The History of the Old Town of Derby, Connecticut, 1642 -- 188O.
Published: Press of Springfield Printing Company, Springfield, Mass., 1880.
Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13 Part 14 Part 15 Part 16 Part 17
EDUCATION, ENTERPRISE AND IMPROVEMENTS.
17O1 -- 1731.
WHEN we consider the state of society, and especially the farming class in England, only a hundred years before the settlement began in Derby, we must conclude that here great progress was made during the first hundred years, although without the comparison we might judge otherwise. We are told that during the fifteenth and considerable part of the sixteenth century, the comfort of the farmers there was not equal to America during its first century.
"The cottages of the peasantry usually consisted of but two rooms on the ground floor, the outer for the servants, the inner for the master and his family, and they were thatched with straw or sedge; while the dwelling of the substantial farmer was distributed into several rooms; above and beneath was coated with white lime or cement, and was very neatly roofed with reed; hence, Tusser, speaking of the farm house, gives the following directions for repairing and preserving its thatch in the month of May:
"'Where houses be reeded (as houses have need)
"A few years before the era of which we are treating, (that is, the first half of the sixteenth century) the venerable Hugh Latimer, [Born in 1472.] describing in one of his impressive sermons the economy of a farmer in his time, tells us that his father, who was a yeoman, had no land of his own, but only ' a farm of three or four pounds by the year at the most; and hereupon he tilled so much as kept half a dozen men.' Land let at this period at about a shilling per acre; but in the reign of Elizabeth (from
* This was printed in 1744, when much progress had been made in farmers' houses.
1558 to 1603) its value rapidly increased, together with a proportional augmentation of the comfort of the farmers, who even began to exhibit the elegancies and luxuries of life."
"In times past the costlie furniture staled there (in gentlemen's houses) whereas now it decended yet lower, even unto manie farmers, who by vertue of their old and not of their new leases, have for the most part learned also to garnish their cupboards with plate, their ioined beds with tapistrie and silk hangings, and their tables with carpets and fine naperie, whereby the wealth of our countrie (God be praised therefore, and give us grace to emploie it well) dooth infinitely appeare."
Hence, a few of the people, only a few, -had silver plate when they came to this country, and a few more had pewter plate, and fine furniture, but mostly they came as having had but few comforts, no luxuries, and very little of anything but hard work with few privileges. Hence, as soon as they began to realize the luxury of owning their own lands, and owning as much as they could pay for, under circumstances favoring a large amount of produce from the land cultivated, the spirit of enterprise seized almost the whole country, and such ambition, courage, bravery and endurance of fatigue was maintained, as is not found in the history of any age that is past. And what is more, from that day to this, the nation has been rising, intellectually, socially and religiously, while they have improved in the comforts, conveniences, luxuries and elegancies of home life. Progress, intellectual, physical and religioics, has marked every step of the Pilgrim in the New World to the present hour, and now is moving faster than ever, as if riding in a splendid carriage, casting its great favors upon all people, irrespective of any class or condition, as ancient kings scattered from their lofty coaches silver coin on benefaction days.
And still the watchword is onward, in every department of toil and enjoyment.
Rev. John James, was elected town clerk in January, 1701, and at the annual town meeting of that year he made a special record, which he denominated:
"Memorandum. That on Dec. 29, 1701, the worshipful Capt. Ebenezer Johnson at a town meeting then held, offered ensign Samuel Riggs of the same town, to debate either between them-
selves privately, whatever matter of variance lay between them, and he the said Captain further tendered and urged that ought which had occasioned so ill and uncomfortable a difference between them should be rehearsed and told in the audience of one, two, three, four, or five persons that they should agree to, and entreat to audience between them, and propound who was the most faulty and blameable, and that he would stand to that award in point of any meet satisfaction.
"But this good motion and proposal was totally rejected by the aforesaid Ensign. Per me John James recorder." Two weeks later Ensign Riggs accepted this offer, and Mr. James faithfully recorded the fact.
Here is an illustration of character worthy of notice and to be commended, although of but little practical use at the present day, since what cannot be settled in law is most usually carried out in perpetual strife among all classes in the church and out. If defenseless girls or young people, walk not to the rules of the churches, they may be dealt with, and the discipline made a matter of boasting in favor of righteousness, but men of influence and wealth, active in the church, although shadowed by the thinnest clouds of uprightness, and many clouds to the contrary, are seldom troubled by discipline in the churches or otherwise, except it can be done in the spirit of strife. In this consideration there is no special application to times or places. It is the spirit of the times, now present. Yet, although we may not be specially benefited in the present course of life, it is inspiring to look at the character set before us. Capt. Ebenezer Johnson was an energetic, brave man in any place, civil or military. As a soldier, he is said to have been so fearless as to be presumptuous, carrying success everywhere because he seemed to see and fear no opposition; and the position in popular sentiment, which he held in the state more than twenty years was inferior to but few persons, and therefore such a proposition is the more remarkable and inspiring. Ensign Samuel Riggs was the equal of Capt. Johnson, in the town, but in the state he had not the general reputation, not being as well known. No man without a true heart of nobleness and kindness would ever make such a proposition, and none but a benevolently disposed man would pledge himself wholly before consultation, to
abide by the judgment of those chosen to hear the statements. Mr. Riggs at first rejects the offer, but in a few days as honorably accepts it as it was honorably made. The whole trouble was thus ended, and they seem to have lived together as though nothing of the kind had ever occurred.
But the fact of this proposition being made in a town meeting, indicates that such matters were not attended to in the church then, unless the town in this case was the church, of which supposition there are many items to warrant. There have been but two things as yet .seen in the history of this church that indicates any church action not performed by the town, before the settlement of Mr. Moss, and one is the fact that several deacons were elected, or some way constituted, but not by vote of the town, and the other, the fact that a council was called to organize the church. Nowhere, to the settlement of Mr. Moss, is it indicated in any records of the town, that there was any church organization other than the town. The church was organized after the town, but whether its membership was constituted by being free planters or in other words inhabitants of the town, is not intimated. If there were any church records, not only are they lost, but nearly all tradition concerning any such is lost, except that it is said, at the burning of Danbury in the Revolution, some were carried thither, and were burned; for what end or purpose they were carried there, is inconceivable.
The first record made in the town in regard to schools and education, is the following. "Sept. 29, 1701. Agreed that it be left with the Townsmen of Derby to procure a school master for the town of Derby according as the law in that matter requireth." On the eleventh of the next December, the town took another action, as follows: "The Townsmen of Derby, viz.: the four following, Capt Ebenezer Johnson; Ensign Samuel Riggs, Isaac Nichols, Sergeant Brinsmade, agreed with me John James, to teach such of the town of Derby as should be sent and come unto me for that end and purpose, on condition of there being paid to me what by law is ordered to be paid by the Constable out of the country rate to one that shall officiate in that work (viz.: of School keeping) and this to be attended by me for no longer time than is provided by law on that behalf.
and at such convenient times as they who are to be taught to write, repair unto me the said John James."
The first enactment of law, by the new Haven Court, concerning education in pubHc schools, was in 1657, requiring a school to be established in every plantation, one-third of the expenses to be raised by tax in the plantation, the other two-thirds by the individuals benefited, or attending the school. In 1660, it was further ordered, "that the sons of all the inhabitants within this jurisdiction shall (under the same penalty) be learned to write a legible hand, so soon as they are capable of it."
Further action was taken in May, 1690, as follows: "This Court observing that notwithstanding the former orders made for the education of children and servants, there are many persons unable to read the English tongue, and thereby incapable to read the holy word of God, or the good laws of the Colony, which evil, that it go no further upon their Majesty's subjects here, it is hereby ordered that all parents and masters shall cause their respective children and servants, as they are capable, to be taught to read distinctly the English tongue, and that the grand jurymen in each town do once in the year at least, visit each family they suspect to neglect this order, and satisfy themselves whether all children under age, and servants in such suspected families can read well the English tongue, or be in a good procedure to learn the same or not, and if they find any such children and servants not taught as they are capable, they shall return the names of the parents or masters of the said children so untaught, to the next county court, where the said parents or masters shall be fined twenty shillings for each child or servant whose teaching is or shall be neglected contrary to this order.
"This Court considering the necessity and great advantage of good literature, do order and appoint that there shall be two free schools kept and maintained in this Colony, for the teaching of all such children as shall come there, after they can first read the Psalter, to teach such reading, writing, arithmetic, the Latin and Greek tongues, the one at Hartford, the other at New Haven, the masters whereof shall be chosen by the magistrates and ministers of the said county, and shall be inspected and again displaced by them if they see cause.
"This Court considering the necessity many parents or masters may be under to improve their children and servants in labor for a great part of the year, do order that if the town schools in the several towns, as distinct from the free school, be, according to law already established, kept up six months in each year to teach to read and write the English tongue, the said towns so keeping their respective schools six months in every year shall not be presentable or finable by law for not having school according to law, notwithstanding any former law or order to the contrary."
Mr. James was engaged to teach "reading and writing to such of the town as shall come for that end from Dec. 14, 1703, to the end of the following April," for which he was to be paid out of the country rate according to law, which was forty shillings for the year; afterwards, some years, there was appropriated for schooling in each town forty shillings on every one thousand in the list.
In 1704, the same arrangement was made with Mr. James to teach the school during the winter. Mr. James also received forty shillings a year for his services as town clerk, for several years.
The need of the writing instructions was very great, as is apparent in looking over the deeds executed at this time, as the giving of deeds instead of making an entry by the town clerk upon the sale of lands, had become general. Scarcely was there a woman who signed a deed that could write her name, and many of the men could not write, and signed deeds by making their marks. Mr. Bowers's own daughter could not write. And in real fact there was scarcely any need that women should write except to sign deeds, as epistolary writing was scarcely known at that time, but as soon as the families began to scatter into different plantations and women were called upon to transact business for themselves and others the need began to be supplied by attention to it. Nor was it only because of the theoretical notion that the ability for writing was not needed in that practical age, but the very great necessity that every man, woman and child should be at work; and so hard, and so long at work in order to attain a point above liability to suffer for food and clothing, that there was not time left to go to school.
or Otherwise to attend to it. The General Assembly recognized this demand when they said: "Consider the necessity many parents or masters may be under to improve their children and servants in labor for a great part of the year." That is to use their children in work to make a living was so great a call that the Legislature stepped in between parent and child and required the child to be sent to school. Thus indicating the judgment of the early fathers that where education is not required by law it will be neglected.
But while the moral and intellectual requirements were being provided for in a liberal manner for that age under the circumstances, the progress of settlement of the town was receiving much attention and calling out incessant and marvelous effort. And there seemed to be almost a mania for new land; land and forests; or land in the unbroken forests. On, and on into the wilderness they moved with eager haste, before they had half fenced or half cleared the land taken up.
There was a tract of land that had been purchased of the Indians a number of years before, and a mortgage given to Mr. Nicholas Camp of Milford, and the town voted in 1700, that the mortgage should be paid by paying four pounds money a year, and this land was deeded to the town by the Indians.*
This tract of land was known many years by the name Camp's mortgage purchase, and was divided in 1702, the number of proprietors being fifty-two.
Rules for dividing into lots certain lands in the town had been established in 1700, as follows: "Voted that the land in Derby which lieth below, on the southward, and westward of Little
"Know that we . . Indians in confirmation of a Mortgage made to Mr. Nicholas Camp of Milford of a certain tract of land, bounded Southward with Derby purchase, westward with a range of swamps near Moose hill, northward with a little river commonly called Little river, eastward with Naugatuck river, which is a parcel of land about three miles square, be it more or less. Given in 1702.
river and Bladens brook shall be divided by the following rules.
"All persons having a listed estate, and as have in themselves or their predecessors borne public charges, from sometime before the settling of the first minister Mr. Bowers until now shall have fifty pound in the one hundred added to their present list."
Those who had been in the town since the time intervening between the settlement of the second and third minister, Mr. James, were to have thirty in the one hundred added, and those settling after Mr. James were to have twenty pounds added, and those who had come in during Mr. Moss's ministry were to have only their estates in the list.
"Mr. Moss, the minister, shall have a right in all future divisions to the proportion of a one hundred pound estate. The drawing for these lots took place on twelfth of March, 1702, by drawing the numbers from a box or hat.
1 Daniel Jackson,
At the town meeting just before the drawing took place, they voted that the first lot be at the north corner next the
Little river, next to Sergt. Thomas Wooster's land, and to go westward to the Great hill and then to go back in the second tier up to the Little river, and then back again in the third tier of lots, down by Naugatuck river. Voted that a rod and an half go, to the pound of ratable estate according to the two last years' rates, since the purchase was made. The surveyors of this land were Capt. Ebenezer Johnson, Ensign Samuel Riggs, John Riggs, Sergeant Brinsmade, John Bowers and Timothy Wooster; and the rule that was to govern them was that "where it wanted in quality it was to be made up in quantity."
