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

. (page 8 of 19)
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 8 of 19)
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beloved Rose.

This memorial fountain is a very gracious gift to the
town from the Daughters of Norwich, and it signifies to
us the affection of Faith Trumbull chapter for the home of
its birth. It also marks an epoch in the history of the town.
It is a worthy example of what Daughters of the American
Revolution are doing all through the land, and especially
right here in Connecticut, in accentuating the raison d'etre
of our organization. For 250 years Norwich has been
making history, and the time has now come for marking
history, lest future generations forget. I am not here to
voice the gratitude of Norwich to Faith Trumbull chapter
for this notable gift, nor am I to speak, more than briefly,
of the pride and pleasure which every Connecticut "Daugh-
ter" feels in this achievement. But I do regard myself
as a committee of one to express to the chapter the appre-
ciation and gratitude for this kindly and generous thought
for their comfort, of our feathered friends, who will later


on sing your praises in their own fashion ; and of our truest,
most loving and most lovable four-footed friends, "The
little dogs Tray, Blanch and Sweetheart," also the "Mas-
tiff, Greyhound, Mongrel, Grim, Hound, or Spaniel, brach
or lym, or bobtail tyke, or trundle-tail."

They are all friends of mine and, as they are not repre-
sented on to-day's programme I am taking it upon myself
to try and make clear to you the gratitude which fills their
hearts for this cool, life saving bounty which you have pro-
vided for them. "This is the goblet from whose brink, all
creatures that have life must drink."

Therefore, Madam Regent, in behalf of those who
speak a language strange to us, but who wear the unmis-
takable insignia of friendliness and loyalty to man and
womankind, I tender to Faith Trumbull chapter the thanks
for this gift to them, of the birds of the air, and the four-
footed guardians and lovers of our homes.

We do not forget Faith Trumbull's commemorative
achievements in past years the marking of historic sites,
the monument to our French allies in the Revolutionary
War, and the memorial gates at the entrance of the God's
acre where those patriots sleep their last sleep.

Faith Trumbull Chapter is living up to its high and
happy privileges as a commemorative, historical and patri-
otic organization, and over and over again has it justified its
right to continued existence as such an organization. It is
also justified in congratulating itself and in inviting the
congratulations of its friends upon having become an
ackowledged factor for good in this community.

The society which we have the honor to represent the
largest patriotic, hereditary society in the world was
organized for a definite purpose. It is not a social club, but
has a well defined mission of its own, which includes, among
other things, the duty of keeping green the memory of the
spirit of the heroes and heroines who achieved American
independence, and of emblazoning their names upon the


walls of the Hall of Fame which each of us has erected with-
in our own heart. To set for ourselves a high standard of
personal and social ethics, to save history, to inculcate the
principles of a Christian patriotism in the hearts of the peo-
ple to do all we can and may do to make this a country
with a conscience these are among the things that Daugh-
ters of the American Revolution accept as a large part of the
mission imposed upon them by their heritage of noble blood,
and by their unwritten vows when they place their names
upon the long and ever growing muster-roll of those who
are descended from the makers of a mighty nation.

The exercises on the Little Plain closed with the sing-
ing of "America," with band accompaniment.

Literary Exercises.

The literary exercises of the celebration were held at
the Broadway Theater on Tuesday afternoon, when a large
audience listened with interest to the unfolding of Norwich
history by the orators of the day.

Seated upon the stage with the general chairman of
the celebration, Hon. Winslow T. Williams, who was presi-
dent of the day, were the three speakers President Harry
A. Garfield of Williams college, Judge Samuel O. Prentice
of Hartford and Arthur L. Shipman of Hartford ; Principal
H. A. Tirrell, Mayor Costello Lippitt, Dr. Samuel H. Howe,
First Selectman A. D. Lathrop, A. L. Comstock, Executive
Committee Chairman Edwin A. Tracy and Fire Chief
Howard L. Stanton.

