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Uncovering The Past: Clues From The Ground We Walk On

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Digging up clues to the past:

In 2019 there was an earth-shaking discovery of 12,500 year-old artifacts (10,000 BC) just 13 miles south of Granby at the corner of Route 10 and Old Farms Road in what is now Avon. It is the oldest known site in Connecticut.

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The road to the left is Route 10, Waterville Road. The road traveling east to west is Old Farms Road.

Photo courtesy of Al Williams.

When the DOT began excavating for a new bridge crossing the Farmington River, they were told that over the years there had been numerous archaeological finds in that area so they did some exploratory digs. The site has since been named for Brian D. Jones, the late Connecticut State Archaeologist, who led the effort to dig as deep as 6 feet based on earlier finds in the area. Eventually they uncovered more than 20,000 artifacts.

The people who lived in that time are referred to as Paleo-Indians because we believe they were the first peoples to inhabit the Americas during the final glacial episodes.

Between 15,000 and 14,000 BC, all of Connecticut was ice-free; the final glaciers had retreated. The oceans were much further away than they are now.  A tundra environment was  followed by open spruce woodlands that attracted big game.  Recovered skeletal remains demonstrate that the environment supported now extinct mammoth, mastodon, giant beaver, giant ground sloth, and musk ox; also found were species that are still in existence today but that no longer live in Connecticut, such as caribou and elk. It was a very different world and the people were a part of it.

There are no known written records of those times but archaeologists have found tools all over the Farmington River Valley that those earliest inhabitants left behind. They can now be carbon dated to give us a glimpse into the life of the people we call Indigenous peoples or Native Americans.


Photo courtesy of Ken Feder.

In Granby Itself:

Perhaps the most exciting discovery in Granby was in 1991-93 in the Poet’s Corner neighborhood, in the southern part of town. The dig was under the direction of Ken Feder from Central Connecticut State University. Eventually the Glazier Cache was found to contain 30 large stone bifaces, estimated to have been made about 1,630 years before the present or at about 425 AD. At that time, in what we now call Europe, the Roman Empire was coming to an end and it was near the beginning of the Medieval Period. Long, long before Europeans settled this area.

Another was the Westpoint site in Granby's Mechanicsville area. It did not involve controlled archaeological testing. This dig included flint points estimated to be from about 5,000 BC. Since flint is not found in the Farmington Valley, this discovery seems to show that they traded with peoples in the Hudson River Valley.

And Marc Banks, University of Connecticut, wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on ANADROMOUS FISH AND PREHISTORIC SITE SELECTION IN THE FARMINGTON VALLEY with an emphasis on sites near the Tariffville bridge. He suggests that salmon, shad and sturgeon were plentiful before the advent of dams. And that their presence played an important role in the subsistence and settlement strategies of groups of Indigenus peoples.

Other near-by archaeological sites are in Barkhamsted near Ragged Mountain, People’s Forest near Beaver Brook, and a number of sites in McLean Game Refuge.

When our nation was only a dream:

When tours of the Salmon Brook Historical Society campus start, they begin with the date of the oldest structure left from the original Salmon Brook Settlement, the Abijah Rowe House – c 1732. King George II was on the throne and the formation of our nation was only a dream.

However, we now know that people had been living in the Farmington River Valley since shortly after the last glacier retreated. And archaeologists can prove it.

In Connecticut before there were settled towns:

According to Mark Williams in his book A Tempest in a Small Town, Native Americans were trading and trapping animal pelts with Europeans long before Connecticut was settled. In the early 1600’s, before the English settled Windsor, then Simsbury, then Granby and East Granby epidemics had decimated the native population along the CT and Farmington Rivers. So, there were native Americans here in the late 1600’s but it was not a thriving population.

Williams also estimates that European settlers found robust trails already in existence and our current roads followed many of those native American’s trails. Certainly the north-south roads that connected the people as they traveled from fishing grounds used in spring and summer to hunting areas further north. Early settlers reported that what is now Route 10 was as wide as a single lane dirt road.

In addition, it appears that Native Americans burned undergrowth to clear forests for easier hunting and took advantage of meadows that were formed when beavers were hunted out and their lakes collapsed. So, the land was probably not the impenetrable forest that we imagine. Although there were no towns and heavily settled areas like they left in Western Europe, early settlers did not find an untouched and unpeopled wilderness.


Recognizing the presence of peoples who have inhabited this place for thousands of years means we are widening Granby's story. It is good to remember that the history of Granby did not begin with the Abijah Rowe house in 1732.

Land acknowledgement:

We would like to honor all the ancestral stewards of this land on which we live and their living descendants. Among the tribes, small communities and family groups in this area, we can name the following – the Massaco, the Tunxis, the Waranoakes, the Agawams and the Poquonocks. May we continue to acknowledge their presence with the reverence it deserves.


Photo courtesy of Ken Feder.

Time Line:

12,500 years ago (or approximately 10,000 BC) Paleo-Indians lived all over the Farmington Valley. The Brian D. Jones site in Avon was discovered in 2019

425 AD – The 30 blade cache now known as The Glazier Cache was created and buried in the southern part of Granby now called Poets Corner. This dig was under the direction of Ken Feder, from 1991-93

425 AD – In Europe the Roman Empire was ending and what we call the Medieval period  was beginning

1,000 AD (approximately) – corn was introduced to the CT River Valley

1607 – Jamestown founded

1614 – Englishman Thomas Hunt explores the Massachusetts coast, abducting Indians to sell as slaves, including Squanto

1620 – Plimouth Plantation founded

1633 – First English settlement in CT, Windsor; smallpox epidemic among native tribes

1637 – Pequot war in CT

1648 – John Griffin seizes Massaco land in payment for a purported fire

1670 – Simsbury is incorporate

1680 – Algonkians give up their land and Salmon Brook area begins to be settled

1912 – Pequot Indian, Amos Everett George, is hired by Senator McLean to manage what is now McLean Game Refuge. He was followed by his sons Henry and Amos A. George. McLean’s was managed for 95 years by the George family, members of the Pequot Tribal nation.

2024 – Samantha Gove, of Granby and a member of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, graduates from UConn in 2024. She graduates with a dual degree in Sociology and Human Rights. She has coordinated mentorships and educational initiatives for Native and Indigenous students and has been named a Udall Scholar and Newman Civic Fellow.

Amos E. George is her great-great grandfather and Henry George her great grandfather – the long-time care takers of McLean Game Refuge.

Deep thanks to the following: Nick Bellantoni, retired state archaeologist from U Conn; Ken Feder, formerly from CCSU archaeology department and Marc Banks from his Ph.D. thesis, U Conn.  

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