The History of Middlesex County 1635-1885
J. H. Beers & Co., 36 Vesey Street, New York
Pages 218-228



[transcribed by Janece Streig]


The town was originally known as Pattaconk Quarter of Saybrook, and subsequently as the Fourth Ecclesiastical society of that town. It is bounded on the north by Haddam, east by Connecticut River, south by the South or Saw Mill Cove, and by the brook running into it as far west as the center of the Deep River bridge on the county road; thence due west to the Killingworth line; and west by Killingworth; being about five miles long, east and west, and more than three miles wide between north and south. It was incorporated as a town in 1836, and in 1856 a small portion of the south part was re-annexed to Saybrook. The portion of the town lying north of Chester Cove was called Pattaconk, Pataquonk, or Pattakonck. According to Dr. TRUMBULL's definition, it means a round or wigwam-shaped hill, a sweating place. The hill from which this section of the town took its name is now known as Fort Hill, near WARNER's ferry, where it is supposed the Indians had a fort, and a sweating place to which they resorted in case of sickness. The process of sweating was performed by digging a hole in the ground and placing hot stones in it, then laying the patient over the hole, covered with skins or blankets, and after sweating a sufficient length of time, plunging in the river. There were two other sweating places between the north end of the county and the mouth of the river; one in Chatham (old boundary), at a place called Indian Hill, and the other in Lyme, nearly opposite Saybrook Point, at a place known as Hothouse Swamp.


When the Indians sold the territory of Haddam to the white people, in 1662, it was claimed by both parties that it extended south to the Chester Cove or Pattaconk river, and the Indians reserved to themselves Thirty Mile Island, or Haddam Island, and forty acres in Pattaconk, Twenty Mile, or LORD's Island, having previously been sold to John CULLICK. The forty acres reservation, it is supposed, extended from the south side of Pattaconk Hill to PARKER's Point, bordering on the river. The Indians remained on these reservations many years; but a controversy arose between Saybrook and Haddam in regard to the boundary between the towns, and on the settlement of the matter by the General Court, in 1664, by giving Saybrook two miles north of the Pattaconk River, the Indian reservation was found to be in the limits of Saybrook. There has always been some doubt in the minds of many in regard to the justice of this settlement of the boundary, but all parties had to abide by it, and the Indians, finding that their reservation of forty acres was in Saybrook, petitioned the authorities of that town to respect their rights in said reservation; but there is no evidence that they did so. In May 1705, Keepuquam and other Indians made application to the General Court for the quiet possession of the forty acres reservation, claiming it as an ancient right of their ancestors, and representing that they met with opposition to their claim from the inhabitants of Saybrook. The hearing of the matter by the General court was deferred until the October session, and notice of the pending of the matter was served upon the selectmen of Saybrook, with orders to appear and answer to the complaint of the Indians. It is not known what disposition was finally made of the complaint.

The tribe or clan owning or occupying the territory of Chester, Haddam, and East Haddam were called Wagunks or Wagams, and are supposed to have been subject o Uncas, as he complained to the General court in 1701, that the inhabitants of Haddam had trespassed upon his rights. There is no evidence of any very serious trouble between the whites and Indians here, and about the year 1785, the tribe became extinct.

In digging a cellar a few years ago in the Middle School District, a place was found where the Indians made their arrow-heads, and a great quantity that had been broken in the process of making, were scattered around the white flint rock from which they were made.

The last Indians who made their homes here were: Philip DORUS, Dolly PIANCO, Lydia WAUKEE, Jim, Joe, and Massy SOBUCK, and Molly CHOCKEAGUE. The last resting place of most of them is the northwest corner of the "Old Burying Ground."


The first individual ownership of land in the town, of which there is evidence, is a deed of the river meadow from the south of Pattaconk Hill to the South or Saw Mill Cove. This deed was given in 1660 by John CULLICK, executor of the will of George FENWICK, who died in England in 1657, and his wife, Elizabeth CULLICK, who was a sister of FENWICK, and from whom she received the property by will, as a part of Twelve Mile Island Farm. The deed conveyed this farm to John LEVERETT, of Boston. In 1695, the daughters of John LEVERETT conveyed it to Hudson LEVERETT, who in the same year sold it to Joseph SELDEN, the ancestor of William E. SELDEN, who now occupies the homestead of the farm, and who has in his possession the original deeds. The farm, as originally known, was bounded on the north by Whalebone Creek; on the east by the east side of the cove at the head of said creek, and SELDEN's Cove and Creek; on the south and west by Connecticut River, including Twelve Mile Island, now known as Eustatia, and all the meadow or mowing land on the west side of the river, as before described. Soon after Joseph SELDEN came into possession of the farm, he sold the meadow or mowing land on the west side of the river, south of the south side of Pattaconk Hill to Andrew WARNER, who in 1705, sold it, or a part of it to Capt. John FENNER.* [Most of the information in regard to Twelve Mile Island Farm was obtained from a history of it, written by Chief Justice WAITE, of Lyne, and kindly loaned to the writer by William E. SELDEN, Esq.]

