When I was young enough to believe in Santa Claus, I lived in the little house on Mixville Road. As I grew up I began to realize that we lived on a large piece of real estate, some 90-odd acres. There was a pond that they tell me was about 16 acres. Standing at the house, you could turn 360 degrees and not see a living soul or another home that was in view.
On the property there was a cider mill, a barn, and chicken coops where my uncle raised chickens for eggs, and a roofed cellar that was once a house, now used for the storage of the cider that was made from the apples in the nearby orchard.
Once my mother started to work, I was all alone except for a dog and a cat that we owned. Those were listless days, but when we got the pond cleared I learned to swim, and used that skill to good advantage. I helped my uncle Ben clear the ever-growing brush around the pond, and at one point, he cleared a section near the chicken houses for gathering water for the chickens and utilized the area for swimming as well.
As time went on, the area below the little house was all cleared and (had) easy access from the road. So Ben and my father decided they would clear that area below the little house for swimming. To make it more enjoyable they decided to put in sand and ultimately made a nice little beach. They got the sand from Prospect. Somehow I got into the sandbank and it caved in on me. My father and Ben had to dig me out. A close shave!
Uncle Ben was a carpenter and very handy. He built a wooden runway to run on and dive into the water. What fun! I remember one time when I was just about to hit the water I saw a flash of lightning and when I hit the water I was shivering all over and felt like I had been stung by a bee! I guess I was very lucky.
The pond drew many neighbors for swimming and ice-skating. Ben could see that a raft would be a great addition, so he got some empty barrels and slung them together in a frame and built two ladders to get up onto the raft. Ben could see the fun we were having so he built a diving board away from the raft or float. This addition attracted lots of local folks, even many I did not know.
As time went on, word of “Murphy’s Pond” spread around, and there were many cars parked in the open lots against a large stonewall that ran around the orchard to Mixville Road, then to the end of the orchard. There was room for plenty of cars outside the orchard. Summers I slept in a tent in the orchard – nothing like an early morning dip.
Ultimately it was decided to charge admission, probably 25 or 50 cents. Ben built a bathhouse with a string of maybe 8 changing rooms with the same number on the other side. With all this traffic, the idea of a beverage stand was enacted and quite a few sodas, candy bars and other stuff like chips were sold. I tried my hand at collecting at the gate and running the stand, but I needed supervision then, or maybe I just didn’t want to miss the fun.
All those years were fun years, except for one tragedy – a drowning.
The source of water for the pond was the Prospect Reservoir, so the water was clear and clean water with plenty of fish. Originally it had been a stream, but before my time, a dam was built and the rising water covered stone walls, and whatever else may have been there. It was fun swimming underwater and feel the stones covered with moss. There was a large stone about 20 feet from the shore. If you hung onto that stone you could lift yourself out of the water. One day a friend came over who couldn’t really swim. I stood on the edge of the big rock and gave him my hand to swim to. When he reached me, he climbed on my shoulders and I went down struggling and blacked out. My uncle Ed was on the diving board and saw what was happening, and he dove and swam to pick me off the bottom. I woke up on shore in the middle of artificial respiration. My uncle saved my life.
One winter while skating, I fell through the ice, but Ben was able to reach under and pull me out from under the ice. Thanks to both uncles I was able to continue on with my life intact.
So Murphy’s Pond became a destination for many Cheshirites. I can’t remember how long it lasted, but I was called to the Navy in 1944, and then there were family problems and my folks moved away.
Ben built the barn into a two-floor residence, and he and my grandmother lived there until she died. Ben then moved away and built his own home and a home for his brother. The property was sold to the town of Cheshire. That was the end of Murphy’s Pond and the beginning of a new chapter for the old pond.
One day an old friend from our play days sent me a postcard.
Jim Murphy, Tom’s son, grew up in Cheshire and is now a resident of Pittsford, NY. He recently visited Cheshire and wrote, “Before my visit I was looking through some estate records of my father’s and came across some of these recollections of the pond. My time in CT was limited, but I did get to re-visit the family “farm”, saw the buildings and had a very nice visit to see “Mixville Park.”
Mixville Park in TRAILS (1994),Cheshire Land Trust & Cheshire Environment Commission