Great carefulness, in regard to equity, was manifested in all the management of so many divisions, continued through many years. In 1703, Capt. Ebenezer Johnson received an allotment in Quaker's farm to make him equal with others, on a certain reckoning in 1689. Many pieces of land were given away upon the asking, without counting them in divisions. As an illustration we have the gift of a little land to Josiah Baldwin whose father or grandfather, Richard, was the first father of the plantation.
"In 1696. The following persons, inhabitants of Derby, agreeing to give unto Josiah Baldwin an homestead of three or four acres. . . He was a physician.
Ebenezer Johnson, Samuel Washborn, Jeremiah Johnson, sen., Ebenezer Riggs, Ensign Riggs, Wm. Tomlinson, sen., John Tibbals, Timothy Wooster, Samuel Bowers, Samuel Brinsmade, Stephen Pierson, Joseph Hawkins, Joseph Hulls, John Pringle, Ephraim Smith, Jr., Samuel Nichols, William Washborn, Jonathan Lumm, Abel Holbrook, Isaac Nichols, John Bowers, Abraham Tomlinson, Henry Wooster, Francis French, John Pierson, Andrew Smith, Stephen Pierson, Jr., John Davis, sen., John Riggs, John Twitchell, John James, Thomas Wooster, John Chatfield, James Hard, John Hulls, Ebenezer Harger, George Beaman, Wm. Tomlinson, Jr., Jeremiah Johnson, Jr. David Wooster, John Johnson, Moses Johnson.
This man became somewhat noisy about town in a few years later; perhaps in recognition of former favors. "1703, voted that Josiah Baldwin beat the drum whenever it is necessary that the town be called together for and to any meetings except training days, and that he have eight shillings for so doing."
The petition of John Davis, Jr., to the town of Derby, Greeting:
"Gentlemen I by necessity am forst to put forth my petition to your selves requesting this favour of all to whom it dusconserne yt you will be pleas to sett your Hands to this my small request, for four acres and A half of land lying upon white mayre's hill; I having not land to Improve: hope you will not denie this my request: gentlemen as yourselves know I have lived these several years in this sd town and have not had one foot of land of ye town but what I have bought hoping gentlemen yt upon these conditions, you will be pleas to sett your hands to this my small petition that is above mentioned signifieing me the sd John Davis to be true proprietor of ye sd lands a hove mentioned -- pray sor, denie not this request to yor friend & servant John Davis. Feb. 2, 1710."
Forty names were signed and the deed recorded.
Another long step was taken in the civilization of the world and of progress, in 1702, when the town ordered "that John Pringle (town treasurer) disburse so much of the towns money on his hand as will buy an hour-glass." This may have been to time the minister, to see if he preached full length sermons. What but this, if anything, the town could do with an hourglass is the mystery.
In 1704, there was much uneasiness about the security of the titles to the lands, as there had been several times in previous years, and a committee was sent to the General Assembly and obtained a patent, so called in those days, but this did not give them rest, for about 1710, they made another effort to be secure, and some years after that, they made another. Milford obtained its Patent in 1713. The matter as to Derby was finally settled in 1720, when the Legislature voted to give the town a quit-claim deed.
The only town act that has been observed, that indicated any disturbance among the Indians is dated March 4, 1702, and proclaims a state of considerable excitement. "Voted that Capt.
Ebenezer Johnson and Henry Wooster treat with the Indians to pacify and satisfy tliem on any tolerable terms." The word satisfy, is probably the largest key to the trouble; their lands in the town were nearly all gone. They had removed from the vicinity of what is now Baldwin's Corners, to the side of the Ousatonic, where the new fort stood, a little way above the dam on that river, and thence to the neighborhood of Wesquantook, and Pomperaug, some going to the reservation possibly at the Falls, (or Seymour) and others still farther away. The two chiefs, Cockapatana and Ahuntaway, were probably residing at Wesquantook, or its vicinity, as intimated in one of the deeds. Woodbury was clearing the country above them and what were they to do? The war with France was still going on, and communications were passing from tribe to tribe, and great rewards offered for the tribes to turn against the English. The uneasiness is indicated also by the carefulness of the town to keep a lawful stock of ammunition on hand, as indicated by several votes; and it is said that "every soldier, was provided with ammunition."
The Indians had been so friendly and true to their white neighbors fifty years, that it seems almost unkind to think of their being anything else, but it is certain that those old white neighbors were alarmed to an unusual extent, to pass such a resolution in town meeting. So far as appears on the records the English had dealt honorably with the Indians. There is a story that the Indians became indebted to Mr. Camp (merchant) for whisky, and he obtained a mortgage to secure his pay. If true, it should be remembered that the traffic in whisky was just as honorable then, as traffic in tobacco to-day, and the amount which the town paid for this tract of land was so much that they divided it into installments of four pounds a year for four or five years, and this land as it lay when divided would sell for little more if anything, than what they paid, if we judge by the sales which were made of some of the land under cultivation.
The first appointment to keep an ordinary or tavern was given to Ebenezer Johnson at his residence near Two-mile brook, which was, doubtless, continued some years.
In 1704, Samuel Nichols and Abel Holbrook were appointed to this office or privilege.
Abel Holbrook resided on what is now the Swift farm, the house standing a little south of the present dwelling.
Samuel Nichols was in the vicinity of Baldwin's Corners, as called at present.
Both these men continued to keep an ordinary by appointment, until 1716, when John Pringle seems to have taken the place of Samuel Nichols. One of these men, probably kept the ordinary on the hill north-west and in sight of Baldwin's Corners, on the first and old Woodbury road, now closed up or nearly so, but an old house or barn is still standing at that place.
But another trial was at hand for the Lord's people "in this corner of the wilderness" as they had written at first when they sought to become a church. The health of the Rev. Mr. James had nearly failed, and it was evident another minister must be obtained.
The town record for March 4, 1706, reads: "The town have freely granted and given Mr. James the house wherein he liveth and the barn and the lot whereon his house and barn standeth whether he live or die in the town.
"Mr. James having at sundry times signified and declared unto the church of Christ in Derby and also to the town that he is unable under his disabilities to attend and discharge the ministerial work unto and amongst them; he hath manifested his willingness freely to lay down his work and the church of Christ in Derby; and also the town, under a sense of the heavy burden upon him are freely willing to set him at liberty, he having signified his willingness and desire that they may with speed provide themselves, that so they may have the word and ordinances amongst them. The town and the church with Mr. James desire the council of the neighboring churches and elders in this affair and matter.
"The town have chosen Mr. Pierpont, Mr. Andrew and Mr. Stoddard to give advice in the sorrowful case between Mr. James and the town.
"Voted that the town are very sensible of their need of a minister to preach the gospel among them.
"The town have chosen Sargt. Samuel Brinsmade to carry a letter unto Mr. Moss, and to treat with him about being helpful to them in the work of the ministry and tliey have agreed in
case he cannot be prevailed with, the townsmen are a committee empowered to set out for some other as they shall be advised."
Mr. Moss was obtained to supply the pulpit a time, and the next August the town gave him an invitation in order to a settlement, and made an offer concerning salary and other items, but the offer was not accepted. Probably he continued to preach regularly among them some months.
After Mr. James was dismissed, he sold his house and lot to Ebenezer Johnson in behalf of the town, for ninety pounds money, and removed to Wethersfield. The town then bought the property of Captain Johnson for the same price to be a parsonage. They also had a lot in the field on Sentinel hill, which they called the parsonage lot. The next February they voted that Mr. Joseph Moss should be their settled minister, if they could obtain him upon the terms hereafter mentioned.
"Voted that whereas formerly the town of Derby saw cause to give Mr. Moss, provided he settle among them, six acres of land for an home lot, they now see cause in lieu thereof to make over to him the home lot belonging to the house they bought of Mr. James, or Major Johnson, provided he settle among us in the ministry, as also the house and barn they have bought with it.
"They also see fit to give him the hillside adjoining as it is bounded in Major Johnson's deed, and the use of all the parsonage land and meadow; and also the town see cause to continue their former minds as to the forty acres of land voted to him before. Also that they agree to give him fifty pounds per annum as formerly voted more fully, and to provide him his fire wood, and get his hay for him, and to maintain the parsonage fenced." (Very good; is there anything further that can be done?) But this was not all, for a young and vigorous minister coming into a parish after an older one, -- sick with all, -- his work nearly done, -- lifts the courage and devotion of a people very wonderfully.
"Further; voted the town grant to the said Mr. Moss and his heirs forever the aforesaid housing and lands on this condition, that he live and die with them in the work of the ministry, but if he see cause to leave the town and desert that work, the aforementioned house and barn, home lot and pasture to revert
to the town again." (That is the way to have settled pastors if people want them!)
"Voted that the town will this ensuing year at their own charge clear and break up, two acres of the parsonage land, and sow the same in good season and order, with wheat for Mr. Moss's use.
"Voted that: -- (What, not through yet? O, no, we are to have a new minister!) Major Johnson, Ensign Samuel Riggs, and Lieut. Thomas Wooster be a committee to treat with Mr. Joseph Moss in order to settle him in the ministry among us."
Such was that new broom, heard of in so many ages in the past; the same one, that always sweeps clean when new!
However, it may be said that Rev. Mr. James was not a popular speaker, although a faithful, efficient man, undertaking more than he could possibly do, but Mr. Moss was a good speaker, with interesting and attractive ways and methods; and he knew somewhat his value, and the town did wisely in its decisions, as to extra worth, but the real facts are that parishes are not often governed by the plain fact of worth, but by fancy, prejudice, personal pleasure or interest. The great question of the good of human kind without regard to minor questions seldom prevails in these later days. The salary, and most of the items, were just what Mr. James received. In 1708, they changed and gave him money instead of furnishing wood; and most of the years of his service his salary was voted to be fourpence on the pound, whatever that might be, but was on a scale of gradual increase as the town improved in valuation, until about 1730, when it was made three pence on the pound.
Mr. Joseph Moss became their settled pastor in the spring of 1707, having preached on trial nearly a year, and was probably ordained and installed by a council of the ministers named and elders of their churches, who were invited by the town. The records mention "The church of Christ in Derby," and that was the customary name used in those days throughout the Colony. Some years afterwards, the habit of calling them Presbyterian grew up, and also the name Congregational. There was just as much propriety in calling the Episcopal church the Roman church as in calling these colonial churches Presbyterian, and it is pleasant to know that in these later times people,
generally, have become more definite and proper in the use of terms.
While Mr. Moss was preaching on trial and the parish were quite anxious to secure him as settled pastor, they voted in December that the town would build a new meeting-house, but soon after the conclusion was to repair the old meeting-house and use it some years longer.
"Dec. 1706. Voted that the town will add to the present meeting-house and not build a new one for the present. Voted that the addition shall be made at the end of the meeting-house and not at the side, viz.: 14 feet added in length to the west end.
"Voted that the town will refit the old meeting-house by shingling and plastering the walls with clay and whitewashing with lime upon the clay, and that the addition shall be fitted in like manner, and that when it is thus enlarged and repaired the town will procure seats for the convenient seating of the same."
Major Johnson, Ens. Samuel Riggs, Mr. Isaac Nichols, were the building committee.
Hence, previous to this time this house was provided with neither stationary seats nor plastering. The seats were probably loose plank or slab seats, like those provided for some other meeting-houses since that day.
In 1706 they "voted that the town do agree with Major Johnson to get, cart, frame and set up the timber for the new end of the meeting-house for five pound in country pay, and Major Johnson to stay for his pay until the next year, and to get the work done by the last of March next ensuing."
They agree with Mr. Samuel Bowers "to get, prepare, cart and lay, the clapboards and shingles, for four pounds, and wait one year for his pay, and have the work done by the fifteenth of May next."
This was attended to during the summer of 1707, as appears by votes passed to pay for such work. This was the meetinghouse that stood at Squabble Hole.
"Voted that the town will give Major Johnson forty shillings for his work about the New and Old flour [mill] and the meeting-house." "Voted that Jeremiah Johnson shall have four pounds ten shillings for what he did for the town about the meetin2:-house: and that the town allow Adino Strong thirteen
pounds and ten shillings for his work about the meeting-house; and that John Pringle shall have two pounds nineteen shillings for his work about the meeting-house." In October they voted that "the town will seat the meeting-house; and have seated Major Johnson, Ensign Riggs, Mr. William Tomlinson, sen., and Isaac Nichols in the first seat before the pulpit; Lieut. Thomas Wooster, Ensign Joseph Hull, John Tibballs and Stephen Pierson, sen., in the first short seat joining to the pulpit, and further they have not proceeded yet." But they did proceed further very decidedly, for in this arrangement there was not a sufficient number of classes; it was too common, and therefore on December 15th following, they "voted that Major Johnson shall, according to his desire, sit at the end of the pulpit in a short seat alone, and that the town be at suitable charge to make it handsome and convenient to entertain the Major honorably.
"At the same time voted that Mrs. Bowers, Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Moss shall sit in the seat on the women's side next to the pulpit, which is made with banisters like a pew. Voted that Stephen Pierson, John Tibbals, Ens. Joseph Hull and Joseph Hawkins, shall sit in the first short seat, facing to the end of the pulpit behind where the Major sits; and that Mother Pierson, wife of Stephen Pierson, senr., shall sit in the seat next behind the pew. Voted to seat the widow Washborn, widow Johnson, widow Tomlinson and widow French and wife of Abel Holbrook in the next seat behind the pew.
