Cheshire’s evolution from an offshoot of Wallingford can be traced to the years 1680 to 1690, when the first settlers moved into a low range of hills on the Cheshire side of the Quinnipiac River and designated the area as “Ye Fresh Meadows”. By 1694, there were enough individuals in the area to call it a “settlement” and in the year 1705, Thomas Brooks arrived on the scene. Apparently the country was enough like his homeland in England that he called this settlement Cheshire. The Brooks name survives today in the southern section, now known as Brooksvale.
The “west farmers”, as they were called by their brethren in Wallingford, slowly declared their independence from their neighbor. By 1719 a school was in operation and in 1724 a Congregational church was erected at the site which is now Main Street and Lanyon Drive. St. Peter’s Episcopal Church was organized in 1760 at the bend in Main Street. In addition, in 1794 as Episcopal Academy of Connecticut was established through the efforts of Samuel Seabury, the First Bishop of Connecticut.
In the year 1780 Cheshire, with its population of 2,015, was recognized as a separate town by the State Legislature, but growth was slow until transportation services improved. In 1801, Cheshire’s Main Street became a turnpike for the Hartford-New Haven Stage. From 1827 to 1848, another important transport in use was the historic Farmington Canal, which connected the Connecticut River to the Long Island Sound. Sections of the canal can still be seen. Of particular interest, are the remains of a lock near North Brooksvale Road and the rail line, now the Canal Lock #12 Park. The canal was eventually superceded by this railroad, thus being bypassed for the more efficient iron horse.
Although Cheshire has never developed the character of an industrial town, some early doings pointed the town in the direction, not the least of which was copper and baryte mining. Copper was first found by John Parker in 1712, but not until 1840 did barytes (barium sulfate used in glass, paint, etc.) come on the scene. A woman named Jinny chanced to find some of these unusual stones on a hill near her home, thus starting a 40 year boom- first at the “Jinny Hill” site and later on Peck Lane.
Many of the miners required for these jobs came from a district in Cornwall, England. They brought with them their religious beliefs and, in turn, led to the expansion of the Methodist Church, which was founded in 1834.
There was further growth of small industrial concerns indigenous to the area such as James Mix’s gimlet and hardware factory and the Cheshire Manufacturing Company, founded in 1850 (now the Ball and Socket Company), often involving the use of native copper. Today this growth has culminated in an industrial area in the north end of town that has everything from one-man machine shops to large manufacturing facilities.
Town Information Courtesy of The Cheshire Chamber of Commerce