I find maps amazing. The amount of history that is recorded in them is phenomenal. And when you can compare maps of the same area from different time periods you can learn even more. We are fortunate to have many old maps of Wolcott available to us on the website of the Wolcott Historical society (wolcotthistory.org). Click on the history link, then find the link to these maps, all of which are .jpg files and can be expanded for better viewing. Here are just a few things that I found interesting when looking at this collection.
Boundline Road – In the 1868 map you can see the upper end of Boundline Road extends in a straight line all the way up to Spindle Hill Road. In the 1946 map you can see that it is now just a short stub road north of Route 69 and is just a dirt road serving a few homes before it ends. Just a few years late in the mid-1950’s it is now paved and extends twice as far. At the end of that section there is a path through the woods – not following the rest of what used to be the road, but curving off to the left to meet Spindle Hill Road and then crossing it. The section north of Spindle Hill Road is the blue trail that runs past Jack’s Cave and then up into Plymouth. Nowadays Boundline Road extends farther north, almost to the Mad River. The section from on the north side of the river is still a path that comes out on Spindle Hill Road, but it is not shown on any current maps (like Google Maps or Google Earth).
Upson Road – On the 1868 map you can see that heading due east from the center there is a road that goes all the way out to Woodtick Road. This is Upson Road. In the 1946 map you can see that this is one of the few “improved” roads in town and this is still true in the mid-1950’s. But Upson Road no longer connects with Center Street. If you look at any current maps you will see that it still goes in from Woodtick Road, but only about 2/3 of the way before it bends to the south for some new homes. I’m not sure why this change was made – perhaps the town fathers wanted to keep traffic going on Center Street as the preferred route.
Road Naming – Many of the current roads in town were named after residents. If you look closely at the 1868 map, you will see that the roads are not named, but the individuals for whom the roads are now named are still living on them. See the Andrews homes on what is now Andrews Road, Mr. Minor living on Boundline Road very close to what is now Minor Road, Mr. Beecher in the NE corner of town on Beecher Road, Mr. Upson living on Woodtick Road just north of Upson Road (he owned that entire section of land down to where Upson Road is). There are others, but these are the ones that I immediately noticed.
Abandoned Roads – One of the prominent roads in the town originally was the north-south road at the eastern end of town. You can see it clearly on the 1868 map. By 1904, while the upper section is still there, the lower portion has been reduced to a short dirt path just to the east of the newly built Southington Reservoir. In the 1946 and mid-1950’s map you can see more of the abandoned road, but it stops about half-way up the town and then meanders back to the southwest. Since this is all watershed for the Southington Reservoir, it is falling further into disuse and is probably difficult to find. Even the upper section which used to be part of Beecher Road and other drivable roads going over to the caretaker’s house at the New Britain Reservoir are now abandoned. But somewhere in middle of that vast tract one could probably find the foundation of the home of George Atwood which is shown on the 1868 map. There are other abandoned roads elsewhere in town such as the dirt road that starts from Central Avenue just to the east of the big S-curve and meanders off to the northeast. See if you can find others.
Route 69 – Route 69 was built in the mid-1930’s and was the first paved road in town. On the earlier maps you can somewhat trace where it was going to be, but in order to traverse the town from SW to NE you had to take a whole series of other roads. In the 1946 map you can see Route 69 with its sweeping curves. In many cases it followed the route of existing roads (you’ll have to compare the maps to see this), and in other cases a whole new road was created. This is particularly true for the long climb up the hill to the north of Center Street. Instead of going east on Center Street, then diagonally up Minor Road to meet Boundline Road, the new Route 69 took a straight path up the hill to the point where an existing road ran from Boundline Road NE to meet Woodtick Road. This was quite a feat of engineering back in the 1930’s.
There is a statement that a picture is worth a thousand words. But if the picture is a map it’s worth many thousands of words. The intersection of geography (where the hills and rivers are), genealogy (who lived where), and politics (how we drew boundaries and where we put the early schools in Wolcott) is quite fascinating to me. I hope that this very brief introduction to Wolcott History – as captured in some old maps – encourages others of you to explore and discover other interesting items in our town’s history.