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 6 of 19)
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planned to settle at Saybrook and who would have given
peculiar character and standing to that colony had failed
to come ; and even their representative, Colonel Fenwick,
had lost heart in the enterprise and abandoned it. Then,


there were the inducements which the friendly Indians here
held out and the offer of a large tract of land for settle-

The peculiar beauty of this section, with its wooded
hills, its fertile plains and running brooks, attracted them.
The pioneer spirit appealed to them, was in their blood, as
in all the colonies at that time. They must go somewhere.
So Hooker had come to Hartford, Pynchon to Springfield,
Roger Williams to Rhode Island, Jonathan Brewster to
Windsor and Brewster's Neck. Probably this Norwich
colony had as reasons for the removal some like those given
by Hooker's company in their petition for permission for
removal to Hartford, which were:

1. "Want of room where we are."

2. "The fruitfulness and commodiousness of Con-
necticut and the danger of having it possessed by others."

3. "The strong bent of our spirit to remove thither."

Probably the "bent of their spirit'' was the motive, more
potent than either of the others or than both of them

That act of the general court of May, 1659, which I
have quoted, made as its condition that the settlement must
be made within the three years thereafter. Apparently no
time was lost; and the advance guard came in the summer
of 1659, followed by the remainder of the company the next

Character of the Settlers.

It was a valiant and goodly band of well to do folk of
good ancestry, that had been trained by strong leaders,
such as Winthrop, Fenwick, Gardiner, Mason, Higginson
and Fitch, had been inured to service in a new country, had
already attained to a well ordered life under a constitu-
tional government, and were united under the restraining
and refining power of the Christian faith. This colony did
not begin in a random way, like so many of the early settle-


ments or like so many of the later frontier ventures, by re-
ceiving accessions of restless adventurers from this quarter
and that till it gradually grew into stable form and condi-
tion: it came upon the ground a town and a church. The
people were not a miscellaneous company thrown together
by chance, needing to be trained and assimilated, but an
association carrying their laws as well as their liberties
with them ; not strangers, each seeking his own
advantage, staking out his own claim and defending
it by arms; but a band of God-fearing men and
women united into a brotherhood, each bound to act
for the common good. They were not mere fortune hun-
ters or buccaneers coming to wrest their speedy gain and
then retire; but founders of a civilized and Christian state
in which they could establish homes, and which they could
bequeath to their children as a priceless inheritance. They
were looking forward to permanence and a future and they
knew that steady habits, manly toil and fine fraternity of
feeling must enter into that to make it stable. All the
enactments and proceedings of those early days reveal a
community in which good order, decorum of manners, self-
respect and high ideals prevailed. The Christian church
was the unifying bond and the guide of their lives. They
were cheered and strengthened by the constant charm of
its promises, and the rigor of the wilderness and the priva-
tions of frontier life were softened by its hopes. I do not
know how much they thought of the names they were to
transmit. I think some of them would have smiled at the
coats of arms and the kind of heraldic glory with which they
have been crowned, and would have been incredulous of
the "genuine" heirlooms that have been handed down ; but
they did aim to lead honest and honorable lives and to
make a community in which it would be safe and wholesome
for their children to grow.

It was a sifted seed that was brought by Winthrop to
his first settlement ; and it was sifted again when Fitch and
Mason brought it here. Who they were; how they fared;
what hostages they have given to history in the lines of


noble descent, we are to hear in the days that are to follow.
It is a goodly story the orderly life of those early days;
then, the patriotic spirit of the time when the nation was
born ; then, the enterprise of this later time. Norwich, proud
of her ancestry, of the achievements of her sons and daugh-
ters, of her well earned name, and of her lines running out
to the ends of the earth, comes to her quarter millennium
with devout gratitude to Him who brought us here and
who has sustained us.

And it surely is not amiss, while, standing by their
graves, we honor the memories of those heroic men and
women and congratulate ourselves on our heritage, to re-
mind ourselves that

"They that on glorious ancestors enlarge
Produce their debt instead of their discharge,"
and, that though these have witnesses borne to them
through their faith, "God has provided some better thing
for us, that apart from us they should not be made per-

After the spirited singing of the hymn, "Let Children
Hear the Mighty Deeds," Chairman Gulliver said: In the
fall of 1659, or spring of 1660, the first settlers constructed
a log meeting-house some 500 feet west of the point where
we are standing.

