East Hampton celebrates early history of township

By Merja H. Lehtinen
East Hampton - posted Wed., Oct. 23, 2013
Ross Johnson demonstrated how metals were formed at a typical forge in East Hampton in early years. Photos by Merja H. Lehtinen.
Ross Johnson demonstrated how metals were formed at a typical forge in East Hampton in early years. Photos by Merja H. Lehtinen.

The history and culture of East Hampton, with its historical center of Chatham,  was celebrated Sunday, Oct, 20,  by  residents and visitors alike. People learned about the town from volunteer curators and organizers at the little history museum on the hill that sits beside its earliest little red one-room school house on Bevin Boulevard. Together the old historical buildings  overlook the current  children’s school, school yard,  and playing fields. In the background are the stately homes of the original Bevin family and other company owners, occupied today by a mix of old timers and new residents.

Pizza, coffee, and dessert was served as folks milled around and learned about early businesses including the many bell makers, witch hazel manufacturers, and children’s toy makers. One, the Bevin Bell Company, is still in business today.
A series of books written by Marty Podskoch about historical sites that included fire towers and pamphlets on local Yankee history were for sale at the event. 

But it was the warmth of the sun and the beautiful day that served as the backdrop for neighbors greeting each other and welcoming new and old friends home. Podskoch, who moved to his lakeside home from Colchester, was credited by reenactor Eva Weber (garbed  in a Colonial dress) as the “center”  of the day’s activities.

“He  did all this,” said Weber. Podskoch, in turn, was busily showing Michael and Sabohat Maniscalco around the well-appointed history museum  packed with early toys and bells among other dear objects of Chatham’s history.  There were also artisans displaying how to forge metal as well as a youngster who demonstrated how to properly house and care for rabbits. 
Old-timers whose ancestors settled the town greeted newcomers, one from as far as Uzbekistan. Children danced to the music provided by a live band and enjoyed cotton candy. Others were running on the fields below.

The history of the area is tied into Connecticut meeting house and church history since pre-Colonial days. East Hampton provided bells to much of America, for its churches, cities, and town meeting houses,  as well as for its farms and livestock,  so it was eventually known as Belltown. One can still buy the popular cowbells from Bevin Bell Company either for real cows or fundraisers for myriad charities.

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