Washington Crossing

Plaque sponsored by the Society of the Founders of Norwich, Connecticut

Located on 173 North Main Street (N.P.U property)

Springtime is approaching in 1781 and so also is the beginning of the end for England’s war against American independence. General Washington visits Norwich, then one of our largest cities, on his way to Newport to plan strategy with General Rochambeau, commander of 6,000 French soldiers sent by Kind Louis XVI. Admiral Grasse’s French navy gains control of Chesapeake waters just as English General Cornwallis sets up camp at Yorktown, Virginia. Combined French and U.S. armies trap Cornwallis by land as Admiral Grasse prevents an escape by sea. General Cornwallis surrenders 8,000 English soldiers on October 17, 1781. English realizes U.S. independence is inevitable and agrees to a peace treaty signed in Paris on September 3, 1783.

First St. Mary’s Church

The picture of a proud Irish Mary Collins Stanley with her three boys Bill, Jim and Chick, taken over 100 years ago.

Plaque sponsored by Philip J. Shannon

Located at the intersection of Central Avenue & North Main Street

Once upon a time in Norwich, Irish immigrants fled to American to escape the “great hunger,” the Irish potato famine. Before the famine, many Irish had already settled in Norwich in this area now known as Greeneville. They built shanties along the railroad tracks in what they termed “Twomeyville,” and they earned the title of “Shanty Irish.” They were employed in great numbers to build the Norwich & Worcester Railroad. The Irish brought with them Catholicism, and in the early 1840s, Father James Fitton held Mass among the shanties, for there were few permanent building.

By 1843, the Irish Catholic population had grown sufficiently to require a church. The first Roman Catholic Church in Eastern Connecticut was in this very structure, consecrated in 1845, and remains a tribute to the settlers of Greeneville and the first St. Mary’s parish. By 1853, the Catholic population had increased to over 4,000, and St. Mary’s Church could no longer accommodate the many parishioners.

It was the Irish Catholics from Greeneville who funded the construction of St. Patrick’s Church, which is today St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This building was built to serve the first Catholic population in Norwich. Later, the Irish who fled the famine established themselves in their new world, Norwich. The Irish immigrant population later built for William Greene, about 1842, the mills in Greeneville where many were employed. Thereafter, the shanty town, “Twomeyville,” was officially known as Greeneville.

A Norwich native and parishioner of St. Mary’s, the Very Reverend William P. Brady was ordained and said his first Mass in this original St. Mary’s Church. He later went on to become President of St. John’s College in Brooklyn, New York.

St. Anthony’s Chapel

St. Anthony

Plaque sponsored by the Cape Verdean Community of Norwich

Located on 70 Central Avenue

Inside St. Anthony

Once upon a time in Norwich… Saint Anthony Chapel is rededicated to the memory of Joseph Candido Delgado born in 1882 on the island of Sao Nicolau, Cabo Verde and died June 1967. The chapel, a life-long dream of Joseph C. Delgado, was originally built and dedicated in 1926 at 165 Talman Street in Norwich to pay tribute to the patron Saint Anthony of Padua.

“I had a day dream one day and I saw the chapel and built it according to the picture which was presented to me at that time” –Joseph C. Delgado

St. Mary’s RC Church the Parish of the Cape Verdean Community of Norwich and the Delgado Family join with the Cape Verdean community to dedicate this chapel as a symbol of faith on this Twenty-ninth day of April 2006.

Miantonomo Monument

Here lies Miantonomo

Plaque sponsored by the Mohegan Tribe

Located on Elijah Street

After being captured along with some of his leaders at the Battle of Great Plains, Miantonomo and his warriors were taken to Shantok by Uncas. He was treated well but Uncas finally was ordered to surrender him to the English so they could decide the Narragansett’s fate. Miantonomo was kept in prison for about six weeks, and then the authorities had him released to Uncas and his warriors with orders to execute him away from any of the settlers’ towns, so Narragansett reprisals would not fall on their heads. Hopkins, Whiting, and John Mason, along with eight soldiers, had accompanied the Mohegans to see that the sentence was carried out and to defend Uncas in case the Narragansetts sought to avenge Miantonomo’s execution. Miantonomo was executed with a hatchet in a single stroke wielded by Wawecqua, the brother of Uncas, somewhere on the path between Hartford and Norwich.

