|Hans Weiss' 1993 original oil painting of Meetinghouse Hill field.
When Vernon's early settlers received permission in 1760 to establish the parish of North Bolton they immediately began planning their meeting house. In Eighteenth Century Connecticut there was no separation of church and state so the meeting house would serve as their church, government and social center.
The location chosen was on the old Indian trail that had become the main east-west road through the parish. The preferred location for meeting houses was on a hilltop and this one overlooked the Connecticut River Valley, such that on a clear day the mother church in Hartford was visible. The site was also close to the only cemetery in the area, on today's Bamforth Road. (The field includes the red barn and open space across Route 30 from the Vernon Center Middle School driveway - see the aerial map below.)
At that time roads were undeveloped with most families walking to church. The road they took to church each Sunday for 63 years climbed what came to be known as Meetinghouse Hill. Where it passed over a small brook a fieldstone bridge was built to accommodate travelers.
|USDA map showing Strong Farm pastures.
Vernon Center Middle School at center.
Click to enlarge.
The road to Hartford became an official turnpike in 1801 and with subsequent improvements was straightened, bypassing Meetinghouse Hill. When the new church at Vernon Center was built in 1826 the road up Meetinghouse Hill, still unpaved, was abandoned by the town.
What is now called Old Meetinghouse Hill returned to use as a farm field. The Strong family bought the field with its red barn around 1900. It had been allowed to deteriorate such that the Strongs had to drain the wetlands, improve the pasture and then used it primarily for their herd of dairy cows. The herd was moved from the field to the farm for milking each day for over a hundred years.
When Norman Strong died in 2010 this part of his Heritage Farm was left to his heirs. In 2014 they decided to sell the fields. To preserve this important piece of Vernon's heritage, and one of the last reminders of our agricultural heritage, Meetinghouse Hill, LLC was formed, purchasing the 33-acre property with another 18-acre field on West Road.
Over a five year period money was raised through grants and donations to buy the land and return it to Strong Family Farm, LLC. The pastures are now preserved for future generations and the land will continue as working farmland with public access and a path to the view over the valley.
This webpage tells the story of Meetinghouse Hill, forgotten or never known by most town residents. It reminds us of where we come from, where we are today, and what we want for tomorrow.
Read the Story of Meetinghouse Hill.
Updated January 2021