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 22 of 32)
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Traditions of Martha Phelps Trumbull and Catherine
Stearns Griggs are alike cherished in many a home
on the hills of Hebron and Tolland, as well as around
the hearthstones of this old town.

The young couple began housekeeping in "the
brick dwelling on the corner." (Now the Rev. "\V. T.
Reynolds'). This building was admirably adapted for
a parsonage, but could not be permanently secured as

Hardly had the new pastorate commenced when
the project of building a new place of worship began to
be agitated. Early in January, 1834, a committee con-
sisting of Eleazer Warner, Byard Barnes and Jason
Dickerman was raised by the First Ecclesiastical vSoci-
ety "to inquire into the expense of a meeting hotise."'
Four weeks later this committee reported, and the
records say: "On a* motion Whether we build a ]\Ieet-
ing House or not, Voted in the Affirmative."

A new committee, Jacob Bassett, William Hartley
and Eleazer Warner, was now appointed " to digest
some plan for a Meeting House."

This committee attended at once to duty, and said
on March 10: " It is the opinion of your committee that
the society want a ho;ise about 62 feet long and 40
feet wide, and that the probable expense will be ;^5,-

A third committee was now chosen " to more fully
inquire into the mind of the "Society," and also to


feel the financial pulse. In two weeks it raised $3,225.
The society was so well pleased with the outlook that
it determined to press the matter further. This
resulted in securing $500 additional, and eventually
another hundred was added. The Society had now
83,800 pledged and a building committee was at once
named. This was composed of

Jacob Bassett, John Goodsell,

Jesse Bassett, Theophilus Todd,

Frederic Barnes, Giles Pierpont,

Justus Bishop, Perit M. Sanford,

Eleazer Warner.

A tract of land was purchased of Justus Bishop on
which to locate the proposed building. It contained
twenty square rods. Moses Brockett, Jared Brockett,
and Levi Cooper joined with ]\Ir. Bishop in executing
quit-claim deeds of this tract to the First Ecclesias-
tical Society January 15, 1835, or some months after
the building was begun.

The corner stone was laid with appropriate cere-
mony in the autumn of 1834. Within it was depos-
ited a leaden box containing the newspapers of
the day, a catalogue and covenant of the church, sun-
dry papers pertaining to the affairs of the Ecclesias-
tical Society, the founding of the Sunday school, and
other matter the details of which are now forgotten.
This stone was located at the northeast corner of the

The new building was sixty-two feet long by forty-
five feet wide, and of suitable height to correspond.
It was built of brick manufactured by Jesse Andrews,
and the mason work was done by one John Peck of
New Haven.

The carpenter work was superintended by Justus
Bishop. The pulpit furnishings were made by Fred-
eric Barnes, and the bell came from the old meeting-
house. The demolition of the latter structure was
begun on September 15, 1S34, (the steeple being piilled



down on that clay) but it was not abandoned unt:;
June 28, 1835. On this date the Rev. Mr. Grii;;.;>
preached the last sermon delivered in it from Hai;-;;-;
2, 3: "Who is left among you that saw this house in
her first glory ? "

The dedication service was observed July i, 183;,
the pastor preaching the sermon from Haggai 2, (j:
" The glory of this latter house shall be greater thai;
of the former saith the Lord of Hosts." The theme
of the discourse was " The church encouraged, or the
Triumphs of the Gospel." This was printed by his
people and was the first published work of their pas-


Just six months after the dedication ]\lr. Griggs?
received a call from the Congregational church in
Millbury, Mass. In some manuscript notes made by
him he says he was inclined to accept, for the want of


adequate support by his society, but that when they
with great unanimity raised his salary to eight hun-
dred dollars annually and promised to build a parson-
age he was induced to remain.

To accomplish the latter end it was decided to
form a " Parsonage Association." The capital was
between $2,500 and $3,000. It was divided in shares
of ten dollars each and though no list of the stock-
holders has as yet been found it comprised the major-
ity of the members of the church. A few names have
been ascertaiiied. These were Solomon A. Orcutt
and wife, Jude B. Smith, Deacon Byard Barnes, John
Todd, Richard ]\Iansfield, Barzillai Bradley, Jason
Dickerman, Jacob Bassett, Joel Humaston and wife
(the two latter twenty shares each), Eleazer Warner,
Perit Sanford, etc., etc.

