The History of Middlesex County 1635-1885
J. H. Beers & Co., 36 Vesey Street, New York

[transcribed by Janece Streig]

Pages 432 - 434


Abraham PIERSON, Esq., son of Dodo and grandson of Rev. Abraham PIERSON, was born August 11th 1756, and was called into public life at an early age. In 1780, he was chosen lister (assessor) for the town, was selectman in 1781, town clerk 1786-1814, captain of militia in 1786, representative to the General Assembly 24 sessions, from 1788 to 1819, and justice of the peace from 1786 to 1814. Upon the petition of Killingworth for a straight line of boundary with Guilford, in 1790, Mr. PIERSON prosecuted the petition of Killingworth before a committee of the Legislature. Guilford employed Hon. Pierpont EDWARDS, of New Haven, the most celebrated lawyer in the State, to oppose the petition. Deacon PIERSON won his case, and the line was straightened. He died May 11th 1823. His son, Dr. William S. PIERSON, was a practicing physician in Windsor, Connecticut, and was for many years president of the State Medical Society. He died July 16th 1860, aged 72, leaving one son, Gen. William S. PIERSON, of Windsor, and afterward of Hartford, Connecticut. General PIERSON was in command of the rebel prisoners at Johnson's Island, Sandusky, Ohio, in the Rebellion. He died April 18th 1879, aged 64. Before his death, he caused to be erected on Meeting House Hill, in Clinton, a granite shaft, to the memory of his ancestor, Rev. Abraham PIERSON, the founder of Yale College.


Hezekiah LANE, son of John LANE and Experience EDGERTON, was born January 22d 1739, and died November 6th 1809. He represented Killingworth in the Legislature as early as 1776, and served in that capacity for 19 sessions. He was a justice of the peace from 1776 to 1808. He was made judge of Probate for the district of Saybrook in April 1804. His son, Daniel LANE, Esq., was also a prominent man. He was clerk of the Probate Court for many years, a merchant, a surveyor, and a justice of the peace. He died December 9th 1826, aged 70 years and 9 months.


Philander STEVENS, Esq., was born September 3d 1799, and married Hetta HULL, January 18th 1823. He was representative to the General Assembly in 1837 and 1838, and State Senator in 1848. He was a justice of the peace, judge of Probate in 1848, and town treasurer for many years. He was a man of highest integrity, and enjoyed the confidence and esteem of his fellow citizens. His son, Randolph P., succeeded him as town treasurer, and was a member of Assembly in 1868 and 1869. He married Emily J. NORTON, October 25th 1847, and has five children living.

Abner LANE was a man of remarkable gifts. It is said that "Poets are born, and not made." This adage applies with equal force to men like Abner LANE, who, though they may be deprived of the means which would tend to the rapid growth and development of their genius, gradually force their way up through difficult surroundings until they make their influence felt, and the work calls them "great."

Abner, the father of the subject of this sketch, was a hard working farmer, living in the town of Killingworth. He was the father of ten children. Abner, the seventh child, was born on the 26th of April 1808. He attended school during the winters until he was sixteen years of age when he commenced the trade of shoemaking. Such was his quickness of perception that he became a proficient workman after two months' experience. His thirst for knowledge led him to improve every leisure minute, and with the money earned at his trade he purchased books. Like Robert SHERMAN and Elihu BURRITT, the learned blacksmith, he worked at his trade with an open book before him. He was a deep thinker, and revolved a proposition in his mind until he became master of it. He, in turn, took up natural philosophy, chemistry, and higher mathematics. He subsequently engaged in the manufacture of clothes pins, and finally turned his attention to what was known as "irregular turning," and was one of the pioneers and leading manufacturers of axe helves and pick axe handles. He invented a machine for this purpose, but, owing to an arrangement with the proprietors of the BLANCHARD lathe, by which he was to have the use of the latter, he withheld his own invention from the market. He continued in business until he acquired a sufficient competence to enable him to pursue his studies and gratify his mechanical and scientific tastes. He built an office near his house where he make philosophical and chemical experiments with which he entertained and instructed his friends and neighbors and was frequently invited to deliver lectures in Killingworth and adjoining towns. He possessed the rare gift of expounding the deepest scientific truths in simple language so as to make himself understood by the popular audience. As an expert in patent causes his knowledge was highly valued, and he was frequently summoned before the United States courts to testify in important cases.

He gave much attention to a system of signaling which he invented, by means of which he carried on communications between Killingworth Hill and Falkner's Island, a distance of 20 miles. He made other experiments, such as sending up a baloon, and flying a kite with a fine wire attached instead of a string. On connecting the wire with a gauge fitted for the purpose the pieces of metal would strike against each other when the kite had reached an altitude of 300 feet and the rapidity of vibrations would increase with the ascent.

Another of his inventions was the gyroscope, a kind of paradox, in which there was an apparent suspension of the laws of gravity. This remarkable piece of mechanism called forth much comment, and was exhibited before the faculty of Yale College. It is said that the principal illustrated in this curious piece of mechanism is referred to in the writings of the ancients.

The genius and applications of the man was alike wonderful, and his life affords a worthy example for young men who are struggling for success in life.

He was one of the fifty generation of the LANE family in America and descended from Robert LANE, who settled here in 1670.

