HISTORY OF THE TOWNS OF
NEW MILFORD AND BRIDGEWATER,
[LITCHFIELD CO.] CONNECTICUT, 1703 - 1882
By SAMUEL ORCUTT
Transcribed by Richard Clarke
The first Twelve Settlers.
Life in a new, unsettled country has many charms, although to the dwellers in the city it may seem quite to the contrary. But, aside from the idea of enjoyment, the settlers of a new country are driven, by the hope of securing necessary comforts for their dependent families, to put forth great, and sometimes hazardous efforts for the attainment of their object, and therefore the world has seen, over and over, the head of the family going into a far country and building a hut, and afterwards a more commodious house, and others following him, until a village is built, and then a town and a state are settled; and finally cities rise in their grandeur,-all for the hope of securing the things which seem to be necessary for the fulfilling of the life-work given to men to do. Many, if they could have been consulted as to their being, would have decided not to be; but since they are, they accept their lot with heroic fortitude, and venture in the paths of life to the verge of imminent personal loss or ruin, for the one only hope of good to those who look to them with longing eyes for help, protection, and guidance in the present life, and the fulfillment of their destiny hereafter in harmony with the will of their divine Creator, whatever that may be. To every man, therefore, if he be a true man, the work set before him has charms, the joy of which he is eager to possess, whether it be in the forests wild or in the city full. Divine are the destinies of man in this life, just as much as they will be in the life to come; not in a fatalistic sense, but in that of approval and help, to the intent of securing success therein. We need not, therefore, spend our pity on those who dwelt in the wilderness that they might plant the standard of prosperity for those who should be their successors in the work of the earthly life. The persons who stand before us as represented by the names of the First Twelve Settlers of New Milford need not our commiseration, but congratulation that they held so high and noble stations in life, and fulfilled them so honorably and successfully. The catalogue of these names is not a long one, but they were the forerunners of a long succession of eventful characters that have, after nearly one hundred and eighty years, just begun to pass in review, and, in hope of animating the travelers in that succession, the record of these pages is made. The list of these twelve names was made one hundred and seventy years ago, in the following order:
1. JOHN NOBLE, SEN. 7. SAMUEL PRINDLE.
2. JOHN BOSTWICK, SEN. 8. JOHN BOSTWICK, JR.
3. BENJAMIN BOSTWICK, SEN. 9. ZACHARIAH FERRIS.
4. JOHN NOBLE, JR. 10. ROGER BROWNSON.
5. ISAIAH BARTLET. 11. JOHN WELLER.
6. SAMUEL BROWNSON. 12. THOMAS WELLER.
Not in the least did they or their families dream that their names, after one hundred and seventy years, would stand displayed on the pages of history as the twelve corner-stones of one of the most successful rural towns of the far-famed state of Connecticut. So little do the seed-sowers know what the harvest shall be. Long ages ago it was written: "There shall be a handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon." And it might have been said, shall be planted in all lands, for to such an extent, nearly, have been transplanted the men raised in New 'Milford; and it is literally true that a young lady raised in New Milford was the first American woman that sailed around the world. It was she that was Lucia, daughter of Samuel Ruggles, and is now the widow Lucia Tomlinson of New Milford, in her 89th year.
It is pleasant to take some particular notice of the first twelve settlers, since they all proved themselves worthy of the highest encomium and of the most lasting remembrance.
1. John Noble, Sen., came here when forty-five years of age, having a family of nine or ten children living, some of whom did not settle in this town. He was a brave, enterprising, noble hearted man, or he would never have ventured into the wilderness to make a home for his family as he did. His dwelling house stood on the site of the present dwelling of Col Charles D. Blinn, or near it, which was a log-house, erected, probably, in the autumn of 1707. In 1714, he gave the north half of this home-lot to his son Stephen, who came at that time from Massachusetts, and upon this lot Stephen erected a house, a little north of his father's, and, after dwelling in it about a year, removed to that of his father's, and, after some years, sold his first one to his brother David.
Prosperity, for a few brief years, filled his hands with work, in many public offices, as well as private labors, and his home with comparative comforts; but the great destroyer Death was destined to make a beginning in this new plantation as well as in all others, and, as he "loves a shining mark," made choice of the brave yet kindly heart that first raised a white man's home in this dense forest; and therefore, on the 17th day of August, 1714, his life-work closed, and his home was clouded with mourning, and his place left vacant. He was the first Town Clerk elected by vote of the town; was a surveyor of lands, a member of the Woodbury Church, and the first adult person' to be carried to the beautiful cemetery that now adorns the village of which he was the first civilized ornament.
The land of his first home-lot remained in possession of his descendants until a very few years since.