The choir of seventy voices, directed by Frederick W.
Lester, and the Harmony club for the orchestra, were also
seated upon the stage, and the latter opened the programme
with a well rendered selection.

The introductory address was made by President
Williams as follows:

Ladies and Gentlemen, Sons and Daughters of dear old
Norwich, who this day welcomes home her children:


On behalf of the general committee of more than 250
citizens chosen by a mass meeting of this town, I have the
distinguished honor of being the official head of this celebra-
tion and the great pleasure of presiding at this meeting.

I realize, as we all do, the local, state and national im-
portance of the historical events which we are celebrating,
and the pride and gratification we feel at being, by ties of
blood, residence and love, connected with this ancient town
and unique city.

This quarter millennium of the founding of the town of
Norwich by John Mason and his hardy company of 35, and
these exercises commemorative thereof are of the deepest
interest and significance. There is scarcely a community
in this wide country, north, east, west and south, from
Maine to California, from Florida to Washington, in Alaska,
our insular possessions in the blue Pacific and in the West
Indies, but has at least one voice claiming common heritage
with us, and reverence, gratitude and pride toward all those
who have gone before and left their mark in the 250 years
of struggle, adversity and success, on this age and genera-
tion and on this hallowed and historic ground.

This is an epoch-making age and generation, and this
town has borne no small part in the development of these
United States.

The sons and daughters Norwich has sent out who
have carved for themselves names of honor and national
repute are too many to record here. Many states and cities
look on Norwich as grandchildren on their grandmother,
giving her the honor due her age and experience. This
grandmother shows to-day by her beauty and perennial
charms that her heart is still young, taking her honors
lightly, loving and loved by all.

Each succeeding generation has left its mark, and what
our fathers have accomplished we can carry on with in-
creased impetus and add yet other laurel wreaths of success
to those which commemorate the progress toward the ful-
filment of all that Norwich is destined to achieve.


We may well congratulate ourselves on the exceptional
mark of interest the president of the United States, William
H. Taft, has shown by his visit on this occasion. The
presence of the governor of this state and so many dis-
tinguished guests gives added lustre and dignity to our

Our minds are crowded with the wonderful scenes
these hills have witnessed. Ages long before the fabled
beauties of this country were whispered by the Indians to
the white men, stirring scenes took place.

The early history of the settlement is full of historic
tableaux. The struggles and sacrifices of Norwich during
the Revolutionary period are engraved in letters of gold on
her escutcheon. Norwich's noble reply to her country's
demands at the time of her threatened disruption are so
recent as to be familiar to us all.

And to-day we gather together to unite in this memo-
rial celebration, looking backward upon its cherished his-
tory and forward with clear eye to the future and all its

The year 1659 was a memorable one in the history of
this town. Our speakers this afternoon will tell us the
thrilling and honorable history of the Rose of New England.
Suffice it to say, in thinking of the half century since our
last celebration, our minds are rilled with awe at our won-
derful development in arts, industries and education, and
in the fast pace set us by the world's incomparable progress
and inventions I believe we can still hold our own.

Many of the honored names of two and a half centuries
are still with us, and added thereto are many younger
names in this great country who are winning fame and

American stock and the best of our adopted sons and
daughters, forming a new American heraldry, will still
support and cherish American prestige, Connecticut tradi-
tion and Norwich destiny.

This address was followed by the anthem, "Great and
Wonderful Are Thy Works" (Spohr), beautifully sung by


the choir. The Rev. Dr. Samuel H. Howe followed with the
reading of the Scripture and prayer.

Words of welcome were extended by Mayor Lippitt,
who spoke as follows:
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Though it seems somewhat irregular and quite out of
the usual course to welcome guests to whom we have
already said farewell, it certainly would be a cause for
lasting regret were we to fail to express our appreciation
of the visit to our ancient town and city of the president of
the United States and the governor of Connecticut, both of
whom, in response to our invitation, at considerable incon-
venience to themselves, laid aside the engrossing cares of
nation and state that they might grace this anniversary
occasion by their presence.

