Alfred Noon.

Ludlow: a century and a centennial online

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maining there, on account of their greater safety, and also that they
might the better enjoy the advantages of religion, of education and
social life. With reluctance they went out to take up new lands at a
distance ; and only the most venturesome, and such as had but small
possessions at home, would do it. It is no disparagement of the early
inhabitants of this locality, to say they were poor in this world's
goods, and adventurers here, seeking to better their scanty fortunes.
Their hardships, therefore, were many and great.


At the end of the first quarter of a century, or in the year 1774, the
population of the place having reached two or three hundred, meas-
ures were taken and perfected for the organizing of a new town, wliich
was denominated in the act of incorporation, separating it from
Springfield, the district of Ludlo\v. It was thought the measure
would give a new impetus to the prosperity of the place by adding
largely to its numbers, and furnishing the people with superior advan-
tages of every kind. But the expectation was not one to be realized
then, since the date marks a period in our countrj^'s history, distin-
guished for the beginning of hostilities between the home government
of Great Britain and her American colonies. Just previous to this
the tea had been destroj'ed in Boston harbor, in consequence of which
Parliament had passed an act interdicting commercial intercourse with
that port, and prohibiting the landing and shipping of any goods.
This oppressive bill was followed by the passage of others more odious
still, and a general state of alarm prevailed throughout Massachusetts
and all the colonies. In a twelvemonth afterwards, the war of the
Revolution opened in the fight on Lexington Green, followed by
the famous battle of Bunker Hill, on the 17th of June, 1775. The
new^s of these battles arrived in this part of the State two days after
their occurrence, though neither telegraphs nor railroads were then
known, and immediately several companies of men, well-armed and
equipped, were dispatched on their long and toilsome march to the
sea-board. Others were organized as minute-men, and constantly
drilled, preparatory to being called into the service.

I speak of these things here, not to impart information, but as sug-


gestive of those dark and troublous times a hundred years ago, and as
accounting for the slow growth of the new settlements in this part of
the State, and particularly outside the larger towns. Men do not go
forth into the wilderness in large numbers, nor engage extensively in
agricultural pursuits, when the trumpet of war is sending its echoes
through the land, and tlie young and brave are summoned to the bat-
tle-field. Di'awn from their homes, then, they dwell in camps and
sicken in hospitals, or fall in the deadly strife.


Tlie first town meeting in Ludlow was held almost immediately
after its organization, at the dwelling-house of Abner Hitchcock,
where Lucius Simonds now lives, and at the second meeting a few
weeks after, a committee was chosen to secure the services of a minis-
ter for the people. This seems to have been the universal practice of
the fathers of New England, as soon as they could count up forty or
fifty families within a reasonable distance, to provide themselves with
the ordinances of religion, and enter into church relations with one
another. Even before that, when they might not number more than a
score of persons, they would initiate measures looking to their spirit-
ual necessities.

You can find at the City Hall in Springfield, in the first book of

records, an ancient document signed by only eight persons, the first

little band of immigrants that arrived on the banks of the Connecticut

River in the Spring of 1636, written thus ;

"Wee intend, by God's grace, as soon as we can, with all convenient speede, to
procure some Godly and faitliful minister, with whom we purpose to join in church
covenant, to walk in all the ways of Christ."

Like the Pilgrims on landing at Plymoutli, their first thought was
a recognition of the hand that had led tliem, and a humble, public con-
fession of tlie Mighty God, whom they loved and feared.

At another town meeting, held in less than three months from the
first, a committee was chosen to find the center of the town, that they
might build a meeting-house thereon. It was in their heart to build a
house for the Lord at that time ; but nine years intervened before the
work was accomplished. The delay is easily accounted for, in the break-
ing out of the Revolutionary war, the calling into the army of their


available young men, and taxing their small pecuniary resources to
the utmost to furnish equipments, ammunition and rations. What
prevented their increase in numbers also laid an embargo on their re-
ligious prosperity; so that (III.*) the very first tax levied, which was
£20, lawful money, instead of being appropriated to tlieir wants as a
community, had to be diverted to the exigencies of the public peril.
But it was done cheerfully. The patriotism of the people in this
western part of the State was not a whit behind that of their brethren
in the eastern counties, and all were ready to make the greatest sacri-
fices for the common safety. Stockings and shoes had to be made in
the different families for the soldiers, since these articles could not be
bought in one place as now, and blankets in many instances were
taken from the beds then in use. Tax followed tax and requisition
followed requisition for seven long years, reducing their means of
support until nothing seemed left them but a depreciated paper
currency. The worthlessness of this, though it was nearh^ all they
had, some votes on the records made at that time will show. I quote
as examples:

"Voted to raise tlie sum of $11,500 to buy grain to pay the tliree and six months'
soldiers, in addition to their stated wages ; also, to raise §32,000 to purchase beef
for the State."

