William C Gilman.

The celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of the town of Norwich, Connecticut, and of the incorporation of the city, the one hundred and twenty-fifth, July 4, 5, 6, 1909: online

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Online LibraryWilliam C GilmanThe celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of the town of Norwich, Connecticut, and of the incorporation of the city, the one hundred and twenty-fifth, July 4, 5, 6, 1909: → online text (page 2 of 19)
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one to the other, "I have no need of thee."

From this rapid review of some of the noteworthy
events of world-wide interest that have profoundly con-
cerned Norwich within the last two generations attention
must now be turned to affairs in a narrower field that are
of peculiar interest to the town itself.


Norwich 1859 to igog.

Although the different villages that compose Norwich
are members of the same body and have many interests in
common they have many that are diverse. Secluded to
some extent by natural divisions they do not easily get
together. Bean Hill is far from Laurel Hill, Thamesville
from Taftville. Even within the city limits the rocky ridge
of Jail Hill, or Savin Hill, as it used to be called, is a formid-
able barrier between the two important thoroughfares,
Broadway and Washington street, and, consequently,
public improvements that are urgently needed in one section,
concern another section so remotely that unanimity is well
nigh impossible. The dwellers in the outer districts, the
farmers on the hill sides, the workers in the more remote
manufacturing villages, while largely benefited by the
advantages of the city, have been reluctant to be incor-
porated with it. They bring to the city the products of
their farms and mills, they deposit their money in the city
banks, their children are in the Free Academy, their wives
and daughters come to the city for the latest fashions, "the
freedom of the city" is theirs, its amusements, its libraries,
and its churches, but hitherto they have uniformly opposec\

As long ago as 1868 petitions for consolidation were
presented to the General Assembly, but so persistent was
the opposition from Greeneville, Laurel Hill, East Great
Plain, and Up-town that the measure failed. At a later
period (1874-75), Greeneville and also Laurel Hill (which
had been annexed to the town in 1857) were added to the
city, and, in 1901, the part of Preston known as East
Norwich. Whatever reluctance may have existed at any
time in the annexed districts there is no reason to believe
that they would now vote to secede if such action were


suggested. Again, in 1908, a similar movement for con-
solidation had considerable strength. It was demonstrated
by Mayor Charles F. Thayer and others that, by an
equitable adjustment, the dwellers at a distance from the
center might be taxed at a lower rate than those who more
directly profited by such municipal advantages as water
supply, protection from fire, police force, pavements, and
lighted streets, but this plan was also defeated, partly
through fear of increased taxes, and partly, perhaps, from
purely sentimental considerations.

Proposed New Charter.

The proposed new form of city government does not
come within the limits of the fifty years now under review,
yet it will not be amiss to record the fact that at a city
meeting in 1910 it was voted that the Mayor appoint five
commissioners to draft a new charter for the city. The
commissioners, Henry A. Tirrell, Hibberd R. Norman,
Charles H. Haskell, Frederic W. Gary, and Herman Alofsin,
2nd., carefully considered the subject, and after many
sessions, public and private, presented a plan for a form of
government by commission, substantially like that adopted
in other cities, which with slight modifications was
unanimously accepted in city meeting, and was ordered to
be presented to the General Assembly with a petition that
a new charter be granted accordingly. At the January
session in 1911 the charter was granted, and was referred for
final action to the city meeting of the same year, when, to
the surprise of its friends, it was defeated by a small
majority in a small total vote.

Water Supply.

The difficulties that have sometimes beset the people
of Norwich when they have tried to get together have been
illustrated by the water problem, which, though it cannot
be called a burning question, has kept the town in hot water
more or less of the time for forty years. It has been univer-


