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
THE FIRST CHURCH OF DERBY AND THE WAR OF 1812.
"AN account of church administration, by Daniel Humphreys, December, 1735.
"At the time of the foregoing ordination [Rev. Mr. Tullar's, in 1783], the Rev. Daniel Humphreys was senior pastor, who departed this life September 2, 1787. After whose death there was search made for the records of the church and there being none found, the church proceeded to procure a book for records, and also appointed a committee to assist in making out a catalogue of those who belonged to their body; and it appeared from the best of their recollection that the following persons were members of their church." Then follows a list of names which it is quite evident was made "from the best of their recollection," for if this book had been at hand a list of nearly all who had united with the church during the previous thirty years could have been secured. The records which Mr. Humphreys made consisted of baptisms and the admission of members to the church. These entries he commenced in January, 1736, and after continuing them regularly three years stopped, and made no more for eighteen years. This is surprising, since the book was large enough, and no pages have been removed, for the record was again attended to from 1756, and was so written that the removal of leaves would have broken the continuousness of the record, which now appears uniform. From these records we learn that, although at the settlement of Mr. Hum-
phreys the church was a dissenting church, or opposed to the Half-way Covenant, yet after 1756 that method of receiving members was practiced until the enactment of the following decision:
"March 12, 1783. The church voted that they would not go on in the practice of the half-way owning the Covenant, as it was called, and that the two forms used in owning the Covenant and joining with the church being essentisfty one, should be brought into one confession of faith -- and voted, that Deacon Hotchkiss and Deacon Holbrook, Esq. Beard and Capt. Tomlinson and Mr. Yale should join with me to draw a confession of faith, and we accordingly made a draft and chiefly taken out of the words of the two former confessions of faith above mentioned, and soon after at a church meeting, that confession of faith was read and approved by the church, and it was voted that for the future that form should be used in admitting members to this church.
"And it was the advice of the church that such persons as had owned the covenant (as it was called) should come to the minister and consenting to the confession of faith as it now stands, which for substance is the same as before altered, and resolving to live the Christian life, should be admitted by the church to full communion as it had been wont to be called."
The following records show the difference in the forms or methods of receiving members:
"February 8, 1736, then was admitted to the state of full communion with the church: John Lumm, John Bowers and his wife, Daniel Smith and his wife, Solomon Chatfield and his wife, Samuel Twitchell, Arthur Wooster, Elizabeth Wooster, Elizabeth the wife of Joseph Smith, Abigail the wife of Ebenezer Chatfield, Mary the wife of Josiah Smith, jun., Rachel Davis, Betty Davis, Mabel Johnson, and Abigail Tomlinson, who at the same time was baptized."
Thus they continued some years to receive members to full communion only, but afterwards they changed as indicated by the records:
"April 11, 1756, then Samuel Tucker and Sarah his wife renewed the Covenant, and Samuel their son was baptized."
"April 25, 1756, Philo Mills and Elizabeth his wife owned the Covenant, and their daughter Abigail Elizabeth Ann was baptized."
"June 12, 1757, then admitted to full communion Sibyl the wife of Daniel Todd. At the same time were baptized Mary, Daniel and Catharine, children of Daniel Todd and Sibyl his wife."
The second book is entitled "CHURCH RECORDS for the First Church of Christ in Derby," and was commenced by Rev. Mr. Tullar, an account of his ordination being the first entry.
The council "was convened by letters missive, at the house of Charles French, Esq., in Derby, July 1, 1783, with a view to the ordination of Mr. Martin Tullar to the work of the gospel ministry. Present, the Rev. Messrs. Daniel Humphreys, Mark Leavenworth, Benjamin Trumbull, Benjamin Wildman, David Brownson, Jonathan Edwards, John Keep, David Ely. Delegates: Mr. Isaac Brownson from the First church in Waterbury, Dea. Jonathan Mitchell from the church in Southbury, Dea. Thomas Clark from Oxford, Dea. Daniel Lyman from White Haven, Capt. Stephen Dewey from Sheffield and Dea. Timothy Peck from Bethany. The Rev. Mark Leavenworth was chosen moderator, and Benjamin Trumbull scribe." In the services on the next day, the sermon was preached by the Rev. John Keep, and "the imposition of hands was performed by Messrs. Humphreys, Leavenworth, Trumbull and Brownson."
From the date of this ordination it may be seen that the change in the method of receiving church members was made only four months previous, and was probably effected at Mr. Tullar's suggestion, while he was preaching as a candidate.
In 1788 a case of church discipline of more than ordinary dignity, and in it His Honor, Oliver Wolcott, sen., then governor, was a witness. James Beard, Esq., of Derby, a man of high and honorable standing many years, while a member of the Legislature in the spring of that year, applied to Governor Wolcott, "as one of the committee of Pay Table, to adjust an account between him and the state, relative to the avails of a number of confiscated estates." Governor Wolcott says further: "That in the course of the business it appeared to be the claim of the said James Beard that the balance which was found to be due to the state should be received by the treasurer in continental bills of the old emission at the nominal sum. To support which claim, the said James Beard repeatedly alleged that a part of said balance had been used in the public service during the war, for the purpose of supplying officers' and soldiers' families, and that the remainder, which I understood to be the most considerable part, was there in his hands in the iden-
tical bills in which he had received the same, which allegations the said Beard offered to confirm by his oath in the customary way. That upon examination of the bills which were tendered it appeared that the sum which was offered greatly exceeded the balance due to the state, and also that a large proportion of the same appeared to have been emitted after the time when the said Beard had received the moneys for which he was accountable."
Upon this discovery the committee of Pay Table refused to settle, and in the autumn of the same year Capt. Joseph Riggs, sen., presented charges against Mr. Beard before the church. In the prosecution of the case the above testimony of Governor Wolcott and that of several other high officers of the state was received, given by deposition under oath before a magistrate. Upon the vote of the church, one month after the commencement of the proceedings, three of the four charges were sustained, implicating the accused in false representation in three particulars. A form of confession was then prepared, and a committee appointed by the church to present it to Mr. Beard to sign, if he felt so disposed. This he "entirely refused to do," and we find the following record:
"Lord's day, January 25, 1789. The doings of the church were then publicly read. It was then proposed to the church by their pastor whether he should deliver sentence of excommunication against said James Beard? Voted in the affirmative. Sentence was pronounced in the following manner: ' In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the concurrence of this Church, I now publicly declare that James Beard is rejected from our number, fellowship and communion; that he is delivered unto Satan, and is unto us as an heathen man and a publican; that henceforth we shall exercise no watch over, nor treat him with any respect as a brother until he come to repentance.'"
Such were the ideas concerning church discipline one hundred years ago. How greatly changed is the sentiment of the church; the very form of that sentence is at the present time regarded as highly presumptuous, in that an earthly subject assumes the authority of the Infinite, to judge and condemn his fellow creature. There is seen also the arbitrary authority claimed by Congregational ministers, as well as those of other denominations. He does not say that the sentence is given in
behalf, or by the authority of the church, but the sentence is declared by the minister, "with the concurrence of the church." The minister was also the judge of the fitness of persons to become members of the church, and upon his recommendation they were to be received by the church, as appears by the vote in 1783. The conditions, however, required in the candidate for membership were not severe: namely, "owning the covenant and resolving to live the Christian life."
Rev. Mr. Tullar's administration continued until 1795, when he was probably regularly dismissed, although no record of the fact is preserved, for a vote of the society was passed, bearing date, December 29, 1795, making provision for raising money to pay a candidate for supplying the pulpit. He died in 1813.
The next pastor was Mr. Amasa Porter, who was ordained by a council, June 21, 1797. He was dismissed by a council, on Wednesday the 20th of March, 1805.
In November, 1808, the church voted to call Mr. Joshua Williams as a gospel minister, but the society not uniting in the call, the church one month later sent an urgent request to the society to unite in such a call, but that body did not so decide. The next March, the church gave a call to Mr. Thomas Ruggles, and to this the society seems to have consented. Mr. Ruggles's letter of acceptance is recorded, and is a lengthy one; rehearsing somewhat the circumstances, and revealing the fact that the advice of the association had been given, to the effect that it would be well for him to wait six months before accepting the call. The letter indicates good scholarship, discriminating judgment, and a faithful purpose of devotion to the gospel ministry. It is reported that during Mr. Ruggles's ministry the spirit of strife and division which had existed in the congregation sometime before he came to it, continued, and that there existed somewhere a purpose to make trouble if opportunity afforded, and that had the minister been ever so faithful and perfect, harmony could not have been restored.
On April 9, 1812, a council was convened at the house of Levi Smith, for the purpose of dissolving the pastoral relation between Mr. Ruggles and the church and society. The records declare that sundry communications were made to the council, from which it appeared that Mr. Ruggles had some-
time since requested, and still continues to request, a dissolution of the pastoral relation, on account of inability to discharge the ministerial office by reason of ill health, and that the church and society had consented that the connection should be dissolved." The finding of the council was that it was expedient that the relation should be dissolved, and so pronounced the decision. Sympathy is then expressed for the church and society in the following manner: "We deeply feel and deplore these repeated trials with which God has been pleased to visit you. Once and again have you been left as sheep without a shepherd." After rather special deliverance of this kind, the council, in the same spirit of kindness, directed their attention to the pastor dismissed. "We recommend Mr. Ruggles to the grace of God, and invite him to review with seriousness and solemnity the manner in which he hath discharged his ministry, as also the various dealings of God toward him, that he may derive profit from divine chastening and be excited thereby to live near to God and not be driven, from him; and that as he is now dismissed from his ministerial charge, he may enjoy in his retirement the consolations of a well grounded hope; that when life shall be done, he may be able to give up his account with joy and meet the approbation of his judge." He was, therefore, only dismissed from the pastoral relation, not deposed from the ministry, and it is singular that such a deliverance should have been rendered if there were any evidences of gross immorality on the part of this minister, as is spoken of in the community.
A little over one year elapsed from the dismissal of Mr. Ruggles, when a council was called on the 16th of November, 1813, for the purpose of installing the Rev. Zephaniah Swift as pastor of this church and society. After the usual proceedings, the council adjourned, and met on the following day and "proceeded to the house of God and installed Mr. Swift," the Rev. Dr. Ely preaching the sermon.
Mr. Swift entered upon his work in the midst of many difficulties and discouragements. He had preached in Roxbury, Conn., about fifteen years, and from that experience was considerably prepared to take a steady, onward and dignified ministerial course, by which he led the people from their perplexing
difficulties and unkindly feelings, into a larger field of active and consistent Christian life. The following account of the church and his labors with it are given by the Rev. J. H. Vorce, in a centennial, historical discourse delivered in the Derby Congregational church, on Sunday, July 9, 1876.
"Mr. Swift was settled in Derby in 1813 and never dismissed. His pastorate was long and successful. Revivals were frequent and numbers were added to the church during his ministry, which was on some accounts the most eventful in the history of the church. We have found some decided peculiarities in regard to the salaries of other pastors, and there was one in regard to Mr. Swift's, it being apparently about what it happened to be. varying with the times and with the necessities of the people. He sometimes relinquished a large part of it, and at others, would take the notes of the society's committee, or pinch along almost any way to help through the difficulties that often surrounded them.
"In the same year in which Mr. Swift was settled, what is known as the Increase Fund was started. By the conditions of the gift, no part of the principal could ever be used for any other purpose whatever, and no part of the interest could be used until the fund had accumulated so that the income would be sufficient to support a gospel minister in this society. The minister must be of the Presbyterian or Congregational order, and must profess and teach the 'doctrines of the gospel as expressed in the shorter catechism of the assembly of divines at Westminster, or the creed inserted in the statute of the theological seminary at Andover.'
"In 1814, the church adopted by a series of votes, the rule laid down in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, as a rule of discipline; also that public offenses require a public confession, and thenceforward the discipline of the church was kept up remarkably well. If a person deserved the attention of the church in this respect, he was labored with according to the rule, and if he did not heed the admonition he was dealt with. The cases of discipline were numerous.
"In December. 1816, the society voted that Mr. Swift preach a part of the ensuing year at Humphreysville, in proportion to the money raised there, but not to exceed one-fourth of the time.
"We have now arrived at a time in the history of the church when it was tossed more by storms than at any period in its history. Darker skies it may have seen, but never when the waters were more troubled. The old meeting-house had become much dilapidated and was nearly unfit for use as a place of worship. It became necessary to build a
new one, and the question of its location divided the society in sentiment and to a considerable extent, permanently. Quite a number withdrew from it and never returned. A majority, with the pastor, favored the place where the present house stands, but a minority favored the old site; while the controversy ran high and threatened serious consequences. Dr. Leonard Bacon's remark in regard to a Guilford trouble, would be thoroughly applicable to the state of affairs here: 'Both parties were conscientious as well as willful; perhaps more conscientious for being willful, certainly the more willful for being conscientious.
