George Washington Trail
This website is part of an Eagle Scout project by William Foster of Troop 27 in Durham. Many thanks to Frank Behrens and Jim Ledford for their long-time and continued stewardship of the Durham portion of the trail, and to the Coginchaug Valley Education Foundation for their financial support of the project.
George Washington Trail History
Passing through Durham or Wallingford, one might notice bronze markers reading, “Route of George Washington.” Few are aware that the father of the nation passed through these small towns.
Washington first visited the area on June 29, 1775. Washington, the recently appointed Commander of the Continental Army, traveled from Philadelphia to Cambridge to take command of the army, which was besieging the British-occupied city of Boston. Washington traveled with his aides, including Major General Charles Lee. During the visit, he and his aides ate at a local inn in Wallingford, which once stood at the corner of Main Street and Center Street. At the end of the day, he arrived in Wethersfield, where he stayed at the house of former delegate to the Continental Congress Silas Deane. Three days later, he arrived at Cambridge.
In 1781, Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau met in Wethersfield to plan the final major attack of the Revolution. Though Washington and Rochambeau took a route north of Durham and Wallingford, the Duc de Lauzun and his detachment of Hussars went south to protect the southern flank of the army. Lauzun used the same road through Durham and Wallingford as Washington had earlier, and he set up camp in a field near Center Street where the McKenzie Reservoir is today.
George Washington’s second visit came on October 19, 1789. Now the President of the United States, he came to familiarize himself with the resources of the nation he was to take control of, to make for a more informed government as well as to levy taxes to a sufficient degree. Washington wrote, “We see the white Mulberry growing, raised from the seed, to feed the silkworm. We also saw samples of lustring (exceedingly good) which had been manufactured from the Cocoon raised in this town, and silk thread very fine.” Washington stopped at Wallingford local Jeremiah Carrington’s inn, which was located near the intersection of Main Street and Center Street.
Both visits were a total surprise, and Washington was graciously welcomed by the townspeople. Though Washington spent a collective time of less than a day in Durham and Wallingford, he left an impact on the area. The road Washington Trail in Wallingford is named for him, and Carrington named his inn the “Washington Inn”.
The route taken by Washington likely entered Wallingford on South Main Street, then merged with Center Street. After Center Street becomes Scard Road, the route turns onto the road aptly named Washington Trail. At the end of this road, Washington’s path cuts across the Ulbrich Reservoir (Washington passed through well before it was created) and travels through Trimountain State Park. His route intersected with Trimountain Road and then cut across a field before reaching the end of David Road. Washington then turned onto Parmelee Hill Road and followed it until reaching Route 17. From here, Washington continued north on Main Street until the Middlefield Town Line.
In 1932, a major national celebration took place to commemorate Washington’s 200th birthday. Durham and Wallingford formed a George Washington Bicentennial Committee, which erected seventeen bronze markers to show the route traveled by the father of our country.
The markers are listed and appear on the map below:
Located on the north side of Toelles Road, Wallingford (plaque missing)
Located on the north side of Parsons Street
Located on South Main Street in front of Wallingford Historical Society (plaque missing)
Located on Center Street in Wallingford, near the intersection with Fair Street.
Located at the intersection of Washington Trail (road) and Scard Road (plaque partly missing)
Located on Washington Trail (road) near the intersection with Branford Road
Located along the Mattabesset Trail in between Fowler Mountain and Trimountain (also approximates the Wallingford-Durham Town Line) (plaque missing)
Located off the side of Trimountain road next to Sawmill Brook
Located at the end of David Road
Located at the intersection of David Road and Parmelee Hill Road
Located at the top of a hill 200 feet east of marker number 10 on the north side of Parmelee Hill Road.
Located near the intersection of Parmelee Hill Road and Route 17
Located at the intersection of Route 17 and Route 77
Located at the intersection of Route 17 and Route 79
Located on the Durham Town Green (placed later)
Located in front of Strong School (placed later)
Located on Main Street 700 feet south of the Durham-Middlefield Town Line
The faces of the plaques are positioned parallel to the route of George Washington.
Captions for photographs:
Image 1 (Bronze-colored plaque on post): Current marker of the George Washington Trail.
Image 2 (Old Trail Map): Map from 1932 showing Washington’s route, as well as the locations of the markers.
Image 3 (Rusted plaque): One of the markers in the town of Wallingford.
Image 4: (Plaque on a brick wall): A copy of the original plaques placed outside the Durham Volunteer Fire Company.
Hale, Clarence. Tales of Old Wallingford. Chester, CT: Pequot Press, 1971
George Washington Bicentennial Committee. Record of the George Washington Bicentennial Year Activities in Durham and Wallingford. Wallingford, CT, 1933
Durham History Committee, and Barbara Ryan. Durham, Connecticut, 1866-1980: Century of Change. Durham, CT: Durham History Committee, 1981.
Washington, George. The Diary of George Washington, from 1789 to 1791. Richmond, VA: Press of the Historical Society, 1861