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December 20, 2014 Trumbull, Connecticut , U.S.A. Early Industries












 

 
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Welcome to the Trumbull Historical Society Early Industries Photo Page.  Click on any picture below to view it in a larger size.

 

1918 Industrial Development Rally on Long Hill Green
Trumbull first began as an agricultural community, based around the church. By the late eighteenth century, industry began to develop in town, especially in the Long Hill section. The first industries were centered around early water-powered mills built along the Pequonnock river, which at that time had about twice as much water flow as today. In 1840 the first locomotive trains began providing service to Long Hill, allowing manufactured goods to be easily shipped to all the major cities on the east coast. By the late 1800's, a sawmill, gristmill, men's underwear factory, shirt factory, wool mill and glove lining factory, five cigars shops, carriage shop, slaughter house, blacksmith shop, boot and shoe factory, stirrup factory, paper mill, and carriage paint shop were all in operation in Long Hill. In 1918, many of Long Hill's industries were still going strong, but when the train ceased running through town after 1931, and with tough competition from new, modern factories, Long Hill's early industries disappeared and have now become just a memory of the past.

 

Beers Grist Mill
This 1888 photograph shows Beers grist mill which was built along a rocky gorge of the Pequonnock, which was fed by a dammed section of the river called Sawmill pond. This rocky gorge section of the river was originally called the Shagnawamps by the Indians and later became known as Parlor Rock by the early settlers. For over one hundred and thirty years farmers in Trumbull would drive their ox charts full of wheat and grain to the mill on the Pequonnock to produce their flour and meal for market and staple. The Beers mill continued its operations on the Pequonnock until about 1895. The first record of a grist mill in Trumbull dates back to 1762. This first grist mill was located in the Shagnawamps, and was partly owned by Reverend James Beebe, the first minister of the Church of Christ of North Stratford.

 

Touceys Shirt Factory
R. C. Toucey began the men's lightweight muslin underwear factory pictured here in the early 1800's. The factory employed many people in Long Hill and was located on Broadway just north of the Long Hill green. The Toucey factory's undergarments were considered high quality and were noted for their fine stitching.

 

The United Witch HazelFactory
Upon the closing of the Toucey Factory, the plant was converted to a witch hazel factory and an addition was eventually added to its east side. Witch hazel tonic is processed by steaming and boiling the bark and cambium of the witch hazel bush. The witch hazel product, sometimes called hamamelis water, is an alcohol-based, topical lotion with mildly astringent properties. The lotion is commonly used to soothe sprains and bruises. Only three witch hazel factories existed in the United States during this century, and all of them were here in Connecticut. The witch hazel factory on Broadway changed ownership many times. In 1951 the plant was purchased by the Humphrey Pharmaceutical Company of Rutherford, New Jersey. The picture shown here is from a postcard from the early 1970's, showing the factory with its addition to the east and scenic goldfish pond in front.

 

Witch Hazel Factory and Fall Foliage of Broadway Woods
The Fall foliage of Broadway makes a scenic background for this picture. Witch Hazel harvesting begins in the Fall, and no earlier than when the foliage has reached its peak, and continues throughout the winter months. The witch hazel bush is a plant that grows wild, is about five to fifteen feet in height, and blooms in autumn with pale yellow clustered flowers with narrow and twisted petals. The fruit of the witch hazel bush is a small hard brown capsule, that explodes open in warm weather when releasing its seeds. At one time witch hazel was harvested locally near Parlor Rock and in other areas of Trumbull, but most was harvested and brought in from all over the state.

 

The Destruction of a Landmark
On November 1, 1974 the United Witch Factory caught fire when a vat of alcohol used in the processing ignited. The old wooden structure could not be saved by the fire department, and the company decided not to re-build. The charred remains were removed by the town, Broadway was then relocated slightly and widened where a dangerous curve existed along the back corner of the factory. The beautiful goldfish pond that was in front of the factory was then filled in, and now a vacant lot sometimes used as a storage site by the public works department is all that is left of the site where an underwear factory and later a witch hazel factory once stood.

