The History of Killingly’s Villages
(In Alphabetical Order)
One of Killingly’s original proprietors, Jabez Allyn, built a home near present day Attawaugan in 1726. It is located on Route 21 in the northern section of the town and was designated by the Celebrate Connecticut 350 committee as the oldest house in Killingly. In those early days this area was known as Aspinock and North Killingly.
One of the meanings of the Native American word “Attawaugan” is “goods for sale” that was appropriate for the busy mill village of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Being located on the Five Mile River, Attawaugan was a favorable site for George Weatherhead’s “Fine Sheeting” factory. The Attawaugan Company constructed its mill on the site of the former Weatherhead mill in 1860. Mule teams carried bricks from the brickyard near Ralph Tracy’s home to build this plant. After several enlargements, Powdrell & Alexander purchased the factory in 1927. There they conducted a curtain-making operation until the early 1950s. In 1953 the mill became the home of the Danielson Curtain Company, a subsidiary of Louis Hand, Inc. of New York City.
Attawaugan was a typical mill village containing some thirty small, two-family mill houses arranged in parallel rows along Mill Road, Church Street, Attawaugan-Ballouville Road, and on Route 12, some dating back to 1865. In 1933 Powdrell & Alexander sold off the housing, many being purchased by the workers who lived in them. There also were a company store, a boarding house for unmarried workers, a school, a church and a social club.
Today Attawaugan boasts a new fire station, a Little League Field, and the ever-popular Golden Greek Restaurant.
As we enter the new millennium, the Attawaugan Mill has been converted to a new purpose, known as “The Crossing,” and housing several smaller businesses.
Staples Northeast distribution facility was built and opened in 1998 along Tracy Road because of its advantageous location near the railroad. In this same area Killingly’s first franchise hotel, Holiday Inn Express, was established in 1999 adjacent to the Laurel House Restaurant just off Exit 94 of Route 395. The hotel is now operated by Comfort Inn and the restaurant is The Gold Eagle at Laurel House.
Just outside the Killingly Industrial Park off Exit 94 is the newest large commercial project, the Lake Road Generating Plant located on Tracy Road.
On the north side of the Five Mile River near Stone Road is what remains of Daniels Village. The area also is referred to as Warsaw. Only the dam and the stone mansion are still intact, although foundations of other buildings and tenements are visible. This archeological site is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as it was one of the first textile mills in Connecticut.
The area was first settled in the 1700s. By 1800 it was known as Talbot’s Mills. In 1814, the well-established mill site was purchased by the Killingly Manufacturing Company for a cotton mill. The Daniels family bought the property in 1845 when it then became known as Daniels Village. Although the familiar names of the larger settlements are Ballouville and Pineville, Yosemite Valley also has a picturesque name.
Ballouville developed around the mill constructed by Leonard Ballou and his father-in-law, Jabez Amsbury. The two men bought Asa Alexander’s corn mill and water privilege on the Five Mile River and converted it to a cotton mill. This mill had several owners after that. It was purchased by Attawaugan Manufacturing in 1860. Powdrell & Alexander operated it from 1927 until the 1950s. In 1953 it was sold to Arawana Mills. Later, the mill was used by Hale Manufacturing for making specialty yarns. Ballouville boasts its own post office which has been housed in the Ballouville Store since 1882. The store was built circa 1854 and now houses the Ballouville Aquarium.
Originally the mill workers of Attawaugan and Ballouville attended the Attawaugan Methodist Church. However, as Catholic immigrants arrived in large numbers in the late 1800s, the Attawaugan Company acknowledged the change and donated land for the construction of a Catholic church in Ballouville. The church operated as a mission of St. Joseph’s of Dayville. The cornerstone is dated 1882 and was known as the Church of the Five Wounds and later St. Anne’s. The church was closed in 2010.
For many years Pineville was a popular tourist stop during the Christmas holidays. Mervin Whipple’s “Christmas Wonderland” provided a marvelous display of lights and animated figures for the delight of old and young. At other times of the year many couples came to Whipple’s Chapel to “tie the knot” in the unique stone chapel built using stone from all over the country.
Throughout most of the 17th century the chief inhabitants of the Killingly area were Native Americans. A fort had been constructed on a low hill in the Danielson area about 30 or 40 rods southeast of the “great falls” of the Quinebaug River. Native American tribes (including Nipmucks, Pequots, Mohegans and Narragansetts) considered these falls an important fishing place, calling the area “Acquiunk.”