sally conceded that an adequate supply of pure and whole-
some water is an imperative necessity for every citizen of
Norwich, his wife, his children, his cattle, and the stranger
within his gates. Yet, there have been seasons when pne
might have said that on the surrounding hills there was
"water everywhere, but not a drop to drink" in the city.
In 1859 the town was dependent for water supply on private
wells. In the thickly settled districts were a few public
pumps, and some private reservoirs and aqueducts that
yielded considerable revenue to the owners, but the supply
of water was always insufficient and the quality was open
to suspicion, even before bacteria and microbes had been
invented to vex men's souls and bodies. Great was the need,
yet in 1864, after an amendment to the charter granted by
the legislature had been formally accepted by the citizens,
and after contracts had been submitted for the construction
of a reservoir at Fairview and for street mains at
a cost of $185,000, opposition to the proposed site
was so great that a special city meeting was called to rescind
the vote. The question was finally settled in 1868 by the
small majority of ninety-three votes in favor of water, and
the water commissioners were authorized to proceed with
the work. Under their direction a reservoir was con-
structed at Fairview between the Scotland and Canterbury
roads, about a mile from the Up-town green, with a dam four
hundred feet long and thirty-five feet high, having a
capacity of 350,000,000 gallons. In May, 1870, the success-
ful completion of the water works was celebrated with great
enthusiasm. No one could foretell at that time how great
would be the increase in the population of Norwich; still
less could any one estimate how enormous would be the
increase in the consumption of water.

It has been said that "Charity begins at home."
Not so with economy in the use of water. It never
begins anywhere except under pressure of stern neces-
sity. The people demand that water shall be as free
and abundant as light and air, and the more they have
the more they want. Consequently, in more than one


year a water famine has been imminent, and, as a temporary
expedient for increasing the storage capacity, the dam at
Fairview was raised in 1900, while discussion grew hot con-
cerning the comparative value of Pease brook and Stony
brook as permanent sources of supply. Prolonged seasons
of drought throughout New England have reduced the
water supply of Norwich, as of other cities, below the
danger point, and the strange spectacle has been seen of
Standard oil selling at a lower price per gallon than pure
spring water! It is believed that the peril has now been
happily averted, and that Norwich will never again suffer
till all the streams run dry.

The Street Railways.

The street railways have been a strong bond of union
between the separated districts of the town. In 1859
Norwich was wholly destitute of such public conveyances
as omnibuses, except, indeed, William Bennett's "accom-
modation" between town and landing, which was supposed
to make two trips daily. In 1865 John Hough ran a stage
four times a day from Shetucket street to Bean Hill, and
G. A. Bushnell managed a line to Occum and Hanover,
but not until five years later (1870), was the first street car
line opened from Franklin Square to Bean Hill. This was
extended several years afterwards when electric power had
come into use to Yantic. Other horse power lines also were
opened to Greeneville and the West Side. In 1909 these had
all been replaced by electric trolley lines radiating to New
London, Willimantic, Westerly, and Plainfield, thus bring-
ing Norwich into close connection with the entire trolley
system of New England. Under efficient management, the
Connecticut Company has given to Norwich trolley service
that leaves little to be desired.

The extension of the New York and New Haven rail-
road tracks on the east side of the Thames to Groton and
New London, the building of a new railroad station in the
vicinity of Franklin square, and the extension of the New
London Northern railroad's connections have more than


doubled the facilities for transportation by land that were
available in 1859, and afford easy connections by steamboats
at New London for New York. Automobiles and motor
trucks on the public roads, regarded as a novelty ten years
ago, are daily increasing in number to such an extent that
it seems not improbable that beasts of burden may become
extinct, like the pre-historic ancestors of the horse whose
fossil remains were discovered by Prof. Othniel C. Marsh
of Yale University. Indeed, the time seems not far distant
when men will habitually rise superior to the earth and
the sea and all that in them is, and, soaring as on eagle's
wings, will fly to the world's remotest bound.

Electric Light.

In 1859 kerosene oil, that inestimable benefaction to the
people who sat in darkness, was only beginning to come
into general use, and coal gas was limited to the thickly
settled parts of the town. In 1909 the marvellous electric
light was extensively employed to illuminate the public
streets and dwellings and places of business. Since the city,
took over the gas and electric light plant the cost has been
reduced to the consumer and a profit has accrued to the
public treasury, thus justifying the anticipations of Charles
F. Thayer, who warmly supported the measure during his
term of office as mayor.

Fire Department.

The protection from fires furnished by the volunteer
fire companies was quite insufficient in 1859, and it was not
until 1869 that the first steam engine was employed. Since
that time discipline and efficiency and equipment have
greatly improved, especially during the last ten years under
the direction of Howard L. Stanton, chief of the fire depart-
ment and superintendent of the fire alarm telegraph. The
working force, in seven companies, now numbers nearly one
hundred, including permanent men, call men, and enrolled
volunteers. Sixty-five alarm boxes at important points in


different parts of the city ensure an immediate response to
calls. The most disastrous fires in the last half century
have been at the Alms House in 1876, at the Hopkins &
Allen's works on Franklin street in 1900, the Shannon
Building in 1909, and the Lucas Building on Shetucket
street in 1911. With a normal supply of water in the Fair-
view reservoir at an elevation of two hundred and fifty feet
at overflow, the compact business district in Norwich has
better fire protection than most cities of the same size.