While we feel confident that the cordial greetings of
yesterday and the universal manifestation of regard ex-
tended by the people was to them a sure recognition of the
distinguished honor conferred upon us, we yet feel con-
strained to add our word of welcome, at this time, that
there may be a permanent record of the fact of their visit
to us, and a due expression of our gratitude therefor.

And what shall we say of our other guests who have
come and gone. The midshipmen of our navy, the Putnam
Phalanx, the Governor's Foot Guard, the United States
regulars, and other organizations that helped to make up
the magnificent pageant of yesterday ! To all these we say
"Hail and farewell."

To these distinguished guests to whom we are about
to listen, sons or "near-sons" of Norwich, who come with
greetings from college halls, business office and court room,
we extend a most cordial welcome, and we are deeply grate-
ful for their willingness to add so largely to the interest
and success of this occasion. We realize that it is no small
matter for men just closing the busiest time of the year,
without rest or recuperation, to undertake the service they
so cheerfully render, and so all the more we desire to ex-
press our appreciation therefor.


To the descendants of the "white man's friend," the
great chief, Uncas, some of whom are still with us, to the
sons and daughters of the Founders, who have established
for themselves homes in all parts of our country, carrying
with them the New England character and enterprise, and
to those who have "found us" later, yet who are equally
glad to come back and renew the associations of the dear
home town and city, to one and all we say, "Welcome,
thrice welcome."

May your sojourn be as joyous to you as it is pleasant
to us, and may it renew and strengthen your love for the
Rose of New England, whose anniversary we celebrate.
When again we shall return to our homes and take up
anew the strenuous duties of life, may this brief visit to the
sacred shrines of olden time be an inspiration to grander
and nobler effort, and, like the honored men and women
of the early days, may our lives find their vindication in the
deeds we have wrought.

President Harry A. Garfield of Williams College, a son
of President James A. Garfield and a descendant of the Rev.
James Fitch, was then introduced by Mr. Williams, and
delivered the following address on the Early History of
Norwich :

The history of the first century and a quarter of Norwich
is a history of quiet growth, of the gradual development of
a century of vigorous national life. There were stirring
times, especially at the beginning, and until the red men
had ceased to be a menace ; but, taken as a whole, the period
from the settlement to the Revolution was a period of
preparation. It was the period of strong root growth upon
which so much of the future of the tree depends. Before
1659 was the unbroken forest for the conflict of warring
tribes. After 1783 came industrial development and a sense
of nationality. Had the growth of the American colonies
approached in rapidity the development of the American
states, we should to-day be neither so strong nor so far
advanced. It was a slow growth of the century before the


Revolution that gave to the United States its fiber and de-
termined the quality of its institutions.

A Brave Company.

It was indeed a brave company that followed Major
John Mason and his venerated pastor, Rev. James Fitch,
from Saybrook, to the plantation in Mohegan territory in
the fall of 1659, and the imagination is easily excited by
the too meagre accounts which have come down to us of
the adventures of those hardy settlers and their experiences.
Tales of the warpath and of the pioneer have a fascination
for children and for all ages including the grown-ups.
But of equal or of greater importance is the history of the
"forgotten half century," when the third and fourth genera-
tions, resting content with what their fathers had begun,
developed by degrees, so small as to be imperceptible,
except on long periods of time, the sentiments, ideals, the
strength and sturdiness of a generation destined to create
a new standard of excellence for the nations. The men of
1776 and 1787 knew what they believed and why they be-
lieved it. Whatever inheritance can do, and it is perhaps
less in a specific way than we are apt to think, had been
done. The men of that day had inherited, at the least,
sturdy bodies, normal minds and tendencies to look at
things in a sane and normal way. They had been reared
as their fathers and grandfathers had been reared, to fear
God, to believe in the necessity of hard work, and to use
their minds as well as their hands. If in the earlier years
"book learning" was not extensive, it seems fairly safe to
assume that its quality was intensive and therefore of the
sort known in pedagogics as a discipline.

