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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each parish or society for divine worship within said
town, who shall forthwith be sworn to a faithful dis-
charge of the work hereby allotted to them; or if
they neglect or refuse to take said oath shall pay a
fine of forty shillings into the treasury of said town."

The second section of the act defined their duties
"To carefully inspect the behavior of all persons on



the Sabbath or Lord's day, especially between the
meetings for divine worship on the said day, whether
in the place of such publick meeting or elsewhere,
and due presentment make of any prophanation of
the worship of God on the Lord's day or on any day of
publick fast or thanksgiving, or breach of Sabbath,
which they or any of them shall see or discover any
person to be guilty of, to the next justice of the

The compensation fixed for the services of the
tythingmen and justices was not calculated to pro-
voke excessive zeal in ferreting out offenders, for
they were allowed but two shillings per diem for each
day spent in such prosecutions. The extreme penalty
for such infractions of the law was five shillings, but
if it so happened that the defendant neglected or
refused to pay his fine and nothing could be found to
levy on, then the justice was "empowered to sentence
such offender to be publickly whipped with any num-
ber stripes not exceeding twenty, respect being had
to the nature and aggravation of the offence."

The first appointees under this law in the parish
were John Barnes and Joseph Cooper in 1722. [Read-
ers will recall this date as the year of the opening of
the first meeting-house].

Whether it was an honor much sought, or whether
the duties were too exacting, or the remuneration for
service too poor, it is certain there was something in
the parish atmosphere deadly to official rings in that
day, as witness the following list of incumbents, only
three of whom secured a re-appointment in the first
twenty years of the church:

In 1723, Ebenezer Frost, Closes Blakslee.

1724, William Tuttle, Stephen Clark.

1725, Joseph Clark, John Hummerston,

1726, Joseph Bassett. Amos Thompson.,

1727, John Granniss, James Bradley.
172S, Joseph Bradley, Theophilus Heaton.
1729 John Sanford, Josiah Todd.


1730, Isaac Curtice, Thomas Ives.

1731, Moses Brockett, Phineas Clarke.

1732, Benjamin Todd, Thomas Jacobs.

1733, Isaiah Tuttle. Thomas Humaston.

1734, Abram Bassett, Ebenezer Ives.
1735, , .

1736, Joshua Ray. Jacob Blakeslee.

1737. James Bradley, James Bishop.

1735, Joseph Pierpont. James Heaton.-
1739- Joseph Pierpont, Thomas Barnes.
1740, John Humaston, Theophilus Goodyear.

These and their successors received their appoint-
ment from the town of New Haven, and not from any
religious body. There is no mention in the parish
records of ty thing-men until 1846, when for three years
such appointments were made. Then a gap occurs
until 1864, and since 1868 the post has been filled
with more or less regularity by the First Ecclesi-
astical society.

The office of tythingman presents in our early his-
tory the curious feature of the civil arm stepping in
to preserve order in the religious arm. Why should
he derive his election from the town or civil govern-
ment ? We answer that he was a " special constable "
armed with an authority which the church could not
give. The church or any official thereof could not
arrest an offender, much less legally try him, and just
here the civil government came in to preserve dignity
and order in all religious assemblages. These tything-
man, when in the full plenitude of their power, were
valuable adjuncts to worship while in the meeting-
house. We read of the wands they carried and the
means used to restrain listlessness and improper con-
duct in the house of God. That some of them magni-
fied their office there is not the least doubt, and that
occasional heart burnings arose over their undue
exhibitions of zeal, is past questioning. Their appoint-
ment in these latter days seems to have degenerated
into something of a farce.






It did not take long for the parish to recover from
the shock occasioned by the Rev. Mr.Wetmore's defec-
tion and dismission. There was plenty of vitality
left. Their first overtures for a successor were made
February 12, 17 S3:

"Rev. Gentlemen: This society having fresh in memory the
respect they had to y« Rev'd Mr. Pierpont, deceased, and Provi-
dence having brought us into such circumstances as yourselves
know, being destitute of a settled minister, we have a mind with
y« advice and conduct of y Rev'd Elders of y county, to y
Rev. Mr. James Pierpont to come and preach among us for pro-
bation in order to settlement."

