REPRINTS


A Taste of Buckland
By Susan Barlow

Who doesn’t know about Buckland mall today? It’s a huge shopping area with many nearby apartments, super-stores, and hotels. “The Pavillions at Buckland Mall” opened in 1990, and today the mall and its environs are like a city in itself!

But many residents may not know that Buckland was at one time an important village within Manchester, that is, what was to become Manchester in 1823. Buckland had a quarry, large farms, a school, a store, and its own train depot. Buckland was a New England village with wooden Victorian houses, a potato warehouse and store, and, best of all for youngsters in the 1950s, pony rides on the weekends, where children could choose their own horse to ride around the ring.

Earliest Human History

Of course, Native Americans were the first people of Buckland (and of Connecticut for that matter). According to the oldest histories of Manchester, the Native American Joshua, “sachem of the western Niantic Indians, who was the third son of Uncas, sachem of the Mohegan Indians”…about the year 1675… “sold to Major Talcott of Hartford, for the use and behoof of the town of Hartford” a tract of land extending from three miles to eight miles east of the Connecticut River, all the way to Bolton (James Hammond Trumbull, “The Memorial History of Hartford County, Connecticut, 1633-1884,” published in 1886.) Today we regard some of the “sales” of land by the Indians as perhaps not a sale in the European sense, but an understanding of land shared for all the people, as the Native Americans themselves viewed it.

Earliest Business History

According to a Buckland history book by Gladys Adams (1910-2001), the first sawmill in the present limits of Manchester was in Buckland, before 1672. The mill, located near the confluence of the Hockanum River and Bigelow Brook, was owned by John Allyn, secretary to the Colony of Connecticut. Today the Hilliard Mills complex is located in this area.

Jambstone Plain and Pre-History

Jambstone Plain was the first name of the Buckland area, and refers to the quarries in the northern part of Buckland – along today’s Buckland Street. The sandstone hills, still seen near the mall, are remnants of large quarrying operations. Author Trumbull says of the term Jamb-Stone Plain, “The north part of Buckland, where the quarries are located. The use to which the stone was once applied in building suggested the name.”

The sandstone was also quarried for gravestones and bridges. Dinosaur bones were discovered there beginning in 1884, when workers found fossil bones of Anchisaurus, a prosauropod of about six feet from head to tail, and usually bipedal (walking on two legs). The quarry owner sold the bones to O.C. Marsh (1832-1899), an armchair paleontologist or notorious bone collector, according to his contemporary critics or fans. Marsh described one specimen as the “skull and greater portion of the skeleton … in fine preservation.” The bones are now at the Peabody Museum, in New Haven, and remain the most complete and best-preserved skeleton of a prosauropod dinosaur ever found in North America.

The Buckland Family

Among the famous names in Buckland – the Burnhams, Gilmans, Keeneys, Olcotts, Spencers, Williams, and Wolcotts – it’s the Buckland name that lives on for this section of town. Sergeant William Buckland, who died in 1724, was one of the earliest settlers, and between 1690 and 1709 bought up land. His son, also named William, became an even larger landowner, and willed his land to his children, the one who was also named William received a double share. This particular William and his younger brother Peter, were famous and prolific gravestone carvers, and have representative work throughout the region, according to Ruth Shapleigh-Brown, executive director of the Connecticut Gravestone Network, a nonprofit organization that promotes the preservation of old graveyards. Ruth said, “William (1727-1795) and Peter Buckland (1738-1816) have been responsible for hundreds of works of art in this part of Connecticut.”

Aaron Buckland (1755-1829), perhaps the most famous of this large family, lived on a farm in the area which eventually became known as Buckland Corners, and then Buckland. Along with six other immediate family members, he answered the Lexington call, and served in the Continental army, spending the terrible winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge. His pension for his service was a thousand acres of land in Buckland, valued at 17 cents an acre, according to a 1912 article by Mrs. Frank Wolcott in the Manchester Herald.

In 1780 Aaron owned a woolen mill, where blankets were woven for the army in the War of 1812. Later owners of the woolen mills were Sidney Pitkin and eventually Elisha E. Hilliard. The woolen mills set a record, according to Spiess & Bidwell 1923 “History of Manchester, Connecticut,” for “continuous operation in a single line of production that exceeds that of any other woolen manufacturing plant in the country.”

In 1788 Aaron Buckland built a brick house which became Buckland’s Tavern on Tolland Turnpike, currently the site of a strip mall and the former Caldor’s store, now itself a fading memory! The inn provided a place to change horses for vehicles on the road between Hartford, Tolland, and beyond.

