Rev. M.N. Olmstead
The Ladies' repository, vol. 17, iss. 5
Methodist Episcopal Church, Cincinnati, May 1857

Wepowage, the Indian name of Milford, Connecticut, and lying between New Haven and Bridgeport, was purchased from the Indians on the 12th of February, 1639. The parties in the transaction were the sagamor and his council; namely, ANSANTAWAY, ARRACOUSAT, ANSHUTA, MANAMATQUE, and TATACENACOUSE, of the first part, and William FOWLER, Edmund TAPP, Zachariah WHITMAN, Benjamin FENN, and Alexander BRYAN, of the second part, in trust for a body of planters. The price mutually agreed upon was six coats, ten blankets, one kettle, twelve hatchets, twelve hoes, two dozen knives, and a dozen small looking-glasses.

On this tract of land a plot was laid out in the garden of the minister for the burial of the dead. The first grave opened on this ground was for the infant son of Mr. William EAST, on the 18th of June, 1644; and the first adult buried here was Sarah, wife of Nicholas CAMP. From this period to 1675 all the dead of Milford were deposited here, among whom was the minister himself.

A traveler on the New York and New Haven railroad, leaving Milford station for the east, will, in a few moments, cross the Wepowage river, and pass the "Soldier's Monument," standing in the south-west corner of the present repository of the dead. Four times, since 1675, has this ground been enlarged, and the ashes of those who died prior to this period have been disinterred and transferred to this place, and, with thousands more, now slumber in silent repose, while the inscriptions on the sculptured marble trace the outlines of the history of Milford for more than two hundred years. To follow out all of these in detail would be the work of a lifetime, and would fill volumes; but a brief reference to a few may not be amiss or uninteresting to the readers of the Repository.

The first Church organization in this place was in the year 1639, and still exists under the title of the "First Congregational Society." During the first five years after its organization not a death had occurred in the town. But in the year 1855 over fifty fell by ordinary diseases within the same compass.

The Rev. Peter PRUDDEN was probably the first evangelical minister who proclaimed the words of eternal life to the inhabitants of Milford. He was ordained in 1639 and remained in the pastoral charge till death signed his release, July 1656. His birthplace was Edgerton, Yorkshire, England, whence he immigrated to this country in 1637, being then thirty-seven years of age. He was a preacher in England, and also in Wethersfield, Connecticut, previous to his settlement in this place. His grandson, Rev. Job PRUDDEN, was the first settled minister of the Second Congregational Society in Milford. He was ordained 1747, and died of small-pox, taken while visiting the sick, June 24, 1774. Long since, his remains, with the ashes of the aged grandsire, have mingled with the dust of this graveyard. The seven pillars of this first Church, namely, P. PRUDDEN, William FOWLER, E. TAPP, Z. WHITMAN, Thomas BUCKINGHAM, Thomas WELCH, and John ATWOOD, with the exception of the last-named individual, here lie entombed.

Rev. Roger NEWTON, a near relative of Sir Isaac NEWTON, was born in England, graduated at Harvard College, and was settled in Milford, August 22, 1660. The old Church record says, "He was ordained Pastour by ye laying on of ye hands of Zachariah WHITMAN, elder, John FLETCHER, deacon, and Mr. Robert TREAT, magistrate - though not magistrate and deacon, but as appointed by ye Church to joyne with ye ruling elder in laying on hands in the name of ye Church." He died on the 7th of June, 1683.

Rev. Samuel ANDREWS, one of the three most active individuals who took measures to found Yale College, was ordained November 18, 1685, and died January 24, 1738, at the advanced age of eighty-two years, having been pastor of the First Church over fifty years. He was one of the best scholars of his time, and one of the greatest benefactors of Yale College. His wife was the daughter of Governor TREAT, of whom we shall speak hereafter.

Rev. Bezaleel PINEO was ordained October 26, 1796, and continued in the pastoral charge more than half a century, which brings us down to the time of the present incumbent, Rev. Jonathan BRACE. He was a graduate of Dartmouth College, and died on the 28th day of September, 1849.

