John Avery.

History of the town of Ledyard, 1650-1900 online

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F 104.L5A9 1901a

Hiit^i«!} f mS\i}^S..i9}f!P.°l Ledyard, 16

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The Congregational Church and Soldiers' Monument, Meeting House Hil










1 9OI.


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Entered according to Act of Congress

with the Librarian at Washington,

by Ledyard Bill,


Reprinted 1972 Under the Auspices of

The Ledyard Historic District Commission


The Ledyard Historical Society

The Franklin Press, Inc.
Norwich, Connecticut


At the annual meeting of the Bill Library Association, held in
Ledyard, Aug. 30, 1899, the writer read a paper on the Pequot
Indians. It prompted Ledyard Bill, who was present, to suggest
the preparation of a History of the Town of Ledyard, Mr. Bill
offering to publish it, also to assist in its preparation. After a
few months delay — during which the proposal was duly con-
sidered — the work was begun, and the result is here given.

To the many friends who have rendered assistance the un-
dersigned tenders hearty thanks. Some have written portions
of the work in full ; many have furnished facts and statistics that
have been wrought into it. All has been done so cheerfully and
thoroughly as greatly to relieve the difficulties and discourage-
ments of the work.

J. A.

Norwich, Conn.,

Table of Contents.

Early History of the Town, etc.

History of the Congregational Church and Society.

History of the St. James' Episcopal Church.

History of the Separatist Church.

History of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

History of the Baptist Church.

History of the Rogerene Quakers.

The Revolutionary War — 1775- 1783.

The Second War with England — 1812-15.

The Civil War of 186 1-5.


Family Histories and Genealogies.

Biographical Sketches.

History of the Bill Library.

The Pequot Indians.

The Norwich & Worcester Railroad.


Memorial of Separatists of Preston, North Groton, Norwich
and Stonington to the General Assembly of Connecticut,
October, 1751.

Order to Sheriff Respecting Preston Separatists.

Order for the Lay Out of the Principal Highway Leading from
Centre Groton to Preston Town Line in 1723.

Names of School Teachers, Sixth School District.

Letter of Samuel Capron to Col. Benadam Gallup.

Letter of John Quincy Adams to Norman B. Brown.

Committee Appointed to Perambulate Line Between Groton

and Preston.
List of Probate Judges.
Roll of the Fallen, on Soldiers' Monument.
Catalogue of Deaths — 1713-1854.

List of Illustrations.


Allyn, Israel 171

Allyn, Lt. Stanton 165

Avery, Rev. Frederick D 177

Avery, Henry W 175

Avery House, The 73

Avery, Rev. John 41

Bill, Charles 112

Bill, Gurdon 106

Bill, Hon. Henry 183

Bill, Hon. Richard 104

Bill, Rev. William, D. D 102

Billings, Capt. James A 186

Brewster, Hon. John 188

Congregational Church, Frontispiece

Cook, Rev. Nehemiah B 37

Cook, Lt. William T 192

Cutting, Rev. Charles 39

Episcopal Church, The St. James' .46

Fanning, George 120

Fort Decatur, 82

Gallup, Dea. Erastus 203

Gallup, Henry H 202

Gallup Homestead, The 121

Gallup, Isaac 197



Gallup, Rev. James A 205

Gallup, Maj. Jacob L 196

Gallup, Dea. Russell 204

Gallup, Dea. N. Sands 206

Gale's Ferry R. R. Depot, 266

Geer, Capt. Nathaniel B 209

Geer, James L 129

Hurlburt, Rev. Ralph 55

Kinmouth, Rev. Albert E 43

Latham, Thomas 141

Larrabee, Capt. Adam 214

Larrabee, Hon. Henry 219

Larrabee, Capt. Nathan F 218

Larrabee, Gov. William 215

Library, The Bill 243

Methodist Episcopal Church, The 53

Norman, Stephen H 223

Parsonage, The Bill 40

Peckham, Rev. Stephen H 58

Plan of Fort Griswold, 76

Spicer, Capt. Edmund 227

Spicer, John S 228

Stoddard, Ebenezer 160

Stoddard, Guy C 229

Tuttle, Rev. Timothy 35

Williams, Denison B 161

Williams, Hon. Elias Hewitt 239

Winthrop, Gov. John, Jr 18

The Town of Ledyard.

