to the library. He was an active member of many professional, patriotic, fraternal and civic organizations. He was chosen to chair many committees; the old cliché, "let George do it," became literally true with George Godard. He traveled widely, often representing the Governor, and was in constant demand as a public speaker. He was so well known and respected, that he often was introduced before the Governor or other dignitaries at public events. And yet, this busy man always found time for his visitors.
George Seymour Godard died Feb. 12, 1936 and an unprecedented outpouring of tributes and accolades attested to his renown. Letters, now bound in two large memorial volumes, came from local, state and national political leaders; from librarians all over America and overseas; from historical and genealogical organizations; schools and universities; colleagues, friends and old neighbors in Granby. The letters are not just routine formal condolences; most of the writers knew Godard as a friend and wrote notes of personal memories.
His funeral was held in his beloved State Library and Governor Wilbur L. Cross said, "Connecticut has suffered a loss so great it can hardly be estimated."
George Godard wrote a fitting summary to his life in a letter to a friend shortly before he died. He wrote that his years at the library were the best of his life and "I have been happy every day."
by Carol Laun
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Granby voters decided most local questions and elections by a voice vote or a show of hands. For State and National elections, a ballot box was used. In the 1890s, it was decided to vote for local issues by ballot, and this method was used even as late as 1950. The ballot box voting process had quite a few differences from the way we vote today.
The Salmon Brook Historical Society has the complete voting record from a special constitutional vote held in 1907. The legislators submitted a Constitutional amendment to the people of Connecticut. It was essentially the 1818 Constitution rewritten to organize all the previous amendments, which were scattered throughout the document.
The Granby Board of Selectmen called a special Town Meeting at 9 a.m. on October 7, 1907 at the Town Hall on North Granby Road (now the Grange building). All eligible town voters were invited to attend. After discussion, they had a vote by ballot. Seated at a table were the two town registrars, Harold M. Hayes and William Shattuck. They had to share a hand-written voter list. Naturally, there were only men’s names on the list.
After his name was verified on the list, each voter was given an official marked envelope and two small slips of paper. On one side of each paper was printed “Official Ballot,” and on the other side “Constitutional Amendment in the form of a revision of the Constitution.” One ballot had No and the other had Yes. The registrars watched while the voter made his choice and sealed his vote in the envelope. Before the vote could be dropped into the ballot box, each of the registrars had to sign his name on the envelope, as proof of a legal vote.
Despite the seemingly reasonable request for this amendment from the state legislators, they couldn’t resist adding a few other items. The terms of the Probate Judges were to be changed from two years to four years and the legislator’s salaries were to be raised from $300 to $500. The result of this vote was a resounding NO, both from Granby and the state. Granby vote results were 62 yes and 133 no.
All of the envelopes, carefully signed by Hayes and Shattuck, and all of the votes, were found in the Loomis Store attic, before the building was taken down in 1975. The Granby Town Clerk was Chester P. Loomis, one of the store owners, and town papers were kept in the store.
Other voting documents were also found, and one from 1895 contained a curious statement. Printed on the state form was “Number of ballots found in box marked “For Women’s Ballots” and the Granby Town Clerk just wrote “No Box.”
The reason for this was a bill passed by the State Legislature in 1893 that allowed women to vote “at any meeting held for the purpose of choosing any officer of schools or for any educational purpose.” The women had to be at least 21 years old, have resided in Connecticut for at least one year, lived in their town for at least six months, and they had to be able to read English. Women’s ballots were cast separately from men’s, in special boxes labeled “For Women’s Ballots.”
No evidence has been found that Granby ever had a box for women to vote on matters of education, even though the 1895 vote was a local election and included electing the Board of Education.
In 1898, the town voted on two question, along with electing town officials. First was for the town to take over the management of the schools instead of the individual school districts. The vote was 93 no and 35 yes. The other question was to determine whether any town residents would be licensed to sell “spirituous and intoxicating liquors.” This time the vote was 116 yes and 79 no.
