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 13 of 32)
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they should fail to carry out the foregoing provisions,
and then, to m.ake the act still more iron-clad, and also
to provide against future trouble from this source,
they made the two towns liable by heavy penalties
for any accident thereafter that should occur through
their neglect.

Truly, Pine bridge was of considerable importance.

The result was that the committee, instead of re-
building the old structure, repaired it and the said
towns paid the bill.

Nine years later — 1731 — Wallingford by committee
went to the General Assembly and secured the pass-
age of an act releasing them (for reasons not now
apparent) from farther support of this bridge. The
ne.xt year — 1732 — at the proprietors meeting in New
Haven, the town voted " To prepare a memorial to the
Assembly to make Pine bridge a toll bridge," but as
no such petition appears to have been filed with that
body, it is likely the plan was abandoned.


After four years more— 1736— the bridge came into
ill-repute again by reason of dilapidation, and Xc-w
Haven in town meeting voted " That a cart bridge be
built over New Haven East River at that place called
•The Pines,' and that ;^6o of the penny rate, if need
be, shall be laid out towards building the same, and
that it be done with all convenient speed." The out-
come of this was a new bridge throughout.

From this time forward legislation ceases over this
historic old crossing. There does not appear to have
been a bridge in all New Haven county in those days
that received one-half of the free advertisino- this

It is supposed it received its present appellation
from either Thomas or Samuel Mansfield, livin"- near.
The former came to North Haven about 1739. He
bought of Josiah Tuttle in that year, for £100,
" Eight acres of land east side East River near Pine
bridge, with the dwelling house thereon." This old
mansion stood on the site now owned by William E.

Esquire Thomas Mansfield was one of the leading
men of the parish. He held continuously for thirty
years various positions of trust, and was a large land
owner. He died in 1798 at the age of eighty-five, and
was buried in the old cemetery. His tombstone is
large and imposing, and the name upon it is spelled

His son Samuel succeeded to the homestead at the
death of his father. He never married and died in
18x3 at the age of seventy-three. He was a member
of Colonel Edward Russell's regiment of militia in
the revolution and his name appears as a " minute
man "on the "Alarm List for North Haven," in the
same year. Pie did not attain the distinction his
father won, but amassed considerable wealth. He
owned slaves— two certainly— and though churlish at
times, nevertheless wa*s noted for his hospitality.

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W, E. Dickerman.


The foregoing is the circumstantial evidence
adduced for naming the bridge. With the disappear-
ance of the pines the name of " Pine Bridge " came
to be used less frequently,. The transition was a
natural one, particularly as no other family but the
]\Iansfields lived near. The old structure served its
purpose, though at considerable expense, till 1S74,
Avhen it gave way to the present handsome iron cross-

The Muddy river bridge is much older than many
people imagine, being builded in 17 18, with the
"North Butment standing on the Towns Land."

The Sackett's point bridge comes into notice on
the townsmen records of New Haven in 1752 in this
manner, " Sundry persons petitioned this meeting
that they might have liberty to build a bridge across
the East River at Sackett's Landing so called at their
own cost. Whereupon the meeting do by vote grant
liberty to those persons to build said bridge over said
River provided they build and maintain the same at
their own cost, and purchase highways to it on each
side of the river. Also provided said bridge be so
built as not to obstruct any passing in said River."

The Clintonville^bridge was built in 1763, and jQ^
was appropriated out of the New Haven town treas-
ury toward its erection. " The neighbors " supplied
the balance.

The Quinnipiac bridge (Wallingford line) was
built about the time Captain Timothy Andrews set
up his great mill there, 1762. Mr. Andrews constructed
it more for the benefit of his patrons than for any pub-
lic service, but at length North Haven and Wallingford
came jointly to own it as at present.

Wharton's Brook bridge, though not within our
limits, was built by Wallingford in 1672. This brook
has always been held as the boundary line between
the two towns, but it does not appear that New Haven
or North Hav^en ever contributed to the support of the


bridore over it. When the Hartford and New Haven
railroad was built the course of the stream was
changed a few rods farther north. A new brido-e was
built by the railroad company, which has been main-
tained by it till within a few months,. when notice wu.s
served on Wallingford that further support would be


In the parish records of 1750 occurs this entry:
" Further voted that they will give Isaac Thorp three
pounds for ringing the bell anights the year past:
voted by the society that they will have the bell run -
nights the year ensuing." No mention is made of a
re-enactment of this vote at the next annual meetin-
or for the succeeding twelve years. After the Rev.
Mr. Trumble was fairly settled, or in 1762, the parish
voted: " The Prudential Committee are empowered
to order how the bell shall be rung and employ a man
to do it." This vote may not argue the continuance
of the custom of 1750, but it is altogether probable
that it does. It is certain that it prevailed in 1749
and quite likely originated when the bell was set in
the " terrett " of the old meeting hoiise.

