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cerely as they hated French Infi-
delity. Thomas Jefferson was a
believer in the Revolution of 1789.
He was attacked from nearly every
Congregational pulpit in the State
as an enemy of religion and of social
order. The result in Washington,
as elsewhere, was a religious schism.
Earnest democrats began to look
about them for some church where
they could worship God without
having their political principles
denounced as infamous, their political leaders as infidels. So bitter was the




H. HOLLISTEK.




TIIF, HOI.t.ISTKR l'I.AC[i.



246



WASHINGTON.



feeling that, in two recorded cases in the town of Washington, democrats were

fined for interrupting preach-
ers of the gospel of Federal-
ism. One of them had risen
in meeting and shaken his
fist in the minister's face,
and the other had brandished
a formidable looking jack-
knife at the pastor."



" I am entirely alone, hav-
ing no society, and nothing
to associate with but Presby-
terians and wolves ; " wrote
the distinguished Mary Pow-
ell, wife of John Davies, Jr.,
to her friends in England,
from her lonely cabin in
Davies' Hollow, where her
husband and his father lo-
cated their homes more than
a century and a half ago.
Hills on either side, crowned
to their smmmits with mas-
sive oak and chestnut trees,
a little clearing on the plain,
where, amid the stumps.




HON. ORVII.I.I'



straggling hills of maize and potatoes
grew like forlorn hopes. In the never
ending woods the squirrels chatted mock-
ingly at her, the deer roamed fearlessly^
and often the stealthy Indian lurked, ready
to seize any one of the little children that
strayed from the settler's cabin. The
murmuring of the brook over the stones,
and the sighing of the winds through
the pines of the valley, were in harmony
with her feelings, and no wonder she
longed for the green fields of Hertford-
shire, and the comforts of that beautiful
home she had left, — but the pioneer's wife
was brave and lived to see these hills
cultivated and the cheerless wilderness
blossom like a rose. Now the hillsides
are green with grass and John Davies
with all the familysleep in the little ceme-
tery, while many illustrious descendants
.are scattered over this broad land, — one




H.\K1 I < 11. Mill II o.\.



WASHINGTON.



247



especially, Charles Davies,
LL. D., long a professor at
West Point, and author of
the valuable series of mathe-
matical works, has been es-
pecially prominent in the
thoughts of every student
tangled in the jungles of plus
and minus.

John Davies, the first,
was a pioneer Episcopalian,
and used to attend the meet-
ings of his then unpopular
sect at Litchfield, ten miles
or more distant, and gave a
deed of some now valuable-
land to that society in the
form of a lease, for nine
hundred and ninety-nine
years, for "one pepper corn,
to be paid annually if law-
full)' demanded, at or upon
the feast of St. Michael the
Archangel." I believe the
pepper corns are kept in
readiness for delivery when
called for. As he became




Wll. 1,1AM HAMILTON lilP.SON.




older, he tired of going so far to church,
and built one near the little cemetery
in the Hollow. This by migration
now stands on the north-west corner of
the green in Judea.

Upon the completion of the She-
paug railroad in 1872, the station in
Davies' Hollow was called " Romford "
in honor of Romulous Ford, who was
then owner of the Hollow, and made
donations of land to the company.

More than fifty years ago the
farmers here marketed their products
by means of middle-men who carried
them to neighboring cities, generally
to New Haven, where they sold them
and returned proceeds to shipper, less
two cents a pound. It made a good
business for the transporters, and a
swift and sure market for the grower,
and for many years the Litchfield
county produce brought an advanced.



248 WASHINGTON.

price in the retail markets. Only one of these dealers, so far as the
writer knows, has remained in this field of trade, and in our view of
" Farmer's Hall," this veteran, Erastus Hurlbut, is seated in the porch of
his large general country store, adjoining immense store houses which were
formerly necessary in the prosecution of his business. This transporting was
■done by horses and heavy wagons, starting at all hours of day and night for
the long drive of twenty-five miles to New Haven. Mr. Hurlbut says he car-
ried in one week eighty-five heavy hogs, or about twenty-five thousand pounds
of pork to market. The business is now insignificant as the farmers are gen-
erally engaged in producing milk for the New York market — and the railroad
has taken the freighting business from the teams. There can be no dispute
however, but that the material prosperity of AVashington farmers was largely
a result of these commission men.




