In the 1830’s there was a thriving silk industry in North Branford. Some citizens cultivated mulberry trees to support silk worms.
During the Industrial Revolution some residents forged ahead with new manufacturing methods. The Malby Fowler family is an example. In the 1830s, Fowler owned a successful button making shop in town. His six sons were highly inventive and created a number of machines that were used to make many items – screws, perforated tin, horseshoe nails, and even the common pin to name a few. And since the town had a silk industry, they even made a machine for embossing silk. In fact some townsmen grew mulberry trees for the silkworms.
A number of industries existed in the North Branford area during the early and mid-1800s, i.e. a paper mill that provided ammunition wrappers during the Civil War to even a company owned by E. Chapman Maltby that made coconut shell spoons, buttons and even dippers for water buckets. Initially the coconut meat was discarded. Maltby created a device to separate the shell by shredding the coconut meat. This invention won first prize at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Fair and made North Branford the home of shredded coconut. By the end of the 1800s, industry started to move away when railroad tracks were laid in nearby Clintonville instead of in North Branford. Yet one industry endured and that was the business of greeting cards, notably Christmas cards and post cards. The Stevens Brothers in the 1870s, created a very popular line of highly ornamental Victorian cards. Their success made North Branford the Christmas card center of the world.
By the early 1900s, the population dropped below 1,000 and the residents primarily returned to their original agricultural roots. However, better days came to the area once again after WWII and many people sought homes in the town. By 1970 the population was close to 11,000; and currently is closer to 14,600. Most came to North Branford because of its affordability, the high quality of life, good schools, major highways for easy commutes, and the many offerings around the region. For instance, the Connecticut shoreline with its beautiful beaches is only a few miles away. In 1971 North Branford was awarded the “All American City Award” by the National Civic League. Each year only 10 US communities earn this coveted award by meeting community wide challenges and achieving uncommon positive results.
Colonel William Douglas, East Indies Trade magnate and Revolutionary War hero.
One historical person of note from North Branford’s Northford section was William Douglas. He “retired” here at age, after making a West Indies trade fortune. The Continental Congress sent an urgent appeal asking the Connecticut Assembly for a militia to stop the impending British attack on New York. Due to his prior illustrious and successful military career beginning at age 16, he, was given the rank of Colonel of the Connecticut 5th Battalion. His regiment was known as the “Leather Caps.” His men wore leather hats made by local Connecticut tanneries. The regiment was sent with five other battalions to defend Manhattan. Following the Battle of White Plains, NY, Douglas’ health deteriorated. He returned home and died on May 28, 1777. He is buried at the Northford Old Cemetery.
There are a couple of historic points of interest in and around the town. While not open to the public, since it is a private residence, one can see the Howd-Linsley house built around 1700 by John Linsley. This is the oldest house in North Branford. Originally a saltbox in design, renovations and expansions occurred over the years. However, it does showcase the early 18th Century Colonial style home. Those interested in seeing many homes built before the American Civil War can visit the Northford Center Historic District (Northford Center). It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Other area buildings include the Reynolds Beers House which is now a museum and learning center on local history run by the Totoket Historical Society; the Gordon S. Miller Farm Museum which showcases farming implements from the 1700s thru the early 1900s; the Little White Gas Station, a hexagonal 1920s gas station; and the Little Red Schoolhouse built in 1805.
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The Daniels family began delivering coal in the 1920’s.
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Daniels Energy serves North Branford and Northford