In May 1672, Robert CHAPMAN, Robert LAY, and William LORD, as a committee appointed by Saybrook to lay out to the inhabitants of the town, lands in the east and west divisions of Pattaconk, laid out, in the east division, to Robert LAY, 43 acres; to Widow SANFORD, 53 acres; to William BEAUMONT, 14 acres; to Robert BUELL, 8 acres; to John WESTALL, 33 acres; to William JONES, 9 acres; to Mr. BUCKINGHAM, 7 acres; to Robert YOUNG, 2 acres; to Abram POST, 14 acres; to Robert CHAPMAN, 56 acres; to John PORTER, 4 acres; to John CLARK, 32 acres; to William PORTER, 35 acres; to William COGGSWELL, 22 acres; to Robert NICHOLL, 6 acres; and to Joseph INGHAM, 13 acres; making 441 acres. In the west division, they laid out to Francis COGSWELL, 19 acres; to Samuel JONES, 16 acres; to Thomas NORTON, 9 acres; to Richard RAYMOND, 16 acres; to Joseph POST, 13 acres; to William POST, 93 acres; to William LORD, 47 acres; to Robert GOODWIN, 10 acres; to Stephen DEWOLF, 16 acres; and to Mr. ELY, 7 acres; making 257 acres in the west division, and 698 in both. The persons named should perhaps be regarded as the first individual land owners in the town, except the owners of Twelve Mile Island farm. It is not known whether any of them settled on their lands or not; though Dr. FIELD's "Statistics of Middlesex County" represents Jonah DIBBLE, of Haddam, as the first settler, and inhabitant in 1692; and Andrew WARNER, of Hadley, as an inhabitant in 1695. William PRATT was a land owner here in 1698.

The ancestors of the WATERHOUSES, SHIPMANS, CLARKS, WILLARDS, SOUTHWORTHS, and PARKERS, from Saybrook, were early settlers. Joel CANFIELD and Gideon LEET settled here about 1745.

Cedar Swamp, in the west division of Pattaconk, together with a water privilege, was given by the proprietors to Governor WINTHROP, March 10th 1663, to be used for the benefit of the colony. Saybrook seems to have disputed the right of the proprietors to make the grant, and at a town meeting, held for the purpose of considering the matter, the following action was taken:

"Whereas the Honorable Major-General John WINTHROP doth lay claim to a cedar swamp near Twelve Mile Island by a grant to Governor WINTHROP the 10th of Marcy 1663, which said swamp the inhabitants of Saybrook have also laid claim unto, as supposing the said swamp to be within their first grant of eight miles bounds. Yet, notwithstanding the said inhabitants of Saybrook have, at a full town meeting, further considered the matter, and have appointed John CHAPMAN and John CLARK in the name and behalf of Saybrook, to treat with the said John WINTHROP, and make full issue and agreement about the said claim to the said swamp."

In 1688, after a hearing of the matter, between Governor WINTHROP and this committee, Governor WINTHROP relinquished his claim to Saybrook, on condition that the timber and land should not be sold to any person who was not an inhabitant of the town. Subsequently the swamp was divided, by a committee appointed by the town for that purpose, into rights from one and a-half to twelve rods wide, running east and west through it, and sold or given to the inhabitants of the town.

In 1735, the names of the proprietors of Pattaconk were: John WHITTLESEY and his father, Ensign JONES and his father, Thomas JONES, Nathan JONES, Justice WHITTLESEY, Lieutenant DUDLEY, Ensign John PRATT, Isaac PRATT, Mr. TAYLOR, Mr. BALDWIN, Mr. WARNER, Joseph BLAGUE, Ebenezer INGHAM, Captain John CHAPMAN, John BUSHNELL, and his brother Francis, Thomas NORTON, Lieutenant CHALKER, George LEES, Joseph LEES, William BUSHNELL, Sergeant James POST, Sergeant John GRAVES, Captain FENNER, John CONNER, Job WHEELER, Nathan HILL, Sergeant LORD, Benjamin LORD, John CHAPMAN, Gideon WEBB, William TULLY, John KIRTLAND, Lieut. KIRTLAND, Thomas DUNK, Samuel INGHAM, Ephraim BUSHNELL, Thomas BUSHNELL, Samuel LORD, Mr. GARDNER, Esq. LYNDE, Rev. Daniel CHAPMAN, Joseph BUCKINGHAM, Ebenezer PARKER, Zack SANFORD, Robert COGGSWELL, Samuel CHALKER, Serg't CHALKER, John SHIPMAN, Samuel SHIPMAN, John PRATT, Philip SHATUCK, and six others whose names cannot be ascertained.

Those proprietors met in 1735 to make a division of the undivided lands, and were instructed by the proprietors' committee, which was appointed by the town of Saybrook to make provision for all necessary highways, and this committee was instructed to lay them out. This committee was instructed by the town to lay out ten acres of the common land for a minister's lot, on condition that the proprietors should give twenty acres for the same purpose, and in case they did so the committee was instructed to add twenty acres more of the common land, making in all fifty acres. It is supposed that this arrangement was carried out in full.

