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History of Early Businesses in Georgetown, Connecticut  

Included in this Georgetown Early Businesses History section is information I have gathered from articles by Wilbur F. Thompson. I have recently added in information on the markets of Georgetown. More information will be added as I find it.

Please let me know if there are more areas you'd like me to explore or if you have further information. Contact bcolley@snet.net or phone me at 860-364-7475.

Quick Links to topics on this page:

Grist Mills
Woolen Mills
Silk Production
Coal Mining
Stores & Markets
Shoe Repairs
Restaurants & Bars
Liquor Stores

Stores & Markets

The growing Gilbert & Bennett company attracted many immigrants and Georgetown quickly developed into quite a diverse community. English, Irish, Italian, Polish and Scandinavian (Swedish and Finnish) neighborhoods were established-in this time period the Polish occupied the company owned housing on Bunker Hill near the lower factory, the Swedish neighborhood was located in the Weston section and on Portland Ave., the Italian immigrants settled in the Branchville section of Ridgefield. The English, Irish, German and French-Canadiens were spread out all over Georgetown in no set neighborhood.

To serve the needs of these people there were quite a few small markets in the area. Connery's, Kearns and Perry's markets were three of the earliest and most popular.

Connery's began in 1882 when Michael Connery bought the general store for $240. The price included everything but the dry goods part of the store, which was purchased several years later. Connery's would serve the Georgetown community until 1973. Ed Conklin and Erwin Samuelson would run the store from 1967-1973. Location is on Old Mill Rd. where Curve's for Women is today.

Kearns General Merchandise Store was established in 1906. Herbert "Bert" Kearns was the proprietor until his death shortly after the Flood of 1955. His wife and son ran the store following his death. Kearns Store had three locations: the first up where the Georgetown Post Office building is today on Portland Ave., the second was on the path of Route 107 today, the store was moved 30' to 40' in 1955 to make way for the new Route 107, over to where the Veterinarian's office is today across from the Georgetown Bible Church.

Perry's Meat & Fish Market was owned and operated over the course of it's history by Nathan Perry, Walter Perry, and Axel Carlson...in that order. It was located where the Redding Pilot Building is today on the corner of Rt. 57/Old Mill Rd. and Main St. Clinton Bennett was an employee there as well. Perry's operated from approx. 1900 (or a little earlier) to the 1950-60's. Fish came in on Thursday and if it was not sold by Saturday night it was taken out to the community and distributed to the less-fortunate. Perry's reportedly had another market over by Kearn's store too.

Other markets of note: A&P(Gustav Johnson, location next to Georgetown Bible Church on path of Rt. 107 today, removed to make way for Rt. 107 in 1955), Georgetown Market (1922-1980's.) The Georgetown Market was established in 1922 by Guiseppe Bonsignore (Guiseppe Bonsignore arrived here from Sicily in 1905) Mondo and Jap took over in 1939 and added G&B Liquors in the late 1950's, Tankus's Clothing store, Joe Sabillia's market & liquor store, Hammelscamp's meat market, Perry reported to have another market over by Kearn's store too.

Sam 'n Skip's Variety (Sam and Vera Bell) was on Main Street in the 60's.

Shoe Repairs

Patsy LoPresti ran a shoe repair business on Main St. in the 1930-40's. Patsy's Shoe Repair was the name. He later worked for a New York City Shoe Manufacturing Company and then at the Gilbert & Bennett Factory.

Liquor Stores

Joe Sabilia had a liquor store on Main St. approximately where the barbershop is today. Sabilia sold that business to Dan Levkoff in 1959. Dan had some great marketing slogans, such as "Dan Sez...it takes a lot of beer to paint a house!" and "Dan Sez...On Valentine's Day, get something for yourself....Candy's Dandy but Liquor's Quicker!" Joe Levkoff still runs Georgetown Liquors in their new building behind Georgetown Auto Body. Bonsignore's ran a liquor store next to their old building (now an Ice Cream Shop) and later moved across the street to where Lombardi's is today.

Dan Levkoff in 1971

Restaurants & Bars

Main Street has long been home to Georgetown's Restaurants and Bars. The most popular and best known Restaurant/Bar is the Georgetown Saloon. The Georgetown Saloon was established in 1978 by Adam Lebarsky, Tom "T" Kolkoski and Steve Alward. They had great vision and foresight in bringing a country-western bar to Georgetown as "Urban Cowboy" starring John Travolta would hit the big-screen three years later causing Country to be the "in-thing" across the United States. Passing thru the swinging doors of the Saloon is like crossing the border into Texas, even today!

