Our Veterans Have Given the Gift of Freedom

By Bill Powers

               “The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution,

               are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them

               against all attacks… It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the             

               present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be  

               wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of 

                            them by the artifices of false and designing men.”

                                                                                                          –  Samuel Adams 

   Over the centuries our veterans have made extraordinary sacrifices in the name of preserving the freedoms of Americans while defending their Republic from those who would denounce democracy as a way of governing. On Veterans Day, we thank and remember our veterans for their unselfish service. Here are the stories of three of our local veterans who ought not be forgotten and who have not always been given the recognition that they deserve.

  Colonel James Clark hailed from Lebanon, Adjutant-General Jesse Root was from Coventry and James Haggerty called Willimantic his home. The manner in which they supported themselves and their families was quite different. Clarke was a farmer, Root was a minister who became a lawyer, and James Haggerty was a businessman. One thing that they had in common was that they were all veterans and Patriots. Clarke and Root served during the Revolutionary War and Haggerty answered the call during the Civil War. After their military service, they all returned to their farm, village, or city with their memories of war and resumed life in the Republic they loved so much and for which they had made so many sacrifices.  


   A 19th century journalist called Colonel James Clark “the noblest of them all.” Grace Greenwood, the colonel’s great-niece and a well-known and highly respected journalist, wrote “Reminiscences of Lebanon” and various versions appeared in a popular national weekly magazine and the Hartford Daily Courant in 1869. She believed that Clark’s gallant contributions during the American Revolution had not received due recognition and that “his story was overshadowed by the fame of other notable patriots from Lebanon”, so she wrote: “Another revolutionary worthy of Lebanon was Colonel James Clark, in some respects, the ‘noblest Roman of them all’, though he never attained to great honor or high position…” 

   In 1902, Mary Clarke Huntington, another descendent of James Clark, presented a paper to the New London County Historical Society entitled “Colonel Clark of Lebanon.” She published a touching and tragic story about Clark as he returned home from a military campaign. She wrote: “As he rode into Lebanon on his white warhorse that he retained for so many years afterward, he saw a funeral procession winding into the Old Cemetery, and while he was so glad in his return, anticipating the welcome of wife and children at the old homestead, his heart went out the more readily to such townsfolk as has met with loss. It was long since he had heard from home – for the usual slow methods of communication were often interrupted in those times of war – and wondering whom death had taken, he turned his horse and rode after the procession. He heard the ‘dust to dust and ashes to ashes!’ Then as he saw that it was his wife who knelt weeping beside the grave of their little daughters. Other tragedies beset Clark and his wife during the war including the drowning in a well of their two-year old son. Yet he still fought on.” 

    He fought at the battles of Bunker Hill, Harlem Heights and White Plains. Huntington continued: “At the time of the laying of the corner stone of the Bunker Hill Monument, the year before his death, when he was ninety-five, a special escort was sent from Boston to accompany him, as one of the survivors of the battle, to the spot where he had helped to hold the British in abeyance.” He had led the 6th Company from Lebanon in the Battle of Bunker Hill. 


    Jesse Root was from Coventry and in a manner similar to Lebanon’s James Clark, “His story is overshadowed by the fame of other notable patriots”, in this case Coventry’s famous Nathan Hale. Root graduated from Princeton in 1756. He returned to Coventry to farm and preach. Later influenced by three lawyers, Jonathan Trumbull from Lebanon, and also Jedidiah Elderkin and Eliphalet Dyer from Windham, he decided to study to become a lawyer. After he began to practice law, Jesse moved with his family from Coventry to Hartford for better opportunities. In Hartford Jesse became involved in the Revolutionary movement where his law practice began to thrive and he taught law. He never gave up his farm in Coventry where he eventually returned. “The family maintained a household in Coventry while apparently renting in Hartford. They had slaves, who probably cultivated the land in Coventry.” The 1790 Federal Census records that he owned three enslaved persons.

   With respect to the Revolution, no job was too big or too small for Jesse. There was plenty to do as the British colonies in America were transformed into a new nation. Early on, as Americans protested British tyranny, Jesse won the trust and admiration of American leaders including George Washington.

