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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The first Episcopal visitation was by Bishop Sea-
bury, for confirmation, October 3, 17S6, as given in the
Connecticut Journal, October 4. This is the oldest pre-
served exact date of any confirmation service in the
United States.

To such an extent did Mr. Frost's enthusiasm and
labor carry his brethren, that the choir gallery had


to be greatly lengthened to accommodate those who
would join in this branch of worship. Fortunately
the names of the "old choir" of 1788 have been pre-

Titus Frost, Manager.


Seth Blakeslee, Isaac Sieley,

Joel Blakeslee, Isaac C. Stiles,

Oliver Blakeslee, Isaac Sackett,

John G. Tuttle, Abraham Blakeslee,

John Sieley, Samuel Sackett,

Abraham Sieley, Ebenezer Pierpont.


Mrs. Isaac Sieley, Abigail Pierpont,

Mrs. John G. Tuttle, Bethiah Pierpont,

Mrs. Joseph Jacobs, Lydia Sackett,

Mrs. Abraham Blakeslee, Bede Sackett,

Mrs. Josiah Thomas, Susanna Blakeslee,

Lucy Pierpont, Lydia Blakeslee.

Mr. Frost builded better than he knew. At the
declaration of peace in 1783 there were but fourteen
Episcopal clergymen left in Connecticut. The Rev.
Samuel Andrews was one of them. After his depart-
ure in 1785, it was impossible for the parish to secure
the services of a clergyman even for an occasional
Sunday. Then followed a long period of five years,
when only faithfulness in keeping up " lay services "
saved this little ark from destruction.

It was just here that Titus Frost and his choir
assisted to bridge over what was really the most try-
ing period in the whole history of the church.

Owing to the attitude of the Rev. Mr. Andrews and
others of his parishioners during the Revolutionary
war, a prejudice had arisen, not only in North Haven,
but elsewhere, against the Episcopal Chitrch.

No open outbreak that we wot of ever arose here
between the two churches, nevertheless, as elsewhere,
much that was antagonistic existed. Fortunately for



all, St. John's Church outrode the storm, and in 1790
begun to take heart and look about for another

Him they found in Edward, son of Abraham
Blakeslee, a student at this time in Yale College, with
his cousin Solomon, son of Zophar Blakeslee. Edward
Blakeslee had not received " orders " when attention
was fixed upon him. At the February meeting in
1788, held, by the way, in the little red school-house
near Dr. Trumbull's church, the society voted to give
Mr. Blakeslee a "call" for one-third of the time, and
give him three dollars to deliver to Bishop Seabury,
if he would go to New London for "orders," with
the further encouragement that they would pay
three pence on the pound annually towards his sup-

Young Blakeslee went to Trinity Church, Bran-
ford, at his graduation, instead of settling down at
home. He remained there two yeavs. His townsmen
did not lose sight of him, and so ardently did they
plead for his services, that in the spring of 1790 the
combined parishes of North Haven, Northford and
Hamden secured him at a " salary of ;£6^ and 45
cords of good firewood " annually.

During the preceding five years of lay service
it is probable that Joseph Pierpont, Esq., was the
influential and excellent adviser. He it was who
mainly conducted the religious exercises, reading the
services on Sundays. A number of books of sermons
once owned by him, and from which he read, are now
in the parish library. In passing it may be pertinent
to state that he was the first Episcopalian in the State
to receive the appointment of justice of the peace
from the General Assembly.

The enrolled membership of the Episcopal Society
between 1784 and 1790, is herewith presented:



Jotham Ailing,
Titus Barnes,
Benjamin Barnes,
Jared Barnes,
Abraham Blakeslee,
Zophar Blakeslee,
Oliver Blakeslee,
Jonah Blakeslee,
John Blakeslee,
Abr'h'm Blakeslee, Jr
Philemon Blakeslee,
Enos Blakeslee,
Joel Blakeslee,
Zuar Bradley,
Alvan Bradley,
Joel Bradley,
Seth Bradley,
Justus Bradley,
Richard Brockett,
Barne Brooks,
Azel Brooks,
Thankful Brooks,
William Crane,
Joseph Collins,

Isaac Cooper,
Allen Cooper,
Titus Frost,
Timothy Fowler,
Joseph Gilbert,
John Gilbert,
Abraham Gilbert, Jr.,
Abraham Gilbert,
Joel Goodyear,
.Theophilus Goodyear
Jesse Goodj-ear, Jr.,
John Hayes,
Nathaniel Heaton,
Joseph Heaton,
James Humaston,
Benjamin Hull,
Lewis Hubbell,
Joseph Jacobs, Jr.,
Enoch Jacobs,
Stephen Jacobs,
Nathaniel Johnson,
Archibald McNeil,
Samuel Mix,
Samuel Mix, Jr.,
William Walter.

