Joseph Anderson.

The churches of Mattatuck : a record of bi-centennial celebration at Waterbury, Connecticut, Novermber 4th and 5th, 1891 (Volume 1) online

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on themselves of half a penny on the pound " in
current silver money or its equivalent, to buy glass
and nails for the minister's house." Truly, there
were giants in those days, in the pulpit and in the

Meanwhile, the minister for this church and peo-
ple had been made ready and was drawing near.
He came, in the person of a young man of twenty-
three years, late in the autumn of 1699. Dr. Henry
Bronson, in his '* History of Waterbury," has drawn
for us a sharp and vivid outline of the then condi-
tion of affairs. He says that Waterbury was not a
very inviting field of labor; the town was yet suf-
fering from the effects of the great flood; a gloom
had settled over the prospects of the people; they


were upon the borders of civilization and in the

midst of an Indian war. All this was true, but, in
the ever new and stirring events of the period,
when every rustle of the forest trees brought with
it life and expectation of important tidings from
distant towns, there was no time for despondency,
and little time for aught else than imperative
action. The building of the great common fence
guarding the grain fields — an undertaking, the
magnitude of which, when the men and means are
estimated, equals and even surpasses the construc-
tion of any of our modern public works for which
we take credit and glory to ourselves — these men
carried on as a matter of life and death to them-
selves and families, without a thought of credit or
glory; and this great work was yet incomplete
when the new minister came.

John Southmayd was born in Middletown, Conn.,
August 23d, 1676. He was the son of William
Southmayd, mariner, and Esther Hamlin, his wife;
the grandson of William Southmayd; the great-
grandson of Sir William Southmayd, of the county
of Kent, England, and, oh his mother'^ side, the
great-great-grandson of Elder William Goodwin, of
Hartford; for which descent let his descendants
with us, to-day, be duly thankful. The only item
regarding his father that has come to the notice of
the writer, is recorded in the diary of Major John
Talcott, and is the not altogether discreditable fact
that William Southmayd, mariner, permitted a
negro boy belonging to him to escape out of his
barque at Middletown.

The negotiations for the settlement of Mr. South-
mayd over this church were carried on for more


than five years before they culminated in his ordi-
nation. In October, 1703, ''Sergeant Isaac Bron-
son, Thomas Judd, Jr., and Edmund Scott were
appointed to prepare what was needful for the
entertaining the elders and messengers, for the
ordaining Mr. Southmayd," and yet Mr. Southmayd
himself in a letter written to Mr. Prince in 1729 has
given the date of his ordination as May 30th, 1705.
During this interval, important events had occurred
in his life. That he lived in Waterbury, and was
the acting pastor of the people, is strongly indi-
cated, if not proved, by the records; and is satisfac-
torily proven when he himself, in 1738, states
that he has been with the church about thirty-
eight years. Therefore, we may conclude that he
came to the house (begun for Mr. Read), with his
bride, in the year of their marriage, 1700, They
undoubtedly lived, for a time, in the end of the
house the town had finished. In 1702 his father
died, at Middletown, leaving an estate of more than
a thousand pounds, out of which, Dr. Bronson tells
us, Mr. Southmayd brought to Waterbury "fifty
pounds in gold and silver"; and yet, despite his
coin of the realm, this town increased his salary,
and the proprietors from year to year bestowed
gifts upon him, independent of all his land divisions
that fell to him by allotment, from his one hundred
and fifty pound propriety. The town gave him the
lot of two acres, extending from West Main street
to Grand, on one corner of which the residence of
Mr. Robert K. Brown now stands, together with the
house that had been begun for Mr. Read on that
lot; it purchased the two-acre house lot next
adjoining that, on the east, and added it to the gift.


