In Celebration of 150 Years of Community
By Scott Yeomans
Copyright Scott Yeomans, 1998
From Wilderness to Township
Andover was incorporated as the 146th town in Connecticut in May, 1848. Its lands were taken from the much older towns of Hebron and Coventry. Andover's borders and its distinction as a unique society, however, date back to 1747. In that year, parishioners of the First and Second Ecclesiastical Societies in Coventry, the Second Society in Lebanon and the First Society in Hebron successfully petitioned for the creation of the Andover Ecclesiastical Society. The land that the town encompasses, of course, is the result of millions of years of natural occurrences.
Andover's current topography is primarily the work of the last glacier that blanketed much of the North American continent. It is believed that the glacier may have been as much as a mile thick in this area. As it moved through here, the glacier gouged out the beginnings of the Hop River valley. As the glacier began to retreat, beginning about 15,000 years ago, it left the many sand and gravel deposits, as well as the many troublesome boulders that dot Andover.
While it is unlikely that there were any permanent Native American settlements here, it is certain that they used the area for hunting and fishing as is attested to by the many arrow heads and spear points that have been recovered over the years. The Nipmucks were in the area well before the start of the 17th century. They were a peaceful people, content to hunt, farm and fish and leave the other tribes alone. Not long before 1600 another group, the Pequot's, invaded the area subduing the weaker, peaceable tribes in their path. After an incident at the Dutch trading post on the Connecticut River (present day Hartford) resulted in the death of the Pequot Grand Sachem Wopigwooit, a power struggle broke out between two under Sachems, Sassacus and Uncas. The tribe chose Sassacus to be their leader. Eventually, Uncas and his supporters left to form their own tribe. They established themselves to the north of the main Pequot settlements and called themselves Mohegans. Around this time the English settlements had grown to the point where they were seriously encroaching upon the Pequot's lands and ways. The Pequot's began to deal with these trespasses in ever more violent ways. By May, 1636 the colonists had had enough and a General Court was convened. The unanimous result, "It is ordered that there shall be an offensive war against the Pequots" Uncas, hearing of the planned attack, offered his services to the English. As result of the success of the Pequot War, Uncas, Grand Sachem of the Mohegans, laid claim to the land that Andover occupies. Uncas shared control over this area with his sons, Oweneco and Attanawoed. Attanawoed was very taken by the English ways. He chose an English name, Joshua. He directed that he should be buried " in the English manner," that his children should be taught in the English schools and that they were not to have contact with other Native Americans. In 1676, Joshua signed a will that conveyed three tracks of land to three groups of prominent colonists and a fourth track to his sons. Roughly, these bequests became the original towns of Coventry, Hebron, Windham, and the "mile and a quarter" respectively. Pieces of three of these parcels, plus a portion of the land that was purchased for Lebanon, are within Andover's borders.
Settlement of the Andover area began shortly after the building of the Hartford - Norwich Road (much of old route 6 and route 87) in 1700. This road provided an overland route between the two settlements. Previous to the building of the road, travel between the two towns required water navigation down the Connecticut River, along Long Island Sound, and up the Thames River. Many of the earliest settlers built homes in the "mile and a quarter" which was initially not part of any town, thus making its residents free of civil government. However, by 1723 these lands were divided at Hop River and added to the neighboring towns of Coventry and Lebanon.
Thomas Porter was the first to arrive. He bought 100 acres of land and was living on it in 1711 when he added 45 more acres to his farmstead. He built a house near the modern day intersection of Erdoni and Lake Roads. He thought he was in Hebron and even served as a selectmen for that town, though he was really living in Lebanon. Most of the early settlers came looking for land to farm. A few were interested in the many brooks that flow down into the Hop River as a source of waterpower. All of the brooks of any size have the remains of dams built long ago.
