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of two houses that existed. In this church a choir was introduced. It was
large and well trained. The elder President Adams, who attended worship
here in 1771, says of the singing : "I heard the finest singing I ever heard in
my life. The front and side galleries were crowded with rows of lads and
lasses, who performed all their parts in the utmost perfection — a row of


women all standing up and playing their parts with perfect skill and judg-
ment, added a sweetness and a sprightliness to the whole, which absolutely
charmed me."

It has been said that the early ministers were superior men, men of talents
and learning. Mr. Collins, the first pastor, was an excellent character, whose
brilliancy illuminated the whole colony. Cotton Mather wrote an elegy on

him. He died in 1684, and was
succeeded by the Rev. Noadiah
Russell, one of the founders and
trustees of Yale College. His
son. Rev. William Russell succee-
ded him. The fourth pastor of
the first church in Middletown,
the Rev. Enoch Huntington, was
a member of Yale College and dis-
tinguished for high scholarship.
Beside the duties of his ministry,
he engaged in teaching young
men, preparing them for college
or business. Many from abroad
as well as from home vicinity,
were under his tuition, and among
the names of his pupils can be
found those of many literary, dis-
tinguished and useful men.

Only one mode of worship,
Congregational, was observed in
Middletown for about a century
.oMM,,iM,Ki iiioMAs McDoNoucii. ^^fjg^ ^j^g Settlement was com-

menced. The various other denominations now represented all arose after 1 750.
Before leaving this period, however, mention must be made of a few emi-
nent and influential citizens. Mr. Nathaniel White, who resided in the Upper
Houses, was a man of high religious character and sound judgment. He was
one of the first magistrates of the town, and held military commissions.
Another whom the people delighted to honor was Mr. Giles Hamlin, as, also,
his son John Hamlin, and his grandson Jabez Hamlin. Mr. Giles Hamlin was
elected representative to the General Court twenty-two times. Mr. John
Hamlin was a member for seven sessions, and then an assistant for twenty-six
years. The excellence of Giles Hamlin may have contributed to bring forward
his son John Hamlin; and his excellence combined with that of his father may
have had more influence in bringing forward Jabez Hamlin. John Hamlin
besides being advanced in military life to the rank of Colonel, was put into the
commission of the peace as early as 1733 or 4 ; was a justice of the quorum for
Hartford County, from 1745 to 1754, and then judge of that court thirty years.
He was elected a representative to the Genei'al Assembly forty-three times,
and was repeatedly Speaker of the Lower House. He was also for a time a
member of the Council of Safety. He was judge of probate from the formation
of Middletown district in 1752 till 1789, and mayor of this city from its incor-
poration in 1784 until his death. Jabez Hamlin was publicly educated and pos-



sessed a well formed and well balanced mind, unusual sweetness and uniform-
ity of temper, and courtliness of manner. He descended to his grave, rich in
the esteem of men, and beloved of his God. He is buried in the old graveyard
of Middletown, lying on the banks of the Connecticut river, which is one of the
oldest in the United States. His inscription reads thus : —

"In memory of the Hon. Jabez Hamlin, Esq., son of the late John Hamlin,
who deceased ast. 82, April 25th, 1791, having been honored by the public con-
fidence from youth to advanced years and employed in various grades of office
until he was called to higher duties of Magistracy. After a life of great use-
fulness in Church and State, he died in a good old age, respected, beloved,

Ship building flourished in East Middletown about 1767, but quarrying be-
came of more importance. The place was subsequently named Portland from
Portland in England, whence freestone is transported in immense quantities


to London and other parts of the country, as the freestone from our Portland
is carried to New York and other places in the United States. As early as
October 11, 1669, an entry on the town records states that "It was at ye towne
meeting granted unto Mr. Adams, shipwright, for building a vessel or vessels
this winter liberty to get timber upon the commons and liberty of building
place so that they doe not cumber ye passage of carts to ye landing place." In
1680 but one vessel was owned, and that was only 70 tons. There was only
one other on the river, a vessel of 90 tons at Hartford. The trade was carried
on in these two vessels. In 1730 only two vessels were owned here; both
united rated at 105 tons. There were, also, but two merchants. One of these
was James Brown, an excellent Scotchman from Edinburgh, who used to cross

* "The Medallic History of the United States of America," 1776-1876, by J. F. Loubat,
LL. D has an engraving of this , medal. There is one also in " Lossing's Field Book of the
Revolution," but the reverse side is different. "We incline to think that Loubat's book is
correct and give it as he has.




the country to Boston on horseback, once or more in the year, to make his

contracts. Some years later there were still but three or four merchants.

