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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his brother, secured " the brickyard " and at the lat-
ter's death it was set 'to his son, Abel Thorp, who sold
it to Jesse Andrews in iSio.

To manufacture brick did not require a large
capital or an extensive plant in those days. A bed of
clay, a bit of ground, a pit, a few cords of wood, and a
few hundred feet of boards made up the fixtures of a
brick yard. Two or three men and a boy comprised
the working force and the hours of labor were deter-
mined more by chance than method. This was in the
beginning of things. There was little demand for
the manufactured article, and this in part was sup-
plied by imported stock "brought from England as
ballast in that day.



I J / ^ ' •■"

~^K'^ . y^T. QK^TnSii'-^




Later on, in 1750 or thereabout, brick dwellings
began to be constructed. Stone was discarded for the
new material in the construction of chimneys. TIk-
first brick house in the parish was built in the Fifth
district in 1759. This was located on the plains.
" Wallingford plains " as they were sometimes termed.
The brick for this dwelling were made in a now long
abandoned yard directly on the line of the Consoli-
dated railroad and northwest of the residence occu-
pied some time since by Captain W. R. Marihugh.
The clay came from an adjacent bank. Sand was
exceeding plentiful, as a visit to that locality demon-
strates, but the ancient brick show very little traces
of it. They are nearly pure clay, holding their color
perfectly, and are as hard as flint.

This building is in fair preservation. Its quaint
"gambrel roof" with four chimneys and conspicuous
position has earned for it a wide reputation as a land-
mark between New York and Boston. It is equivalent
to 4 stories in height, and on its southern gabk-
appears, laid in black brick and visible many rods, the
initials of the builder and date of erection:

I. B.


This venerable pile is not without its romance.
During the war of th'e revolution it was a noted stop-
ping place and headquarters of the patriots. It has
been the property of Dennis Thorpe for over fifty
years, and in it the writer is proud to have been born.

One Seeley built a yard early at Muddy River, but
after a few years, removed his works to near Sackett's
Point. At his death he was succeeded by his son-in-
law, Josiah Thomas, who improved on the methods of
manufacture and achieved considerable success. The
latter in turn was succeeded by his son-in-law, Zophar
Jacobs. About this time, also, yards began to be
planted near the present works of Brockett & Todd.


Another early brickmaker was vSamtiel Pierpont,
in 1774. His farm was that now owned by Samuel
Dailey and his yard was directly north of his house
or near the site now covered by the large barns
of F. Hayden Todd. He was succeeded by his son,
Ebenezer Pierpont, in 1801. The latter sold the plant
to Orrin Todd, who worked it a few years. It was on
this yard that the brick used in the construction of
the Fourth district school house in 1841, were made,
by Willis and Philemon Hull. In 1774 the price of
brick was $5 per thousand.

Between the years 1770 and 1780 one Seth Blakes-
lee had a yard east of the present Hartford and New
Haven turnpikt and north of the road leading' past
Deacon Whitney Elliott's residence. One of the most
ancient sites lies in a ravine in that interesting locality
known as " Misery." The waters of " Bogmine brook"
cover it. Alfred Ives, John H. Mansfield and Eleazer
Warner were early makers on the west side of the
Quinnipiac river. A covered yard was opposite the
house of Jefferson Clough. John Gill had a yard near
the Goodyear place. Hervey Da^'ton and others on
the road to " Newman's Point." Erus Bishop, Loyal
Moulthrop and James Heaton at "Misery" — Horace
Stiles and Henry ]M. Blakeslee, east of Rowe S. Brad-
le3^'s residence — Daniel Barnes, Willis B. Hemingway,
Samuel Culver and others, each yards at Muddy river.

About the year 1800 there began a veritable boom
in this industry. It was discovered that vast deposits
of clay underlaid all the surface along the valley of
the Quinnipiac river, and brickyards sprang up like
mushrooms. Enoch Barnes, Joshua Thorpe, Caleb
Humiston, Jesse Andrews, Solomon Bradley, Titxis
Bradley, David Bradley. Jared Bradley and others
became more or less engaged in the business. It was,
however, more a side issue with them than a legiti-
mate means of support. Their farms demanded more
attention, and thev made bricks at odd moments.