"Voted that those seats before the pulpit be parted." That is, being long seats running from aisle to aisle, each seat counted for two. When the addition to this house was completed there were probably two doors and an aisle from each door, and the pulpit standing on the back side between these aisles.
"Voted that Ens. Samuel Riggs, Mr. William Tomlinson, senr., shall sit in the first seat facing to the pulpit, and their wives likewise." That is, their wives in the opposite end. "That Mr. Isaac Nichols and Lieut. Thomas Wooster in the second of those seats lacing the pulpit, and their wives in the same rank" [but on the women's side].
"That Doct. John Durand and Mr. John Davis in the third of these seats and their wives in the same order.
"Voted that the town will have the rest of the meeting-house seated according to rates; and that John Tibbals, Ens. Joseph Hull and Joseph Hawkins be a committee to see that matter of seating according to rates performed. That heads shall be taken out of the list, all except one head to each estate in oider to seat the meeting-house according to rates." This method a few years later excluded a man's son and daughter, if adults, from his own pew or seat; which arrangement made it necessary to appoint the tithing man to watch the young people in the meeting-house, as they were shut out of their proper place with their parents. In this house the young people must have been seated in the back seats, but when the second house was built they went into the gallery.
"Voted that the first long seat shall be accounted the highest in dignity yet unseated and that the first short seat yet unseated be accounted the second in dignity; and then the second long seat the third in dignity and the last short seat the fourth in dignity, and then the other seats being all in one tier to receive their dignity from their order successively.
"At the same time John Pringle, Samuel Bowers, Abel Gunn and John Riggs were appointed a committee to seat the meeting-house that is yet unseated," and they did the work and declared it at the same town meeting.
"At the same time voted that Abraham Pierson shall have his head taken out of his father's list and Seth Perry's head shall be taken out of Adino Strong's list in order to seating, and they the said Abraham and Seth shall have seats equal! to the men of eighteen pound estate.
"Voted that the wife of John Tibballs shall sit precisely according to the list of her husband's ratable estate." She probably held a ratable estate of her own, which added to her husband's would have placed her higher than he. Such an arrangement could not be tolerated in those days, but according to the rule established as to estates she could claim it.
"Voted that the town will convert those two hindmost seats before the pulpit into a pew for the women."
In the next March they voted further that "Edward Riggs, Peter Johnson, and Richard Holbrook shall have liberty to build a seat before the women's pew [at the side of the pulpit]
for their wives to sit in." This shows that there were not seats enough when arranged in classes, although previously there were sufficient.
Therefore it may be seen that the spirit of class order existed one hundred and fifty years ago, the same as now, and as ever it had. At one time it is the boast of physical strength, at another of physical weakness, or idleness, independent of work; at another beauty; another, wealth; another intellectual cultivation; in all ages it has lived and done good and evil; and where it is not there is death of all that is improving in human society; the only question is to guide it aright.
In 1710, they "granted the guard [soldiers] liberty to have the two hindmost seats but one on the men's side," which indicates the presence of from ten to fifteen soldiers each Sunday.
The spirit of enterprise was stronger now in Derby than ever before, in all that would bring prosperity. Another tract of land is purchased on the east side* of the Naugatuck, in 1709, extending the right of the soil to Beacon hill river north and Milford line on the east. The proprietors of this land say they are "Indians of Milford" an historical statement denoting the fact of their descent from the original tribe at Milford. In this sale, Chetrenaset an Indian receives a squaw from Major Ebenezer Johnson at the value of seven pounds, money, which was securing a wife at more than an ordinary cost for an Indian, but reveals the system of abomination that has cost America more, in every view taken, than any other to be mentioned to the present day.
This purchase was the last on the east side of Naugatuck and left the Indians no land on that side of the river except the reservation at Seymour.
"We . . Indians of Milford, for and in consideration of seven pounds paid to Major Ebenezer Johnson of Derby from Chetrenaset upon the account of a Squaw Sarah, sold unto said Chetrenaset, and three pounds ten shillings in hand received of Major Ebenezer Johnson . . which we do acknowledge, have sold a certain tract of land lying in a place called Nayumps, bounded northerly with Beacon hill river, easterly with Milford, westerly with Naugatuck river, south with Lebanon river.
"John Minor, justice, says Cockapatana and his son Waskawakes, alias Tom."
Another piece of land was purchased the next spring by Rev. Joseph Moss and his brother, Samuel Moss, containing one hundred and twenty acres, the only piece bought by the acre of any extent* of the Indians. The price is stated to have been "a certain valuable sum of money."
"A tract of land in the precincts of Derby, situate at a place known by the name of Twelve mile hill joining upon the bounds of the town of Waterbury on the north running from mile stake which standeth on the top of said hill, one quarter of a mile eastward, which will make the length of said tract of land half a mile, and to run from said stake one hundred rods south which maketh one hundred acres.
"All of us Indians, native proprietors of the lands in Derby, for the consideration . . of six pounds current silver money by Ens. Samuel and Lieut. Joseph Hull of Derby, agents, . . have sold . . a certain tract of land, bounded as follows, southward by the Little river, so called, westward by Woodbury bounds up to two chestnut trees marked, which are the bounds between Waterbury, Woodbury and Derby, and then the line runs in the line dividing the township of Derby and Waterbury until it comes to the middle of Towantick pond, which is the northerly bounds of the land; thence Southwardly by marked trees until it comes to the brook that runs down the west side of Towantick hill unto the Little river.
"And further we . . hereby remise, release and cjuit claim . . all the rights and title we have . . in any of the lands within the bounds of Derby, excepting such small piece or pieces that we have by expression in particular deeds before reserved for our own use as mav be seen bv the records of Derby.
"We whose names are under written being Indians living near Derby do witness that Sisowecum alias Warouth, Pequet, Will Doctor, Daupauks alias Will Toto, John Toto and Tom Toto are the right owners of all the land in the northern and northwestward parts of Derby bounds yet unsold as witness our hands in Derby, this 1st of Feb. 1710/11
One hundred acres of this tract was given to Mr. Joseph Moss by the town in the place of the forty acres promised him at his settlement.
One more purchase was made of the Indians, which, though dated a month earlier than the one above, seemed to complete the territory of Derby, very nearly as to purchases.
The names of the two sachems are not on these deeds, which raises the supposition that the lands were before this, divided among the Indians, and these chiefs with others had removed to other regions. [Lambert 130, who says Cockapotany died at his home in Derby in 1731.] Ten others signed their names to a paper declaring that certain other Indians were the owners of all lands yet unsold in the northern and north-westward parts of Derby, meaning doubtless the reservations. But this last paper may have been intended to confirm what was said in the last deed that all lands hitherto owned by the natives except reservations were now sold. The only reservations made so far as seen were at the Falls. The Turkey hills possession was a grant from Milford to the Indians. The original deed for Derby was for land so far south as to the "point of rocks;" that is, the rocks at the mouth of Two-mile brook. Between that and the Milford line was a strip of land running some distance east, if not to New Haven line. This strip Alexander Bryan bought of the Indians and Milford became possessed of it, and the portion called Turkey hill consisting of about one hundred acres Milford appointed to the Indians about 1680 as their home. But Ausantaway, the faithful chief of Milford was settled in Derby before this, and closed his life career in 1676, and some of the clan resided here until the death of Molly Hatchett in 1829. Ausantaway is said to have been in Derby and hence probably lived north of the mouth of Two-mile brook on what is called also Turkey hill, where was also an Indian burying ground.
The following record can scarcely be true, although a matter of fact in history. "Jan. 9, 1707. Voted that the bargain the town made with Samuel Bowers about beating the drum for twenty shillings till next August be hereby ratified and confirmed; and that John Chatfield have six shillings for beating the drum for the time past." He did not beat the drum all the
time, day and night, as the record might imply, but for the calling the town together, but for what they should come together so often as to cost twenty shillings in seven months is the mystery.
The Rev. John James was the the first person employed in town to teach the public school, so far as has been observed in the records of the town, and this work began in 1701, in December, and he continued it three or four years; and all that he was required to teach was reading and writing, and that as or when the children came to him. For these services he received only forty shillings, the amount required by law to be raised and used in the town during the year; the record says forty shillings, but this may have meant forty shillings per thousand on the grand list, and he kept night school as well as day.
In 1711, a considerable advance had been made, as indicated in the recorded statement, "that every person improveth the school-master by sending their children or servants to school this year, shall pay their proportion of that part of the schoolmaster's salary which is over the money that comes to the school out of the country treasury in proportion to the number each sends, to the whole number and the time each child attends. And it is further agreed that all the night scholars shall pay per night or per week, half that proportion that day scholars do, and bring in their accounts as aforesaid or suffer like penalty as aforesaid, excepting such night scholars as belong to those that find house-room for the schools, and they to pay nothing for their learning if there be nothing demanded for house-room." Six years before, they were content in using what money the law required, but now they tax themselves, and have night schools as well as day.
Another item of advance in the arts, was made in the securing a cunning workman in iron. "Voted that the town grant John Smith of Milford, blacksmith, four acres of land for a home lot, to build upon, anywhere within one mile from the meetinghouse where he shall choose, in the land not laid out, upon condition that he build a mansion house and smith's shop, and set up the trade of a blacksmith, and follow it for the benefit of the inhabitants of the town for the space of seVen years." And they specify that if Mr. Smith will not accept the offer, then the town
offered the same to any other good blacksmith that would come. This John Smith may have been the son of the first blacksmith in Milford, who came from Boston in 1643, and followed his trade in Milford some years.
No other men of trades are spoken of in the town acts up to this time. Doctor John Hull, seems to have been the carpenter while in town, he having built the first parsonage, the mill and the first meeting-house, and his son John took his place after the father removed to Wallingford. In building their own houses, most of the farmers were their own carpenters and workmen, except as they exchanged work with their neighbors, and returned the same. Many of the best houses were not plastered, but ceiled in the first story, the half story or part under the roof very seldom was finished any way, except the outside covering, and this was the lodging apartment for the young people, having sometimes a partition, but more frequently not. In some of the early houses, and indeed up to the Revolution and later, the chimney of the house was so constructed as to be open on the front, above the chamber floor. It is related that in an interior town, two young men engaged in trying their strength at a wrestling match, after preparing themselves for bed in the chamber, and not taking notice of the opening at the chimney, went down, both into the fire below, and rolled out on the floor, converting the embers into a warming pan for that evening.
In May, 1716, Sergeant Joseph Hawkins was granted by the General Assembly, "the liberty to keep a ferry over Stratford river [the Ousatonic] where the said Hawkins's house now stands by the said river, at the same fare with the ferry at Stratford; and so often as he shall have occasion at the said place to carry or ferry over the mouth of the Naugatuck river, he shall have the same allowance as aforesaid; and when to cross both, eight pence for man and beast."
This ferry was continued, so far as known, until a few years before the Revolution, when, as we shall hereafter see, a ferry was established at the Narrows.
In 1713 the town voted, "that so often as any man shall track a wolf into a swamp & give notice of it, and the people of the town do assemble pursue the sd wolf & find him in said swamp the informer shall have five shillings reward out of the town
treasury; and it is agreed that when and so often as it is a convenient time to pursue & hunt wolves, all the effective men able to bear arms, shall assemble well mounted and armed at the call of Col. Johnson, Lieut. Hulls, and Sargt. Brinsmade or any one of them & under their conduct & direction shall pursue, hunt & slay the wolves what they can and any men that refuseth to go out when so called shall pay a fine of three shillings unto the town treasury unless a reasonable excuse be offered."
A further improvement as to the crossing of the river seemed a question so difficult and therefore of such an amount of cost, that the town hesitated to enter upon the work, although of so much importance. The words in which the record is made show a doubt as to the hope of success. "Feb. 25, 1716-17 voted that the town are desirous of a good bridge over Naugatuck river." Having proceeded thus far, they ventured to appoint a committee "to consider what is the most likely way for the building" of such a bridge. And then they request the same committee "to petition the General Court for a brief to raise money for said bridge, and collect what sums they can for said building and to make report to the town."
The General Court gave the grant and appointed a committee to receive the money and disburse the same for the specified purpose.
Sergeant Samuel Brinsmade and John Pringle were to circulate the subscription ("or brief"), and were to have "three shillings as money per day for carrying it."
At the first meeting they voted the "place for building a bridge over Naugatuck river shall be against Doctor Durand's and that it is the most likely and expedient place for a bridge."
"Voted twopence on the pound to build a bridge over the Naugatuck river -- those to work out their money who choose to under directions of the committee. Col. Ebenezer Johnson, Joseph Hawkins and William Moss, committee and are empowered to call out men to work on the bridge."
It was built at that place, apparently, since Doctor Durand claimed damages for encroachment on his land after the bridge was built. Doctor Durand then owned the old homestead of Edward Wooster, the first settler, deceased, and probably resided
in it; just opposite where the road from the bridge now enters the river road, at the old town.
