William Columbus Ferril.

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the November sky and the russet and gold of the late autumnal foliage, rose
the steeple of the First Church of Christ in the colony's northern capital.

It was a hospitable mansion in which the Olmsted family were to collect.
Lengthwise it stood to the street and two good stories high with the gambrel
roof — changed later to a gable. A ponderous brass knocker, polished till it
gleamed, hung on the mammoth front door, which was divided horizontally.
A gigantic chimney permitted fireplaces in the lower story rooms and in two
of the chambers. In the rear was a long ell, over whose roof rose a long well-
sweep. It may be said, parenthetically, that the first piano in East Hartford
was consumed when the house burned, in 1876. For a week or more the chil-
dren in the Olmsted household had been pounding cinnamon and cloves in a
gigantic lignum-vitse mortar, and chopping suet and meat for mince pies, and
stoning raisins and slicing citron, and making the rafters of the old colonial
homestead echo with the busy preparation for that apostle of festivals —

Those sturdy days were still half a century or so earlier than the introduc-
tion of prepared spices. It was almost in the crude state that the material
used for seasoning came to the kitchen. Its reduction from raw material to
culinary ammunition was assigned to the army of children as their natural
obligation. On those youngsters who had been " froward " was laid the pen-
alty of preparing a salt, evolving it by the ascending steps of washing, drying
and pounding, from primitive rock-salt. For a week the main business of
mankind in the little Puritan theocracy had been the secular duty of making
pies. By dozens and scores these had come forth daily from the kitchen and
been consigned to the icy cavern of " the north room." Seemingly, they were
made of anything vegetable or animal that is on the earth or in the waters
xmder the earth.

Early on Thanksgiving morning all sorts and conditions of Olmsteds, even


to the third and fourth generation, began to arrive. The homestead was the
rallying point of Gran'ther Aaron from all over the colony. It was hoped that
two score would sit down to the dinner which would be awaiting the family on
their return from "meetin." Of the six sons of the white-haired grandsire all
were to be on hand at the hospitable board saving Captain Gideon, who was a
prisoner to the red-coats in the West Indies, unless perchance he was in Davy
Jones' locker. Of the six daughters, all with their families were to attend. Of
the third generation no fewer than twenty-seven were to pay their tribute to
the turkeys and pies, and of the fourth there were two, little Mehita-
ble Burnham, just a twelvemonth old, and Pardon Olmsted, three months
younger. With the early morning began to arrive other individuals also — in-
dividuals not so desirable. Various loafers from the quiet country-side strag-
gled 'round the skirts of the rambling colonial mansion, and stopped in
the lean-to and the wood-shed which led off from the savory kitchen. As the
morning wore on they departed, laden with jugs and brimming pitchers of
cider, given to them by Gran'ther Aaron's ungodly grandson, Nehemiah, or
with turkey drumsticks and pies of divers kinds, the gifts of stout Mistress
Olmsted. Among the beneficiaries were some of the few remaining Indians of
the neighborhood, miserable, squalid, half-drunken creatures, stigmatized by
that most withering of Puritan adjectives, "shiftless." There was also a visi-
tor whom the children and even their parents regarded with curiosity, mingled
in some measure with apprehension. This was a youth of swarthy complexion
and foreign and mysterious appearance, who had come with a party of horse
traders that had pitched their tents on Bidwell's Lane some days previously,
announcing that they were trading and buying horses to deliver to General
Washington at Morristown, to recruit the continental cavalry. There were not
lacking those who "suspicioned them 'ar traders were as like to wring the
necks of gobblers as to buy horses."