The town of Ledyard, formerly the North Society of Groton,
and earlier still a part of the town of New London, is situated in
the south-eastern central part of New London County, and is
bounded on the north by Preston, on the east by Stonington and
North Stonington, on the south by Groton, and on the west
by the Thames river, which separates it from Montville and
Waterford. In form it is nearly square, and the distance from
the northern boundary line to the southern is about six miles ;
the distance from the eastern to the western, an average of aboui
seven miles. The surface is rough and uneven, and much of it
better adapted to grazing than to tillage. Yet the soil is fertile,
and, when thoroughly subdued, gives good returns for the labor
bestowed upon it.

Near the north-east corner of the town — just over the line
in North Stonington — is Lantern Hill, well-known as the first
land seen by mariners approaching our coast. Some of them
have spoken of it as looking, when it first comes into view, much
like a round-crowned hat resting upon the ocean as far away as
the eye can reach. It is a famous resort for picnic parties and
others seeking a wide outlook upon greatly varied and charming

In the south-west corner of the town is a tract of land — some
thirty acres or more — which belongs to the United States Govern-
ment, being a part of the Navy Yard established there upon the
deep waters of the Thames about 1881.

There are large deposits of granite in different parts of the
town ; and some of them have been utilized, to a considerable
extent, for building purposes. This is especially true of those
located near the Thames river.

Iron ore is found in some places, though not in sufficient


quantities to render it specially valuable. In one granite quarry
in the northern central part of the town — on land belonging to
the heirs of the late Israel Allyn — an ore was discovered some
years since which was thought by a man who had worked in
silver mines, to be silver ore. A specimen of it was sent to Prof.
E. S. Dana, of Yale College, who pronounced it non-magnetic

A deposit of kaoline, located on Avery Hill, in the west part
of the town, was worked some years since by the company that
was then engaged in working the large silex mine near Lantern
Hill. But while the silex proved to be remarkably fine in
quality and well-nigh exhaustless in quantity, this was far from
being the case with the kaoline ; and the working of it was
presently abandoned. Gold and silver, also nickel and copper,
are found in a broad belt of granite which passes under the farm
of Mr. Courtland Lamb in the south part of the town ; whether
the percentage of metal in the granite is sufficient to pay for
working has not yet been determined.

The territory now covered by the town originally abounded
in forests made up of oak, chestnut, ash, walnut, birch, maple,
poplar, whitewood, cedar and other varieties of trees. These
forests were largely cleared away by the first settlers and their
immediate successors. But they were fast growing up, and ap-
proaching their old-time proportions again, until a dozen or
fifteen years ago the steam saw-mills came in, and have since
greatly reduced the territory covered by them and done much
damage to the beauty of many landscapes. There are several
large cedar swamps in the town. One of them, near Lantern
Hill, is nearly a mile in diameter; another in the west part of the
town about the same size. These swamps abound in cedars,
pines, hemlocks, and have furnished, in years gone by, large
quantities of valuable lumber — used both in house-building and
ship-building. During the latter part of the eighteenth century
— from a time previous to the Revolutionary War — and on into
the nineteenth century up to the War of 1812-15, a large trade
with the West Indies, with various South American and Euro-
pean ports, and even with more distant countries, was carried on


from Norwich and New London ; and the vessels engaged in this
trade were mostly built in the last-named places. No small part
of the timber used in building them was obtained from the forests
of (North Groton) Ledyard. This was especially true of the
spars, many of which were taken from "Mast Swamp," as it was
called, in the west part of the town. During the first part of the
nineteenth century, when the whaling business was largely car-
ried on from New London much of the best material used in the
construction of whale-boats was obtained in the cedar swamps of
(North Groton) Ledyard. The underbrush growing among the
evergreen trees in these swamps are often rhododendrons, which,
in the season of their blooming early in the month of July, often
attract large numbers of admiring spectators. Perhaps of all the
deciduous trees native to the town, the most interesting and
beautiful is the tulip tree. It may be found in the central por-
tions along the principal highway from the ancient home of Peter
Gallup to the present parsonage. A friend of the writer says
that more than half a century ago he used, on Sunday mornings
in summer, to stop under the shade of one of these fragrant trees
at the foot of Newton's hill and rest before proceeding to church.
This tree is now destroyed, but its progeny still exist.

