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
DERBY IN THE REVOLUTION.
1774 -- 1783.
THE history of the American Revolution is yet to be written, and when such a work shall be completed it will have been gathered as well from local history as the more public prints and archives. It is also within the narrow scope of local history, giving particulars for which the general historian cannot find room, that we may gain some of the most definite views of those hardships which were a part of the great sum by which our fathers obtained their freedom, and in order to know the full force of such an event on the local community it is necessary to understand the relations of such local town to the state and of the state and nation to the causes of such an event. And, as it is the practice at the present day to give a distorted or perverted meaning to the actual relations and principles which caused the Revolution, it is important to repeat and delineate those causes, in order that those who are disposed may have a just understanding of those principles.
The policy of England with reference to the American Colonies had long been of a nature to produce uneasiness and resistance in the minds of the more intelligent classes. The English who came hither were from the first unwilling to be considered as having lost any rights they had possessed at home, and boasted themselves as loyal subjects to the ruler whoever it might be of the parent country in almost every written transaction and deed of land executed in the country. One of the principles concerning which they were most tenacious, was that of taking part in framing the laws by which they were to be governed. It was held at an early day that no law of England ought to be binding upon the people of the Colonies without their own consent, and as they were not allowed a representation in the English Parliament they claimed that all enactments of Parliament for the Colonies were without force until
assented to by the Colonial Assemblies; and this idea had been instituted and cherished under the idea of Constitutional Government as maintained by a large proportion of the people of the mother country. Had England at that time possessed statesman of no extraordinary ability, instead of arbitrary dictators there would have been no Revolution in the Colonies. This claim was especially insisted upon in regard to measures for their taxation, whether direct or by way of import duties.
Little account, however, was made in England of the pretended rights of the colonists as subjects of the crown, although they had in part sanctioned these claims for many years, both in their parliamentary legislation and the grants of the crown. It became necessary to increase the revenue of the kingdom, and the British ministry determined to do this by means of a tax on the people of America.
There was the religious element, also, that came into consideration. It was well known that after the restoration of Charles II. there was a strong purpose in the government and a large party, to make the Church of England the ruling church in America, and it was in regard to this idea that much controversy had been indulged among the leading men of the Colonies for more than fifty years previous to the Revolution. The starting point to the re-establishment of church authority was to subjugate the Colonies politically or by governmental authority and hence they maintained that the power of Great Britain to tax them without their consent, must be asserted and maintained at all costs, and to this end many efforts had been planned but failed to be effective.
The French war had left the Colonies greatly reduced and some of them heavily burdened. In 1762, the public debt of New York was £300,000 and the population of that province was taxed £40,000 per annum to discharge it; yet the Assembly granted a new appropriation demanded by England for the support of the army. Connecticut had been issuing bills, during the war against Spain from 1740 to 1750, and again to support the war against France from 1755 to 1763, until the mother country ordered the Colony to stop, (about 1760,) at which time it took eight dollars of paper to buy one of silver, or thereabouts, and suddenly they came to flat hard times. Then in
March, 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act. This law, which provided for the raising of a revenue in the Colonies by requiring the use of paper bearing a government stamp for every legal or commercial instrument in writing, produced so much disturbance, and awakened so much opposition both in England and in America, that it was repealed the next year. But the determination to tax the Americans was by no means abandoned. In 1767, a bill was passed imposing duties upon tea and certain other articles imported from Great Britain into the colonies. This law, more directly than any other measure, led to the conflict which resulted in the Revolution. A passive resistance was at first offered throughout the country, to the designs of the government, by an agreement of the people not to import the articles upon which this tax had been laid. The first meeting held for the purpose of entering into such an agreement took place in Boston, October 28, 1767, and was followed by similar meetings in the towns of Connecticut and New York. The firmness and self-denial with which these resolutions were very generally carried out, tended greatly to increase a spirit of self-reliance and independence in the popular mind.
Other measures of the British government excited the colonists to more violent resistance. The Stamp Act, which was received with riotous demonstrations in various places, had been accompanied by another bill quite as offensive, which remained in force when the former was repealed. This bill obliged the several Assemblies of the provinces to provide quarters for the British troops maintained in America, and to furnish them with sundry supplies, at the expense of each province. New York refused to make any appropriation for this purpose; and Parliament to punish the refractory colonists, passed a law depriving that province of all powers of legislation until its orders should have been complied with. This was an infringement of their liberties which greatly alarmed the colonists. About the same time, their irritation was increased by the stringent measures taken with a view to the enforcement of the revenue laws. Under the oppressive and arbitrary system of duties which had been established, smuggling had come to be considered as a matter of course. The colonists, denied of all participation in making of laws which affected their interests, thought it no
wrong to evade those which were manifestly unreasonable and injurious. The attempt at this moment to enforce them led to repeated disturbances, especially in Boston and New York. These various acts of the British government tended to one result, which every deed of violence and bloodshed hastened, namely, the union of the Colonies in a pronounced opposition to the control of the mother country.
It may be imagined with what interest the news of public events at this period must have been received by the inhabitants of Derby. The doings of Parliament; the meetings of the Colonial Congress; the proceedings of the "sons of liberty;" the outrages of the British soldiery; the risings of the exasperated people; these and other tidings came from week to week to this quiet neighborhood, in the columns of the small gazettes, whose dingy pages wear such an old-fashioned look at present, but which to them were so full of fresh and lively import.
The course of events was watched with various feelings, for there were warm partisans of the British cause at Derby, as well as a large number who earnestly espoused the side of resistance, which they regarded religiously as well as civilly a righteous thing in the sight of the Lord. The prevailing mood was one of uncertainty. As yet none had any thought of the matter reaching any state except resistance to these special acts of Parliament.
The first recorded action of the town of Derby took place at a legal town meeting, November 29, 1774. It was after the closing of the port of Boston, in consequence of the famous tea-party which occurred in Boston on the i6th of December, 1773, and in punishment the government declared the port of Boston closed. Upon this, public meetings were held throughout the Colonies, renewing the agreement against the use of tea and expressing sympathy with the people of Boston. At the meeting in Derby, "Daniel Holbrook, Esq., was chosen moderator of the meeting.
"At said meeting the extracts of the doings of the respectable Continental Congress held at Philadelphia, Sept. 5, 1774, were considered, and the same appearing to us to be a wise and judicious plan, and most likely to effect the much to be desired union between Great Britain and the American Colonies; there-
fore, we do resolve that we will faithfully adhere to and abide by the association entered into by said Congress.
"Again, voted that the gentlemen hereafter named be a committee to see the same carried into execution, viz.:
Capt. John Holbrook,
"Again, voted that in case a county Congress should be agreed upon in this county, then the aforesaid committee shall choose and appoint two of their number to attend such Congress.
"Again, the town have taken into their consideration the needy and distressed circumstances of the poor of the town of Boston, by the operation of a late act of Parliament blocking their harbor, the town is of opinion it is necessary and their duty to contribute for their relief."
Here it may be seen that they declare it to be their opinion that this movement was the "most likely to effect the much to be desired union between Great Britain and the American Colonies," as though the idea of a permanent separation had scarcely entered their minds, and much less was it entertained as a probable event, showing that nothing but persevering violations of their rights by Parliament ever drove them to revolution. This was the case throughout the country wherever action was taken at this period. Dr. Franklin, just before the fight at Lexington, told the Parliament committee that he had more than once traveled almost from one end of the continent to the other, and kept a variety of company, eating, drinking, and conversing with them freely, and never had heard in any conversation, from any person, drunk or sober, the least expression of a wish for a separation, or a hint that such a thing would be advantageous to America." John Adams said afterwards: "There was not a moment during the Revolution when I would not have given everything I possessed for a restoration to the state of things before the contest began, provided we could have had a sufficient security for its continuance."
As confirming this sentiment and showing the public sentiment of the people at the time, a quotation is given from the records of the town of Rye, N. Y., a near neighbor to Derby in associations at the time, expressed at a public meeting, held July 6, 1774 [Many like resolutions were passed in public meetings throughout the state of Connecticut at that time. See Hinman's War of the Revolution.]:
"This meeting being greatly alarmed at the late proceedings of the British Parliament, in order to raise a revenue in America, and considering their late most cruel, unjust and unwarrantable act for blockading the port of Boston, having a direct tendency to deprive a free people of their most valuable rights and privileges, an introduction to subjugate the inhabitants of the English Colonies, and render them vassals to the British House of Commons.
"Resolved First: that they think it their greatest happiness to live under the illustrious House of Hanover, and that they will steadfastly and uniformly bear true and faithful allegiance to his Majesty, King George the Third, under the enjoyments of their constitutional rights and privileges, as fellow subjects with those in England.
"Second, That we conceive it a fundamental part of the British Constitution, that no man shall be taxed but by his own consent or that of his representative in Parliament; and as we are by no means represented, we consider all Acts of Parliament imposing taxes on the Colonies, an undue exertion of power, and subversive of one of the most valuable privileges of the English Constitution."
The fourth resolution of that meeting in Rye, reveals the object for which the colonists were seeking at that time, and is the same as intimated in the resolution of the people of Derby, a little later in the same year: viz.: "That the unity and firmness of measures in the colonies, are the most effectual means to secure the invaded rights and privileges of America, and to avoid the impending ruin which now threatens this once happy country." [Many like resolutions were passed in the towns in Connecticut at that time. See Hinman's Hist, of the Revolution.]
The fifth resolution of that meeting, expressed the purpose
to support the counsels and doings of the General Congress, as was expressed with marvelous unanimity throughout the country. Many extracts like these might be made, but are unnecessary, as the oneness of the people at that time, in the general, is a conceded matter.
But what were the rights and privileges that the people of the Colonies claimed, or were striving to maintain? Certainly not those of universal liberty and freedom, as entertained in the United States since the Revolution. No such liberty was then dreamed of. The statement of Dr. Benjamin Trumbull in the commencement of his History of Connecticut, that, "The settlement of New England, purely for the purposes of religion, and the propagation of civil and religious liberty, is an event which has no parallel in the history of modern ages," is clearly true in a limited sense, but the extent and broadness of religious and civil liberty as developed by the American Revolution was no part of the plan of the first settlers, nor of the claims of the people of New England up to the battle of Lexington, on the 19th of April, 1775. When Patrick Henry said "Give me liberty or give me death," he made the key that unlocked the mind and heart of man, to the grand idea of Human Liberty. Since that day it has been very easy to declaim about freedom, but before that it was but certain, or particular rights and privileges that were claimed by anybody, anywhere in Christendom. These particulars as claimed by the Colonists were, first to order their churches as they had done from the first, as they judged the Bible directed, without being governed by the English, or any other church; and second, the civil privileges guaranteed, as they believed were guaranteed, and as they had enjoyed by and under the British Constitution. These are the historical facts, according to hundreds of sermons and public documents of those times. The Rev. Alexander Gillet, one of the most learned young men of the period, preached a sermon of two hours and a half in length, in Wolcott, Conn., on Fast day, 1774, in which these definite points and claims are stated, and this is corroborated by hundreds of other sermons of that time, as well as by the declaration of rights by the Colonial Congress in September, 1774, and the Declaration of Independence.