The earliest settler within the Danielson area evidently was James Danielson. In 1707, he purchased the triangle of land between the Quinebaug and Five Mile Rivers (Assawaga), about 2000 acres, from Major James Fitch for 170 pounds. By 1770, William Danielson, later a Colonel in the Militia, had established an iron works on the Five Mile River in present-day Danielson. Boaz Sterns first settled the north end of modern day Main Street in the 1720s; other early family names of settlers in the area include Spaulding and Hutchins.
In the late 1700s, William Cundall established one of the earliest woolen works in Connecticut. By the 1830s there were many textile mills located along the Quinebaug and Five Mile Rivers. Killingly was considered the greatest cotton-manufacturing town in Connecticut in 1836. The firm of Powdrell & Alexander, operating six curtain factories in the town from the 1920s led the town to become known as “Curtaintown USA.”
During the 1800s Franklin Street was a main stagecoach road between Providence and Hartford and Broad Street / Green Hollow Road was the stage road from Norwich to Worcester.
The region around the Westfield meetinghouse developed into a thriving village. Following the opening of the Norwich & Worcester Railroad in 1840, population quickly shifted in the town to the area nearer the railroad. As prosperity returned to the town after the Civil War, the Borough undertook major construction projects. The first public high school (the old grammar school) on School Street was built along with the Music Hall (present Town Hall). Many large business blocks were completed. Gas and electric lighting and telephone service were provided along with a community water system.
The Borough of Danielsonville, formed in May 1854, also included a portion of East Brooklyn. This changed in May 1895, when the name of the Borough was shortened to Danielson and the western boundary was set at the Quinebaug River.
A new high school on Broad Street, dedicated in 1908 became so overcrowded that by 1965 a new facility on Westfield Avenue was opened. The old building became the Killingly Junior High School and is now utilized as the Killingly Community Center. A modern elementary school (Killingly Memorial) that consolidated some of the outlying one-room schools was dedicated in 1953. St. James Church also built a new parochial school to alleviate crowding.
In October 1963, the Borough of Danielson began operating under a new charter with a president and Borough Council.
Business blocks in the Borough continue to undergo façade improvements. What once was the principal hotel in Danielson, on Main Street since 1856, has undergone a complete renovation and emerged as the new Main Street Exchange. The latest large building project was the construction of the imposing State of Connecticut Superior Court House built where the first public high/grammar school once was just one block off Main Street on School Street.
Main Street businesses have pride in their shops and have organized to promote them. The central business district has been designated as a National Historic District.
Another source of pride in the town is the list of prominent natives who list Killingly as their birthplace. Dr. Sidney P. Marland, Jr. served his country as Commissioner of Education from 1970 to 1972. From 1972 to 1973 he was the nation’s first statutory Assistant Secretary of Education in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (a new post created by the Education Amendment of 1972.) Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of Tiffany’s in New York, was born in Killingly. The first American woman to be issued a patent on May 5, 1809 for her invention of a “new and useful improvement in weaving straw with silk or thread.,” Mary Dixon Kies, was born in South Killingly.
Dayville was originally called “Daysville” after Captain John Day, who owned and developed the water privilege along the Assawaga (Five Mile) River. It became the freight hub for other manufacturing sites along the river and Whetstone Brook with the construction of the Norwich & Worcester Railroad in the 1830s. The mills picked up the cotton at the Dayville depot, hauled the bales to their factories and shipped the finished goods the same way.
Dayville was more than simply a mill town as there are houses associated with merchants, carriage makers, machinists, carpenters, doctors, lumber dealers and others who made Dayville a commercial as well as an industrial center.
John Day, a well-to-do farmer with interests in real estate, built the Sayles Mill in 1846. Sabin and Harris Sayles built numerous mill houses for the use of their larger work force after building a new brick mill in 1882. This enabled the work force to be within walking distance of the factory. They also built a company store and a meeting hall in the large brick block (c. 1873) in the center of Dayville.
For ten years after the Sayles Company, the mill was operated as the Dayville Woolen Company. They sold out to the Assawaga Company in 1903 that prospered during the World War I period. Textile production came to an end in the Depression but wire manufacturer William Prym bought the Assawaga Woolen Mill in 1939. The company manufactured small metal notions, common pins, snap fasteners, hooks and eyes, etc.; some designed and invented by Herman Kohl.
The old Dayville School has now been replaced by three modern schools—Killingly Central and Killingly Intermediate Schools and the new Killingly High School opened in September 2010.
