For May Day weekend we decided to visit the historic water-powered Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill, which is only open on Saturdays in the spring and fall. Earth’s energy has shifted again as this hemisphere begins traveling closer to the sun in the brighter half of the year. All the mill’s windows and doors were wide open so it felt pretty safe (covid-wise) to go inside and see what the process of sawing wood was like in the late 1800s.
The finely cast and machined 19th century model is about four inches wide and has an operating gate and rotating runner. ~ Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill website
After watching the saw operating for a minute we went outside, down some huge stone steps and into the lower level to see the turbine in action.
And then we went back upstairs to see more of the sawing.
It was quite loud and the whole building vibrated while the saw was operating.
My father, when he was still alive, had visited this place after it was restored and opened to the public in 1975. He often said he wanted to take me to see it some day. Sadly, that never happened, but he was very much on my mind as we looked around and listened to the operators tell us about its history and how it worked.
After our trip back through time we decided to take a walk around Sawmill Pond and see what visual treats the brightness of spring had to offer.
And then, for me, a new life bird! I heard it singing and looked up into the nearest tree and there it was! What a nice surprise, the last sort of thing I was expecting to find on this day. 🙂
Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina: Widespread common migratory breeder mid-April to November; rare and local in winter; in areas with short grass and trees, residential neighborhoods, parks, open upland forest. ~ Frank Gallo (Birding in Connecticut)
Thank you, little chipping sparrow, for singing so sweetly that I couldn’t miss seeing you!
The ground was pretty soggy from melting snow and days of rain so we decided to take a walk in the village of Stonington Borough, rather than traipse through the muddy woods. I visited this lighthouse many years ago with my sister-in-law and climbed the very narrow circular stairs up the tower to the lantern room on the top. The view was wonderful. There wasn’t much space to move around or stretch out, though!
The Stonington Harbor Light is a historic lighthouse built in 1840 and located on the east side of Stonington Harbor in the Borough of Stonington, Connecticut. It is a well-preserved example of a mid-19th century stone lighthouse. The light was taken out of service in 1889 and now serves as a local history museum. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. ~ Wikipedia
The Stonington Harbor Light is located at the southern end of Stonington Point, marking the eastern side of Stonington Harbor. The light station consists of the tower and keeper’s house; both are built out of large granite blocks, and the keeper’s house has a wood-framed ell attached. The tower is an octagonal stone structure 35 feet (11 m) in height and 10 feet (3.0 m) in diameter, with a circular glass lantern house on top. The house is 1½ stories and about 30 feet (9.1 m) square. ~ Wikipedia
The promise of a water view behind the lighthouse lured us around the back and across the spongy lawn. How nice to see a bench there. Looks like a nice spot to enjoy a warm spring day. But no sitting for us on this wet day!
There were lots of sparrows chirping and flitting about, making it feel like a spring day. We found a sundial in a corner of the yard but it was too cloudy out for the sun to tell us the time. It might have been accurate, too, because we are not in daylight savings time. I wish they would do away with the time change. We’re only under “real” time for about four months out of the twelve…
Looking west on our way down to Stonington Point we saw a moment of blue sky! From the end of the Stonington Borough peninsula one can see two lighthouses in two different states.
Latimer Reef Lighthouse, which was placed on the western end of the half-mile-long rocky reef, consists of a prefabricated, cylindrical, forty-nine foot-tall, cast-iron tower with a cast-iron, concrete-filled foundation. … There were a number of other lights built around this time using the same design and employing the same construction methods. They were initially referred to as “Coffee Pot” lights because of their shape, but a few decades later, after the internal combustion engine was in common use, these towers became more commonly known as “Spark Plug” lighthouses. ~ Lighthousefriends.com website
A good portion of the parking lot at the point was still covered with the snow deposited there from the blizzard. It blocked a lot of the views! But in the distance between these mounds (above) I spotted Watch Hill Light, which we visited in October. So I walked across the waterlogged lawn area and used my zoom lens to get a picture of it from Stonington Point. (below)
Our plan to keep our shoes dry failed completely! But at least they were less mucky than they would have been had we gone for a walk in the woods.
