Nathan Stowe.

Sixty years' recollections of Milford, and its chronology from 1637 up to and including 1916 online

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Sixty Years' Recollections
of Milford

And Its Chronology from 1637 Up to and
Including 1916


The Whole Edited and Revised


Copyrighted by

Simon Lake, Helene Y. Putney, Newton Harrison

For the Village Improvement Association



Foreword 5

Chapter I 9

Chapter IT 17

Chapter III 22

Chapter IV . . 28

Chapter V 33

Chapter VI 39

Chapter VII 44

Chapter VIII 50

Chapter IX 55

Chapter X 61

Chronological History of ]\Iilford 67

OCT 24 1917



By Newton Harrison
Written in June, 1917

In these memorable times, when the great war, the Arma-
geddon of nations, is being fought out relentlessly at the cross-
roads of destiny, this brief page in the life of our community
has been completed. But, however unimportant the town of
]\lill'ord may seem to those of the world who have travelled in
other lands, or visited the great cities of the United States, it
must be remembered that the settlement of Milford, like that of
the rest of New England, was prompted by a love of liberty so
sincere, so deep and impelling, that though broad seas had to
be crossed, in what today would be called cockle-shells of ships,
and a wilderness had to be explored, inhabited by wild and
savage tribes, tlie early pioneers, imbued with a holy faith in
their ideals, and an iron resolution to succeed, faced these dan-
gers with stout hearts and undaunted minds.

To them, a new land was preferable to one in which their
rights were withheld, even though the dangers to be faced were
such as to make the strongest and most capable fear the end.
It was an adventure in which only rugged personalities engage,
if the ideals held in view are great enough to overcome the
terrors of the tlesh, through the strength of their appeal to the
spirit. The early settlers sought for a liberty in the wilds that
was denied them in the cities of men. They sought to establish
justice under the free skies of uncharted shores, because it was
not given to them by the courts of the land they left. It was
this sacrifice on their part that gave to American civilization
its ever-enduring greatness, based upon the right to be free and
the belief in justice.

It is not difficult to understand, therefore, that the reasons
leading to this strange pilgrimage of men and women from the
land of their birth were those of power and privilege unjustly
established in high places. The right to be free, the right to

worship as they saw fit, the right to exclude from their lives
the intiuence and mandates of a landed aristocracy, in combi-
nation with the desire to build homes on the soil of the new
world discovered by Columbus, led this community to face the
dangers of this enterprise. A strange unrest was stirring the
Anglo-Saxon world. Oliver Cromwell in 1640 had set fire to
the political deadwood that encumbered England. A great
revolution was about to break out. The head of the King
was to fall. England was to be reconstructed. Driving and
crushing social forces were at work. The Puritan spirit grew.
To escape this charged atmosphere, certain groups of daring
men and women decided upon emigration as the remedy for
their ills. Through one of these groups New Haven found its
origin. In 1639 the first settlement of Milford took place.
It was not long after, in the historic count of time, that the
famous regicides found safety and shelter in Milford, when the
representatives of the new English monarchy, erected on the
foundations built by Cromwell, were searching land and sea for
them. So Milford was born of the Cromwell era, when the
powerful forces of democracy were shaking the thrones of
kings. And now history repeats itself. The ideals of these
pioneers, of these brave men and women of Milford, of the
colonies of Cape Cod, as well as those farther South, have stirred
the hearts of the many nations. An empire of freedom has
arisen. It has taught liberty to England. It has given to the
lilies of France a new and enduring significance. Russia has
shaken oif the shackles of servitude. In Italy, the fire of free-
dom glows. It was Switzerland and the early colonists who
first demonstrated to the world, undeniably and practically,
that democracy is possible and right.