The first of the kind made were known as " water
"brick." These were all large size. The clay wa^
taken from the bank to a "pit" specially constructed
for the purpose, about twelve feet in diameter and two
feet in depth. Here it was thoroughly drenched with
water and allowed to soak over night, and then trod-
den by oxen until the desired consistency was reached.
At first only one pair of oxen was used, but later the
pit was enlarged and two pairs put in. This tempering
of the clay was a slow and laborious process both for
the cattle and the "boy" who drove them.

When thoroughly mixed the clay was shoveled
upon a table at which stood the "striker" with his
molds. These were simply open frames of the
required dimensions, and at first Were constructed
for four bricks. They were kept in a water bath.
In using, a frame was laid flat on -the table, filled
with clay by the striker, and deftly turned on its
edge. In this position it was carried to the "dry-
ing ground " and its contents deposited. This drying
yard was frequently no more than a grass plot, for
on nearly all specimens examined are found impres-
sions of leaves, twigs, grass, etc., which flourished a
hundred years ago. Such rude handling could give
no form or comeliness to the finished product; it
appeared more or less distorted and misshapen.

The first real advance in brick making was made
when a bottom was placed upon the molds. This
improvement gave a much more shapely article.

As the manufacture went on some genius discov-
ered (by accident, probably), that fine, dry sand
would "flush" the mold better than water, besides
giving a firmer face to the brick. Next came reduced
dimensions, and then followed a mold with six com-
partments instead of foiir. The next most important
move was directed to the yard. This was changed to
a smooth, beaten plat, graded to drain the surface
and kept clean from all debris. Then came the intro-


duction of the upright wooden tub, within which
was turned a spindle thickly set with long, flat
knives to pulverize the clay. This spindle was fast-
ened to a long, uncouth "sweep." The cattle were
transferred from the pit to this sweep, and a
second great step was made.

Thus what was known as the first "pug-mill" or
"brick machine" was set in operation. The move-
ments of cattle were found too slow, and horses
were substituted on this grinding machine. The
tempered clay was forced out of an orifice near the
bottom of the machine upon a table directly in front
of the "striker." Grasping such a quantity as he
judged wovild fill one compartment in the mold
placed ready "sanded" before him, he dextrously
threw it with force sufficient to fill the space; when
the mold was full the contents were quickly
smoothed down by an implement for the purpose,
and it was ready for the "carrier." The striker and
the carrier constituted a "gang;" but two molds
were used, one being filled while the other was
borne away.

Now it can be seen how the striker would natur-
ally come to be an important personage on a brick-
yard. On his strength, endurance, expertness,
depended in a large measure the success of the pro-
prietor, for, first "of all, the brick must be molded.
Hence arose those great rivalries which existed
under the old hand-striking system, the traditions of
which yet linger in the air around North Haven. In
his day Jacob Thorpe was the champion of all brick
strikers. From five to six thousand bricks was con-
sidered a fair day's work for one man in 1830-1850;
but on one occasion, "between sun and sun," as the
saying went, Mr. Thorpe "struck" 13,518 bricks, and
Willis Thorpe "carried them off." That was con-
sidered an overwhelming day's work. Its nearest
approach was made b^' Horace Stiles, who made



11,300. Amasa Thorpe was also considered an expc::.
but never molded over 10,000 in any one day.

With the introduction of an iron front and a svv.
tern of levers to the tipright machine just mentionci';.
"hand striking" passed away. The molds emcr^td
filled from the machine as rapidly as one could man-
age it. The gang of carriers was increased from foui
to five, and the days of rapid brick-making had com-
menced. It is believed Loyal Moulthrop was the first
to set up one of these machines. It was regardcii
with suspicion at the outset, but later came into
univ^ersal use.

The next great move was the introduction of
steam power and the construction of the complicatcil
brick presses of to-day. From five thousand, a day's
work fifty years since, the present yards turn uui
from seventy-five to one hundred thousand daily, and
every brick of mathematical exactness. From a few
hundreds spread on the grass to dry in 1790, th.c
quantity has grown to almost a million exposed to
sun and air at once by the "Pallet system." From a
hundred thousand, which constituted a season's work
on a single yard half a century ago, the output has
swollen to fifteen millions as an annual make of one
concern to-day.

The earliest kilns held from twenty to seventy-
five thousand bricks. Rarely did a proprietor dare to
make a hundred thousand. Even with this small
quantity, men were from three to five years in dis-
posing of it, so slow were the sales.