The custom was an English one. The hour in
England for ringing the curfew was sunset in sum-
mer and about eight o'clock in winter. The time set
here was nine o'clock in the evening the year round.
It is ciirrent that the venerable Isaac Thorp (son of
Nathanael who beat the drum for church services in
in 17 18), who died at the age of seventy-two in 1771,
was never absent from his post, and rang this curfew
bell almost up to the day of his death.

The object of this rmging was to apprise people
of the hour of night, warning them to carefully cover
their fires and retire to rest. Time pieces were ex-
pensive and uncommon. The "noon mark " and the
" nine o'clock bell " were in most instances the sole
indicators of time. Even as- late as 1786 there were


but nine watches and six clocks in our community.
I here are those living who clearly recall the ringing
of this bell as late as 1820, indeed some assert the
practice was continued so long as the old meeting
house stood in the center of the Green. For the
information of the curious, a list of these "bell ring-
ers "beginning with the year iSoo, and the compensa
tion for their services is here appended.

1800- I Jonathan Ralph, . " . $19.50

1502 Jesse Andrews,

1503 Lyman Burk,

1504 Billa Thorp,

1505 Jesse Andrews,

1506 Seba and Abel Thorp,
1 807 ' Abel Thorp,

1821- 3 Jesse Andrews, jr. (yea

J 824- 5 Billa Thorpe (yearh-),

1S26 Martin iloulthrop,

1827-34 Billa Thorp (yearly),


8 00

rly), 8.00

9 00
10 00



There was much legislation found necessary in
early years to properly guide the industry of wool
culture, and our settlers were encouraged and pro-
tected in all ways possible. Sheep were owned by
nearly every planter, and flocks under the care of
keepers were allowed to feed on the "commons." In
1 72 1 the greatest concession the parish ever enjoyed
in this line was granted it by " The New Haven Pro-
prietors " as follows; [Vol. 2, page 341] "The Blue
Hills was voted to lie in common and be improv^ed for
the cutting of brush for sheep pasture for The North-
cast Society."

It is not easy in the succeeding years to trace the
j;'rowth of this industry tmtil we reach 1787, when
there were 1,426 sheep in the parish, valued in round
numbers at ^285. By an act of the General Assembly,
however, this stock was non-taxable, but returns of it
Were kept just the same. In 1789 there were 1,620
sheep contained in 114 flocks, of which Jonathan Tut-


tie possessed one — and the largest — of thirty-six head
Giles Pierpont came next with thirty-two head. These
two men in the order named were the heaviest tax-
payers in the parish in that year, the former bein-
assessed at ^117, and the latter at ^^114.

In I Si 2 there were 1,510 sheep listed, but from this
date a steady decline commences. In 1826 but 1,069;
in 1830 but 738; in 1835 but 53S; in 1839 but 443; in
1759 but 82, which latter date marks approximately
the close of nearly two hundred years of wool culture
in North Haven. Thus has faded out a pursuit which
at one time engaged the attention of our yeomanry.
Nowhere are the after affects of such abandonment
more noticeable than in many of the pastures of the
county, briar-grown to the verge of worthlessness.


From all indications, James Bradley appears to
have been the pioneer of manufacturing operations in
the parish. This gentleman came within our lines
about 1 7 15, and settled in the Fifth district. His
homestead comprised 328 acres, and was said to have
been one mile in length. Near the center of it he built
a log house, and there lived many years. The site of
the present dwelling on the Eri Bradley estate marks
the exact location, and the old well, prolDably the very
oldest in the town, still yields its water, sweet and
pure, for whoever would partake.

Besides the homestead, Mr. Bradley owned real
estate farther east, and, tradition asserts, built a
"fulling mill" on "Fulling Mill brook," near the
present village of Clintonville. Nothing is known of
the extent of the works, their success or failure. Cer-
tainly the country must have been very thinly settled
at that early period, and the volume of business could
not have been large.

