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

Pages 573-579

[transcribed by Janece Streig]



Mr. George SPENCER was born in Westbrook, October 6th 1787, where his more immediate ancestors had lived for several generations. The progenitor of the family, ensign Gerard SPENCER, originally came from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Hartford, Connecticut, in 1632, and removed in 1662 to Haddam. The SPENCERs have consequently been residents of Middlesex county for 222 years. Mr. George SPENCER settled in Deep River in 1818. He was one of the "old comb makers," having in his early manhood wrought at the business in the employ of Mr. David WILLIAMs, in Essex, and he continued in connection with the ivory business during all its earlier history in this town. He was a man of robust mind, incorruptible integrity, and strong religious convictions, and though nearly 91 years old when he died, his mental faculties were preserved in a good degree of vigor until the last.


Mr. George READ was born March 22d 1787. His father, Cornelius READ, came from Antrim, in the north of Ireland, to Centerbrook, in Potapaug Parish, in 1769, where he settled. Subsequently he lived for several year in Deep River, and finally returned to Centerbrook. The active temperament, energetic mind, and public spirit of Mr. George READ fitted him to take a prominent position in all public affairs; and he was heartily interested in all that concerned the material, moral, and religious advancement of the town. Engaged in the ivory business in Deep River from its infancy, he lived to contribute much to its success and enlargement.

Mr. John MARVIN came to Deep River in 1837, from Lyme, where he was born in 1793. During his residence in the town he won universal esteem, and for 20 consecutive years from 1853 to his death in 1873, he was honored with the appointment of town clerk.

Mr. Sedley SNOW, for many years a popular and successful merchant in Deep River, occupied several responsible positions, and for 19 consecutive years, from 1834 until his death in 1873, efficiently filled the position of town treasurer.

By unanimous vote of the town in October 1873, its appreciation of the ability, integrity, and uprightness with which these faithful servants had discharged their official duties was publicly given and ordered to be permanently recorded.


Dr. Edwin BIDWELL, the only resident physician in the town, became the successor of Dr. Rufus BAKER in 1830, and for nearly 20 years of faithful and successful service has endeared himself alike to all classes as "the beloved physician."

Not less is he esteemed for his warm interest in all that is conductive to the general good of the town, especially its sanitary well-being, and its educational progress.


Among the thousands of Christians, both rich and poor, who profess to believe in the Word of God, there are comparatively few who ever experienced the real pleasure of giving, or know the meaning of the declaration, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Many give from impulse; others from habit; others from a stern sense of duty; but the great philanthropists, like Peter COOPER, PEABODY, and a few others, whose names are indelibly inscribed in the hears of the American people are actuated by higher, nobler motives. They delighted in doing good, and while their riches increased by millions their enjoyment consisted in giving it away to promote the happiness of others.

Elder JENNINGS, as he is familiarly called, the subject of this sketch, is one of those exceptional Christians whose use of acquired wealth has been like the bubbling spring, which rises from the unseen depts. To the surface, and pours forth its sweet, cooling water to refresh the thirsty and weary traveler. Reared in the school of adversity, by which he contracted the habit of strict economy, elder JENNINGS learned from following the teachings of God's Word, that the real source of happiness is found in doing good to others, and early in life he formed the habit of giving, even from his scanty means, and when, after reaching the age of 65 years, he began to acquire wealth, the greatest pleasure he experienced was in the increased opportunities thus afforded for doing good, and of extending the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Elder JENNINGS was born on the 22d of February 1800, and that part of the town of Weston, which afterward became separated and formed the town of Easton, in Fairfield county, Conn. He was the son of Stephen JENNINGS, a farmer. His early education was obtained at the public schools, and Easton Academy. After his conversion, he studied in what was then known as the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution, which grew into what is now known as Madison University. He afterward took the regular course in Newton Theological Institution, at Newton Center, Mass. During the three years, while a student at Newton, he preached on every Sabbath but two, and baptized just 50 persons, he having been ordained before entering Newton Institution, while acting as one of the missionaries of the Connecticut Baptist Convention.

