Settled in 1741, Hampden was originally part of Wilbraham. Hampden was called “Little Switzerland” because of its beauty and led a bustling life of small mills and agriculture. In 1797, a two-story mill was built on the river by John Flynt. Ruins of the mill’s dam can still be seen at the Chapin Street Bridge. In the late 1800’s a promised railroad, which never materialized, limited Hampden’s marketing of its goods, leading to a decline in manufacturing. Thornton Burgess, creator of “Uncle Wiggley” children books, lived on the banks of East Brook, which he re-named “Laughing Brook” for his stories.
The upper reaches of the Scantic are very narrow and restrictive to afford enjoyable paddling. The 3 ¼ miles from the Somers Road Bridge to Kibbe Grove road in Somers is also restrictive from numerous blow-downs, fallen trees and snags.
Fishing is good to excellent, stocked each spring by the State of Massachusetts. NOTE: A Massachusetts fishing license is required.
There is great hiking on Minnechaug Mountain provided by the Minnechaug Land Trust. There are over 3 miles of trails and 273 acres of land protected. To access the trail system, park at the VFW on Main Street, Hampden. Hikers can cross the Scantic River on the footbridge south of the parking area and access the Algonquin trail directly south of the bridge. For more information please visit the Minnechaug Land Trust website. For bicycle riders, a nice stop is at John Flynt’s mill site and dam at Chapin Street.