Sheldon B. (Sheldon Brainerd) Thorpe.

North Haven annals : a history of the town from its settlement, 1680, to its first centennial, 1886 online

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Online LibrarySheldon B. (Sheldon Brainerd) ThorpeNorth Haven annals : a history of the town from its settlement, 1680, to its first centennial, 1886 → online text (page 1 of 32)
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North Haven Annals.









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"ViriTH no thought of publication the writer began in iSSi
a search for historical matter relating to the town of
North Haven. His purpose was to collect such materials as con-
cerned its early period, and preserve the same for some future
historian. The first centennial of the town, in iSS6, greatly
assisted this undertaking. This event, in the quest for relics of
past generations, opened many an unfi-equented closet and con-
cealed drawer,, and brought to light evidence long forgotten.
Ancient account books, deeds, leases, indentures, wills, contracts,
memorandums and papers innumerable were made to yield
their secrets, and add to the historical fund.

The importance of hoarding this mass of floating documents
will be appreciated, when it is considered that with the excep-
tion of the records of the First and Second Ecclesiastical Societies,
and a small manuscript volume by Dr. Benjamin Trumbull, there
was nothing extant of a reliable nature. The Town Journal,
dating from 17S6, containing the record of the public meetings of
the citizens, while temporarily absent from the clerk's quarters,
was destroyed by fire in 1S5S; and during the war of the rebellion
a chest full of public papers, the accumulation of years, was sold
as waste by the town authorities. This depletion left but few
sources of accurate information, and the prospect was anything
but encouraging. Notwithstanding this, the search steadily
progressed, being occasionally rewarded by the discovery of
some new document which, if it did not directly relate to the
matter in hand, assisted greatly in reaching estimates of the
settlers and their times.

In 1SS9, partly to test the degree of public interest in the
undertaking, but more particularly to provoke criticism and stim-
ulate closer research, it was decided to give through the press
the results of the investigation. Hence arose the publication of
that series known as the North Haven Annals, in the Journal


and Courier, the first of which appeared March 7th in the above
year. Since then some eighty or more numbers have been pub-

A comparison of this volume with the original articles will
fehow several radical changes. INIany statements have been neces-
sarily modified, new matter introduced, different conclusions
reached, and much that was of doubtful accuracy rejected, in
the present work. In spite of this revision it falls sadly short of
an ideal town history. If it serves the purpose to encourage
some one in the future to correct its errors and provide a more
complete memorial of the town, it will not have been written in

Without the assistance of the towns-people it could not have
covered its present field. Especially, the author is indebted to
the late Hon. Ezra Stiles, Col. Henry I\I. Blakeslee, Dea. Whit-
ney Elliott, Levi L. Bigelow, F. Hayden Todd, Dea. Ehhu Dick-
erman. Miss Sarah Pierpont and the Rev. William Lusk, Jr., rec-
tor of St. John's church. To the latter gentleman more than
any other is due the inspiration of this work. Much valuable
assistance has also been rendered by Prof. Dexter of Yale Uni-
versity, the town clerks of New Haven and Wallingford, and
the town authorities of North Haven. Of private papers exam-
ined, the more important collections have been those of Pres.
Ezra Stiles, Jesse Andrews, Evelyn Blakeslee, Daniel Pierpont,
Esq., Hannah Heaton, Joshua Barnes, Esq., and Dr. Benjamin
Trumbull, the latter, owing to circumstances, have not been
entirely at the command of the writer.

No apology is offered for the appearance of this volume.
It is issvied at the requos.t of the citizens, and is a sincere and
straightforward attempt to picture, without exaggeration or
embellishment, the story of a Connecticut country town.

S. B. T.
North H.a.ven, March, iSgs.





Prof. Charles H. Levermore in his unique volume
entitled " The Republic of New Haven," moralizing
upon the policy of Davenport and Eaton, as dis-
played in the government of the New Haven
colony, says:" "The New Haven that they knew and
moulded apparently vanished with the expiring
breath of its founders, yet a city, like a musical instru-
ment possesses a tone of its own, and the city at the
Red Hills has never lost the calm, conservative habit
of Eaton, or the scholastic zeal of Davenport."