The land on which to erect the parsonage was
bought of James H. Thorpe, November 8, 1836. Cap-
tain William Todd was the master mechanic. The
building was put up in the following winter. It cost
not far from $2,700, and into it the pastor and his
family moved in the summer of 1837. Two children,
Maria and Catherine, had been born in the brick
house on the " corner."

It was now the flood tide of happiness for preacher,
for people, for church. Fortune, however fickle else-
where, had seemed to favor this community. Only
the year previous — 1S35 — the Second Ecclesiastical
Society had completed a new brick church (the pres-
ent structure). There was peace, thrift and enter-
prise in and around the community. The Congrega-
tional church was visibly strengthened. In 1S37 it
received thirty-nine members, in 1840 one hundred
thirty members. The total admissions diiring Mr.
Griggs' pastorate were two hundred twenty-six.

But these relations were not always to continue.
A lesson was in store for pastor and people that sun-
shine could never teach. 'The cloud that carried the


storm which eventually beat the fiercest on the heart
of the man of God arose first from his own ambition.
Happy as he was, the area of the little country parish
became circumscribed as he stood in other pulpits by
exchange with his brethren in the ministry.

His merit as a preacher was not unnoticed. He-
had already declined a professorship in the " Western
Reserve College" and other flattering invitations to
change his field of labor. At length there came a call
from the First church in Wethersfield, Conn., which
he felt he could not refuse. Accordingly he tendered
his resignation to his people in December, 1S44, alleg-
ing their enfeebled financial condition as his excuse.
This they would not accept as a just reason and
returned his paper to him.

But the leaven of unrest was working. His great
heart yearned to reach a wider field. His desire was
for the salvation of hundreds instead of tens.

Coupled with this feeling was his knowledge of a
small element of disaffection in his church.

Colonel Eleazer Warner, his trusted counselor,
labored as no one else could to allay the disquiet of
his pastor's mind. It is said he so far succeeded in
this as to secure the assurance from the latter that if
the church was absolutely unanimous in his favor he
would live and die Avith them, as he had expected to do.

A church meeting was then called at once. The
authorities felt reasonably sure the most favorable
expression could be secured. There was an over-
whelming attendance and the test was made amid
the intensest interest, but to the consternation of the
assemblage two negative votes were found. These
were cast by Manning B. Bassett and Willis Tuttlc,
both gentlemen of influence.

All hope was now at an end. Mr. Griggs received
his dismission July 30. 1S45.

Followed by the prayers of his little country flock,
who never forgot him in all his subsequent wander-


ings, he entered upon his field of duty as pastor of
the Chapel street church in New Haven, August 6,
1845. Here he remained two years and then removed
to Millbury, j\Iass., thus responding to the " call "
made him from there eleven years before.

He remained in Millbury a little more than nine
years and then went to Bristol, Conn., February 27,
1856. Here he preached thirteen years or until fail-
ing health warned him to retire from such active ser-
vice. In 1870 he engaged with the American Educa-
tion society, continuing as their agent a little more
than four years. Then followed a period of nearly
seven years of occasional supplies in pulpit, preach-
ing, says his biographer, in this interval, two hundred
fourteen times ; altogether his ministerial service
amounts to forty-eight years.

Few preachers have been so honored as was Dr.
Griggs by the publication of his sermons. In all,
seventeen of these discourses were printed, besides
his " Looking Glass for High Churchmen," " Infant
Baptism Explained and Defended " and " Letters to a
Theological Sttident." In addition to these were
numerous papers published in the periodicals of the
day. Of the above, the sermons intimately associ-
ated with this people were : " Dedication of the Xew
Meeting House," " Discourse at the Funeral of Joseph
Foote, D. C. D.," " Sermon at the Funeral of Dea.
Eleazer Warner " and " Discourse at the Funeral of
Dea. Byard Barnes."

He died in Bristol, Conn., January 28, 1S83.

To return to the parsonage. With the removal of
its occupant it ceased longer to be known as such. It
had been conveyed by the Parsonage Association
through Jason Dickerman. the agent, of the First
Ecclesiastical Society, to the Rev. Mr. Griggs. Decem-
ber 31, 1838. In September, 1843, ]\Ir. Griggs conveyed
it to his father. In April, 1847. it was transferred
back to the Rev. Mr. Griggs, who immediately re-con-


veyed it to Sidney M. wStone, of New Haven, wlm
three days later sold it in turn to Messrs. Bassett and
Tuttle before mentioned. It then became the homu
of the latter gentleman and is held by the familv a:

Through all these transfers there was a constant
shrinkage of its value. "When the account wasfinalh-
closed it was found that the stockholders would
receive only forty per cent of their investment, an
experience which fully explains why no repetition oi'
the attempt has been made by the P^irst Ecclesiastical


In spite of what some writers would have us
believe concerning the grimness of the early Xcw
Englander, there was a sentimental side to his nature.
This was manifested in part by his love of sacred
music. Praise in this sense he regarded as an import-
ant element of divine worship. While it was true
that the solid meat of theology was thought better
calculated to nourish saints than a diet of wind from
the vocal organs, yet singing as a devotional act, he
deemed necessary and helpfiil.

