East Litchfield Village Improvement Society (ELVIS)
East Litchfield Facebook Page

Please send history items and photographs,
news or events to: east.litchfield@gmail.com

Photographs link:

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Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust
to Fund Restoration of Two Windows
in Historic East Litchfield Chapel
The East Litchfield Village Improvement Society (ELVIS) received a matching grant from the Connecticut Trust to restore the windows in the historic 1868 Chapel. The grant from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservations is intended to encourage and support community efforts in planning for the preservation, restoration, and rehabilitation of historic buildings and places, is part of the Connecticut Trust's technical assistance program, in collaboration with and with generous funding from the Connecticut General Assembly and the State Historic

ELVIS presented their needs for matching funds to the Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust (GLPT) and they voted to fund the restoration of two windows in the chapel sanctuary. These two windows will be in memoriam of two of Litchfield's champions for historic preservation - Sonia "Sunny" Seherr-Thoss and her husband Hans "Boisie" Seherr-Thoss.

In addition to the two Seherr-Thoss memorial windows, Don and Joyce Iffland are funding a window in honor of Laura and Martin Iffland, Robert and Patricia Goodwin for Anna Iffland Naser, Kay Healy Beeman is sponsoring two windows, one for George Sawyer and one for her parents Dorothy and John Healy. Jane Walker, Cynthia Wilson Young and David T. Wilson are funding one for their grandparents, Ethel and Edward Wilson. Other cash donations have been received to fund a window in memory of Sarah Melissa Hopkins Kilbourn. Four more windows are in need of either sponsors for a full window or smaller donations to fund the restoration of one window.

If you would like to contribute to this restoration effort, please send donations to: East Litchfield Village Improvement Society, PO Box 1411, Litchfield Connecticut 06759. Checks should be made out to ELVIS and be clearly marked "Chapel Restoration Fund." All donations will be sincerely appreciated and will also be acknowledged. If you have questions, please contact east.litchfield@gmail.com

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East Litchfield History : 91 Years Ago
1924. October 11. Torrington Register
FIRST WEDDING IN 40 YEARS IN E. LITCHFIELD CHAPEL
The first wedding in the East Litchfield chapel in over 40 years took place at noon today when Miss Orrilla Mary Barnes [Janet Healy's aunt], daughter of Edward Barnes became the bride of Chester Arthur Lang, son of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Lang of South Main Street. Neighbors and other friends united this morning in decorating the chapel, which was converted into a veritable bower of autumn leaves, asters and dahlias. Practically everybody in East Litchfield turned out for the wedding. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. L. F. Baker, pastor of the Advent Christian Church, Torrington.

The bride was charming in a gown of white georgette with necklace of pearls, and a veil caught with orange blossom. She carried a bouquet of bridal roses. She was attended by Miss Laura West of Torrington as bridesmaid. Miss West wore brown Canton crepe and carried a bouquet of brown and yellow flowers. The best man was Louis Dutton of Blanford Mass. As the bridal party entered the chapel, the wedding march, from Lohengrin was played by Mrs. A. A. Rebmann [Janet Healy's mother] of East Litchfield, a sister of the bride. Following the ceremony, there was a reception at the Rebmann home. Later in the day, Mr. and Mrs. Lang left for a honeymoon trip to Albany and thence down the Hudson.

Mr. Lang is engaged at the Torrington post office as parcel post carrier and is widely know and well-liked in Torrington. The bride also has a host of friends here. For several months past, she has been making her home with her sister at [377 East Litchfield Road] East Litchfield, but prior to that she resided in Torrington. [Chester and Orrilla built a home at 391 East Litchfield Road where they lived for many years.]

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HISTORY : 91 Years Ago in East Litchfield
The Busk Farm is now Widsom House property. This was before we had our own fire company and depended on other departments to come to our aid as you can tell by the article below.

BARNS BURNED AT BUSK FARM DURING STORM
August 11, 1924. Torrington Register
Two big barns and several smaller out buildings on the F. T. Busk farm at East Litchfield were destroyed in a spectacular fire during the storm last night. Three horses were burned to death and about 75 tons of hay and considerable farming equipment were destroyed. Heroic efforts by firemen from Litchfield, Bantam and Torrington resulted in the saving of the house and other buildings.

