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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paid to him on y° account of his settlement among
them, provided he desist from his offis amongst
them." But evidently there was some counter action
to this, for they changed it at the same meeting and
made him the following proposition: "Agreed on by
y* society that they are willing Mr. James Wetmore
their late pastor, leave them upon these tearms:
That he return to them y" sum of forty-five pounds
in this way: that he discharge them of twenty
pounds of his arrearages and render to them twenty-
five pounds more within the tearm of eighteen months
from this date or before y" expiration of y'' tearm
provided he sell his house sooner; he giving security
for y* above said twenty-five pounds."

Either one or both, parties proved refractory, for a
long period elapsed and it was not till a little after


the annual meeting in Dec, 1723, or something- over a
vear from the first outbreak of the trouble, that the
terms of the settlement were made mutually satisfac-
tory. Then they settled in this wise: "Agreed on
bv y society that they will pay to Mr. Wetmore y*
sum of ten pounds upon the following conditions,
namely, if he discharge all of y'' bills that are now
in y- hands of y* treasurer and if he gives y* society
a full discharge." Thus their financial relations were
balanced and the separation became complete.*

It must be borne in mind through all this unhappy
controversy that there appears a singular freedom
from such demoralizing agencies as frequently in
later days attend differences between pastor and peo-
ple. Except for the vigorous, unequivocal language
of the Protest, there is not a line of passion or acri-
mony in all the known proceedings. Neither were
they overwhelmed by these experiences. On the con-
trary, new life and vigor appear to have been born of
their trial. They were not idle, not discouraged. The
ink was scarcely dry in the quill that wrote the Pro-
test, and so dismissed Mr. Wetmore, before they had
a committee out in sea'rch of a new minister. They
bought "the house, barn and living" of their ex-
pastor. They multiplied in numbers; they grew in
strength till the vine that was so feebly planted but a
few years before, extended its branches through all
their borders to the grateful shading of the people.

Nathaniel Yale had preserved intact, as he and his
associates understood it, "the faith once delivered to
the saints."

A year, more or less, was spent in securing a min-
ister, and when at last the Rev. Isaac Stiles " soe well
satisfied" the little struggling society that he was
settled over it, as we shall presently see, it is not

•The Rev. Mr. Wetmore accepted a call to the Episcopal church in Rye, N. V.,
June 7, 1726. He remained there an honored preacher (or upwards of thirty years.
Died of small pox, May 15, 1760. A monumental tablet in the old cemetery marks bis
resting place there.


improbable that Nathaniel Yale had passed from the
church militant to the church triumphant. His me-
morial is his steadfastness; there is no other of him,
nay, his name even does not appear on the church
catalogue of his generation.


The first cemetery was established by vote of the
parish in 1720. Previous to this time all burials had
been made in New Haven. It was sometimes the case
that temporary interment was made near the home of
the deceased until a convenient time came for the
removal of the body to the place of common sepulture.
It is a curious psychological fact that the human race
under all conditions elects to be buried in groups.

But before considering this ancient burial place in
detail, a word concerning some usages in connection
with illness and death will not be out of season. The
burial customs of that day differed essentially from
those of the present generation. Especially is this
true in cities, but it may be Cjuestioned if anything in
sincerity and respect has been gained by the change.
People were not so plenty then that one could quietly
drop away from a community and leave no gap. The
sick in the neighborhood were anxiously inquired
after; and if their farm work suffered, a "spell" was
given them and their crops attended to. If they
needed "watchers," offers were freely made, and by
persons at long distances; and if, in spite of all this
care and solicitude, the dread summons came, as it
often did, it was the custom for the men to suspend
active work for a few hours, and if the party was
somewhat prominent, sometimes for the remainder of
the day. In later years, if a death occurred during
the day, the church bell was struck at sunset three
times if a male, twice if a female and once if a child.
If the same event happened in the night, similar



notice was given at sunrise ; later in the morning-
the bell was tolled, the strokes being timed and cor-
responding with the age of the deceased. Rare
instances are given when the bell was tolled at the
earliest moment after dissolution, whether night or

