Thomas Hooker & The Old Connecticut Path
(Note: Much of the following text is excerpted from Jason Newton's website which is linked at the bottom of the page. Most of the photos are Jason's also.)
REVEREND THOMAS HOOKER and his congregation set out on a journey from Cambridge, MA to Hartford, CT in May 1636 along what came to be known as the Old Connecticut Path. This group was among those who followed the trail west through the unsettled wilderness to build a new life in Connecticut. Later generations descended from them continued their forefathers' tradition of migration west across the country. The Old Connecticut Path served as one of the first trails followed in the nation's westward expansion.
While the Old Connecticut Path served as the gateway west for almost a century, it has now largely vanished from view. In places, the Path is hidden in plain sight. In others, only dim traces remain. Over the course of 375 years, the journey of two weeks is now two hours. Our “need for speed” has contributed to the dimming almost to darkness of the Old Connecticut Path. That which is slower and obsolete, we discard and soon forget. Over the span of almost four centuries, new routes were found to make travel more “efficient”. Finding the Old Connecticut Path is an opportunity to slow down, reconnect and see genius anew.
Jason Newton's Rediscovery Project
The project to rediscover the Old Connecticut Path began for JASON NEWTON as a family history project to find the route from Cambridge to Hartford followed by his ancestors, Reverend Thomas Hooker and his family along with Reverend Roger Newton, who married Mary Hooker to begin the Newton family in America.
Rediscovering the almost forgotten route of the Old Connecticut Path has required many hours over the past three years exploring the woods and forgotten byways along the way to find traces of the Path and to confirm markers described in histories.
To document the path Jason has created videos walking and describing sections of the path. The videos can be found on YouTube. In addition several of his slide shows and talks have been recorded and also posted on YouTube. Visit his Old Connecticut Path website to explore the videos and gain a better understanding of his research and what he has found.
As an example the path through Willington to Tolland is told in detail at The Trail To Tolland.
There were many Native American trails through Eastern Connecticut in 1635 and as Hooker's party did not keep a journal there are questions about his exact path. Some historians are sure Hooker's party entered the Connecticut Valley through Bolton Notch. The Notch trail was certainly of importance to the original inhabitants as well as later colonists and was called the Revolutionary Road for its importance during that war.
For a discussion of the possible trails, Jason's map and the controversy between researchers see Tolland to Hartford, Windsor & Wethersfield article.
The Tankerhoosen Valley Connection
Whether the Old CT Path passed through Tolland or Bolton Hooker and his company had to come through the Tankerhoosen Valley on their way to Hartford.
The most likely path as shown on Jason's map in yellow is along Route 30, Hartford Turnpike in Vernon. This was a major Native American path from the villages on the Connecticut River to a large village in the Stafford Springs area. It follows something of a ridge line along the northern edge of the Tankerhoosen Valley. Along this path and ridge line our first settlers built their farms, homes and churches.
One member of Hooker's group was JOHN TALCOTT, the founder of the Talcott Family in Connecticut. Early members of the family settled in Wethersfield and Hartford. One branch moved to Bolton with some members later moving to North Bolton or what would become Vernon.
Also with local descendants were JOHN SKINNER and GEORGE and JOHN STEELE, who came to Hartford with Thomas Hooker.
The Old CT Path Recreational Trail
Jason Newton's hope is to work with town and state organizations to create a heritage trail where the Old Connecticut Path may have been. Its purpose would be to encourage hiking and recreation while increasing people's awareness of their history. It would also help protect the trail from further development.
If the Trail becomes a reality Jason is recommending that from Tolland to Hartford it follow the Tankerhoosen Valley to the Hockanum River. Although this may not be the actual path it comes closest to showing the type of terrain the early settlers would have passed through.
In the Tankerhoosen Valley the designated trail might follow the Shenipsit Trail from Walker Reservoir to Valley Falls Park, then the Hop River Rail Trail to Vernon Depot, through the Northern CT Land Trust's Talcott Ravine to Talcottville where it would pick up the Hockanum River Trail through Manchester and East Hartford to the Connecticut River just above the Charter Oak Bridge.
Jason Newton's Old Connecticut Path website.
On Jason's Facebook Page you will find notices of upcoming talks and learn of new videos and discoveries. Go to: Facebook.com/OldConnecticutPath.
"Talcott Pedigree in England and America from 1665 to 1876" - Book scanned and available online for information on the Talcott family.