Wolcott Historical Society News - July 2009
By Florence Goodman
In this edition, I would like to enlighten you about two recently completed Eagle Scout Projects that will help to preserve our town history. The first project deals with the Constitutional Oak Tree and was completed by Joe Milton. The second project enhances the grounds at the Old Stone Schoolhouse Museum and was done by Ryan McDonald.
The story of our Constitutional Oak tree begins in October of 1901, when a vote was taken to hold a Constitutional Convention in Hartford to revise the existing constitution. In 1902, the U.S. Department of Agriculture presented each of the 168 convention delegates with a pin oak tree seedling to commemorate the passing of the proposed revisions. They were to be planted in their hometowns in public places and be known as "Constitutional Oaks" as memorials to the expected new state constitution.
Even though the revisions never passed the trees were still planted. Our Constitutional Oak was planted on Spindle Hill Road on the property then owned by Mr. Evelyn Upson, who was the delegate from Wolcott to the Constitutional Convention. Mr. Upson planted the pin oak seedling on his property so that he could maintain it while it was young. It was his intent to eventually transplant the tree to the Town Green, but the transplanting never occurred. Thus, after 107 years, the tree continues to grow on the side of Spindle Hill Road across from the James Alcott homestead. When Mr. Upson died in 1918, the property was sold to the Peterson family. It was used as a dairy farm until the 1960's. Today, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Current own the property where the tree still majestically stands
Joe Milton's project was to clean up the area around the Constitutional Oak Tree to protect it from being mistakenly taken down. He also hoped that it might be easier to identify for people driving by. This was quite an undertaking since the area around the tree was overgrown with poison ivy and other weeds. Joe and his workers were able to clean the area and put down fabric and gravel to keep out weeds. They built a fence around the tree and used the rocks from an old foundation and wall to enhance it. They added a beautiful granite bench that has a brief history of the tree engraved on it. Burtonâ€™s Monuments of Meriden Road donated this bench. So if by chance you come to the intersection of Mad River and Spindle Hill Roads, look across the street from the James Alcott homestead (a dark blue saltbox) and you will see our Constitutional Oak tree. Thank you Joe, for a job well done, we do appreciate it.
The Old Stone Schoolhouse Museum located on Nichols Road diagonally across from the BAW fields is the oldest stone schoolhouse in Connecticut. The original wooden structure was destroyed by fire and was replaced circa 1821 with the present stone structure. In 1898, the length of the building was extended for more room. The stone was quarried from the Wakelee Quarry located off of Woodtick Road near the Waterbury line. This schoolhouse was used to educate the children who lived in the southwest section of town for 109 continuous years.
In 1934, the school was purchased by Miss Emily Morris and given to the Mattatuck Historical Society of Waterbury. Miss Morris wanted the school to be a memorial to her mother Eugenia Laura Tuttle Morris, and to her maternal grandfather Lucius Tuttle, who had taught in the school in 1829. The Waterbury society had hoped to restore the schoolhouse, but vandals made that impossible. In 1962, the school was turned over to the newly formed Wolcott Historical Society. They made restoration a top priority. The museum was dedicated in October of 1977 and thus, has served as such for 32 years. In 1978, Mr. John Washburne applied for historic status for the building, but it wasnâ€™t until 1982 that it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Museum serves as a monthly meeting place for the Wolcott Historical Society.
Ryan McDonald wanted his project to enhance the Wolcott Historical Society Museum property and give the public more information about our town's history, thus the "Information Board." This isn't just any information board, but a uniquely constructed three-sided rotating board covered by a roof and patio blocks on the floor. There are steps leading up to the board with two small flowerbeds on each side of the steps. Ryan will maintain the information on the board for six months. Public information can be posted on the board. Please stop by and visit our new Information Board on Nichols Road at the Old Stone Schoolhouse Museum. Thank you, Ryan for a job well done, we do appreciate it
Joe Milton and Ryan McDonald will receive their Eagle Scout badges sometime late summer or early fall at their Eagle Court of Honor. Congratulations to both Joe and Ryan for these wonderful accomplishments and for their impressive additions to our town. Through these community service projects they have exemplified the essence of scouting
We are always looking for new members; please consider joining our organization. You can obtain a membership application on the "Membership" page of this Web site. Our meetings are held on the first Thursday of each month at the Old Stone Schoolhouse on Nichols Road at 6:30 PM. If you arrive at 6:00 PM, Carl Hotkowski will appraise one antique article for free. Anyone interested in visiting the Old Stone Schoolhouse Museum, please call Loretta Leonard at 879-4310 or Flo Goodman 879-9818.
Site of the Constitutional Oak planting.
Constitutional Oak today.
Constitutional Oak bench.
Information Board at the Old Stone Scholhouse Museum on Nichols Road.
To view past installments of the Wolcott Historical Society News, click here.