Suffield’s 350 Anniversary Update

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Suffield’s 350th Anniversary Committee has been meeting for the past few months to plan the upcoming celebration in 2020. It’s interesting to see how the town celebrated its founding in earlier years. On October 4, 1869, the citizens of Suffield voted at a town meeting to establish a committee of 67 people to arrange the 200th anniversary celebration the following year. It was to be an event celebrated “in an intelligent and respectable manner, becoming the age in which we live” and the town voted to spend up to $1,500 (roughly $25,000 in 2017 dollars) on the event. In typical Suffield and Yankee fashion, the town spent only $1181.75 of the allocated funds on October 12, 1870, but the celebration was a great success.

On October 12, 1670, the General Court of Boston granted the formation of a plantation at “a place called by ye name of Stony Riuer (sic)”. Therefore, it was decided that the 200th anniversary should be celebrated on that day in 1870. The celebrations began at sunrise with the ringing of church bells throughout the town and a 40-gun salute using a cannon brought from Hartford. Dignitaries from Hartford arrived by train and came into town on the first trip ever using the new branch line (the now abandoned track that crosses at South Street).

A parade around the town green began at 9 a.m. with groups including a drum corps, numerous local dignitaries, trustees and faculty from the Connecticut Literary Institute (now Suffield Academy) and all the local schools, the Mayor of Springfield, the Governor of Connecticut, and the Colt Armory Band. At the end of the parade were citizens of the town as well as those from other towns, many of whom were former residents of Suffield.

The parade was followed by speeches, poems, hymns (one written especially for the occasion) as well as a recitation on the history of Suffield held at the recently constructed Congregational Church on the green. No fewer than seven reverends spoke or read at the event, and this may have been why the Governor left early. It was stated at the event that Suffield is “Beautiful for situation – rich in resources, blest with happy homes, given to hospitality – all her children delight to do her honor…”

Despite rain, attendees poured out onto the green for a picnic of over 200 pounds of ham, cheese and pies. The baked goods were provided by the citizens. That evening a musical presentation was held at the 2nd Baptist Church and then a dance was held at the Town Hall that went well into the night. Indeed, Suffield demonstrated her hospitality and the citizens did “delight to do her honor.” We look forward to carrying on this tradition in 2020.

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