The earliest settlers of North Plaven were men
familiar with the methods of Eaton and Davenport.
The names of Yale, Tuttle, Cooper, Thorp, are found
on the planters' schedule of 1641. Their sons, as they
swarmed north from the parent hive, carried with
them their training. According to the colonial rec-
ords, one William Bradley, a reputed officer of Crom-
well's army, appears to have been the lirst settler
within our town limits. That he located on the
west side of "East River," (Quinnipiac) between 1640
and 1650, is admitted by all. Governor Eaton, the
families of Attwater, Turner, Potter, Brewster, Mans-
field, had allotments at " East Farms " above Cedar
Hill, and their territory stretched north a consider-
able distance. Bradley's domain came next doubt-
less, and perhaps contiguous to Brewster's, for we
learn he soon possessed himself of the latter's one
hundred eighty-seven acres in addition to his own.
If not strictly over the line, he was so near to it as


evidently to become the first landholder of the vil-
lage. Of his subsequent career, we know nothing.

Thomas and Nathaniel Yale came in 1660, Jona-
than Tuttle in 1690, followed by Nathaniel Tharp,
Ebenezer Blakeslee, John Humiston, Daniel and
Thomas Barnes, Moses Brockett, Thomas Jacobs.
Later came the Coopers, Clarks, Todds, and Bishops.
Truly, by the old New Haven colony records, these
were all good men and true, for their families are
abundant to this day among us and stand for worth
and integrity with any in the land.

"Jonathan Tuttle began a settlement in 1670 near
the Quinnipiac river, in what is now the southern
part of the' town of North Haven," says the Tuttle
genealogy. Undoubtedly he was the first comer of
his name. He built a bridge across the river, and by
decree of the '• Generall Court " was allowed to charge
two pence cash or three pence in trade for each per-
son crossing. The location of that bridge is not alto-
gether clear. The tide of settlement worked slowly
north from the parent sea. " East Farms," as has
been said, lay in the suburbs. Here had been Gov-
ernor Eaton's brickyard, the first on the continent,
it was said, and the plots of Attwater, Potter, Bradley,
Mansfield and perhaps a few others, lying along the
narrow strip between the hills and the river north
and east of East Rock. ^Ir. Davenport's farm lay on
the opposite side of East River and lower down.
(Perhaps the present residence of Herbert Barnes
might indicate its general position). The tides and
the extensive marshes on either side cf the river
effectually barred communication between these two
locations, and for the same reasons precluded all
bridge building until some point where the upland
neared the river could be found. This condition was
fulfilled at " Sackett's Point." Solid land came to the
eastern bank of the river, and on the western side rose
a high wooded bluff, (" Mocking Hill,") then a noted


Indian rendezvous, attested by the large deposit of
shells to this day. It seems, then, that no more favor-
able point than this for Ttittle's bridge could have
been found.

Following Jonathan Tuttle, as last described, came
Nathaniel Thorpe, Ebenezer Blakeslee and John
Humaston. There were three brothers of the Thorpe
family, as tradition has it, but with only William,
whose name appears on the New Haven colony plant-
ers' schedule of 1641, does North Haven have any
concern. His "house lot" was within the town lines
on the north-east corner of what is now Elm and York
streets, New Haven. There were but three persons
in his family and his estate set at only _;^io in the
grand list of the colony, consequently the homestead
allotted him was a small one. His additional territory
was made up of eight acres m the " First Division "
(west of what is now Prospect street), one and a
half acres in the " Neck " (between Mill and Quin-
nipiac rivers), two acres of salt meadow and eight
acres of wild land in the " Second Division," a tract
surveyed still farther out in the suburbs. In this
fashion were his and ,his neighbor's possessions, and
yet it was " soe every free planter should have some
land in y* neck, some in y' meadows and some in y'
upland of two miles square." He himself, his "good
wife " and son Nathaniel, comprised his family. The
latter grew to man's estate under the colony training
and came to North Haven about 1670. Dr. Trumbull,
writing his " century sermon " one hundred and thirty
years' later, says : " Nathaniel Thorpe, Ebenezer
Blakeslee and John Humaston, soon after (1670) set-
tled on the eastern bank of the river near the center
of the town." Humaston located between or beyond
the "country road " (at present Washington avenue),
and East river (Quinnipiac). His farm covered a
large tract lying mostly south of what is now Broad-
way, with its northern limit not far from this present


