By Kathryn Hall | June 7, 2008
from History and Antiquities of Every Town in Connecticut by John Warner Barber (1836)
pp. 553 – 555
Somers is bounded N. by the Massachusetts line, W. by Enfield, E. by Stafford, and S. by Ellington. It is about six miles in length from north to south, with a mean breadth of about five miles. The central part of the town is 22 miles N. E. from Hartford, and 12 S. E. from Springfield, in Massachusetts. There is 1 Congregational and 1 Methodist church in the town ; there is also a considerable number of Baptists, who are associated with the Baptists churches in the neighboring towns.
The western section of the town is generally smooth and level, and free from stone. The eastern section is hilly and mountainous, with some heights of considerable elevation, affording an extensive and interesting prospect of Hartford, and the beautiful valley of the Connecticut.
Somers was formerly the southeast part of the ancient town of Springfield, granted by the General Court of Massachusetts to Mr. Pyncheon and his company. It was afterwards incorporated with the town of Enfield, and was part of the same ecclesiastical society, and so continued to be until about the year 1726, when it was made a distinct ecclesiastical society, by the General Court of Massachusetts, by the name of East Enfield.
The town of Enfield, when incorporated, extended from Connecticut river to Stafford, ten miles. The first person who moved on to Somers was Benjamin Jones, of Welch extraction. He was from Enfield; and in 1706 moved on to this tract where he resided in the summer,* but moved back in the winter, and at other times when danger was apprehended.
*This was near the foot of the mountain, on the principal road which passes through the town from Enfield to Stafford.
But no pemanent settlement was made until 1713, when Edward Kibbe, James Pease, Timothy Root, and John M’Gregory, with their families joined with Jones, and made a durable settlement. Soon after, several other families became residents in the town, by the names of Horton, Killam, Wood, Collins, Cittron, Davis, Sexton, Parsons, Blood, Purchase, Rockwood, Felt and Fisk.
Their first pastor was the Rev. Samuel Allis, who was ordained in March, 1727. In 1731, the General court of Massachusetts incorporated the society as a town by file name of Somers. It is said to have been thus named at the request of Gov. Belcher, in honor of Lord Somers, for whom he had a peculiar respect and veneration.
[Editor’s note: According to The Early History of the Pease Families in America (1869), “It is said that Lord Somers sent the town a church bell because it was named for him, but for some cause, not satisfactorily explained, the bell never reached its destination, and the Somers church building was without a bell until a century afterwards.”]
The above [drawing at top] is a view of the central part of the town, where the two principal roads intersect each other at right angles. The principal village is situated on a street running east and west, and extending about a mile, The building on the extreme right is the Methodist church, recently erected; there, are perhaps 30 or 40 dwelling houses within half a mile of this building; the Congregational church is about half a mile to the north.
There are in the 4 or 5 mercantile stores, and one establishment, owned by Ebenezer Clark, Esq. for the manufacture of ladies’ straw bonnets, being, it is believed, the only one of the kind in the state. At present about 30 hands are employed, and about 100 hats manufactured daily. Part of the material, or straw, of which they are formed, is imported from abroad. Mr. Clark commenced the manufacture of these hats or bonnets about six years since.
“In the year 1775, a malignant fever prevailed in this town. It began about the first of August, and raged three months. This sickness had been immediately preceded by the scarlet fever and dysentery, which carried off a number. Thirty six persons died that year, of whom died of the fever, about one in twenty nine of the whole number of inhabitants in the town. It seized its patients with great violence, and frequently brought life to a close by the eight day and sometimes as early as the sixth. It rarely failed of attacking every person in the house where it entered, in its early stages.
The people in general were filled with great consternation. Nurses were procured with great difficulty, and, in some instances, the sick must have suffered, if recourse had not been had to legal coercion…The scenes of distress which opened among the sick and dying, can be remembered by those among us who were eye witnesses, but call not be described. ”