Ralph Dunning Smith.

The history of Guilford, Connecticut online

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MONG the manuscripts left by the late Ralph D.
Smith Esq., who had devoted his leisure hours during
the last forty years of his life to the study of histori-
cal and genealogical subjects, was found an outline
sketch of the history of Guilford, written some thirty
years ago and doubtless laid aside with the hope of
resuming his labors upon it when more abundant
materials should have been collected for the purpose.
The history of the early settlers of the town was a
favorite subject of study. Although not a native, he
showed an attachment to it fully equal to that ever
shown by any one to the place of his birth. He was
thoroughly acquainted with its records and keenly
alive to everything that would add to its reputation.
Had this historical sketch been filled up and completed
by his own hands, it would have undoubtedly compared
favorably, in accuracy and completeness, with the his-
tory of any town heretofore written. Still it seemed
proper to save what he had prepared, even in its in-
complete form, as something of great value to the
student of local history, and as a foundation upon
which future laborers might build a more complete
and exhaustive history.


There is something exceedingly attractive in the
history of this town and its good people, singularly
reminding one of what Halleck, the Guilford poet,
says in his poem Connecticut :

" View them near

At home, where all their worth and pride is placed ;
And there their hospitable fires burn clear.

And there the lowliest farm-house hearth is graced
With manly hearts, in piety sincere.

Faithful in love, in honor stern and chaste,
In friendship warm and true, in danger brave,

Beloved in life, and sainted in the grave."

The editor has been assisted in the preparation of
the manuscript for the press by Dr. Alvan Talcott,
and is indebted also to Rev. Lorenzo T. Bennett,
D.D., Rev. Geo. W. Banks, Hon. Edward R. Lan-
don, and others, for occasional assistance, to all of
whom he begs leave to make due acknowledgments
for the same.

L. H. S.

Guilford^ July i, 1877.



HE original town of Guilford, including the present towns
of Guilford and Madison, stretched along the shore of Long
Island sound from Branford to Killingworth, a distance on a
straight line of perhaps nine or ten miles. June i6th, 1671,' a
committee found the length of the town from south to north
to be ten miles, measuring from the point of rocks at the south-
west of Guilford harbor ; but, as this point is north of many
other points on the sound, the mean length of the town may
be considered as eleven miles. The breadth diminished grad-
ually, although irregularly, northwards until it became only
about four miles and five-eighths of a mile. The mean breadth
may be nearly seven miles. The western boundary, separating
the town from Branford, was a straight line from the mouth of
Stony creek to the centre of Pistapaug pond, where in a single
monument was the corner boundary of the four towns of Guil-
ford, Branford, Wallingford and Durham. This pond is a
mile long from south to north, and a half a mile wide. The
northern boundary, separating the town from Durham, ran a
little north of east from the centre of this pond to the western
branch of Hammonassett river. The above mentioned com-
mittee found the distance from the eastern side of the pond to
this branch to be four miles, three furlongs and four rods, but
as the boundary commenced in the centre of the pond the whole
distance must be greater. The eastern boundary passed down
the middle of this branch to the Hammonassett, thence down

Guilford Records, vol. i, page 50.


the middle of the river to Dudley's creek, whence it ran 216
rods, 50° 10' east, to West rock so called on the sound.
This boundary separated the town from Killingworth. Ori-
ginally it followed the Hammonassett to its entrance into Kil-
lingworth harbor, and one half of the harbor was considered as
belonging to Guilford ; but the legislature of the state, at an
adjourned session in December, 1790, changed the line from
Dudley's creek to West rock, throwing the whole of the harbor
and a tract of land east of this new part of the line into Killing-
worth. It was provided, however, that this should not prevent
the town of Guilford from regulating the fisheries of oysters and
clams as fully as though this alteration had not been made.