Afterwards he became pastor of the following Baptist churches in the order of succession as here given: First Baptist Church, of Saybrook, Conn.; Baptist Church, of Meriden, Conn.; Baptist Church of Waterbury, Conn.; Baptist Church, in Norwich city, Conn.; Baptist Church in Deep river, Conn.

On the next Sabbath after the close of his last pastorate, he commenced preaching as supply to the Baptist church, in Haddam, Conn., and continued to do so on every Sabbath excepting the last three, for the period of two years, when, in consequence of nervous prostration, he was obliged to rest for a while. For years afterward he continued to supply destitute churches, and has preached occasionally up to nearly the present time.

Previous to the financial panic of 1837, hi brother, Stephen, was manufacturing augers and auger bits at Deep River, Conn. During the panic he continued manufacturing, and thus accumulated a large stock of manufactured goods. These goods and the factory were destroyed by fire. The insurance policy terminated the day previous to the fire and by neglect of the insurance agent, a renewal of the policy had not been completed. This caused his financial ruin.

In 1840, his brother Russell furnished money to rebuild. He retained the ownership of one-half the factory, but had no connection with the manufacturing business. After the factory was rebuilt, Stephen JENNINGS continued the manufacturing business for about 10 years. After his death, which occurred in January 1851, it was found that his estate was largely insolvent. To avoid having the estate so represented, his brother Russell took the factory and business and assumed all the debts, by which act his liabilities became about $15,000 more than all his assets. From that time the aim and struggle of his life was to pay off that debt, and thus to prevent his own estate from being represented insolvent. This was accomplished in the year 1864.

After the death of Stephen JENNINGS, Charles R., the son of Elder JENNINGS, took entire charge of the manufacturing interests, which he continued until sickness compelled him to give up business. This finally resulted in his death, which occurred on the 1st of June 1859. Soon after this, Henry L. SHALER, a son-in-law of Elder JENNINGS, took the place of Charles R., and assumed the entire charge of the manufacturing business, in which position he continues up to the present time. In May 1867, Simeon H. JENNINGS, a nephew of Elder JENNINGS, took the entire charge of the sale of the goods, and the general management of the finances, both of which are still under his management.

Previous to the death of his brother, Elder JENNINGS invented what is known as the Extension Lip Bit, for which he obtained letters patent, in 1855. While it proved to be an article of great utility, it became necessary for him to invent machinery for its manufacture before it could be made at a profit, and it was not until after the year 1865 that he met with any great success. The demand for the goods increased, requiring increased facilities.

During the 13 years struggle to pay off the debts which he had assumed, Elder JENNINGS yielded to every call of charity and benevolence, and when, for a short time, he yielded to a determination to pay off his indebtedness before making further benevolent contributions he found that his financial difficulties greatly increased. He then resumed the practice of giving, without regard to his indebtedness, and from that time forth the Lord greatly prospered him, and he soon became wealthy.

He was judicious in his charities, and gave largely to needy, struggling churches. About 20 years since, at the commencement of his prosperity, he established a domestic mission of his own. He assumed the care of several churches, each of which was unable to support a pastor. By his aid, amounting to about $2,000 annually, each of these very soon had a settled pastor. He also was one of the largest annual contributors to the Baptist State Convention for Domestic Missions. He also gave liberally to home and foreign missions. He continued his Domestic Mission for nearly 20 years, and then gave to each of these churches a fund, the annual interest of which is now a substitute for his annual contribution. This includes the Deep River Baptist Church of which he is a member. The annual interest of each of these funds is to be used for the support of preaching; but the principal is to remain intact as a perpetual fund. By this arrangement, each one of the churches has now a settled pastor, and is thus enabled to live and prosper.

When 70 years of age he bought land in the town of Chester, Conn., on which he built a meeting house at a cost, including furnishing, of over $16,000, and donated the same to the Chester Baptist Church. He also gave to this church a parsonage valued at about $2,500, and then in addition to his other gifts he gave them of a fund of $5,000.