Before 1S43 all'* green brick" were carried off the
yard to the kiln by ha.nd. Twelve were consid-
ered a load for a man. Tucking ten of these care-
fully under one arm, and with two in the other hand.
he trudged back and forth carrying them imdcr
cover. On rainy days, and sometimes nights, he
"set" them in the kiln. Wheelbarrows were not
introduced into the town tintil 1S43. William Devinc


was the first owner. He liad two made for his yard,
but like every other labor sa\-inL;- deviee. these bar-
rows were looked u])on with siispieion. Orrin AVarner
more than onee was heard to say "he euuld mold




more brick in a day than could the Hall machine,"
and Colonel ]£lea-/er AVarncr just as stt)Utly declared
he could carry more bricks in his arms oft" tl':e yard,
and easier, than (Mie could wheel in a barrow. It is
not said that either of these irascible old <^'entlemen
ever made a test of their claims except with their

The "season" closed in the early fall; October
was the usual month. The entire summer's product
was set in a single kiln. Then came "burnini^" time."
This was a hilarious event. It was looked forward to
with jrreat interest b}' certain of the community as
an occasion when rum, if e\'er, was needed to success-
fullv do the job. Everybody then connected with
the kiln was hapj))' but the owner; he was commonly
overwhelmed with anxiety lest his volunteer help
become so iitterly intoxicated as to endanger his
entire seast)n's wcjrk by nei;"lect. Such instances
were not infrec^uent.

"Boss burners" were in <4'reat demand, and as the
supply was limited there was much rivalry arid back-
biting over their possession. When one of these
"professionals" was secured there was no positive
assurance that success would attend his efforts. A
"i;"ood burn " fifty years ag"o, and even later, was a
rarity. It seems to have lieen more the result of luck
than calculation. No attenticni was paid to the ele-
ments of clays. Chemical agencies were unknown.
Fire was simpl}^ set to the kiln, and held for such
period as each "boss" considered sufficient. If
chance i^ave a good result the "burner " was looked
up to as a wonderful man; on the other hand if the
kiln proved "soft" or " swelled '' he was almost as
wonderful, for he co;ild argue to a hair's breath that
no other human being could liave gotten anything
at all out of it.

Nowadays the foreman who makes a " j^oor burr, "
receives his death warrant. Too much is involved in


the necessary seven or eight days' firing of kilns
containing- from half a million to frequently a mil-
lion of bricks, to leave anything to luck. Everything
is most carefully studied, every move most cautioiisly
made, liquor is prohibited and none but experienced
assistants allowed. As a consequence little uneasi-
ness is felt concerning results, and the quality of
kilns may be often predicted while they are white
with heat.

The next advance was in the development of a
complete automatic machine, such as can be seen at
present on modern yards. Into this the raw mater-
ials, water, clay and coal, are fed in suitable propor-
tions and from which emerges the steady delivery of
three thousand to four thousand finely-sliaped bricks
per hour. Each mold, as it is forced from the press,
is seized and "dumped " upon a short, narrow board
called a pallet. These pallets with their contents are
placed upon double-decked trucks, wheeled to their
places and placed in immense racks to dry. Here
they remain for several days until sufficiently hard
to " set." At this stage the sun-dried bricks have
attained considerable cohesiveness ; they may be
handled roughly and will resist great pressure.
They are then removed from the pallets and wheeled
to the kiln sheds.

The old-fashioned kilns were pigmies in compari-
son with those of modern make. Formerly it was
not customary to build them over twenty-one or
twenty-two bricks in height (height being deter-
mined by the width of a brick, as all are set on
their edges). This did not place the top of the kiln
much over eight feet froni the ground. In the day
of the Hon. Ezra Stiles, an "arch" rarel}'- held over
nine thousand bricks. He vividly recalls one occa-
sion on which he "set" two and a half arches in
one day, receiving two d(jllars and a half as his

3 1 6 NOR Til HA YEN A NNA LS.