The highway from the head of the cove, running north past the town house, was probably the first road laid out in Pattaconk. It was originally thirty-sex rods wide, or that width was given by the proprietors for a road, but after wheel vehicles were used for traveling, and the road worked, the proprietors' committee, in 1753, was authorized by Saybrook to sell to the adjoining proprietors any of the highway land that was not needed for the road. The Wig Hill road, running from the town house over the hill past Cedar Swamp Pond, and northerly by the pond, was laid out in 1735, 1736, and 1737, by Samuel JONES, Abraham WATERHOUSE, Samuel WILLARD, John GRAVES, John WHITTLESEY, and Samuel LORD. The road leading from Charles HOLT's house easterly to the river was laid out April 14th 1737, by James BALDWIN, Job WHEELER, and Samuel WILLARD. The Straits road, running northerly to the head of the cove, was laid out in 1739 by Samuel WILLARD, Abraham WATERHOUSE, and John WHITTLESEY. The writer is not familiar with the history of the layout of the other roads in town by the early settlers. The Samuel WILLARD mentioned was an important man among the early settlers. He was one of the largest land owners, and rendered great service in surveying lands and establishing bounds, besides assisting the people in various ways. So sensible were they of their obligation to him that, in 1743, those owning land around Cedar Swamp Pond gave him a deed of the pond and a narrow strip of land surrounding it for a very small sum. Being already in possession of the plain east and the outlet of the pond, he became by this acquisition the owner of one of the finest water privileges in the State. Here was established, by his son, George, the first saw mill and grist mill in the town, which remained in the possession of the WILLARD family many years.

At a meeting of the Pattaconk proprietors in 1739, they agreed to assist each other in case of any molestation or trespass upon their rights from the proprietors of Haddam. The trouble between the proprietors of Pattaconk and Haddam, which has been alluded to, originated in 1663, from a petition of the inhabitants of Saybrook and Lyme to the General Assembly for the enlargement of their bounds four miles north of Pattaconk river on both sides of the Connecticut River. This petition was granted on condition that they should make a plantation on the enlargement on both sides of the river, within three years from the date of the petition. There is no record that the condition was complied with, and the proprietors of Haddam complained to the General Assembly that the grant was a trespass upon their rights. After a consideration of the matter by the Assembly, May 13th 1669, the following action was taken:

"Whereas there has been a difference between Saybrook and Haddam, and Lyme and Haddam about their bounds, this court orders that the four miles granted to Saybrook and Lyme shall be divided, two miles of it to Saybrook and Lyme, and two miles of it to Haddam Plantation."

This, of course, settled the matter, but for some years there was contention between the inhabitants of Pattaconk and those in the lower part of Haddam.


The first burying ground in the town was established at PARKER's Point in 1717, in which there were about twenty-five interments. The second, known as the old burying ground, on the west side of the road, near the town house, was established about the year 1736. The third, on the opposite side of the road, was established in 1804, and the one in the West District in 1813. The new cemetery, on Laurel Hill, was established in 1863.


Previous to October 1729, the inhabitants of Pattaconk attended religious worship at Potapaug, near Centerbrook, and were required by law to pay taxes there to support the minister. At this time the inhabitants petitioned the General Assembly for liberty to "set up" the worship of God among themselves, and to hire some good orthodox minister, during the months of December, January, February, and March, for four years. This petition was granted on condition that it should be done at the cost of the inhabitants; and that they should not be exempt from paying full taxes at Potapaug. In 1732, the inhabitants again memorialized the General Assembly, setting forth the disadvantages they were under to attend worship at Potapaug, and praying for "liberty to hire a gospel minister for some time in the year to preach among them, and that for the time they do so they may be discharged from paying ministerial charges at Pattapaug." The following was the action of the Assembly upon the petition:

"This Assembly grants to the memorialists, inhabitants of Pattaconk, free liberty to hire a minister to preach the gospel with them at said Pattaconk five months in the year yearly, from the first day of December till the last of April, during the court's pleasure, and do discharge them from paying any ministerial taxes to Pettapaug, during said time and said months, if they have a gospel minister to preach to them at Pattaconk."

It is not known whether public worship was "set up" here according to the grant of the General Assembly or not. September 25th 1739, the proprietors of Pattaconk met at the house of Abraham WATERHOUSE jr. for the purpose of doing something toward forming a parish or society and voted that they were "willing that their lands should be taxed for the settlement of a minister." In 1740, upon the petition of James BALDWIN, Benjamin EVERETT, Jonathan HOUGH, Abraham WATERHOUSE, and others, the General Assembly passed an act making Pattaconk Quarter a separate and distinct society, to be known as the "Fourth Ecclesiastical Society of Saybrook, and to be called Chester. It is supposed that this name was given to the parish because some of the early settlers came from Chester in England. The church was formed September 15th 1742, with 22 male and 41 female members. The first meeting house was built in 1743, on the east side of the third burying ground, southeast of the present town house. It was a two-story building, 42 by 34 feet in size. The house was merely enclosed, without suitable glass windows, doors, pulpit, permanent floors, or seats, until April 4th 1750, when, at a society meeting, it was "voted to build a good pulpit, lay a good double floor, glaze all of the lower windows with sash glass, and make the doors." In 1746, the General Assembly granted the society the privilege of laying a tax of four pence on the pound for four years, to defray the expense of building and furnishing the meeting-house, but this was not sufficient to finish it, as there were no permanent seats in the gallery until 1765, when, at a society meeting, held January 15th, it was voted to allow Mr. Samuel CANFIELD, Mr. Joel CANFIELD, Mr. James WARNER, Mr. Samuel PARMELEE, and Mr. Matthew COOLY, to build a pew at their own expense in the front gallery, on the north side of the middle window, provided they would agree to remove it when the society requested them to do so. In 1768, the society voted to pay for this pew, as it was also voted at the meeting held in 1765 to grant liberty to have all the seats in the gallery taken up and pews built, provided sufficient funds could be raised to do it. This was subsequently done.

