HISTORY OF NEW LONDON COUNTY, CONNECTICUT,
WITH BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF MANY OF ITS PIONEERS AND PROMINENT MEN.
COMPILED UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF D. HAMILTON HURD
J. W. LEWIS & CO., PHILADELPHIA, 1882
PRESS OF J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO., PHILADELPHIA
[transcribed by Janece Streig]
The Landing-Weequaw's Hill-Early Votes-Ship-yards-Highways-Chelsea-The Parade-Pioneer Homes-Old Settlers-Hotels-Streets-Commerce-Early Business Men-The First Druggist, Dr. Daniel LATHROP.
For seventy years after the settlement of the town what is now the city of Norwich was technically a "sheep-walk," used by the inhabitants of the eastern part of the town for pasturing sheep and cattle. The location was first known as Weequaw's Hill, Rocky Point, and Fort Hill. Miss CAULKINS says,--
The reservation extended from No-man's Acre to the mouth of the Shetucket, and was inclosed with a general fence. A cartway through it was allowed, and in 1680 "a pair of bars" connected with this cartway was maintained by the town, near the Shetucket, and another pair below the house of John REYNOLDS. The whole space between Yantic Cove and the Shetucket was a wilderness of rocks, woods, and swamps, with only here and there a cow-path or a sheep-track around the hills, where the trunk of a fallen tree thrown over a brook or chasm served in lieu of a bridge. Not only in the spring floods, but in common heavy rains a great part of East Chelsea and all the lower, or Water Street, up to the ledge of rocks on which the buildings upon the north side of that street are based, were overflowed; and even in the dry season these parts of the town were little better than swamps. What are now only moist places and slender fills were then ponds and broad, impetuous brooks.
In January, 1634, a committee was appointed to lay out and bound for the town's use sufficient land for a public landing-place and a suitable highway connected with it, after which they passed the following restrictive decree:
April, 1684 "It is agreed and voated that the rest of the ungranted and unlayed out land at the mouth of Showtuck shall be and remain for the benefit of cattle-watering, and never to be disposed of without the consent of eight or ten of the familys at the east end of the towne."
It was not long, however, before this act became a dead letter. Sites at the water's edge were soon in great demand for commercial purposes. These were prudently doled out by the town in plots of three or four rods each. In 1686, Capt. James FITCH, the first of these grantees, was allowed sufficient land near the water-side to accommodate a wharf and warehouse. Not long afterwards, Capt. Caleb BUSHNELL obtained a similar grant. These facilities were near the mouth of Yantic Cove. It was here that the wharfing, building, and commercial enterprise of Norwich Landing began.
1692. A committee appointed by the town to go with John ELDERKIN and to state a highway to the old Landing-place, with conveniency also for a warehouse.
October, 1694. Mr. MALLAT, a French gentleman, desiring liberty of the town that he might build a vessel, or vessels, somewhere upon our river, the town grant the said Mr. MALLAT liberty to build, and also grant him the liberty of the common on the east side of Showtucket River to cut timber for building.
MALLAT's ship-yard is supposed to have been at the Point. It was not long occupied, and the fee of course reverted to the town.
In 1707 a vote was passed of the following emphatic tenor:
"No more land to be granted at the salt water, and no way shut up that leads to the salt water."
The first masters of vessels at the landing of whom we obtain any knowledge were Capts. KELLEY and NORMAN. These, in 1715, were engaged in the Barbadoes trade.
May 11, 1715. Capt. KELLEY in the Norwich sloop sailed for Barbadoes.
Sept. 8. Capt. KELLEY sailed for Barbadoes.
Dec. 13, 1716, Capt. NORMAN sailed.1 [1 Diary kept at New London.
Capt. KELLEY very soon established a regular shipyard at the Landing, the town granting him the necessary facilities.
Jan. 10, 1716-7. Joseph KELLEY, shipwright, has free liberty to build vessels on the Point, where he is now building, the town to have the use of his wharf.
[This grant was not revoked till 1751.]
The same year Caleb BUSHNELL applied for a situation by the water-side convenient for building vessels, which was granted by the following vote: Dec. 3, 1717. The town grants to Caleb BUSHNELL 20 feet square upon ye water upon the west side of the rockie Point at ye Landing-place.