The price of wheat then was $30 per bushel, rye $23, Indian
corn $15, a day's work $20, and other things in proportion. Another
vote I transcribe, viz : " That we pay Sergeant John Johnson and
Sergeant Ezekiel Fuller, Samuel Scranton and Samuel Warriner, Jr.,
£12 silver money for services ill the arni}'^; also, £6 to Josej^h Hitch-
cock for the same." This was near the close of the struggle for inde-
pendence, in 1781, and yet I doubt if much more specie can be found
in town to-day.

Thus it appears that the infant district of Ludlow, containing only
about two hundred inhabitants, was actively engaged in the great
Revolutionary conflict, and doing what it could. One-seventh of its
whole population was mustered into the service, and stands enrolled
in the army of Independence. Their names are worthy of record,
and may properly be read in your hearing, since they are the inherit-

*See page 22.


ance of so many in tliis assembly. Incliuling tliose already called,

there are : — (IV.*)

IciiAiJOD Barker, Joseph Jennings,

EzEKiEL Beei'.e, John Johnson,

CiESAR Begory (colored), David Lombard,

NoADiAH Burr, Jonathan Lombard,

Reuben Burt, Dr. Aaron J. Miller,

Joel Chapin, George Miller,

Charles Chooley,! Joseph Miller, Jr.,

Aaron ColtoNjJ Leonard Miller,

Solomon Cooley, David Paine,

Edward Cotton,§ Tyrus Pratt,

Oliver Dutton, Samuel Scranton,

Ezekiel Puller, Thomas Temple,

LoTiiROP Fuller, Moses Wilder,

Jabez Goodale, Cyprian Wright ;
Joseph Hitchcock,

twenty-nine in number. There is no record of an}' tories here, and
their number was small in tliis part of the State ; and yet there were
a few in the larger places. It is not twenty j^ears since an aged
Avidow lady lived in Springfield, who received an annual pension
from the British government for war services rendered the mother
country, by her husband, nearly eighty years before. She had, at
that time, been paid an aggregate of $10,000 in the course of her
long life. (V.ll)

first meeting-house.
The war being ended, and peace and prosperity having come once
more, the people, as might be expected, turned their attention again
especially to the erection of their long-desired sanctuary. Accord-
ingly, in town meeting it was " voted that Deacon Nathan Smith
of Grauby, Deacon David Nash of South Iladley, and Deacon John
Hitchcock of Wilbraham be a committee to set the stake for a meet-
ing-house." At a subsequent meeting their doings were accepted and
J£200 assessed for building purposes. Then the work went forward as

*See page 21. tCooley? }■? § Col ton ? USee page 29.


fast as they were able to collect and prepare the material. At length

the foundations were laid, and almost a forest of heavy hewn timber

covered the ground.

Again turning to the records we read : —

"October 23, 1783. — Town-meeting at the stake. Voted that the buihling com-
mittee procure a suflScient quantity of rum for raising the meeting-house frame."

This was the only business done at the meeting, so far as the record
goes, and no doubt was the passing of the Rubicon, the talcing of the
last desperate step toward a successful end. A house-raising in those
days was an eventful occurrence, — especially if a public building, —
calling together whole communities, — the men and boys to lift the
heavy timbers by broadsides, and the women and girls as joyful wit-
nesses, and also to prepare food and spread the tables for the unusual
feast. It was a great day to the people of this town, ninety-one years
ago, when the gigantic frame of that now ancient and forsaken sanc-
tuary, standing hard b}'^, was lifted on to its foundations. Indeed,
two days were consumed before the last timber went into its place and
the last trunnel was driven home, though scores of strong-armed men
came in from the towns around, cheerfully contributing their efficient
aid and joining in the work from the rising of the morning till the
stars appeared. At length it stood erect, complete, immovable.