In that house on the corner, two daughters were
born to Mr. Southmayd before his ordination, and
one of the two, Susannah, who became the wife of
Thomas Bronson, Esq., was born just before the
order was given, in 1704, to fortify Mr. South-
mayd's house. Doubtless the fort about Timothy
Stanley's house was too crowded by the alarmed
inhabitants to be comfortable for Mr. Southmayd's

We may not linger over this period. Mr. South-
mayd became pastor, preacher, leader, and the
responsible conductor of many of the interests of
the community. If it became necessary to make an
appeal to the General Assembly, the people applied
to Mr. Southmayd to put it in good form and give
it all the advantage that might accrue from his
pen. He was appointed, in 17 10, on the committee
to draw up, in writing, " the circumstances of the
town in that time of war, and present it at the Gen-
eral Court." If any one could do this feelingly,
surely Mr. Southmayd could, for, just over the way
from his house, near where Mr. C. M. Mitchell now
lives, were the distressed wife and children of Jona-
than Scott, who had been carried off, with his two
sons, by the Indians. Again, in 17 11, he was
requested to write to the committee of safety,
" expressing the fears of the common enemy."

Meanwhile, the little meeting house, that seems
not to have been made ready for the first seating of
the people until 1702, was continually undergoing
changes. First, the young men were permitted to
build a small seat, or gallery, to sit in, and then,
Mr. Southmayd to enlarge the seat at the west end
of the pulpit, and then the town agreed to put up


a beam for a gallery at the west end, and finally
to build the gallery; and then the doors and win-
dows had to be repaired. In 17 19, the repairs that
had been eleven years in process were completed,
and the second seating took place. At first, the
vote was, that the persons formerly seated in the
pews should sit there, without any disturbance.
This vote was subsequently overruled, and it was
decided that the seating should be by list of estate
and by age, reckoning one year in age to four
pound of estate. But two years pass by, and then,
in 1 72 1, the town voted to apply to the General
Court to get a tax on all the land laid out within
the town bounds, the money to be disposed of to
the building of a meeting house. I do not know the
result of the above appeal to the Court, but it was
probably not granted, for in the year following
more repairs were made; a part of the stairs into
the gallery was taken up, and seats were placed
where the stairs had been. We might never have
known that the first meeting house had east and
west doors, had they remained as they were at the
beginning; but they were closed on this occasion,
to give place for more seats. The outside of the
meeting house was mended and the pulpit was

For three years the little meeting house must
have been, on Sundays, on lecture days and on
Fast days, not to mention Thanksgiving days, a
veritable human hive, and it is not surprising that
the pulpit had to be raised. In 1726, the situation
evidently became unbearable and it was decided to
build a new meeting house, forty feet wide and
fifty feet long. Later, it was decided that the area


of the new house must contain two thousand square
feet, but it might be proportioned by the com-
mittee and the w^orkman, and we have no record as
to the proportions adopted. The need was impera-
tive, and in the building haste was made. There
was much culling of material for that house. Mr.
Southmayd held I know not what place on the
committee, but a little book found in the Kings-
bury house tells its own interesting story, written
by his hand, of the building of the second meeting
house in Waterbury.

On the first day of July, 1729, the town met
together for the important work of seating the
people in it. Mr. vSouthmayd was given his choice
and chose " the pew at the east end of the pulpit,
next to the pulpit." It was evidently a day of
great expectations, and the committee began to
bestow the honors. Age and estate alone are men-
tioned as qualifications. The pew, next in dignity
to Mr. Southmayd's was there, facing that one,
with the pulpit between. Into it were delegated
those whom they delighted to honor, Abraham
Andrus, senior, and his wife. Mr. Andrus must have
been eighty-twb years of age at this date, and, with
the exception of his brother-in-law, Benjamin
Barns, seems to have been the only signer of the
articles for the settling of Mattatuck left alive,
unless we count Stephen Upson, senior, who was
probably of greater age than either Andrus or
Barns, but who signed later. Into the pew with
the above went widow Deborah Porter, whose hus-
band, Dr. Daniel Porter, had died a few years
before. Her house was hard by the meeting house,
facing it, with only the highway between. Lieu-



tenant Hopkins and his wife completed the list.
These persons had lived in Waterbury fifty years,
and had been familiar with every scene of joy or
woe within the town. Into the second pew went
Dr. Warner. However much we may desire to fol-
low this seating, the door of the record closes upon
us, and we are shut out from farther knowledge,
thanks to Mr. Southmayd. If there was a skeleton
in the church, he has not told of it. New people
had come in, doubtless there was dissatisfaction
and some friction, but the Rev. John Southmayd's
good common sense was equal to the occasion.