Before the Saloon was established the building was home to Benny's Italian Restaurant and Bar in the late 1940's to early 1950's. Benny Allegrazzie found the third time to be a charm...after two attempts in Branchville and on Route 7, he came to Georgetown and found success. According to my grandfather (Harry Colley), Benny's attracted a different bar crowd than Forgarty's which was across the street. It was reported to be a bit on the "wild side". Benny's bar was on the left hand side of the restaurant (current seating area of the saloon) and a very plain bar set-up in the opinion of my grandfather. He also noted that Benny's wife was the boss...she would come out of the kitchen with a broom cocked and ready if anything got too out of hand. The Carlson's who lived on Highland Ave., reported a bullet piercing their home that came from Benny's...it wasn't a shoot-out, just someone who got over excited and fired off a round while "whooping it up". Benny's son, John, recalled a motorcycle being driven into the bar room one night, so I guess it was a rather "wild" bar scene down there.

After Benny, either Tony DeLuca or Guiliano DeLuca (or both) remodeled the restaurant placing the bar room on the right hand side where we find it today. The original bar, of course, was kept open while the remodeling took place and once it was completed the old bar was removed and the area became restaurant seating.

Upstairs was the first Pizza Restaurant (that I'm aware of) on Main St. It was run by a man named Rocco and he had a wood-fueled oven that produced "very good pizza" in my grandfather's opinion.

Many lived above the Saloon building in apartments...Percy St. John was one of the most colorful characters to call the building home. He had many home remedies and a recipe for long life that included: not drinking, not smoking, drinking lots of milk and going to bed at 10pm every night, which must have been difficult living above a country-western bar...he did live well into his 90's though.

Other businesses operating out of the Saloon Building were: Claudia's Sweet Shop. Claudia was Benny's daughter. Unger's Dentist office was here too before the new professional/commercial buildings were built behind the Firehouse.

Forgarty's Georgetown Restaurant was across and a bit north of the Saloon on Main St. Forgarty's long, miror backed bar greeted you almost immediately as you entered the bar room. It was more or less a half-rectangle in appearance. The bar room itself wasn't all that wide as the wall that separated the bar from the restaurant seating area only offered about 2-3 feet from the bar stools to pass thru as you were heading to the back of the bar. It was popular with the G&B employees, though a bar crowd heavy in Swedes and light in Irishmen or heavy in Irishmen and light in Swedes resulted in some tension. My grandfather says it was a great place to enjoy a beer and shoot the breeze.

Danny Crowley owned the Georgetown Restaurant in the late 1970's. Serafino Docimo ran the Georgetown Chowder House here in the 1980's.

This building was lost to fire in the 1990's.

Rancho Allegro's was once Mama Rosa's. Mama Rosa is Rose DeLuca. This was great place to gather and enjoy Italian food in the 1970's and 80's.

Grist Mills

From the early settlement of our state until about 1840's and 50's, the people living in our rural communities were, to a great extent, independent of the outside world; the farms and little shops and mills producing almost everything used in the homes of their day. The first mill to be built in the early days was the Grist Mill, then the Saw Mill, Blacksmith Shop, Woolen Mill, Tannery and Cider Mill. Georgetown was no exception to the general rule, and along its streams and highways are found evidences of many little home industries that flourished, long years ago. It is probable that the first corn and grain raised in Georgetown was ground in the home-made mortars of wood or stone, with a pestle, or in the old Indian stone samp mortars which can be found in the rocks in many places.

The first Grist Mill where the early settlers of Georgetown had their corn and rye ground stood on the west bank of the Saugatuck River in the Hull District of Redding, a short distance north of where Ferdinand Gorham's house stood in 1916 near the foot of Nobb's Crook Hill(Redding Glen). This was in about 1730 and the miller's name was Jabez Burr.

Many years later a wind powered grist mill was built in what was called Dumping Hole, or Dumping Hill, about two miles southeast of Georgetown. This area was probably also known as Dumpling Hill located near Wampum Hill and now in Cannondale School Dis-trict of Wilton.

