As we make our way out of the woods, leaving the fabled Shannon McCarthy on an 1839 canal boat stalled somewhere behind us, we again take to the trail in the Milldale section of Southington, CT. Off to our right in the woods, sections of railroad tracks lay hidden among the brush, swallowed up by time and Mother Nature, relics of the past, leftover reminders of the mighty steam engines that once traveled this route. After crossing a bridge over the historic Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike, we come to the first landmark on this section of the Farmington Canal Trail; the Milldale train depot. Built in 1890, the depot is open on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day and houses treasures and memorabilia donated by the Southington Historical Society. Not far up ahead, on the left, we spot the old Clark Brothers bolt manufacturing plant.
While Southington is now a sleepy New England bedroom community (unless you visit during the October Apple Harvest Festival which attracts 100,000 visitors annually) landmarks along the trail are reminders of the town’s past as our nation’s leading bolt and screw manufacturing community. The Clark Brothers manufacturing building on Canal Street (and right next to the trail) is a case in point. William, Henry, and Charles Clark set up shop here after an 1893 fire destroyed their original facility. The Clark brothers became leading manufacturers in a town where the bolts, nuts, screws, washers, and rivets that held our nation together were produced.
And so the Canaltrekkers press northward, passing Southington’s downtown district, heading toward the community’s mother town of Farmington (Southington was once known as Southern Farmington) in search of a story, in search of an adventure, blazing the trail where Shannon McCarthy will soon follow on her trek into our past.