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 2 of 32)
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least eighteen feet in length and sixteen feet wide
and nine feet between joints, with a good chimney of
stone and clay mortar. In the course of time framed
houses came into use. The sides of the buildings
were covered with oak clapboards rent from the tree
and smoothed with a shaving knife. The roof was
made of rafters larger than the plates, sills and
beams of our modern houses and supported split
sticks called in the rude architecture of the day
* ribs ' that were laid across them at regular distances
and to which long rent shingles of cedar were fast-
ened with tough, wrought iron nails."

Such, it may be -assumed, was the character of
our ancestors' dwellings. In northern and eastern
Connecticut, and in Massachusetts particularly, houses
were palisaded as a protection from the Indians.
There is no mention that such defense was built
about any of the earlier homes here. There seems
to have been no occasion for it, unless in a lesser
manner for the protection of domestic stock from
wild animals, particularly wolves.

Notwithstanding the violence of the savages in
other parts of New England, it must be placed to the
credit of the tribes who entered into alliance with
Eaton and Davenport that they faithfully observed
to the end the compact made, and though their num-
bers were few, yet by influence with their race they
stood a wall of protection around the whites of the
colony. Dr. Trumbull speaks of a great '' pow-wow "


as once being held near the Humiston place (F. H.
Stiles') at which some of the settlers became alarmed,
but needlessly, for the braves only concerned them-
selves with their own affairs and retired in good order.

There is no reason to think the pioneers of North
Haven differed in outward circumstances from their
Wallingford neighbors, or from those in other com-
munities where settlements were undertaken; and
the log hous, eoften with but a single room, here and
there rose in the woods. AVagons were not much
known at this period, and highways were few in 1700.
The main artery of travel between New Haven and
Hartford pursued about the same course as the plains
road does now, although the ancient highway contin-
ued directly south past the present Congregational
church, instead of deflecting to the east.

In certain deeds of 1694-5 there is evidence of
another highway running parallel with the latter
road mentioned. The smallness of the areas con-
veyed, bounded in three or four cases " on y" east and
west by y'' highwayes" indicates such roads as lying
near each other. This latter route then could have
been none other than the present " Pool road."

Of other roads on or about this time (1690) the
following order from the General Court will throw
some light : "This court (October 1692) orders that
the people of New Haven and Wallingford shall
forthwith build a sufficient hors bridg over New
Haven River at the place where Brockett's bridg for-
merly stood and in case they may see reason to build
a cart bridg they may doe it, and that it may be
mayntayned for the future by the two townes in good
repayre — . " Now, where was "'Brockett's bridg?"
Tradition makes no mention of it. Were it not for
the colonial records we should never have suspected
its existence.

Domestic animals were few at this period. Some
sheep were kept and "heai'ded on the comon by a



sheepheard." A good cow was worth from twenty-
five to thirty pounds and a yoke of oxen forty pounds.
In 1700 the General Assembly fixed the price of wheat
" five shillings sixepence a bushel, rye three shillings,
pease not bugge-eaten three shillings, corn two shil-
lings and sixepence, biefe 40 shillings per barrel,
porke three pounds ten shillings per barell," etc. For
beverages there was neither coffee nor tea. Beer was
at first drank until apple trees matured, when
" cyder " became the principal drink. There was
little sugar or molasses, the latter being often dis-
tilled soon as landed. Corn was the main diet of the
settler, and bean porridge, hasty pudding, johnny
cake and samp were articles of daily consumption.
Says Davis in his history of Wallingford: " They had
no potatoes, but pumpkins and beans in abundance."
[After all Wallingford may have been the true home
of the latter vegetable]. For bread their main depend-
ence was on rye flour, or " rye and Indian," as the
term went. It is doubtful if wheat was grown here to
much or any extent. " Fish day " was invariably Sat-
urday, never on Friday, as nothing about which any
" popish " custom ever clung was tolerated by the
early North Havener.

