Form of Government: Board of Selectmen
Geographic Location; NW Tip of Region
Geographic Area; 59.6 mi²
Current Population: Est. 2,968 (2000 Census)
Median Household Income: $45,418
Nearest city with pop. 50,000+: Danbury,
CT (22.2 miles , pop. 74,848).
Lands: Kent Falls State Park; Lake Waramaug State
Park; Macedonia Brook State Park; Wyantenock State Forest
is a village of rural loveliness which attracts many summer
boarders. The Street, 200 feet [actually 12 rods] wide
and two miles long, is bordered by grand old elms forming
a natural arbor. The Soldiers' Monument with a stone cannon,
and a stone clock tower are the modern features of the
village. The Governor John Cotton Smith House, a fine
specimen of Georgian architecture, is still perfectly
preserved. The fine old George King brick house (1800)
is at the head of the street. The C. C. Tiffany house
(1757) is perhaps the oldest in the town. The old Pardee
brick house (1782) stands by the Stone Bridge. The Prindle
house is a spacious gambrel roof dwelling on Gay St. near
the charming lakelet which furnishes a natural reservoir
for the village water supply. The picturesque old Gay
House has the builder's initials "M. G. 1765"
on a stone in the gable.
the early days Sharon was a place of busy and varied industries.
Iron was manufactured here as early as 1743, and continued
an important industry up to fifty years ago. During the
Civil War munitions were made here, and it was then in
the shops of the Hotchkiss Company in this village that
the Hotchkiss explosive shell for rifled guns was invented,
which led to the expansion of the company and its removal
the north of the village is Mudge Pond, or Crystal Lake,
and beyond, Indian Mountain (1200 ft). At the western
foot of the mountain, on the [New York] State line, lies
Indian Pond, now called Wequagnock Lake. On the edge of
this lake was an Indian village where the Moravians early
established a mission that did great work among the Indians.
To the Moravians it was known as " Gnadensee,"
the Lake of Grace.
Sharon the route runs northward past Lake Wononpakook
and Lake Wononskopomuc, the latter an Indian word meaning
"sparkling water." Between the lakes, as the
road forks right, is situated the widely known Hotchkiss
School, for boys, an important feeder to Yale. On the
right, half a mile from Lakeville, is the residence of
Hon. Wm. Travers Jerome, formerly District Attorney of
New York City.
Sharon Did Build a Better Mousetrap!
On display in the Children's Hands On
Room at the Historical Society are two curious wood-and-wire
blocks. One is a triangle, with a hole in one side, the
other is oblong with three holes on one side. Both are
made of bass wood and have complex wire gadgets on top.
They are beautiful examples of the once famous Sharon
Invented in Sharon by Joseph Bostwick,
and produced by the Jewett Manufacturing Company in the
mid 1800s, the oddly shaped traps were turned out in such
quantity that Sharon Valley became known as the "Mouse
Trap Headquarters of the Western World"! One of the
reasons for Jewett's success was that the actual production
of the traps was done by countless Sharon area residents,
at home, as piece work. The rough bass wood lumber was
cut into blocks of triangular, oblong, square or hexagonal
shape, then stained, and holes were bored into the side
of the block and out through the bottom with a complex
augur-and-bit machine. The number of holes ranged from
one on the triangular trap to six on the hexagonal one.
Wire trapping mechanisms were threaded through smaller
holes on top of the block. The traps were later baited
from the bottom. The mouse stuck its head in the hole,
tripping the wire, which snapped down and caught the pest
by the neck. Mice and rats were a terrible nuisance in
the days when most people had horses and other livestock
that depended on large stores of grain.
Lawrence Van Alstyne described the industry
in Manufacturing in Sharon, an article he wrote for the
Poconnuck Historical Society in 1912. "The shaping
of the traps from the rough lumber gave employment to
many hands, many of them boys and some of them girls,
for the work required nimble fingers rather than bodily
strength. It also made quantities of chips which were
carted away for use as bedding for horses and cattle.
It was a common sight to see people carrying away great
sacks full of traps and wires to be put together at their
homes during the long winter evenings. It was a source
of income to many that was greatly missed after the burning
of the mouse trap shop."
Our mousetraps were given to the Historical
Society by Mrs. Robert Scribner in 1996. Other mousetraps
recently loaned to the Historical Society by Tom Casey
came from his mother's childhood home in theValley. Dell
Middlebrook Casey grew up in the house previously owned
by the Hotchkiss family. She said that her parents had
kept some of the house the way the Hotchkiss family had
left it, and that the mousetraps were among the Hotchkiss
possessions. Hotchkiss Brothers did manufacture rat traps,
and it is possible that the company was also involved
in mouse trap production.