THE MITCHF.I.I, I'L.^CK.



Within the past thirty years a new era has dawned upon these hills. The
building of the Shepaug railroad from Hawleyville to Litchfield has rendered
them accessible, and city people have availed themselves of this chance to
locate for their summer vacation upon these ridges and knolls, their charming
cottages, many of them elegant mansions, while some have come back to their
ancestral homes, and enjoy the big chimneys and oaken beams that our forefa-
thers thought necessary to stand the brunt of winter's storms and winds.

About these villas, landscape gardening has done its best work, and every
cliff and boulder is used to aid the gardener in his effects.

The residence of E. K. Rossiter of New York, is one of the finest of its
class. From its broad verandah you can see the rippling Shepaug winding
like a silver thread around the base of Steep Rock whose cragged cliffs rise



WASHINGTON.



249




•five hundred feet above it, and the smoky train creeps out of the tunnel across

the river, and a hundred other varying scenes shift as the eye turns upon them.

The Van Ingen

mansion , the

Brownie C o t -

tage and Mrs.

Gibson's are

all of them

fine, with ele-
gant, well-kept

grounds , and

there are many

others like

them. The sum-
mer home for

poor shop-girls

of the city is

another institu-
tion, built and

maintained by |I.i' ' . . — ' _

Mrs. Van Ingen;

it is seen as one J/ \ '

comes on the '—^-^'^^

train, way up on

the brow of one

of the hills, and

is occupied in ^,^_,3„^ mitchf.ll.

the summer by

overworked and tired girl-clerks of the stores of New York. They come

here for a short vacation, at a nominal
charge for board, and can have a restful time.
Another Van Ingen institution is the
quaint stone school-house we show. This
was built to take the children from the
Green, and is an odd specimen of the "bul-
warks of the Nation," in a little lot of its
own, down by the babbling brook. The old
building removed from the ledge on the
Green, became the studio of Mr. Gibson at
" The Sumacs."

Probably the most important institu-
tion of the present day in Washington is
that celebrated school, "The Gunnery." Its
founder, Frederick W. Gunn, has been
gathered to his fathers, and sleeps in the
cemetery behind the church. A visitor once
asked Mr. Gunn what he was going to do
with all those boys romping about the
EARLE BUCKINGHAM. grounds. "Make men of them," he replied ;




250



WASHINGTON.



that was his single thought and aim, and is now the purpose of the present
teachers. Dr. Holland, who for many years made Judea his summer home, in
his story of "Arthur Bonnicastle," graphically depicts the Gunnery under the
title of the "Bird's Nest." "On the whole, 'The Bird's Nest' would have
been a good name for it if a man by another name had presided over it. It
had its individual and characteristic beauty, because it had been shaped to a

special purpose ; but it
seemed to have been
brought together, at differ-
ent times, and from wide
distances. There was a
central old house, and a
hexagonal addition, and a
tower, and a long piazza
that tied everything to-
gether. It certainly looked
grand, among the humbler




THE SKTir S. lOGAN I'l.ACl-..



houses of the village,
though I presume a pro-
fessional architect would
not have taken the highest
pleasure in it. Mr. Bird
was a tall, handsome,
strongly-built man, a little
past middle-life, with a
certain fulness of habit
that comes of a good health and a happy temperament. His eye was
blue, his forehead high, and his whole face bright and beaming with good
nature. His companion was a woman above the medium size, with eyes the
same color as his own, into whose plainly parted hair the frost had crept, and
upon whose honest face and goodly figure hung that ineffable grace which
we call 'motherly.'

" Self-direction and self-government, these were the most important of all



WASHINGTON. 251

the lessons learned in the Bird's Nest. Our school was a little community
brought together for common objects — the pursuit of useful learning, the
acquisition of courteous manners, and the practice of those duties which relate
to good citizenship. The only laws of the school were those which were
planted in the conscience, reason and sense of propriety of the pupils. The
boys were made to feel that the school was their own, and that thej' were re-
sponsible for its good order. Mr. Bird was only the biggest and best boy, and
the accepted president of the establishment."

The school is now conducted by John C. Brinsmade, A. M., who is assisted
by an able corps of instructors. Mr. Brinsmade married the only daughter of
Mr. and Mrs. Gunn, and has been connected with the school nearly thirty years.
There is in attendance about sixty boarding scholars.

