Old Connecticut Path
Did an ancestor travel the Old Connecticut Path of Massachusetts and Connecticut? Learn about this settler migration route, its transportation history, and find related genealogy sources.
History[edit | edit source]
The Old Connecticut Path was created by Native Americans in antiquity. It originally went about 94 miles (151 kilometers) from Boston to Springfield in Massachusetts, and then another 26 miles (42 kilometers) south to Hartford, Connecticut. It was the first eastern North American trail that led west from settlements on the Atlantic seacoast into the interior of America (Connecticut River Valley). The Connecticut River itself was also an important transportation route which attracted early settlers. Starting in the 1650s the Old Connecticut Path route was used as the upper fork of the Boston Post Road to New York City, also known as the King's Highway which eventually extended as far south as Charleston, South Carolina. In the 1760s stagecoaches began to traverse these roads carrying regular mail and passengers. Inns for stagecoach passengers usually were established near the time of American Revolution. Nevertheless, travel between colonial towns was more often by sea than it was over land until just before the American Revolution.
Earliest settlers. The Old Connecticut Path was used by members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony as early as 1630. In those first years Indians also carried corn from the Connecticut River Valley over the path to help supply starving colonists in Boston. The route continued to attract settlements in the interior of Massachusetts and Connecticut because it provided access to markets for settler goods and services.
Variations. Over time the route was shortened and straightened. A more direct road from Boston to Hartford (which skipped Springfield) also came to be called the Old Connecticut Path, and also become the middle fork of the Boston Post Road. 
Toll roads. Massachusetts and Connecticut developed turnpike (toll) systems for wagon roads in the early 1800s including part of the route from Boston to Springfield (Palmer to Warren "Massachusetts 1st Turnpike"). Likewise, most of the more direct Boston to Hartford route became a turnpike (Hartford and Dedham, Center, and Hartford Tolland, turnpikes). Most of these early pathways continue as roads today. Modern freeways usually parallel the older road systems.
Decline. However, the use of early roads and turnpikes for moving settlers waned with the introduction of railroads. Settlers could travel faster, less expensively, and safer on railroads than on wagon roads. So, as railroads entered an area, the wagon-road traffic in that area declined. The first railroads in Massachusetts and Connecticut were built in the late 1830s. A rail line from Providence, Rhode Island reached Hartford, Connecticut and New York City about 1847.
Route[edit | edit source]
Connecting Routes. The Old Connecticut Path connected with many other settler migration routes:
- Bay Road connects Boston (Massachusetts Bay) to New Bedford (Buzzards Bay).
- Coast Path follows an ancient Indian path near the shoreline from Boston to Plymouth.
- Kennebunk Road links Boston along the New England coast to Augusta, Maine.
- King's Highway also known as the Boston Post Road goes from Boston, Massachusetts to New York City, and south to Charleston, South Carolina with extensions on each end. In Massachusetts and Connecticut there were at least three competing routes for the Boston Post Road. Parts were laid out 1650 to 1735; its length remained in heavy use through 1783, and some parts are used to this day.
- Mohawk or Iroquois Trail This trail was established in 1722 from Albany to Utica to Rome to Fort Oswego on Lake Ontario. The Boston to Albany side of that route probably preceded the Albany to Oswego route by many years.
- Old Roebuck Road goes from Boston to Providence, Rhode Island (Narragansett Bay).
Modern parallels. The modern roads that roughly match the Old Connecticut Path from Boston to Springfield to Hartford are:
- Broadway westbound in Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Western Ave / Arsenal westbound to Watertown
- Main Street westbound to Waltham
- US-20 W / Weston / Boston Post Road westbound to Shrewsbury
- MA-9 westbound to West Brookfield
- MA-67 / Boston Post Road westbound winding toward Palmer
- where it merges with US-20 W / Boston Road / State Street westbound into Springfield
At Springfield cross the Connecticut River on the south side of town
- from Agawam take MA-157 / Main Street / East Street N southbound to Hartford, Connecticut
Settler Records[edit | edit source]
Boston was founded in 1630 by Puritan immigrants from England. Springfield and Hartford on the Connecticut River were founded in 1636 by 100 Puritans colonists. The Indian footpath between these places and Boston attracted settlers who would be able to more easily get access to the markets. Many of the earliest settlers along the Old Connecticut Path would have been from Boston, Massachusetts area, and prior to that from England. Look at the earliest deeds, tax records, and histories of towns along the Old Connecticut Path to learn the names of the first settlers. If you already know the name of a settler near the Old Connecticut Path, you have a good chance of finding his or her genealogy in sources like:
- Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, 3 vols. (Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, c1995). At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 974 W2a.
[edit | edit source]
- Boston Post Road in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 17 October 2014).
References[edit | edit source]
- Old Connecticut Path in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 28 October 2014).
- Frederic J. Wood, The Turnpikes of New England and the Evolution of the Same Through England, Virginia, and Maryland (Boston: Marshall Jones, 1919), 25. Internet Archive version online.
- Old Connecticut Path.
- Boston Post Road in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 28 October 2014).
- Wood, 25.
- Old Connecticut Path.
- Old Connecticut Path.
- Boston Post Road.
- Wood, map between 56 and 57, and 63-64.
- Wood, map between 56 and 57, and 138-40.
- Wood, map between 330 and 331, and 396.
- Wood, map between 330 and 331, and 366-67.
- New York and New England Railroad in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 28 October 2014).
- File:Boston Post Road map.png at Wikimedia Commons (accessed 28 October 2014).