thoroug-hfare, in fact, the building- of his house on the
site now occupied by Frederic H. Stiles, quite likely
determined its direction. It should be called Humas-
ton street. Next came Nathaniel Thorpe, also between
or beyond the road and the river; and then Ebenezer
Blakeslee, northermost of the three, and bounded east
and west, as were his associates. These layouts admit
of no question, for in 1737, Nathaniel Thorpe (son
of the settler) conveyed to ^Moses and Hannah Thorpe
"the homestead bounded west by New Haven East
river, north by Ebenezer Blakeslee's land, south by
John Humaston's land, and east by the country road."
It is more than probable these three farms
extended eastward far beyond the present Washing-
ton avenue line, for "Bog^mine Swamp" reinained in
the possession of the Thorpe family for several gen-
erations. Thus lay these three plantations side by
side, and thus the three houses builded upon them
were the initial points of North Haven. They made
in a measure a colony by themselves. Let the reader
mentally photograph their surrounding's. Small, rude
dwellings, perhaps of logs, were theirs; very little
open ground to be seen, and that covered by thick,
high grass; dense forests in every direction; not a
road, fence, school, store, church or physician nearer
than the parent colony; a straggling settlement just
beginning five miles north at Wallingford, roving
bands of Indians on all sides — such was the North
Haven of 1670. Says Trumbull, in his century ser-
mon: "The settlement was very slow, and it seems
that for nearly forty years some of the first planters
attended public worship and buried their dead at New
Haven. The women usuall)* went on foot to New
Haven on the Lord's day, attended two long exercises
and returned. In some instances they did this with
a child in their arms." And then the reverend his-
torian adds in a foot-note: "The tradition is that
Mrs. Blakeslee (wife of f2bcnezer) the great-grand-


mother of the present Captain Blakeslee (Abraham
1727-1785) would take her child in her arms on Sab-
bath day morning', travel to Xew Haven and hear Mr.
Pierpont preach, and return again after meeting.
The same is reported concerning- Mrs. Thorpe (Eliza-
beth), wife of Nathaniel Thorpe. The people who
settled this town were brought up in the strict Puri-
tanic religion of those excellent men, Mr. Davenport
and Mr. Pierpont, and were, numbers of them, truly
of the excellent in the earth."

It was the same Ebenezer Blakeslee, of whom it is
written in 17 16-17:* "Agreed on by y* society that
they will except of y" house of Ebenezer Blakeslee to
meet in at y* publik worship of God till y major part
of y" society shall see cause to lay it aside." Whether
it was so " laid aside " very early after the passage of
this vote and another substituted for it will be difh-
cult to determine, for (quoting Trumbull), "Joseph
Ives built on the road twenty rods north of the house
erected at the corner by Isaac Thorpe. In this the
people met for public worship, until they were able to
build them a meeting house." Now, Isaac Thorpe
mentioned here, was the grandson of Nathaniel, the
settler. He built a large two story dwelling on the
corner, now owned by the Rev. AV. T. Reynolds. The
building stood within the memory of some now liv-
ing. If Joseph Ives then builded twenty rods north
of this corner he was very near Ebenezer Blakeslee's,
and so the sacred services at times may have been
held in each.

Of John Humaston there is no accessible record.
That he was a staunch and God-fearing man there
is no doubt. He was buried in New Haven. His son
John, born in 16S5, succeeded to the paternal acres
and died in 1767, leaving Ephraim, who from 1757 to
1 791, continuously held important churchly trusts to
which he was elected by his brethren. Ephraim died
in 1806, leaving Joel to uphold the family name here.

* First Ecclesiastical Society Records.


Joel died, leaving Lydia, born in tSoo (now widow
Peck).* The second John and Ephraim were buried
in the "old cemetery." There were other sons and
daughters, to be mentioned by and by, for in this fam-
ily by less generations than any other is the North
Haven of 1670 linked with that of to-day.

