1883: Valuable Fossil Discoveries

[By Telegraph to the Tribune.]

Middletown, Conn., Dec. 18.–A large deposit of fossil remains was uncovered by a blast at Portland quarries, which are situated near here, yesterday. Three large blocks of freestone were taken out three hundred feet below the surface, which are quite soft, having not yet become hardened from exposure to the air. On the upper surface of two of the blocks are visible plainly indented–some of them a half an inch deep and sharply cut–the footprints of birds of a past age. Some are large and some are small. The third block has the fossilized remains of a creature that in shape resembles a turtle. It is about one foot and six inches wide, octagonal in shape and oval like the back of a turtle. It is firmly attached to the rock, and there are no traces of legs. A number of scientists from Yale and Harvard Colleges will visit the quarries this week to search for other fossils.

From the New-York Tribune (New York, New York), Wednesday, December 19, 1883.

1892: Connecticut Snake Story

A Farm Hand Makes a Discovery at the Bottom of a Well.

Middletown, Conn., November 13.–The long drought in the Connecticut valley has greatly delayed the advent of winter, and wild flowers, fruit trees and strawberry blossoms, snakes and other things are still current. The drought has also dried all the small streams and wells, and it was on account of the drought, too, that Farmer Alexander Penfield’s hired man, a Pole, had a unique and startling experience today. Like all his neighbors, Penfield had been getting his drinking water in a hogshead for his household and his barn stock from the distant river, and he was tired of the job. He determined to clean out an old well on the premises. It was a deep and capacious one, and it had been unused for several years.

The two men found that the well had been partly filled with brush, stones and other debris, but Penfield quickly rigged up a rope and bucket and sent the Pole to the bottom of it in the bucket. The Pole had not labored long before he was disturbed by a singular buzzing sound like the humming of a swarm of bees, and a moment later he began to see snakes. From every crevice in the stone curb of the well serpents thrust forth their heads, hissing loudly, then advanced their bodies, little by little, into the well, which were followed instantly by more snakes, all crowding on the frightened workman and tumbling on each other into the bottom of the dimly lighted shaft.

There were black snakes, water snakes, striped snakes and adders. For awhile the Pole waged a desperate battle against the serpents with his shovel, simply to protect himself from their attack, but in a few moments he was completely invested with a hissing, writhing, squirming, tossing tangle of serpents in the bottom of the pit, while a shower of snakes was continually falling upon him from the walls above his head.

Finally the Pole became terror-stricken and shouted to Mr. Penfield to haul him out of the engulfing torrent of reptiles. Mr. Penfield pulled vigorously on the bucket rope and soon had his man out of danger. After an hour or so the serpents returned to their retreat behind the well walls. Then Farmer Penfield lowered his man into the well again. He found the bodies of thirty-four snakes which the Pole had killed with his shovel. Mr. Penfield has abandoned his project of using the well and is still getting his water from the Connecticut river.

From the Altoona Tribune (Altoona, Pennsylvania), Monday, November 14, 1892.


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.

1825: Antediluvian Remains

We are informed, that a few days since, while digging for marle some labourers found fifteen or twenty teeth of an unusual size, some of them being several inches in circumference. Other singular bones in a decayed state were met with. This subject merits the attention of the curious naturalist, and we hope will meet with proper investigation. These remains were discovered after removing the earth two or three feet from the bottom of a small pond, which had become dry during the late drought. The pond is situated in the highway, a few rods north of the house of Mr. George Blake, two miles south of this city.

From The Middletown Gazette (Middletown, Conn.), Wednesday, August 31, 1825.

1899: A Remarkable Lake

It Rises or Falls Many Feet at Various Times.

(From the Middletown (Conn.) Press.)

Job’s Pond, the remarkable lake in this town which has since early history puzzled scientific men by its phenomenal actions, is again furnishing material for curious speculation. It has no outlet, and in some places is from forty to sixty feet deep. Dr. Field in his history says it rises and falls as much as fifteen feet, but not from such causes as affect other ponds. It is often the highest in dry seasons, and lowest in the wet season of the year.

When it begins to rise it rises regularly for six or twelve months, and then falls for about the same period. Those, however, who are most capable of judging, think there is nothing mysterious about it. It is probably fed by some very deep springs that are not affected by the rainfall until after a considerable time. This beautiful sheet of water, deeply set between the hills, was once known as Waroona Lake. This appropriate name is the Australian word for solitude.

