A Glassenbury, Connecticut, Primer

By Carla Olson Gade

Colonial Courtships takes place in the charming historical town of Glastonbury, Connecticut, along the Connecticut River. During the mid-18th century, the town was called Glassenbury, taken from the English town of same, meaning a glistening city.

Until I had the opportunity to travel from my home state of Maine to Connecticut, the Historical Society of Glastonbury was very helpful in answering my questions. When writing a historical fiction, it goes without saying that one mustn’t assume that things where then as they are today. Some of the street names have changed, most significantly Main Street, which was at the time of my story called Country Road.

The hero in my story works in a shipyard at a figurehead carver’s shop. But where were the shipbuilding sites located in 1753? I learned that there were three; today they no longer exist. The one on Tyron Lane was in close enough proximity to the family home, The Red Griffin Inn, which I had already determined would be on Country Road. This worked out well, because since the family home operated as a hostelry, it needed to be situated near enough to the ferry to be within walking distance for travelers, certainly convenient for the stage to deliver patrons.

As a side note, this ferry is the longest running ferry in the United States, still operating today. From the Historical Society website and other sources, I was able to discover many valuable facts about the town and its people. Several names of prominent families are mentioned in my novella, and some became supporting characters including Rev. Ashbel Woodridge, Dr. Elizur Hale, Col. Thomas Welles.

Glastonbury, Connecticut, boasts more 18th century homes than any town in the U.S., save one. They have done a remarkable job preserving its history and three of their buildings are museums. My heart raced as we traveled along the roads of this quaint town, viewing home after colonial home. Several of the town’s buildings are referred to in “Carving a Future” including the original church, built in 1693, the location for one of the scenes between my main characters, Constance and Nathaniel.

Glastonbury, Connecticut

Welles-Shipman-Ward house (aka Red Griffin Inn)

For The Red Griffin Inn I chose the Welles-Shipman-Ward house, built in 1753 by a ship captain and merchant trader and considered a mansion in its day. Since I “stole” this house for the Ingersoll family, I decided to make a mention of the grand home being built by Col. Thomas Welles for his bride. While the photograph shows the front of this clapboard house to be white, the Red Griffin is entirely red with a gambrel roof, which was common in Georgian architecture. There is also a lean-to kitchen off the back of the house, shaping it like a saltbox.

As typical in 18th century homes, the center chimney determined the room arrangement, usually one or two rooms deep with a front stairway and the rear kitchen, as mentioned. In the Red Griffin there is a main hall (a room for family activities and dining), and a parlor. The parlor also doubles as a guest room at the inn, and in it there is a bedstead, though folded up for space. Unusual? No. In colonial times, in addition to making the most of limited space, the best bed was often on display to show off the beautiful coverings on the mattress and tester (canopy), indicating the owner’s wealth.

Thank you for taking a stroll through colonial Glassenbury with me. I hope you will enjoy meeting the Ingersoll family in their hometown as you read Colonial Courtships.

Every comment on a Colonial Courtships post is an entry for a giveaway for a copy of Colonial Courtships from Barbour Publishing. (USA only)

14 thoughts on “A Glassenbury, Connecticut, Primer

  1. This is a great post about this town and it’s rich history. Thanks so much for the mini history lesson and the pretty pictures! My husband and I enjoy finding old towns and taking photos of the architecture. I look forward to reading your book!

    • Thanks, Anne! Oh, I do, too, as you can tell. What a treasure trove of history New England has and I was so glad to discover the town of Glastonbury, tell called Glassenbury.

  2. I had no idea Glastonbury CT was such a treasure of 18th C life. I will have to put a visit on my “bucket list!” Thanks for sharing your process for setting your historical sites for your story. This is something I struggle with a great deal!

    • Yes, it really is a treasure trove of 18th century charm! I had done initial research online, and through email, but when I went there in person I was in awe. My research companions could hardly hold me back for my excitement. “Did you see that house?”, “That’s where my character…”, “Oh, isn’t that amazing!”, “I can’t believe I’m here!”. And I met this wonderful lady from town, a school teacher I believe (wish I recalled her name), who I met as she was walking by while I was admiring the Thomas Hale house. She was so pleasant and helpful, such a friendly place. And I really cannot say enough about what a great resource historical societies can be while conducting research. Try Google Books, too, Kate, to search for archived books that contain vital statistics and town histories while conducting research for your stories. Blessings!

  3. Cool, Carla! I am glad to see more of this lovely inn where we are still celebrating your release with a tea party over at Colonial Quills! Going to run back over and put a link to this post. Blessings!

    • Thanks, Carrie. It was so much fun to research this charming town. It had that Colonial Williamsburg kind of feel, only without the reenactors. Though they do have so nice events on occasion with their historical society. LOVE historical societies!

  4. Thank you Amy, and Aileen, for coming by. I really am in love with the town and would live there in a heartbeat. Of course, while researching, I did in my imagination. I know I had to do some embellishing, ’tis fiction after all, but what great history the town has preserved!

  5. I loved reading about your Glastonbury book! My Great-Great Grandfather, William Waterbury Scudder, was the pastor in the Congregational Church,(there along Main St.) for 11 years, in the late 1800′s. One of his sons, William Waterbury Scudder II, married Bertha North Wright, the adopted daughter of Joseph Wright, who also had a home along Main St.. They both would later be my Great Grandparents. One of William’s (Sr.) daughters, Frances, married Samuel Williams, the son of the founder of the JB Williams Soap Company family.
    I have enjoyed learning the history my family has made in this charming town. They have certainly left their mark… I would love to read Colonial Courtships!

    • Thanks for sharing your family history, Bonnie. It was fun to include one of the real life pastors from the town, Rev. Woodridge, in my story. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy researching Glastonbury for this book. What a charming town indeed!

  6. Thanks for sharing this beautiful town. Looks like a place I would love to visit one day.
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