2. John Bostwick, Sen., came from Derby, and earlier from Stratford, and was the second settler in New Milford. He settled here probably in the autumn of 1707, since his first deed, dated Dec. 2, 1707, says he was "late of Derby." The first land laid to him was lot number one of the town plot, ~vest side of the highway; but he had previously settled on the lot, and built a house near the site of the present residence of Miss Mary C. Boardman. The northern part of this lot he afterwards gave to his son Daniel, who kept a tavern on it many years, and who was an influential and active man in the town.
He had a family of eight children, some of whom settled here some years later than he. He was an energetic citizen, and bore his full share of official work for the new plantation and town. The dates of the deaths of himself and two wives are unknown. His second wife was the daughter of Jeremiah Canfield, Sen., and sister to the first Samuel Canfield in this town, and his brothers.
3. Benjamin Bostwick, Sen., nephew of John above, came from Stratford a young man, and married Zeruiah, daughter of Moses Johnson of Woodbury, in 1711, and established his home on what is now Grove Street, where he resided until his decease in June, 1739. He was a successful farmer, carpenter, and cabinet-maker,-the inventory of his property showing him to be equipped with tools for these trades, and also indicating that his home and farm were models for those days in their furnishings and comforts.
4. John Noble, Jr., when 21 years of age, purchased a Right of land in New Milford, the same day with his father, June 22, 1706, and came with his father's family, in 1707, to New Milford. His house was on the east side of the green about where the Town Hall now stands. This house and lot he sold in 1730, and soon after settled on the plains, in the first house below Gallows Hill, where he resided until his decease in 1773, at the age of 88 years. He was Captain of the Train Band in 1732, was a prominent man in the town for many years, and was one of a number of persons who petitioned for society privileges in 1743, from the south part of the town which resulted in the parish and First Church of Newbury, and afterwards in the town of Brookfield.
5. Isaiah Bartlet was a signer of the petition in October, 1711, but in a similar one the next May his name does not appear. There was no land deeded to him, and the probability is that he soon removed. Two of his daughters, apparently, were afterwards married in this town.
6. Dea. Samuel Brownson, from Farmington, settled here, probably, in 1708. His house stood at the southeast corner of the sequestered square or green, southeast of Doctor Thomas Picketts, or directly south, and across the road from the present residence of Mr. Edward A. Thayer. He was elected Town Clerk in 1714, upon the death of John Noble, Sen., and held that office until his death in 1733. He was the first Justice of the Peace in the town, being also Judge in the New Haven County Court, and was in his day, probably, the most widely-known citizen of the town, unless the military man, Capt. Stephen Noble, should be excepted; and in every way he seems to have been a man of dignity, integrity, and responsibility, and much esteemed. He was the first deacon of the First Church in the town.
Lydia Brownson, his wife, was a woman of decided efficiency, as may be seen in the list of physicians in this book; she being a peculiar honor to the women of the community and the nation, for she was probably, for some years, the only person that made professional calls as a physician, in the town, except Doctor Pickett. She married, 2d, Mr. Jonathan Lumm, and they removed to Derby.
7. Samuel Prindle, from Milford, was in New Milford and signed the petition in 1711. John Noble, Sen., laid out Mr. Pringles' first forty acres, on Second hill, before 1714, on the Right of William Fowler; which was recorded in 1717, and described as "lying upon the westerly side of the Second hill at a place called Pringles' Pitch So rods on the square, common land on all sides." In 1721, William Fowler deeded his Right, including this land improved, and another piece at the south end of the village, to Samuel Prindle and Joseph Bostwick. Mr. Prindle had paid all charges against the Right for seven years, by which he secured one-half of. the Right to himself. His dwelling stood at the south end of the village, a little east of the present site of Hon. A. B. Mygatt's residence. He died in 1750.
8. Major John Bostwick, Jr., came here with his father in 1708, and married Mercy Bushnell of Danbury, Jan. 30, 1712, and made his home on what is now Grove street; and his descendant, Mr. John R. Bostwick, is still residing on the old homestead. He became one of the most prominent and active men in the town; was lieutenant of the Train band many years. and afterwards major in the regiment; was elected deacon of the First church in 1733, and he and Capt. Stephen Noble were the first representatives of New Milford in the legislature. He also, apparently, gave some attention to the study of law, for the following action was taken in town meeting: "Dec. 12, 1737. Voted, that Dea. John Bostwick shall be allowed ten shillings for the use of his law book for town meetings, and for the use of particular persons as they shall have occasion." He was fourteen years of age when he came to New Milford, twenty-six when he was married; died in 1741, aged fifty-two years, leaving five children, all sons, two of whom, like himself, were very prominent citizens of the town for many years.