He then presented Rev. C. A. Northrop to give an address
on Building a Church-State. Mr. Northrop said :

The Founders.

How many there were of them has never been officially
determined till recently, when, according to the signed,
sealed and delivered statement of the Society of the Found-
ers, there were thirty-five. This is probably about as near
to the truth as we shall ever be able to get.

They were men in the prime of life, most of them with
families of the respectable middle class of Englishmen,
with a dash or two of aristocracy. The Hydes and


Huntingtons and Leffingwells and Tracys were of good
stock. They were young, vigorous adventurers of the best
type. Samuel Hyde was 23 years old when he set foot
in Norwich, Simon Huntington was 31, John Birchard 32,
Post and Olmstead 34, Fitch and Leffingwell 38, Adgate 40,
Tracy 50, Mason and Caulkins 60.

They were in comfortable circumstances. They came
to work. They were wheelwrights, and millers, and mer-
chants, and surveyors, and shoemakers, and brewers, and
tanners, and cutlers, and stone cutters and carpenters and
farmers. They were uneducated, some of them, as to books,
but they knew many things. If "Old Goodman Hide" and
Caulkins made their mark on legal documents instead of
their name, it did not prevent them from making a name.

The Saybrook influences that cradled them survived
here for many a day. Fitch and Woodward and Lord, the
first three ministers, were of Saybrook extraction and served
the church for nearly 125 years. The third pastor of the
Second society of the Nine-mile Square (Franklin) was a
Saybrook boy, and lingered on till the second half of the
nineteenth century. I, myself, might have shaken hands
with him had he come to my father's house before he died.
And that does not end the Saybrook influence, for when
Dr. Nott of Franklin passed away, there came into the
Norwich atmosphere the overshadowing delight of Dr.
Pratt, another Saybrook product, who is with us to-day and
may his shadow never grow less.

Their Incoming.

They came as purchasers, not as conquerors. They
came by families, and went to work. So busy were they
that in a few years they did not know where their own pos-
sessions lay. They kept few records, and if they could
only have known how much was to be made of them by a
grateful posterity, they would certainly have told us more
about themselves. How much would we not give to-day
for Pastor Fitch's notes on his varied and useful work for


whites and Indians, and for an even hurried glance over the
lost pages of the church records for the first 40 years !

They were an orderly people. They builded well. They
organized at once "a Religious Society and Church- State."
It mattered not whether they said church or state. Both
were one to them. We have here the three fundamental
types of society, Family, Church, State.

For sixty years town and church affairs were recorded
together. After that, the church records were called "Town
Plot Society Records." The town clerk was generally the
church clerk.

Their Ongoing.

Statewise, as citizens, they led quiet and peaceable
lives with some godliness and much honesty. They were
at peace with the Indians. They held offices and held on
to them. For eighty years the town offices were held in
the families of the first proprietors. John Birchard was
town clerk for 18 years with a Saybrook experience behind
him. Richard Bushnell served in that capacity for 30 years.
Six generations of Huntingtons held the office for 152 years
with only one break of one year. In the ecclesiastical line
two Adgates, father and son, held the diaconate for 89
years, and seven Huntingtons held the like office for 201
out of 236 years.

They bequeathed property. Homesteads remained in
the same family for 100 years and more. Some homesteads
to-day are occupied by the descendants of the original pro-
prietors, bearing the same name. The second and third
generations were well to do. They were alive to trade.
Their patriotism encouraged home manufactures. Just about
the close of the revolutionary war there were 20 or more
trades and business enterprises around the green.

Their patriotism brought to the front many illustrious
leaders in war and in counsel. A sketch of the doings around
the old Town Green from the days of the Stamp Act to the
Declaration of Peace would disclose what Norwich men
and women thought on the matter of freedom and liberty.