This shows that the bed of the Naugatuck was at this time on the east side of the valley, although the old river is still referred to in the deeds.
The following receipt shows the prevalent method of transacting business without money:
"Milford Dec. 26, 1723. Then received of John Holbrook of Derby upon the account of the Bridge Logs of Derby one hundred and thirty-six pounds of pork at three cents per pound. Barnabas Baldwin, Junr."
Thus almost everything was paid for by exchange of produce or some kind of merchandise. Very unfrequently was an engagement made by which silver or gold could be required by law. Gold, in pay, is not mentioned in the records during a hundred years, but silver is mentioned several times, yet nearly always to be delivered by weight.
Only twelve years had passed since the repairing of the old church when the spirit of enterprise determined that a new meeting-house was needed, and hence in December, 1719, they declared "that the town will build a new meeting-house, and that it shall be set in some convenient place near where the old meeting-house now standeth, and that the dimentions shall be as followeth, viz.: forty feet long and thirty-two feet wide and twenty feet posts.
"Granted a six penny rate for defraying the charge of building the meeting-house; and every man to have liberty to discharge his own rate in labor, provided he can labor in any way to advantage the building. Col. Ebenezer Johnson, Capt. Joseph Hull, and Lieut. John Riggs, to be the building committee."
But this was one of the enterprises that progressed slowly, for more than a year after. May, 1721, a vote was passed that "the whole town will come together when it is a convenient time and raise the meeting-house without bringing the charge of it into any town rate; and that the town will be at the charge of buying six gallons of rum for the above said occasion and that to be all the entertainment which shall be upon the town cost." This buying rum for such an occasion sounds surprising, but it should be remembered that rum (alcoholic drinks,)
held about the same estimation in the public mind at that time as tobacco does at the present; that is, it was supposed to be harmless to all if moderately used, and of great good to many; and it would be difficult to judge which opinion is most wise or most unwise and injurious, the old or the new.
The second meeting-house in Derby, established in 1721.
This meeting-house was built in the years 1721 and 1722, but it was not seated until after the following vote: "Jan. 28, 1722-3, voted that the meeting-house shall be seated by such rules as followeth: Col. Ebenezer Johnson, Ens. Samuel Riggs and John Tibbals, Stephen Pierson, Ens. Nichols shall sit in the first seat next the pulpit; Doctor Durand, Mr. Samuel Bowers and Jeremiah Johnson shall sit in the second seat of the square next the pulpit; John Pringle, Sargent Brinsmade, John Chatfield, senr., shall sit in a short seat by Mr. Moss' pew." At the same time it was voted "we will seat all that remain according to the list."
They had previously directed (Feb. 5, 1721-2,) "that Mr. Moss have liberty to build a pew six feet square joining to the pulpit stairs, for his wife and family."
It was at this same time that the first tithing men were appointed, Mr. Samuel Bowers and John Smith. The young people could no more sit with their parents, and therefore officers must be appointed to watch them and keep them in quiet order in church. It was not the last religious movement that brought nothing but trouble and evil consequences.
"That the charges of building said house shall be upon taking but one head to a list. Voted that Francis French, Jeremiah Johnson and William Moss shall seat the meeting-house.
"Voted that Francis French, Gideon Johnson and John Chatfield shall be a committee to sell the old meeting-house.
"Granted a rate of twopence on the pound on the country list of 1722, for defraying the charge of building the meetinghouse
"Dec. 26, 1721. Voted that they who refuse to pay the whole or any part of the town rates for the building the meeting-house shall within one month from this date come & enter it upon the public records, what sum or sums they refuse to pay, & the clerk shall give a note to the collector stating the matter as it is, . . and upon this note from the clerk the treasurer shall deduct these sums refused to be paid before any distress is made against any person, & thereupon the collector & treasurer shall discharge the party so refusing either in whole or in part."
In reply to this the following were entered: "Jan. 17, 1721-2. The town of Derby refused to make up accounts concerning the building the bridge over Naugatuck river, whereby Joseph Hawkins was much wronged, therefore Joseph Hawkins keepeth back & refuseth to pay forty shillings of the 4 penny rate toward building the meeting-house. Joseph Hawkins.
"Henry Wakelee refuseth to pay both the six penny and four penny rate for the building the meeting-house . . unless the town hire him to keep sheep again, & if they do he saith he will pay both."
"In Jan. 1722-3, voted that Barnabas Baldwin, Junr, and Joel Northrop upon paying the three rates that are past & the two penny rate now granted according to their lists for defraying the charge of building said meeting-house & paying all charges yet to come by said house according to their lists, upon so doing shall have an interest in said house."
This house was located at what was known then as Derby, but known now as Up Town or Old Town, the latter name being used mostly in these pages of history. The present schoolhouse stands near the old site of this house. The settlement at the mill a mile rorth from this meeting-house was called the North End, and in the neighborhood of Ebenezer Johnson's and Dea. Abel Holbrook's was the South End. There seems to have been a distinction made as to the hill east; one portion being called Sentinel hill, another New Haven Sentinel hill. Riggs hill and Squabble Hole do not occur as yet, in the records.
Repairs were made on this house in 1738, when they "removed the three hind seats on the men's side of the meetinghouse forward by making a seat in the alley, and made choice of Mr. Abiram Canfield, Mr. Joseph Hull, Junr., and Mr. Daniel Hull for their committee to remove said seats on the town's charge."
"Again the town order the said committee to build a convenient seat for the negroes on the beams over the front gallery, and stairs to go up, on the town's charge."
The posts of that house were twenty feet high, which gave room for a second gallery, or this seat "over the front gallery."
These distinctions of class and caste were much, if not wholly, indebted to slavery, for their existence. At the first settlement and the beginning of the first church, it was not so, but when slavery had existed some years, not only were the slaves reduced to a position of degradation, but every other man and his family in the community, not on the basis of color, but that of money, they were seated in church in accordance with the amount of money they were worth or held in possession.
In 1725, the following record was made, showing that the people began to think something about comfort on Sunday or First Day, as then called, or yet more strictly, it may be said that recorders frequently wrote second day, third day, and fourth day. "The town granted liberty to the inhabitants to
build convenient houses for their families on the Sabbath and public days, near the meeting-house on the common." This was followed in 1728, by another institution to be used for the same purpose, a part of the time. Mr. Lumm, John Smith and Gideon Johnson were appointed to gather subscriptions "to build a school-house near the meeting-house, which house shall be at said Lumm's and Smith's and Johnson's command on the Sabbath days;" and a committee was appointed at the same time to "hire a school-master according to law." This was the first school-house, and was near the church and used as a "Sabaday house," and although the meeting-house is gone, there is a school-house, greatly enlarged and beautified, still at that place; and the location is now called Academy hill.
In 1764 "the town granted liberty for any of the inhabitants of the town to build Sabbath day houses and horse houses on the sides of the highway near the meeting-house, not to incommode any highways."
Thus early did religion and education walk together. Rev. Mr. James started school-teaching in the town by doing the work three months or more, for forty shillings, or possibly forty shillings on a thousand pounds on the list, and Mr. Moss so stimulated the public mind, that a school-master was hired to give his whole time to the work for some months, and additional money raised to pay the teacher, and in Mr. Moss's day a schoolhouse was built.
THE LIST OF ESTATES IN DERBY IN 1718, BY AUTHORITY OF THE TOWN. Col. Eben Johnson, £146 | Eben Harger, £91 Capt. Joseph Hulls, 226 | Mr. John Durand, 55 Ens. Samuel Riggs, 59 | Francis French, 90 Abel Gunn, 158 | Jonathan Hill, 21 John Johnson, 33 | George Black, 21 Jabez Harger, 22 | John Munson, 18 Ens. Sanuiel Nichols, 60 | Andrew Smith, 101 Samuel Brinsmaid, 15 | Jonathan Lum, 54 Wm. Moss, 98 | John Davis, 54 Isaac Tomlinson, 68 | Wm. Washbon, 90 Abiram Canfield, 23 | Saml Moss, 43 Lef. John Riggs, 160 | John Weed, 56 John Hulls, 69 | Stephen Pierson, Jr 51
Thomas Wooster, £117 | Stephen Pierson sen., £52 Samuel Tomlinson, 62 | John Tibbals, 63 William Tomlinson, 39 | Joseph Nichols, 32 John Twitchel, 65 | John Towner, 48 Abraham Tomlinson, 29 | Samuel Bowers, 59 Joseph Hawkins, 137 | Abraham Pierson, 48 Samuel Washbon, 57 | Abel Holbrook, 86 Timothy Wooster, 78 | Josiah Baldwin, 50 John Pringle, 57 | Joseph Johnson, 28 John Tomlinson, 51 | Mr. Samuel Gunn, 15 Joseph Smith, 31 | Mary Wooster, 3 John Smith, sen.. 82 | Samuel Bassett, 28 Ephraim Smith, 39 | Mr. Abraham Pinto, 29 Ens. Eben Johnson, 48 | Peter Johnson, 82 John Chatfield, 87 | Micah Denman, 31 Jeremiah Johnson, 106 | James Humphreys, 18 Benj. Styles, 21 |
"An account of the fence that is about that common field which is on the east and west side of Naugatuck river in Derby, as it is now moddled and laid out by Capt. Joseph Hulls, Lef. John Riggs, John Pringle, John Smith & Abel Gunn, the former & standing committee of said field; new moddled in the month of March, 1720.
"The beginning is on the north end on both sides of the river & to each man's name here inserted there is set so much fence as is laid out to . . him . . and there is marks made & the letters of the men's names on wood or stone at the beginning & ending of their fence.
NORTH END, EAST SIDE. | Mr. Durand, 15 rods. | Francis French, 32 Capt. Joseph Hulls, 66 rods | Joseph Smith, 45 Thomas Wooster, 163 | --- John Hulls, 37 1/2 | 770 Eben Harger, 122 | Capt. Joseph Hulls, 60 1/2 | NORTH END, WEST SIDE RIVER. Israel Moss, 11 | Wm. Washbon, 63 rods. Ens. Saml Riggs, 33 | Thomas Wooster, 20 Abel Gunn, 88 | Tim Wooster, 64 Joseph Smith, 19 | Abram Tomlinson, 18 Abel Gunn, 69 | Ens. Saml Nichols, 8 Eben. Harger, 12 | Stephen Pierson, 8 Ens. Samuel Riggs, 12 | Wm. Tomlinson, 4 1/2 Joseph Smith, 33 | John Smith, 28
Andrew Smith, 20 rods. | Eben Harger, 4 1/2 Saml Brinsmade, 7 | Abel Gunn, 31 John Hulls, 14 | Stephen Peirson, 32 John Tomlinson, 9 1/2 | Tim Russell, 14 Eliphalet Gilbert, 9 | Joseph Hawkins, 30 Andrew Smith, 20 1/2 | Sam. Harger, 9 Sam Harger, 20 | Wm. Moss, 49 Abiram Cantfield, 31 | Sam Bowers, 4 John Pringle, 27 | Joseph Hawkins, 35 Abram Cantfield, 27 | Lieu. John Riggs, 58 1/2 Eliphalet Gilbert, 9 | Michal Denman, 14 John Pringle, 136 | --- Abram Peirson, 12 | 879 1/2" Sam. Harger, 43 |
It is said that this fence on the south ended at the island bars, but precisely where those were at that time, is not certain.
"Mar. 14, 1703 At a meeting of the Proprietors of Sentinel hill field, the proprietors did accept of what the committee hath done in laying out every man his proportion of fence about the said field.
The following record shows a confidence in public officers quite interesting and instructive. "February 5, 1722, voted that the town appoint Samuel Hulls and Joseph Johnson to make up accounts for five years last past with the several collectors of town rates and treasurers, and to make report to the town how they find accounts to stand." Officers could be trusted five years in those days.
The town had enjoyed the privilege of a bridge over the Naugatuck just ten years, or a little over, when it went down the stream by a freshet. They immediately voted to build a new one at the expense of the town, except what might be given by
persons out of the town. But they soon found the cost a larger item than they felt able to contend with, and petitioned the General Assembly for a "brief to build the bridge over the Naugatuck river which was lately carried away by the flood." The bridge had been repaired in the autumn, and therefore was in good condition to go down the river the next April as it did, taking all repairs along.
The advancement of the town in numbers, and the state of society is indicated in a record made by the town clerk during ten years from 1730 to 1740, of those who were made freemen. In 1732, they made twenty-six; in 1736, they made twenty-seven, and in 1740, nineteen. These, nearly all, were raised in town.
In 1731 another piece of land was purchased of the Indians.* It is a frequent charge that the white people took away the Indian's land. But in Derby they not only paid for it, and some of it three times over, but the Indians were urgent to sell much faster than the white people were able to buy. This seems to have been the reason why the tract called Camp's mortgage was bought. They offered it so cheap that Mr. Camp took a mortgage, and there it lay quite a number of years before the town felt able to raise the money to pay for it.
At the time that the town felt it necessary to "pacify the Indians as though they were ready to rise in war, they were urging (some of them) the sale of a piece of land, and Henry Wooster was appointed to go with the Indians and view their lands and make report." Land seemed to be a burden on their hands until it was gone, and then they grieved for it as thrown away.