Norwich Avoided Law.

By the early laws of the colonies every town of thirteen
families was ordered to maintain a school at which reading


and writing were taught. But the records of Norwich con-
tained no mention of a schoolmaster until 1677. Probably
no regular school was maintained during those first seven-
teen years, when the forests were being cleared and the
"nine miles square" were converted from an Indian hunting
ground to a New England village, with its main street and
neighboring farms. Whatever was done by way of teach-
ing was doubtless accomplished after the day's work was
over, while the long twilight lasted or when the shut-in
season found the children quartered about the wide-
mouthed fire-places of those wilderness homes, by fathers
and mothers, who remembered less strenuous but not
happier days across the sea, and who perhaps found it con-
venient to dispel visions of hostile attacks by prowling red-
men before the children were tucked up for the night. But
we are told that in 1677 arrangements were made for nine
months of schooling at a stipend for the teacher which
makes the much complained of salaries of to-day seem
quite sumptuous.

John Birchard was engaged, and the town obligated
itself to pay 25 for his support. Whether the name of
the schoolmaster was regarded as significant we are not
told ; but unless the first settlers of Norwich were entirely
devoid of a sense of humor, it must have occurred to some
of less serious mind that the surname of this moulder of the
youthful mind was particularly appropriate to the theory
of sparing the rod and spoiling the child, and when the
birch was the only assistant of the hard-worked school-

Teachers from New London.

In 1683 John Hough and Samuel Roberts came up from
New London, and taking up their residence in the new
town built the first school house, and thenceforth reading
and writing were regularly taught from two to eight or
nine months each year.


By the close of the century, however, the good work
died out, and we read that with the opening of the new
century Norwich was "presented" to the grand jury "for
the want of a school to instruct children." Perhaps the
New England primer, with which was printed the West-
minster catechism, was regarded as a too limited curriculum
for a community that had been distinguished by the resi-
dence of a deputy governor, or it may be that no suitable
successor had been found to John Birchard. However that
may be, Norwich managed to evade the educational re-
quirements of the colony for some nine years, until 1709,
when the town repented of its waywardness, and resolved
that it would comply with the law and have a schoolmaster,
this time in the person of Richard Bushnell, who had
taught for a short time in 1697, and who was re-engaged.

Apparently, from 1712, school was kept throughout the
year, for we hear of no more grand jury presentments for
neglect in this respect. It must not be supposed from this
account of a somewhat broken school record that Norwich
fell behind her sister towns in appreciation of the things
of the mind or in zeal for achievement in that direction.
Indeed, the evidence goes quite to the contrary, for before
the beginning of the Revolution, the town could boast of
forty college graduates, two from Harvard, five from
Princeton, thirty-three from Yale, and almost, if not quite
all, of them were of the families of the first settlers. Several
of them became scholars of note in the colonies. What
were the influences that roused the ambitions of so many
young men to seek a college education? They were many
and so inwrought that they are not to be separated from the
common life of the community.

Begin with what later achievement you will, the in-
quiring mind is led back to the sources from which flowed
pure and strong the life of the place. It is impossible to
recount all of them, for they were as many as there were
people and customs and institutions. The community sense
of all made each a material factor in the life and growth of
the settlement.


Impression on Young People.

But certain people and experiences must have made
deeper impressions on the young people of the town than
others. It is not difficult to imagine what must have been
the impression made upon the children born in the colony
of parents who came out from the old home. Their earliest
remembrances are of the great fireplace in the room which
served both as kitchen and sitting room. Here they gath-
ered after the evening meal. From the small open recess
beside the fireplace the mother takes down a volume, one
of a choice number and few brought from home the old
home across the sea and reads the words made familiar
through much reading. No fairy stories those nor pleasing
tales of adventure, but rather something very sombre and
solemn, never quite comprehensible to the young mind, but
accepted as are all things when the mother's voice carries
conviction in its tone.