Then, at a given signal from the master workman, believe me, there

was a tossing of hats and bonnets such as you never saw, and a shout

so loud and long that it

" Shook the depths of the desert gloom,

And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang."

Where the rum came in or went out, or what the young folks did
that night, till the "small hours" of the morning, I leave to your
conjectures. Strange as it may seem, some of the witnesses to that
raising still survive; but tluy tell no tales, onl}^ they whisper at times
with bated breath. Do any doubt? Look at those aged oaks. They
were then in their prime, and swung out leafy bowers all over this
pleasant green ; and now, though they are old and less comely than
in their youth, they are still loved and cherished, as all tried and
time-long friends should be. There is a tradition that when that an-
cient frame comes down, tliov, too, will bow their heads and fall.


Long may it stand, tlierefore, let us pray, to Ijcfriond and hless tliis
beautiful grove, and tell the old, old story of the past; though we
would not object to its being clad in a more comely covering, and
looking down upon us, children, with a more cheery, improved face.
Built by the hands of the fathers, who gave the chief materials from
their forests, and devoted now to secular purposes, let it stand, reju-
venated, as we hope it soon may be, to signalize their worthy deeds
and join the generations, old and new, in one.

On account of the poverty of those fathers, it remained unfinished
within for several years; and there were those living a sliort time
since, who covdd remember when its only pulpit was a carpenter's
bench, and its pews rough planks, stretched from one block to another.
But afterward, as the people were prospered, these rude forms gave
place to the improvements of a later day. A real pulpit was built;
and how wonderful it was, perched like an eagle's nest far up some
dizzy hight; and then the deacon's seat a little lower down in front,
where grave men sat, 'tis said, to watch the flock, and wake the con-
gregation nodding and, withal, to keep tlie boys and girls from spark-
ing. As there were no means for warming churches then, each fam-
ily took to meeting with them their little box-like stove for the
women's feet, while the men sat and kicked their frozen cowhides to
force away the winter's cold.

Prayer-meetings, at that day, were seldom known. They would
have been an intrusion on the dignity of the dominie, whose sole pre-
rogative it was, publicly to pray as well as preach.


At the formation of the cluirch here, whicli was in 1789, it was j)re-
sented with a heavy communion service from tlie motlier town, on
which was inscribed, " Si)ringtield 1st Church, 1742," and which was
continued in use more than a hundred years, or until 184G, when it
gave place to other and more valuable furniture, the betjuest of Abner
Cady, the former still being preserved as a remembrance and relic of
the past.

The Rev. Antipas Steward, the first pastor, was ordained, Novem-
ber 27, 171)3. lie was a native of Marlboro, a graduate of Harvard
University ami afterward tutor, and distinguished for scholarsliip.


He could read Hebrew, it was said, nearly as readily as English.
The town paid him an annual salary of $200 and thirty cords of
wood. He was dismissed in 1803 and removed to Belchertown, where
he died in 1814, aged 80 years. I have heard it said by those who
remembered and knew him well, that he was truly a man of "ye an-
cient time," finely clad in blouse and breeches, knee-buckles and white-
topped boots, gracefull}'- corrugated over long, white hose, and sur-
mounting all as most prominent, the professional cocked hat, signifi-
cant of authority and command. At his ordination he invited the
Kev. Mr. Howard of Springfield to preach the sermon from the text
(VI.*) "Let a man so account of us as * * stewards of the mysteries
of God ; " and near the close of his ten years' pastorate, having been
not a little troubled by the complaints of his people, he sent again to
his friend, Mr. Howard, to come and preach his farewell discourse,
choosing for the text, Revelation 2 : 13 — " I know thy works, and
wliere thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is, * * wherein An-
tipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan
dwelleth." This last request, however, was not granted the retiring

Dr. Lathrop relates the following anecdote of this eccentric divine :
At a ministers' meeting at one time, some one stated his belief that
all the wicked hated God. Mr. Steward denied this, and inquired
how it was that they should desire to go into his presence if they
hated him, and quoted the parable of the virgins, Matthew 25:11 —
" Afterwards came also the other virgins, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open
unto us.' " The reply was that parables do not go on all fours. To
this Mr. Steward answered, "They go, at least, on two legs, and if
your interpretation is right, they cannot go at all ; for you cut off all
the legs."