Their joiirneys were mainly confined to two objects
— "to mill and to meeting." When they essayed the
former it was to Jo. Lothrop's mill on Wharton's
brook near the terminus of the ridge in the southern
part of Wallingford. This mill was among the first
built in the colony. One had preceded it at Milfordin
1640, and there may have been two others, one in Xew
Haven and one in East Haven, at the time of the erec-
tion of this in 1674. From the many complaints of the
settlers, the condition of these mills might be conju-
gated as — poor the water power — poorer the mill
machinery — and poorest the miller. Evidently it took
a good deal of Wallingford legislation to manage
Lothrop, for the records* are interspersed with fre-


quent allusions to Jo. and his mill. The first dam was
carried away early in its completion by a freshet, and
the following " Training Day " in May was suspended,
and each militiaman made to do fatigtie duty at the
mill. (See Davis). At first, Monday in each week was
"grinding day." Later, Thursday was also devoted
to the same purpose, and this not proving satisfac-
tory, Lothrop was ordered by the town authorities
"to grind until his mill be cleared, if the water holds
out, and that the miller do not grind away his water
for strangers to the injury of the townes inhab-

In 1700 "y' miller" devoted four days in the week
in the three winter months, and three days weekly
the remainder of the year. When the water was low
and the miller was cranky, as was frequently the case,
the "stranger" (North Haven) was often subjected
to great annoyance and sundry journeys before he
could secure his "grist."

The " North Village " began to assume importance
soon after 1700. At this time fields had been cleared,
farms fenced to considerable extent and roads made
more passable. Communication had been opened be
tween the village center and what is now Mt. Carmel.

The " property qualification " also about this period
began to play something of a part in the colony.
Heretofore, while the settlers had been fairly content
with only such land as they could comfortably till,
indications now point to a general desire for large
landed possessions. The soil was far from being all
taken up, it is true, and large tracts of " Town Com-
mons " were frequent. Sundry deeds impress us with
the belief that the sharp-eyed planter pounced upon
the choice bits of territory wherever they lay, without
regard to the consolidation of his acres in a compact
farm. Rarely was there a man of them who did not
own little isolated patches of meadow, upland and
wood, all over the "Divisions" of our present terri-



tory, from Muddy river to Wharton's brook. Some were
bought, some were donated. Persons were granted
allotments " To bee layd out without prejudice to any
former grant," and so a settler might possess, and did
in many cases, small tracts surrounded on all sides by
"Commons." As an illustration: Nathaniel Thorp sold
to Thomas Munson in 1699 "The Vineyard," a parcel
of land bounded on three sides by the " Town Comon "
and on the north by said Munson, who in turn when he
bought originally (Munson) was bounded three sides
by " Comon " and south by Thorp. Thus this bit of
territory so euphoniously named was once an oasis in
the unclaimed area about it. This "Vineyard" has
retained its appellation to the present day, and is
located in the swamp near Waterman's brook on the
present road from North Haven center to Clinton-
ville. The real estate dealings of our forefathers
were decidedly on a liberal scale in those days, judg-
ing from the frequency of the transfers made; and on
the assumption that grantor and grantee were alike
mutually benefited, they ought to have become by
this process alone very wealthy men. A notable
instance of such dealing occurs in the case of Mr.
Thomas ^Mansfield, whose name appears on thirt}'-
nine deeds in the land records of the colony.

The "Town Comon" and the " INIaytenance of
proper fence" between each other's possessions gave
a world of concern, and was the source of much heart-
burning to our settlers in their early years. As
was natural, the boundary lines between settlers
were very defective. At first, a simple ditch marked
the division of property. To restrain cattle this
needed to be deep and wide, and quarrels at once
arose as to the disposal of the soil thrown from these
trenches. Finally the General Court took the matter
in hand and appointed in 1662 "Fence Viewers,"
whose duty it was to tinker and adjust boundary lines
to the satisfaction of the quarreling parties.







Whatever hindrances beset the settler in his strug-
gle to obtain material subsistence, the same were not
felt in his quest for spiritual food at the " meeting-
house." To this sacred spot nothing barred the way;
and though rude its proportions and barren its fur-
nishings, yet to his vision it was the gate to the heaven
beyond. Says the historian Bancroft : " Puritanism
exalted the laity. Every individual who had expe-
rienced the raptures of devotion, every believer who
in moments of ecstasy had felt the assurance of the
favor of God, was in his own eyes a consecrated person
chosen to do the noblest and godliest deeds. Before
heaven he prostrated himself in the dust; looking
out upon mankind how could he but respect himself
whom God had chosen and redeemed. He cherished
hope; he possessed faith; as he walked the earth, his
heart was in the skies."