"On the 30th of March, 1820, a vote was passed that 'all former votes respecting the location of a house of worship be rescinded.' It was then voted, two-thirds concurring, that the house should stand on its present site, and a committee was appointed to wait upon the County Court, to procure its approbation of the location selected. The decree of the Court ' appointing, ordering and fixing the said place,' was given at the March term of 1820. Specifications were drawn and the new house contracted for, on the 18th of July, 1820. These specifications were very definite, and left nothing to be taken for granted and disagreed about afterward, and as a sample it may be mentioned that it was provided that there should be ' furnished suitable and wholesome board and washing for the workmen while employed in said work, and a reasonable quantity of liquor for said workmen, to be drank in the yard where said work is done.'
"A paper on file, proposing to convey the house and land to the inhabitants of the First Ecclesiastical society of Derby, contains some provisions which are a novelty, and without which the history of this church building would be incomplete.
"'First, that the said society shall annually, on the first Monday in January, rent the slips on the lower floor of said house, and those in the gallery wherever by them deemed best, excepting the four easterly front slips, and excepting on the lower floor one slip for the use of the family of the clergyman settled over said society for the time being, and two for poor widows, and excepting said slips on the lower floor, shall be rented to white persons only; the same to be set up in classes as follows: the first ten slips at a sum not less than ten dollars, the second ten slips at a sum not less than eight dollars, the third ten slips at a sum not less than seven dollars, the fourth eight slips at a sum not less than five dollars, the fifth six slips at a sum not less than four dollars, the sixth five slips at a sum not less than three dollars.'
"These conditions were accepted by the society, Jan. 1, 1822. The expense of building the house so seriously crippled the resources of the society, that in 1823 they voted that the income from the fund must
supply the pulpit for the ensuing year, as they could not think of incurring any additional debt for the supply of the pulpit. The pastor, always ready to help his people in bearing burdens, declared his willingness to conform to the straitened circumstances of the society for that year provided they would pay up arrears so as to come to the next year unencumbered.
"In the year 1824, a subscription was started to purchase a bell. In the appeal to the public for contributions, the society pledged that the bell might be ' used for all meetings of religious societies and all lawful meetings of the inhabitants of the town, and tolled at funerals of all denominations of Christians when requested by the friends of the deceased, except that no person shall at any time be permitted to ring or toll said bell, except such as is appointed to that business by said standing committee.'
"There was previously an old bell on the school-house. Up Town, which was used both by this society and by the Episcopal society, as well as for town and school purposes. This bell was stolen, and, at the time the Congregational society was proposing to raise money for a new bell, could not be found. At the time of the vote above alluded to, it was agreed that, provided the old bell could be found, the committee should take possession of it, and pay any one a fair price who could prove ownership. About a month later the committee reported that they ' had found the old bell; that the same had been claimed by the proprietors near the old meeting-house and by the committee of the Episcopal society, on the ground that said society were entitled to the one-half thereof, and that it had been demanded by said proprietors, and that in the opinion of the committee, this society have as good a right to said bell as any one.' Thereupon the society voted that ' since they had always had control of it from the time it was first hung, they presumably had an equal right with others, the committee were directed to cause said bell to be appraised by disinterested persons, add to it as much as would make a bell of seven hundred pounds, and the society would pay over whatever should be judged not lawfully to belong to said society.' Thus much of the bell story must be reliable for it is too late to make headway against these records of the society.
"Owing to the financial embarrassment of the society, a committee was appointed in January, 1824, to apply to the domestic missionary society of Connecticut for aid. At the meeting held to take action as to the bell, this committee reported that the missionary society had granted to the church, the sum of eight dollars per Sunday for six Sundays. There is no record of any additional grant having been made.
"These appear to have been the end of the society troubles in re
gard to a new meeting-house. It is a curious commentary on the Congregational form of government, that while the society records are filled with details of disagreement or severe conflicts, no sign of difficulty appears upon the record of the church. All through these troubles the church, under the lead of its devoted pastor, was faithful to its trust, and held its government with a kind but firm hand apparently in the profoundest peace.
"The next date of importance is the year 1833, in which the ' articles of Christian faith and practice ' were added to the manual. One of these rules makes the neglect of family prayer an offense liable to disciplinary action, and another declares ' the making, vending or using ardent spirits as a drink, inconsistent with Christian character.' One of the most admirable of these articles, makes it the duty of the church ' to secure a religious education to such children of the church as may in the providence of God be left orphans.'
"The pastorate of Mr. Swift closed only at his death, which occurred February 7, 1848, but during the latter part of his life he had colleagues in his office. These were Rev. Lewis D Howell. Rev. Hollis Read and R 'V. George Thatcher. The last of these was laboring here at the time of Mr. Swift's decease. The remains of four pastors were buried in the oldest grave-yard of the town; those of Rev. John Bowers, probably, although there is no grave-stone to mark his restingplace, Rev. Joseph Moss, Rev. Daniel Humphreys and Rev. Zephaniah Swift.
"Rev. Lewis D. Howell, the first colleague of Rev. Mr. Swift, was probably settled as pastor in 1836, and upon his request was dismissed Nov. 20, 1838, and given the usual testimony, and of him we hear nothing more The Rev. Hollis Read, the second colleague of Rev. Mr. Swift, was called by the church December 24, 1838, and he continued to preach here until 1843 when he was dismissed, but the influence of the differences of feeling on that occasion is not all gone to this day. The Rev. George Thatcher, was by vote of the society, bearing date June 14, 1843. hired as a supply until the end of the year, but before that time expired he received a call to settle, which he accepted on the 7th of December. During his pastorate, the Derby church was prosperous and peaceful. Mr. Thatcher was dismissed in 1848."
From 1848 to the present time there have been several ministers employed by the society.
The Rev. Jesse Guernsey, was settled over the Derby church on the 8th of November, 1849, and dismissed in 1852. During his pastorate the Congregational church in Ansonia was formed.
The next April, four members of this church were dismissed and recommended to an ecclesiastical council, to be convened for the purpose of organizing a church in Ansonia. Mr. Guernsey was a native of Watertown, Conn., and after leaving Derby he preached a little more than a year in Woodbridge, when he removed to Iowa, where he died.
The Rev. Robert P. Stanton, was settled here in May, 1853, and dismissed in January, 1856. He was a native of Franklin, Conn., and wa.s licensed by the New Haven West association in 1847. After leaving Derby, he was settled over the church in Greenville, in the town of Norwich, Conn., where he still remains, making a pastorate there of more than twenty-three years.
The Rev. C. C. Tiffany was called in 1857, and dismissed in 1864. He was licensed by the New Haven Central association in 1857, and was called from Derby to Longwood, Mass., in 1864; from which place he went to the rectorship of an Episcopal church in New York city.
The Rev. William E. Brooks, was engaged as supply in 1865, and remained until 1867, when he removed to Clinton, Conn., where he remained until 1874; removing thence to West Haven, Conn., where he still remains a settled pastor.
Rev. Thomas M. Gray, was installed pastor of the Derby church in December, 1867, and dismissed in 1871. He afterwards settled as pastor of a Presbyterian church in South Salem, Mass., where he remained a number of years.
The Rev. Cyrus B. Whitcomb, was engaged in January, 1872, to supply this church, and remained one year from the first of the next April. (See Biog.)
The Rev. Henry T. Staats, was engaged sometime in 1873, to supply the pulpit for the remainder of the year, at the expiration of which time he was re-engaged and remained with the church until the autumn of 1874, when he was settled over the Congregational church of Bristol, Conn. During his labors here, a lecture-room was built and the church was re-modeled and re-furnished.
The Rev. J. Howe Vorce, was acting pastor in this church from April, 1875, to August, 1879. (See Biog.)
It is with much pleasure that the following letter is intro-
duced. It was written by the Rev. Charles Nichols, at the request of the Rev. J. Howe Vorce, in view of a centennial historical sermon; and although too lengthy for insertion on that occasion, it is very appropriate for the present work. It gives on the authority of an eye-witness, and that witness one of the noblest sons of Derby, the things which if asserted without such personal knowledge might be doubted by many. It is given nearly entire as written by himself at an advanced age:
"NEW BRITAIN, June 24, 1876.
"To My Dear Christian Brother, REV. MR. VORCE:
"I write to you as being myself a Derby man. I was born at Derby Narrows in the year 1798, and am now in my 79th year. My early life, until nearly twenty years of age, was spent in Derby. My parents were in principle Congregationalists, attending the Congregational church, and when, after my father's death, I was put out to service by my mother, being then fifteen years of age, I was put into a family, all of whose members were Congregationalists of the strictest sort, they adopting, as did my mother, the Assembly's Catechism, as containing the summary of their faith.
"The Meeting house in which the Congregational order worshiped, and where I attended meeting from my childhood up to my nineteenth year, was called the old meeting-house on the hill. It was probably more than half a mile from the church edifice which is now in use, a little east of north. I recollect it perfectly. The place on which it stood was called Meeting-house Hill. Roads led to it from four directions; and all around it the surface of the ground was uneven, and its position was in the middle of several unfenced acres, gullied somewhat by rains, and yet generally green in summer, and affording pasturage for sheep. The meeting-house stood alone except that there was one small dwelling house near it on the north-east, and a red school building a few rods south-west, two stories high, having a cupola in which was hung the church bell. My strong impression is, that this church bell, thus hung on the Old Red school-house, was owned either by the town of Derby or jointly by the Congregational and Episcopal societies. The school-house on which it hung was nearly midway between the two church edifices. This bell had a history after I left the town, which probably caused some merriment, and also stirred some bad blood; but that history is not familiar to me to any such extent that I can state the facts in regard to it.
"The old meeting-house was unpainted, dingy, inconvenient, un-
sightly, and in warm and damp weather it had within, a musty smell, ungracious, as things in a process of decay generally have.
"In its shape this house was almost square. I judge it was forty-five feet long and forty feet broad, and was constructed with two stories. Excepting for the two rows of windows all around the house, it looked like a large neglected barn. It had neither steeple nor tower. During all my young days the underpinning was in some places almost wholly removed, and thus a convenient opening was afforded for the sheep and Iambs which often grazed in the neighborhood, at which they might enter and there ruminate and give an example of quietness and sweet peace to the human sheep who were in the fold just a little above them.
"The old meeting-house had two doors, one in front and one in the east end.
"It was made with a gallery on each of the sides, and seats in these galleries rising one above the other as if constructed on an inclined plane. The seats in each gallery were long slips, and there were four or five slips in each gallery. The music of the sanctuary was then, as now, a very important part of worship, and the front slip in each gallery was sacred to the use of the singers and the 'players on instruments.' We had not the organ in those days, but we did have both vocal and instrumental music, that to my youthful mind was impressive and inspiring beyond what I can express. In the winter season we had regular weekly singing-schools, holding them in private houses, now in one part of the town and now another. All the youth who had the 'ear for music' were invited and urged to attend them, and they were social and useful gatherings; presenting to us themes for study; often introducing us to new and valuable acquaintances, and to some extent fitting us for a sphere of usefulness.
"In those days the choir would on pleasant Sabbaths almost fill the three front slips around the galleries of the old meeting-house. Four parts were usually carried, two by the ladies and two by the gentlemen. The chorister always gave the key-note by a little instrument called the pitch-pipe. Then, the whole choir sitting would ' sound the pitch;' each distinct part sounding the first note with which said part was to start off in the exercise. The chorister made himself prominent by a large flourish of the hand in beating time, often eying the singers earnestly, significantly, and sometimes by a sudden and loud slap of his book, as if he would say, ' You drag; wake up and sing with more spirit.'
"I remember how in those days of my boyhood the 'tithing-man' did often seek to magnify his office. The young urchins were just as full of fun and nonsense then as are their descendants of the present
day. Heads often bowed in seeming reverence were, as a matter of fact, frequently down in a worshipful condition simply to conceal from the watchful tithing-man the merry laugh, or the mischievous knife in. its work of carving, or the recounting in soft whispers the story of some exploit.
"Now and then, as I well remember, we would cease through forgetfulness to be awed by the tithing-man's presence, and some ludicrous word would work upon our childish natures and the inevitable snicker would burst forth. Holding the nose, as we perhaps did, would do no good. The laugh was in us and the more we tried to suppress it, the more it would not be suppressed. In the very midst of the fun, the tithing-man, with a countenance like an angry thunder cloud, would show himself true to the requirements of his official station. Sometimes he would simply rise from his seat and stare the culprits in the face. Sometimes he would rap loudly with his knuckles. Sometimes he would leave his seat and take the irreverent boy by the collar and drag him to another seat of the house, which feat nine out of ten of the boys and girls would enjoy with a keen relish and a hearty 'laugh in the sleeve.'
"Before leaving the gallery of the old meeting-house I wish to speak of two regularly inclosed pews; one in the south-west corner of the men's gallery, and the other in the south-east corner of the women's gallery, designed for slaves and their children. They were vulgarly called the 'Nigger pews.' Slavery still existed in Connecticut when I was quite young, and I remember to have seen here and there one whom I knew as a slave, owned by their masters according to law, just as the ox or horse was owned. The slaves generally bore the name of their masters. If, for example, Richard was the slave of the Mansfields he was called Richard Mansfield; if colored Cato was the slave of the Holbrooks he was called Cato Holbrook. The fact that a provision was made for people of color when the old meeting-house was built, shows that their spiritual necessities were thought of, even while their separate seats in the most distant corners of the church edifice may indicate that the prejudice against color was strong, even in the minds of Christian people. Some of the slaves owned in Derby were regarded as devoutly pious. Such a slave was owned by the Holbrook family. He died before my remembrance, but as I lived almost five years in the same family, I often heard him spoken of tenderly by those about me. He is reported, though he could not read a word, as having been in the habit of carrying the Testament in his coat pocket. When he was questioned for his reason for so doing, his reply was, 'to keep the devil off.'
