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Town of Tolland
Tolland County Connecticut

HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF TOLLAND

TOLLAND was originally purchased of the native Indians by a number of gentlemen in Windsor. In 1715 it was incorporated by the Assembly, and the settlement of the town was commenced by two families. The progress of the settlement was slow; the number of families in 1720 was but twenty-eight. About one half of the township, comprising the south part, was claimed by a number of persons who were legatees of Joshua Uncas, sachem of the Mohegans. This proved a source of considerable difficulty, as the legatees commenced suits at law against the settlers. The proprietors holding under the Windsor claimants were obliged, at a dear rate, to purchase quit claims of the legatees of Joshua. The Rev. Stephen Steel was the first minister of this town. He commenced his labors in 1720, and continued his ministry for about thirty-seven years, greatly beloved and revered by his people. Mr. Steel was from Hadley, Mass. The first settlers were of the names of Chapman, Stearns, Grant, West, Carpenter, Aborns, Abbot, Lathrop, Nye and Dimock. The Chapmans were from Windsor; they located themselves about 2-1/2 miles westerly from the court house, near the Hartford road, in the vicinity of Snipsic pond or lake. John Stearns settled about 2 miles eastward of the court house; Zebulon West about 3 miles south; the Grovers, Carpenters and Samuel Aborns, located about 2-1/2 miles north. Ebenezer Grant, from East Windsor, settled on Grant's hill, about 2-1/2 miles south from the court house; Nye and Dimock settled near Willimantic river, about 4 miles east.

Tolland is bounded N. by a narrow section of land in Ellington, extending eastward, called "the Equivalent," W. by Vernon and Ellington, E. by the Willimantic river, dividing it from Willington, and S. by Coventry. It is upwards of six miles in length from north to south, and five and a half in breadth. The township is rough and uneven, being mountainous and stony, but some of the valleys and borders of streams consist of loam, which is warm and fertile. On the western boundary of the town is a large body of water, called Snipsic pond, being two miles in length and 100 rods in width. Some of the most valuable land in the township is in the vicinity of this pond. There is also a pond called Skungamug, in the central part of the town, upon which beavers were formerly taken by the Indians. Great quantities of cranberries are now gathered upon its borders.

The village in the central part of this town consists of about forty well appearing houses, pleasantly situated on an elevated plain of about half a mile in extent from north to south, narrow, but of sufficient width for a wide street. This place is 18 miles east from Hartford, and 52 from New Haven. A range of mountains rises immediately to the west of the village, dividing this part of the state from the great valley of the Connecticut.
 

South View of the Central Part of Tolland

The view shows the central part of the village, embracing most of the public buildings. The first building on the left is the Tolland County bank. The next building by its side, with a steeple, is the court house for the county; the next is Col. Elijah Smith's tavern. Col. Smith was the first post master, and has kept a public house on this spot ever since the year 1800. On the opposite side of the street is seen another tavern, to which the county jail is attached. The Baptist church, with a square tower is seen in the distance; the post office is kept at this time in the basement story of this building. The Methodist church is situated at the northern extremity of the village, on the west side of the street. The Congregational church, the largest building in the place, stands at the south end of the village, and being in the street, is a very prominent object in that direction. The view being taken in the central part of the street, looking north, of course this church could not be represented in the engraving.

The following inscriptions are copied from monuments in the grave yard, south of the village.
 

Here lies the body of the Rev. Mr. Stephen Steel, the worthy pastor of the Church of Christ in Tolland, who departed this life the 4th of December, A.D. 1759, in the 63d year of his age, and the 37th of his ministry. For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

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Here lies interred the body of ye Hon'ble Zebulon West. Esq'r. sometime Justice of ye quorum, Judge of probates, Speaker of ye Lower House of Assembly, and member of ye Hon'ble Council, who lived much respected and died greatly lamented, on ye 4th day of December, A.D. 1779.  AEtatis Anno 65th.

Heaven waits not the last moment.....owns her friends
On this side death, and points them out to men:
A lecture silent, but of sovereign power ---
To vice confusion, and to virtue peace.
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In memory of Samuel Cobb, Esq. a gentleman of public education and distinguished abilities, who long served his generation as a physician and minister of justice, to great acceptance, and in his life and death was an example of sobriety and virtue, and evidenced the influences and consolations of Religion; lived much esteemed, and died universally lamented, on ye 6th day of April, A.D. 1781, Anno AEtatis 65th.

The great, the good, the wise, the just,
Must all in time be turn'd to dust:
Then learn to quit terrestrial ties,
That you may soar above the skies;
And then enjoy the blissful favor,
Of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
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Capt. Amos Fellows was captivated by ye British troops on ye Island of New York, Sept. 15, 1776, and was closely confined for several months, and there suffered repeated hardships, probably insupportable, and died in captivity, Feb. 16, 1777, in ye 48th year of his age. His remains are there still, and that his memory may be perpetuated, this monument is here erected by his son. A tribute of a tear is due to him who in his country's cause has lost his life.

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Engraving & History are taken from:  Connecticut Historical Collections........History and Antiquities of Every Town in Connecticut........2D Ed.;  John Warner Barber, 1798-1885; Publisher: Durrie and Peck and JW, 1837.

 

Submitted by:  Linda Pingel

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The Town of Tolland web site was originally created and maintained by Dana Fenton on February 20, 2000.
The web site has been recreated and is now maintained by Linda Pingel as of February 1, 2010.
2010