If then the fathers before the Revolution are found acting upon principles not in accordance with universal freedom, it. should be no mystery; for they knew of nothing of the kind, and professed nothing of the kind. If any be so unfamiliar with history as to ask whether the fathers propagated a larger degree of liberty in these Colonies than they could and would have enjoyed in the mother country, it would be easy to answer in the affirmative, by a mass of historical testimony sufficient to convince any but the willful. Obedience to the majority vote of the persons interested, was a principle not allowed in England, but practiced here by extending the application, from the first. The Rev. John Beach of Newtown, in writing to England in 1767, said; [Beardsley's History of The Church in Connecticut, vol. 1, 251.] "It is some satisfaction to me to observe that in this town, of late, our elections, the church people make the major vote, which is the first instance of that kind in this Colony, if not in all New England." How strange such an expression. The people of Derby, an adjoining town to Mr. Beach, had practiced on that principle from 1681, nearly one hundred years, in all their church business. Mr. Beech could have learned the fact if he had been disposed to look at the records of the town, at any time. Mr. Beech also says in the same communication, "And I am full in the opinion, that if those great men, upon whose pleasure it depends to grant us such a blessing, [a bishop] did but know as we do that the church people here are the only fast friends to our subjection to, or connection with England, as hath lately appeared, they would, even upon political reasons, grant us the favor which we have so long wished and prayed for." What was the significance of the £45,000 raised in Connecticut, to aid England in the war against Spain, in 1740, and the equipping and sending the soldiers who with Massachusetts captured Louisburg, where several millions of dollars worth of war material were captured, and not a dollar's worth allowed to those who did the work; and the fitting a vessel, The Defence, on which were sent in 1741, two hundred soldiers, to Cuba in this same Spanish war? What meant the immense taxes levied in Connecticut, and soldiers sent in the French war of 1755 to 1763, in which Connecticut had but little to gain and much to lose, if it did not mean loy-
alty to, "and connection with" England? Connecticut raised about 5,000 soldiers during the first three years of the French war, for the several campaigns against Crown Point; and the whole expenses of that war, to Connecticut, must have exceeded £500,000; a sum immense for the number and circumstances of the people. What is loyalty, if this is not?
At a meeting of the General Assembly in April, 1775, a law was passed to raise one-fourth of the militia for the special defense of the Colony, formed into companies of one hundred men each, and into six regiments. A major general, two brigadier generals and six colonels were appointed. This force was sent to Boston immediately after the fighting at Lexington. Major Jabez Thompson, Captain Nathaniel Johnson and their thirty-two men from Derby were among the companies sent, and afterwards drew ten pounds and four shillings as part pay of the expenses of that journey. Therefore Derby had a part in the first rally in the great struggle for freedom.
The officers from Derby at this time were: David Wooster, Esq., major general; Jabez Thompson, 1st major of the 1st regiment, and captain of the 2d company; Bradford Steele, ist lieutenant in the same company; Nathan Pierson, ensign, and Nathaniel Johnson, captain, of another company.
This company was probably in the battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775.
On the first day of the next July, the Connecticut Assembly ordered two more regiments, the seventh and eighth, to be fitted at once and sent forward to the army at Boston. William Hull of Derby was appointed first lieutenant in the second company of the seventh regiment.[Royal R. Hinman's War of the Revolution -- Connecticut.] While the Derby troops were on this expedition to Boston, one of the most brilliant exploits of the Revolution, the capture of Ticonderoga, was planned, principally by General David Wooster, a Derby citizen, in consultation with some of his associates in the Legislature, and the expedition started on its war mission; the accomplishment of which surprised both the Old and the New World. General Wooster and some others became responsible for the expenses of this expedition, but they were afterwards relieved from them by the Colony.
The fall of Ticonderoga alone gave to Congress, aside from the importance of the place, about one hundred and twenty iron cannon, fifty swivels, two mortars, one howitzer, one coehorn, ten tons of musket balls, three cart loads of flints, thirty new carriages, a large quantity of shells, one hundred stands of arms, ten barrels of powder, two brass cannon, to say nothing of materials for ship building, pork, flour, beans, peas and other valuables.
In August of the same year, Giles Hall was appointed captain of the brig Minerva, and Thomas Horsey of Derby first lieutenant on the same vessel.
In the summer of 1775, General Wooster in command of a regiment nearly full of Connecticut troops, in which were some from Derby, was sent to New York for the defense of that place. A correspondent of those times has given the following pleasant notice of these soldiers:
"Our people now begin to see something of the pomp and circumstance of war. June 12, 1775, the Connecticut forces encamped near Greenwich are reviewed by General Wooster. A great number of gentlemen and ladies and a prodigious concourse of the inhabitants of the surrounding country have gathered to witness the review. The troops are an exceeding fine body of men and perform their exercises and evolutions with spirit and exactness, much to the satisfaction of their officers and to the spectators also. On the 27th instant, these troops, or a portion of them, pass through Rye on their way to New York, and they are to encamp a short distance from the city. General Wooster with seven companies of his regiment, and Col. Waterbury with his regiment complete, constitute the force. They appear to be a healthy, hearty body of men, about 1,800 in number, and some of them at least were destined to become well acquainted with Rye, for General Wooster afterwards had his head-quarters here for a considerable length of time." [History of Rye, N. Y., 224.]
After the battle of Bunker Hill it became very evident that a heavy struggle of war was at hand, and the hope of a friendly settlement seemed to have departed forever. The courage of the Americans was high, for, although defeated at Bunker Hill, that defeat was in effect equal to a victory, from the fact that
a few militia soldiers had resisted so successfully for some hours the regular army of England. The colonists now began to act with great vigor in putting the country in a state of defense. The long line of sea coast, without a navy to protect it, demanded and received as far as possible, particular attention, especially that of Connecticut, which was greatly exposed to the enemy. Some considerable division of sentiment existed as to the propriety and right of engaging in a war of resistance to the mother country. This made it necessary to watch the movements of all persons throughout the country, lest enemies at home might do more harm than any abroad; and therefore it became necessary to appoint in each town a Committee of Inspection, as the following for Derby, appointed Dec. 11, 1775:
Capt. John Holbrook,
It should not be supposed that all the captains above titled were military men, unless all the men, women and children of Derby were soldiers, but some two or three of them may have been captains of vessels, yet having as much honor, or more than the military captains.
It is worthy of notice that this list contains a very large proportion of the men who had been prominent in the town during the twenty-five years preceding; prominent in offices and as citizens, and in paying taxes and sustaining England in her wars against Spain and France. Capt. John Holbrook, whose name heads the list, was the man who with his wife, Abigail, had given the land for the site of the first Episcopal church and burv-
ing-ground thirty-seven years before, but who, on the breaking out of the war, withdrew from that church and returned to the Congregational church and supported the war vigorously to the end. Some of them had been engaged many years in exporting produce and importing all kinds of merchandise, until Derby was as well known in foreign ports as any town in the Colonies, and especially so in the West Indies. [Produce was at that time carted from New Haven to Derby to be shipped to foreign parts.] Whatever, therefore, affected the Colonies, affected Derby, and the people understood the fact and prepared themselves accordingly. No locality took its position of resistance more coolly, yet decidedly, boldly and manfully, than Derby. David Wooster, although born in Stratford, removing with his father into the town when about ten years of age, retaining it as his residence fifteen or more years, had distinguished himself in the Spanish and French wars, becoming quite celebrated, now took his stand for the rights of his native land, with great decision and firmness, although his old Tory friends of Stratford said if he "turned against his king he ought to be shot." William Hull, a liberally educated young lawyer, accepted the appointment of his native town as captain for the Derby company, with manly decision to serve during the war. His father, Joseph, a sea captain as well as a military, went at the first call to New York, doing noble service. Captain Jabez Thompson, of high standing, went out at the first call to Boston with several other ofificers of the town, and returned in a few months entitled colonel. And back of these stood this first committee of inspection of thirty-two first-class men. One company of thirty-two or more had been to Boston in the first campaign. The whole military company had been to New York with General Wooster in the summer of 1775. Truly, Derby's flag need not trail in the dust the first year of the Revolution; and what is said by Hinman [Connecticut in the Revolution, Royal R. Hinman, p. 79.] maybe appropriately said of Derby. "At this critical juncture of the war, no Colony was more deeply interested in the result than Connecticut, and none better prepared for the emergency. The people of this Colony had for more than a century, enjoyed one of the most beneficent colonial governments that
ever fell to the lot of the subjects of a monarchical government. They had literally governed themselves, although nominally subject to the crown of Great Britain. Notwithstanding their extraordinary privileges, no colony stepped forth with more alacrity to the aid of the oppressed people of Massachusetts, than Connecticut; and none exhibited more sympathy, or poured forth its blood and treasure more freely in the onset. In the campaign of 1775, she sent forth her thousands to' the aid of Massachusetts; and not only this, but she was the first to commence operations against Great Britain. Her citizens, unaided by any other colony, had conquered the forts on Lake Champlain, captured the garrisons, and brought the prisoners and munitions into Connecticut. She had also been the first to rally in sustaining the cause of the Revolution in the commercial city of New York, where she had sent her militia, under General Wooster, in the summer of 1775. Again in the autumn of the same year, her citizens had destroyed one of the most offensive royal presses in the colonies; and finally, by the advice of General Washington, Connecticut had raised a force, which, commanded by General Lee, had wrested New York from the royal authority early in 1776." In all these movements except the printing press, Derby had an honorable, and in some of them, a conspicuous part.
In the summer of 1776, one-third of Washington's army in New York were from Connecticut, including from nine to ten thousand militia; all the remainder of the militia of the state were ordered to Long Island, except two regiments. It is very probable, that all the soldiers or militia of Derby were at New York, and this too just at harvest time. In this year also, a •company was enlisted at Derby; William Clark, captain; Edward Howd, lieutenant; Jabez Pritchard, ensign.
Joseph Hull, brother of General William, was appointed lieutenant of artillery, and went to New York where he was taken prisoner and detained two years. (See his Biog.)
The real spirit of self-sacrifice and true loyalty of the Derby people to freedom is seen in the self-sacrifice of the following votes. It is easy to be patriotic when it costs nothing, but these votes were at the expense of every man that had provisions to sell.
"February 10, 1777. Whereas the General Assembly of this state at their session at Micldletown on the i8th of December last, by an act did regulate the prices of a number of articles in said act enumerated: and whereas it appears to this town that it is of the utmost consequence to the community in general, and to this town in particular, that said act shall be immediately carried into effect:
"Voted, therefore, that the town will by every legal means endeavor to have the directions of said act strictly complied with; this town being fully sensible that it is the duty of every friend of his country, to sell and dispose of the articles enumerated in the act of Assembly fixing the price of labor, provisions etc., at the prices at which they are therein stated; therefore:
"Voted, that those of us who have any of them beyond what we want for our own consumption, will readily and cheerfully sell them, either for money or produce at the prices in said act stated; and that we will esteem all persons who shall not do the same, enemies to their country, and treat them accordingly, provided such person is properly convicted thereof before the committee of inspection of this town, whom we empower to take cognizance of such offenses.
"Voted, that this town do recommend the civil authority, selectmen, committee of inspection, constables and grand jurors, to proportion the several prices of the articles not enumerated in the act of Assembly and make the same public, that we may all know the same."
In 1777, they first appoint a committee to take care of the families of the soldiers in the army, consisting of John Coe, David De Forest, Capt. Thomas Clark.
In the autumn of 1778, the following committee to take care of the soldiers' clothing -- that is, to invite and aid persons in making and forwarding such clothing and to see that the town received pay or credit, to balance for taxes to a certain extent, -- were appointed.
Capt. Timothy Baldwin,
"The town by their vote give to each soldier in the continental army that counts for the town of Derby, ten pounds money each, in lieu of the linen overalls, linen shirts and shoes that were voted to them last year as a bounty."
The following rate, fixed the same year, was the lowest imposed at any one year during the war. "The town grants a rate of one shilling and ninepence on the pound lawful money on the grand list to pay the bounty granted to the soldiers and to defray town charges." In 1775, the rate was one-halfpenny. And it was not in consequence of depreciated currency that the rate was so high now, for they had just accepted the prices fixed by the Assembly, which made wheat six shillings per bushel, rye three shillings and sixpence, and all other things proportionate. The list for Derby stood a little less than twenty thousand pounds in 1775. The amount of tax would nearly equal onetenth of the list; or one-tenth of the valuation on the assessors' list. This indicates somewhat the burden sustained in that war.
The following rates of tax were fixed bv town vote in the year as indicated. There may have been other additional rates in some of the years named:
1775, one and one-half penny on the pound. Eleazer Hawkins, collector.
1776, two and one-half pence on the pound. David De Forest, collector.
1777, threepence on the pound.
1778, one shilling and ninepence on the pound for bounty and town expenses.
1779, six shillings lawful money on the pound. Mr. Ebenezer Keeney, collector.
1780, two shillings on the pound, lawful money. Mr. Ebenezer Keeney, collector.