On the 17th of April 1836, he married Betsey, daughter of Michael KELSEY, of Killingworth, by whom he had two children; Angeline, born January 31st 1837, and Ludolph, born February 17th 1838.

Angeline was twice married; to her first husband, Erwin NETTLETON, October 27th 1861, who died in defense of his country, July 26th 1863. He was married to her second husband, Osbert D. REDFIELD, on the 24th of April 1866; he was also a soldier of the last war. His death occurred August 15th 1872. One child was the offspring of this marriage.

Abner LANE died at Killingworth on the 25th of March 1874.

The manufacturing business established by him was continued by Hosmer KELSEY, a prominent citizen of Killingworth, who, on his retirement, transferred the business to his nephew, Horatio KELSEY, who still continues it.


Hosmer KELSEY was born August 28th 1826, and married Lodiska PARMELEE. He was a successful manufacturer of axe handles, the successor of Abner LANE, and retired with a competence. He had three children: Ida B., born August 5th 1855, unmarried; Gertrude E., born April 6th 1857, unmarried; and Duane J., now in Yale College.


Daniel KELSEY, son of Wyllis D. KELSEY and Charlotte LANE, was born in Killingworth, September 1st 1834. He was a topographical engineer. When but a lad he manifested a great taste for measuring heights, distances, etc. He was educated at Durham Academy, and at the Scientific Department of Yale College. Predisposed to consumption, he had to combat with ill health at this most interesting period of his life. The latter part of his life was spent in Illinois. He was married to Mary F. WILLIAMS, of Belvidere, Ill., November 11th 1860. He died in Belvidere, December 10th 1860.


Rev. Asahel NETTLETON was born in Killingworth, April 21st 1783. He was licensed to preach by the New Haven West Association, May 28th 1811. It is now known that he was ever a settled pastor. His mission was to "preach everywhere." Revivals of religion under his preaching prevailed all over the Eastern, Middle, and Western States. He published "Village Hymns," once so popular. Dr. Leonard BACON said of him "The power of his preaching consisted very much in the clearness with which he exhibited and urged the duty of impenitent sinners to repent immediately." Dr. John TODD said of him: "His throne was in the school-house meeting, crowded, dimly lighted, breathless, and solemn." He died at East Windsor, Conn., May 16th 1834.


Rev. Titus COAN, son of Gaylord COAN, was born in Killingworth, February 1st 1801. In early manhood he taught school in Killingworth. He left the town when he was about 26 years old. He made a profession of religion at Riga, N. Y., in March 1828. He studied theology at Auburn, N. Y., and was ordained in Part Street Church, Boston, Mass., April 4th 1833. He went on an exploring mission to Patagonia, landing near the strait of Magellan, November 14th 1833, and returned to New London, Conn., May 14th 1834. He was married to Fidelia CHURCH, November 3d 1834, and embarked, December 5th, for Honolulu, where he arrived June 6th 1835, and was stationed at Hilo.

He did not return to his native country till 1870. About 1837, he organized a church of 84 members. In 1838, there were 539 members admitted; in 1839, 5,244; and in 1863 there had been admitted to the church he planted, 11,491 members. He was a man who believed what he taught, and had an unflinching tenacity of purpose. Men who visited the islands spoke of him as holding the natives in perfect confidence and simplicity by his truthfulness and firmness. He died at Hilo, December 2d 1882. When a child he was rescued from drowning by a friend and neighbor, Julius STONE, now deceased.


Rev. Philander PARMELEE was born in Killingworth, August 30th 1783, and married Abigail WRIGHT of Clinton, May 28th 1812. He was settled at Victor, N. Y., May 5th 1812, and dismissed December 28th 1814. November 8th 1815, he was settled at Bolton, Connecticut, where he died December 27th 1822. It is said of him: "He was a patient, laborious laborer, loved his Master's cause, was a faithful under shepherd. His influence for good had remained to this day."


Henry HULL, one of the most prominent citizens of Killingworth, is a son of Jeremiah and Jane HULL, and a grandson of Capt. James HULL. He was born July 3d 1804. He married Lydia A. DUDLEY. By her he had two children: Amelia A., married Hiram TUCKER in 1846, and died at Essex, Conn., December 26th 1865; Lydia L., born December 24th 1830, married Thomas CHRYSTAL, November 3d 1850, died February 3d 1883, at Essex, Conn. Mr. HULL's first wife died August 28th 1834, and September 13th 1835 he was married to Rebecca LYNDE. The children of this marriage have been: Artemisia D., born August 29th 1836, married Sidney WATROUS, October 24th 1858; Mary J., born February 19th 1838, married first, February 19th 1861, to Capt. Edward WILLIAMS (who died at Shanghai, August 7th 1861), second Anthony ANDERSON, October 5th 1876; Annie M., born April 27th 1840, married George S. HEFFTON, April 6th 1864; Henry L., born February 27th 1842, was second lieutenant Company H., 10th Regiment C. V., died in Killingworth, November 10th 1874; Sarah R., born August 7th 1844,married, first Elmer F. WRIGHT, October 1st 1867 (he died September 9th 1872), married second, Rev. William H. KNOUSE, of Deep river, April 14th 1875; Willoughby A., born November 12th 1846, married Elizabeth R. ANDERSON; J. Novello, born June 11th 1849, died July 5th 1877.

October 6th 1884, Henry HULL received his 47th appointment as town clerk of Killingworth.

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