This same slave was once, according to tradition, sent into a tract of woods, distant from home, to do several days work at chopping wood. It so happened that he forgot the days of the week, and by mistake kept on chopping through the whole of the Sabbath. When he returned home Sabbath evening, supposing it to be Saturday evening, learning his mistake, he determined that the next day -- that is, Monday -- should be his Sabbath. He would not work or do anything on Monday which was inappropriate to the Sabbath. When he was told that it was Monday, his ready reply was, 'I know it, but I am not going to cheat the Lord out of one day.'
"In 1798 a law was passed by which all persons born of slave parents after that date should be free at the age of twenty-one; but there were still slaves, a very few, in 1848, when a law was passed abolishing slavery altogether in Connecticut.
"The gallery in the old meeting-house was fitted for the youth of the place, and the children just merging into boyhood and girlhood. It was considered quite an attainment to leave the pews below and the watchful eyes of parents, and 'go up' into the gallery. The lower part of the house was arranged with pews next to the walls, and if I remember right, with four tiers of slips in the body of the house. There was one wide aisle from the front door to the pulpit, and other narrow aisles extending around the room. According to my recollection, what are called the wall seats, especially those near the pulpit, were occupied by the more aristocratic part of the audience. The seats were all occupied by an industrious, intelligent, high-minded and honest class of men and women, who revered the name of God, loved his ordinances, and cherished a high respect for the minister of the gospel. The gray hairs and venerable looks of many of them are present to my mind while I write.
"The shape of the pulpit in that old house was that of a box, about six feet long, three feet wide, and npt far from four feet deep. There was a rounded projection on the front of this box and on this was a narrow book-board and a very simple cushion, where lay the Bible and the hymn book. In this projection, which was in shape like the half of a barrel cut lengthwise, stood the clergyman when he spoke to God in prayer, or read to his audience from the Bible, or hymn book, or his manuscript. Directly beneath the pulpit sat the deacons, known by their position, if not otherwise, as the chosen officers and the two leading men of the church. The two deacons in all the period of my childhood were Deacon Holbrook and Deacon Tomlinson, both of honest report, and, as I think, endued with the Holy Ghost and with wisdom. Deacon Holbrook died in the early part of the year 1813. Himself and wife were the parents of twelve, seven daughters and five sons, all
of that great family remains in Derby. Deacon Holbrook was succeeded as deacon by Deacon Carrington, who was entirely unpretentious, but a true and good man, 'not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.'
"Many of the people who gathered at the old meeting-house came from the distance of miles. Numbers came from the Neck, from Sugar Street, from Sodom and from Squabble Hole; and they seem to me to have been harmonious and united until the time of the call for the Rev. Thomas Ruggles. They then became seriously divided.
"When I was a boy what is now Seymour was Chusetown. Manufacturing then being introduced there by General David Humphreys, it ceased to be Chusetown, and was called in honor of the distinguished manufacturer, Humphreysville, but was still a part of the town of Derby. While I remained in Derby the Humphreysville people who were of the Congregational order, came either three-fourths or five-sixths of their Sabbaths to the old meeting-house to worship, and by agreement of parties, the pastor of the church went the other fourth or sixth of the Sabbaths to Humphreysville, and we in the old meeting-house held a deacon's meeting, and heard some one of good voice and manner read a sermon from some volume. When, finally, the people of Seymour established permanent public worship among themselves I am not informed. It must have been at a later date than 1817, for that was the year of my leaving Derby, and they were then, if I do not misremember, still worshiping with us in the old church.
"This old meeting-house never knew the luxury of a carpet upon its aisles. Many of the best families knew no such luxuries ever in their best parlors. No fire in the winter ever modified the freezing air of the house. The worshipers came, in many cases, two. three and four miles, sometimes with the weather at zero, or even below that point, and sat from one to two hours, having had no glimpse of a fire till they caught it on reluming near sunset to their own dwellings. It seemed not to have entered the mind in those days that the place of public worship should or could be made comfortable or attractive. Nor was it recognized as a fact, that when the whole person was chilled, and the whole congregation wishing for the final amen, the worship could be neither very spiritual nor effective of good upon the general mind.
"The forms of worship in that church were, at the period of which I speak, very nearly uniform throughout our state. There was first the invocation, then reading the scriptures, then the first singing. After this came the general prayer. Almost universally if any persons were severely sick, a note was sent to the clergyman, which was in form
about this, viz.: 'Mr. A. B., being severely ill (sometimes it would read dangerously) asks for an interest in the prayers of this church and congregation that if consistent with God's will he may be restored to health, but if not, that he may be prepared for his great and last change.' Mothers often sent up a note of thanks for God's preserving goodness to them in time of peril, and for permitting them once more to appear in the house of worship.
"The attitude in family prayer, in the days of my childhood, was that of standing. I never knew the head of the family or any of the members of the household to kneel in prayer until I left Derby and resided in another state. Bibles were far less common then than now. So far as I had opportunity to observe, they were not passed to the children and other members of the household in time of family prayer in the morning that each might read; neither, to my knowledge, was there: my singing in connection with the season of family worship. The almost universal custom was for the head of the family, who only had a bible, to read a passage and then rise, stand erect, holding to the back of his chair, and in that attitude offer his prayer. The other members also stood. Consequently young minds were not greatly interested, and as this morning prayer was generally offered at the time when the table was spread for breakfast, and the rich flavor of the smoking viands made the young appetites sharp, the sense of relief at the word ' amen ' was greater than any sense of virtuous resolution to which the prayer had led.
"The people with whom I worshiped in the old church almost, if not quite, universally considered the evening of Saturday as holy time. Often we heard whole sermons which were designed to prove that the Sabbath began at the going down of the sun on Saturday, and we thought it was proved. Accordingly when it began to be dark on Saturday secular cares were laid aside. The plays for the week were ended, the playthings were put away. All labor in the field must cease. But the moment the sun set behind the western hills on Sunday, that moment the holy day was closed, and play might then be resumed. The farmer then would, if necessary, grind his scythe preparatory to early mowing Monday morning. The young people might assemble for sport, and lovers in their neat Sabbath dress might lawfully meet and build together their airy castles for some happy future day.
"In my childhood there was one, and only one, other organized church and society besides the Congregational, and that was the Episcopal. Rev. Richard Mansfield, D. D., was the pastor of that church in my childhood He was a graduate of Yale College in the class of 1741, received his degree of D. D., in 1792, and died an old man, full
of years and of honors, in 1820. I remember him well. He was tall, of spare habits, and wore a white, large wig. He was very old when I was very young.
"Occasionally I attended that church and heard him officiate. His voice was then feeble, but his countenance indicated gentleness, and a kind and benevolent heart. He continued in Derby until his death, and I think is laid among his own people. While Dr. Mansfield was yet living. Rev. Calvin White became the pastor, as a colleague. Mr. White also graduated at Yale. He was in the class of 1786, and died in 1853. Both Dr. Mansfield and Mr. White were very gentlemanly. I knew their families well in my boyhood, and still think of them with respect and affection. After I left Derby, and somewhere about 1820, Mr. White became a Roman Catholic. Being excluded from the Episcopal church, he remained in town and officiated, as I have been told, in his own house to a few who were of his own belief.
"Methodism, in my boyhood, had hardly gained a foothold in Derby. There was just a little sprinkling of that element over the town, but no organized society to my knowledge, until I ceased to be a member of the town.
"Of Baptists, there were none.
"In the common school at Derby Narrows, it was a rule, strictly observed during my school days, to repeat each Saturday forenoon, the catechism. Two catechisms, called commonly, "The Church Catechism" and "The Presbyterian Catechism" were in use. The Sabbath-school was not known in Derby till the summer of 1817, when one was organized by Mr. Josiah Holbrook, The school then met in the upper story of the old red school-house on Meeting- House Hill, and held its sessions in the morning of the Sabbath, during about one hour preceding the first exercise in the church.
"There were three clergymen who were natives of Derby, and by many years my superiors in age, whom about once a year I used to hear preach. These were Rev. Amos Bassett, D. D., Rev. Daniel Tomlinson and Rev. Archibald Bassett. All these were born and spent their childhood in the Neck district. Dr. Amos Bassett I knew personally. He was of a very serious, and one would think of a sad countenance. He was quite scholarly, and was for a long period one of the fellows of Yale College. For many years he was pastor of the Congregational church in Hebron, Conn. He graduated with the class in Yale, in 1784; died in 1828, and his remains lie buried in the cemetery in Derby.
"Rev. Daniel Tomlinson was long the pastor of the church in Oakham, Mass. He also graduated at Yale in the year 1781, and died in 1842.
Mr. Tomlinson was a man of distinguished excellence. His voice and manner in the desk were very peculiar. They were his own, and inimitable. He always preached with black gloves on his hands, and I well remember that my pastor, sometimes noticing that there was smiling about the house when Mr. T. officiated, would rise from his seat and in a dignified and solemn way, request that there should be no levity in the house of God.
"Of Rev. Archibald Basssett, I have little knowledge except that he graduated at Yale in 1796, and died in 1859.
"The Rev. Abner Smith, had his home in that part of Derby called Great Hill. I remember him as he used often to appear in our church, and as I sometimes heard him preach. His delivery was very moderate, his voice nasal, his body short, his legs long and very crooked, and his whole aspect and manner unique. My strong impression is that be was a graduate of Harvard. I spent a little time in his house about 1823. since which I have kept no track of him.
"Two other Derby men became ministers about the year 1826, viz.. John L. Tomlinson and Truman Coe. The former had been a lawyer in Derby for years. He graduated at Yale in 1807, and died in 1833. Mr. Coe did not graduate, but received an honorary degree from Yale in 1825. He had been a distinguished teacher of youth, and also a lecturer of science; was wholly a self-made man. He died in 1858."
This war, like many others in the history of the world, was originated and organized in the interests of a political party, upon a basis of small pretexts and with the intention of acquiring the British territory of Canada. The disgrace and dishonor of it has ever been a cloud over the fair name of the United States.
At this time David Humphreys, who had borne the military title of colonel for many years, was residing in Humphreysville, busily engaged in his manufacturing enterprises and philanthropic plans.
Upon the opening of the war, his love for his country was aroused as in his younger days, in the Revolution, and calling a. public meeting at the old and then dilapidated appearing meeting-house standing on Academy Hill, he delivered a stirring and eloquent oration, and called for volunteers. A company, called then troopers, (now cavalry) was enlisted, with the
Colonel as its first officer, and was accepted by the state. Mr. Humphreys was then appointed major general of the state militia, and afterwards was called General instead of Colonel Humphreys.
No records of town acts in regard to the war are found, except that introduced by General Humphreys as complimentary to Commodore Isaac Hull, and very seldom is a document seen which is more perfect and complete.
"At a meeting of the inhabitants of the town of Derby, legally held by adjournment, April 12, 1813. the following resolutions were introduced and read by Col. David Humphreys.
"Resolved, that Isaac Hull Esq., a native of this town, captain in the Navy of the United States, and lately Commander of their Frigate Constitution, with the aid of his gallant officers and ship's company and the smiles of Providence, having led the van in the career in our naval glory by capturing His Britannic Majesty's Frigate Guerriere, commanded by Captain Dacres, has, in our opinion, deserved well of his country, and is an ornament to the place of his nativity.
"Resolved, that joining cordially in the universal applause bestowed by our native countrymen, on Hull, Jones, Decatur, Bainbridge and Lawrence, and their brave and skillful associates in perils and triumphs, for their glorious naval achievements, we judge we have a right in our corporate capacity, without showing an undue partiality to the first mentioned officer, or stepping aside from our municipal duties, to notice more explicitly his exemplary merits, from having better opportunities of being acquainted with them.
"Resolved, that Messrs. John L. Tomlinson, William Humphreys and Pearl Crafts, be a committee to collect and digest such distinguishing illustrative facts on the subject matter now before us as may be attainable, and that they will cause the result to be communicated to the public in such manner as they shall deem most proper.
"Resolved, that from the interruption of our fisheries and navigation by war, gold and silver we have not, to offer costly demonstrations of respect and esteem in imitation of richer towns, yet what we have we freely give, to wit, a tribute of gratitude.
"Therefore, voted that Isaac Hull, Esq, being already constitutionally entitled to the freedom of this corporation, the thanks of this town be presented to him in a box made of heart of oak, the genial growth of his native hills.
"Voted, that the committee take order from the selectmen for the performance of this service and report their proceedings to a future
meeting, for the express purpose that a town record be made for the perpetual remembrance of these transactions.