The place now occupied by the pastor of the Baptist church at South Windsor, Conn., as a parsonage, consisting of building and several acres of land, was purchased by Elder Jennings at a cost of $7,325. On one corner of this property he erected a church edifice, the cost of which, with the furnishing, was a little more than the cost of the Chester church, and the whole of this property he then donated to the South Windsor Baptist church. He gave $1,000 to the Baptist church in Moodus, Conn., and $4,000 and a parsonage to the Haddam Baptist church, and also $5,000 to the Easton Baptist church, $5,000 to the Winthrop church, and $10,000 to the Baptist church at Deep River, Connecticut.

He also made liberal donations directly to other Baptist churches to aid them in supporting preaching and building church edifices and parsonages, and in payment of church debts.

Of his private charities there has been no end. His warm, sympathetic heart beats responsive to every appeal of the poor and unfortunate. The pleasure experienced by him in giving the "cup of cold water in the Master's name," was doubtless greater than that of the recipient.

A profitable lesson may be learned from such a life, showing that true happiness in this world consists, not in the abundance in what a man hath, but in using his riches to promote the happiness, and alleviate the suffering of his fellow men.


As the SPENCERs have figured prominently in American as well as in English history, it is considerable importance to the descendants to be able to trace the name as far as possible toward its original source. In "Collins' Peerage of England" it is stated that: "The family of SPENCERs who were made peers by James I. By the title of Lord SPENCER of Wormleighton, and were afterward made Earls of Sunderland, obtained the Dukedom of Marlborough by marriage with Lady Anna, second daughter and co-heir of John CHURCHILL, the celebrated duke of that title.

"The family claim a descent from the ancient baronial family of DE SPENCER, of whom Robert DE SPENCER came over with the conqueror, and was, as his name implies, steward to that monarch."

This is supposed to be the origin of the name SPENCER-a dispenser of the king's bounty.

Collins describes the arms of the SPENCER family as: "Quarterly first and fourth quarterly, Argent and GULE, in the second and third a fret, Or; over all, on a bend, Sable three Escalops of the first for SPENCER. Second and third Sable, a lion rampant, Argent, on a canton, of the last, a cross, Gules; for CHURCHILL."

The American ancestor of Hon Richard P. SPENCER, was Jared, "Gerard," or "Gerrard" SPENCER, who was born as early as 1610, emigrated from England in 1634, and settled at New Town, now Cambridge. He removed first to Hartford, and was one of the 28 proprietors who settled Haddam about 1662, and was made a freeman in 1672. Thomas, one of his sons, removed to Pochaug, now Westbrook, about 1685, and from him descended most, if not all the families of that name now living in the towns of Old Saybrook, Westbrook, Saybrook, and Essex.

George SPENCER, the father of Richard P., was born in Westbrook, and married Julia, daughter of Comfort PRATT, of Potapaug, now Essex. The issue of this marriage was six children, viz: George Tiley, who resides now at Corning, N. Y., and is ex-judge of Steuben county; Julia, died young; Richard Pratt; Julia Minerva, wife of Dr. A. PRATT; Jane Elizabeth, wife of J. W. MARVIN Esq.; and Susan Augusts, wife of Rev. Charles H. BULLARD, of Hartford.

Richard Pratt SPENCER, the subject of this sketch, was born in the town of Saybrook, in what is now known as Deep River, on the 12th of February 1820. He was sent to the district school until he was 12 years of age. Later he attended the high schools at Madison, Berlin, Conn., and Belchertown, Mass. At the age of 18 he entered the employ of George Read & Co., manufactures of combs and ivory goods, his father at this time being a member of the firm. Soon after he became of age he was taken into partnership. He subsequently withdrew from the firm, and with Ulysses and Alexis PRATT formed a new copartnership, under the firm name of PRATT, SPENCER & Co. The Messrs. PRATT were at that time engaged in the manufacture of fancy ivory turnings, and, soon after, the manufacture of ivory piano keys. His connection with this firm continued until 1850, when he disposed of his interest in the business, and soon after removed to Corning, N. Y., where he engaged in the banking business. In 1866, he returned to Deep River, and was soon after elected president of the Deep river National Bank, which position he still holds.

In all his business operations he has been uniformly successful. He is a man of great financial ability, good judgment, cautious and far-seeing. To his high sense of honor, his integrity and uprightness of character, and his keen sense of right and justice, may be attributed the secret of his success.