But in the latter half of the seventeen hundreds, a very profitable trade

was opened with the West Indies. Middletown offered great advantages for

carrying on this commerce, being situ-
ated on the largest river in New England,
having a fine harbor to which vessels
could ascend drawing ten feet of water,
with rich towns on its banks where arti-
cles suitable for the West Indian market
could be easily procured. The most suc-
cessful in this trade was Richard Al.'-op,
who had been educated a merchant in the
store of Philip Livingstone in New York.
He knew well how to avail himself of
these advantages. He came to this town
and commenced business about 1750. He
had his stores in the lower rooms of the
old town house, standing on Main street,
a little above Washington. He engaged
in commerce and prospered so much that
he sometimes insured vessels for others
on his private responsibility. He was a
man of integrity, generosity and public

spirit. His fellow citizens repeatedly elected him a representative to the

Legislature. He died early in the Revolution. George Phillips, Col. Mathew

Talcot and others were likewise engaged in the trade at this time.

This trade stimulated agriculture; and by this time the best lands in all

the parishes were brought under cultivation, and yielded abundant crops of

wheat, rye,' barley, oats,

flax, maize, and English

grasses. Great quantities

of provisions, and great

numbers of cattle and

horses were sent to the

West Indies ; and great

quantities of rum, sugar,

molasses and salt were

imported. Provisions in

large quantities were sent

from the river to New

York, to be consumed

there, or re-shipped for

foreign markets, and

thence various articles of

merchandise were brought

back in return.

The West India trade, and almost all other trade, the Revolutionary War

deranged, or rather suspended, but it was resumed after the war was over.





For fifty years previous to the breaking otit of the war, Middletown had become
gradually more and more prosperous. The increase in agriculture, domestic
manufactures and other industries which the West India trade conduced to,
had the effect of rap-
idly increasing the
population. Ship-

building was an out-
come of the growth
of commerce and was
carried on at many
points along the river-
Carpenters, black-
smiths, wheelwrights,
shoemakers, etc., had
multiplied to meet
the requirements of
the enlarged popula-
tion ; and for many
years the industry
and frugality of the
people was rewarded
by prosperity. Some
of the principal trad-
ers at this time were Elijah and Nehemiah Hubbard, Col. Lemuel Storrs,
George and Thompson Phillips, sons of the George Phillips before men-
tioned, and General Comfort Sage ; Joseph W. Alsop, a younger man, also
succeeded in it.

To enter into the details of the effects the war had upon Middletown, and
the history of the many lives influenced thereby, would require much time.

Suffice to say that Middletown took
its due share in the derangement of
commerce, suffering and disorder
that the war carried in its wake for
the next few years. Alarm and in-
dignation was first excited by the
passage of the Boston Port Bill, and
the arrival of Gen. Gage in May, 1774
to enforce it by stopping the trade
of that important town, and with it
to a great extent, the trade of Mas-
sachusetts and New England. The
House of Representatives, then in
session at Hartford, passed strong
resolutions against the unrighteous
act, many towns did the same, and
pledged their co-operation in defence
of the rights of the people. On the
15th of June in this year, more than
five hundred inhabitants of this town assembled and gave such a pledge.