Of such mettle were our fathers made. One other
element entered into their purposes, weighting and
trimming the balance wheel of their lives: the ele-
ment of Christian watchfulness over each other. No
kingdom, no empire, no nation or kindred under
heaven ever kept such detailed espionage as did in
the main the colonies of New England. No forest was
dense enough to hide — no river was too wide to cross
— no settlement was too jemote to reach the person
from whom allegiance was due. Did the settler locate


along the Quinnipiac; or on " y' country road to
Hartforde;" or by "Muddy river," or elsewhere
within our borders, the eye of the colony followed
him, and its hand could reach him. Nor does
it appear such guardianship was distasteful or
oppressive. The Bible was their guide, and though
no visible cloud or pillar marked Jehovah's presence
over the shores of New Haven bay, yet none the less
the eyes of the planters turned thitherward to know
His will.

Some of the settlers had been here twenty, thirty,
forty years, and in this time had no nearer church
privileges than New Haven. Many had faithfully
attended worship there all this time, and many like-
wise had been deprived by distance and circumstance;
others we fear had neglected it from choice.

But the time was coming when the gospel might
be proclaimed in larger measure to all the flock
growing up in the settlement. We must read between
the lines and understand that the project of having a
church of their own was in process of crystalization,
two, three, perhaps more, years before it assumed
shape. In deliberations of this nature our fathers
moved cautiously, and so did the colony authorities.
We can determine to a certainty who would be the
strongest advocates for a church, and see Yale, Ives,
Granniss, Todd, Sanford, Heaton, Blakeslee, Tuttle,
Frost, in consultation long before the following found
its way to Hartford in 1716 :

" Upon the petition of farmers on the north-east part
of the towne of New Haven to bee a Parish or Society;
This Assembly allows the founders of the Parish peti-
tioned for, according as the towne of New Haven
have granted, (with that provisoe that the inhabitants
of the Old Society that have and doe improve lands
within the limits of the new, while they live in the
old shall pay to the Old Society), and as to the addi-
tion of twelve families, it is referred to the General


Assembly to be held at New Haven in October next
then too bee further considered." [.See Colonial
Records, May session, 17 16].*

This was the orij^in of the present First Ecclesias-
tical society. At the following October session of
the Assembly they were present again and secured
the following:

"The petition of the north-east parish in New
Haven to have twelve families of the town adjoyning
them added to their parish is granted with this
proviso, that what act or acts about setting the meet-
ing house and settling a minister already passed
among them, be void. And provided also that if the
honourable deputy governor [Nathan (ipld, Esq.,] and
the Reverend Samuel Andrews be obtained to advise
relating to these affairs, and if they can't bring them
to an agreement that they then shal have power to
determine all difficulties that may arise in providing
for the settling of a worthy minister among them and
the place for building a meeting house."

The granting of this prayer reveals an undertow
common to the founding of almost every church in
New England. Wherever the Avaves of settlement
flowed in sufficient strength to throw up a deposit
strong enough to build on, just so certainly arose the
vexing question of the location of the church build-
ing, and in scattered settlements where there was
little or no nucleus, the contests of the factions for
such center assumed alarming proportions and endan-


[From ilic Proprietors' Record, March ig, 1715].
Voted. That the Bounds for said Society be as foUoweth, namely— That the
Southern liounds be the Northern Hounds of Knsign Allen Ball's Farm— That the East-
ern Bounds be a line by the western part of " The Half Mile " until it come to W'al-
linvjford Line, and so till it come to Wallingford South H.>unds, and the Northern
Bounds be Wallingford South Bounds until it come to the East end of the Blue Hills
and so to run on the south-east side uf the I'.U.e Hills until it come to the Mill River,
until it come to a point directly west of the Southern Bounds of the line of Capt. Johr
Bassett's lot by Wallingford Bridge, and from ihence a line drawn due East t.. ihe I- r\<;l
River and then ihc Westward I'.ounds to be the East River until it come t.) the po ..t
where the line beniiu.



