A. S. (Azel Stevens) Roe.

History of the First Ecclesiastical Society in East Windsor, from its formation in 1752, to the death of its second pastor, Rev. Shubael Bartlett, in 1854 online

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Online LibraryA. S. (Azel Stevens) RoeHistory of the First Ecclesiastical Society in East Windsor, from its formation in 1752, to the death of its second pastor, Rev. Shubael Bartlett, in 1854 → online text (page 1 of 9)
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The sanctuary in wliicli to worship God, and the
school-house in which the youthful mind is to receive
the rudiments of education, have ever been the true
insignia upon the standard of the Pilgrims, and
wherever we find their descendants establishing a
settlement we shall see amid the trees of the vast
forest, or on the hill-top of the open country, the
spire of the meeting-house pointing up to the eternal
dwelling-place above, and its humble attendant nest-
ling in some bye corner or near the highway path.
They have never been noted for the beauty of their
architecture nor for the pleasantness of their loca-
tion, and have long been the jest of the heartless
writer and the ignorant traveler, but to those who
can sympathise in the true dignity and happiness of
man, and can understand his dependence upon a
pure heart and an understanding mind, there is a
beauty in their tasteless architecture and a grandeur
in their unpretending simplicity. To the native of

New England however, they have charms that touch
the tenderest chords of his heart. They are the
near associates of that loved spot where his youth
was matured. They are part of the " home of his
childhood," and wherever else may be his residence
in after years, that home with all its hallowed
associations will still keep a clasp upon his heart and
maintain its moral sway.

Many have already gone out from us, and are con-
tending on the battle-field of life over the broad area
of our country, and others are preparing to go. To
such this unpretending narrative will contain sub-
jects of deep interest. May its perusal bring up
wholesome thoughts of past days, and recall those
lessons from the Word of God which you once lis-
tened to in our old Scantic meeting-house.

The rapidity with which towns spring into exist-
ence at the present day forms a striking contrast to
their progress one hundred years ago, and the pres-
ent generation would have but an imperfect idea of
the struggles and hardships endured by their ances-
tors should they judge them by what their eyes now
witness of the process by which churches are founded
and societies collected for their maintenance. Es-
pecially would this be the case in reference to the
parish of which this record pretends to be a memo-

Only those whose memories can reach back to the
latter part of the last century can realize the im~
mense strides which our whole country has made in
the progress of social power, and it is only by recall-
ing from the page of history events which to us now

appear almost fabulous recitals, but wliicli only date
back from the middle of the last century, that we
can bring home to our perception the fact of the
mighty development of wealth, and refinement, and
social comfort.

In the year 1754 we were a part of the vast British
empire. We acknowledged allegiance to a sovereign
across the sea, and humbly prayed His Majesty for
every privilege we needed, and willingly yielded our
purses to his 'call, and fought under his standard
against his enemies.

The native Indians were then in the very heart of
our country. They encircled within their hunting-
grounds the finest and most fertile portions of it,
and their numbers were so many and their power so
significant that they were alike feared and courted
by the opposing forces of the civilized armies which
in that day made our fair land the field of warfare.

In 1754, Washington was a young man just emerg-
ing into notice, an officer under the king, traversing
with dauntless courage the wilds of the West, and
training himself unconsciously for the splendid posi-
tion he was in maturer years to occupy in our strug-
gle for liberty and right.

Seventeen hundred and fifty-four was the epoch
of Braddock's defeat. In 1757 occurred the re-
markable massacre by the French and Indians at
Fort William Henry. In 1759 the immortal Wolfe
fell at the storming of Quebec, and that fortress,
with the vast possessions of the French in the north-
ern portion of America, fell into the hands of the


In 1765 the memorable Stamp Act was passed^
and received the royal signature, and the first spark
of that fire which finally kindled the blaze of the
Kevokition, was struck out, and the lion aroused in
the hitherto passive breasts of our sires.

