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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ball, and the old vane. Tradition tells us it was
painted by ]\Iartin ]\Ioulthrop and Captain Timothy
Andruss, and that the former gentleman signalized
himself on this occasion, by sitting astride the vane
and revolving himself at that dizzy height, to the
great scandal and horror of -the lookers-on.


The exterior of the meeting-house was clap-
boarded and painted white. The interior was plas-
tered and the wood-work was painted white with
a bluish tint. The pulpit was colored with mahogany
stain. For some distance around the east door the
ground was paved with rough stones, and the large
semi-circular steps made easy the ascent into the
sacred edifice.

Such is a fairly accurate description of the ancient
meeting-house as collated from those contemporary
with its last days. It was a notable building — it had
a notable history, and it left a notable influence
behind it. It was in truth and usage a veritable
"meeting-house." It was as well the theater of many
a worldly conflict, as the gate of heaven. It was com-
pleted in 1 741, but of its dedication, if thfere was one,
no record remains. (Its actual dimensions, according
to President Stiles, were 65 feet long by 44 wide).

On the occupation of the new building there was
no further use for its predecessor. Unlike modern
wants, a "chapel" was not conceived to be an indis-
pensable necessity, and the old edifice, though of only
twenty years' existence, became, in a measure, worth-
less. It was probably sold to the Rev. Mr. Stiles, for
the roof covers to-day the barn on which it was placed
a hundred fifty years ago, on the premises now owned
by Henry D. Todd.

There is no building or part of a building in the
town that approaches this roof in age. The nearest
kin to it is a small one-story tenement standing on
the Evelyn Blakeslee estate and once the property of
Isaac Blakeslee, a humble building which enjoys
the rare distinction of having stood in four different
towns without being once moved, to wnt : It was built
on land ov.'ned by New Haven, New Haven sold
the land to Branford, Branford sold the same to East
Haven and East Haven sold to North Haven in the
"half mile" division, as has been related.

Nonrn UAVEJSf Ax:^ALS. gi

The perusal of the parish records, on their resump-
tion in 1750, is a series of surprises to the reader by
their frequent allusions to committees raised for the
purpose of adjusting the Rev. Mr. Stiles' salary, and
confusion is further increased when the following is
found written in 175 1:

"Voted by the Society that they are wiUing to lieve it too
indiferent Men to say what y revd Mr. Stiles ought to have for
v" year past, and also for y« present year. A Committee was
Chosen to Choose a man to judge how much Mr. Stiles ought to
have; namely, Sergeant Isaac Blakeslee, Captain Sackitt, Captain
Goodyear, and if y man whom y Revd Mr. Stiles, and this Com-
mittee shall choose cannot agree then these two are to choose the
third man."

On the surface this savors of " strained relations "
between pastor and people, but nothing of the kind
existed, at least, not then. It arose from the over-
whelming depreciation of the paper money of that
time. The value of the currency was so uncertain
that no contract could be entered into with any confi-
dence. Referring to the year 1750, the society voted
Mr. Stiles SS'^jC ^^^^ tenor, for his salary the past year.
Some difference, this, from the 120^ agreed upon
yearly at his settlement. What had caused this more
than four-fold increase ? The vain hope by the State
authorities that the lavish issue of paper money would
relieve the necessities of the people and provide for
all their wants I Never was there a sorrier mistake !

In 17 10 an ounce of silver bullion was worth eight
shillings in paper money, but in 1745 so much had
the currency been inflated that it took thirty-five shil-
lings in paper to equal an ounce in silver, and in 1749
sixty shillings to do the same. No government could
long exist at such a rate; this was "the pace that
kills," and the State authorities finally awakening
from their splendid dream, began to be alarmed at
the gulf yawning before them. Says Dr. Henry Bron-
son in his admirable essay on the currency of Con-
necticut: "Trade was embarrassed and the utmost


confusion prevailed. All values as measured by paper
were uncertain. The public mind was demoralized,
so to say; public and private justice was forgotten.
Doubt and suspicion took the place of confidence and
men were afraid to trust one another."

Such a state of feeling as just described did not
exist when ^Ir. Stiles' meeting-house was building.
The reaction was not apparent then, nor till half a
dozen years thereafter, "but when it did come, when
the bubble burst, when it was sought to return at
once to a specie basis, then the woe began for North
Haven as well as for all Connecticut and her adjoin-
ing neighbors."

