Mark Williams, author of The Brittle Thread of Life: Backcountry People Make a Place for Themselves in Early America, will be the guest speaker at the 99th Annual Meeting of the Simsbury Historical Society on Wednesday November 10, 2010 at 7 pm in the Society’s Ellsworth Visitor Center, 800 Hopmeadow Street, Simsbury. Mr. Williams will be giving a presentation about the early settlers of Simsbury’s Salmon Brook parish (now Granby) and their role in shaping our democratic culture.
As early as 1642, the residents of Windsor sought to settle in the area known as Massaco by the Native American inhabitants, but later called Simsbury. The Windsor elite reserved the best land in the Hopmeadow and Weatogue sections of Simsbury for their children but could not attract settlers to the Salmon Brook area. There they had to settle for people to whom they would not normally grant free meadowland. “The colonists who settled in the Salmon Brook parish were recruited from the social fringe, people who were desperate for land, autonomy, and respectability and who were willing to make a hard living in a rugged environment.”
Salmon Brook served the newly populated settlement of Simsbury as a security buffer or early warning system against attack from hostile Indians or the French from the North. The outlanders of Salmon Brook were “mostly poor and disdained people often at odds with their civil, ecclesiastical and mercantile leaders, and they could become quite disrespectful and insistent if they did not get their way. What was more important was that their so-called betters could not overrule or ignore them, but usually had to meet them at least halfway.”
Mr. Williams gives voice to the settlers and officials of Salmon Brooks. He discusses how these often “disrespectful, disorderly, presumptuous, insistent and even defiant back country citizens pushed the emerging nation’s political culture in a more radical, more democratic direction than many of their elite leaders and the Founding Fathers preferred.”
Mr. Williams has been teaching history at the secondary level in public and independent schools for over forty years. Currently, he teaches at The Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor. He graduated from Yale College in 1970, received an M.A. from UConn in 1975, and finished his Ph.D. at Yale in 2006. He has written several articles focusing on people underrepresented in history and three books, the most recent of which, The Brittle Thread of Life was published by Yale University Press in 2009. Mr. Williams has also created a web site of teaching materials on Connecticut history, and served as a consultant for numerous curriculum development projects. In 1996, he received the Homer Babbidge Award from the Association for the Study of Connecticut History, in 2002 the Kidger Award from the New England History Teachers Association, and in 2003 the Wilbur Cross Award from the Connecticut Humanities Council. Mr. Williams resides with his wife and family in West Granby.
A brief business meeting to include the President’s Report, Treasurer’s Report and election of the Society’s President and new directors will precede the program. The program is free to members and the public. The Visitor Center parking lot is located off Phelps Lane. For more information call 860-658-2500 or visit simsburyhistory.org.
Simsbury Historical Society
800 Hopmeadow Street
Simsbury, CT 06070