In marriage and offspring their ongoings were notable.
They were not polygamists, but they had generally two
wives, sometimes three, rarely four. Widows married then
as now without exciting much remark. The intertwisting
of family lines made everybody related to everybody, and
nobody could gossip without danger of slandering his rela-
tives. They lived to a good old age and saw their children's
children and peace upon Israel. At death, Thomas
Leffingwell was 92, Caulkins 90, Adgate 87, Bingham 88,
Simon Huntington 77, Fitch 90, Bushnell and Tracy 75,
Birchard 72, Mason 72. Most of the first generation were
buried in the old Post and Gager ground, where now stands
the Mason monument. Four of them whose graves are
marked were buried in the Old Town burying ground,
where these exercises are being held. Deacons Simon
Huntington and Thomas Adgate, Sergt. Thomas Waterman
and John Post were surely buried here, and probably
Bowers and Reynolds and Caulkins and Lieuts. Leffingwell
and Backus.

The increasingly valuable researches of the late
George S. Porter have uncovered for posterity many of the
ancient events, and he is fittingly remembered in durable
bronze at the gateway of the ground where he spent so
many days in the service of love for the old Founders.

Educationally, the founders were pretty slow. They
had some schools, but they were not up to the average
even of that early day. In 1700 the town was indicted by
the courts "for want of a school to instruct children." Their
descendants have more than made up for their deficiencies in
this respect.

As churchmen, they were decidedly "broad." Fitch's
parish covered the Nine-miles-square, and parts of Wind-
ham and Canterbury. It was nearly fifty years before a
Second society was organized, at Franklin in 1718. People
came from the east and the west and from the north and
the south and went up Meeting House hill to worship.

In polity they were independent with a will. They
would have no such squinting at oversight as looked forth


from the Saybrook platform. They were so independent
that they were open to a new idea now and then.

They shared in the general religious declension of the
years 1660-1740. Till the "Great Awakening" of the latter
date, religion was formal and external. There was more
head than heart in it. The Half Way Covenant was worse
than the Saybrook Platform. The founders would have
nothing of the second and had too much of the first. The
religion of genuine conversion was preached by Dr. Lord
before Edwards and Whitefield came on to the stage, and
while the "New Lights" were the logical result of Dr.
Lord's preaching, they were not easily recognized by him,
and their unusual independence troubled his righteous soul
not a little. The awakening took deep root in New London
county, where the Separatist movement was pronounced,
and the knell of dis-establishment began to be sounded. As
Dr. Lord goes out, the new religious ideas come in, and
the established Congregational church of Connecticut under-
goes dissolution and gives place to the rights of free wor-
ship. And with the freer and wider thinking begins a better
thought of the outside world. Some of the most fruitful
beginnings of the great modern missionary movement had
their origin right here on this soil, and so it has come to
pass that New London county has the distinction of having
given more for the evangelization of the world than any
other county in the United States.

Their Outgoing.

Mason's descendants are found mostly outside the Nine-
mile-square all the way from Stonington to Lebanon. His
grandson, Daniel's, widow, became, by way of Haddam
influences, mother of David Brainerd.

Fitch, dying in Lebanon, sent out lateral branches like
a cedar of Lebanon, from Montville to Pomfret.

The Backuses had Isaac, the Separatist, and founder of
the Baptists; Charles, the wisest man whom President
Dwight knew; Azel, first president of Hamilton college;


James, the surveyor of Marietta; Elijah, the cannon maker
of Yantic, and William W., the hospital man of Norwich.

The Huntingtons went everywhere. Their lines went
out into all the earth and their words to the ends of the
world. Deacon Christopher, the first boy born in Norwich, be-
came grandfather to Wheelock, whose Indian school in
Lebanon developed into Dartmouth college. A niece of
Christopher's became ancestress of Ulysses S. Grant.

Baby Elizabeth Hyde, the first girl born in Norwich,
became ancestress of two and one-third octavo pages of
distinguished men and women, according to the testimony
of one of the family given at the 2Ooth anniversary of the

The Leffingwells settled down near by, and gave their
name to a well-known district of the township.