Years ago I used to be a member of the Stonington Historical Society but discontinued my membership when paying the dues didn’t fit in our budget. But it was there that I found a letter written to the Society by my great-grandmother in a file. Emma Flora Atwood was asking them if they had any information about her husband’s parents, William Martin White and Ellen C. Hill, who lived in Old Mystic, another village in Stonington. I don’t know what their reply might have been, but the folder had little else in it. It was exciting to handle a piece of paper that she had touched, too. I like to think my great-grandmother was as interested in family history as I am. She was my mother’s Grammy and that’s why I wanted to be Grammy to my grandchildren. ♡
The other thing I learned while I was getting the Society’s newsletter, was about my 2nd-great-granduncle, Pvt. Rufus C. White, brother of my 2nd-great-grandfather, William M. White, mentioned above.
Rufus C. White, born 6 June 1839, died 16 May 1864, age 24, at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia. Rufus served as a private in the Union Army, Company E, 21st Infantry Regiment, Connecticut and was killed at the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff. In the 1860 census, Rufus was recorded as a farmer with a personal estate of $100.
The following is from Stonington’s Forgotten Heroes of 1861-65 by James Boylan:
The second large Stonington unit was Company E of the 21st Infantry Regiment, which was recruited in the summer of 1862 from eastern Connecticut. About seventy Stonington men served in Company E, under Captain Charles T. Stanton, Jr., of Stonington. Like Company G of the Eighth, this company became involved in the fogbound battle of Drewry’s Bluff, in which Stanton was severely wounded, and the siege of Petersburg, where Captain Henry R. Jennings of Stonington was wounded. Partly because its term of service was shorter, it suffered fewer casualties.
And there was another pleasant memory, which Tim & I recalled as we passed the Society’s Captain Palmer House Museum on our way home. It must have been in the early 2000s, when I read with great interest, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick. I am distantly related to some of the sailors he wrote about on that ill-fated voyage. Imagine how excited I was to attend a lecture he gave about his book at the museum. Tim and Larisa came with me and we had a brief conversation with him afterwards.
Near the end of December we found the graves of a couple of Revolutionary War soldiers on a walk in Stoddard Hill State Park. Debbie, one of my readers, mentioned that they don’t have graves that old where she lives in Illinois. So, although I much prefer nature walks, I decided we could change things up a bit and take a history walk. Because of Debbie’s comment I have a new appreciation for the historic Battle of Groton Heights that took place right here in my town. (Link is for history buffs.)
This is the historic site where, on September 6, 1781, British Forces, commanded by the infamous Benedict Arnold, captured the Fort and massacred 88 of the 165 defenders stationed there. The Ebenezer Avery House which sheltered the wounded after the battle has been restored on the grounds. A Revolutionary War museum also depicts the era. Fort Griswold was designated as a state park in 1953. ~ Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park website
There is some doubt about the details of this story. The shirt and vest Col. Ledyard was wearing when he was killed had tears in the side, suggesting a bayonet wound is what caused his death, not his own sword in the hands of a British officer.
Critical acumen is exerted in vain to uncover the past; the past cannot be presented; we cannot know what we are not. But one veil hangs over past, present, and future, and it is the province of the historian to find out, not what was, but what is. Where a battle has been fought, you will find nothing but the bones of men and beasts; where a battle is being fought, there are hearts beating. ~ Henry David Thoreau (A Week on the Concord & Merrimack Rivers)
The 295-foot Barque Eagle is the flagship of the U.S. Coast Guard. She serves as a training vessel for cadets at the Coast Guard Academy and candidates from the Officer Candidate School. The Eagle is the only active-duty sailing vessel in America’s military, and one of only two commissioned sailing vessels, along with the USS Constitution. ~ US Coast Guard Academy website
From the tunnel we followed a trench down the hill. The trench hid the soldiers from enemy fire as they moved between the fort and the lower battery.