By 1740 the First Ecclesiastical Society of Coventry was experiencing difficulties. A number of residents petitioned successfully for the creation of the Second Ecclesiastical Society, known as North Coventry. Still there were some that were unhappy with the new society and petitioned to be annexed to the Bolton church. This was denied. At the same time, similar problems and talk of division was taking place in the Lebanon and Hebron parishes. This divisive mood led a group of people from the First and Second Societies in Coventry, the Second Society in Lebanon and the First Society in Hebron to band together for the purpose of creating yet another Society. Thus in 1743 these families, primarily living in or near the Hop River Valley petitioned the General Court (the Colonial Legislature) to form a new parish, to be called "Andover." Of the early settlers, none seem to have been from Andover, Ma. or any other Andover for that matter. Why this name was chosen for the new parish is anyone's guess. As was common with such petitions, the representatives established a committee to "visit with" the petitioners to determine their ability to support their own church. Despite a favorable report from its committee, both the upper and lower chambers of the General Court voted the petition down. There was no doubt great opposition to the new parish by the existing ones, which were either young and struggling, or had just sustained a loss of members do to other breakaway movements. The loss of tax revenue was a bigger concern than the loss of parishioners.
New petitions were sent each successive year. Finally, in 1747 the General Court created the Andover Ecclesiastical Society. Its boundaries were set according to who was to be included or excluded from the new parish. Thus the boundaries tended to run from house to house rather than along property lines. This was not a problem since no town affiliations were being affected, only ones assigned parish. Beyond the issues of parish politics, many of the families involved in the new society, about 60 in all, were quite distant from their former churches and had great difficulty in attending services regularly as required by law. The formal basis for the creation of the Society was this geographic problem, though I suspect that parish politics was a major underlying force.
The new society solved the church problems for many of the residents, but did nothing to address the continuing difficulties of transacting civic business for these people. The people of Andover Society still belonged to three different towns located in two counties. The continuing difficulties that this situation placed upon the citizens caused them to petition for township privileges in 1754. This request was turned down, as were several more delivered in the 1700s. Again, concern over the loss of tax revenue seems to have been a major factor in the vehement opposition to Andover Parish's secession requests by the towns of Coventry, Lebanon and Hebron.
During its years as a parish, the people of Andover saw many important travelers pass through. The Hartford - Norwich Road was an important and heavily used route. During the revolutionary war, General George Washington used this route to travel from Hartford to Newport, R. I. in order to confer with General Rochambeau of the French Army. While it is not known if General Washington stopped in Andover, we do know that General Rochambeau dined at the Black Horse Tavern, which is still standing on Hutchinson Road, on several occasions as he traveled between Newport and Wethersfield. And certainly one of the greatest spectacles ever witnessed in Andover must have been the arrival of General Rochambeau and his army as they marched to General Washington's aid in Yorktown, Virginia. In June of 1781, four regiments of the French Army came marching through the parish. Each regiment numbered between 1,000 and 1,500 colorfully uniformed men, plus artillery and 50 or more baggage carts drawn by oxen. Several of the regiments camped along the Hop River near what today is Bailey Road. Once in Virginia, these soldiers contributed to the surrender of the English General Cornwallis, which effectively ended the American Revolutionary War. In November of 1782, the French once again marched through Andover, and again encamped at the foot of Bailey Road hill on their return to Newport.
During and after the Revolution, the people of Andover continued their campaign to be united for civil purposes. Gains came slowly, and in pieces. In 1785, the State Legislature created Tolland County and placed Coventry and Hebron in it. Five years later, that portion of Lebanon that lay within the parish borders was annexed to the town of Hebron. Andover Society now lay in only two towns and but one county. Finally, during the May, 1848 session of the State Legislature, the area within the Andover Ecclesiastical Society borders was made a town. The Act of establishment specified how the treasuries of the mother towns of Coventry and Hebron should be divided and called for the first elections to be held the following October. Because of a State Constitutional change, Andover was granted only one representative in the lower house of the State Legislature, while the mother towns had two.
May Session, 1848, New Haven
Resolved by this Assembly,
That the Society of Andover, in the towns of Hebron and Coventry, with all the inhabitants residing within the limits of said society, be, and the same is hereby incorporated into a distinct and separate town, by the name Andover, and the inhabitants aforesaid and their successors forever residing within said limits shall have and enjoy all the powers, privileges and immunities which are enjoyed by other towns in the State, with the right of sending one representative to the General Assembly of this State.
