65. Colton-Hayes Tobacco Barn Museum

No Hayes in this Barn
(Google Maps Location)
July 27, 2008

coltonhayes_barn.jpgNeither my blurry pictures nor the Salmon Brook Historical Society’s website (they own the joint) do this place any amount of justice. The Colton-Hayes Tobacco Barn is the largest and most impressive part of the quartet of Granby historical buildings I visited in succession. I went in not expecting much more than a few old tools and some dried up tobacco leaves hanging on the wall.

I got old tools and I got old tobacco, sure, but there is so much more. A TON more it turns out. Parts of this write-up are lifted from the historical society’s website. The large tobacco barn, built in 1914 by Fred M. Colton, was given to the historical society by his daughters in 1976.

65b.jpgThe Barn displays are a microcosm of Granby’s past. I was amazed at the diveristy and volume of items here. The barn just seemed to keep on going and going and going… A cabinet houses a fine exhibit of local Indian artifacts. A large collection of early quilting, spinning, and weaving tools includes a rare Connecticut spinning wheel. Another corner is devoted to the Civil War memorabilia of Col. Richard E. Holcomb.

Who? That’s what I said and that’s what I asked Google. Google said, “As a child Richard lived in the Turkey Hills (East Granby) section of Granby, in the big family home on Hartford Avenue. He was educated in local schools, including a private Academy. His life was adventurous and he traveled extensively in his work. For nearly ten years (1845-1855) he worked on the Isthmus of Panama, drawing maps, planning grades, and building bridges for the Panama Railroad. With his brothers, Franklin Porteous and Henry Lyman, he build the bridge across the Savannah River at Savannah, Georgia, using slave labor. His name is the first listed on the Granby Civil War Monument.” Thanks!


Inside the barn, an early Meeting House is recreated from many of Granby’s early churches. Doors from the Episcopal church of 1790, Universalist Church pew, First Church organ, South Church hymn boards, West Granby Methodist Church pew doors, and a Swedish Bible from the early days of Pilgrim Congregational, welcome a black-clad mourner in a Shaker cloak. To give an idea of how big this barn museum is, there really is a section that is more or less a small church.

65e.jpgThe rest of the Barn shows Granby in the 1890 era. A Village Store is filled with an amazing variety of items. There is a dressmaker’s shop, a shoemaker’s shop, and a creamery. The kitchen features apple peeler and sausage stuffer, iron cookstove and coffee mill. A wash kitchen has an 1830 zinc bathtub with a wooden lid, a stove to heat the heavy flat irons, and a hand cranked washing machine.

The back half of the Barn has a variety of exhibits from Granby’s rural heritage. There are farm tools and machinery, sleds and sleighs, a huge hoisting wheel, hay rakes and hay forks, carpenter tools, items used in cider mills, grist mills, blacksmithing, maple sugaring, hog slaughtering, bee keeping, harness making, ice cutting and a large tobacco section. Also on display is Granby’s first fire fighting equipment, a colorful voting booth and the beautiful horse drawn, glass-sided Hayes hearse.

65j.jpgMost of the preceding descriptions are their website’s words. If I recall, before visiting the site lacked much information at all, hence my surprise at what I found there. During my tour, ably given by Charlie Dickson of the historical society, I mentioned how they really need to brag a little more on their site. He agreed and it appears he heeded my sage advice.

While I certainly enjoyed the other properties and tours during my GranbyFest, the Barn is by far the highlight. In the country store section mentioned above, it really is pretty much a country store from 100 and some years ago. Not just a few knick-knacks, but whole array of household goods and sundries – enough to get you through a month I’d say. Heck, I know where I’m going to hideout in Survival Mode when the entire economy collapses, society breaks down, and the ice caps melt – the Colton-Hayes Tobacco Barn!

My post-apocalypse kitchen!

My post-apocalypse pantry!

My post-apocalypse chainsaw!

My post-apocalypse fire engine and Damian potty!

There are plenty of beds for my family, a few stoves, some freeze-dried food, canned goods, clothes, books, and farming tools with which to sow the fertile land. I’m all set and I’ve staked my claim – so stay away! Or I’ll ice-harvest tool you to death.

So this was pretty cool – the tombstone was being used as a step at a house in town and the tree-trunk looking-thing was a mistake tombstone with wrong death dates, if I remember correctly. Like I said, this place has everything.


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Cost: $2.00 donation to tour all the buildings
Hours: Sundays June-September, 2-4PM
Food & Drink? No question – The Cambridge House
Children? Yes, but don’t dawdle
You’ll like it if: You are staking out future digs
You won’t like it if: You can’t handle too much of a good thing
Freebies: None


For the Curious:

Salmon Brook Historical Society
My McLean Game Refuge hikes
History of Granby, Connecticut
Historic Barns of Connecticut

2 responses to “65. Colton-Hayes Tobacco Barn Museum”

  1. Tom says:

    I call a “creepy doll alert” on the post-apocalyptic potty photo!

  2. Carol Laun, Curator/Archivist says:

    I appreciate your glowing description of our Barn Museum, but I do want to correct one error. There is a second gravestone that had an incorrect date, but what you call a “tree-trunk looking thing” is actually a tree trunk. It is a beech tree that grew in the West Granby hills and was carved and decorated with initials, dates, flags, cannon, tent etc. by local young men who served in the Civil War. The tree died and we were able to acquire it for our Museum. I think we are the only Historical Society to have a tree. It has been featured in the book of Notable Trees of Connecticut. Oh, and it now costs $4 to tour all the buildings. Come visit us again, we have added another barn and rearranged some exhibits.

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