So, the next time someone asks you where
you live, you can proudly reply (the former) "Mouse
Seymour Smith and Hotchkiss Sons
Seymour Smith was born in Springfield,
Vermont in 1815 and died in 1904 at 90.
In 1850 after being superintendent of
the woolen mills in Rodgersonville, Mass, Seymour Smith
moved to Worcester, Mass and formed the company of Smith
& Buxton with Daniel Buxton. In 1856 the company moved
to Sharon, CT and began to manufacture tools and hardware.
Not long after, Buxton left the company
and Smith continued under his own name. The business operated
in a section of the Hotchkiss Sons' manufacturing plant
and did contract work for them. Along with the contract
work Smith also manufactured his own products which Hotchkiss
acted as the sales agents for. This explains why the saw
sets made before the formation of Seymour Smith &
Son are called "Hotchkiss pattern" and why the
1859 Patent is sold as "Hotchkiss' Mill, Circular
and Cross Cut Saw Sets" as shown in the sales literature.
Although Smith was making this saw set, Hotchkiss Son's
were selling it for him.
This was Smith's first saw set patent, patented on Oct
4, 1859 for an adjustable wrest type which looks like
a monkey wrench. Interestingly the patent lists a Hotchkiss
as a witness with the first two initials that look like
G A. The samples that I have seen only have the Smith
patent number marked on them.
In 1866 Smith moved the operation to Oakville, CT and
continued manufacturing tools and hardware in the empty
Wheeler and Wilson Sewing Machine building. Here he patented
his second saw set, a hammer type, on Mar. 7, 1876. The
design is similar to the "Hotchkiss pattern"
shown to the left. The main difference between the two
is the threaded bottom, which the Smith patent has and
the Hotchkiss does not. Earlier versions of the Hotchkiss
have a large circular body and small adjustable depth
The company purchased the assets of the Connecticut Shear
Company after it moved to Oakville. Ultimately all other
manufactured items would be fazed out except for the line
of cutters and pruners.
Seymour Smith & Son was formed when Seymour Smith
took his son William as a partner in 1884.
The Smith Patent shown above has S. Smith
& Son stamped on it, which means it was made after
1884. In 1912 the company's name was changed to Seymour
Smith & Son, Inc. formed by William H. Smith and his
sons George and William R.
Seymour Smith & Son continued operation
in the location they relocated to in 1866 until 1985,
when it was purchased by Vermont American and the plant
shut down. Manufacturing was moved to Somerset, PA and
in 2000 Robert Bosch became the owner.
Information on the company was supplied
by the Seymour Smith & Son division of the Gilmour
is a town located in Litchfield County, Connecticut, in the northwest
corner of the state. It is bounded on the north by Salisbury,
on the east by the Housatonic River, on the south by Kent, and
on the west by Dutchess County, New York.
Sharon , CT
| Fax 860.
hours vary by department
Sharon, Connecticut USA
Audubon Miles Wildlife Sanctuary
99 West Cornwall Road
Sharon, CT 06069
consisting of the Sharon Audubon Center and Emily Winthrop
Miles Wildlife Sanctuary, has been connecting people with
nature for over forty years. Creating life-changing experiences
that enable community members and their families to appreciate,
understand and protect the natural world is at the very
core of our mission.
Sharon Audubon Center
325 Cornwall Bridge Road
Sharon, CT 06069
Ellsworth Hill Orchard & Berry Farm
461 Cornwall Bridge Rd, Route 4 Sharon, CT 06069
IRON MAKING IN SHARON
One year after Sharon's 1739 incorporation
as a town, Joseph Skinner constructed the town's first
bloomery forge adjacent to the brook running from Mudge
Pond to the Valley. Producing about four hundred pounds
of iron per day, Skinner's Forge, quickly followed by
Joel Harvey's gristmill, initiated a period of industry
and manufacturing that would continue in Sharon Valley
for nearly 160 years.
With iron very much needed for tools,
plows, hardware and innumerable other items, iron works
were constructed in other parts of town. In 1750 Gray's
Forge was put into production north east of Tanner Road,
another by the Hutchinson brothers near West Cornwall
in 1760, and still another in the late eighteenth century
east of Ellsworth along Guinea Brook.
THE SHARON VALLEY BLAST FURNACE
It was no accident that Sharon Valley became
an early center for industry. Blessed by sources of water
power from the Valley Brook and Webutuck Creek, carbonate
rock for lime, wood to make charcoal fuel and ore from
several nearby sources, manufacturing increased rapidly.
By 1814, the first lime kiln was in action and in 1822
Leman Bradley sold his blast furnace at Great Falls on
the Housatonic River in eastern Salisbury and purchased
Sharon property along the Webutuck. There, just north
of the present bridge, Bradley had his blast furnace constructed
and put into blast in 1825.