Stephen Mix.
Mansfield Munson,
Walter Munson,
Titus Munson,
Stephen Pardee,
Medad Potter,
Samuel Pierpont,
Benjamin Pierpont,
Hezekiah Pierpont,
Joseph Pierpont, Jr.
Russell Pierpont,
Eli Pierpont,
Joseph Pierpont,
Jonathan Ralph,
Samuel Sackett,
Eli Sackett,
Abraham Sieley,
John Sieley,
Isaac C. Stiles,
Robert Tomlinson,
Simon Tuttle,
John G. Tuttle,
Joel Thorpe, Jr. ,
Thomas Walter,

After the Revolutionary war, St. John's parish
became, by force of circumstances, a double-headed
organization. There came into existence what was
called "The Prudential Committee of the Episcopal
Society of North Haven." This anomaly continued
until by a supplemental act of the Legislature in
1842, legalizing all Episcopal societies, wardens and
vestrymen were em.powered to take the place of the
Prudential Committee. But it was not until 1878
that the present parish system came into operation by
an act of the legislature authorizing the Episcopal
Church to organize parishes according to its own

Membership in this Second Ecclesiastical Society
consisted simply in enrollment, and a member could
withdraw at any time. -In 1878 the members had
decreased to three. Between 1790 and 1820 the fol-



lowing men were moderators : Joseph Pierpont, Esq.
(moderator every year with the exception of six, his
great age, being ninety-four when he died in 1824,
making the exceptions necessary), Jonathan Dayton,
Abraham Blakeslee, Joel Blakeslee, Philemon Blakes-
lee. The executive members of the committee,
usually three a year, were: Zophar Blakeslee, Titus
Frost, John G. Tuttle, Isaac C. Stiles, Benjamin
Pierpont, Jr., Josiah Thomas, Abraham Blakeslee,
Joseph Pierpont, Jr., Philemon Blakeslee, Elisaph
Hull, Philemon Pierpont, Perla Blakeslee. The clerk,
from 1790 to 1823, was Isaac C. Stiles, and it is to him
the parish is now indebted for full and complete
records of the transactions of the prudential commit-
tee during thirty-three years. Moreover, Isaac C.
Stiles' genial home was the place of entertainment
for the clergymen who from time to time officiated in
St. John's church. Mr. Stiles was also the first
officially appointed " sexton," but without salary. He
faithfully acted in that capacity, and when the rick-
ety roof of the church of 1760 allowed the snow to
drift into the attic he regularly shoveled it out that it
might not melt aiad drip on the worshipers. He was
also careful to have an excellent lire at his house on
winter Sundays that the little congregation after ser-
vices, having no " Sabbath day houses," might go
to a place of comfort. The first mentioned sexton,
however, was the senior warden, Samuel Pierpont,
and when he resigned in 1793 he received "ten shil-
lings for sweeping the church," the only item of ex-
pense recorded in connection with sexton or music
until a recent date.

Previous to the revolutionary war there was only
one attempt at appointing a collector — Amos Allen.
1771. The action was illegal. The parish had no
clergyman " residing and abiding among the people,"
and consequently had no legal right under the
"Act of Toleration," 1S27', to vote or collect a min-



isterial rate. All the voters attended the annual
meetings of the First Ecclesiastical Society, and the
ministerial rate was assessed upon all and paid to
that society. After awhile, by courtesy, a collector
was appointed to collect the ministerial rate on the
grand list of the Churchmen for the use of St. John's
parish. After the war, from 1784, the Episcopal
society annually voted its own rate on its own grand
list and appointed its own collector, and its annual
society meetings were " warned in the form and in
conjunction with the other society " until 1823.

The grand list of the Episcopal Society in 1793
was ^1,975- I^ 1795, ^1.829. In iSoo, ;^4,54S. In
1813, $3,010, and between that date and 1820 fron
$3,010 to $4,145. The rate book of Daniel Pierpont,
collector in 1800, made on the grand list of 1779, a
larger grand list than in any of the succeeding years
before 1820, is still in existence. From this rate book
it appears that Eli Sackett was at that time the man
of most wealth, Zophar Blakeslee having died the
year before, and Samuel Mix not being at that time
a member.

Dr. Trumbull states in his century sermon, iSoi,
that there were forty-one Episcopal families then,
and seventy-five deaths among the Episcopalians
between 1760 and 1801.

