is about 16 miles south of Hartford
, located in Middlesex County
at 41.55° North, 72.66° West. It has a population of about 45,000.
Two tribes originally occupied the area that is now Middletown. The Wangunks controlled the east bank of the Connecticut River, while Mattabesetts occupied the west bank. By the time European settlers arrived in 1650, the two tribes had peacefully united under Chief Sowheag.
By 1653, the small community was incorporated as a town, adopting the name "Middletown" because of its location between Saybrook and Windsor. Smallpox brought in by the settlers decimated the local populations, and Chief Sowheag was forced to sell of most of the tribal lands to the new settlement in 1661. This left his people with a 300 acre reservation on the east side of the river, near the present town of Newfield. The tribes, which were understandably pissed, started growing violent, forcing the settlers to create a militia to defend the settlement.
Middletown quickly developed into a merchant town, conducting trade with many other cities in New England. A shipbuilding industry developed, with new craft sailing down the Connecticut River and out to Atlantic ports. When the American Revolution began, over one third of the population was involved in maritime trade. With the British blockade of the Atlantic, the economy of Middletown came to a screaming halt. After the hostilities ended, the merchant business picked up again, but most business was funneled through larger coastal cities.
Population continued to grow during this time, and Middletown was incorporated as a city in 1784. Manufacturing picked up on the outskirts of town, but the lack of a mainline railroad connection kept this growth from becoming a boom. Wesleyan University was founded in 1831 by the Methodist Episcopal Church, and opened to a class of 48 students. It used buildings that had been built to house another academy that closed in 1828. Tuition at the university was originally $36 a year.
During the Civil War, Middletown sent a tenth of its population to the front. Companies were made up of local farmers, students from Wesleyan University, and an all African-American unit. A soldier from Middletown, Joseph K. F. Mansfield, was killed at the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. His home is now the location of the Middlesex County Historical Society. Middletown was also a stop on the Underground Railroad. Of note was local Jesse Baldwin, who helped hundreds of slaves escape to the north.
Middletown would improve much over the next thirty years, gaining a high school, a hospital, and (for a short while) a professional baseball team. The population was bolstered by a new wave of immigrants from Europe. The population grew from 17,464 in 1900, to almost 21,000 in 1910. The town contributed to the World War I effort, sending 1500 men to the front, as well as manufacturing munitions. This economic spurt continued after the war, with many factories opening. Among these was the Eisenhuth Horseless Vehicle Company, which led to a large jump on automobile ownership for the town in the 1920's. This development, along with state grants, helped to protect the town from some of the harshest effects of the Great Depression. However, the economy suffered from two floods, in 1927 and 1936, and the "Great New England Hurricane" of 1938. World War II saw Middletown contribute again, this time sending 2700 men and women to the front. Manufacturing once again became the cornerstone of the town. Women and many African-Americans from the south took up work in the factories.
This influx of southern African-Americans led the Civil Rights Movement to take several stands in Middletown, including NAACP marches in 1963 and 1965, and student protest at Wesleyan University in 1969. Immigration waves of the last couple decades changed the face of Middletown as well, with people from Puerto Rico and Southeast Asia adding to the population.
@@ N41.562,W72.651 @@