When people think about tobacco fields, their first association is the South. But actually Connecticut also has its place in tobacco farm history. In particular, the East and South Windsor area had many tobacco farms, both shade and broad-leaf, until the early 1960s. As a teenager, my mother worked on a neighboring shade tobacco farm. One saw these fields covered with white netting from spring through the August harvest. While teenage boys picked the leaves in the field, piling them into baskets which were brought to the tobacco shed, she piled the tobacco leaves from the baskets onto the tables for the sewers. The sewers used twine and needle to pierce each stalk; when a set number of pairs was on the twine, it was then attached to a lath. These laths of green tobacco leaves would be hung in the barn to dry and cure. It was piece work for both the field boys and the sewers, who were very dependent upon a skilled piler.
My ancestors, the Bissells, were among the first settlers to grow tobacco in the CT Tobacco Valley. They grew the broad-leaf tobacco which was shorter and grown without the net tenting. Great Grandfather Bissell was a skilled "plantsman" - selecting the plants allowed to set seed for next year's crop and overseeing the entire process from sewing seed in germination beds to bundling the cured leaves for the buyer. It was an entirely organic process -- no chemical fertilizers, no chemical pesticides.
I remember my Great Grandmother, Helen Bissell, as she was in her late 90's before passing on. She was a talented seamstress and before she married was a professional seamstress, sewing wedding dresses all by hand.
The Bissell Bridge in Connecticut is also named after my Great Grandfather's family . The family "story" about the Bissell Bridge is told as follows:
Back in the 1700s various families owned tobacco farms. Their farms were located on one side of the river and their homesteads were on the other side of the river. They did not establish their homes on the same side as the tobacco farms because that was where the Indians lived. One family was brave enough settle on the side with the tobacco farms. But most families played it safe, and rowed across the river every morning and night to work on the farms. One man, a Bissell, became tired of the daily rowing and decided to gather a group together and build a bridge. Hence, the Bissell Bridge as it is named today.
I can't find much information to validate this family story. My Great Grandmother would tell us the story and she was an honest God-fearing soul, so under that pretension I will believe it to be the gospel.