"Voted, that the committee above named be directed to transmit to Capt. Hull a certified copy of the foregoing resolutions.
Diligent search has been made through the town records and newspapers of that day for the report of the committee which was to be "communicated to the public," but nothing of the kind has been found.
During the war, Derby also furnished a company by draft, which, after repeated trainings in town, was ordered to New London, where, under Captain Gates (of Derby) it rendered material aid against the British, and gained lasting credit to the American service. The company -- the bone and sinew of Derby -- prided themselves on being patriotic and brave, full of Revolutionary pluck, and having enrolled among their ranks no drones or, what were equally as despicable, cowards. But they were slightly mistaken, for one of their number, private E---- B----, was shy of gunpowder, and if possible always shirked his duty. Threatened with an attack, the balls beginning to fly from the enemy, Capt. Gates nerved his men by saying, "Now, boys, is the time to think of your wives and sweethearts, and live or die, fight for the honor of old Derby."
Private B. and another, G. W., rather hung back in fear, saying they did not expect to fight; when the Captain quickly retorted, "What did you come for, if not to fight? We tolerate no cowards in our ranks." Private B. was often ordered out foraging for the company, his mission being to rob hen-roosts or gather anything he could find good to eat, but he generally played sick or truant, and came to camp empty. His designs at length became apparent and his comrades thought him good game for a little sport.
For some military misdemeanor which was construed into rank treason, he was arraigned before a court-martial, and after due trial found guilty and sentenced to be hung. As might be expected, he was overwhelmed at the severity of the sentence. He was given his choice, however, to swing as did Major Andre, or more military like, be shot. He preferred neither, for to lose his life in such a way with his back to the enemy would
be an eternal disgrace to Derby, and he plead for pardon, promising to take the front in the future. But the laws of war are cruel, and he was led out for execution, but just in time a reprieve from head-quarters reached him, and he was pardoned on certain conditions.
The joke was rather severe, but it had the desired effect, for he was returned to the ranks, became a true soldier, and faithfully endured to the end of the war. After the return of the company at the close of hostilities, its frolicsome members had many a hearty laugh over the New London court-martial, which proved so opportune and happy in its effects.
ROADS, BRIDGES AND FLOODS.
MILFORD path is the first of anything like a highway spoken of in Derby records, and the next is that to New Haven.
The first of these began at the place where the first lots were laid out, (Up Town) running south-easterly, probably just where the highway does now, until it passed the Swift place, where it was changed some years later and run further east than at first. The New Haven path went past the Riggs's place as the highway does now, but somewhere east of that point to the New Haven line, the record tells us a new highway was laid in April, 1717. In 1676 a cart path was made from Up Town, through the meadow, in Naugatuck valley to the fishing place somewhere near the present Derby bridge at the causeway. This road was changed and placed on the bank, near where it now runs, about 1755, but it was somewhat altered in 1772, and is described as the highway from Doctor Silas Baldwin's to Stevens's ferry at the Narrows."
On the Great Neck, the Woodbury path is spoken of, in 1683, and passed from the present Baldwin's Corners, a little west of north over the hill, the road being now used but little. On this road just up the hill, was probably John Prindle's ordinary, or tavern in 1716. About 1683, the highway was constructed from the first ferry, near the site of the old Hull's mills, up the river on the west side, passing the west end of the present lower Ansonia bridge, and then went north-west into the Woodbury path. At this same time also there is mentioned a "path from Barren Plain brook to Rimmon," probably about a mile west of the river.
In January, 1728-9, the town appointed "a committee to meet a committee of Waterbury, concerning a highway to said Waterbury." This had reference, probably, to the valley above Rock Rimmon.
After 1712, highways were constructed and re-arranged in
the northern part of the town as they became necessary for the new settlers, at the cost of much time and labor, and when made it must have been weary work traveling on them except on horseback.
In 1746, the town "appointed a committee to meet a committee from New Milford, and view and see if there can be a convenient highway made near the Great river from said Derby to said New Milford, and to make report to the town."
In 1783, the lottery was instituted in part for the purpose of making "a highway from Woodbury to Derby, by the Ousatonic river," and this road was constructed soon after, along the river to meet the one, or it may have been in part the one, that crosses Rock House Hill.
In 1794, the town "Voted, that Col. Daniel Holbrook, Mr. Caleb Candee and Mr. Nathan Fairchild, be a committee to view the circumstances of the town, respecting the petition of Mulford and associates to the General Assembly in regard to a turnpike in Oxford, and make their return to this or some future meeting." This turnpike, chartered in 1795, is said to have been the second in the state, and is likely to be the last given up, for toll is still regularly collected from all who use it.
From this time forward for twenty years or more, there was much attention given to the construction of turnpikes throughout the state, and Derby partook rather freely of this method of speculation, for after some of these good roads were made, a large proportion of the trade that had previously centered in Derby, was carried to New Haven. The first of these is referred to as follows in the town records:
"Sept. 1796. Voted, that Col. Daniel Holbrook, Capt. John Riggs and Capt. Bradford Steele, be appointed a committee to wait on a committee appointed by the General Assembly, to view and lay out a road or highway from the state house in New Haven to Derby Landing, and from thence through Oxford, etc., to Litchfield." The proposition to make this road a turnpike as far as Derby Landing was entered into by leading men of Derby, Huntington and New Haven, and especially by Leman Stone, who had been a merchant at Derby Landing from 1791; and it was only after many obstacles were overcome and much money expended, that the road was completed,
and it thereafter furnished a grand highway for carrying the farm produce to New Haven to be shipped, instead of bringing New Haven trade to Derby as was predicted. When this turnpike was finished to the Landing, it became a great question how to extend it to Oxford, and the subject came up in town meeting in the following form: "Sept. 19, 1803. Question: Will the town do anything respecting the road laid out by the Honorable General Assembly committee, from Oxford turnpike to Mr. Leman Stone's at Derby Landing? Voted in the affirmative."
"Question: Will the town oppose the acceptance of the above mentioned road in Derby unless the company purchase the land? Voted in the negative." A committee was then appointed to confer with the proprietors of the turnpike on the subject. The Oxford turnpike when first constructed did not come down quite to the village of Chusetown, but turned from the Little river some distance above its mouth, over the hill and up the Naugatuck river, crossing that river at Pine's bridge and uniting with the Naugatuck and New Haven turnpike on Beacon brook. Hence, in order to connect Chusetown with that turnpike we find the following action of the town: "April 12, 1802. Voted, that the town of Derby will petition the General Assembly at their session at Hartford, May next, for a grant for a turnpike road from the Falls bridge in said Derby, taking in said bridge and to extend to Oxford turnpike, and liberty to set up a gate at said bridge and to take such toll as shall be affixed, and that Russell Tomlinson, Esq., be appointed agent for said town to prefer said petition." This petition not being granted, was renewed the next year. All efforts having failed to connect Derby Landing by a turnpike with the Oxford turnpike, the town proceeded in its own behalf as follows, in December, 1804: "Voted, that the selectmen be directed to accept of the donations, and proceed as soon as the weather will admit, and lay out a road from Shrub Oak, so called, to Derby Narrows, where it will in their judgment best accommodate the public and the town of Derby with the least injury and expense." The report of the selectmen in laying out this road was accepted April 18, 1805, and a vote passed to make the road.
The extravagant ideas of the profits arising from a turnpike and toll bridge at that time, may be seen from the following record: "March 16, 1807. Voted, that this town will aid Dan Tomlinson, Nathan Mansfield, Nathan Lewis and Isaac Botsford, in an application to the General Assembly for liberty to erect a bridge over the Naugatuck river at the westernmost end of Rimmon Falls turnpike road, and maintain the same, together with the road from said bridge to Oxford turnpike road, and collect a toll therefor at such place as the General Assembly or the committee shall direct, provided they exonerate the town from all expenses in making and maintaining said bridge and road in future, and provided the inhabitants of said town have liberty to pass, toll free." It would seem that if the town could be relieved from maintaining a bridge which had been an expensive article for many years, it would have gladly rendered its aid as proposed without further consideration, but it went so much further as to ask to withhold a large source of revenue to the proprietors of the proposed bridge and turnpike, for if the inhabitants of the town passed toll free, where would sufficient funds come from to remunerate the owners of the property? It must have been a time of "great expectations" from turnpikes.
It was after this effort to get rid of the Falls bridge that the New Milford turnpike was chartered and made. The bridges, however, continued to be of great expense to the town, and the day for the prevalence of this luxury is not yet passed. Seven large bridges are now maintained on the Naugatuck within the bounds of ancient Derby, and one on the Ousatonic. For a hundred and twenty-five years the town built, on an average, one bridge in ten years at the place called the Lower Bridge (Up Town), and nearly the same expense, although not quite as great, was incurred at the upper bridge (at the Falls).
It is said that the first Leavenworth bridge was built across the Ousatonic, a little way above the Red House, in 1768, and was a toll-bridge, but the following town record indicates that either the bridge had not been built, or, if built it had been carried away before that time: "Dec. 13, 1790. Voted, that the town will oppose the building of a bridge at the Leavenworth ferry, and that Capt. John Wooster and Thomas Clark,
Esq., be appointed agents for the town of Derby at the General Assembly, to oppose the building of said bridge at Leavenworth ferry." The bridge, after standing at that place some years, was partly carried away by an ice-flood, and rebuilt, remaining afterwards until 1831, when it was removed down the river to Hawkins Point, and there rebuilt by Donald Judson and Philo Bassett. In February, 1857, it was again carried away by an ice-flood, and immediately rebuilt and continued a toll-bridge until about 1875, when it became free. It is now the great thoroughfare between the prosperous villages of Shelton and Birmingham.
But while the want of bridges in the town was a great calamity, the fact of one being built at Stratford, obstructing the commerce of Derby, was thought to be almost a greater one. Some account of the difficulties concerning this bridge have already been given, but further items have been obtained and are here added, connecting the troubles of that bridge with the efforts of men now living. In 1800, the town voted to send an agent to the General Assembly to oppose the building of this bridge, and in 1802 they did the same thing, showing that for a time they prevented the building of the bridge, but finally it arose, "master of the situation."
Washington bridge at Stratford, to which allusion has already been made, being long a serious obstacle to the commercial prosperity of Derby may properly be connected further with Derby. Its charter was granted in 1802, the Legislature making no provision to alter or amend it. The draw was only thirty-two feet wide, while the right of navigation was in no way to be obstructed. In the winter of 1805 and 1806 a freshet carried away a large portion of the bridge, and in 1807 the Legislature granted the original company a lottery to aid them in rebuilding it.
On the early introduction of steamboats they were built of small dimensions and thus enabled to pass the draw, though frequently not without damage. When the manufacturing interests of Derby increased it became necessary to transport large quantities of freight, which required boats of greater capacity
pacity and thus the bridge became a great barrier to steamboat navigation. In 1845 an application was made to the Legislature to compel the bridge company to widen the draw. Hon. R. I. Ingersoll of New Haven was employed as counsel. He took the broad ground that the state had no right to close the river against steamboat navigation, especially when Derby was a port of delivery, having vessels and steamboats regularly enrolled and licensed.
Edward N. Shelton, Esq., took a very active and influential part in pushing the matter before the Legislature, where it was referred to the appropriate committee, which reported a bill compelling the bridge company to widen the draw to sixty feet. It passed both Houses but was vetoed by the governor, R. S. Baldwin, on the ground that it was in conflict with the conditions of the charter. This created much indignation, especially among those in the interests of Derby, and the bill was finally passed over the governor's veto. The bridge company refused to comply with the law and a quo warranter was issued by the state's attorney in Fairfield county against the company to show cause why the charter should not be forfeited by neglecting to widen the draw. The case was ably argued, but in the absence of any proof that any vessel had been prevented from passing the draw, although admitted by all that steamboats could not, the court decided in favor of the bridge company.
The citizens of Derby became highly incensed at this dodge of the main question, and at once a meeting was called, money raised, and a committee appointed to act with Anson G. Phelps of New York to force a passage through the bridge, as had been done in a similar case at the Pelham bridge in the state of New York. The committee, Mr. Edward N. Shelton and Mr. Thomas Burlock, called on Mr. Ingersoll, who said, under the circumstances, he could not blame the citizens for this summary process, but after the committee left him, fearing he might be censured for favoring mob-law, wrote to Mr. Phelps saying that he had discovered that in the statutes the act of obstructing the travel over a public bridge was a criminal offense, upon which Mr. Phelps decided to have nothing to do with forcing a passage through the bridge. Not to be beaten in a good cause
the committee, with Mr. Phelps, decided to charter a steamboat, load it with freight and send it to Derby. The steamer Salem of New Jersey was engaged and soon headed for Derby, being ten feet wider than the draw. As she neared the bridge, with colors flying, there was great excitement She was forced into the draw when open, as far as she could be and remained wedged tight nearly two hours, and then with difficulty backed out and sailed to Stratford dock. The next step was to hire a sailing vessel and take the freight to Derby. A suit was then brought by Mr. Phelps in the United States court for the expense of getting the freight from the steamer to Derby. While this suit was pending the New York and New Haven railroad company, to avoid any conflict with the Washington bridge company, which had in its charter a provision that no bridge should be built within three miles of it, purchased the bridge and proposed to put in a draw sixty feet wide, provided the suit be withdrawn without cost to the railroad company.