When the bell of the village meeting-house began to remind the peo-
ple of duties spiritual the army under the Olmsted roof-tree was ready to
respond to its invitation. Nehemiah Olmsted and Ozias Bidwell, two of the third
generation, were left in charge of the homestead when the reunited family filed
soberly down to the meeting-house. The two j'oung clansmen were placed on
this detail not so much because they were the most reliable for that duty, but the
more because well-grounded apprehensions were entertained regarding their
froward conduct in the temple and consequent rebukes from Levi Goodwin,
the tithing-man. They were fit predecessors of the Comstock Cavalry of a
later day. When good, old, logical Parson Williams had reached his seventhly
and had consequently become well started on his sermon, the two young harem
scarems left in charge of the family fort had wearied of their labors as an in-
vestigating committee. They had examined the yawning depths of the brick
oven, raided the buttery and pantry, hidden Gran'ther Aaron's gold-headed
walking stick, loosened the king-bolts on five of the family chaises in which
the Olmsted progeny had journeyed to the mansion, introduced unnecessary
pepper into the star chicken-pie, doubled in half-sections the lower sheet in
each bed, and employed their mischievous ingenuity in every fertile prank and
trick which their active boyish minds could devise.

As they sat in the low-ceiled kitchen, sighing for new worlds of deviltry,
two figures darkened the passageway leading in from the lean-to. Looking up


they saw first the swarthy horse-trader who had left in the early morning
freighted with a pitcher of cider, drawn by Nehemiah's own grimy hands, and
with two of Mistress Olmsted's famous pies. Behind the trader was one of his
companions from the camp on Bidwell's Lane.

"Is it hungry ye are again?" was Nehemiah's salutation. "It is, young
sir," was the reply, in a foreign accent.

"Sit down then, if ye be so minded, and we will feed you."

Nehemiah motioned with a wave of his hand towards a settle. He pro-
duced a plate and heaped it with steaming potatoes and turnips, and dexter-
ouslv whipped off two drumsticks from one of the six turkeys which were to
feed the convened clans, saying as he layed the edibles before his visitors :
" Begin on them two scalps."

Presently a felicitous idea occurred to Ozi, who had cut a big wedge from
the erring chicken-pie, in which the boys had inserted a double allowance of
pepper. This he carefiilly chose from the section which the youngsters had
spiced. Laying it on one of Mistress Olmsted's choicest plates he presented
it to the second of his callers, and then deemed it seemly to withdraw to the se-
clusion of the pantry. Thither Nehemiah discreetly followed him. In a few
seconds the lads were rewarded for their industry by the sound of violent
sneezing mingled with strange foreign oaths. Looking out they discerned
their victim gesticulating fiercely. In a short time they saw him approaching
their hiding place. Seeing that he would be discovered, Ozi made a virtue of
necessity, and emerged from his retreat to enquire solicitously, "Be ye ill?"

With a threatening sweep of his hand the man demanded milk or cider to
wash down the pepper. "Give him both together," advised Nehemiah, under
his breath, but Ozi was content with proffering a mug of cider. At that
moment was heard the sound of wheels approaching on the road. Hastily
gulping down the liquid, the boys' visitor rushed with a valedictory sneeze from
the kitchen and out of the lean-to. The lads followed him and then turned
with cheerful faces to welcome Gran'ther Aaron, who was depositing a load
from the family chaise.

A few seconds later startled exclamations summoned them to the dining
room. Mistress Aaron and a half-score of female Olmsteds were pointing to
the table, where crumpled linen and missing knives and forks betrayed the
operations of an invader.

" Look yonder," cried the good old lady : " What did I tell you ! " she con-
tinued in prophetic frenzy. " They've let in some thief, who has stolen our
silver. 'Twould have been better to have disgraced our family before the tith-
ing man than have let this come to pass ! "

Explanations were given in short order, and the male Olmsteds repaired
as a sort of committee of the whole to the camp on Bidwell's Lane.

The gypsies were on the point of striking their tent, but a few minutes of
salutary persuasion by Gran'ther Aaron and constable Timothy Bryant, sup-
ported by the evidence of the two boys, resulted in the recovery of the articles
which had been stolen by the confederate of the victim of the medicated

As for Nehemiah and Ozias, it is said that they have transmitted their
deviltry to their descendants, but it may be nothing more than the fact " that
boys do not seem to change as much as men."'