Between the years 1750 and 1760 there was a .
decided impetus given to mill building and manufac-


turing' operations. Muddy river afforded about the
only water power in the parish, and from a memoran-
dum made by Dr. Ezra Stiles in 176 1, we learn on this
stream were " two corn mills, two fulling mills and
three saw mills."

To Aaron Day we are indebted for a " Tide mill "
at Mansfield's bridge. Mr. Day was a merchant of
Xew Haven. His father was Samuel, and his grand-
father Thomas Day, of Springfield, Mass. Mr. Horace
Day, secretary of the Board of Education in New
Haven, is a direct descendant. Aaron Day was grad-
uated at Yale in 1738, and married, first, Sybil Mun-
son, of New Haven, and, second, Susanna Stanley. He
was the senior partner of Day & AVooster, dealers in
liquors, molasses and other products, and concerned
in the West India trade. The house became financially
involved and retired from business.

On the breaking up of his business in New Haven
he removed with his family to this parish. In 1763-4
he served on the school committee, and in 1768 he
and his wife united with Dr. Trumbull's church.
From the boundaries given in a certain deed it would
seem that he lived west of East river and not far
from the bridge.

Mr Day had not long been in the parish when he
appeared before the " Proprietors "' of New Haven
with a petition which is noticed as follows in their

"Dec. 13, 1762.

Mr. Day and others requested of the town liberty to build a
grist mill in North Haven near the Pine Bridge across the East
river. Whereupon this meeting do appoint Messrs. Thomas Dar-
ling, Daniel Lyman and William Greenough a committee to view
the place and report their opinion thereon to the next meeting."

The next meeting was held on the last Monday in
December, 1762, and the following minute was entered
on the records:

"Whereas Aaron Day— Thomas IMausfield — Ephraim Humas-
ton and Moses Tharp all of New Haven, have made a motion to


this meeting for them and their heirs for liberty to build a dam
across the East River in North Haven in order to erect a grist
mill north of the Pine Bridge so called up to the dividing line
between the proprietors land and the land belonging to the heirs
of Ebenezer Bassett deceased.

Voted — That if the said Aaron Day — Thomas Mansfield — Eph-
raim Humaston and Moses Tharp or their heirs shall build a dam
across said East River — viz — north of the Pine Bridge so called
up to the dividing line between the Proprietors land and the laud
belonging to the heirs of Ebenezer Bassett deceased, and erect a
good and sufficient grist mill upon the same within two years from
the date hereto, then the privilege of said stream one mile above
where said dam shall be built, is and shall be and contmue to be to
them and their heirs so long as they shall keep said dam and mill
in good repair fit for service, provided that the aforesaid persons
save the town, harmless and free, from any cost and charge by
reason of building said dam."

Having secured this concession the partners went
forward with their enterprise. A dam was thrown
across the river a few feet south of the present bridge
(the old bridge being then still farther south). Its
constructors were compelled to leave a gap fifteen
feet in the middle for a " shad way." During April,
May and June, this fishway was required to be kept
open for the free passage of shad. While this regula-
tion was in force of course it suspended all operations
in the mill and proved at length a serious embarrass-
ment. With the dam open there was no accumulation
of water to speak of, and hence no power. In the
other months of the year they were allowed the full
strength of the stream.

The mill was built on the east bank just below the
present bridge. It was fitted up with two "run "of
stones,* one for grinding corn meal and one for rye
or wheat flour. The machinery was "■ second-hand "
and inferior; the stones were not of the best and
the results w^ere not what the settlers expected. One
Leavenworth is said to have been the first miller in
charge, but if all reports are correct concerning him

• One of which lies in the street a few rods west of the post-ofHce.


he was less valuable than his tools. The complaints
of the people at length became greater than the
dividends of the owners and Leavenworth was dis-

Benjamin Bishop succeeded to the management,
but he was hardly more competent than his prede-
cessor. The sports of the field and river, combined
with the use of a certain West India product, ham-
pered his attention to his customers. There were
others who tried their skill in this direction, but
somehow none ever attained success. The mill shares
changed hands repeatedly; Samuel i\Iansfield became
involved in several lawsuits with the proprietors over
the water privileges; the mill gradually fell into
decay and in the end proved a failure. Mr. Day re-
moved to Southington, Conn., where he died Sep-
tember 9, 1778. His son William married Mary Ives
of this parish and went to Great Barrington, j\Iass.

