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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at this transaction, causing East Haven great expense,
so much so that in 1707 the latter village sold six hun-
dred acres of the lower portion of the " half mile" to
raise ftmds to defend the suits her enemy was vexing
her with. Again, in 1708, being badly in debt to the
"Minister and Meeting house" (see Dodd) the village
voted to sell the remainder of the half mile tract. It
was bought by individuals for one shilling and eight
pence per acre, and from the records it would seem
that the ''drawing" customary in the apportionment
of "Division lands" was resorted to in this case to de-
termine each applicant's section.

It is not improbable that some of the memorial-
ists, perhaps all mentioned in the beginning of this
article, were among the original purchasers of this

To make the topography of this much disputed
territory clear at this day, let it be remembered
that when North Haven was made a parish in 17 16
the north end of our eastern line began near the


present residence of Franklin Allen and continued
almost on the mag-netic meridian a little over five
miles south to the house once owned by William
Jacobs below the Bethuel Brockett place. This line
followed the highway past the numerous residences of
the Clinton family, coming out by the new Clinton-
ville chapel : thence south a little west of the old
turnpike toll gate at John Todd's, passing near Mer-
win E. Palmer's house and coutinuing on east of
Bethuel Brockett's until the Jacobs place, as stated,
was reached. (See county survey of 1856).

Such was the original eastern boundary. Now
for the "Half Mile." Retrace your steps up the
highway from- the Clintonville chapel to the resi-
dence of Mr. Charles Smith. Here the line makes
an abrupt turn to the east to a point on the top of
"Smith rock" and thence across the river and mead-
ows, running between the houses once owned by Dea-
con Thomas Smith and Ebenezer Smith. This line is
exactly one-half mile in length. Formerly it passed
directly through Mr. Charles Smith's house, but some
twenty or more years ago this gentleman, in order
to be wholly located in North Haven, had it changed
to a few feet north of his dwelling.

At its eastern terminus turning south again it con-
tinues parallel to the old line about two miles, run-
ning east of Selectman E. C. Warner's residence until
it comes near to Charles Palmer's, where it turns
directly west one-half mile to the original north and
south line.

Notwithstanding this much-contested tract was an-
nexed to the parish of North Haven, its inhabitants
still belonged to the town of East Haven and voted
and paid all taxes there except the minister's and the
school rates until the incorporation of the town in
1786, when the parish lines became the town bounda-
ries, thus completely bringing the memorialists
within our borders.


Of these memorialists, some were so worthy as to
deserve more than a passing mention. Beginning
then at the north end of the half mile was Abel
Smith, the grandson of Thomas Smith, who, accord-
ing to tradition, came to New Haven at four years of
age with Rev. Mr. Davenport and others in the ship
Hector. Abel built near the site now occupied by
Lucius Smith. The family descent born there was
Jude, Lyman, Alonzo and others.

Next in order came Isaac Blalceslee, great grand-
father of Col. -Henry M. Blakeslee of this village.
This gentleman lived on the Evelyn Blakeslee place.
He was a man of influence and held many responsible
positions. -His name appears on the early church cata-
logue. In 1750 he was on the First society's committee.
In 1756 he was made a committee "to discourse with
Rev. Mr. Stiles concerning his rate." In 1758 was on
" Seating committee " of the church. In 1760 was
again appointed to wait on the arbitrators "concern-
ing Rev. Mr. Stiles' back salary." ' In 1763 was on
"committee to lay a plan for school affairs." Also in
matters pertaining to the secular interests of the
parish he was equally prominent.

Samuel Jacobs lived near jSIerwin E. Palmer's
house. He was the father of Ezekiel Jacobs who
built the tall steeple of the old Congregational

Daniel Finch lived below the present residence of
E. C. Warner and gave the local name of "Finch's
hill" to a slight eminence in that section.

Benjamin_ Barnes lived on the site now occupied
by E. C. Warner. But little is known of him except
that the name of himself and wife appears on the
early church catalogue.

Joseph Molthrop was the great-grandfather of
Sereno Moulthrop.