* We . . in consideration of thirty pounds good pay, part money and part goods . . have sold . . all that tract of land known by the name of the Indian Hill in Derby, situate on the east side of Naugatuck river, near the place called the Falls, all the land at or near that place we sell, except the plane that lieth near the falls up to the foot of the hill unto a heap of stones on the south, and a heap of stones on the north end; all that land that lieth eastward, northward and southward of said plane that is not purchased before by the English. This 2d day of March, 1731.
Nor is this peculiar alone to Indians. How many thousands of white people as individuals have done the same. Nor is it peculiar as to lands. Thousands have almost literally thrown away their money, or worse than that, and then lamented until their dying day, the folly of it. And the multitude are slow to learn the terribleness of this folly. Thousands of years of history have painted this marvelous want of wisdom, but who reads and thereby is wise?
DISSENTING DERBY AND THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH.
1732 -- 1773
THE Rev. Joseph Moss was preaching regularly in the beginning of the year when on January third his salary was fixed at threepence on the pound, on the grand list for the year. He was taken severely ill and died twenty days after, Jan. 23, 1731-2, in the fifty-third year of his age.
The next June a vote was taken for the settlement of Mr. Abraham Todd, then a young man, and the number of votes were sixty and the blanks were seventeen, and two refused to vote, but the record states that they all, but one, agreed to abide by the majority vote. They then made him an offer of salary, and a "settlement" or a certain amount of money, four hundred pounds, instead of a house and lands as they had done previously. Mr. Todd was not secured, however, and the next September they voted that they "heartily consent to what the church sent to the Association for advice under our present state."
Soon after this, Mr. Samuel Whittlesey of Wallingford was preaching for them, and they gave him a call, but without success He afterwards settled in Milford.
Mr. Noah Merrick was called in the summer of 1733, with the same settlement as offered Mr. Todd, and one hundred pounds salary, and after four years £120, per year "for the time that he shall preach with us as our dissenting Presbyterian minister," but Mr. Merrick could not be secured. In this record there is revealed the truth that the word Congregational, as applied to a denomination, was then unknown, or so. little known as to be unfamiliar in that sense, for the term Presbyterian was not applicable to that form of church organization; one reason of its use being that other church organizations began to be recognized in the country, as the Baptists and Episcopalians, and hence the need of the distinguishing name, instead of saying as was the common mode "the Church of Christ."
Another reason is that there was manifested quite early a Presbyterian preference of church order, by some of the people of New England, and hence the churches were frequently spoken of as Presbyterian. As early as 1666, a division of sentiment was found in Hartford that gave much concern and resulted in sustaining the proposition of the "Half-way Covenant" which was denominated the "new way" and also the "parish way,"a "system under which the local church, as a covenanted brotherhood of souls renewed by the experiences of God's grace, was to be merged in the parish; and all persons of good moral character living within the parochial bounds, were to have, as in Egland and Scotland, the privilege of baptism for their households and of access to the Lord's table." [Dr. Bacon's Hist. Discourse, Eccl. Col.]
It is here stated also that this was a dissenting church, afterwards called Separates, and after that denominated by themselves Strict Congregationalists.
The next candidate was Mr. Daniel Humphreys, to whom they gave a call December 3, 1733, with a settlement of four hundred pounds, and one hundred pounds salary, and after four years, one hundred and twenty pounds salary yearly, and it was afterwards raised still higher.
The day of ordination was "appointed for the first Wednesday of March next, and Capt. Hull, Capt. Riggs, Deacon Holbrook, Lieut. Johnson, William Moss, Gideon Johnson and Timothy Russell, to take the whole care of the ordination in behalf of the town."
Here it may be seen that the town paid during four years, eight hundred pounds for the support of their minister, (or two hundred pounds yearly) after that a little more than half that sum yearly. The tax list of the town amounted to not over four thousand pounds; (in 1718, it was £3,650 nearly.) This being the amount of the list they paid for the settlement (£100) and the salary (£100) just one twentieth of their tax list, yearly, a sum surprisingly large, when their circumstances are considered, or when compared with the sums paid at the present day. Nearly all of their money was gathered from the soil by continuous hard labor. The Connecticut Home Missionary Society,
requires at the present day, that the members of a Congregational church shall pay, in the aggregate, a sum equal to one per cent, on their grand list, before receiving aid from that society. What if it required five per cent.? There would be scarcely a church in the state that would need help, if such were the rule. The grand tax list of the town of Derby for 1878, was a little over three and a half millions, and five per cent, on that would give one hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars. The whole expense of all the churches in the town does not probably exceed one-fifth of that sum, so that the comparison of the church cost of the present day with one hundred years ago is as one to five, or one-fifth. The only difference being, that at that time the grand list was made by taking a small percentage of the valuation of property as the basis for assessments. The regular salary of Mr. Daniel Humphreys after a few years was one hundred and forty pounds money, or four hundred and seventy dollars. The four hundred pounds was given fur the minister to purchase a farm which was supposed to furnish a considerable portion of the minister's living; and a minister in that day without a farm would have been a mystery as great as for one to have one at the present day.
Some considerable difference of opinion as to ecclesiastical order grew up in the parish after the legal establishment of the Saybrook Platform in 1708, and by which the church became a dissenting church, and the way was opened for the establishment of the Episcopal Church in the place. The dissenters claimed that a change of heart or actual experience was important in order to the reception of the sacraments, while the New way or Half-way covenant administered baptism to all children whose parents assented to the doctrines of the church, and such parents were regarded as in a half covenant state with the church. The half-way membership had been in practice among the churches some years but without any formal conventional sanction until 1708, and very probably this had been the position of the Derby church until sometime after Mr. Moss's settlement, and after the matter had been discussed in the churches generally.
After the decease of Mr. Moss, and a new minister was to be settled, the division of opinion took a more definite form, and
yet the vote of the town in settling a minister seems to have been ordinarily harmonious; sixty against nineteen, and all announcing that they would yield to the majority vote. After the settlement of Mr. Humphreys and the revival excitements of 1740 and 41, the establishment of the Episcopal church became an easy matter and took some of the old substantial supporters of the Congregational church into it.
If the records of the Derby church had been preserved, some things more definite might belearned. In Sprague's Annals [Vol. 1, 315.] Mr. Humphreys is mentioned as one with Dr. Bellamy and others who promoted the revival work in 1740, and it was in consequence of this, doubtless, that he fell into some little trouble as indicated in the following record.
The following complaint against Mr. Humphreys is recorded, but whether it went any further is not known.
"To the Clerk of the Parish or Society in Derby to which the Reverend Mr. Daniel Humphrey doth belong these may inform that the said Daniel Humphrey, contrary to the true intent and meaning of a law of the Colony of Connecticut entitled an act for Regulating abuses and correcting disorders in Ecclesiastical affairs, has presumed to preach in the Parish or First Society of New Haven.
The effort made by those who sustained the half-way covenant, which method was called the Old way, and was at that time the legal way, to stop the progress of the New way, the followers of which were called New Lights, was very arbitrary and determined, as given by Dr. Trumbull. [Vol. 1, 315.]
"While these things were transacted in the eastern and northern parts of the colony, a violent opposition was made in the county of New Haven, to the new lights, and to the religious revival which had been in the country. They appeared to hesitate at no means to suppress the new light ministers. In 1741, when the grand council was to sit at Guilford, the association drew up several resolutions to be laid before the council;
among which was the following: 'That for a minister to enter into another minister's parish, and preach, or administer the seals of the covenant, without the consent of, or in opposition .to the settled minister of the parish, is disorderly; notwithstanding, if a considerable number of the people ot the parish are desirous to hear another minister preach, provided the same be orthodox, and sound in the faith, and not notoriously faulty in censuring other persons, or guilty of any other scandal, we think it ordinarily advisable for the minister of the parish to gratify them, by giving his consent, upon their suitable application to him for it, unless neighboring ministers should advise him to the contrary.' Mr. Humphreys of Derby had preached to a Baptist society, and on that account was soon after deprived of a seat in the association. The Rev. Mr. Timothy Allen of West Haven, who was an able and zealous Calvinistic preacher, was not pleasing to them, and for some little imprudences, the consociation dismissed him from his ministry. The principal article alleged against him was that he had said, 'that the reading of the scriptures, without the concurring influence and operation of the spirit of God, will no more convert a sinner, than reading an old Almanac' Though it was true, that no external means would convert a sinner, yet, Mr. Allen lamented the manner of expression, and offered his confession to the association for it; but the council dismissed him, and it is said with this ill-natured triumph, that they had blown out one new light, and that they would blow them all out. Mr. Allen was a man of genius and talents, and an able defender of the doctrines of the gospel, as appeared by some of his publications; he was also a man of strict morals, and a powerful and fervent preacher. Though his light was not permitted to shine in the county of New Haven, yet it shone in other churches until he was between eighty and ninety years of age. In the year 1800 he was pastor in Chesterfield, in Massachusetts, in the eighty-sixth year of his age.
"In 1744, a church was formed in Salsbury, on the principles of the Cambridge platform, and the town and church made choice of Mr. Jonathan Lee for their pastor; and, among other gentlemen, made choice of the Rev. Mr. Humphreys of Derby, and the Rev. Mr. Leavenworth of Waterbury, and the Rev. Mr.
Todd of Northbury, to assist in his ordination. He had received a liberal education at Yale College, and studied divinity under the care of Mr. Williams of Lebanon; was of a good moral character, and a zealous preacher of the Calvinistic doctrines. The association suspended these gentlemen from all associational communion, for assisting in the ordination of Mr. Lee, because he and the church had adopted the Cambridge platform, and were not on the constitutional establishment of the colony."
Therefore, Mr. Humphreys was twice suspended from the fellowship of the association, for holding just the views which are now generally entertained by Congregational ministers and churches.
In those days as at the present, there was no end to expenses which called for extra taxes, for scarcely had one enterprise of progress, or an unusual calamity been provided for, when another would come. The settlement of Mr. Humphreys had been but just paid, and the regular order of expenditures reached, when it was found that the bridge over the Naugatuck was in a decayed condition, and a committee appointed to repair it if possible, if not, to rebuild it, and it was rebuilt in 1739. Two years later it went away with the flood. Then a company was organized, and petitioned the Assembly for a toll bridge, as a private or stock enterprise. The Assembly granted "liberty to the memorialists, and such other persons as shall see cause to join with them, to build a bridge over the river aforesaid at the place aforesaid, or as near it as may be convenient, for all persons to pass and repass over said river; and that the toll or fare for all persons, except the inhabitants of Derby, shall be six pence for man horse and load, and three pence for each person, and for each team one shilling; and that the fare above said, shall be taken in old tennor-bills of all persons except the inhabitants of said Derby until this Assembly shall order otherwise. Oct. 1741." Six years later the town voted to repair this bridge upon the town's cost, provided the proprietors would, give the property to the town, and in 1752 they send a committee to the Assembly to ask for higher rates of toll. In 1760, the town "voted to make the bridge across the Naugatuck near the meeting-house free for one year," and in 1762 they voted to
build a bridge across the Naugatuck at the town's expense, the old bridge being carried away by the flood."
Straws tell which way the wind blows, is an old saying, meaning that very small items illustrate character, customs and manners. An item of this kind is recorded: "March 25, 1745, voted . . that the town of Derby do discharge the Selectmen, Samuel Riggs and Joseph Hull from that note of forty pounds old tennor which they became obliged to pay to Doctor Leavenworth of Stratford upon demand for taking and keeping a certain negro man named Nero, and also discharging the said town forever hereafter from any charge arising by said negro." This negro, probably, had escaped from the town of Stratford and was arrested by these selectmen of Derby, and detained so long that the owner demanded pay, and they gave their note, but having arrested the negro, as the selectmen of Derby, the town was obligated, and held the property; this note gave the negro to these men and they were to pay the note. This transaction reveals the fact that since 1681, the price of a slave had risen from eighteen pounds to forty, providing money values were equal. It has been often alleged that slavery was given up in Connecticut only when it was found that it would not pay; but if it was profitable when slaves were worth one hundred dollars, why was it not when they were worth two and three and four and five times that sum? Logic always demands an actual basis for the assertion made.
In 1742, a little further extension of Derby territory was made by the purchase of an island in the Ousatonic river just above the mouth of Eight-mile brook. This island was really beyond the boundaries of Derby, and hence was not reserved when the adjoining land in Derby was sold. It was now bought by an individual for his personal possession and not as a town agent, yet he being a resident of Derby, the deed was recorded here.*
A peculiarity about one name attached to the deed is, that this same person, apparently, signed the deed in 1731 as John Cuckson, but in this deed he had become John Cockshure, of whom more may be seen in the Indian history of this book.
We Manchero and John Cockshure and Hannah Tous, . . do sell . . to James Hard, his heirs etc., one small island of land, lying in Powtatuck river, being in quantity about eight acres, lying about the Eight Mile Brook, and is the first island above said brook, bounded on all sides with said river.
It is quite evident that John Howd and John Cockshure were heirs or successors of Cockapatana.