Funerals were the occasion of large assemblages.
No condition of crops, no hurry of business, no stress
of weather, was allowed to prevent attendance. There
was no levity, no unconcern on such occasions. Every
person, unless a very recent comer, was known to
every other person in the community, though miles
often separated their dwellings. The society and
the town meetings, the lecture and the church ser-
vices, and more than all, the constant struggle on
the border land of toil, sacrifice, privation, danger,
and denyings innumerable, knit a brotherhood that
ease and wealth never knew. The funeral service
varied at the wish of the family or the discretion of
the minister. Singing was rarely, if ever, heard on
such occasions. Sermons were common on the fol-
lowing Lord's Day, having special reference to the
event. Every one expected to attend the procession
to the "burying ground." There was no hearse. Until
about 1 7 So, coffins were brought from New Haven.
There was no professional undertaker to arrange
matters; the family generally designated some one to
"take charge." The body was carried on a bier by
four men, and if very heavy and a long distance was
to be traveled, the " bearers " were relieved by others
on the way. When wagons came into use about 1800,
the bier was occasionally carried on them. The latter
was an oak frame about eight feet long and three
feet wide, painted black; it rested on posts eighteen
to twenty inches from the ground; the ends of the
outside frame or bars were smoothed down for
handles, and by these it was either carried at arms'
length or raised to men's shoulders. A black cloth,


known as a pall, was spread over it and its burden.
In the " Proprietors' Records " of New Haven occurs
this entry:

Mr. Jonathan Atvvater having freely offered to y' Towne a
Cloath to be servisable at funerals, y said Cloath to be kept at
y house of Ensign Isaac Dickerman, and when upon any occa-
sion feched from said house, to be carefully returned thither

In some communities it was the custom to leave
the bier standing on the grave last made until next
needed, but in this parish, in the latter years of its
existence it was kept in the lower room of the tower
of the old Congregational church. Many now living
vividly recall its use in their own family lines. As
late as 1820 Mr. Joel Todd, grandfather of F. Hayden
Todd, was carried from his home on one, and there
may have been even later occasions, yet about that
time it was superseded by the hearse of Mr. Frederic

There was no exterior case for the coffin and as a
rule no handles but coarse ropes. It was made com-
monly of whitewood stained a dull red, sometimes of
cherry, and in rare instances mahogany entered into
its construction. In some places it was customary
when the bearers had deposited their burden along-
side the open grave, for the children of the deceased
(if capable) to step forward and lower their parent
into the last resting place, then a bundle of straw
was spread on the narrow hoitse and all stood by
until the grave was filled.

That the average rate of mortality was low in the
parish, judging by attainable evidence, we may be-
lieve. There died in 1723 one, 1724 none, 1725 five.
Of this latter number w^as Jonathan Tuttle, settler
and bridge builder, Simon Tuttle, the whilom "dis-
senter" (?), and Nathaniel Thorp, the drummer. In
1726, five, chief among whom was Dea. Samuel Ives,
the colleague of David Yale. In that year died also



December 20, Sarah, wife of Stephen Clark, and three
days later Marina their daughter. In 1727 one; and
hither the scholars of all time might well make pil-
grimage and bow at the grave of the mother of him
of whom Dr. Dwight wrote, "He was probably the
most learned man in America at the time of his death
and excelled by few in the world." Standing there

you read —

Here lieth the

Body of ^Irs.

Keziah Stiles,

wife of Rev'd.

Mr. Isaac Stiles,

who died December

9th, 1727, aged

25 years and 7 months.

This was the woman who bore Ezra Stiles, LL. D.,
and who died on the threshold of his existence. Her
grave is neglected, but not more so than that of her
successor, Esther Hooker, the second wife of the Rev.
Isaac Stiles, who bears an honor conferred on no other
citizen of all that silent city (the title of madam) or
that of her reverend husband or his sturdy father.
These lie all around her, an honored guard to
her slumbers. Their dust hallows the spot where
they rest, and their memories are such as go down
the ages with fragrance; but no honors they ever
gained, no victories they ever won, no renown they
ever reached is comparable in value with that crown
of motherhood though laid so briefly upon the devoted
head of young Keziah Taylor Stiles.

