Each of the maple trees that form the "Road of Remembrance" on Washington Green honor a Middletown soldier or sailor who gave his life in World War I. Middletown citizens planted 33 trees on November 14, 1920 to commemorate the city's fallen sons. Sixteen had been killed in action. Most of the rest perished from diseases such as influenza, pneumonia and meningitis. Some who made the supreme sacrifice bore the names of Middletown's oldest families; others were the sons of immigrants and several soldiers were born on foreign soil.
At the dedication ceremony, Father Patrick Dolan said of the trees: "They will daily kiss the mother earth to whom these dead have been returned, and...will constantly extend toward Heaven a prayer for these, our hero dead.
The maples surrounded a Civil War monument erected sixteen years earlier to honor Middletown men who fought in the 24th Regiment of Connecticut Volunteers, 21 of whom gave their lives during the conflict. In 1927, Middletown's people erected a stone obelisk to further honor her World War I soldiers, and subsequently planted four more trees in memory of servicemen whose Middletown roots were unknown at the time of the original dedication.
In 1998, new trees were dedicated to replace originals that had not survived. Though the First World War was called "the war
to end all wars," the trees now share the green with memorials honoring war dead of World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Welcome, Mr. President...
Washington Street once had the name of Boston Road. Why did change? On October 19, 1789, George Washington visited Middletown while travelling through New England.
The president noted in his diary: "At one we arrived in Middletown, on the Connecticut River, being met 2 or 3 miles from it by the respectable citizens of the place and escorted by them. While dinner was getting ready I took a walk around the town from the heights of which the prospect is beautiful. Belonging to this place, I was informed (by General Sage) that there were about 20 sea vessels... The country hereabouts is beautiful and lands good..."
Though his visit lasted just two hours, it made a great impression on Middletown's citizens. Shortly thereafter, the city changed Boston Road to "Washington Street" to honor the first president and mark his visit here.
Arthur Johnson was 24 years old when he was killed in action on July 18, 1918, in Chateau-Thierry, France. A farmer in Middletown, Arthur was the youngest child of Swedish immigrants. His memorial maple tree, like the others, originally bore a brass medal with his name.
Courtesy of the Johnson Family.
Three years after the Civil War ended, Sergeant James Powers of Connecticut's all-black 29th Regiment died as a result of a war-time disability. His grave stands at the rear of Washington Street Cemetery.
Washington Street Cemetery
Just across Washington Terrace is a small cemetery opened in 1739. Here, worn brownstone markers remember women who died in childbirth, Revolutionary War soldiers killed by smallpox, sailors lost at sea, and infants carried off by childhood diseases.
The gravestones dotting the back section of the cemetery belong to members of Middletown's African-American community. Among them are markers for several Civil War soldiers who fought in all-black regiments, braving rebel bullets at the same time they endured racial insults from their white "comrades."