With the coming of peace after the Revolutionary war
and the opening of "The Landing" to business, and the
advent of roads and postoffices and new families, the grip
of the original proprietors on things and thoughts began
to relax, and some of the rest of us got our chance.

Their Legacy.

They left five towns and parts of two others Bozrah,
Franklin, Lisbon, Sprague, Norwich, Griswold, Preston,
while Lebanon, Mansfield, Canterbury, Plainfield and
Wmdham were peopled largely from the old plot. Along
the Yantic and Shetucket and Quinebaug they built their
homes and influenced widely the social and civil and
religious life of their neighbors.

They left thrift and neighborly kindness and order and

They left churches in every place where they settled
and left good men to advertise and support them. They
set the pace and gave the tone for the life, not only of the
town as it continued, but for the city as it began to grow.
Norwich to-day has no reason to forget and no cause to
minimize the debt it still owes to Norwich Town.

Electrical Illumination of the Citv Hall.

Founders' Statue on Chelsea Parade.


The exercises closed with the singing of America.

After the close of the exercises in the burying ground
an organ recital was given in the First Congregational
church by Herbert L. Yerrington, assisted by G. Avery Ray.
The first number on the programme was Bach's celebrated
fugue on the theme familiarly known as "St. Anne's,"
which had been sung by the choir and people in the burying
ground. In many of the churches on Sunday the pastors
preached appropriate sermons or made special reference
to the celebration and the religious history of the town.
The evening was largely devoted to family reunions
and informal social intercourse. The weather throughout
was most favorable, genuine Norwich weather, such as
Norwich always expects to have on her high festivals, and
thus the celebration of the quarter-millennium had an
auspicious beginning.

True to time-honored custom the day appointed for the
celebration of American independence was "ushered in," in
fulfillment of the prediction of President John Adams, with
"the ringing of bells and the thunder of cannon," and at half
past four o'clock, or, to be exact, at thirty-one minutes past
four o'clock, all the bells in town, re-echoing the peal sound-
ed by the old Liberty Bell on Independence hall on July 4,
1776, hallowed the two hundred and fiftieth year, and pro-
claimed liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants
thereof. At an early hour, strangers, who had been coming
for three days, arrived in increasing numbers; the railway
trains and trolley cars were crowded, and it was estimated
that on that day Norwich entertained fifty thousand guests.

Never before was the town so brilliantly decorated
with profuse and beautiful designs, arranged with artistic
skill and effect. In many places were displayed side by
side the special Celebration Flag with the Rose of New
England, designed and adopted by the Executive Commit-
tee, the Flag of the City, with the heraldic lion, domesti-
cated from Norwich, England, and the Flag of the State,
with its symbolic vines and the legend, "Qui transtulit


sustinet" ; and, everywhere, even on the humblest dwellings,
predominating above all, was the Flag of the United States,
not a Royal Ensign, not the standard of a king, but the
Star Spangled Banner, the Flag of all the People.

President Taft and his personal escort, his secretary
and military aid, left Beverly at an early hour on Monday,
July 5, and arrived in Norwich by a special train via Putnam
shortly before ten o'clock. As he landed on the platform
the presidential salute of twenty-one guns resounded from
Geer's hill, and music from the band of the Governor's
Foot Guard and the fife and drum corps of the Putnam
Phalanx rose above "the thunder of the captains and the
shoutings" of thousands of people assembled to honor the
President of the United States.

He was cordially welcomed by First Selectman Arthur
D. Lathrop on behalf of the town, by his Honor, Mayor
Costello Lippitt, and Aldermen Frank A. Robinson and
Vine S. Stetson on behalf of the city, by Winslow Tracy
Williams and Edwin A. Tracy of the executive committee,
and Gen. William A. Aiken, Arthur L. Brewer, and Wil-
liam H. Palmer of the reception committee. At about the
same time His Excellency, Frank B. Weeks, Governor of
Connecticut, arrived with his staff, and the Right Reverend
Chauncey B. Brewster, Bishop of Connecticut, and other
high dignitaries.

