Alonzo Converse- Longmeadow's Last Riverboat Pilot

by Linda Abrams, Curator- Longmeadow Historical Society- October 2007 Issue

Many Longmeadow streets and roads take their name from families as early as the 18th century, such as Bliss, Colton, Ely, Williams, etc. Converse Street, now one of our busiest roads, takes its name from Alonzo Converse. Alonzo was born in Agawam in 1813 and moved to Longmeadow in 1853. At his death in 1904, he was known as the last survivor of the river pilots on the Connecticut River.

Photo: Courtesy of the New England Historical Society
The Wreck of the Greenfield Presages the End of the Connecticut River Men

He was a senior partner in the Converse-Parker Company, an extensive boating business on the Connecticut River with eight freight boats towed up and down the river by a steamboat. Alonzo Converse was considered the best pilot on the river, being able to negotiate the rapids near Windsor without damage to the boat or loss of goods. Groceries and all kinds of merchandise were carried back and forth between Springfield and Hartford several times a week. He claimed he knew how to “read” the river; when to go and when to wait. Even though the river above Hartford was beyond tidal levels, he could tell when the shoreline revealed the slightest evidence of rise from rains further north, and he could then predict easy access over the rapids.




His home on Converse Street, east of Laurel Street (214 Converse St) included the acres that were originally the Cooley apple orchards and contained an old cider mill. Alonzo continued the cider mill until 1900. It was the last remaining cider mill in town.

When the railroad replaced the commerce on the river, Alonzo also ran a ferry boat service between Agawam and Springfield until an improved bridge across the river made it obsolete. Alonzo outlived two wives and four of his five children; his remaining son, Albert, had migrated to South Dakota after the Civil War.

Alonzo Converse died in 1904 and was buried in the Longmeadow Cemetery.

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