The popular 20th century summer resort known as Wildwood Park at Alexander’s Lake was owned in the 18th and 19th centuries by the Alexander family. The east side of the lake was developed as a resort in 1890 by the People’s Tramway Company on leased land. In 1919 the lake and acreage were sold to Patrick Sheridan, father of John Sheridan who owned the property until his death. Trolley service to Wildwood Park was provided by the People’s Tramway Company and also the Providence & Danielson line that terminated in Elmville. A transfer station was built across the street from the Lake so passengers could change to the north-south line. The People’s Tramway Company was a subsidiary of the People’s Light & Power Company. It was common for electric companies to expand into electric street railways or traction companies as they were sometimes called. Wildwood Park became a popular spot for day trips. Trolleys made their first stop at 5:24 a.m. and stopped every half-hour all day in the summer.
The Elmville Stand was the connection of the Providence & Danielson electric railroad and the People’s Tramway Company that ran from Danielson to Putnam. The Providence & Danielson was a passenger and freight line. A freight and milk car made one trip a day from Danielson to Providence. After the line was abandoned in 1920-21, the old waiting station was used for years as an ice cream stand and lunchroom.
In 1933 Danielson Manufacturing Company (Danco), a manufacturer of mill supplies and later injection molded nylon products occupied the factory at the foot of Dog Hill where Colt’s Plastics is now situated.
The oldest extant structure in Killingly Center, built about 1790, was known in its early years as the Jeremiah Field Tavern, a stagecoach inn now divided into apartments. George Kingsbury operated it in 1839 when it was known as the Kingsbury Inn. The Killingly Grange #112 now occupies the old Killingly Center School, c. 1848
The Killingly Center area became active in the mid 18th century when the Breakneck Hill Congregational Church was moved to the intersection of Cook Hill Road and Route 101 to be used as the Town Meeting House. The first town meeting was held there on December 12, 1785, and continued in use for Killingly Town Meetings until 1906 when the town purchased the “Music Hall” in Danielson. The old building was demolished in 1933 after being sold by the town in 1922.
The area surrounding the junction of Routes 12 and 101 is the site of three shopping plazas containing a variety of stores and food services making it a thriving commercial area, the latest known as Killingly Commons. At one time a major glass manufacturing concern was located here. Killingly’s Industrial Park is just off Exit 94 of Route 395. Over 3000 people are employed at over 15 manufacturing establishments here. Frito-Lay is the town’s largest employer of over 700 people.
Killingly was inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years. They called the East Killingly area “Chemaug.” One of their trails, which followed sections of Route 101 and Bear Hill Road became a major colonial path between Providence and Hartford.
In 1711, a 1600-acre tract of land was bought from John Chandler of Woodstock which was known as the Chestnut Hill Purchase. It was located on the beautiful hill that at that time was covered with stately chestnut trees. Although the village is now known as East Killingly, its early name has never been forgotten and is inseparable from its history.
The Industrial Revolution of the early nineteenth century changed the focus of the region from one of primarily farms to a beehive of activity as mill after mill was constructed along the mighty stream known as the Whetstone Brook. The brook originates in the Old Killingly pond, a spring-fed body of water. In its first two hundred yards, the Whetstone makes a very rapid descent of more than seventy feet. This fall is capable of generating an estimated 400 horsepower which made it one of the prime sites on the stream. In all, this stream drops almost 200 feet before it joins the Five Mile River at Elmville.
The area around the Whetstone Brook takes its name from the fact that it was well known among Native American tribes as a source of materials for projectile points. The stream’s first industrial utilizations were sawmills and grain mills dating from about 1715. Some of the mills along the Whetstone were: Chestnut Hill Mill that later became Acme Cotton Products Co., Inc., The Whitestone Co., Judge Young’s Mill, Leffingwell Mill, Davis & Brown Woolen Co. (later sold to Hale Mfg. Co.), Greenslitt Mill, Elliotville Mill, and Peeptoad Mill. Some of the mills were built of stone from a nearby quarry.
The picturesque Peeptoad Mill and the double stone-arch bridge are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Some early photographs of the area of East Killingly known as The Valley identified it as Pleasant Valley. A portion of the North Road and vicinity are called Tucker District and Kentuck Woods.
Beginning in the mid 1800s the village was bustling. There were several general stores, a post office, two churches, a school, and a blacksmith shop.
Although the railroad bypassed East Killingly, the electric street railway provided both passenger and freight service to Providence from 1902 until 1920. The right-of-way was south of Whetstone Brook, which it paralleled all the way to its terminus in Elmville where it connected with the Shore Line route to Alexander’s Lake, Webster and Worcester, Massachusetts. A substation in Rhode Island powered the line. Building the electric railway lines required a work force of about 100 men and very little in the way of machinery.
Through the years there were three churches to serve the religious life of the community: the Union Baptist Church organized in 1776, the Free Will Baptist Church, and Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church built in 1944-46.
