The History of Killingly’s Villages
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.