About Our Town / History


Author: Marjorie Robbins

It is probable that more towns and cities have been named for Benjamin Franklin than for any other person. Franklin, Connecticut is one of them. It was originally called West Farms and its early history is part of the history of Norwich.

In 1663, one John Ayer of Haverhill, Massachusetts, bought approximately 300 acres of land from the Indians, - as much, according to legend, as he could walk around in a day. His was the first permanent settlement in the area and this land has never been out of the Ayer name, having been passed in direct male descent from father to son for ten generations. Two more generations are in waiting.

Whether the said John Ayer at some time returned for his family is not certainly known but in due time some of them came to him. He had been in trouble with the Indians in Massachusetts but seems to have had no problems with the few he encountered in Connecticut. His cabin stood near the rock with the plaque bearing his name at Ayer's Gap, placed there by descendants many years later. The mountains around him harbored rattlesnakes and he is said to have brought in hogs to exterminate them.

Like Rome, Franklin, then West Farms, was established on seven hills: Hearthstone, Center or Middle, Pleasure, Meetinghouse, Blue, Little Lebanon and Portipaug/Pautipaug. Her territory originally embraced also the western half of what became Sprague and the eastern part of New Concord which became Bozrah.

Soon the forests began to come down and cabins to go up. Some of these new settlers bore the names of Hyde, Hartshorn/e, Ladd, Kingsbury, Tracy, Downer, Mason, Rudd, etc., ancestors of some of the present residents.

By 1716, West Farms had attracted a population of 40 or more families and appealed to the General Court then meeting at New Haven, to establish an Ecclesiastical Society, the only reason for the petition. This was readily granted and the new Society met on November first of that year. It was voted to start the erection of a meetinghouse, to seek a minister and in the meantime to meet for worship alternately at the homes of James Birchard and Dr. David Hartshorne. Two years later, in October 1718, after much sacrifice and hard labor the meetinghouse was ready for use. During these two years the ordinances of communion and baptism were received at neighboring churches.


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