The Granby Notch

January 25, 2010

Did you ever wonder how the unusual northern Connecticut border was drawn? Anyone who has seen a map of Connecticut has noticed the unusual notch just above Granby. As this boundary directly impacts the lay of the land, it may be interesting to learn how the notch, or as some call it, the “Southwick jog”, came to be.

Some of the popular legends that surround the mysterious border are that it was simply a mistake, or that the surveyors were perhaps under the influence of alcohol. While such legends make for a good story, the actual history of the area is far more involved than a simple error. The entire north-central border between Connecticut and Massachusetts was part of a land dispute extending over one hundred and fifty years and through many different periods of colonial rule.

The dispute first began in 1641 when Connecticut established a trading post in Massachusetts territory and retaliated against complaints by implementing taxes for the use the Connecticut River. Massachusetts responded with a threat to charge for access to the Boston port causing Connecticut to withdraw their initial threat. In 1642 Massachusetts sent Nathaniel Woodward and Solomon Jaffrey to survey and mark the boundary and they “accidentally” placed the line 4 to 7 miles too far south than granted by the royal charter. The interstate relationship continued to suffer and the towns of Woodstock, Suffield, Enfield and Somers, originally all part of Massachusetts, were consistently caught in the cross fire.

The town of Southwick joined the fight and in 1749 petitioned the King of England to be part of Connecticut, a request that was granted to the southern portion of the town in 1770. There has been speculation that Connecticut was a more desirable state because they had lower taxes and granted greater civil liberties to their citizens. While Massachusetts now has lower taxes than Connecticut in a number of areas, it certainly speaks to our rich heritage as a state to recognize that for several centuries, we have highly valued the civil liberties of our citizens.

The land dispute was finally settled when negations began to take place in 1791 that finally resulted in an 1804 agreement that Connecticut would regain the border towns, but as a token compromise, lose the portion of Southwick which is now the mysterious little notch at our northern border.