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Litchfield, Connecticut

LITCHFIELD, CONNECTICUT, a township and the county-seat of Litchfield county, Connecticut, U.S.A., about 28 m. W. of Hartford, and including the borough of the same name. Pop. of the township (1890) 3304; (1900) 3214; (1910) 3005; of the borough (1890) 1058; (1900) 1120; (1910) 903. Area of the township, 48-6 sq. m. The borough is served by the New York, New Haven & Hartford railroad. It is situated on elevated land, and is one of the most attractive of southern New England summer resorts. The principal elevation in the township is Mt. Prospect, at the base of which there is a vein of pyrrhotite, with small quantities of nickel and copper. On the southern border of the borough is Lake Bantam (about 900 acres, the largest lake in the state) whose falls, at its outlet, provide water power for factories of carriages and electrical appliances. Dairying is the most important industry, and in 1899 the county ranked first among the counties of the state in the value of its dairy products $1,373,957, from 3465 farms, the value of the product for the entire state being $7,090,188.

The lands included in the township of Litchfield (originally called Bantam) were bought from the Indians in 1715-1716 for 15, the Indians reserving a certain part for hunting. The township was incorporated in 1719, was named Litchfield, after Lichficld in England, and was settled by immigrants from Hartford, Windsor, Wethersfield, Farmington and Lebanon (all within the state) in 1720-1721. In 1751 it became the countyseat of Litchfield county, and at the same time the borough of Litchfield (incorporated in 1879) was laid out. From 1776 to 1780 two depots for military stores and a workshop for the Continental army were maintained, and the leaden statue of George III., erected in Bowling Green, New York City, in 1770, and torn down by citizens on the gth of July 1776, was cut up and taken to Litchfield, where, in the house (still standing) of Oliver Wolcott it was melted into bullets for the American army by Wolcott's daughter and sister. Aaron Burr, whose only sister married Tapping Reeve (1744-1823), lived in Litchfield with Reeve in 1774-1775. In 1784 Reeve established here the Litchfield Law School, the first institution of its kind in America. In 1798 he associated with himself James Gould (1770-1838), who, after Reeve's retirement in 1820, continued the work, with the assistance of Jabez W. Huntington (1788-1847), until 1833. The school was never incorporated, it had no buildings, and the lectures were delivered in the law offices of its instructors, but among its 1000 or more students were many who afterwards became famous, including John C. Calhoun; Levi Woodbury (1789-1851), United States senator from New Hampshire in 1825-1831 and in 1841-1845, secretary of the navy in 1831- 1834 and of the treasury in 1834-1841, and a justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1845; John Y. Mason; John M. Clayton; and Henry Baldwin (1780-1844), a justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1830. In 1792 Mrs Sarah Pierce made one of the first efforts toward the higher education of women in the United States by opening in Litchfield her Female Seminary, which had an influential career of about forty years, and numbered among its alumnae Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mrs Marshall O. Roberts, Mrs Cyrus W. Field and Mrs Hugh McCulloch. Litchfield was the birthplace of Ethan Allen; of Henry Ward Beecher; of Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose novel, Poganuc People, presents a picture of social conditions in Litchfield during her girlhood; of Oliver Wolcott, Jr. (1760-1833); of John Pierpont (1785-1866), the poet, preacher and lecturer; and of Charles Loring Brace, the philanthropist. It was also the home, during his last years, of Oliver Wolcott (1726-1797); of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge (1774-1835), an officer on the American side in the War of Independence and later (from 1801 to 1817) a Federalist member of Congress; and of Lyman Beecher, who was pastor of the First Congregational church of Litchfield from 1810 to 1826.

See Payne K. Kilbourne, Sketches and Chronicles of the Town of Litchfield, Connecticut (Hartford, Conn., 1859); George C. Boswell, The Litchfield Book of Days (Litchfield, 1900) ; and for an account of the Litchfield Female Seminary, Emily N. Vanderpoel, Chronicles of a Pioneer School (Cambridge, Mass., 1903).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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