A BRIEF HISTORY OF TORRINGTON
Courtesy of the Torrington Historical Society
Native Americans occupied parts of Northwestern Connecticut as long as 10,000 years ago. Torrington's native population was part of the Algonquian family of tribes and numerous stone points and stone tools have been found here documenting the presence of Native Americans over thousands of years. In 1732 the Colony of Connecticut granted to Windsor, Connecticut several townships including Torrington. Ebenezer Lyman Jr. of Durham purchased land from one of the Windsor proprietors and in 1735 became Torrington's first settler. The first school, store, church and tavern were built high on the hills, west of the Naugatuck River, near the homes of the earliest settlers. The second area to be settled was the eastern hill known as Torringford. These hills provided the best farmland for the settler's agricultural work. In October 1740, Torrington was given permission to incorporate as a town and organize its own town government and ecclesiastical society.
The rapidly moving water of the Naugatuck River was harnessed to provide waterpower for the early 19th century industries. Significant industrial growth began to occur here in 1813 when Frederick Wolcott erected a woolen mill. The mill attracted a large workforce and created a demand for housing, goods and services. The small industrial village that grew up around the mill was called Wolcottville for many decades and is now the central business district of Torrington.
In 1834 Israel Coe and Erastus Hodges began the construction of two brass mills on the Naugatuck River. This was the beginning of the brass industry in Torrington, an industry that would later be synonymous with the entire Naugatuck valley. When the Naugatuck Valley railroad was completed thorough Torrington in 1849, it linked Torrington with other population centers, ending its isolation and stimulating industrial development. Soon Torrington was producing a vast array of metal products including needles, brass, ice skates, hardware, bicycles, and tacks. English, German and Irish immigrants contributed to the growth of the community in the mid nineteenth century. Torrington's growing industrial plants continued to attract immigrants through the early 20th century. As immigration from southern and eastern Europe increased, Torrington's population exploded from 3,000 to 22,000 between 1880 and 1920. New immigrants during this period included the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Italians and Lebanese. In 1923, with a population of 23,000, Torrington was chartered as a city.
Torrington is the birthplace of the abolitionist, John Brown. Born here in 1800, he moved with his family to Ohio while still a young boy. The house that Brown was born in was destroyed by fire in 1918. Today, this historic site is part of the Connecticut African American Freedom Trail. Another famous Torrington resident was Gail Borden who developed and produced condensed milk here in 1856.
The Torrington Historical Society is located at the Hotchkiss-Fyler Estate on Main Street and includes the remarkable Hotchkiss-Fyer House Museum built in 1900 as well as a local history museum containing a permanent exhibit of the community's history.