Exploring Forgotten Connecticut

Shadow Wolf and Lynx wander about Connecticut…

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Archive for February, 2007

Taft Tunnel – Update

Posted by Michael on February 26, 2007

My wonderful wife found me a treasure on Ebay (as she often does). It’s a Lisbon Fire Department patch the clearly shows a train traveling through a tunnel. The motto ‘The First Railroad Tunnel in America’ lends credence to the claim that it actually is the first railroad tunnel in America (there is some debate about whether it or Staple Bend Tunnel is the first.)

I appologize for not putting out another post over the weekend, as real life often gets in the way. But I have a number of subjects to write about.

  • Samuel Huntington (First President under the Articles of Confederation)
  • Benedict Arnold
  • Uncas the Mohegan Sachem
  • Capehart Mill of Greeneville, CT
  • Ponemah Mill of Taftville, CT
  • 2 hand drawn maps of Norwich, CT (both 1876 & 1912)
  • Etc.

 So please stop by again in the future! ctexplorers@gmail.com


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Taft Tunnel – The Movie!

Posted by Michael on February 20, 2007

I quick edited the video I took of the taft tunnel. I am a better photographer than I am a camera man. The video is extremely choppy and shakey. I removed the audio because it was extremely annoying and I was just prattling on. In general it’s just terrible, and now it’s on the ‘Net and you can watch it! Lucky You!

Well anyways, you get to see something of the Taft Tunnel, and I swear that I will do better videos in the future… maybe…


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Taft Tunnel – Lisbon, Connecticut

Posted by Michael on February 19, 2007

Recently my wife and I were doing some research on Norwich and it’s surrounding areas. While checking out Ebay for items, we stumbled on an old Pen & Ink drawing of places in Norwich. It showed some recognizable sites, Uncas’s Monument, and a railroad tunnel.

I have never seen a tunnel, nor have I heard of a tunnel anywhere in Norwich. I had walked the railroad tracks  in Norwich extensively, so I chalked it up to someone just drawing something to take up extra room in the picture.

Later that day, Shadow Wolf and I decided to take a walk around some areas we had kinda just brushed over. It never looked interesting, so we would just bypass it looking for more exciting areas. We followed a gated path that put us on a very small stretch of railroad we hadn’t walked before.  Immediately upon accessing the tracks, we had discovered the Quinebaug Falls. While not a natural water falls, and probably part of either Norwich Public Utilities’ Hydro-Electric program or some still-working Mill’s energy source (There are many mills along the Shetucket, Quinebaug, and Thames Rivers), it was still an awesome sight.

Following the tracks east, we soon stumbled upon the Taft Tunnel.

We didn’t know what it’s name was or any of it’s history until later, but we were seriously impressed by it. One of the things that surprised me was the lack of graffiti around and in the tunnel. Most places like that would be a magnet for any kid with a spray can, but it was pretty clean. I had borrowed my son’s digital-video camera and did some terrible recording, which I’ll post at a later date. After we went home, I started researching what we had found. There isn’t much to tell, but it is really cool.

The Taft Tunnel was carved out around 1837 for the Norwich-Worcester railroad. It may have been the first railroad tunnel built in the USA. It is the oldest railroad tunnel still in use today.

I estimate the tunnel to be from 150 -200 feet long, and 30 feet wide but I may be wrong. Concrete braces have been poured into place to help support the roof of the tunnel. Water drips from most of the ceiling, and although it doesn’t seem to have corroded the tracks (probably because it’s still used often), some of the rail ties are in very poor condition.

Here’s a satellite map from Google Earth:

(Click on the image for a larger version)

Even from above it’s pretty noticable that there probably is some sort of tunnel running through the hill (red circle). Using the measuring tool (yellow line), it says that the tunnel is approximately 350 long, which seems a bit much. It’s not very far from where the Quinebaug river enters the Shetucket River. Its pretty easy to get to from River Road (route 12). I do not recommend crossing the railroad trestle west of the tunnel! These tracks are still in use, and the trestle is very long. If a train comes while your on the trestle, you will probably be killed. The walk way is very rusted and not in good condition at all.

If you decide to visit the Taft Tunnel: I’ve said it above and I will say it again, these tracks are still in use! There is no regular schedule for when the trains go by, but my guess is several times a week to twice a day. All I know is that the squished penny test came back positive for the presence of large heavy vehicles traveling on the tracks. The tunnel seems wide, but is pretty narrow when filled with train cars, so please use common sense, and be careful. ‘Exploring Forgotten Connecticut’ takes no responsiblilty if you are harmed or killed if you visit. Explore at your own risk!

Here are some photos we took:

 The west face of the tunnel. Photo by Shadow Wolf.


Shadow Wolf silhouetted against the east entrance.


Interior of the tunnel  from the east entrance looking west to the opposite entrance.


East face of the tunnel entrance. Shadow Wolf is on a small trail that leads to the top of the tunnel. We both climbed about 20 feet more up the path before deciding against it. The dead leaves and mud made it very slippery and, its about a 30-40 foot drop.  


 Here I am in front of the east face entrance. To put the size in perspective. I am 6 foot 5 inches tall. Photo courtesy of Shadow Wolf.

 I hope you found the Taft Tunnel as interesting as we did. We can’t stress enough that if you decide to explore it, please be careful. Falling from the top or getting hit by a train would result in a really bad day for you and your loved ones. If you have an interesting abandoned place (or at least some place not well known) and would like to take us on a tour, please email us at ctexplorers@gmail.com, we’ll research, document, credit and publish your story here. Don’t live in Connecticut (or you do but don’t want to email) then please add yourself to our Frappr Map. Thanks for stopping in!