Off to the side on the lower battery is the restored Ebenezer Avery house. It was moved to this location from a nearby street in 1971.
In the old times, women did not get their lives written, though I don’t doubt many of them were much better worth writing than the men’s. ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe (The Pearl of Orr’s Island: A Story of the Coast of Maine)
Sometimes I think that historical houses should be named after the wives and daughters who lived in them, to honor them, as they very likely spent more time working there than the men who were out and about in the world.
But on a plaque outside this house I found a picture of Anna Warner Bailey (1758-1851) and the note that she was one of the first women to tend to the wounded after the battle. When I got home I found this online: Our Petticoat Heroine by Carol Kimball
We’ll have to wait until the pandemic is over before we can tour the house. I discovered a bit of synchronicity, we happened to be visiting this place on the 170th anniversary of Anna Warner “Mother” Bailey’s death. And there is a house named for her close by, where she had lived.
The Groton Monument was built between 1826 and 1830, and is the oldest monument of its type in the country. Built of granite quarried locally, the Monument stands 135 feet tall with 166 steps. ~ Fort Griswold Battlefield website
We will also have to wait until the pandemic is over before we can tour the monument and small museum.
When I was preparing this post I noticed I already had a category for Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park. With another nod to synchronicity, it turns out Tim & I visited the fort nine years ago, almost to the day! The trench looks a little different nine years later. We had climbed up on the fort wall, which is no longer allowed. They have installed a viewing platform on the wall sometime in the past nine years. My, how things keep changing… The views of the river and city below are amazing. My old post: Fort Griswold Battlefield
The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (Nature)
Tim likes to point out that you can see four lighthouses from a certain place along this walk. It’s fun to look out at the horizon and try to identify different kinds of ships. We don’t see as many as we used to, but I think the ferries to Long Island are still running…
Avery Point Lighthouse is a lighthouse in Groton, Connecticut, on the Avery Point Campus of the University of Connecticut. Although construction was completed in March 1943, the lighthouse was not lit until May 1944 due to concerns of possible enemy invasion. ~ Wikipedia
Race Rock Lighthouse stands in Long Island Sound, 8 miles (13 km) from New London, Connecticut, at the mouth of the Race where the waters of the Sound rush both ways with great velocity and force. ~ Wikipedia
I’ve been told that Race Rock Light marks where Long Island Sound ends and the Atlantic Ocean begins. I got a good picture of it in 2012 when we took a ferry to Block Island. See picture here.
New London Ledge Lighthouse is a lighthouse in Groton, Connecticut on the Thames River at the mouth of New London harbor. It is currently owned and maintained by the New London Maritime Society as part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act program. ~ Wikipedia
New London Harbor Light is a lighthouse in New London, Connecticut on the west side of the New London harbor entrance. It is the nation’s fifth oldest light station and the seventh oldest U.S. lighthouse. It is both the oldest and the tallest lighthouse in Connecticut and on Long Island Sound, with its tower reaching 90 feet. The light is visible for 15 miles and consists of three seconds of white light every six seconds. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. It is currently owned and maintained by the New London Maritime Society as part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act program. ~ Wikipedia
The Meteorological Tower on the University of Connecticut Avery Point Campus measures wind speed and direction (anemometer), atmospheric pressure (barometer), relative humidity, rainfall (rain gauge), air temperature (thermometer), radiation from clouds and sky (pyrgeometer), and solar radiation (pyranometer). It also provides pictures of Long Island Sound. Anemometer height is approximately 37 feet above the water surface.