The first grist mill in what is now the village of Georgetown was probably built and run by George Abbott. If there was one before this, the name of the owner is not known. In 1764 George Abbott, formerly of Salem, Westchest-er Co., Province of New York, bought of Ebenezer Slawson, of Norwalk, a mill privilege on the Norwalk River for the purpose of erecting a grist mill. The mill was built and he commenced to grind corn and grain. There is a tradition that John Belden had built a saw mill on or near the same site, and Abbott bought that too. The mill was on the only road between Danbury and Norwalk and did a great business; people from miles around brought their grain to be ground, or logs to be sawed up into lumber.

Abbott lived in a house that stood south of where the Waterman Bates house stood on Old Mill Road. His wife (called Aunt Lucy) kept a tav-ern or half-way house for the teamsters which was located on the Danbury and Norwalk turnpike.

The next owner of the mill was Stephen Perry, an ancestor of the late Nathan Perry. He rebuilt the dam and mill; it was then known as Perry's Mill. Later Joseph Goodsell 1st ran the mill. He was the father of Joseph B. Goodsell 2nd, who lived on Goodsell's Hill and whose name appears on the 1867 Beer's Map of Redding. The next owner was Ephraim B. Godfrey, who lived in a house south of the mill. This house was moved to the east side of the highway in the 1860's. He was called Uncle Eph and the hill west of the mill was called Uncle Eph's mountain. He married Mary, daughter of Timothy Wakeman the 1st , and had two sons and a daugh-ter. One son, Wakeman Godfrey, was in business with him and lived in the house long after owned by Henry Olmstead. He was called "Wake" Godfrey! One of his daughters, Mary Ann, married Burr Betts of Norwalk.

The other son, Silliman, built and lived in the house long after owned by Dr. Lloyd Seeley on Old Mill Road. This house was later owned by Gilbert & Bennett Mfg. Co. Silliman had a store south of the house. The store was burned and in 1851 or '52 he built the building long known as the depot building. He had a store in the north end; the railroad depot was in the south end. On the second floor was a large hall known as Godfrey's Hall. This was used for various purposes. The old depot building burned down in the early 1900's.

Ephriam Godfrey's daughter Mary married Matthew Gregory of Georgetown. Godfrey & Son ran the grist and saw mill for many years and did a large business. In 1853 or '54 Ephraim Godfrey died. His son then continued the business. About this time a new grist mill was started in the old woolen mill lower down the river and the Godfrey Mills did not have much to do, and later the mills were closed. Some time after, Edwin Gilbert bought the property, rebuilt the mill dam and mill, enlarging it, fitting it up for other manufacturing; for a while, Betts & Northrop had a car-penter shop there. Blood's patent flour sifter and other wire goods were made there at this time. Later the Gilbert & Bennett Co. purchased it and changed it into a wire mill, the third floor of this mill was set up and ran the second machine in this country for making wire netting and fencing in 1869 and '70. In 1865 Gilbert & Bennett & Co. had installed the first power machinery for making wire poultry netting. It was used for that line of work until it burned down around the early 1900's.

The "new grist mill" mentioned above that put the Godfrey Mills out of business was located in the Stone Mill John Taylor had built in the early 1840's. Dr. N. Perry, of Ridgefield, bought the mill and fitting it up for a grist mill and to grind spices, called it the Glenburg Chemical Works. He wanted to change the name of Georgetown to Glenburg, but did not succeed. His son, Samuel Perry, had charge of the mill for many years. The famous remedies so well known in the late 1800's were made here - composition powders for colds, magnesia powders for indigestion, the No. 9, a pain killer, demulcent, compounds for coughs, and many others. Spices were ground and all kinds of extracts were made and sold. The country stores all kept the Perry remedies, spices and extracts.

After the death of Samuel Perry, the mill was sold to William J. Gilbert. He leased it to different parties who ran it as a grist mill. After the death of Samuel Perry, the formulas for the Perry remedies came into the possession of his brother-in-law, Eli Osborn, who made them for many years, at his home in Georgetown. The mill was later owned by Samuel J. Miller.

On the west side of the river in the ledge of rocks below the mill dam is what is probably one of the oldest grist mills in the state. It is a circular hole in the rock about two feet in diametcr and four feet in depth; it is shaped like a round-bottomed pot. There are two more on the banks of the Saugatuck River in the rocks east of what was the Daniel Hull house in Weston. These holes are called pot-holes and were worn or made by the action of water ages ago. The Indians of long ago used them for grinding the Indian corn raised in the valleys; with a stone pestle the corn was soon reduced to a coarse meal called samp. The early settlers called them samp mortars. The use of stone pestles for years in these samp mortars made them deeper and larger.