1780, an extra rate of sixpence on the pound to pay soldiers'
bounties; and a committee of Capt. John Riggs, Capt. Daniel Holbrook, Capt. Bradford Steele, to enlist continental soldiers and pay them their bounty.
The committees for the soldiers' families and clothing for the soldiers were continued from year to year. Sometimes the state was required to furnish a certain amount of clothing, and this was proportioned to the counties and then to the towns,
and the town committee were required to see that the cloth was obtained and the clothes made by the inhabitants of the town.
In the midst of privations and heavy taxes; the departure of soldiers, and the returning of the sick, or more dreaded news than sickness, there was the terrible fear of the raids of the enemy all along the shore of Long Island Sound, Derby escaped any very serious visitation, although General Tryon made them one call as described by Doct. A. Beardsley, as follows:
During the dark days of the Revolution, Derby, in common with many other towns of the colony, suffered from the red coats of King George. Some weeks prior to the burning of Danbury, when the gallant Brigadier General David Wooster was mortally wounded, the tory Governor of New York, General Tryon, with his two thousand men, learned that valuable military stores were secreted in Derby, which was then a seaport town in advance of New Haven, carrying on a brisk trade with the West Indies. The stores consisting mostly of pork, were packed in the old building located on the Ousatonic, on land now owned and occupied by Messrs. A. H. and C. B. Ailing, a few rods east of the rear of L. L. Lomer's brick block recently erected on Main street in Birmingham. In architectural beauty and finish this structure would contrast oddly with the custom houses of to-day. The lower story, its wall, three feet thick, was built of rough stone, exteriorly resembling a coarse stone wall; the upper story was of heavy wood work, roofed over with rent clapboards, many of our older citizens, including the writer, well remember its antique appearance, though demolished fifty years ago.
General Tryon, whose barbarous footprints polluted the soil of Connecticut among its first invaders, sent a detachment to New Haven to annoy the people of Derby, and as this old tory was ever bent on plunder, but when this could not be accomplished, he delighted in applying the torch of destruction to houses, churches, barns and other buildings, scattering in wild confusion defenseless women and children into narrow lanes and public streets, he determined to visit Derby. When his
forces arrived at New Haven, Capt. John Tomlinson, who then lived at Derby Neck, in the old mansion now owned by Truman Piper, happened to be in that city, and, mistrusting the object of their mission, quickly mounted his horse, and spurred him on in hot haste over the hills until he reached the peaceful hamlet of Derby Narrows, when he shouted at the top of his voice "The British are in New Haven; look out for your pork, look out for your pork!"
Now this Captain Tomlinson was a reliable man, a convert to the Whitefield doctrine, and it is said he did more praying and exhorting than half the town. He labored for the good of his fellow men. He lived to be ninety years old. In his last sickness a neighbor was called in to watch with him who was not particufarly a religious man; and who had on a short coat, but he was soon relieved of his expected night's work. When he entered the sick chamber Mr. Tomlinson greeted him with the salutation, "Be gone, thou enemy of all righteousness, the Devil never looked worse than when in a short coat."
When Tomlinson brought the news to Derby Narrows concerning the British, the day was far spent and the shades of evening were closing thick and fast, but in those times Yankee Doodle, ever on the alert, ready to fight for country and fireside, was equal to the emergency. Alarmed at the near approach of the enemy, men, women, and even boys sallied out, and soon the work of removal to a place of safety commenced. Among others, a tall, slender lad aged sixteen years, named Isaac Smith, whose son in his old age still resides on the shores of the Ousatonic, was singled out to assist in taking care of the military stores. His father, by the same name, was then an officer in the militia company from Derby stationed at Danbury, and we may here mention that the old slave, Quash, father of Governor Roswell Quash [colored] who died about two years ago, was his body guard. Young Smith full of patriotic fire, yoked his father's oxen, hitched them to his cart, and soon the work of hauling the pork fjom the old building was in lively operation. Load after load was conveyed up the lonely cart and cow paths, zigzag here and there among the shrub oaks, guided only by the glittering stars, and dumped into the famous hollow about a quarter of a mile below the almshouse on the right of
the main road as you now go to Seymour in West Ansonia. This hollow was dense with low shrub oaks, furnishing a capital hiding place. Yet some have attempted to establish the hollow a little to the east of the one named, but this is of little consequence since each is in close proximity to the other.
It is said that the British appeared on the east hill near the old Col. Jackson place, but the tory sentinels of the town, few in number, from some cause failed to connect with their allies, and thus General Tryon was cheated out of his coveted game. It has been believed by some that the hiding of pork in Derby from the tories in the Revolution was more of romance than reality, but reliable testimony obtained through patient researches establishes its authenticity beyond a question. Pork Hollow should live in our memories.
More than a hundred years have rolled away; the shrub oaks are gone, and the farmers ploughshare has made smooth and even the rough places in this deep, deep hollow, yet the passer by as he lingers around this revolutionary spot, may drink in admiration for the noble efforts of our rude forefathers, who helped to lay deep and broad the foundations of the government under which we now live. Here the selfish patriots of to-day may learn that neither inglorious love of money, nor the rewards of ambition, were the incentives to defeat, in his madness, General Tryon, that remorseless and implacable foe to the interests of the American Colonists.
The committees appointed, and the objects for which they were appointed, constitute a large proportion of the town records of the Revolution. If the town treasurer's book for that time could be found, the amount of work and expense would more fully appear, but diligent search does not secure so valuable a prize, although the book with accounts beginning just after the war is well preserved; when one is starved to death of what value then is abundance of food?
1779. Committee to procure soldiers' clothing, etc.:
Early in March, 1780, another committee, unnamed before, appears, as inspectors of provisions:
Capt. John Tomlinson,
Ye smoking ruins, marks of hostile ire,
How pleasant, Fairfield, on th' enraptur'd sight
But there the voice of mirth resounds no more,
Save where scorch'd elms th' untimely foliage shed.
* Written in 1779, on the spot where that town stood.
How chang'd the blissful prospect, when conipar'd,
That impious wretch, with coward voice decreed
Vain was the widow's, vain the orphan's cry,
Could Tryon hope to quench the patriot flame,
Yes, Britons! scorn the councils of the skies,
Red in their wounds, and pointing to the plain,
Long dusky wreaths of smoke, reluctant driven.
In fiery eddies, round the tott'ring walls,
Tryon, behold thy sanguine flames aspire.
Ere fades the grateful scene, indulge thine eye.
Go gaze, enraptur'd with the mother's tear,
These be thy triumphs! this thy boasted fame!
In 1777, Congress provided that in order to pledged fidelity to the United States, persons should take an oath of fidelity in addition to the freeman's oath to the state. It was this oath of fidelity that was accepted by the following persons; and in it Derby showed a noble list of loyalty to the new nation. Duritg several years thereafter two oaths were administered, the freeman's oath and the oath of fidelity.
"Derby, Sept. 16, 1777. The persons hereafter named, had the oath provided by law for freemen administered to them in open freemen's meeting, viz.:
Rev. Mr. Daniel Humphrey,
April 13, 1778.
Capt. Joseph Lumm,
April 8, 1782.
Several of these last names were new-comers in the town, or young persons.
March 9, 1780. Voted, that Abraham Hawkins, James Beard, Esq., John Humphrey, Capt. Nathan Pierson, Noah Tomlinson, Major Nathan Smith, David Tomlinson, Lieut. Levi Hotchkiss, Walter Wooster and Ebenezer Warner, be a committee to assist the officers of the several companies in the town of Derby in raising their quota of men that shall be requested in this town for the continental and state service at the expense of the town, with discretionary orders to give such premiums as said committee in their wisdom shall judge reasonable.
Although the prospect of the final success of the Colonies began to look more hopeful, yet the heaviest burdens of the war came during this year and the one following; the great difficulty in obtaining soldiers, made it necessary to offer high premiums; and to supply the soldiers with equipments, food and clothing, cost a very great effort, and after all that was done there was much suffering for want of these things, by the soldiers. The following efforts put forth during the year 1780 will show that the town of Derby was not indifferent to the soldiers' comfort nor slow to support the effort of the colonies for freedom.
"July 3, 1780. Voted, that the town will give each man that shall enlist as a soldier into the continental army during the
war, as a bounty, the sum of £20, to be paid in bills of credit of this state at the time they pass the muster, and £20 at the commencement of the second year of their service, and £20 at the commencement of the third year of their service; and all such as enlist for three years into the continental army, shall receive in bills of credit of this state, £20 at the time of passing muster, and £15, at the commencement of the second year, and £10 at the commencement of the third year of their service; and also all such persons as have, or shall enlist into the continental service for one year and seven months from the date of these presents, shall receive £10, at passing muster, and £5, at the commencement of the second campaign, including what shall have already been given by the town."
The following vote passed at the same time shows the restrictions, perils and difficulties through which the inhabitants passed to secure home necessities while they worked to provide and maintain the soldiers required of them:
"Whereas the inhabitants of the town, viewing themselves imposed upon by the eastern boatmen trading up our river, and said town having resolved not to trade with them unless they trade at a more moderate rate; and considering salt a necessary article; whereupon the town by their vote request the civil authority and selectmen to petition his excellency the Governor of this state to grant a permit to some meet person of this town to carry provisions from this town to other parts of this state or the neighboring states to purchase salt necessary for the use of said town, and said persons and provisions to be under the civil authority and selectmen of said town."
Derby being a seaport town where centeced the products of a large region of country, it was looked to by the Assembly for great assistance in extremities; and hence special commissions were sent to be executed in behalf of the state in addition to the town's proportion of war support. Not only so, but Derby had become celebrated through its officers and men in the army for efficiency and success in business transactions, so that much confidence was placed in it in the time of special need.
"Nov. 13, 1780. The town appointed Eliphalet Hotchkiss, Esq., to receive the state salt and to receive and put up the provisions for the army agreeable to a late act of the Assembly.
"The town by their vote direct the selectmen to draw out of the town treasury a sufficiency of money to defray the charges of purchasing barrels, and receiving and putting up the abovesaid provisions.
"Voted, to grant a rate of sixpence half penny on the pound in good pork, beef and wheat flour, on the list of 1779; beef of the best quality to be computed at fivepence per pound, and that of an inferior quality, being good and merchantable, at four and a half pence per pound; the pork not exceeding five score pounds per hog, at fivepence per pound; and between five and eight score, at five and a halfpence per pound; and that above eight score, at sixpence per pound; and the flour at twenty-four shillings per hundred gross weight; the beef to be paid by the fifteenth of December next, and the pork and flour by the fifteenth of January next; and if not paid by the time above set, then each person so neglecting, to pay double the value of said provisions agreeable to a late act of the Assembly entitled an act for collecting and storing a quantity of provisions.
"Again, voted, that Mr. Jonathan Hitchcock, Capt. Thomas Clark, Capt. Micah Pool, Mr. John Howd, Capt. John Tomlinson, Mr. Jonathan Lumm, jun., and Lieut. John Bassett, class the people agreeable to a late act of the Assembly for filling up and completing the state's quota of the continental army.
"Again, voted, that the committee for purchasing clothing be directed as soon as possible to collect two shirts, two pairs of stockings, one pair of shoes, and one pair of mittens for each continental soldier whose time does not expire before the first day of March next, and send said clothing to them taking a receipt therefor." Hence the whole town were set to work knitting stockings, and mittens, and making clothing, just as they had done considenably already for four years, but now more systematically than before, and also by the requirement of law.
At this time also a large committee was appointed to take care of the soldiers' families, since that class was fast increasing in the town. Think of the number there must have been to require seventeen committee men to look after them and see that they received and did not waste the appropriations made to them! and these families too, who had never before known what real want meant!
"Dec. 25, 1780, voted, that the following persons be collectors to collect the rate and assessment in each class to raise recruits for the continental army, viz.: for the first class, David Hitchcock; second class, Gold Bartholomew; third class, John Howd; fourth class, Levi Tomlinson; fifth class, Dan Tomlinson; sixth class, Bradford Steele; seventh class, Webb Tomlinson; eighth class, Jonathan Lumm, jun.; ninth class, Abraham Downs; tenth class, Ebenezer Plant; eleventh class, Ebenezer Buckingham; twelfth class, Naboth Candee.