In 1848 the draw was widened to sixty feet, and in 1869, the bridge having been abandoned by the owners, the citizens of Milford and other towns applied to the state for aid in some shape to rebuild it, when it was enacted that when "said bridge should be rebuilt it should be with an eighty feet draw, also when the railroad bridge should be rebuilt it should have the same width of draw," which is the width in both at the present time.
Thus for more than half a century this bridge has been a bone of contention, and during great freshets many a wish has been expressed that it might drift into the ocean and no longer obstruct the navigable waters of the Ousatonic. B.
Considerable excitement was awakened at one time in view of the proposition to construct a canal from Derby to the Massachusetts state line, and the subject came before the town meeting, and on it the following record was made:
"March 4, 1822. Whereas it has been reported to this meeting that a petition will be brought to the next General Assembly to incorporate a company for the purpose of establishing a navigation by the Ousatonic river, by means of a canal near its banks or by improving the bed
of the river as far as the state line; and whereas said operations are in part to be done within the limits of this town, therefore voted, that said canal may be laid through this town and the contemplated operations in the river be made, and that this town waive all objections to said petition on the ground that said petition shall not be regularly served on this town; and the representation from this town is hereby instructed by all proper means to forward the object of said petition, provided nothing herein contained is to be constructed to subject this town to the expense of purchasing the land over which said canal may pass."
The proposition for a railroad in the Naugatuck valley was entertained first by Mr. Alfred Bishop of Bridgeport, who, after consultation with various parties whom he supposed might be interested in the enterprise, brought the subject before the Legislature of Connecticut, and a charter was granted in the year 1845, which was amended in 1847 and in 1848. The persons named in the grant were the following:
Timothy Dwight of New Haven.
At first it was proposed to make the road only from Bridgeport to Waterbury, with a capital stock of $800,000, but afterwards it was extended to Winsted and the capital increased to $1,200,000. This amount of stock was afterwards increased to $1,500,000 to furnish the road with engines, cars and coaches, or what is commonly called rolling-stock. An organization of the company was effected in February, 1848, and a contract made with Mr. Alfred Bishop to build the road complete and receive in pay $800,000 cash and $400,000 in bonds.
The first officers of the road were: Timothy Dwight, president; Ira Sherman, secretary, and Horace Nichols, treasurer.
The profile and survey of the road, having been prepared, was presented to the directors March 14, 1848, and was adopted, and in the following April the work was commenced. The contract stipulated that the road should be built in the most thorough and durable manner, with a heavy H rail, similar to that used on the Housatonic road, which Mr. Bishop had just
completed, it being among the first railroads built in the United States.
When the building of the road was assured application was made to the business men along the line of the road to subscribe for stock, and thus aid the project by furnishing money with which to build it. This proposition was declined, supposing that no dividends would ever be realized, and they preferred to make a donation at once, without any expectation of returns except in the use of the road. In view of such want of faith in the enterprise Mr. Bishop named the sum of $100,000, but in a final arrangement he accepted $75,000, which was raised and delivered to the company. In raising this sum and rendering special aid in the construction and completion of the road, Mr. Philo Hurd, who was the general agent in all the work, mentions the following men as having been of great service.
At Winsted, John Boyd, Mr. Beardsley, M. and J. C. Camp, William L. Gilbert, George Dudley.
At Burrville, Milo Burr.
At Wolcottville, George D. Wadhams, John Hungerford, Francis N. Holley and William R. Slade.
At Thomaston, Seth Thomas gave $15,000 or more. [The amounts would have been given but for the fact that the old records are kept in New York.]
At Waterbury, Dea. Aaron Benedict and his son, Charles M. Benedict, W. C. Schofield, Green Kendrick, John P. Elton, Brown Brothers, William Phylo, Almon Terrell, Scofield Buckingham, Charles B. Merriman, Norton J. Buel, Israel Holmes.
At Naugatuck, Milo Lewis, William B. Lewis, J. Peck, William C. DeForest, Mr. Goodyear, Josiah Culver.
At Seymour, Dwight French & Co., George F. DeForest, S. Y. Beach, General Clark Wooster.
At Ansonia, Anson G. Phelps, Thomas Burlock.
At Derby and Birmingham, John J. Howe, Edward N. Shelton, Henry Atwater, Fitch Smith, Abraham Hawkins.
Two men are mentioned by Mr. Hurd as having rendered special aid throughout the valley, George D. Wadhams of Wolcottville and Israel Holmes of Waterbury. The former of these was peculiarly qualified for pushing new enterprises; the latter was remarkable for his general insight into enterprises for the
public good, in which respect, probably, he had no superior .in his day.
On the fifteenth of May, 1849, the first fifteen miles of the road was ready for the transaction of business, and Old Derby was connected with the outside world by a railroad. On the eleventh of June the road was open to Waterbury; on the twenty-third of July it was open to Plymouth, and on the twenty- fourth day of September, 1849, the whole road was completed. Mr. Bishop, the contractor, having died in June the completion was thereby delayed a few days.
The first time-table was issued on the fourteenth of May, 1849, and on the fourth of July of the same year a regular excursion train was run, and that time-table mentions the following stations, beginning at Inchliff's Bridge and passing Waterville, Waterbury, Naugatuck, Pine's Bridge, Humphreysville, Ansonia, Derby, Baldwin's Platform, the Junction and Bridgeport.
On the twenty-third of July a time-table was issued, the train starting at Plymouth.
On November I5th, the same year, a time-table was issued naming the following stations: Winsted, Rossiterville, Wolcottville, Harwinton, Plymouth, Waterville, Waterbury, Naugatuck, Humphreysville, Ansonia and Derby.
No particular change was made from the first plan of the road except at the south end, where instead of crossing the Ousatonic river at Derby and going direct to Bridgeport, they ran down the east side of the river, as at present, to the New York and New Haven railroad, and on that to Bridgeport. The directors in their first report, 1849, say: "The road commences at Winsted, in Litchfield county, about nine miles from the north line of the state, and terminates in the town of Milford, near the Ousatonic river, about twelve miles from New Haven and five miles from Bridgeport, at which point it intersects with the New York and New Haven railroad. It is fifty-five miles in length, and passes through the villages of Winsted, Wolcottville, Thomaston, Waterville, the city of Waterbury, Union City, Naugatuck, Seymour, Ansonia, Derby and Birmingham, besides several other intermediate stations."
While the country all along the line of the road has been
greatly benefited, it is pleasant to know that the road, as a business enterprise, has been a success, and in every respect an honor to the country and the men who have conducted it. There has been no repudiation of bonds, nor of bills, nor damages, from the first day to the present time. The president of the New York and New Haven railroad not long since, pronounced it "one of the best managed roads in the country." This must be true or it would have been a one horse affair, instead of being one of the most prompt and energetic institutions in the state.
The expense in repairs on this road, above that of many others, - absorbs annually a large per cent, of the income. The road is built in a narrow valley, and the hills on either side, much of the distance, are very precipitous, and the water rushing down the steep rocks and hills often does much damage to the grading of the road. The clouds sometimes settle down below the tops of the adjacent hills and empty their waters as in a flood, when bridges and heavy masonry are carried away as floating chips, as was the case in 1875, between Thomaston and Waterbury, and also on another occasion when the bridge was carried away at Pine brook, a short distance above Thomaston. On this occasion the workmen on the road above the bridge closed their work at six o'clock and went down the road over the bridge (which was then all right) to Thomaston. Soon after, a heavy shower came along above the bridge, making a great flood, most of it within the distance of about one mile, which flood carried away the abutment of the bridge, the bridge remaining in its place. When the up train came to Thomaston the workmen took a baggage or freight car, which when they came to the bridge went into the river with the bridge, and nine out of the sixteen men in the car were drowned. Great precaution is taken to have track walkers examine the road after showers as well as after the passing of trains, but in this case the shower was so confined to a short distance, and that between the stations, that no apprehension was entertained as to the safety of the road. That shower in its extent was very unusual, as it fell within the distance of one mile on the road, and in three or four hours the flood of water was gone and the river assumed its natural low water mark.
In consequence of the abruptness of these rocky hills the scenery along the road is wild and picturesque. At Wolcottville the valley widens a little, and the rising of the hills both east and west is gradual and free from rocks, forming one of the most beautiful sites for a city that ornaments the valley.
The valley of the Naugatuck, through the entire length of which the railroad passes, has long been famed for the variety and beauty of its scenery. Not only has it attracted the attention and enlisted the pens of writers who have been familiar with it from childhood, but those who have come as strangers from remote parts of the nation have taken pleasure in describing its picturesqueness and grandeur. From Wolcottville, where the two main branches of the Naugatuck unite, to Derby and Birmingham, where it empties into the Ousatonic, the river flows between wooded hill-sides, verdant meadows and precipitous ridges of rock. All these, with busy manufacturing villages interspersed, present themselves in rapid alternation to the traveler on the Naugatuck railroad, as he is borne northward or southward along its winding track. A recent quite noted writer speaks in the following manner: "The Naugatuck railroad runs through one of the most charming valleys in all New England. The scenery is rare in its beauty, and renders the locality delightful either for permanent residence or for brief visits. Besides these natural advantages, the towns all along the line of the road are homes of numerous and important manufactures, whose products are shipped all over the world, and whose industries give employment and support to large numbers of people." [Rev. George Lansing Taylor.] It is believed that eighty per cent, of all these manufacturing interests have been introduced into the valley since the construction of the railroad. Hence, the writer just quoted thus continues: "In view of these things it is a matter of the highest importance that the railroad facilities afforded shall be ample and ably managed, for without such assistance that whole fertile and productive country would lose its value to the rest of the world. It is, therefore, most fortunate that the Naugatuck railroad is
one of the best managed institutions in the country. It does a very large passenger and freight business, and at the same time all its officials are courteous and accommodating, looking carefully to the wants and conveniences of the public, and making business intercourse agreeable and profitable; the credit of which is almost entirely due to the superintendent, Mr. George W. Beach."
Until the opening of the railroad, the knowledge of this valley scenery was comparatively limited, but since then, and especially within the last ten years, the visitors have been so many that "High Rock Grove" has become a household word in thousands of families, the children being as familiar with it and the name of Superintendent George W. Beach, the deviser of so many pleasant things for them, as the older people.
At High Rock, a little above Beacon Falls village, the scenery is notably wild and picturesque, and very much so for two miles below that place. On ascending the river on the railroad, the first prominent hight seen is Castle Rock, just below the village of Seymour, on the west side of the river, where it stands in all the grandeur of its ancient days, looking down upon the Falls of the Naugatuck as it did when the Red man of the valley made that his chief fishing place. This rock is about two hundred feet in hight, and without trees or shrubbery. Passing above the village of Seymour, Rock Rimmon rises in sight, jutting out, apparently, in the middle of the valley from the north, and rising to the hight of about four hundred feet, as if it were the foremost tower in a range of hills, like a battlement, to defy the northward progress of an army of railroads. When this rock is seen from a distance at the south, it seems to be on the confines of a boundless wilderness, and this appearance was probably the suggestion of the name it bears, as brought to mind in a very ancient historical declaration, upon the defeat of a great army: "And they turned and fled toward the wilderness unto the rock of Rimmon [Judges, 20:45.]." On the west side of the river from Seymour, northward for two miles, the scenery is wild and hilly, but after this the hills disappear so as to allow the coming of two brooks into the Naugatuck, and some little valley land at the place called Pines Bridge. At the up-
per end of this little opening of the hills is Beacon Falls village, just above which the hills again close in, leaving little more than space for the river and the railroad, and then again the scenery becomes magnificently wild and rocky. On the west side of the river the hills rise very abruptly to the height of three and four hundred feet; the rocks standing out in promontories successively, in a gradual curve, until they reach High Rock, which has an elevation above the river of four hundred
View of the train approaching High Rock Grovk from the north.
and seventy-five feet, and from which northward the hills gradually decrease in height to the village of Naugatuck. On the east side of the river at High Rock the hills rise more gradually, but are still very steep, and covered with trees of small growth. The accompanying picture represents the hills and the valley just above High Rock, where the valley is but about twenty rods wide. A little below this is the picnic ground.
In the summer of 1876, the centennial year of the nation, the Naugatuck railroad company prepared a delightful picnic ground at this place, for the comfort and enjoyment of multi-
Dam of Home Woolen Co., Beacon Falls.
tudes of visitors, as well as to add somewhat to the returns from the investments made in the road.
By the washing of the river, and the deepening of the channel on the east side of the valley, a strip of land had been formed on the west side, which had grown up within the last fifty years into a beautiful grove. This was cleared of underbrush and graded as far as was needful; two spacious pavilions and other houses were erected; croquet fields arranged; a supply of boats provided on the river, which is here well adapted for rowing in consequence of the Beacon Falls dam just below, and numerous other provisions made for the entertainment of visitors.