The house was never plastered nor sealed, and the studs and rafters were the only ornaments. It has been said by those who attended church there that the underpinning of the house was so defective that the religious services were often disturbed by the bleating of sheep, which has taken refuge under it from the sun or storm; and that the services had many times to be suspended until some members of the congregation drove them out.

One of the great troubles the society had for many years was "seating the meeting house" by a committee appointed for that purpose. The committee was required to assign seats to the worshippers according to their estimate of their wealth or respectability, and to report at an adjourned meeting. These reports were so often unsatisfactory, and so often rejected, that the practice was given up in 1775, and each person chose his own seat for many years. In 1773, there was much trouble in regard to the singing in the church on the Sabbath. There was a new style of singing learned by the young people, which the older ones did not like; but the matter was compromised by "allowing the young people to sing once on each Sabbath, from December 30th until the last Sabbath in January following, according to the rules they had learned under the direction of Jonathan BENJAMIN." In 1779, there was again trouble about the singing, and the society "voted that the chorister should tune the psalms in the lower part of the meeting house, and that Justice BUCK and Simeon CHURCH should assist in reading the psalms." A month after this vote was passed another was passed, allowing the chorister to "sit where he thought best in the meeting house to tune the psalms." This seems to have ended the trouble about the singing for some time.

The society seems to have acted with a great deal of caution in regard to employing ministers. The prudential committee were required, in some cases, to go to the former place of residence of the applicant for a pastorate of the church, and make inquiries in regard to his character, and to question him in regard to his orthodoxy, and to report at an adjourned meeting.

The society had the care of the schools, and the first one permanently established was in 1755, when a vote was passed to lay a tax of one half-penny on a pound to maintain a school, and Moses SHELDON, Simeon CHURCH, and Jonathan DUNK were appointed a committee to have the care of it one year. The society continued to have the care of the schools until the school society system was established.

In 1791, the meeting house being much out of repair, the society voted to build a new house on the "green;" and in 1793 it was erected, much after the plan of the old one. This building has now, by the great generosity of Stephen SHORTLAND, and the skill and direction of Merritt S. BROOKS, become one of the most beautiful town halls to be found in any country town in the State.

The present meeting house was built in 1846, during the pastorate of the Rev. Amos S. CHESEBROUGH, and at a time when great unanimity of feeling existed among the members of the church and society. The building committee were Joshua L'HOMMEDIEU, Thaddeus BEACH, and Samuel C. SILLIMAN. The house is 38 by 58 feet, with an audience room, parlor, and pantry in the basement. The main audience room is furnished with a fine pipe organ, procured principally through the efforts of J. Elmer WATROUS and the late James B. CLARK.

The first pastor of the church was the Rev. Jared HARRISON, who was installed in 1742, at the formation of the church, and died in 1751. The second was Simeon STODDARD, settled October 1759, and died October 1765. The third was Elijah MASON, settled May 1767, and died February 1770. The fourth was Robert SILLIMAN, who had preached about 30 years in New Canaan, and was installed here in 1772. He died in his former parish, while on a visit to his friends.

The fifth pastor, Samuel MILLS, was settled October 1786, and died in 1814. Of Mr. MILLS, the Rev. Dr. David D. FIELD, in his "Statistics of Middlesex County," from which most of the statistics in regard to ministers are taken, says:

"After leaving college, Mr. MILLS was employed in keeping school. In the Revolutionary war he went into the army in the capacity of a lieutenant of horse, where he received a wound from a cutlass in the back of his neck, in an engagement with the British at Philadelphia. During his ministry, as his stipend was too small to support his family, he usually instructed a number of youth at his own house, and thus rendered important service to many persons in Chester and vicinity." The sixth pastor was Nehemiah B. BEARDSLEY, installed in January 1816, and dismissed in February 1822. The seventh pastor was William CASE, settled in September 1824, and dismissed in 1835. He died in March 1857. Mr. CASE, like Mr. MILLS, was under the necessity of keeping school to enable him to meet the wants of his family, and for a considerable time this was quite popular.

The eighth pastor, Samuel T. MILLS, son of the fifth pastor, was installed in July 1835, and dismissed in April 1838. He died in 1853. Mr. MILLS came here from Peterboro, New York, where he had preached many years.

The ninth pastor, Edward Pierson, was installed in September 1838, and dismissed in October 1839. He died in 1856. The tenth, Amos S. CHESEBROUGH, was ordained and installed in December 1841, and dismissed in January 1853. The eleventh, Edgar J. DOOLITTLE, was installed in April 1853, and dismissed in April 1859. He was acting pastor from August 1861, to May 1869. The twelfth, William S. WRIGHT, was installed in June 1859, and dismissed in August 1861. The thirteenth, Jabez, BACKUS, is the present pastor. He was ordained and installed in June 1881. All of the dismissals were by the request of the pastors.

