Cheshire's evolution from an offshoot of
Wallingford can be traced to the years 1680 to 1690, when the first
settlers moved into a low range of hills on the Cheshire side of the
Quinnipiac River and designated the area as "Ye Fresh Meadows". By
1694, there were enough individuals in the area to call it a
"settlement" and in the year 1705, Thomas Brooks arrived on the scene.
Apparently the country was enough like his homeland in England that he
called this settlement Cheshire. The Brooks name survives today in the
southern section, now known as Brooksvale.
The "west farmers", as they were called by
their brethren in Wallingford, slowly declared their independence from
their neighbor. By 1719 a school was in operation and in 1724 a
Congregational church was erected at the site which is now Main Street
and Lanyon Drive. St. Peter's Episcopal Church was organized in 1760
at the bend in Main Street. In addition, in 1794 as Episcopal Academy
of Connecticut was established through the efforts of Samuel Seabury,
the First Bishop of Connecticut.
In the year 1780 Cheshire, with its population
of 2,015, was recognized as a separate town by the State Legislature,
but growth was slow until transportation services improved. In 1801,
Cheshire's Main Street became a turnpike for the Hartford-New Haven
Stage. From 1827 to 1848, another important transport in use was the
historic Farmington Canal, which connected the Connecticut River to
the Long Island Sound. Sections of the canal can still be seen. Of
particular interest, are the remains of a lock near North Brooksvale
Road and the rail line, now the Canal Lock #12 Park. The canal was
eventually superceded by this railroad, thus being bypassed for the
more efficient iron horse.
Although Cheshire has never developed the
character of an industrial town, some early doings pointed the town in
the direction, not the least of which was copper and baryte mining.
Copper was first found by John Parker in 1712, but not until 1840 did
barytes (barium sulfate used in glass, paint, etc.) come on the scene.
A woman named Jinny chanced to find some of these unusual stones on a
hill near her home, thus starting a 40 year boom- first at the "Jinny
Hill" site and later on Peck Lane.
Many of the miners required for these jobs came
from a district in Cornwall, England. They brought with them their
religious beliefs and, in turn, led to the expansion of the Methodist
Church, which was founded in 1834.
There was further growth of small industrial
concerns indigenous to the area such as James Mix's gimlet and
hardware factory and the Cheshire Manufacturing Company, founded in
1850 (now the Ball and Socket Company), often involving the use of
native copper. Today this growth has culminated in an industrial area
in the north end of town that has everything from one-man machine
shops to large manufacturing facilities.
Town Information Courtesy of
Chamber of Commerce
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