Railroad accomplishments included the whole California Railroad system, systems in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, a line from Portland Ore to New Orleans, the completion of the Chesapeake & Ohio railroad and lines through West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi.

He is also associated with the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, which had a fleet of 16 vessels. He was founder of the city of Newport News Virginia and invested more then $7,000,000 in a ship yard there that employed over 4,000 workers.

Collis P. Huntington was a large man, standing six feet, four inches with very broad shoulders. He was trim and fit; a condition that he would maintain all the way to his death. He was certainly a leader and had a saying that he would repeat many times, “trust all in all, or not at all”. He would sometimes add “if you show a man that you believe in him, he will, in return, try to show you that you are not mistaken”.


It's true that Collis P. Huntington may be the most famous person born in Harwinton but what he may be most remembered for here was his gift to the town.

In 1885, during one of his visits back here he presented the Congregational Church Society with a plan to build a granite chapel in loving memory of his mother, whom he cherished all of his life. This would be a beautiful structure to be built behind the historic church at a cost of $60,000. All Europe was to be searched for the finest stained glass to be used in the windows.

Picture circa 1886

The chapel was finished in 1887 and Huntington, now 66, returned for its dedication. The following paragraphs are the transcript of Mr. Huntington's address as recorded in the Von Tobel Scrapbooks:

Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am glad to be here with you in the place of my nativity. I see before me many men and women whom I knew as children when I was a child, before I went out of this good old town of Harwinton. Years more than half a hundred have passed away since those days, and in that time great changes have come over us. Then I, and some of you, were “barefoot children” and those that were then of middle age have passed on to the other land and we who have stayed have become gray with years. In my childhood days my mother was here, and she often worked into the small hours of the night that her children might be comfortably clad on the morrow, and in the years that came after her children worked so that her last days might be made like herself, bright and full of sunshine; and in that was their reward. And as often as I have returned to these my native hills have I been made glad that this was the place where I was born, and that I was born poor; for I think that that was the reason, at least in part, of such success in life as I have been able to achieve. It was long year ago when I said to myself that what ought to be done could be done, and that success in life only meant labor with an honesty of purpose and an intelligent economy. But I think most of the real joys of life come from the doing of good to others, in helping those who fall, to rise; those who are below us to come up a little higher.
New is to this little chapel. I have built it for you, who were children with me, and I also wanted to build it in memory of my mother, who was one of the best women that ever lived; and I ask you to care for it also because it is in memory of my mother. I only hope that it will give you as much pleasure in the receiving as it does the giver in the giving.

The Finished Chapel

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