The fire was started by lightning which struck the horse barn, ripping shingles off the roof and setting fire to the hay, harvesting of which had been completed only a few days ago. It spread with almost incredible rapidity and within a few minutes the barn, which was one of the largest in the county, was enveloped in a roaring mass of flames, which were visible for a distance of several miles.

A call for aid went out to the Litchfield fire department. Notification was also sent to Torrington but Chief John Palmer was informed that the barn was in Litchfield and that the fire department there had been summoned so he did not immediately dispatch one of the local trucks. Later, however, one of the Litchfield firemen notified him that the Litchfield truck had broken down on the way to the fire, when assistance was sent from here. The Bantam firemen also were called and they laid a line of hose from a pond on the Howe [now Touchstone] place to the Busk farm.

The firemen devoted their attention to saving the house, garage and other buildings, as it was obvious that the horse barn was doomed. The flames had spread to the big cow barn adjoining the horse barn, and this too was soon doomed. Fortunately the cows were all out in the pastures. A house occupied by the hired man also caught fire, but this was saved by the firemen.

The angry glare of the fire was seen by thousands of Torrington people and the telephone office was besieged with calls of inquiry as to the location of the blaze. Scores of automobilists hastened to the scene and the roads in all directions were choked with cars.

The loss variously estimated from $15,000 to $25,000 is covered by insurance. Mr. Busk, owner, is a New York man but spends much of his time at the farm, which is located on the road between Litchfield and East Litchfield.

Last night's storm, according to residents of Litchfield, is one of the most severe that has visited that town in recent years. A furious hailstorm accompanied the thunder and lightning. Rain fell in torrents. Trees were broken down or uprooted and gardens were cut to pieces.

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Sixty years ago this month East Litchfield was dealing with the Flood of 1955.
Jack Leifert was a teenager living at 83 East Litchfield Road South - right across from the depot site. On the night of the flood, Jack's dad (Raymond) was working the nightshift at the E.J. Kelly Company in Torrington. His mom (Delia) was very upset when she woke him up at 1:00 a.m., not knowing what to do. She heard a loud noise - a log had smashed into a basement window. When Jack opened the basement door to inspect, the water was right there and quickly rose up to the top of the kitchen counters. They left through the back door, Jack delivered his mom safely to the Atwater family at 70 East Litchfield Road South; then he went back to move the family car up hill.

Please click on this link to see a few East Litchfield photographs from 1955.

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East Litchfield History:
For those of you that were not able to attend the July ELVIS meeting; Dan Keefe, Historian, gave a brief introduction to his research on Litchfield Schools while focusing on East Litchfield School with promises of more.

Dan's sources were the Town Clerk's Office and School Annual Reports from the Litchfield Historical Museum.

The one-room schoolhouse, that was located west of the Chapel on East Litchfield Road South, operated under the following three names:
1866-1879, Depot School
1880-1894, Mattatuck School
1923-1938, East Litchfield School

1874:  Anna Iffland and Ellen Abbot had perfect attendance.
1880: Town-wide School Board was established. Dwight Kilbourn, of East Litchfield, served as Board Secretary, from 1880 to 1894.
Male teachers were paid $30.00 a month which included room and board, and female teachers were paid $22.00 for the same.
1886: Mattatuck District. Only Fall term was held, “not enough students to warrant school, hired tuition of two in Harwinton.”
1889: The school year was expanded from 30 weeks to 36 weeks; and there would be no barbed wire around the school grounds.
1892: New stove in Mattatuck School.
1893: Women were allowed to vote on school issues. New blackboards were installed in Mattatuck School.
1897: Mattatuck School closed.
1917: There was a boarding house for teachers on East Street.
1919: Litchfield schools were closed from October 18 to November 18 due to the influenza epidemic. (The worst epidemic in American history, it killed over 600,000 Americans.)
1923: Mattatuck School reopened as East Litchfield School.
1924: Litchfield hired a school nurse to help deal with the problem of underweight students.
1927: East Litchfield School was enlarged, but no well was included in the project. The East Chestnut School's (184 East Litchfield Road) well pump was usually broken.
1931: East Litchfield School was overcrowded, 8th grade students were sent to Center School.
1938: East Litchfield School closed.

