The Housatonic Valley


In the 19th century, Connecticut became known as the nation’s industrial incubator. Its success depended on Yankee ingenuity and its geologic resources. Among the most important of the latter were the iron ores of Salisbury and Kent. Their discovery, the occurrence of marble (needed as flux) and abundant energy provided by unbroken forest and white water, led to the development of a major industrial complex that provided the cities on the eastern seaboard with a major supply of iron. Their production of guns and cannons played a major role in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.s many as 40 blast furnaces operated in the general Housatonic region; several remained active for 70 years. While having a positive impact economically, their effect on the environment resulted in widespread deforestation, impediment of stream/river flow, and substantial air pollution. At night the scene resembled an inferno! As blue, poisonous haze draped the valleys, the noise of hammers and huge bellows echoed through the hills, and the red glow of molten iron reflected against the clouds gave the appearance of numerous volcanoes erupting simultaneously. More than a century passed; the forests returned, the hills are silent, and all that remains are ruins.

The course will meet at 4 p.m. on Friday, May 3 for one hour. On Saturday, we will depart from Middletown at 9 a.m. for a field trip to the Housatonic Valley that will include these stops: Bulls Bridge, the little Connecticut Museum of Mining and Mineral Science, the Sloane Stanley Museum, and Kent Iron Furnace. There will be a lunch stop at Kent Falls. We will arrive back at 5 p.m.

Instructor: Jelle De Boer

ONE FRIDAY: May 3, 4 p.m, Butterfield Room
ONE SATURDAY: May 4, 9 a.m., van departs from Wasch Center
Jelle De Boer
JELLE ZEILINGA DE BOER is Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science emeritus. He was raised in Indonesia, studied in the Netherlands, and taught earth science at Wesleyan from 1965 to 2005. Lately, he has focused on the role geologic phenomena played in Greek mythology, specifically at the Oracle site at Delphi and Apollo temples in southern Anatolia. He has published Volcanoes in Human History, Earthquakes in Human History (both with Donald Sanders ’52), and Stories in Stone, which explores the influence geology has had on Connecticut’s history.