As one strolls through the heavily shaded streets of South Windsor, an
appreciation of comfortable thriftiness overspreads him. Even the great elms,
knarled and weather-beaten by the forces of a hundred years, breathe from
their swaying branches a suggestion of sturdy resistance, crowned by the dig-
nified bearing of proud old age. From the hollow trunks and mutilated limbs
of these landmarks of history we can weave the story of the Hessian soldiery,
prisoners of the Revolution. A merry lot of young fighters they must have
been, for the streets of the quiet town echoed with the sounds of horse-
racing, and the bright coins of the gambling table glistened before the eyes of
our Puritanical forefathers. At Lafayette's command these naughty disturb-
ers of the peace were set to work planting three rows of tiny elms to line the
thoroughfare, unconsciously setting up for themselves rugged monuments to
a defeated cause.

On either side of the roadway, broad fields of waving vegetation form a
restful variety of changing color. Long stretches of tobacco, stiff and tropical
in form and deep in tone, contrast with the easy swaying of a field of grain,
bright from the rays of the summer sun and intensified by the background of
heavy woods. Over yonder lie the flat stretches of meadow land, quiet and
motionless, save for the occasional glimpse of a group of hay cutters or the




lazy movement of a herd of cattle. This picture of peaceful prosperitj- is
framed by the purple mass of the Farmington hills. The faint lines in the
distance are dimmed by the August haze, sometimes losing themselves in the
blue of the heavens which seem to entice the fading forms into the uncertain-
ty of space. It is a dreamy, restful picture, and if one cares to call up sugges-
tions of a buried past, the silent " God's acre " at East Windsor Hill will trans-
mit to the busy mind the strange charm of its atmosphere laden with the mys-
terious stillness of its unwritten history. The sinking stones are moss-covered
and cracked, sometimes leaning against one another for siipport, sometimes
wholly covered by the persistent weeds or the clinging blackberry vines.


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Near the center of this crumbling spot is a long stone tablet bearinj
following inscription :

In memory of Rev. Timothy Edwards

Paftor of 2nd society in Windsor

(whofe fingi:lar Gifts and piety rendered

him an excellent, and in the judgment of

Charity by the bleffing of heaven, a

fuccefsful minifter of the Gofpel)

who died January ye 27th Ad 1758

in the 89th year of his age and 64th of

his miniftry — and his remains

bury d under this stone

An Ei'iTAPH :

The man of God who nobly pled
His Mafter's Cause alafs! is dead
His Voice no more ! — but awful Urn
Still speaks to Men their great Concern
His Praise on Souls by Heaven impreft
This mouldering Stone will long but laft
When Grace completes the Work begun
Bright Saints will fhine his living Crown.




The name of Timothy Edwards stands out strong and clear in the annals
of early Connecticut. The little colony of settlers broke ground at Windsor in
1635. We all know something of their struggle for life. The banks of "Ye
Great River " were a favorite hunting ground for the Indians, and although
the new comers found favor in the sight of the red-skinned warriors, never-
theless that treacherous twist of the Indian character caused the pale-faced
colonist to be ever on the alert for the war whoop. Despite the hardships and
dangers the brave little band struggled on, building its church and making its

The town of Windsor included a tract of land some ten or twelve miles in


area, divided by the Quonetakut River into equal parts. The first settlement
was on the west side, at what is now Windsor, but the meadows across the
bright water furnished tempting pasture land for the cattle, and before many
years had passed a few of the more adventurous members broke loose from
the mother settlement and cast their lot among the Podunks and Scantics.

For some twenty-five years the old settlement was considered as home
When the blasts of "ye trumpet " echoed beyond the waters, the few offspring
colonists would brave the drifting ice cakes of winter or battle with the rising
freshets of summer, their light canoes making dangerous marks for the arrow-
heads of the tawny foe, as they obeyed the distant summons, whether for
prayer or battle.

Rude houses sprang up along the bank of the hill which overlooked the
fertile meadows, and the new life was passing outside the narrow limits of
■childhood, when the advancement was stopped by the battle cries of King
Philip's War (1675).

Cut off from the mother colony and surrounded on all sides by infuriated
savages, the doom of the pale-faces seemed sealed. Many of them removed to
the protection across the river, leaving the inore daring of their comrades to
build a fort as a meagre refuge against the ravages of the Scantics.



Distant echoes of this troublesome past have come down to us on the wings
of tradition, weaving for our imagination hasty sketches of that far-oiif strug-
gle. The war was a short one, and better days were in store for the colonists
of the Windsor Farmes.