In Martin Iffland's 1979 interview he mentions the “East Litchfield Athletic Association” using the East Litchfield Schoolhouse (when it was closed between 1897 and 1923) for their clubhouse. After they put in a new floor, it was used for meetings, parties, socials and suppers.

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104 Years Ago In East Litchfield
The Bridgeport Evening Farmer
July 26, 1911
Crazy with Drink, Would Burn Town. Torrington, July 26—Thomas Garrity created much excitement in East Litchfield last night. Garrity became very drunk in Torrington and took the 5:23 southbound train out of town. Paying fares he scorned, and, accordingly, the conductor put him off at East Litchfield, whereupon Garrity threatened to set fire to every barn in the town. He caused quite a scare and a posse of men and women started in pursuit. They came upon Garrity, it is said, attempting to set fire to a barn. When one of the members of the posse tried to stop him, he promptly turned on him. He was finally overpowered and a constable from Torrington took him to that town.

The Bridgeport Evening Farmer
August 3, 1911
Crazed With Drink. Thomas Garrity, who terrorized the village of East Litchfield on Tuesday night, was charged in the Harwinton court Wednesday with assault with intent to kill, intoxication and breach of the peace, to all of which he pleaded guilty, excusing his action by saying he was crazed by drink. He was bound over to the Superior court under bonds of $500 and was taken to jail.

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History Item:
May 4, 1883 (from a newspaper clipping we received from Roger Plaskett, Harwinton Historian, that does not identify the newspaper) The Store at East Litchfield, owned by Mrs. Rachel Alford of this town (Harwinton) has been opened and will be kept by Alva Terrell.

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FIRE AT EAST LITCHFIELD
August 8, 1894. The Litchfield Enquirer
About eleven o’clock Monday evening those inhabitants of the Hill who were not enjoying the sleep of the just, noticed a bright light in the East. It proved to be a fire at East Litchfield Station. Smoke was first discovered coming from the back room of the store occupied by D. D. Stone. As soon as the door was opened the smoke rushed out in such force that it was impossible to save any of the contents. The fire burned with such rapidity that in a very few moments the house adjoining was a mass of flames. The family had retired for the night and had only time to save the scantiest amount of wearing apparel though the furniture in the lower part of the house was all taken out. In the meantime the livestock and entire contents of the barn, including the hay, was removed to a place of safety and only the building itself was burned. Water was brought from the river in milk cans and by the most heroic efforts the Naugatuck station, directly opposite, and adjacent barns were prevented from catching fire. The loss on the buildings is estimated to be about $2,000. They were owned by Mrs. Rachel Alfred of Hartford and insured by Brooks Brothers, Torrington. Mr. Stone’s insurance on the contents of the store and house was about $1,000, which will probably cover the greater part of his loss. The origin of the fire is a complete mystery, especially as it started in the part of the building where the watchdog was kept.

Another fire occurred at East Litchfield this (Wednesday) forenoon. The barn belonging to J. E. Carter was entirely destroyed with its contents. Loss about $800; no insurance. The fire is supposed to have originated from sparks thrown from a passing train on the Naugatuck railroad.

The following broadside is part of the collection at the Litchfield History Museum. The above May 1883 articles identifies the shopkeeper as Alva Terrell, the broadside identifies a store person as “A. J. Tyrrell” — more than likely the same person.  The Litchfield 1874 map shows an “S. Tyrrell” living at the corner of Perkins and Wheeler Road.

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Notes on the Beechers visit to Litchfield in 1857
by Lee Swift
In 1810, at the age of 35, Reverend Lyman Beecher accepted the ministry of the Congregational Church in Litchfield. He came here from Long Island with his wife Roxanna and 5 children: Catharine, William, Edward, Mary and George. Three children, Harriet, Henry, and Charles were born to the couple in Litchfield before Roxanna died in September 1816. With his second wife Harriet Porter, Rev. Beecher had 3 more children born in Litchfield: Frederick, Isabella, and Thomas. Their son James was born in Boston.

The Beechers' home, now gone but marked with a historic plaque, was located on the northwest corner of North and Prospect Streets. Moved to Norfolk Road in 1876, the house became part of the Spring Hill sanitarium, Spring Hill School, and later Forman School.