It was when the new meeting house was fin-
ished that Mr. Southmayd's salary was raised to
seventy-five pounds, money. This was one of Water-
bury's bright periods. The old town was growing.
It would be pleasant to tell of the new inhabitants
that came. Two years later, the minister's salary
reached its highest point, one hundred pounds, and
in the following year came the first of a long series
of trials that the old First church had to pass
through ; and they grew then, just as they are
growing to-day, out of the town's increase in wealth
and population. The inhabitants ' who had been
welcomed to hospitable meadows and uplands,
asked to withdraw their support from the church
in the town spot, and establish little centers of their
own, here and there, throughout the township.
To-day, we can see the bright outcome of all this
darkness and trial, better than we can see the sore
distress that surely settled in the breast of their
dear mother, when she saw her birdlings flying
away, laden with much of the harvest that she had
toiled to gather. Through all this period the Rev.


John Southmayd proved himself the very man
for this church and people. They who will give
the subject careful study, amid the facts left to
us, will find that his name is worthy of great

To go back to 17 21. That was the year in which,
in the great town meeting in December, Mr.
Southmayd was by the town chosen town clerk,
and by the proprietors, proprietors' clerk — an act
of ancient Waterbury the value of which will re-
main in full force until time shall have effaced the
last word written by him. For thirty-four years
he filled the ofiices, to the increasing satisfaction
of both parties. How difficult it must have been to
keep the peace at all times between town and
proprietors, and make the record satisfactory to
both amid conflicting interests, came out on one or
two occasions, when the votes had been recorded
by another hand.

After " about thirty-eight years" as preacher and
pastor of this church, the Rev. John Southmayd
sent " to the deacons and townsmen in Waterbury
to communicate to the church and inhabitants of
said town," words that must have occasioned sorrow.
He addressed his people as " Beloved brethren and
neighbors," and told them that through great diffi-
culty and infirmity of body he had served them for
two years; that he had no expectation of relief;
that the public work he was engaged in was too
much for him; that a sedentary life was destruc-
tive to his health, and that he desired to live more
privately. He besought his people to obtain
another minister and give him relief as speedily as
possible. The town acceded to his request, but


'' expressed a wish that he would still serve, as far
as he should be able."

No sooner was Mr. Southmayd relieved from his
duties as pastor than other obligations were almost
forced upon him. He had the care of letting out
the school money, and taking security, by mort-
gage; he kept the notes and "bonds of interest"
that the ministry land was sold for, and was to
deliver the just proportion to the several societies'
committees, and he was appointed town treasurer.
The number of bargains still in existence, written
by Mr. Southmayd, and the indentures, with their
peculiar and rhythmic phraseology, prepared by
him, attest the confidence placed in him by all
sorts and conditions of men. The General Assem-
bly placed his name on committees requiring
firmness and discretion united with good judg-
ment. During all these useful years Mr. South-
mayd seems to have carried on his landed estate
with good husbandry, and it was constantly grow-
ing around him. He could stand in his door at
one time, and, looking southward, say that he
owned all the land lying between that door and the
Naugatuck river. A goodly inheritance it would
be to a descendant of his in 1891.

The attitude of Mr. Southmayd toward the
Church of England, in its earliest manifestations
in our town, is worthy of note. Not a hostile
thought appears to have been evoked in his breast,
when certain men "with Church of England pro-
clivities" voted against the payment of a one hun-
dred pound obligation held by Mr. Southmayd
against the town. He gave his consent as
guardian to Oliver Welton, a minor, who desired to


convey a house lot adjoining Mr. Southmayd to
" the professors of the Church of England as a glebe
lot, for the use of the church forever." We may
believe that his voice was heard and his influence
felt in the town meeting of 1742, when liberty was
given to Dr. Benjamin Warner and others, " to set
up a church on the highway, north of Edmund
Scott's house lot, against the apple tree in said lot,
by the highway," and in the meeting when the
town agreed to " give twelve pounds old tenor bills
out of the town treasury, to purchase land for the
chiirch to be placed upon, that the highway be not
cumbered," and also in the meeting when the town
voted that it would not oppose a petition of the
"churchmen" to the General Assembly for parish

During the first half of the eighteenth century
Mr. Southmayd's name must have been honored in
all the region. It certainly did very much in many
ways for Waterbury township, and up to the
present time it seems, at least to the writer, not to
be too much to say of him, that no man who has
ever lived within the original bounds of the town
has done as much for Waterbury as did John South-
mayd. It is true that he had more than a half
century to do his work in; and it was at a time
when all things were in a formative stage, and in a
period when the minister was to his people a law-
giver. It was during his ministry, and in attend-
ance upon his preaching, that the great Samuel
Hopkins grew up; who was able to say that "he
never had heard a profane word in Waterbury."
Was that an unconscious tribute to John South-
mayd ?


