1813: Bigamy


Burlington, December 24th, 1813


Wee received yours in which you informed us that the wife and children of James Stillman whoom you consider as inhabitants of Burlington are the subjects of public support—

Wee would inform you that wee do not consider them as being Inhabitants of Burlington for the following reasons—First wee have been credibly informed he has had a wife in the Southern States and left her.  Secondly that he married another wooman in the State of New york and left her without being separated from her by law and that the last mentioned wooman has sent to our town for assistans—and of coarse the marriage with the wooman in your town is illegal and the town of Burlington not Liable for her support.

The Selectmen of Middletown

Wee are gentlemen, Your humble servants

Jeles Humphrey

Theodore Pittibank           Selectmen of Burlington

Chauncey Brooks

2015: Willard M. McRae awarded Beacon of Philanthropy Award

Willard MacRaeA resident of Middletown all his life, Willard M. McRae is a community leader in every sense of the title. McRae began as a licensed clinical social worker and his philanthropy and care for the community has grown from there. He has served as a positive role model and community advocate for equal opportunity and has made a distinctive effort to better the lives of children in Middletown. He has worked as a child welfare program supervisor, caseworker and district director for the State of Connecticut. McRae also served as the Administrative Director of the Middlesex Hospital Mental Health Clinic.

Furthermore, McRae was the first African American to hold a chair position on the Board of Directors at the Liberty Bank and became the founding director of the Liberty Bank Foundation. The Willard M. McRae Community Diversity Award was created in his honor and is presented to a nominee who demonstrates community leadership and works to build positive relationships among community members. Willard M. McRae has focused his ambition in the direction of his community and service and continues to have a lasting impact in Middletown.

Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.


1841: Temperance Now!

On October 27, 1841, the steamboat Greenfield transported people from Hartford down the Connecticut River so that they could attend the Temperance Convention taking place in Middletown. The two-day convention included several speeches, as well as an procession that passed through William Street, Broad Street, Washington Street, and Main Street. The marchers included a range of people, including children, Wesleyan faculty and students, and visitors to Middletown. Many temperance songs were sung during the procession.

Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.

October 18 – Middletown 366

Richard Nixon in 19561956 – Richard Nixon Visit

On this day in 1956, Vice President Richard Nixon came to Middletown on a campaign stop.


Lillian “Reba” Moses

Reba MosesLillian “Reba” Moses was a tireless ray of light in the public health sphere of Middletown. Moses moved to Middletown in the 1940s with her husband and, since then, became a force in the activism world of Middletown. Standing at 4 feet, six inches, Moses was a powerhouse during her time and she was one of the three main founders of the Community Health Center in 1972. She served on the board of the CHC for over thirty years and her contributions to public health care in the Middletown community are irrefutable. Additionally, Moses served as head of community services at the Community Action for Greater Middletown. She worked to fight poverty, to create a sense of community, and to better the community at large.

Moses died at the age of 88 in 2012, leaving behind a legacy of change and hope for the Middletown Community. The Lillian R. Moses Child Guidance Clinic was named in her honor and the clinic serves as a crisis center and preventative clinic for children and adolescents dealing with emotional and mental health problems. Lillian “Reba” Moses believed that health care is a right, not a privilege and she spent her life making sure that the people of Middletown knew that.

Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.


1885: Chapel Dedicated

Exercises at the Middletown Industrial School To-Day.

Middletown, Conn., Oct. 17.–This afternoon took place the formal dedication of the new chapel of the Industrial school, a large number of ladies and gentlemen from different parts of the state being present. The exercises were of a very interesting character.

In 1866, several petitions were presented to the general assembly asking the state to create an institution in which girls whose surroundings were likely to lead them to vicious or criminal lives could be cared for and educated. In response to these petitions the legislature appointed a commission consisting of the Rev. Thomas K. Fessenden of Farmington, Professor D. C. Gilman of New Haven and Dr. J. P. Whitcomb of Brooklyn, to investigate the subject and report the next year. These gentlemen made a favorable report, but no action was taken in 1867. In that year was subscribed for the school by the citizens of Hartford, and about the same amount by residents of New Haven. In other towns numerous persons donated various sums, all showing that the benevolent people of the state were much interested in the enterprise, which was chartered in 1868 as the “Connecticut Industrial School for Girls.” The state appropriated $3 per week for the board and clothing of each girl sentenced to the school, and also made a conditional appropriation for the establishment. The towns of Winsted, Farmington and Middletown, asked that the school be located within their borders. The trustees selected Middletown, which, at a cost of $11,500, purchased nearly fifty acres of land and presented the same to the school. The first two buildings erected were named the “Pratt Home” and “Street Home,” in honor of Miss Esther Pratt of Hartford, and Mrs. Street of New Haven, each of whom had given $5,000 to the institution. In 1874 the third building was raised and named the “Allyn Home,” in recognition of a $10,000 donation from ex-Mayor Allyn of Hartford. The fourth building was named the “Rogers Home,” in honor of Mrs. Martha Rogers of Middletown, who gave $5,000 toward the cost of it. In 1881 the legislature appropriated $10,000 to the institution, and the fifth building was erected and named the “Russell Home,” a legacy of $5,000 having been received from Mrs. Samuel J. Russell of Middletown. The state also appropriated $10,000 for a water supply, which cost $10,419. In 1884 the state appropriated $15,000 for the erection of a building to contain a chapel hall and school room. This is the building which was dedicated this afternoon. The school has more than 200 pupils.