The church building that Rev. Beecher preached in was the 2nd Congregational Church built in 1761; it was replaced in 1829 by the current Congregational Church on East Street. Beecher's church stood on what is now the east park of the Litchfield Green, where a monument erected in 1908, marks the approximate site.

Approaching Litchfield from the east, the cemetery that Lyman and his son Henry passed would have been East Cemetery. It is here that Roxanna, Lyman's wife and Henry's mother; Roxanna's sister Mary Ward Hubbard; and Lyman and Roxanna's son Frederick are buried.

The Mansion House, where the Beechers stayed on their visit, was located on the southwest corner of South and West Streets until it burned down in 1886. Replaced by the brick Phelps block, it is the site of the building with @the Corner restaurant in 2015.

After 16 years in Litchfield, Rev. Lyman Beecher moved to continue his ministry in Boston, and later in Ohio. At the time this story was written in 1857, he lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. near his son Henry Ward Beecher (pastor of the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn) where he died January 10, 1863 at the age of 87.  Many of Lyman Beecher's children went on to become influential and prominent leaders as educators, authors, reformers, and ministers. There are biographies for the Beecher family on the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center website, www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org, as well as a multitude of other on-line resources and published works.

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AN AGED PASTOR'S RETURN.
By Henry Ward Beecher
1857
It was about half-past nine o'clock at night that the conductor upon the Naugatuck Railroad train called out "Litchfield!" We stepped out into the light of the brightest moon, and looked about only to see two or three snug houses, and a little bit of a station-house. The town lay four miles to the west, i.e., by daylight, and with a nimble team. It was at least ten miles that night. But we did not care. Nothing is more befitting than to return to one's native place in the quiet of night, and with the witchery of moonlight, that at the same time reveals and dims old familiar places. It was thirty-one years since either of us, my venerable father or myself, had been on this road. We had been back to the town before, but had approached it from a different point. As we climbed up hill after hill, the driver, an intelligent man, gave us the names of the places, and what power was there in many of them to evoke the past, and bring up its faded scenes in a pastor's heart!

Litchfield was a large township, and the inhabitants were in neighborhoods among the hills, and along the clefts and valleys. It was necessary to have preaching places in every direction. On the Sabbath, the farmers would come to the "town-hill" meeting-house, but during the week, there were lectures and conference meetings appointed, in turn, in every neighborhood, at distances from two to six miles from the centre. As we rode along, the aged pastor, who was returning to the scenes of his early ministry, was full of recollections, as one name after another was called. In this house he used to lecture; in that, he remembered an affecting funeral; yonder, he used to hold conference meetings; and all the region about was storied with religious interest. The seventeen years which Dr. Lyman Beecher spent in Litchfield, though not the most influential, perhaps, upon the whole country, were probably the most laborious and energetic of his life. Some passages of his history here would seem almost fabulous to the economical workers of our day.

It was half-past ten o'clock when we reached the Mansion House. The Rev. Leonard Bacon, Jr., received us cordially-the fifth pastor who has succeeded in the ministry of the white-haired patriarch whom he now greeted. In the thirty-one years that separate these two ministries, what a history has transpired? And as the young pastor led the aged one across the old common to his house, is it strange that we followed with more thoughts than can well be put into expression?

A good fire blazed on the hearth. Blessings on wood! We should have despaired at once, had we come back to Litchfield to find a coal fire, or worse than that, to find a black hole in the corner of the room putting out dry heat, instead of the old, hospitable fireplace, with ashes and coals, and the long-fingered blaze that opens and shuts it red palm with every grace and slight of hand. A good Litchfield fire of Litchfield wood, even if it was only the first week of September, was the very fittest banner that could be spread out to greet us, and every fold and flicker of flame brought back from the past old shapes and long-buried scenes, that used to flit round the fireplace, years ago, before railroad were dreamed of, and when New York lay a week's journey from us; when the old red or yellow stages came once a day from the north, once from the south, and once from the east; when the drivers blew the horns as they came into town, and boys heard the curling notes go through the air, and thought that a stage-driver was the greatest man on earth, and that to hold four reins and a whip in one hand, while the other held to the pouting lips the long tin horn, noisy at both ends, was the most wonderful feat of skill ever achieved!