Notwithstanding the floods, the taxes, and the passing away of their great men, the town moved on in progress just as the world will for ages to come, profiting little by the experience of the past, and giving but small attention to the lessons of that past, although on the whole making some progress as to the general good of humanity.
Samuel Hull's mill is mentioned in 1745, when a highway was made from Bare plains to it for the convenience of the people. When this mill was set up on the Old river, now the race to the Birmingham Iron Foundry, a little above the New Haven road, is not definitely known. In 1707, the town voted to pay "Major Ebenezer Johnson for work done on the old and new flour mill, and on the meeting-house," which is almost an assurance that Hull's mills were then standing, since no others are known to have been built up to that time; and in 1714, the "old millpond" is mentioned.
Samuel Hull, was the son of Captain Joseph, born in 1692, and it is very probable that his father built this mill, at the first a small one, to which additions were afterwards made. In 1696, John Hull, brother of the first Joseph, received the old mill as a gift from his father, and it is most probable that he and his brother Joseph or Joseph alone, built the new mill about 1705 or 6.
The only mention of any mill enterprises other than the above seen in the records between 1696 and 1745 is in regard to a grant of land and liberty to Benjamin Stebbins of New Haven to set up the trade of tanning and shoe-making, with accommodations "on Meeting-house hill," which meant where the meeting-house then stood at the old town, but which was not erected." Samuel Hull's mills became a great institution, and continued thus, until within the memory of many now living, although all
physical traces of them are now nearly gone. They were called, many years, and are still known, as the Old Yellow Mills, and Hull's mills. There is not much doubt but that several of the Hull family were interested in them as owners, but this is not stated in any records seen. These mills secured profitable employment to a considerable amount of capital. The flouring mill, in addition to the making of flour for the farming community, contained appliances for manufacturing kiln-dried meal which, being packed in hogsheads, was shipped to the West Indies, causing not a little mechanical and mercantile employment. A saw-mill was attached, which not only did work for the use of the people of the town, but prepared timber and lumber of various kinds to be shipped to different sea ports, as is evidenced by the yearly appointment by the town of a person or persons as inspector of timber, which could mean nothing else than that timber was a mercantile product.
The oil mill, for making oil from flaxseed, required a large capital, the oufit being extensive as well as the help employed, and the profits were very gratifying for some years. The machinery was the first imported to this part of the country, and gave the company a monopoly of the business for some years. It was doubtless some years after 1745, when the oil mill attained its highest efficiency. But when the practice in Ireland of gathering the flax before the seed was ripe, was adopted in that country, an additional market was opened, at higher prices for American flaxseed, and the demand for the oil not equaling that for the seed, the work of the mill became unprofitable. As often occurs in such enterprises, the business was continued in hope of better times until former profits were consumed.
There was also a cloth-dressing establishment as a part of these mills which had the first fulling mill and carding machine of any in this part of the country; and which was not equaled until General Humphreys started a larger enterprise at Humphreysville. In later years, the brothers, Samuel and Richard Hull, with a son of Dr. Mansfield, were the owners of these mills. But the Old Yellow Mills have faded away;
"The mill wheel has tumbled in,
And "sweet Alice," also!
Doct. A. Beardsley, gives the following interesting particulars in regard to these mills.
The Old Yellow Mills, sometimes called Hull's Mills, recently demolished, located at the head of the present Birmingham reservoir water works, was a place of business for revolutionary times. For miles and miles the country round, even as far as Woodbury, Waterbury and New Haven, it was a central spot where farmers came with corn or rye in one end of the bag and a stone in the other, to get their "grist ground." A singular death occurred at these mills to a Derby citizen, nearly a hundred years ago. The people were honest in those days, and locks and keys scarcely used, the miller vacated his premises one afternoon, leaving his customers, if any should come, to help themselves. Capt. Isaac Smith, grandfather of the late Sheldon Smith, Jr. of the Neck, went for his grist, and shouldering his bag, and while descending a flight of steps, as is supposed, fell to the outside door, where he was found next morning dead, with his burden on his back, his neck broken and his faithful horse standing by his side. The burial of this good man was in striking contrast with modern times, for his pall bearers consisted only of two horses, his remains being suspended between them, and were thus borne to their last resting-place.
At these mills a set of stones were run day and night, which ground out monstrous quantities of linseed oil for exportation. Some of the credulous at one time, believed there was a sort of witchcraft about this turning flaxseed into oil. An apparatus was so connected with some portion of the machinery, that after a given number of revolutions of the stones were made, a bell commenced ringing in a remote corner of the mills. This unseen signal told the story that the seed had run to oil, which was a great puzzler to some of the natives for a long time.
The Old Yellow Mills finally run down and fell into the hands of one John Lewis, a speculative Yankee, who, in selling out his interest to Sheldon Smith of New York, in part laid the foundation of the present prosperity of Derby.
Another flaxseed oil mill, was established on Two-mile brook some years later, but continued only a short time and that without much success.
Another mill enterprise was planted further in the wil-
derness, even to Little river, and the first introduction to it granted is as follows:
"New Haven Aug. 5, 1747. I George Abbott of Derby have received of Stephen Perkins of New Haven, five hundred pounds money, Old Tennor, in full for one-half of a Saw-mill, the whole of a Gristmill or Corn mill, and a dwelling house; the mills standing on the Litde river so called and the dwelling house near by, all in good order; which house and mills I do sell. . . George Abbott."
But Abbott's Mills, were not destined long to be the only forerunner of what should be at Seymour. In 1760, the town granted "to James Pritchard the liberty of the stream of the Little river from its mouth up against the dwelling of said Fairchild to erect and keep in repair a corn mill or mills."
The next mill enterprise was on the Naugatuck river at the Falls, and for this purpose about two acres and a half, including the Falls, at what is now Seymour, was purchased by Ebenezer Keeney, John Wooster and Joseph Hull, Junr., of the Indians.* This was not all the land then owned by the Indians at that place, but only a small part of it, purchased in order to secure the water power; and upon this land these persons as partners erected a saw mill, two fulling mills and a clothiers shop, all which they or their successors sold to General David Humphreys in 1803, which was the beginning of the manufacturing age of the town of Derby. The town had previously manufactured various commodities, such as leather and staves for barrels, more than it consumed, but this was the beginning of enterprises without number that should be instituted for the production of large quantities of goods for exportation, not only out of the town, but to foreign parts to the end of the world. David Humphreys, stands before the world as the first great general of the manufacturing enterprises of Derby, as well as a celebrated mil-
"We Joseph Chuse and John Houde, Indians . . with the advice of Samuel Bassett, Esqr., agent for the said Indians . . for the consideration of eight pounds, lawful money to us paid by the said Ebenezer Keeney, John Wooster and Joseph Hull Junr., to our full satisfaction . . do confirm . . a certain parcel of land . . bounded . . and taking in the falls rocks, containing one acre against the falls and one acre and a half of land for a highway to said acre with privileges and appurtinances belonging to said falls and land
itary general, and whatever his native town may think of him, he will ever stand as one of the great men of enterprise and social improvement of his own nation.
Several records are found concerning the formation of Oxford into an Ecclesiastical Society, and by these records the thought involuntarily arises that Derby thought it the time to pay an old grudge by treating the North Farmers as Milford treated Derby at the beginning, and so they put in opposition towards the movement.
In March, 1733, the town voted that "these Quaker Farm men whose names are under written, who petition for abate in the town's charge, we the said town declare that [we] will abate these our neighbors four pence upon the pound on the grand list for two years from this date." Caleb Terry, Josiah Terry, John Smith, Jr., Jonathan Griffin, John Towner, Abraham Wooster, Abel Holbrook, Ebenezer Hawkins. No reasons are given for this petition, and it is difficult to conjecture except these rates were abated from the support of the minister, and that in consequence of their distance from the meeting-house. Fourpence on the pound was Mr. Moss's rate for many years.
In April 1740, "Capt. Samuel Bassett* was chosen agent to represent the town of Derby in May next to show why the memorial of the north farmers in said Derby should not be granted." The petition failed as to that year, but the next May, upon the report of a committee, the petition was granted, making an ecclesiastical society named Oxford, Timothy Wooster, John Twitchell and John Towner leading the names from the north farmers, and Isaac Trowbridge, John Weed, Jonas Weed, Joseph Weed, Thomas and Joseph Osborn, dwelling in the southwest part of Waterbury, and Isaac Knowles, Joseph Towner, Eliphalet Bristol, John Tift, and Aaron Bristol, dwelling in the south-east part of Woodbury, were included within the parish.
* "In 1738 the General Assembly appointed Mr. John Fowler of Milford, Capt. Samuel Bassett and Mr Gideon Johnson of Derby a committee to repair to said Waterbury, and at the charge of the people of the northwest quarter of said town, view the circumstances, and if they judge it best that the said northwest quarter be a distinct Ecclesiastical Society, that then thev state the bounds thereof."
In December, 1740, while the matter was in the hands of the committee of the Legislature, the town appointed "John Riggs Esq., Mr. Francis French and Mr. Joseph Johnson agents for the town of Derby, to agree with a committee by the North Farmers to settle a dividing line between the south and north parts of Derby township in order to make an ecclesiastical society in the north part of said township; and the town declare they will excuse all the North Farmers paying any ministerial charge to the present minister of Derby for the year 1740; viz.: all whose dwellings are above the Five-mile brook bridge, and so above a line from said bridge that shall strike the south end of John Riggs's farm provided they hire preaching among themselves for the whole year." Thus in about six months their opposition gave way and they seem ready to work harmoniously with them, but why should they put on the last clause or condition: "provided they hire preaching among themselves for the whole year?" Simply because they had not learned the idea of liberty in its general and full meaning. To let people do as they might choose as to religion, had not entered their minds; and although there is some dawning of that coming day at the present time, yet, the clear and true light has not yet come. The Lord himself did not prohibit a known sinner to partake of the first sacramental bread and wine, but for a church not to take to itself greater authority than the Lord pretended to exercise, is thought to be so great a sin that the church would lose all character, and the favor of Heaven! The day is not past when the civil authority is invoked to try to make men religious, however much we abhor the thought. The requiring of all children in a public school to pray, any prayer, no matter what, without regard to their wish or pleasure, and under the fear of penalty, if compliance is not acceded, is of the same principle possessed by those who burned men at the stake by civil authority. Also the proposition to amend the Constitution of the United States by inserting the name of the Deity, in any form, is of the same quality; viz.: to compel men to profess to be religious whether they desire so to do or not. When God shall sift the nations and plant Colonies for freedom a thousand or two thousand years longer, he may get them where they can understand His gospel, rather than the gospel of men.
No man has a right to put a finger's weight on his neighbor to make him religious; and if he had, it would do only injury and not good. The free reception of the truth by the individual, is the only possible way human character can be elevated; and any theory that does not give every intelligent being a fair opportunity, somewhere, for thus receiving the truth that would save him, is utterly to be rejected by the highest dictates of reason, and is a reproach to the Divine character.
The good Christian people of Derby must put their neighbors and old friends, and their own children, under legal obligation to hire a minister, or they would not release them from paying to the old society, as though some state authority must be exerted by somebody or they might not attend to religion.
The town appointed in 1742, Samuel Tomlinson, Joseph Johnson, sen., and James Wheeler, a committee to lay out a burying place for the parish of Oxford upon the charge of said parish. That is, the expense of the laying out to be paid by the parish, but the land given by the town.
In 1745, they voted to divide school money with Oxford parish according to their grand list; the sum to be received being forty shillings on every one thousand pounds in the list; and in 1754, they sell the parsonage lands and divide with Oxford, the latter receiving forty pounds and Derby sixty. Thus did the people of the North Farms become the parish of Oxford; and they completed their organization on the 30th of June, 1741, by electing the officers of their society.
They immediately entertained the idea of building a meetinghouse, and on the 6th of October of that year decided by a two-thirds vote to build it, and to request the Legislature, by committee as was the custom, to designate the site, or in their terms, "fix the place whereon their meeting-house shall be erected and built;" which was finally fixed upon "at the south end of the hill commonly called Jack's Hill, and near the highway that runs on the east side of the Little river, on land belonging to Ephraim Washborn." [Seymour and Vicinity, by W. C. Sharp, 44.]
In May, 1743, they were authorized to settle themselves in "a church estate, by and with the consent and approbation of the neighboring churches and settle a minister according to the
establishment of the churches in this government " This was effected according to the order imposed, and the Rev. Jonathan Lyman was ordained the first minister of the parish, Oct. 4, 1745, with a settlement of £500, to be paid in four yearlyinstallments, and a yearly salary of £125. This was when Connecticut lawful money, or bills, were valued at four dollars to one dollar in silver.