    As a soldier Jesse served in 1775 with troops fighting in upper New York State.  He helped to plan and finance the Battle of Ticonderoga. After the Battle, he was assigned chairmanship of the prisoner committee overseeing British officers captured during the battle, when they were confined in Hartford. In December of 1776 Captain Jesse Root “raised and commanded a company of able-bodied men” to fight in the upper Hudson Valley. Soon after, he was named Lieutenant Colonel and second in command of a regiment. “When General Israel Putnam assumed command of the Hudson Highlands at Washington’s order, he assigned Root as Adjutant-General. In the late winter of 1778, he returned home to Hartford and Coventry.”  He then served on the Council of Safety that often met in the War Office in Lebanon. He was a member of the Second Continental Congress until the Peace of 1783, Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives, and a member of the Governor’s Foot Guard and served as its commandant from 1798 to 1802. In 1819 he served as a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention. (Quotations from “The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut”, 1987, by Messier B.B. & Aronson J.S.)  


     James Haggerty was underage, only 13 when he enlisted in the Eighteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry to fight in the Civil War. His obituary appeared in the Willimantic Chronicle in November of 1934, along with a front- page headline that read “JAMES HAGGERTY DIES ON HIS 85TH BIRTHDAY: Last Member of Francis S. Long Post No. 30, G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic).

 “Although under age, Haggerty was desirous of serving the nation in its time of need. He ran away from home to Norwich for the purpose of enlisting but was rejected because of his youthful appearance. Hiking back home to Willimantic, he discarded the short pants he was wearing and donning a pair of long trousers belonging to a brother, returned to the same recruiting station to pass the required examination. The officer in charge failed to recognize him as the lad who appeared before him a short time previously attired in different garb.  

   “After enlisting, he was assigned to Company H of the Eighteenth Connecticut Volunteers. He had the distinction of being the youngest soldier to enlist in the state. Joining his regiment in Virginia, he took part in all of the engagements in which it figured until the Battle of New Market, near Richmond, where he was captured by the Confederates and imprisoned at Andersonville, GA. and Charlestown, S.C. In the latter place, he fell ill of yellow fever and was sent to Florence in the same state shortly before he was released. After going to Annapolis, MD. to recuperate, he rejoined his regiment until the surrender of Lee.

    “After the war, James Haggerty returned home and continued his education for a year. “The lure of the army life proved too strong and he enlisted in the regular army”, where he participated in the reconstruction of the South and then went to the western plains to fight Indians until 1869. At that point he returned to Willimantic and learned to be a blacksmith. He also worked with the Willimantic Linen Company before operating a tobacco and periodical store.  He served as a deputy sheriff and a burgess in the borough government and after the incorporation of the city government 1893, represented the third ward on the board of aldermen for six years. He also served for twelve years as a member of board of registrars. Haggerty continued to serve in the National Guard for many years. 

    Our veterans have given us the gift of freedom. All have made extraordinary sacrifices in order to serve while swearing an oath to support and defend our Constitution. Thankyou.

Bill Powers is a retired Hartford and Windham Public Schools teacher.

photo of the sign is mine and is from the Veteran’s Center in WILLIMANTIC

                                                               Professional Firefighters

By Bill Powers

     You never know when or where a prompt to write a story will come from. In this case it unexpectedly came from a political candidate at a campaign gathering, who is a local elected public official and a candidate in the upcoming election. The conversation among a small group quickly and inevitably shifted to important issues currently confronting our town. They included safety concerns such as the maternity care desert debacle and loss of critical care services at our local hospital, the police civilian review board discussion that had somehow evaporated without a public hearing, and the need to consolidate the four fire departments in our town. With respect to the fire department consolidation issue, for the elected official it was an obvious no brainer. All of the fire departments in town should be staffed only by “PROFESSIONALS” and NOT “VOLUNTEERS”.  I was immediately curious, uneasy and a little resentful, and for good reason. I asked, “Do you need to be career, paid firefighter in order to be a “professional” firefighter?” The answer came back, “Of course.”