Police Force.

It is traditional that in 1859 the police force in Norwich
consisted of one solitary night watchman, whose chief duty,
like Dogberry's, was to "comprehend all vagrom men," and
to see to it that the street lamps were not allowed to burn
on nights, however dark and stormy, when the moon was
presumed to shine. The citizens of Norwich to-day are as
obedient to law and order as they were fifty years ago. As
they never need to be arrested an increase in the police
force proportionate with the increase of population, say two
for one, would have sufficed for all ordinary occasions. But,
as a standing army is desirable for defensive purposes, so
it has been found expedient to maintain a force of about
twenty-five regulars and as many more supernumeraries,
chiefly as a safeguard against tramps, and as instructors of
new comers who are ignorant of Norwich manners and
customs. Norwich rejoices that the new comers are soon
assimilated and become good natives. After acquiring a
little property of their own they learn to respect the laws
that have been made for the protection of everyone, and
become loyal citizens.

The Norwich Board of Trade,

Organized in 1887 and incorporated in April, 1893,
has more than three hundred members, including the
most influential citizens of Norwich in all departments
of commercial, financial, manufacturing, and profes-


sional business. Without legislative or executive author-
ity, its voice is nevertheless powerful in all affairs of
public welfare. The animated discussions at its monthly
meetings stimulate interest and lead to definite action in
regard to new industries, public improvements, health and
sanitation, transportation, legislation, and every measure
that concerns the prosperity of the community.

In September, 1901, the Board took an active part in
the highly successful celebration of Old Home Week, pro-
posed by Mayor Charles F. Thayer, when the town was
honored by the presence of former President Grover
Cleveland, who delivered an address before a large audience
at the Broadway theatre. In May, 1906, it promoted an
interesting and instructive industrial exposition at the
Armory, in which practically every manufacturer in Nor-
wich was represented.

Similar bodies in other cities may claim a larger
membership, but, for sound judgment, quick appreciation
of the merits of questions that come before it, prompt
action, and hearty co-operation in every good work, the
Norwich Board of Trade sets an example that has not been
surpassed elsewhere. Its bulletins prepared for the cele-
bration by President F. W. Cary are of great permanent

Beneficent Institutions of Norwich.

Among the benevolent institutions created in the last
half century is the Eliza Huntington Memorial Home,
established under the will of Jedediah Huntington, a suc-
cessful merchant of Norwich, who died there in 1872 at the
age of eighty-one years. In pursuance of the charitable
wishes of his wife, and as a tribute to her memory, Mr.
Huntington gave the house and grounds on Washington
street that had been their residence for forty years, together
with the sum of $35,000, for "a pleasant home for respect-
able and indigent, aged and infirm females." Since its
incorporation as the Eliza Huntington Memorial Home by
the Legislature in 1872, its affairs have been successfully
conducted by a board of trustees of whom five are elected


annually by the corporation, and two, the rectors of Christ
Church and Trinity Church, are members ex-officio. The
general manager is the Rev. J. Eldred Brown, rector of
Trinity parish.

The United Workers of Norwich,

incorporated in 1878, has for its object the promotion of
practical benevolence and, "especially, the relief of suffering
and the elevation of destitute women and children." Under
its auspices The Sheltering Arms, in a building given by
John F. Slater and LaFayette S. Foster, opens its doors for
aged and infirm persons and the temporarily homeless. It
also maintains the Rocknook Home for children, on the
up-town green in the former residence of Moses Pierce,
which was given by him in 1878 for that purpose. The
United Workers House, No. 9 Washington street, is the
headquarters of the various committees charged with visit-
ing the sick and needy, with providing work for the un-
employed, and the frequent visitation of the jail, alms house
and hospitals. All these agencies, working harmoniously in
co-operation with the city missionary, Rev. Charles A.
Northrop, who is also the probation officer of the city court,
are represented in the general executive committee, and are
so efficient that every applicant for relief or counsel receives
immediate attention.