The location of the Hitchcock family is uncertain.
At present the only thing determined is that Caleb


was a member of the First society's committee in
1752, and on a committee to adjust the trouble that
arose between the executor of the Rev. Mr. Stiles'
estate and the parish in 1760. Lastly, William Rogers
lived in the extreme southern portion, giving rise to
that locality known as " Rogers' Mills."

Such, in brief, is the account of the " Half Mile "
and the people thereon. It is doubtful if there were
any other families than those mentioned, although
there were other owners of the soil. A singular
circumstance connected with those mentioned, is that
no evidence exists in either of our cemeteries of their
burial there.

The next accession to the parish was made in 1739.
At the May session of the General Assembly that
year the following resolution was passed:

" Upon the memorial of Nathaniel Goodyear, Enos Pardee.
Theophilus Goodyear, Joel Monson, Samuel Peck. Isaac Johnson,
Stephen Cooper, Anthony Thompson, Andrew Goodyear, Thomas
Morris. Josiah Mansfield, William Payn. Jonathan Ives and IMary
Gilbert, all of New Haven and belonging to the first society in said
town representing their great distance from the place of divine
worship in said society and the difficulties and disadvantages they
labor under to attend the divine worship there, and moving to be
annexed to the parish of North Haven in said town as per their
memorial on file dated Feb. 26, 1739.

Resolved by this Assembly that the memorialists be. and they
together with their families and estates, hereb}- are, released from
the said first society and annexed to and united with the said
North parish to be and remain of and with the said North parish*
until this Assembly shall see cause to order otherwise concern-
ing them."

This company of people had settled in and around
what is now the village of Centerville. No attempt
has been made to locate their farms, as they only main-
tained an ecclesiastical relation with North Haven,
and on the formation of the society in Hamden united
with that as being nearer homfe, except in the case
of the Goodyear families and possibly one or two


Of them, Joel Munson's name appears on the
church records under the Rev. Mr. Stiles. He was on
the First society's committee 1750-1. Burial place

Samuel Peck's name is also on the church cata-
logue, and the "widow of Anthony Thompson."

The Goodyears, Nathaniel, Theophilus and Andrew,
were grandsons of Magistrate Stephen Good)^ear of
the New Haven Colony. Their father's name was
John and the family mansion stood near the present
Centerville hotel. Nathaniel was born 1690 and died
1752. He is buried in the old Cemetery at North
Haven, and erected to his memory is one of the
finest cut stones in the yard. His name does not appear
on the church records (although such omission proves
nothing, considering the negligence of the church
authorities at that time). No ecclesiastical appoint-
ments seem to have been conferred upon him how-
ever, and it may be other affairs engrossed his atten-

Theophilus, his brother, was born 1698 and died
1757. He was commissioned a lieutenant in the state
militia sometime previous to 1749, and promoted to be
captain of the 8th Co. of New Haven in that year.
In 1 85 1 he was one of the number appointed to adjust
the Rev. ]Mr. Stiles' salary, and was also on the "seat-
ing committee " that same year. Again in 1756 he was
chosen to the latter office once more. Himself, wife
and two children are buried with his brother Nathan-
iel, though much less taste characterizes their monu-
ments. The large family of the late Bela Goodyear
belongs to this line.

This accession, with that of the " Half Mile," must
have added in round numbers at least a hundred
church going people to the parish. Then there was
the local growth of twenty years among the origi-
nal settlers, so that the little 30x40 church became too
small for its worshipers* Hence it is with no feel



ings of surprise that we find them at the door of the
General Assembly at the same May session, which
admitted the memorialists just mentioned, with the
following paper :

"Upon the memorial of the inhabitants of North Haven
society by their agent, John Granniss of said parish, shewing to
this Assembly that the said inhabitants at their meeting in said
parish Maj- the nth, 1739, did by their vote wherein more than
two-thirds were in the affirmative, agree to build a meeting house
for the publick worship of God in said parish, and praying this
Assembly to appoint a committee to repair to said parish and to
view the circumstances thereof and to affix and ascertain a place for
said parishioners to build their meeting- house upon. This assem-
bly do appoint Capt. Samuel Hall, Capt. Thomas Miles and Mr.
Gideon Ives to be a committee for the aforesaid purpose and to
make return of their domgs at this present session."

