Colchester Historical Society Beginnings
It all started with saving a tree
The year was 1963. “Progress” was taking hold of Colchester’s South Main Street. Historic homes were being converted to commercial properties. Some houses were saved and converted to business offices. Others were knocked to the ground and removed.
Such was the case for the lot presently used for the CVS plaza.
Prior to 1958, the lot was the location of the famous Bigelow house. According to land records, the house was built in 1850 for D.E Carroll. In 1898, it was purchased by Elizabeth and Sarah Bigelow for $13,500.
Elizabeth Bigelow was a member of the Bigelow family that first settled in Colchester in 1709.
She was an artist, community activist and exceptional gardener. Her house was known for her gardens. After one trip abroad, she brought back a Ginkgo tree. In the late 1890’s she planted the tree in front of her house on South Main Street.
This photo (circa early 1900s) shows the tree in its youth.
In 1929, Elizabeth passed away. According to land record, the Bigelows sold the house to a local business man. In 1958, the house was torn down to make way for a grocery store. Later in 1963, the business man decided to take down the tree to expand his parking lot. A group of prominent citizens gathered and decided to urge the owner to spare the tree. Thankfully, the owner was convinced to leave the tree alone.
The tree today is about 120 years old and lives on its original site, now state-owned land.
After about six years, the group of citizens decided to incorporate, and in 1969 formed a not for profit organization now known as the Colchester Historical Society.
In the last fifty-five years, the Colchester Historical Society made some major accomplishments: (images will be added to site)
- Led a citizen group to restore our old Burying grounds neglected for decades
- Helped preserve the Sparrow House
- Helped preserve the Ballard House
- Helped preserve Old Town Hall
- Helped initiate the development of a Historic Town District
- Helped keep our Town Green in its original and intended state
- Preserved and digitized the J.R. Holmes movies from the 1930s
- Collected and digitized hundreds of photos as far back as 1880s.
- Preserve the history of Colchester’s School for Colored Children
- Keep Colchester residents aware of historic structures in danger of being razed.
Our future goals are to continue to preserve Colchester’s rich history using the modern technologies of the 21st Century.