The pond for several years past has given no cause for comment and by some had almost been forgotten. It has now again presented its claims for notoriety in a manner which is certainly as astonishing as had ever been credited to it before. The water has been continually rising for several days, and has reached a mark over its natural heights, and is still reaching out in an effort to cover more territory. The pond is higher, it is reported by residents in the vicinity, than it has been since 1870.

The most peculiar feature connected with the present conditions existing there is the fact that farming land located at a great distance from the lake has been affected. John Strickland, who resides near the Center church, recently ploughed a field located two and a quarter miles from the pond on which he intended to raise a crop of potatoes. He had also completed a large shed on the lot for the reception of the crop when it was harvested. The soil is sandy, but Mr. Strickland had always considered it the most valuable of all his farming land and it has never given him reason to think otherwise. On Wednesday he had occasion to do some work on the lot with an ox team, and great was his surprise to find the soil wet and unfit for working. He drove his team some distance on the field, where one of the oxen sank down to its body in the earth and was with much difficulty extracted from his position.

From The Raleigh Times (Raleigh, North Carolina), Thursday, August 24, 1899.

1851: A Fossil Kangaroo

A fossil Kangaroo has been discovered in a quarry near Middletown, Conn. It contains all the characteristic features of the animal too plain for any mistake. The animal was four feet long, with a tail of 24 inches, strong and large at its base, and tapering.

From the Gallipolis Journal (Gallipolis, Ohio), Thursday, June 19, 1851.

1906: Motor Boat and Deer

Exciting Race Ends in Escape of Frightened Animal After Long Chase.

Middletown, Conn.–F. S. Peck of this city and E. N. Peck of East Haddam had an exciting race one day recently with a doe in the river opposite the Champion House at East Haddam.

The Pecks were running up the river in their fast motor boat when they saw a doe swimming out of the mouth of the Salmon river and headed across the Connecticut toward the west shore. The river is very wide at this point and the occupants of the boat decided to catch the deer before she reached the Tylerville shore. The deer saw their intention and swam with great speed, but the boat finally drewe alongside so that the occupants could touch the animal’s head. As soon as the doe touched bottom near the Tylerville shore she gave a tremendous jump, then leaped a fence and sped up across the railroad and disappeared in the woods.

Last summer some people who were cruising near Essex saw a buck swimming the river, and on drawing alongside one of the occupants tried to grasp the animal’s horns. Thereupon the deer lifted a front hoof from the water and gave the boatman a lunge in the chest which nearly shoved him into the water.

From The Chanute Daily Tribune (Chanute, Kansas), Friday, June 15, 1906.

1822: A Medicinal Spring in Middletown

The subscriber informs the public that he has fitted up a building for the purpose of Bathing and Showering with the water of a Mineral Spring, the medicinal qualities of which are the same as those of Ballstown and Saratoga Springs; it being strongly impregnated with iron sulphur, and other minerals. Many persons in Middletown and its vicinity can testify that they have received great benefit from the use of this water.–It was been ascertained to be almost an infallible cure for all cutaneous complaints. The spring is about three miles north of the City of Middletown, on the Hartford Turnpike. Board can be procured near the spring.


June 13


HADDAM June 3, 1822.

On Friday last, the friends of the missionary cause of this town, devoted themselves to preparing a house frame for the Sandwich Island Mission. The necessary timber being generously given by a few individuals, a number of farmers and carpenters, after uniting early in prayer and a missionary hymn, engaged in the work with great cheerfulness and vigour, and by night almost completed the important undertaking. Such scenes are peculiarly pleasing to the Christian, wishing for the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom, and very useful to those who are engaged in them. It is hoped that the religious public will be deeply interested in the reinforcement to this mission, and be more active in preparing every thing necessary for their support and comfort.

From The Middlesex Gazette (Middletown, Conn.), June 13, 1822.

May 18 – Middletown 366


Nathan Starr and the 2,000 Cutlasses

Nathan Starr of Middletown became the nation’s first sword manufacturer when he entered a contract with the United States government on May 18, 1808. The contract was negotiated by Navy Agent John Hull of New London and Nathan Starr provided 2,000 cutlasses. With the War of 1812 on the horizon, soldiers were in need of weaponry.