We go back once more to the town books; and
there we find inscribed certain family records, in
Mr. Southmayd's hand, that tell, each and every
one in its own words and way, how sorrows entered
his soul. The first bears date August 13th, 1741,
and records the death of Susanna Southmayd, wife
of Thomas Bronson. This is the daughter who was
born when the house was fortified in 1704. Next,
we find, '* John Southmayd, son of John Southmayd,
died February 28th, 1742-43, about twelve of the
clock, in the thirty-third year of his age." And
then we come to this: "Anna Southmayd, wife of
Joseph Bronson, died August nth, 1749, in the
forty-third year of her age." In less than two
years, his hand had written on the page, " Susanna
Southmayd, wife of Mr. John Southmayd, died Feb-
ruary 8th, between ten and eleven of the clock at
night, 1 75 1-2." But not yet had the final stroke
fallen. His son Daniel was yet alive. Two years
later we find written, " Daniel Southmayd, son of
John Southmayd, died about eleven o'clock at night,
January 12th, 1754." And thus John Southmayd, of
whom we have said too little because we feared to
say too much, was left in his last years alone. (His
only daughter was living at Middletown.) But not
for long. Once again we glance at the old record.
Thereon we find: " Mr. John Southmayd, died
November 14th, 1755, in the eightieth year of his

Earth's highest station ends in " Here he lies,"
And " Dust to dust" concludes her noblest song.*

♦Alas ! we may not add:

"And where his pilgrim feet have trod,

The God he trusted guards his grave." — S. J. P.




The Rev. Mark Leavenworth, the third minister
settled over this church, was the sixth son, as well
as the sixth child, of Dr. (and Deacon) Thomas
Leavenworth of Stratford, Conn., where he was
born in 1711. His mother's name was Mary Jen-
kins. When he was six or seven years old his
father moved to Ripton parish, quite at the north
end of the town (and now the town of Hunting-
ton), and there spent the remainder of his life.
His house was near the Housatonic river and about
two miles northward from the new village of Shel-
ton. Mark was probably fitted for college by the
Rev. Jedediah Mills of Ripton, as he was a teacher
of great reputation at that time. He was graduated
at Yale College in the class of 1737, under the presi-
dency of the Rev. Elisha Williams. The year that
he entered college, namely 1733, the Rev. George
Berkeley, dean of Derry, and afterwards bishop of
Cloyne in Ireland, who had come to this country
with the idea of founding an institution of learn-
ing, but afterward abandoned the plan, had pre-
sented to the college a valuable farm near Newport
on the island of Rhode Island, the income of which
should be used for the benefit of three resident
graduates who should pass the best examinations
in Latin and Greek. This income they were to
enjoy for three years, if they remained so long at

* Mr. Kingsbury, who is a lineal descendant of Mr. Leavenworth and of his two
predecessors, is a member of St. John's church.


the college. They were known, and are still
known, on the college books as "scholars of the
house." One of these valuable scholarships young
Leavenworth obtained, and remained in New
Haven two years, pursuing a theological course.
He was licensed to preach by the New Haven East
association of ministers, October loth, 1738. In
June, 1739, after preaching a few Sundays on trial,
here in Waterbury, he was unanimously invited to
succeed the Rev. John Southmayd, who had
resigned his charge on account of enfeebled
health. Mr. Southmayd had been the minister here
for nearly or quite forty years. He was a strong
man in character and intellect, a man of wealth,
and a man of great influence in the community.
His change of occupation seems to have been ben-
eficial to his health, for he lived seventeen years
after this, acting as magistrate and filling various
offices of public trust, and doubtless remaining by
far the most influential member of Mr. Leaven-
worth's congregation. It has always seemed to me
that the relation of these two men to each other
during this period was the highest possible evi-
dence of the superior character of both. It speaks
of broadness, of judicial fair-mindedness, of great
natural amiability, and of much Christian charity.
The relations between a new pastor and an old one
who remains a member of the congregation are
proverbially difficult and very apt to become
strained; nor is this wholly the fault of the men
themselves, but it is largely referable to that
instinct of humanity in the members of the con-
gregation which leads so readily to the formation
of parties, cliques and schools. Mr. Southmayd