In this lone spot rest the ancestors of many of the great men of our nation. Robert TREAT, a young man of eighteen years, came from Wethersfield to Milford with Rev. P. PRUDDEN in 1639. The following year he was elected the first town clerk of the town of Milford, and was soon after chosen on of the first judges of the state. In 1661, he was elected a magistrate in New Haven colony. He was appointed major in 1670 and colonel in 1674. The troops under his command drove the Indians from their assaults at Springfield and Hadley. In 1676, he was chosen Deputy Governor, and in 1683 he was duly elected Governor of the state of Connecticut, and was continued in the last two stations for thirty-two years. He was chairman of that meeting in Hartford, in 1687, which took measures to preserve the charter of Connecticut from the grasp of Sir Edmund ANDROS, by secreting it in the hollow of a tree, since known as the "Charter Oak," and which was preserved with the utmost care for about two hundred years, during which it continued to spread abroad its gnarled limbs, and put on its yearly mantle of green despite the ravages of time.

"In song and story the old oak is made famous, and thousands of strangers from abroad annually visit it. The tree stood upon the WYLLYS place, now owned and occupied by Hon. I.W. STEWART, who kindly cared for it. A few years ago some boys kindled a fire within its trunk, which burned out most of the rotten parts of it. Mr. STEWART soon discovered the fire and had it at once extinguished. He then, at considerable expense, had the hollow inclosed by a door, with lock and key. He also had the stumps of branches that had been broken off covered with tin and painted. The tree from this time seemed to be imbued with new life, each succeeding spring dressing itself in a richer and denser foliage. On the 22d of November the New Haven fire companies, who come up to join their brethren in Hartford, on the occasion of their annual muster, visited the famous oak. They were, of course, kindly received by Mr. STEWART. To show them the capacity of the tree, he invited the firemen to enter the trunk, when twenty-four of the men belonging to Captain McGREGOR's company entered together. They came out and twenty-eight of Captain THOMAS's company entered. By placing twenty-eight full-grown men in an ordinary room of a dwelling, one may judge of the great size of the famous old Charter Oak."

But the old tree, which had witnessed the downfall of all its associates, and the death of the white man, whose ax had laid them low, and also the red man's trail, his bloody wars and decay, has fallen, like one of Homer's mighty heroes slain. When Governor WYLLYS came to America, he sent his steward to prepare his residence. As he was clearing away the trees on this beautiful hillside, a deputation of Indians came and requested him to spare that old hollow tree, as it had been a guide to their ancestors for centuries. It is supposed to have been an old tree when Columbus discovered America. But it was spared to fall after the bold navigator had slept in the grave three and a half centuries. The bells of the city tolled at sunset as a mark of respect for the fall of the ancient monarch of the forest. A likeness of the fallen tree is preserved, and an oak is already growing from an acorn of the old oak, to be presented to Mr. STEWART, to be transplanted, in the same old spot, which may afford a refreshing shade for "Young America."

The wife of Governor TREAT was the daughter of Edmund TAPP, Esq., and concerning their marriage is this anecdote. One day while Robert was at the house of Mr. TAPP, he took one of the daughters upon his knee and began to trot her. "Robert," said the girl, "stop that; I had rather be *treated* than *trotted*." Upon this Robert popped the question, which was favorably entertained, and she subsequently became his wife. One of their daughters was the mother of Robert Treat PAINE, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence of these United States. Governor TREAT died July 12, 1710, at the advanced age of eighty-nine years.

Jonathan LAW, jr., a graduate of Harvard College, was elected justice of the peace 1706, chief judge of the county court, 1714, Deputy Governor, 1724, and Governor, 1741, from which time he was annually chosen governor till his death, November, 1750. On the occasion of his death, Tutor STILES, afterward President of Yale College, pronounced a funeral oration in the College Hall. Governor Law had five wives, all of whom now repose with him in this place of the dead.

Henry TOMLINSON, ancestor of Governor TOMLINSON, here lies among the dead. He built the first public inn in the town of Milford, which was continued till within a very few years past. Twice General WASHINGTON put up at this inn, the last of which was in 1789.

The ancestors of three of the signers of the Declaration of Independence rest in this graveyard; namely, Robert Treat PAINE, Abram CLARK, and Roger SHERMAN. George CLARK, the ancestor of Abram Clark, died in 1690. He was the first man who dared build a house outside the palisadoes, and as a reward for his courage the town gave him forty acres of land.

