How did the villages of Norwich Taftville, Bean Hill, Occum get their names?

Occum, Taftville, Bean Hill and Jail Hill.

These are four of the 16 wards that exist in the city of Norwich today – and although none of the wards retain any real political power, they fully represent the historical and geographic makeup of the city.

But how did they get their names?

As town historian Dale Plummer explains, “some of these names tell you about the particular history of the place.”

As for neighborhoods like Jail Hill, once the site of the County Jail or Thamesville, located along the River Thames, the labels are virtually descriptive, Plummer said. When it comes to places like Occum and Yantic, the names are linked to Native American populations.

More often, however, the names of villages “incorporate ‘city’ into the name,” Plummer said. “At least in this country, [the suffix] generally indicates the area as a historic industrial center.

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Read below to learn more about the history of Norwich neighborhoods:

Please note that this is not a complete list of villages in the city.

Bean Hill

Although once referred to as “Westville”, the name “Bean Hill” has remained as the village name for this area of ​​town, and Plummer said there were a number of different stories behind its name.

“Beans were an important food for early settlers and for Native Americans,” he said.

“One story is that the early settlers discovered beans that had been buried in baskets or storage containers – apparently the Native Americans did this as a practice because it keeps them, so they named it Bean Hill after that.”

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The important staple food for the local tribes also became one of the early settlers. The Congregational, or Puritan, demographic group has pledged not to work on Sundays.

“Typically they would have baked beans on Saturday, then they would eat the beans cold on Sunday so they wouldn’t have to reheat them,” Plummer added.


In his book Victorian Norwich, Arthur Lathrop covers 135 years of industrial growth in the city after the Civil War.

The growth of textile factories does not come only from the demand created by the war, he writes.

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“Congress had helped by passing high tariffs in 1862 and 1864 and, over the past year, amended common law water rights to allow textile companies to condemn land necessary to facilitate the development of the ‘hydropower,’ he wrote.

It was under these circumstances that Edward Taft joined in founding the Orrey Taft Company in 1867. The company employed hundreds of people to build its first water mill, powered by a water wheel that harnessed water. diverted by a 418 foot long dam in the Shetucket River. which created a generation stream of 2,000 horsepower, according to Lathrop.

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With the mill came the construction of the mill town, Taftville. With 170 single and multi-occupancy houses, the company provided its first residents, most of whom were Irish immigrants and French Canadians, with free water and offered milk and a variety of products in its store d ‘business.

In 1934, French Canadians dominated the population of Taftville.

Laurel Hill

Originally called Pepper Hill, the developers of Laurel Hill changed their name in order to attract residents to the largely residential neighborhood.

“Laurel Hill was basically developed as a Victorian residential area and was called Pepper Hill before that,” Plummer explained. “But Pepper Hill doesn’t sound very good, Laurel Hill sounds… nice, flowering plants and so on.”


It was William P. Greene who formed his Water Power Company in 1828 to harness the waters of the Shetucket River, writes Lathrop.

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“Harmful but profitable manufacturing plants,” Lathrop notes, lined the nearly mile-long canal parallel to the Norwich and Worcester tracks, making cotton, industrial goods and a variety of machined metal items.

Like Laurel Hill and Norwichtown, Greenville initially resisted attempts to annex the city before Norwich Common Council voted to annex it by a narrow margin of 195 to 191.


The oldest of the city’s villages, Norwichtown was where the city’s first settlers lived and is today one of Norwich’s two local historic districts.

According to Norwich’s official history, the land was purchased from the Mohegan tribe in 1659 and settled around Norwichtown Green.

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In 1684, settlers authorized a new public landing at the head of the Thames River, the site of the present city center, according to the city’s website, and the city of Norwich was incorporated in 1784 as one of the first five cities. of Connecticut.


Another mill village, Occum, developed along the Shetucket River and took its name from Samson Occom. A member of the Mohegan tribe, Occom – whose name was often misspelled as Occum and Alcom – became a Presbyterian cleric and was among the first Native Americans to publish his writings in English.

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In 1865 the village was the site of two woolen mills and, over the next decade, was the site of one of the first three Catholic churches built in Norwich.


The Yantic River offered an interesting opportunity for watermills and served as the site of the Mill Village established by Captain Erastus Williams. The history of the village began when Williams bought an existing mill and expanded it to make woolen cloth. In 1847, according to Lathrop, Williams established the Yantic Fire Engine Company. He also founded the Grace Episcopal Church.

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“The growth of the plant was greatly facilitated by the completion of the New London, Willimantic and Palmer Railroad in 1849,” Lathrop explains. “While there was no corporate store, in other ways Yantic was truly a corporate town… and the influence of the Williams family was everywhere” in Norwich.

Prison hill

Jail Hill got its name from the presence of a county jail built on top of the steep hill overlooking the city center in 1834.

As Lathrop explains in “Victorian Norwich”, the prison saw a number of inmates during the lead-up to and the arrival of the Prohibition Era in the United States.

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The prison was located between Fountain and Cedar streets, but the neighborhood around it was first populated by African-American residents and then by Irish immigrants who began to settle there in the 1850s.

In 1999, the neighborhood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Chelsea or downtown

Norwich city center developed in the late 19th and 20th centuries as a result of the confluence of three major rivers, the Shetucket, the Thames and the Yantic, which came together to host a colonial seaport prosperous called Chelsea Landing in the mid-1700s.

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As the industry developed with the introduction of steamships, so did Chelsea Landing and the surrounding city of Norwich.

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