History of Kent, CT - Flanders and North Kent



Submitted by Fran Johnson

Flanders, an ancient settlement, which was the business center of the region until the modern village of Kent on the southward plains superseded it.

Flanders now represents little else besides farming interests, but once it contained a tavern, a meeting house, a grist mill, a wagon shop, a blacksmith's shop, a tailor's shop, tanning works, etc.; and there the important town clerk attended to his duties and the village parson lived in spiritual blessedness. It was about 1830 that Flanders began to lose its prestige in favor of the modern village, its being somewhat apart from the line of the railroad no doubt largely accounting to its decline.

Here is the Burritt Eaton's house, about 150 years old, which was formerly a tavern kept by Col. Philo Mills. In the lot back of the tavern the militia used to train. Next are the pleasant residences of George R. Bull, Kent Furnace's worthy and prosperous merchant, and Albert Roberts, which are situated at the head of the road leading to Kent Furnace.

Other noteworthy houses were those where Deacon Lewis Mills and John Slosson once kept stores. Within the limits of the road on a knoll where a flag pole now stands was the site of the old Congregational meeting house, long since departed. Rev. Joel Bordwell was its pastor for fifty years. Mr. Bissell now lives in what was the Congregational parsonage.

Here too is the well known Slosson homestead from which a number of eminent Slossons, lawyers, judges and the like, have emanted and made their ability and influence vigorously felt in places of size and enterprise.

"Uncle Nathan Slawson," a farmer of the family, was an able man who when he saw a good thing knew it. It is related of him that he once played a trick on a dude from the eastern country who sought to ingratiate himself into the good graces of a family of comely Hubbell girls who lived west of the Housatonic river. The dude, or dandy, as would be a more fit word to use for that time, assumed a patronizing air on one occasion and hired "Uncle Nathan," humble in aspect and commonly dressed, to carry him on his back across the river to visit the girls. When they were in the midst of the stream, "Uncle Nathan" said, "I shall have to, for twenty-five cents, set you down and rest," and thereupon shook off the dandy completely sousing him and his brave fine clothes.

The North Kent cemetery is a burial yard with a fine modern fence about it. This fence is perhaps the best one surrounding a cemetery in Litchfield county and cost $2,500, a large sum considering the small area inclosed. The posts, erected at frequent intervals, are solid bars of handsome stone, each seven feet long, four feet out of the ground and three feet in it, each set of a bed of stones and so firmly planted that they may stand for one thousand years. Between the posts are solid bars of galvanized iron.

Seventeen members of the Eaton family are buried here and a handsom monument to their memory was erected a few years ago.

Across Western Brook which perpetuates the memory of a minister named Western, on a little rise of ground, is the saw mill of enterprising George B. Page.

Near by is the Berry family homestead. Of one of its occupants, Nathaniel Berry, the following anecdote is told. Before the days of carriages with springs Berry owned a big lumber wagon somewhat like those now used for carting purposes only. The people went to meeting on horseback and in ox carts, and on the advent of the lumber wagons placed in them as seats double chairs called "wagon chairs." One of these chairs would hold two persons and several were usually placed in one wagon, thus accommodating six or eight individuals.

Deacon Bates lived on one of the hills east of the main road, and was praying one morning when Nathaniel's lumber wagon rattled by, just as the deacon fervently ejaculated, "Lord, come in thy chariot of fire and take me to thyself." The next moment the deacon, jumping up as the ominous noise fell upon his startled ears, exclaimed, "Oh, Lord! I never said anything in jest but what you took me in blood 'arnest;" and, quaking, the worthy but not quite prepared man of God hid himself under a bed.

We went by the old farm formerly owned by James Stuart deceased. At the old Eaton place where my companion was born we turned eastward into the "Forge Road." At this point the valley northward with its green meadows, intersected by the winding river, is fair to look upon.

On the Forge Road further on the far famed Kent Falls. The stream flows a few rods from the road down a long rambling ledge descending westward in the midst of a thick growth of trees and bushes. From the most precipitous part of the ledge the main falls come from a height of fifty feet or more. These falls are divided into two parts, the upper falls descending into a good-sized middle basin, and thence the water leaps into a second and broader basin hollowed in solid rock. In summer, the falls come down in slender but beautiful columns, not more than one hundredth the size of the rushing foaming torrents which in the spring leap, casting clouds of spray and fascinating the eye with their marvelous beauty. There is a spot in the middle basin which is said to be thrity or forty feet deep. In the lower basin is a circular hollow, rounded by madly circling waters so as exactly to resemble the interior of a hugh cauldron. In the rocks about the falls is a big hole or cave called the "Meeting House."

Among the various basins below the falls is one which was once called the "Pork Barrel," by a man named Mills who claimed the ownership or control of it. Mills was a great fisherman and reserved the choice Pork Barrel where big trout lay ensconced, for his own exlusive use. Mills was a kindhearted man and, whenever a neighbor was sick and in need of something to tempt the appetite would go to the Pork Barrel and catch a fine trout for him. But Mills was jealous of his rights, and once when a man named Studley attempted to fish in the pool, he picked up stones and from a vantage point among the bushes threw the missiles so effectively at the intruder that he was glad to beat a hasty retreat.

Mills and Ezra Eaton once had an amusing experience. Eaton had been fishing in the Housatonic river and his boat lay on the shore. Mills came along a picking up the catch of fish made off with it and kept it temporarily in a spirit of fun. The fish had forked tails, and Mills assumed that all forked-tailed fish belonged to him and all square-tailed fish to Isaac Nogar. Eaton went fishing another time and Mills was on hand at the boat again, but Eaton has cunningly "squared" the tails of the fish with his knife so that Mills was obliged to say, "I can make no claim to these fish; they belong to Nogar."

The lower fall are pleasing, but are not so high or picturesque as the upper ones. The railroad is not far distant, and in the winter when the trees are free of leaves, the water of both falls can be easily seen from where the cars pass.

It seemed strange to be told that this now secluded and thickly wooded place was, in old times, the site of mills and other industries requiring strong water power; but such was the case and it afforded another illustration, such as the remnants of dams an forges afford in the Bulls Bridge and Macedonia regions, how the small but flourishing industries that once enlivened the banks and streams in Connecticut, and also in other New England states, have departed, in favor of modern enterprises which concentrate business in large establishments at tide water and utilize the steam engine.

An attempt was made to open a marble quarry near the falls, but the scheme was a "fake" one, and the innocent victims of the speculators lost much money.

The Kent Falls are a favorite resort for picnickers who on the southern bank shaded by pine trees, do their cooking in a fireplace made of stones.

Copied from "History of Kent, Connecticut" by Francis Atwater 1897

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