The ancestors of two members of the convention that framed the Constitution of the United States are buried here also; namely Roger SHERMAN and Jared INGERSOL. And here, also, we find the name of the identical John SMITH, who removed from Boston to Milford as early as 1643. His descendants, some of whom bear his own name are numerous, and many of them highly respectable, and are thickly spread over all the states of the Union.

Among the list of names here engraved we find that of Micaiah TOMPKINS. He was one of the planters of Milford. Two of the regicides, WHALLEY and GOFFE, were secreted in the basement of a shop near the house of Mr. TOMPKINS, August 20, 1661, where they remained for two years. Tradition says that the daughters of Mr. TOMPKINS often spun in this shop, and unwittingly amused the judges with a song composed on the execution of King Charles I. Previous to their coming to Milford, they had been secreted in a cave at a place called West Rock, near New Haven -- a bold, lofty pile of rock, three hundred feet high, overlooking Long Island Sound. Here they were supplied with provisions by Mr. Richard SPERRY and his boys, who left their daily rations on a certain stump, and when they were gone the regicides would creep from their hiding place and take it to their cave. They were frightened from this den by the glaring eyeballs of a catamount, who threw such a glance upon them as to fairly look them out of countenance. Soon after this they took up their abode, for a short time, in a lodge three miles west, till they removed to Milford at the time and place above alluded to. Two years after they removed to Hadley, Massachusetts, where they dwelt sixteen years, in the cellar of Rev. M. RUSSELL.

During their stay here Hadley was surprised by the Indians, September 1, 1675, during public worship, and the people were thrown into confusion. But suddenly a venerable man, in an uncommon dress, appeared in their midst, reviving their courage, and, putting himself at their heed, led them to the attack and repulsed the enemy. The deliverer of Hadley immediately disappeared, and the inhabitants, overwhelmed with astonishment, supposed that an angel had been sent to their protection. It is supposed that WHALLEY and GOFFE were buried in the minister's cellar, and that their remains were subsequently removed to the rear of the Center Church, New Haven. This supposition is strongly confirmed by three stones, marked as follows: E.W. 1678, for WHALLEY; M. G. .. 80, for GOFFE; and J.D., Esq., 1668-9, for DIXWELL.

Some of the early settlers of Milford removed to Newtown, Durham, Wallingford, Cheshire, Farmington, Woodbury, Washington, Norwalk, Ridgefield, and New Milford. Once the town of Derbey, a large part of Woodbridge, Bethany, and North Orange, formed a part of this town, and the ashes of the ancestors of many of the people of these towns now molder in this sacred spot. But their detail would render this article too prolix for the columns of the Repository. Should this meet with favor, I may possibly have something to say of modern graves and of monuments.

We close these records with a brief history of the "Soldiers' Monument," which was erected in 1852, by the joint liberality of the state of Connecticut, the citizens of Milford, and other contributing friends. It is composed of red sandstone, from Hall's quarry, Portland, opposite Middletown, on the Connecticut river. It is a square shaft, thirty feet high, and well proportioned. On the south front is seen the arms of the state, neatly engraved, and surmounted by the thirteen emblematic stars, and underneath a brief history of the monument. On the other side appear the names of forty-six American soldiers, and their places of residence, whose bones lie wasting beneath.

In the month of January, 1777, a British cartel ship, with two hundred American prisoners on board, taken from the prison-ship near New York, sailed for New Haven. Adverse winds forced the vessel into Milford harbor, and forthwith the prisoners were put ashore on the beach at mid-winter, in a destitute, sickly, and dying condition. The inhabitants of Milford came at once to their relief, and nobly exerted themselves to mitigate the sufferings of the destitute strangers. About one-half of their number soon left for their homes. The remainder, too week and sickly to move, were nursed with almost a mother's care in the dwellings of hospitable inhabitants. Yet notwithstanding these philanthropic efforts, in a month forty-six of their number were laid in one common grave near the monument where their names are inscribed. Here in solemn silence they sleep, while the flying trains, with their multitudes of human beings, of every age, sex, condition and character, dash on their way, and nothing will break the stillness of their repose, till the voice of the archangel and the trump of God shall wake the dead to life.

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