I cross till I am weary A Mountain — in my mind — More Mountains — then a Sea — More Seas — And then A Desert — find —
And my Horizon blocks With steady — drifting — Grains Of unconjectured quantity —
~ Emily Dickinson (The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #666)
Feeling is deep and still; and the word that floats on the surface Is as the tossing buoy, that betrays where the anchor is hidden. ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Evangeline)
That way I looked between and over the near green hills to some distant and higher ones in the horizon, tinged with blue. … There was pasture enough for my imagination. … ‘There are none happy in the world but beings who enjoy freely a vast horizon,’ said Damodara, when his herds required new and larger pastures. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Walden)
Of a’ the airts the wind can blaw, I dearly like the west, For there the bonnie lassie lives, The lassie I lo’e best: There wild woods grow, and rivers row, And monie a hill between; But day and night may fancy’s flight Is ever wi’ my Jean.
I see her in the dewey flowers, I see her sweet and fair: I hear her in the tunefu’ birds, I hear her charm the air: There’s not a bonnie flower that springs By fountain, shaw, or green; There’s not a bonnie bird that sings, But minds me o’ my Jean. ~ Robert Burns (Poet’s Walk, Hillsborough, North Carolina)
Tim’s cousin, Allegra, and I took a road trip to visit Dima, Larisa, and Katie in North Carolina last week. One day we kept Katie home from daycare and discovered she is a lover of the great outdoors. In the house she was fussy and dealing with the remnants of her bout with bronchiolitis, but when we took her for a walk to have lunch at the Mellow Mushroom in Chapel Hill she enjoyed the stroller ride and charmed the server at our patio table. She fell asleep on the walk home but after what Allegra called a power nap, she was fussy again. So I took her outside in my arms and we stood by the trees, looking up into the boughs. Katie kept looking up, cooing with pleasure and seemingly spellbound by the soft breeze stirring the leaves and the occasional bird fluttering or insect buzzing through. Special moments with my granddaughter for me to remember.
After such a long hard winter I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled we were to be where spring is well under way. We slept with the windows open for three nights in a row! And woke to the delightful calls of the early birds! The sky was so blue!
Another day Allegra and I went to the place where I took all these pictures, Ayr Mount & Poet’s Walk in Hillsborough. The modest mansion is a Federal-era plantation home built by William Kirkland of Ayr, Scotland, about 1815. No photographs allowed inside, but the tour was very interesting, and after a scrumptious lunch break at Hillsborough BBQ Company, we returned to the property and walked the trail meandering through woodlands and meadows and the banks of the Eno River.
On the last day of our visit Larisa and I walked to Katie’s six-month checkup with her pediatrician. One of the things I do love about Chapel Hill is that one can walk to just about any where one might think of going. Katie is doing very well and was enjoying the time spent with her mother. She is petite for her age, but there are so many short people in our family that this comes as no surprise. Of course there were the obligatory vaccination shots at the end of the visit and the inevitable wails of protest, but comfort and sympathy was given quickly and soon we were off for our walk home, lunch out, and a fun afternoon of clothes shopping. Katie is starting swimming lessons this week and needed the appropriate attire, and of course, Grammy had to buy her a couple of dresses that she seemed to like.
That night, as we all went out for ice cream, I suddenly realized I had not taken any pictures of Katie! I was simply having so much fun just being with her. So I managed to get this one at Maple View Farm, in another part of Hillsborough, where we went after dinner to catch the sunset as we indulged in farm fresh ice cream. The sunset wasn’t spectacular, and Katie had discovered the joy of sticking out her tongue, so the picture-taking session was mostly a disappointment, but that’s okay. We’ll settle for this one.
Please enjoy the rest of the pictures from the Poet’s Walk.
So far this winter has given us only very cold days alternating with unseasonably warm days. Without a blanket of snow, everything looks barren and oddly exposed. Last January was the snowiest month ever in Connecticut history and it made for some very nice pictures! But now that we have a new camera there is no inspiration to get out there and put it to good use, but we decided to give it a try anyway.
Close to home is Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park. War is not my favorite subject, but this is the site where, on September 6, 1781, the traitor and Connecticut native Benedict Arnold led the British on a raid during the Revolutionary War. About 150 colonial militia and local men under the command of Col. William Ledyard were outnumbered. The British demanded surrender but Ledyard refused at first. There were heavy losses on both sides. The last picture tells how it ended.