Except on one occasion, he has taken no active part in politics. In 1882-3 he represented the Twenty-first District in the State Senate. During its first session was chairman of the committee on fisheries, and in the second session was chairman of the committee on banks.

He was for two years treasurer of the Deep River Savings Bank. He as been for many years an active member and a firm supported of the Congregational church in his native village.

In 1850, he married Clarissa, daughter of George H. CHAPMAN, of Saybrook. By her he had no children. Her death occurred on the 16th of December 1871.

On the 29th of February 1877, he married Julia, daughter of Richard L. SELDEN, of Hadlyme, who is a descendant of Colonel SELDEN of Revolutionary fame. Three children are the issue of the last marriage: Richard Selden, Florence Elizabeth, and George Selden.

He has erected one of the most beautiful residences in Middlesex county, where he has surrounded himself with every comfort and luxury for the gratification of his social and literary tastes. To this he has added a large and well-selected library containing many rate and interesting volumes. With the exception of his gray hairs he evinces no indication of advancing years, but bids fair to live to a ripe old age.


"Tall Oaks from little acorns grow."

Colman S. HUBBARD (born in 1816), the father of Harlan Page HUBBARD, came from Windsor, Vermont, in 1843, to Deep River, to superintend the manufacture of the HUBBARD rotary pump, invented by his father. It was being manufactured on a royalty, at that time, by Ezra WILLIAMS. Soon after he came to Deep river, Mr. HUBBARD married Mary Pratt READ, daughter of David READ, who was a brother of the beloved Deacon George READ. The issue of this marriage was four children.

The line of ancestry runs back in this wise: Asahel, born 1787, who moved from Meriden to Windsor, Vermont; Watts, of Meriden, 1753; Watts, of Berlin, 1714; Samuel, of Berlin, 1678; Samuel, of Middletown and Hartford, 1640; George, 1620 (he married Elisabeth WATTS, daughter of one of the earliest settlers of Middletown); George, 1595, who came to this country from England, living in Glastonbury and Guilford. The subject of this sketch has a very complete ancestral tree, which is very interesting.

[Note:-- This last paragraph continues the erroneous supposition that George HUBBARD of Middletown was the son of George Hubbard of Guilford. George HUBBARD of Middletown was born about 1601 according to his will written in 1681 in which he describes himself as about "80 years of age". - jd]

Harlan Page HUBBARD, the eldest, was born in deep River, on the 29th of December 1845, and resided there until he was eight years of age, when he removed to Western New York with his parents, returning east to New Haven at the age of 12 years. His educational advantages were such as may be summed up in the timeworn phrase, "a common school education," with the addition of two quarters in Latin, which was the sum total of his school day acquaintance with foreign languages. He left school at the breaking out of the war of the Rebellion, filled with patriotic zeal, and desired to enlist in the army as a drummer boy; but his parents would not give their consent, and he did the next best thing and soon after entered the establishment of the Whitney Arms Company, at New Haven. He subsequently spent two and a half years in the New Haven post office. At the end of this period, he removed with his parents to Boston, where he had engagements with two different mercantile houses, in one of which he was drawn, by the peculiarity of his position, into looking after the advertising and printing departments of the house. His first achievement in his new location was that of becoming a good proof reader. After traveling for a short time for one of the Boston firms with which he was connected, he returned once more to Hew Haven, where he soon found employment on the New Haven Daily Palladium, at first as collector and afterward in charge of the subscription and mail department. In this last named position he spent several years, and gradually worked into the advertising department, becoming an expert solicitor, and adding largely to the revenue of the paper by his efforts.

In 1873, he was induced to leave his lucrative position on the Palladium to accept the place of business manager of the New Haven Daily Press, continuing in this position until June 1874, when he concluded to commence business for himself. He then started a newspaper advertising agency (for placing anybody's advertisement in any newspaper at publisher's lowest rates), with a cash capital of $10, and an unusually good acquaintance, both with local business men and with New England newspaper publishers, a resolute will, and plenty of pluck, combined with industrious and economical habits; these, together with close financiering and hard work, laid the foundation for the successful achievements which have been the outcome of these small beginnings. His first day's profits were $6.25, which was considered a very fair beginning. The rapid success which followed this new undertaking let him to seek for increased business, in direct competition with the advertising agencies of the larger cities. In this he was eminently successful.

