The History of Middlesex County 1635-1885
J. H. Beers & Co., 36 Vesey Street, New York
[transcribed by Janece Streig]
GENERAL HISTORY OF MIDDLESEX COUNTY.
CROMWELL - PROMINENT MEN.
Stephen WHITE, grandson of Nathaniel WHITE, one of the first settlers, was born at Upper Houses in 1718. About 1720, his family moved to New Haven. He was graduated at Yale in 1736. On the 24th of December 1740, he was ordained pastor of the first church in Windham, where he lived and gave full proof of his ministry till his death, January 9th 1794, aged 76. Mr. WHITE married Mary DYER, sister of Eliphalet DYER, a member of the Revolutionary Congress, and presiding judge of the Supreme Court of Connecticut. He had THIRTEEN CHILDREN, THE YOUNGEST OF WHOM, dyer WHITE Esq., was a lawyer in New Haven, and judge of Probate.
Daniel STOCKING, son of Capt. Joseph STOCKING, born in 1727, was graduated at Yale in 1748. He followed teaching, and was so well and widely known in his calling that he received the title Master STOCKING. He died December 23d 1880, aged 73.
Joseph KIRBY, son of Joseph and Hester KIRBY, baptized May 19th 1745, was graduated at Yale in the class of 1765. He was licensed to preach but never became a pastor. He lived in Granville, Mass., and then in Dorset, Vt., where he died in September 1823, aged 78.
Timothy Jones GRIDLEY, son of Isaac GRIDLEY, baptized November 23d 1788, was graduated in 1808. He studied medicine with Dr. Nathan SMITH, of Dartmouth College, and settled as a physician at Amherst, Mass. He was a successful and eminent practitioner. Dr. GRIDLEY died March 11th 1852, aged 64.
Chauncey WILCOX, born in 1797, was a Yale graduate, class of 1824. After a course of theology at New Haven, he was ordained and installed as pastor at North Greenwich, July 25th 1828. There he labored with great fidelity and success for 18 years, and raised up an infant church of 18 members, among a scattered population, to more than 100. In 1847, Mr. WILCOX engaged in teaching, at which calling he was "highly useful and successful. During this period, he resided at Ridgefield, where he died January 31st 1852, at the age of 55.
Thomas Stoughton SAVAGE, M. D., D. D., was a graduate of Yale in 1825. He studied theology in an Episcopal institute near Alexandria, Virginia, and was ordained as an Episcopal clergyman. For several years he was a missionary at Cape Palmas, in Africa. After his return, he became rector of a church at Natchez, and at Post Christian, Mississippi; later, at Livingstone and Oxford, Alabama. He is now rector of a church at Rhinecliff, on the Hudson.
William KIRBY was born in Cromwell, July 10th 1805; a Yale graduate in the class of 1827; studied theology at Union Theological Seminary in 1829-31; was ordained to the gospel ministry at Guilford, March 22d 1831.
He went to Illinois the same year, and was a teacher in Illinois College two years, 1831-33. He afterward became successively pastor of three churches from 1836-45. In 1845 he became agent of the American Home Missionary Society, and retained that position till his death, December 20th 1851, aged 47.
William Walter WOODWORTH was born in Cromwell, October 16th 1813; was graduated at Yale in 1838; studied theology at Yale Theological Seminary. He was ordained as pastor of the Congregational church at Berlin, July 6th 1842. He served this church ten years. From 1852 to 1876, Mr. WOODWORTH was successively pastor at Waterbury; Mansfield, Ohio; Springfield, Mass; Plymouth, Mass.; Painesville, Ohio; Belchertown, Mass.; and Grinnell, Iowa. In 1876, January 6, he was installed as pastor of Berlin, his first parish.