Six years after the incorporation of the town of
East Windsor, at a meeting of the inhabitants con-
vened on the first Monday of August, 1774, to delib-
erate on the dangerous situation of the liberties of
the American colonies and the distressed condition
of the town of Boston, Erastus Wolcott, Esq., was
chosen moderator, and after the subject was largely
discussed, the following resolution was unanimously
passed :

" That the measures which the British crown and
parliament of late years have thought proper to
adopt in relation to the colonies of America, in the
opinion of this town, wear a very threatening aspect
to their liberties and tranquility, and deserve the
most serious attention.

The Act for raising a revenue, for His Majesty, in
America, to defray the expense of the administration
of justice, and the support of civil government, and
the defense of His Majesty's dominions in America,
was made not only on principles subversive of the
darling privilege of the English constitution, in
taking away the property of the subject without his
consent, but also with the further view to place it in
the power of the crown to support a government in
America independent on the people, and His Majesty
undertaking to increase and pay the salaries of some
of the American officers, who appeared most forward
to favor the views of the crown, out of his American
revenue, that used to be done by the people without
any expense to the crown, affords ample proof of

such a design, and that the court and government
of Great Britaui design to have the government of
the colonies entirely in their own hands. The situ-
tion of our affairs is truly distressing, but in the
opinion of this town it ill becomes the offspring of
those that have done and suffered so much in the
cause of liberty to give up the most valuable bless-
ings of life ; but we ought to exert ourselves with
great firmness, union, and resolution, to avoid the
oppression that threatens us. We ought,

1st. In the first place most devovitly to look to
Him, whose throne is in the heavens, for help and

2d. That in the management of this unhappy
controversy we ought to treat His Majesty, our
rightful sovereign and his parliament, with a be-
coming conduct and expressions of loyalty and re-

3d. We entirely approve of, and very much re-
joice, that there appears to be such unanimity of
sentiment in the colonies.

4th. That we judge it of the greatest importance
that the several provinces, cities, towns, and each
inhabitant thereof, lay aside all party and selfish
views, and firmly abide by the decisions of our del-
egates about to assemble in Congress.

5th. In the opinion of this town every man that
from lucrative motives, prejudice, or other mean
and narrow views, shall counteract these measures,
ought to be looked upon as a traitor to his country,
and treated not with violence on his person, but
with neglect and all the proper marks of disesteem
which such a character deserves, and be made sen-
sible of his ill conduct by denying the benefits of
society, of commerce, and the common advantages
of civilized life.

6tli. That we look upon it to be our duty ten-
derly to sympathize with and liberally to contribute


to the relief of such as or shall be reduced to waut
in this struggle for liberty, and to do all in our
power to encourage and strengthen those that ap-
pear for the support of it ; and the inhabitants of
this town do hereby agree, resolve, and engage, to
conduct themselves in this important crisis of affairs,
agreeable to the sentiments and duties set forth in
the above-mentioned particulars. And that

William Wolcott, Erastus Wolcott, Charles Ells-
worth, Jr., Esq., Captain Ebenezer Grant, Benoni
Olcott, Lemuel Stoughton, Daniel Ellsworth, Jr.,
Edward Chapman Grant, be a committee to keep a
correspondence with the towns of this and the neigh-
boring colonies, and to promote and forward such
contributions that shall be made in this town for the
relief of the poor in Boston under their present

How far off, almost in fairy land, do our minds
now place these events and the state of society which
this record brings back, and yet all these occurred
since the formation of our ecclesiastical society in
1752. The physical aspect of the parish then had
not much to recommend it, almost a continuous
forest spread over its eastern section, with only a
few cleared spots where settlers had felled the trees
and were cultivating the openings which their own
hands had made. The beautiful undulations of its
surface, the rolling hills, and winding streams, and
rich meadows, which now please the eye and afford
a picturesque home-view to almost every location
throughout its whole area, were then hidden be"
neatli the spreading arms of the giant oaks.

As early as 1736, settlers began to select favorable
spots for location amid the forests — some choosing

their position where the land was favorable for grain,
some where the large pines afforded means for the
manufacture of tar, and others amid marshy places
where the grass grew rank, for the purpose of gath-
ering hay to winter stock, the sowing of grass-seed
being an improvement in agriculture not then known
to them.