The " Land Records " of the New Haven colonists
commence in 1649. Their territory, bought of the
sachems, Momaugin and Montowese, extending more
than ten miles north and south, and thirteen east and
west, was of course unsurveyed. At first all of it out-
side the town plot was "commons." From time to
time tracts were measured and then apportioned
among the planters as their numbers grew and wants
increased. These tracts were called " Divisions,"
hence arose the terms so frequently seen in their
records, "First Division," "Second Division," "Third
Division," etc., indicating the order in which they
were surveyed.

The domain of the present town of North Haven
principally lay in the Third, Fourth and Fifth Divis-
ions. Although the topography of the country has
not changed except in the removal of the timber, yet
the boundaries of these several grand divisions are
extremely uncertain. Between the second and third
was laid out " y'' highway east and west," but where
the highway began or ended, or on what parallel it
lay, is not so well defined. Its approximate place,
however, partly from a comparison of old boundary
lines and partly from deduction, is assigned by the
writer to the present Sackett's Point road. It is
judged that it was the intention of the colonists that
main highways should in most cases separate these
large tracts and define their boundaries. " "Wharton's
Brook," on our present Wallingford boundary line for
a hundred rods or more, was then in part the northern
limit of the " Fifth Division." Here, too, is an old
highway running east and west (though modified in

♦Since dece.ised.


later years), and apparently designed as a boundary,
similar to that between the second and third divisions

The territory now included in the Fourth school
district, with part of the First and possibly the Sev-
enth, mainly lay in the " Fourth Division." The lines
of demarkation between the Third and Fourth, and
Fourth and Fifth, if they existed at all, are now oblit-
erated, unless it be that the present Mansfield bridge
crossing indicates such a line. Thus in the main,
these three " divisions " embraced the acreage of the
town. That they were well established in those days
admits of no question, for deeds and transfers innu-
merable are recorded as lying within their separate
borders. The difficulty in tracing their outlines lies
in the illusory nature of many of the " bounds "
described, as for instance, "a tree," "a ditch," "a
creek," " a stone," or "a pile of stones," or a fence, or
a highway, was used to designate what was clear to
the dweller then, but has since vanished in the march
of years.

It must not be understood that all this land w^as
taken up at once, nor that any planter could possess a
monopoly of it even by purchase. There were no
" syndicates " or " trusts " in that day. Though it was
true that rank, possession, and ability were encour-
aged and rewarded by the colony, yet a wise restraint
was laid on the acquisition of territory, the govern-
ment deeming it better that all should have a part
rather than a part should have all.

The three settlers previously mentioned were not
destined to remain alone in the wilderness. The
early comer sought his home chiefly along the valleys
and the water courses "where the soil was friable and
the streams proved a source of food. The valley of
the Quinnipiac river, with its tributary of Mudd}'
river (the latter name a misnomer), offered special
attractions to the husbandman. The wonder is more


people did not avail themselves of these advantages.
It was not true then, as now, that in the " Fifth Divis-
ion"' the soil was thin and sterile, for we know as
early as 1738 these plains were hunting grounds for
deer by the Indians, and that a certain wiry and ill-
favored grass grew so dense and tall as to literally
conceal from view one walking through it. Here also
grew " great oaks and much scattered," a few of which
remain to this time, but so old and gnarled as to have
lost their value except as reminders of the " days that
are no more." Notable instances of these trees still
stand on Pierpont Park and near the residence of
Samuel Bailey.

The farms taken up at first by the planters seem to
have lain mainly on the east side of the Quinnipiac
river, between Sackett's Point and Wharton's brook.
When Daniel and Thomas Barnes, Thomas Jacobs
and Moses Brockett came a few years later, they fol-
lowed the course of " Muddy river." The Tuttles
chose the west side of the East river, with the possi-
ble exception of Thomas, and it is worthy of mention
that the bearers of this old family name have through
a period of two hundred years and more mainly clus-
tered around this mother locality.

Between the coming of the settlers mentioned and
the year 1700 there were several accessions of fami-
lies to this settlement and it began to be called "y'
north village." James Bishop, Samuel Todd, William
Tuttle, John Sanford, Joseph Ives, Simon Tuttle, Seth
Heaton, John Grannis, Joseph Clark, Samuel Ives,
Ebenezer Frost, Moses Blakeslee and doubtless a few
others, removed hither not far from the last men-
tioned date.

