Wolcott History
Wolcott Historical Society

Wolcott Historical Society News - March 2023

By Florence Goodman

This month I will conclude my series on aviation history in our town; a topic, which has proven to be interesting to all. When I began this research, I was unaware of the number of incidents that I would uncover, but so many readers were willing to share information and I found more as I perused old newspapers. Although I wrote about this topic back in 2017 many readers either missed them or forgot about them so I'm glad I revisited them.

MacCormack Drive got its name from William MacCormack who settled in Wolcott in the late 1800s and operated a cider mill on the Mad River behind where Rite Aid is located today. "Bill" as locals called him eventually acquired a large parcel of land near Rite Aid and across Wolcott Road, to Potuccos Ring Road to Lyman Road and down to Chestnut Hill Reservoir. The pasturelands and apple orchards on his property were reasonably flat and he thought they would be ideal for an airport. This idea was considered by the state in 1923, but then the Mt. Tobe site in Plymouth was selected instead. About ten years later in May of 1932 the State aviation department accepted MacCormack's field as an emergency landing strip, stating that mail planes flew directly over his property. To seal the deal, the town was required to discontinue an old road leading from Chestnut Hill Road to what was known as Kenney Road at a point close to the field, which they did, and Bill MacCormack's vision of an airstrip became a reality. I do not know if any planes ever landed on the airstrip, nor do I know where Kenney Road was located.

In the late 1950s or early 1960s a small plane was forced to land in a field on Bound Line Road just across the street from the newly built Wolcott High School. Simon Gagne owned this flat, expansive piece of farmland. It was here that Paul. M. Wood was forced to land his small plane. He was headed for New London from Syracuse, NY, when a dense fog covered the area and he had to land on Gagnon's property. The aircraft was able to land safely without any damage to plane or pilot, but authorities doubted that it would be able to take off in such a short space. To their surprise, the pilot taxied the plane over to the high school. These fields originally called Pritchard's fields were very flat and long; this allowed the pilot to take off safely because the high school building was much smaller then and the football and track fields were not built at the time. Art Gagnon remembered this event well and had several pictures of the plane to share with me. He was about seventeen when the plane landed on their property and was happy to have his picture taken in front of the plane.

This concludes my series on small planes that landed in Wolcott over the years. If any readers have additional information on this, please contact me through our website: wolcotthistory.org or call me at 203-879-9818.

The Wolcott Congregational Church will be celebrating it's 250 anniversary this year so hopefully I can share some interesting history about the church in the next few articles.

(Information for this article was taken from "MacCormack's Field Accepted by State As Emergency Airport," March 5, 1932, The Bristol Press, "Plymouth's tiny airport never quite took off," 12/26/2015), Waterbury Republican American article March 3, 1932, "Old Road To Be Discontinued To Facilitate Landing," an interview with Art Gagnon, Wolcott, Connecticut in August 2013)

MacCormack family land

This land owned by the MacCormack family was first looked at as an airport in 1923 but was not approved. Years later, in 1932 it was approved as an emergency landing strip for mail planes flying over.

'Bill' MacCormack

"Bill" MacCormack testing his apple cider.

MacCormack's Cider Mill

MacCormack's Cider Mill on Wolcott Road along the Mad River.

Art Gagnon

Art Gagnon standing in front of plane that landed on their property circa 1960.

Paul M. Wood's plane

Paul M. Wood's plane facing Bound Line Road looking toward the high school fields.

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