The following exhibit of the Rev. Mr. Stiles' sal-
ary, as voted him b}^ his society for a few years, will
somewhat illustrate the stattis of money at that time.

Between 1730 and 1750 (record missing) his parish
had been gradually increasing his compensation as
money depreciated, as follows:

1750, 450^ O. T.

1751, left to arbitration.

1752, 700^:. O. T.

1753, Soo^:. O. T.

1754, 600/, O. T.

1755, S50/. O. T.

1756, 60^, proc. money.

1757, ^o£, lawful.

1753, (io£, bills of public credit.
1759. (^o£, bills of public credit.

But we were not alone in this experience; it per-
vaded the State and atfected every business trans-
action of whatever nattire or magnitude.

In 1756 occurred that remarkable exhibition of
financial gymnastics of which Connecticut men now
speak in low tones. No one likes to contemplate the
foul way in which she, through her General Assembly,
besmirched herself in the repudiation of her bills of
credit. She redeemed about one-ninth of their face
value and coolly repudiated the remainder. Procla-


mation, or " Prock Money," was issued, of which it
took in some instances eleven shillings of the old
tenor currency to equal one shilling of the new, but
in the case of ]\Ir. vStiles (see table) it must have
taken over fourteen.

Says Dr. Bronson of this act: "Connecticut in dis-
carding the currency she had herself established, and
repudiating her obligations, pursued a practical and
practicable course. She lay down in the fiirrow and
declared she could not pay. It was easier, and under
the circumstances wiser, to wipe out and begin anew.
There can be no shock when nobody pays."

Thus it came about that everybody was practically
bankrupt, and yet, strange to say, everybody started
in anew on a hard money basis as though fortunes
had not been made and wrecked, and the procession
of business moved on again.


Whatever peace the parish prided itself upon was
suddenly overthrown one May morning in 1757 by an
incident calculated to vex its soul. Quoting from the
colonial records:

" Upon the Memorial of Daniel Bradley and others. The inhabi-
tants of the north part of the First Society of New Haven, show-
ing that they live at a great distance from the public worship
in said society; pray to have a Committee appointed to view the
circumstances of the memorialists and if they shall think it meet
and best, make them a distinct ecclesiastical society as by the
memorial on file more fully appears."

The Assembly respectfully considered this memo-
rial and gave the petitioners a committee of three
persons with instructions to repair to the north part
of New Haven (Mount Carmel) and after hearing
all parties interested, make report at the following
October session.

The fall sitting of the Assembly was called the
second Thursday in October, or the 13th. On the


loth of that month the North Haven society held a
special meeting and

" Voted, That Capt. Samuel Barns be agent for this Society at
the Assembly in October instant to oppose the memorial of the
inhabitants of the northern part of New Haven First Society who
pray to be made into a distinct parish, in that they are about to
include divers families belonging to this society, whereas we were
never notified of such doings, nor do we think it best they should
be set of. Voted by y society that they will bear the charge."

But Captain Barnes was not diplomat enough to
flank the petitioners, and they went home carrying in
their hat the General Assembly's permission to form
a separate organization, under the name of the " IMount
Carmel Ecclesiastical Society,"' and a decree defining
the boundaries thereof.

When the newly born Hamden parish came to take
an inventory of their recently acquired real estate,
they suddenly discovered they had not enough terri-
tory on their northeast border and hence they pre-
pared another memorial to the Assembly in the spring
of 1757 "praying to have certain enlargements made,
or a committee to view, etc., as more fully appears on
file, &c." The Assembly gave them another committee
of three, and instructed this body that the parishes of
New Haven and North Haven must be notified to
appear before them if they chose when the hearing
was held.

Previous to the appointment of this latter com-
mittee, the North Haven society called a special meet-
ing May nth (day of the sitting of the Assembly) and
arrayed themselves in war paint as follows :

"Voted by this Society that they were utterly imwilling to
part with one Inch of Land that Does now or did belong to this-
Society, and being Cited by the Inhabitants of Mount Carmel to
appear at the General Assembly if they saw Cause, to object
against their having their Request granted in a Memorial they
were about sending to said Assembly. This Society looking upon
it as highly unreasonable that they should have said Request
granted, have by a \'ote chose Ensign Dan Ives their Agent tO'


oppot^e them in the matter of said memorial to the last extremity
at the General Assembly now held at Hartford."