The old mill is a memory of the past with the Abbotts, Perrys, Goodsells and Godfreys. But Nature's work still remains, and old Mount Ephriam still overlooks the valley as it did in 1684, when the original eight settlers passed up the valley, following the Indian trail through swamp and forest to found the new settlement of Danbury.

Woolen Mills

Two of the most important products of the farms of long ago were wool and flax. In the summer days flocks of sheep were feeding on the hillsides and waving fields of blue-flowered flax could be seen on almost every farm.

Flax was not harvested the same as grain or hay, but was pulled up by the roots and stacked. Later in the season it was put through a process of sweating or rotting to separate the fibre from the woody part of the stalk. It was then crackled to break the wood or straw of the flax. This was done by beating it with wooden mallets. After this, it was hetcheled or hackled; this was done by drawing the stalks of flax over sharp pointed iron teeth thickly set in a block of wood. This separated the fiber from the woody or straw portion of the flax. The fiber, after hetcheling, was called tow or lint; this was cleaned and spun into linen yarn or thread, and woven on the hand looms into different kinds of linen cloth, and then bleached.

The wool was worked up in a different way. After being sheared from the sheep, it was washed and cleaned. Then it was carded into a light fleecy mass (like the cotton batting of today.) The hand cards were pieces of leather or thin wood thickly set with fine wire points which caught and separated the fiber of the wool. Sometimes the wool was bowed the same as hatters' fur was in the olden times. This was done with a large bow strung with catgut; pulling the string caused it to vibrate in the wool, separating it the same as in carding.

After carding, the wool was formed into rolls, from which it was spun into woolen yarn or warp and then woven into woolen cloth of many kinds, and blankets. A cloth for dresses and skirts was woven, called linsey-woolsey. It had a lin-en warp and woolen filling; a heavier cloth made of the same materials was called fustian.

After washing, the cloth was dyed, fulled. and finished.; oftentimes the warp and filling were dyed before weaving. For many years all this work was done by hand on the farms where the wool and flax were raised. Later little shops and mills were built along the stream where the wool and flax were prepared. for weaving and where the home-made cloth was fulled and finished.

The first mill where the early settlers of Georgetown and Boston district took their wool to be cleaned and carded stood on the east bank of the Saugatuck River, near Nobb's Crook. In 1746 Abram Fairchild and wife (Sarah Scribner) of Norwalk, moved to what is now Boston district, not far from Nobb's Crook. He built a small mill on the east bank of the river for cleaning and carding wool, and fulling and finishing cloth. He ran this mill for many years and raised a large family. Six of his sons were in the Amer-ican army in the war of the Revolution at the same time.

Later he sold the mill to Moses Fox, who lived nearby. Fox was in business for some years. In 1803 he sold the mill to Joel Foster, who lived a short dis-tance north of the mill. Foster was in business until 1812, when the firm of Comstock, Foster & Co. was formed, and a new mill was built a short distance below the old mill. This firm did a large business in weaving woolen goods of all kinds.

Later Foster bought the inter-ests of the other partners and continued the business until 1843 or '44 when the mills were burned. Isaac Perry, who later lived in Georgetown, worked in the Comstock & Foster Mills. He was an expert weaver as were other members of his family. A son, George Perry, made a specialty of weaving fine woolen blankets or coverlids, which met with a ready sale at $15 a pair.

The Old Stone Mill a short distance below Georgetown, on the Norwalk River was built around the 1840's, by John Taylor of Wilton. It was called Tay-lor's Woolen Mills or Satinet Factory. He built a dam a short dis-tance above and a canal to convey the water to the mill. He also built the house near the mill and lived there many years. His wife was Miss Hannah Varian, of New York City; one of their children was drowned in the canal. Levi Taylor, father of John Taylor, many years before the mill was built had a store in Georgetown, a little way below the Old Red Mill.

Henry Williams, who lived a short distance below the mill, had charge of the dyeing, carding and spinning department; his wife was one of the weavers. A man named Glover also worked there. He afterward ran the mills known as Glover's Woolen Mill at Sanford's Station in West Redding.

Mr. Taylor was in business many years, and after he retired, a Welshman named Evans, from Derby, continued the business. After this, Blackman Bros., from New Milford, ran it for a short time.

