Archive for the ‘Connecticut River’ Tag

Driftin’ w/ Wick

A few weeks back I had the honor and pleasure to meet with Wick Griswold, Sociologist at the University of Hartford.  According to his page on the university website, Wick’s “favorite course to teach is the Sociology of the CT River Watershed.”  Wick continues, “The mighty Connecticut River is a natural treasure. It’s history, ecology and beauty are sources of endless knowledge and aesthetics.”  I decided to contact Prof. Griswold because of his newly released book, A History of the Connecticut River.  Steve Armstrong and I met in his office on the university campus.  This meeting was filled with energy, interest, and inquiry.

I originally contacted Wick looking for an angle for the Goodwin College project (see previous post).  Following this meeting, I had just as many questions as I had answers, if not more.  I think this is a good thing.  As this meeting swirled in my head, I realized that his book was much more valuable than I previously thought.  Mr. Griswold is more than a Sociologist, he is a living keeper of history.  Wick is often found drifting down the CT River from the Enfield falls to the mouth of the CT River bordered by Old Saybrook and Old Lyme.  According to our conversation and his book, the trip takes four days.  Wick has a deep connection to the to the CT River and to its history.

Our meeting covered topics including the River Tribes of the lower Connecticut, changes in transportation and industry on the river, and the effects of human-induced environmental decline on the region.  Steve and I posed question after question trying to indicate the hook or angle for our research.  By the time we left, Wick’s suggestion was that the angle was “the future.”  When we left that day, we appreciated the help, but were not sure if this was the angle we were looking for.  For instance, how could a historian base the hook or angle of their research on the future?!?  However so much that this may seem absurd, there may be some credibility to his suggestion.

The future of the CT River is one of reclamation and recovery.  The angle for the Goodwin project just may be the environmental progress that has been made on the property.  So, we could discuss the use, focusing on the detrimental effects of human environment interaction, and then explain how Goodwin in working to reclaim the land.  All of this would be within the broader historical context of land-use.  The more I think about this prospect, the better it sounds.  There are only two obstacles to this “angle.”  First, our client only wants the history of the land up until the time when the college moved to the area, so I have to make sure that this approach will fall into what they are asking for.  The second obstacle is making sure that my project supervisor is on board.  I have a meeting with Steve tomorrow, so I guess we will find out then.

Sources:
http://uhaweb.hartford.edu/griswold/
http://www.amazon.com/History-Connecticut-River-The-Press/dp/1609494059

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The Connecticut River.

Having lived in Connecticut Valley for most of my life, I have always had an affinity for the Connecticut River.  My ties to the river date back to my days living in a town on it’s Western bank.  Every time I rode with my father from my hometown we would literally go over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house.  Since I was young, I have crossed the river a countless number of times, utilizing the various bridges.  As a youngster, I would typically cross at Windsor Locks/East Windsor or Suffield/Enfield.  As a grew older, I usually crossed via Interstate 291 on my way to Manchester.  Now that I am grown, and live in Hartford, I typically cross either on the Bulkeley or Founder’s bridge.

Of course, just zooming over the river is not the only connection I have to what native Americans called ”the long tidal river.”  On one occasion, my father and I canoed from Enfield, CT to Middletown.  This trip opened my eyes to many things that I did not realize about the river and its uses.  First, in Northern CT the river is more shallow and has some rapids.  To make passage easier, Hartford citizens constructed the Enfield canal for ferries and ships.  Once you make down to the Windsor area, and especially Hartford, the river is very deep and slow moving.  For years, Hartford was a port city and the river, in many areas, was dredged out for easier travel of steam powered vessels.  South of Hartford, the canoe trip turned from a meandering sightseeing tour of low, flat farmlands to an all out struggle to row ourselves to Middletown before sunset.  As mentioned earlier, the river was very deep and slow moving and we had to use mostly our own strength to push the canoe to our destination.

While growing up on the banks of the Connecticut river, my family and I rode our bikes on what is now Windsor Locks Canal State Park.  This canal was originally built in the 19th century to aid ships and ferries traveling to points North of Windsor.  This canal, which was built following the Erie Canal, but has long since been abandoned with the advent of rail and highways.  In fact, the river itself is not the shipping lane that it once was.  Instead people have turned to the the highways and interstates that in many areas travel adjacent to the Connecticut River due to the low, flat lands created by a glacier that carved the valley many millenia ago.

I now know that the Connecticut River has an important role in the history of CT.  Beginning with geological foundations of the region, to settlement, industrialization, urban flight, and now, the reawakening of interest in living in the Capital city.  What many may not realize is that Connecticut, especially Hartford, history is directly tied to the river.  One cannot fully understand the essence of local history without recognizing the importance of the Connecticut River.  Although the people, landscape, land use, and even the river itself has changed over time, one things stands true, the Connecticut River has always and possibly will always have a profound effect on the residents of the region.  But, do Connecticut citizens realize its importance?  Hopefully, we can educate our youth to understand and respect the river so future generations can have as deep of a connection to the Connecticut River as I do.