From all that can be now learned of the charac-
ters of those who first settled the north parish of
East Windsor, we must judge them to have been
men of strong resolution, untiring industry, and of
religious habits. They were men who did not fear
the wilderness, who could stand with their axes
amid the vast forest and fell tree by tree to make a
clearing where the grain was to be raised for their
sustenance, and the habitations to be erected in
which they and their children were to dwell. They
were not mere speculators, who sought to make the
most out of the land they occupied in the shortest
possible time, and then to remove and try their luck
upon some other uncultivated spot ; but they seem
to have settled with a design to make a life-stay of
it, contenting themselves with a bare living for the
first few years, and enlarging their incomes as they
extended their clearhigs and brought more land into
a state of cultivation. The houses which they
erected were not log-houses such as have formed
the first houses of settlers in the far west, but they
were frame buildings of small size, made comforta-
ble without any pretension to ornament. Many of
the original settlers purchased large tracts of land,
which have sufficed even to the present day for


division among their descendants, so that in very
many locations among ns the present owners can sit
beneath the shadow of the trees that sheltered their
forefathers, and cultivate the soil where their great-
great-grandfathers labored .

This one fact tells its own story to our hearts, and
should be treasured by those who enjoy the privilege
as a distinguishing characteristic. In a country
where land can not be entailed, and the possessions
which the fathers obtained by industry and skill can
be scattered by the prodigality of the children, sur-
rounded too by influences that strongly tend to em-
igration in quest of easier fortunes, it should be a
matter for honest pride to many a family among us
that the inheritance they now call their own has
been the home of their fathers and their father's
fathers, and almost every spot of it hallowed by asso-
ciations with the loved and honored dead. Such
land may have its nominal value on the assessor's
books, but we doubt very much whether its owners
ever calculated what its real value in dollars and
cents might possibly be, for in their hearts they have
entailed it to their children and their children's chil-
dren, and may it thus descend for long, long time
to come, an heirdom that reminds each succeeding
possessor, of prudence, and industry, and steady
habits, and a stimulus to the practice of the virtues
which have preserved for them a permanent home ;
and however lightly in this day of change and bustle
many may esteem the spot of earth where they and
their fathers have been reared, and rejoice in the
fact that they feel no local ties and hold themselves


as citizens of the world at large, and are ready to
plant themselves wherever the prospect of gain pre-
sents the most alluring offer — there is still a virtue
and a rich reward in the cultivation of that filial
piety that clings to the home of our childhood and
the land of our birth.

It is difficult at this distant day to ascertain ex-
actly the religious character of the first settlers here,
but from the best information which can be obtained,
they were a church-going people, for we learn that
they were in the habit of attending regularly those
places of worship nearest to their different locations.
Those who lived in the north visited the old church
in Enfield, and those who settled in the middle and
southern portions of the parish, attended the church
of Dr. Edwards, situated near the old burying
ground at East Windsor Hill, now within the bounds
of South Windsor. This church has long been
taken away, but the grave-yard still retains the
remains of many of the fathers and mothers of our
parish. Sabbath after Sabbath they traversed the
foot-paths through the woods to that place of wor-
ship, and in death they were carried through the
same paths for many miles on the shoulders of neigh-
bors and acquaintances to the depository of the
dead near the house of God.*

* One of our oldest inhabitants remembers that at the death of a
young lady, whose relatives had been buried in the old cemetry on
East Windsor Hill, the corpse was carried from the house he now
occupies in Ireland street, upon the shoulders of tlie bearers to the
place of interment, a distance of seven miles ; several sets of bear-
ers relievino; each other.


The first record we have of the present first
society in East Windsor, is dated 25tli day of June^
1752. A meeting legally warned convened on that
day at the house of Mr. John Prior. Captain John
Ellsworth was chosen moderator, and the following
votes were passed :

" Voted, That Captain John Ellsworth, David Skin-
ner and Joseph Harper, be society's committee.

