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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host who worshiped therein .'

The ideal construction of this humble edifice
places a gallery upon the north end known as the
"front gallery," and another upon only the east side,



28



NORTH HA YEN ANNALS.



as the "side gallery;" it fixes the pulpit at the south
end of the building facing "the square body;" it
makes this square body occupy nearly all the floor
area, with an " alley " running around the outside of
it; on the east side of the pulpit it provides for the
" short seats " mentioned, and on the west side, or in
the south-west corner, it builds Mr. Wetmore's pew,
the only one in the meeting-house (see vote). Between
this pew and the pulpit was the south door. The main
entrance was the west door. The stairs to the gal-
leries rose at the north end. This plan bnilds ilt).
chimney, and furnishes only wooden benches for sit-
ting accommodation. Such an arrangement, in short,
would provide for light, for economy of room, for
such comfort as they could furnish. Rude as it seems
to us, it was palatial to them, and we hear them say-
ing like the patriarch of old, " this is none other but
the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
Again and again in those early days were its gates
lifted up with song and thanksgiving, and the King
of Glory did there enter in.
Where did it stand }

At or near the center of the tract devised to them
by Mr. Pierpont, then called " The Market Place,"

later on, "The
Green," and now
Pierpont Park. If
anything, the exact
location approached
a little more to the
north and west than
to the other bound-
aries, unless en-
croachments have
changed the north
and west lines. That
trespasses of this
nature did occur we




FIRST MEETING-HOUSE. NORTH HAVEN,

CONN. ERECTED 171S.

(Ideal Representation).

Location, south-west corner prescivt old cemetery.



NORTH HA VEN ANNALS.



29



shall see later. It is a fair inference that they built
the meeting-house in the center of tlieir grant, the
burying ground being on the north half, and the
parade or *' market place " on the south. This de-
duction is confirmed by the report which a commit-
tee made in 1739 in locating their second meeting-
house, an extract from said report reading as fol-
lows: "The said society shall set their meeting house
(new one), which is about ten rods southward from
their old meeting house," etc. The first building
doubtless faced the west, from the fact that the oldest
burying grounds are mostly in the rear of the
churches, and in this case the "country road" run-
ning north and south would naturally carry the edi-
fice on the east side.

This would place the location, then, not far from
the south-west corner of the present old cemetery.

We must now return and consider the spirit-
ual growth and work of the society. In January,
17 17, they laid their first tax of a half penny on the
pound " to be laid out for the ministerial charge," and
it was " agreed on that the above rate shall be
improved by the com'tee to accommodate a minister
that shall preach among them." Having in some man-
ner heard of a ]\Ir. Wetmore * in Northfield, Mass., they
sent a "person " (unknown) up there to make applica-
tion for his services among them, and in April, 17 17,
it was " agreed on by y° society that they will give
unto Mr. Wetmore y° sum of sixty pounds by y* year
if he come and carry on y* work of y'' ministry among
them, to be paid him in money or provisions."

Between the last named date and August 19, same
year, Mr. Wetmore arrived and commenced his labors.
It was after they had listened to him a little time that
they passed that quaint resolution, " that they sit
very easie under Mr. Wetmore's ministry and doe

•James Wetmore. Born at Middletowii, Conn., 1695. Educated at Yale College
(Saybrook). His grandfather Thomas was a native of Wales.







NOBIH HA YEN ANNALS.



desire his further continuance among them." They
also at this meeting voted to give him two pence on
the pound as his yearly salary.

It would seem that the latter inducement was
hardly satisfactory to their reverend leader, for in
November — three months later — they made an addi-
tional proposition to him, which was accepted:
" Agreed on by y" society to give to Mr. Wetmore y^
sum of one hundred and fifty pounds in money or in
grain, to be paid to him as he receives his salary, to be
paid to him in order to his settlement amongst them,
to be paid to him within the space of three years; y"
first 50 pounds to be paid at or before y 14 day of
June, 1718— y° second 50 pounds to be paid y* 15 day
of June, 1719 — y* third 50 pounds to be paid to him at
or before y' 15 day of June, 1720." This ;^i5o was
" settlement money," a sum entirely outside of the
yearly salary of sixty pounds. Two weeks later they
further promised that when their new meeting-house
was completed and the ^150 paid, which they sup-
posed would be within five years, they would raise
their minister's stipend to ;;^8o yearly, and they
" agreed on alsoe that Mr. Wetmore shall have his fire-
wood of them soe long as he shall continue in y'' work
of y" ministry amongst them." Nathaniel Thorp, Sr.,
was employed " for one pound for a year to beat y^
drum on y^ Sabbath da3's." Thus piece by piece did
they provide their ecclesiastical machinery, till all was
in complete order, waiting the time when their build-
ing should be ready for occupation.

