Mansfield’s Cranberry Industry

Historical Article Series April 19, 2020 > Mansfield’s Cranberry Industry

From the Mansfield Historical Society Newsletter, Vol. 42, No. 5, November 2006

In the late nineteenth century, the Eaton family operated a thriving cranberry business in Mansfield Center.  The cranberry bog was located in the vicinity of Chaffeeville Road, Dodd Road and Route 195 in an area that was originally a cedar swamp.  William S. Eaton and his brothers cut the cedars, drained it at the north end, and then brought cranberry shrubs from Cape Cod to plant along with the wild ones already there. 

The water supply came from a branch of the Schoolhouse Brook that was diverted through a stone-lined aqueduct under what is now Route 195, then along Chaffeeville Road to Dodd Road and finally through a culvert under Chaffeeville Road into the north end of the bog.  The flow was allowed in freely there until the berries ripened and were ready to pick.  Then the gate was closed and the water was drained from the bog at the other end.

It was for some time a successful business.  The Willimantic Chronicle reported in October 1880 that Eaton Bros. “harvested about 500 bushels of cranberries from their Mansfield meadow. A large yield and the quality is excellent.”  Pickers were paid 5 cents a quart for their efforts. The cranberries were packed and shipped to fine restaurants and stores in Boston, Hartford, New Haven and other places. During this period Dodd Road was called Cranberry Lane.

Following the hurricane of 1938, the U.S. Government purchased the land around the former cranberry bog up to the Fenton River for the Thames River Basin Flood Control project.  When the Mansfield Hollow Dam was built, a small dike was constructed on Baker Road just beyond the north end of the bog.  This area is now used as an over-flow area for the river in time of great flooding.  There are still enough cranberries growing wild in this area to keep the birds interested – just a small reminder of a once thriving Mansfield industry.

Roswell Eaton House
The home of the Eaton family (587 Storrs Road) in Mansfield Center. It was built by Roswell Eaton in 1797. At the right of the photograph is the stream that William Eaton diverted to create the cranberry bog.
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Storrs Connecticut