This committee were all Wallingford men, and
that they attended at once to the matters in hand is
proven by the following report :

To the Honorable General Assembly now sitting in Hartford :

We. the subscribers, pursuant to an order from j-our Honours
bearing date the second Thursday of May anno 1739, have
repaired to North Haven society, and being assisted by a com-
mittee chosen by said society, have viewed and considered their
circumstances and have fixed a place where the said society shall
set their meeting house, which is about ten rods southward from
their old meeting house, and have pitched down four stakes at
the said fixed place where the four corners of said house shall
stand. May, 1739.

Samuel Hall, )

Thomas Miles, [• Committee.

Gideon Ives, )

The above report of the committee is accepted and approved
by this Assembly.

Had it not been required by law that permission
to locate and build churches must first be obtained
from the legislative authority, we should never have
known where the original meeting-house stood nor
when the second one was erected.

We may assume then that the building of this sec-
ond meeting-house commenced in the summer of


1739. It was a different structure from its pred-
ecessor. It was erected during- that unfortunate
lapse in the society records mentioned and therefore
much is not known which would naturally attach to
an undertaking of such magnitude. Fortunately it
was not taken down till 1835, and thus its reconstruc-
tion at the hands of many who once worshiped within
its sacred walls is not a difficult task.

It stood, as has been said, about ten rods south of
the original building. Probably no special reasons
existed for its location on that spot other than it
would be most convenient to all, at any rate the " four
stakes were pitched," and there the foundations were
laid, and there many of the stones remain to this day.
Whereas the old edifice faced the west, this fronted
east, a change for which no cause can be assigned.
It was a two story structure with a high roof, crowned
with a "turrett." Its longest measurement was north
and south, and its adjustment appears to have been
very nearly on the magnetic meridian.

The main entrance, a wide double door, was on the
east; on either side of this were two large windows
on the first floor, and five in the story above. On the
opposite, or west side, the windows were the same, the
pulpit being placed over against the main door. At
the north and south ends were also entrances. There
were no vestibules. The main east doors opened upon
a wide passage way extending across the meeting-
house to the pulpit. This was the "broad aisle." On
either side of it was a '' square body." These square
bodies were at first fitted with "seats " instead of
"pews." In 1766 it was "Voted, that the two hinder-
most seats in the square bodies might be sold in order
for erecting pews in their room; the prudential com-
mittee to sell the same at vendue and the pews to be
built under their inspection." Again, in 1782, "Voted,
that the two back seats in the square body each
side of the alley be taken away and pews be built




.•^ ass^Kia^ gBfe^fe^r^ ^-d ft ^S



Erected 1739.


in their room the same fashion that the pews back
of said seats are built." This goes to show that
the introduction of pews into the "square body" of
the meeting-house was a matter of slow growth,
though it is the opinion of the writer that a row
of such pews was built at the outset next to the
walls around the entire building. In later years — 1802
— all the seats in the " square bodies " were taken up
and pews built in their places; there were ten of
these then on either side of the main aisle. These
latter were built at the expense of the society, but
the impression is gained that pews built previous to
this time were constructed at the cost of their owners.
They were erected after a common pattern and orna-
mented with a light "spindle railing" on the tops of
the partitions. Through these railings the undevout
children made faces at one another in prayer time.
The floor of the side pews was raised some eight or
ten inches higher than that in the middle of the
building, and a narrow aisle afforded admission to
every seat.

There was a gallery on the north, east and south
sides, the stairs to- which were in the northeast and
southeast corners respectively. At first a tier of pews
was built entirely round the rear of these galleries
with two rows of seats in front for the singers, but in
1787 the pews in the side galleries for some reason were
removed and seats substituted. Those in the "front
gallery" were allowed to remain. The middle one in
this section was known as "the high pew" and there
irreverent youth were wont to congregate unless dis-
persed by the vigilant tythingman. The first and sec-
ond rows of seats around the entire gallery front were
reserved for "ye singers." Back of them, on the sides
particularly, were other benches whereon the people
might sit, which, in the case of the south gallery, were
reserved for the males, and those opposite for their fair
neighbors; and it was considered a "disorder" for


any of either sex to be found outside of their allotted
I)laces for ever so brief a period.