This condition of things lasted nearly a year under
Mr. Wetmore's acting pastorate, when either he or
they became solicitous about his ordination. At a
meeting in August, 171s* it was "agreed on by }•* soci-
ety that they will send persons to Mr. Wetmore to
desire him to goe on with y' work of y" ministry in
order to his settlement among them in time, supposing
he desire to lead them on in y* methods y* New



KORTU EAVEX AXyALS. 31

Haven church have or doth now practice;" and "a
cum'ttee was chosen to discourse with Mr. Wet-
more concerning y^ ordination, namely Lieut. Daniel
Barnes, Mr. Nathaniel Yale, John Granniss, William
Tiittle, and Samuel Todd."

Three weeks later, at a meeting, they ratified the
appointment of these gentlemen by the advice of their
minister, and instructed them "to take care of y"
management of y' ordination."

No further reference is made in the parish records
to Mr. Wetmore's settlement, and he doubtless was
ordained, or installed, in the fall of 17 18, or nearly
four years before their meeting-house was ready for
his occupancy. '

At the time of Mr. Wetmore's ordination we may
assume the frame of the meeting-house as well under
way, perhaps already up. But this building did not
attract all the attention of the settlers. Long before
it was finished the ring of the broad-axe was heard at
the south end of the market place, and the newly set-
tled pastor was building himself a house. Nothing
indicates that he received any pecuniary aid from his
parish in so doing, or that they had any claim on it as
a parsonage. It was probably a private enterprise of
Mr. Wetmore's, who, being placed over his little
charge, intended to settle down and perhaps end his
days with them. In its day this dwelling was as pre-
tentious as any in the settlement, probably more so.

Its style characterized the period in which it was
built. There was the high, bold front facing the east,
with the long sweeping roof to the rear. The gable
looked out on the market place. This position of the
house gives rise to the question why it did not front
on the society's property containing church, military
parade ground and burying place. It was not custom-
ary then to place the gable of a dwelling house to the
street; such a position was almost unknown in New
England, and the position of a house about as cer-



32 NORTH IIA VEK ANNALS.

tainly located the direction of the highway in front of
it, as does the trend of the magnetic needle the place
of the pole star. We are thus forced to the conclu-
sion that an ancient thoroughfare at the time of the
erection of the house passed in front of it, instead of
in the rear, and that adherence to the old custom
made Mr. Wetmore ignore the perhaps rough tract
called " The Green " on his left and front his mansion
on the public street.

Its timbers were of oak and of massive size. The
chimney was an immense structure of stone about
twelve feet square in the cellar and to the first floor,
and thence built of brick laid in shell lime. It began
to diminish in size above the fireplace and oven on
the first floor, except on the west face in the second
story where an ample smoke-house for family use was
constructed. In most chimneys of that day each fire-
place had its own separate flue, as many brick parti-
tions being built as were necessary for this purpose.
Where were the brick obtained ?— probably at the old
yard at Cedar Hill once owned by Governor Eaton,
with a bare possibility that some were of English
make, as the impoi:tation of this material was not un-
common. The exterior was finished with oak clap-
boards and either oak or chestnut shingles. Later, the
latter were used exclusively, but it is not so certain
about it early in 1700. At some period it was painted
red.

The plan provided for two rooms in front, one on
either side of a small hall, and a third extending the
entire length of the house in the rear, and known as
the kitchen. The chimney was not planted in the
exact center of the building, but nearer the front.
This was arbitrary for two reasons: The " linten
roof" did not carry the ridge board in the center
of the building, and as the chimney, by custom,
emerged on this line, and the laws of gravitation were
not tampered with as in the present day, it necessarily



NORTH HA VEN ANNALS. ^;^

occupied the place it did; and, secondly, all the room
possible was needed for the kitchen in the rear. In
this old kitchen was an immense fireplace and brick
oven. The outside door was likewise broad and high.
At either end of this family apartment was a smaller
one, the bedroom on the sunny end, and the pantry
opposite, or the "buttery," in stricter parlance. An
outside door opened near the front corner of the
" south room." The second story was divided in much
the same manner as the first. The interior wood-
work was mainly of whitewood. Only a few feet
away was the well, in service to-day, and growing" such
a wealth of ferns as to provoke the admiration of every
drawer of water therefrom.

