Article Number 24
Old Times in Windham 

by Rev. Henry Hedges Prout

Originally published in the Windham Journal from February 18, 1869 to March 31, 1870. Article 24 published on August 26, 1869. Extracted from the microfilm copies of the Windham Journal located at the Vedder Research Library


Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin


The kindness of Mr. William Goslee has enabled the writer of these papers to correct some recently given accounts, and to enlarge them in several particulars. Mr. Goslee is seventy-four years of age, was born in Jewett, where he now lives on the farm which was taken and cleared by his father, has never been from home three weeks at a time, and his case may therefore be fairly quoted in proof that the politeness which is of home growth, is very sincerely true, kind and genuine, His grandfather, Thomas Goslee, a native of Wales, emigrated to Connecticut, was a soldier in the Old French War, and as such, went to Cuba, and died there. His son, Henry Goslee, William’s father, was born in Herbron, Connecticut, 1760. At sixteen years of age he enlisted as a soldier in the War of the Revolution for 5 years, and when the term expired, enlisted for the war. He was at the battle of Monmouth, and saw Washington—when the express brought the news that General Lee had been repulsed –wheel his horse, and plunged to the rowel into his side, and rush to the scene of disaster. Accosting Lee, he said, "What had caused this ill-timed imprudence?" Lee, proudly irritable, replied, "I don’t know who has more of it than you Honor." Washington and Lee were brave men, and dropped their quarrel for the moment, for the British were to be repulsed. Lee, under new orders, recovered his ground, fighting with desperate bravery, the censure of his commander probably stung him to the quick; and Washington himself, (it was called the hot Sunday and his men were ordered to divest themselves of everything not necessary to fight, brought up the main body of his troops, and led them in person against the enemy, keeping his position between the two contending armies, in spite of the entreaties of his men, till victory was won.

The same Henry Goslee was one of 800 picked men, whom Gen. Washington ordered Mad Anthony, otherwise Bloody Wayne, to lead to the assault of a Fort somewhere in New Jersey. *(The storming of Stony Point, New York, midnight, July 15, 1779—the editor.) Wayne ordered his men to advance with unloaded muskets. The men were divided into four companies, each company assailing the fort on a different side, and all moving simultaneously. Goslee marched shoulder to shoulder with one Churchill. It was a night attack, and as they marched up toward the fort, Goslee heard a cartridge slip down into Churchill’s gun contrary to orders. The two soldiers were the first to scale the wall on that side, and as they did so, the British sentinel hailed them and fired; but Churchill had fired an instant too quick for him; the sentinel’s gun went off as he was falling, his ball entered Goslee’s leg, and was suffered to remain there till the close of the war, when it was cut out. The fort was taken.

The enemy’s ships had fired on Mud Fort, on the Jersey shore, till the artillerymen were thinned out, and Goslee, with others from the militia, was sent to man the guns. It is said that the curse of a heavy cannon ball can be seen in its progress from a distance. Goslee (so the report runs) saw the signs of coming shot, and cried out to his companions, and dropped on the ground, and was unhurt, while his three companions were cut in pieces.

Having served through the War of Independence, and been present at the surrender of Cornwallis, at Yorktown, this brave soldier returned to his home in Connecticut, where he married; but after a short time, leaving wife and child, he, with his half-brother, Israel Whitcomb, came with an ox cart, 1788, and pitching their tent on the farm where his son William Goslee now lives, felled a large maple tree, set up forks by the side of it, laid poles on the forks, and spread bard and boughs on the poles, for their house. They then grappled with the forests around them, chopped over a number of acres, but the season was so wet that they could clear off only one acre; and eating their last food, they sowed three pecks of rye, harrowed it over once, and then, faint with hunger, started for Connecticut. Captain Hunt’s tavern was the nearest place where anything could be got to eat. This was in October; the country was full of wild pigeons, and it was expected they would destroy the rye sown. The next spring Goslee and Whitcomb came on, bringing their families with ox teams and sleds and in the fall following they gathered from the three pecks of sown rye, 26-1/4 bushels apiece, or 52 ½ bushels for both. So the smile of Providence seemed to rest on them.

As to tall grain, the story is told that Thomas Merwin, father of Daniel, and grandfather of Leverett, pulled up a stalk of rye ten feet in height. But not expecting to be believed if he told his friends in Wallingford the story, he coiled up the stalk and put it in his tobacco box, and took it when he went to see his old friends, and showed them what the new country produced, as the spies bore back a bunch of grapes as proof of the richness of the promised land.

In those early days there was only one tavern between Hunt’s and Catskill, Deedrick’s, a log house west of Shingle Kill (now Cairo). Mr. Goslee had been to Catskill with a loaf of wheat on sled, drawn by two yokes of oxen. On his return, at Deedrick’s tavern by some accident, his sled struck against a cutter and tore it in pieces. Three stout men were going to whip the owner of the ox sled, and came on for the purpose. But his heavy ox whip, well applied, checked their courage, and as they retreated, he caught up a stake and hurling it, struck one of them on the back of both knee joints, so that he fell to the ground as if shot. Probably the men did not want to attack again a soldier who had fought under Mad Anthony.

Henry Goslee, Sr., was in the earlier part of his life, inclined to the Episcopal Church, attended its worship, and had his children baptized. His son William remembers when the clergyman, probably Rev. Mr. Perry or the Rev. Mr. Chase came to his father’s house, held service, and baptized the children. In his last sickness, the Rev. Mr. Thompson visited him. He died aged 50 years, and left six children—three boys, Henry, William and Solomon, and three girls, Mary, Esther, and Sarah. Sarah was afterward the wife of Chas. Peck, who with John Beach, kept a store in the old Miles House. An amusing though tragical incident is given. Mrs. Peck’s brother, afterward Judge Goslee, had been to Sackett’s Harbor as a soldier in the War of 1812 and brought home a French Musket. It was at Peck’s house when one of Abel Holcomb’s hogs which had become incorrigibly unruly, broke into the garden. Mrs. Peck couldn’t well bear to see her clean washed linen soiled and torn, and her garden vegetables rooted up, and plainly threatened to kill the hog, and was plainly told to shoot if she pleased. So patience being gone, Mrs. Peck poured a handful of powder into the gun, and a handful of salt or stones upon the powder, and taking good aim out of the window fired and killed the hog. Such a fires very naturally fired the neighborhood, and the excitement blazed out in a strain of poetry. One Howard made verses, of which the following is a specimen.

An accident has late befell,
The pig fell in the garden.
The aimer aimed very well,
The killer’s heart was hardened.

In explanation of the fact that so heavy a charge of powder did no result seriously to the "aimer" who "aimed" so well, it is stated that the gun was laid on the window sill, so that a heavy spike in the sill caught against the rebounding gun by means of the ring of which fastened the barrel to the stock, and tore it off.


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