Features & Profiles

The Early History of Washington, Connecticut

By Tori Ledoux ’23

The small village in which our school is located has so much rich history. Even its name takes meaning from one of the most significant American figures, George Washington. The town has been through a lot of change, given colonization, the increase in American farming and, of course, the establishment of our school within it.

I visited the Washington Museum and learned a lot of information about the town from the exhibits and one of the knowledgeable museum guides. The land was first inhabited by Paleo-native Americans, who hunted and fished along the Shepaug River. The town’s roots in humility and quaintness go back to when the village was first colonized in 1739 by Joseph Hurlbut by way of boat. In 1779, the town was officially announced and got its strikingly memorable name, Washington, as its namesake, George Washington, frequently passed through during the revolution.

In 1850, educator, reformer, abolitionist, and outdoorsman Frederick Gunn decided to establish a school in Washington. He created the school known then as The Gunnery, and since then, it has been an important aspect of the Washington environment.

 The building of a train station and train tracks leading into the village created a foundation for tourism, trade, and opportunity and led to growth for the quaint town in 1872. The variety of rivers running throughout Washington transformed it into a mill town until the abrupt rise of farming hit the village. Farming, particularly dairy farming, quickly dominated the landscape. Forests were cut down for the hills to be turned into farmlands. Washington was even called and famously known as Connecticut’s “Holstein Capital,” after the Holstein, a popular type of farming cow.

Since then, the town has evolved, but many of its characteristics make more sense when put into context. This land has been through a lot of change, and our school is lucky to be a piece of the rich history. Through learning more about the history of Washington, we can all gain a little perspective on the place we get to call home.

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