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History of Kent, CT - Bulls Bridge



Submitted by Fran Johnson

That part of Kent known as Bulls Bridge is two and one-half miles from South Kent and one and one-half miles at its nearest point to the railroad. The road at Bulls Bridge intersects the highway from South Kent to South Dover, N.Y. The road leading from the depot at Merwinsville is a pleasant drive, being much of the way near the wooded banks of the Housatonic river. The first object of striking interest to notice is a commanding hill, Owl Town Mountain, with Picketts Rocks standing out from surrounding trees on the summit as if it were a natural fort. This elevation rises east of the road.

The mail is carried between Bulls Bridge and Gaylordsville for the munificent sum of thirty-nine cents a day.

A little south of Bulls Bridge in a lot west of the road is the cemetery of the place, showing numerous grave stones within a small area. If industrial growth constitutes what is most desirable in a place, it was unfortunate for Bulls Bridge that the railroad did not run through it, as at one time was planned. But, on the other hand, the lover of the beautiful can see something fortunate in the circumstances which protected Bulls Bridge from the roar of the great world and left it sequestered and almost as picturesque as in its pristine days before the white man came and made his wide clearings.

The center of Bulls Bridge is where the roads from Gaylordsville to Kent and from South Kent to South Dover cross at right angles. The hamlet comprises a few houses, a country store and a "tabernacle." Two of these houses are good sized and attractive white structures set in ample yards. The stand on opposite sides of the South Kent road. The house on the north is the home of Mott Judd, father of Jerome Judd. Mott Judd is a pleasant gentleman, a fitting representative of the better class of New England farmers. Alonzo Mallory, formerly a railroad man, now a farmer, occupies the house on the south.

Mott Judd's sister, Mrs. Flora Millspaugh, keeps house for him. Her husband was a man of ability. He built the house where Mr. Mallory now lives and laid out an extensive flower garden in which at one time sixty-nine different kinds of flowers grew. He invented a kerosene tester and was the author of a useful book entitled, "Kerosene Accidents and How to Prevent Them"

On Mott Judd's farm is a tenant house occupied by Patrick McGarry. West of Mr. Judd's home is an ancient house where the aged but active Elisha Potter resides. On the south side of the road nearly opposite Mr. Potter's house and within a few rods of the covered bridge that crosses the Housatonic river are the store, and four houses. Of the three houses on the bank of the river one is vacant and the other two are occupied by the families of Minot Stevens and Joseph Wilcox. The fourth house, quite a large one, at the rear of the store, is owned by Charles Stone. Charles Stone is the business genius of the place. His restless and planning mind is fully alive to the great future which awaits Bulls Bridge, it being a spot, where, except at Falls Village, by far the best unutilized water power of the Housatonic river is located. The ruins of an iron furnace stand on the river bank a short distance from Mr. Stone's house.

North of Elisha Potter's house is the noted 'Tabernacle.' once a saloon but redeemed for God's work by the Free Methodists. Now union services are held in it and fervent flows of religious feeling are are frequent. The so-called "parsonage' beside the 'tabernacle' is the home of Frank Ashmond and family. Rev. E. B. Hawley is the sponsor for this good work in changing a saloon into a gospel shop.

At the furnace a brick kiln rises amid a massive ruin of rocks that once stood solidly around it. Just west of the ruins a large wall stands intact. Its base is washed by the rapidly flowing waters of the river. Much money was expended in the construction of the furnace and it was once the nucleus of a large business, which flourished long before the railroad was built. Probably 200 men were employed at the furnace and in the carting work connected with it. The ore was brought from Clove, Dutchess county, N.Y., a distance of fifteen miles, and twenty-one teams employed in the work could frequently be counted in line on the arrival at Bulls Bridge. Elisha Potter was one of the teamsters.

The iron of finished product was carted to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., the cost for taking a tone there being $5. Iton then sold for $60 a ton, now the price is about $20 a ton. Scotch pig iron was then the kind which had the biggest reputation for good quality, and the iron made at Bulls Bridge was fully equal to it. The ore beds in the south and west were at that time not at all or little utilized, and untammeled by formidable competition, the iron industry flourished in the Housatonic valley. In those good and prosperous days more people lived at and about Bulls Bridge than at the present. It is said that sixty children attended school, whereas now the number is but twelve.

The furnace was built in 1826, and at the time of the civil war was known as the Monitor Iron Works because iron made there was used in the construction of ironclad vessels.

Frederick J. Fenn, one of the owners of the blast furnace, removed to Salisbury. He was the victim of a sad misfortune. A keg of powder was exploded in a seam amid the rocks at the furnace. Mr. Fenn stood too near, and was struck in the eyes by particles of the stone, which rendered him totally blind.

Tim Lannigan, an employe at the furnace, fell into the river near it and was drowned. While men were searching for the body some odd suggestions were made. One was that a candle be placed in a bundle of straw which, it was asserted, would float to that part of the water under which the body lay. A wag claimed, inasmuch as the deceased was an Irishman, that a potato should be attached to a string for the purpose of "skiddering' for Tim.

The corpse was finally recovered without recourse to the extaordinary expedients. There was a big wake over the remains and at the funeral the widow frquently and lustily cried: "Oh Tim, why did ye come to America to be drowned!"

Beside the furnace is a beautiful grove where the Sunday school children from Kent frequently hold picnics. Just east of the grove are the ancient remains of the Bulls Bridge cemetery. A few badly broken stones lie askew beneath a canopy of regardless sumacs.

The chief attraction at Bulls Bridge is the falls. They begin a few rods above the bridge, tumbling many feet down a ledge that extends from bank to bank. Boiling and dangerous are the torrents and swifter in their course than is the arrow's flight. From the first falls the river gradually descends for many rods over a slanting surface of rock, at places jutting upwards sufficiently to cause other and lesser falls. The shores in the vicinity of the falls are wooded, picturesque and winding, appropriately bounding the dashing waters. The place is named after Jacob Bull, who over a hundred and twenty-five years ago was given permission to erect a grist mill and iron works at this point. Mr. Bull came from Dover, N.Y.

It used to be said that Bulls Bridge was noted for three things, "lamper eels, bull beef and handsome women." The reference to bull beef was a hit on John Chamberlain, a butcher called "Leather Wheels." He was an original character, and devised singular nicknames for his associates, which are well remembered to this day. Some of these names were: "Hardack," "Swing Clear," "Major," "Enoch," "Broad Horns," "Old Hail Cut," "Forlorn Dove," "John Harmless," and "Nogar."

A short distance from the home of Henry Spooner, on the west side of the river from Bulls Bridge, one soon comes to the house of Martin B. Lane, once a conductor on the Housatonic railroad. Mr. Lane is now a farmer and also the agent who manages the property of the descendants of the Scatacook Indians. He submits an account of his stewardship annually to the Court of Common Pleas in this county.

Between Scatacook mountain and the river there is but a narrow strip of valley land. The mountain rises precipitously to a great height and must be at least two miles long. It is densely wooded and in summer time it presents a grand bank of luxuriant foliage, which can be best seen by the traveler on the east side of the river. The road beneath the mountain, with the winding stream on the right hand is full of attractions. It is not unfitting that in so romantic a region, at the south end of Scatacook mountain, the few last families of the Indians who were once the sole masters of the country should have their dwelling place.

This copied from the "History of Kent, Connecticut." by Francis Atwater. 1897.

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