The Last Green Valley explores the area's 'Notable and Notorious'

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Region - posted Tue., Jan. 14, 2014
Contributed
John Trumbull's 1777 self-portrait. Contributed photos. - Contributed Photo

Some of the “Notable and Notorious” characters from the local area were the focus of a presentation offered by The Last Green Valley at the Lebanon Historical Society Museum on Jan. 12. The Last Green Valley encompasses the Quiet Corner of Connecticut and expands beyond it into Massachusetts. As described on the organization’s website (www.tlgv.org), The Last Green Valley is two things: “it's the 35-town National Heritage Corridor in eastern Connecticut and south-central Massachusetts, and it’s also your member-supported, non-profit stewardship organization working locally to celebrate our heritage, conserve our natural resources, and respect our working lands.”

Introduced as “Ranger Bill” by Lebanon Historical Society Director Donna Baron, TLGV’s Bill Reid (Director of Outreach Programs and Chief Ranger) explained the origins of the organization’s name. “In the 19th century, 70 percent of New England was cleared,” said Reid. Currently, approximately 70 percent of the area is wooded, largely due to enforced conservation. Reid projected an image of a nighttime photograph onto a screen. The Last Green Valley, circled in green, stood out as a dark spot amid a sea of bright lights.

“At night the region appears distinctively dark amid the urban and suburban glow when viewed from satellites or aircraft,” reads the TLGV website.  “In the daytime, the green fields and forests confirm the surprisingly rural character of the 1,085-square-mile area defined by the Quinebaug and Shetucket rivers systems and the rugged hills that surround them.” Forest and farmland make up 78 percent of the TLGV’s 695,000 acres, yet it lies only an hour from three of New England's four largest urban areas.

Among the notable characters to hail from this central area of New England was Lorenzo Dow. Born in Coventry, Dow was a preacher described by some as “rowing with one oar in the water,” according to Reid. Known as a forceful orator with a long, red beard, Dow traveled from town to town delivering hours-long sermons. “He’d finish talking, slam the Bible down on the pulpit, and walk out, headed for his next destination," said Reid.

Samuel Huntington, from Scotland, was an attorney. As a delegate to the Continental Congress, he signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. He also served as president of the Continental Congress from 1779 to 1781, chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court from 1784 to 1785, and the 18th governor of Connecticut from 1786 until his death.

Charles and Augustus Storrs, brothers from Mansfield, offered 170 acres of land with buildings and $5,000 in cash to start an agricultural school in Connecticut in 1880. The school was established to educate boys in the business of agriculture. Storrs Agricultural School “had 12 students taught by three teachers when it opened,” said Reid. Today, more than 16,000 undergraduates and 6,000 graduate students attend the University of Connecticut.

Born in Lebanon in 1756, John Trumbull attended Harvard and served in the Revolutionary War. After studying in London, Trumbull produced more than 250 paintings depicting events and people from American history. Trumbull’s painting featuring the signing of the Declaration of Independence is featured on the back of the $2 bill, and his portrait of Alexander Hamilton, first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, graces the $10 bill.

Edwin Way Teale was born in Illinois, but spent much of his adult life in Hampton with his wife, Nellie. Their 130-acre Hampton property, named “Trail Wood,” was chronicled in Teale’s book, “A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm," in 1074. The farm was also described in Teale’s book, “A Walk Through the Year.” Teale was a well-known naturalist, photographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. The Teals’ farm is currently managed as a nature preserve by the Connecticut Audubon Society.

For more information about The Last Green Valley, go to www.tlgv.org.


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