One of the special features of his advertising business has been that of getting up for customers neat and attractive advertisements, putting force into expression, and in this way he has secured a valuable reputation for getting up some of the "strongest" advertisements appearing in the newspapers of the day.

During the winter of 1877-8, Mr. HUBBARD issued catalogue, containing a list of all the newspapers for which he was agent, and in the course of its preparation he conceived the idea of a cartoon design for the front page of the cover of the book, representing the leading papers and magazines of the day in facsimile of title heading, and tastefully arranged in architectural forms, with the names of the different papers so clearly printed and attractively presented that any one at all conversant with the respective papers would recognize at a glance the correctness of the representation. In connection with the systematic grouping of the newspaper titles in an arched form of construction, an inscribed keystone was fitted in so as to make the structure solid and enduring in completed appearance, and it contained the appropriate motto in entablature, "Judicious advertising is the Keystone of Success." Both the design and work of it were harmonious, effective, and perfect, and it attracted universal attention, and the expression quoted has become an axiom in the advertising world.

In the latter part of the year 1880, the work of gathering materials for the proposed new book was commenced and vigorously pressed. The assistance of United States consuls in all foreign countries was secured, and through these and other channels, Mr. HUBBARD collected a mass of information relating to the newspapers and banks of the world, the like of which had never been dreamed of before. He designed a work in one volume of about 1,000 pages, but how far he underestimated the magnitude of his own purpose is shown in the fact that two huge tomes of about 1,300 pages each came into existence 18 months later.

The difficulties encountered in this effort he speaks of in the preface. The whole world is a large field to explore. Newspapers are printed in about 100 different nations, countries, colonies, &c., and in many diverse languages. Mail communication with distant lands is slow and uncertain. The correspondence involved was something enormous, and the translations from foreign languages to English, together with the arrangement and proper classification of the immense mass of details secured, taxes the patient endurance of many pens.

The work is, to a certain extent, polyglot in character. The prefaces are in the four "giant languages," English, German, French, and Spanish. The names of the foreign papers not in English are given in their vernacular, and a translation of each into English. Many introductory and explanatory notes are in the four languages named. The work assumed a magnitude which became cosmopolitan. It grew to encyclopedic proportions, and took on many of the features of a gazetteer. The New York Tribute described it as being "fit to stand beside the great encyclopedia and the dictionary." It described over 33,000 newspapers and 15,000 banks.

When this huge undertaking culminated, and Mr. HUBBARD sent out his two mammoth volumes, the editors of the world's leading newspapers, never susceptible of imposition, and always suspicious of inordinate claims, pronounced the work a genuine surprise and magnificent achievement-frankly admitting that Mr. HUBBARD had accomplished even more than he promised, and had consummated a stupendous purpose in a masterly manner.

Probably no other book issued from the press of the old or the new world ever attracted so much editorial attention or received such uniform praise as this. It is spoken of as "This remarkable compendium," "A Gazetteer as well as a Directory." "A monument more enduring than bronze or marble." "A work never before equaled." "A wonder of collecting skill." "A Masterpiece in its way." "The only one of its kind." "The most wonderful of its class." "A Marvel of Enterprise." "A Library of Knowledge." "One of the most remarkable of books." "It furnishes information for which we might search through a score of Year Books, almanacs, Diplomatic Registers, Statistical Reports and Blue Books and then not find it."

This State Department at Washington characterized it as "a work of great importance and utility." The British government commended it as "a most valuable work, and a great undertaking of international importance." While the diplomatic and consular representative of both counties endorsed it as "of great value and a work for which we could find almost daily use."

Individuals also became enthusiastic over a work at once so unique and attractive, and Mr. HUBBARD's personal correspondence portfolio is fairly bloated with complimentary letters, really exaggerated in praise, from hundreds of the distinguished literary and professional gentlemen of the world.