The sixty years covered by the references to the men and
women and homes of Milford people, are those that have been
part of the life of Mr. Stowe. His father was born in 1793,
ten years after the Revolution had ended. He is thus linked
to its times and events by one fully in touch with that great
period. His contribution, therefore, springs from a mind that
has known of provincial days, and can well contrast them with
modern times, its rush and bustle, its telegraphs, telephones,
express trains, Atlantic liners and flying machines. He can
well compare the simplicity of post-revolutionary days in terms
of his father's opinions, with the tremendous and eclipsing

change that has made the world but a neighborhood, and ren-
dered impossible the isolation of a small town from its intruding
and rapidly growing environment. He presents a series of
pictures of Milford as it w^as. He touches upon old customs,
and resurrects the incidents that clung to his memory of people
that have long since passed away. It is all related in a way
that carries with it the strange atmosphere of earlier days. A
chronology compiled by him takes up the history of Milford
from its very beginning in 1639. The separate and chief events
of the sixty years his recollections cover, are categorically pre-
sented in the chronological record to which reference is made.
This contribution by him has been prepared by hours of labor
and sacriiice, and it is but fitting that the community should
be made aware of the fact.

The cosmopolitanism of Milford is becoming more marked.
The children of all races now live within its boundaries. They
come from Calcutta and Hong Kong in the Orient, from the
frozen fields of Russia, from the sun-kissed lands that smile
beneath Roman skies, from the AVest Indian Islands where Co-
lumbus first saw the goal of his dreams, and the far northern
reaches of Canada, where French is the patois of the people.
And on this soil, through the stimulating, instructive and vital
influences that comprise the social, industrial, political and in-
tellectual life of America, irritating dift'erences are removed,
the basic elements of citizenship are developed, and whatever
the race or creed of the emigrant, a new liberty-loving spirit is
born, at one with the enduring ideals of Washington, the hu-
mility and nobleness of Lincoln, and the strength, dignity and
purpose of our courts of justice.

Milford, as an historic center, has been one of the foci
from which radiated the principles of free government. From
it wandered the community that founded the city of Newark.
Names, illustrious in the past and present of the United States,
may be found chiselled on its tombstones. As small nations
have made the history of the world, small settlements have
made the history of America. Among them may be counted
Milford. The United States is therefore unique among nations.
All races have contributed to its development. It is the great-
est organization the world has ever seen of co-operative forces.
Through the warp and woof of the texture of American life the
golden threads of idealism predominate. The spirit of emi-

gration is the spirit of progress. When this unrest ceases, and
smug complacency takes its place, opportunity cannot find the
proper soil for its roots. There is a Avithering and a dying. We
are trying a vast political experiment. It is the experiment of a
restless people. Liberty, Justice and Ilumanity are our watch-
words. They must serve to reconstruct the lives of all emi-
grants. They have helped Milford to give to the nation some
of its leaders. They are still the Avatchwords of our lips. From
the efforts of all those brave pioneers who crossed the seas to
find a place of freedom, who built towns in the wilderness,
some of whom gave IMilford its name and inspiration, the United
States of America has arisen.

This great nation is now engaged in a mighty struggle with
the same forces that gave it birth. The old colonial spirit, the
soul of the small and scattered settlements of 1776 has per-
meated every state in the Union. We have entered into a new
war against auto2racy, perhaps the last that shall ever be
fought. But the principles of 1776, the right of a people to
rule themselves, are what we wish to transmit to the races o?
Central Europe. The shining vision of a free wo'rld is the pic-
ture before our eyes. If America has lived to gain in purpose
and power through the establishment of the highest principles
of national life, then that purpose and that power can only live
in the future, if it is unstintingly lent to others, to secure for
themselves and mankind the rights that are ours today. There-
fore, we battle shoulder to shoulder with the upholders of lib-
erty, with the democratic nations of the world, against the
usurpers of power and the pirates of privilege. From Milford
sons have gone forth already, as of old, to lay down their lives
on the altar of liberty. Many more will follow, and prove to
the world that the spirit of democracy kindled in Cromwell's
day still lives; that the rights we believe to be inalienable, for
which men died in 1776, are as powerful in their call upon men's
souls today as then ; that when the Armageddon was fought
at the cross-roads of destiny, our defenders of liberty did not
falter, and among those who nobly lived, suffered and died
Milford 's sons were not absent.

Sixty Years' Recollections of Milford.