George Stocum Folger SAVAGE, D.D., was born in this place June 29th 1817; was graduated at Yale in 1844; ordained at Cromwell, September 28th 1847. He became pastor of a Congregational church at St. Charles, Illinois, November 5th 1848, where he remained till January 1st 1860. He then became agent of the American Tract Society, Boston; later was agent for the Congregational Publishing Society, and is now serving as financial secretary of the Chicago Theological Seminary, and resides in Chicago, Ill.
William Augustus Meigs HAND is credited to this town. He was born in 1817, the only child of William M. HAND, M. D. He was a graduate of Wesleyan University in the class of 1836. He studied law two years, then turned to theology. He died before entering on his profession, for which he was especially fitted by his natural and acquired gifts, May 17th 1839.
Josiah SAVAGE was a Yale graduate of 1846. He studied law in New Haven and New York. Removed to California and died at Trinity River, November 1849, aged 25.
Ebenezer White BECKWITH was a graduate of Yale, 1847. He taught in the South Granada, Miss. He afterward erected the building now known as Cromwell Hall and established a boarding school. He died at Indianapolis, Inc., September 30th 1865.
The following were sons of Rev. Edward EELS:
James EELLS, Yale, 1763, was ordained pastor at Buckingham, August 1769, and served that church till he died in 1805.
Samuel EELLS, Yale, 1765, was ordained pastor at North Branford in 1766, and remained there till his death, in April 1808.
Ozias EELLS, Yale, 1779, was ordained pastor at Barkhamsted, January 1787, and continued, like his brothers, pastor of his first church till his death, in May 1813.
REV. WILLIAM R. STOCKING.
I am indebted for the facts in regard to Rev. William R. STOCKING to the sermon preached at his funeral in Oroomiah, Persia, July 9th 1854, by Rev. Justin PERKINS, D. D. William Redfield STOCKING was born in Cromwell, then Upper Middletown, June 24th 1810. He was born the same year the missionary society in whose service he spent his life was established, and used playfully to remark to his missionary brethren, that he was the town brother of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. "Brother, son, or missionary of that Board," says Dr. PERKINS, "he was an honor and ornament to it in every relation." Some time previous to 1836, Mr. STOCKING entered the Academy at Munson, Massachusetts, with the intention of fitting for Yale College. An earnest appeal for helpers sent forth that year by the missionary society, especially for well qualified teachers for the Sandwich Islands, so stirred the soul of the young student that he offered himself as a teacher for that field, and was accepted. But before he was ready to depart, an appeal came from the Nestorian Mission for a superintendent of its educational work. Mr. STOCKING was appointed to this work. He sailed with his wife, nee Miss Jerusha E. GILBERT, of Colchester, to whom he was married in December 1836, from Boston on the 7th of January 1837. He reached his field of labor in June of that year, and at once devoted himself with characteristic energy to the mastery of the language of his new home. He entered with zeal into his work. He was an earnest, inspiring and successful teacher. He continued in the educational branch of the mission work till 1841, April 18th, at which time he was ordained to the gospel ministry. In a sermon delivered in Persia by Dr. Justin PERKINS, soon after the death of Mr. STOCKING he says he had no superior and probably no equal as a preacher in the mission. In times of revivals and on many great occasions his sermons had a wonderfully subduing, overcoming effect. Mr. STOCKING continued to work with untiring devotion and energy till the failure of his health in 1853 compelled him to return to his native land. Instead of regaining health, he declined and died on the 30th of April 1854, aged 44. Says Dr. PERKINS, "Mr. STOCKING had accomplished a great work before he left us. Through his faithful labors and his fervent prayers, under the Divine blessing, 'much people was added unto the Lord.' He had a wonderful tact and power to reach, impress, and influence the native mind and heart; and that tact and power were not suffered to rest or lie dormant while he had corporeal strength to exercise them." Mr. STOCKING is still living. A son, Rev. William R., is a missionary in the same field as that in which is father labored and did his life work.
WILLIAM C. REDFIELD, A. M.