Before the division of the town in 1826, Guilford embraced
four located congregational societies, viz : Guilford First Society
and the society now called North Guilford ; and East Guilford
and North Bristol, now Madison and North Madison. Besides
tlietwo societies last mentioned the new townof Madison includes
a narrow strip of land previously a part of Guilford First Society,
running northward about two miles from the sound. The
divisional line between the two towns, begins at the centre of
Munger's island on the margin of the sound ; thence in a right
line to the extreme point of land between the East and Neck
rivers ; thence to the channel of the East river ; thence follow-
ing the channel of the East river as far north as the abutment
of Chittenden's landing ; thence easterly to the northeast
corner of said wharf; thence northeasterly in a right line to
the parish line a little south of David Dudley's dwelling house,
where the centre of the road intersects said parish line ; thence
on the parish lines of East Guilford and North Bristol, to the
north line of Guilford. The whole original town, like others in
the vicinity and country, was originally inhabited by Indians,
who called it, or at least the western part of it, Menunkatuck.
They were numerous on the great plains south of Guilford


borough, as appears from the vast masses of shells which they
brought upon it and which are mouldering to this day ; and
considerably numerous in other parts of the town as the har-
bors and shores of the sound furnished them with great ad-
vantages for fishing, and the woods back for hunting.

That part of the town which lies between Ruttawoo (East
river) and Agicomook (Stony creek), constituting nearly all
the present town of Guilford, was purchased of the sachem-
squaw of Menunkatuck (Shaumpishuh), the Indian inhabitants
consenting, Sept. 29, 1639, by Henry Whitfield, Robt. Kitchel,
William Leete, William Chittenden, John Bishop, and John
CafEnge, in behalf of themselves and others, who (except the
said John Caffinge perhaps) had come out to New Haven the
same year, and who were now resolved to make a settlement at
this place. At the time of the purchase it was understood and
agreed that the deed should remain in the hands of the planters,
until a church should be formed in the town, to whom it should
be given and under whose superintendence the lands should be
divided out to those who were interested in them. The
articles given for this tract were, twelve coats, twelve fathoms
of wampum, twelve glasses, twelve pair of shoes, twelve hatchets,
twelve pairs of stockings, twelve hoes, four kettles, twelve
knives, twelve hats, twelve porringers, twelve spoons, two
English coats. The Indians agreed to remove, and it was gene-
rally understood that they did remove to Branford and East
Haven. An article, however, in the Guilford records suggests
that a number of them were permitted to remain for a time at
Ruttawoo. The English settlement commenced immediately
after this purchase on the grounds now included in Guilford
borough, the plain and some lands near the sound having been
cleared by the natives and prepared for cultivation.

The planters had not been long in the town before Mr.
Whitfield particularly, who had their prosperity greatly at heart,


undertook to extend their territory eastwards, and on the 20th
of September, 1 641, he obtained of Weekwosh of Pashquishook
[ ] a tract of land called the Neck, extending

along on the sound, as it was then described, from East river to
Tuckshishoag or Tuxis pond, for the consideration of " a frieze
coat or blanket, an Indian coat, one faddom Dutchman's coat,
a shirt, a pair of shoes and a faddom of wampum."

The right of Weekwosh to this land, however, appears to
have been soon doubted, for on the 17th of Dec. following,
Mr. Whitfield, Robt. Kitchel, William Chittenden, William
J/cete, John Bishop, John Caffinge, John Jordan, and the rest
of the English planters of Menunkatuck made a purchase of
Uncas, sachem of the Mohegans, which covered this land and
extended northward through the township. In the deed of
conveyance Uncas declared himself to be the sole owner of all
these lands, denied utterly the claim of Weekwosh and all others,
and accompanied his declaration with such circumstances and
testimony as left little doubt that the right of sale was in his line.
The consideration paid to Uncas was four coats, two kettles,
four fathoms of wampum, four hatchets and three hoes.

Mr. Whitfield was desirous of extending the township still
further eastward and accordingly made repeated applications to
his friend Mr. George Fenwick of Saybrook, to convey to the
town the tract lying between Tuxis pond and Hammonassett
river, which Mr. Fenwick had previously bought of Uncas. In
a letter dated Oct. 22d, 1645, Mr. Fenwick gave the tract to
Guilford on condition that the planters would accommodate Mr.
Whitfield with land to his content, and he was authorized to
hold the land until the conditions should be fulfilled. The
town accordingly made several allotments of land to Mr. Whit-
field, which he accepted, and on the 20th of August, 1650, he
gave to the town a deed of all the right, title and interest which
he had in the lands given by Mr. Fenwick, for the considera-


tion of £20 paid in wheat, which must be considered an addi-
tion to the allotments. On the ?.oth of September following
he also gave to the town all his right (whatever it was) to the
Neck, obtained first from Weekwosh, as the town had paid the