At a regular meeting of the "Village Improvement Asso-
ciation/' held at the D. A. R. Chapter House on the 11th day
of July, 1910, a resolution Avas offered by j\Ir. Camille Mazeau
and regularly adopted by the Association, providing for the
preservation of such information as might be elicited from
elderly people now living, relating to the physiographical fea-
tures of our Town, from their earliest recollection, and to in-
clude such traditional lore as might be considered reliable or
desirable. Your historian in undertaking to gather such in-
formatiou Avill not expect that everything contained in his
report Avill be verified by indisputable proof, but will be open
Cor correction as from time to time may be advisable — the
prime object being to gather information as nearly correct as
may be, and to preserve the landmarks of Old Milford. From
the trend of debate at the above stated meeting, the writer was
impressed with the need of immediate action, more especially
as he realized that what was quite vivid in his own recollection,
ceemed to many of those present to be ancient history, or was
entirely unknown to them. Within the lifetime of some noAV
among us such changes have been wrought as almost to obliter-
ate the former landmarks and replace them with something new
and strange.

We will begin with a date, which between then and the
present, covers a period of about seventy-five years, but will
welcome any earlier history that may be obtained as well as
that which may be given by young people to date. A very
great obstacle to the recording of fact is that we do not fully
appreciate the importance of events occurring in our own time
and presence, and fail to make a note of them while yet fresh
in the memory.

The writer must rely upon others for information not only
preceding his own recollection, but for much that escaped his


notice. Seventy-five years carries us back to the year 1835
before the advent of the railroad, the telegraph or the daily
paper. In this community there were then few of the imple-
ments for labor saving that are in common use among us today.
The Smithy was the apex of manufacture in metal, water-power
the source for driving our flour and sawmills, and the treadmill,
for sawing wood for the wood-burning locomotives when they
became a feature among us. These were marvels of progress. The
locomotive itself did not cease to be a wonder for some years,
and it has been said that so great a man as Daniel Webster
prophesied that any device that could move overland a load
of ten tons at a speed of four miles per hour would revolution-
ize the traffic of the world, and his prophecy was not far wrong
except in his underrating the forces then latent in the brain of
his contemporaries. About sixty years ago the Town Wharf
(formerly Perit"s) was the port of entry for nearly all the mer-
chandise that entered our Town from New York and other ports.
Upon the arrival of "The Sloop" or packet, the wagons from
all the stores assembled at the AA^harf and took away each its
quota of the cargo. Wheat, flour, bran and feed were even
then the chief part of the cargo, but general groceries, lumber
and coal were all brought in by water. Besides the sloop,
other vessels were required at times to bring in lumber and
coal. The Coopers and Carriage Manufacturers sent away their
wares and received their supplies by vessels. There were a
number of sailboats for pleasure and in summer on pleasant
days and moonlight nights they were seldom at anchor, and
the merry parties might be heard in song as they sailed, and
the writer recalls those sweet tunes with a longing for a repeti-
tion of the same.

At the head of the AVharf fronting the west side of the
roadway stood Captain Mallett's cooper shop, and opposite was
a large spring that served both the Captain and Mr. Samuel
Burns as receptacle in which to keep their hoop-poles moist
until required for use. Mr. Burns' shop is yet standing, but
the land between it and the street was partly low and marshy
and partly salt meadow, while just above the present entrance
to the coal yard there stood a large red storehouse. Both this
and the cooper shop on the opposite side of the street were well
shaded and with the flowery bank by the roadside on the hill,
formed an attractive picture which was well balanced on the


other hand by the sparkling water in the foreground backed
by the beautiful verdure of the Harbor Woods. A thorough-
fare ''under the bank" at the edge of the green meadow with
its calamus beds and springs of pure water, led to the old tan-
nery of j\Iiles Merwin where now is the straw hat factory. On
the bank grew several buttonball trees and beneath them on
the grassy slope among the long-stemmed dandelions, were
often seen groups of children making dandelion chains of the

In the winter season when the Harbor was frozen and navi-
gation closed, ihe hill at the foot of Wharf Street was a favor-
ite resort for coasting for children out of school hours and
young ladies and gentlemen in the evening. Mr. Elisha Stowe
and his son Sydney and their families then owned and occupied
the property now known as the Rogers place, and it was to
this house that old Dr. Sweet moved when first he came to our
Town. Mr. Isaac Rogers later purchased the property which
I learn had at one time been owned by some member of his
family, and by him some changes and additions were made,
but the main part of the house appears outwardly much the
same as sixty years ago. This property was a part of the
Major Samuel Eells homestead and was bought by Mr. Peter
Perit at the same time that Capt. Stephen Stowe came into pos-
session of the Stowe House, now the residence of Howard Piatt.
If it were necessary to show that this house is entitled to rank
among the oldest remaining in Town, the following extract
from the will of the said Major Eells furnishes the evidence :