On the opposite side of the river, between Joel E.
Bassett's residence and the bridge, a sawmill was set
up, using the gristmill dam for motive power. Benja-
min Bishop — as above — was owner and proprietor,
having removed it from the brook which now supplies
George W. Smith's mill pond. At that time the ship-
yard just below was in full operation and lumber was
in constant demand. This industry for a time greatly
flourished. The entire area up and down the street,
where now stand so many dwellings, was once the
"log yard" of this mill, but after a while, like its
vis-a-vis across the stream, it, too, fell into ruin and
was torn away.

At the same meeting of the New Haven proprie-
tors to whom Aaron Day offered his petition in 1762,
another person was present who also left his mark
upon the parish. This gentleman was Captain Tim-
othy Andrews. Originally of a New Haven family,
it seems reasonable in the absence of anything to
the contrary, to associate him with those of his name


in 1638. William Andre\YS was a planter of means, a
church-going man and a member of the court from the
first, (i). Besides he was at the head of his profession
as a carpenter and contracted to build the first meet-
ing house in New Haven in 1639, and in addition to
this was the first innkeeper (2) in New Haven, as was
Captain Timothy Andrews in North Haven.

The latter gentleman came to this parish on or
about 1762. From an old account book kept while in
his tavern stand, it would seem that he was proprietor
of this famous hostelry as early as 1770. In 1783 he
was elected to serve on the parish school committee
and on several church committees — 1786-7. He with
his wife Mary united with Dr. Trumbull's church by
profession in 1788.

As remarked, Mr. Andrews was at the town meet-
ing and asked " liberty to build a grist mill across the
East River near the Blue Hills." The same gentle-
men who comprised Mr. Day's committee were also
instructed to visit the Blue Hills location and report
at the same time. They did so and made answer
that " Mr. Andrews be allowed to build a dam any-
where within half a mile below the mouth of Whar-
tons Brook." This report Mr. Andrews never acted
■ upon, perhaps because the specified location did not
suit him.

The next year he renewed his application with
better success, as the record shows.

"Whereas, Walter Munson and Timothy Andrews have
requested of the Town liberty to build a Dam across East River
near the east end of Blue Hills in order to erect a Grist Mill;
therefore, Voted that said Monson and Andrews have liberty to
build said dam and erect said Mill anywhere from Wallingford
Line on the west side of the River down the river sixty rods. If
said dam and mill be built within two years then the privilege of
the stream at that place be theirs and their heirs so long as they
shall keep a dam and mill in repair tit for service.

Provided, That they save the town harmless and free from
any cost and charge by reason «f building said dam."

1. Planters' Schedule. 2. Andrews' records.


About nine acres of land were purchased and the
mill built at once. Captain Andrews did not retain
his interest in it long, however, for the following
vear — 1764— he sold otit to his partner, Munson, and
to Joseph Doolittle. Later ]\Uinson conveyed his
interest to Doolittle, and thus the latter became sole
proprietor, the mill taking his name. Matters were
much better managed there than at Mr. Day's estab-
lishment below, and for a hundred twenty-five years
and more this mill has borne an excellent repu-
tation and held a large patronage. Captain Andrews
was a carpenter by profession and relied more on the
tools of his craft for obtaining a livelihood than upon
the fickle patronage of a tavern visiting public. He
at one time, with Jared Hill, was also concerned in the
manxifacture of salt by evaporation at East Haven,
Conn. He lived upon the site now owned by V. C.

Another early mill builder was Joseph Pierpont,
grocer, farmer and general trader. Assisted by Eli
Sackett, he set up a grist and saw mill on Muddy river
seventy or eighty rods below the present Potwine
plant. This location became the center of a large
country business. A few years later another mill
was built farther up the stream (some think by
Mr. Pierpont), to which the flouring business was
removed. This concern is in active operation to-day.
The saw mill continued for many years, a hundred
or more, passed through several owners' hands and
finally surrendered its existence, as did the " fulling
mill " on the bank opposite to it. Traces of the
old dam still exist, and there is no prettier stretch of
river for a summer ramble than may be found there-

Thus to this quartette, Bradley, Day, Andrews and
Pierpont, the parish was indebted for its launch into
other than rural pursuits^ None of these enterprises
can be said to have yielded much revenue or added in


any advanced measure to the wealth of the parish.
They were born of necessity and soug-ht no wider field
than to provide for those at their own doors. Other
ventures sprung' up, more or less ephemeral, and
yielded but little income.

