William Morgan: Appalachian Connecticut


Sayles Mill, Dayville, c1882, being demolished.


Photos and commentary by William Morgan

Windham County, Connecticut's rural northeastern corner, has a reputation for classic Yankee countryside: stonewalls, dairy farms and such picturesque villagesas Woodstock, Pomfret and Canterbury. The mill towns of the Quinebaug Valley tell another story.

From Putnam down toward Norwich, once prosperous 19th-Century mills stand idle, or are being demolished. Attawaugan, one of six villages in the town of Killingly, is but a ghost of its Civil War-era manufacturing zenith.



Built c1860, the Attawaugan Mill made curtains.

(Killingly Historical Society)


The mill stands, but is rented out to various tenants, and its fabric is far from original.


As was typical of the paternalistic mill owners of a century and a half ago, they provided their workers company housing. Small two-family frame cottages are found throughout the valley, but most were sold to residents decades ago, and their maintenance suggests subsistence living rather than inspired plutocratic patronage.

Church Street in Attawaugan. The houses fell victim to the vinyl-siding salesmen. The white preaching box of a church to the left lies fallow, held together by termites linking arms.

Connecticut may be one of the richest states in the country. But the towns of the Quinebaug Valley are the polar opposite of Gold Coast towns, such as Greenwich or New Canaan. Prosperity left here sometime after World War II. This area feels less like Norman Rockwell's New England and more like the Appalachian bits of upstate New York.


Abandoned house in Attawaugan; church is to the right.