Voted, By more than two-thirds of the inhabitants
of the north society, entitled by law to vote, to build
a meeting-house in and for said society.

Voted, That they would apply themselves to the
county court, to see where the meeting house should

Voted, That Samuel Watson, an inhabitant of
said society, be the agent for said society to apply
to the county court for a committee to affix a place
where the meeting-house shall be."

October 30th, 1752, at an adjourned meeting of
the society, the following resolution passed :

" Voted, That they would raise five hundred pounds,
old tenor currency, for the building of a meeting-
house, to be put into the hands of the committee for
that purpose."

The county court, according to request, appointed
a committee", and said committee made report, but
it appears not to have been satisfactory, for on the
10th of Dec, 1752, at a meeting then held, in which
Captain John Ellsworth was moderator, and Ammi
Trumbull clerk, we find the following resolution
passed by a vote of ten majority :

" Voted, That they would apply to the county court
to laying objections against the report of second com-
mittee of said court ordered by said court to affix a


place for a meeting-liousc, and to apply to said
court for another committee — and that Erastus Wol-
cott be employed to find the center of society, and
to make a new place if necessary.

Fo^efZ, -That Benjamin Osborn be an agent for
said society in laying their objections before the
county court."

During the delay necessary to fix upon a suitable
spot for the erection of their place of worship, the
inhabitants of the parish were not willing to be
without the preaching of the gospel within the
bounds allotted to them, and we find the following
resolution on record :

" At a meeting of the north society in Windsor, le-
gally warned, voted Captain John Ellsworth mod-

Voted, To raise one hundred pounds, old tenor
money, to hire preaching at Mr. John Prior's.

Voted, That one-quarter of said hundred pounds,
should be spent in preaching at Mr. Nathaniel Ells-

Voted, That Benjamin Osborn should go to hire
a minister to preach to said society."

At the expiration of a year from the time of their
first meeting for the purpose of erecting a house of
worship, the difficulties attending the setting a stake
at the place where it should be located were sur-
mounted, and on the 22d of June, 1753, we find
the following vote :

" Voted, That a person be appointed to go to the
county court, now sitting at Hartford, to get the
place where the last committee set the last stake, as



a place for a meeting-house to be recorded.* And
that Joseph Harper be their agent for that purpose."

At the same meeting it was also

" Voted, That Mr. Caleb Booth should go for Mr.
Pot wine to preach."

In August we find the following important res-
olutions :

" Aug. 20th, 1753. At a meeting of the north
society in Windsor, legally assembled, Captain John
Ellsworth being moderator,

Voted, To give Mr. Thomas Potwine, of Coventry,
a call to preach with us on probation, in order to
settle with us, with the advice of the association.

Voted, To build a meeting-house, the same
length and breadth as the meeting-house in the
second society, and twenty-one feet high between

Voted, Jonathan Bartlett, Samuel Allyn, and
Ammi Trumbull, be a committee to employ men
to get timber for said building."

After a trial of two months it was decided that
Mr. Potwine should be called as their pastor. The

* The following record was made at the June term of the county
court, 1753.

" We, the subscribers, being appointed in November last, a com-
mittee to repair to the north society in Windsor, view their circum-
stances, hear all persons concerned, and affix and ascertain a place,
in our opinion, most suitable and commendable whereon "to build a
meeting-house for divine worship in said society, having reported to
said court in January last, the said society having applied to us to re-
view and further consider their case, did, on the 6th day of May,
inst., repair to said society and review their circumstances and hear
all persons concerned, and having advantage of a new plan of said
society which gave a different representation from that which we be-
fore used, in reconsideration, have, in the presence of a large number


meeting for that purpose was held on the 22d Oct.,
1853, and Joseph Harper was moderator of the

" Voted, To give Sir Thomas Potwine a call to set-
tle with lis in the work of the ministry.

Voted, To give Sir Thomas Potwine, of Coventry,
two thousand pounds in money, old tenor, as it now
passes, as a settlement.

