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History of Lisbon, CT

[transcribed from Henry F. Bishop's Historical Sketch of Lisbon, Conn. From 1786 to 1900. (1903)
-- starting on page 9]

It is the intention of the writer to give herewith a short historical sketch of Lisbon, both before and after its incorporation as a town in 1786 - down to the present time.

Its history prior to its incorporation as a separate town was identified wholly within the town of Norwich.

Its importance was duly appreciated by the people of that venerable town, Norwich, which gave abundant evidence of her esteem for the worthy inhabitants of this part of her territory, sharing with them the responsibilities of conducting their government, seeking the most eminent and efficient talent amoung her best citizens in all their councils to meet the trying times of the period of our revolutionary war. The situation of this active territory of Norwich and vicinity was peculiar: so closely connected with the exposed city of New London on the one side (causing therefore anxiety and fear), and of Lebanon on the other side, where "Brother Jonathan" (Washington's friend) lived, thereby giving hope and encouragement to the inhabitants, who had already been struggling for life and liberty with King George the Third for many previous years.

This part of Norwich quite distinguished herself by her patriotism; she enrolled upon her records some quite eminent officers and soldiers in our revolutionary war, some of whom never lived to see the glorious results which came out of their devotion to their country for which they gave their precious lives.

Reviewing Lisbon for its hundred years' existence as a town, is not so much a task of searching its town records for its history; as to take up its ecclesiastical parishes and give them a fair view of their important influences upon the inhabitants of the said town. Nearly all prominent men and persons of influence in those days were actively connected with their local churches in that early period of our history.

This necessarily we must take into view these component parts from which Lisbon's antecedents had already existed, and from which it was possible to create and make a new town form the Norwich societies. Newent and Hanover were familiar names before Lisbon was known, or had any significance in this locality.

The historian of Norwich relates that in 1718 sixteen persons enrolled among its inhabitants were denoted "Farmers settled in ye crotch of ye Rivers," but these families of farmers, which included women, children, servants, and helpful mechanics, must have numbered at least sixty, or even more than seventy people. These settlers had now come to a conviction that they needed an assembly for [page 10] public worship, and were willing and ready to make appropriate efforts to secure one near their homes. So in May of the year 1718 a petition was presented to the Colonial Legislature hearing the following names:

Thomas Walbridge William Adams
Samuel Bishop Nathaniel Dean
Josiah Reed Joseph Reed
William Reed John Bishop
Daniel Longbottom Isaac Larance
Eliezer Jewett Isaac Larance, Jr.
David Knight Samuel Lothrop
David Knight, Jr. Samuel Coy
John Lamb Jeremiah Tracy
Samuel Rood Francis Tracy
Jebesh Rood William Walbridge
John Bacon Timothy Allen
Moses Hagget

The humble petition of the farmers on the Northeasterly part of Norwich called the Crotch of the River, to the Honorable General Assembly, now sitting.

"WHEREAS our habitations have been, by the Providence of God, very remote from the place of public worship, not only by reason of the distance, but by reason of a great river, which is not only difficult, but at all time dangerous to cross, and for which reason we have obtained liberty from the town to be a distinct society from them. We, whose names are underwritten with the rest of our inhabitants do humbly pray this honorable General Assembly will grant us the liberty of being a distinct society from them of the town plot, so as to call and settle an orthodox minister to be with us and to dispense to us the ordinances of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. If we my have your establishment of us in the capacity of a society so as to have the liberty and benefit of the law to advantage us to maintain a minister and we hope we shall improve the same to the honor of God and to our spiritual profit. We, the subscribers do humbly pray for your favorable answer to our petition."

The reply came as follows:

"At a general assembly holden in Hartford, in his Majesty's colony of Connecticut in New England on Thursday, the 8th day of May in the fourth year of the reign of our Sovereign, Lord George, King of Great Britain, etc., A.D. 1718 -- Upon consideration of the farmers inhabiting between the rivers Quinabaug and Shoutucket on the Northeasterly part of the town of Norwich: This Assembly do now grant to the said farmers the liberty and privilege of a parish and society by and of themselves within the said town of Norwich for the settling, upholding and maintaining the public wor- [page 11] ship of God amongst them, with all such liberties, powers and privileges as other societies and congregations in this colony generally have and do enjoy by law; always provided that the said farmers bear their proportionable charges in the town until they have procured an orthodox minister among them."

Thus was constituted the third ecclesiastical society in Norwich called "The North East Society," but no dates, no records earlier than the 5th of March, 1734, can be found of it officially, although established in 1718. It may be well to observe here that the early custom of our ancestors when they settled the country was to form these associations as time advanced and they felt the need of them. Thus Parish societies ante-dated the church organizations often times -- yet were supposed to be harmonious and to be consulted whenever any important questions were to be decided, such as the settlement of a minister or pastor among them to preach to them; the Parish might not always acquiesce with the choice of the Church for a candidate, which awkward situation would show this double-headed authority at times to be quite inconvenient.

Norwich proprietors lost no time in endowing the new Parish with lands for its minister's aid. Their appropriations made the first month by the records are as follows: "Land belonging to the minister in the crotch of the river Quena Bauge and Shoutuckett in Norwich, Item forty-three acres beginning at a stone by a run of water on the south side of ye road against John Bacon's house," &c., &c., rods, &c., &c., and thence by the land of Joseph Read and easterly to road or highway to ye first corner.
Laid out May, 1718.
J.C. HUNTINGTON, Saml. Lothrop.

We find also another record of a deed laid out of forty-five acres, lying in the place called Wales on the east side of the Shoutuckett River -- with bounds recorded -- abutting westerly upon Joseph Roaths (Roads?)
Laid out 1718.
JAMES HUNTINGTON,
BENAJAH BUSHNELL
Committee

The above imperfectly represents the very vague descriptions of their plots of land, but are noticed here to show the generous and fair spirit of the people of Norwich toward her out-lying townsmen in the North East Society.