In the intervals between the dismission or death of the pastors, the pulpit was occupied by many valuable ministers, among whom were the Rev. Chauncy ROBBINS, through whose untiring efforts a fund of five thousand dollars was raised for the support of the Gospel in the society; the Rev. Charles DICKINSON, who accomplished much good by his plain, practical preaching; and the Rev. William D. MORTON, who was instrumental in the establishment of the Chester Library Association, in 1875, which now has twelve hundred and fifty volumes. There was a library established in 1789, known as the Fraternal Library, with one hundred and one volumes.

The following named persons have been elected deacons of the church: Jedediah CHAPMAN, in 1742; John WARD, in 1750; Jonathan DUNK, in 1760; Thomas SILLIMAN, son of Rev. Robert SILLIMAN, in 1781; Andrew LEWIS, in 1811; Samuel SILLIMAN, in 1831; Jeremiah WILCOX, in 1838; and Edward C. HUNGERFORD, in 1871. The two last mentioned are the present deacons. Thomas SILLIMAN and his son, Samuel SILLIMAN, were deacons of the church one hundred years. They were men who took a great interest in all public affairs, and were always ready to battle for the right in every case.

The value of property belonging to the society is estimated at $11,000, exclusive of the fund of $5,000/

The following ministers have been raised up here from this church: Jonathan SILLIMAN, Samuel T. MILLS, William ELY, John MITCHELL, William MITCHELL, and William BALDWIN.


In 1815, according to FIELD's Statistics, there were in the town one hundred and fifteen families, seventy-seven of whom were Congregationalists, and the remaining thirty-eight Baptists. The Baptists worshiped with the church in Winthrop until about the year 1822, when they built a comfortable meeting house in what is now known as the Middle District.

Public worship was established in it, but the church was not organized until 1832, when it consisted of twenty-six male and forty-one female members. During the interval of ten years between the building of the meeting house and the organization of the church, the pulpit was occupied by the Revs. Emory SHAILER, William DENISON, Joseph GLAGIOR, Russell JENNINGS, and others.

The first regular pastor was Elder HODGE, whose pastorate was from 1832 to 1833; William PALMER, from 1834 to 1838; Simon SHAILER, from 1838 to 1839; A. F. TAYLOR, from 1839 to 1840; A. VANGILDER, from 1840 to 1841; Sylvester BARROWS, from 1841 to 1843; A. D. WATROUS, a part of 1843; Alfred GATES, from 1843 to 1846; N. BOUGHTON, from 1846 to 1849; Isaac CHEESBRO, from 1849 to 1851.

After this, until 1862, the pulpit was temporarily occupied by E. N. SHAILER, Russell JENNINGS, and others. William DENISON was pastor in 1862. The church had seasons of prosperity and adversity, and at the time of its greatest declension the Rev. George W. GORHAM returned from the war of the Rebellion, where he had served both as a soldier and chaplain, with constitution impaired in the service, and spent the most of his remaining strength, from 1868 to 1870, trying to restore harmony, and to build up the church; and, for his self denying labors under great discouragements, the church is most indebted, and cherished his memory with feeling of gratitude.

In 1870, through the great generosity of the Rev. Russell JENNINGS, who had always felt a deep solicitude for the church, it was put in possession of a fine new meeting house. The building is 41 by 26 feet, with a basement room, parlor, and consultation room. The main audience room is provided with an organ. From the dedication of the new meeting house, the church entered upon a season of prosperity. Since the dedication, elder JENNINGS has given the church a parsonage, and a permanent fund of $5,000, making the value of the church property more than $12,000, exclusive of the fund of $5,000.

The pastors of the church since the dedication of the new meeting house have been: T. N. DICKINSON, John EVANS, William D. MORGAN, O. C. KIRKHAM, J. G. NOBLE, and J. A. BAILEY. The Rev. A. J. HUGHES, the present pastor, was ordained in September 1884.

The names of those who have been deacons of the church are John PARKER and Samuel WEBB jr. The present deacons are George W. SMITH and Fisk SHAILER. There have been raised up from this church three ministers: Amos D. WATROUS, George WATROUS, and Hayden WATROUS.


In the year 1853, there were ten Catholic families residing in the town of Chester, and forty single persons professing the same faith. All being anxious to worship at the shrine of their fathers, they acquainted the Rev. Father BRADY, the resident pastor of St. Patrick's Church, in Hartford, of their situation. In the course of that summer, he paid them a visit, and offered the holy sacrifice of the mass in a private house, the same now owned and occupied by Fisk SHAILER. Believing that their spiritual wants would be more regularly attended to, they applied to the owners of the Rechabite Hall for permission to hold services there, which favor they granted, thus showing a liberal disposition, for which the Catholics felt very grateful. Rev. Peter KELLY, also from Hartford, then paid them a visit and celebrated mass in the Rechabite Hall for the first time. The Rt. Rev. Bernard O'RILEY, Bishop of Providence and Hartford at that time, being made acquainted with their situation, sent them the Rev. John LYNCH as permanent pastor. He continued divine worship in the hall until 1855, St. Joseph's Church being completed and ready for service in 1856. Father LYNCH was removed, and Chester being a part of the mission of Branford, Clinton, and Saybrook, Branford being the head, pastors were sent from the latter place, and from Colchester, until 1876, when the Rev. Philip SHERIDAN was sent to them as permanent pastor. He officiated until 1883, when he departed this life. He was succeeded by the Rev. Joseph SYNNOTT, a man of untiring zeal for the welfare of the church and his people. He has just completed a fine pastoral residence, and intends soon to build a new church or enlarge the present one. The number of Catholic people of all ages at present here is 250.


