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History Revisited: Groton isn’t just a Connecticut town

Most citizens in southeastern Connecticut are aware of the three communities in New London County which are named Groton. Two of these communities, the City of Groton and Groton Long Point, are both tax paying districts of the Town of Groton.

Yes, at times, the existence of these three Grotons can be confusing and is often the topic of much discussion, both pro and con. Rest assured, in the interest of the reader’s pleasure, this article will not be discussing the politics surrounding these Grotons.

Historically speaking, the name Groton (pronounced either “GRAW-ton” or “GROW-ton”), can be traced back to the parish where John Winthrop, the founder of Boston and second governor of Massachusetts, and his son, John Winthrop (the “Younger”) resided in the County of Suffolk, England. It is believed that the word Groton is derived from the word “grotonea,” an old English word meaning “sandy or gravelly stream.”

Groton, England, is a very small parish, composed of approximately 1,544 acres and having a population of about 260 residents. It is located approximately 75 miles northeast of London and its inhabitants pronounce the parish’s name as “GROW-ton.”

As an incidental side note to this story, this author and his family are not only residents of Groton, Conn., but also have a second home in Groton, Vt. No, it was not a conscious decision to have two separate homes in two separate Grotons: however, it certainly does bring a laugh or two. Invariably, when individuals learn of the residents in two Grotons, they will respond by saying: “Did you know there is also Groton, Mass., or a Groton, N.Y.?” I usually provide them with the names of the other Grotons in the United States.

This article will relay a little about each of the seven incorporated communities named Groton in the United States.

The first community in the United States to bear the name Groton is in Massachusetts. It was incorporated in 1655 and named after the Groton in Suffolk, England. Located in the northeast portion of the state, it is approximately 47 miles northwest of Boston and 15 miles southwest of Nashua, N.H.

It is approximately 34 square miles and, according to the 2012 census, has approximately 10,900 inhabitants. The community is home to two exclusive private prep schools, The Groton School and Lawrence Academy.

The town is governed by a Board of Selectmen/Town Manager administration.

Groton, Conn., was incorporated in 1705, in the southeastern corner of the state, about 15 miles away from the Rhode Island border. It encompasses a little over 45 square miles and, according to the 2010 census, has approximately 40,100 residents. It was also named after the Groton in Suffolk, England. Known as the “Submarine Capital of the World,” it is home to General Dynamics Electric Boat, the designer and builder of nuclear submarines, and a large Pfizer medical research facility. One of the country’s largest Naval Submarine Bases is also located in Groton. It is governed by a Town Council/Town Manager/Representative Town Meeting system.

Groton, Vt., was established in 1789 and is located close to the New Hampshire border, approximately 27 miles south of St. Johnsbury and 48 miles north of White River Junction. It encompasses approximately 55 square miles and has a population of a little over 1,000.

Depending on whom you speak with, this Groton was either named after Groton, Mass., or Groton, Conn. Some years ago, the town had several stone quarry related companies where many of the town’s residents worked. Today, most of this community’s working residents are employed outside of the town. It is governed by a Board of Selectmen.

Groton, N.Y., about 44 miles south of Syracuse and 16 miles north of Ithaca, has a population of approximately 6,000 and runs about 50 square miles. Incorporated in 1818, it is named after Groton, Mass.

Similar to Groton, Conn., there are several “sub-villages” within the town, including the Village of Groton, Groton City and West Groton hamlets. The town is governed by a Supervisor and Council and the village is administered by a mayor. Many of the residents work in Syracuse and Ithaca.

Groton, N.H., is centrally located in the state about 13 miles south of Plymouth and a short distance northwest of Newfound Lake. It is almost 41 square miles and has a population of approximately 600. From the late 1870s through about 1950, there were numerous mining companies in this town that mined beryl, feldspar, quartz and mica. Today, most of the residents are self-employed, retired or work in nearby communities. It is believed that this town was also named after Groton, Mass.

Next on the list is Groton, S.D. It is located in the northeast portion of South Dakota, about 20 miles east of Aberdeen and approximately 55 south of the North Dakota border. Although very small at 1.75 square miles, it has a population of about 1,500. Many of the residents travel to Aberdeen for work. Named after Groton, Conn., it is governed by a mayor and seven councilors.

Last is the township of Groton, Ohio. Located in Erie County, it is approximately 66 miles east of Cleveland and about 11 miles south of Lake Erie. It is a rural community about 37 miles square and has approximately 1,500 residents. Organized in 1834, it is governed by a three-member Board of Trustees. Research failed to determine if this township was named after any other town in the United States. This is the only Groton in the United States that pronounces its name as “GROW-ton.”

As a point of interest, this author and his wife have visited every Groton referenced in this article, including the one in England. Although our trips to these communities was enjoyable and interesting, we must admit, with prejudice of course, Groton, Conn., is our favorite.

Jim Streeter is the Groton (Connecticut) town historian.

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