On the first Tuesday of March, 1737, at one o’clock in the afternoon, an area of land on the eastern bank of the Housatonic River was auctioned off at the Colony courthouse in Windham, CT. The area was divided into ten sections of fifty-three shares each, fifty of which were sold, while three were set aside for a school, church, and minister’s lot.
Within a year, the first settlers of Kent established themselves on their newly acquired plots. The other sections, or divisions, were auctioned off in sequence over the next thirty-five years, and promptly settled. The town remains rural and small to this day.
South Kent Store and Post Office
Daniel Soule, descended from an early 1800s settler, was recently elected to the Kent Board of Selectmen.
Originally the town included Warren and part of Washington, but by 1784 the present boundaries were established, with Warren and Washington as separate towns. Land speculation was rampant during the early colonization of Connecticut’s “Western Lands,” and Kent was no exception. Many of the early lots were bought and sold with alarming frequency, with prices rising at each transaction. Within a few decades, some settlers began to eye the uninhabited land (about 11,000 acres) across the river, and soon Kent’s first major scandal erupted.
According to Miss Emily Hopson, late President of the Kent Historical Society, two early entrepreneurs, Joseph Fuller and Joshua Lassell, “staked out large claims of land and appealed to the General Assembly for approval of grants to the land, disguising the amount of land involved and presenting themselves as hard-pressed farmers. The legislature was skeptical of their claims and reduced their acreage considerably,” with Joseph Fuller ending up only with the land on the mountain that bears his name today.
Moses Rowley of Sharon soon jumped on the bandwagon, and managed to acquire most of the Macedonia Valley. He continued to add to his holdings on the other side of the river at a rapid rate. At that time, the western lands were not officially part of Kent, and therefore not subject to taxation or regulation.
The townspeople of Kent began to realize the potential of what was being squirreled away by Rowley and others, and petitioned the General Assembly to annex all the lands into the town. The General Assembly promptly ordered that the land in question be annexed, surveyed, and sold off by lots.
Colony Surveyor Roger Sherman arrived in 1752 and divided the acreage into twenty-eight lots, somehow missing Rowley’s land in the process. Initially escaping detection, Rowley managed to tangle with the General Assembly periodically after that, finally petitioning for a grant to the land. The grant was given in 1769, but in 1771 it was charged that Rowley had, like Fuller and Lassell before him, deceived the assembly by understating the actual amount of land in his holdings, and two major investigations ensued.
Finally, he was found by the Selectmen of Kent to be “guilty of poor husbandry and mismanagement in his business and is thereby in great damage of wasting his estate, we therefore appoint Abraham Fuller to be overseer over said Moses Rowley. Justice of the Peace Feb 25, 1771, Town Clerks Office, Kent.” At long last the western lands were all included within Kent’s official boundaries, and fittingly, Moses Rowley’s initial grab now belongs to the People of the State of Connecticut as Macedonia State Park.
Macedonia has always played an important role in the town of Kent. In contrast to its present peaceful existence, the valley was once a vigorous hub of activity centered around one of the town’s three blast furnaces. Iron Fever gripped the entire northwest corner of Connecticut during the 1800s, beginning with the many small local forges and developing into a major industry for the town of Kent, with furnaces in Macedonia, Flanders, and Bulls Bridge.
There was high-grade iron ore buried in our hills and the heavily forested mountains provided an ample supply of charcoal to fuel the furnaces. Surrounding the furnaces were gristmills, saw mills, cider mills, trading posts, and other cottage industries that supported the ironworkers. The population of the town reached a high point during the heyday of the iron industry, with Kent’s high quality iron being shipped out for many uses, including the manufacture of wheels for the increasingly popular railroad trains.