One measure, which was the subject of much consideration about this time
was the breaking off from all trade with the mother country, so long as she
should continue her arbitrary proceedings. How the people felt on this point
is clear from an incident which occurred, when the delegates from Massachu-
setts were on their way to the first Continental Congress. Stopping in Middle-
town, Dr. Eliot Rawson, Mr. Alsop, Mr. Mortimer and others, the committee
of correspondence Matthew Talcott and Titus Hosmer, Mr. Henshaw and

many other gentlemen called upon them to
I pay their respects, and to assure them that

they would abide by whatever was decided
upon, even to a total stoppage of trade to
Europe, and the West Indies. This assurance
is the more noticable, because the wealth of
the town at that time, was mainly derived
from foreign commerce, and some of the
gentlemen present were principals in carrying
it on. Congress assembled, and formed an
association for non-importation, non-expor-
tation and non - consumption "of British
goods." This measure, thus pursued here
and elsewhere, was designed to show Great
Britain that the Americans were determined
not to submit to oppression, and that if
they could not live peaceably, with her, they
would endeavor to live without her. Trade,
therefore, was rudely interrupted, and all
prosperity and progress was for the time
at an end.


After the Revolution had come
to a successful issue, commerce
began to revive, althought it never
afterward reached the prosperity
it had enjoyed before the war. In
order that commerce might be pur-
sued to a greater advantage, a
petition was signed and presented
to the Legislature in 17S4, that a
part of Middletown, where com-
merce had been principally and
almost wholly carried on before
the war, might be invested with
city privileges. The signers al-
leged that " many inconveniences
were felt by them, as well as by
strangers, for want of due regula-
tions of the police of the town;"
and that keeping the high ways
in good rc])air, removing the ob-




structions from the channel of the river and many other regulations for com-
mercial convenience, were impossible to be accomplished without a separate
and special jurisdiction. The petition was granted in May of the same
year. At the same time Hartford, New Haven, New London and Norwich
were constituted cities.

In 1S15 there were in the city two hundred and nineteen dwelling houses,
and three hundred and fifty-three famihes. In 1850 there were six hundred
and three dwelling houses, and seven hundred and eighteen families. There
were also seven Churches, four Banks, a Court-house, Gaol and Alms-house,
the University buildings and a High School.

In connection with the war of 181 2, one illustrious name must be mentioned,
that of Commodore Thomas McDonough. He was the distinguished hero of


Lake Champlain. Although born in Delaware, his long residence in Middle-
town, and his alliance in the family of Mr. N. Shaler of Middletown, give us a
claim to his memory. He received during his life numberless honors, medals
and gifts from different states and towns. He was in the naval service till
near the time of his death, and it was upon the sea that his death occurred,
November 10, 1825. On the arrival of his remains at New York, the authorities
of the city, in sympathy with the feelings of the nation, deeply mourned the
loss to their country ; the vessels in the harbor displayed their colors at half
mast, and a detachment from the militia accompanied the hearse through the
city. He is buried in the old " Riverside Cemetery " in Middletown, and his
inscription reads : —

" Sacred to the memory of Thos. McDonough of the U. S. Navy. He was
born in the State of Delaware, December, 1783, and died at sea of pulmonary
consimiption, while on his return from Command of the American Scjuadron
in the Mediterranean on the 10th of Novcn'ber, 1821;."


In 1 86 1 the Civil War broke out. The news of the bombardment of Fort
Sumter was the cause of great excitement in Middletown, and called forth
demonstrations of loyalty and patriotism from all classes. One illustrious
name, of which Middletown feels justly proud, must be mentioned in connec-
tion with this period, that of General J. K. F. Mansfield. He was one of the
State's most highly esteemed citizens. His whole life was one of military ser-

vice. He was killed at the battle of Antietam, on the 17th of September, 1862.
A special meeting of the common council was called to take action in relation
to his death, and it was voted that a committee proceed to New York to escort
the remains to this city ; and another committee was appointed to make all
necessarj- and proper arrangements for the funeral, which took place on the
24th of September following. He was buried with the military honors to
which his rank was entitled, and the solemn occasion attracted a large gather-
ing of people from all parts of the country.

The city is replete with historical legend. The illustration showing what
is known as Gun Point is a spot up Little River with a story of Revolutionary
times attached to it. The British were advancing up the Connecticut river



and had arrived at Essex. The citizens of Middletown, in expectation of hav-
ing their stores and ammunition pilfered, carried their guns to this point on
Little River and there sunk them in order that they might not fall into the
hands of the British. Hence the place derives its name of Gun Point.