In the above cut, High Rock Grove is in the centre at the upper edge of the water, and High Rock is the high point at the left.
The grounds of this Grove, together with all the various conveniences and privileges for entertainment and amusement, are furnished by the company without expense to visitors, except the usual rates of fare, unless in the case of picnics when the fare is greatly reduced.
In the heart of this rugged region, and just at the upper end of the grove, there is a narrow wooded glen, opening upon the river on its western bank, which in former years was a favorite resort for small picnic parties, and was known as "Sherman's Gorge." Through this a beautiful mountain stream comes plunging down, winding around the huge boulders which lie in its path, and leaping over rocky ledges, forming a series of charming little cascades, some of them hidden under the dense shadows of the woods. Southward and northward from this glen extends a ridge of hills, or rather crags, the southern division of which is known in history as Tobie's Rock Mountain. It derives its name from an Indian who, in colonial times, was the slave of one of the chief men of the region, and who soon after his freedom received from the Paugasuck Indians, "upon the consideration of friendship," a considerable tract of land including this mountain. To the highest of these great crags the name of "High Rock" has been given, and the gorge at its base has been named "High Rock Glen." Just below the mouth of the glen, between the railroad and the river, lies the strip of level land which constitutes the famous High Rock Grove. It is
Scene in High Rock Glen.
sheltered on the west by the towering ledge spoken of, whose summit commands a view of distant woods and hillsides; while on the east the river, deep and dark, flows quietly by; and beyond it rises the eastern bank, high and steep, covered with evergreens and other trees, their foliage hiding from view the highway which runs close by. Taken altogether, it is one of the cosiest and most retired nooks to be found in any district into which railroads have penetrated; and yet, it is so convenient that a single step transfers the excursionist from the noise and hurry of the train to the seclusion and coolness of the forest.
Sherman's Cut a few rods north ok High Rock Grove.
The glen affords a charming walk in the shade of the forest for more than a mile. The varying views of the ravine, with its cooling waterfalls and deep, dark water pools, its moss-grown and fern-covered rocks, its glimpses of pure azure above, seen through the opening of the "melancholy boughs," the mirrored images of the "far nether world" in the deep waters, the miniature caves and caverns, the flume of the upper gorge, the dripping and trickling, the plash, rush and play of the gurgling, leaping water, the flecks of golden sunlight, and the dark green
shadows, all these in their ever changing forms allure and charm the spirit and give the realizing sense that there is indeed "a pleasure in the pathless woods," and in the "love of nature."
HIGH ROCK itself is worthy of a visit from the ocean's side. LOOKOUT POINT, from the top of it, is reached more frequently by a circuitous route of nearly a mile in length through the woods, ascending so rapidly much of the way as to cause the traveler to pause "to take breath," and where frequently on turning to look northward he views the almost perpendicular columns of granite on the opposite side of the glen, or still farther away, discovers the rising summits of this range of hills. Standing on the point, the fragrance and coolness of the ocean atmosphere, in the summer, is quite perceptible and exhilarating, and the enjoyment very satisfying, especially to visitors from the large cities. A few lines written by a recent visitor while standing on this height are appropriate to be recorded:
"From here I gaze over a landscape that has been hunted out by many an artist, engraved and published in a magazine, and is worthy of the brush of Church or Broughton. or Bierstadt or Gifford. The scene is not vast. The sense of the Infinite is given only in the sky above. But here is a mixture of verdure and sternness, of romantic gorge and wild, tumultuous billows of hill and rock, that brings a feeling of solitude, yet of strength to the soul of man. There is an element of almost moral character, a teaching power, in a grand, gray cliff of upright uncompromising granite, that can be felt and remembered. A silent strength goes out of nature into the soul of man amid such scenes as this. J sit amid the vast and roomy silences, studying that twin cliff opposite to this, that infinite upper deep, and feel my heart lifted upward to a Somewhat in that abyss above, a Somewhat that is looking in full faced consciousness on me, and whose inaudible whisper, out of the infinite silences, steals through my soul with a voice more penetrating and more abiding than all the thunders that ever crashed upon these Titan brows of time-defying rock."
Thus seated upon the point of High Rock an impression is sensibly felt of the wonderful ness of nature and the marvelousness of mechanical skill. Nearly five hundred feet below, and scarcely that distance in a horizontal line, is the railroad, upon which so often each day moves the majestic train, making almost the foundations of these rocky hills shake, while the sound
of the steam whistle echoes, higher and higher, until lost above the top of the hills, and therefore, the contrast between the silent grandeur of nature and the mystery of skill is realized with satisfaction and comfort. The grandeur of the Naugatuck valley, although not equal to, is instructive as well as, the Alps of Switzerland.
If, therefore, the railroad of this valley has been a successful enterprise, as already stated, it must have been conducted by competent and honorable men, for if either of these conditions had been wanting, this end could not have been realized. It will be interesting, therefore, to look over briefly the business life of some of the leaders in this enterprise.
Alfred Bishop, first president of the Naugatuck railroad, descended from Rev. John Bishop, minister in Stamford, and was the son of William and Susannah (Scofield) Bishop, and was born in Stamford, December 21, 1798. At an early age he commenced his self-reliant career as a teacher in the public schools. After teaching a short time he went to New Jersey, with the intention of spending his years in farming. While thus engaged he made personal experiments with his pickaxe, shovel and wheelbarrow, from which he estimated the cost for removing various masses of earth to different distances. In this way, without definite intention, he prepared himself for the great business of his life, that of a canal and railroad contractor. Among the public works on which he was engaged and which constitute the best monument to his name, are the Morris canal in New Jersey, the great bridge over the Raritan at New Brunswick, the Housatonic, Berkshire, Washington and Saratoga, Naugatuck, and New York and New Haven railroads.
He removed from New Jersey to Bridgeport, Conn., where he spent the remainder of his life. It is not claiming too much for him, to say that Bridgeport owes much to his enterprise and public spirit. Mr. Bishop readily inspired confidence in his plans for public improvements, and at his call the largest sums were cheerfully supplied.
But in the midst of his extensive operations and while forming plans for greater works, he was suddenly arrested by his
last illness. From the first, he felt that it would prove fatal, and under such circumstances, even more than while in health, he displayed his remarkable talents in arranging all the details of a complicated business. In the midst of great physical suffering he detailed with minuteness the necessary steps for closing all his extensive business arrangements, laying out the work for his executors as he would have planned the details of an ordinary railroad contract. He then, in the same businesslike manner, distributed his large estate, bestowing one-quarter in gratuities outside of his own family, partly to his more distant relatives, partly to his personal friends who had been unfortunate, and partly to strictly benevolent uses.
Mr. Bishop married Mary, daughter of Ethan Ferris of Greenwich, and had three sons, all born in New Jersey.
William D. Bishop, his son, was graduated at Yale College, and was president some years of the New York and New Haven railroad.
Edward F. Bishop, his son, was graduated at Trinity College, Hartford; resides in Bridgeport, and is president of the Nangatuck railroad.
Henry Bishop, his son, resides in Bridgeport.
Philo Hurd was born in Brookfield, Conn., in 1795, and was the son of a farmer. He possessed a strong physical constitution, which he used to say he gained "by inheritance, and by holding the plough among the rocks on the hills of Connecticut." He engaged in mercantile pursuits for a number of years in New York city, in the state of Georgia, and in the city of Bridgeport. While conducting business in Bridgeport, he was elected sheriff of the county, and before his time in that office had expired Mr. Alfred Bishop invited him to engage in making railroads.
His first work in this line was in completing the Housatonic road, then being constructed by Mr. Bishop. He was next engaged nearly a year and a half on the New York and New Haven railroad, assisting Professor Twining in locating sections of it and in giving deeds and arranging the preliminaries to the eastern sections.
In the autumn of 1844, he went up the Naugatuck valley on an exploring tour, to inspect the localities and inquire as to the feasibility of building a road in this valley. His report was so favorable that application was made for a charter, which was granted and Mr. Hurd went through the entire valley with the engineers, as overseeing agent in locating the road and making the profile and survey. Then he went through again, surveyed and measured the land taken by the road, gave every deed, settled every claim of man, woman, orphan or child who owned any of the land, whether those persons resided on the road, in Michigan or in California. He has said that it seemed to him, he had slept or taken a meal of victuals in nearly every house from Bridgeport to Winsted, and that in all this work he never had any serious difficulty with any person.
This last item is remarkable, and indicates that either the people of the Naugatuck valley are a good-natured sort of people, or Mr. Hurd must have been a man of unusual good-nature and kindly ways in transacting such business, or he would have had difficulty somewhere among so many people.
Mr. Hurd gave very high praise to George D. Wadhams of Wolcottville and Israel Holmes of Waterbury for the assistance they rendered in a general manner as to the enterprise, as well as to their work and aid in their specific localities.
In the construction of the road, Mr. Hurd bought all the material along the line, paid all the men employed, and saw everything completed and delivered into the hands of the directors.
The one great thing that made the work comparatively easy was, "the people wanted the road." In 1853, the road had been so prosperous and Mr. Hurd's work so acceptable, that the company made him a present of $1,000.
By the time the Naugatuck road was finished Mr. Hurd had become thoroughly a railroad man, and thereafter very naturally kept in the work.
He went to Indiana, and was engaged some time in finishing the railroad from Indianapolis to Peru. Scarcely was he through with .that when he was invited to engage on the Hudson River road. Governor Morgan was president, and Mr. Hurd accepted the position of vice-president, where he continued some few years.
When Robert Schuyler failed and the Hudson River road became somewhat involved in troubles, Mr. Hurd accepted the presidency of the Harlem railroad, where he continued about three years.
At this time his health failed. He went to Florida and returned no better, went to St. Paul and returned the same. He then packed his trunk for a long journey, sailed for Europe, went to Nice, in Italy, and there in a short time entirely recovered, and has never since had pulmonary difficulty.
After returning home he engaged a short time on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western railroad, and after this, with a few items in regard to other roads, ceased to work on railroads.
He resides at Bridgeport, spending the winters at the South, and is still an energetic, cheerful and agreeable man.
Horace Nichols was born in the town of Fairfield, Conn., and was a clerk some years in Bridgeport. He became the treasurer of the Housatonic railroad in 1840, and has held that office since that time.
When the Naugatuck road was started, he was elected secretary and treasurer, and has continued therein, a faithful, honorable, prompt and energetic officer, until the present time. He is unostentatious, scarcely allowing a notice to be made of him in public print.
George Wells Beach is the eldest son of Sharon Y. Beach of Seymour. The genealogy of the family is given elsewhere in this volume. He was born in Seymour (then Humphreysville), August 18, 1833, and received in his native village an education fitting him for the duties of an active business life. It was during his sixteenth year that the Naugatuck railroad was built, and he watched with more than ordinary interest the progress of this new enterprise, connecting Seymour and the whole Naugatuck valley with the great world without.
Soon after the railroad was completed, that is, in 1850, he entered the service of the railroad company at the Humphreysville station in the capacity of a clerk, -- with the understanding, however, that he should fill any position and attend to any du-
ties on the railroad which might chance to be assigned to him. In 1851 he was made second clerk in the office at Waterbury, but from time to time was sent to different stations, where a responsible person was required; so that during this period in his life as a railroad man he served as agent at nearly every station on the road. Occupying such a position as this, and possessing much quickness of apprehension and keenness of the observing faculties, Mr. Beach became familiar to an unusual degree with the management of the railroad, with the methods of work upon it, and with the men connected with it. He become also extensively acquainted with the people of the Naugatuck valley, and thoroughly informed respecting, the interests centering at the different stations, and the requirements necessary to bring the railroad up to the highest level of efficiency; so that his early railroad experiences constituted the best preparation he could have received for the higher position he was afterward called to occupy.
In 1855, Mr. Beach received the appointment of agent at the Naugatuck station, and held this position for nearly two years. In April, 1857, he was made conductor of the morning and evening passenger train, and while in this capacity took charge of the general ticket agency, thus becoming still more familiar with the business of the railroad as a whole. He continued to perform this twofold work until 1861, when he was made agent at Waterbury, the point of most importance on the line of the road. Here he remained, fulfilling the various duties of his position to the satisfaction of the railroad company and the public, for a period of seven years.
When, upon the death of Charles Waterbury in September, 1868, the office of superintendent of the Naugatuck railroad became vacant, the directors of the company were not long in deciding who should fill the place. Mr. Beach seemed to be specially marked out, by a life-long education and by his personal characteristics, for this particular position, and it was forthwith tendered to him. He assumed the duties of his office in November, 1868, and has exercised them without interruption, and with unrelaxing fidelity, until the present time. His appointment to this important trust has been fully justified by the results. For it is the judgment of those who know best,
that there is no railroad in New England in better working order than the short but important line which extends from Bridgeport to Winsted. And this is largely due to the fact that the superintendent exercises habitually a supervision which, for thoroughness and system, is equaled only on the railways of England. By constant attention to details, he secures the utmost safety and comfort of the traveling public, and does much to guard against the inconveniences and interruptions to which travel in the narrow Naugatuck valley is liable because of sudden freshets in the river.