A few years later the height of the kilns be;4a:i :.,
be increased, though with misgivings that the lire
would never work its way through to the top. K\.
perience proved the contrary, and they have stcadilv
been mounting up until it is thought about the limit
in fifty has been reached, not but that the fire coiiK:
be carried higher, but the enormous weight on tlu
bottom courses begins to be felt. Unless the brickv
are very dry there comes a tendency to crush an<l
break. This is not strange when one reflects that a
sun-dried brick weighs not far from six pounds, sc
that when fifty are laid upon each other a pressure
of three hundred pounds is found at the bottom. l'>y
a system of "breaking joints" in laying thera, this
pressure is evenly distributed, though considerable
waste occurs.

There can be no comparison between the plants
of 1790 to 1890. The former were so diminutive, the
latter so extended, one can hardly believe the two
were designed for the same end. Within the town
limits the works of I. L. Stiles & Son are entitled to
first place. They have been established more than :i
quarter of a century.

Here is an extensive yard equipped in all res-
pects with such appliances as have been found t<>
stand the test of actual service. Only building and
sewer brick are manufactured. Upon yard No. 1,
near the depot, the main shed is five hundred feet in
length by seventy in breadth, with a capacity of four
millions at once, but as brick in all stages of con-
struction are constantly passing through it, it is cal-
culated it is filled and emptied at least three times in
a year. The drying yard contains 125,000 square feet
entirely covered with " racks." These racks or framo
are built in rows and are accessible from both sides.
They contain 3,000 " chambers ;" each chamber holds
thirty-three pallets, and each pallet holds six bricks.
Every tier of racks is independent of the others, and

Isaac L. Stiles.



has a separate roof as protection from the storms.
Under these roofs hundreds of birds find shelter in
the winter months.

The motive power is supplied by steam. Five
first-class presses, a score of horses and a hundred
"hands," more or less, make up the personnel of the
plant when in working- order. The season usually
commences in April and ends in November. The
laborers are a sandwich of Italians, Poles, Hung'ar-
ians and a few Canadians. Wages are graded accord-
ing to the quality of the work performed, ranging
from $35 to $50 per month.

Aside from this force is that of the teamsters who
are engaged in the delivery of the finished product
with some forty horses. This department is kept
busy the year through. Thousands of cords of wood
are drawn, in addition to the shipments of brick. A
side track the entire length of the kilns enables the
railroad company to place cars, on which the bulk of
the manufactiired article finds its way to market.
No middlemen are concerned in the sales, nor are
any brick placed on commission.

This firm also possess two other yards, one of half
the capacity just mentioned and the other an " open
yard," w-here "pressed brick " are made. These lat-
ter compare favorably with the " Philadelphias " or
" Trentons." The method of manufacture is much
the same as for pallet bricks except that the dimeil
sions are larger, and a peculiar sand containing a
percentage of yellow ochre is freely mixed with the
clay. When partially dry the bricks are run through
a second press, under great pressure, and brought
to the required size, besides giving a smooth, even
surface and sharply defined edges. Each brick is
handled separately, with extreme care, and when
burned shows a dark cherry-red color. They are in
constant demand for both inside and external finish,
and for ornamental purposes. Whereas at one time


there were a dozen or more yards in operation in tin.
town, the manufacture now rests with three concern-.
I. L. Stiles & Son, Brockett & Todd and Thomas Cody.
Experience has shown that small yards are not a
success, and that as much study and science must
be brought into play to secure the best results as in
any other line of manufacturing.




Prior to 1760 but little is known of the medical
history of the parish. In that year Dr. Walter Mun-
son came here and is the first kno\Yn practitioner. In
1790 he was the regularly established physician of
the town. In the latter year, a rival entered his
field, in the person of Dr. Joseph Foot, born in North-
ford, Conn., 1770.

Dr. Foot was hopeful and enthusiastic, and his
devotion to his calling, gave him in a brief time a
place among the North Haven people. Dr. Munson
abandoned the field in a few years and his successor
thus became fully installed as the " town physician."
He purchased of the widow of the tory Lemuel Brad-
ley, the corner, now kn-own as the Cowles property,
and in 1794 began the erection of the present

Having made a home ready, he married Mary
Bassett of Hamden, February 16, 1797. Miss Bassett
was the only child of a wealthy farmer, whose domain
is said to have extended from Quinnipiac river on the
east to Mill river on the west.

Dr. Griggs says of her: " She came to do her hus-
band good; she was a prudent woman from the Lord;
she was not content to promote his temporal inter-
ests, she endeavored to win him to Christ by her own
consistent piety."