When the Pilgrims landed upon our shores they
brought " Ainsworth's A^'ersion of the Psalms " with
their Bibles. This " Psalm book " was a crude work.
Its torturings of* the sacred text and the English
language defy reproduction here. It was used in
their places of worship until 1640, when the clergy of
the colonies compiled what is known as " The Bay
Psalm Book," the first book printed in the new world
and for copies of which fabulous sums are now offered.

This work took the place of Ainsworth and con-
tinued in use for more than a hundred years in the
New England meeting-houses. About 1693 the
'• Sternhold and Hopkins Edition of the Psalms " was
put into the market but never became a favorite with
the people.


There is no record to indicate whose edition was
used at first in our meeting-house. The oldest known
work is entitled " Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual
Songs for the Use, Edification and Comfort of the
Saints in Public and Private, especially in New Eng-
land. Printed Edinburg 1732."

A word as to the manner of singing. Printed
notes were not introduced into Connecticut until
about 1700, and then only in wealthy Ecclesiastical
Societies. It is unlikely they reached here until years
afterward. Then how did the people sing ? Dear
reader, we wish we knew. We can only give an illus-
tration of how they sang in Massachusetts at this
time, and then leave the field open to your own con-
clusions. This is what a Mr. Walter writes when he
heard singing in 1720 in a Congregational meeting-

It sounded like five hundred different tunes "roared out at one
"time; no time was kept, the noise so hideous and disorderly as is
"bad beyond expression." *

Another writer adds that " the singing was tedious
and drawling; twice on one note I paused to take

There were few tunes in use in the Rev. Mr.
Stiles' day; perhaps not more than a dozen were
known to his congregation and those imperfectly.
The old custom of " lining out the psalm " was preva-
lent, and there is no reason to doubt its use here.

When the Rev. Benjamin Trumbull came in 1760,
his Society "agreed by a vote to sing Dr. Watts'
psalms for the future." His coming marked a change
in church music. We turn the pages of the record
anxiously to find some allusion to the musical practices
of his early pastorate, but it is not until twenty years
afterward that a line is written. In 17S0, Joshua
Chandler's pew in the meeting-house was ordered
taken up, "that the singers might have proper seats."
This is the first reference to anv distinctive musical

* Hood's History of Music.


body. Few country churches had a choir at this dai'.
In 1787, the First Ecclesiastical Society voted:

"That the prudential committee have power to !..■,
"out a sum not exceeding jQt, for the use of the Siu^-
"ing School."

This provision indicates an interest in the miisic;i:
services of the chiirch. It was in this year also that
Titus Frost was forming his phenomenal choir for
the Church of England, and North Haven was stirrt-t!
as never before by the two Societies to outdo eaci;

In 1792 appears for the first time the names of tin.-
Congregational church ''choristers."

"Caleb Blaksly, Thomas Cooper, Justus Bishop.
Titus Todd, Jairus Sanford, Thomas Pierpont, Ezekicl

These men were authorized to " take the lead in
singing," and ^3 was appropriated to hire a singiii.u
master to instruct the singers.

In 1796 the sum of §30 was applied to hiring a
singing master, and Thomas Ray was added to tlic
list of choristers. In 1797 "the rates of the leadin;.:
singers were abated " and David Ray was added. Ir.
1798 Theophilus Todd was added and the "rates "'
were cancelled again. fn 1807 the committee were
instructed to "give such encouragement to singing as
they thotight p'roper." In 1820 the committee were
advised to "exhibit a subscription for singing." 1^
1821 it was ordered "that a singing school be set up.'

With the latter date we come within the circle ol
the memories of many living. This singing schoo:
will be remembered for its "master," Isaac Tibbals, ii
for nothing else.