Perhaps the "g-ood old times " so frequently sighed
for, were current in this latitude a century and a quar-
ter ago. So far as the cost of living was concerned, it
may be of interest to note the value of a few articles
of necessary consumption as derived from the mem-
orandum books of that day. No date is given earlier
than 1763.

Seth Barnes sold clams for 2s 4d per bushel.

David Jacobs made double soled shoes for 6s 6d per pair.

Titus Frost made coffins for los each.

Joseph Pierpont sold Pig-tail tobacco for two-pence per yard.

Joy Humaston made Pewter Spoons for 7s 4d per doz.

Titus Barnes made Leather Breeches for 2s 6d per pair.

A fat goose sold for 2s 6d.

A gallon of Rum for 3s 6d.

A gallon of Molasses for is 6d.

A bushel of Red Beans for 4s 6d.

A bushel of White Beans for 4s 8d.

A bushel of Flax seed for 6s 6d.

A bushel of corn for 3s 6d.

A bushel of Wheat for 4s sd.

A bushel of Rye for 3s.

A bushel of Oats for is 6d.

A barrel of " Syder " for 6s.

A fresh Shad for 6s 4d.

A felt Hat for 6s 6d.

A beaver hat for £1 los.

An ounce of snuff 4d.

A thousand of brick £1.

A weeks's spinning was worth 4s.

A man's labor per day was worth from two to three shillings,
according to the season and the nature of the work. Of the people
who followed specific trades the following is a partial list:

1770 — Oliver Blakeslee was a surveyor, weaver and school

1770 — James Humaston was a shoemaker.

1771 — Richard Brockett was a school teacher.

1770 — Benjamin Hull was a weaver.


, - i_Susanna Brockett, Ruth Hull, Mabel Pierpont and Mabel
ii.-.niaston were spinners and seamstresses.
J -yo— Caleb Cooper was a weaver.
1-50— Isaac Thorp was a blacksmith.
j-S5_Jonathan Barnes was a school teacher.
i-(,o_Titus Thorp was a blacksmith.
1 - S — Ezekiel Jacobs was a cartmaker.
,-jS_Seth Blakeslee was a brickmaker.
,-5S— Enoch Jacobs was a carpenter.
,-yo— Eli Sackett was a sawyer.
1770— Walter Munson was a doctor.
1770— Timothy Andrews was a tavern keeper.

Reference has been made to one Munson, a partner
of Captain Andrews. No better opportunity may
.'.rise than the ■ present to consider for a moment his
.ativities in the parish. He was born in the city of
.\cw Haven in 1733. To all appearance he was the
first resident physician in this parish. He married
Mabel, daughter of Thomas Mansfield (living east
(.nd Mansfield bridge), in 1760. Shortly after he
t)«.ught of Gershom Barnes "Two acres and dwelling
house, bounded north on the country road, east on
highway and Sabbath Day house lots, south Thomas
Carson (non-resident) and west on Thomas Mansfield."
He was something of a trader in real estate, and fre-
quent transfers are standing in his name. Among
other purchases was a farm of forty acres, with dwell-
ings, on the west side, East river, below the bridge, on
which was a landing and a shipyard." Dr. Trumbull
«-ites him as being a member of his church in 1760, and
ihc First Ecclesiastical Society made him a school com-
iiiitteeman in 1763-7-8, and also put him on a commit-
tee for the proposed incorporation of the parish in

He became a charter member of the New Haven
Medical Society in 1784, but of his proficiency in his
practice we know absolutely nothing.

Medicine and theology, as expounded in the per-
sons of Dr. :Munson and Dr! Trumbull, for some rea-


son, by and by clashed. The medical man's relations
with the Congregational church became somewhat
strained, and finally broke. The first intimation wc
have of this ruptnre occurs in St. John's Churcli
records as follows: ''March 22d, 1772, was baptized
Jared the son of Walter Munson." (Four children had
preceded the latter, all baptized by Dr. Trumbull). Thu
same year — 1782 — Dr. jMunson's name also appears as

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 13 of 32)