  The term “professional” can have many meanings for just as many folks. We want to witness professional behavior by our police officers, attorneys, business men and women, teachers, elected officials, and supreme court justices. We know it when we see it, and when don’t. We can debate the exact meaning in different situations until the cows come home. However, setting guidelines for minimum standards can be helpful. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) sets the “Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications identifying the minimum Job Performance for career and volunteer firefighters whose duties are primarily structural in nature.” The standards are the same. 

    My father was a “career firefighter” in a large city department. He had plenty of training and worked many hours each week for years until he retired. In those days all the firefighters rotated shifts on a regular basis. I now realize how disruptive that must have been considering the disruption of circadian rhythms and sleep patterns. The job was physically demanding and could be dangerous. In 1956 I vividly remember watching a live TV program with a local news crew, who was broadcasting at the scene of the large and devastating fire to the Cathedral where my family regularly worshiped. It was early in the morning during the New Year’s holiday., when I turned on the television and saw our beloved cathedral as it was being consumed by a inferno of flames. I quickly called out to my mother and sister. As we watched in horror, it was like being struck by a bolt of lightning when we heard on the TV the names of two firefighters who been injured. The ceiling collapsed on them. We heard my father’s name! He was being rushed to the hospital. To this day I vividly recall everything about that moment – how I felt and hearing my mom scream and my younger sister as she began to cry. 

    My father presented an imposing figure in his fire department dress uniform. His being a firefighter was a source of admiration not only for me, but also my friends. I remember attending a party for Jack, a team member on my school basketball team, at his home on Prospect Avenue in Hartford.  When Jack introduced me to his dad, the Governor, he said: “Dad this is Billy, he’s our other guard and his dad is a firefighter. The governor shaking my hand welcomed me and asked where my dad worked. I’m sure I beamed as I replied, “Pearl Street Fire Headquarters on Truck 1.”  The governor smiled and said: “That’s near where I work at the Capitol. Please thank him for me for doing his very important work.”

     I did my best to convince the candidate who was running for office that the minimum professional standards were no different for paid and volunteer firefighters. This too is the case for firefighters who are also certified to provide emergency medical services (EMS). Whether fighting fire in a large city or with a small town’s fire department, he or she must be prepared to save lives and protect property in numerous scenarios under a variety of difficult conditions. It is important to note that according to the NFPA two-thirds of the firefighters in the United States are volunteers.  

    In my late 30’s I made one of the best decisions of my life. I became a volunteer firefighter in Mansfield. I was able to learn new skills, serve my community and make new friends. I only wish that I had joined many years earlier. Mansfield had a hybrid system that combined both paid and volunteer firefighters. When an emergency call came in, it was possible to get the apparatus out the door to the scene right away. In my mind reducing response time is critical in order to save lives and property. 

    Fortunately, we have “professional” career and volunteer firefighters who not only meet professional qualifications, but who also have the ever-important professional attitudes about their service. We owe these men and women a great deal as they are willing to risk their lives to save ours. 

   Bill Powers resides in Windham Center where the Windham Center Fire Department has a rich volunteer tradition going all the way back to 1825 and will soon be celebrating their 200th anniversary.

Root Beer Floats and a Coors in the Rockies

By Bill Powers       

             In 1972 while on a lengthy road trip to California, we discovered A&W Root Beer stands while traveling through the mid-west and western states.  We left the interstates, when it was time to fuel up the Ford Pinto and to grab a bite to eat. It was summer and it was hot! The Pinto was not equipped with air conditioning. Driving through the center of a small town in Iowa, just off Interstate 80, we spotted an A&W Root Beer stand where they served little more than the root beer at curbside. It was a day to remember, not only since It was a very hot day and we were parched, but it was the first time that we, including my wife, and our son, had ever experienced a root beer float. We had previously enjoyed drinking root beer and eating vanilla ice cream but not a mixture consisting of the two. On that sweltering day, the combination served in a frosted mug was such an incredible event that we vowed to stop at every A&W Root Beer stand that we came across for the rest of the trip for root beer floats. It was a vow that we kept, and something that we to looked forward to after long hours of driving.