In 1680 a petition was made to the assembly for the privilege of support-
ing a separate minister and of building a new church. For fourteen years the
petition was refused, as the rich land of the meadows formed a paying supple-
ment to the little town of Windsor.
However, the fifty families of the
Farmes were persistent in their clam-
orings, and the mother town at last
ceded the request.

In 1694, "It was granted that all
those on the west side of the river that
have estate in land or otherwise on the
east side, their estate shall be rated to
the ministry of the west side, and this
order to take no place till they of the
east side have a minister settled among
them, and to continue no longer than
they do keep a minister there."

In 1697, "It was voated also that

Mr. Edwards should be called to offise

as soon as conveniently may be, and

those that are male church members do

treat with him respectin' that matter."

About this struggling community

Timothy Edwards cast the influence of

his power, drawing many an unruly nature unconsciously within the radius of

his wonderful personality.

Wales was the original home of the Edwards family, but history confuses
the distant line of their descent. The father of Timothy Edwards was one
Richard Edwards of Hartford, "a respectable merchant and an exemplary
Christian." In the Connecticut Historical Society's rooms at Hartford may be
seen a curious yellow manuscript. The cover is torn and the neatly written
pages are defaced in places, but the precise old-fashioned writing is easily dis-
cernable, giving us a living picture of this same thriving merchant in the
language of his son. It is entitled, "Some things concerning my dear and
honored father, Mr. Richard Edwards, late of Hartford, deceased, who depart-
ed this life in the comfortable hopes of a glorious resurrection to life again
April 20, 17 18, on a Sabbath day, about singing time in the forenoon, aged,
according to his own statement, within about a fortnight or three weeks of 71,
or within a very little of it at least."

It then goes on to describe his personal appearance as follows : " He was
of middle height, rather taller than shorter than men of ordinary pitch, of a
straight, well-shaped body, not corpulent but rather sparse and slender with a
good proportion and symmetry in its parts. He had, especially in his j-ounger
years, a very good head of hair and comely countenance. Since I can remem-
ber, he was, at least in my eyes, as pleasant a man to look upon as most I have




seen, and he had a smile that made him (upon occasion) appear with a still
more graceful and amiable aspect, for it had a pleasantry in it beyond what I
have seen in many — yea, most others."

Timothy Edwards was born May 14, 1669. He was given all the advan-
tages which the new country offered. Harvard was then the only college in
New England, and from there he received on the same day his two degrees of
bachelor and master of arts, "which was an uncomrnon mark of respect paid
to his proficiency in learning." Long hours were spent in the study of theolo-
gy, and the young minister had laid a substantial foundation for the hard task
of his life work. .Despite the stern conditions of his surroundings he had
already succumbed to Cupid's arrow and his Psyche was realized in the beau-
tiful Esther Stoddard, daughter of the Rev. Solomon Stoddard of Northamp-
ton. Perhaps this student of young Harvard had sought relaxation from the
society of classic poets or early theologists with the merry girls of the Boston
boarding school, amongst whom was Esther Stoddard. Probably these college
days were interwoven with Timothy Edwards' courtship. In November, 1694,
he was married, and a few days later the substantial two-story house, the gift
of Richard Edwards, opened its doors to the bonny bride. Work on the meet-
ing-house was pushed forward, and by 1696 a rough building was completed in
the corner of what is now the old burying ground. Close at hand was the fort,
and, while the pilgrims offered up their silent prayers, one ear was kept open
for the yell of the savages. Timothy Edwards' house was a little distance
towards the south, across the street. Even now the old well from which little
Jonathan quenched his thirst ma)' be seen, although the house was torn down
during the early days of this century. It was a well-made building of more than
ordinary sjze, long and narrow and low. Off toward the west were the wav-
ing meadows and glistening Connecticut. On the other side the land sloped
gently away toward a noisy little brook at the edge
of the dense forest which stretched away toward the
east in black uncertainy.