The only ornamental work apparently was the stair
rail and balusters leading up from the front hall;
these were of oak and handsomely wrought. There is
also a wooden panel in the possession of George W.
Stiles (fifth generation from Rev. Isaac), on which is
painted a landscape, or " sea piece," rather, containing
the figure of a lighthouse and other matter. This panel
adorned the mantel-piece in the north front room. Tra-
dition assigns its painting to a later period than the
building of the house and makes it contemporary with
the ornamentation of the " sounding board " in the
second meeting-house, somewhere about 1740. The
attic was unfinished, as were also the rear chambers.
The window frames were of the usual size, but the '
sashes were framed to fit the small lights of glass then
in use. These lights were imported, some of them
being of fearful and wonderful make. They were
ribbed, knotty, unequal in thickness, splashed with
bubbles and full of lenses capable of revealing the
most astonishing optical gymnastics; at one view,
careening the earth in spite of all laws midway into
the heavens; at another, spinning the perspective of
the highway out into infinity, as if the farther end of
the road ended in the clouds* and at the Celestial City.
3



34



NORTH HA VER ANNALS.



Such, in brief, was the first ministerial domicile
built in the parish by the Rev. James Wetmore about
1720, sold to the society by him at his dismissal 1722,
transferred to the Rev. Isaac Stiles 1724, inherited b}-
Ashbel Stiles at his father's death 1760, and lastly
occupied by Hervey Stiles, of the fourth generation
from the worthy divine, until its demolition about
1850.

The completion of the meeting - house was proba-
bly reached in the winter or spring" of 1722.

Nothing is said about its dedication; it is not likely
there was any. The blessing of inanimate objects in
that day obtained little or no favor with the settlers,
but we shall do no violence to their memory when we
believe it was with devout thankfulness they entered
their new temple and for the first time invoked the
Lord of Hosts to meet with them and make their hum-
ble structure his dwelling place through all their gen
erations. Little did they think how short would be
their stay within those walls, nor how abundantly the
Lord would bless and build up the Zion they had
planted.

Reader, if you are a citizen of this village, as you
pass along to your place of worship on the next Sun-
day morning, tread slowly while you look out over
the old market place of other days. If the June sun
be shining, remember that it shone on as fair a scene
one hundred and sixty-seven years ago. Picture the lit-
tle church, the central figure in the landscape; see the
fringe of noble oaks about it, old then, and the frame
in which it is set. Mark the stillness; no rumble of
wagon, no rush of cars, no sound even of human
voices. The breeze is mild, the leaves tremble, the
birds sing, but this is not noise; it brings rest, it
seems but silence, it is the breathless expectation of
waiting in nature's great cathedral for some solemn
service to begin. Listen,! What ? a drum ? Yes. Yonder
through the trees comes Nathaniel Thorp, with his



1779159

NORTH HA VEN ANNALS. 35

drum, beating the " second call." He has made the
circuit of the parade two hours before as a warning
and into that announcement he entered with surpris-
ing deftness and vigor, but now, as the time draws near
for the people to gather, he lessens the volume of his
strokes somewhat and will not distract the attention
of the approaching worshipers by overmuch zeal. It
is the hour of ten on their Sabbath day. Here and
there across the fields and adown the streets, lo, the
people are gathering; some are on horseback, but most
on foot; and they have come from the "Blew Hills,"
from " The Pines," from " Aluddy River," from " Whar-
ton's Brook," and from the "Half Mile." Their dress
how quaint, their manners how formal, their very
speech how singular. Life, life, is a terribly earnest
thing with them, and its grim front echoes back from
their faces the sternness of the foe they are fighting.
We may not gossip with them, for they are but
shadows, but we can watch the wondrous panorama.
From the north comes Bradley, Blaksly, Ives and their
neighbors; from the east. Smith, Todd and others;
from the south, Brockett, Barns, Beach, Sanford,
Cooper, etc.; from the west, Granniss, Heaton, Tuttle,
Humaston, Yale. Last of all, with eyes bent down,
slowly pacing up the parade, comes their pastor. The
beat of the drum grows fainter as he nears the sacred
place, and as he passes over the threshold it ceases;
the drummer follows, the door closes, and preacher
and people are before each other and their God.

