Town of Colebrook,
County of Litchfield,
State of Connecticut, USA
"The original road was as picturesque as a highway could be. Its
builders took the course of least resistance .... This allowed for a
multitude of very handsome views, but I doubt that the struggling traveler
looked upon it with appreciation."
The present-day traveler
along Sandy Brook Road would have great difficulty recognizing the historic
sites that once graced the area.
Primarily this is due to Mother Nature’s having taken back all the cleared
land that had been wrested with so much toil and sweat from her by our
pioneering forefathers. Another important factor is the present road itself.
The original road was as picturesque as a highway could be. Its builders
took the course of least resistance to the obstacles that confronted them
every few yards. This allowed for a multitude of very handsome views, but I
doubt that the struggling traveler looked upon it with appreciation. It
could only be described as an impediment to travel. The road along Sandy
Brook, as well as the other two routes connecting Colebrook River and
Robertsville with the rest of Colebrook, bore the responsibility of the
isolation of our various localities.
The portion that is today part of Algonquin
State Forest supported, during the 1800s, a sizable neighborhood. Starting
from the intersection of Conn. Route 8 at Tom Bell’s lumber mill and
proceeding northwestward up the stream to the vicinity of the sharp curve, a
distance of some two miles, there were some 22 or 23 dwellings, mills and
shops built along this and three other roads that tied into it. Two of these
roads were on the right side as you ascend Sandy Brook. They branched off
from Sandy Brook Road just a few feet apart and climbed Corliss Mountain.
Both were dead end. The second one, still very easily seen today going up
the mountain at about a 45 degree angle, appears to be the southern end of
what today is Chapin Road, but this never was so. Near the summit of Corliss
Mtn. there is a very steep section, nearly a cliff, which was impossible to
traverse. Two dwellings were built on this road. The first road, more
difficult to see, is shaped like the letter “Y”. The left branch possibly
used to connect with the previously mentioned road. At any rate, there were
three houses on it. The right hand branch had two houses, one of which
belonged to Henry Manassa, the last Native American to have lived in
Colebrook, and who had been accused (falsely), as was ultimately proven some
16 years later, of being one of the murderers of Barnice White in 1851.
Two hundred yards or so upstream from the
point of divergence of these two roads, there was a bridge across Sandy
Brook that connected a road that ran up the hill, known by the name of
Taintor Mountain, and connected with Pisgah Mountain Road near the bridge in
front of 36 Schoolhouse Road. This was built in 1853, and had three houses
on it, two of them were along Sandy Brook, and the third was near the
summit, at the present site of Otis Berger’s home.
There is an interesting aside to this bridge,
or rather the bridge site. The original bridge, through lack of use, was
allowed to deteriorate, and probably went out during a spring thaw around
the turn of the 20th century. In the mid 1930s, someone purchased land on
Taintor Mountain and contracted with Uno Stenman to build a bridge across
Sandy Brook so that he could access his land. The bridge was essentially
completed in 1936, only to be washed out by the flood of that year. The
feeling at the time was that this flood was something like a hundred year
storm, and the landowner was persuaded to replace it during the summer of
1938. Of course we all know what happened in early September of that year;
the term “Hurricane of 1938” is known to every old-timer in these parts.
That was the end of any attempt to bridge Sandy Brook. The land on the other
side of the stream was sold to the State and became part of Algonquin
Forest. It is interesting to speculate as to what the area would look like
today had not nature interfered with man’s plan to develop it.
I, for one, am happy it turned out the way it
did, and my father, who was employed at the time by Stenman during those
difficult years of the Great Depression, was employed for two summers
building two bridges that were never to feel the weight of a wheel.
The Sandy Brook Bridge shown here is the one
leading from Sandy Brook Road up to Beech Hill, as it appeared in the 1890s.
It was digitally copied from a post card from the files of the Colebrook
There were two basic bridges in use around
here prior to the twentieth century; the king post, having one vertical post
in the center, supporting the rafters, and the queen post, shown here,
having two vertical support posts.
- Bob Grigg
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