The next day it was sent out far and wide that Dr. Beecher was in town. Though the great body of his former parishioners had passed away, some remained that were old when he preached here. As we passed the graveyard coming into town my father, pointing to it, said, "There is the congregation to which I preached when I was here!" Silent now and without memory. The unconscious assembly gave no greeting as we passed, but kept their long Sabbath without bell or tithing-man! But some yet remained alive. Men now of fifty years were boys when my father left. Those who blushed to think of love and husband yet, now rocked their grandchildren's cradle! Those who were then in the prime middle of life were now venerable.

And indeed Litchfield is the last place one should settle in who desired to go early to his rest. It seems difficult to obtain release from earth on this clear hill-top. Men are counted very young at fifty, and sound at seventy-five, and not very old at eighty. One old man, near ninety, modestly told us that his mind had been affected by a shock; but surely he had more wit and sprightliness, after all his loss, than most men have to begin with. He was peculiarly thankful that while he was too old to do much himself, God had been pleased to give him a young wife. She was only seventy-five, he informed us.

A man past eighty, going through the streets to visit all the fathers and mothers in Israel that had been young in his ministry there, was a scene not a little memorable. One patriarch, in his ninety-ninth year, when his former pastor came into the room, spoke not a word, but rose up, and putting his trembling arms about his neck burst into tears. Did he see in that moment, as by the opening of a door, all the way he had walked till that hours, and all the companions who had walked with him? And did he feel, standing by the venerable pastor, two old men, how few there were that yet kept step with him upon the bleak way of life?

Passing his own former home, my father broke out with a swing of his arm, "Oh, how many thoughts and associations hang about that place! They fill the air like swarms of bees, and yet I cannot speak one of then!"

The particular errand, which brought us hither, was a lecture. A new organ was to be bought. All Litchfield boys were permitted to help. Our contribution was asked in the shape of a lecture, and it was soon done. Then the aged pastor came forward. A crowd of old and young gathered at the pulpit stairs to grasp the hand that had baptized them, or had broken to them the bread of life. It was a scene of few words. One woman gave her name, but was not recognized in her married name. She then mentioned her maiden name. That touched a hidden spring. Both burst into tears, but spoke no words. The history came up instantly before both, but silently, which had occasioned the preaching of those "Six Sermons Upon Intemperance." That volume is in every land on earth, and in many languages. It is preaching and working with unwasting vigor. Those that read it know only that it is a cry and pleading that few men can hear without deep feeling. But not many know that it was a cry of love, the utter effort of a heart of love to save a dear friend imperiled, or two friends, rather, closely related. One of them was rescued. These sudden openings of memory to scenes that included in them the strangest experiences of life, pictures painted on the past, with strokes of thought as sudden and as revealing as when the lightning at night opens the heavens and the earth with wide sheeting flash, and shuts again with obliterating darkness, cannot be drawn or described upon paper.

The second morning, also, was memorable for greetings, and conversations whose roots were forty years deep in the soil of the past. For ourselves, we hovered about as a mere shadow among those who had a right to be principals in these sacred meetings. If an angel could write all that transpires when an aged warrior in the church militant comes back to the earlier fields of his achievements, and meets the companions of his toils, where tears and prayers, hope and joys, sorrows and death, and troubles worse than death, were common experiences, it would be a history of more matter and depth than all the volumes that are stuffed with empires, and buffoon kings, and prelates.

Last of all, as we departed, it was fit that we should stand silently by those stones that record mother and wife, sister and son, a lonely group! I could not forbear to think of the stream and its contents that has flooded between the two points of time, the first when I, a little babe, my father came to the burial ground, bearing the wife of his youth to her rest; and the second, when leaning on my stronger strength, his failing steps came again, and probably for the last time, to behold the grass that again waves, as it has yearly waved for forty-six years! Between these two comings hither, then and now, a great army of events hath marched.

While witnessing such scenes, it is strange that one cannot foresee a like experience. But men seldom look forward to see old age. They look into the future with young eyes. It seems very vague and doubtful to me whether I shall ever walk with trembling steps, and bedimmed eye, among early scenes, an old man, waiting for permission to go home!
Published in The New York Independent.  September 17th, 1857