Another .school, for young men preparing for college, is under the direction
of Wm. G. Brinsmade, A. M., a brother of the present master of the Gunnery,
and occupies a large and elegant mansion on the " Ridge," a knob of land half
a mile distant from the Green. The two schools although entirely independ-
ent of each other, have between them fine athletic and ball grounds, with ten-
nis court and a series of golf links.

The examinations given are held by a Harvard professor and admit to
that university — of which the two Brinsmade brothers are graduates.

There are no manufactories in the town at the present time, and its splen-
did water-powers are neglected beyond a grist-mill and saw-mill or two. Yet,
in former daj^s, many shops and factories existed, and gave promise of great
futures. At Woodville, fifty years ago, Chittenden's Iron Works employed an
hundred men or more. Down on "Christain Street" lime burning and brick
making were carried on. At the falls at New Preston, and all along the
Aspetuck, stone saw-mills produced the slabs for monuments, and the marble-
quarries at Marbledale, were busy and profitable. At Baldwin's, just north of
Goose Hill, a foundry and machine shop turned out large quantities of goods,
mostly for farmers' purposes. Captain Center, in the hollow west of the
" Green," built and operated a large cotton mill, employing many operatives.
Here lived, in his boyhood, Alexander J. Center, the chief engineer of the
Panama railroad, which was built largely by his promoting. Now these have
disappeared, and many of the dams are gone, while the lone fisherman inveigles
the trout amid the ruins.

The modern industries are entirely changed. In the little village at the
Depot, two or three small shops are running ; a wagon-shop and a grist-mill.
The Echo Farm Company of Litchfield, some years ago, engaged in buying
milk here and bottling it, for the New York market. It erected a large build-
ing opposite the Depot for this business, which was entirely destroyed by fire
a year ago, and has not been rebuilt, but the business is continued in other
buildings.

The late Chief Justice Church, in his Centennial address delivered at
Litchfield in 185 1, on the occasion of the celebration of the one hundredth
anniversary of the organization of Litchfield County, dismisses Washington as
follows : " Washington has been a nursery of eminent men of whom I cannot
now speak without violating my purpose of speaking of the dead and not of
the living."

Nearly a half century has passed since then and were the distinguished



252 WASHINGTON .

judge to again address the people his lips would not be sealed, and a host o
men would be honored by his eulogy. It is now our glad right to bring forth
the virtues and deeds of a few of the many eminent men reared in these
borders — while there will be many others equally worthy, whom we cannot
have space to mention.

The Brinsmade family has had from the early settlement a positive influ-
ence in the building of this society. Daniel Brinsmade, a young parson, just
graduated from Yale college, became the spiritual leader of this flock in 1748.
He was thirty years old, thoroughly Puritanical and with decided opinions, and
for nearly fifty years ministered unto them, in season and out of season. Two
causes disturbed his peaceful reign ; one the Revolutionary War with its at-
tendant Patriot and Tory convictions and animosities, and the other the
Episcopalian heresy way up in Davies' Hollow. This latter was, however,
then in the town of Litchfield. The half-way covenant doctrine also made a
ripple of trouble over the calm surface of his religious work. By his marriage
with Rhoda Sherman of New Haven, he had two sons, Daniel Nathaniel and
Daniel Sherman. He lived on the brow of the hill east of the Green, in a
house now torn down, just north of the late residence of Lewis Canfield. He
died in 1793.

Hon. Daniel N. Brinsmade, his oldest son, graduated at Yale in 1772
read law with Samuel Canfield, Esq., of Sharon, and pursued his profession in
his native town until his death in 1826. He was a Justice of the Quorum, and
Assistant Judge of the County Court for sixteen years. He represented his
town in the General Assembly at both its May and October sessions for twenty-
one years, and was a member of the Convention that adopted the Federal Con-
stitution. He almost believed he held public office by prescription. After the
adoption of the new State Constitution of Connecticut in 1S18, he was drop-
ped, but the next year he went to Hartford to see what the new order of peo-
ple could do without him. Taking a spectator's seat in the rear of the hall, he
soon became absorbed in the proceedings — and his old experiences revived.
Soon a member rose and made a motion. The Judge had been so long accus-
tomed to seconding every motion, whether he favored it or not, just for the
sake of having it properly presented for deliberation, that forgetting himself,
he immediately exclaimed, "I second the motion." The members turned
around astonished to hear it coming from the spectators — when recognizing
the form of the veteran legislator of forty-three sessions, they remembered
his old habit, and burst into a loud laughter. The old Federalist became now
thoroughly disgusted with such "Toleration" legislative proceedings.