From 1728 onward for forty years the death rate
maintained pretty even movement. In 1773 it com-
menced to rise and reached its highest point in 1815.
Thence it receded till 1824 and again took an upward
turn till 1837, being thirteen years of the greatest mor-
tality the town had ever known. There were one hun-
dred and forty-nine memorial stones erected in this
cemetery alone during that period, which number


added to the interments in Muddy River cemetery and
to those over whom no mark was ever set, must have
increased the total to something- over two hundred
who were numbered with their fathers.

Notwithstanding- this apparently large death rate
a considerable number of the people attained extreme
age. Among others, Mabel Bradley died at 92, Lydia
Bassett at 92, Sarah Blakely at 89, James Smith at 90,
and Lydia, his wife, at 93, John Smith at 91, Joy
Bishop at 87, and Miriam, his wife, at 86, Lydia Brad-
ley at 91, Abigail Tuttle at 90, Deborah Dickerman
at 91, Giles Pierpont at 91, and Elizabeth, his wife, at
89, Esther Pierpont at 90, Joseph Pierpont at 94, Sam-
uel Pierpont at 92, Lydia Pierpont at 95, and Miriam
Thorp at 99.

A singular omission connected with this cemetery
(common to the age, perhaps), was the absence, in
early years, at least, of any system by which mem-
bers of the same family could be laid near each other.
The primitive idea of burial seems to have been to
deposit the dead side by side as occasions arose.
There was some attempt to keep the graves in rows,
and all agreed that the inscriptions should face the
east, except in two instances. Such lack of method
widely separated families. Between husband and wife,
parents and children, lie strange faces and occur un-
familiar names. In later years this sandwiching
process was modified, though at the expense of break-
ing up what little rude order they once tried to

Up to 1774 there had been something over five
hundred burials here, and it is left for the reader to
judge from the following vote (the only one passed in
fifty-four years) whether this hallowed ground had in
any way been enclo.sed in all this time: "A motion
being made by a number of men for liberty to erect a
fence around the Burying Ground. Voted! that liberty
be given to any number of gentlemen to erect a suitable


fence at their own expense at such place and in such
form as the Society Committee together with Joseph
Pierpont, Abram Blakeslee, Noah Ives and Jesse
Todd shall direct." *

The oldest recorded date in this old cemetery is
1723. The stone (?) (slate) bearing this memorandum
marks the burial place of Joel, son of Joseph Cooper,
who died at the age of five and was perhaps the first
person buried in this tract. The last interment there
was Elvira Cooper in 1882. It is a singular coinci-
dence that this huge volume, with its stone and
marble leaves containing the record of one hun-
dred and sixty years should begin and end with the
same family -name. And this same record how
imperfect. These stained, defaced, moss-grown and
crumbling pages tell but a part of the genesis and
history of this New England town, for previous to
1800 not more than three-fourths of the burials there
were marked by a stone. Church, town and private
records alike contain names by scores of whom, with
every probability, it may be said, their owners died
on their native soil and were buried in it, and yet no
memorial was ever effected to mark their resting
place. Sometimes that of the wife is missing, some-
times that of the hiisband ; and yet we know the)'
lived, died, and were buried here. Such omissions
reveal, possibly penuriousness, carelessness of admin-
istrators of estates, and by no means the least, the
straitened circumstances of many a family suddenly
deprived of support.

Of the ancient sandstones in this cemetery there
are three distinct types of cutting. From 1723 to
about 1750 the sculptors' conception and execution of
the winged face with which most of the stones are
decorated was hideous and revolting. The head is a
veritable death's head, fieshless and sightless; the
neck is unduly prolonged, and the wings coarse, rib-

• Ecclesiastical Society Records.


bed, stiff and clumsy. Especially notable instances of
this style occur on the stones of jMoses Blakeslee,
1726; Simon Tuttle, 1725; Mary Gilberd, 1755; Sarah
Clark, Josiah Todd, and others. The border traceries
even show the same hard, forbidding taste, and we no
longer doubt the austerity of the theology of that
day. "Foot stones" were not common in the early
part of the period. Nathaniel Thorp, in 1725, had the
first and only one of six persons b^^ried that year;
whether this was due to the fact that a few years
before (17 18) "he was hired to take care of the meet-
ing-house and beat the drum Sundays," or was pos-
sessed of more means than his neighbors, we do not
know. The custom grew slowly. Not more than cne
a year on an average was set up for quite a period,
and these were placed from eight to ten feet in the
rear of the headstone. It was during this time the
first epitaph was recorded, on the stone erected for
Mr. Moses Clark. "He dyed Aug. y' 21st, 1736, in y"
31st year of his age."