Local candidates also had to report on how much money they spent during their campaigns. One man running for the state legislature listed cigars as his only expense. However, most of the sworn documents were similar to this one in 1900. “I hereby certify that my election expense as a candidate for Justice of the Peace at the Election Nov. 6, 1900 was nothing, (signed) Benton Holcomb.”
Quite a refreshing contrast to the millions spent on elections today.
By Ellen Meuser
When McLean Resident Michael Gorman heard about the wonderful work that Media Center Coordinator Stephen Root was doing in genealogy, he seized the opportunity to learn more about his family’s history. “It turned out to be even more interesting than we initially thought it would be,” said Michael, as he explained his project that spanned several months to complete.
Michael’s mother and father both grew up as a single child, so their family unit was small. He has three sisters, but said that since he didn’t have any first cousins, aunts or uncles, he has always wanted to learn more about his ancestors. His interest was further piqued when his grandmother mentioned that a family friend might actually be related.
He began this venture with the initial goal of completing four generations of his family tree, which he believed would also help him to learn if his friend was, in fact, related. He worked closely with Stephen in the media center, tracing his family back to their Irish roots. They met once a week for two-hour sessions,for several months. Stephen’s dedication carried through “after hours” work to further the research. Michael’s sisters volunteered the details they knew, which was helpful in confirming what information was correct.
They had great success with the online resources, which gave them access to detailed census information. Michael found that he could trace his name, Michael Patrick, back to his great-great grandfather, a shoemaker who had moved from Ireland to Manchester, England. He followed the migration of his great-grandfather Daniel to South Boston in 1887, and was excited to learn that Daniels’s son, George Sr., tried out for the Boston Red Sox and Boston Braves! Michael also discovered that he still has French Canadian relatives, and that an uncle who was drafted into WWII and ended up missing in action, was later found living in Atlanta. Finally, he uncovered the mystery of his friend’s association with his family—he simply shared a fairly common last name!
Michael completed his goal; he traced his family back to the 1790s. With Stephen’s assistance, they designed a comprehensive family tree in a beautiful poster format. Stephen was able to incorporate many of the pictures Michael’s sisters had in their possession. It is a true treasure to display.
Michael is proud that the work he has done will provide his family members with a foundation they can build upon, by adding new marriages and children.
Stephen Root is currently working with other residents, to retrace their ancestry with online resources, and is always happy to take on new projects.
1921 - 2016
Glidden Doman, a pioneer in the design of helicopters and wind turbines, passed away June 6.
Born in Syracuse, New York, in 1921, he came from a family of inventors and entrepreneurs. He majored in aeronautical engineering at the University of Michigan, and after hearing Igor Sikorsky speak at a Society of Automotive Engineers meeting he became interested in helicopter rotors. In 1943, Doman went to work for Sikorsky in Bridgeport where he participated in intensive experimentation and flight testing, making considerable improvements in the helicopters’ blade life. His contributions were so vital that Igor Sikorsky himself appealed to the draft board to keep him on the test program. In 1945 he left Sikorsky and founded his own firm, Doman Helicopters that he ran until 1969.
Soon after, Doman turned his rotor knowledge from flight to wind energy with breakthrough concepts in wind turbine design. For some 30-more years, he led the design evolution of wind turbines for major manufacturers on two continents, including United Technologies, Boeing and Aeritalia. In January 1978, he moved to Granby and became chief systems engineer of the wind energy program at Hamilton Standard. Drawing on his extensive knowledge of rotor dynamics for both helicopters and wind turbines, United Technologies/Hamilton Standard designed and built two of the largest wind turbines ever built up to that time.
In 2003, he formed a new company, Gamma Ventures Inc., to market production rights for the Gamma turbines he helped design in Italy. He held some two-dozen patents for helicopter and wind turbine-related technologies.
Doman remained active well into his 90s and was the last living founder of one of the original half-dozen companies in the American helicopter industry that included Igor I. Sikorsky, Frank Piasecki (Boeing), Arthur Young (Bell), Stanley Hiller and Charles Kaman.