We are inclined to picture these forefathers of
ours as treading a moral path of painful
ness, looking neither
to the right nor to the
left for relaxation
from the stern calls
of rigid discipline. If
we glance in fancy
for a few moments
through the diamond-
shaped panes of the
Edwards house on the
night of the " ordina-
tion ball," we will find
our mouths watering for the good things to eat, sent by the neighbors, and our
feet beating time to the music. We will long to catch an echo of the thrill-
ing tales of the weather beaten group about the great fire-place, or to join
in the more quiet gossip of the women, grouped together on the broad bench
about the wall and watching the movements of the young host and his pretty




bride in their quaint dress of long ago. It is a pleasant suggestion of good
comradeship on the outskirts of the howling widerness, a bright little spot
peering out of the dreary background.

The early years of missionary work were trying ones. The Indians were
tireless in thei/attacks, and there were trifling dissensions among the colo-
nists, many of whom were rough adventurers, daring in spirit and wholly un-
couth in manner. The seating of the meeting-house was a source of miserable
contention. At last the following rules were made and peace was partly
restored to the rural atmosphere, May 27, 1724 : " There being a general dis-
satisfaction with the seating of the meeting-house, it was ordered to be re-
seated and the rules adopted by vote were :

" I. That shall be i head to a man and age and estate, to take it from the
building of the meeting-house until now.

" 2nd. That the men shall sit on the men's side and the women on the
women's side and it shall be counted disorder to do otherwise.

"3rd. That the seaters shall fill up all the seats with young persons viz,
where the married arc not 'heated."


Roger Wolcott, the future governor, heads the list on the new seating

The i^ath of the young preacher was not strewn with roses. His natural
sympathies were far away from the agricultural life, and the primitive civiliza-
tion about him grated upon his sensitiveness. It was hard for the struggling
parish to eke out even the small salary demanded of them, and the family be-
neath the sloping roof of the pastor's house was a large one. Amongst the



eleven children, Jonathan, the fifth child, was the only son. The father of this
little flock was wont to say " that his sixty feet of daughters must be clothed,"
and sometimes it was difficult to find the wherewithal. A little school was
started at the parsonage and it soon became famous throughout the land, and
no examination for college was considered necessary if the candidate came
from under Mr. Edwards' care. As the daughters finished their education in
Boston, where the)' were all sent, each one found their place on the staff of

In 1711, when the little Jonathan was eight years old, the distant war cry
resounded throughout the land, and Timothy Edwards went as chaplain on an
expedition designed for Canada. The fleet of about twent)' men-of-war


Showing elms planted by the Hessians.

reached Albany August 15, 171 1, after a tedious voyage. The following letter
has come down to us, written at a discouraging time, but filled with words of
tenderness which gave new enthusiasm to the anxious family at the East
Windsor home.
" To Mrs. Esther Edzvards, on the East side of the Conn, river in Windsor:

"... Whether I shall have any time to write to you after this, I know
not ; but however that may be, I would not have you discouraged or over-
anxious concerning me, for I am not so myself. I have still strong hopes of
seeing thee and our dear children once again. I cannot but hope that I have
had the gracious presence of God with me, since I left home, eincouraging and
strengthening my soul, as well as preserving my life. I have been much


cheered and refreshed respecting this great undertaking, in which I verily
expect to proceed and that I shall before many weeks are at an end see

" Remember my love to each of the children— to Esther, Elizabeth and
Mary, Jonathan, Eunice and Abigail. The Lord have mercy on them and save
them all— with our dear little Jerusha. The Lord bind up their souls with
thine and mine in the bundle of life.

" Though for a while we must be absent from each other, yet I desire that
we may often meet at the throne of grace in our earnest prayers for one an-
other, and have great hopes that God will hear and answer our prayers.

" The grace of God be with you.

" I am thy loving husband,

"Timothy Edwards."

Scraps from another letter show us that the weeds were not suffered to
grow in the path to knowledge trodden by the boy Jonathan.

August, 1711. "I would have Jonathan keep what he hath learnt in his
Grammar and I would have none of them forget their writing." Again: " I
desire thee to take care that Jonathan don't lose what he hath learnt but that
as he hath got the accident and about two sides of ' Propria quae maribus' by

Online LibraryWilliam Columbus FerrilThe Connecticut quarterly (Volume 2) → online text (page 3 of 46)