There are few people living in Cromwell to-day who are familiar with the fact that one of the greatest modern philosophers, scientists, and discoverers-the peer of DOVE, REED, PIDDINGTON, and others-spent his childhood and laid the foundation for his great discoveries in this little town. Dennison OLMSTED, LL. D., professor of natural philosophy and astronomy in Yale College, said of him:
"Three distinguishing marks of the true philosopher met in William C. REDFIELD: originality to devise new things; patience to investigate, and logical power to draw the proper conclusions. The impress of his originality he left in early life upon the village where he resided; he afterward imprinted it still deeper on his professional business as naval engineer, and most of all on his scientific labors, his observations, and his theories. 'Patient thought' was the motto of NEWTON, and in this attribute REDFIELD was eminently distinguished."
Commodore PERRY, in the report of his Japan expedition, said of him:
"It was my good fortune to enjoy for many years the friendly acquaintance of one as remarkable for modesty and unassuming pretensions as for laborious observation and inquiry after knowledge. To him and to Gen. REID, of the royal Engineers of England (now Governor of Malta), are navigators mainly indebted for the discovery of a law which had already contributed, and will continue to contribute, greatly to the safety of vessels traversing the ocean.
"The honor of having established, on satisfactory evidence, the rotary and progressive character of ocean storms, and determining their modes of action or laws, is due alike to the memory of William C. REDFIELD and to our country's fame."
William C. REDFIELD was born at Middletown, Connecticut, on the 16th of March 1789. He was of pure English descent, both on the father's and mother's side. His father was a seafaring man whose death occurred when he, the son, was but 13 years old. His early training therefore, devolved chiefly on his mother, who was a woman of superior mental endowments, and of exalted Christian character. Young REDFIELD had no opportunities for acquiring an education beyond those afforded by the common schools, which at that time taught little more than the simplest rudiments-reading, spelling, writing, and a little arithmetic. At the age of 14 he was removed to Upper Middletown, now Cromwell, and apprenticed to a mechanic, where his tasks engrossed every moment of his time except a part of his evening. These brief opportunities, however, he most diligently spent in the acquisition of knowledge, eagerly devouring every scientific work within his reach. He was denied even a lamp, for reading by night, much of the time during his apprenticeship, and could command no better light than that of a common wood fire in the chimney corner. He was generously assisted, however, by Dr. William TULLY, who opened to him his extensive and well-selected library. When he became of age, his mother having married some time previous, and removed to Ohio, he started on foot to visit her, a distance of 700 miles. Every evening he noted down the incidents and observations of the day. He made the entire journey in twenty-seven days, having rested four days on the way. His route was through New York State and along the southern side of Lake Erie. After spending the winter with his mother, he returned by a more southern route through parts of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, exercising each day his powers of observation, and carefully noting results.
Returning to his home in Cromwell, he continued for many years to eke out a scanty income as a mechanic, but every year he added largely to his scientific acquisitions, and developed more fully his intellectual and moral energies.
On the 3d of September 1821, occurred in the eastern part of Connecticut, one of the most violent storms ever known in this locality. Shortly after this, Mr. REDFIELD, being on a journey to the western part of Massachusetts, in company with his son, traveled over a region covered by marks of the ravages of the storm. He observed that at Middletown the gale commenced from the southeast, prostrating the trees toward the northwest; but on reaching the northwestern part of Connecticut and the neighboring parts of Massachusetts, he was surprised to find that the trees lay with their head in the opposite direction, or toward the southeast. He was still more surprised to find that at the very time when the wind was blowing with such violence from the southeast at Middletown, a northwest wind was blowing with equal violence at a point less than seventy miles distant from that place. On tracing further the course and direction of prostrated objects, and comparing the times when the storm reached different places, the idea flashed upon his mind that the storm was a progressive whirlwind. He little thought that the development of that ides would one day place him among the distinguished philosophers of his time. The idea that great storms are progressive whirlwinds was for the first time embraced nearly at the same instant by REDFIELD and DOVÉ, although the conclusion was arrived at by totally different methods of investigation. The benevolent and practical mind of REDFIELD had no sooner established the law of storms than he commenced the inquiry, what rules may be derived from it, to promote the safety of the immense amount of human life and property that are afloat on the ocean, and exposed continually to the dangers of shipwreck. The deduction from his observations were embodied in the publication of "The Law of Storms and its Penalties for Neglects," containing established rules for navigators, by which the mariner might ascertain the direction in which the gale strikes his ship, to determine his position in the storm, and the course me must steer in order to escape its fury. The most accomplished navigators, among whom may be mentioned Commodores ROGERS and PERRY, and Commander GLYNN of the United States navy, have testified that within their knowledge, and in some cases within their own observation, many ships have owed their deliverance from the perils of shipwreck to a faithful observance of the rules derived from REDFIELD's theory of storms.