By Virgil Paggen
Not long after I moved with my family to North Granby, I happened upon the Frederick H. Cossitt Library, a small outpost in comparison with the West Hartford library I previously frequented. It didn’t take long for Margaret Vastoff, librarian, to acquaint me with all that Cossitt offered; it quickly became a valued resource.
Among the 50 states, Connecticut ranks 48th in size; only Delaware and Rhode Island are smaller. However, with more than 260 public libraries, I found that Connecticut ranks among the highest in density of libraries per square mile. Nearly half of these libraries participated in this year’s Passport to Connecticut Libraries Program. The program, held during April this year, encouraged patrons to become better acquainted with Connecticut libraries and to explore the information and services they provide.
I began by searching the internet to locate selected libraries and to plan a route between them. I packed a lunch, gathered my wife and set out to explore a number of these citadels of information. It became a mini-vacation as we discovered pleasant byways and scenic vistas on roads not previously traveled despite having lived in Connecticut for decades. We chose routes between in-land libraries on some days, on another we visited libraries bordering Long Island Sound, walked the beach at Hammonasset and savored a seafood dinner at Lenny and Joe’s.
We toured libraries of many sizes, ages and shapes and, like people, most libraries have expanded with age. The oldest libraries we visited were constructed in the late 1800s (Norfolk, North Granby), others were contemporary (Groton, Windsor Locks, Enfield). I was fascinated by the standout architecture of the Cragin Memorial Library in Colchester; I will visit it again.
In Ellington we discovered the Hall Memorial Library nestled against a quaint graveyard and equipped with antique stained glass windows. We found an interesting feature, the Maker Space Room, at the Farmington library; there I can scan 35mm slides or explore 3D solid modeling while my wife can learn computer-aided embroidery. I was pleased to find that every issue of Fine Woodworking is available at the Canton Library, a rarity since most libraries retain periodicals for only a year or two. We were impressed by the extensive genealogy resources housed in the Beardsley and Memorial Library in Winsted. I had to pause and enjoy the humor of an algebra textbook prominently displayed under the ‘Adult Non-Fiction’ classification at the Somers Library and the inspired response that the oldest item in another library was the Dewey Decimal system.
I was intrigued to learn from the March 1915 National Geographic Magazine at the Frederick H. Cossitt Library that James Smithson, a Brit who never set foot on American soil, bequeathed a half-million dollars to “create an institution for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” His legacy is the Smithsonian Institution, which founded the science of meteorology, began the standard-time, signal transmission used in railroad operation, and fostered the science of aeronautics.
I found it universally true that librarians are outgoing, gladly answering questions and extolling attributes of their libraries. Each library has its own personality in its programs and offerings yet all satisfy the same purpose—sharing information. I found another trait common among libraries but especially true in the Granby libraries; our librarians and volunteers are responsive to patron needs, relentless in pursuit of a requested book and promote a congenial, professional atmosphere.
Our Passport travels confirmed that children and teens are also well served by all libraries. Their inviting spaces are filled with inspiring, artistic and creative works such as the full-size Star Wars R2-D2 model we noticed in the Farmington Library.
As we found each library to be unique, so also are the contents making the Passport adventure eminently rewarding. But a Passport program isn’t necessary to reap the rewards of a day or two spent exploring these bastions of knowledge and to revel in the scenic Connecticut byways connecting them. Happy reading!
Note from the Director of Libraries Granby issued 191 “library passports” and a total of 273 patrons participated in the month-long program. One hundred, twenty-four Connecticut libraries participated in this year’s Passport program as a way to celebrate National Library Week; this program was sponsored by the Public Libraries section of the Connecticut Library Association.
By Jean Potetz
The Salmon Brook Historical Society’s 2016 summer exhibit will focus on Granby children featuring photographs of them, the toys they played with and the clothing they wore. In addition, several quilts will be on display including an embroidered red-work quilt that would delight any child. Many of the quilts are from local Granby families.