Some time during the summer these committees
all met and a hearing- was had, whereat Ensign Ives
so vigorously " opposed to the last extremity " the
further encroachment of the ]Mount Carmel people
that North Haven this time won the victory. The
legislative committee rectified some minor matters
concerning the boundaries and reported " said parish
ought not to be enlarged as prayed for." Thus
the matter ended. The Mount Carmel society per-
fected its organization, and as a matter of course
drew into it many families in that vicinity who hith-
erto had cast- in their fortunes with that at North

As an illustration that misfortunes rarely come
singly, in the spring of the same year the Rev. Mr.
Stiles sued his society. Here follows the record:

"March y^ 31-1757.
At a meeting of the society warned by the committee, the
occasion of this meeting was that the rev'd Mr. Stiles sued the
society. Voted — By the Society that they will give y Rev. Mr.
Stiles Seventy Pounds Lawful Money for y past year and also
Seventy Pounds yearly so long as he shall continue our Minister
and also his firewood, on condition he fling up the old bargain —
Voted by the Society that Sergeant Jessie Blakeslee and Sergeant
Ebenezer Frost be a committee to answer this writ — \'oted by the
Society that they will pay the committee for their trouble — Voted
by the Society that they will have one attornee."

Evidently Mr. Stiles would not accept the TO;£ and
"fling up the old bargain," for reference to the sched-
ule before given, shows only 60^ paid. Moreover in a
receipt signed by him for his stipend for 1756, which
was dojQ, he makes use of the words, " in part of my
rate due," thus signifjang in his estimation that a bal-
ance still remained unpaid. Without doubt the "hard
times" mentioned was responsible for this dispute.
The issue may have arisen over the shifting value of
the currency, or the parish may have been really in


arrearages from the very necessity of things. There
is no copy of the writ, and nothing to indicate the
suit was ever called, for Mr. Stiles died suddenly
in 1760. His son, Isaac, was appointed administrator
of his father's estate, and in settlement of the prop-
erty made demand on the Society for an accounting.
A committee was appointed forthwith with instruc-
tions "to settle that affair with him either by leaving
of it to referees, or some other way to have it settled."
No further allusion is made to it.

It is with reluctance that one approaches the clos-
ing years of the life of this servant of God. Reluct-
ance not because he wavered, or proved unfaithful to
the interests committed to his trust, but because the
skies of his declining life became so overcast as to
cause a perceptible chill in the air.

For three or four years previous to his death storm
clouds which would not dissipate had been gathering
in the parish horizon. It doubtless can be said that
the overt act which more than anything else caused
the censure of his people was the judicial action
which he saw fit to bring, in 1757, to recover his
arrearages of salary.

In addition to this came his attitude taken at the
ordination of Mr. Dana a year later, and what had
previously been but sullenness and disaffection now
broke into an angry roar, and the tempest with all
its fury was on. No one reading the struggle be-
tween the "Old Lights" and "New Lights," on that
battle-ground in Wallingford, can but wonder that a
shred of godliness remained to deck the souls of the
vehement leaders in that controversy. The unmis-
takable drift of a part at least of Mr. Stiles' church
was in the direction of " New Light," while its in-
trepid and vigorous leader adhered to the old way.

Let no one hastily censure this brave man for his
devotion to duty. As with all conscientiousness he
saw the right, so with all his vigor he fought for it;


less would have made him a coward, more he could not
do. It does not seem to have been a time of much
spirituality. The distractions of the country, the
increasing inroads of the Church of England, the
waning vigor and energy of the preacher, the entry
of a new generation on the stage of life, all proved
harrassing agencies to the gospel peace which had
been enjoyed for more than a score and a half of
years. When all these united forces became arrayed
against Mr. Stiles, there was no more hesitation; his
resignation was boldly demanded. Curiously enough,
Pres. Stiles has preserved to us the names of the
signers to that petition.

May 27, A. D., 1760.

Signers against father Stiles.

Christopher Todd, Captain Ives, Daniel Bassett, Abram Bas-
sett, James Bradley, Joel Bradley, Moses Bradley, Demas Brad-
ley, Obediah Bradley, Zuar Bradley, Samuel Tharp, Joseph
Turner, Phineas Clark, jr., Samuel Mix, James Heaton. and five
single young men.

Also under the classification of " Secret Malcon-
tents " he records these:

Sergeant Tuttle, William Tuttle, Aaron Blakeslee, Seth Hea-
ton, Theophilus Heaton, Joseph Bishop.