Before the scientific world Mr. REDFIELD appeared exclusively in the character of a philosopher, especially of a meteorologist, but he rendered equally important service in the character of naval engineer, particularly in the department of steamboat navigation. Several disastrous steamboat explosions had spread alarm through the community and created general terror of steamboats. Mr. REDFIELD was the first to devise and carry into execution the plan of a line of safety barges to ply on the Hudson between New York and Albany. The scheme was to construct a passenger boat to be towed by a steamboat at such a distance from it as to avoid all apprehensions of danger to the passengers. This suggested to him the system of tow boats for conveying freight, which was established in 1826, and the fleets of barges and canal boats, sometimes numbering 40 or 50, which make so conspicuous a figure on the Hudson River, were set in motion by Mr. REDFIELD, and for 30 years he superintended the first line established. The instances are rare indeed where the inductive philosopher so happily united with the practical engineer, each character borrowing aid from the other.
Another no less important subject engaged the attention of Mr. REDFIELD, and brought into exercise his remarkable sagacity and forecast. He was the first to place before the American people the plan of a system of railroads connecting the waters of the Hudson with those of the Mississippi. His pamphlet containing this project, issued in 1829, is a proud monument of his enlarged views of his accurate knowledge of the topography of the vast country lying between these great rivers, of his extraordinary forecast, anticipating as he did the rapid settlement of the Western Sates, the magic development of their agricultural and mineral wealth, and the consequent rapid growth of our great commercial metropolis. The route proposed was substantially that of the New York and Erie Railroad, but his views extended still further, and he marked out with prophetic accuracy the course of the railroads which would connect with the Atlantic States the then infant States of Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. These, he foresaw, would advance with incredible rapidity the settlement of those regions of unbounded fertility, and would divert no small portion of the trade from Mississippi to the great metropolis of the East. At the moment when the Erie Canal, having just been completed, was at the summit of its popularity, Mr. Redfield set forth in his pamphlet, under nineteen distinct heads, the great superiority of railroads to canals, advantages which, although then contemplated only in theory, have been fully established by subsequent experience. He had even anticipated that after the construction of the proposed great trunk railway, connecting the Hudson and the Mississippi, many lateral railways and canals would bind in one vast net work the whole great West to the Atlantic States. "This great plateau," says he, "will indeed one day be interested by thousands of miles of railroad communications; and so rapid will be the increase of its population and resources that many persons now living will probably see most or all of the accomplished." How well had this remarkable prediction, uttered in 1829, when there was not a foot of railroad in all the country under review, been fulfilled, and how truly has it happened that many of the elder members of "American Association for the Advancement of Science" lived to witness its accomplishment.
The motives which impelled Mr. REDFIELD to spread this subject before the American people at that early day, when railroads were scarcely known in this country, were purely patriotic. He had no private interest to subserve in the proposed enterprise, and the whole expense of preparing and publishing two editions of the pamphlet embodying these large and prophetic views, was defrayed from his own limited resources.
