Wolcott Historical Society News - January 2020
By Florence Goodman
Last January I started writing about early women of Wolcott. Over the last few months I have shared the history of many of them, but I still have several more that I must include. This month I'd like to share the life and times of Margaret Miller Northrop Hall who helped in recording some of our town's early history.
Over the past thirty years I have been actively involved with the Wolcott Historical Society and during that time I have continually read or heard the name Margaret Hall who in 1958 was one of the charter members of the Wolcott Historical Society. Since that time Margaret dedicated much of her energy researching Wolcott history and writing articles and short stories for pamphlets from that research. She was also instrumental in helping to establish our stone schoolhouse museum on Nichols Road.
Margaret's childhood was an interesting one. She was the third of six children born to Charles and Mary Ann (Pierpont) Miller on February 24, 1889 at East Farms and Oak Corner in Waterbury. This property is located on the corner of East Main Street and Frost Road. Her mother's family also lived close by on Pierpont Road, which was near the Wolcott town line. The Miller children spent many hours working and playing on these beautiful farms.
Margaret's father, Charles S. Miller was a blacksmith; he was mechanically inclined and could repair or build just about anything and farm too. He was also an active member of the Mattatuck Drum Corps serving as leader for over fifty years as well as playing the snare drum and teaching drumming. The band would meet at the Miller home and Margaret and her sister Ruth would fall asleep while the band practiced loudly downstairs. Charles also researched genealogy and shared that knowledge with residents all over the state, which meant much traveling around the state. On many of his travels Margaret accompanied him. Charles Miller wrote in his journal daily; he felt that the more he wrote the better he would become at it. Reading about some of these adventures amazes me since they were taking place in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The following is an "exact" journal entry from February 12, 1905. "This forenoon at 11 o'clock Margaret and I left home and drove to Bristol. We found the snow very deep and more than half the distance, the roads are dug out by hand. Drifts 10 feet deep are to be found in many places. The weather was cold. When we started, the thermometer stood 14 above zero and it remained cold all the way up. Got to Bristol at 2 and put the horse out at a livery stable and then went up to Franks on High Street, staid there till four and started for home in a blinding snow storm. It was after five before we got out of Bristol and we were obliged to travel slow up the mountain so darkness set in when we were near Cedar Swamp Pond, and it was hard to see the track. As we were driving down the hill this side of Ransom Hall Pond, we ran a runner up on the drift and it tipped us over and threw the horse down. I had Margaret hold the horse down and I unhitched him and pulled the sleigh back and the horse jumped up and we tipped the sleigh up and started again. It was now raining very hard. We reached home at 8 o'clock." I can't imagine riding in an open sleigh from Waterbury to Bristol in a snow/rain storm on unpaved roads, but that was the life Margaret endured in her early years.
The family also participated in the church activities at the Mill Plain Church of Waterbury and other area churches. Many of these activities included patriotic occasions where they performed drills and played various musical instruments. Margaret, her sister and brothers were well equipped to perform in front of large audiences and were educated in history of the land and country from these experiences.
Margaret married Clifford W. Northrop on November 17,1910 and lived in Waterbury. They had had four children Marian A, Betty, Jean M and Nita P. Clifford who was eleven years older than Margaret passed away in October of 1936; he is buried in the New Pine Grove Cemetery.
Margaret's second husband was George Hall who was from West Hartford and Wolcott. They resided in the historic David Bailey House located at 335 Bound Line Road facing the Green. They referred to this property as Juniper Ledge and enjoyed many years there with their adult children and grandchildren. It was during these years that Margaret became very involved with the local history and the establishment of the Wolcott Historical Society and the renovation of the stone schoolhouse museum on Nichols Road. She also loved to lead Sunday school and Girl Scout groups to a large piece of bedrock, behind the Grange Hall in Wolcott, on the "Juniper Ledge" estate, to point out the glacier marks found on it. Also in this area across from Brooks Hill Road there is a large boulder that glaciers dropped and is named the "Ordinary."
Another interesting story about Margaret Hall is from her granddaughter Bonnie Fleming-Richardson who referred to her as G'Ma follows. "In May, 1962 when the tornado passed thru Waterville, Wtby, Wolcott, then Southington...it passed right thru G'Ma's back yard of Juniper Ledge. She had always complained about the window over her kitchen sink. It was warped & would never close (& lock) tight...she always had to "wrestle" with it. As the tornado approached her house thru her backyard, she thought she ought to close that window. She was desperately yanking it closed (it was a flap window, hinged at the top) when the tornado ripped it right out of her hands, sucked it twisting & turning, up into the sky, right into the tornado where it disappeared! Her thought was, "There. Now I'm DONE wrestling with that damn window". (She always liked to say, "There!" when a job was accomplished. I say it myself now.) No other damage to her house/yard other than a splintered piece of a 2x4 board that was driven straight down into her backfield that, for years afterward, I could never budge. She was very lucky. Wonder where that window ended up?"
In closing, I want to share some of the descriptive words that Margaret's grandchildren wrote about her: loving, tough, ethical, fair-minded, historically retrospective, great cook, teacher and friend. Others wrote: positive, practical, caring, straightforward, plucky, simple, adventurous, FUN, off-beat sense of humor (warped), quick-to-laugh & say exactly what she meant. Her granddaughter also wrote, "When she baby-sat me, she would also have some kind of craft ready: making "fire starters" out of thinly rolled newspaper, dipped in wax. Tie-dying before the 1960s made it popular." What a wonderful legacy she left for her family and town. Lastly, her great-grandson Todd Alan Kraft stated this about her, "...my great-grandmother, who taught me that happiness in life is something that must be pursued." Margaret died September 3, 1987.
(Information for this article was taken from The Journals of Charles Somers Miller-January 1877 - November 1898 that were transcribed by Todd Alan Kraft, November 1935- May 1937 and December 1941- March 1943; History of the Mattatuck Drum Band by Charles S. Miller, leader (1927); emails and pictures from Bonnie Fleming-Richardson and photographs from Robert Kraft; Ancestry.com-Karen Wilk Family Tree; >The Sunday Republican Magazine, Sept 29, 1963) Access the Journals of Charles Miller at http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/rak/gen/miller/journals.htm
George and Margaret Hall in their backyard of Juniper Ledge (Bound Line Road) in 1941.
A full view of Margaret and George Hall's backyard at 335 Bound Line Road in 1946.
The Miller family on September 13, 1905. From left to right back row: Margaret, Irving, Frank, Ruth, and Clyde; seated, Charles (father), Raymond and Mary Ann (mother).
Margaret Miller Northrop Hall.
These are the surviving members of the Wolcott Drum Band in front of the old Town Hall in Wolcott Center on October 15, 1922. >From left to right: Arthur Harrison, Homer Atkins, Edgar Moulthrop, Linus Norton, Newell Moulthrop, Harley Norton, Frederick C. Moulthrop, Charles S.Tuttle and Charles S. Miller (has been leader for more than 40 years).
Margaret Hall standing at the entrance of the newly renovated Old Stone Schoolhouse Museum on Nichols Road in 1963. She is holding an old school bell used to call the children into the school. (The Sunday Republican Magazine, Sept 29, 1963)
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