The pulpit for that day was something of an
elaboi'ate affair. The platform surface was limited,
but it was placed high above the people, and at-
tracted attention because of its conspicuousness.
The front was adorned with long sunken panels ter-
minating in curved tops. The desk was plain, made
in three parts, with the middle section elevated above
the others; in its rear and a little above the preacher
was the middle window of the second story. Over
the pulpit hung the "sounding board." This was the
most pretentious piece of workmanship in the meet-
ing house. It was cone-shaped in appearance, with a
very symmetrical curve to its lines; the bottom was
flat and the top was surmounted with a brass orna-
ment. Altogether it is related that with the venera-
ble figure of Dr. Trumbull in the desk the whole
appearance of the pulpit was second to none in New
Haven county. At no time in the history of this
meeting-house was a chimney attached to it. At
first there was no stove. It is claimed for Anson
Blakeslee that he was the daring parishioner who
first set up an airtight wood burning arrangement
in his pew, and ran the pipe out of the nearest win-
dow. After that two immense stoves were located at
the foot of each flight of gallery stairs; the smoke
pipes from these led to a huge sheet iron drum sus-
pended high in the body of the church over the wor-
shipers' heads, and from thence to the roof. The
communion table was a plain wooden affair hinged to
the front of the pulpit and let down when not in use.
In front of this were the deacons' seats facing the
broad aisle.

There was a complicated frame-work of timbers and
braces in the finish of the ceiling, but a description
without the aid of a diagram, would be unintelligible
to the reader. The turret was built after the usual


fashion in that day, with its roof surmounted with a
shoi't staff topped with a vane. This was the vane
which became disarranged in 1766 and fell off its
perch. The records would have us believe that one
Samuel Todd was in some manner connected with its
dethronement; as witness:

"Voted that the vane should be mended and up again; the
Society Committee to settle with Samuel Todd for Damnifying
the Vane and if they cant settle that affair to their minds without.
they are empowered to prosecute said Todd in the Common Law. "

The presumption is that the audacious Todd
repented him of his rashness and ' settled," as there
is no reference to a justice court about that time.

The interior of the turret was not furnished with
a bell until 1762. Previous to this the drum had sum-
moned to public worship, and it was used as a means
of warning meetings of the society for several years
thereafter. In 1767 it was declared

" That for the future the method of warning the Society Meet-
ings shall be by beat of the Drum on the place of Parade and mak-
ing Proclamation at the North and South ends of the same with
an Audible Voice of the Time and Place of Meeting at least five
days before said meeting."

It is probable the bell was a rather light one, for
when they had built the steeple to their church, as
we shall presently see, they clamored for a more
noisy messenger to be placed within it. They called
a special meeting for this purpose in October, 1799.
and declared their official sentiments as follows:

" Voted — That it is the mind of this society to get a new bell.

Voted — That the committee for that Purpose have Power to
Dispose of the old bell towards getting a new one.

Voted — That the new bell shall not weigh more than Eight
Hundred weight nor fall short of seven hundred and one half.

Voted — That Joshua Barnes, Peter Eastman, Levi Ray, Joseph
Bradley be a committee for getting the bell.

Voted — That the comrpittee shall obtain a bell warranted for
one year.


Four days after this meeting they very politely
inquired of one of the most prominent citizens his
written opinion in the matter. This gentleman's
reply was as follows :

North Haven, October 29, 1799.

Society's Committee:

Sirs — In answer to your Billet of the 25th instant wherein the
societies committee desire my advice in procuring a new bell — my
advice is not to have another bell procured, believing the old bell

adequate to all the purposes for which we want a bell as to my

assistance in procuring a good one, I pretend to be no skill in the

Yours to serve,

Joseph Pierpont.
Doct. Joseph Foot,

Clerk of the Society's Committee.