Simon Tuttle, born in 1671, was the son of Jona-
than and grandson of William, the planter. He died
in 1725, and his was the second burial in " y* place
for burying." He was one of the founders of the
present First Ecclesiastical society. He did not view


everything, it appears, exactly as his brethren did,
for when it was " agreed upon by y^ society that they
would send a person to Northfield, Mass., to make ap-
plication to Mr. Wetmore in order to his coming and
supplying y" place of y" ministry amongst them,
Simon Tuttle entered his dissent against y' above
vote after it was passed." What was the nature of
his " dissent " does not appear, but, perhaps to keep
him quiet, they appointed him on their church build-
ing committee in 1717. He "dissented" again five
years later, when it was agreed on by y* society that
they will call a council of ministers and messengers
to hear, consider and determine y* differences be-
tween our' pastor (Wetmore) and ourselves;" and,
moreover, at a society meeting in 1723, when it was
"agreed on by y' society that, considering y^ incor-
iagement they have had from y"" rev'd elders, they
doe give y" Rev. Mr. James Pierpont a call in order
to a settlement among them to carry on y'' work of
y' ministry," he rose up a third time and " entered
his protest against y"^ foregoing vote after it was
passed." Were he living in this day he would be
known as " Simon the Dissenter." *

James Bishop, 1671-173S, was one of the original
committee of six appointed to organize the parish
society. No other mention is made of him. He was
probably the father of the James Bishop who lies
under the expensive stone table to the right of the
western entrance to the old cemetery. His own
burial mark is a sandstone slab of uncouth propor-
tion and design.

Joseph Ives was born in 1672 and died in 1751. He
was the first clerk of the society, in 17 16, and was
annually thereto re-elected till 1730, when a break of
twenty years occurs in the records. It is difficult to
account for this gap in the early church history. No
leaves are missing from the book, and Mr. Ives was

♦It is surmised that Simon Tuttle, one of the foimders of St. John's Parish in 1759,
was his son.


not within twenty years of his death. Dr. Trumbull,
in a general way, speaks of Joseph Ives who settled
here and afterwards removed to Wallingford, but
finally came back again. It is possible this gentleman
was the society's clerk and that he went to Walling-
ford in 1730, the date when the interruption begins,
and remained there a series of years, returning, per-
haps, when age incapacitated him for a further re-
election to his old office. Who his successor or suc-
cessors were for twenty years, we shall probably never
know, and it seems very strange in all this time that
the society never discovered the lack of a record
of their annual and special doings. His last official
duty as recorded, was, in company with Deacon wSam-
uel Todd and Deacon Moses Blakeslee, "to fill up y*
vacant seats in y' meeting-house according to their
best discretion." One cannot help wishing, in view
of the energies put forth in these days to solve this '
problem, that we knew what measure of success they
attained in carrying out their instructions.

Mr. Ives was also captain of the first military com-
pany here in 17 18, as well as member of the church
building committee in the same year. He was fur-
thermore made a committee to transfer to the Rev.
Isaac Stiles in 1724 "the house, barn and living," for-
merly occupied by Rev. Mr. Wetmore. Evidently
his life was a busy and a just one.

Samuel Ives was born in 1677 and died at the age
of 49, comparatively young for his generation. He
was made "collector of y ministerial rate" in 17 17-18;
also chosen one of the first two deacons in 17 18, his
associate being David Yale; also in the same year he
was appointed with Sergt. Daniel Barnes " to take
care of y' affaire of having a military company
started among them." His, too. could have been no
idle life, and he must have been sorely missed in
the little parish when they laid him where scarce
a dozen before him had been buried at " y foot of
y hill."


Thus has been imperfectly outlined the more prom-
inent of the early settlers of the town, or those who
came here previous to 1700. The record would be in-
complete did we fail to speak of their domestic condi-
tion. Their surrounding's were rude in the extreme.
Says Davis in his history of Wallingford: " The houses
at first were constructed of logs, with the ground, or in
some cases, if the soil was wet or the occupants were
persons of taste and substance, with split logs for a
floor. They were good and substantial dwellings at

Online LibrarySheldon B. (Sheldon Brainerd) ThorpeNorth Haven annals : a history of the town from its settlement, 1680, to its first centennial, 1886 → online text (page 1 of 32)