We see that Wales is one of the old abandoned names once known to Lisbon's early locality. On its eastern side Pabaquamsque just below Jewett City, -- not long since owned by Dr. Rockwell of Norwich. Wequonnue was on the west another name know locally. These names, however, were soon lost by those legally established by the colonial assembly.

"January 17th, 1720. In town meeting ordered that if the Perkinses at their return from Boston do not bring with them a minister to preach in the crotch of the river or satisfy the select men, they [page 12] shall have one speedily, the rate-makers shall put them into the (Norwich First Society) minister's rates."

Whether a minister was then brought or not cannot be said. It appears that one seasonably came, and that an edifice for worship was soon erected. "By over exertion in the effort the energies of the people were strained." They sought aid from the Legislature thus:

"To the Honorable, the Governor, and company of his Majesty's Colony of Connecticut, in New England, in General Court assembled at Hartford, May ye 10th 1722 humbly showeth, -- That it hath pleased Almighty God to settle ye bounds of ye habitations of ye inhabitants of ye North East Society in Norwich between two great rivers, so that it hath ever been exceeding difficult for us (when our families were but few in number) to attend upon ye public worship of God on Sabbath dayes and at other times; but now our families being more numerous we find it is impossible for us and our families to attend ye publick worship of God as we should do; therefore, we ye said inhabitants did make our address to this Honorable Assembly humble and hearty thanks and we have proceeded in ye premises so far yt we have raised and covered a meeting house big enough for to hold our inhabitants, and at present we have (with us) a minister yt preaches ye gospel amongst us to our good satisfaction, and we humbly hope we are heartily willing for to expose ourselves and our estates for to carry on such a great and good work, and thereby to promote ye Glory of God and ye good of souls, but we being but few in number and but little and low in estate, and therefore uncapable to carry on so great a work as we ought to do, without ye help and assistance of this Honorable Assembly. Therefore we think it is our undoubted duty to spread our case before this Honorable Assembly and humbly begg yt favour of this Assembly for to give us, ye inhabitants of ye said Society, ye liberty for to improve that money yt is, or may be, due from our estate to this colony, for three years next ensuing, forwards the setting up of ye publick worship of God amongst us, and we as in duty bound shall ever pray."
JOSEPH PERKINS
JABEZ PERKINS
SAMUEL BISHOP
Committee in behalf of Society.

The answer obtained was as follows:-

"Upon the prayer of the North East Society in Norwich, representing their difficulty in respect to settling a minister: This assembly grants them their parts of the country's rates, or taxes, that may be granted for the space of two years to come: and the constable of Norwich who collects the country rate there, is hereby ordered to collect the same as usual and deliver the same to the committee of said Society, according to their list, for the space of two years as aforesaid."

Thus the colonial Legislature at its session October, 1722, in granting the prayer of the petitioners of North East Society in Norwich for rebate of three years' taxes gave them two years' taxes and established a new name for it as follows:

"Resolved by this Assembly. That for the future the North East Society or parish in the town of Norwich be called by the name of Newent."

Before proceeding to the history of Newent, it is quite proper to speak of Norwich in its earlier relation to Newent and subsequently Lisbon.

Norwich was founded and settled in 1660. Part of her settlers came from Saybrook, Ct., where the Rev. James Fitch has the record of having been settled and preached in both Saybrook and Norwich. A greater part of the settlers, however, were from Ipswich, Mass., and amoung them we have noticed on the Parish Committee Joseph and Jacob Perkins and Samuel Bishop, and later Mathew Perkins and other men of Ipswich. As early as 1659 the indian chief Uncas, and his brother Wawequaw, and his two sons, Owaneco and Attawamhood, united in giving Major Mason (so well known in our early history) a deed of sale in the months of June and August of that year for a tract of land nine miles square for seventy pounds; a part of this land afterwards became Lisbon.

The Ipswich settlers, as above stated, had become large land proprietors here, and it is supposed that many of them originally came from Newent, England - a town 112 miles from London and eight miles from Gloucester - to Ipswich, and had then made choice of the name Newent for this new North East Society of Norwich.

This territory has a right to claim and share with Norwich in all her historical fame and honors of the past.

It was but a few years later when Capt. Fitch, another well-known early settler, obtained a deed of trust from Uncas's son Owaneco giving him absolute possession of the first tract, and of other tracts of land. This confusion gave the Norwich proprietors very much trouble and anxiety till settled.

In 1725 the Mohegan title was quitclaimed to Lieut. Samuel Bishop and others; and in 1745 was altogether surrendered by a deed to Capt. Samuel Bishop and others. Much dissatisfaction was felt against Capt. Fitch, who wa a son of the pastor, Rev. Mr. Fitch, who was fond of conferring spiritual blessings upon the Indians; while the son sought to get temporal advantage from them. As purchasers from Capt. Fitch there were five prominent men then of Ipswich, Mass., -Samuel Bishop, Mesbach Farley, Mathew Perkins, Joseph Stafford and Richard Smith. Capt. Fitch made over to them the so-called eighteen acre grant. Jacob Perkins and Joseph Perkins, also of Ipswich, and brothers of the forementioned Mathew Perkins, bought soon after the grant of what the five associated had purchased, and also more territory adjoining. Richard Adams of either Sudbury or Chelmsford, Mass. (in addition to three thousand acres north of this territory, which in 1703 he by deeds of gift partitioned to his five sons), obtained soon, perhaps before 1700, land within this locality, which land, descending from one of his sons through a continued line of male heirs, his posterity have retained until to-day.

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