As before states, the first permanent school was established in 1752, although there was a school established in 1743, but no suitable provision made for its continuance. The first school house stood about five rods southeast of the present town hall; the second, about twenty rods in the same direction from the town hall, on the east side of the road. There was but one school district until 1775, when the territory of the town was about evenly divided, and the districts were called the East and West Districts. The building used by the West District for a school stood on the south side of the road, near the HOUGH house, until about 1799, when a house was built near the present one, which was erected in 1849. In 1816 the East district was divided into North and South Districts, each building a new school house. That in the North District stood east of D. D. SILLIMAN's house, on the north side of the road, and about a quarter of a mile north of the present one, which was built in 1871; and that in the South district was located on the south side of the road, near the site of the present one, which was built in 1866. In 1845, the South district was divided, and the west part was called the Middle district, and a school house was built there.

Subsequently, a portion of the West District was annexed to the Middle. Each district has a good house, that in the South having two departments.


Ship building, according to FIELD's "Statistics," commenced in the town in 1755, near the mouth of the cove; afterward it was carried on a mile up the cove, at what is known as the old building years, by LEET & BUCK, STEVENS & COLT, and Samuel COLT. Here the ship Adriatic was built, in 1811; it being the first ship built in town. The business was continued here many years, but owing to increasing difficulties in getting vessels below the turnpike bridge it was again commenced near the mouth of the cove, where it was continued several years by Samuel COLT, William LORD, and others who were interested in the business. The ship Jane Blossom was built here, about the year 1822, by Samuel COLT and others, and was lost on her first trip to Mobile. Three vessels have been built near the Middlesex Turnpike bridge by Bani DENISON and his son, Socrates DENISON, and within forty years a schooner has been built at the "old yard" and another at the head of the cove.


About the year 1810, and for some years previous there was a considerable amount of shipping owned in the town, and quite a number of men were interested in the West India trade. Among them were Jonathan WARNER, Gideon LEET, William MITCHELL, and others. Subsequent to 1810, several vessels were owned here, but the number gradually decreased, and at present there is but one owned.


Mercantile business was carried on at an early period at the head of the cove by LEET & BUCK (the WARNERS also being interest), by STEVENS & COLT, and Samuel COLT.

In 1809, Bani DENISON commenced the business near Middlesex Turnpike bridge, and was succeeded by his son, Socrates DENISON, who discontinued the business some eighteen years ago, and it is now carried on at the head of the cove by William H. SULLIVAN, dealer in dry goods and groceries; Eli H. WILCOX, in groceries, confectionery, etc.; S. DENISON & Son, in dry goods and groceries; Charles WELLMAN, in hardware; J. J. O'CONNOR, in boots and shoes, and gents' furnishing goods; Miss Hattie PRATT in fancy goods, and Miss Nettie WRIGHT, in millinery goods; S. A. WRIGHT, postmaster, in drugs, paints, oils, & c., and E. M. HUGHES, manufacturer and dealer in HUGHE's extract of Witch Hazel. Julius SMITH, a dealer in dry goods and groceries, is located bout half a mile west of the cove. At the head of the cove is the stove store and tin ship of D. H. GILBERT. The CHESTER House or Hotel, kept by Frank P. SMITH, is a comfortable and commodious house, neatly kept, where transient or permanent guests are well fed and kindly treated.


The first post office was established in 1810, at Bani DENISON's store. He was the first postmaster, and dispensed a weekly mail. The post rider was a Mr. STOCKING, who at first carried the mail on horseback, but as the business became more important, he provided himself with a one-horse covered wagon and a fish horn, to herald his approach to the villages on is route from Middletown to Saybrook. To keep up with the march of improvement, sleigh bells were finally used at all seasons of the year. Friday was mail day, and Mr. STOCKING, with his white hat, was eagerly looked for as one of the great government officials, dispensing news to the inhabitants of Middlesex county.


For many years previous to 1830, the quarrying of stone for New York and Philadelphia markets was extensively carried on. A large force of men was employed, and a considerable amount of shipping was engaged in transporting the products of the quarries, and the large amount of wood shipped from here to market.


Agriculture is not as important here as in many other towns of the State, a large part of the land being covered with wood, although there are some good farms and thrifty farmers.


The town is finely situated for manufacturing, having two considerable streams of water running through it, which have their rise in the lower pat of Haddam and unite, at tide-water, at the head of the cove. In addition to these streams there is another in the north part of the town that has its rise in SHIPMAN's Pond, so called from one of the early settlers of that name who originally owned it. Previous to 1820 there was a grist mill near its outlet, and subsequently a tannery, a mile below, but for some cause not understood the volume of water running from the pond has greatly decreased, and the stream is now useless for mill sites.

In addition to Cedar Lake, the south branch of Pattaconk River has a large reservoir northwest of the lake, covering a large tract of land. The north branch has two large reservoirs, one of these being within the bounds of Haddam. Both streams afford a sufficient supply of water at all seasons of the year for the factories on them.