Of this latter class Mr. Seth Heaton may have
been a secret foe at first, but that he found his tongue
later with surprising volubility, we infer from the
charming frankness with which the worthy doctor
writes : *

"Seth Eaton told father he was not fit for the min-
istry; upon which father replied he had been judged
fit by the best ministers around who ordained him,
and mentioned their names " (see account of his ordi-
nation), and then in these pathetic words he adds:
"Mother Stiles tells me that this application of the
aggrieved Brother to Father was just before his death,
when they desired him to call the Council to dismiss
him from the ministry."

*See " Itinerary."


Of these petitioners the first three were the ones
who, in an otScial sense carried weight. The strong-
est among them was Captain Dan Ives. Next to him
came Daniel Bassett. Both these men were young,
but able and held life long positions in the parish.
Abram Bassett, James Bradley and Phineas Clark
were old men, who had filled official chairs when Mr.
Stiles' pastorate commenced. Zuar Bradley later be-
came a tory in the War of the Revolution, and had a
portion of his property confiscated therefor. Some of
the others held minor positions, but it does not appear
that they were persons of great influence.

To return. Suddenly one Ma)'' morning in the
midst of all this agitation, the startling exclamation
passed swiftly from parishioner to parishioner, from
friend to foe, " Mr. Stiles is dead ! " The bell began
to toll, and the pale, tremulous lips of many a rugged
man were suddenly smitten dumb. It was not ac-
counted in that day that grief could break the human
heart. Perhaps Mr. Stiles was beyond this, but never-
theless the bolt fell without apparent cause and he
was not.

On Sunday, May nth, 1760, he preached with his
usual animation — on Monday he visited some of his
parish — on Tuesday he was taken ill — he died on the
morning of Wednesday, and his funeral was attended
on Thursday, the 15th.

The following letter of condolence was sent to
Samuel Sackett, Esq., of North Haven, and to Thomas
Cooper and Isaiah Tuttle, deacons of the church in
said North Haven:

The association of New Haven County regularly convened at
Guilford May 27, 1760.

To the Church of Christ in North Haven send Greeting :
Beloved Brethren :

We being surprised with the awful and melancholy News of
the Decease of your late R(v^-'d Pastor, do hereby signify to you
our hearty Condolence and Sympathy. We are heartily concerned


for you as Sheep without a Shepherd. We pity you in your desti-
tute and bereaved state and trust that we shall be waiting daily
on the great Lord of the Harvest that he would in his own due
time send a Laborer into that Part of his Vineyard to feed the
Flock and break the Bread of Life unto you.

Brethren, our Bowells are towards you in this bereaved and
broken state. And as you are a Church associated with us we
hope there will be no Backwardness in any of us to advise and
help you for your Good. And as we look upon it our duty to take
a fatherly care of you, so we would signify that we have heard
.Mr. Dana is expected to preach among you, on which we would
observe to you that he being under Censure and not allowed to
preach in these consociated churches, it cant be well accepted by
them that he be admitted to preach with you. We trust you will
take no irregular steps to hurt the common interests of Religion
or make Difficulty among j-ourselves and as we would hope you
will act agreeable to the Gospel and the Rules of Ecclesiastical
Constitution, so we shall be ready to afford proper assistance as
far as lies in our power. Believe it brethren, we are concerned
for your welfare and desirous to promote your Peace and Edifica-
tion, so recommending you to the Great Shepherd of the Sheep,
we are your Friends and Servants for Jesus' sake.

Signed in the name and by the order of the Association,

Warham Williams, Scribe.

Thursday, May 15, 1760, was the day chosen for
the burial of Mr. Stiles. Why it followed so soon on
his death is not known. The Rev. Chauncey Whittle-
sey, pastor of the First church in New Haven,
preached the funeral sermon from the text :

"Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live
forever?" — Zechariah, i: 5.

From this discourse we are enabled to gain a
contemporary's estimate of the man. Mr. Chauncey
says: " He was evidently actuated by a religious fear
of adding unto or taking away of the Words of the Book
of God — he was an able minister of Jesus Christ — he
was naturally facetious, but never spoke with lightness
of his work — possessed uncommon talent in address-
ing the passions — was a Boanerges when aroused, etc.