So small did the grand list of the society become
that only in 1813 and 1819 was it reported to the con-
vention of the diocese, and only on four occasions
previous to 1829 was the parish represented in the
convention — in 1806 by Abraham Blakeslee, in 1S13
by Lemuel Brooks, in 18 16 by Philemon Blakeslee, in
1819 by Daniel Pierpont, who was town clerk forty-
four years. The anntial assessment varied from two
to four pence on a pound, and from thirteen mills to
three cents on a dollar. To assist in the support of
the bishop was an additional difficulty. In 1819 the
society executed a bond obliging itself to annually



pay for that purpose $6.90. The sum of $7.10 was
paid and nothing moi"e until 1823, when $10.00 were
j):iid, and $30.00 were borrowed of Elmon Blakeslee
to square up. Then the bond was cancelled. More-
over, at the close of the last century another trouble-
some matter come up. The church was greatly in
need of repairs. It had been hastily and cheaply
built in 1760, and remained tmpainted on the inside,
and probably on the outside. It had no' attractiveness
in any respect, and the storms of nearly forty years
were bringing ruin, fleeting after meeting of the
society was held and special committees on repairs
appointed. The committees refused to act on account
of insufficient financial security, and little was done
until 1820, when delay could no longer be tolerated.
Then the church was elaborately painted on the
inside, the pews were finely numbered and the outside
also received attention. Two years before a little box
stove 2^ feet long i4- wide was placed in the middle
of the aisle with the pipe running out of an east
window under the gallery. When the stove was put
in there was great jubilation, and when the old di-
lapidated church was repaired and painted there was
still greater happiness on the part of St. John's
Church people, then numbering forty-one families
and twenty-seven communicants.

The numbers in some of these families is signifi-
cant. Dr. Trumbull gave the size of certain Epis-
copal families as the reason for the continuance of
Episcopacy: Lemuel Brooks, 11; Isaac C. Stiles, 10;
Philemon Blakeslee, 10; (one death); Abi'aham Blakes-
lee, 10; Oliver Todd, 10. Fifty-one in five families.
James Heaton, 7; Daniel Pierpont, 7; Levi Cooper,
7; Benjamin Pierpont, 8; Zophar Jacobs, 7. Thirty-
two in five families. Total, eighty-three persons in
ten families.

Wardens continued tobe elected at an Easter par-
ish meeting, and a "reading clerk" was also elected.


The wardens continued to read the services as usual.
when no clergyman \Yas present, except the Psalms.
etc., which were read responsively by the reading
clerk or assistant reading clerk and the people. The
reading clerk also read the Psalms in metre, and the
hymns, never "lining them out," because they were
bound with the Book of Common Prayer; and he
also read sermons when no clergyman was present.
This was the usual duty of the wardens, clerk and
assistant clerks, although subject to variation accord-
ing to circumstances. There was really no place for
vestrymen, and there soon ceased to be any. No ves-
trymen were elected between 179S and 1841, a period
of forty-three years. Samuel Pierp.ont continued to
be senior warden until his death, Christmas eve, 1820,
at the age of 91. Zophar Blakeslee was junior warden
until his death in 1798. He was succeeded by Isaac
C. Stiles, who was annually elected junior warden
until the death of Samuel Pierpont, when he was
elected senior warden. The vestrymen between 1790
and 1798 were Richard Brockett, Samuel Sackett,
Joel Blakeslee, Abraham Blakeslee, William Crane,
Isaac C. Stiles, Jonathan Dayton, Lemuel Brooks.
Joseph Pierpont was reading clerk until his death,
and from 1791 Isaac C. Stiles was his assistant clerk.
Between 1818 and 1821 Mr. Stiles was assisted by
Elmon Blakeslee and John Beach. Elmon Blakeslee
recently died in New Haven at the age of 97. He was
a son of Philemon Blakeslee, and one of nine chil-
dren. Seven lived to be over 80. Three of the seven
lived to be over 90. John Beach, the North Haven
hero of the war of 181 2, while teaching school at the
"center," acted for a while as an assistant reading
clerk, but was not long connected with the Episcopal

Between 1790 and 1820 the following persons were
enrolled as members of the Episcopal society:


Jonathan Dayton,* Eli Jacobs, Erastus Lines,
Christopher Horton, Ebenezer R. Webb, Pierpont
Andrus, David Jacobs, Jr., Josiah Todd, Nichols
Wheeler, John Hull, Sidney Brockett, Billa Thorpef ,
Caleb Humaston, John BeachJ, Moses Beach, Bazeleel
Davton, Joel Pierpont, Solomon Bradley, Oliver Todd,
Lyman Brockett, Leonard Pierpont, Ebenezer Hull,
Moses Brockett, Benjamin Mix, Eliada Pierpont,
Thomas Barnes.