He was an active and influential member of the Masonic orders in their
diff'erent names, representing his home lodge, the Rising Sun, for many years
in the Grand Lodge, and held several of the chairs and stations in that body.
Gen. Daniel B. Brinsmade was the only son of Daniel N. and Abigail
Farrand Brinsmade, and born in 1782, he lived his life of eighty years in
Judea, where his father lived before him. He was one of the leading spirits of
his day ; holding the office of town clerk for over forty years, and representing
his town, in the General Assembly, several times. He took great interest in
military affairs, and was colonel of the Fifth Regiment of Connecticut Cavalry
in 181 7, and was subsequently made general of the State Cavalrj'. In 1851 he
was honored as the president of the Litchfield County centennial celebration,



WA SH/NG TON. 253

and exhibited on that occasion the epaulets and scarf worn by General La
Fayette during the War of the Revolution, which are heir-looms in the Brins-
made family. He was prominent in Masonic affairs and was Grand Master of
the State in 1827 and 1828. One of his four children, Abigail Irene married
Frederick W. Gunn, the distinguished teacher, whose only daughter, with her
husband, John C. Brinsmade, a grandson of General Brinsmade, now continues
the school — thus making a Brinsmade dynasty of a complete one hundred and
fifty years.

Near the road from Smoke Hollow to Davies' Hollow, is the depression
that marks the home in which Ephraim Kirby was born in 1757. The old
farm is now mostly a forest. The Ford family lived a little nearer Mount Tom,
in the old house now nearly in ruins, and Davies' Family a half-mile west in
the valley. The news that made Putnam leave his plow reached the ears of
this boy and he hastened with his flint- lock and powder-horn to Bunker Hill,
and for eight years he struggled in Freedom's cause. He was in nineteen bat-
tles and skirmishes, and received thirteen wounds, seven of which were sabre
cuts at Germantown, where he was left for dead.

At the close of the war he studied law with Reynold Alarvin of Litchfield
and also received the degree of M. A. from Yale college. In 1789 he published
a volume of reports of the decisions of the courts of his state, being the first
volume of reports ever published in this country, and is still a standard au-
thority. He was a member of the Society of Cincinnati, a Free and Accepted
^lason, and, held many of the official positions of that order, being the first
General Grand High Priest of the General Grand Chapter.

He was honored by his resident town of Litchfield with thirteen semi-
annual elections to the General Assembly of Connecticut.

He married Ruth Marvin and had several children, and some of his pos-
terity have been very prominent military men. General Kirby Smith, com-
manding the last Confederate army that surrendered, was his grandson.

He was appointed by President Jefferson a Judge of the newly organized
territory of Orleans, and died while proceeding there to assume the office at
Fort Stoddard, on October 2, 1804, aged forty-six years.

One of the most distinguished sons of Judea was the late Gideon H. Hol-
lister, known so well as the historian of Connecticut. He was born in the
southeastern corner of the town in the deep valley of the West Sprain Brook,
in an old farm-house which was built more than a century and a quarter ago
by one of his ancestors, who was an officer in the French and Indian wars.
This house has been kept in repair by the HoUister family, who still occupy
it and till the ancestral side-hills.

He graduated at Yale in 1840, evincing high scholarship and great literary
and forensic talent. Lender Judge Seymour's careful training he was admitted
to the Litchfield bar in 1842, and soon became and always held the position of a
leading attorney in the state until his decease at Litchfield in 1881.

While not holding many high official positions, he had a great political in-
fluence. He was sent in 1868 as Minister to Hayti where he remained two
years. His obituary in the Connecticut Law Reports, volume 48, is a just
tribute of his legal ability. As a lawyer his strength lay in the trials of mat-
ters of fact to the jury with which he had few equals. In cross-examination
he was wonderfully adroit. The stumbling-block of natural antagonism he



J54 WASHINGTON.

avoided with great skill. He often led the witness the way he wished by
seeming to desire him to take the opposite direction. When severe, he was
terribly severe. His delivery was slow, his manner impressive, his action dig-
nified and effective ; at times he was magnificent, though like all born orators,
often disappointing.

