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Ashford Green

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Ashford was laid out in 1710 and incorporated as a separate ecclesiastical society in 1714. In 1716 records show that the town voted to build a meetinghouse but it was postponed due to land controversies. Crofut reports that in 1718 the town voted to erect a meetinghouse near the center of Pine Hill. They apparently began construction because records show that a meeting held in September 1791, during which attempts were made to settle certain land claims and it was reported that "there shall be ten acres of land where the meeting-house now stands for the convenience of a green or common, all which land for minister, ministry and common, is not to be accounted any part of the land to be paid for by the settlers." A recorded survey in the Town Records dated March 10, 1731/32 provides the boundaries of the green.

The meeting house was constructed on the "Pine Hill" portion of the common where it was rebuilt after fires but finally destroyed in 1938 by the ravages of a hurricane. The green was also used as burying ground (known as Babcock Cemetery today) where Reverend James Hale, the first minister of Ashford's First Congregational Church, is buried. It became the heart of Ashford Center and was a thriving community until the separation of the Eastford parish in 1777. Since the Eastford town line is about one-half mile from the green, Eastford attracted much of the activity, which resulted in a decline of Ashford Center.

However, activity in Ashford Center picked up in the first half of the 19th century. It benefited from the factories in the area including saw mills, tanneries, a cotton mill and a glass factory. An 1869 map of Ashford reflects this. Adjacent to the green on the east side is a blacksmith shop and coal house owned by Aaron Cook. Nearby is the home of Dr. J.H. Simmons, a physician and surgeon who also served as state senator from 1861 to 1865. At the intersection of 44 and North Road just east of the green stood the former Dyer Clark Hotel. And on the green was the Ashford Academy.

The railroads bypassed Ashford Center in the second-half of the 19th century and the activity generated by the industry dwindled, leaving Ashford a rural agrarian community. Only the Ashford Academy still stands as a testimony to this bustling period. It was restored in the mid-1960's after a fundraising campaign garnered donations from former Ashford residents living as far away as California and Florida.

The Ashford Green remains very much intact as it was laid out by the town fathers in the early 18th century although it no longer serves as the town center.



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