and Mr. Leavenworth did not always think alike;
they differed and differed widely on matters that
were reg-arded then as of the highest importance.
But they never lost their mutual respect and affec-
tion, and — as a final evidence of confidence and
esteem — after seventeen years of intimate acquaint-
ance Mr. Southmayd made Mr. Leavenworth the
executor of his will.

In February, 1740, a month before the time for
his ordination, perhaps in order that he might be
fully equipped for his work, Mr. Leavenworth was
married to Miss Ruth Peck, daughter of Deacon
Jeremiah Peck of Northbury parish, now Plym-
outh, and granddaughter of the Rev. Jeremiah
Peck, the first minister of this church. The people
of Northbury had been very insistent in their
demand for what they then called " winter privi-
leges," and although at this time I think they had
gained their point, perhaps to some of them the
young Waterbury minister was a "winter privi-
lege " by no means to be despised.

A great-great-granddaugter of Mr. Leavenworth,
living on the ground where he lived, and perhaps
partly in the same house (for a portion of it is said
still to exist), has discovered among his papers a
poem addressed to the bride and groom on the
occasion of their marriage. It bears the signature
of '' J. G.," which are doubtless the initials of the
Rev. John Graham of Southbury. The penman-
ship is bold and elegant, and the writing, although
more than one hundred and fifty years old, is clear
and distinct. The composing and sending of such
a poem on such an occasion is a pleasant indication
of the amenities and aesthetic susceptibilities of a


time that is apt to seem to us cold, hard and un-
joyous. Doubtless it was written in haste and sent as
a pleasant, friendly greeting, without thought of
critical eyes, but the glimpse it gives us of a life of
culture and refinement and of an interchange of
courtesies, makes it an object of interest far beyond
its intrinsic merit. This is the poem :


Hail, happy pair, long may you prove
The Joys of chaste connubial Love.
To Heaven and to each other true
Be Eden's joys revived in you.
In honorable wedlock dwell,
Like our first parents ere they fell.
No fretful strife or anxious care
Or pining jealousy be there.
May a fair progeny presage
Comfort to your declining age,
And when you late to Heaven remove
There flourish in immortal love. — J. G.

Having referred to Mr. Leavenworth's residence,
I may as well say now that it was the place next
east of the church, and that this church building
stands in part at least upon what was his home-
stead. But the church in which he preached — 1
beg his pardon, the "meeting house," for, although
he was a liberal-minded man even towards dissen-
ters, I don't think he would ever have permitted
the building to be called a church — the meeting
house, then, in which he preached, stood at the east
end of the green on the ground now occupied in
part by the Welton drinking fountain.

In March, 1740, he was duly ordained, with a five
hundred pound settlement and a one hundred and
fifty pound salary. But the woeful tergiversation
of Cutler and Johnson had produced a wholesome


distrust in men's minds, and he was required to give
a bond for five hundred pounds to be paid to the
society ''if he should, within twenty years from
that time, become a churchman, or by immorality
or heresy render himself unfit for a gospel minis-
ter, — to be decided by a council." Undoubtedly
the becoming a churchman was the thing to be
specially provided against, the other general forms
of misdemeanor being mainly added by way of
rhetorical balance. In about nine years, however,
whether they had ceased to care, or ceased to fear,
the society, apparently of their own motion, released
him from his bond.

Mr. Leavenworth had hardly become fairly set-
tled in his ministry when all his tact, judgment
and influence were put to the test. Dr. Bushnell

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Online LibraryJoseph AndersonThe churches of Mattatuck : a record of bi-centennial celebration at Waterbury, Connecticut, Novermber 4th and 5th, 1891 (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 18)