Putnam’s facilities for extinguishing fires were long wholly inadequate. Its fire companies were hampered by a scant supply of water. In 1875 a fire district was incorporated, including the village and its immediate vicinity; a fire department was organized and new engines procured. But in spite of these precautions, very destructive fires occurred. The great fire of October, 1877, swept through the heart of the village, consuming Bu-bee’s and Brown’s blocks, with all their stores and offices. Hardly less calamitous was the fire of 1882, when Bugbee’s block and other valuable buildings were destroyed., Hydrants ready for instant fuse in every part of the village will, it is hoped, preclude further loss and damage from this source.
The present ” Fire Department ” of Putnam village, organized in 1875, consists of three hose companies, fifteen men each, and one hook and ladder company, supplemented by sixty street hydrants. Fire warden, C. H. Chesebro; chief engineer, L. H. Fuller; assistant engineers, Otis Fisher, H. L. Burt; clerk and treasurer, Charles H. Brown: collector, D. F. Southwick. Protector Hose Company No. 1-foreman, Edward Mesner; assistant foreman, E. G. Wright; clerk and treasurer, C. B. Brown; fifteen teen members. Eagle Hose Company No. 2-foreman, P. M. Leclair; assistant foreman, Louis Cloutier; secretary and treasurer, Frank Mignault; fifteen members. Reliance Hose Company No. 3-foreman, W. R. Barber: assistant foreman, J. H. Maynard; secretary and treasurer, A. L. Mansfield; fifteen members.. General Putnam Hook and Ladder Company-foreman. Charles I. Gorham, assistant foreman, James Rafferty; secretary, Charles Hicks; twenty members.
Putnam Chapter, No. 41., Royal Arch Masons, organized April 22d, 1879. High priest, Alfred M. Parker; treasurer, Eugene A. Wheelock; secretary, Gilman H. Brown.
Putnam Council, No. 340, Royal Arcanum, organized January 26th, 1883. Present membership, 120. Regent, D. C. Ticknor; vice-regent, L. H. Fuller; secretary, G. W. Gilpatric; treasurer, W. R. Barber; collector, C. A. Smith.
The Blue Lodge represents the oldest Masonic order in the state. W. 1L , R. W. Morey; S. W., A. M. Parker; J. W., S. A. Field; chaplain, F. S. Oatley.
The St. Jean Baptiste Society was organized August 27th, 1871. President, Omer La Rue; vice-president, Ely ear St. Onge; treasurer, Louis Cloutier; secretary, Hector Duvert, Sr.; 204 members.
Division No. 1, Ancient Order of Hibernians, was organized in 1875. Present membership, 80. President, Peter Welch; vice-president, Peter Dowd; recording secretary, James Ryan: financial secretary, Richard Gorman; treasurer, John McCauley; standing committee, Joseph Ryan, Frank Monahan, Martin Welch, John Renshaw, John Moore; committee on finance, Thomas McGann, James Weeks, James Cornell; sergeant at arms, John Whalen; doorkeeper, John Moore.
Putnam’s early enthusiasm in patriotic demonstrations burns undiminished. Memorial Day, from its first institution, has been observed with ever increasing interest. Its own burial places, and those in neighboring towns, have been faithfully visited. The services in the Central Cemetery, with the military procession, music, and eloquent addresses, draw large crowds every year, and quite eclipse the conventional Fourth of July celebration. A large number of veteran soldiers residing in town give special interest to these occasions. Post No. 54 of the Grand Army of the Republic was organized April 13th, 1882, and named in loving memory of one of Putnam’s honored heroes, Addison G. Warner, captain Co. I, First Conn. Cavalry, slain at the head of his company, Ashland, Virginia, June 1st, 1864. The A. G. Warner Post is very flourishing, numbering 140 members.
A commodious hall is furnished by P. O’Leary, in which the prescribed meetings are loyally observed. Present commander, S. H. Chickering; S. V. C., F. S. Oatley; J. V. C., Thomas West; chaplain, Charles H. Hickok; surgeon, Henry Hough; O. D., Charles Monroe; O. G. William B. Whittemore; O. M., C. M. Green; adjutant, J. E. Rawson; sergeant major, S. K. Spalding; Q. M. S., Albert S. Granger. Sons of Veterans organized as the M. I. Tourtelotte Camp March 11th, 1886; captain, Augustus Warren; first lieutenant, Fred. Reis; second lieutenant, W. B. Fuller. Company G, Third Regiment, Conn. National Guard, was organized in 1872. Present membership, 62 Captain, C. A. Winslow; first lieutenant, E. G. Wright; second lieutenant, H. J. Thayer. This representative of an ancient state and colonial organization is already distinguished for its dexterity in rifle shooting, having won the regimental trophy for four consecutive years.
