1814: Macdonough’s Victory at Lake Champlain

Gilbert Stuart, Commodore Thomas Macdonough, American, 1755 - 1828, c. 1815/1818, oil on wood, Andrew W. Mellon Collection
Commodore Thomas Macdonough, American, 1755 – 1828, c. 1815/1818, oil on wood, Artist Gilbert Stuart. Andrew W. Mellon Collection.

On this day, Middletown resident Commodore Thomas Macdonough was the victor over the British Fleet at the Battle of Lake Champlain, directly leading to the end of the War of 1812 with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent. Early in his naval career, he was stationed in Middletown building gunboats in local shipyards and fell in love with Lucy Ann Shailer. After their marriage, they built a home on Main Street just south of where Webster Bank is today. Lucy Ann died several weeks after their 10th child was born and he succumbed to tuberculosis several months later while returning home to his family from his command of the USS Constitution. Both are buried in Riverside Cemetery.

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.

Macdonough home on Main Street
Macdonough home on Main Street


1812: Military Review

The several Regiments composing the seventh Brigade of Connecticut Militia will be reviewed on the following days, viz:–

The 15th Reg’t on the 15th               }

The 23rd Reg’t on the 16th              }

The 6th Reg’t on the 17th                 }  Sept. next.

The 24th Reg’t on the 23d                }

The 7th Reg’t Cavalry on the 24th  }

The Review of the 23d Regiment will be at Middletown, and the Troops are to be on parade at nine o’clock A. M.

From the Middlesex Gazette (Middletown, Connecticut), Thursday, September 3, 1812.

August 27 – Middletown 366


Sixty Persons Hurt

Middletown, Conn., Aug. 27.–Sixty persons were injured tonight, eight of them seriously, when an express train on the Valley division of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad was wrecked by spreading of the rails. The train runs Sundays to various resorts and returns at night. The train consisted of the engine, two baggage and eight passenger coaches. The engine was thrown on its side into a sand bank; the two baggage cars went down a 35-foot embankment and the first passenger coach ran into the tender of the engine and was badly splintered.

It was in this car that most of the injured were found. The engineer was caught in the cab of his engine and had to  be chopped out but escaped with a dislocated hip and bruises.

From the Chatham Record (Pittsboro, North Carolina), Wednesday, August 30, 1911.


Cheering on the Boys


On August 27, 1918, Middletown cheers their local soldiers who have returned from the war.

August 22 – Middletown 366


Simeon North Dies

North Pistol Factory
North Pistol Factory

Arms manufacturer Simeon North passed away on this day at the age of 87. North’s factory was on the West River and there he pioneered the use of interchangeable parts and developed what was possibly the first milling machine. For 53 years, he provided pistols, rifles, and other armaments to the War Department, making as many as 10,000 pistols a year for use by soldiers in the War of 1812.

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.


Pilot Pinned in Wreckage, Rescued After 6 Long Days

Middletown, Conn. (AP)– For six days, injured John T. Emmanuel, sat pinned in his seat in a wrecked plane.

Trucks sped by on Interstate 91, only a short distance away. Search planes buzzed overhead, their pilots unable to see the wreckage under the trees.

Beside Emmanuel, 39, lay the body of his friend, Richard C. Grimaldi, 32, who had been piloting the single-engine plane back to Hartford after a weekend holiday at Block Island, R. I.

A week ago this morning, the Cessna went down, bounced off the rocky face of Mt. Higby and fell into the woods at the bottom of the cliff.

As the days passed, Emmanuel sat trapped in the crumpled cockpit.

An air-sea search for the plane was pressed by the Federal Aviation Agency and the Coast Guard. They abandoned the search Thursday, but a number of private pilots and Connecticut authorities continued the hunt.

There was no clue to the whereabouts of the four-seater plane, state police said, until authorities received a report from truck driver John Faulkner. He told them he had seen a flash of something at the foot of the mountain in the rear view mirror of his truck while he was driving south on Interstate 91 last Monday morning.

After hearing days later about the lost plane, Faulkner gave searchers information which enabled them to pinpoint the spot where the plane might have gone down.

On Sunday, a State Aeronautics Department helicopter flew low and spotted the wreck beneath the heavy foliage at the foot of the cliff.

Searchers hiked through the wooded Mt. Higby area to the plane, where they found Emmanuel alive.

“We did not give up hope,” said Emmanuel’s mother, Mrs. Thomas H. Emmanuel of Hartford. “We knew we’d find him alive.”

The survivor was suffering from malnutrition, exposure, and shock. He was in serious condition, but conscious and able to speak.

Emmanuel was brought out with some difficulty. The small helicopter that found him couldn’t manage it. A bigger helicopter from Suffolk (N.Y.) Air Force Base finally managed the job after making three passes at the site.

The body of the pilot, a Newington resident, was to be removed today.

From The Hope Star (Hope, Arkansas), Monday, August 22, 1966.



