Why did anyone bother to build Barkhamsted Lighthouse in the hills of Western Connecticut? According to legend it was a love denied that inspired the village that became known as Barkhamsted Lighthouse.
Author and educator Lewis S. Mills turned the legend into an epic poem in 1960. According to the story, around 1730 the wealthy Peter Barber of Wethersfield, Conn., ordered his daughter Molly to refuse the hand of her boyfriend and seek out a wealthier man for a husband. She resisted and created a standoff. He locked her in his mansion under guard. She refused to give in, vowing she would not seek out a rich man.
After Peter died, James Chaugham caught Molly’s eye. He was a Narragansett Indian. When he proposed, Molly accepted and the two got married. Perhaps to escape criticism of their mixed marriage, the couple moved to western Connecticut and established the town of Barkhamsted Lighthouse.
The community prospered in a small way. The Chaughams had eight children. The town also became home to a number of other poor and mixed-race families. But as more Connecticut people began looking to move north and west in search of available land, Barkhamsted, in its own way, kept thriving.
At one point the area even attracted the man behind Connecticut’s legendary Hitchcock chair. He located a factory in the area. The village prospered for more than 100 years, but it finally died out around 1865. Bigger towns that were easier to reach simply proved more attractive, and today it is an archaeological site.
But why was it called Barkhamsted Lighthouse? Because it served as a beacon on the north-south stagecoach road. The twinkling lights in the houses of the Chaughams and their neighbors assured passengers in the night that they still followed the right path.
Thanks to The Legend of Barkhamsted Lighthouse by Lewis Sprague Mills. This story was updated in 2023.