Between 1721 and 1724, similar grants of "twenty feet square on the west side of Rockie Point" was made to Simon LOTHROP, Joshua and James HUNTINGTON, and Daniel TRACY, a sufficiency for the town's use being reserved on which they were not to encroach. These are all enterprising young men, just entering into business. Simon LOTHROP afterwards purchased the ELDERKIN rights on Yantic Cove and at the falls.
April 20, 1723. The town grants liberty to Capt. Caleb BUSHNELL to set up and maintain two sufficient cart-gates across the highway that goeth to the Little fort.
Feb. 24, 1724. Voted to build a town wharf at the Landing-place.
Liberty is granted to Lieut. Simon LOTHROP to build a wharf at the Landing-place at his own charge, provided it shall be free to all mortals.
1734. Permission granted to Lieut. Simon LATHROP to build a warehouse on the side hill opposite his dwelling-house, 30 feet by 20, to hold the same during the town's pleasure.
The limited extend of these grants shows that they were highly prized, and that but a few such privileges could be obtained. A narrow margin of level land at the base of water-washed cliffs comprised the whole accommodation.
With the exception of these footholds upon the water's edge, the land lay in common. Along the cove and around the falls the woods and waters were reeking with rank life, both animal and vegetable. The rock ledges were the haunts of innumerable serpents; the shores were populous with water-fowl, the river with shoals of fish. The young people from the farms around Norwich, when haying was over, came in parties to the Landing to wander over the hills, eat oysters, and take a trip down the river in canoes or sail-boats.
In 1718 there was a division of proprietary lands called the forty-acre division. In 1726 the undivided lands that remained were mainly comprised in two sheep-walks. A public meeting was called in which the names of the proprietors of each were distinctly declared and recorded, in order to prevent, if possible, all future "shrifts and lawsuits." The East Sheep-walk, of nine hundred acres each, and ratified and confirmed to forty-two proprietors, mentioned by name, or to those who claimed under them. The West Sheep-walk, by estimation seven hundred acres, was in like manner divided and confirmed to thirty-seven proprietors.
Rev. John WOODWARD and Rev. Benjamin LORD were admitted on the footing of original proprietors, as were also the representatives of the earliest class of accepted inhabitants, viz: BUSHNELL, ELDERKIN, ROATH, and ROOD of the east end, ABEL and ARMSTRONG of the west. To these were added Moses FARGO of the west and Edward KING of the east, each allowed a half-share, making seventy-nine in all, who were acknowledged as representatives of the original grantees of the town plot. From this division it was understood that farmers out of the town plot, and all persons not claimants under the first grantees, were excluded.
Israel LOTHROP and James HUNTINGTON were the town agents in making the division of the East Sheep-walk. The lots extended along the water from the Shetucket ferry to the cove, reserving a highway through them two rods wide. A second tier was laid out in the rear of these, and so on. Each share was divided into tenths, and the tenths into eighths, and distributed apparently by lot. It is expressed in the records by making a pitch, as thus: "Capt. BUSHNELL made his pitch for his portion of the "sheep-walk" at such a place.
The titles to land in this part of Norwich are derived from these forty-two proprietors of the east end, and the dates begin at 1726. After this division houses and inhabitants increased rapidly, and in the course of a few year Rocky Point became a flourishing hamlet and trading-post, called in common parlance The Landing, but gradually acquiring the name of New Chelsey, or Chelsea Society.
The earliest householders at the Landing of whose residence there we find any certain account were Daniel TRACY, Benajah BUSHNELL, and Nathaniel BACKUS. A little later Capt. Joseph TRACY and Capt. Benajah LEFFINGWELL were substantial inhabitants, and Caleb WHITNEY kept a public-house. Boating was brisk in the river, and small vessels were built and sent away for sale.
Among those who were efficient in opening avenues of trade and bringing business to the new port, none were more conspicuous than Capt. John WILLIAMS and Capt. Joshua HUNTINGTON. The former resided with his family at Poquetannock, and the latter in the town plot, but each had a wharf and warehouse at the Landing, and here was their place of business. Capt. HUNTINGTON occupied the Point, near KELLEY's ship-yard. It was by heirship from him that this location went into the BILL family, Capt. Ephraim BILL having married his only daughter, Lydia.