And said town of Andover shall pay its proportion of all debts and claims already due, or for which said town of Hebron may be hereafter made liable by force of any claim now existing;--- and shall be entitled to its proportion of the property, --- including the "Town Deposit Fund" --- of said town of Hebron --- and shall take and support its proportion of the poor persons now maintained by said town of Hebron --- all said proportion to be (reckoning on the grand list of 1847) as the list of that part of Hebron now embraced in Andover bears to the list of said town of Hebron.
And said town of Andover shall pay its proportion of all debts and claims already due, or for which said town of Coventry may be hereafter made liable by force of any claim now existing;--- and shall be entitled to its proportion of the property, including the Town Deposit Fund of said town of Coventry and shall take and support its proportion of the poor persons now maintained by said town of Coventry --- all said proportion to be (reckoning on the grand list of 1847) as the list of that part of Coventry now embraced in Andover bears to the list of said town of Coventry saving and excepting that the town of Andover shall not be entitled to any portion of the town house belonging to Coventry, nor be liable for any expense for building hereafter any town-house or for holding public meetings in said town of Coventry.
And in case the Selectmen of the town of Andover and the Selectmen of the town of Hebron, or the Selectmen of the town of Coventry should not be able to agree as to the division of the property, the poor, or the amounts of debts and claims of said towns of Coventry and Hebron respectively, the on application of the Selectmen of either of said towns to Ralph R. Phelps Esq. of Manchester, he is hereby authorized to make such apportionment first giving to the towns interested suitable notice of time and place of hearing and his decision shall be final.
The collectors of the towns of Hebron and Coventry are hereby authorized to collect all taxes already laid, in the same manner as if this act had not been passed.
The first town-meeting in said town of Andover shall be held on the first Monday of October 1848 at nine o'clock A.M. at the Conference House in Andover and Calvin Daggett (and in case of his failure, Gurly Phelps) shall be Moderator of said Meeting and shall warn said meeting by setting up a notification of the same on the public sign Posts in Andover and in such other place or places as he may think proper at least six days before said meeting. And said town of Andover shall have all the powers at said first meeting incident to other towns in the State and full right to act accordingly; and the Officers elected at such first meeting shall hold their offices until others are chosen and sworn in their stead.
John B. Robertson
Secretary of State
As specified in the resolution creating the Town of Andover, a town meeting was held at the conference house on October 2, 1848. Town offices were filled as follows for the ensuing year: Calvin Dagget, moderator; Nathan B. Lyman, town clerk and register of deeds; Doctor Adonijah White, town treasurer; Gurley Phelps, Elisha Perkins, and James E, Marsh, selectmen; James E. Marsh, Joel Lathrop, and Appleton Dorrance, assessors; Eleazar S. White Horace J. Jones and Harvey Lyman, board of relief; William Dorrance, Alfred H Fitch and William Babcock, constables; Bezaleel Hutchinson, Eli Bishop and Brewster C. Huxford, grand jurors; Samuel B. Dagget, Alfred H. Fitch, Nathan B. Lyman and Charles H. Loomis, tythingmen; Bezaleel Hutchinson, sealer of weights and measures; Adonijah White, key keeper; Bezaleel Hutchinson, gager; Leonard Hendee, wood measurer; Ebenezer B. Drinkwalter, Lenas Chappin, Thomas H. Jones, and Samuel B. Dagget, fence viewers; Harvey Multon, Cyrus Hutchinson, Milton Burnap, Amasa Jones, Chester Perkins and Jesse Dorrance, haywards; Nathan Lyman, town agent.
At the time of Andover's incorporation it claimed approximately 500 residents. There were two general stores, three manufacturers of wagons and sleighs, several grist mills, saw mills, cider mills, blacksmith shops, and two churches. Many of the farmers were supplementing their incomes with logging and hat manufacturing. By the turn of the century the town also had a large paper mill, and a creamery that was making 150 lbs. of butter per day. Numerous inns and taverns were in operation as well as one large hotel. These institutions were kept busy by travelers using the main thoroughfares through town and the railroad. With as many as 40 trains per day picking up and delivering passengers, as well as mail and freight, Andover was a busy place. The railroad was extremely important as it allowed the local businesses to easily reach the busy markets of New York and Boston. The railroad telegraph was also important for it brought baseball scores and other news to the townspeople.
For Part 2