Wolcott History
Wolcott Historical Society

Wolcott Historical Society News - September 2022

By Florence Goodman

The Spindle Hill area of our town has an abundance of Alcott history and I'm reminded of it daily as I travel over the road of that name. For years I have wanted to make a self-guided walking tour of the area to share with residents so they could appreciate its history, but I have yet to accomplish that goal. This month however, I'll share that history below.

At the corner of Beach and Spindle Hill Roads you will find a white cape with an old barn behind it; this is the Solomon Alcott house, built circa 1790. Solomon had been given the privilege of building his house on his father's land. This property has changed greatly since,1731 when John Alcocke, the first settler of Wolcott traveled up that long hill, purchased a 117-acre tract of land, built a log cabin and later his house there. Amos Bronson Alcott was born in that log cabin on Spindle Hill on November 29, 1799. Alcott's family moved into his grandfather's farmhouse situated on this property when he was very young. His father, Joseph Chatfield Alcox was a farmer. His mother, Anna Bronson Alcott, was well educated and instilled in him a love for learning and reading. During his childhood Alcott read as much as he could and went to great lengths to borrow as many books as possible, reading them from cover to cover. He did attend the West School in the area, but for the most part he was a self-taught man. During his boyhood he worked on the farm with his father and brothers. Later he traveled to Plymouth and tried clock making. He also tried his hand as a Yankee Peddler, which brought him as far south as Virginia, but the profession that brought him the most joy and notoriety was that of an educator. Alcott taught in several one-room schoolhouses in the area. He was an educator ahead of his time; he designed and built the first single desks that had the seats attached to them, he designed individual student slates, and classroom libraries. He encouraged his students to borrow books from school and read them at home. He did not believe in corporeal punishment for poorly behaved students and did away with such practices at his schools. Alcott married Abigail May in 1830 in Boston; they moved to Germantown, Pennsylvania at the end of that year. That is where their first two daughters were born. Louisa May, their second child, was born on her father's birthday, November 29, 1832. Abigail and Bronson had a total of four daughters. They also had a son who died shortly after birth. Not only was Alcott was an educator and author, he was an important part of the transcendental movement with good friends Emerson and Thoreau. His educational ideas were too advanced for his times so many of his ideas were not instituted until much later. It is important to note that even though Amos Bronson Alcott was born and grew up in our town, his daughter, Louisa May Alcott, famous author of "Little Women" was not born in Wolcott. She did however accompany him on one of his last trips to the town in September of 1882. He was 83 at the time of this visit. Amos Bronson Alcott died in 1888 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Heading north on Spindle Hill Road take a right at the intersection of Clinton Hill and Andrews Road. The third house on the left is the Obed Alcott House at 339 Spindle Hill Road. Obed Alcott was the son of David and Abigail (Johnson) Alcott. He was born on Spindle Hill on September 8, 1776 and died August 5, 1847. He married Anna Andrews on July 13, 1797. Obed's father gave him thirteen acres of land at the corner of Spindle Hill and Andrews Road and in the fall of 1802, he built a house on that property. Obed worked on his farm making clock cords and clock pinions for the Terry, Thomas and Hoadley Clock Company. Obed and Anna Alcott had four children; their oldest son, Dr. William A. Alcott was born August 6, 1798. He attended local schools in his early years and loved to read books, which was influenced by his mother and cousin, Amos Bronson. He began tutoring younger children and eventually taught in the West District School. He was interested in improving the standards in education and wrote volumes of books for schools, and teachers. He established Wolcott's first public library in the parish meeting house. In 1825-26 William attended Yale Medical School and received a Diploma to practice medicine and surgery. He moved to Boston in 1831 and became the editor of the first children's magazine published in the United States.

In 1824 Obed Alcott donated the use of part of his land east of his house for the West School (prior to this, school was held in private homes). At some point in time, the West School (370 Spindle Hill Road) was moved from behind the Obed Alcott house across Spindle Hill Road directly across from where Rustic Acres is located. This school served the region well for over 100 years providing an education for the children of not only Spindle Hill, but also down into Allentown. In 1946 this school was turned into a private residence and continues as such today.

Continuing down Spindle Hill turn right onto Alcott Road and then turn right onto Beach Road heading west. A short distance up the road you will come to the historic cape cod style house that is found at 209 Beach Road. This house was built for George G. Alcott circa 1830 and included a barn, a blacksmith shop on fifty acres of land. This was all part of the original acreage that was owned by John Alcott. George Alcott sold the house and property on March 23,1857 to David H. Nichols. Later it was sold again to James L. Kenea. Sometime in the early 1930s William Edward Tyrrell purchased this house and property and established his dairy farm there.

This section of Alcott land and homes was only part of the property owned by that family. If you had taken a left on Spindle Hill Road at the intersection of Alcott Road, you would have come to the James Alcott house which is located at the intersection of Spindle Hill and Mad River Roads. This house and property have a long history of farming on it. James was also the son of John Alcott. James built the farmhouse, a saltbox in 1774 and added several large barns. In the late 1800s Evelyn Upson, a state representative purchased the house and farm and lived there until his death in 1918. In that same year, Carl and Hilma Peterson purchased the farmhouse at 621 Spindle Hill Road, the Seth Thomas house at 36 Peterson Lane and about 150 acres of land along Spindle Hill and Mad River Roads. They established the Peterson Dairy Farm in 1923, which was in operation for almost forty years until a fire destroyed their well-established business. There is also Alcott Brook that runs from the pond at the Wolcott Sports Complex across Spindle Hill Road and empties into the Mad River near Peterson Park.

As you can see, the Alcott family played an important part in the history and development of the town of Wolcott especially in the Spindle Hill area. I hope this tour helped you to better understand the influence this family had on our town's development.

(Information for this article was taken from Samuel Orcutt's, History of the Town of Wolcott From 1731 to 1874; Wolcott, Connecticut 175th Anniversary by John Washburne; "Amos Bronson Alcott" on Google; Eden's Outcasts by John Matteson; "A Salute To Two Centuries of Education in Wolcott, Connecticut" from the Wolcott Historical Society, "1986 Historic Resources Inventory" by Paul Loether; Wolcott News articles by Flo Goodman: 12-31-07, 4-30-13, 9-15-18, 5-2012)

Solomon Alcott House

The Solomon Alcott House and barn on the corner of Spindle Hill and Beach Roads. This is where Amos Bronson Alcott grew up.

Obed Alcott House

The Obed Alcott House located at 339 Spindle Hill Road.

West School

The West School located on Spindle Hill Road.

West School today

The West School today as a residence at 370 Spindle Hill Road.

George Alcott House

The George Alcott House at 209 Beach Road.

James Alcott House

The James Alcott House located at the corner of Spindler Hill and Beach Roads.

To view past installments of the Historical Society News, click here.

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