From 1790 to the beginning of the present century
the mi:sic of St. John's church continued under the
direction of Titus Frost, assisted by John G. Tuttle,
Abraham Siele)*, Isaac C. Stiles, Isaac Sackett and
Ebenezer Pierpont. In 1789 the general convention
of the Protestant Episcopal Church adopted the
revised Book of Common Prayer. Bound with that
book were one hundred fifty psalms in metre, and
twenty-seven hymns, two hymns for Christmas, one
for Good Friday, two for Easter, three for Whit-
sunday, three for holy communion, one for burial,
and fifteen miscellaneous. Most of these are still
familiar. All " repeating tunes," such as were sung
in the Congregational church, were excluded from
Titus Frost's choir. The general character of early
choir music can be imagined by the distribution of
the "parts." The men sung the leading part (the
treble), and the women sung the upper staff (tenor).
From necessity, some male voices carried an irregular
bass, and some female voices also hummed an under-
part. It was a sort of go-as-you-please affair. Music
written in four parts came into St. John's church in
1788. Frost died in 1828. He was succeeded in 1805
by Zophar Jacobs. About 1802 the first movement
toward chanting was made by the Rev. William
A. Smith, principal of the Episcopal Academy in

* Went over from the Congregational church.

+ Became member of Congregationa! church, 1821.

t Attended Congregational church in his latter days.



Cheshire, Conn. The first book of chants used in
North Haven was Wainwright's Collection, published
in 1819. A copy is in the possession of the family of
the late Ezra Stiles. The latter gentleman was the
first to introduce a " tenor viol " into the choir gal-
lery, in T820. He succeeded ]\Ir. Jacobs in the care of
the music, bringing to the work ability and enthusi-
asm, and gradually introducing all the musical instru-
ments used up to the present time. During his youth
special music teachers were employed by both
churches, and great efforts were made to attain pro-
ficiency in this part of worship. Of these early lead-
ers, were Elam Ives, Mr. Wilson, Sebra Munson,
Asahel Benham, Josiah Todd, Isaac Tibbals. To Mr.
Stiles belongs the rare distinction of being the pioneer
to introduce chanting into the services of St. Paul's
church at Wallingford, Conn., in 1825.

For fifty years after the Revolutionary war no
Episcopal clergyman resided here. When a clergy-
man did reside here, until recently, he also officiated
elsewhere. Before 1779 it was almost impossible to
secure a clergyman for any portion of the time. In
1790-1 the Rev. Edward Blakeslee, a North Haven
young man, son of Abraham Blakeslee, and then a
deacon twenty-four years old, officiated in North
Haven, Hamden and Northford, while pursuing his
studies elsewhere. He was promised " ^65 and 45
half cords of wood," but there was a deficiency at the
end of the first year and he felt obliged to leave.
Meeting after meeting of the society was called to
devise plans to keep him. An effort was made to
unite the Episcopal societies of Branford, East Haven
and North Haven, and finally the society in New
Haven was earnestly appealed to, but all these efforts
were useless. He was ordained priest in 1793, ^^^
became the assistant of the Rev. Dr. Mansfield at
Derby, and died Jtily 15, 1797. He was a fine scholar,
and his compositions were of a high order. At


various times between 1793-4 the Rev. Solomon
IMakeslee, son of Zophar Blakeslee, and a graduate of
Vale college officiated. These Blakeslee young men
were cousins, and when in college together were in
the habit of spending many evenings in a pleasant
social way at the house of Dr. Trumbull, although
the Rev. Solomon in after years could never quite
overlook the historical inacctiracy of the statement
by the Dr. in his century sermon that the Episcopa-
lians in 1789 adopted the name," Episcopal Protestant
church." These two Blakeslees were ordained priests
in New Haven at the same time. Solomon finally
became rector of St. James' Church, New London. In
Hallam's history of St. James' Church is a highly ap-
preciative reference to him. He was a social, genial
man, rather in advance of the older people, and
locally known as the clergyman who "whistled on the
Sabbath day." He was an able and successful man,
and held many important positions. He died April
10, 1835, and is well remembered by many living in
the town.

Following ]\Ir. Blakeslee came Rev. David Butler,
Rev. Seth Hart, Rev. Reuben Ives, Rev. Jasper Davis,
Rev. O. P. Holcomb and perhaps others. These men
only gave a part of their time to this parish.