The entry to the Weed-Enders House will feature a large wooden wagon from the Beman family with a framed photograph of its owner, three-year-old Joseph Beman taken in 1900. The Victorian Parlor will showcase a wicker bassinet from the Colton family and a christening gown made for Jonathon Brace Bunce in 1832. This gown was later worn in 1913 by Bunce’s granddaughter, Mary W. Edwards, who grew up to live at 239 Salmon Brook Street and who eventually gave the Granby Land Trust her beautiful 200 acre Mountain Property on Mountain Road. Her cotton and wool summer camp uniform worn when she was ten years old will also be on exhibit. A dress belonging to young Austria Holcomb, circa 1843, will be shown, as well as a number of other items too numerous to mention.
An amazing variety of colorful games will be on exhibit in the Preservation Barn, along with paper dolls, a cast iron Navy Zeppelin, ice skates and roller skates, dolls and doll clothes, tops, china doll furniture, trucks, doll dishes, marbles, tricycles, books and much more. The Granby children in the pictures on display grew up in a time when there was only one toy for Christmas and perhaps a book if they were fortunate. This is an exhibit you and your children or grandchildren will enjoy.
The permanent exhibits in the Preservation Barn include a Civil War exhibit, one on the West Granby Fife and Drum Corps and a unique Masonic display. There are also two sleighs (one with an authentic buffalo robe) and the glass-sided horse-drawn hearse from the Hayes Funeral Home.
The Salmon Brook Historical Society is located in Granby on Rte. 10/202 across from Salmon Brook Park. The society is open for tours on Sundays in June through September, from 2 to 4 p.m., except July 3 and Sept. 4. Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for children and seniors, family maximum $12 and members free. Come take a tour through Granby history!
By Todd Vibert
The Salmon Brook Historical Society is holding its annual Spring Flea Market on Saturday, May 14, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Salmon Brook Historical Society. Forty to 50 vendors will show and sell their wares. Admission and parking is free to the public. Concession offerings include coffee, soda, water, hot dogs, chips and Mrs. Murphy’s donuts. Come and enjoy the festivities at the historical society.
Anyone interested in being a vendor and having a 20x20-ft. space for $30 ($40 after May 8) can contact Dave Laun at 860-653-3965 or Todd Vibert at 860-653-9506.
To donate items for the society to sell, drop them off at the historical society on Tuesday and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon starting in April (no plastic toys or children clothing).
To volunteer, please call Todd Vibert. This is a good opportunity for high school students to earn community service hours. The Historical Society is located at 208 Salmon Brook Street, beside the Lost Acres Firehouse.
Come and see what’s selling and see your friends at one of Granby’s best annual traditions.
70 years strong
American Legion Post 182 honored Leroy B. Seaton of Granby with the presentation of his 70-year membership certificate. Seaton joined the organization in 1945 at the end of WII.
Edited by Carol Laun
James Lee Loomis has been telling us about Granby boys. It is time to let the girls of Granby speak. Following is information and quotes from interviews I did in the 1970s and 80s. The girls are: Louise Cooley (1881-1983) Edna Spring (1887-1977) Annie Hayes (1888-1973) Lena Clark (1890-1984) Agnes Petersen (1891-1980) Helen Cotton (1892-1986) Helen Clark (1893-1986) and Emelia Dauner (1902-1995).
Edna Spring: “Thanksgiving we had a big dinner with all the relatives over. We always had chicken pie and roast pork, baked Indian pudding, cranberry sauce and pumpkin and mince pies. Once Aunt Cornelia made a huge chicken pie in her old brick fireplace oven, it was delicious. She used to make chicken pie with the bones, heart, gizzard etc. still in it. She said it made the crust flakier because the bones held the crust up.”
Agnes Petersen: “We usually had chicken and roast pork, but had turkey after Dad started raising them. Holidays were a time for the whole family to get together.”
Annie Hayes: “I didn’t have to do too much work around the house because of hired help. I had a few chores—one was cleaning the oil or kerosene lamps. You had to clean the dirty chimneys, fill the lamps and trim the wicks just so—they had to be even or the flame would not burn evenly.”