"Voted, that the town will raise recruits for. state guards by classifying agreeable to a late act of the Assembly.
"Jan. 15, 1781, voted, that the town will classify the inhabitants into forty-one classes on the list of 1780, to procure clothing for the soldiers, and Eliphalet Hotchkiss is appointed to classify accordingly."
It is probable that each class was required to furnish the material and make the clothes, since the classes were to be arranged by, or according to the grand list, as is indicated in another vote; or if the cloth was furnished by the general committee, still they must have appointed certain persons to the spinning and weaving of the same before they could furnish it to the makers of the clothes. There were no large manufacturers then to take contracts, and make large sums of money for themselves and turn off shoddy clothing for the soldiers to freeze in.
The whole town of Derby became a manufacturing shop with twelve apartments, each with its regularly appointed overseer; and the general overseer of all these apartments or different portions of the town was Deacon Eliphalet Hotchkiss, the master house builder of the town. This turning Derby into one great manufacturing shop was almost prophetic of what it should become in less than one hundred years, and what it now is; only the variety of productions is greatly enlarged. If Eliphalet Hotchkiss, the general "Boss" of 1781, could have gone through the various departments of manufacturing in his old town in 1876, one hundred years after the Declaration of Independence, how astonished and amazed and bewildered he would have been. And then also would he have known what Freedom meant; and what the incalculable value of the struggle, work and sufferings
of the people in the American Revolution. But he could not live a hundred years to see the results which were destined to follow that great conflict He was the general at home in private life, while William Hull was general in the army, winning laurels in the sight of men. What was the contrast of life experienced by the two? The Deacon passed on in the even tenor of his way, to a quiet, peaceful, but victorious end; while General Hull was betrayed by public officials, disgraced and dishonored and forsaken of his own countrymen, of whom he deserved better things, but they knew it not, but finally history vindicated him and restored him to higher honor still, when in the satisfaction of his righteously earned vindication he departed to the sleep of his fathers.
The following indicates the consequences of not performing the work of making clothes as assigned:
"Dec. 25, 1780. Voted, that each class or any individual of said class be notified of such persons as are classed for the purpose aforesaid in their class and the number of clothing and when notified they are to furnish the full complement of clothing required of them by the 30th day of March next and in case any class or any individual of either class shall neglect or refuse to procure said clothing by the time aforesaid they shall be emerced or doomed to pay double the value thereof in gold or silver on the list of the year 1780, which forfeiture from each neglecting class shall be delivered to Mr. John Howd, treasurer of this rate, who is hereby empowered to collect such clothing as is wanting and when any individual shall neglect or refuse as aforesaid the forfeiture shall be paid to such of said class as shall procure the said clothing."
This indicates the extremity of the government, and of the soldiers in the field, and the wonderful, marvelous spirit of consecration to the cause of freedom, or independency from the oppressive and tyrannical acts of the British government professed by the American people; and it is no wonder that that spirit has become the criterion for the judgment of all parties and nations, as to heroic endurance, from that day to the present, for liberty.
Well done, ye first-born sons and daughters of liberty!
The year 1781 opened with a call for more soldiers, and
Derby proceeded to meet the claims on her in the following manner:
"Jan. 15, 1781. Voted, that the authority and selectmen be empowered and directed to give certificates to Capt. Daniel Holbrook and Capt. John Wooster, to free and emancipate their servants, negro men, on the condition that the said negro men enlist into the state regiment to be raised for the defense of the state, for the term of one year."
These two captains did well in freeing their slave men, even on such conditions, but there was another man who did better apparently, some years before, as indicated by the following deed of freedom without any conditions:
"Derby, Sept. 16, 1777. This may certify all persons, that I, Ebenezer Johnson of Derby, do hereby free my negro man named Roger from my service forever, and give him his time to deal and act for himself, as witness my hand.
This was the grandson of Colonel Ebenezer Johnson, who freed Tobie sixty years before, and was an act worthy of the grandson of such a colonel. This slave Roger when made free may have enlisted and received a good bounty with which to begin the world for himself, but the deed did not require it, but says he was to "deal and act for himself forever."
"Jan. 15, 1781. Voted, that Charles French, Thomas Clark, Esq., and Capt. Micah Pool, be appointed a committee with full power to doom such inhabitants that have not paid the full of the six and a halfpence tax in provision due by act of Assembly, double the value thereof, and take out warrants for said collector who is to collect the same and dispose thereof according to law in whole or in part, and the committee aforesaid to abate such of the inhabitants which they shall judge to be unable to pay the said provisions or an equivalent in value, agreeable to the provision made by this town for the relief of the needy and indigent inhabitants of said town."
"April 2, 1781. Voted, that the four soldiers ordered to be raised for the state service in addition to what has already been raised, be raised by classifying the town into four classes.
"Voted, that the four classes heretofore ordered to raise one
man from each of said classes for the post of Horse Neck, be directed to raise one man in each of said classes in addition to the former.
"Voted, that the selectmen be empowered and directed to procure the horsemen and horses and the accouterments for the said service ordered from this town."
"Feb. 25, 1782. Voted, that the town be classified into seven classes to raise seven men to be state sjuards for the post of Horse Neck, and that Eliphalet Hotchkiss, Esq., be appointed to classify the town for the purpose of raising the seven guards."
No words are necessary, even if they could add any force to the impression made by this long record of struggle, sacrifice, suffering and mighty effort to obtain justice, righteousness and freedom. The record itself, viewed in all its parts and with all the attendant circumstances, is simplv amazing and bewildering.
A somewhat erroneous impression has been accepted by public writers in regard to the position of the members of the Episcopal churches in Connecticut towards the Revolution and those who supported it. It is maintained that a large proportion of the communicants of that church were loyalists or tories through the war, and that there were no tories except Episcopalians. Both of these suppositions are quite erroneous. There were many tories who had no particular sympathy with the Episcopal church There were numbers of Episcopalians who were strong patriots, and supported valiantly the American cause. The following language is recorded in regard to Derby people:
"The Rev. Mr. Mansfield of Derby, the guileless pastor, who thought he must do his duty to his country in every emergency, undertook, as soon as "the sparks of civil dissension appeared,' to inculcate upon them, both from the pulpit and in private conversation, a peaceful submission to the King and to the parent state; and so successful were his efforts and his influence, that out of one hundred and thirty families which attended divine service in his two churches, he reported (December 29, 1775,) one hundred and ten to be 'firm, steadfast friends of the govern-
ment,' having no sympathy with the popular measures, and detesting the 'unnatural rebellon.' Five or six persons, professors of the Church of England, plunged themselves into it, guided, as he thought, by the influence of Captain John Holbrook, who for many years past had entertained a disgust against him and his brethren of the church, and seemed to have meditated revenge, merely because they did not gratify some private views he had about the place on which to build the Oxford church." [Beardsley's History of the Church in Conn., p. 308.]
This Captain John Holbrook was the one who with his wife gave the land for the site of the first Episcopal church and graveyard, who left that church at the opening of the war and united with the old church and stood among the foremost supporters of his country. It was an imputation of a very small spirit to suppose that Capt. Holbrook would leave all he had done for the Episcopal church, under such pretenses, to gratify "some private views" about the location of Oxford church.
In December, 1774, the whole town was loyal as is indicated by their vote, as seen on page 168, and in December, 1775, many people besides Episcopalians were still unwilling to entertain the thought of a full separation politically from the old country, but when the Declaration of Independence was passed and the question became one of loyalty to England or America, there was a great change in favor of their native homes. This was true not only in Derby, but elsewhere. Captain Holbrook left the church and all he had done for it, but many others remained in the church and at the same time supported the Revolution. It would have been morally impossible for the whole town of Derby, then including Oxford, to have sustained the war as she did if one hundred families had remained loyal to the king; and it would have been very difficult if half that number of important iamilies had so continued.
William Clark's family were Episcopalians, but his son Sheldon, a merchant, was a prominent man on committees for the support of the war.
Samuel Hull, junior, was the son of one of the first Episcopal families, but he sustained the war by being on the committees.
When the list of those who took the oath of loyalty in 1777-8
is examined closely, it will be seen to contain so large a proportion of the men of the town as to make the idea of one hundred remaining tories quite ridiculous. Dr. Mansfield's son Nathan was among the first to record his name in that honorable list. That list received seventy names at the first meeting, December, 1777, an "open Freeman's meeting." In the next April, ninety-nine more were added, and the war was not half through at that time.
In 1766, vifhen the whole town was laid into school districts, the number of families was reported to be 256, which number may have been increased twenty families, to the year 1775. This would give the Episcopalians in 1775, [according to Doctor Mansfield] one hundred and ten families, and the Congregationalists one hundred and sixty-six, or only fifty-six over half of the families in town who gave their support cheerfully to the American cause. That such was the state of the matter during the Revolution is opposed by all tradition and all records. When the true feeling of the English government toward the colonies became manifest in 1777, it is not probable that in the whole town of Derby including as it did, the parish of Oxford, there were over thirty families that definitely assumed the tory platform. It is quite certain that quite a number of the most influential Episcopal families were true patriots to their native country.
At first (1774) the whole town was loyal to the king, and entertained no thought but reconciliation; in December, 1775, a large majority were strongly in favor of supporting the war; in 1777, a little over one year after the Declaration of Independence, only a fraction -- not to exceed one-eighth was found in the tory ranks.
It is true also, that in other places the Episcopalians, in large proportion supported the war. We are told [Beaidsley's Hist, of the Church, 310.] that "as early as 1774, not a man in Stratford was ready to dissent from revolutionary measures, and from the movements in various places, expressive of sympathy for those who suffered from the oppressive acts of the British government. Undoubtedly, the influence of Johnson, the patriot and statesman, [son of the first
Episcopal pastor] was felt in shaping the popular sentiment of his native town, and in guiding the course of churchmen there to a quiet, inoffensive neutrality." [If none "dissented from revolutionary movements," it was scarcely an "inoffensive neutrality."]
As to the church at Hartford it is said: "A permit was granted James's Church at Hartford, to send to Providence by water three hundred bushels of wheat to be ground for the army at Boston, which was done with great doubt of its expediency, lest it might fall into the hands of the British. Aug. 24, 1775." [Hinman's Hist, of Conn, in the Revolution.]
In the years 1776 and 1777, there were other special permits to this church, for the execution of like efforts in the support of the war.
It should be remembered also, that at the time of the Revolution it was supposed by Episcopalians as well as others, that as the king was the head of the Church of England, that church could have no existence except where the king held political reign, and hence that, if the colonies should become independent of the king, the Episcopal church could not maintain its existence here, from the very nature of the relations of the church to the government. If it had been supposed that the church of England could have existed as it now does in America, without the king at the head, there is but little doubt but that the support of the war by the Episcopalians would have been more general and earnest than it was. Under this view they challenge our respect and honor, for all that a true Christian hath will he lose, if need be, for his church.
It is more evident that this was the belief of many in the Episcopal church, from the fact that at the close of the war quite many removed from the jurisdiction of the United States into British dominions, not only to live under that government but to enjoy the services of that church. Mordecai Marks, with some others, removed to St. Johns, New Brunswick, althouo-h all ties of kindred feeling were confined to Derby.
The following anecdote is furnished by Doct. A. Beardsley from most authentic sources:
During our Revolutionary struggle the commerce of Derby, in rather a clandestine manner furnished aid and comfort to the enemy. While the British were stationed on Long Island, Capt. [He was a sea captain, but lieutenant in the army.] Joseph Hull, eldest brother of General William Hull, though true to the interests of the American Colonies tried a dangerous experiment by acting as a sort of spy and at the same time extorting money from the British.
