Monday, December 7, 2009

East Hampton - West of Hampton

Several friends have inquired why “East” Hampton is so named since it is situated 35 miles west of Hampton. There is a certain oddity about this and begs the question, why? In 1748, the General Assembly granted the establishment of the East Hampton Society – the Congregational Church District. All the area on the east side of the Great River, the Connecticut River, was originally called East Middletown and included Portland, Middle Haddam, Cobalt and East Hampton and became Chatham. The Town of Chatham was incorporated in 1767. And that is where the problem begins. Hampton, which was divided off of Windham (Willimantic), became incorporated as a town in 1786.

As I had previously noted in September, our Town’s name was changed in 1915 from Chatham to East Hampton. So where did the East Hampton name come from? Shortly after settlers of Knowles Landing, later to be called Middle Haddam, petitioned for their own Congregational Society in 1738, a band of émigrés from Eastham, Massachusetts arrived. Eastham is a coastal town on Cape Cod and although many of these transplants remained tied to the shipbuilding industry that flourished in Middle Haddam, a goodly number moved inland, first to Hog Hill and then near Lake Pocotopaug, where ample acreage was available to farm. The ecclesiastical area or Society, initially took the name Eastham Town, eventually settling on the preferred two word spelling East Hampton.

Apparently the issue was never raised or questioned in 1915 when the Connecticut General Assembly changed the Town’s name after adoption at Town Meeting. Today there would be exhaustive studies and public hearings before action occurred to change a Town’s name. The fact that the area had been known as East Hampton since the 1740s evidently weighed heavily in the decision.

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