Lena Clark: “There were seven children in our family. We all had to work on the farm—help hay, pull weeds, pick potatoes.” The summer she was ten, Lena stayed at a Newgate Road farm doing housework for her board and clothes.
Helen Clark: “I was the youngest and didn’t have to work too much.”
Helen Cotton: “My brother and I helped pick apples and fruit and rake the hay when we were older. I used to go to the creamery and help wrap a few pounds of butter, just to say I did something.” (Her father was Superintendent of the Granby Creamery.)
Emelia Dauner: “I worked on the family farm, sold milk from a horse and wagon and helped in my father’s cider mill. I didn’t like it because the cider dyed my hands. Business was especially good during Prohibition. Every farmer had to have a barrel of hard cider in the cellar or he couldn’t get any hired hands to work for him.”
Edna Spring: “We all used to help on the farm. I used to string tobacco. The men would pick it and let it wilt before stringing so it wouldn’t break.”
Agnes Petersen: “We used get five cents a hundred for picking potato bugs and if you lost count, you had to dump them out and start all over counting again. We used to raise a lot of carrots and could sell some of them to make a little money. I had to help around the house or mostly care for the little ones so mother could work. I learned to knit at age five or six. I remember knitting long stockings and I have been knitting ever since.”
Annie Hayes: “First Congregational Church had an annual picnic. We all piled into wagons and went to Southwick Ponds (Congomond Lakes), it was a big event.”
“I started subbing as an organist at First Church at 15. The first time I played, I pumped so hard that I pushed the bench back from the organ and ended up playing at arms length. After that, one of the tenors kept his foot against the bench leg when I played.”
Helen Cotton: “I remember a Christmas party we had at school once with a tree lit with candles and 25 children in the room. Now I realize what a danger it was, but then it was just a wondrous and beautiful sight. Christmas at our home was happy. We had few gifts, but perhaps appreciated them more. Books were always a choice gift. We always had a tree and would go back on the mountain to cut it.”
Edna Spring: “We never had a tree at home. There was a big tree at the Copper Hill Methodist Church for all the church families. On Christmas Eve we would go to church in the sled. First we had the entertainment with children reciting appropriate pieces. All the families brought their presents and hung them on the Christmas tree. There was no fancy wrapping paper in those days, so all the packages were wrapped in brown paper. They were the only decoration on the tree. All the families gathered around while the older men called off the names on the gifts. There was sort of a contest to see whose name was called the most times. We received sleds, skates, clothes, games and always an orange and a bag of candy.”
Helen Cotton: “It was Christmas Eve about 1898 when my family went to Granby’s Universalist Church to attend a Christmas service for children and parents. The church seemed filled with children who rendered Christmas stories, verses and songs. Following this, the children lingered around the Christmas tree to receive oranges while parents visited.”
Agnes Petersen: “We used to cut a tree from the woods and string popcorn to decorate it. I remember the time we worked so hard stringing the popcorn and the dog ate it. We would string cranberries too, they grew nearby in the swamp. We had candles in tin holders on the tree but we had a bucket of water handy and they only could be lit with Dad there watching.
Edited by Carol Laun
For the next few months I am going to share a paper that James Lee Loomis presented to the Hartford Monday Evening Club in 1968. He was born in 1878, the only son of Chester Peck Loomis and Eliza Harger. Chester P. was co-owner of the Loomis Bros. Store that once dominated Granby Center. James Lee Loomis married Helen Bruce and was well known as an insurance executive, banker and author. He lived in the lovely family home built by his grandfather, Harrison Loomis, at 245 Salmon Brook Street. Despite his career in Hartford, his roots were always firmly planted in Granby. He died in 1971 at the age of 92.
It is a brief period of which I write, from 1888 to 1895, when I went away to boarding school. A few lines about our town and village before the turn of the century. The losses and tragedies of the Civil War, after 25 years, had passed into history. Peace for the indefinite future seemed assured. The United States was not entirely isolated, but nearly so.