Under the escort of the committee, the distinguished
guests were conveyed in automobiles to the field adjacent
to the Norwich Club House, to witness the Historical
Pageant, or Tableaux, representing scenes in Indian life,
the days of the American Revolution, and of the war for the
Union personified by soldiers of the present day, together
with glimpses of the future, in which five hundred school
children participated. The pageant was designed by George
A. Keppler and successfully carried out under his direction.

In the meantime the first ascension of the airship was
made, and athletic sports took place at the county fair


- n



When the President left the field where the pageant
was presented, he was escorted by Mr. Williams to his resi-
dence at Rockclyffe, where, in the presence of Mr.
Williams's family, Mr. Taft planted a promising young oak
tree, a seedling from the Charter Oak, certified by the Hart-
ford Park Commissioners as a "lineal descendant."

It had been proposed that the President should be in-
vited to be the guest of honor at a public dinner on Monday,
but the time allotted for his stay in Norwich was so
limited, and the events planned for the day were so numer-
ous that the dinner was necessarily omitted. But with gen-
erous hospitality Mr. and Mrs. Winslow Tracy Williams
invited a large company of their personal friends, with the
chief officials of the town and city and of the quarter-
millennial committee, together with their wives,

To meet

The Honorable William Howard Taft,
President of the United States,

at breakfast
on Monday, July the fifth,

at twelve o'clock,
at Rockclyffe, Yantic, Connecticut.

The guests, as they approached Rockclyffe, found the
handsome granite bridge and its entrance court artistically
decorated with flags, as also the long driveway to the
mansion, over which floated a single United States flag, and,
after they had been presented to Mrs. Williams and the
President, an elegant breakfast was served at small tables
on the spacious lawn under the shade of the old oak trees
that crowned the hill.

The hospitality of the people of Norwich is proverbial.
During the celebration their doors stood wide open to
guests, whether family friends or strangers, and there were
many homes where the President might have been wel-
comed with due honor and gracious courtesy, but it is not
too much to say that at that time no other citizen of


Norwich could have extended such magnificent hospitality,
to so many guests, in such a charming environment in honor
of the President.

From this brilliant scene the President was driven
rapidly to the city, where he took his place in the great
military and civic parade, which moved promptly at two
o'clock under the command of Col. Charles W. Gale as
grand marshal, and marching up Broadway and Washing-
ton street to Harland's corner, countermarched to the re-
viewing stand on the east side of Chelsea Parade.

In the procession and on the reviewing stand, besides
the President and his personal escort, and the Governor and
his staff, and the President and Chairman of the executive
committee, were the town and city officials, as follows : the
Selectmen and Town Clerk, the Mayor, Aldermen and Council-
men, the City Treasurer, Tax Collector and Street Commis-

It is said that four thousand people were in the pro-
cession, which was an hour in passing a fixed point. After
it had marched in review before the President, he was pre-
sented to the great multitude by Governor Frank B. Weeks,
who said:

I congratulate Norwich on its celebration and on the
beautiful weather for it. I congratulate the people of
Norwich and the state of Connecticut in having the Presi-
dent of the United States here as your guest, and it gives
me great pleasure now to introduce to you President
William Howard Taft.

The President, who was greeted with enthusiastic
cheers, said :
My friends :

I think it was last year that I had the pleasure of ad-
dressing a Norwich audience. Then I talked to you on the
subject of the Panama Canal and I promised to come back
here at the 250th anniversary of your city's foundation,
whether I was nominated and elected for the Presidency or
not. I said that probably you would not want me if I was
not elected, and I haven't had an opportunity to test you on


that. But it is a great pleasure to come back to this beauti-
ful town. I like to call it a town because while you make a
distinction between the city and the town, the term town
suggests its wonderful history. Well may it be called the
Rose of New England. Its beauties to-day and its sweet
memories of the past justify the use of that term, and if I
were a Norwich man I should hug it to my bosom. There
is something about the town differing from most towns
whose history I know, in the individuality of the town it-
self. There are other towns that have had noted individuals
who have made history. Norwich has had noted individuals
whose characters, continued through three great crises, have
given a character and an individuality to the town itself.

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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 6 of 19)