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AboutAmerica's First Family Theme Park
The name Lake Compounce is derived from John Compound, a Mattatuck/Tunxis Native American Chieftain. On December 2, 1684, his wife and several tribal members affixed their waxed fingertip "marks" to a deed that conveyed the "Compound's Lake" to a group of white settlers who had migrated to central Connecticut from Massachusetts. Legend has it that shortly thereafter, Chief Compound drowned in the lake while trying to cross it in a large brass kettle.
On October 6, 1846, Samuel Botsford, an influential Bristol scientist, persuaded property owner Gad Norton, an original settler descendant, to let him conduct "a series of beautiful experiments in electricity." Well publicized, the event drew thousands of spectators who witnessed the demonstration amidst the beauty of the woods and water. Although the final experiment of "blowing up from shore, two huge jugs of gunpowder tied under a raft in the middle of the lake" failed, it did inspire Mr. Norton to action. He put a path around the lake, set up picnic tables, allowed public swimming and rowing on the lake and built a gazebo for lakeside band concerts. Lake Compounce had officially opened to the public as a picturesque "picnic" park.
In 1847, the "Southern method" of cooking lamb was introduced by Lake Compounce to families, groups and organizations and the long and profitable tradition of summer barbecues began. The following year, a hand-powered revolving swing and Connecticut's first ten-pin bowling alley with adjoining pool tables became new attractions. In 1851, Isaac Pierce, a successful "California Gold Rush 49er," joined forces with Norton and the firm of Pierce and Norton was established.
Lake Compounce prospered as a picnic park through the post-Civil War era. In 1873, the Bristol Press published its first notice of Lake Compounce with an article describing the property as a "a convenient and delightful little seaside of their own for the people of Bristol."
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