Reder, stop your space & stay

& harken unto what I say.

Our lives but cobwebs tho near so gay

And death y broum y' sweeps away.

His wife Dinah survived him and his epitaph fifteen
years and "dyed Oct. y*" 2d, 1751." That she regarded
her station in life of signal importance, or that her
friends did, is shown by the twice-repeated declara-
tion on her head and footstone that she was "once
the wife of Mr. Moses Clark," the only instance of the
kind in the cemetery. Not content with this positive
and solemn assertion, she is made to say further:

Oq this gravestone my name is red ;

You are alive, but I am dead.

In a short space of preacious time

Theay will read your name as well as mine.

The second period of cutting, for the sake of defini-
tion, occurs between 1750 and 1800. Most of the


stones erected between these years were quarried in
Middlefield, Conn. They were brought down in win-
ter on sleds by one named Miller, and kept in stock to
some extent under the great oaks adjacent to the
cemetery. Here was his " yard," and here doubtless
if the sward is ever turned will be found the stone
"chips" of his trade. Miller was an artist. His cut-
ting is as distinct from his predecessors as is the mark-
ing of the sky from the hills. His faces are round. The
neck is much shortened, and later in his work entirely
disappears. The poise and sweep of the wings is freer.
The outline of the eye, the nose, the mouth, is sharply
defined, and on some of his best cuttings these lines
are so singularly drawn as to convey something of
that peculiar sphinx-like gaze common to the old
winged faces of the Egyptians, which might have
been his models. His "borders" are tasty and orna-
mental, showing variety of design and considerable
knowledge of scroll work. His lettering in the main
is accurate. All things considered. Miller's master-
pieces of workmanship are the stones of Joel and Mer-
ium Bradley, who died respectively in 1797 and 1802.
On the former is written:

Let friends and neighbors drop a tear

On my dry, lifeless bones and say
These once were strong as ours now are

And ours must shortly be as they.

On the latter, which has something of a Shake-
sperean flavor in the opening lines, is written:

Rob me not of this little foot,
That I may rest my weary bones
Until I shall arise in sweet
And be forever blest.

Overlapping this same period occurs the third order
of cutting, but by whom unknown. This style is
characterized bv the winged head as in the others
but with less expression. The pinions rising stifitiy by
the face suggest immense 'ears which border on the



grotesque. Less care is taken in letter cutting and
the whole appearance is crude and inartistic.

The introduction of marble for memorial purposes
about the year 1800, checked the sandstone traffic.
With the advent of this new material came new
designers into the field, and winged heads and other
figures gave way to drooping and broken willows
shading impossible urns, a conception less pagan in
outline, but more objectionable in character, for
whereas the winged emblem was a symbol of immor-
tality, the willow made more prominent the mourner
than the mourned for. The substitution was an
unhappy one. It prevailed till about 1840 and then
glorified itself by its death. From 1750 to about 1820
it may be said the epitaph ran riot here, for scarcely
a stone but bears one. Saint and sinner alike invoked
the chisel's aid to perpetuate sentiments the wonder
and puzzle of men and angels. Whatever of evolution
appears in the transition from slate to sandstone,
sandstone to marble and marble to granite, or in
the gradual abolition of florid and uncouth imagery,
the same cannot be said of the average epitaph.
Pagan Greece and Rome furnished better and truer
illustrations two thousand years ago than can be
found to-day, as a rule, in most modern cemeteries.
For instance, witness this on Abel Bassett's stone,
who died in 1762 :

Come, my companions, come and see,
These are y clods that cover me.
At my right hand there you may view
The clods that soon will cover you.

" Mrs. Mary, the virtuous and ameable consort of
Mr. Solomon Sackitt,'" is made to say in 1784:

The tender mother here doth lie
And left a babe in infancy.
The husband may lament his fate,
But she has gained a better state.



Mrs. Lj'dia Sackett also announces in 1802 :
Afflictions sore long time I bore,

Physicians were in vain;
Death gave me ease Avhen God was pleased

To ease me of my pain.