For more than thirty years the United Workers has
been supported by voluntary contributions, and the long
list of givers published annually attests the hold it has on
the confidence of the whole community as an example of the
best type of charity organization.

The William W. Backus Hospital,

incorporated under the statute laws of Connecticut in
April, 1891, was endowed by William W. Backus, aided by
the liberal co-operation of William A. Slater, the amount
of whose benefactions has not been made public. The
hospital is situated on Washington street about a mile from


the center of the city, and consists of six buildings sur-
rounded by eighteen acres of land. It maintains a training
school for nurses, a dispensary in the city, and a dispensary
for treatment of the eye and ear.

At the formal opening of the Hospital in October, 1893,
the principal address was delivered by Dr. William T. Lusk,
who, as a native of Norwich and as a distinguished physi-
cian in New York, was cordially greeted by a company
of invited guests in one of the large wards. An address was
also made by William A. Slater, who, modestly refraining
from any allusion to his own liberality, which had made
possible the completion of the Hospital, ascribed all the
honor to William W. Backus. On the same occasion two
hundred and fifty women of Norwich manifested their appre-
ciation of the generous benefaction of their townsmen,
Messrs. Backus and Slater, by providing the hospital linen.
In concluding his address, Dr. Lusk said: "Thrice happy
Norwich ! Happy in the beauties so lavishly bestowed upon
it by nature, happy in the possession of so many beautiful
homes, and happy in the intelligent liberality of its favored
citizens." The president of the Hospital is Winslow Tracy
Williams, William A. Slater is the honorary president, and
former presidents are the Rev. Samuel H. Howe, Dr.
Leonard B. Almy, and Gen. Edward Harland.

The Norwich Hospital for the Insane

was incorporated by the General Assembly in 1903, and
is situated on the east bank of the Thames river, three miles
from the city, on land given by the town of Norwich. The
government of the hospital is vested in a board consisting
of the Governor and twelve trustees appointed by the
senate. The buildings, equipped with all the requirements
of modern hospitals, are in process of extension as rapidly
as appropriations by the state permit, under the superin-
tendence of Dr. Henry M. Pollock, the resident physician.
The number of patients in 1909 was about seven hundred.
The president of the board is Costello Lippitt.


The Johnson Home

was incorporated by the legislature in 1905, with authority
to receive the bequest of Mrs. Maria E. Johnson, and to
execute the charitable purpose expressed in her last will
by founding an institution bearing her name as a home for
''aged and needy women." The King's Daughters, having
already established in the year 1908 a home for "worthy
Protestant women," in the large brick building formerly
Lathrop's Tavern on the up-town green, a friendly agree-
ment was made by which the Johnson Home assumed
certain financial responsibilities, and the King's Daughters
by its officers undertook to act as a house committee. The
beneficent purposes of both organizations are thus con-
tinued harmoniously and successfully in the name of the
Johnson Home. The secretary and treasurer of the Home is
Judge Gardiner Greene and the president is Judge John M.

The New London County Temporary Home

for destitute and neglected children was established under
the general statutes of the state in 1883, and opened in
1884 at the Starr Farm on the New London Turnpike, west
of the Paper Mill Bridge. It was removed to the Preston
side of the Shetucket river, now part of Norwich, in 1891.
It is under the control of a board consisting of the County
Commissioners, one member of the State Board of Charities,
and one of the State Board of Health, aided by a committee
of ladies who serve without compensation, having at all
times the right to visit the Home, and suggest improve-
ments to the board, and to assist in the selection of family
homes and in the frequent visitation of children who have
been placed therein.

The Otis Library

was founded by Joseph Otis, a native of Norwich, who
retired from active business at the age of seventy, and, in
1851, established the library which bears his name. Until


1893 it was supported by subscription. Since that date an
annual appropriation of $4,500 by the town toward the
expenses of administration has enabled the trustees to make
the library free to all the people of Norwich. In 1893 an
addition to the building costing $18,000 was paid for by
popular subscription. The fund of $7,000 given by Mr. Otis
was insufficient to meet the increasing demands of the
large number of readers who enjoy the privileges afforded
by the library, and it has been increased by bequests from
Dr. Daniel Tyler Coit, Charles Boswell, William W.
Backus, Charles P. Huntington, Elizabeth B. Woodhull,
and Martha P. Foster, amounting in all to $53,000, the
income, in part, being applied to the purchase of books.
The library now contains about 40,000 volumes, and, during
the administration of Jonathan Trumbull as librarian, the
total registration of book-borrowers has increased to 8,000,
and the average number of issues of books has been over
114,000 for the last four years. It is believed that no other
library has accomplished equally good results with such
limited resources. The president is Gen. William A. Aiken,
and the treasurer, John C. Averill.