These counsels, it is recorded, he did not always
heed. It was not until hej death, after only four
years of married life, in which two children, Mary


and Jared, were born, that he realized her va;;.^
Her loss proved in a measure his salvation, li.
became thoughtfuh attentive to his Bible, and a j,.;;
ticipant in many religious duties.

His second wife was Eunice Foote of North ford
Conn., second cousin to him and likewise a descciKi
ant of Nathaniel Foote. Her he married |anuar\
26, 1803. Four children were born of this union:

Emily, March 13, :?04.

Lavinia, September 16, 1S06.

Eunice, July i, 1S09.

William, November 6, iSii.

Of these Eunice married the Rev. Orson Cowh-
and is the sole survivor of her father's famih-.

As a physician his skill early won for him tliL
confidence of the public. He was hig-hly esteenKH:
by his medical brethren. His specialty was tlK
treatment of febrile diseases.

At his advent here, his sole possessions were a
horse and a watch. He accumulated a goodlv proj'-
erty by his industry. His circuit was not confined t.
North Haven, for he frequently visited Durban!,
Wallingford, Cheshire, North Branford, "Dragon,"
Hamden, and had he so chosen, could have farthi.;-
widened his area of practice. His charges wen.
moderate, from twenty-five cents to half a dollar
being the usual' fee for a professional call, except ir.
cases at long distance. The main stock remedies 1:<.
always carried, esteeming it a hardship to compel h:>
patrons to ride to New Haven for medicines whici';
he could easily carry in his " saddle-bags " or tin bo.\.
He died April 24, 1S36, aged 66 years, and was buried
in the old cemetery. An imposing red granite
obelisk marks his resting place, on the south face oi
which is written :


Dr. Foote's successor was Dr. Anson Moody, ft
the town of Ware, Mass. Shortlv after the former'.-


(k-ath a public meeting was held, and a pressing invi-
tation extended to Dr. bloody to visit North Haven,
and, if agreeable, establish himself here. It was
j^-uaranteed that a practice of a thousand dollars a
year could be secured, and the Rev. Mr. Griggs and
others pledged themselves to make tip any deficiency
under that sum, other things being equal. Dr. Moody
came at once. He remained until 1S48, removing
then to New Haven, where he died.


Dr. Austin Lord was born in Mai'lborough, Conn.
He was graduated at Yale College (medical depart-
ment) in 1844, and commenced the practice of medi-
cine in his native place. There he remained until
1849. During this time he became acquainted with
the noted temperance lecturer. Dr. Charles Jewett,
and was himself a speaker of considerable repute.
Dr. Jewett was expecting to locate in North Haven,
but circumstances compelled him to abandon the pro-
ject. He tiirned at once to his friend Lord, insisting
there was a good opening for him in this locality.
The young doctor came, looked the field over, and
decided to remove hither. This he did April 9, 1849.
He found Dr. Chauncey B. Foote, a relative of Dr.
Joseph Foote, here with a limited constituency, but
had no difficulty in . at once entering upon a good
practice. His present residence was erected in 185 1.
The fine elms in front show what a bower of beauty
the village streets might be to-day had the property
owners of forty years ago followed his example.

Dr. Lord secured a wide range of patronage.
Himself and wife united by letter with the Congre-
gational Church in 1S53. In addition to his knowl-
edge of medicine, he possessed fine musical taste,
and his advice and assistance was freely sought and
given, particularly in the line of sacred music. He
still retains a portion of .his practice, in spite of
advancing years.



Dr. R. F. Stillman was born in the State of X,
York in 1S15. After his graduation as an M. I). ;.c
married Rebecca, daughter of Colonel Eleazcr \V;>r.
ner, of this town, and returned to his native ])];n.
In a short time, at the solicitation of his fathcr-ir.
law, he transferred his practice to North Haven. Jii
arrived here in 1851, and entered the field as a riv.,:
of Dr. Lord, above mentioned. In politics he was a
Democrat, serving upon the board of selectmen :::
1861-2. He secured a good reputation as a praeii
tioner, and died in 1879.


Robert Beardsley Goodyear, the fourth of sevt:i
sons of Bela Goodyear, was born in North Haven in
1835. His early education was obtained for the most
part in the public schools. Later he becanae a suc-

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 24 of 32)