He also built a powder mill that operated up to and during the War of 1812, located along Adams Street. With partner John Foot, he had a store at the intersection of Tolland Turnpike and Buckland St. that sold, “European and W.I. goods suitable for present and coming season, including broadcloth, Irish Linen, muslin, chintz, calico, cotton and worsted hose, brandy per gallon or barrel, rum, molasses, ginger, indigo, hardware and crockery” (November 1795 advertisement).

Adams Mill

Adams paper mill was actually operated by Peter Adams for only a small portion of its life, but his name stuck with the operation. He made effective use of the nearby fast-moving Hockanum River for power and he built a pond above the mill to generate power. The river also provided waste disposal, in the days long before the Clean Water Act. The mill was also near the railroad, which opened in 1849 as the Hartford, Providence, and Fishkill Railroad.

Paper was made in Buckland as early as 1775 (the Watson and Ledyard, later Keeney mill, at the intersection of the Hockanum River and North Main Street), but didn’t have the longevity of Adams mill, which was in operation for 120 years. Peter Adams (1807-1896) came to America in 1827 from Scotland, and was a journeyman paper maker. He prospered in his trade and owned mills in Newburg, NY, as well as in Buckland. He bought up land along Adams Street, including houses and the Waverly Mill boarding house. There are still remnants of worker houses along Adams Street, mixed among modern buildings.

In 1902 the Hilliard mill company established a power plant at the old Adams Mill, to provide electricity for the woolen mills downstream. In later years, the Adams paper mill buildings were re-used as Gammons-Holman Company, which manufactured small tools, and then Standard Washer and Mat. In 1982 the property was purchased by Brad Norton and Tony Scarpace to renovate as the Adams Mill Restaurant. Not all the buildings from the paper-making days remain, but relics of the old days, including a dam, remain, and are visible along the Hockanum River trail that leads back from the mill, starting at a Hockanum sign to the left of the building.

School, Farms, Post Office and Store

Although there was a one-room schoolhouse in Jambstone Plain about 1751, the most recent Buckland School – the handsome yellow-brick building at 1075 Tolland Turnpike – dates from 1922, a “new” school built on the site of the previous school, which had been built in 1860. The school is now home to businesses, rather than school children, but at one time it served children from the many farms in the area, as well as children of workers at Hilliard mills.

The biggest farms in Buckland produced shade-grown tobacco, an expensive, but lucrative, crop. For decades, migrant workers as well as local teenagers earned relatively good wages during the summer at the tobacco farms in Buckland, including Hackett, Hartman (formerly the Connecticut Sumatra) and Healy tobacco farms. In 1923, tobacco was grown on 1,000 acres in Manchester, about one fourth of the farm acreage of the town, and the annual produce was about 300,000 pounds.

Manchester’s second post office was established about 1838 at Buckland Corners. William Jones, its first postmaster, was a storekeeper, and also son-in-law of Aaron Buckland. By the way, the first post office in Town was established in 1808 at Manchester Green, also inside a store.

The various stores in Buckland included Aaron Buckland’s and William Jones’s, mentioned above, and Gerich’s Service Station for gasoline and mechanical work. Then there was the “new” store at the northeast corner of Buckland Street and Tolland Turnpike, which sold supplies, groceries, lamp chimneys, kerosene, etc. Over the years, the various storekeepers included the McIlvanes, Maloneys, Allisons, Derricks, V.C. Boynton, and W. Ciechowsi, and C.W. Hall. Storekeepers frequently lived in the upstairs apartment.

In the store’s final years, my father-in-law, Francis E. Barlow (1916-2010), operated Barlow’s Television Sales and Service at that location. The building was purchased by the State of Connecticut about 1977 to widen Buckland Street, as part of the I-84 expansion.

Buckland Cemetery, Manchester's Third Cemetery

The first burials at Buckland Cemetery were Buckland family members, when the land was still part of the Buckland farm. The oldest stone is dated 1777, and the cemetery became a public cemetery in 1811. Ruth Shapleigh-Brown notes that this cemetery has a lot to teach us about “the lives of the local people, and through their stories, we can create a timeline of the industrial period of Buckland.”

Many familiar names and many stories grace the stones here – the Bucklands, Hilliards, Lydalls, etc. The cemetery is so rich in history and information, that it needs its own history column, for which readers should watch this space in the future.

Ruth and I will lead Buckland Cemetery walks as part of the Manchester Historical Society activities, on which we'll see some of the “stories in stone” of early Manchester. Check the Events page on this web site for information on when the next scheduled Walk.

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