Voted, To give Sir Thomas Potwine five hundred
pounds for his yearly salary. Equal to grain, wheat
at forty shillings per bushel, rye at thirty shillings
per bushel, and Indian corn at twenty shillings per
bushel, old tenor, and to add to it as our lists rise
until it amounts to six hundred poimds old tenor

Voted, That Joseph Harper and Mr. David Skin-
ner be a committee to treat with Sir Thomas Pot-
wine about settling with us.

Voted, To alter the shape of the meeting-house,
that it should be forty-seven feet in length, thirty-
five in breadth, and twenty-one in height between

Voted, That Ebenezer Bliss go to Lieutenant
Watson and Daniel Clark, in the name of the
society, to purchase of them and take a deed for the
same, of one and a half acres of land."

of the inhabitants of said society, set down a stake in the lot of
Lieutenant Samuel Watson, about 36 rods near south from the new
dwelling-house of Mr. Daniel Clark in said society, and are now of
opinion that the place where we have now set the stake is the most
suitable place whereon to build a new house for divine worship for
said society, and will accommodate the inhabitants thereof.


June term, 1753.


This was designed for the spot on which the
church should be erected and where the stake had
been placed.

Our forefathers had doubtless more correct ideas
of the true relation in which a pastor and his people
stand to each other than many societies of the pres-
ent day, and the record which now follows ought to
be engraven on the hearts of all ecclesiastical socie-
ties, and should be a ruling principle in all their
agreements for the support of the ministry. The
reason which called for the resolution is not given,
but the fact of its having been placed upon their
records goes far to illustrate their character as men
and Christians.

"At a meeting of the north society legally assem-
bled on the first day of February, 1754,

Voted. That if what we have already voted for
Sir Thomas Potwine's salary should be insufficient
for his support, that we will add to his salary as his
circumstances call for and our abilities will admit of.^"*

In 1758 a new agreement was entered into between
the Rev. Mr. Po twine and his people, in which, at his
request, the sum to be paid to him annually was to
be sixty pounds so long as he should continue their
minister. He had also the use of the glebe land, or
minister's lot, and a yearly provision of wood. As
this seems to have been an arrangement satisfactory
to both parties, we may conclude that the sum, small
as it appears to us, was sufficient in that primitive
period of our country, for its purpose.

We find, however, much to the credit of the so-
ciety, when, at a subsequent period, in consequence


of the high price of the necessaries of life during the
terrible years when our young nation was in the
deadly struggle for her independence — upon an ap-
plication by Mr. Potwine for assistance, we find the
following record :

" 27th Dec, 1799. Voted, To raise fourteen hun-
dred and forty pounds money to be paid to the Rev.
Thomas Potwine, in addition to his stated salary the
current year, on account of the high price of the
necessaries of life."

What was the actual value of the amount desig-
nated as fourteen hundred and forty pounds is not
now easily determined, but as they also raised one
hundred and eighty-eight pounds for the purchase of
his wood for that year, which had usually cost five
pounds, we can suppose it to have amounted to forty
pounds — an addition to his regular salary of two-

There is also an excellent testimony borne for the
society by its records in the promptness with which
the salary to their minister was paid. Regularly as
the year came round his receipt is attested as in full
for the amount agreed upon.

The following rules of church discipline were de-
fined for settlement of Mr. Potwine at a meeting of
the society on the first April, 1754 :

" Voted, To settle Sir Thomas Potwine in the fol-
lowing manner, viz. :

1st. The Word of God is the only infallible rule
of church discipline.

2d. That the church will have a manual vote in
this house.

3d. That whenever we shall have occasion to



send a messenger, that we will choose him by

4th. That whenever we shall have occasion for a
council, that the church shall choose them.

5th. We do agree to leave the examination of
' those who desire to join in full communion with the

6th. We do agree that those who have a desire to
join in full communion have liberty to make relation
of their experience in the church and congregation,
upon their admission to the church."

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Online LibraryA. S. (Azel Stevens) RoeHistory of the First Ecclesiastical Society in East Windsor, from its formation in 1752, to the death of its second pastor, Rev. Shubael Bartlett, in 1854 → online text (page 1 of 9)