The little church, having at first but fifteen members, being now
much reduced, and the people somewhat divided, no other minister
was settled for sixteen years. Then the Rev. Ebenezer B. Wright, a
graduate of Williams College, was ordained, December 8, 1819, and
was the last minister employed by the town. During tliis interim of
sixteen years, the pulpit was supplied by preachers of different denom-

*See page 43.

Lj4 the centennial.

inations, particularly as wortli}^ of mention, the Rev. Elijah Heading,
who siibseqiientl}'' was elected bishop of the Methodist Episcopal
Church, and Rev. Alexander McLean, who preached several years in
the whole and in the meantime formed a Methodist class.


j\[r. McLean's engagements with tlie tuwu terminating previous to
the settlement of Mr. Wright, he then became the nominal preacher
to a Methodist Society, so called, combining remonstrants against the
tax law. In the winter of 1826-7 the Rev. Wilbur Fislc, D. D., the
popular principal of the Wesleyan Academy in AVilbraham, and after-
wards president of the Universit}' at Middletown, Conn., was invited
by a portion of the people to preach for them, and accordingly com-
menced his ministry, holding meetings in private dwellings and
school-houses. He was a man in souie respects like Bishoj) Hedding,
who had preceded him by several years, possessed of s'uperior attain-
ments, and highly honored in his denomination. Ever since his la-
bors began with the Methodist Society, it has sustained the preaching
of the Gospel without interruption. Dr. Fisk, then, may be regarded
as the god-father of that church, and a very worthy relationship it
may claim in him.

He was followed by the Rev. Isaac Jennison, the first preacher sent
by the conference, and through his active agencj', the present Metho-
dist church edilice, long familiarly known as " The Chapel," was built
in 1827. Being a carpenter by trade, as well as a j)reacher, with one
of his hands he wrought in the work of framing and building the
house of the Lord, and with the other held the sword of the Spirit as a
good soldier of the cross of Christ. Tall in stature, it is said he
actually clapboarded the gable ends of the house to the ridge-pole
Avithout resort to any staging. Thirty years afterwards, or in 1858,
during the pastorate of Rev. F. Fisk, the edilice was thoroughl}'
remodeled and enlarged, and a bell hung in its tower.


The third meeting-house in Ludlow, a comely building, stood on the
site of the present Congregational Church, and was erected in 1840.
For eighteiMi years it did good service in the cause for which it was


built, being repeatedly honored by His special presence in whose name
it was dedicated. (VII.*) Eavlj^ one still winter's morning, the 15th
of January, 1859, long before it was light, the bell rang out a sudden
alarm in a few rapid strokes, and then ceased, and was heard no more.
Those wlio lived near sprang out of their beds, only to see the red
flames bursting out at the windows, creeping up the tall spire, and
projecting a lurid light over an area of the snow-clad earth, for miles
.around. Nothing was done — notliing could be done to arrest the con-
flagration, such was the headway gained before being discovered,
though hundreds of strong-handed men had gathered in a few min-
utes' time. Not long, and the lofty spire was seen to sway back and
forth, when a cry was heard, and the almost petrified spectators
rushed involuntarily back, and there was a crash through ridge-pole
and rafter, floor and foundation, till the once friendly old bell was ar-
rested only by the firm earth, and half-imbedded in her bosom, among
falling, blazing timbers. Then again the flames shot up to the very
clouds, while the burning embers and cinders went sailing away over
houses and hills, literally, for miles and miles. Oh ! it was a heart-
rending sight ; such an utter ruin as that into which that loved place
of worship fell, is seldom known. Not a fragment remained of the
inner or outer works of the building; nothing save the foundation
stones, and the topmost ball of the spire, which was Imrled over the
whole length of the burning house to a place of safety, and so es-
caped almost unscathed. A noble oak standing near by, from which
the dr}' autumnal leaves had not yet fallen, was suddenly lit up as
with thousands of gas-jets, burning for a few moments and then
goinf^r out.

