The Last Wolf in Connecticut

I drove into work this morning behind a car with a bumper sticker for the West Hartford Wolves, a youth hockey team. Today we think of wolves and tough and brave, as noble symbols of wildness and of the wilderness. We now view wilderness itself as something rather rare and precious, good for the human the spirit. Three hundred years ago, people in Connecticut had a lot more direct experience with wolves and the wilderness such creatures inhabited. They considered both a threat to the fragile civilization that they were attempting to establish in the New World. By 1835, when John Warner Barber made this drawing, those days were past, and most of the state’s forests had been converted into farmland. It was less than sixty years since the American Revolution, however, and many old men and women still remembered those times. Some of the men would have fought with General Israel Putnam, one of Connecticut’s most distinguished war heroes. They would have known the story of how, as a young farmer, Putnam had killed the last wolf in Connecticut. Barber’s drawing shows and old man telling the story to two young boys, passing on the legend.

A Sign of Summer: The Mortlake House

Summer travel time is almost here and I personally long for a road trip somewhere. In fact, by the time this is posted I will be in the mountains of West Virginia. At any rate, this wanderlust probably goes back to my childhood riding through southern backroads with my 3 siblings in a big old ’56 Chevy wagon without radio or air conditioning—or seat belts, come to think of it. Locating suitable lodging was sometimes an adventure in the pre-Internet age, but my parents tried to find places that had the “AAA” sign, and maybe even a pool.

WPA file Mortlake House006

It’s easy to see how the house, beautifully framed by tall maples and elms, and with its several additions, could be used as an inn. This photograph was taken as part of the WPA’s “Census of Distinctive Buildings” survey in the late 1930s, when the inn was no longer operating.

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