Tag Archives: Litchfield History

“Exhilarating, Exciting” – Richard S. Chisolm’s Account of the 1925 Solar Eclipse

Sweeping across the continent from Mexico through Canada on Monday, April 8, 2024 the “Great North American Eclipse” has captured the nation’s attention. NASA estimates that over 31 million people live in the path of totality and far more will travel to join them. Laying outside the path of totality for this eclipse, the people of Litchfield were plunged into mid-morning darkness on January 24, 1925.

The path of 1925 total solar eclipse (Butler Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institute

Typed by part-time Litchfield resident Richard S. Chisholm, the account below details his anticipation of the event and the challenges amateur astronomers faced that snowy, cloudy January:

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Law School Letters

The Helga J. Ingraham Memorial Library at the Litchfield Historical Society has recently purchased three new letters pertaining to the Litchfield Law School and its students. Two of the letters are likely relatable to many of today’s parents as they discuss the expense of educating children.

The first letter, written in 1815 by Putnam Catlin, father of Litchfield Law School student George Catlin (who later left the law to paint) was addressed to his friend Steuben Butler and detailed the financial difficulty in providing for his children’s education:

I am obliged to consider myself as a mere farmer, republican farmer, Beechwood farmer, without a hired man in this hurrying season of the year. How then am I to spare George and James? I admit that your reasoning is just in regard to George but I know not how to spare him at this time. I shall not be able to give him a public education. If he shall persist in the choice of law he will have to glean for himself an education in some law office, perhaps. I may indulge him a year at Litchfield, in the meantime, I will do better for him if it be in my power. Should my ‘ship arrive from England’ or should I make sale of some land I can spare he may be more favored.

Putnam Catlin to Steuben Butler, May 3, 1815
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Putnam Catlin by George Catlin, Smithsonian American Art Museum, between 1840-1849
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A Book Review by the Chief Justice

The Litchfield Historical Society is thrilled to announce the acquisition of a previously unpublished letter from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall to Judge James Gould, instructor at the Litchfield Law School, in which Marshall provides feedback on Gould’s book about pleadings.

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Engraving of James Gould
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Litchfield Cowboys and Cowgirls

Recently someone on the “I Grew Up in Litchfield” Facebook group asked when the high school sports team adopted the nickname “the Cowboys.” We did some digging, and came up with roughly the same answer as another member of the group. We thought you might enjoy some of the wonderful sources we used to come to the conclusion that the name was in use by the 1920s, and possibly earlier.

Scrapbook from the Donald B. Peck papers
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Grandma Gus Exercises her Rights

Contributed by Rev. Dr. Davida Foy Crabtree

“Grandma Gus” Christina Nilsson Gustafson

In the early 1880’s my great grandparents, Christina Nilsson and Carl Axel Gustafson immigrated to America from the region around Vasterutland, Sweden. In 1885 they were married and started their family. They had a farm in the vicinity of Litchfield but its exact location is lost to memory. Grandpa Gus was always described to me as a huge Viking of a man with a big red beard and Grandma as a tiny woman who loved life. Their lives as hardscrabble farmers weren’t easy.

“Grandpa Gus” Carl Axel Gustafson

When women got the vote in 1920, and the time came for Grandma Gus to register to vote, Grandpa absolutely forbade it. I’m not sure how he didn’t know this about her but Christina Nilsson was a very determined woman. So on the appointed day, at lunchtime when Grandpa came in from the farm, she kept his beer glass full the whole time. That ensured that he would take a good long nap. And it had to be a long one because it was a long way to town. She hitched the horse to the wagon, and quietly headed out on the farm road. Family lore has it that by the time she returned from town, the horse was pretty tired from the speed she demanded of it. Grandma Gus got home just 15 minutes before Grandpa woke up. He may have forbidden her, but nevertheless she persisted!

I discovered one of my mother’s birthday calendars and glanced through. There was an entry saying Grandma Gus died February 18, 1931 at age 73, which means she was born in 1858. She and Carl Axel married when she was 46 in 1885. So her determination to vote came when she was 62 years old! So the photo of above with the wagon might actually have been taken close to the time of this incident.

“Grandma & Grandpa Gus” tintypes from their marriage license.