During that dreadful hour a young man lay at a little distance on a
sick bed, with his warm life's blood streaming from his mouth from
hemorrhage. "What is the matter, father ?" said he, hearing some
unusual disturbance. '' Only a little alarm of fire over here, my son,"
said the anxious father; "do not be troubled a moment; a few dollars
will set all right again." A few dollars did set all right again, and
in its place 3'ou see this pleasant and commodious sanctuary. What
was a burning building to that troubled parent, then? He would

*See page 81.


scarcely lii't liis e3^e.s toward it, or waste a thought on the comparatively
insignificant calamity.


The fourth meeting-house which was built in town, was at Jenks-
ville, and was erected by the manufacturing comi^any there, and dedi-
cated as a union house of worship, December 25, 1845. The first year
it was occupied by the Methodists of that village, at the end of which
they withdrew, and built for themselves a church near by, which they
continued to occupy a few years, and then sold to be talcen down and
removed from the place. The Second Congregational Church was or-
ganized at Jenksville, June 24, 1847, having at the start twenty-eight
members, and on the 20th of January following, E.ev. William Hall
was ordained its pastor ; but, in consequence of a failure in business
and the loss of population, he felt compelled to resign and was dis-
missed the same year. (VIII.*)

The sixth and last church edifice erected in town is the fine, com-
modious house of worship, built in 1859, standing prominently before
lis on this common, and long to remain, as we humbly trust, the loved
place of Christian assembly.


Passing now to physical and material conditions, — the Chicopee
lliver, coming down from the east, forms the southern boundary of the
town, and in its course of three or four miles, presents several excellent
mill privileges, the largest of which ai'e at the falls of "\Vallamanum2)s
and Indian Orchard. At the former place the water descends along a
narrow, rocky channel 42 feet, in a distance of a hundred rods ; and
at the latter — less than a mile distant — there is a fall of G3 feet from
the top of the dam to still water below. The manufacturing business
at the former place was nearly the first started in the country. (iX.t)
In the year 1812, Benjamin Jencks, then of Smithfield, E. I., made a
journey of survey, passing through Connecticut and Massachusetts
into New York to certain water-falls on the Genesee River, called by
the Indians, Gaskosaga, where he spent several daj's examining and
considering the advantages for manufacturing purposes. He was

*Sce page 7'J. fSee page 64.


offered the whole of tliat place, with its splendid water-power, for the
same sum that the Chicopee Eiver privilege and its surroundings could
be bought. He gave preference to the latter, built his dam, started
his mill, and Wallamanumiis became Jenksville. Sometime after-
wards, a certain Marylander, probabl}^ a transplanted Yankee, bought
Gaslvosaga, on the distant Genesee, and it was transformed into Roch-
ester, — the city of Rochester, with its sixty thousand inhabitants.

The natural scenery along the Chicopee before the swift-running
waters were arrested and thrown back upon tlie rapids, and before the
dark woods, skirting the banks of the beautiful river, were cut away,
was very fine, and the sites of the present villages were places of con-
siderable resort for pleasure. There once were the favorite hunting-
grounds and homes of the aborigines, and the relics of their savage
warfare and rude agriculture abound to this day, in all the neighbor-

Said an intelligent townsman of yours to me, a little while since,
who is versed in Indian lore, and has an aptness for the study of na-
ture : " On every farm in Ludlow, and especially along the margins of
the rivers and ponds, may be found numerous sharp and irregular
fragments of stone, — porphyry, quartz, chalcedony and sandstone, —
the chippings thrown off by the Indians in fabricating their imple-
ments for warfare and the chase and for their domestic use." Thou-
sands of arrow-lieads of various sizes, hatchets, chisels, gouges, mortars
and pestles have been picked up within a few years ; and I was shown
a large spear-liead, lately found, of great value as a curiosity, and also
a remarkable gravestone, wrought somewhat into the human form,
about three feet in bight, which once, doubtless, marked the burial of
some distinguished chief. Said the gentleman to whom I have re-
ferred : "If every farmer would keep an eye on what he turns up with
his plow, especially on new lands, and collect the curious-shaped stones
lying here and there on the banks of brooks and ponds, and thrown
carelessly into old walls and stone heaps, he might soon have a small

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Online LibraryAlfred NoonLudlow: a century and a centennial → online text (page 12 of 18)