From The New Haven Register, Saturday, October 17, 1885.

October 4 – Middletown 366


Silver Mines in Connecticut

Dr. Frankfort, who has been working some abandoned lead mines, open at Middletown, Conn., during the revolutionary war, for the supply of bullets to our army, has found more than enough silver to pay the expenses of working the mines, thus leaving the lead obtained as clear profit. The amount of silver appears to be increasing.

From The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), Monday, October 4, 1852.


Old Town Records Saved

Middletown, Conn.–(UPI)–Town records, dating back to 1652, have been saved for future years by John F. Pickett, city clerk, who found the old files decaying and restored them. The pages of the old record books which reveal that in the early days settlers obtained their acres by drawing lots, have been restored and the pages covered with transparent silk gauze.

From the Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), Wednesday, October 4, 1933.

September 5 – Middletown 366


Martha Rogers, …

“… who died a few days ago at Middletown, Conn., for 50 years possessed a fortune; but she was constantly dreading poverty, and regularly spent a part of her time gathering rags and other discarded things in the streets. A room in her house was filled with such rubbish. Yet she gave money liberally for charitable and religious purposes, while she lived, and by her will left $25,000 to various institutions.

From the Marion County Record (Marion, Kansas), Sept. 5, 1879.


Drawn By 96 Oxen

Farmer Drives Them to Cart Twenty Miles to Grange Fair

Special to The New York Times

Middletown, Conn., Sept. 5.–John Cavanagh, a farmer, who lives in the Penfield Hill District of the Town of Portland, decided to take his family to the Grange Fair at Haddam Neck yesterday. There is no railroad running between the two towns.

Mr. Cavanagh owns ten yoke of oxen himself, and by borrowing from his neighbors managed to collect forty-eight yoke, or ninety-six oxen altogether. With these attached to a gayly decorated ox-cart he made the trip, covering the distance of about twenty miles in five hours. The services of twelve drivers were needed to guide the animals on the road.

The line of cattle stretched for more than a quarter of a mile along the road, and it took them five minutes to pass a given point. On his arrival at the fair grounds Cavanagh found that he and his cattle attracted more attention than any other exhibit on the grounds.

From The New York Times (New York, New York), Wednesday, September 6, 1911.




1878: Middlesex County Orphan’s Home Opens

The Middlesex County Orphan’s Home officially opened on July 15, 1878. The institution was supported completely by voluntary contributions, such as personnel support and monetary donations. Under the management of Mrs. R.S. Bailey and Mrs. M.E. Rockwell, the orphan’s home flourished and they were able to secure permanent support from the state. As a result of the state support, the legislature also passed an act that provided for the establishment of homes for children over the age of two in every county in Connecticut.

Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.

June 30 – Middletown 366


Industrial School For Girls Opens

On this day, the Connecticut Industrial School for Girls, later known as the Long Lane School, was opened with two buildings, the Pratt and the Street Homes in honor of the ladies who donated $5000 each to the school.  The purpose of the school was to house and educate girls between the ages of 8 and 16 “whose surroundings were likely to lead them to vicious or criminal lives.” (Beers History of Middlesex County, 1635-1885) The farm contained 46 acres with 20 acres suitable for the buildings.  A later building was named after a local benefactor, Mrs. Samuel M. Russell.  The class of girls admitted included “the stubborn and unruly; truants, vagrants, and beggars; those in danger of falling into vicious habits; and those who have been guilty of punishable offenses but who are not deemed incorrigible.”

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.


Victor Butterfield steps down as Wesleyan’s President

Born on February 7, 1904, Victor L. Butterfield always planned to be a teacher. He graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. He later received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. After teaching at Deerfield Academy, the Riverdale School, and Lawrence College, he went onto Wesleyan University. He served as director of admissions, dean of freshman, philosophy professor, associate dean, and finally president of the university. Victor L. Butterfield left a legacy of friendliness, eloquence, and hard work during his tenure as president at Wesleyan University. He was elected in 1943 and understood incoming classes would be different from past classes due to wartime circumstances. He also developed the College of Letters and the College of Social Studies. Before leaving his position, Butterfield also added the Davison Art Center, Foss Hill Dorms, and new graduate programs in several disciplines.

Butterfield resigned on June 30, 1967 from his presidency at Wesleyan University. During his time at Wesleyan, he sought to “develop the freedom, the autonomy and the responsibility of the human mind and spirit.” He passed away on November 19, 1975.

Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.

1877: Middlesex County Orphans’ Home Established

On this day, a meeting called by Mrs. E.W.N Starr and attended by the leading ladies of Middletown was held at the Russell Library to organize the Middlesex County Orphans’ Home.  The move toward a home was instigated by the death of a nine month old child due to neglect and starvation.  Money was raised and the institution was incorporated by the legislature.  As was the procedure in those days, men were listed as the incorporators and the associate incorporators were the women who were actually behind the home.  Forty ladies were elected as the board of managers and the home was formally opened on July 15, 1878.  The home was supported through donations.  In 1883, the legislature passed an act establishing orphans’ homes in every county in the state.

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.