H. Carrington BUTLER, Ph. D., professor of chemistry at Trinity College, Hartford, acknowledges his indebtedness to this work "for material for my forthcoming Catalogue of Scientific and Technical Periodicals." He says: "I have been engaged for many months for the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, in compiling an exhaustive catalogue of scientific and technical journals published in all countries from 1665 to 1880, and I have consulted over 50 biographical works, including catalogues of libraries in all languages, before your directory fell into my hands. Although I had between 3,000 and 4,000 estimated titles in my manuscript, I found in your admirable work short titles of more than 500 technical and scientific journals of which I had no previous knowledge. These I obtained by going through the second volume of your directory, line by line, and comparing it with my manuscript. In pursuance of this laborious task I had frequent occasion to note the great accuracy of your work, especially as regards the 23 or more languages which occur in its pages, at least so far as I am able to judge of them."

President ARTHUR gracefully expressed his "appreciation of the high compliment you have conferred upon me in the dedication of the book;" and added, that "the value and usefulness of such a work cannot be overestimated."

Its brilliancy of red cover and edges was the cause of Oliver Wendell HOLMES writing-"when I first looked upon it, red all over, so that it seemed to

'Blush like a banner bathed in slaughter.'

I thought it must be an account of the bloodiest battles ever fought, and I was much pleased to find, on looking through its pages that it might rather be called a general index of peaceful civilization."

Volume three was issued in 1884, to complete the series and give some particulars for which there was no room in the previous two. This contained the American newspaper corrected to date, and a classified "Dictionary of Representative Newspapers" arranged by classes, or kinds in the whole world. This feature was especially unique, and is particularly interesting and useful.

This volume was termed the "Cosmopolitan Edition," particularly for the reason that a part of the book was printed on paper which Mr. HUBBARD had manufactured, on purpose, from old newspapers from every country on this globe. It probably contains the most conglomerate mass of paper stock of any ever made, and is a rare curiosity.

It is said of Alexander the Great, that "after he had conquered the world, he sat down and wept that he had not more worlds to conquer." Whether Mr. HUBBARD, after this wonderful achievement, will sit down and weep that he has not more worlds to conquer, or whether he will attempt to open communication with the unknown worlds, remains to be seen. That his ambition knows no bounds, is shown in his gigantic undertakings that have astonished all his competitors in business, but which in every instance have proved successful.

Mr. HUBBARD had a pleasant home in New Haven, where the latch string of hospitality is always prominently hung out, and vibrates invitingly to whoever may chance to pull it. This is presided over by an estimable and lovely wife, and is enlivened and made cheerful by four well sprouted olive branches-two boys and two girls-to all of whom the busy head of the family points with pride, as did Cornelia of notable domestic fame, when she pointed to her children and remarked "these are my jewels."

The county of Middlesex has every reason to feel proud of the name and achievements of this son of her soil, feeling that in his honorable and successful career he brings honor to the spot of earth that first witnessed his existence.


Among the distinguished men who were natives of this town, the late Hon. Alpheus S. WILLIAMS is deserving of a prominent notice in this work. He was born in Saybrook, Conn., September 20th 1810; graduated from Yale College in 1831; and spent two years following in traveling in Europe. He settled in Detroit, Michigan, in 1836, and began the practice of law in that city. He was judge of Probate for Wayne county from 1840 to 1844; and recorder of the city of Detroit; and from 1843 to 1747 [1847] was proprietor of the Detroit Daily Advertiser. He served in the Mexican war as lieutenant-colonel. In 1849, he was appointed postmaster of Detroit by President TAYLOR. When the late war began, he was made major-general of militia, and was president of the State Military Board. He was subsequently appointed a brigadier-general, and performed much service on the Upper Potomac; had command of a division at Winchester; was at Cedar Mountain and Manassas; after a battle of South Mountain succeeded General BANKS as corps commander; commanded the Twelfth Corps at Antietam; was in the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, and went through the Atlanta campaign. While with SHERMAN in the "March to the Sea," he was brevetted major-general for gallant and meritorious service. He was afterward on duty in Arkansas, and was mustered out in 1866. He was a commissioner to settle military claims for Missouri; from 1866 to 1869, was elected to the forty-fourth Congress from Michigan.

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