 

The Kaatz Ice House
The old ice house was built against a pond located on Whitney Avenue, alongside of present day Teller Road. Ice harvesting from the pond began in the 1800's. Large blocks of ice were cut in the winter, lifted by an elevator, and then stacked in the ice house. To help prevent the huge blocks of ice from melting they were covered with sawdust so they could be sold in the warmer months. Before refrigerators were available, people would place their perishables in an ice box. The ice man delivered the blocks of ice to homes with his horse drawn carriage, from which he would usually also sell coal and sometimes rags. A placard was placed in the windows of any homes requiring ice with a number indicating the block size to be delivered. In 1904, Mr. E. Kaatz acquired the ice house on Whitney Avenue as part of a settlement when the partnership in a previous ice business he was involved in broke up. The Kaatz family continued operation of the ice house until 1955. In 1969 the town acquired this property and in May of 1978 the ice house was demolished because town officials felt that the structure had become too unsafe due to its rapidly dilapidating condition. After the ice house was demolished, some people felt that more should have been done to preserve the building since it was the last standing ice house in New England. Today the Trumbull Veterans Organization, comprised of American Legion Post 141 and VFW Post 10059 have a meeting hall located at Kaatz's pond. The veterans run bingo games almost every Tuesday and Wednesday evening and hold a wonderful fishing derby for all the children of the town each spring.

 

The Hubbell Hadley Shirt Factory
once stood on Main Street, near Stonehouse Road where the southern entrance to Saint Joseph's Manor is today. This factory produced flannel shirts in the late 1800's. The factory was started by two men, Harvey Hubbell and George Hadley. The shirt factory employed many people in town. When the factory stopped operating in the early 1900's the building was used for a number of purposes. Part of the factory was converted to a grocery store that was run by Mr. Robert Staines. Other parts of the factory were converted to apartments occupied by a few families, a barber shop run by Mr. Michael Angelo Sciortino, and a social club and dance hall known as the Kenwood Club. In early 1958 the building and property was sold to the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Bridgeport by the family of Harvey Hubbell Sr., founder of Harvey Hubbell, Inc. in Bridgeport. In 1960, construction of St. Joseph's Manor was completed, and the home for the aged and infirm opened on the property that once was used by the Hubbell Hadley Shirt Factory.

 

Radcliffe Wool and Glove Lining Factory
The Radcliffe wool mill began operations in Long Hill in 1862 by John Radcliffe. The water powered shoddy mill that produced wool and stocking yarn was built along the east side of the Pequonnock river just south of Whitney Avenue and near the Long Hill train station. The Radcliffe wool mill was built on the same site as an early grist mill and saw mill, and perhaps the same mill site that was partly owned by Reverend Beebe in 1762. In 1878 John Radcliffe's son Charles acquired the business which had found its niche in producing fleece linings used in the manufacture of gloves. In 1891 Charles Radcliffe's brothers became partners, and the business then became known as C. E. Radcliffe and Brothers. In 1893, just two weeks after a complete remodeling of the factory it burned, destroying the building and all of the machinery. This was a terrible disaster for Long Hill since the factory employed many people. Records show that many families were forced to relocate from town to find work elsewhere due to this fire. Eventually the mill was re-built and opened several years after the fire. In 1932, the Housatonic Railroad ceased running its line through Long Hill. In 1938 due to competition from new factories in the west, and now without the train, the factory became unprofitable and closed.

 

Gabler's Cigar Shop
Trumbull was at one time noted for its hand-crafted quality cigars. Peter Gabler's cigar factory pictured here in this 1893 photograph was located on Broadway and manufactured the popular Gabler's "Judge" and "36" brands. In 1951, Gabler's cigar factory was converted to a charming residence by Peter's son Arthur and is still in fine condition today. Besides Gabler's Shop, four other cigar shops were concurrently manufacturing cigars near the Long Hill green in the late 1800's. Lewis Wakely's "Old Toll Gate" cigars were manufactured in a shop almost opposite the Hubbell Hadley shirt factory. Dunning's cigars were manufactured in Long Hill along with Daniel Mahoney's "Rosedale" brand. The last cigar manufacturer in Trumbull was David Leavitt's shop. Leavitt's shop manufactured "Long Hill" brand cigars and was located just south of the Long Hill green on the west side of Main street.

 

© John Lauria 1996


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