9. Zachariah Ferriss from Stratford, settled here, probably in 1708, on a lot a little way south of the Town Hall, and extending south to the corner of Main street, and east across Great brook; and his first forty acres lay directly east and adjoining his home-lot. This was the same land, most probably, as that he ploughed in June, 1706, when there were no settlers here except Indians. When Mr. Ferriss had ploughed this land in 1706, the New Milford company prosecuted him for trespass, and Col. John Read plead his case in court.. It must have been, therefore, that Mr. Ferriss laid claim to this land under the deed which was given by the Indians to Henry Tomlinson and others of Stratford, which, having been received under a permit from the General Court in 1670, under no restrictions or conditions, was as much a legal deed, and received as honestly as any deed then existing in the colony. The deed had stood on the records, sanctioned by a court decision, more than thirty years, when the General Assembly gave the permit to the New Milford Company, and their deed was received, upon the specific conditions that the plantation should interfere with no other titles. It is no wonder, then, that in fifteen trials in court before the governor and his assistants, a jury gave Col. Read the case, and his deed as valid; but it is surprising that on the sixteenth trial the land was given to the New Milford company without a penny's allowance to Col. Read. Is this called Christianity? And when the title to the land was secured in this way, against right and Christianity, by professed Christians as they were, it is no wonder that it took them twelve years thereafter to build a meeting-house, amidst great privations and almost extreme poverty; whereas, had they received Col. Read under a liberal consideration of the money he had placed in the enterprise, and treated him as a Christian brother, the plantation might have been settled at once, and the meeting-house built in a third of the time it was. Zachariah Ferriss was brother-in-law to Col. John Read, he having married, probably, the sister of Col. Read.
Mr. Ferriss was a very efficient business man, placed on committees of importance; he served in many official capacities; surveyed more land, apparently, than any other man in the town during the first one hundred years, unless Col. Elisha Bostwick should be excepted. He was town treasurer a number, of years, when taxes were paid in various kinds of grains, which were stored, and sometimes accumulated on hand from year to year, until by some special town vote the accumulation was sold in a summary manner. He might have been styled, or would be at the present day, the President of the Bank of Town Deposits.
Samuel Brownson sometimes was elected to this office, but after a number of years Roger Brownson more frequently bore the burdens of this office. Mr. Ferriss adhered to the First church through life, although his wife and several of his children became Quakers. No record of his decease has been found.
10. Roger Brownson, from Farmington, settled near his brother Samuel on what was then the Woodbury road, perhaps a little way south of the residence of the 'late A. S. Rogers. When his brother died he became Town Clerk, and held the position fourteen years. He was also Justice of the Peace for a number of years.
There were no more reliable men in the town than he and his brother, for they were elected continually in the highest places of trust, and proved themselves worthy of the confidence imposed upon them, Roger being town treasurer many years. He died in 1758.
11. John Weller, Sen., from Springfield, Mass., settled in New Milford before December, 1710, since at that time he was here, and entered into an agreement with Thomas Smith to work the land which had been laid to Smith-lot number two, east side of the street-and in 1722 he bought Thomas Smith's Right, and in 1723 was living on this home-lot, next north of John Noble, Jr's. He was a substantial farmer; bought several pieces of land besides the one Right; was not prominent in town offices or enterprises, but served his part well. He died in 1734, leaving a number of Sons and their families, to each of whom he had given quite a farm. His son John was a prominent man, his farm being a little below the mouth of Rocky River, and which is now owned by Col. Win. J. Starr.
12. Thomas Weller, of Westfield, Mass., bought of John Noble one-half of a twenty-four shilling Right in 1707, and settled here probably before 1710; was here in 1712, but was residing in Woodbury in 1715, when he sold several pieces of land in New Milford.
Only one of the first twelve families came from Milford, unless Isaiah Bartlett was of that place, which would make only two, and therefore it could hardly be said that the place was settled at first from Milford. It was settled by Milford people as original proprietors, but they were very slow to come here themselves. Four of these families were from Northampton and Westfield, Mass., four were from Stratford, and two were from Farmington. They were all poor people, strictly speaking, being able most of them-not all-to buy a Right of land, and to have a little left with which to commence a farmer's life in the wilderness. The Bostwick families possessed more property than the others, and they have held their own comfortably well ever since. They are so steady and untiring in the same line of work that they must win if death does not rob them of their allotted time. Then, also, they had a good start, which fact, if attended to, is more than half the race, in the short life any one may live in this world.
These were the twelve pillars of the First Ecclesiastical Society, and of the town; but not of the church, for when the church was organized, some of them had removed from the town and others had come in.