Putnam, like other modern towns, is deeply interested in. the temperance question, to sell or not to sell intoxicating liquors coming up anew at every annual town meeting. So nearly are parties balanced that extraordinary efforts will procure a victory for either side. Doctor W. H. Sharpe, one of the executive committee of the Connecticut-Temperance Union, is one of the prominent temperance workers. A Women’s Christian Temperance Union was organized March 27th, 1885, which has already accomplished much valuable work. A majority of forty-eight against license at the last election may be in great measure attributable to its influence. President, Mrs. A. H. Armstrong; vice-presidents, Mrs. George Buck, Mrs. Joseph McKachnie, Mrs. Lewis Deane, Miss Hattie Kennedy, Mrs. M. E. Murfey, Mrs. George Weatherhead; recording secretary, Mrs. C. N. Fenn; corresponding secretary, Mrs. S. K. Spalding; treasurer, Mrs. C. H. Brown; superintendent of literature, Mrs. E. T. Whitmore; Sunday school work, Mrs. George Buck; narcotics, Mrs. W. H. Sharpe; evangelistic work, Miss Alice Johnson; work among the colored people, Miss Louisa Fogg; superintendents of -press work, Mrs. N. W. Kennedy, Mrs. C. N. Fenn. Efficient women’s missionary associations are carried on in connection with the several churches. A Women’s Relief Corps, auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic, has been recently organized, when nineteen members were initiated. President, Miss Minnie Warner; first V. P., Mrs. M. Kenyon; second V. P., Mrs. J. McKachnie; treasurer, Mrs. B. S. Thompson; secretary, Mrs. S. K. Spalding; chaplain, Mrs. A. A. Buchanan; conductor, Miss Gertrude I. Cole: assistant conductor, Miss Carrie E. Place; guard, Miss Annie Monroe.
Another society of recent date is the A. O. U. M., an organization of United American mechanics, having for watchwords, “Honesty, Industry, Temperance.” The Putnam Council of this order already numbers sixty members. Trustees, M. Miller, C. Bosworth, G. G. Smith.
Probably the one society in which Putnam residents of every age, sect and character, could most heartily unite, is the newly chartered Putnam Library Association. The lack of a wellstored town library has been long lamented. Such good men as the late Messrs. Chandler A. Spalding and George Williams attempted to meet the need in part by leaving books for a Parish Library in the Congregational church. Others aided in the organization of a Citizens’ Library in 1884, which collected about six hundred volumes, under charge of the Women’s Temperance Union. Continued agitation and a recent gift from Mr. Edmond Wilkinson have led to a re-organization. J. W. Manning, E. H. Bugbee, George W. Holt, Jr., L. H. Fuller, E. H. Johnson, J. B. Kent, A. B. Williams, E. A. Wheelock, George E. Shaw, are elected board of managers of the ” Putnam Library Association,” which takes the place of the former society, retaining members and library material. New books will be procured and it is trusted that the Putnam Library will become a thriving, popular and permanent institution.
Progressive Putnam has its conservative element and does not change merely for the sake of changing. A faithful public servant is retained in office. In thirty-four years she has had but one town clerk and treasurer; her school visitors have had long terms of service; her post office has had but few incumbents. Hiram N. Brown succeeded John O. Fox in 1861. His successor, Perry Wilson, held the position till a recent date. The office is now administered by Edward Mullan. Some twenty-five mails are handled daily. The Central Telephone office, Putnam Division, is managed by L. H. Fuller, general insurance agent.
Putnam’s railroad facilities at the junction of two important lines are very advantageous. The opening and the establishment of the New York & New England railroad, after long struggles and embarrassment, has been an important factor in its later development. Nearly fifty passenger and freight trains pass daily through the village, and convenient routes connect its depot with the many thriving towns within its circuit.
Interest in its own growth and neighborly affairs is stimulated by its two wide-awake newspapers, which keep a brisk outlook for all passing events. A column in a Danielsonville paper satisfied the requirements of the early inhabitants.. A page in the Windham County Transcript, edited by Doctor Plimpton, was next accorded. In 1872, the Putnan Patriot was established by Mr. Everett Stone, son of the editor of the Transcript, which soon gained footing in Putnam and surrounding towns. Mr. A. W. Macdonald, the present editor and proprietor, succeeded Mr. Stone in 1882, and is now associated with Mr. L. 0. Williams. The Patriot is now a large quarto, filled with town and county news and more substantial reading, and is considered an indispensable necessity in many households. The Putnam News, edited by sons of Doctor Bronson, had a brief existence. A cheerful Sunbeam, lighting upon Putnam in 1882, has developed into a dignified Windham County Standard through the energy and perseverance of its editor and proprietor, Mr. N. W. Kennedy. The Standard is a vivacious and enterprising journal, ferreting out news from every corner of the county, and has a wide and increasing circulation.