The evergreen swamps, with their surroundings, often present,
in the early autumn, scenes which are admired by every beholder.
The swamp itself, in the valley, retains its rich, deep green. The
adjoining hill-sides, covered as they are with a« great variety of
trees, such as oak, chestnut, maple, birch, beech, assume almost
every variety of color. In some places there is dark brown — in
others, bright crimson — in some, rich golden hues — in others,
light yellow approaching to whiteness. And all these varied
colors are so charmingly mingled with each other that the com-
bined effect of them is, in the highest degree, pleasing. A lover
of nature, who, from some neighboring hill-top, had beheld one
of these beautiful views, penned the following:

"Autumn forests, so bright and so gay,

Decked with green, brown, crimson and gold,

Invite us among them to stay,

And gaze on their beauties untold,"


During the early years of the occupancy of the territory by
white settlers wild animals abounded in the forests. If bears
were here to begin with they left at an early date. The same
is true of the deer, though, in recent years, under the protection
of law, a representative of the species has occasionally made a
journey through the regions which were once perhaps inhabited
by his ancestors. Wolves were numerous, and they stayed for.
a good many years. Beavers were plenty in early colonial days,
but long ago migrated to regions remote from civilization. But
foxes, raccoons, woodchucks, skunks, minks, muskrats, rabbits
and squirrels are still on the ground; and these together with
such game-birds as partridges, quails and woodcocks attract con-
siderable numbers of hunters at certain seasons. Venomous rep-
tiles were abundant in the early history of the region ; so much
so as to be a serious annoyance to the settlers. Red-snakes oc-
cupied the section near Lantern* Hill ; and rattle-snakes, that on
and around Candle-wood Hill. \ story has come down to us,
illustrating the manner in which our ancestors dealt with these
uncomfortable occupants of the Candle-wood territory. An old
Indian, resident in the neighborhood, offered, for a price which
he named, to inaugurate a war of extermination against the
venomous reptiles. His price was accepted, a bargain was made,
and, after some preliminary preparations, he entered upon his
work. The first important thing which he set himself to do was,
to capture, without killing, one of the harmful creatures against
which the war was to be waged. He accordingly concealed him-
self near the entrance to the clefts in the rocks which they in-
habited. After several days of patient watching he discovered a
large rattle-snake lying quietly in the sun off quite a distance
from his den. He approached him as noiselessly as possible,
placed a crotched stick over his neck, and held him fast to -the
ground. He then called for help, which, being not far away,
was soon present. His assistant took his place in holding the
snake firmly in his place. He himself meantime proceeded to
the performance of other parts of the plan which he had marked
out. With a pointed knife he made a hole through the skin on
the back of the snake, and into it slipped a strong cord which he


tied firmly around the snake's body. To this cord he attached
a powder horn filled with powder — its nozzle closed with a punk-
wood stopple reaching well down into the powder. He then set
fire to the outer end of the stopple, and after it had begun to
burn freely, he headed the snake toward his hole and let him go.
He soon disappeared under the rocks dragging the powder-horn
with its burning stopple behind him. A signal was then given
for the neighborhood to assemble; and men and boys from far
and near, armed with guns and clubs and stones, were promptly
upon the ground. In due time the ignited stopple of the powder-
horn burned down to the powder, and there was a tremendous
explosion, by which rocks and stones were thrown in all direc-
tions, and some of the snakes with them. Others, in their fright,
left their quarters and attempted to escape, but were everywhere
met and dispatched by the men and boys who were waiting to
receive them. From this time onward dwellers in the Candle-
wood district were not often seriously annoyed by rattle-snakes.