The first man to whom land was surveyed within the territory now comprised in the town of Bridgewater, Ct., was Mr. Samuel Clark, the merchant of Milford, it being a part of the land to the amount of some hundreds of acres which Jeremiah Canfield, Sen., afterwards purchased, and on which his sons, Zerubbabel, Azariah, Joseph, and Jeremiah settled. The first was laid in the south part of the town, and near it was afterwards located Samuel Brisco's land.
The second man to whom land was surveyed within this territory seems to have been Daniel Collins, of Milford, to whom 100 acres were laid Nov. I, 1722, in Shepaug Neck, bounded with undivided land, and two years later more was measured to him, adjoining the first. It is probable that his sons settled on this land some fifteen years later. But neither of the above families settled in New Milford.
The third man to whom land was surveyed in this part of the town was Samuel Brisco, and the records describe some of these pieces thus: "52 acres lying in Shepaug Neck between the brooks called Wawecoes Brooks"; Dec. 25, 1723; and "28 acres in Shepaug Neck by Potatuck Path, and 20 acres in Shepaug Neck, at the south end of Mr. Samuel Clark's land," Jan. 1, 1723-4. In 1726 there were laid to him "20 acres on Clapboard Oak Brook."
Ephraim Burwell had land, 120 acres, laid to him in 1725, in Shepaug Neck, on the south side of Samuel Brisco's land, and the next year other land adjoining this was laid out to him.
The following is the first reliable information obtained as to the first settlers in the territory now composing Bridgewater Township: "Dec. 9, 1734. Voted that Mr. Joseph Benedict and Mr. Ephraim Hawley shall be freed from paying their minister's rate for four months in the winter season for this year in case they pay to a minister at Shepaug in Woodbury."
These men joined the New Milford church in 1739, by letters from Newtown, and must have resided within the New Milford Township in 1734. Joseph Benedict's house is mentioned in 1735 as being in Shepaug Neck, near the east branch of Wawecoe's brook.
Jehiel Hawley was one of the pioneer settlers in Bridgewater Township, and continued there about thirty years, when he removed. He was a successful farmer, becoming quite wealthy; and was one of the companies organized in 1760 to make the settlement of a township at Fort Edward with Roger Sherman. He took a very earnest part in the proposition, in 1761, to make the Housatonic River navigable; and not long after removed to Sharon, or Salisbury, Conn.
Joseph Benedict resided in the Neck, apparently a diligent farmer some years; but very little has been ascertained concerning his family
Joseph Treat Jr. had land laid to him, first, May 7,1724, "in his own Right and in his wife's father, John Buckingham's Right . . . by estimation 200 acres, lying in Shepaug Neck, in one piece, upon a bill between a brook called Wawecoe's Brook and Woodbury bounds, the northwest corner being on the west side of said brook, near the crotch of the brook." The next February he received 75 acres "on the bill east from the East branch of Wawecoe's Brook." He married Hannah Buckingham June 9, 1720, and did not settle in New Milford, but settled his two sons here when they were grown to manhood.
Joseph Treat, Jr., was the son of Lt. Joseph Treat, of Milford, and grandson of Governor Robert Treat. The name "Col. Robert Treat" (who was afterwards the Governor of Connecticut), heads the list of original proprietors of New Milford township.
John Treat, who was born in 1724, son of Joseph 2d, settled on land given him by his father, in Shepaug Neck, upon his marriage to Phebe, daughter of Jehiel Hawley, Oct. 3, 1750. There is a tradition in the family of Stephen Hine, Jr., of Candlewood Mountain, that his father, Stephen Hine, Sen., of Woodbridge, built the first framed house in Bridgewater, for Joseph Treat, and received land in pay for the work; and this was probably the house in which John Treat made his home and where he lived and died. He was a prominent citizen in the town of New Milford, a successful farmer, and his descendants have continued the honor of the name down to the present time, but nearly all of them are now gone from the town. He died in his 80th year.
Gideon Treat, was born in 1747, son of Joseph, 2d, years younger than his half-brother John, came to the Neck much later than that half-brother, probably a little before his marriage to Lucretia Washborn, Nov. 13, 1770. His land lay east of Wawecoe's brook, on the ridge, which still remains in possession of his descendants.
He was a very resolute, courageous, working, influential citizen, and successful as a farmer, having one of the best farms in that region of the country. He took an earnest part in establishing the Bridgewater Society, and in building the first meeting-house, and also in supporting the society until his death in 1811, at the age of 63 years, leaving a large land estate. His widow, Lucretia, died in 1847, in her 97th year.
One of the earliest acts relating to the territory called the Neck was the laying out a burying-place by the vote of the proprietors of the town, May 30, 1753; and there were probably but few inhabitants in that part of the town at that time, and most of them were located south and east of this burying-place, which was the old ground.