Mr. Beach has been well described, in a biographical sketch already published, as "an unpretending, plain, business man." His manner is quiet and somewhat reserved, but his mandates as a railroad officer are never misunderstood, and are always sure to be fulfilled. He possesses not only executive ability of a high order, but the forethought which enables a man to guard against disasters in advance, and to lay plans which will produce remunerative results. It is safe to say that some of the most profitable investments made by the Naugatuck railroad Company during the past twelve years have been the fruit of careful experiment and wise suggestion on his part; and the good results have been secured not by sacrificing the convenience of the public, but in such a way as to add to their comfort and enjoyment. This is well illustrated by the establishment, directly on the line of the railroad, of the summer resort now so well known as High Rock Grove, -- an enterprise originated and carried through by the superintendent's efforts.
Mr. Beach received his early religious training under the strictest Baptist influences, but is nevertheless a member of a Congregational church. He united with the First Church in Waterbury in May, 1863, and has continued in active connection therewith until the present time. He was long a teacher in its Sunday-school, and for several years has held the office of Sunday-school superintendent, -- a position which he seems to consider no less responsible and honorable than the other superintendency by which he is better known to the outside world. Since April, 1873, he has served as one of the deacons of the First Church. In 1861, he was a delegate of the Young Men's Christian Association to the convention in New York which
organized the "Christian Commission" for the relief of soldiers in the late war. His interest in Christian Associations still continues, and he has done considerable service in their behalf in Connecticut, as a member of the State committee. He held the office'of postmaster in Waterbury during 1866 and 1867, and represented that town in the Legislature in 1870 and 1871.
Mr. Beach has resided in Waterbury since 1861. In 1855 he married Miss Sarah Upson, daughter of the late Hiram Upson of Seymour. Their children are Henry Dayton, born December 29, 1858, and Edward Anderson, born October 10, 1873. Beside these names should be written, with tender remembrances, the name of one who for a number of years occupied the position of a daughter in the household, and was the recipient of fatherly and motherly affection -- Hattie Beach Smith. She went forth from her adopted home under brightest auspices, as the wife of William R. Goodspeed of East Haddam,but died June 20, 1879, at the early age of twenty-four, leaving two children.
Alfred Beers, son of Jonathan Beers, was born at Canaan, Conn., September 26, 1817, where he resided with his parents until about five years of age, when they removed to Lewisboro, Westchester county, N. Y. He continued to work with his father, after the old style, until he was twenty-one years of age, but during which time he had, by various methods and efforts, learned the trade of boot and shoe maker.
At the age of twenty-three he married Mary E., daughter of Capt. Leander Bishop of Rye, N. Y.
Mr. Beers resided a time in Shrewsbury, N. J., and removed thence to Bridgeport and commenced work as a conductor with the Naugatuck railroad company in March, 1851, in which position he has continued to the present time, a term of over twenty-nine years. During this time he has served under all the superintendents who have been employed on the road: Philo Hurd, W. D. Bishop, Clapp Spooner, Charles Waterbury and George W. Beach. The distance he has traveled while in this work has been about one million miles, or the same as forty times around the earth, and has conducted about two millions
of passengers over the road in safety, having never lost the life of a passenger, nor having had one seriously injured. In one respect he has had the advantage of his brother in the matter of safety; his train runs in the middle of the day, and his brother's at morning and evening, and the only serious accidents which have occurred on the road were two, both on the up train, each in the evening, after a heavy shower of rain.
Mr. Beers, having been so long connected with the road as conductor, has become the personal friend (and almost the personal property) of everybody from Long Island Sound to the Old Bay State, and in traveling it is a matter of about as much satisfaction and sense of safety to the public to see the old conductor, as it is to know there is a steam engine ahead of the train. Indeed, his silver wedding in connection with the road ought to have been celebrated four years ago, and thereby given expression to the joyful fact that in regard to these "bans hitherto no man hath put asunder."
Mr. Beers has six children, three sons and three daughters.
Leander J., his eldest son, is conductor on the Shore Line railroad, and runs from New Haven to New London.
Charles W., his second son, is mail agent on the Housatonic railroad.
Alfred B., his third son, is an attorney at law and judge of the city court at Bridgeport. He enlisted in the late war as a private, served three years, and then re-enlisted, declaring that he intended to do what he could to the very last to put down the rebellion. He came out of the contest unharmed, and with a captain's commission.
Mr. Beers's daughters are married, two residing in Bridgeport, the other in Litchfield.
He has four grandsons, all of them, doubtless, if not on the railroad, are traveling in the "way they should go." Mr. Beers resides in East Bridgeport, is one of the vestrymen of St. Paul's church there, and warden of the borough of West Stratford. He is one of the assessors of the town of Stratford, and also grand juror.
Amos S. Beers, brother of Alfred, was born in South Salem, New York, in 1827, being the son of Jonathan Beers, a farmer. He worked on his father's farm until seventeen years of age, when he went to New Canaan, where he served his time, three years, as a shoe-maker. From this place he went to New York city, where he remained as clerk in a shoe store two years.
He engaged in the service of the Naugatuck railroad in 1854, as fireman, remaining nine months and then left that position. In 1855 he was appointed conductor and has thus continued to the present time, a period of over twenty-three years, and has thereby, as well as his elder brother, become, if not a part of the rolling-stock of the road, a fixture so important and so familiar to all the people that his absence from his train would require a definite explanation from high authority to satisfy the inquiry of the public. He has at different times run his train successive years without losing a trip.
He understands his business and attends to it without fear or favor, and yet with the demeanor of a true gentleman as well as an officer. Attentive in an unusual degree to the sick and disabled who are compelled to travel, he is decided and thorough in securing perfect order and decorum on his train at all times.
In the accident which occurred a little above Thomaston on the 11th of May, 1876, by which a coach heavily loaded with passengers was thrown into the river, by the breaking of an axle, he manifested such presence of mind in rescuing every person in safety as to secure the approbation of all on the train, and also received a present of an elegant gold watch from the company. As to this accident he has been heard to say that as he was standing on the platform and saw the coach, the last in the train, go down the banks, although the brakes were already on, "it seemed to me that the train would never stop." Very possibly! Persons have sometimes lived ages in a moment. All the suffering and sorrow that might be the result of such an accident would pass before the mind in much less time than it took to stop that train, although that time was but half a minute.
He also knows the road on which he travels and looks ahead
to avoid possible calamity. Going down on a morning train after a shower in the night, he said to his engineer, "When you reach such a place, before passing the curve stop, and I will go ahead and see if the track is clear." The train stopped at the place, as directed, and in the waiting the passengers began to be uneasy, and to wonder what delusion had come over the engineer or the conductor to stop in such a place. The conductor passed around the curve and there lay a landslide covering the whole track, and if they had proceeded as usual the whole train must have gone into the river or been a wreck.
Behind a clear intellect is often wanting a heart to feel for humanity. Men often know the possibility of danger and calamity, but having very little human sympathy rush on, and much suffering is the result, which might have been avoided.
The Naugatuck railroad has been very fortunate in its conductors.
Mr. Beers's eldest son, Herbert S. Beers, is conductor on the New Haven and Derby railroad.
His son, Willie H. Beers, is shipping clerk for the Gilbert clock factory at Winsted.
As the incipient thoughts of a railroad in the Naugatuck valley originated in the mind of Alfred Bishop, so the first moving of questions which resulted in the New Haven and Derby railroad began in the mind of Francis E. Harrison of New Haven, in 1860 and 1861.
After studying over different propositions to facilitate public travel and the transportation of the mails between New Haven and the Naugatuck valley, the idea of a new railroad was full}' entertained and entered upon, and the efforts resulted in the incorporation of the New Haven and Derby railroad company, by the Connecticut Legislature, in the year 1864, upon petitions numerously signed by the active business men of New Haven and Derby.
The corporators were C. S. Bushnell, Henry Dutton, N. D. Sperry, L. S. Hotchkiss, Benjamin Noyes, Charles Peterson and N. H. Sanford of New Haven, and William E. Downs and Robert N. Bassett of Birmingham.
In November, 1865, the project was presented to the public at a meeting held at Tyler's Hall in New Haven, at which Francis E. Harrison and Charles Atwater of New Haven, and William E. Downs of Birmingham were the leading speakers, and the meeting resulted, in an increased desire in the public mind for the road.
But little was accomplished until the autumn of 1866, when, by a new and resolute effort on the part of the friends of the project, the subscription was increased until about $200,000 were secured, and on the 24th of April, 1867, the corporation was organized by the choice of its first board of directors, and the election of Henry S. Dawson, president, Morris Tyler, vice-president, Charles Atwater, treasurer, and Francis E. Harrison secretary. The board employed Col. M. D. Davidson of New York city, to make the necessary surveys which were at once commenced, and were completed in the autumn of 1867. In June, 1867, the city of New Haven subscribed $200,000 to the capital stock, and in July, 1869 guaranteed its bonds to the amount of $225,000.
Early in the winter of 1867, the contract for constructing the road was awarded to Messrs. George D. Chapman & Company, with a proviso that it should be completed by the close of the year 1868. The work, however, proceeded very unsatisfactorily, and finally, in the summer of 1869, was abandoned to the company by the contractors. In the spring of 1869, Mr. Dawson resigned the presidency and Hon. Morris Tyler was elected as his successor. In the autumn of 1869, a new contract for the completion of the road was made with Willis Phelps of Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1871, Mr. Phelps having surrendered the contract, the road was completed under the direction of E. S. Quintard, Esq., who had been elected superintendent in August, 1870.
The opening excursion was made on Saturday, August 5, 1871, and the regular running of trains commenced on Wednesday, August 9, 1871. Since that date, its business has been fully equal to the expectations of its proprietors, and now amounts to about $100,000 per year.
In September, 1874, Mr. Tyler resigned the presidency of the company, and late in the year Mr. J. H. Bartholomew of
Ansonia, was elected as his successor, and has continued to hold that office by successive annual elections until the present time. The officers of the company at the present time are as follows:
President, J. H. Bartholomew of Ansonia,
The whole length of the road is thirteen miles, running through a rural district nearly the entire distance, having the good fortune to touch the villages at a single point and then passing into the open country. The stations, beginning with New Haven are: West Haven, Tyler City, Orange, Derby, Birmingham and Ansonia. A brief notice of the leading men engaged in this enterprise is given.
Jeremiah H. Bartholomew was elected president of this company, Sept. 29, 1874, and still holds that office. The biographical sketch of him may be found in another part of this book.
Hon. Morris Tyler was elected president of the company in 1867, which office he held until September, 1874, when he resigned, but continued a member of the board of directors until his decease, in November, 1876.
To Mr. Tyler, is due, perhaps, more than to any other member of the board of directors, the successful prosecution of the work to its completion, in which he, and the board, had to contend against innumerable difficulties, growing out of financial embarrassments occasioned by the failure of the contractors, at a time when the work was about half done. His efficient effort in carrying it to completion is well expressed in the following resolutions passed by the stockholders at the annual meeting, November 15, 1876: "Resolved, that in the death of Mr. Tyler, the New Haven and Derby railroad company has lost a director whose services, far exceeding any requirement of official duty, were invaluable; whose counsel and
whose means, in the darkest days of its history, largely contributed to preserve its road to the public interests which originally induced its construction, and whose unrewarded services as the executive officer of the company for several years, should ever be held in kindly remembrance. That in grateful acknowledgement of our obligations to Mr. Tyler for his unwearying devotion to the welfare of the company we place these resolutions upon our records."
Morris Tyler was a noble type of American manhood. Without the early aids which arise from inherited wealth, he, by the force of native energy and conscientious industry, acquired the confidence of his fellow citizens, and filled most important positions in the city of his residence, and in the state. He was reelected to the mayoralty of the city of New Haven, and lieutenant governor of the state, besides being connected with many financial and manufacturing corporations, in which he was a large stockholder. He died in the midst of his usefulness, leaving to his family and fellow citizens a reputation for public enterprise, and duties well performed, which they will long remember with honor and affection.
Eli S. Quintard is one of the oldest and best known of the active railroad men of Connecticut. He is a native of Norwalk, where he was born in 1820. His railroad life began with the establishment of the 9.30 morning down train on the New York and New Haven railroad, soon after its opening. Of this train he was the first conductor. Almost a quarter of a century after this (1872) his conductor's trunk, still in a state of good preservation, was sent him as a keepsake by the officials of the road. After a short service as conductor he was transferred to the New York agency of the road, and soon after, in 1852, entered the office and duties of its assistant superintendent, with his head-quarters at New Haven. This position he retained, to the satisfaction of the changing administrators of the company, and with the hearty good-will of its employes, until the winter of 1869, when he surrendered that office and removed to Cleveland, Ohio, where he became superintendent of the Cincinnati, Sandusky and Cleveland railroad.
In the spring of 1870, negotiations were opened which resulted in the election of Mr. Quintard superintendent of the New Haven and Derby railroad, and his return to New Haven to supervise its completion and take charge of its work. It is but truth to say that his election gave general satisfaction, and was an element of strength in the public mind, which had become greatly discouraged in regard to the road by the various mishaps which had attended its construction. Under his superintendence the road has been carefully and judiciously operated, by which the public confidence has been obtained. The road is now recognized as a very great convenience to the localities for whose benefit it was specially constructed, and the day is not far distant when its receipts will warrant further outlay to make its usefulness more complete and extensive.