But we must leave this realm of shadows and fan-
cies and turn again to the more stern and unimagina-
tive surroundings of this people. There is a peculiar
clause in the " call " which the society extended to
Mr. Wetmore, which, under the turn of events that fol-
lowed seems significant. After rehearsing their wish
that he become their pastor, they add, " suppos-
ing he desire to lead them, on in y" methods y" New
Haven church have or doth now practice."



36 NORTH HAVEN AXN A LS.

The question has been asked when did Mr. Wet-
more begin to turn from Congregationalism to Episco-
pacy ? Could he as an honest man and servant of the
Lord have accepted the post offered him unless posi-
tively certain he could comply with the conditions (for
there were conditions) of the call ? Certainly not. The
clergy of the colonies were its strength and its
defense. They were to be sincerely believed and
implicitly trusted, and we must do Mr. Wetmore the
justice to acknowledge that at his ordination he fully
endorsed the belief of the church over which he was
placed. Moreover, the "councils" called on such
occasions . to examine and settle candidates, were
uncommonly inquisitive as to the orthodoxy of their
ranks, and had they detected the least uncertain ring
about his belief, it would have worked to his discom-
fiture. No, we must either accord Mr. Wetmore sound
in the creed he upheld or a dissembler of the most
subtle dye; the latter view is not worthy of a thought.

But however sincere at his ordination, his feelings
began to undergo a change immediately thereafter.
The roseate hue of the aft'airs of the new church in
the spring of 1722 commenced to deepen during the
summer, going through all the gradations from light-
est to darkest tone, and at last in the late fall shading
off into the blackness of a thunder cloud.

But we let the following record tell its own tale:

"At a meeting of y* society November y^ 9-1722.
To Mr. Wetmore,

Reverend Sir:

This society, being grieved at sundry things that
have happened among us, upon which the major part
of y* society did signifie their dissatisfaction by send-
ing a paper of that nature to yourself, and y" just
article in y' aforesaid paper was what we have heard
and soe explain this article: We heard that you
douted y'' validity of your Presbyterian ordination,
and that you did say you did count Episcopal ordina-



NORTH HAVEN ANNALS. 37

tion preferable, and we alsoe heard that yoti have
highly commended the church of England, as we call
it, to some among us, and signified a Low Esteem on
this way of church managements that we have bin
conversant in, which we esteem to be a good argument
that yourself is persuaded that way to be y^ best, or
else we esteem such practices to be very rong: The
next thing is what we see and it is this we see that
many wise and Reverend men among us are grieved
at y* declaration made by yourself and others, We
also see yourself to be a Companion of them that have
Declared themselves to be fully persuaded in y"
aforesaid way or preparation and how can two walk
together Except they are agreed. The next thing is
what we have reason to fear, and it is seeing our
foundation thus struck att we did count that we
had reason to fear that our foundation would be
greatly shaken if not thrown Down: we did count
that we had reason to fear that we might be snared
and taken in wayes that was Contray to our minds,
and Reverend Sir we have this further to say that
when the news of our dissatisfaction was made known
to yourself you Cast Considerable Reflections in our
Esteem on those that manifested Their Dissatisfac-
tion by calling them a mobb and a riot and a Disorder
with many other words signifying your great Dislike
att our Dissatisfaction which things are evidence and
can be proved. We doe not Esteem ourselves to
Desire such Reflections from yourself, but do count
we have just grounds to be dissatisfied, and altho y"
Revd. Trustees did send their advice to Receive our
Pastor into our Love and Charity again, we doe not
Esteem their advice to have any Reference to some
of y* foregoing articles of Dissatisfaction and there-
fore we remain Dissatisfied yet.

Y* above written voted in the affirmative."
The promulgation of this "Dissatisfaction" was
precipitated by the startling petition which Mr.



38 . NORTH HA VEN ANNALS.