It was during the ministry of the latter gentle-
men, 1 81 8-1 822, that the church was repaired and
repainted. Up to this time the clergymen always offi-
ciated in "gown and bands." In 182 1 Bishop Brownell
confirmed nineteen persons. This was the fourth
confirmation in North Haven. Some are now living
who were confirmed at that time and one who was
confirmed in 1S14 in England. Things began to
brighten a little, but there were many years of strug-
gle yet to come before the present prosperity of St.
John's Church could have its actual beginning. In
1820 there were forty-one Episcopal families, the
same number as in iSoo, and "twenty-seven communi-


cants. There were only three Episcopal families liv-
ing in the Center school district. St. John's Church
had as yet no Sunday school, although most of the
parishes throughout the diocese had such schools.

During all these years, not\Yiihstanding the occa-
sional luxury of a foot stove, with the thermometer
at zero, and with the wintry blasts working through
the rickety, unheated, desolate looking church of 1760,
worship must have been a moral martyrdom, espe-
cially with only " lay reading " most of the time, but
the persistent few held on their way.



The town of Wallingford was laid out in 1670, on
the east side of the East river. To maintain commu-
nication with New Haven this stream had to be
crossed. The people of these two towns voted in
1672 to jointly maintain a bridge over it at some con-
venient place. They made application to the General
Assembly for such permission, which was granted at
the May session in 1674, as follows:

"This Court grants the people of Wallingford liberty to build
a bridg over New Haven River in the most convenient place
that may be for the general and particular good: and this Courte
doth declare that their building the bridge shall be no argument
or not improved as an argument, to settle the mayntaynance of
the bridg upon New Haven or Wallingford, nor no way engage
them thereunto."

In the December following Wallingford appointed
a committee to decide upon a crossing. They inves-
tigated and fixed upon a spot called " The Pines "
in the Northeast parish, about midway between their
town and the city of New Haven.

Why the technical name of "The Pines" should
have been given the region surrounding this crossing
is not known. Certainly there is not standing at
present, within a wide radius, stick or shred of a pine
tree. Bogmine swamp on the east is the only area
of any extent in which this tree may be found.
Shall we not say then that two hundred years ago
pines covered the plains at "The Centre," and by the


upland conformation, approached the river at the
point where the bridge was designated to be laid ?
Certainly trees of this species must have stood in con-
siderable mass near there, for our grim forefathers
never joked about their nomenclature, and "Pine
Bridge " was no fiction.

The supposition is, this bridge was constructed not
far from 1674. It was flimsily built or at least not
kept in repair, for complaint was made of its con-
dition some eighteen years later— 1692— and the Gen-
eral Court (that panacea for all woes) said:

" This Court orders that in case New Haven and Wallingford
doe not make theire bridg passable for hors and foote over New-
Haven River, between this and the middle of December next, they
shall pay five pounds a month to the public treasury as a forfeit-
ure for theire neglect till they do so finish the said bridg."

This was no idle threat, and the structure was at
once put in such good repair that we hear no more
about it for thirty years, or until 1721. At this date the
parish had secured a strong foothold and the bridge
had become an important thoroughfare, but from
some cause— joint ownership probably— its care had
been neglected and complaint was made to the Gen-
eral Assembly a second time at the May session, 1731.
The following decree was passed:

"It being represented to this Assembly that the bridge over
New Haven East River upon the road from Wallingford to New-
Haven has gone to decay so that persons passing over the said
bridge go in great hazard; and being especially moved by some
men living near and having often occasion to pass the said
bridge, to determine who ought to erect and maintain the same,
do resolve, etc., etc."

The decision in substance being that it should be
equally cared for by Wallingford and New Haven, as
provided when first erected.

A year and a half went by and nothing had been
done. Nathaniel Yale (God bless the old hero) had
now come upon the scene, and henceforth laggard
Wallingford and inditfer'ent New Haven were to'^have


a reminder at their heels of the duties taken upon
themselves years before. Thus the third time the
parish went to the General Assembly for redress, and
because, perhaps, of so much importunity, that augnst
body rose up in its might at the October session, 1722,
and blew such a legislative blast from its trumpet as
resurrected the two apathetic towns to immediate

The special act is too lengthy to quote, but its sub-
stance empowered Nathaniel Yale, Isaac Dickerman
(Hamden) and Samuel Hall (Wallingford) as a com-
mittee to repair or build anew, as they saw fit, this
bridge, assessing the cost thereof upon the two towns,
according to their respective estates, and in case
prompt payment of the bills was not made, then
property wherever found in either town might be
levied upon by law.

Further, to insure the result contemplated, they
imposed a fine of thirty pounds on this committee if

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 12 of 32)