August 17 – Middletown 366


General Parson’s Fight

Samuel Holden Parsons home in Middletown
Samuel Holden Parsons home in Middletown

On this day, Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons of Middletown commanded more than 2500 men and participated in the fighting against the British commander Lord Sterling at Battle Hill in Brooklyn, New York. He was also credited with being the first Colonial leader to call for a meeting of a Continental Congress of the American colonies. He was a member of the board of officers who tried and sentenced to death Benedict Arnold’s accomplice Major John Andre. At war’s end, he returned to Middletown to resume his law practice and was elected to the General Assembly. Later he moved to Ohio and was appointed the first chief judge of the Northwest Territory.

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.


Turtle Story

In 1818 Alfred Hubbard, who lives in Long Hill society, Middletown, Conn., caught a box turtle, marked it with his initials, A. H., 1818, and let it go. It was not seen again until 1846, when his son, S. C. Hubbard, found it and marked it S. C. H., 1846. Another son discovered the turtle in 1851 and marked it F. W. H., 1851. Since that time it has not been seen until recently, when another son found the old veteran in his father’s garden among the strawberry plants. He also marked him E. N. H., 1882, and set him at liberty.

From The Democratic Press (Ravenna, Ohio), August 17, 1882.

1918: Herbert Eckersley Dies in France

Herbert Eckersley was born in Bolton, England on September 16, 1894. He came to this country as an infant with his parents, Thomas and Mary Eckersley. He initially enlisted in Company C of the 102nd U.S. Infantry as a bugler on March 15, 1912. At the time of his enlistment, he was variously reported as working at Russell Manufacturing Company or Middlesex Machine Works. Company C originated in Middletown as the Mansfield Guards in 1847. Eckersley saw duty on the Mexican border in 1916 defending a border dispute during Mexico’s civil war. He rose to become the orderly to Major George J. Rau of Hartford, whom he called the “best officer in the American line and a true gentleman” in his last letter home from France. Word was received by his parents that he died on July 24, 1918. Both Eckersley and Rau met their deaths at Chateau Thierry during the Aisne-Marne offensive, and the body of Herbert Eckersley was returned to Middletown in July 1921. Eckersley was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery with full military honors, after a service at his parents’ home across from the school that would later bear his name.

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.

Portion of A. B. McCutcheon mural at Eckersley Hall, now Middletown Senior Center
Portion of A. B. McCutcheon mural at Eckersley Hall, now Middletown Senior Center.

1943: 150 V-12 Navy Men Finish Physicals

Middletown, Conn., July 17--Physical testing of the 150 V-12 navy men stationed at Wesleyan University has been completed by Chief Specialist Andrew P. Fisher and the “hardening down” period has begun.

The Navy College Training Unit physical education program is divided into three parts. Thorough entrance tests determine the students’ physical condition and following these tests an eight weeks’ hardening program is carried out. Special emphasis is placed on swimming during this period, and all students take an hour of physical education each day and twenty minutes of calisthenics at 6 each morning.

Eligible for Sports

At the end of the eight weeks the students will be tested again and the top two-thirds will engage in intramural sports and will be eligible to participate in any intercollegiate sports which are held. The lower third will take the hardening course for a second time.

Chief Specialist Fisher, who will have direct charge of the physical education program, was graduated from Holy Cross in 1930. He received his M.A. degree at Columbia University. He will work under the directions of Lt. (jg) Henry C. Herge, former supervising principal of the public schools of Bellmore. Lt. Herge was graduated from New York University in 1929 and received his M.A. degree in 1931 and his Ph.D. in literature in 1942.

From The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York), Sunday, July 18, 1943.


1911: Lettermen 24 Years

Three Civil War Veterans Celebrate Unusual Anniversary

Middletown, Conn., July 11.–When the free delivery of letters was first installed in this city, twenty-four years ago today, three veterans of the civil war, Michael S. Dunn, John Slavin and James Deming, were appointed by the postmaster. These three men, now grey-haired and stoop-shouldered from their quarter century of work carrying their delivery bags, are still covering their routes, and the entire city joined in celebrating their twenty-four years of service.

From The Chanute Daily Tribune (Chanute, Kansas), Tuesday, July 11, 1911.


1843: Court Martial

A court martial for the trial of Col. Freeman, of the Marine Corps, on charges preferred by the Secretary of the Navy, met at Middletown, Conn., on the 10th inst. The court is composed as follows:–Lieut. Col. Miller, President; Lieut. Colonel Watson, Majors Harris, Dulany, and Twiggs; Captains Linton, English, Marston, Macomber, Brevoort, and Lieuts. Hardy, Lindsay, and Waldron, members. Henry M. Moffit, Esq., of Washington, Judge Advocate. The charges are disobedience of orders, neglect of duty, scandalous conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, and treating with disrespect his superior officer, being in the execution of his office.

From The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), July 15, 1843.