With the daily furnace production of iron then
measured at several tons instead of hundreds of pounds
from the forge, industrial Sharon Valley grew quickly.
An extraordinary entrepreneur was added to the population
when Asahel A. Hotchkiss arrived in Sharon Valley with
his family from Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1829. Already
a vibrant center of activity, Sharon's industries were
destined to experience significant growth over the decades
Using iron from the local blast furnace, the
Asahel Hotchkiss & Sons Company produced a substantial
variety of home, farm and other utilitarian items. The
population of Sharon's little village in the valley grew
quickly as the Jewett Manufacturing Company, Noyes Malleable
Iron Works and others were added to the list of industrial
employers. In the period when rodents were a major menace,
Joseph Bostwick's mouse trap works reached a manufacturing
level of 80,000 traps per year. At peak, the Hotchkiss
company alone provided work for 100 men, women and girls.
By the late 1850s Andrew Hotchkiss had invented the exploding
cannon shell which would become a major factor for Union
success in the Civil War.
In 1854 the furnace was converted to a hot and
cold blast type. After rebuilding the furnace in 1863,
ironmaster Horace Landon produced only hot blast iron.
The hot blast reduced the amount of charcoal necessary
and the time needed to produce pig iron from iron ore.
As a result of the 1863 rebuilding, the stone furnace
stack measured thirty-feet square at the base and stood
thirty-four feet high.
In 1868 the Landon Iron Co. leased the blast
furnace to Frederick Miles of Salisbury for a period of
two years. In 1870, basically the same lease was extended
to John Adam Beckley (builder of the Beckley Furnace -
East Canaan #2; 1847-1919) of North Canaan. Then, in 1873,
the Barnum and Richardson Company (BRC) purchased the
works from Horace Landon and formed the Sharon Valley
Iron Company. Worker's homes were built and an office
building constructed on Sharon Valley Road, east of the
furnace (today the Valley Tavern.) In the same period
Chauncey Morehouse constructed a new lime kiln near the
New York State border.
IRON PRODUCTION ENDS IN SHARON
Near the end of the century with the iron market
in decline, the Barnum and Richardson Company began closing
their subsidiaries when the Cornwall Bridge Iron Company
furnace was taken out of blast in 1892. [The BRC Millerton
Furnace had been destroyed by fire in 1883 and never rebuilt.]
In 1898, the BRC purchased the Sharon Valley Iron Company
outright and closed the operation. Iron making was finished
in Sharon Valley.
With the manufacture of iron no longer in the
Valley, families gradually left town to find employment
in other industrial areas. Over time the population of
Sharon, which had fluctuated between 2,615 and 2,580 from
1840 to 1880, dropped to 1,880 inhabitants by 1910 and
1,585 in 1920. Not until the 1980 census would Sharon
show a population over 2,600.
At the furnace site the buildings and equipment
were sold by the BRC to a Millerton contractor in 1903.
Then in 1912, conceivably because the thirty-four foot
high stack was considered an attractive nuisance and dangerous
to climbers, the structure was torn down to the hearth
level. According to local stories, some of the large stack
rocks were used in constructing abutments for an early
twentieth century replacement bridge across the Webutuck
Creek. These rocks were later removed and stored by the
town highway crew upon the 1999 rebuilding of the bridge.
Recently, several of the stored rocks were used to construct
the retaining wall along the east side of the restored
Sharon Valley Lime Kiln. Even in history, what goes around
As in the case of many abandoned nineteenth century
industrial sites, the iron works site eventually became
a repository for refuse. By the late 1940s and beyond
the 1950s, the site served as the town dump. Many times
during the period the fire whistle sounded and the cry
went out, "the Valley dump is on fire." These
fires seemed to occur most frequently on Saturday nights
and drew substantial gatherings. Perhaps a bit of local
entertainment before network television invaded our region.
Although all of the blast furnaces in the Salisbury
Iron District from 1762 through 1923 operated under essentially
the same principal, each one exhibited its own idiosyncrasies
in both structure and methodology. Once the results of
the archaeological field study of the Valley furnace site
have been reviewed, we hope to know more about this very
important feature of Sharon's fascinating history.
The Sharon Historical Society expresses thanks
to the furnace site owners, the experts who traveled here
from many miles, Scott Heth and Audubon Sharon, and the
enthusiastic assistants who manned the shovels and tossed
the bricks. We are particularly grateful for the joining
of efforts of the historical society and Audubon center
in another attempt to preserve the history of Sharon.
We must be reminded that the remains of the Sharon
Valley Iron Company lie on private grounds. Please respect
that privacy and do not enter the site without permission
or through a permitted guided tour.
.. by Ed Kirby