           The trip was broken up by visits to a number of National Parks. On our return trip from California, we changed our route to include Rocky Mountain National Park. It was there while sitting by a roaring mountain stream and enjoying a picnic lunch that I was treated to my first ever Coors beer. It was wonderful. In those days it wasn’t available east of the Mississippi. It was unpasteurized and contained no preservatives. It was truly an unforgettable “Rocky Mountain High!” A few months later John Denver’s recording was released and to this day each time that I hear it, I visualize that beautiful mountain view, and for some reason get thirsty.  

         In the March issue of Neighbors, I wrote about the Hampton General Store. When visiting the store, I was taken back to my youth and a similar store in Glover, Vermont where, from time to time, I had vacationed with relatives in the Northeast Kingdom of the state. Whether visiting in Vermont or at the Hampton General Store, it was like stepping back into the general stores of the 1800s. Now, I often stop by the Hampton store in order to bring home one of the many delicious   ‘Take and Bake’ meals that are available and some of the home baked goodies. 

        Six months ago, when talking to Kara Hicks, who reopened and runs the Hampton General Store, one of her upcoming goals was to provide soda fountain treats for customers at the marble soda fountain counter, which she had recently located in Stamford, CT, purchased and had installed. At the time I asked her if by any chance she would be offering root beer floats and was delighted to hear her say, “Absolutely!” The soda fountain is up and running and in addition to root beer floats, there are shakes, malts and many kinds of ice cream sodas to be had. She offers many delights using ice cream and her home-made brownies and cookies for brownie Sundays, cookie specials and brownie ice cream sandwiches.  

        The Hampton Congregational Church is celebrating their 300th anniversary this year and they have scheduled special events to honor this notable achievement. On Sunday November 12, the Band of Steady Habits will appear at the church at 3P.M. and on December 3, Rick Spencer will perform at “11ish” (after Sunday services). The Band of Steady Habits, led by our previous State Historian, Walt Woodward will be providing music, singing and providing historical facts about the Congregational Church. The following month Rick Spencer, known for his historical music programs will perform a selection of Christmas songs popular at the end of the 1800s. I have heard both the Band and Rick perform several times and they are consummate musicians and proficient historians. Be sure to witness these performances that will be complete with unique historical themes. And take the opportunity to explore the Hampton General Store just across the street from Hampton Congregational Church. Check out the soda fountain and perhaps partake of a ROOT BEER FLOAT!

The photo views Hampton General Store’s Kara Hicks creating a special soda fountain treat for a customer.

 Bill Powers is a retired Hartford and Windham Public Schools teacher who writes a regularly appearing local history column for the Willimantic Chronicle.

Fake News Splits Americans and Destroys Our trust in Democracy

By Bill Powers

                               “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.

                                  It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”  – Mark Twain

     “Fake News”, also known as disinformation, is not new. These days It gives rise to a toxic environment that splits Americans, and negatively affects our political process, our institutions and the integrity of our democracy. 

    These days with disinformation running rampant, it becomes difficult to be sure that what you think you know is based on fact. Outright lies and messages of hate are intentionally spread through the traditional media sources, social media and social networking in efforts to persuade. Messages of disinformation arise not only from domestic sources but also from foreign sources often originating from places such as Russia, Iran and China. In the 2016 U.S. election Russian operatives famously flooded social media with disinformation designed to influence the election. In 2022, China has ratcheted up their ability to “create controversy along racial, economic, and ideological lines” while targeting American voters, according to Clint Watts of the Microsoft Threat Analysis Cener (September, 2023). The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has also recently warned that China is attempting to influence U.S. elections. On September 9, 2023, President Biden extended the National Emergency for Foreign Intervention in U.S. Elections citing “unusual and extraordinary threat” to national security. Domestically there is an overabundance of nonsensical conspiracy theories that infest our society today.

    Is “disinformation” the same thing as “misinformation”? During the cold war of the 1950s, the term “disinformation” became popular to describe the intentional spreading of false information in order mislead. The word propaganda also comes to mind especially during the mid-1900s. The term “misinformation” is used when incorrect information is spread without the intention of misleading. These days we need truth more than ever before, since there are now countless sources of information where real facts and the truth can be so elusive. 

