The Peoples of the Mill Towns: Biographies of Men, Women, and Children Who Lived in Connecticut’s Factory Cities and Towns
The State of Connecticut is known for its former mill towns — communities that, in the industrial era, featured thrumming, puffing factories that produced textiles, tools and other metal products, and other manufactures. Today, Connecticut has 169 towns, ranging in population from rural Union (854 inhabitants) to urban Bridgeport (144,229 residents). Some Connecticut towns are small in size: the industrial town of Derby at the confluence of the Housatonic and Naugatuck rivers is only 4.98 square miles. Others sprawl across large areas of forest-covered hills: New Milford, Connecticut’s most expansive town, encompasses 61.59 square miles. Connecticut’s oldest towns were founded in the 17th century as agricultural communities. The three Connecticut River valley towns of Windsor (1633), Wethersfield (1634), and Hartford (1635) — the capital — are the oldest. Most of the newest towns were urban factory cities — mill towns — carved out of older, farm towns. The newest are Thomaston (1875), home of the Seth Thomas clock company; Ansonia (1889), known for its metal works; and West Haven (1921), a suburb of New Haven and Connecticut’s only town incorporated in the 20th century. More than half of Connecticut’s towns historically had mills large enough to be considered factories.
Various different peoples built and populated Connecticut’s numerous mill towns. They included mill owners, managers and other executives, investors, foremen, and skilled and semi-skilled mill workers. They also included the merchants and craftspeople who provided the owners, managers, and workers with food, clothing, and other goods; government officials and town workers; school teachers and librarians; printers, publishers, and journalists; gardeners, nurserymen, and sextons — a large array of trades and occupations that made the mill towns function. They included native born and immigrants, Yankees and other ethnicities, European Americans and people of color, and people of many different faiths and creeds. In this section of the website, viewers will have the opportunity to meet some of the people who lived in and built Connecticut’s mill towns. Follow the links to meet … the Peoples of the Mill Towns.