The first factory on the south stream is the bitt factory of C. L. GRISWOLD, now occupied by the Chester Manufacturing Company, consisting of Edwin G. SMITH, John H. BAILEY, and Charles E. WRIGHT, who manufacture auger bitts, corkscrews, reamers, etc. The factory is on the site of a forge built about the year 1816, and occupied by Abel SNOW in the forging of ship anchors. About 1838, the building was used for the manufacture of carriage springs, later by C. L. GRISWOLD & Co. for the manufacture of bitts, and by the present owners for the same business.

The second factory on the stream is Russell JENNINGS' Bitt Factory, which is two hundred and twenty feet long, twenty-eight feet wide, and two stories high. The machinery is driven by two water-wheels, each over twenty-five feet in diameter, and corresponding length of buckets. There is also connected with the factory a steam-engine of sixty horse power, which is used when accidents or repairs on the water works render it necessary. A considerable portion of this factory was erected by G. G. GRISWOLD & Company in 1854, for the manufacture of augers and bitts. In 1865, TURNER, DAY & Company became their successors. Mr. JENNINGS bought the property in 1865 for the purpose of manufacturing his celebrated patent extension lip augers and bitts, and has successfully carried on the business to the present time. On the site of the property, Ezra and Joshua L'HOMMEDIEU built a factory in 1812 for the purpose of manufacturing gimlets, which business was carried on for several years. About the year 1815, Ezra L'HOMMEDIEU invented the celebrated single-twist ship auger, and manufactured them here until the building, about a quarter of a mile west, which was built in 1790, and known as SNOW & SMITH's Anchor Forge, was purchased, and the business transferred to it. This building is now owned by Russell JENNINGS and used as a part of his bitt making establishment. It is fifty-two feet long, thirty-five feet wide, and two stories high, and is provided with turbine water-wheel. A few feet from this building, Mr. JENNINGS has erected another, one hundred and twelve feet long, thirty feet wide, and two stories high, the machinery of which is driven by a water-wheel over twenty-five feet in diameter.

The three factories here and the one in Deep River, using twelve trip hammers, make one of the largest bitt manufacturing establishments in the world. Mr. JENNINGS, in 1851, invented what is widely known as Russell JENNINGS' Extension Lip Bitt, on which he obtained a patent and a renewal of the same, and various patents on machinery for making them. The favorable reputation which these goods have obtained is largely due to the skill of Mr. Henry L. SHAILER, who has from the first been the principal overseer and director of the business. Mr. SHAILER is a practical bit maker, and gives his personal attention to very branch of the business, and while he is kind and indulgent to his men, he requires every man to do his work well, and if any one is inclined to slight his work, he is notified of the fact before he has proceeded far in that direction. Mr. SHAILER has invented several valuable machines, which are used in the business.

The fourth establishment is the saw mill and joiner's shop of G. A. BOGART & Company, on the site of the ax helve factory of BIGGS & BOIES.

The fifth is the brush factory owned by the estate of C. B. RODGERS, of Deep River, where carpet sweepers and brushes of various kinds are manufactured by George S. GLADDING. This water privilege was originally occupied by a grist mill and saw mill. The present building was erected by the firm of S. C. SILLIMAN & Company for the manufacture of ship augers.

The sixth factory is owned by N. C. PERRY, who manufactures bright wire goods, screw eyes, hooks and eyes, etc., He has been successful in the business, and has invented a number of valuable machines for the manufacture of this class of goods.

The seventh establishment is that of C. E. JENNINGS, of New York, and at this factory auger bitts, gimlets, bung borers, etc., are made. J. R. FERGUSON, who commenced the business here in 1880, is superintendent of the works. The site was formerly occupied by a wool carding machine. The eighth and last water privilege on this stream is near the outlet of Cedar Lake, which has before been alluded to as having been occupied by the first saw mill and grist mill established in the town by the WILLARDS. About the year 1836, a large stone factory was erected here for the manufacture of wagon springs, but none were ever made. Wood screws were manufactured here a short time, and it was used as a woolen mill from 1859 to 1874, when the main portion was burned. At present the small part that escaped the fire is used as a shoddy mill by Matthew GLEDHILL.

A small saw mill and grist mill is located about a mile and a quarter west of the last mentioned mill, on a stream that enters the northwest part of Cedar Lake.

On the north branch of Pattaconk River, near its junction with the south branch, is Pond's Witch Hazel Distillery, where a large business is done in the fall and winter months. The material from which the extract is made grows in great abundance here, and in this vicinity. About the year 1840, RUSSELL & BEACH established an iron foundry on the site of this building, and for many years did a large amount of business.

The second factory on this stream is that of S. SILLIMAN & Company, where stationers' goods have been manufactured since 1837. The Business was commenced by Samuel SILLIMAN, Ezra SOUTHWORTH, and Samuel C. SILLIMAN. They were succeeded by Daniel D. SILLIMAN and Joseph E. SILLIMAN, under the name of the old firm, and they fully maintained the god reputation of the goods made at this factory.