    A popular term used today is “fake news” that can be defined as misleading information presented as intentionally and verifiably false news. A concern is that being barraged by so much information in a short period of time by so many sources can be so confusing, overwhelming, and confounding. Rephrasing Mark Twain’s quotation: “What gets you into trouble is what you think you know, that factually isn’t true.” It’s hard to know if what we know is true, especially these days. Thinking critically involves sorting out fact and truth, and that takes time and energy. Frequently, I endure the many pundits and bloggers who put forth all sorts of ideas and I’m not really certain if I have just been bedazzled by brilliance or baffled by bullshit. When that happens, I try to pay attention to the resulting unsettling disparity that I am experiencing and simply try not to just laugh it off.

   “Fake news” was a factor 100 years ago. It was the topic of a September, 1923, Willimantic Daily Chronicle editorial titled “FAKE NEWS ITEMS”. Here’s what the editor wrote: “Every now and then some person with a poorly developed sense of humor sets to work to get a fake news item printed, either telephoning it to the office or sending in an unsigned communication.  

   “This is one of the many things with which newspaper workers have to contend and to their credit let it be said that a few items of this nature appear in print. It takes all kinds of persons to make the world and we suppose that there is bound to be a certain percentage of these so-called humorists among them. A law making it a criminal offense to furnish a fake news item to a newspaper or its workers would go a long way towards stopping this despicable practice.” 

    Clearly, one hundred years ago fake news was a concern and according to the editor, in an effort to prevent fake news, the Chronicle employed a practice for screening anonymous items. However, one could provide disinformation or misinformation as long as they took credit for it. Effective screening is not so easy these days with so many sources of information and fake news. Screening or thoughtful review is preferable to censorship or suppression; finding a happy medium can also present a slippery slope. 

     From the time of Colonial America, newspapers in America were very politically biased. Using the Willimantic Chronicle as an example, its first issue was published on December 3, 1879 and it succeeded a weekly paper called the Willimantic Enterprise, thatwas first published only two years earlier. The Chronicle incorporated many new changes compared to the Enterprise. Perhaps the biggest change was its devotion to a political ideology. Whereas the Enterprise had been apolitical, the Chronicle immediately declared itself to be the local advocate for the Democratic Party’s views and ideals. As explained in the first issue: “The need for such a paper as we intend for the Chronicle, has been felt by those in this community who are in sympathy with the political struggles which it is designed to advocate. Within the past eight years the growth of the Democratic party in the town of Windham from a minority, counted by hundreds, to a majority, has been in the face of the open or disguised opposition to our local press. It is high time the party had some local organ which will inspire into its ranks a united, organized and persistent zeal, and to marshal an unbroken phalanx to the triumph at the ballot box of liberty, equality and law.”  

    The reporting of the news in America, when first amendment freedoms exist, has always been biased and polarized and to some extent characterized by disinformation and misinformation. However, today’s electronic social media, with or without interference from foreign sources, further splits Americans and predisposes the destruction of trust in our political process, our institutions, and the very integrity of our democracy.

     Perhaps the Willimantic Chronicle editor’s intuition, from a century ago, calling for “a law making it a criminal offense to furnish a fake news item”, was on the right track. The problem has grown one hundred fold since that time. The editor got it right! “Fake news” is a “despicable practice” especially when it undermines trust of our political process, our institutions and the integrity of our democracy

Bill Powers is a retired teacher and resides in Windham

These Words of Wisdom Might Have Been Useful

by Bill Powers

   For millennia humans have recognized the existence and value of the notion of wisdom.  A dictionary definition of wisdom states: it is “the ability to use your knowledge and experience.” It is often acquired as one ages. Leonardo Da Vinci proclaimed: “Wisdom is the daughter of experience.” Albert Einstein said: “The only source of knowledge is experience.” Ancient philosophers such as Laozi addressed the importance of wisdom when asserting: “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.” The Greek philosopher Sophocles professed: “Wisdom outweighs any wealth.”