The Daughters of the American Revolution,

Faith Trumbull Chapter, on the Fourth of July, 1901, un-
veiled a bronze tablet on a granite boulder near the Town
street entrance of the Up-town burying ground, in memory
of the twenty nameless French soldiers of the Revolution,
who, serving under Lafayette, died while in camp on
Norwich Town green in 1778. The exercises on the occasion
included addresses by the Rev. Charles A. Northrop,
George Shepard Porter, and Mrs. Sarah T. Kinney, the
state regent, and the singing of "The Sword of Bunker Hill"
by Mrs. Martin E. Jensen.

Two years later, July 4, 1903, Mrs. Frank A. Roath,
regent of Faith Trumbull Chapter, presided at a large
gathering assembled near the East Town street entrance
of the burying ground to dedicate the iron gates that had


stood for seventy-one years before the mansion of the late
Amos H. Hubbard on East Main street, on the site now
occupied by the United States Post Office. The gate posts
support bronze tablets bearing the names of fifty-nine
Revolutionary soldiers whose graves were known to be
within the enclosure. Following are the names :

Capt. Isaac Abel
Rufus Backus Abel
Capt. Elijah Backus
Corp. Ezekiel Barrett
Sergt. Zephaniah Bliss
Capt. Joseph Carew
Eliphalit Carew
Paym't'r Gardner Carpenter
Sergt. Nathan Chapel, Jr.
Edward Conoy
Col. John Durkee
Capt. Elisha Edgerton
Capt. John Fanning
Thomas Fanning
Stephen Gifford
Capt. Silas Goodell
Abel Griswold
Lieut. Andrew Griswold
Benjamin Huntington
Com's'y Andrew Huntington
Sergt. Caleb Huntington
Gen. Ebenezer Huntington
Gen. Jabez Huntington
Gen. Jedidiah Huntington
Lt. Col. Joshua Huntington
Sergt. John Huntington
Gov. Samuel Huntington
Capt. Simeon Huntington
Abiel Hyde
Theodore Hyde

Capt. James Hyde

Drummer Parmenas Jones

Ensign Azariah Lathrop

Darius Lathrop

Jedidiah Lathrop

Jonathan Lathrop

Zachariah Lathrop

Andrew Leffingwell

Col. Christopher Leffingwell

Lieut. Daniel Leffingwell

Capt. Samuel Leffingwell

Ensign Elisha Leffingwell

John Leffingwell

Phineas Leffingwell

Drummer Diah Manning

Capt. Bela Peck

Capt. Joshua Pendleton

Dr. David Rogers

Col. Zabdiel Rogers

Jonathan Starr

Capt. Frederick Tracy

Jabez Tracy

Dr. Philemon Tracy

Uriah Tracy

Simeon Thomas

Capt. Asa Waterman

Capt. Nehemiah Waterman

Asa Woodworth

Corp. Joshua Yeomans


The graves of Corporal Jabez Avery, John Bliss, John
Bushnell, Samuel Case, David Hunn, Ebenezer Jones,
Drummer Benjamin Tracy, John Morse, John Williams,
and Solomon Williams have not been identified.

Addresses were made by Mayor Charles F. Thayer,
by Jonathan Trumbull, who told the history of the gates,
and by Captain Henry P. Goddard, who paid a graceful
tribute to the men and women and institutions of former
days. George S. Porter, who had identified the names and
graves of the soldiers, read a carefully prepared history of
the burying ground. It is worthy of mention here that at
about that time, 1903, Mr. Porter voluntarily undertook the
extremely arduous task of deciphering and transcribing the
stone records in the burying ground that are being rapidly
reduced to dust by the effacing fingers of Time. It is
believed that not one of thirteen hundred graves escaped
his observation and that he copied with scrupulous exact-

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Online LibraryWilliam C GilmanThe celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of the town of Norwich, Connecticut, and of the incorporation of the city, the one hundred and twenty-fifth, July 4, 5, 6, 1909: → online text (page 2 of 19)