Exploring The Last Green Valley – The Beautiful & Historic Town of Scotland
The Beautiful & Historic Town of Scotland
From time to time this column features one of the 35 towns located within The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor, and today we feature Scotland – one of our smallest, historic, and most heavily-wooded towns.
Scotland has about 89% undeveloped and open land – more than any of our 35 towns in the National Heritage Corridor. With 1,732 residents it is also one of our least-populated towns.
A 2013 land cover analysis shows Scotland has a total of 11,998 acres with 10,696 acres in open and undeveloped land — just over 89%. The undeveloped land breaks down to 16.8% in agricultural land, 5.3% in coniferous forest, 63.8% in deciduous forest, and 3.3% in forested wetland (FN 1).
The town’s website is a great source of information and states that Scotland gets its name from the first settler, Isaac Magoon, who lived in what was the southeast corner of Windham, now Scotland. “His purchase of 1,950 acres in the year 1700 marked the beginning of the town’s history.” Speculation is that Magoon named the area in honor of his ancestral home of Scotland. It wasn’t until 1857 that the town incorporated and separated from Windham.
A short history of Scotland’s town green can be found in TLGV’s “For the Common Good: A Guide to Historic and Scenic Town Commons & Greens of The Last Green Valley.” This publication is out of print but available on the TLGV website.
Gradual settlement led to a highway, gristmill, burying ground, livestock pound and school, although residents continued to attend church and town meetings in Windham Center. In 1732, a separate ecclesiastical society formed and chose a site on a knoll east of Merrick’s Brook. Nathanial Huntington deeded them a small parcel and in 1733 they held their first meeting in a building on the green. In 1751, he deeded another parcel “to be unfenced forever and free from encumbrances to accommodate the publick interest of said society on Sabbath Days and other days of publick interest.” In 1772, a new meetinghouse was built on the site of the present Congregational Church and the original structure was removed from the green. Fire safety concerns also led to the relocation of the schoolhouse.
By the early 19th century, Scotland had become an agricultural village built around the green. The early domestic buildings date from the late 18th century when the town flourished as a crossroads community. Especially impressive is the Tracey-Watson House, once a tavern, built by or for Lemuel Pettengill (c. 1760) at the southwest corner of Rtes. 14 and 97. The nearby Richard Warner House (1836) contains the bar front from the 1628 Windham Inn. Scotland’s agrarian fortunes declined until the mid-19th century when Merrick Brook’s limited waterpower ushered in the Industrial Revolution.
The present Congregational Church (1842) and adjacent chapel (1867) are both from this period. The school, expanded in 1896, became the state’s first consolidated school. The G.H. Billing Hotel once stood across Center St.; all that is left of it, however, is the carriage house.
A sense of community and of Scotland’s evolution is evident through the variety of buildings around the green. The contemporary St. Margaret’s Church is juxtaposed with the Greek Revival Congregational Church, and the 1920s Sears cottage is tucked beside the 1896 town hall. The green is also a commemorative site with a central gazebo donated by the Scotland Garden Club and two stone memorials honoring the veterans of the Vietnam Conflict and World War II.
There are several points of interest in Scotland that make this beautiful small town worth a visit or day trip. I suggest a visit to the Huntington Homestead and the Waldo Homestead, two historical treasures. For antique tool enthusiasts, the D’Elia Antique Tool Museum located adjacent to the town library is also a must. Each of these museums is open to the public and a quick internet search will provide their websites and museum information.
The Huntington Homestead is the childhood home of one of my favorite, famous Last Green Valley residents. Samuel Huntington was an important figure in the Revolutionary War period and the early years of the United States. He was a member of the Continental Congress, a signer of the Declaration of Independence from Connecticut, and was chosen by his peers as president of the Continental Congress. He was president of the Continental Congress when the last state ratified the Articles of Confederation and our country became the “United States in Congress Assembled.” This occurred before George Washington took office as President, in essence making Samuel Huntington our country’s first chief executive. He went on to serve as Governor of Connecticut from 1786 until his death in 1796.
Scotland is also home to the annual Scottish Highland Festival Games, held each fall on the grounds of the Waldo Homestead. Many vendors and clans participate as well as thousands of visitors. I am of Scottish decent so as you can imagine the festival is also a favorite destination of mine.
Along with interesting museums, Scotland is home to large and expansive outdoor sites available for hiking, birdwatching and natural resource enjoyment. These include the Talbot Wildlife Area State Forest, Mohegan State Forest, Rock Springs Wildlife Refuse and Spignesi Wildlife Area.
If you’re looking for a fun and entertaining day trip to Scotland this summer, might I suggest you consider visiting one of the museums in the morning, then take an afternoon hike, and finally enjoy a summer evening concert held on the town green. You can even bring along a picnic. The concerts start at 6 p.m. and upcoming concerts are scheduled for Saturday, July 30th (today), August 6th, August 27th and September 10th. History, hike and a concert too! What better way to learn about and enjoy Scotland, Connecticut.
Scotland has retained that classic New England village atmosphere. It is a very special place and as stated in the town’s website, “worthy of every effort to preserve its rural environment.”
We live in a beautiful region. I hope you join me in visiting our small towns and big towns, and together enjoy, care for, and pass on our shared natural and cultural resources.
- Land cover data courtesy of UCONN College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR). Values are approximations and conducted by Altshul Geographic Information Systems Consulting.
Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 30 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The Norwich Bulletin is granted first serial rights and associated electronic rights to publish the preceding article. The Last Green Valley, Inc. retains all other rights to the work.
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