A 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.
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.
On this day in 1956, Vice President Richard Nixon came to Middletown on a campaign stop.
Lillian “Reba” Moses
Lillian “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.
A three-mile long parade was held in honor of Middletown’s 250th anniversary on October 11, 1900. Civic, military, and education organizations participated in the parade, as well as 56 Native Americans from Durham’s Coginchaug tribe, the GAR Mansfield Post of Civil War veterans, and fire companies. Over 25,000 people visited Middletown with visitors coming from Hartford, New Haven, and Waterbury.
Hurricane Gloria was one of the strongest storms to hit Middletown in more than thirty years. It was a Category 2 hurricane when it came ashore in Connecticut, which entails winds ranging from 96 mph to 110 mph and a storm of generally six to eight feet above normal. The people of Middletown went without power for three days following the hurricane. This was also the weekend of the Durham Fair and many Middletown residents went to the fair for food and to generally enjoy the annual festivities.
The Connecticut Privateer schooner Eagle was commissioned under David Brooks of Chatham, Connecticut on May 28, 1779. The schooner had a crew of forty-five men, including many from Middletown. The first lieutenant was Shubael Brainerd.
On September 20, 1779, HM Frigate Daphne led by Captain St. John Chinnery captured the Eagle. The Eagle was then sent into New York and the crew of forty-four men aboard was turned over to prison ships at New York on October 2, 1779. The schooner was condemned later that same year.
The worst fire in the history of Middletown swept through Main Street on August 29, 1941. Nineteen business firms suffered large losses due to the blaze. State police, as well as the State Guard, were called to help put out the fire. Five men were hurt; none were seriously injured.
Samuel Russell was the eldest son of Captain John Russell and Abigail Russell. He founded the Russell Manufacturing Company and became its first president. Russell traveled extensively throughout his lifetime.
On return from his trip in China in 1837, he made arrangements for construction of a mansion on the corner of Washington Street and High Street. The house, which would later be called Russell House, was erected under the supervisor of Hon. Samuel D. Hubbard. The Russell House represents a revival in Greek architecture in the United States and has become an essential part of Middletown aesthetics.
After his death in 1862, his wife Frances purchased a vacant church at the corner of Broad and Court Streets and had it converted into Middletown’s first free public library. It was named the Russell Library in memory of her husband Samuel.
The combination of Hurricane Connie and Hurricane Diane in a five-day period left the Connecticut area devastated. The rainfall from both storms caused the river levels higher than they had been in hundreds of years. Connie and Diane called eight days of rainfall in total. Entire neighborhoods, as well as businesses and family homes, were washed away and destroyed in the floods following the storms.
Stephen Olin was born on March 2, 1797 and was an American educator and minister. He graduated from Middlebury College and was later ordained into the Methodist Episcopal Church. Olin was elected the second president of Wesleyan University. However, he postponed his presidency and served as the third president due to chronic illness. While at Wesleyan, Olin attempted to fix the university’s financial crisis and consolidated the curriculum. Olin died in Middletown on August 16, 1851 as his demanding schedule took a toll on his fragile state of health. His son went on to attend and graduate from Wesleyan University.
Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.
Captain Miller Found
Discovered in a Field Fearfully Bruised, Almost Naked and Incoherent.
Middletown, Conn., Aug. 15.–Captain Harvey Miller, for whom all Middletown has been searching since last Friday morning, was found at 6 o’clock last night in a pasture field belonging to J. C. Marvin. He was fearfully bruised and scratched and was lying on the grass without raiment, save a shift. He is alive and will probably recover.
When Mr. Marvin approached him he recognized him and asked to be taken home, also for food. Mr. Marvin summoned aid and drove the rescued man to Rockfalls, where medical aid was summoned. Miller is conscious and able at times to talk, but much of his talk is incoherent, and he is entirely unable to give an intelligible account of his wanderings since Thursday night.
From The Evening Journal (Wilmington, Delaware), Monday, August 15, 1892.