Putnam’s “Brass Bands ” deserve to be classed among its most conspicuous institutions, sounding forth its praise and progress in various places and occasions. Both represent a vast amount of patience and self-denying practice. It is said that Father Vygen encouraged the early- neophytes of St. Mary’s Band by himself taking the field and playing on the instruments with them. The Mechanics’ Band has been in existence about a quarter of a century, and was fostered and encouraged by musical veterans of the village. Its roll of membership includes many of Putnam’s honored citizens. Its chief founder was the late Professor Goodspeed. a very thorough and successful music teacher, widely known throughout the county. Under his guidance the band made rapid progress, and was soon able to play a prominent part at public gatherings, assisting at many of Woodstock’s famous mass meetings and other patriotic demonstrations all over the country. A corporate body, for a time “it held the Fort” at Mechanics’ Park, giving weekly concerts and entertainments. A history of Mechanics’ Band, with its roll of membership and varied experiences, would have great interest.
St. Mary’s Band was organized about 1867, through the agency of Reverend E. J. Vygen. Its first public performance was at the memorable reception of President Grant in 1870. Through the instructions of C. G. Marcy it attained high musical proficiency, and has continued to advance, taking a prominent part on public occasions.
Putnam’s demonstrations in welcome of the president and great commander were noteworthy. The streets were very gaily decorated and thronged with thousands of spectators. Soldiers and citizens were alike in line. The pyramids ” of children in red, white and blue, artistically arranged by Father Vygen on the church grounds, were especially noted and admired.
One of Putnam’s achievements, encouraged and helped on by her newspapers, was the ” Antique Art Loan Exhibition,” held in March, 1880, in honor of her twenty-fifth anniversary. It was perhaps an answer to the charge of extreme youth brought by jealous contemporaries that this especial form of birthday observation was devised. Youthful emulation, directed by experienced connoisseurs, brought together in Quinebaug Hall a most remarkable collection of nearly three thousand articles, many of them of great interest and value. Old-time life and customs might be very vividly reconstructed by a careful study of these ancient relics. Pictures and portraits of the early residents of the county were of great interest. The only regret was that the exhibition could not have been more lasting and enjoyed by a larger number, the mud and winds of March preventing a large attendance. Mr. Darius S. Skinner, chairman of the committee, was most active in devising and carrying forward this exhibition. A large number of ladies and gentlemen also served on the committee.
The recent visit of President Harrison and members of his cabinet excited much interest, The distinguishing honor done to Windham county in being permitted to receive and entertain the chief magistrate of the great republic was more fully appreciated than ever before,. and Putnam, with great heartiness and unanimity, roused itself to meet the occasion worthily. The committee of arrangements, comprising many of Putnam’s leading citizens, James W. Manning, chairman, together with many organizations and private citizens, vied with each other in arranging and perfecting every detail needful for the appropriate reception of the distinguished guests. But “time and tide” are beyond human control, and the protracted storm brooding over New England paid no heed to presidential visitation. In spite of delay and discomfort, Putnam did its part nobly, with some, perhaps, unavoidable omissions. Its streets were as gay as bunting and flags could make them, Each building had its specific devices and decorations; children in gay attire, representing the forty-two states, on one side; another bevy in white, each carrying a flag, on the other; the prosaic iron bridge transformed into a bower of verdure and beauty, flowers and pennons jauntily floating, in spite of the sombre sky. Joseph McKachnie served as grand marshal of the day, supported by aids, Major H. W. Johnson and Captain A. M. Parker. The veterans of the Grand Army, 140 strong, appeared in tasteful new uniform in honor of the occasion. Company F, from Danielsonville, and Company G, from Putnam, assisted in the procession, together with Putnam’s two musical bands, its fire department of 60 men, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, 100 men, and St. Jean Baptiste Society, 300 men, all in radiant uniform and regalia, making a beautiful array as they received the presidential party and escorted it through the limits of Putnam. As on the previous occasion, the ingenuity of Reverend Father Vygen furnished an unique feature of the reception. Driven by the rain from a position by the ruins of the Catholic church, an impromptu scenic representation was arranged within the portals of the convent, its central figure hundreds of happy children in tiers of red, white and blue, massed up to the second story. Ringing bells, booming cannon, inspiriting music, waving banners, hearty cheers and hurrahs, added to the impressiveness of the exhibition, which called out much admiration and praise from the president and other spectators.
Source: History of Windham County, Connecticut, Bayles, Richard M.; New York: W.W. Preston, 1889