Day Trips: East Hampton

Published on Friday, 26 January 2018 20:12
Written by Marty Podskoch

East Hampton, a town in Middlesex Co., includes two villages: Middle Haddam and Cobalt. It is approx. 10 miles east of Middletown with a population of 12,959 (2010).

The area, inhabited by the Wangunk Indians, was called Pocotopaug, a Pequot word meaning “lake with pierced islands.” A Wangunk legend said that Princess Namoenee jumped to her death at Markham’s Cove, a willing sacrifice to appease the Great God Hobomoko and bring an end to the many drownings the Wangunk tribe had suffered. The legend goes that there were no more drownings.

In 1739, settlers from Eastham and Chatham near Cape Cod purchased lots from Middletown proprietors who were granted ownership in East Middletown and the Three Mile Division. Led by Isaac Smith, several families settled on their new holdings near Lake Pocotopaug. In 1746 the community was named Easthampton parish. Middletown petitioned the General Assembly to create a new township which was incorporated as Chatham in 1767 as Connecticut’s 71st town. In 1841 the area now encompassing Portland became a separate township. In 1915, the residents renamed the town East Hampton after the original name of Easthampton.

William Barton in 1808 established a bell-making factory making cow bells, sleigh bells, church bells, and other types. Apprentices of Barton learned the trade and started their own businesses. In 1832, brothers Abner and William Bevin, started their company (Bevin Brothers) later joined by their brothers Chauncey and Philo, and is the only remaining bell manufacturer. Over 40 companies produced millions of bells sold world-wide. Other notable bell producers were Starr Bros. Bell Co., The N. N. Hill Brass Co. and Gong Bell. No wonder East Hampton is called “Belltown USA.”

The village of Cobalt got its name when cobalt was discovered in 1762 and mined but ore separation problems ended this industry by 1859. Middle Haddam on the Connecticut River, was a thriving shipbuilding center that launched many of the famous Clipper Ships in the late 18th and early 19th century. One builder, Thomas Child, constructed 237 ships.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, summer tourists were drawn to Lake Pocotopaug’s waterfront cottages, casinos, and hotels. Many traveled from the cities on the Air Line Railroad.

Witch hazel, used as an astringent and as a base in cosmetics, and patent medicines, was produced commercially since the late 19th century by American Distilling, the world’s largest producer.

Interesting Places

Chatham Historical Society Museum. Preserving town history in two buildings featuring toys, bells, clothing, furniture, etc. Also has the restored 1840 Chestnut Hill Schoolhouse. 6 Bevin Blvd.

Hurd State Park. Features hiking, picnicking, and kayaking. Off Rt. 151 on Hurd Park Rd.

Joseph N. Goff House Museum. Provides a wide variety of cultural and enrichment programs to celebrate the town’s heritage. 2 Barton Hill Rd.

Pumpkin Town USA. A seasonal attraction at Paul’s & Sandy’s Too garden center has a town full of pumpkin people, etc. 93 E High St.

Comstock Covered Bridge (1873). Connects East Hampton with Colchester.

One of 3 surviving Conn. covered bridges in the Salmon River State Forest that features fishing, picnicking, and hiking. 2 miles west of the junction of Rt. 149 & Rt. 16.

Old Home Day Celebration. Annual event 1st weekend after 4th of July with largest parade in Middlesex Co. Entertainment, food, carnival rides, and crafts.

Air Line State Trail. Features hiking, biking, and crosscountry skiing on old Air Line Railroad right-of-way. Named because it followed a path as “if a line had been drawn through the air” between New Haven & Boston. The trail connects East Hampton with Thompson.

Middle Haddam Public Library. Housed in a historic building. Provides a wide variety of materials and programs. 2 Knowles Rd., Middle Haddam.

Happiest Paddler. Kayak & canoe rentals, also lake tours. 70 N. Main St.

Nelson’s Family Campground. Has a pool, playground, recreation room, WiFi, etc. 71 Mott Hill Rd.

Fat Orange Cat Brew Co. Provides high quality beer of all different varieties in a country setting. 47 Tartia Rd.

Notable People

Joel West Smith (1837-1924). Invented the first typewriter for Braille. He is buried in Lake View Cemetery.

William A. O’Neill (1930–2007). 84th Governor of Connecticut, 1980-1991, lifelong resident of East Hampton.

Kira Roloff and Marty Podskoch Members Chatham Historical Society

and Dean Markham, Member Joseph N. Goff House Museum

This is an excerpt from the book, The Connecticut 169 Club: Your Passport & Guide to Adventure. It was written by local residents to encourage people to visit the beautiful 169 towns & cities in Connecticut. The 8.5 x 11 hardcover book contains 368 pages and over 180 illustrations, maps, and photos. It was edited by Marty Podskoch, author of eight books including the Conn. Civilian Conservation Corps Camps, Catskill & Adirondack fire towers, Adk CCC Camps, Adk 102 Club, and Adk illustrated stories. The travel book will be available in late summer 2018. One can pre-order a signed book with free shipping by sending $24.95 plus CT sales tax $1.58 to: Podskoch Press, 43 O’Neill Lane, East Hampton, CT 06424 Also available in late summer 2018 at local stores, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Information (860)267-2442

Posted in The Bristol Press, General News on Friday, 26 January 2018 20:12. Updated: Friday, 26 January 2018 20:14.