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The Continued Influence Of Old Indian Trails On Transportation Systems



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The Continued Influence Of Old Indian Trails On Transportation Systems

Connecticut, like all the Northeastern states, abounds in Indian place names and pathways. Newtown Historical Society will take a closer look at “The Influence American Indian Pathways Had on Connecticut Transportation Systems and Settlements” in the form of a presentation by Brent Colley on Monday, October 4, at 7:30 pm. The program will be offered in the community room of C.H. Booth Library, 25 Main Street.

Indian place names were often based on the way the land was used — the clambake place, or the beaver pond, for example. Once the Pequot War had eliminated the threat of armed hostility to settlements and coastal Connecticut had been opened for settlement, it did not take long for the European interlopers to discover that those usage names might indicate good places for their own settlements. 

The Indians had developed myriad trails to transport themselves from one camp to another, sometimes only a foot wide, since Indian travel was always by foot in the precontact era. The European settlers preferred horses for traveling, and they quickly began to widen the paths to accommodate horse and rider.

As trade developed, the riding horse gave way to the horse cart, and later to the much wider ox cart, each development requiring increased size and maintenance of the roadway. As the Indian trails had proven efficient means of going virtually anywhere within the area, these new roads naturally followed the old paths.

Then as the turnpike movement developed, the roads tended to straighten out a bit, but still basically followed the original paths. Each new mode of transportation, whether canals, railroads, or modern highway, followed the lead of the Indian path, and the old Indian grid can still be superimposed on the modern network of roads.

Brent Colley is a web developer who grew up in Redding and now lives in Sharon. He volunteers with several nonprofit groups and shares his wide range of historic interests via walking tours, slide shows and speaking engagements.  He has been offering his Pathways presentation for three years in towns and cities across the state to encourage interest in Indian-related research, and the talk has proven very popular. 

Newtown Historical Society programs are free and open to the public; please note the change from the society’s usual program date, however, to accommodate the Columbus Day holiday. Refreshments will be served following the program.

For further information call 203-426-5937.

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