Pending an answer to the above, they engaged
Rev. Mr. Russell to supply the pulpit two months for
twenty-five shillings for each day's service. The asso-
ciation saw nothing objectionable in the Rev. Mr.
Pierpont and so signified to the waiting people. The
way being clear then, the parish made the following
proposition (in substance) to him:

" Agreed on by y Society to make ofers to y' Rev. Jlr. James
Pierpont to come and settle amongst them in y work of y" min-
istry as folows: Agreed on by y Society that they will give to
y Rev. Mr. James Pierpont for his incoriagement to come and
settle amongst them, y^ sum of So^ yearly for y space of foure
yeares; and after y space of foure yeares to arise to loo;^ yearly soe
long as he shall carry on y work of y ministry amongst them;
to be paid to him in money or bills of credit or grain as follows:
Wheat, five shillings and sixe pence for bushel; Rye, three shil-
lings and sixe pence for buihel; Indian Corne, two shillings and
sixe pence for bushel."


This offer was not munificent enough to tempt Mr.
Pierpont from his city home, and five weeks later
they tried him again.

" June 12, 1723.

Then agreed on by y Society that they wU give to y* Rev.
Mr. James Pierpont for his incoriagement to come and settle
amongst them in y" work of y" ministry y* sum of I50;{J to be
paid to him within y space of three years at 50^ a year to be
paid to him in order to his settlement amongst them in y work
of y ministry.

2dly — And for his salary, three pence half -penny on y pound
yearly and continueing until this Society by y" good Providence of
God shall increase to such a sum in y list that three pence half
penny on y pound shall amount to i2o£ and that to be his stated
sallar\' yearly sop long as he shall continue pasture of this church
and mmister of this Society; to be paid yearly as follows: Wheat
five shillings for bushel; Rye three shillings three pence; Indian
Come two shillings and six pence."

But Mr. Pierpont was still obdurate, and this prop-
osition also failed to secure him. Next they sought
permission from the Association to give the Rev.
Jonathan Edwards a "call to come and preach among
them on probation." Mr. Edwards was then a tutor
in Yale College and declined to leave his post. Then
in December the Society Committee were instructed
to give Rev. Jedediah Mills an opportunity to become
Mr. ^Yetmore's successor if his probationary preach-
ing should warrant such a course; but this plan too,
failed, and now more than a year had gone by and
the flock was still shepherdless.

Perhaps they began to see they had set their
standard of spiritual tastes too high, and that it was
fruitless to single out the rising suns in the clerical
firmament to shine on their little world in the wilder-
ness. At any rate, they grew less dictatorial in their
wants as the following shows :

" Dec. iS : 1723.

Agreed on by y^ Society that y committee are impowered to
make their application to a minister whom they may think fit to
come and preach amongst they-i on probation."


The free translation of this vote gave the com-
mittee more discretionary power than they had
before, and at the same moment laid a greater respon-
sibility on them. Their names were:

Ebenezer Frost,
Thomas Ives,
Joseph Clark.

Twenty-five years before the events just mentioned
a boy had been born in Windsor, Conn., who
was destined to wield no inconsiderable influence
in the history of this town. In the parish register at
Middlebrook, Bedfordshire, England, may be seen
the following entry: "John Stiles was baptized the
five and twentie of December, one thousand five hun-
dred and ninetie five." This John Stiles embarked at
Plymouth, England, with a number of godly people
from the counties of Devon, Dorset and Somerset
early in 1630, bound for New England. Before st^art-
ing they formed themselves into a church, with the
Rev. John Warham as their pastor, and reached these
shores May 30, 1630. They settled at Dorchester,
Mass., remained there five years, and then came to
Connecticut, settling again in Windsor, 1635-6. This
was the first church founded in Connecticut, and
quaint old Cotton Mather supposes Mr. Warham was
the first preacher who used notes in his pulpit in New
England. John Stiles was a member of this flock.
During the Pequot war, in 1637, the people of the new
village built a "palisade" in its center for refuge and
protection. The old Stiles mansion erected just south
of this defense, stands to-day in fair preservation as
a historic relic. In it a son, John, was born, who in
turn became the father of Isaac in 1697.