But there were larger creatures than snakes that were
troublesome in by-gone generations. Miss Caulkins quotes
from the New London Records, "That upon Mond., the 16th
day of Jan., 1709-10, being a very cold day, upon the report
of a kennel of wolves, mortal enemies to our sheep and all our
other creatures, was lodged and lay in ambuscade in the Cedar
Swamp, waiting there for an opportunity to devour the harmless
sheep ; upon information whereof, about thirty of our valiant
men, well disciplined in arms and special conduct, assembled
themselves and with great courage beset and surrounded the
enemies in the said swamp, and shot down three of the brutish
enemies, and brought their heads through the town in great

Remarking upon this Record, Miss Caulkins says — "For
thirty years after the date referred to in the above Record, a wolf-
hunt was a customary annual sport. From ten to forty persons
usually engaged in it, who surrounded and beat up some swamp
in the neighborhood. Mill-pond Swamp and Cedar Swamp
were frequently scoured for wolves in Nov., or the latter part of
Oct. George, son of John Richards, had a bounty of £ 1 1 for


wolves killed in the year 17 17. The bounty had been raised to
twenty shillings per head. The bounty for killing a wild-cat was
three shillings. It was not till 1714 that any enactment was
made to encourage the killing of foxes. At that time a bounty
was offered of three shillings for a grown fox ; with whelps, four
shillings ; a whelp, one shilling." (History of N. L., 404-5).

The town contains a large number of excellent springs of
water. They are found in almost every part of it — sometimes
breaking out by the sides of rocks or at the roots of trees —
sometimes bubbling up through sand or gravel in open fields,
and flowing off through woods or meadows, and uniting with
similar rivulets coming from different directions to form rush-
ing streams. These springs generally send forth water of
superior quality ; and not a few of them are never-failing — the
dryest seasons do not fully check their flow.

The waters from the north part of the town empty into
Poquetanuck River and Poquetanuck Cove, and thence find
their way to the Thames River and Long Island Sound. Those
in the west part flow directly into the Thames. Those in the
eastern, central and southern portions find their way through
the ponds near Lantern Hill and other channels into the Mystic
River, and all at length into the Sound. The numerous spring
brooks in the town are favorite resorts for trout ; and considera-
ble numbers of them are caught by fishermen "when the law is
off." In the ponds on the east border, pickerel, perch, pumpkin-
seeds, bullheads and shiners are sometimes taken in considerable
numbers. In the Thames River shad and alewives were formerly
very abundant ; but since the dam at Greeneville was built they
have left. Some of the varieties of fish which remain are striped
bass, blue-fish, flat-fish, weak-fish and smelts ; oysters and crabs
are also found in the river, and clams upon its shores.

On the streams which run through the town or skirt its
borders are water privileges which were perhaps more largely
utilized formerly than they have been in recent years — some
industries which called them into use being no longer prosecuted.
The carding machines, the fulling mills, the cloth dressing es-
tablishments — so common a hundred years ago — are no longer


needed. The place of the cloth which was made from wool
sheared from sheep raised on the home-farm, spun and wove in
the family, and fulled and dressed at a neighboring mill, is now
supplied by that made at the great manufacturing establishments,
built up by the sides of our rivers, where styles of goods are
made, far superior to those of the olden time, and by processes
which, for rapidity and excellence of workmanship, put to shame
all the old-time ways of doing such things. So the leather that
was made at the neighborhood tannery from hides taken from
animals butchered by the farmer upon his own premises, and by
some neighboring shoe-maker made into boots and shoes for the
use of the family, is no longer needed, as ready-made shoes, far
superior to those of former times, are everywhere sold at reason-
able prices ; and nobody cares to go back to the old-fashioned
ways in matters of this sort.

Still the local water-powers are to some extent useful. The
grist-mill is still running, to provide corn-meal and rye-meal for
the lovers of old-fashioned rye and Indian bread, and provender
for the feeding of animals, especially those that are being fattened
for market. Saw-mills and shingle-mills, too, still supply por-
tions of the lumber used in building.

Agriculturally, the town of Ledyard has been compared to a
pumpkin ; the best part of it being on the outside. And it is true
that the farms upon the out-skirts are, as a rule, more easily
tilled than those in the central portion, yet, perhaps, no more