Tibbals in his meridian, was the " dude " of his day.
When in town he either remained at Jesse Andrews
tavern or with Dr. Joseph Foot. Faultlessly dressed
in black, with low " pumps " and white silk stockings.
he was accustomed to* tiptoe across the street from


the doctor's house to the tavern, frequently stopping to
remove the dust from his shoes with a white handker-
chief. The " schools " were then held in the tavern
ball-room. They were well patronized and well taught.
Tibbals was master of his profession, but not of him-
self. He died a vagrant.

Josiah Todd then appeared as " singing master "
and "leader of the Congregational Chtirch choir."
This was not far from 1S23. Dr. Trumbull had passed
away and the Rev. Mr. Boardman was in the desk.
Choir singing was becoming more and more popular,
and the choir already large at Mr. Trumbull's death
had increased to enormous proportions.

The entire gallery front of the old meeting-house
was filled with these musicians. Their number was
between seventy and eighty. The "women singers"
mainly occupied the long east gallery, and the tenors
and basses ranged themselves on either wing. The
service opened morning and afternoon with singing;
sometimes a simple tune was used, but if they felt
like it (to use the expression of an old participant)
" they arose and shook themselves." At such times
there was music in the air. The Episcopalians, only
a few rods distant, frequently declared that in the
summer season the Congregational choir appeared
more anxious to be ],ieard "up on the hill," than in

Josiah Todd's choir came to be one of the most
popular organizations. From 1825 to 1835 it was at
flood tide. It embraced nearly all the young people
of the First Society who could sing, and some who
could not. In 1829, more radical action than ever was
taken in this branch of church worship, and a tax of
ten mills on the dollar was laid " to revive and sup-
port singing."

A partial list of the choir of the Congregational
church during the first half of this century is here
named. There is great difficulty in establishing the



dates when these people were the most active, and th
service of some of them extended into the Rev. M:
Griggs' pastorate.


Joel Ray, Benajah Bishop, Oliver Smith, Street Humast(j:.
Theophilus Todd, Ira Todd.

1825— 1S35.
Josiah Todd, Harvey Smith, Jared Barnes, Miles Bradlev.
David Clinton, Lyman Clinton, Theophilus Todd, William Hart-
ley, Ebenezer Smith, Jesse Andrews, David Bishop, Benjani::;
Eastman, Jared Bassett, Harvey Todd, Parry Bassett, AIoij/m
Hough, Jeffrey Fitch, Lyman Smith, William Ives, Julius Ivi-
Wales Buckingham, Ives Brockett, Sidney Smith, Henry M
Blakeslee, Sala Pierpont, Bernard Hartley, Jude Smith, Chark-
Smith, Dennis Thorpe, William Todd, Byard Pierpont, Erus Bishoj).
Ezra Munson, Whiting Sanford.


Only maiden names are given — Polly Moulthrop, Ruth Frost.
Mary Ann Cook.

1S25— 1835.

Eunice Foot, Emily Foot, Lavinia Foot, Charlotte Ray, Aiii^c
line Ray, Chloe Bassett, Naomi Thorp, Abby Thorp, Deli;,,':;*.
Thorp, Rebecca Thorp, Jane Ives, Mary Tuttle, Emily Bassett.
Beda Bassett, Alvira Bassett, Electa Jloulthrop, Adeline Eaton.
Louisa Eaton, Laura Eaton, Jane Barnes, Mary Ann Barnes.
Grace Ives, Eliza Thorp, Lucy Barnes, Rowena Barnes, Caroliiii;
Barnes, Aurelia Clinton, Luanna Abbott, Louisa Bassett, EIi;:a
Blakeslee, Fanny Jacobs, Sophronia Blakeslee, Charlotte Thorj>.
Mary Frost, Grace *rodd, Louisa Frost, Aurelia Bassett. Hannah
Smith, Louisa Tuttle, Sarah Brockett, Betsey Dixon, Henrittt;i
Tuttle, Lavinia Blakeslee, Nancy Sanford.

Doubtless there were others whose names shouU!
be added. Of this notable company but few rcmair..
That grand old hymn, " On Jordan's rugged banks I
stand," favorite of Trumbull and Boardman am!
Griggs, has been realized in truth by most of this
sweet-voiced host.

The date of the introduction of musical instru-
ments into the Congregational church is a matter
of uncertainty. Josiah Todd was the first man t"



take a profane " fiddle " within the sacred walls.
It provoked opposition when he did so. The con-
servatism that would fight a stove would fight a
violin. Mr. Todd was a musician of more than ordi-
nary ability. His schools, taught in Jesse Andrews'
tavern, were productive of good. The church music
for years after his death witnessed to his earnest
efforts in its behalf.