Granby was a typical agricultural town with a few craftsmen and professional men. The Village of Salmon Brook Street was the busiest part of town. Contentment and comfort is mostly a feeling of security in home and surroundings, and that, in this period, the people of Granby had in marked degree.
The metropolitan center of Hartford with a population of some 50,000 felt like it was farther away than New York City is now. The telephone, electric lights, food in tin cans and the auto were still to come. It was in truth a reconstruction period.
Four years after the close of the Civil War, a soldier’s monument was erected. An open space at the head of the street had been filled in as the site for the standard style of a war memorial. When completed and erected, the old soldiers observed the man on top at parade rest, had his right foot forward instead of his left and the rifle was turned the wrong way around. I have been told it was finally accepted at half the contract price. The gun has long since entirely eroded. Maybe this seemingly good omen will some day bring peace.
Note: The half price story may or may not be true, but several articles about our monument have agreed with Loomis about the correct position for parade rest. However, there is an identical statue in Deerfield, Mass. Granby’s monument was restored in 2002 through the efforts of Shannon-Shattuck Post 182 of the American Legion and the Salmon Brook Historical Society.
In 1872 the South Congregational Church was organized at the center of Salmon Brook Street, making three active churches in the three centers of town. An attempt was made to found a Seventh Day Adventist Church in the village by a smart salesman, or drummer as they were then called, by the name of Sam Benjamin. Father remarked one evening at supper that Loomis Bros. had been so pestered that they had promised to furnish the carpet and the bell. Mother, it seemed, was much perturbed by this extravagant support but regained her composure when Father assured her Sam would never get that far with the Church. And such was the case. When the building right in the center of the village was about 2/3 finished, the funds ran out and the builder foreclosed a mechanics lien, converting the building into a suitable two family house. So the village was saved the embarrassment of having two Sabbaths during the week.
Note: The unfinished church that had two oddly angled doors (possibly for men’s and women’s entrances) is now a part of Windmill Springs at 234 Salmon Brook Street. In the early 1900s it had a Phillip’s Grocery store in the south half and a barber shop in the north. In 1943 it was remodeled into two small apartments and a furnace was added to the building. When the condos were built in 1982, the building was converted again. During renovation, the shape of the original arched church windows and larger doors were very obvious
As farmers had difficulty in finding markets for their produce, sufficient capital was raised to start a first-class creamery in 1882. This was a real boon to the town. The cattle population steadily increased. There was a firm market for this preferred product of creamery butter in the city centers of the state. The by-product of producing cream is the raising of hogs. The use of the skim milk, ordinarily mixed with bran and buttermilk, sold at the creamery for $1 a barrel or less.
In those days there was no occasion for a town dump. If a family kept pigs, they were the garbage disposal. If you kept no pigs, a Swedish fellow a mile from the village was glad to come and get your refuse. I said to this fellow, Mike, one day, “Have you seen Mr. Brigham who has just come into the village?” His reply, “I already have. He sure has swell swill!”
About this time, tobacco as a good money crop began to flourish with experimental acres to begin with. Father once told me that the first piece in town was perhaps a half-acre in what is now our north lawn. The woods were full of what were called chestnut sprouts, then in great demand for telephone poles and railroad ties. This brought a lot of French Canadians into the town in lumber camps.
Loomis Bros. opened their new store in 1891. The credit of the townspeople, as a rule, was of the highest order. Mortgaging ones home and land was avoided if possible. As one neighbor stopped to gossip with another, he said to him, “Henry, I believe that corner of your house is sagging.” To this Henry replied, “If you had as heavy a mortgage on you as this house has, I guess you’d sag!”
Credit is in part a matter in inheritance. It took the Pilgrims eight years to pay in beaver skins for their passage. This may have been the first notable case of “Sail now and pay later.” Although diluted by ten generations, the determination to pay still appears in the bloodstreams of New England.
To be continued.