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Miantonomo Monument

Posted by Michael on February 18, 2007

Miantonomo (Alt: Miantonomoh, Miantonomah)

Born: 1565?

Died: 1643

A Very Brief History:

Miantonomo was the Chief of the Narraganset Indians and nephew of Grand Sachem (‘Great Leader’) Canonicus. Miantonomo was friendly to all settlers, especially the Rhode Island settlers. Even though he helped the settlers in the war against the Pequot nation,  he was viewed with distrust by the Massachusetts and Connecticut settlers. He was constantly at war with Uncas, Sachem of the Mohegan Tribes.

During a rocky peace treaty with the Mohegans, Uncas had killed Sequassen (Sequasson), a relative and friend of Miantonomo. Miantonomo complained to the Mr. Haynes, Governor of Hartford, about Uncas, and was told that the Settlers could and would do nothing about it. If he wanted justice, he would have to get it himself.

Miantonomo secretly (he believed) gathered a band of warriors to attack Uncas. Unfortunately for Miantonomo, Uncas had set up scouts and knew of the war party well in advance. A confrontation then ensued which can be read about here.

While running away, Miantonomo was supposed to have leaped over Yantic Falls suffering a broken leg. Moments later, Uncas was supposed to make the same leap unharmed. Slowed down by the broken leg, Miantonomo was captured. The picture to the left is of Yantic falls, also called ‘Uncas Leap’,  supposedly where this had happened. The danger of the rapids is very real, and people still fall in and die.

This part of the story isn’t recounted very often and is probably an old wives tale. Another accounting of the confrontation between Miantonomo and Uncas, has Miantonomo wearing armor borrowed from a English friend. This armor weighed a lot and slowed down the Narraganset Sachem, thus resulting in his capture by Uncas.

Either way, Miantonomo was captured and taken to Hartford by Uncas, where he handed him over to the government. He was tried by the Commissioners of the United Colonies of New England, who recommended the death penalty, but didn’t wish to carry out the sentence. They instead handed Miantonomo back to Uncas and told him to carry out the execution on Mohegan land.

Now the actual place of execution is in doubt. Some say Miantonomo was executed where we was captured and subsquently buried. Others say he was executed elsewhere, but was buried where he was captured. In any case, Miantonomo was unaware of his fate would be on September 28, 1643. Wawequa, at the sign of his brother, Uncas, buried a tomahawk in his head, killing him. At this point Uncas may have cut a piece of flesh off of the shoulder of the now dead Miantonomo and ate it, afterwards saying, “It is very sweet;it makes my heart strong.” Again this may be an old wive’s tale, but it may be truth.

Uncas buried Miantonomo under a pile of stones at what was then known as Sachem Plains and now known as Sachem Park. Members of his tribe would come every year in remembrance and add a stone to the cairn. After a number of years, the visits by his tribe had stopped, and the owner of the land didn’t know that the large pile of stones was in fact a grave. The owner ended up using the stones in the foundation of his house and barn, leaving nothing to signify the burial place of Miantonomo. On July 4, 1841, the people of Greenville, Connecticut erected a granite monument to Miantonomo at the site of his burial. The monument was a simple granite block carved with the inscription:



Erected 1841

The monument can be visited on Elijah street off of Boswell Ave (Route 12)  in the area little known as Taft Station (in between Taftville and Greenville) It is a residential area, so please be polite while visiting and don’t litter.

A sign for Miantonomo Monument on Elijah Str.

A plaque with a short history of Miantonomo. Note the spelling of ‘Miantonimo’.

Miantonomo’s Monument, close up. Note the small rocks that people leave on the monument in recognition of the old tradition.

Photo of the area of which Miantonomo was to have been executed and buried.


As you can see, the monument is very small, and the area isn’t visited that often. Compared to the monument dedicated to Uncas (Large granite obelisk, cornerstone laid and dedicated by President Andrew Jackson. I have no personal photo as of present), it’s quite small and easily over looked.

I hope this entry in Exploring Forgotten Connecticut will get some of you out and visiting this site, or at least reading up on the history. Thank you for taking time to visit our site! Feel free to email us at ctexplorers@gmail.com if you have any questions or comments, we would love to hear from you. Please take a minute to add yourself to our Frappr Map.


List of Sources:


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Stylized ‘Declaration of Independence’ reprint.

Posted by Michael on February 3, 2007

A reader named Brad contacted me a few days ago via email. He attached  the photo shown here, asking if I knew anything about it. After some research, I couldn’t come up with any concrete answers. There is no print or publish date other than ‘July 4th, 1776’, which is just a reference to when the Declaration of Independence was supposed to have been signed. “Published by Colonial Press, New York and London”, is printed at the bottom. The words ‘Colonial Press’ cause most search engines to spit out thousands of useless entries.

My best guess, and I am no expert in such things, is this is a souvenir document/poster from our country’s centennial (1876) or sesquicentennial (1926). It is more likely from the period of 1876 as it has many of the same artistic styles of documents I have seen from the same time frame. In any case it looks fairly old.

Again, I am no expert, I am just an amatuer giving his opinion with absolutely no facts to back it up.

What Brad and I are hoping, is that by posting this photo (click on the photo for a larger 816 x 1024 sized version, or email me at ctexplorers@gmail.com for a 1935 x 2427 sized version) someone with more knowledge will come forward.

If you have any information about this document, please contact me at ctexplorers@gmail.com. I will pass it along to Brad and post your info here along with a credit to you. Thanks!


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This photo is used by permission by it’s owner, and he holds all rights to it.

Posted in Old Documents | 1 Comment »