The Hammonasset Indians were one of five tribes who lived, fished and farmed the area when the first English settlers arrived in 1639. Hammonasset, which means “where we dig in the ground,” was the name ascribed to the Indians in the Clinton to Madison area and probably was a reference to their farming skills. (Source: Friends of Hammonasset)
The last Hammonasset Indian died in 1802 at her camp at The Big Hammock, now Shore Road in Clinton. (Source: Hammocks Construction Company)
About 1641, tracts of land, which included Clinton Beach, were purchased from the Indians (via multiple transactions) for 30 shillings and a shirt cloth. (Source: Friends of Hammonasset)
What’s in a Name?
In 1663, the area was designated a plantation and in 1667 was named Kenilworth after an English town. Primary occupations included farming of corn, wheat and salt hay; shipbuilding; manufacturing of fish oil and witch hazel; and of course, fishing. Over time, the name evolved to Killingworth, and in 1838, the southern portion separated and was renamed Clinton, after Dewitt Clinton, who later became Governor of New York. (Source: The Town of Clinton)
In 1701, Reverend Abraham Pierson was appointed by King William III to start a collegiate school from his church at 63 East Main Street in Clinton. In 1718, the college was moved to New Haven and renamed Yale. (Source: Peggy Adler, The Birth of Yale University)
As Postmaster General, Benjamin Franklin rode north to Boston with an entourage of workers and carts filled with large stones. A stone was dropped to mark each mile they passed. One of these stones remains today at 68 East Main Street in Clinton, engraved with the marking 25NH, indicating the point was 25 miles east of New Haven. (Source: Peggy Adler, The Birth of Yale University)
During Prohibition (1920-1933), the schooner, Black Swan, ran along the coast with a prized liquid cargo. Rum runners would await her signal and boat out to Duck Island to stock up on illegal libations. Later, they painted their boats to avoid discovery. (Source: Friends of Hammonasset)
Bad fortune for an English brig became good fortune for Clinton. When the ship wrecked at Saybrook Bar, a cannon on board was sold to Captain James Farnham from Clinton. It was strategically placed on the Green at the end of Waterside Lane and was used to successfully defend the town against an attack by the British in 1812.
As the British turned tail to run, they passed Duck Island, where a hospital had been constructed to care for and quarantine those with smallpox. The defeated sailors unleashed their fury and burned the hospital. (Source: Clinton Historical Society)
Salty and Strong
Through the years, our predecessors weathered the sea and the storms to protect the community we enjoy today.
The Great Gale of 1815, which was actually a category 4 hurricane, struck the coastline in September, causing an 11 foot storm surge.
The Hurricane of 1938, struck on September 21st without warning. It had previously rained for eight days, so the ground was already saturated. Winds gusted to 100 mph, and the storm surge was reported to be 17 feet in some areas. Rivers and the shoreline flooded. Train tracks and bridges were washed away. More than 600 people died.
Since then, we have weathered Hurricane Carol in August of 1954, Hurricanes Connie and Diane in August of 1955, Hurricane Gloria in September of 1985 and Hurricane Bob in August of 1991.On August 28, 2011, Hurricane Irene barreled up the East Coast. Although she was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time she hit Clinton Beach, she brought a 14-foot storm surge and powerful winds, which caused widespread flooding, downed trees and severe property damage to our community.
A severe blizzard hits our area about every 90 years, with one in 1798, 1888 and 1978. Buckle up for 2068! (Source: Connecticut State Library / Wikipedia)
With the introduction of the Shoreline Trolley in 1910, Clinton became the summer destination for inland dwellers. A couple of industrious developers at that time set out to create cottages along Shore Road for 170 families. Stannard and Chapman produced a sales brochure called Seaside Homes, which highlighted the beauty and charm of Clinton Beach. Vacant lots were offered at $100 to $225 each. A cottage could be built for an additional $250 to $1,500.
The Stannard and Chapman development later joined with several homes on Groveway and Causeway to create the Clinton Beach Association. In 1967, the Clinton Beach Association was formally established as a taxing district by Special Act 271 of the Connecticut Legislature.
Visit the Clinton Historical Society for more.