Silk Production

In the early 1900's, there could be seen along the highways and in the thickets of Georgetown and vicinity many specimens of the white mulberry tree. Ask any old resident what these trees were used for, and they would answer 'to feed silk worms." These trees represented all that was left of an industry that flour-ished in the rural communities of our state 75 or more years ago. It was called "sericulture," or the rearing of silk worms. It was first introduced into New England by French colonists, some of whom settled in New Rochelle.

In 1783, the General Assembly of our state offered bounties and rewards for the rearing of silk worms. and many were engaged in the industry. In 1838 there was a revival in seri-culture, causing a great demand for the Mulberry tree, which could not be supplied. Trees of one year's growth were sold for $1 each. Georgetown, in common with other rural sections, had the silk worm craze, and hundreds of trees were set out. The industry gave employment to many women and children. The children gathered the leaves of the mulberry tree, and. the women took care of the silk worms.

The rearing houses or feeding sheds where the worms were fed had to be well-lighted and ventilated, and kept at an even temperature. The eggs (called graine) of the silk worm were hatched out by artificial heat. After hatching, the worms were placed in shallow trays, which slid, into frames, one over anoth-er. The bottoms of the trays were coarse muslin, which gave required ventilation. The trays were filled with chopped mulberry leaves for the worms to feed on. They were great eaters and grew rapidly. Tradition says that when the worms were feeding, the noise could be heard 20 feet or more away from the feeding sheds.

After feeding a number of days, the silk worm matured and ceased eating. At this time, small branches and twigs of trees were placed near the trays, the worms crawling up into them, commenced to spin their cocoon, always finishing them in three or four days. The cocoons, which were a light yellow color, were collected. Some of the best were saved to furnish eggs for the next season's silk worms. The others were pricked to kill the pupa and prevent further growth. These were placed in hot water to loosen the gum on the surface. The silk was unwound onto reels or swifts and formed into hanks or skeins. It was then spun into thread or warp and woven into silk fabrics on the hand looms of the Olmsteads, Perrys, Bennetts, Battersons, Osborns, Wakemans, etc.

Of the many feeding sheds, there were two large ones. One was owned by Silas Olmstead, in Chicken Street; the other by Matthew Gregory, in Georgetown.

Many years ago there were many families who had carefully laid away silk dresses, waist coats, neckerchiefs, etc., which had been woven on the hand looms in Georgetown and vicin-ity, from silk that had been unwound from cocoons that had been spun by worms, fed on the leaves of the old Mulberry trees.

Coal Mining

In 1842 there was a blacksmith shop in Boston district, Redding, owned by Elias Andrews. In those days there was no mineral coal used in the rural sections. Every blacksmith had a charcoal pit for making coal. One day a man came into the shop and told Andrews he could get a black stone that would make a hotter fire than charcoal. He was told to get some. He went into what is known as Seventy Acres and returned with a bag of black stone. It was placed on the forge - it burned with an intense heat. He would never tell where he found it, and many have looked for it but never have found it.

In 1848, a coal miner named Chambers, from Carbondale, Pennsylvania, came to Georgetown to visit friends. He heard the story of the lost coal mine and tried to find it, but was not successful. In his search he noticed that the formations of rock in many places was the same as in coal regions. He started to dig in many places up the valley into Boston district. At last he found what he thought to be good indications of coal, and commenced to dig in earnest. He hired local help, paying them $1.00 per day from sunrise to sunset. The shaft or tunnel was cut through solid rock about six feet in diameter running back on the level under the hill. It is said that he found small veins of coal but was looking for a large vein.

After weeks of hard work the tunnel was dug under the hill about 50 feet. One Satur-day night some of the young men who worked for Chambers in the mine drove down to Norwalk and secured some large lumps of coal. This they placed in the back end of the mine and covered with rock. The first stroke of the pick in the morning uncovered the coal. Chambers was happy, thc long sought-for coal was found. He soon found that he had been fooled. This disappointment, with the lack of funds, put an end to his mining. It is possible if he had kept on he would have found coal enough to pay him to mine it.

This old mine is about 250 feet south of the house long owned by Aaron Osborn which was located just up from Brookside Road on the left of Rt. 107 and was on his land. It was long known as "Chamber's Coal mine." In the 1870's Aaron Osborn used the old coal mine in the summer as a cooler for milk, eggs, butter, etc. The water, icy cold, dripping from the roof and sides of the mine drained off into the Boston brook that flowed by the entrance of the mine. Thc entrance to this old mine was closed by the debris that has fallen from the hill above.

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