Wetmore and others had presented to the faculty of
Yale College in September, 1722. Herein they say:

To the Rev. Mr. Andrew and Woodbridge and others, our Rev-
erend Fathers and Bretheren present in the Hbrary of Yale
College this 13th day of September, 1722 :
Reverend Gentlemen:

Having represented to you the difficulties which we labor un-
der in relation to our continuance out of the visible communion
of an Episcopal church, and a state of seeming opposition thereto,
either as private citizens or as officers, and so being insisted on
by some of you (after our repeated declinings of it) that we should
sum up our case in writing we do (though with great reluctance
fearing the consequence of it) submit to and comply with it,
and signify to you that some of us doubt the validity, and the
rest are more fully persuaded of the invalidity of the Presbyte-
rian ordination in opposition to the Episcopal, and should be
heartily thankful to God and man, if we may receive from them
satisfaction herein, and shall be willing to embrace your good
counsels and instructions in relation to this important affair as
far as God shall direct and dispose us to it.

Timothy Cutler,
Jared Eliot,
John Hart,
Daniel Brown,
Sa.muel Whittlesey,
Samuel Johnson,
James Wetmore.

This was the fire-brand sent through the standing
corn of the Congregationalists.

Good old Nathaniel Yale, the watch dog that
would bay any heresy on the slightest provocation,
sprang to the defense at once. He was not only the
presiding officer of "y* north society meeting" in
1716, but he was made chairman of the " Com'tee to
make their application to y'= Rev. Mr. Andrews for his
advice in order to having a minister among them.'
In 17 1 7 he was chairman of a " Com'tee to take care
of }-* society affaires, which, as they were about to
build their first meeting-house, needed no inconsidera-
ble attention." In 17 18 he was chairman of the



NORTH HA VEN ANNALS. 39

" Com'tee on y' minister's rate and settlement." This
included the ordination of the Rev. Mr. Wetmore. Not
content with thus burdening- this ageing servant of
theirs, he was further appointed on the " Com'tee to
receive y" money which y* south society (New
Haven) promised to refund back." In 17 19 he was
again elected on "y" societie's com'tee," and so con-
tinued as their agent. There was too much of the
old puritan in him to sit quietly under that Septem-
ber petition, and without doubt he was the author of
the following November protest hurled with such
force at his pastor.

Of the signers * of this declaration- it is believed
the Rev. Samiiel Whittlesey, of Wallingford, was as
active as any and exercised considerable influence
over the North Haven pulpit. Davis says a packet
of books was sent from the mother country by some
friend of the Church of England, and that it was cus-
tomary from time to time for a number of the clergy
to gather in the college library and examine them.
Here, then, is the clue and a possible answer to the
question of the time of Mr. Wetmore's defection.

Returning now to the parish, the annual meeting
was held four weeks later than the issuance of the
remonstrance in question. At this meeting they
voted "to call a civil council of rhinisters and mes-
sengers to hear, consider and determine the differ
ences between our pastor and ourselves." They were
.not all agreed in this cotirse, however, for Simon Tut-
tle (previously mentioned), Joshua Ray and Abram
Blakeslee entered their dissent from such action,
nevertheless Nathaniel Yale, John Sanford, Joseph
Ives, Sergeant Moses Blaksly and Joseph Bradley
"were chosen a com'tee to wait on y° Reverend Gen-
tlemen rtlent in y*^ above vote."

We must suppose this council was convened at
once. The charge was a serious one. Consternation

*0f the seven signers, three remained in the Congregational faith, and four
received Fpiscopal orders in England.



40



NORTH HAVEN ANNALS.



was felt in all the colony and it was not without
alarm and painful anxiety that the watchers on the
walls of Zion saw Nathaniel Yale and his sturdy
associates boldly throw down the gage of battle and
challenge the enemy in their midst. It was reserved
for the little parishes of Wallingford and North
Haven to claim the distinction of being the first battle
grounds in the New Haven colony whereon such
an issue was fought. Paradoxical as it may seem
both sides secured a victory. The check to Episco-
pacy was but temporary, and its antagonist from
fighting it, in a short time came to grant it many
favors.

Of the proceedings of the Council no minutes
exist, to the writer's knowledge, and no judgment is
entered on the records of the society. The sole evi-
dence of the result of the conference appears in the
minutes of a special society meeting held at the
house of Mr. Yale, January i6th, 1723, where it was
" agreed by y° society that they will take up with y'
sum of fifty pounds as a Refundment from Mr. Wet-
more, on y' account of y' hundred and fifty pounds



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 3 of 32)