History of the Chase Reservoir
Three hundred years ago the shallow valley now filled by the Chase Reservoir contained a small free-flowing brook. Prior to the arrival of colonists from Massachusetts in the early 18th century, this area was inhabited by the Nipmuk Indians. There are no known archeological remnants of the Native Americans on the Chase Reservoir tracts.
Families surnamed Proctor, Robbins and Chandler were early settlers of English descent. The 2400-acre Chestnut Hill Purchase was acquired by a Chandler around 1700. This tract included much of which is now the Chase Reservoir property. Soon after, Mr. Chandler began to sell portions of the large tract, and by 1711, sold all of it. Men from the Robbins and Proctor families were two of the buyers. The foundation for a Robbins home site is still visible west of the reservoir near Pratt Road. Proctor’s dwelling on the east side of the brook is now submerged by the reservoir.
The death of these original inhabitants during the late 1750’s and 1760’s produced numerous changes in land ownership. Of these new landowners, the surname Chase appears very often. Many members of the Chase family, originally from Rehoboth, Massachusetts, apparently took a liking to this part of Killingly. By the time of the American Civil War there were many Chase families in the Pratt Road and Chestnut Hill Road area. An 1869 map of Killingly indicates this very clearly. Many of these Chase family members are buried in the Pettingill Road cemetery which bears their name. The Chase family was so prolific in the area that it was the obvious name for the reservoir constructed in the early twentieth century.
Of additional historical interest was the transfer of part of the Proctor property to one of Proctor’s male slaves. This transfer made the slave a Freeholder, perhaps one of the first non-white Freeholders in Connecticut and possibly in all of Southern New England.
Starting in the late eighteenth century and continuing into the nineteenth century, numerous mills were built along the Quinebaug River, the Five-Mile River, and the Whetstone Brook. By 1880 after almost 100 years of textile industry activity, these streams were heavily polluted. As a result, there was a need for a clean drinking water supply for the mill workers in Danielson. The Crystal Water Company of Danielson (CWCD) was incorporated in 1882. The company opened the spring-fed, 15-million gallon Hygeia Reservoir in 1886 and began piping water into Danielson.
The growth of Danielson meant that the water needs of the community soon exceeded the capacity of the Hygeia Reservoir. The need to add capacity was the motivation for building the Chase Reservoir upstream from Hygeia. The exact date that the Chase Reservoir was built is not known; however, CWCD documents indicate that the gate chamber was opened in April of 1902. It is therefore probable that the reservoir was created between 1900 and 1902. The CWCD continued to purchase property adjacent to the reservoir in the 1930s and 1940s, and as late as 1974.
Thereafter, and until 1982, the Chase Reservoir was used in conjunction with the Hygeia Reservoir to provide surface drinking water to the residents of Danielson and vicinity. Water was piped from the Chase Reservoir to Hygeia over a 75-foot vertical drop. Water from the Chase Reservoir spillway continues to this day to flow into the mill pond on Peeptoad Road, and from there via a small stream to Whetstone Brook. As the Danielson community continued to grow, the CWCD supplemented the Chase/Hygeia water by digging three wells in Brooklyn.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the federal government’s Environment Protection Agency issued new national water purity standards. Water from Chase/Hygeia Reservoir sources could not meet these stringent standards without the addition of an expensive filtering plant. It became more economical to drill additional wells in the neighborhood of Danielson. In 1982 the pipe from Chase Reservoir to Hygeia was cut, and both reservoirs were taken offline. In 1995 the CWCD received an abandonment permit for the Chase Reservoir from the health department. After 80 years under the careful watch of the CWCD, the Chase Reservoir was no longer a source of drinking water for the people of Danielson.
The CWCD was owned and operated by the Hopkins family for many years until the late 1970’s; however in 1999; the company was bought by the Connecticut Water Service (CWS) Inc. Today the CWCD operates as a wholly-owned subsidiary of CWS Inc.
With the Chase Reservoir property no longer viable as a water source, the 365-acre tract was donated to the Town of Killingly. The gift was advantageous to CWCD after the Connecticut General Assembly passed the Open Space Trust Fund in 2000. This legislation made it possible for CWCD to accrue a tax benefit if the donated land would remain in a natural and open condition for the conservation purpose for which it was acquired.
The official and legal document describing each tract donated and defining the allowed and restricted activities within the open space boundaries is called a Grant of Conservation Restriction (GCR). Separate GCR documents for each of the three tracts comprising Chase Reservoir’s 365 acres were written because each tract was donated in a different year. The three GCRs for the property were granted to the Wyndham Land Trust, Inc. Even though the Property is owned by the Town of Killingly, the land trust organization provides oversight to ensure compliance with the conservation restrictions as stipulated in the GCRs. The GCR documents were developed using a DEP template to ensure conformity to the state legislation.
The Chase Reservoir acreage is protected open space dedicated passive recreation and education opportunities. Restricted activities and permitted activities are clearly stated in this management plan, called the Chase Reservoir Management Plan. The dedication of the transfer of all three land parcels between CWCD and the Town of Killingly occurred on November 12, 2004.
In the spring of 2012 Doug McGrady led plant exploration walks for the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society and the Connecticut Botanical Society on the Chase Reservoir property. You can view a list of the plants Doug discovered here.