In 1826 Caleb Williams of Providence bought twenty-seven acres from Asa and William Alexander and John Day along with the privilege to use waterpower from the Quinebaug River. There he built a factory village he named Williamsville. This mill was equipped to make cloth from bales of cotton shipped in from the South. Williamsville consisted of little more than the cotton mill and tenant houses during the late 1820s.
The Williamsville Company owned one hundred five tenements by 1886. A flood in March of 1936 forced police to evacuate residents out of these homes. Again, as an aftermath of the terrible 1938 hurricane, the lower village was inundated and the village was destroyed.
One of the earliest utilizations of the water privilege in Williamsville was by Robert N. Potter at Litchfield and Boys Avenue to make bobbins and spools. Alonzo and Orrin S. Arnold became his partners and continued to run the Potter/Arnold Bobbin Shop after Potter’s death in 1879. The shop burned in about 1900 but some of the ruins remain.
A partnership of local men headed by Robert Boys succeeded in interesting the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio, in using the Williamsville mill to produce the cotton duck needed as reinforcement material in rubber tires. Goodyear bought the village in 1913 and became the first tire company to produce its own cloth-laminating material. The village name was changed to Goodyear in 1916.
The Goodyear tire business increased in the years after World War I. The Goodyear Company expanded its facilities and then, under the direction of Robert Boys, the general manager, planned and built an entirely new village on a knoll overlooking the old village named Goodyear Heights. The streets were well laid out, splendidly lit, and supplied with every modern convenience. There were eighty-four new and modern homes. The Goodyear Company closed its operation in 1932 during the Great Depression.
In 1937 Rogers Corporation, a paper and chemical producer, acquired the plant and the houses were sold individually. Rogers Corporation continues to add to the plant and prosper with an extensive research and development program. The village again changed its name in 1954 from Goodyear to Rogers.
The Williamsville Fire Company was organized in 1833 to look out for the welfare of the fast-growing community of Williamsville. When the first members of the company responded to a fire call, they traveled on foot, pulling a hose reel behind them. They lay claim to being the oldest volunteer fire department in Connecticut. Its territory was explained as “the area they could cover in 10 minutes pulling the apparatus.” A replica of the Williamsville Company’s first pumper is displayed at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
Our South Parish was one of the last parts of town to be settled and the only village not centered around a mill. The first settler was Jacob Spaulding of Plainfield in 1721 and the largest cluster of homes and businesses was in the area around the 1837 Congregational Church.
Often called “the city,” South Killingly had only a church, tavern, school, general store, and several homes in the 1800s. Captain Alexander Gaston ran a mercantile operation supplied by wagon loads of goods from Providence. When he donated a 700-pound bell to the church, it was discovered to have a crack that made its ring sound like “tunk, tunk, tunk.” That led to the nickname “Tunk City.”
The Separatist Congregation was organized in December 1746. Because of the distance to the First Society meeting-house on Breakneck Hill, early South Killingly residents found it difficult to attend public worship, especially during winter months. The handsome Greek Revival Congregational Church was built in 1837, a little east of the first structure. There have been no major alterations, except for the addition of a basement and office in 1956.
The old Graves Tavern, located on the stage coach route to Providence, has been gone for many years. It was the village’s original business exchange where the townspeople learned about local trade and local scandals. Another important building at the top of the hill was Steve Douglas’s store and post office. It was built by Highland Grange #113 in 1893 at a cost of $900. The store and post office occupied the first level and the Grange meetings were held on the second floor. For a time firefighting equipment was housed in the basement. There was also a gas pump out front in the early 1900s.
Behind the church can be found the South Killingly Cemetery, and on the opposite side of Cook Hill Road, just over the brook that is bridged by a well-built stone arch bridge, is the old South Killingly Cemetery. This cemetery contains over 300 marked burials and dates back to at least the mid-1700s to 1920 when Jacob Pidge, the last stagecoach driver in the region, was laid to rest. A memorial stone for Mary Dixon Kies was set beside that of her husband, John Kies. In May 1809, she was awarded the first known patent issued to a woman in the United States.
South Killingly children attended the one-room school built next to the church in 1885. In 1952, after the Killingly Memorial School in Danielson opened, the old school closed and was subsequently demolished in the 1960s.
Picnics were big affairs and were not only held behind the church but also at Old Furnace Park. One held in 1894 provided seating for 307 people and transportation was furnished from the train depot in Danielson to the picnic grounds.
South Killingly today is primarily residential. Two other areas of the village that have interesting place names are Mashentuck (area near Mashentuck Mountain); and Horse Hill (now known as East Franklin Street) in early days was called Christian Hill. Once, long ago, there was also an area called “Hulettown” at the four corners of Cook Hill Road and Mashentuck Road. A sawmill and a school were located there.