In addition to his large railroad acquaintance Mr. Quintard is one of the most prominent Free Masons in the state, having attained the highest honor in the Knights Templar and other kindred organizations of that body. He was also for some years a member of the New Haven common council.
Francis E. Harrison is a native of New Haven, having been born in that city in 1830.
Graduating from Yale College in 1849, the subsequent years until 1861 were occupied in teaching and newspaper editing, in banking and insurance business.
While acting as receiver of the suspended Litchfield Bank his attention was directed, by his own personal inconvenience, to the insufficient accommodations for travel between New Haven and the Naugatuck valley. The difficulties then experienced became still more apparent to him after engaging as chief clerk of the New Haven post-office in 1861, where he had occasion for observing the want of mail facilities between the two localities. To remedy these, he first petitioned the New York and New Haven road for an early morning train into New Haven, connecting with the only morning train down the Naugatuck road, and a corresponding returning train. Such a train was placed on that road, starting from Stamford, reaching New Haven at eight o'clock, and returning at noon.
While circulating this petition for this morning train, and explaining its object to the business men of New Haven, he was constantly met by suggestions of a railroad making direct connections with the Naugatuck road at Derby. This was so fully in accord with his own ideas that in the spring of 1864, after consultation with prominent gentlemen in New Haven and Derby, Mr. Harrison drafted, secured signatures and presented petitions to the Legislature of that year for the incorporation of the company, which petitions were granted. Upon the organization of the company in 1867 he was elected secretary, in recognition of his services, which position he has held since that date by continuous annual elections, taking an active part in the administration of the affairs of the road.
In addition to his duties in connection with the road Mr. Harrison continued in effect, though not in name, the assistant postmaster of New Haven until January, 1872, when he was elected treasurer of the New Haven Gas Light Company, an office which he still occupies.
Charles Atwater, the treasurer of the New Haven and Derby railroad company, is one of the well known business men of New Haven. Descended from one of the old families of the town, he was born January 2, 1815; graduated at Yale College in 1834, and nearly all his business life, save a short period after graduation spent in Philadelphia, has been that of a New Haven merchant. The firms of English and Atwater, Charles Atwater and Sons, and Charles Atwater and Company, in each of which he has been a member, held a leading position in the iron and hardware trade in the city. He was also for many years a director in the City Bank, and some of that time its vice-president. Leaving that position he was the president of the Mechanics' Bank of New Haven about three years. In both these positions much of the active management of these institutions was intrusted to him.
Besides his business relations in New Haven, Mr. Atwater was a large owner in the Birmingham Iron and Steel Works, and for a time quite active in conducting that enterprise. While thus engaged his attention was directed to the advantages of
railroad communication between New Haven and the Naugatuck valley, and at the meeting in which the Derby railroad project was first brought to the attention of the public he presented a resolution, "that the business interests and general prosperity of New Haven would be greatly advanced by a more direct railroad connection with the Naugatuck valley," supporting it with remarks of a practical and business-like character, and thus, from the very first, interested himself in that enterprise. When the corporation was organized he was elected a director, and subsequently its treasurer, which position he has held to the present time, giving his services for many years gratuitously, and in the darker days of the road often uniting with Mr. Tyler in sustaining it with his personal credit.
Mr. Atwater is not a stranger to public life, having been a member of the New Haven board of aldermen in 1858; a representative from New Haven to the Legislature in 1861; senator from the fourth district in 1862; the democratic candidate for lieutenant-governor in 1872, and the greenback candidate for governor in two later years. He was also for thirteen years a member of the New Haven board of education. In all these public positions he has shown a practical sagacity that has secured the commendation of his fellow citizens, and has rendered valuable services to the interests intrusted to his care.
Conductor Edward B. Bradley, a native of Newtown, Conn., son of J. W. Bradley, present proprietor of the Tontine Hotel in New Haven, entered the service of the New Haven and Derby railroad as conductor August 9, 1871, he being the first conductor employed under the first time-table issued by the company, and has continued in the same position to the present time. Under his direction, and that of the other conductor, assisted by the engineers, no accident causing the sacrifice of human life has occurred during the eight years, of five trips a day, in the business work of the road.
Conductor Herbert S. Beers, son of Amos S. Beers, who has been conductor on the Naugatuck railroad twenty-three years,
began work as a brakeman on the New Haven and Derby road in March, 1872, wherein he continued until October, 1875, when he was appointed conductor, which position he still occupies.
The water and ice floods in the Ousatonic and Naugatuck rivers in the long past, according to tradition, were more magnificent and terrible than in later years. Large quantities of cord-wood upon the shores, saw-mill logs, ship timbers, huge trees broken or torn up by the roots, houses, barns and bridges were swept down stream almost annually by resistless floods. A wagoner with his team one day was swept from the causeway while attempting to cross when the rivers were rising. He was rescued by two men in a flat-bottomed skiff from Derby shore, now rowing through the stream, again floating on ice, veering out a long rope which was held by parties on shore. The wagoner was saved at great peril, nearly exhausted, but his team was swept into Long Island Sound.
The Naugatuck often rises suddenly, and many accidents have happened and lives been lost in attempting to cross on the causeway when the water was not apparently very deep. Mr. Thomas Wallace, although warned of danger, was, some years since, very bravely and leisurely crossing over with horse and wagon, when, nearing the western shore, the swift current carried him, with driver and horse, from the roadway, lodging him in a clump of buttonwood trees. Quick as thought the lookers on rushed to the rescue. Mr. Wallace's beaver was "on the swim," and his venerable locks bristling above water. One thoughtful adventurer made a dive for the hat, when Mr. Wallace, like any sensible man, exclaimed, with great emphasis, "Never mind the hat -- save me!" -- and all were safely landed on terra firma.
Once it was more lucrative to catch drift-wood during freshets than at present. This was frequently done by throwing a rope with a stone on its end over a log near the shore where it was clear of ice, and then towing it in. Catching wood in this way, a man from Captain Nichols's wharf, for fear of losing his rope, tied the shore end around his waist, and then grappled a log
which proved too much for his strength. He was carried down the stream and drowned. One of our oldest inhabitants informs the writer that he has heard the roosters crowing in a barn while riding majestically on the swelling flood, happily unconscious of danger. Eighty years ago, or more, the ice was unusually thick in the Ousatonic, and during an ice flood it was piled up on Shelton's Island just below Birmingham, it is said, at least forty feet high, portions of which remained until the early part of the next June. It was during this freshet an incident occurred of exciting interest. The first house of Mr. Joseph Wheeler stood near the river at Derby Landing, just below the old Leman Stone building. It was a sort of store, eating house, and stopping place for travelers. During the freshet Wheeler was along the shore watching the elements, and saw a large sheet of ice, occupying nearly the entire width of the river, strike the western shore, then veering to the east and approaching his house, and the water rapidly rising. Mrs. Wheeler was alone in the house, unconscious of danger, when her husband rushed in and seizing her, without speaking, carried her, terrified and screaming, through deep water to dry land. The sight was rather ludicrous to the lookers on. Mrs. Wheeler was boiling doughnuts when her husband made the rude assault upon her, but she clung with tenacity to her dripping ladle, and this was all the furniture saved, for house, doughnuts and all, moved off with the unyielding ice, before Mrs. Wheeler had time to realize what was going on.
Mr. John Whitlock, a manufacturer of Birmingham, has kept a faithful record of the heights of freshets for the last thirty years, and some of the most notable are here given. November 13, 1853, the water rose in the Naugatuck, seventeen feet and seven inches. This was one of the most destructive freshets known in town. The water was one foot higher than in the great freshet of 1841, the flats and principal streets of Ansonia being completely submerged. The new bridge at Ansonia built two years prior to this was carried off about seven and a half o'clock Sunday evening, the immediate cause being the undermining of the middle pier. It went unexpectedly, and several persons were on the bridge when it began to reel and totter from its foundations. Two young lovers, John Allen
and Georgiana Bartholomew, failed to escape from the bridge and were carried down the stream, to an island some rods below partially covered with clumps of alders and overflowed with water seven feet deep. This unfortunate couple clung to the slender bushes, shouting for help, their frantic shrieks being distinctly heard a great distance. Their situation was perilous in the extreme, not much less than the man who about this time lost his life on the island near the Falls of Niagara. Men and a boat in a wagon were quickly on their way from Birmingham to the scene, manned by Charles Hart, A. Kimball, Fred Smith and Herman Baum, but all efforts, with desperate hazard, to reach the sufferers, after repeated trials through the torrent of waters rushing and gurgling with lightning swiftness, proved a failure. After clinging to the bushes for nearly three hours with the most piteous cries for assistance, while growing fainter and fainter, they finally sank to rise no more. Oh, what a sermon the shrieks of those youthful hearts proclaimed to the thousands who stood through those long, dismal hours on the banks of that maddened river, gazing into the gates of eternity, which God in his providence had opened to the victims of that dreadful night! Men and women wept bitterly, their hearts melted within them, but their right arms and prayers could bring no relief to that perishing girl and young man.
The damage in this freshet was immense. Railroads, bridges, houses, barns and factories were swept away. Every bridge north of Birmingham as far as New Milford, was either carried away or greatly damaged. In Ansonia a man from a distant town who held a heavy mortgage upon a house and lot near the river, on visiting the place, found to his great surprise the house not only down stream, but the lot had gone with it. Since that time a dyke has been built along the borders of the Naugatuck to prevent the freshet overflowing the village.
One of the most disastrous ice freshets, it is believed, ever known in Derby occurred February 9, 1857. Factories, offices, stores and dwellings were flooded, and the damage estimated to different parties in the town was at least $125,000. The water in the Ousatonic, from the blockade of ice at the "Point of Rocks" just below the Narrows, rose twenty-two feet and three inches above the ordinary level of the river. On the
business floor of the Manufacturers Bank, which then stood at the foot of Main street, it rose six feet and two inches, burglariously entering the vault, and many a good note that day went under protest through a thorough and good soaking of water. At the Narrows the water was one foot over the counter of Capt. Z. M. Plait's store. In some places the ice was from ten to fifteen feet over the railroad track, the lower story of Capt. Kneeland Curtis's old residence near the river was stove in and literally packed with ice, and the "Derby Building and Lumber Company's" property with great loss was scattered in awful and terrific confusion. The ice in the river was at least twenty-two inches thick, and the weather for several days had been rainy, foggy and warm. With the great devastation and ruin caused by this freshet, the heavy covered bridge across the Ousatonic at Birmingham known as "Judson's bridge," which had stood the fury of floods for twenty-six years, was carried away. As the water rose with its ponderous load of ice, the bridge was raised bodily two feet and three inches from its piers, and there it remained for. hours. The citizens by hundreds flocked to see the bridge go off, but tired of watching for the sight, being assured by Mr. Lewis Hotchkiss that it would settle down again upon its foundations when the waters abated, they retired to their houses, but William B. Wooster, E. C. Johnson, William Hawkins and Dr. Beardsley remained as lookers on. At precisely one o'clock in the morning, the ice cakes began to hurdle like so many dancing topers. Johnson put his cane upon the bridge with a "good-by," and the writer exclaimed, "It's painful to see it go after crossing it so many times." Slowly and gracefully at first it moved down without a break about twenty rods, then yielding in the centre, forming a half moon circle it parted, the eastern half swinging near Birmingham shore, while the western portion took the current, looking like a train of cars with lights burning but no passengers, going with railroad speed down the river upon the swift and angry waters. The moon shining brightly upon the glistening ice afforded a most magnificent spectacle to the beholders. The toll grumblers never realized the value of that old bridge until the next day, when they gazed upon its naked piers standing as monuments of its great public convenience. The bridge was rebuilt by its
owners in the summer of 1857, and is now a free bridge owned by the towns of Derby and Huntington. B.
Height of water freshets above high tide at Birmingham, as recorded by John Whitlock:
November 13, 1853, 17 feet, 7 inches April 30, 1854, 19 " 8 1-2 " February 9, 1857, 22 " 3 " March, 1863, 14 " February 12, 1866, 13 " 1 1-2 " February 10, 1867, 14 " 5-8 " March 15, 1868, 12 " 2 1-8 " October 4, 1869, 16 " February 19, 1870, 13 " 5 1-4 " April 19, 1870, 11 " 7 1-2 " JanuaryS, 1874, 17 " 4 1-2 " February 25, 1874 11 " 9 1-2 " February 4, 1875, 8 " 5 1-2 " February 25, 1875, 11 " 9 " August 19, 1875, 11 " 6 " March 26, 1876, 12 " 8 1-2 " March 29, 1876, 12 " 2 1-2 " April 4, 1876, 10 " 11 1-2 " March 9, 1877, 12 " 5 " March 28, 1877, 10 " 5 " February 23, 1878, 10 " 5 " December 10, 11, 1878, 15 " 9 " February 12, 1879, 10 " 9 "
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