Charlestown Historical Society
Charlestown Historical Society

Quonochontaug

The coastal habitat of Quonochontaug provided a summer home for the people of the Niantic Tribe for thousands of years.  It shaped daily life with an abundance of shellfish, seaweed for farming and a cooler home during the summer months, as it did along all of Charlestown's coastal ponds.   Its rocky shore, however, proved hazardous for ships, and eventually the Quonochontaug Life Saving Station was established in 1892. 

 

In 1659, Thomas Stanton settled here to establish a trading post and was given a large tract of land by the Sachem Ninigret, called "Quonocontoge Neck."   Legend has it that the gift was in exchange for the safe return of an Indian princess.   The Stantons prospered, as did other early families in this area, such as the Sheffields, Babcocks, Pendletons and Champlins, and developed large farmlands, known as plantations. Slavery was not uncommon on these farmlands with the onset of war between local Native Indians and colonial expansion, and both the Indians and the West African slave trade provided the means for working these farms. 

 

During the 1700s, Thomas Stanton's farm, as well as other family farms, were divided between the growing generations.  By the 1800s, they had been divided again into smaller lots and eventually the area became more populated.  By the mid-to late-1800s, boarding houses, hotels and cottages were built along the breachway and shoreline, providing a respite for local folks and mill workers escaping from the summer heat.

 

In 1881, Quonochontaug became the site of an iron mining operation financed by Thomas A. Edison, in which iron was separated from the sand with magnets. Ultimately, the venture ended when it was realized that less expensive iron was available elsewhere.

 

By the end of the 1800s, "Quonnie" had become a busy and fashionable resort.  It remained popular until the Great Hurricane of 1938, which brought tremendous devastation to this community.  Eventually, the area experienced a resurgence of summer and year-round residences.  Today, some of the oldest historic homes still stand.

1838 Schoolhouse & Archive

 

OPEN

Friday and Saturday

11:00 AM - 1:00 PM

 

Will Open by Appointment

 

Call:

641-1952 or 364-3935

 

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