^ered the calm of many a community. Hence it was
that the General Assembly records are filled with
appointments and reports of committees of arbitration
on ministers and churches, all through the colony.
Such a feeling was smoldering here.

The first recorded action of the parish, (though
from the answer to their petition it is apparent previ-
ous meetings had been held), opens in this wise:

"At a meeting of y" north society in New Haven
November y^ 2d 17 16 the neighbers Did then by a ful
house thankfully Except of what the General Court
have Done with Respect to y' addition of twelve fam-
ilies Granted to them — Mr. Nathaniel Yale was chosen
moderator, Joseph Ives was chosen clerk. A Com'tee
was chosen, namely: Mr. Nathaniel Yale — James
Bishop, Samuel Todd— William Tuttle— John San-
ford, Joseph Ives. Then agreed on y' society that y*
com'tee should make their application to y^ Rev. Mr,
Andrews for his advice in order to haveing a minister
among them as soon as might be conveniently."

Two weeks later they met again and " Then agreed
on by y'= society that y' com'tee should make their
application to y* Hon. Deputy Governor and to the
Rev. Mr. Andrews for their advice according to y' act
of y° Generall Courte, and so act upon their advice
with Respect to bringing a minister among them as
soon as may be conviently." Four weeks passed and
another meeting (Dec. 19th) was held, and "Then
agreed on by y" society that they will send to
y gentlemen y" court have appointed to Deside y°
Difference amongst them concerning planning their
meeting house."

If the above committee ever offered a report, no
allusion is made to it in the minutes, and a year
passed without any visible action. Then, November
19th, 17 17, with remarkable suddenness they vote,
" Agreed on by y^ society to goe about building a
meeting (house) as soon as may be conveniently, said


house to be built 40 foot in length and 30 foot in
breadth." The location of this structure was fixed
by the following grant:

Will of Rev. James Pierpont, admitted Dec. 20,

" Item — I hereby give eight or ten acres of seques-
tered land in New Haven, and about so much half
division land bought of Miss Rozewell and Mr. Atwa-
ter nigh Wallingford bridge, provided those neigh-
bors will set their meeting house there and make
their training and burying place there."

The distribution followed immediately.

" Eight acres of half division land bought of Mrs.
Rozewell and' Mr. Atwater by Wallingford bridge to
set the whole north village meeting house on as the
will directs."

Joseph Hooker, ) Overseers and

Joseph Whittlesey, 5 Distributors.

At a meeting two weeks subsequent to that on
.which it was voted to build, they further "Agreed on
by y* society that John Granniss and Samuel Ives
should discourse with Mrs. Pierpont concerning y'
land y' Rev. Mr. Pierpont was pleased to give for the
use of this society, and to see after y* laying of it

Now that a site has been chosen for the meeting-
house, let us follow the latter to its completion. The
building committee were Simon Tuttle, John San-
ford, Joseph Ives, Seth Heaton and Ebenezer Blakes-
lee, Sr. The society, Dec. 3, 17 17, voted to tax them-
selves three pence on the pound " To be laid out upon
building a meeting house, to be paid at or before y'
last day of June, 17 18, to be paid in money, or pro-
visions, or labour, att money prices." On the follow-
ing March — 17 18 — they again voted to pay three pence
more on the pound " For building a meeting house, to
be paid at or before y* last day of June next ensuing
y' date hereof, to be paid in money or provisions at


money prices." (It is barely possible this vote may
be a repetition of the former, for it will be seen it
makes both taxes become due at the same time). In
September, 17 18, they passed the following:

" Agreed on by y' society that y* money which we
doe expect from the Towne Society [New Haven]
shall be delivered to y* Treasurer to be laid out by
y* order of y' comtee for y^ furtherance of y° meet-
ing house." Then again in 17 19, June 2d, they say:
" Agreed upon by y* society that they will pay a rate
of 3 pence on y* pound, to be paid at or before y* first
day of December next ensuing y* date hereof, to be
paid in money or provisions at y' prices of grain fol-
lowing: wheat at 6 shillings for bushell — rie at 4 shil-
lings for bushell — Indian corne 3 shillings, said rate
to be laid towards y' furtherance of y* meeting

Three years had now passed since the decision to
build, and we may suppose the sacred structure was
approaching completion. The treasury was, however,
in an exhausted condition, but a vote of two pence on
the pound " to be laid out toward building y meeting
house," reinforced it for a time. In this year — 1720 —
it was " agreed on by y° society that Mr. Wetmore
shall have liberty to build a pew for his familie in y'
meeting house on y" south side of said house near
y' door."