The old house on Washington street, immediatel}' behind the Stueck block,
is believed to be the oldest house now standing in the cit}-. It was known as
the Gaylord house, and was erected about 1722 by Samuel Gaylord. The
initials of himself and wife, S. & M., are still to be seen cut in a stone on the
side of a fireplace therein.

On vSouth Main street is the old Kilbourn liouse, believed to be the second
oldest house in existence in Middletown. It was known formerly as the Hub-

bard mansion. The land with the unfurnished house was bought by John Kent
in February, 1733. He occupied it until his death in 1775. It then became the
property of his daughter, wife of Elijah Hubbard, and afterward of their son,
the Hon. Samuel D. Hubbard, of whom Mr. Kilbourn purchased it in 1854.
There are many other old houses in town.

The manufacture of woolen cloths and fire-arms was carried on early in
the century in Middletown. In 1810 the Middletown Woolen Company built a
mill on Washington street and did a successful business for a number of years.
It was one of the first factories in this country that used steam as a motive
power. In 18 14 a woolen factory on Pamecha River was started by John R.
Watkinson, and continued for over twenty years. Colonel Simeon North
started a pistol factory at Staddle Hill about 1810. He is said to have been the
first manufacturer of pistols in this country. He had a large government con-
tract for many years, from 181 2, Oliver Bidwell commenced about iSio on
the upper Pamecha to make guns, and had a government contract. Colonel



Nathan Starr, Jr., erected a factory at Staddle Hill in 1812 and manufactured
government swords, and later, muskets and riiles.

In 1850 Middletown already possessed numerous manufactories, many of
them now being immense concerns. It would be impossible in this article to
enter into detail, but mention must be made of some of the more important
ones then existing. In Pameacha there existed the factories of H. L. Baldwin
and F. Baldwin, the first making bank and store locks, the last, closet locks.
Another concern making locks was the William Wilcox & Co manufactory.
I. W. Baldwin had an extensive and profitable business in a sash and blind,
flooring and planing mill. The Pameacha Manufacturing Company had the
tweed or jean mill and a business of $20,000. Machinery, castings, iron dirt
scrapers, corn shellers, plows, etc., were made at the works of William Stroud.

In the South Farms, the Russell Manufacturing Company, with an invested
capital of $100,000, employed about two hundred operatives in the manufacture
of India rubber suspenders, cotton and worsted webbing. In the city itself
the establishment of W. & B. Douglas employed eighty workmen at their large
pump manufactory. Jesse G. Baldwin was engaged in the silver-plating busi-
ness, with thirty workmen employed. There were, besides these, many minor
concerns of which none now remain. These were as follows : H. H. Graves
& Co., britannia coffee and tea urns ; Nathaniel Bacon, bank and safe locks;
H. E. Boardman, gaiter boots ; J. K. Penfield, patent grummets ; Penfield &
Camp, medicated liquid cuticle, a substitute for sticking plasters in surgical
operations ; H. Salisbury & Co., making of gold spectacles; C. F. Smith, man-



ufacture of sand paper. There were also manufactories in Cromwell, West-
field and Middlefield. Those here catalogued which remain at the present day-
are much enlarged and improved, and there are numerous concerns now exist-
ing then unknown.

Middletown of to-day, as a place of residence and natural beauty, has few
equals. Its wide streets, numerous trees, general healthfulness and charming
location render it delightful. Picturesquely situated in the bend where the
river makes its graceful turn eastward, about twenty-seven miles from its
mouth, the city stands on a gentle slope, gradually stretching up west from the
banks of the river to an elevation of 155 feet. It is surrounded on all sides by
charming scenery, the character of the country being strikingly and pleasant-
ly diversified. Perhaps no place in Connecticut enjoys a more lovely site, or

aboimds more in the picturesque. It is impossible for an observing student of
nature to acquaint himself with its variety of scene without being enchanted
at the ravishing little picture spots that meet him everywhere. The river it-
self, with its windings in and out, contributes no small share to the beauty of
Middletown's environment.