The difference of opinion as to church order which arose in the First Church of Derby, as well as most other Congregational churches in Connecticut, opened the way for the commencement of the Episcopal church in this place; and was, probably, an influence which hastened the organization of the Oxford Ecclesiastical Society. A custom grew up in Connecticut of receiving persons to the "watch and care" of the church, upon consenting to the doctrines of the church, and of baptizing the children of such consenting parents. The old rule was to baptize no children unless one at least of the parents was a member in full standing in the church. The Council at Saybrook, Conn., in 1708, sanctioned the new practice, and the General Assembly confirmed this order or method in the church, and thereafter if any church held to the old way, they were called a dissenting church. In 1733, when a minister was to be obtained in Derby to supply the place vacated by the death of Mr. Moss, this church took its position avowedly as a "dissenting Presbyterian" church; which, whatever else may have been intended by the expression, meant that no children were to be baptized except one of the parents should be a member of the church in full standing.
The Episcopal church, or as then called "the Church of England," held views quite to the contrary of this, admitting any children to that ordinance upon the assured watch and instruction in the Christian faith by some one, a member of that church.
Several Episcopal churches had recently, that is, within thirty years, been established in the Colony; the first at Stratford, in 1707, one at Fairfield, and, some years later, another at Newtown, and others, so that there were some five Episcopal parishes in the Colony when Mr. Daniel Humphreys was ordained
at Derby. Mr, Humphreys became quite zealous in upholding the dissenting opinions, and went out of his own parish to preach in so doing, and for which he was complained of as we have seen, by two justices of the peace of New Haven.
It was soon after this that the movement began which eventuated in the organization of the Episcopal church in Derby.
Just after the erection of the house of worship by the Church of England, the people of Derby passed the following vote, greatly to their honor, showing that the spirit of oppression was not in their hearts, whatever their views of church order may have been:
The first Episcopal church in Derby, erected in 1738.
"Again the town made choice of Mr. Abiram Canfield and Mr. Samuel Botsford to cast Derby list for the year 1739, exclusive of the rates of Churchmen and what was granted to farmers (the north farmers,) to find what sum on the pound on said list will make one hundred and forty pounds which is granted to Mr. Humphreys. Voted and passed, Dec. 10, 1739."
Here the Churchmen, in the beginning of their enterprise, were exempted from paying to the support of the Congrega-
tional minister. The further history of this church is faithfully given by Dr. A. Beardsley.
The cut gives a fair representation of the architecture of the first Episcopal Church built in Derby. A small band of Episcopalians in the year of our Lord 1737, composed of Capt. John Holbrook and seven others, commenced "to fell the trees and hew the timbers" preparatory to erecting this humble house of worship. It was located in the old churchyard, about six rods from the highway and almost directly in front of the residence of Rev. Daniel Humphreys, in later times known as the Capt. Vose place; as indicated by the following deed:
"This indenture made this seventh day of Nov, in the Twelfth year of the Reign of our sovereign Lord, George the Second, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France & Ireland, King Defender of the faith &c. and in the year of our Lord 1738 Between John Holbrook of Derby in the county of New Haven, . . with Abigail Holbrook his wife of the one part, and the Revd Jonathan Arnold of New Haven aforesd Missionary from the Honorable Society in England for the propagating the gospel in foreign parts, and Rector of the Church at Derby aforesaid, of the other part, whereas the said John Holbrook and Abigail Holbrook his wife, are seized in fee simple . . of one quarter of an acre and two rods of ground, situate . . in Derby aforesd butting, on the highway eastwardly, on land belonging to Mr. Humphries southwardly on land belonging to and in the improvement of John Holbrook aforesd; westwardly and northwardly; and whereas the said John Holbrook and Abigail Holbrook his wife, out of their piety towards God and out of their zeal for the Protestant Religion, and the Church of England as by law established, have of their own free will resolved to give and grant the said premises to the said Jonathan Arnold and his successors in the ministry in trust; nevertheless for the building and erecting a church (or finishing the house already raised thereupon,) for the worship and service of Almighty God according to the practice of the Church of England, and the rest of the land to be used as a Church yard for the burial of the dead; Now this indenture witnesseth that the said John Holbrook and Abigail his wife upon the consideration aforesaid and of five shillings of lawful money to them in hand paid by the sd Jonathan Arnold before the erecting hereof, . . and that the said Jonathan Arnold, or the incumbent for the time being or the Church Wardens for the time being, for the enclosing the above bargained premises, do faithfully make & maintain the fence forever;
have given granted, . . to the said Jonathan Arnold as minister of the Church of England & his successors in that place and in that order forever to the use interests or purposes herein before recited & mentioned concerning the same; and to no other use, interest or purpose whatsoever.
The entire expense of this edifice was borne by eight men, but it must have been constructed by piecemeals as it does not appear to have been completed until about the year 1746. The first "Meeting House" having been built in 1682, from that time until about 1737, Presbyterianism or Congregationalism was the dominant religion of the town, supported by taxation. An incident is here worth relating that shows how the first disciple of Episcopacy in Derby was made. During the labors of the celebrated Rev. George Whitefield in this country he visited in Derby and preached in a private house now standing Up Town. Quite a religious stir and an exciting revival took place in Derby, about that time. A Mrs. Plum living near Plum Brook became so much excited concerning her spiritual welfare, that she hastened on foot to Milford to see and consult with her mother upon the subject. While there she had an interview with a colored woman who had been brought up and instructed in the Church of England. The colored Churchwoman talked feelingly to Mrs. Plum and gave her several books, (some of which are still preserved,) on the doctrines and worship of the English church. She read them prayerfully and thus became the first open and known Episcopalian in the town. The religious awakening caused by Whitefield's preaching, provoked much inquiry and warm discussion as to the qualifications of church members, but his converts by no means were the only ones benefited by his labors. John Holbrook and his companions became more interested in serious matters, and chose to worship God after the manner and discipline of their mother church. Episcopal gatherings became frequent in the neighborhood and from house to house, in the largest room of some dwelling, church services were held, and the seed sown a century and a half ago in this way has borne abundant fruit. A central place of worship had become most desirable. There was a rude park "where three roads meet" near (now 1879)
Joseph H. Reemer's residence, called the Commons. The few who dissented from the "Meeting-house" on Riggs Hill, resolved to locate their house of worship on one corner of the Commons, which was then the court end of the town, but they were unexpectedly met with opposition, for a town meeting was called and a vote passed against the right of any one to build a house of worship on the Commons. Capt. Holbrook, more earnest than ever in a good cause, then donated the lot in front of Mr. Humphreys's residence, for a burying ground and a church. From that day to this it has been called "the Episcopal grave yard," and many a departed one from a long distance has been brought here to be placed in his narrow cell by the side of his endeared ancestors. With slender means the church as above stated was completed in 1746. It was called Christ's Church, a designation not uncommon at that period in the Colony, for Episcopal churches that could have no fixed name and consecration by a Bishop. It belongs to the office of a bishop to consecrate churches, and there were none in this country before the Revolution. Here in this little barn-like structure, with its raftered walls, the godly shepherd Mansfield was married, and here the worshipers for half a century went in and out to their morning and evening devotions, loving the church as the apple of their eye. The "Sabbaday House" as it was called, in which resided a mother in Israel, Mrs. Johnson, stood near by the little church. When suffering from cold or tired of a dull, prosy sermon, the people often sallied out and congregated here to warm themselves and partake of refreshments from their scanty bags or baskets. In those days the luxury of heat from stoves 01 furnaces was unknown to churchgoing people. On one occasion the slowest and most uninteresting of preachers found his congregation almost wholly retired iuto the "Sabbaday House," which obliged him to omit the "tenthly and lastly" part of his sermon. The first stated services held in Derby by an Episcopal minister were those of Rev. Jonathan Arnold, an itinerant missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and formerly a Congregational minister at West Haven. He declared for the Church of England in 1734, and afterwards went to England to receive Holy Orders. His residence was in West Haven, and the chief
places beyond it where he most frequently officiated were Derby and Waterbury. [Beardslev's History of the Church, Conn. vol. 1, p. 3.] He was succeeded by the Rev. Theophilus Morris, a second missionary from England, who preached about these parts and the neighboring towns nearly three years, when Rev. James Lyons, a third missionary, followed, whose labors ceased in Derby soon after the church edifice was completed. Dr. Mansfield was the fourth missionary of the society; a particular account of whom will be found in his biographical sketch.
Two parcels of land were deeded by Samuel Hull, William Clark and Mordecai Marks, April 13, 1747, "in consideration of the sum of four hundred and fifteen pounds current money . . paid by John Holbrook, Jonas Smith, Thomas Wooster, Abel Gunn and sundry other persons who are professors of the Church of England . . do by these presents with the advice and concurrence of the best of our neighbors therein concerned, all professors of the Church of England; do hereby give and grant the following pieces of land hereafter expressed intending the same for the first glebe lands to endow a certain parish church in the township of said Derby now erected and carrying on called Christ's Church by us the said Hull, Clark, Mordecai Marks and the rest of our neighbors concerned therein; For the better accomplishing the endeavors aforesaid in great reverence and regard to the Church of England as established by law, and her excellent doctrine, service, piety and order, preferable to any other upon earth; for the honor of God, the surest peace and comfort of ourselves, neighbors and posterity; have founded the parish church aforesaid for the use aforesaid, and for the endowment thereof do by these presents freely give, grant, convey and confirm unto the society for the propagating the gospel in foreign parts, two certain parcels of land, within the township of Derby lying near the meeting-house; one of said parcels of land contains by estimation three acres be it more or less, with an orchard and barn thereon standing, . . the other containing six acres lying near the other . . being part swamp and part upland with a house and orchard thereon standing; . . to said society and their successors forever, but in trust and for the special interest and purpose hereafter mentioned, to say as soon as there shall be a rector
according to the order of the Church of England by law established, instituted and inducted, the premises shall be and inure to the use of such rector incumbent and his successors for the glebe lands of the said church in fee simple forever. In witness etc.
This was the home of the Rev. Richard Mansfield as long as he lived.
The growth of Episcopacy in Derby from 1737 to 1797, called for a more commodious house of worship. The enterprise and even the population which had centered "Up Town" seemed now to be centering towards the Narrows, which in 1797 commercially and in other respects, was in the hight of its prosperity. The parish with great unanimity, voted to remove the church edifice half a mile down towards the Narrows, then called New Boston and located it on the beautiful knoll overlooking the Naugatuck, and in front of the house now (1879) owned by Mr. P. McEnerney, but formerly long the residence of the Rev. Calvin White. This edifice, spacious in dimensions and in keeping with the style of churches then built, was commenced in 1796, and its corner stone laid the following year. After its completion, the members of the parish voted to change the name of Christ's to that of St. James's Church, and in 1799 it was consecrated with this name by Bishop Jarvis.
The parish continued to flourish under the rectorship of Mansfield, Jewett and others, but after a period of forty-two years, the question of again changing the location of the church was agitated. Birmingham then was growing rapidly as a manufacturing village, and the worshiping members of the languishing parish were drifting away from the old edifice. Rev. Joseph Scott, then rector, importuned by his parishioners, made a report to a parish meeting. May 5, 1841, setting forth "the bad condition of the old church with regard to its location, and advancing reasons in support of its immediate removal to a more central part of the parish as being vitally connected with its prosperity and permanent welfare." [Parish Record.] At this meeting, a com-
mittee of three was appointed, viz.: E. N. Shelton, Birmingham, Benjamin Hodge, Up Town, and Levi Hotchkiss for the Narrows, to take a look at the situation and report progress. The removal was not opposed by any but approved by all, yet the new location was not so easily settled. Some favored the Narrows opposite the Congregational church, but here a suitable lot could not be obtained. The good and pious Leman Stone, a tottering pillar in the parish, favored the Causeway and urged the building of a mound raised above all freshets, whereon to locate the church, while a large majority was for Birmingham. A census of the families of the parish was taken, and the committee, May 26, 1841, reported strongly in favor of Birmingham. An additional incentive was, that a spacious lot in front of the public park would be donated by Smith and Phelps for church purposes. The parish at the same meeting voted unanimously to build their new edifice at that place, provided the money could be raised by subscription for that purpose, A liberal spirit was awakened and the money raised. A stone church was decided upon, its corner stone laid by Rev. Stephen Jewett in 1842, and a historical discourse was delivered on the occasion, by Rev. Dr. Coit of Bridgeport. April 11, 1843, it was consecrated St. James's Church, by Bishop Brownell "in the twenty-fourth year of his consecration."
At the regular Easter meeting, April 17, 1843, the parish in full vote, passed the following resolution. "That the regular services of St. James's Church shall be held in the new church edifice at Birmingham, and that the bell, organ and other fixtures belonging to said church or parish, be removed into the same," [Parish Record.] which was done.
Naturally tenacious of precious and long cherished associations, some of the church people up town felt aggrieved that their candle-stick had been removed, and at once withdrew from "their first love" and formed a nucleus which resulted in a "new parish which was admitted June, 1844, into the diocese as such by the name of Christ's Church, Derby," [See Church Journal, 1844.] the history of which will be found in its proper place.
The rectors connected with this parish, are Mansfield,
White, (assistant,) Blakeslee, Jewett, Bradley, (assistant,) Scott, Ashley, Guion, Flagg, Coxe, Fuller, Brainard, Chamberlain and Baldwin, -- only six now living. Keeping within the record, it will thus be seen that St. James's parish with its long roll of worthy and devoted rectors, through all its vicissitudes, has come down unbroken from its origin in 1737, to the present time.