Mr. Dan Todd died in 1805 and the following
startling assertion is made by his relatives :

When with age the head is silvered o'er

Man sleeps in death; his lungs shall beat no more.

Philo Blakeslee in 1829 publishes this very pessi
mistic view of his life :

My father and my mother gone,

I was an orphan left alone.

I lived at a poor dying rate,

Come now. my friend, and learn my fate.

With but a single illustration more from scores
which might be given, we close. Miss Elizabeth
Bishop died at the age of twenty in 1789, and these
remarkable lines are her obituary :

Nor wealth, nor wit, nor youthful charms,

Nor lover's tender care,

Could save one hour from death's cold arms

Nor melt his heart to spare.

Big prospects of the nuptial bed

And all that lovers know

At my sad fate vanished.

And left my friends in woe.


In the code of 1650 occurs this section — "For pre-
vention and due recompense of dammage in Corne
fields and other inclosures, done by Swyne and Cattell,
it is ordered by this Courte and the Authority
thereof, that there shall bee one suffitient Pound or
more made and meinteined in eveury Towne and Vil-
lage within this jurissdiction for the impounding of
all such Swyne and Cattell as shall be found in any
Corne feilde or other Inclbsure; and whosoever im-

5 =


pounds any Swyne or Cattell shall give present notice
to the owner if hee bee knowne, or otherwise they shall
bee cr}'ed at the next two Lectures or Markitts. And
if any Swyne or Cattell escape out of the Pound the
owner if knowne shall pay all damages according to

Again in 1726, after rehearsing in substance the
preceding legislation and fixing a fine of twenty shil-
lings per month in case of non-compliance with the
law, the General Court makes a provision, "that if
any hamlet, parish or part of a town see fit at their
own charge and cost to erect a pound they may do so,
and such part of a town shall not be punishable for
the neglect of any other part."

It was under this latter provision that the careful
parish atithorities cast an anchor to windward, as ap-
pears from the records of a town meeting in New
Haven December 29, 171S. "It being moved to the
town by Nathaniel Yale that the inhabitants of the
Northeast Village have liberty to build a Pound in
said Village, Voted I — that they have liberty to build
such pound at their own charge."

The first pound-keeper was Ebenezer Blakeslee,
who received his appointment in 1721. The pound was
built at the expense of the parish as a matter of pro-
tection, and the income derived from its fines was
divided by a percentage between the colony treasurer
and the keeper. This enclosure answered all pur-
poses until 1732, when because either the "Swyne and
Cattell" waxed more insubordinate than usual, or that
there was a lusting for the scanty shekels of the income.
Lieutenant John Granniss secured from the New
Haven townsmen (selectmen) the concession that
"said Granniss have liberty to erect a Pound in
North Haven Parish at his own charge." Three
years passed, and the four footed creatures of Muddy
river tossed their horns and heels so giddil}^ and
made themselves so lawless at the expense of the
worthy farmers that Thomas Barnes was allowed to



"build a pound" in that vicinity. Moses Blakeslee
had built one in his section some years before, but
because of the superior mettle of the high strung
marauders from time to time confined in it, and
who so kicked it to pieces as to disgust the old
gentleman, he desired to be relieved from its charge.
His son Jacob, not valuing his father's experience
as he should, was fain to ask permission of the town
authorities in 1736, if he might repair the- same,
which prayer was cheerfully granted, — at his own
expense. Jacob became discouraged after three years
of experience, and Stephen Brown was appointed
to reign in his stead. In 1745 Joseph Pierpont saw
cause to ask that he might "build a Pound" which
was granted, and by and by, in 1751, Captain Israel
Munson was smitten with the same distemper, and
he builded one "the bigness of John Blakeslee's."
Jude Cooper could not calmly brook all the commer-
cial activity in this line, and he received permis-
sion in 1756 to build one and "keep the key."
Whether this latter privilege was accorded by virtue
of Jude's superior trustworthiness or whether the
responsible post of " Key Keeper " was becoming a
sinecure the record doesn't say; hereafter, at any
rate, the two offices were merged in one. The custom
is continued to the present day.


In 1721 the General Court at their October session
decreed: "That each town at their annual meetings
in December shall choose two or more tythingmen in

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 4 of 32)