Uncas probably claimed the two tracts just mentioned in virtue
of the conquest of the Pequots in which he assisted. They had
possessed either in their own persons or by their tributaries a
territory of very considerable extent. Concerning the Indians
who dwelt upon this nothing certain is known. A stone with
a human head and neck roughly carved, now lying in a fence
half a mile northeast of Madison meeting-house, is supposed to
have been used by them as an Idol. Nothing is also certainly
known as to what became of them after the purchase of their
grounds. They may have joined their brethren, the Menunka-
tuck Indians at Branford and East Haven, or the Hammonassett
Indians at Killingworth, the remnants of whom remained in that
town until 1739 or 1740. The latter supposition is the most
probable as they appear to have been the most numerous about
Hammonassett river, where they had cleared a large field which
was easily cultivated and very productive. Indian bones have
been found near the river and also on the Neck.

The first settlers of this town were adventurers from Surry
and Kent near London, and, unlike their mercantile brethren
who peopled New Haven, were mostly farmers.' They had

' Their first recorded act as a separate community was tlie Covenant, wliich iliey
signed on ship-board, while on the passage, which was as follows :

We, whose names are hereunder written, intending by God's gracious permission
to plant ourselves in New England, and, if it may be, in the southerly part, about
^uinnipiack : We do faithfully promise each to each, for ourselves and families, and
those that belong to us ; that we will, the Lord assisting us, sit down and join our-
selves together in one intire plantation ; and to be helpful each to the other in every
common work, according to every man's ability and as need shall require ; and we


not a merchant among them and scarcely a mechanic ; and it
was at great trouble and expense that they procured even a
blacksmith on their Plantation. They took much pains to find
land like that from which they had removed. At first they
thought of Milford, but finally fixed upon Guilford, because
they found it, particularly about the town plat where they first
settled, low, flat and moist land agreeable to their wishes. They
called the town Guilford in remembrance of Guildford a
borough-town, the capital of Surry, where many of them had

About forty planters came into the town in 1639, whose
names in consequence of a defect in the records cannot be given
with entire certainty. There were forty-eight in 1650, among
which are doubtless included the original forty. Their names
and the date of their admission as freemen are as follows :

Henry Whitfield,

"Jno. Hlgginson.

George Hubbard.

Mr. Sam'/ Disborow^ May 22, 1648.

Mr. Rob't Kltchell, '' . ''

Mr. Wm. Chittenden, " "

promise not to desert or leave cacli other or the plantation, but witli tlie consent ot"
the rest, or the greater part of the company wlio have enteied into this engagement.

As for our gathering together in a church way, and the choice of officers and
members to be joined together in that way, we do refer ourselves until such time as
it shall please God to settle us in our plantation.

In witness whereof we subscribe our hands, the first day of June, 1639.
Robert Kitchell, John Stone, Thomas Norton,

John Bishop, William Plane, Abraham Cruttenden,

Francis Bushnell, Richard Gutridge, Francis Chatfield,

William Chittenden, John Hughes, William Halle,

William Leete, Wm. Dudley, Thomas Naish,

Thomas Joanes, J"hn Farmelin, Henry Kingsnorth,

John Jurdon, John Mcpham, Henry Doude,

William Stone, Henry Whitfield, ' 'rhonias Cooke.

John Hoadly,


Mr. Wm. Leete, May 22, 1^8. /6^6

Thomas Jordan,
John Hodely,

John Scranton, " "

George Bartlett, " "

Jasper Stillwell,

Alexander Chalker, " "

John Stone, " "

Thomas Jones, May 22, 1649.

William Hall,
Thomas Beits,

John Parmelin, Sen., "

Henry Kingsnorth, June 15, 1649.

Thomas Cook, Feb. 14, 1650.

Richard Bristow,
Jno. Parmelin, Jr.,

John Fowler, June 30, 1650.

Wm. Dudley,
Richard Gutteridge,

Abraham Cruttenden, Sen., May 19, 1651

Edward Benton, "

John Evarts,' Feb. 5, 1652.