He had command of some boats on the river and the sound. Poultry, fish, and especially salt shad caught in the Ousatonic were tempting to the palates of His Majesty's subjects. Hull with a gang of picked men in the night season left Derby in a small boat laden with chickens, turkeys, salt shad, and the like, and sailed for the nearest point on Long Island where lay encamped a detachment of the British army. The experiment proved a success and gave encouragement for future trials. On his second adventure Hull became intimate with a British officer, who invited him to play a game of cards. He accepted the invitation and being an adept in that line, after playing until morning, the officer found himself pretty well drained of "the one thing needful." A little exasperated over his loss, he accused Hull of cheating. He denied the charge, when after some warm words the officer challenged Hull to fight a duel, Whereupon Hull said "I am your man." "Choose your weapons," replied the officer. "Kings arms and two balls." "State your distance," said the officer. "Eight paces -- face to face -- then at the word fire." The officer was dumfounded, and seeing the Yankee pluck in the flashing eye of Derby's hero, replied, "Well I guess we won't fight."
In "Lambert's History of Milford" the following is found [Lambert, 135.]:
"A company of twelve cowboys was captured in 1780, on an island in the Ousatonic, against Turkey Hill." This was Twomile Island, and was coming very near Derby. The cow boys were men, who received their name in Westchester county, from their stealing and driving off cows and cattle and selling them to the British, while in occupation of New York. They, or persons of this description, were feared on Long Island as well as in Westchester and Connecticut.
It is a matter of particular honor to Derby that in the great event which was virtually the closing of the Revolutionary war, General David Humphreys had a conspicuous part. In the battle of Yorktown, which was concluded by the surrender of Lord Cornwallis, General Humphreys particularly distinguished himself, and, "As a mark of the approbation of General Washington, Colonel Humphreys was dispatched to Congress with copies of the returns of prisoners, artillery, arms, ordnance, etc, which had been surrendered, and twenty-five stands of colors."' General Washington in his letter to the President of Congress, says. "These returns and colors have been committed to the care of Colonel Humphreys, one of my aids-de-camp, whom, for his attention, fidelity and good services. I beg leave to recommend to Congress and to your excellency."
General Humphreys delivering the flags taken at Yorktown.
The above engraving represents Colonel Humphreys delivering the standards surrendered under the capitulation of Yorktown, at Congress Hall, in Philadelphia, Nov. 3, 1761. It is
from a painting in the Trumbull Gallery in New Haven, which was executed under Colonel Humphreys's direction, in Spain by a Spanish artist.
Thus closed the war of the Revolution. No event in the history of the world has had the effect of liberation of thought and hence of action, on the mind of the whole world as the American Revolution, and next to that event, for the same effect, was the sustaining the authority of the National Government in the late rebellion. The list of Revolutionary soldiers, so far as obtained will be found in the appendix to this volume.
AFTER THE REVOLUTION.
1784 -- 1800.
THE war of the Revolution had reduced the Colonies to extremity in almost everything but courage. The simple and only fact of freedom and independency, filled the country with rejoicings and celebrations. The day dawn of freedom, such as they had not at first dreamed of, had come with its high promises of future greatness and shining glory for the whole world. From the north to the south and from the east to the far west, even to the depths of the wilderness, and to the shores of far off lands ran the thrilling joy of a nation's birth; a nation of Freemen! While the tears of affection ran down the faces of the people like floods in nearly every household in the land, for the dear ones who would come no more to greet them, as in other days, the thrill of freedom sent up a shout, long and high, of victory and triumph, and the past seemed only as a dreary night now gone, and the morning bright and clear, filled with hope and promise, come.
At the very dawn of promise, Derby began to stretch her arms for progress and improvements, and nothing daunted her courage but the extremity to which she, as all other towns, was reduced, because the war had eaten up everything but the houses and lands and the devastated inhabitants.
During the wars which had fallen upon them the preceding forty years, with only short intervals, the most that was done as a plantation, was to maintain the stage of acquirements to which they had arrived before the war race began.
The condition of the town in this respect is quite clearly revealed in a preamble and a vote which was recorded December 23, 1782, when they had resort to
"Again, considering the great expense this town has been at in building and supporting two large bridges across the Nauga-
tuck river, and said bridges now want to be rebuilt; also a highway from Woodbury to Derby by the Ousatonic river, all which as computed will amount to five hundred pounds; this in addition to other burdens lying on said town in supporting highways and other public burdens, the town feel themselves very unable to bear, therefore voted, that Capt. Thomas Clark and Capt. Daniel Holbrook be appointed and directed to petition the General Assembly for liberty to set up a lottery for the sum of five hundred pounds, for the purpose of building said bridges and making said highways; said lottery to be at the risk of said town."
At an adjourned meeting two months later, they appointed the managers of the lottery, which the Assembly had granted, which consisted of the following persons: Mr. Samuel Hull, Capt. Daniel Holbrook, Mr. David De Forest, Mr. John Humphrey and Lieut. Joseph Riggs. These persons were put under oath and required to give sufficient bonds to secure the money which might be placed in their hands. They also directed that after a certain time all tickets unsold should be called in and deposited in the hands of the selectmen before drawing the tickets that might have been purchased. On the first day of March, 1784, they voted to draw the lottery tickets on the 21st day of April next; but two days before that time arrived the town was called together, and they voted to postpone the drawing in consequence of so few tickets having been sold; and then petitioned the General Assembly to extend the time allowed for the drawing.
In February, 1783, as soon as the privilege of the lottery was granted, the town appointed Ashbel Loveland "to oversee and build a bridge over Naugatuck river below the falls," and Mr. Samuel Hull to build a bridge over Naugatuck river "where the old bridge now stands, called the lower bridge, and Capt. Zechariah Hawkins to oversee and make a new highway from Woodbury to Derby by the Ousatonic river." In the next March the town's committee were directed to lay out a highway through Wesquantuck or Rock House hill purchase, by the Great river, and make returns of their doings."They seem to have no doubt but that the lottery would bring the money and proceeded in that faith, and it is probable that the work was all
done sometime before the lottery reported its net proceeds. All that is recorded of the results is that in February, 1785, they voted that the managers be directed to draw the lottery; and at the same time voted that the "selectmen be enabled when the lottery is drawn, to tax the town to raise money to secure the managers and pay the necessary expenses that shall arise thereon." After this there are no more lotteries talked of in the town records. From all the records say, it seems probable that some considerable number of tickets were sold, possibly to half the amount desired, out of which the costs must be taken, and the result would not warrant another trial. And there has not been a time since then when so great need of foreign aid existed, or when the town has been driven to such extremities to raise money for necessary repairs and expenses. At the present day a large majority of the better classes of community judge all lotteries, great and small, to be immoral, dishonest, and that they ought to be discountenanced by all true Christians.
An old book is still preserved having been made for the purpose of keeping the account in building one of these bridges, for the payment of which the lottery was granted. It explains itself.
"An account book kept by Ashbel Loveland who was appointed a manager or a committee by the town of Derby to build a bridge across Naugatuck river, near Rimmon Falls, containing the costs which said town of Derby has been at to build said bridge.
"Posted alphabetically. The bridge cost £144 11s. 9d."
This book shows eighty-eight tickets bought by thirty-three persons at twelve shillings a ticket, and most of them paid for by work done on the bridge and material furnished.
The work began in March, 1783.
tickets. | tickets. Joel Chatfield, 3 | Levi Hotchkiss, 3 John Crawford, 2 | Moses Hotchkiss, 3 James Baldwin, 1-3 | Joel Hine, 5 Abiel Canfield, 1 | Amos Hine, 2 1-3 Daniel Davis, 2 | Hiel Hine, 2 Ebenezer Dayton, 3 | Gideon Johnson, jun., 1 Enoch French, 6 | Asahel Johnson, 2 Isaac Foot, 1 | Hezekiah Johnson, 3
tickets. | tickets. Levi Johnson, 1 | David Parsons, 1 Joseph Johnson, jun., 4 | Polycarp Smith, 1-3 Gideon Johnson, sen., 1 | Samuel Smith, 1 Ebenezer Keeney, 1 | Benjamin Twitchell, 2 William Keeney, 2 | Benjamin Tomlinson, 6 1-2 Ashbel Loveland, tickets | Ebenezer Warner, 1-3 sold, 17 | Hezekiah Wooden, 3 Peter Nostrand, 2 | John Wooster, 2 Elisha Pritchard. 1 | Turrel Whittemore, 2
After the Revolution the school districts were re-arranged, and for some years much attention was devoted to education; first, to meet the requirements of the new laws made in regard thereto, and also, a spirit of emulation and ambition in regard to education seems to have come upon the whole people as the consequence of freedom, and they moved harmoniously to the inspiration. In 1785, a proposition to build a new school-house at the then village of Derby (Old Town) resulted in the end in an academy. Apparently, a number of persons agreed to unite in certain proportions to furnish the money to build a new school-house at this place, the lower story of which should be used for the common school, and the upper story for a higher branch of education. The building was put up in the winter or early spring of 1786, and finished that summer. When the building was completed, the items of cost were collected and the amount divided according to the agreement. By an agreeable fortune the paper containing this account is preserved, but bears no date.
One bill is preserved and shows something of the material used and the cost of such items at that time.
March 1786, School House Company, Dr. to Joseph Riggs jun £ s. d. To one load of timber, 0 3 6 To studs and plank for turret rafters, 0 9 6 To two days getting window frame timbers, 0 8 0 To timber for the window frames, 0 12 0 To carting three load of window frame timber, 0 10 0 To one day carting sand and slacking lime, 0 3 6 To 3,800 brick delivered at the school house a 3 per C, 5 14 0 Jan., 1787. To cash paid Mr. Hull, 6s., 0 6 0 To 1,000 feet of white oak floorboards delivered at the school-house from Oxford, a 6s. pr. C., 3 0 0 June 9, 1789, To 512 feet of boards a 5s., 1 5 6 To 900 feet of white wood clapboard from Isaac Wooster, a 6s. pr. C., 2 14 0 To 3,000 shingles, a 18s, 2 14 0 --------- 18 0 6 Joseph Riggs, jun."
Although some of the items of this bill are of a later date, yet it is probable the house was completed in 1786, and thereafter for a time the upper part was devoted to accademic studies, but after some years the whole building was devoted to such studies and called the academy.
The further account of the academy and the academy bell is very graphically given by Doct. A. Beardsley:
The old oblong house with its two chimneys now standing midway between Merritt Clark's and Patrick McEnerney's was long known and somewhat celebrated as the Derby Academy, located on elevated ground, commanding a fine view, the building was an imposing structure when first built. Within its walls many an aspiring youth, then experiencing that the root of learning was bitter while its fruit was sweet, studied Sallust and Virgil, conquered his Greek, and fitted for venerable Yale. The people of the town evinced a lively interest in the institution, for to them it was a pride and boast. Among other features showing the good will of the people towards the academy was the supplying it with a bell purchased jointly by the Episcopalian and Presbyterian churches, then located in Up Town, and for a long time it was the only bell in Derby which on the Sabbath day rang out its merry notes, calling the pious to the house of prayer. Those who were to join in the long supplication of the
Pilgrims' faith or the solemnity of the Church, alike pressed their footsteps, hastened by the academy bell.
The academy fell into financial embarrassment and was discontinued, but its bell, like Noah's dove was given to unrest, for in process of time it became a bone of contention and finally fell a victim of dishonor among its friends.
We must not forget to mention, that old Todd was its ringer, and on the advent of a death or a funeral he was always on hand. On one occasion he came near ringing the bell for his own departure. The bell was so constructed as to require the going into the belfry to ring it. One morning he ascended the belfry to toll the bell, and shpping his foot-hold, tumbled out on the roof and fell a distance of thirty-five or forty feet, but, fortunately he was caught in a peach tree standing close to the academy and escaped serious injury. A few years after this he slept over night in the old town house, and from a loft fell a distance only of seven feet, and was instantly killed.
Being poor he now and then obtained a little loose change for his services at the bell. One night at high twelve he was asked by a man ripe for fun at the old tavern at the Narrows, if he was the Derby bell ringer. "I am," said he; "got a job?" "Yes," was the reply. "My name is Gillett, from Hell Lane (now Seymour) and I want to get out of the town. My horse travels best with music. If you will ring the bell till I get over the line I will give you this silver dollar." "Agreed," said the bell-ringer, and he was soon tugging at the bell, when Gillett mounted his horse and galloped away. The neighborhood, quiet as a graveyard, was startled from its midnight slumbers, and among others, Samuel Hull rushed out in his night-clothes, hurried up to the academy and brawled out, "You crazy man, what are you doing with that bell this time of night?" Old Todd answered from the belfry, "I am ringing a man out of Derby into Hell Lane, on contract."