Referring to some confidence which existed
between Mr. Stiles and himself, he further savs:



" His constitution he was sensible was much impaired

he apprehended the time of his departure was at

hand^-he spoke with grief and tenderness of the
unchristian spirit of some among you who had lately
attempted to disturb the Peace of the People, and
of some of whom he expected better things."

There is little of smoothness and polish in ]\Ir.
Chauncey's address, compared with many of the
eulogies of the present day. His vocabulary was not
rich in dainty words nor did his thoughts find expres-
sion in sentimental phrases, but rather in plain,
vigorous language, which modern ears might pro-
nounce somewhat rude and dissonant, did he dig-
nify the occasion and declare the lesson of the hour.

Two weeks later, or on Sunday, June ist, the Rev.
Theophilus Hall, of the church in Meriden, preached
to the pastorless people. His address has been care-
fully preserved and bears on its title page the follow-
ing imprint :

Sermon :

Delivered at North Haven,

June I, 1760,

In a Time of Mortality Among Them.

Published at the Desire of the Bereaved Family and a Number of

the Hearers,


Theophilus Hall,
Pastor of the Church in Meriden.

Of Mr. Stiles Mr. Hall says : " He was sound in
the faith; exemplary in life; lover of God, of good
men and his own people; charitable to those who dif-
fered with him; enriched with Humility, Uprightness,
Honesty; patient under the later trials of his life;
fed his people not with empty speculations, nor any
human invention, but with the sincere milk of the
Word; he set his face like a Flint against the sins of
the times; he was a great textuary; possessed of a
lively imagination, a _ voluble tongue, and flow of
words; his gestures easy; his voice grave and pleas-
ant; his fame is in all our churches."



Mr. Hall was plainer spoken than was Mr. Chaun-
cey in his allusions to the hard treatment of Mr.
Stiles by his brethren in the ministry [referring to
the Dana matter] and also to the attitude of the dis-
satisfied ones of the church, for concerning the latter
he uses this significant language, " and when I was at
the funeral one not of this place heard said at the
Grave, ' Now the Bone of Contention is taken away.' "

Mr. Hall's discourse, before alluded to, consisted
of two parts. This, with ]\Ir. Chauncey's address, was
published immediately after delivery and circulated
through the parish. The only copy known to
the writer is in Yale University library. It was
printed by subscription and the following list of
names will be of interest as showing who stood by his
memory when the grave had covered him:

Stephen Goodyear, Samuel Atwater,

Andrew Goodyear, Dan Carrington,

Jonathan Ailing, James Ives,

Stephen Cooper, Samuel Ives,

Joel Cooper, Joshua Ives,

Ezra Stiles, Lemuel Bradley,

Isaac Stiles, Jason Bradley,

Ashbel Stiles, Joseph Pierpont,

John Dolbear. Eleazer Todd.

The following families comprised the population
of the parish when it first came to be recognized
in 17 15-16. The list is taken literally from Pres.
Stiles' papers:

Families in North Haven A. D. 1715.
Samuel Sanford, Ebenezer Frost,

Deacon Todd, Capt. Sanford,

Thomas Beach, Humbertson,

Thomas Humeston, Thorp,

Thomas Sanford, Thomas Jacobs,

Theophilus Eaton, Samuel Jacobs,

Seth Eaton, John Barnes,

Capt. Granniss, Israel Barnes,

Moses Brockett, John Cooper,

Samuel Brockett, Mahal Todd.



Families in North Haven, A. D. 1715 — continued.

Thomas Barnes, Simon Tuttle,

Dan Barnes, Nathaniel Tuttle,

William Tuttle, James Bishop,

Joseph Clark, Samuel Bradley,

Stephen Clark, Joseph Bradle}',

Lawrence Clenton, Deacon Ives,

Capt. Ives, Elihu Yale,

Phineas Clark, Dea. David Yale,

Ebenezer Ives, Sergeant Turner,

Joseph Cooper, Thomas Ives.

This list, on the basis of five persons to a family (a
safe average in that day) would make the total num-
ber of inhabitants about two hundred. The Rev. Mr.
Stiles saw this small band increase before his death
to one hundred seventy-five families, or more than
one thousand people. The period then between 17 15
and 1760 must have been the banner age of the
town so far as increase in population was concerned.
At no time since has anything like such growth
been known. In 1870 the population in round num-
bers was seventeen hundred seventy, an advance say
of eight hundred, but it took one hundred ten years
to accomplish this, whereas in the former case the

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 7 of 32)