1920: Four Auto Bandits Hold Up Two Banks

Middletown, Conn., is Scene of Daring Robberies–Gunman “Covers” Cashier and Pal Gathers Up Cash.

Middletown, Conn., Aug. 21.–Four armed bandits held up and robbed two banks here this morning and escaped toward Glastonbury in a car without any markers.

The banks robbed were the First National and the Freestone Savings Bank. In each case the cashier was held up by [a] gunman while a second robber entered the vault and gathered in all the cash in sight. The two banks are in the same building and were looted at 10:20 a.m., with many people passing along the streets ignorant of the holdup.

A woman employee of the Freestone Bank gave an alarm to the police but the robbers had made their escape before the officers could arrive.

From The Evening Review (East Liverpool, Ohio), Saturday, August 21, 1920.

1900: Stole For His Nerves

New York, Aug. 14.–In Recorder Stanton’s Court, in Hoboken, Peter Simmering, of Middletown, Conn., was charged with stealing articles worth $39 from his boarding house and pawning them. When questioned he admitted the theft, but said:

“I did not mean to steal, but my nervous disposition is such that I cannot help it. I have been an inmate of an insane asylum and since I have been released I cannot help taking things. I don’t mean to do wrong, but I have an inclination to take things, and unless I do I become nervous. I find that although I am haunted with fear that I shall do wrong, my nerves are better after I have stolen. I cannot explain it at all. It’s my nerves.”

From the Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Arizona), Wednesday, August 15, 1900.

1910: Blacksmith and His Son Arrested at Middletown

Middletown, Conn., Aug. 8.–Arrested while searching old cannon around the soldier’s monument on the South Green yesterday, Andrew Fitzpatrick, aged 50, a blacksmith, and his son, Andrew, were held today in bonds on a charge of attempted blackmail.

Three letters received by Mrs. Clarence S. Wadsworth, wife of a wealthy citizen, contained a threat to blow up her home with dynamite if $2,000 was not placed in the cannon.

From The Anaconda Standard (Anaconda, Montana), Tuesday, August 9, 1910.

1911: An “Ad” Brought Results

Filled a Prison When Help Was Badly Needed.

Middletown, Conn., Aug. 5.–Jailer George West of the Middletown county prison at Haddam has reason to believe that it pays to advertise. Recently it became known through the newspapers that there were not inmates enough at the prison to care for the prison farm and that there was danger of a part of the crops going to waste if they were not speedily cared for.

Within a few days after this information was published, nine squads of prisoners were committed on minor sentences and became immediately available for work on the farm. The crops have been saved.

From The Chanute Daily Tribune (Chanute, Kansas), Saturday, August 5, 1911.


1880: Bank Robbery

The Middletown (Conn.) Savings Bank was robbed last week of $15,000 ($8,500 in bank notes and $6,500 in bonds.) Four men entered the bank. One engaged the attention of the Teller, another the Secretary: a third stood apparently waiting and watching. The fourth man, however, slipped behind the counter, reached into the open safe, took the money and got away with it unnoticed.

From The Belvidere Standard (Belvidere, Illinois), Tuesday, August 3, 1880.

1886: Not a Trace Left

Frederick D. Gardner, a young fruit dealer in Middletown, Conn., left that place on July 28 for this city to collect bills and make purchases for his establishment. Mr. Gardner spent several days in reaching the city, as he stopped at many small places on his way to collect small bills owed to him. Arriving in New-York he went to stay at the Bancroft House, making purchasing tours each day. Last Wednesday morning he went out as usual, and from the time he left the hotel none of his friends know what has become of him. His disappearance is as complete as it is mysterious. He had only about $150 with him at the time he went out, and it is known that he did not obtain any more money. His accounts are all straight. Everything he bought he paid for in checks, which have all been fully met, and his books at Middletown, having been carefully examined, are found to be correct. He has a wife, who lives in Middletown, and who, with her father-in-law, Ira Gardner, a Middletown merchant, is anxiously looking for her husband.

From The New York Times (New York, New York), Tuesday, August 10, 1886.

July 22 – Middletown 366


Pest Control

To destroy Bed-Bugs.–Make a decoction of sassafras bark or root, not so strong as to stain the furniture, and scald the wainscoting of your rooms, once a year, and I will engage that a bug will never enter it. This I know from experience.  An Old Man.

To keep off Fleas.–Keep in or about your bed a sprig of Pennyroyal or put on your bed clothes a few drops of the essence. The smell of the Pennyroyal will keep off the fleas. This I know from experience.  Another Old Man.

From the Middlesex Gazette (Middletown, Conn.), Thursday, July 22, 1819.


George Carson Out on Bail

Hartford, Conn., July 22.–George Carson, who was arrested in New-York several months ago for complicity in the Middletown (Conn.) Savings Bank robbery, has been released from the Middletown County Jail under a $3,000 bail. His trial comes off in September.

From the New York Times (New York, New York), Saturday, July 23, 1881.

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.

1969: Racial Tensions Erupt Into Violence

The summer of 1969 was full of high racial tensions in Middletown, Connecticut. In the mid-sixties, there was a rise of what were considered militant Black activist groups. The white Middletown community followed in the steps of much of the United States and reacted with fear. On the night of June 27th, these tensions began to culminate. Three white men assaulted a young black man as they were driving through an East Main Street neighborhood. This was followed by an incident at the Middletown Shopping Plaza on Washington Street, in which a white youth was stabbed. Violence escalated through the following two nights.

From The Bridgeport Post, Friday, June 27, 1969:

Big Disturbance in Middletown

Middletown, Conn. (AP)–Three persons were arrested in what police termed a “large disturbance” on South Main Street Thursday night.

One person was stabbed and another suffered a broken elbow before the crowd was dispersed.

Police broke up a crowd of black and white youths at a shopping plaza on Washington Street, but the black youngsters reassembled at the south end of Main Street, about a mile away. Several store windows on Main Street were smashed.

An emergency was declared by Police Chief Vincent Marino, and all off-duty officers were recalled to duty. The disturbance was over before midnight.

Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.

1797: Thomas Starr Hanged for Murder

Thomas Starr was a descendant of a wealthy merchant family in Middletown, Connecticut. Starr was about twenty-five years old when he committed the murder of Samuel Cornwall on August 2, 1796. Starr stabbed Cornwall seven times with what is said to be a “penknife.”

Cornwall died eleven days after the stabbing. Records do not reveal any motive for the crime. Starr was convicted and hanged in front of a large crowd in Middletown on June 14, 1797.

Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.