From long and constant use this bell became cracked, the academy boys palsied its tongue, and for a time its music was silent upon the hill. It had the misfortune of having many owners, and they one by one lost interest in its care and keeping. It was said the Presbyterians owned the largest share, but it was difficult to divide the stock, and so some of the wise
heads down in the Narrows attempted to make a corner, and if possible to steal the bell from the Up Towners. A plan was concocted and the program arranged. A few boys, and some of older growth, on a certain night, armed with some good old Jamaica, ventured up to the academy, ascended the belfry and rolled off the bell. For safe keeping and to elude the search of the aggrieved, they lowered it into a secret place about the premises, there to remain until the excitement and noise over its loss should die away. Every one of these nocturnal thieves was sworn to keep the secret and some have done so even to this very day. Next morning, the honest people of Up Town found out that the old academy bell was missing, and soon the whole neighborhood was in uproar, and filled with indignation. Detectives from all parts were sent out to seek diligently for the lost treasure. Day after day and week after week, the inquiry was anxious as to the stolen metal, but all was a mystery. . . After a while, in the dead of night, some who participated in the first movement went up and hauled from its hiding place the bell, put it upon a stone drag and conveyed it to the Narrows, where they dumped it into a certain cellar near what was then called Swift's Corner. A roguish boy who held the candle on the occasion started the story some days afterwards, that he "guessed Capt. Kinney knew where the bell was, but before search could be made it was buried out of sight. The boy was closely examined and cross-examined, which led to the belief that he had not far deviated from the truth. Suspicion at once rested upon one young Downs as the ring-leader, who has long since in good faith been gathered to his fathers. Downs was even approached by the sheriff with a view to intimidation, but one Mr. Harvey, the shrewdest man of the neighborhood, publicly declared that he had plenty of money and would defend the accused to the last dollar. "A halt between two opinions" delayed matters for a while, but believing they were on the right track, the Up Towners now threatened the Narrows people in a body with a lawsuit, if the stolen property was not forthwith returned and the matter settled up. Much was said upon both sides, men and women entering into the discussion. Capt. Thomas Vose, who was a sort of moral regulator in the town and who had a holy horror of wrong doing, argued that as the bell was owned
by two religious bodies and others outside of the church, it was sacred property, and to use his own words he "fancied that state's prison would follow conviction of the guilty parties," and entreated and begged for the peace of the town, that the bell might be returned and no questions asked, for he was "afraid the affair would make more noise in the future than it had done in the past."
But the missing bell could not be found, while the Up Town people wondered and grew sorely vexed. During the painful suspense, a similar bell was landed one evening at the Derby dock opposite Col. R. Gates's store, which stood near the present Naugatuck depot. This bell was designed for the back country and it was in charge of Col. Gates. A splendid opportunity now offered itself to get up "a good sell" on the Up Towners. The keeper of this bell, brim full of fun, sanctioned any proceeding, provided the "up country bell was returned safe and sound on his wharf next morning." So the lovers of sport made all due preparation. The right men were selected and this bell in the stillness of night was hauled up near the academy and quietly hung in a tree with a long rope attached stretching over a stone wall where a boy was stationed and ordered to ring it at a certain signal, when its ding dong awoke the sleepers who exclaimed in ecstacies, "Oh! our bell has come back -- our bell has come back!" a victory surely had now been gained. Peace for a moment breathed upon the troubled waters, and the perversity of human nature was ready to make full atonement for offenses committed. The advice of Capt. Vose had been heeded. Some rushed out to examine the premises, but alas! all was silent and nothing to be seen. They returned to their homes in wonder, when again the bell sounded. They were now doubly sure and went to their repose, fully satisfied, but in the morning no bell was to be found for it had quietly been returned to the Derby dock where it belonged. A warm dispute now arose among the people, whether a bell really had been heard or not on the night in question, many declaring it was all an empty dream of the Up Towners. Some were positive, others very doubtful, no one could satisfactorily unfold the mystery; but finally, honest Capt. Tucker, who had heard much music on the battle fields of the Revolution and who
believed in ghosts and witches settled the question, for he declared that he "heard it a mile in the distance and if there was no bell, he believed that there was either some witchcraft about it or the spirit of old Todd had returned, and it was high time that Derby people were honest and without trifling in matters so serious."
After a long silence the bell, undiscovered, was returned to the arches of the old academy and Mr. Coe, who settled up its fallen fortunes, turned it over to the Up Town school district where it rested for years without creating further dissensions. Good nature had scarcely outlived the moss of ill feeling, however, when the once olive branch of peace again stirred up the passions of men, for as it was the first bell of the town, in time it became the first church bell in Birmingham. Laying idle without notoriety, a well meaning church member very adroitly obtained possession of it without valuable consideration and it was soon rigged, new tongued and hung in the steeple of the Methodist church, by Lewis Hotchkiss, in the then infant village of Birmingham; when its first notes were heard Up Town its sound was familiar to old Capt. Curtis, who vehemently exclaimed, "There goes our old academy bell! another trick on us! They'll steal in Birmingham as bad as they used to in the Narrows."
Capt. Curtis full of indignation set himself about ferreting out the offenders, declaring the bell should come back as he was still one of its owners, and the Methodists, unwilling to be sacrilegious or provoke any discord in the town, forthwith returned it and its sound was again silent.
About this time in the good providence of God the members of St. James's parish voted unanimously to change the location of their church edifice from Up Town to Birmingham. This contemplated an entire and final change in the full services of the church. After a hard struggle the new edifice was completed and consecrated in 1842, and then the church bell, organ, etc., were at once removed to Birmingham. Very naturally this created much warm and ill feeling among the good people Up Town, for nothing sublunary did they love and cherish with more veneration than this their mother church. Long had they lived and flourished under the very droppings of the old sanctu-
ary. Honest differences of opinion, however, led to a swift decision and the disaffected resolved on separate services simultaneously in the old parish. Without a church they could occupy, the little district school-house was selected for religious services, a belfry forthwith erected upon its roof, and again the old academy bell was brought out from its obscurity and once more devoted to a sacred purpose. The first Sunday morning that the deep mellow tones of the Episcopal bell in Birmingham sounded the old academy bell responded up the valley, and soon the pious and devoted, in hope and trust, with the spirit of forgiveness and charity, were assembling in their respective abodes of worship. Thus among its last services did this instrument of varied musical discords, ring out the nucleus of a new church organization which now flourishes with great harmony in Ansonia.
Once again this pet of the town fell into disuse, and a few years ago the school district committee sold it to the Birmingham Iron P'oundry for old metal. If its tongue had been gifted with speech what "a tale could it unfold." In its ancient vicissitudes it is said the old men planned while the boys executed. Its early friends have mostly gone to their rest, while its history with all its lessons in human nature still lives in the recollections of the past.
The academy of which much might be said was built in 1786, and was made a sort of joint stock corporation. Through the long years of its existence it was favored with only seven different teachers, viz.: --- Kerkson, --- Whittlesey, Dr. Pearl Crafts, Shelden Curtis, Josiah Holbrook, Truman Coe and John D. Smith. Whittlesey distinguished himself for his novel mode of punishment. When a boy disobeyed the rules of the academy he punished him by sandwiching him between two colored scholars seated on a bench in one corner of the school room. This mode of discipline worked well until Whittlesey lost one of his best pupils from New York, rather high toned, when the practice was abandoned. Trueman Coe for many years was a most acceptable teacher and established the reputation of the school as a successful classical academy. Many young men were here fitted for college, and the institution was a credit to the town, but it fell into disrepute from a want of sufficient
patronage and was finally merged into the district school and the old academy building passed into other hands for private use.
The following account of this institution was furnished by one of its pupils, and is taken from a published memoir of Mr. Josiah Holbrook:
"You ask me what I remember about the academy of Messrs. Josiah Holbrook and Truman Coe. It was established in the town of Derby, in this state, in the spring of the year 1824, and was, I believe, discontinued after one or two years. The prospectus published in the newspapers of that day gives an outline of the course of study and the plan of operations. It is as follows:
"'The exercises designed are the study of the Latin, Greek, French and English languages, Rhetoric, Elocution, Geography and History; the mathematics, as Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Plane and Spherical Trigonometry, Mensuration and Fluxions; Natural Philosophy in its various branches; Astronomy, Chemistry, Mineralogy, Botany and Zoology. No eftorts will be spared to render these sciences practical and fitted to common life. With that view, particular attention will be given to Composition, Declamation with extempore debates, the uses of the higher branches of Mathematics in common business, Practical Surveying, the application of Natural Philosophy to various kinds of machinery and agricultural instruments; testing the principles of chemical science in mixing and preparing soils, farming manures, making cider, beer, spirit and various other articles of agriculture and domestic economy, agricultural, geological and botanical excursions into various parts of the country, examining and analyzing soils, and practical agriculture.
"'One prominent object of the school is to qualify teachers. The most approved methods of instruction will be introduced, and lectures will be given on most of the Physical Sciences, attended with demonstrations and illustrations sufficiently plain and familiar to admit of their being introduced into common education. Courses on Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, Mineralogy and Botany will commence at the opening of the seminary. Ladies will be admitted to the lectures, and there will
be a department connected with the institution where females can pursue any branch of education they may desire.'
"The number of scholars of both sexes during the summer of 1824, was perhaps fifty or sixty; among whom were five boys from New Haven, about as many from New York, and some from other places, near and remote. The school was certainly an attractive and pleasant one, and those who were so disposed made good progress in useful learning. Several of the boys were intrusted with surveying and leveling instruments, and used them frequently and successfully. Mr. Coe gave special attention to the mathematical studies, and Mr. Holbrook gave lectures and instruction in natural history and allied subjects. The boys rambled extensively over the hills of that region, did some work in hoeing and digging potatoes and in making hay, and once made a pedestrian excursion for minerals to Lane's mine in Monroe.
"The working of the school was harmonious; a spirit of study generally prevailing among the pupils, and the supply of outdoor exercise and sports was ample."
If Mr. Josiah Holbrook could step into one of the agricultural colleges or universities of the present day he would find his little seminary grown to robust manhood, but not quite to perfection.
It is customary at the present day to represent the people as having become more dishonest, unreliable and unworthy to be trusted than the people were one hundred years ago. It is represented that public officers make all the expense they can and waste the property of the people. It is represented that public expenses were so small in old times that the people could lay up money and become independent. Two selections of illustrations will show the error of these statements, and also that officers of old sometimes made larger bills than were ever paid.
When there were comparatively few fences and vast tracts of land over which cattle, horses and sheep roamed or would roam if once strayed, it frequently occurred that a strayed horse or other animal was found and put into the pound. After a certain time they were advertised, and if no owner appeared to prove property, they were sold at public auction. The following shows how such proceedings frequently resulted:
"Derby, Dec. 12, 1794. A bill of expenses on one colt taken
and impounded by Henry Wooster of said Derby, and the said colt was put into my care as one of the constables of said town on the 23d day of August, 1794, and the said colt was sold at the sign-post in said Derby town at public vendue, on the 12th day of September, for the payment of expenses and damages as follows, by me, Joseph Riggs, constable of Derby.
£. s. d. Aug. 29, 1794. To advertising and pasturing, 0 4 11 To looking for pasture and driving the colt, 0 4 0 To paying pasturing bill, 0 6 0 To do. for damage and expense to Henrv Wooster, 1 19 6 To attendance and expense on vendue, 0 8 6 To poundage and baiting, 0 0 11 To recording, cash paid town clerk, 0 1 6 --------- 3 5 4 Credit. By sale of the colt, 3 11 0 --------- There remains expenses and damages not paid, 0 14 4
About the same time four sheep were taken up, advertised and sold, and "there remained five shillings not paid, or the sheep sold for five shillings less than the charges brought against them. In only one case observed did the receipts surpass the expenses connected with the sale, and therefore the times and the people have not so materially degenerated within one hundred years, in respect to such transaction. These are but small items in themselves, but are just what occurred over and over during more than one hundred years.