The contract required Starr to produce a regulation Navy cutlass for $2.50 and a pike for $0.75 in a four month period. The cutlass was a straight single-edged 30-inch bad and was perfectly designed for the small, crowded vessels where soldiers were stationed.

Starr provided another 1,000 cutlasses at $3.00 each for another contract signed on January 15, 1816. The blade on these cutlasses were 25-inches long rather than 30.

Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.


Seventeen-Year Locust

For the Constitution.

Mr. Editor.–It has probably occurred to many of your readers that this is the year for the appearance of that strange insect, the seventeen-year locust (Cicada Septendeeim) in our vicinity. Their last appearance was in 1843; and their several appearances before that were in the years 1826, 1809 and 1792, the exact period of 17 years returning each time. I cannot find that there is any record of their having been seen here at an earlier period than the date last mentioned, nor any reliable tradition of such an occurrence, but there can be no doubt of the fact! Going back 17 year from 1792 brings us of course to 1776 as the period of their return. Probably they came above ground that year about the time of the battle of Bunker Hill!

They may be expected about the middle of next month on the rocky ledge of land mostly occupied for pastures a little this side of the village of Westfield. Should the season prove specially favorable they may be looked for very early in June.

It will be recollected by many, that, at the time of their last appearance they were very abundant; and on pleasant evenings their perpetual din could be heard in the city, especially in High street, though they must have been three miles distant in a straight line!

Though their usual period is 17 years, it seems that circumstances may sometimes hasten or retard their appearance. Thus, in Morton’s memorial, they are said to have appeared at Plymouth, Mass., in the Spring of 1633, but it is known that several appearances at that place in later times have been in the years 1804, 1821, &c.; consequently a year must have been lost in the period between 1633 and 1804. It is of course possible that Morton may have made a mistake of one year, as he did not write until thirty or more years after 1633.

The times of their appearing in other parts of the country do not correspond with their times here; but the period of their absence is the same. Thus in Maryland, S. Carolina, Georgia, a part of Massachusetts and a part of Ohio, they appeared in 1831 and 1851; but in Western Pennsylvania, a part of Ohio, and other places their appearance was in 1829 and 1846, while in this State and in a part of New Jersey, their last appearance was in 1843, and they are expected again the present year. In other places their periods of return are still different; and probably every year witnesses their return in some locality of our richly extended country.


From The Constitution (Middletown, Conn.), May 18, 1860.


Francesco Lentini born, “The Three-Legged Wonder”

On May 18, 1889 Francesco A. Lentini was born in Rosolini, Sicily as one of thirteen children. However, unlike his twelve siblings, Francesco Lentini was born with three legs and an extra foot. The extra leg and appendage were part of two siblings who had never fully developed in the womb.

As a young man, Lentini joined the Barnum and Bailey Circus and was known as the “Three-Legged Wonder.” He also toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and other circuses and carnivals. He eventually settled in Middletown, Connecticut.

Lentini never saw his extra leg and foot as disability. He went on to marry and have four children who did not inherit his condition.

Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.

May 16 – Middletown 366



It appears by various papers from the southern and eastern states, that they felt the shock of the Earthquake we experienced here, the 16th ult. The eastern papers suppose its course run from West to East.

In Albany, the shock was smart for a few seconds, at 23 minutes past 10 o’clock–and but one shock.

In the East, it appears, they felt two distinct shocks.

Among all the phenomena in nature, this and the attraction of the needle, has puzzled philosophers the most; the cause remains as yet buried beyond the reach of human scan. Priestl[e]y attempts to familiarize the cause of earthquakes; but his experiments only serve to convince the world, that he was out of his depth. Franklin indeed found means to rob the clouds of their thunder and avert its effects. Some suppose earthquakes precede hot weather.

From the Middlesex Gazette (Middletown, Conn.), Thursday, June 18, 1818.


Fiasco Fights at Middletown

Bouts at the Sampson A. C. Prove a Failure.

Middletown, Conn., May 16.–The boxing bouts before the Sampson Athletic Club last night proved a complete fizzle. Patsy Corrigan of Brooklyn refused to go on for his twenty round match with Billy Moore of St. Louis and Kid Lamar of Chicago was substituted. Lamar lasted but two rounds.

In the preliminary Billy Trueman of Brooklyn failed to appear for a go with Chick Tucker of New York, and Jack Fitzgerald of New Britain went in. The police stopped the bout in the third to prevent the latter from a knockout.

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York), Thursday, May 16, 1901.