This single act would prevent the Mohegans and Narragansetts from ever uniting against colonists.

Benjamin Trumbull, writing 175+ years after the fact, says that the execution was at Sachem’s Plain but none of the original documents have “Sachem’s Plain” as an execution place. Recent scholars tend to agree that Miantonomo was probably executed along the path between Hartford and Norwich, probably sooner rather than later, to avoid the possibility of the Narragansetts swooping downs and freeing their sachem en route; and well away from any settlement, in agreement with the United Colony’s orders.

Sacred Heart Church

First of three churches at the present location to bear the name Sacred heart.

Located on 156 Providence Street, Taftville

Taftville is a proud mill town. For generations its inhabitants arose and went home to the clanging of the bell at the gigantic Ponemah textile mill. But, for the village’s large Roman Catholic population, the community’s soul is found in its church bell.

The first Mass was celebrated in Taftville on St. Patrick’s Day, 1973. Fitting, since the village that was largely to become French Canadian was first settled by the Irish, escaping famines in the homeland. Fitting, too, that Mass was said in Wequonnoc School, which was owned by the mill that brought Canadians to Taftville by the thousands in search of a better life.

Fire on a Sunday morning, April 29, 1956.

Four years later, a small church was built by the hard work of its parishioners. It was the first of three churches at the present location to bear the name Sacred heart in the small village. The first, dedicated in 1900, was little more than a basement with a roof. It was the very foundation for a major Romanesque church that took 16 years to build.

Sadly, that edifice was destroyed by fire on a Sunday morning, April 29, 1956. The uncontrollable blaze burned for 4.5 hours, consuming everything but the baptismal font at the bell tower.

A scant two years later, the present Sacred Heart Church was dedicated. A modern-looking church even a half-century later, the house of worship at the corner of Hunters Avenue and Providence Street is till the center of spiritual life for Taftville’s active and changing Catholic population.

Ponemah Mill

Ponemah Mill

The picture of a proud Irish Mary Collins Stanley with her three boys Bill, Jim and Chick, taken over 100 years ago.

Plaque sponsored by the Gernon Trust

Located on Route 69 & Route 97, Taftville

Construction of the great Ponemah Cotton Mill began in 1866. A group of investors, led by Edward and Cyrus Taft of Providence, Rhode Island, purchased a 600 acre farm on the Shetucket River. The first mill was 750 feet long and 74 feet wide. It began operation in 1871. The name “Ponemah” was taken from Longfellow’s poem, Song of Hiawatha, and was said to mean “our hope.” The mill owners built a village to house the workers, naming it Taftville after the principal investors. The main street of the new village was named Providence Street.

The Ponemah Mill spun and wove imported Egyptian cotton into very high quality cloth for the luxury trade. A bitter strike in 1875, led to the eviction of mill workers who were mostly comprised of Irish Americans. New workers were recruited from French Canada. Taftville became noted as a French Canadian community.

Major expansions of the mill were made in 1884, 1902, and 1910. At its peak, the Ponemah Mill employed 1600 workers and produced over 20 million yards of cloth a year. They boasted that a pound of cotton could be spun into a single strand of yarn 100 miles long. In the 20th century, the mill successfully converted to the production of synthetic fabrics. It was closed in 1972; one of the last great New England mill to shut down. Today, a variety of stereophonic equipment, woolen yarn spinning, and automated production control equipment, as well as a number of retail shops, occupies its space.

“Red” McKeon Park

Red McKeon Park

The picture of a proud Irish Mary Collins Stanley with her three boys Bill, Jim and Chick, taken over 100 years ago.

Located on Taftville Occum Road (Route 97) at Bridge Street

Located in the center of the Occum section of Norwich is the Robert “Red” McKeon Park filling a much appreciated need for a passive and active recreation area. This well-manicured landscape stands on the former site of Roto Print Textile Factory which burned to the ground in 1985. With substantial pollution cleanup and debris removal costs of $2,775,000 this facility officially opened in 2004 due to persistent efforts of council person John P. Mereen.

“Red” McKeon’s name is synonymous with Occum where he served as fire chief from 1960-94 and founded the ambulance company in 1970; he was an advocate for securing funding and testifying before the state legislature in support of this project.