As a whole, perhaps the city may be best viewed from the grounds of the
last new building at the State Institution for the Insane, which, standing on an
eminence around which the river sweeps, commands a magnificent prospect of
the whole scene in all its details to its utmost boundaries. The view of the
surrrounding country, with the long line of blue hills in the far distance and
the winding river immediately beneath, the city in the middle distance nest-
ling in the bend of the river, its spires and towers peeping through a thick
growth of trees, is like a panorama.

The insane asylum itself is a collection of splendid buildings and attract-
ive grounds. In 1866 the town of Middletown granted to the state, for the



purposes of a hospital, 158 acres of land, and the cornerstone of the original
building was laid June 20, 1867. The institution has been enlarged from time

Main Hospital

to time, so that 460 acres of land are now occupied. It is one of the largest
institutions of its kind in the world.

Wesleyan University is located in Middletown. It was chartered in 1831.
Although it is under the patronage of the Methodist church, it is not a secta-
rian school. It is well situated at the highest part of the city and occupies ex-
tensive grounds. The five principal buildings — North College, South College,
Chapel, Library, and Orange Judd Hall, all of stone and of fine architecture,
stand in a line on the front campus facing High street and extending from



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Middle Hospital.

College street beyond William. Beside these buildings are others in the rear ;
an observatory and its transit house, the physical and electrical laboratories, a
large and elegant gymnasium erected in 1894, beside the residence of the pres-
ident of the college in one corner of the campus, and Webb Hall, the ladies'
dormitory, opposite. There are also many elegant society club-houses in con-
nection with the college, which in beauty of architecture contribute largely to



the adornment of the city. The illustration showing High street gives a small
view of Webb Hall, the Psi U and the D. K. E. club-houses.

Berkeley Divinity school occupies a large area at the corner of Main and
Washington streets. Beside the school proper, chapel and library, there is also
the residence of the Rt. Rev. John Williams, bishop of Connecticut and senior
bishop of the Episcopal church in the United States.

In the southwestern portion of the town stands the Connecticut Industrial
School for Girls. It is a private institution under the patronage of the state.
It was among the first institutions of its kind organized in the United States.
It was incorporated in 1868, received its first inmates January, 1870, and was
formally opened the 30th of June following.

Middletown has improved rapidly within the last few years. The old
court house, built in 1832, has been torn down and a handsome new municipal
building erected in its place. A large and elaborate new high school has been
built on the corner of Pearl and Court streets, in which the city feels a just
pride. Many other improvements are noticeable. Middletown is undoubtedly
awakening from the lethargy which has characterized it for so many years.
It has been termed, and perhaps not inappropriately, "the graveyard of Con-
necticut." But the name will apply no longer. Our quiet but beautiful little
town has awakened to a tardy recognition of its advantages, and an activity
heretofore unknown now marks it.


A True Story of Olden Time.


Winter had settled in early. It had come with a rush, chasing away un-
ceremoniously the dreary, effeminate, Indian summer days, and substituting a
sharp, crisp cold which sent the blood coursing through the veins with a vigor
leading old Gran'ther Aaron Olmsted to announce that he felt "fit to fight the
Britishers" The cider had been stored in a dozen barrels in the shadows of
the north cellar, the corn was husked and was sleeping in its crib, and the big
pumpkins lay in yellow waves on the barn floor.

The old Olmsted homestead stood on the west side of the wide village street,
in East Hartford, a highway now over-arched by three rows of leafy elms —
noble centennarians whose aged boughs, interlocking, form two grand Gothic
arches. It was a scanty half-mile from the Great River. Its upper windows
commanded one of the fairest views in Connecticut Colony. A narrow fringe
of wooded upland reached westward to a rich meadow bordered by a sweep-
ino- curve of the Great River. Beyond, a second meadow stretched to the
stores of outlying farm-houses of Hartford. Islanded against the cold blue of

Online LibraryWilliam Columbus FerrilThe Connecticut quarterly (Volume 2) → online text (page 2 of 46)