Great are the changes that have been made around the water-line of Norwich port. All the sharp angles and projecting rocks, the trickling streams and gullies, have disappeared. Central wharf spreads out far n advance of the old town wharf and the water-line where FITCH and BUSHNELL had their first conveniences; and the granite ridge at whose base KELLEY built his coasting craft, and the HUNTINGTONs, BILLs, and others had their warehouses, has been leveled to a platform occupied by the freight depot and other accommodations of the railroad.
The division into freeholds gave a powerful impetus to the growth of the Landing. Trade become suddenly the presiding genius of the place. Those merchants who had been so fortunate as to obtain situations upon the water's edge entered at once into commercial pursuits. From a report prepared by authority in Connecticut, to be laid before the Lords commissioners for Trade and Plantations, probably before 1730, we learn that four sloops were at that time owned in Norwich and engaged in the West India and coasting trade, viz: Martha and Elizabeth," forty tons; "Success," forty tons; "Olive Branch," twenty-five tons; "Mary," twenty tons.1 [1 Hinman's Antiquities, p. 352. The date of the document is not given, but it was undoubtedly between 1720 and 1720. The whole number of vessels in the colony was forty-two, the largest of which was a brigantine of eighty tons, owned at New London. They were mostly small sloops. New Haven and New London had each five; Hartford and Norwich four.]
Not long afterwards the Norwich traders sent a sloop and a schooner to Ireland. As these we suppose to have been their first adventures across the ocean, every time relating to them is interesting. They probably sailed in company, but the schooner returned without her consort.
"7 Nov. 1732. - The Norwich scooner, Nath: SHAW master, came n from Ireland."-Hempstead's Diary.
The sloop was under the charge of Capt. Absalom KING, and appears to have been owned by himself and those who sailed with him. They sold the craft in Ireland, probably in accordance with the plan of their voyage, as vessels were then frequently built in the river, where timber was plenty, and sent elsewhere for a market. The crew embarked for home in the schooner with Capt. SHAWN, but during the voyage five out of the fifteen persons on board died of the smallpox. Among the victims was Capt. KING, who died in mid-ocean, Sept. 3, 1732.
Capt. Absalom KING came to Norwich from Southold, L. I., and had been for several years in the West India trade. His wife was Hannah, daughter of John WATERMAN. His youthful widow married, Nov. 8, 1733, Benedict ARNOLD.
This is the earliest notice that we find at Norwich of Benedict ARNOLD, a Rhode Island emigrant, whose name, when afterwards borne by his son, became synonymous with treason and apostasy. No intimation is given of the causes that brought him to Norwich, but he appears to have been at first a seaman, and it is not improbable that some connection with Capt. KING in that capacity first introduced him to the town and afterwards obtained for him the favorable notice of the bereaved wife. He and his brother Oliver were both distinguished by the title of captain.
In 1740 a memorial was presented to the town by Joshua ABEL, John HUTCHINS, and others, praying for a convenient highway to be opened to the Landing. This was strenuously opposed by the landholders on the line of the proposed highway, and rejected by the town at that time. But a few years later the object was happily accomplished, and two convenient avenues were opened, one on each side of the central hill. The two pent highways that had been previously used, that on the east through the land of Col. Hezekiah HUNTINGTON, and the one on the west through the land of Col. Simon LOTHROP, were exchanged for street laid out through the same lands, but more direct in course, and left open for public use. These improvements were sanctioned by all concerned.
The eastern avenue thus opened coincided with Crescent and a part of Union Streets, terminating at the house of Nathaniel BACKUS, in Union, not far from the corner of Main Street. The western avenue coincided with the great part of Washington Street, and ended at "Capt. BUSHNELL's old warehouse." The committee for making these improvement consisted of William MORGAN, Hezekiah HUNTINGTON, Philip TURNER, and Joseph and Simon TRACY.
In 1750, Daniel LATHROP, Nathan STEDMAN, and Capt. Philip TURNER were appointed a committee to open a highway by the water-side, connecting the above-named streets. This was the first laying out of Water Street.
After this, "the old highway over Waweecos Hill, between the Little Plain and Landing Place," was seldom used, and Capt. Benajah BUSHNELL obtained permission to inclose it, on condition of maintaining convenient bars for people to pass.
The Little Plain-so called in distinction from the Great Plain, in the southern part of the town, towards Mohegan-was at this time private property, included in grants to the early settlers, with no part open to the public except the streets above mentioned leading to the Landing.