The first mercantile enterprise started at Derby Narrows failed in six years, and an assignment was made to New York and Stratford creditors. We know not the cause of this failure, but know that the events of those times were very much like the present, with the exception that ghosts and witches were believed in and feared, but this can scarcely be said of the present age. The reason, we apprehend, is because so many ghosts have been found to be mundane animals rather than of a higher or lower sphere, that knowledge banishes fear. This was the case in a story related by Doctor A. Beardsley, which is far too good to be lost, and hence is here recorded.
Many are the stories, true or false, which our mothers and grandmothers used to tell the children, to excite their curiosity
and increase their bump of veneration, now and then loading the memory with some moral and useful lesson. If any, with old Dr. Johnson are inclined to "listen with incredulity to the whispers of fancy, or pursue with eagerness the phantoms" of witchcraft demonology, ghosts, hobgoblins or modern spirit rappings, we commend to their perusal the following adventure, which is not only founded on fact, but in the language of the novelist, actually and circumstantially true.
Though of no political reminiscence, our story dates back nearly to our national epoch ot 1776. An inhabitant wearied with a day's journey, was returning from one of our northern villages up the valley, at midnight, by an unfrequented route to his home not a thousand miles from Derby. His path though "straight and narrow," carried him across a secluded burial ground, which he could not in the darkness of a starless night very well avoid. Perhaps some, in the degeneracy of these modern times, may be surprised at the courage which would prefer a shorter walk through a grave-yard, to a longer and more circuitous one in another direction, especially in the night season. But such was the resolution of our traveler, and he entered boldly, "at high twelve" and without mental reservation, the dwelling-place of the ancient dead. He paused; but, solitary and alone, his line of safety impelled him forward. He had scarcely passed the silent enclosure when, as is usual on such occasions, he saw a figure in white moving slowly and conspicuously at some distance. Unused to pray, our trembling hero raised his eyes toward heaven, but before he had time to recover from the shock of his vision, he was suddenly raised from the ground by some invisible agency, carried a few rods and as unceremoniously deposited again on terra firma. The figure in white in his Jim Crow movements, brought to his imagination a thousand frightful and solemn fancies of the sleeping dead.
Can the legends of witchcraft furnish anything more terrific or a situation more dreadful } Many a heart which at Lexington and Bunker Hill, at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, stood unmoved in front of the hottest battle, and quailed not when the dead and the dying lay thick around them, would have trembled and begged for mercy in that dark and trying hour, for it was not a dream but a reality.
But we hasten to the denouement that relieved our travelin.cj "Hervey in his meditations among the tombs." A black colt sent forth a shrill cry a few moments after depositing his unwelcome and involuntary rider who had unconsciously stepped astride him, and was answered by his white mother at the other end of the graveyard.
From that hour until the day of his death, our adventurer would never believe in the ghost and fairy stories so common among the good people ofx)lden times.
The leading men of Derby, including ministers of the gospel, held slaves and thought it no sin, while Connecticut was a slave state, but from an early day they were required by law to learn their slaves to read. The slave trade was carried on in Derby both for shipping purposes as well as the home market. Nicholas Moss, it is said, bought and sold, and now and then sent a slave to the West Indies He was engaged in this business as shown by the following bill of sale:
"Know all men by these presents, that I, William Cogswell of New Milford in Litchfield county, do sell and convey unto Nicholas Moss of Derby in New Haven county, one certain negro girl named Dorcas, about eighteen years of age, which girl I sell to the said Nicholas Moss during her natural life, and I have good right to sell the same, and do bind myself and my heirs to warrant her to him and his heirs, for forty-five pounds lawful money, from all other claims and demands whatever.
"In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand this 29th day of July, Anno Domini, 1773.
Slaves were owned in Derby nominally as la'te as 1840, they not having accepted their freedom, their owners being obliged to maintain them in their old age. Bennet Lumm, Esq., and Joseph H. Riggs, both of Derby, were the last to care for slaves in this town.
"NEW HAVEN COUNTY, February 7, 1791.
"Personally appeared Mr. Agar Tomlinson and made oath that he has in his possession a negro boy named Peter, belonging to the heir of David Tomlinson, deceased, aged five years and three months wanting one day.
"Entered per John Humphreys, town clerk.
"Before me, John Humphreys, justice of the peace.
"On April 21, 1791, Mr. Daniel Wooster made oath that he was possessed of a mulatto boy called Peter, aged one year and four months and two days.
"On March 22, 1792, Capt. Timothy Baldwin made oath that he was possessed of a negro girl aged four years, eight months wanting tive days.
"In December, 1792, Mr. Agar Tomlinson made oath to the possession of a negro boy named Timothy, aged one year and twenty-five days.
"On April 20, 1795. Mr. Agar Tomlinson made oath that he was possessed of a negro girl named Olive, aged eight months the first day of May, 1795.
"April 4, 1797. Personally appeared before me Mrs. Anna Humphreys and made solemn oath that she is possessed of a negro girl named Twinet, aged one year and nine months wanting seven days.
"Before me, John Humphreys, justice of the peace."
The tract of land including Great Hill was purchased of the Indians in 1670, and was bounded "with Potatoke river on the west side, and with a little brook and the English purchase on the south side (extending south nearly to the old Bassett place), and with a brook that runs from Naugatuck river to a brook called Four-mile brook, the which Four-mile brook is the bounds northerly, and Naugatuck river is the east bounds of the above said tract of land." This purchase was made by Alexander Bryan of Milford, to whom the Indian deed was given, the consideration being seventeen pounds, and it was by him, for the same consideration, turned over to John Brinsmade, sen., Henry Tomlinson and Joseph Hawley, all of Stratford, on the third of December, 1670. This purchase was included with another on the south side of it in the difficulty which arose, and was placed in litigation between Mr. Joseph Hawley and the town of Derby, and which was finally settled by a committee from the General Court, ten or eleven years later. It was a part of this land that Sergt. Robert Bassett of Stratford bought of Mr. Hawley and gave to his son Samuel Bassett, the first settler of this name in Derby, in 1716, soon after which
this Samuel Bassett settled on this land, making his residence at the foot of Great Hill.
Soon after 1700, lots began to be laid on Great Hill, and the work continued some years before all who had a right to land in that purchase were accommodated. In 1711, quite a number of lots were surveyed and assigned to different parties of the former settlers. On pages 156 and 157 of this book are recorded the names of those who held rights to this land.
This locality is well named Great Hill, being nearly the highest elevation in the town, and extending from north to south on the Woodbury road about three miles, and from east to west about two miles. From it most charming views may be had in every direction, especially on Long Island Sound.
Several old houses remain, indicating quite satisfactorily the antiquity of their existence, but others are in good repair, and present the comfort, quietude and success of a farmer's home.
In 1775, Timothy Russell and others, inhabitants of Derby, some of them residing in Oxford society, petitioned the General Court to release them from paying ministerial taxes to either of those societies in order that they might support preaching and church services among themselves. This memorial was granted, and the limits of the district so exempt confined between Five-mile brook, the Great river, down to the old Bassett place and the Naugatuck river.
In the records of this society the first entry made reads thus: "A book of records of the votes of the inhabitants included in a memorial, part in Derby and part in Oxford, for winter preaching. Nov. 29, 1775." They then appointed Benjamin Tomlinson moderator of the meeting, and Joseph Canfield, Joseph Tomlinson and Noah Tomlinson, the society's committee, John Bassett collector of the one and a half penny rate, and Samuel Russell clerk of the society.
The first meetings of the society and for religious services were held in the school-house, standing then on the site of the present one. This arrangement for winter preaching continued four years, when they sent a memorial to the Assembly to be made a distinct society.
In May, 1779, "Upon another memorial of John Holbrook and others, inhabitants of the south-westerly part of the township of Derby, praying this Assembly to grant and enact that that part of Derby laying within the following bounds, viz.: beginning at the southerly corner of Benjamin Bassett's land by the Great river, running thence a straight line to the mouth of Hasekey meadow brook, where it empties into Naugatuck river, thence up said river to the Great new bridge, thence running north-westerly as the county road runs, to the easterly corner of David Wooster's meadow, thence running to Abner Johnson's dwelling house leaving the same on the north side of said line, from thence to the Five-mile brook, where it crosses Woodbury road leading to Derby, thence down said brook to the Great river, and from thence down said river to the first mentioned boundary, be constituted and made an ecclesiastical society by the name of the Great Hill society, with all the privileges, immunities and advantages that other ecclesiastical societies by law have and enjoy.
"Resolved by the Assembly, That all the inhabitants dwelling in that part of the township of Derby, lying within the above described lines and boundaries, be, and the same are hereby constituted and made an ecclesiastical society by the name of the Great Hill society, with all the privileges, immunities and advantages that all other ecclesiastical societies by law have and enjoy."
After this the first record made by the society, they denominate, "The first society meeting of the third society in Derby, Sept. 20, 1779." After a few years they learned to use their legal name, Great Hill society.
In the above memorial we are introduced to an old acquaintance, Capt. John Holbrook, the same that with his wife, Abigail, gave the land for the site and burying ground for the first Episcopal church of Derby, and who left that church to sustain the Revolution.
It is said he built the Great Hill meeting-house himself, that is, mostly at his own expense. He is said to have been quite wealthy, owning a thousand acres of land, a saw mill and much persona] property. He was elected the first deacon of the Great Hill Congregational church, and was to all appear-
ance a grand, noble, generous man, seconded always by that noble woman whose name joined with his in the deed to the Episcopal church.
In April, 1781, they voted not to hire any more preaching for the present except one Sabbath. The next February they voted to "adjourn said meeting to the second Monday in March, 1782, to be holden at the meeting-house." Hence, probably that house was built in the summer of 1781. It stood about half a mile north of Priest Smith's house, which is the gambrel-roofed house on the hill, still standing.
"November, 1783, they voted to hire preaching every other Sabbath until the first of May next.
"Voted, Mr. Abraham Canfield, Nehemiah Candee, Daniel Canfield, Benjamin Bassett, Joseph Bassett, Isaac Bassett, choristers of said Society
"Voted, Capt. John Holbrook, Benjamin Bassett, Jonathan Lumm, jun., to appoint a burying place in the Society." Four weeks later they voted to have "a burying place east of John Holbrook, jun.'s land," part of it being of the highway, and a part belonged to Capt. John Holbrook. John Holbrook, jun., Enoch Smith and Benjamin English, were appointed to dio- the graves for the society."
The choristers thus appointed began a system of vocal cultivation that made the place celebrated in this respect for many years, the fame of which is still spoken of with great delight, although the singers are all passed on to the new life.
December 3, 1782, they voted to hire Mr. Birdsey to preach until the first of the next May, which is the first minister's name mentioned in the records.
They continued thus to hire preaching for certain specified terms of a few weeks or a few months, until Dec. 28, 1786, when they voted that the society committee should confer with Mr. Abner Smith to preach four Sabbaths from the first of January, 1787.
On the 21st of Dec, 1787, they voted to give Mr. Abner Smith a call, with a settlement of one hundred pounds, a salary of seventy pounds, and his fire-wood.
Mr. Smith's letter of acceptance of this call, dated March 8, 1787, is still preserved, and is a most beautifullv written letter.
The penmanship is elegant, and the whole production is very honorable to him. That he was a man of no pretentiousness is very apparent, but a man sincere, intelligent and devoted. He was ordained and settled soon after, but no records of the services, nor of any doings of the church, or marriages, deaths, and baptisms, have been seen, nor is it known that there are any records of these events.
In the first starting of raising rates, or taxes, for the support of the gospel, they say the rates are to be paid in silver, or gold, or Connecticut money, which is a record very seldom seen.
About 1790, a law was passed that those desiring to be released from paying rates to the minister, should present a writing that he belonged to some other denomination, and that thereupon he should be exempt.
"Derby, August 24, 1801. This may certify that Richard Holbrook, of Derby, has this day subscribed his name to the clerk's book belonging to the Episcopal Union society, and considers himself holden to pay taxes to said society.