"Major Samuel Eells, formerly of Milford, Conn., now of
Hingham, Mass., one of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace,
died the 21st day of April, 1709." Extract from his will:
"Item First, That my beloved wife Sarah do within eight
months after my decease, or upon the demand of my son, Sam-
uel Eells, of Milford, in Connecticut Colony, quit her claim unto
my said son and to his heirs and assigns forever of, in and unto
my house and land in Milford, that I made over to my said
wife upon her marriage with me, by instrument bearing date
the 28th day of July, 1689. Item : I give and bequeath unto my
said son, Samuel Eells, my old dwelling house, barn and home-
lot and orchard in Milford aforesaid, with all my outlands,"
etc. He further devises to his daughter-in-law (Frances
Oviatt Eells, widow of his son, John Eells), for her use


during widowhood, his new house, etc., and again he devises
that upon condition of the decease of his son Samuel before
his wife that she should be forced to part with the house
that was her former husband's (Capt. Samuel Bryan) then she
should if she survive his son have one-half his aforesaid old
dwelling house, ' ' which side she pleaseth, ' ' during widowhood,

The foregoing are extracts from the will and relate to the
"Stowe House" on "Wharf Street, showing that the house M^as
standing and nnt new in July, 1689. Colonel Samuel Eells
not only survived his second wife Martha (Whiting-Bryan)
Eells, but afterwards married the Widow Rebecca (A¥ilkinson)
Baldwin, grandmother of Freelove Baldwin, Freelove being
then abmit tliirteen years of age. It is stated that upon the
marriage of Samuel and Rebecca she moved from her own
house on the east side of W^harf Street to that of her husband
on the west side and opposite hers. This would indicate that
the house that was demolished when Mr. Samuel Burns erected
his was formerly the Baldwin place. In February, 1754, the
Eells property was conveyed by Nathaniel Eells, son of Sam-
uel, as follows : That part now knoAvn as the Rogers place was
bought by Mr. Peter Perit and the remaining L-shaped piece
running froin the street back to what is now the line of Mr.
Alonzo Burns' yard and following that line to the harbor, was
conveyed to Capt. Stephen Stowe. The new house before, men-
tioned in the will of ]\Iajor Samuel Eells formerly stood where
now stands the house recently bought by Mr. Webber, which
said new house was taken away when Mrs. Frederick Stowe
erected the present house about 18-10.

Where now stands the house of Roger Baldwin stood until
about ''the fifties" an old house in which in Revolutionary
times lived the Doctor Carrington who with Capt. Stowe vol-
unteered to accompany the sick American soldiers to their tem-
porary hospital, where forty-six of them died.

Where now is the house of Edward Parmelee stood the
house of ]\Iajor Samuel Burns, and in his latter days the jMajor
might frequently have been seen sitting on one of the side
seats of his front porch, with his high Avhite silk hat and blue
coat with gilt buttons, and leaning upon his stout cane. Cherry
trees were then used for shade trees outside the walks on the
street, and AVharf Street was lined with them on both sides a


greater part of its length. Some ebns still stand in front of
Capt. Fred Stowe's place and perhaps from well ont in the
street in front of Capt. IMichael Peck's, now the Franklin place.
Capt. Isaac Green's honse stood with little change for more
than sixty-five years, the Captain, thongh perhaps somewhat
eccentric, was a very public-spirited man and did nnieli for the
section in which he lived. It was he who opened the street
which bears his name. He was largely instrumental in the
erection of the Liberty Pole that for many years stood on the
"green" in front of j\Ir. George J. Smith's residence. His
rather spare but tall and stately form in a long military cloak
and tall silk hat, always completing his street dress, -was a famil-
iar figure.