The third factory is owned by Edward C. HUNGERFORD. It was built about the year 1837, by Lybbeas AUGER and his son, Daniel M. AUGER, for the manufacturer of cast iron pumps, and other hardware goods. They were succeeded by James L. LORD, who occupied the building as an iron foundry and machine shop for many years. The next occupants were the GAYLORD Brothers, who manufactured gimlets, cork screws, gimlet bitts, etc. The present occupants are H. M. NORTON & Company, manufacturers of gimlets. Gimlet bitts, bung borers, screw drivers, etc.,

The fourth fadtory [factory] is C. J. BATES' ivory and bone turning factory, where a great variety of goods are made from these materials.

The fifth factory is owned by Merritt S. BROOKS, and occupied by William N. CLARK & Sons, for the manufacture of bright iron and brass wire goods. This business was established about the year 1848, in an old building situated near the present factory, built by Colonel Charles DANIELS, about the year 1825, for the manufacture of gimlets. The present factory was built in 1850, by Simeon BROOKS, and the business was carried on by him until his death. In 1871, his son, Merritt S. BROOKS, succeeded him, and continued it about three years, when he leased the building and business to the present occupants for a term of years. They he since carried it on successfully employing a large number of hands. William N. CLARK was the originator of this business in the United States The sixth establishment on this steam is the grist mill occupied by Eugene SCOVILL, who is a large dealer in grain and feed. The site of this mill was occupied, previous to 1805, by a saw mill.

About a mile further west is the factory of A. H. & J. S. DENSE, established in 1872, where a variety of hardware goods are made, such as auger bitts, gimlet bits, gimlets, bung borers, corkscrews, etc. The proprietors are entitled to great credit for their energy and perseverance under many discouragements in successfully establishing this business.

Situated near the north of Chester Cove and the Valley Railroad, is the large bitt factory of the Connecticut Valley Hardware Company. The machinery is operated by steam. The building was erected in 1873 for the purpose of manufacturing wire beds, but after an unsuccessful effort the business was given up, and the property changed hands, and is now owned by the present occupants. The officers of the company are: A. J. ALLEN, of Hartford, president; and George S. STEARNS, of Chester, secretary.

In addition to the other places of business should be mentioned George W. SMITH's paper box manufactory, in the Middle District, and George T. GRAHAM's jewelry store at "The Cove."


A savings bank was established here in 1871, and the deposits and surplus amount to $117,296. C. L. GRISWOLD is president, and during the past seven years Edward C. HUNGERFORD has been secretary and treasurer, and has managed the financial affairs of the bank prudently and skillfully, not a dollar having been lost by bad debts.


The town has never been lacking in patriotism when our country has called for help. It is said that in the war of the Revolution, 32 went into the service here from a population of about 500. Thirteen of the number returned and died here, viz.: Edward SHIPMAN, Abraham WATERHOUSE, John LEWIS, Andrew LEWIS, Joseph CLARK, Andrew SOUTHWORTH, John PARKER, Reuben CLARK, Constant WEBB, James BALDWIN, and three others whose names are not known. The two first named, Edward SHIPMAN and Abraham WATERHOUSE, entered the service as captains, and the former became major.

In the war of 1812, 35 or 40 entered the service for a short time.

In the war of the Rebellion, 40 residents of the town volunteered, and 12 of the number died in the service. The town sent in addition 38 non-residents, which filled its full quota of 78. There was raised by the town for war purposes, $7,500, and by individuals, about $3,000, making $10,500, besides about $2,000 that was paid for substitutes by men who were drafted.


REPRESENTATIVES.-The representatives to the General Assembly for the town of Chester have been: Joshua L'HOMMEDIEU, 1837, 1842, 1843, 1845, 1848; Thaddeus BEACH, 1838; Edward SHIPMAN, 1839; Stephen L'HOMMEDIEU, 1840; Samuel COLT, 1841; Phillip S. WEBB, 1844; Constant WEBB, 1846; William MILLER, 1847; Clark CANFIELD, 1849; William PARKER, 1850; Henry W. GILBERT, 1851; David READ, 1852; Socrates DENISON, 1853; Appleton STEVENS, 1854; Samuel P. RUSSELL, 1855; Charles I. GRISWOLD, 1856; Hiram H. CLARK, 1857; Joseph E. SILLIMAN, 1858, 1859, 1872, 1873; Alexander H. GILBERT, 1860; Jarvis BOIES, 1861; Samuel C. SILLIMAN, 1862; William D. CLARK, 1863; Charles L. GRISWOLD, 1864, 1874; Sylvester W. TURNER, 1865; George W. SMITH, 1866; Thomas C. SILLIMAN, 1867; T. Cooke SILLIMAN, 1868; George JONES, 1869; E. C. HUNGERFORD, 1870, 1871; J. Tyler SMITH, 1875; Fisk SHAILER, 1876; Daniel D. SILLIMAN, 1877; Walter S. CLARK, 1878; Jonathan WARNER, 1879; J. Tillotson CLARKE, 1880; Joseph W. BATES, 1881; A. Hamilton GILBERT, 1882; William N. CLARK jr., 1883; Frank Y. SILLIMAN, 1884.

Town Clerks.-Chester has had but three town clerks. The first clerk appointed after the incorporation of the town, in 1836, was Gideon PARKER 2d. He was elected October 3d 1836, and served until 1846. Socrates DENISON was elected October 5th 1856, and continued in office till 1877, when he was succeeded by is son, J. Kirtland DENISON, who still holds the position.



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