He however enjoyed most of all, literary work, and his fame will live long
in the published results of his study. The " History of Connecticut" is a rare
specimen of good language in historical work. Besides this, he published
several works of historical fiction, and was a constant contributor of poetry
generally pertaining to historical subjects, to various newspapers and periodi-
cals.

Few men were in such constant demand as he for addresses and orations to
be delivered on public celebrations of a memorial or dedicatory nature.

We cannot close this tribute to a warm personal and professional friend with-
out adding extracts from a letter of sympathy received by Mrs. Hollister shortly
after his decease. " It was a sudden blow to me as I had not heard of his ill-
ness. I cherished for your husband a true friendship, and now only regret
that I did not see more of him in these later A^ears. But I looked forward to a
closer intimacy as we grew older and had less of life's work and care on our
hands. I knew he was always the same friendly and noble man, capable of
friendship with whose mind and heart I could ever find a quick sympathy even
if I did not see him frequently.

" The long drive we took together last summer when we stopped and
dined with Prof. Beers at the lake, will gver be a golden day in my memory.

" We discoursed English literature and the poets. He was in best spirits
and I never saw him more full of genial wit, bright criticisms and shrewd ob-
servations. His conversation fairly irradiated our circle.

" As we drove all the sunny morning over the hills, he pointed out his
favorite views and talked of trees, poetry, men, life and even deeper things.
still.

" He was peculiar and independent in his tastes. He despised the merely
sensational, he had a pure taste. He looked for nature and great and true
thoughts expressed with moderative and dramatic force,

" ' The gift which speaks,

The deepest things most simply.'

"Something, I feel, has gone out of my own life; and as we grow older
our old and heart friends grow fewer.

" Your husband loved Litchfield and every rod of Connecticut soil, he
loved his country's great men, but he loved more than all the great souls —
the poets that have spoken through all time to all hearts and helped them to
think and hope and suffer. * * * Sincerely yours,

J. M. HoppiN."

One of the farmer boys of Judea now highly honored is Orville H. Piatt,,
who for nearly twenty years has held the office of United States Senator from
Connecticut, and for several years has been one of the most influential mem-
bers of the national council. While one of the busiest men in Washington,,
he is always ready to greet his Connecticut friends, and never neglects the
correspondence of his constituents. He will be seventy-one years old in July,



WASHINGTON. 255

but is strong and vigorous as a young man. Educated in the common schools
of his town, he studied law at Litchfield with his townsman G. H. Hollister,
and for thirty years was a leading attorney of the state, residing at Meriden.
He had a way of stating his views without oratory, so that he was pretty apt
to win his cases, and this habit still prevails in his congressional debates. His
private life has been such that his opinions were always respected by his
fiercest opponents, and his honesty of purpose and integrity of character are,
perhaps, the great elements of his success.

Adjoining the Hollister farm on the north was the birth-place of another
lawyer, who though not so widely known as Mr. Hollister or Senator Piatt, is
yet entitled to a niche in the list of Washington's sons. Charles Nettleton, a
farmer boy, learned in the wisdom of the old red school-house, studied law
with Truman Smith, and enjoyed his starvation period at Naugatuck, when
Charles Goodyear was making his interesting and disheartening experiments
in hardening caoutchouc — and then removed to New York City, where his
business turned into that of conveyancing, which by reason of his careful at-
tention and thorough knowledge of all the necessary details developed into a
large practice, employing several clerks. He was a Commissioner of Deeds
for every state and territory in the United States. He made a specialty of col-
lecting the statutes and session laws of every state, and of many foreign na-
tions, and had the most complete collection in the country of this particular
branch of law. At the time of the Hayes and Tilden election, his whole library
was removed to Washington, D. C, for the purposes of reference by the Electoral
Commission. He became largely interested in the manufacture and distribu-
tion of gas for lighting, and was for some years President of the United Gas
Association of the United States. He died in New York city at the age of
seventy-two years, on May 5, 1892, and was buried in the cemetery at Wash-
ington, by the side of his wife, who preceded him there only six weeks. His



Online LibraryWilliam Columbus FerrilThe Connecticut quarterly (Volume 2) → online text (page 26 of 46)