The above certificate received by me, Jonathan Lumm, 4th, clerk of this book."
Rev. Abner Smith, not long after his settlement, bought land, or the society did for him, and he built a good sized gambrel-roofed house on the most picturesque location on Great Hill. The house is still standing, and is said to be about ninety years old. In this house Mr. Smith and family resided until 1829, when he sold this farm and removed west.
After his removal the old meeting-house was converted into a school-house, although meetings were held in it occasionally some years later, both by Congregationalists and Methodists.
After a time it was taken down, very much to the grief of some of the old members of this church. The communion set is still preserved in the care of Mrs. Thomas C. Holbrook, of Great Hill.
It is said that this is one of the oldest Methodist churches in Connecticut, and that from the time the Rev. Jesse Lee
preached in the valley of the Naugatuck, services were held here by his successors.
The first minister sent into the New England states by a Methodist conference, was the Rev. Jesse Lee in 1789. In 1790, the appointments for New England were: Jesse Lee, presiding elder, John Bloodgood at Fairfield, John Lee at New Haven, Nathaniel B. Mills at Hartford, Jesse Lee and Daniel Smith at Boston. [Stevens's Hist, of Methodism, IL 417, 418.]
If then Methodism began on Great hill, as said, it must have been about the year 1790, but no written dates have been seen confirmatory of this tradition.
Previous to the organization of the Congregational society for winter preaching at this place, the Rev. Dr. Mansfield of Derby had held services some years in Great hill schoolhouse once a month, and the same at Oxford and Quaker's Farm. The Congregationalists held their services in the same school-house six or seven years, until their meeting-house was completed in the autumn of 1781. When, therefore, the Methodists began preaching here, they probably held their services in the school-house, and continued so to do until regular services were given up in the meeting-house after Rev. Abner Smith became feeble in health or after he removed west in 1829 or 1830. After this, by common consent, the Methodists occupied the meeting-house until' they dedicated their present church on Wednesday, October 25, 1854. The Great hill society became one of the strongest points on the Derby circuit, which at first extended up the Naugatuck valley as far as Waterbury. The Rev. Elijah Woolsey, circuit preacher here in 1714, gives in his book called "The Lights and Shadows of the Itinerancy," space to incidents of his experience on Great hill, and the Rev. Heman Bangs, who was presiding elder about 1820, said Great hill was his main support.
After the close of the ministerial labors of Rev. Mr. Smith, Congregational services grew more and more infrequent, and the Methodist people occupied the old meeting-house until they built their new one.
Several ministers and laymen are spoken of in connection with this society as specially serviceable to the church. The
Rev. George C. Fuller, pastor in 1825-6, is remembered for his eccentricities, earnest and successful labors. Cyrus Botsford, the music teacher, was chorister many years from about 1810. Capt. Isaac Bassett and wife, grand parents of Capt. Elliot Bassett, are said to have been among the first Methodists in this place. The late Judson English was closely identified with this church during half a century. [Three or four of these items are taken from the Hist. of Seymour.] The "History of Seymour" [Wm. C. Sharp, 1879.] tells us that Anson Gillett was the first class leader over sixty-five years ago. If it is intended to indicate by this that the first class leader was appointed sixty-five years ago, it must be a mistake, since preaching began here by Jesse Lee, or his successors, about twenty-four years before that time, and a regular preaching service held by the Methodists of that day twenty-four years without a class and a class leader, is an unheard of thing. Methodists were not of that kind in those days, nor do we know of any such in these latter days. It is said in the same book that "Almost the only preaching on the hill for forty years preceding 1854, had been by the Methodists." [Hist. of Seymour, 119.] The Rev. Abner Smith was here and services were kept up most of the time until about 1829. and after that Congregational ministers have preached in the place frequently, and are cordially invited and frequently accept the invitation to preach in the present Methodist church.
The era commonly assigned for the first appearance of smallpox is A. D. 569; it seems then to have begun in Arabia, and the raising of the siege of Mecca by an Abyssinian army is attributed to the ravages made by the small-pox among the troops. Razes, an Arabian physician who practiced at Bagdad about the beginning of the tenth century, is the first medical author whose writings have come down to us who treats expressly of the disease; he however quotes several of his predecessors, one of whom is believed to have flourished about the year of the Hegira, A. D. 622. Inoculation was introduced into civilized Europe from Constantinople through the sense and
courage of Lady Mary Wartly Montagu, but since the discovery of vaccination by Dr. Jenner has been discontinued.
Vaccination (Latin, vacca, a cow), inoculation for cow-pox as a protection against small-pox was first practiced by Dr. Jenner, an English physician, in 1796.
Inoculation for small-pox and for cow-pox are very different things as to the disease but the same in preventing small-pox, the latter, however, being a much milder disease and far less dangerous. It was the former of these that was first introduced into this town.
The following petition was presented in town meeting January 7, 1793, "To the inhabitants of Derby in town meeting assembled, sirs: we the subscribers of said Derby, physicians, beg liberty of said town that we may have liberty to set up the inoculation of the small-pox in said town as there are many of the inhabitants that are now going into other towns for said purpose, and the younger people are much exposed to have it the natural way if not inoculated. . .
"December, 1793, Voted that John Humphreys, Esq., Capt. Joseph Riggs, Mr. Samuel Hull, Col. Daniel Holbrook, be a committee to inspect the inoculation of the small-pox, and make further rules and regulations respecting the small-pox as they shall judge necessary for the inhabitants, and to put a stop to the inoculation if they judge best."
No report of this committee has been observed, but a fair conclusion is that the physicians were allowed under very careful restrictions to make some experiments, which proved successful so that the following risk was ventured four years later.
"December 11, 1797. Liberty is hereby granted to twenty-six persons and no more to receive the small-pox, viz.: Isaac Smith, Elizabeth Smith, Clark Smith, Edward Smith, Joseph Smith, Elizabeth Smith, jun., Susan Smith, Milly Keeney, Sheldon Keeney, Betsey Keeney, Sally Keeney, Isaac Keeney, Linda Keeney, Medad Keeney, Abijah Canfield, Charity Canfield, Sarah Canfield, William Canfield, Joseph Hawkins, Joseph
Hawkins, jun., Enos Smith, jun., Joseph Durand, Samuel P. Sanford, Mamerry Sanford, provided they receive it by the evening of the twelfth instant, and give bonds that they receive it at the dwelling house of Mr. Benjamin Davis in Derby and not depart said house until liberty obtained from the authority and selectmen, and that the physicians who inoculate shall also give bonds not to spread the small-pox, and that the bonds be made payable to the selectmen, and that the selectmen and civil authority or their committee shall set limits to said house and have the superintendency of the physician and patients; and that those who receive the small-pox shall pay all expenses and save the town harmless."
This last clause is the only surprising one in this whole record; for if anything like the benefit hoped for should result, the town could well afford to pay all expenses and send nurses if needed, to take the care of the patients while ill. There is no excuse for the penuriousness of public bodies in regard to health, while lavish with money on improvements and ornamentation.
The strictness of the town in the conditions imposed on the physicians and the patients in this matter, may provoke a smile at the present stage of medical knowledge, but at that time it was the only reasonable course to be followed. Such had been the terrible scourge of the small-pox, that every possible precaution was demanded of physicians and all public authorities, and any other course than that pursued would have been justly chargeable with the heaviest penalties if adverse results had befallen the practice, and it was then as at the present day, no pestilence equaled in frightfulness, the small-pox.
In December, 1798, a petition signed by thirty-three persons was presented, requesting the town to give liberty to Doctors Sanford and Crafts, to practice inoculation, assuring the town that they were capable in that practice.
The petition was granted, and each physician was required to inoculate in a separate hospital under the restrictions of the authority and selectmen.
In the famous deer hunt, which occurred in the western part of this town about seventy-five years ago, while there were no dukes, major-generals nor Spotted Tails such as we read of in the Great West at the present day, joined in the chase, yet there was real fun. A little south of the community known as Quaker Farms, was Wooster's park, an inclosure of between one and two hundred acres, safely surrounded by a high railfence. Within this inclosure Jacob Wooster had gathered a large number of valuable deer, and it was a state law at that time, that if any one should kill a deer from this park he should pay a fine not less than eight dollars. During a storm in January, the wind blew down the fence, and the largest deer escaped and wended his way towards the Ousatonic, near Zoar bridge. A posse of men sallied out and made at him several shots, but unharmed at this firing he darted down the river as far as the Red House where he encountered young Leavenworth, familiarly called Uncle Ned. Some eight or ten men under his lead hotly pursued the panting venison and encountered him on a spot near Alling's factory, in Birmingham. "Now," said our young hunter "stand back, boys, and I will fetch him the first fire." After due and careful preparations, he fired but the deer was still master of the situation. There was a great freshet in the rivers, and the meadows far up were covered with water, and tightly packed over with broken ice. Eluding his pursuers, the deer in triumph cut around the point near where the pin factory now stands, crossed over the meadows on the ice, and landed on Parsons Island, nearly opposite the residence of Mr. B. B. Beach. By this time, the quiet denizens east of the Naugatuck became interested in the chase, and soon the whole neighborhood was in a blaze of excitement. Young Johnson, long known as Uncle Andrew, had just entered double blessedness, but forgetting his loving bride, seized his "king's arms," and hastened to the field of conflict. His fire only wounded the affrighted animal in the hind leg, and before he had time to reload Leverett Hotchkiss, the second white male child born in the Narrows, came up, leveled his gun at the deer and shot him dead. The captors then hauled
their booty up to the old blacksmith shop near by and commenced the work of dissection. Before they were through Uncle Ned with his companions arrived, and claimed that as he had fairly bagged the game, he was justly entitled to a share of the venison. A warm dispute arose. Hotchkiss having made the dead shot wanted the whole, but he finally awarded to young Johnson the hide and one hind quarter, but Uncle Ned, less lucky than Alexis, could not get so much as the tail as a trophy for his day's pursuit. Chagrined at this treatment, he stirred up a lawsuit against the parties for violating the majesty of the Connecticut laws. Finding that the deer was from Wooster's park, Uncle Andrew, fearing the law, entered a complaint against Hotchkiss, although he had himself lugged off the hide and one quarter of the deer. The case was tried before Justice Humphreys. After a two days' trial in which the Blackstones of the town exhausted all their wits, the court found a true verdict against Hotchkiss and fined him eight dollars and costs.
The affair created quite a sensation, which lasted a long time, for at a town meeting subsequently held for the purpose, the people sympathizing with the defendant, voted to relieve him by paying from the treasury, at least the costs of the prosecution. So much for that hunt. B.
The long red house now standing at Leavenworth Landing, on the west side of the Ousatonic lake, is among our Derby recollections. It was once a favorite stopping place between the two counties, when the place was lively with ship-building, and thousands flocked thither on a day when a vessel was to be launched. After the Leavenworth bridge, which spanned the river a few rods above, became rickety and unsafe for travel, a public ferry was kept up opposite this red house. A blunt, sensible, burly Yankee, familiar in his old age by the name of Uncle Ed., ofificiated as ferry-man. On one occasion he was aroused from his midnight slumbers by a signal to ferry over a friend from the opposite side. The river was high, the night dark and rainy, and the wind blowing a gale. With great effort, Uncle Ed. reached the Derby shore, when his tallow candle
went out, leaving him in bad humor, and he exclaimed, "Who are you, out this time of night, when honest men should be abed and asleep? It is enough to make a minister swear to turn out for a friend such a time as this!" The traveler said not a word, but carefully placed himself, horse and wagon on board, when he was told,. "Now take hold of this rope and pull with all your might, or we shall all go down stream," accompanying his orders with language not polite nor very decorous. The order was rigorously obeyed, while the ferry-man continued his strain of epithets, clothed not in the choicest English. Safely over. Uncle Ed. demanded an extra ninepence if his friend refused to give his name. "Why," said the stranger, "the man toward whom you have been using such abusive language, is your reverend minister from Huntington Center." "Oh! yes, parson, I've heard you preach many times, but I guess I won't take back anything I've said."
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