In the division of lands at various times, various tracts were left, which at the time it was thought unwise or inconvenient to divide, or no one desired to settle on them. Such a tract was held at Great Hill consisting of something over one hundred acres. This division was made on the 20th of March, 1756, to the proprietors, which meant all who had paid toward the original purchases of the Indians, and none others except by a special vote of the town. Hence rights are named to the original settlers who had been deceased many years; and hence there are many deeds recorded, signed by the heirs of such original proprietors. Others had sold their rights to all lands in the town, whatever they might be, to new settlers, or persons resident out of the town. The division was made mostly to the original owners, and then the new owners must prove their right to possession. Hence this list of names brings up nearly all the persons, familiar in the history of the town one hundred years. This land it is said belonged to the fourth division, and was parceled in lots of about one and a half acres to each, to the rights of:
1. Jonathan Miles,
33. John Hull,
Another effort was made for the erection of a town house in 1767, and the place designated by a Court committee, the report not being seen, the location is unknown, but it was probably on Meeting-house hill; now known as Academy hill, at Ansonia, but at Derby and Birmingham as Up Town. The committee to build this house was Capt. Joseph Riggs, Dea. Eliphalet Hotchkiss and Ens. Nathan Smith. Here is the old builder, Eliphalet Hotchkiss, who has been found on two other occasions at the same business; but he has become deacon and therefore, as a matter of certainty, must be a far better workman than before, making money all the faster; for whoever knew a deacon that was not rich?
A town house had been built some years before according to the following town action:
"Dec. 23, 1745. Voted that the place for building a town house for the use of. the town of Derby shall be at a place called Cankwood Plain, and that said house may be improved for a
school-house for the use of schooling for the inhabitants of the said town."
This house was built, since a record was made in 1747, of fifty pounds paid towards the cost of it.
The late William R. Lewis of Huntington, a native of Derby, had left the following valuable information of
"Mr. J. W. Barber in giving publicity to the land slide that occurred in 1764, a few rods south of Mr. Edward N. Shelon's residence, leaves the impression that something like a volcanic eruption occurred at that place. I wish to remove that impression. There have been three land slides in Derby of which this was the first. The second was on the Baldwin lot, so called in former times, in the prolongation of the road leading up the hill, passing the school-house in the Narrows, some six or eight rods beyond the angle where the road turns to the right. This was about 1790, and some remains of it may be seen yet. Another since came into the road between the house of Col. Gates, formerly Jesse Beach's and that of Wyllis Hotchkiss. These land slides are common in all mountainous, temperate and arctic countries, and take place during a warm rain after a long, severe frost has compacted a mass of earth, sometimes strengthened by intertwining roots. Frost expands the mass with great power. If the surface is curved a little upward or other things favoring, the mass of earth rising a little, leaves a vacancy under it, into which water insinuates itself, and having entered higher up the acclivity through a crack, an animal's burrough, a spot protected from frost by snow or other cause, creates an upward pressure, proportioned to the difference in the altitude of the water where it enters the ground, and where its descent is arrested, and it exerts a force, the amount of which may be appreciated by reference to hydro-mechanical law as displayed in the hydrostatic press used to lift ships out of water, and as used to place the tube of the Victoria bridge on its piers at Montreal in 1859, when ten thousand tons of iron was raised from floats and placed on the piers with ease and safety. This upheaval detaches the mass from its surroundings and then gravitation sends it thundering down the hill.
"The Birmingham land slide was on a declivity lying at an angle of about forty-five degrees from the horizon in a geological drift formation destitute of adhesiveness, -- no rock in situ, -- and below the frozen mass the earth was easily washed away by running water. The lightnings, the sulphur and the subterranean winds as represented to Mr. Barber, were ' of imagination all compact.' The land slides of the White hills of New Hampshire are similar, and with which all are familiar. That of 1826, at the Notch, overwhelming the Willy family of nine persons was similar to this only incomparably larger and moving about two miles."
This natural science of Mr. Lewis is well, but the fact still remains that this was a peculiar land slide; for Mr. Lewis Hotchkiss, who assisted in removing a part of this land slide some forty years since, informs that a large heap of earth, some rods in length was thrown out from the hill some six or eight rods, leaving the level plane over which the earth passed. Allowing that the interval between the hill and the heap of earth may have filled in during fifty years, although there was no appearance of such process, still the distance of such a mass of earth from the bank is scarcely explained by an ordinary land slide.
Some considerable idea of the inhabitants of the town as settled within its territory, just before the Revolution, may be obtained from the laying out of the school districts. A committee for this purpose was appointed and made their report in 1766. "The first district is on the east side of Naugatuck river and shall be bound westerly on the Great river and Naugatuck river, southerly and easterly on Milford line, northerly the line shall begin half-way between the Rev. Mr. Daniel Humphreys's dwelling house and Mr. Oliver Curtiss's dwelling house and so a west line to Naugatuck river and so run northeastward forty rods, northwesterly of Mr. Joseph Loveland's dwelling house and thence an east line to Milford line, -- forty-seven families.
"The second district is on the east side of Naugatuck river, and is bounded southerly with the north line of the first district, and westerly on Naugatuck river, easterly on Milford line, and northerly from Milford line to the head of Riggs's swamp west ten degrees north to Naugatuck river, -- twentv-nine families.
"The third district is on the east side of Naugatuck river, and is bounded southerly on the north line of the second district, easterly on Milford line, northerly on Waterbury line, and westerly on Naugatuck river, as low as the mouth of the Little river as far as the little brook that runs into said river out of Mr. Jonathan Miles's swamp meadow, and thence with the highway to the great bridge below the falls, -- twenty-two families.
"The fourth district is bounded southerly with the Little river, easterly with the Naugatuck river, northerly with Waterbury line as far west as to the east side of Mr. Jonathan Miles's farm, and westerly with the highway that runs the east side of said Miles's farm down to the Little river, taking Lieut. John Wooster and Mr. Abraham Bassett into the said district, -- fourteen families.
"The fifth district is bounded with the line of the fourth, as high north as to the south part of Mr. Jonathan Miles's farm, and then runs westerly two rods north of Thomas Wooster's dwelling house, and then a straight line to the south end of John Bassett's meadow to the Little river, and thence to Israel Trowbridge's barn, and thence to the Little river at the north end of Wooster park and so to the highway where the fourth district is bounded, -- twenty-one families.
"The sixth district is bounded southerly with the fifth, east with the fourth, north with W'aterbury and Woodbury line to the Little river, and westerly with the Little river down to the corner of said Bassett's meadow, -- fourteen families.
"The seventh district is bounded north with Woodbury line, west with the Great river down to the mouth of the Fivemile brook, south with the Five-mile brook to Woodbury road, and thence to Israel Trowbridge's barn, and east with the fifth and sixth districts, thirty-two families.
"The eighth district is bounded north with the seventh, west with the Great river down to the south end of Paul's plain, and thence the south line runs eastward twenty rods south of Noah Tomlinson's dwelling-house, and thence to the Rock spring, and thence to the mouth of the great brook that runs into Naugatuck river, and easterly with Naugatuck river and the third district and the Little river, -- forty families."
"The ninth district is bounded north with the eighth district.
west with the Great river to the mouth of the Naugatuck, and eastwith the Naugatuck, -- thirty-seven families.
These two hundred and fifty-six families, if averaging five to a family, which is the usual method of numbering, gives twelve hundred and eighty persons, or possibly thirteen hundred persons in the town. [Derby contained in 1756, 1,000 inhabitants; in 1774, 1,889; in 1790, 2,994.]
In 1779, some change was made and a new district was formed out of the fourth and fifth, including the following families, west of Tobie's rock.
In the same year another district was formed, taking a "part of the north district, a part of Great hill district and a part of Rimmon district, including the following families:"
In 1781, liberty was granted "Capt. Ebenezer Gracey and the rest of the inhabitants of the district for schooling, to build a school-house on the new highway that leads from Stevens's ferry (the Narrows), down to Milford."
The second district had had a school-house since 1711, but no others are mentioned before the Revolution, except one on Great hill, spoken of in 1777, after that a thorough changing of boundaries west of the Naugatuck river was perfected.
There had been schools kept in various parts of the town from 1708-9 up to this time, but they were kept in private
houses, except at the village, Derby, now Academy hill, at Cank wood town house, and for a short time previously at Great hill.
Among the first records of the town the Fishing Place is mentioned, and in 1666 a highway was made by Edward Wooster, through the Long Lot to the Fishing Place, which place it appears, was at or near Derby Landing, or possibly a little above it, at first. At that time there was no river on the east side of the meadow land; nothing but a little brook. The History of Seymour says there were no islands or meadow below the causeway between Birmingham and Derby, and that there was deep water where the meadow now is, but it seems almost impossible to have filled up in so short a time, two hundred years; besides, the first records mention several islands as then existing, namely, "Two-mile island," below the Narrows, "Walnut tree island," at the junction of the rivers, owned some time by Stephen Pierson, the "Fish island" or fishing place, and the island lying in the Ousatonic, south of Lieut. Thomas Wheeler's house on Birmingham point, and which Mr. Wheeler bought of the Indians, and still later the westernmost island in the Ousatonic is purchased of the Indian chief. There were then three islands at this place, at the first settlement, besides Two-mile island. After a few years from the making of the highway to the Fishing Place, a landing was constructed at that place for shipping produce. This highway through the Long lot was the only road up and down the river at the time, except Milford road that went over the hill by the Swift place, and no road from the Narrows east.
All commodities brought to the Landing were carted up this highway to the old village. Up Town. There was a landing all this time at Birmingham point on the Ousatonic. At first, and for a few years this was on the east side of the point, but afterwards went to the west side. Sometime before 1700, there was a house built at the Fishing place, that was called the fish house, but which served, doubtless, somewhat as a warehouse, for some years. A little after 1700, the principal shipping place
was at Joseph Hawkins's warehouse on the west side of Birmingham point, and continued there nearly fifty years.
In 1745, the old road through the Long lot was given up, or nearly so, and a new highway made from the Narrows on the bank up to Old Town, and in 1772, this road was changed somewhat and improved, being about where it now is. A little before 1781, the first highway was made from the Landing out south- east towards Milford. In laying the highway on the bank, from the Narrows, in 1745, although a full description of its boundaries is given, no dwellings or buildings are mentioned, and hence it is probable none were there at that time, except possibly the old fish house at the Landing.
In Barber's History it is said that Capt. Ithiel Keeney was the first white child born at the Landing; the date of his birth being March 17, 1755. This information Mr. Barber obtained from Mr. Keeney himself, and is no doubt correct, as Mr. Keeney was one of the most reliable men ever in the town. The fact that for more than thirty years he was the treasurer of the town, is sufficient proof of this statement. Ebenezer Keeney, the father of Ithiel, came into the town a young man and married Betsey Davis in 1738, and resided on the road a little way south-east from Old Town until he built his house at the Landing in 1754, for Ithiel's sister Abigail was born in 1753, yet Ithiel was the first born at the Landing. It is, therefore, very probable, that the Keeney house was the first at the Landing.
Stephen Whitney bought a piece of land at New Boston, adjoing Mr. Keeney's, in 1762, and another in 1764, and built on this land a' store, and continued in business as a merchant until he delivered it to "James Juancy, Samuel Broome and Company, with all that were the said Whitney's creditors in New York, on the i6th day of September, 1768, and Abraham Demill of Stratford, . . which said store house stands on the bank of the river, with some land west side of the store house called store-house square."
The next movement for building this place, then called New Boston, is recorded in town meeting as follows: "December 18, 1769, voted that Capt. Ebenezer Gracey (spelled also Grassee) have liberty to build a wharf adjoining the landing place at New
Boston, beginning at the basswood tree northward of Stevens's ferry, and to extend northward sixty feet, and also to build a warehouse on said wharf, and to build three feet into the bank with this reserve, that all the inhabitants in this town that freight upon said Gracey's vessel, shall have liberty to store any goods or grain in said warehouse so long as they shall stand in need, store free, provided the said Gracey build the same within three years from this date."
The next year, Capt. Gracey bought ninety-one feet front on the river, of Joseph Wheeler, "bounded northerly on Betty Keeney, and southerly on the land of Samuel Broome of New York, and company."
"Dec, 1770. Voted that the town of Derby thinks that it will be a public advantage to have a ferry started on Derby side of the river at the Narrows, and that Mr. Joseph Wheeler's wharf is the most convenient place, and that the town desires the Hon. General Assembly to start a ferry there on said Wheeler." This indicates that Stevens's ferry which had been running one year certain and probably longer, from the then Stratford side of the river, but Derby people proposed to have one on Derby side. The amount of generosity toward Mr. Stevens, who had been at the expense of starting a ferry, is not spoken of; probably they thought it not "enough to speak of."
A ferry was continued, at least until 1833, when a proposition was made in town meeting to give it up, but just when it did stop is not ascertained.
From 1770, onward for some years, there was much speculation in lots of land at Derby Narrows, the people supposing that really a New Boston was to arise to be a great city, if not to eclipse any other city of that name.
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