In making these highway improvements, and in other works of public interest requiring public spirit and skillful management, Capt. TURNER and Nathan STEDMAN were zealous and persevering agents. These were comparatively new inhabitants. STEDMAN was an attorney, son of John STEDMAN, of Lyme, and not of the Hampton family of STEDMANs. After a few years' residence in Norwich he removed to Ashford. Philip TURNER spent the remainder of his short career in the town, and his dust is mingled with its soil.
Dec. 1748. It is ordered that warnings for town meeting shall for the future be set up at the Landing-place, on some post to be provided by the inhabitants there.
A sign-post was accordingly set up at Mr. Peter LANMAN's corner as the most central and conspicuous situation.
1751. Voted, that the district for highways at Chelsea be divided as follows: Beginning at the water, south of the westerly corner of Daniel TRACY, Jr.,'s house at the Landing-place, thence a straight line to where the highway goes across Waweecus Hill,--thence to the N.E. corner of John BLISS's land,--thence a straight line to the parting of the paths on the Little Plain, at Oliver ARNOLD's corner,--thence a straight line to the N.W. corner of Joshua PRIOR's dwelling house.
The common lands and flats upon the cove, extending as far up as "Elijah LATHROP's grist-mills," were laid out in 1760 or near that period. The shares were divided into tenths, and each tenth into eight several parcels or lots, as the sheep-walks had been.
From the general list of 1757 it appears that there were then eighty-seven resident proprietors of ratable estate in "the society of New CHELSY," and twenty-five non-residents.
In 1790 Middle or Main Street in Chelsea was opened at an expense of one hundred pounds, which was paid partly by the city and partly by individual subscription. About the same time Crescent Street, the ends of which were at the store of Capt. Thomas FANNING and the house of Rev. Walter KING, was greatly improved through the liberality and exertions of Capt. William HUBBARD.
The western avenue to Chelsea, now Washington Street, was also at this time rectified, and a new section thrown open by the adjoining landholders.
The broad plateau intersected by these streets was then known as the Little Plain. It seemed not to have had any more distinctive name. On the 11th of September, 1793, the Twentieth Regiment of infantry, Joseph WILLIAMS colonel, was here reviewed, and upon this occasion it was called the Parade. This was probably the first regimental review at this place. The general trainings had previously been held on the Great Plain, near MORGAN's tavern, upon the road to New London.
Very little improvement had heretofore been made in this part of the town, but the period had arrived for bringing it into notice. Several building-lots had been purchased and houses erected upon its borders, but the central part of the plain lay untilled and unfenced, the owners being non-residents, descendants of the original grantees, John REYNOLDS and Matthew ADGATE. The larger portion comprised a single field, popularly called "ADGATE's three-square lot."
It was certainly desirable, both as a matter of taste and convenience, that this area should be kept open to the public, and fortunately men of liberal minds stood ready to bring about this result.
Joseph PERKINS and Thomas FANNING, two of the neighboring land proprietors, apparently at their own motion and private expense, undertook to clear this central area of all claims and incumbrances, that it might be made a public square for the use of the town. This they effected, and having obtained quit-claim deeds of the several heirs, conveyed the fee as a free gift to the town. The deed of cession has the following preamble:
We, Thomas FANNING and Joseph PERKINS, both of Norwich, for and in consideration of the good will we have and do bear to the inhabitants of the Town of Norwich, and in consideration of the desire we have that said inhabitants may continually and at all times be furnished and accommodated with a free, open, unencumbered piece of land or ground, convenient for a pubic Parade or Walk, do give, grant, remise, release, and forever quit claim unto Doctor Joshua LATHROP, one of the principal inhabitants of said town, and to all the rest of the inhabitants of said Town of Norwich in their corporate capacity, and to their successors forever, for the use and purpose of a Public Parade or open Walk, to be unencumbered with any kind of building or buildings, public or private, or nuisance whatever, and for no other purpose.
Dated 5th day of April, 1797
All honor to the generosity and enlightened foresight of those men who secured this great privilege to the town. They struck at the right time, just when the spirit of progress had reached the spot. A little later, and in all probability the area would have been carved into building-lots, and the town would never have possessed this her most graceful ornament. Without this central plain Norwich would seem deprived of half her beauty.