During his leadership instrumental music was
encouraged. Among the players were :

Joel Ray, bass viol. Timothy Linsley, double bass

Elam Ives, tenor viol. viol.

Samuel Todd, flute. George Moody, flute.

William Ives, violin. James Linsley, violin.

Stephen Gilbert, violin. Erus Bishop, flute.
Coolidge Moulthrop, single bass Ammi Sackett, violin,

Many recall the gaunt form of David Clinton, who
with his " pitch pipe " stood a familiar figure in the
choir for a number of years. In 1836 William Hartley
was leader. In 1844-5 James Linsley was employed
to " take charge of the singing and have a singing
school on Sabbath evenings." For this service he
received $25. In 1853 William Howd was employed to
lead the singing at $75 per year. Some three years


Was set up in the church. It was built by one Whit-
taker, and cost not far from $500. It is now in use in
the Congregational church at Bethlehem, Conn. In
1855 ^Ir. Howd's salary was raised to $100 per year.
In 1861-2 Uri W. Hart was employed as organist
and leader of music at 6100 per year. In the
succeeding ten years an almost unnumbered host
of amateurs and professionals swarmed through
the choir gallery, and the music languished. During
part of this period the church was pastorless — the



war of the rebellion was on, and eventually the nu-t. t
ing-house was remodeled. All these distractioi:
coupled with the tinkerings of incompetent pcrsoi.
and committees, had a wasting effect, and the mtisic;;".
prestige of this ancient church suffered a relapse.


In 1872, in the enlarged church edifice, a new ox'^
was setup, at a cost of $2,444. This instrument \\;i<;
"built by Steer & Turner, of Westfield, jMass. It con-
tains 24 stops and 919 pipes. In 1873 Uri W. Hart wa^
again employed as organist and leader, this time at a
salary of $380. In 1874-5-6 he was paid $400 yearly.
This was- the highest figure ever expended for music.
Mr. Hart remained until 1882, though at a reduces
compensation in the last years of his term.

Besides the singing masters mentioned, were Her-
vey Smith, Benjamin Eastman, David Clinton, Joel
Ray, Elam Ives, Julius Ives and "William Ives. The-
latter taught at the old tavern, while Julius Ives held
forth in a large chamber at Amasa Thorp's. It is said
of Josiah Todd's schools, that they were free, and
furthermore that he furnished lights and fuel there-
for at his own expense.

The date of the introduction of i^rinted notes into
the choir gallery is alike uncertain with that of hymn
books and musical instruments. The 24th edition of
Dr. Watts' Psalms (London, 1763) has twenty-five
" Tunes in the Tenor Part " printed from steel plates.
This was choral music. There are good reasons for
believing these ttmes were the first used, though not
until about the time of the Revolutionary war.

The first music written in four parts and sung in
the Congregational church was compiled by one
Asahel Benham, of Wallingford, Conn., in 179S. It
bore the title "Social Harmony," and was a volume of
sixty pages and about four score tunes. These tunes
were printed from engraved plates. Two copies are


extant in the town. This note book was succeeded by
" The Choir," a much more pretentious work and pub-
lished in 1833. This book was used in the Rev. W. J.
Boardman's pastorate. In the Rev. Mr. Grig-gs' day
it gave way to " The Boston Academy's Collection."
After the latter came "Ancient Harmony," "The
Psaltery," "The Shawm," "The Dulcimer," "The
Jubilee," "Asaph " and a dozen others of lesser im-

Fragmentary as this article necessarily has been,
it would be still more incomplete were no reference
made to one, than whom no more devoted musician
has been named: Sherlock A. Mansfield. Mr. Mans-
field began his labors in 1S41 and was untiring in the
interests of church music until his death in 1871. He
was the last of the noted chorus leaders and by his
genial manner and enthusiasm rallied a choir which
for years maintained with remarkable steadiness this
branch of religious worship. Every " exchange "
preacher in the Consociation knew him, and knew too
the music would always go right when his sunshiny
face was seen in the choir gallery.

The cause of the gradually waning country church
choir is clearly traceable to the decay of the " coun-
try singing school." The latter old time institution
was designed by th^ fathers to foster and encourage
a religious spirit, and as such, it seemed for years to
bear the approval of Jehovah. Now all is changed.
Worldliness, indifference and " they of its own house-
hold " have been its deadliest enemies.





Notwithstanding the watchfulness of Church am!
State, and the zealous endeavors of the officials co:;-

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 22 of 32)