The following names of planters are given in the original
Records, who had not been admitted as freemen :
John Bishop Sen;,
Thomas Chatfield,
Francis Bushnell,
Henry Dowd,

I The name of John Evarts, which appears at the bottom of the list of names in
1650 was undoubtedly added afterwards, as it appears that he did not come to Guil-
ford until the next year, being admitted a planter Sept. 4, 1651, and sworn in a free-
man Feb. 5, 165a. He purchased John Mepham's allotment of Timothy Baldwin of
Milford, by deed dated July 29, 1651.


Richard Hues^

George Chatfield^

William Stone,

John Stevens,
\ Benjamin Wright,

'John Linsley^

John Johnson,

John Sheader^

Samuel Blachley,

Thomas French^

Stephen Bishop,

Thomas Stevens,

William B or em an ^

Edward Sewers,

George Highland,

Abraham Cruttenden, Jr.
Among the names in the above list John Higginson, George
Hubbard, John Fowler, and Thomas Betts ' were not of the
original settlers. The Rev. Mr. Higginson came from Salem,
Mass., where his father Francis Higginson was the first pastor,
first stopping at Hartford, afterwards at Saybrook fort, and then
coming to Guilford about 1641. George Hubbard came from
Wethersfield to Milford with Mr. Prudden in 1639 on the set-
tlement of the last mentioned town and purchased the property
of Jacob Sheaffe in CJuilford, Sept. 22, 1648, who thereupon
moved to Boston, Mass. John Fowler also came with Mr.
Prudden to Milford in 1639, ?.nd is mentioned on the first list
of planters made on the settlement of that town, and is supposed
also to liave come from Wethersfield. He came to Guilford
before 1648, as he is mentioned as early as that time. John

' Thomas Betts came from Milford, where he was one of the first settlers, in 1639.
He afterwards removed, 1665, or 1666, to Norwalk.


Mepham having died before the lists were made, his name is not
mentioned, although he was sworn in May 22, 1648. Henry
Goldam appears to have been here at this time and long after-
wards but his name is omitted from the lists for some cause.
Abraham Cruttenden, Sen., and Edward Benton, were among
the earliest settlers, but were not admitted freemen till after the
list was made out, and their names were added at the time of
their being sworn, May 19, 1651, George Hubbard seems to
have been received as a freeman immediately after his coming
to Guilford, and Mr. Whitfield and Mr. Higginson were pro-
bably granted the privileges of freemen by courtesy, as there is
no account of their being sworn in.

Of those who were only planters, John Bishop, Sen., was
one of the original settlers and one of the original grantees with
Mr. Whitfield and others in the deed from the sachem squaw.
Thomas Chatfield and George Chatfield were brothers of Francis
Chatfield (who was in Guilford as early as August, 1645, and
probably some three or four years before that time), who died
1646 as appears by the settlement of his estate recorded in the
first volume of the Records, Oct. 13, 1646. Benjamin Wright,
John Stevens with his sons Thomas and William Stevens,
Henry Dowd, William Stone, Richard Hues, John Johnson,
Thomas French, Stephen Bishop, and Wm. Boreman appear
to have been here as early as 1646. Edward Sewers and George
Highland came as late as 165 1 and their names must have been
added to the list after it was made out.

There were many of the original planters who died or removed
prior to 1650, whose names are not on the lists. John Caffinge,
one of the first prominent settlers and one of the original grantees
from the sachem squaw, Thomas Norton and Thomas Mills
(who died 1648), John Mepham (died 1649), John Jordan (died
1649), William Somers (died 1650), William Plaine, who was
here as early as 1645 and was executed about 1648, Thomas


Relf who was divorced from his wife Elizabeth Disborow in
1650, leaving the plant-.tion so that his estate was settled as
though he was dead, and his widow afterwards married John
Johnson one of the early settlers, October, 165 1, Thomas
Dunk, who was here in 1645 but removed to Saybrooic about
1650, and Francis Austin,' who embarked in the Lamberton
ship and was lost ; these are not found on the lists.

The places where most of the original settlers first located
themselves are now known. The noted Stone house of Mr.
.Whitfield, said to have been built in 1639, erected both for the
accommodation of his family and as a fortification for the pro-
tection of the inhabitants against the Indians, is supposed to be
the oldest dwelling-house now standing in the United States.
This house was kept in its original form until 1868, when it
underwent such renovation as changed its appearance and in-
ternal arrangement to a great extent, although the north wall
and large stone chimney are substantially the same as they have
been for over two centuries.^ It occupies a rising ground over-

' Francis Austin is supposed to be tiie ancestor of the Austins who resided for-
merly in the north part of North Guilford, from whom descended Stephen Austm,
formerly of that village, who figured so conspicuously in the history of Texas and
after whom the city of Austin was named.