Notwithstanding this a new bell was procured. It
is a tradition that the people brought silver dollars in
profusion and had them melted into its material and
that thereby the tone was much improved. Most
people have the impression that the present bell
of the Congregational church is the same in sub-
stance with that of the old church. That is not true.
The present bell does not contain one ounce of its pre-
decessors' metal.

No reasons are anywhere assigned why a steeple
was not placed on the meeting-house at its erec-
tion, and more than half a century passed away
before such an adornment was added. The first
action was in March, 1798, when the parish voted
"That we will build a steeple to the Meeting
House," and a committee was appointed to procure
estimates and subscriptions for the same. This
committee labored for nearly a year and reported at
a meeting in January, 1799. At this time it was voted:

" That we will give Joel Thof p two hundred and ten pounds
for building a steepel to the Meeting House agreeable to the


instructions given by the committee appointed for that purpose;
he is to compleat said steepel by the first of October next."

Something- occurred to annul the contract between
Joel Thorp and themselves, for we find a special meet-
ing called three weeks later, whereat a committee was
appointed "for the Purpose of building the Steepple"
with instructions " to get it done in the cheapest and
best manner they can either by agreeing with some
one or setting it up at vendue."

To illustrate the business methods of that time
there is here given the contract finally made for the
erection of this steeple :

"Know all men by these Presents that we, Ezekiel Jacobs,
and Asa Thorp, and Thomas Smith of North Haven, in the
county of New Haven, for the Consideration of Five Hundred
Dollars received to our full satisfaction, are held, and firmly
bound unto Joshua Barnes, Peter Eastman. Levi Ray. Titus
Bradley, Joseph Bradley, Thomas Smith, Joseph Foot of North
Haven a Committee for the Society to transact the business rela-
tive to buildmg a steeple ; in the sum of Five hundred dollars
lawful Money to be paid to the above named committee, their
Attornies, or Executors, or Administrators, to which well and
truly to be made We bind ourselves, our Pleirs and Executors and
Administrators firmly by these presents.

Signed with our hands and sealed with our seals.

Dated at North Haven this Sth day of February A. D. 1799.

The conditions of this obligation are such that whereas we the
above bounden Ezekiel Jacobs, Asa Thorp and Thomas Smith
have undertaken to build a steeple of such dimensions as specified
in certain Draught in the possession of said above named com-
mittee and to complete and finish the same in a hand.some and
workmanlike manner. The committee delivering the timber
hewed, finishing the stone work, finding the iron work for the bell
frame and entertainment for a sufficient number to raise the
Steeple. Everything else necessary to completely finish said
steeple to be found at our expence and the work to be handsomely
finished and every part completely done. Painting, Lightning
Rod, Hanging the Bell, &c., &c.

If therefore the above named Ezekiel Jacobs, Asa Thorp and
Thomas Smith shall fulfil the above conditions to the satisfaction
of the committee, then this 'obligation to be null and void, other-



wise to stand and remain in full force in law. Said steeple to be

completed by the 20th October, 1799.

Signed, Sealed and Delivered in the presence of
Thomas Cooper, Ezekiel Jacobs, [seal]

Giles Pierpont, Asa Thorp, [seal]

Oliver Todd, Thomas Smith, [seal]

Truly a formidable document. Both the contract-
ing parties proved equal to the emergency and
the lofty spire, the envy of all the neighboring
churches, became a noted landmark for many miles

It was built from the ground, no provision for
extra weight having been made in the roof of the
meeting-house.. It stood at the north end and the
foundation was about 12 feet square; it was carried
up in this manner a little distance above the peak of
the roof, where it terminated in the "bell deck."
This belfry was of very open construction, a light
ornamental railing guarding its outer edge, and
heavy posts rising through the floor, on which the
lofty steeple was set. The interior of this tower was
unfinished except as a rough board floor was laid in
the lower story. A narrow door, seldom used, opened
on its east side. There were four windows, one above
the other, on its north face, and four flights of ladders
were used in it to reach the belfry. Except as a foun-
dation for the spire if was a waste of room and
material, but then, the spiders enjoyed it, and it is
said the webs they wove in its tenantless interior were
something wonderful in quantity and quality.

The spire was much taller than the present one
and was surmounted with a lightning rod, a gilded

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 6 of 32)