    As a child and growing up in Hartford, the older kids in my neighborhood attended Hartford Public High School and I was always intrigued by their mascot, the owl. I was told that the owl represented wisdom. So, the connection in my mind for wisdom and schooling was established early on. Indeed, the association of wisdom and owls was reinforced by the advertising for Wise potato chips, where the owl was their mascot.

   A popular concept in our society is that age and experience bring wisdom. I wondered: Why not tap into the wealth of experiential wisdom from some of my older neighbors, to gain further insight into this. So, on a random basis I asked people the following: “What is one important thing that you wish someone had told you when you were young?”Here is what they replied when they were at the Windham Senior and Community Centers, the Veteran Center in Willimantic, or Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Windham Center.

Jean age 85 – At a certain point as you age increases, your physical strength begins to decline. The older you get the more quickly that happens. Stay active and exercise frequently.

 Marilyn age 71 – How devasting smoking tobacco, excessive use of alcohol, and abuse of drugs can be and can ruin lives.   

 Robin age 68 – Two things – 1) The importance of participating in sports can have significant positive effects on the physical and mental health and well-being. Girls need to appreciate the importance of Title IX and make use of the opportunities it has provided for female athletes. 2) What is important in life is ½ knowing what want and ½ is asking for it.

 Jevena age 63 – Get to know what makes you happy and strive to keep that happiness in your life.

 Bill age 77 – Don’t wait too long to thank people who helped you when you we young, because when I tried in my fifties, I found that half of them were already dead and I had missed that opportunity.

 Ethel age 81 – Listen to and respect your kids’ needs and plans for the future. 

 Rosemary age 80 – Begin early on to save for your future, even if at first it is only a dollar a week.

 Frank age 77 – Plan on having many careers during your lifetime.   

 Paula age 67 – Embrace each day with joy, no matter what difficulties you may be experiencing.   

  John age 70 – Don’t count on the government to help vets when they return home.

  Margarita age 74 – (with the help of an interpreter) I had many life lessons from my family as I grew up. I would tell children today to respect their family and value religion.

  Joellen age 75 – Bloom wherever you are planted.

  Kerry age 61 – Always do the job right and with no short cuts.

  Ruth age 67 – Become self-sufficient and try to get along with everyone.

  Caroline age 73 – Love yourself and care for yourself first. You can’t pour from an empty cup if you want to care for others. 

  William age 81 – (with the help of an interpreter) I learned many life values growing up from my family. What I would say to young parents is that discipline is very important for raising children. It helps them learn right from wrong. 

  Karen age 65 – Stay healthy – just keep moving and take time for yourself.

  Judy age 64 – To breathe before I talked.

  Bernie age 76 – Turn over the stone to see what is under it.

   Al age 75 – That girls have different emotional/sexual awakening times.

   Mitch age 56 – I wish someone had educated me on how to invest in stocks that generate passive income when I was 18.

   Candice age 78 – I am in control of my own destiny and other people are not.

   June age 89 – Love everyone no matter who they are.

   Patricia age 74 – Everybody deserves to be loved.

   Ann age 60 – Be kind to yourself. 

   Rosario age 74 – Don’t get old in mind and spirit.

   Elizabeth age 75 – Facts of life. 

   Dave age 79 – Life is more enjoyable than you may think. Don’t take yourself so seriously.

   Michael age 62 – Start saving when you are young.

   Steve age 65 – Take as much time as you can with your family – especially your children.

   Priscilla age 80 – You are what you eat.

   Wayne age 90 – Keep the faith.

   Don age 77 – Aim high in life!

   Gerhard age 84 – Emphasize the role of human language.

   Lynne age 65 – Learn how to type.

   Murphy age 81 – When you meet somebody new, ask them more questions than they ask you.

   Rob age 80 – Learn to calmly and respectfully say no! To help you stay on your very own path.

   Patty age 83 – Be sure to nurture yourself by keeping people in your life who have a positive attitude.

   Arlene age 78 – People are the most important things – more than things or projects.

   Jake age 70 – To maintain a balance between a focus on your future but also on your future life

Our Latest 2023 Issue is Released

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November  2023 Issue

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