The crops cultivated by the farmers are quite various. The
principal cereals are corn, rye, buckwheat and oats ; the vegeta-
bles, potatoes and turnips ; the fruits, apples, pears and peaches ;
and the small fruits, strawberries and raspberries. It is interest-
ing to note just here that Indian corn was a new thing to our
ancestors, and that the Indians themselves showed them how to
cultivate and prepare it for food. The strawberry, fifty or sixty-
years ago, was known chiefly as a wild fruit — of small size, and
very limited in quantity. It is now one of the most valuable
crops cultivated in the town. Many of the larger farmers rely
upon it more than upon any other one thing. In the height of


the season from some single farms have been shipped from 2,000
to 6,000 baskets a day. They have been sold in nearly all the
cities and villages of Eastern Connecticut ; and not a few have
gone to Worcester and other places in Massachusetts. The
peach crop, which was once very abundant, and then, by reason
of disease in the trees, diminished in quantity till it was almost
an entire failure, has been greatly revived in recent years. Large
quantities of this delicious fruit are raised, which command ready
sales at remunerative prices. A good many of the farmers rely
largely upon the products of their dairies. Others fatten for the
market, beef, pork, mutton and veal. Others raise and sell large
numbers of turkeys, chickens, geese and ducks. And many
depend very much upon eggs, the demand for which is so great
that it is seldom fully supplied. Finally, it may be said that of
all the towns in Eastern Connecticut, this town excels in the
growth and cultivation of the small fruits and their cash value
probably exceeds that of any other of its products, so that it has
come about that the central portion of the town yields more of
profit to the farmer than the out-skirts where nature was original -
ly far more kind to agriculture in general.

Wheat was largely cultivated in former years. But, after a
while, the crop began to suffer from the ravages of the weevil
and from unfavorable seasons. At length the great wheat-fields
of the West, with the modern facilities for transportation, ren-
dered it more advantageous to the farmer to buy his wheat-flour
than attempt to cultivate such an uncertain crop.

Flax was much relied upon in the olden time. The cloth
made from it was entirely a home product. The plant was grown
and rotted and broken and hetcheled and spun and wove into
strong cloth by the family themselves. And this cloth was used
for towels and sheets and shirts and summer jackets, vests and
pantaloons, and a great many other purposes. All this has
passed away, and linen and cotton goods, from raw materials
raised in other parts of the country, and manufactured by
processes widely different from those which prevailed in the days
of home-spun, have come, and come, doubtless, to stay.

The silk culture, which was carried on in a good many fami-


lies, sixty to eighty years ago, and was quite a source of profit
to them, has been abandoned ; and the trees from whose leaves
the worms were fed — the white mulberry and the multicaulis —
have nearly disappeared. Silk, in its raw state, is now obtained
in lands "where labor is much cheaper than it is here; and is
manufactured in large establishments where the art is carried to
a high degree of perfection. There are establishments of this
sort in Norwich, Preston side, New London and near Hartford.

The earliest occupants of the territory, which makes up the
town of Ledyard, were, so far as known, the Pequot Indians —
some account of whom is given in another place. Their succes-
sors, who are now upon the ground, are largely the descendants
of English Puritans, who came to this country during the first
half of the seventeenth century. Some of them were in the first
company of emigrants, who landed upon Plymouth Rock, Dec.
21, 1620. Others came at later dates — a good many between
1620 and 1640. The majority of them settled first in eastern
Massachusetts, but moved to Connecticut about 1650 — some a
year or two earlier ; a larger number several years later, and
settled at New London and Groton and Stonington — the two
last named towns being at that time parts of New London.

A few pioneer settlers found their \yay up the Thames River
into what is now Ledyard within a few years after the settlement .
of New London. There were not a great many, however, that
did this till near 1700. In the years that immediately preceded
and followed this date a considerable number of families — made
up largely of the grand-children of the first settlers at New Lon-
don — located permanently within the present boundaries of
Ledyard. Thus four at least of the grand-children of James
Avery (who moved from Gloucester, Mass., about 1649 or 50,
settled in New London, and later, about 1700, moved to
Poquonnoc), settled on Avery Hill near Poquetanuck Cove.
Among the earliest settlers were those at Allyn's Point.

John Winthrop, Jr., left Massachusetts Bay and sailed to the
Thames River and up that river, and located in that part of
Groton, now Ledyard, and known later as Allyn's Point. Win-
throp brought with him quite a number of the original settlers,


and came with the authority of the Bay Colony at Boston. He
gave the name of Groton to the territory in honor of the name of

Online LibraryJohn AveryHistory of the town of Ledyard, 1650-1900 → online text (page 1 of 24)