1909: President Taft Day in Middletown

November 12, 1909 saw the first visit by a president since Andrew Jackson came in 1832.  The purpose of Taft’s visit was to be the speaker at the inauguration of Wesleyan University President William Shanklin. Accompanying Taft in a car driven by F, L. Caulkins was Stephen H. Olin, representing Wesleyan alumni.  In the following car were Vice-President Sherman, Governor Frank B. Weeks of Middletown, and Middletown’s mayor, T. Macdonough Russell. They passed by 2500 school children and the parade was composed of bands and fraternal organizations, with the town’s Civil War veterans immediately surrounding the car as a military escort. The Penny Press headline declared that it was “One of the Greatest Parades Witnessed Here.”

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.

President Taft Visit

1936: President Franklin Roosevelt Visits Middletown

White House Surprised at Middletown Complaint on Change in Presidential Party Route, by Arthur C. Wimer.

“… Stephen Early, secretary to President Roosevelt insisted today that the White House was not responsible for any last minute changes which might have been made in the route followed by the President’s party through Middletown.

Mr. Early appeared surprised at reports that thousands of persons, many of them school children, had failed to see the President in Middletown because his automobile party had failed to move along High and Upper Washington streets as originally announced. He appeared surprised also at reports the trip down those two streets had been abandoned out of fear that Wesleyan University students might stage a Landon demonstration.

Mr. Early said if any change had been made on the [route] through Middletown it had been made by state or local officials and not by or at the instruction of White House staff. …” From the Hartford Courant, Oct. 25, 1936.

FDR visit


1789: George Washington Visit

George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart.
George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart.

On this day, George Washington visited Middletown while traveling through New England.  The president noted in his diary: “At one we arrived in Middletown, on the Connecticut River, being met 2… or 3 miles from it by the respectable citizens of the place and escorted by them.  While dinner was getting ready I took a walk around the town from the heights of which the prospect if beautiful.  Belonging to this place, I was informed (by General Sage) that there were about 20 sea vessels….The country hereabouts is beautiful and lands good….”  Though his visit lasted just about two hours, it made a great impression on Middletown citizens.  Shortly thereafter, the city changed the name of “Boston Road” to “Washington Street” to honor the first president and mark his visit here.

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.

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.


1874: Speeding

McDonough House,

Sept. 7th, 1874.

Editor Constitution–Sir: I am temporarily a resident of your beautiful city, and, consequently, unacquainted with its practices or regulations. I was, however, this morning surprised to see a man driving a horse at his greatest speed continually up and down your Main street. I tried to cross the street several times, but being advanced in years, and on each attempt finding this man coming at full speed directly towards me, I desisted. I had hoped I might see a policeman and get him to escort me over, or compel the horseman to find another course, but none were visible. On returning to my hotel, I was told the driver was a physician, whose specialty is the setting of broken limbs. A lady friend tells me also that he “goes for” his patients in this manner in your thoroughfares, and thus enjoys a large practice. Of course these statements may not be correct, but I have just read of your chief of police persuading a man to be quiet after the man had drawn a knife on an unoffending citizen and am thus prepared naturally to hear and see “queer things,” and yet if these practices are so, what earthly use have you for a mayor or police, which I am told you really do enjoy?

An Old Lady.

From The Daily Constitution (Middletown, Connecticut), Monday, September 7, 1874.

1979: Actor Leaves Hospital

Middletown, Conn. (UPI)–Oscar-winning actor Art Carney, 13-pounds thinner and feeling “great,” left a Middletown hospital today for a month’s rest at his summer home on the Connecticut shoreline.

Carney, 60, best known for his role as the bumbling, caustic Ed Norton in the television series “The Honeymooners,” was released from Middlesex Memorial Hospital following a two-week stay.

Carney checked in after completing work on a new film when his doctor ordered relaxation and a number of tests. He was in intensive care for a few days with elevated blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat.

“I think I’ll watch my diet and stay away from any form of the grape. You know what the grape is–the sauce,” Carney told reporters in a hospital conference room.

He said he checked into Middlesex at 210-pounds and now weighs 197-pounds. He wants to diet down to 185 before beginning work on a new film in Monte Carlo Oct. 15 with Farrah Fawcett-Majors.

Carney, who was steered into the room in a wheelchair, did an impersonation of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (the only role he still wants to play) for a captive audience of reporters and hospital personnel.

He praised his hosts–the hospital–for their food and service.

“The food has been excellent here,” said Carney, though he was restricted to a low cholesterol diet. “The food tasted just like at home. I might get sick next week just to come back.”

“But I wouldn’t call it exactly a honeymoon. There are bed checks you know,” he quipped.

Carney, who was wearing his own blue robe and a hospital issue polka-dot nightshirt and draw-string white pants, said he planned to take it easy at his summer home in Westbrook, exercise more, eat less and generally slow down.

