Legendary Locals To Be Highlighted At Town Historian’s Annual Lecture

NOTE (January 6, 2014): This story has been updated to reflect a change in location for the program, to Newtown Meeting House. 

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Newtown has produced many notable characters in its 300-plus years. On Monday, January 13, at 7:30 pm, at Newtown Meeting House, Town Historian Dan Cruson will present a line-up of some of them for Newtown Historical Society’s first program of the new year, “Legendary Locals of Newtown.”

These legends include some obvious choices such as Judge William Edmond, for whom the former town hall is named; Cyrenius Booth, for whom the library is named; and Mary Hawley, from whose monetary gift both buildings derive. Mr Cruson will be adding details to flesh out earlier presentations on these well known folks, but he will be adding glimpses of many others, including farmer-educator-historian Ezra Johnson; and the Reverend Henry Bragg Smith, whose descendants continue a newspaper taken over by his family in 1891 and which still informs the town today.

The lecture will include tales of some of the town’s lesser known but perhaps even more interesting characters, such as Carolyn Booth, who was shot just outside her shack on Toddy Hill Road, probably by her paramour; inventor Robert Fulton, who created a car that was also an airplane; Al Penovi, whose plumbing business in Sandy Hook was known far and wide for being able to provide the most obscure and obsolete plumbing fixtures; and Birdseye Parsons, a songwriter who became a much loved eccentric seen on the streets of Sandy Hook in the 1940s and ‘50s riding a cart pulled by his donkey Betsy.

The program will also touch upon The Men’s Literary and Social Club of Newtown Street, more familiarly known simply as The Men’s Club. The members of this more than a century-old group have included many of the leading citizens of Newtown, and its roster is a virtual “who’s who” of the last century and a half. The lecture will thus include the story of the club and will briefly introduce some of its guiding lights, many of them receiving historical notice for the first time.

Dan Cruson has been Town Historian since the inception of the office. He is a past president of the historical society, and currently serves as president of the Connecticut Archeological Society. He has written many books and spoken innumerable times on local history topics.

About a year ago he began work on Legendary Locals of Newtown, published in July by Arcadia Press, and it is from his research for this book that he will take his talk. Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the talk, and Mr Cruson will autograph copies for those interested.

Newtown Historical Society programs are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served following the presentation.

Newtown Meeting House is at 31 Main Street in Newtown. For further details call 203-426-5937 or visit www.newtownhistory.org.

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