April 4, 172 1, they again voted three pence on the
pound, this time with the encouraging remark " For
finishing y' meeting house." So day was about to
break at last, after four years of struggle, on one more
visible church of God in the colony. At this same
meeting they also voted, "Agreed by y' society that
they would have y* meeting house seeted according
to y' following rules: First as to age, 2dly commis-
sion officers, 3d as to rates. Y' seats Dignified as fol-
lows: Y' first seat in y' square body, 2dly y" first
short seat, 3dly y" second seat in y* square body, 4th


y" second short seat, 5thly y^ third seat in y square
body, 6thly y' first seat in y front gallery, ythly y'
first seat in y" side gallery, 8thly y' fourth seat in y*
square body, Qthly y" first long seat by y' west door,
lothly y' fifth seat in y' square body, iithly y" second
seat in y" front gallery — y' above written agreed on
by y' society."

The committee thus named to " dignifie " the seats
were Joseph Ives, Lieut. John Granniss, Seth Heaton,
Sergeant John Barnes and Sergeant Moses Blakeslee.
An extra half penny rate on the pound was voted at
a subsequent meeting for again " finishing of y° meet-
ing house," and in December 1722, the society's com-
mittee "are impowered as auditors to make up y*
accounts with y' committee which "have bin imployed
in takeing care of y" building of y' meeting house."

By this we infer the building was nearly or quite
finished within a fraction of five years from its begin-
ning, and six years from the organization of the par-
ish. In all this interim, as has been stated, their wor-
ship has been conducted at the houses of Ebenezer
Blakeslee and Joseph Ives.

What was the cost of this building ? Reckoned on
the basis of their proposition to Mr. AVetmore (as we
shall see) to give him ^^60 yearly at the first, and
then two pence on the pound the second year, (which
certainly would not be a less sum), would make a
penny rate raise thirty pounds, and as the aggregate
of all their taxes in the five years for this purpose
was fourteen and one-half pence (errors excepted)
they would have raised a little over two thousand dol-
lars, a larger sum, considering the abundance of ma-
terial and the low price of labor, than one would
think such a building should cost.

The meeting-house in New Haven was 50 by 50 in
dimensions, and though built between seventy and
eighty years earlier, cost about four hundred pounds.
The Milford structure was 40x40, and the building


in Wallingford was still smaller. But it was theirs,
cost what it did, and no man may know the sacrifices,
and pinchings and deprivations they endured to erect
it. It was built in the wilderness and of the wilder-
ness. The broad-axe, saw and plane wholly fash-
ioned its proportions. It must have approached
three stories in height at the gables, but was less
in area than many a modern barn. It is not likely
the roof was truncated like that in New Haven, Mil-
ford, Wallingford and perhaps other places, nor is it
supposed it had a "turret." Corner-stone laying had
not become popular with the settler, and if the unre-
generate boy could not crawl at his own sweet will
beneath the floor, then it differed from many of its
contemporaries. It doubtless was innocent of plaster
internally and paint externally. Its windows were
shutterless and floor carpetless. It was built by
" days' works." The community was poor; they could
hardly more than struggle along, patiently working
and fondly hoping. They had no funds to invest in
skilled labor, no hands but their own to fashion it; in
other words, they built themselves into it, and it was
bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. But
impoverished as they were, it is to their lasting honor
that they never asked assistance of the General
Assembly nor the abatement of one penny of their
rates from first to last. They met like men every
demand made upon them by the colony, a condition
which, judging from the petitions to the Assembly
year after year for relief, not ten per cent, of the old
societies within the State can be proud of.

What would we not give for a diagram of the inte-
rior of this old building, yea, and for its " seeting
list " also, that we might number the small but elect

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 2 of 32)