Isaac Stiles graduated at Yale college in 1722, and
consequently was in the prime of his youth when he
met the North Haven committee named. Just how
the meeting was broxight about we do not know, but
that there was something in the young preacher


which attracted the sturdy settlers at once is apparent
from the fact that within five weeks of his introduc-
tion to them they took the following action :

" Voted by y Society that they are soe well satisfied with Mr.
Stiles ministry, with what they have already heard from him as
that they now give him a call in order to his settlement in y work
of y' ministry among them."

They also agreed at this meeting to give him 150^^
for a "Settlement" to be paid at three general pay-
ments within the space of three years, ^OjQ a year,
but carefully remembering their previous experience
with Mr. Wetmore, they added this clincher to the

"Call." " Said sum or sums to be paid to him

upon y' conditions following: that, he settle among
them and not varying .from y" articles of faith or
church management agreed on at Saybrooke by y'
Rev. Elders of this government."

For his salary they voted to give him "y^ sum of
T°£ yearly for y' first three years, and then to add to
y' above 70^, 10^ a year until it make 100^ and that
to be his yearly salary, to be paid in money or grain
at current prices."

Flattering as was the offer it did not lead young
Stiles to an acceptance. He continued to preach for
them, however, and his star was in the ascendant.
They called a special meeting in the following April,
and reduced the prices of grain which might be
offered in payment of the minister's rate, nine pence
a bushel on wheat, and three pence a bushel on rye
and corn, and also voted to give him his firewood, and
with a further generosity which could not but have
been pleasurable to the young candidate they declared
" that they would add ^o^ to the former settlement
of 150;^ voted in a former meeting."

This proposition like the other failed to land their
prize. The enthusiastic preacher true to his family
training in discerning the signs of the times, made no
haste to come to them but rather whetted their


appetites by delay until he thought himself strong
enough to dictate his own terms of surrender. This
he did in the following July just six months after
receiving their first overtures.

''Y' agreement between this society and y* Rev.
Mr. Stiles now follows: Y' Rev. Mr. Stiles, after some
proposals made to him which he did not see cause to
accept, was pleased to make an offer to y^ society
which was as follows: Namely! That if y^ society
would give him for a ' settlement ' the living that is
Mr. "Wetmore's, or one of equal value, and for salary
1°£ yearly during y' first three years and then to
add lo^ yearly till it amount to loo^, and never to
be less, arid then y' salary to rise in proportion to y"
rising in the List till it amount to i20;j^ annually, and
this to be given me during my life, Extraordinary
Cases excepted, and to be paid in money or- grain at
y* prices stated in your last note, and also my fire-

[The above written was proposed to y* society,
which they voted in y" affirmative].

Thus preacher and people sealed a compact at last
and the Rev. Mr. Stiles was ordained over them Nov.
II, 1724.

From 1724 to 1730 was a period of comparative
calm in the parish history. The " provision of fire-
wood " for their pastor occasioned some friction, and
various methods were resorted to, to allay the irrita-
tion. In 1727 it was "agreed on by y* society that y*
committee that is now chosen for y^ year ensuing
shall have full power to leave so much money in y'
society rate as shall procure 'Mr. Stiles' firewood for x"
year ensuing provided that every man shall have lib-
erty to bring a load of wood apiece; if they bring it
on y day y' committee shall set, and y' committee
to set a price on y" said loads of wood."

The manuscript record made in 1730, and the last
for a period of twenty years, as has been stated, reveals


that the parish, in common with the country, was
affected by the financial wave of depression then roll-
ing over it. Joseph Ives makes the entry, and it is
just previous to his removal to "Wallingford:

" At a meeting of y" society January 13, 1730, agreed on by y"=
society to give to Mr. Stiles one hundred and forty pounds this
year and to continue from year to year as long as money contin-
ues under its present decay. But in case its value should rise,
then to retract proportionally to its rise till it come to but I20;[^,
according to our first agreement."