The first picture was taken outside the dirt and stone wall surrounding the top of Fort Griswold. The second picture is Tim standing in a trench leading up to the top of the fort. The picture above is the entrance to a tunnel leading in to the highest part of the fort, and the picture below was taken inside the tunnel.
Through the tunnel now, in the picture below we are standing inside of the stone and dirt wall, which is taller than us, looking toward the Thames River and New London.
In the next picture we have climbed up the wall and are looking down at the Thames River and New London on the other side. British troops had set most of New London on fire, and from here the men from Groton must have seen all the fires burning and the British ships in the river…
It was a gruesome battle — aren’t they all? The British made it to the top in spite of many casualties… It’s sobering considering what happened here.
I took all these pictures with my gloves on — it was cold! — and I can’t remember which settings I was using on which shot. Clearly I am going to have to wait until spring to practice with the camera outside. Will have to see what I can learn about using it inside while I’m waiting for warmer weather!
Yesterday Janet and I decided to take a walk around the Avery Point campus of the University of Connecticut, here in Groton. On our way to the entrance of the campus we spotted a white heron and I tried to get a picture of it… When I inadvertently got too close, it decided to fly over to the other side of the salt pond.
Avery Point was named for Captain James Avery (1620-1700), who was born in England, came to the colonies with his father, fought in King Philip’s War, and was an early settler of New London and Groton, Connecticut.
The college campus itself was originally a 70 acre seaside estate owned by Commodore Morton F. Plant (1852-1918), a yachtsman and financier, who in 1915, was noted for giving $1,125,000 to the founding of Connecticut College for Women (now Connecticut College) in New London. Plant’s property on Avery Point was eventually acquired by the University of Connecticut in 1969.
Besides his home at 1051 Fifth Avenue [NYC], Commodore Plant owned Branford House, a magnificent estate at Eastern Point Colony, three miles from Groton, opposite New London, on the east bank of the mouth of the Thames [River]. (The New York Times, November 5, 1918)
First we strolled along the Sculpture Path by the Sea, where we took in the sparkling views of Eastern Point, New London, New London Ledge Lighthouse (above), Pine Island, Bluff Point and Groton Long Point.
The path led us by an impressive view of the 31-room mansion called Branford House, which was built in 1903, and then on to the Avery Point Lighthouse, the last lighthouse built in Connecticut in 1943. The lighthouse stopped being used in 1967 and fell into disrepair. Funds were raised by the Avery Point Lighthouse Society and in 2001 restoration began and in 2002 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Now I’ve lived in Groton for several decades and I knew there was a little art gallery somewhere in Branford House, but since it is open only for a few hours on only a few days of the week, and because there are no signs indicating where one might enter the building, I have never managed to visit it.
Well, as we were examining all the architectural details on the outside of the building we discovered an unlocked door. Pent up curiosity pulled me in and Janet followed. There were several huge empty rooms, which I believe people have rented for functions like weddings… We poked around, admired the breathtaking views, enormous fireplace, and dark, intricately carved paneling, and eventually came to a grand staircase. Even the white ceiling (see last picture) had detailed paneling! Climbed the stairs and, what-do-you-know? We were in the lobby of the well hidden Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art! Alexey von Schlippe (1915-1988) was a painter and a professor of art at UConn’s Avery Point campus.
The current exhibition is a collection from the Latin Network for the Visual Arts. After viewing the colorful artwork of various current Latin artists, we noticed a very narrow staircase with marble steps! Again curiosity pulled me to go down them to what seemed to be a coat closet and another doorway to the main rooms again. Came away wishing I could get a floor plan somehow – I think it would be fascinating to see how the rooms and hallways were arranged and what each room was used for.
I should add as a footnote that Project Oceanology is also located on the Avery Point Campus. This marine science and environmental education organization offers lighthouse expeditions, oceanographic research cruises and seal watches to the public, other things I’d love to do one of these days.