“I’ve learned once again to watch out for the danger signals,” he said. “I guess I’m a workaholic. I’ve got to recognize the signals and watch out for them so this thing doesn’t happen again.”

Carney won an Academy Award in 1974 for his performance in the film “Harry and Tonto.”

From the Logansport Pharos-Tribune (Logansport, Indiana), Thursday, September 6, 1979.

June 12 – Middletown 366


Middletown, June 12

Sunday last two brothers by the name of Barns, were taken up on suspicion of being concerned in several burglaries; one of them acknowledged the facts, and turned evidence, from whom it was discovered that they had a cave a few miles from this city, in which were found the goods of Mr. Lemuel Storrs, and a great variety of other articles which had been lately stolen from this and the neighboring towns. They had with them more than 30 keys, which on trial would unlock almost every store in town.

On the above evidence two persons by the name of Osborn were taken in Waterbury, for being accomplices with the Barns’–on examination, Daniel Osborn, Peter Osborn, and Noah Barns, were ordered to be committed to gaol in Haddam, for trial next Superior Court in this County; and David Barns was likewise committed, to secure his testimony against them.

From the Hampshire Chronicle (Springfield, Massachusetts), Wednesday, June 16, 1790.

Middletown, Thursday, June 12, 1817.


James Monroe, by John Vanderlyn [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
James Monroe, by John Vanderlyn [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Notwithstanding the unobtrusive manner in which the President travels, and his known desire to avoid parade, it is announced, in all the cities, that it is in contemplation to treat him with distinguished respect, and to receive him with such salutations as beseem the citizens of a Republic. In this design there appears to be a rivalship in courtesy between the political parties, indicative, not only of the melioration of party asperity, but of the prevalence of a lofty national spirit.

Nat’l Int.


The President departed from this city on Saturday, for the northward, in pursuance of the intention we some time ago announced, to make a tour of observation through the Eastern and Northern States and Territories. Health and happiness attend him! Gen. Swift, Chief of Engineers, who is to accompany him, waits his arrival in Baltimore. On the same day, the President’s family took the road for his seat in Virginia.  Ib.

From The Middlesex Gazette (Middletown, Conn.), Thursday, June 12, 1817.

June 7 – Middletown 366


Women Strikers Claw and Bite Police; Troops Called

Middletown (Conn.) Officers Forced to Use Clubs in Subduing Foreign Industrial Workers

Middletown, Conn., June 7.–A clash of 350 striking operatives of the Russell Manufacturing Company with police and deputies, at the mills in South Farms today, brought here later a platoon of cavalrymen from Troop A, Connecticut national guard, to assist the police until the trouble is over.

Practically all the strikers are foreigners, the greater number being women who have joined the Industrial Workers of the World, and under encouragement of the organizers they demanded increased wages and improved working conditions. The strike followed the company’s refusal to recognize the labor organization.

Today’s clash was brought about by the strikers trying to stop others from going into the mills. The women fought the police with finger nails and teeth while showers of stones, bricks and other missiles were thrown by the men. The police finally used their clubs and dispersed the mob after several arrests had been made.

From The Indianapolis Star, June 8, 1912.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Speaks at Wesleyan University

On this date in 1964, the Rev. Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the baccalaureate address at Wesleyan University, and the University conferred on him an honorary degree of doctor of divinity.  It was one of several visits Dr. King made to Wesleyan in the 1960s–Wesleyan Professor of Religion John Maguire was a close friend of his going  back to their student days.

Dr. King’s speech in 1964 was a powerful call to action–urging graduates to act according to their conscience.  His last visit to Wesleyan was in 1966.

Story contributed by Joyce Kirkpatrick; Kimberly Singh.

1890: Local Logic

Expressions of People Picked Up by Diligent Reporters.

I was in Middletown, Conn., not long ago, and the friend with whom I was stopping one day invited a young lady, visiting the town from California, to come in and see a new upright piano which her father had just bought her. The California girl admired the tone and ornamentation of the instrument very much. All at once, however, she exclaimed in a voice of deep distress, “but there’s no place about it to hide a pie!”– Ethel Kufferneck.

From The News (Frederick, Maryland), Wednesday, March 26, 1890.

1777: What To Do?

On this day in 1777, Middletown residents conducted a town meeting to determine their course of action with regards to former New Jersey Governor and steadfast Loyalist to the British Crown William Franklin, who was being quartered in Middletown. The illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin, William Franklin had come to stay in Middletown for its reputation for loyalty and its interior location.

By this night in 1777 however, his vociferous support and dispersion of Loyalist propaganda had made residents weary. Captain Samuel Russell, Colonel Comfort Sage, and Seth Wetmore Jr. of Middletown were voted to be a committee to present a petition to Governor Trumbull to “remove Said Governor Franklin…. for Safety of this Town & State.”

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.