The Rev. Mr. Wetmore transferred his homestead
(before mentioned) to the North-east society July 28,
1724, for the consideration of p^28o. It will be remem-
bered the Rev. Mr. Stiles stipulated in his agreement
with the society that he should have this property as
his "settlement." Accordingly, with an eye to busi-
ness the parallel of which is not often found, Mr.
Stiles received a deed of the premises the same day
he was ordained pastor of the church, to wit, Novem-
ber II, 1724. The following is the text of the trans-

Know all men by these presents that we Joseph Ives, Moses

Blakesly and Ebenezer Frost chosen a committee by said

society to make out and conrirm according to the vote of said society
to the Rev. Mr. Isaac Stiles, the house, barn and living bought
of Mr. Wetmore by said society, pursuant to the trust reposed in
us, for divers good causes and considerations us thereunto mov-
ing, have given, granted, aliened, conveyed and confirmed, and
by these presents do fully, freely, and absolutely- give, grant,
alien, convey and confirm unto the said Isaac Stiles and to his
heirs and assigns forever, (two parcells of laud situate and lymg
and being within the bounds of said New Havgn, with the dwell-
ing house and barn standing thereon, being Third Division and
Half Division land so called, which the said society by their
agents bought of Mr. Wetmore, which land the said Wetmore
bought of James Bishop and bounded as may appear," &c , &c. —

Though there was a score or more of pretty,
demure maidens in the parish, anyone of whom
would have added grace to a pastor's fireside, yet the
heart of the young preache'r even before the first


obeisance was made to him in North Haven, had
gone out to sweet Keziah Taylor of Westfield. He
was married to her early in the summer following his
ordination, or in June, 1725, and she came at once to
her new home, a stranger in a strange land. At this
time she was twenty-three years old. She died as has
been stated, in 1727, bequeathing to the world the
greatest American scholar of the eighteenth century.

This was a sad blow to pastor, chtirch and people.
Three years passed and the widowed pastor brought
home Esther Hooker of Farmington as the second
mistress of his heart and the parsonage in October^
1728. With her he lived 32 years, she surviving him
19 years, dying in 1779, at the age of 77.

There is little or no evidence that the young min-
ister in the first ten years of his pastorate concerned
himself much about outside affairs. He did not take
the Freeman's oath till 1731. In 1732 he was present
at the council in Guilford called by order of the Gen-
eral Assembly to conciliate if possible the unhappy
differences over the Rev. Mr. Ruggles, which had
arisen there. He sided with the Ruggles' faction. In
1740 he was present for the first time at the meeting
of the general association of the colony of Connecti-
cut at Hartford. His first recorded entry into the
arena of public affairs was made in 1741. At this time
he took some part in the rather irritating controversy
between the General association and the Rev. Phile-
mon Robbins of Branford, caused by the latter's
breach of courtesy at Wallingford. ]\Ir. Stiles was an
"Old Light" and sided with the Association.

In the height of the Robbins' episode the Rev. Mr.
Stiles received an appointment to preach the " Elec-
tion Sermon" before the General Assembly in Hart-
ford at the May session. There was at this time a
great deal of what might be termed religious restless-
ness in the colony. Beginning with the great earth-
quake which shook aril New England in 1727, and


which calamity was intensified by the terrible mor-
tality of 1734, thinking men began to look about for
the causes of these fearful manifestations of Provi-
dence. It did not need a second glance to reveal the
lowest tide of spirituality the church harbors had
ever known. Says the venerable historian, Trum-
bull: "The forms of religion were kept up, but there
appeared but little of the power of it. Both the wise
and the foolish virgins seemed to slumber. Professors
appeared too generally to become worldly and luke-
warm. The young people became loose and vicious;
family prayer and religion was greatly neglected,
the Sabbath was lamentably profaned, the inter-
missions were spent in worldly conversations. The
young people made the evenings of the Lord's day
and after lectures the times for mirth and company
keeping. Taverns were haunted, intemperance and
other vices increased and the spirit of God appeared
to be awfully withdrawn."

Alarmed by this stirvey, it seemed as if for com-
mon safety the people by one impulse commenced a
return of their allegiance to the God of the colony,
and from 1735 to 1740 the rain of heaven fell grate-
fully all over the land. About this latter date came
the Rev. George Whitefield like a flaming comet
athwart the sky. People flocked to hear him by thou-
sands. Coming from the South (Charleston) by water
he landed on the New England shore in Rhode Island
in 1740, and thence swept on westward through Mass-
achusetts and down the Connecticut valley like a
whirlwind, gathering strength as he advanced. Under
such an unusual excitement it was no wonder that
some weak minds became unbalanced, and then as
now, strangely became possessed with the idea it was
their duty to preach, hence it was that a host of
erratic exhorters and teachers with more wind than
sense "sowed error, discord, jealousy and confusion
in many of the churches."