- The following description of the old Stone house, or Mr. Whitfield's house, is
taken from a note in Palfrey's History of Ne-w England, ii, 59, furnished by Mr.
Smith about 1859, and is descriptive of its appearance and condition at that tmie:

The walls are of stone, from a ledge eighty rods distant to the east. It was pro-
bably brought on hand-barrows, across a swamp, over a rude causey, which is still to
be traced. A small addition, not here represented, has in modern times been made
to the back of the house, but there is no question that the main building remains in
its original state, even to the oak of the beams, floors, doors, and window-sashes.
The following representations of the interior exhibit accurately the dimensions of the
rooms, windows, and doors, the thickness of the walls, etc., on a scale of ten feet to
the inch. The single dotted lines represent fire-places and doors. The double
dotted lines represent windows. In the recesses of the windows are broad seats.
Within the memory of some of the residents of the town, the panes of glass were of
diamond shape.

The height of the first story is seven feet and two-thirds. The height ot the






looking the great plain south of the village and commanding a
very fine prospect of" the sound. It is said that the first marriage
was celebrated in it, the wedding-table being garnished with the
substantial luxuries of pork and pease. According to tradition
the stone, of which this house was built, was brought by the In-
dians on hand-barrows, across the swamp, from Griswold's
rocks, a ledge about eighty rods east of the house, and an an-
cient causeway across the swamp is shown as the path employed
for this purpose. The house consisted of two stories and an
attic. The walls were three feet thick. At the southwest
corner of the second floor there was a singular embrasure, com-
manding the approach from the south and west, which was evi-
dently made tor defensive purposes. In the attic there were
two recesses evidently intended as places of concealment.

This house was undoubtedly the best in the village but not the
only one built of stone. Jasper Stillwell, on the lot northward,
Rev. John Higginson — son-in-law of Mr. Whitfield and sub-
sequently of Salem, Mass., and Sam'l Disborow, the magistrate
and a relative of Oliver Cromwell, all had stone houses, situated
back from the street with door yards in front similar to Mr.
Whitfield's. Mr, Whitfield sold his accommodations to Major
Thompson oi London, a man of some note during the com-
monwealth, in whose family it remained until a short time before
the Revolutionary war, when Wyllys Elliott of Guilford pur-
chased it.

second is six feet and three-quarters. At the southerly corner in the second story
there was originally an embrasure, about a foot wide, with a stone flooring, which
remains. The exterior walls are now closed up, but not the walls within.

The walls of the front and back of the house terminate at the floor of the attic,
and the rafters lie upon them. The angle of the roof is 60°, making the base and
sides equal. At the end of the wing, by the chimney, is a recess, which must have
been intended as a place of concealment. The interior wall has the appearance of
touching the chimney, like the wall at the northwest end. But the removal of a
board discovers two closets which project beyond the lower part of the building.



Mr. Higginson lived at the southwest corner of the green on
the south side of Bridge street. Mr. Disborow on the same
side of the street, to the west. Mr. Leete lived on the north
corner of Water and Broad streets. Mr. Chittenden on the
south corner opposite, near the bank of West or Menunkatuck
river. Mr. Rob't Kitchel lived on t'ne corner of Broad and
Fair streets, on the site occupied by the house of the late Judge
Griffing, John Fowler on the opposite corner where Judge
Fowler, one of his descendants lived in recent times.

The rich and cleared lands about the town plat, together with
considerations of continual intercourse and mutual safety, in-
duced the colonists to settle in a cluster, but as their numbers
increased and as circumstances became more favorable, they
gradually spread themselves into other parts of the First Society
and pretty soon into Madison near the shore of the sound, and
at Hammonassett. As early as October, 1646, it was " ordered
that Nut plains and another plain on the east side of East river
(doubtless that now called Howlett's), together with the land
on the other side of said East river, both upland and marsh,

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Online LibraryRalph Dunning SmithThe history of Guilford, Connecticut → online text (page 1 of 16)