Few men have given more signal proof of an original inherent love of knowledge. His was a mind in love with truth, ever searching, ever expanding. In society he was courteous, sincere, upright, and benevolent; in his family, tender, affectionate, wise in counsel, and pure in example; in all his walk and conversation, and especially in the church of God, a devout and humble Christian.
In calm resignation to the will of his Maker, and in the full exercise of Christian faith, he gently breathed his last on the morning of February 12th 1857.
He built the Oliver Ellsworth for a Hartford Company. It was built in the winter of 1823-4, in New York.
Two brothers, Thomas and John, one of whom was the ancestor of Eben WILCOX, came from Hartford about 1650 and settled at Middletown Upper Houses, now known as Cromwell. For upwards of 230 years they have tilled the soil, and have demonstrated the fact as reported by the committee appointed by the General Court in 1648, viz.: that there was 'subsistence on the plantation of Mattabesset for fifteen families."
Eben WILCOX, the subject of this sketch, was the only son of Eliphalet WILCOX and Abigail SHEPARD. He was born at Middletown Upper Houses, on the 29th of December 1789. His educational advantages were confined to a few weeks' attendance at the public school of each year, the remainder of the time being spent in working on the farm for his father. Before he became of age he made three voyages to sea; for the time thus spent he was obliged to pay his father, as, under the then existing laws, the father was entitled to the services of his son until he became of age. He worked seven years for his father after he became of age, and during this period saved a sufficient sum to purchase the farm then occupied by his son, Frederick. By hard work and good management, he acquired several additional acres, and on the death of his father he bought his sister's interest in the homestead property, and in course of time became one of the larges land owners in Cromwell. His success as a farmer, together with the remarkable business qualifications displayed in his operations, brought him into public notice, and he was made a director in the Middletown Bank. This afforded him the opportunity for the display of that great financial ability which was inherent. He not only proved a valuable assistant in the management of the affairs of the bank, but his own investments were almost uniformly successful, and he became one of the wealthiest farmers in his native town. His advice was sought by his neighbors and fellow-citizens on all matters of importance, especially in the settlement of estates, divisions and appraisements of property.
In 1838, before Cromwell was set off as a separate town, he was chosen to represent the people of Middletown in the State Legislature, where he served with distinction. During his life, he filled many positions of trust and responsibility in his native town. He was for three years county commissioner, and was for some years selectman of the town.
In 1813, he married Lucretia MILDRUM, of Middletown Upper Houses, now Cromwell, by whom he had eight children, viz: Abigail B., born June 7th 1815; Lucretia, born June 9th 1817, died in California, July 1866; Frederick, born April 18th 1819; Maria, born October 24th 1821; Joseph E., born February 13th 1824, died May 18th 1877; James H., born September 21st 1826; Charles S., born September 5th 1829, died August 30th 1883; and George S., born May 31st 1834. Mr. WILCOX died on the 17th of March 1875. His wife died October 21st 1866.
Two of his sons, Frederick and George, reside in Cromwell. Frederick has no children living. George has one daughter, named Sarah E. James is a resident of Napa, California. Mrs. Maria HASKELL and her sister, Abigail B., reside together at Middletown. Lucretia married H. W. CHITTENDEN, of Guilford, who died in San Francisco, California, leaving one son, named Charles R., who is still a resident of that city.
The old Scotch adage, that "Mony a micle maks a muckle," applies with equal force to the formation of character as to the acquisition of wealth, and the representative men of New England are not of that mushroom growth that spring up in a night, but, like the study oak of the forest, which is of slow growth, taking deep root in the ground before spreading out its branches. It is thus that the characters of our "solid" men are formed.