People were very serious in those days. They had em-
barked on a life or death journey into the new world and
God was immanent in their lives. On the table near by
was the great family Bible, an awesome book from which
father read aloud morning and evening. His voice was
never quite the same then as on other occasions.

Above the fireplace hangs an old musket which occa-
sionally comes down for active service but usually serves
as a theme for a story of thrilling experiences with the
Indians. And then the bustle and hum as the mother pre-
pares the meals, the sight of the flitches of bacon and
venison, the strings of dried apples and chains of sausages
hung from the rafters overhead and the smell of the baking
beans and of the boiling pot of turnips and of the pudding,
hanging in its bag, set appetite on edge. The whole re-
mained a picture in the mind until the hair had grown white
and the years many.

Then there was the climb up the hill to the meeting
house of a Sabbath day. Not the old first meeting house
on the green, but the second one, built in 1673 by John


Elderkin at a cost to the town of 428 pounds plus certain
lands granted after the work was done to make good the
loss of good man Elderkin, the carpenter, and to compensate
Rev. James Fitch, who had furnished the nails. To the
children of the day going to meeting must have been an
impressive event, for the men carried their muskets and
the militiamen were present as a special guard. In the
square pew nearest the pulpit sat the great men of the town,
a distinction determined by vote and rearranged, as was
the entire seating, every three or four years.

Inspired Fear and Respect.

It was a day of dignity and deference and children grew
up to respect those in authority. There was Major John
Mason, the military leader, deputy governor and one of
the judges of the colony, whose rigid and imperious
speeches doubtless inspired the youthful mind with some-
thing approaching fear, especially when the story of the
slaughter of the Pequots was recalled. Near by were
Deacon Thomas Adgate and Deacon Simon Huntington
and John Birchard, who was town clerk and justice of the
peace before he served the town as a schoolmaster. There,
also were regularly to be seen all except those whom sick-
ness or extreme old age kept at home ; for the grand jury
kept sharp watch on shirkers and did not hesitate to make
presentments of members of the community "for living
alone and neglecting the Sabbath."

It is unnecessary to go over the list, for it contains the
names of all the inhabitants. If any came into that young
community he was viewed with suspicion and unless he
straightway gave indication of living according to the rules
and prescribed customs of the place he was ordered to
move on. In other words, obedience was emphasized at all
points in the child's life, by what it saw and heard of the
way in which the rebellious members of the community
were treated, as well as by admonishments at home.


Strongest Incentive to Young Men.

But the men who furnished the strongest incentive to
the young men of the first century of Norwich's existence
to seek a college education were the first pastor, the Rev.
James Fitch and his two successors, John Woodward and Dr.
Lord, who between them guided the religious life of the
community, at any rate of the Congregational section of it
and at the outset there was no other for 125 years. Their
lives and characters have been so fully dealt with during the
past two days that it is unnecessary for me to do more than
call attention to the fact that they were scholars as well as
ministers of the gospel and that to their influence and under
their direct guidance and instruction many a young man was
led to appreciate the beauties of the classics as well as the
comforting message of the gospel. To this list of educators
should be added Richard Bushnell, who besides teaching
the school, as already denoted, was a poet, an officer of the
militia, and filled several town and colony offices with
credit; Col. Simon Lothrop, "an upright man, zealous in
religion, faithful in training up his family, and much re-
spected and esteemed for his abilities and social virtues;"
Rev. Elijah Waterman, who was "distinguished as a suc-
cessful teacher of the classics," and Theophilus Abell, whose
library of thirty volumes was notable for its size and who
himself was a religious teacher.

How was it this early country developed as it did and
assisted in the development of the United States when
they became states? In Norwich more than in any other
town there was a spirit of independence, in orders and cus-
toms, there being no feeling that they were here under the
king. From the first days we see the forefathers handing
down the spirit of freedom and independence. While this
was going on here, witness the development in the condi-

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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 8 of 19)