Tt is perhaps well to state here that until recent times
the i)roperty was all enclosed by fences along the streets
to prevent the cattle then commonly kept in or near the center
of the Town from entering unbidden. Crossing Green Street
near the corner facing AVharf Street stood a one and a half
story house, the front slope of the roof ending in and forming
the roof of the porch which extended across the front. The
house stood high, and on the soutlierly side the cellar opened
on a level with the ground. As the cellar door was almost iri-
vai'iably open and the cellar dark and the ground skirted with
thick currant bushes next the street fence, it had a most for-
bidding look to the youngsters of the neighborhood, when at
about dusk one of them chanced to pass. Presumably from
the menacing appearance, it was known to the younger element
as the haunted house. It Avas occupied by a journeyman
cooper, Joshua Give. It was laid low when Mark Mallett re-
placed it with the building now standing, probably about 1855.
Capt. Mallett 's house, with the exception of an added portico, is
little changed. His barn, wdiiieh stood about where now stand's
the house of Omar Piatt, was moved back beyond the line of
Mr. Piatt's fence, and has since been taken down. Capt.
Michael Peck Avas a master carpenter and built arid lived in the
house now owned and occupied by Miss Franklin. It was
he who built the present First Congregational Church, which
has since been twice enlarged. The dwelling presents inuch
the same appearance as when first put up. Uncle John Bald-
win's place, since occupied by Mr. Elmer Barnes, was a rather
small house standing near the line on the southerly side of


the plot, and the northerly side was well covered with build-
ings, the first, standing near the northerly fence and about
twenty feet back from the street, was a small but comfortable
building in which was domiciled the father of Mr. Baldwin,
Avho in his declining years was cared for by his son and family ;
extending back to the rear fence were the various outbuildings
necessary to house the stock and animals of a small farmer's
homestead. The small building now standing at the rear of
the lot was for many years the "Wepowaug Engine House,"
and then stood where is now the northeast corner of the lawn
in front of the Town Clerk's office. The house in which Mr.
jTohn Shepherd now lives was the property of Mrs. Noble Bris-
tol, who later moved to New Jersey, and like that of the Tib-
bals family, next with the exception of refurbishing and the
addition of dormer windows, presents much the same appear-
ance now as then. The same may be said of the store on the
corner, which was at that time kept by Messrs. Mark and
George Tibbals as a grocery, and like most, if not all of his
stores, was a sort of club room for men in the evenings, each
one of which claimed its own particular coterie who were in-
variably in their chosen places by the stove or upon a barrel-

Returning to the easterly side of AA^harf Street : The
houses at the lower end have been mentioned, but where now is
the residence of Mr. Morton Tibbals former!}^ stood the barn
and outbuildings sixty years ago owned by Mr. Lockwood
Burns. A low building fronting upon the street next the
northerly line was then the headquarters of Mr. Dennis Bristol,
who maintained a passenger and baggage express between this
town and New Haven. Mr. George Smith had but a short
time before discontinued a like express and stage business, and
had settled near the Housatonic River on the ground where
now is part of Judge Root's property at the "Ferry," as it was
yet called, though the ferry had been out of existence from the
establishment of bridge connection by the turnpike company
and from which they derived a revenue from the tolls exacted
from passengers. Sometime about the time of the Civil "War
the turnpike company gave up their maintenance and collec-
tion of tolls and the state now assumes the maintenance of the
road, and the two counties that of the bridge. Mr. David
Merwin's house on Wharf Street is much the same now as sixty


years ago. The outbuildings are new. AVhere now lives ^Iv.
Burgess then stood the house of Mr. Charles Peck, a popular
manufacturer and dealer in hoots and shoes. The liouse in
which he lived was the same that is now on Green Street, owned
and occupied by the Langner family. It stood, before removal,
about four feet from the front fence and about the same di^>
tance from Air. Cornwall's line. The old shop stood near the
well and JMr. Merwin's line, and was also moved awa.y, its new
location being at the west side of the street at the head of the
Wharf. It has recenth^ been demolished. JMr. Peck's yard
"was about one foot below the grade of the street, and a large

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Online LibraryNathan StoweSixty years' recollections of Milford, and its chronology from 1637 up to and including 1916 → online text (page 1 of 8)