CLINTON >> About 350 years after her ancestors acquired the property, Lucy Elliot has donated some 18 acres bordering the Indian River to the Clinton Land Conservation Trust.
The property is viewed as without rival in the town’s historic district for its size and natural beauty, offering uplands and wetlands that follow the rivers meandering course to Clinton Harbor.
Elliot is to be honored for her gift — the property has an appraised value of more than $400,000, according to the town assessor — in ceremonies Saturday that are by invitation only at the request of the family, said land trust President Michael Houde. “We’ll be there to say thank you to her. This is a jewel, and it really is a wonderful thing for the town,” he remarked.
While Houde said the land trust owns about 800 acres in Clinton, the Elliot parcel is its only property in the heart of Clinton. Situated behind Andrews Memorial Town Hall, it will be accessible from Clinton Landing, the town’s riverfront facility now renamed after the late first selectman James McCusker Jr.
The Elliot family’s lengthy history of continuing property ownership in the historic district likely is unmatched.
The land was purchased by Jared Eliot sometime after he arrived in Clinton in 1707 as pastor of the Congregational First Church of Christ, and is situated behind the Main Street home built by his son in 1785. It also is nearby another Eliot house built in 1710 that once served as a post office when Jared Eliot’s friend, Benjamin Franklin, was postmaster general, according to a history by Kenneth McDonell, former land trust president.
The names associated with this stretch of Main Street are redolent with Clinton history: the town hall property, to the west of Lucy Elliot’s family home, also was owned by an Eliot and across Main Street is the 1801 Academy Building that is mentioned in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Birds of Killingworth,” of which Clinton once was a part.
Down the street is Pierson School, named after Jared Eliot’s mentor, Abraham Pierson, and Jared Eliot Middle School is situated on Fairy Dell Road.
The current generation of Elliots trace their lineage directly back to the Eliots of the 18th century — Lucy Elliot said she isn’t sure when her husband’s family name took a second letter l. “I don’t know,” she laughed. “Probably two of three generations ago.”
The property officially was donated to the land trust in December, and Elliot said she simply had decided, “It was time to do it, rather than waiting until I was no longer here.” Elliot and her husband, Henry, moved to the Eliot house in 1989 after the last of his aunts had passed away. She agreed that it is unusual to find a piece of land owned so long by the same family: “That meadow has always been part of the family property. Henry wanted to keep it with this (house).”
Houde said Saturday’s ceremonies will include a reading of Longfellow’s poem, and a presentation of the property’s history by Becky Elliot Keating.
The Elliots granted a conservation easement to the meadow to the land trust in 2000, with the stipulation that it not be transferred to the town, which had been considering the property as a potential site for a new police station that eventually was built further east on Main Street.
Josie Elliot, one of Lucy Elliot’s daughters, said at the time that her parents “wanted the land to remain wild, and be used for research and educational purposes.” Houde said that in making the gift, Lucy Elliot asked only that “it be maintained as a meadow, so that’s what we’re going to do.” The land trust is planning a simple grass trail through the property that will allow access from the landing, he said.