Because of these latter results some of the leading
preachers of the colony became bitter enemies of the
revival. Among these was Mr. Stiles. Old school,
" old light," true to his Alma Mater and conservative
to the last degree, he was in no accord with the work
in the land. It was perhaps for this very reason,
because he gave no uncertain sound as to his position,
that he was called on to preach the election sermon
before alluded to. Says Trumbull of it :

"The preacher at the election (1742) was the Rev.
Isaac Stiles of North Haven. He was a most bitter
enemy to the work which God had been and was car-
rying on in the land, and to all the instruments of it.
He gave himself great liberty to reproach them, (the
revivalists). He compared them to Will with his wisp
and Jack with his lanthorne, and pointed the artillery
of heaven in a tremendous manner against them.
The Assembly thanked him for his sermon and printed
it with all the reproach and abuse of his brethren in
the ministry and of other Christians which it con-

The "Dana controversy " was another leading inci-
dent in the life of the Rev. Isaac Stiles. Lack of
space forbids the recital of the difficulty here. It will
be sufficient to say that Mr. Stiles was in sym.pathy
with his fellow preacher. With his well known grit
he went to Wallingford to ordain Mr. Dana, and Mr.
Dana was ordained. For this energetic support he
and his coadjutors were treated as "disorderly per-
sons " by the Council and cut off from their fellowship.


About twenty years after the formation of the
parish, or in 1737, the Congregational church had
attained such standing under Mr. Stiles as to attract
attention within a wide circle. Then men sought the
gospel; now they wait for the gospel to seek them.


One of the first parties to knock at its gate for
admission came from East Haven in the above men-
tioned year. They memorialized the General Assem-
bly as follows:

"On the memorial of Samuel Jacobs, Daniel Finch,
Benjamin Barns, Isaac Blakely, Nathaniel Hitchcock,
William Rogers, Abel Smith, Joseph Molthrop and
Caleb Hitchcock, inhabitants in New Haven, shewing
this Assembly that they are settled within the bounds
of the parish of East Haven on a certain tract of
land called the Half ]Mile in the northeast corner of
said society and remote from the publick worship of
God in said parish; praying this Assembly to dis-
charge them from the said East Society and annex
them unto the said North Society in said town, so as
to include the said memorialists and no other inhabi-
tants, bounding so far south as to include Benjamin
Barns' farm, and so eastward to the east part of said
Half Mile, between Mr. Mathers and Abraham Hem-
ingway's land and so north to Wallingford town line
between Branford and said Half Mile, including all
the lands east of said North Society within said
bounds: Resolved by this Assembly that the said
memorialists be discharged from said East Society
and annexed to the North Society in said New
Haven; and that the bounds above mentioned includ-
ing the said memorialists be the bounds between the
said East and North parishes above said."

The territory thus acquired is to a certain extent
historic in that it was long a bone of contention. In
1643 the general court at New Haven sold to one
Swain and others of Wethersfield a large tract of
land on its western border called Tetokett, and later
Branford, for about 14;^. Certain stipulations, not
pertinent here, accompanied the sale. The boundary
lines were so indefinite that some six years later a
disagreement arose between New Haven and Branford
concerning the extent of the latter's purchase. This


matter was submitted to arbitration, but without sat-
isfactory results.

Not to enter into an exhaustive account of the
quarrel, it is sufficient to say that it was found at
length that Branford claimed more acres than had
been included in the original purchase in 1644.
The settlers of East Haven were struggling at this
time for recognition as a village, and were alter-
nately being ground between the millstones of Bran-
ford and New Haven, but keeping up a good heart
and making a bold showing both to New Haven
(which seemed the chief aggressor) and the General
Assembly, they so far succeeded at length as to force
the settlement of the boundary lines to an issue, and
Branford surrendered to East Haven in 16S2 a strip
of land on her west border half a mile wide, from the
head of Furnace pond to the Wallingford line, a mat-
ter of ten miles more or less. New Haven demurred

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 5 of 32)