Camp Bethel is a historic Christian camp meeting site in the Tylerville section of Haddam that is located on a high bluff overlooking the Connecticut River. It was established in 1878 by the Life and Advent Union. In the early years as many as 10,000 people would gather on the property for several weeks each summer. At first they stayed in tents but later began building small cottages on their camp sites. Over the years Camp Bethel grew to include a chapel, a memorial hall, two boarding houses and over forty cabins. Most of these structures were built between 1889 and 1920. The current Dining Hall was built in 1992, replacing an earlier building destroyed by fire. Camp Bethel continues to operate as a camp meeting site today, one of the few that survive in New England. It is owned by the Camp Bethel Association, a non-denominational, evangelical organization that holds camp meetings each August and also rents the facility to different religious and educational groups for retreats, conferences and workshops. [If you are interested in learning about another camp meeting site with Victorian cottages in Connecticut, see my post about the Plainville Campground]. Read on to learn more about some of the buildings and to see more images of Camp Bethel! Read the rest of this entry »
Methodist meetings were held in Higganum (in Haddam) in the Old Red Schoolhouse from 1834 until it burned down in 1857. The congregation then met in private home until they built a church at 248 Saybrook Road in 1862. It is the only Methodist Church remaining in the town of Haddam (an earlier church erected in 1837 on Walkley Hill Road is no longer standing).
Jeremiah Shailer (1770-1845) built the house at 168 Camp Bethel Road in Haddam around the time of his marriage to Jerusha Shailer (1766-1843), i.e. just before 1800. Their daughter, Maria, married Smith Clark and her son, Jared Shailer Clark (1824-1888), a farmer and teacher who held the office of constable and justice of the peace, later occupied the house. The house’s original Federal-style doorway was later removed.
Happy New Year! The Carpenter Gothic house at 216 Saybrook Road in Higganum was built around 1855 by Norman Smith (1831-1895), a farmer. In 1854 he had married Mary Clark Willard of Brattleboro, Vermont. Their son, George Norman Smith, inherited the house but resided in Hartford.
Brothers Daniel and Hezekiah Scovil, Jr. founded the the D. & H. Scovil Hoe Company in 1844. Their father, Hezekiah Scovil, Sr. was a blacksmith in Higganum. Daniel Scovil had traveled through the south and observed the methods and tools used by slaves in cultivating cotton. He was inspired to invent an improved type of hoe called a “planters hoe” that was self-sharpening. He approached his brother Hezekiah to partner with him in manufacturing and marketing the new hoe. Like his brother, Hezekiah had been trained as a blacksmith, but due to poor health he had taken a job as a teller at the Middletown Savings Bank. The brothers’ new company thrived for over sixty years. Hezekiah married Caroline A. Bonfoey, daughter of Benanual Bonfoey, in 1860. Fifteen years later he built a grand Gothic Revival house at 72 Maple Avenue East in Higganum. Hezekiah and his wife passed away in the first decade of the twentieth century and the house was inherited by their great-nephew Whitney S. Porter. In 1947 it was sold out of the family. In 1963 it was purchased by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich for use as a convent. Since 1982 it has again been a private residence. Read the rest of this entry »
Happy Thanksgiving!!! Here’s a Colonial house in Haddam, at 95 Jacoby Road. It was built in the first third of the eighteenth century, possibly around 1720. Around that time Stephen Smith came to Haddam from West Haven. He distributed land to his four sons in 1753, this house going to Captain John Smith (1728-1808), a seafarer. His son, John Smith, Jr., was a blacksmith. According to tradition he forged the links of a chain across the Hudson River intended to interfere with British shipping during the Revolutionary War. He also shod a horse for George Washington. John Smith III was an apprentice blacksmith under his brother-in-law Elisha Stevens, who later founded the J & E Stevens Company in Cromwell. The house remained in the Smith family until 1899. In the mid- 20th century the property was home to Joseph and Mae Harrington from New York who grew strawberries and grapes that were sold at Rozniaks in Higganum. Joseph Harrington was the author of the Lieutenant Kerrigan mystery series. The house is unusual in Connecticut for having a large cellar fireplace. The property also has a barn dating to 1725-1730 and a creamery shed that was connected to the house in 1978 to become a library.
The large brick Italianate villa-style house at 37 Maple Avenue E in Higganum was built in c. 1841-1843 by Orrin Freeman, a wealthy bachelor. As a prominent local businessman, Orrin Freeman (1807-1880) was part-owner of a brickyard started by his father. He also ran the largest lumberyard and sawmill company in Middlesex County with his brother. They supplied lumber for the shipbuilding operations at Higganum Landing until 1862. Freeman also served as Judge of Probate. The house remained in the Freeman family until 1904. Eugene Orlando Burr purchased the house in 1908. Between 1910 and 1942 he ran a dairy farm known as Higganum Dairy. The house has continued in the same family ever since. In 1976, to commemorate the Bicentennial, Burr’s son-in-law, Francis Wright “Bill Gardner, Jr., who acquired the property in 1957, painted a large “Spirit of ‘76” mural on the house‘s southwest elevation. The house is now a bed & breakfast called The Spirit of 76 House.