Russel FRISBIE belongs to this class of men. He was born at Stony Creek, in the town of Branford, January 8th 1822. His ancestors were among the earliest settlers of that town in 1638 to 1644. His father was a seafaring man. Russel left home when he was but nine years of age and went to live with Captain Russel DOWD, a farmer in Killingworth, now Clinton, where he remained for seven years. His inventive genius and fondness for mechanical employments were early developed. He constructed a corn sheller at this time which proved a great success and was highly appreciated by the neighbors. At the age of 16, he went to Chester, Conn., and commenced learning the carpenter's trade of POTTER & WHEATON. Owing to the dissolution of the firm, at the end of 18 months he came to Middletown and entered the pattern maker's department of W. & B. DOUGLAS. His familiarity with the use of tools and his quickness of perception, soon enabled him to master his trade. He was steady in his habits and accumulated some property. He remained with this firm for 26 years. During this period he invented several articles of small hardware, making the patterns himself. These were manufactured on a royalty by the Stevens Hardware Company of Cromwell. The officers of the company were not long is discovering his inventive genius and mechanical ability, and made repeated overtures to him to take charge of their works, finally offering him a one-fourth interest n the business, which he could pay for at his convenience. In 1866, he accepted the offer and took charge of the works. The business had largely increased under his supervision and an almost endless variety of toys and hardware novelties have been produced by him, which have always found a ready market. In addition to his other duties he is assistant treasurer of the company.
In the fall of 1876, his friends urged him to accept the republican nomination to represent them in the State Legislature. While the town had previously given a democratic majority he was elected by a majority of 52 votes. Since then he has been repeatedly solicited by his friends to accept public office, but has invariably declines, his other duties requiring his whole time and attention. He is president of the Cromwell Plate Company, a director in the Cromwell Savings Bank, the Middlesex Banking Company, of Middletown, the Pierce Hardware Company, Rocky Hill, and the Meriden & Cromwell Railroad Company. He has been for many years an active member of Central Lodge, I. O. O. F., of Middletown.
His success in life is owing to an unflinching courage, and indomitable will, and steady perseverance, which have enabled him to overcome all difficulties. He is a firm believer in the principle that "all men are born free and equal," and this has led him to lend a ready hand to lift up those beneath him by pecuniary and other aid, until they were enabled to "paddle their own canoe." There is scarcely a public enterprise in Cromwell but what has received the aid and support of Mr. FRISBIE, and the rich and poor alike recognize him as their friend. He is modest and unassuming in his demeanor, and while he enjoys all the comforts of life there is no ostentation or effort at display.
In 1844, he married Mary Ann, daughter of Samuel C. BROWN, by whom he has had four children: Henry R., born in 1844; Agnes Melville, born in 1847; Charles B., born in 1849; and Carrie Elizabeth, born in 1854, died April 11th 1961.
Henry r., the oldest, inherits all the ability and independence of character of his father, preferring to "hoe his own row" rather than be dependent on his father. He resides in Canada.
Agnes M., was married, in 1870, to I. B. PRIOR. Charles B., married, in 1873, Emma, daughter of Abner ROBERTS.
Mr. FRISBIE has an old piece of manuscript containing the following interesting record of his grandfather:
"Josiah FRISBIE No. 3 went to New York Reuben ROSE Capt. About 3 or 4 months. Col DOUGLAS actin General WADSWORTH in 1776.
"1776 in the same under Edward RUSSELL Capt. Col. DOUGLAS, General WADSWORTH Brigade inlisted for six months, time out Christmas day.
"1777 Benjamin BODRIN Capt. Col SABINE, Lieut. DWIGHT, inlisted same at new Haven, General WARD six months.
"six months in Branford under Capt. STAPLES, on guard under the Direction of General WARD (inlisted for Peter AUGUR, one other summer under Capt. STAPLES as Guard.)
"inlisted under Capt. James BARKER SHORT company, to North River, General WARD Commander inlisted under James BARKER Active under General WARD.
"Shipt on Board 20 Gun ship cald Oliver Cromwell.* Saild from New London out about 4 months. Capt. Seth HARDEN Commander." [* This ship was built by Capt. Uriah HAYDEN, of Potapaug (now Essex), in 1776, for the colony of Connecticut.]