This public square has hitherto had no established name. The prevailing idea in the minds of the grantees seems to have been that of providing an open space for military exercises. Its earliest designation was therefore the Parade. Col. Elisha EDGERTON's regiment of cavalry was reviewed on the Parade Sept. 4, 1798. But of late years it has acquired more of the character of a park, and from the long residence-more than half a century-of Gen. Wm. WILLIAMS upon its border, it has obtained the current and acceptable name of Williams Park.1 [1 In September, 1811, Gen. William WILLIAMS, then lieutenant-colonel of the Third Regiment of militia, held his regimental review upon this parade.]
In 1801 the rage for setting out Lombardy poplars ran through the town like an epidemic. The quivering, silver-lined poplar-the slender, quick-growing popular-was in high repute for convenience, use, ornament, and health. The Parade received a full share of the general adornment, and was entirely girdled with poplars. These Italian shades are, however, short-lived in our climate, and the first growth has been seldom renewed. Here, as in most parts of the country, they soon gave place to the more hardy and umbrageous natives of the forest. The elms and maples that now gird the park were set out since 1820.
Early Habitations, Etc.-A house on the border of the Parade, latterly known as the residence of Capt. Walter LESTER, was built by Joseph CARPENTER, but left unfinished at his death in 1797.
On the northeast side a dwelling-house was erected about the year 1785 by Capt. Henry BILLINGS. It was the first house of any note upon the plain, and was successively occupied by Capt. BILLINGS, by Ebenezer BACKUS, and the relict of the latter with her second husband, A. S. DESTOUCHES, a French emigrant. In 1799 it was purchased by Maj. ROGERS, a merchant from Southampton, L. I., and very soon afterwards we find an assortment of goods advertised for sale by "Uriah ROGERS & Son, at their New Store on the pleasant plains of Chelsea, half a mile from Norwich port."
Maj. ROBERTS die din 1814, and this house afterwards became the residence of Rev. Alfred MITCHELL, to whose fine taste and devout mind the woodland heights in the rear had a peculiar charm. They were his walk, his study, and his oratory. After Mr. MITCHELL's decease, the place was for eight or ten years the seat of Mr. Charles ABBOT's Family School for Boys. The house has since been removed to a different part of the town, and the site is occupied by one of the tasteful and costly mansions of modern times.
A house very nearly coeval with that of Capt. BILLINGS, on the southwest side of the plain, was built by Maj. Ebenezer WHITING about 1790, and sold in 1795 to Capt. Daniel DUNHAM. The ground plot included the ancient Indian cemetery and sixteen acres of land, running down to the neighborhood of LATHROP's Mills, where Maj. WHITING had a distillery. In preparing for the foundation of this house a gigantic Indian skeleton was exhumed, and may rude stone tools and arrow-heads thrown up. The place was afterwards purchased by Calvin GODDARD, and remained for nearly forty years in the possession of the family.
The brick house, or WILLIAMS mansion, was built in 1789 and '90, by Joseph TEEL, of Preston, the site being a portion of the original ADGATE lot. It was designed for a hotel, and immediately advertised as "The Teel House, sign of General WASHINGTON."
It was noted for its fine hall or assembly-room, where shows were exhibited, and balls, lodges, and clubs accommodated.2 After Mr. TEEL's death the hotel was continued by his son-in-law, Cyrus BRAMIN, and when offered for sale in 1797 it was particularly recommended for its position,--"on the central plain between the town and Landing, which, according to the natural appearance of things, bids fair to be the seat of business for the town of Norwich." [2 An advertisement of May 20, 1794, announces the arrival at Mr. TEEL's assembly-room of a party of Italian rope-dancers and tumblers, and the public are invited to call and see Don Peter and Clumsy the Clown dance a hornpipe blindfold over fifteen eggs.]
In June, 1800, the hotel was transformed into a boarding and day school under the preceptorship of William WOODBRIDGE. After some other changes, it was purchased in 1806 by Carder HAZARD, a retired merchant from Newport, by whom it was sold in 1813 to its present owner.
On the avenue leading from the east side of the Parade to the Landing, Christopher LEFFINGWELL, Joshua LATHROP, and Joseph PERKINS were considerable landholders, and each contributed towards opening and embellishing the street, freely relinquishing the land necessary for the public convenience. Col. LEFFINGWELL planted the fine elms that now overshadow Broadway. Here were a tier of houses built before 1800, and occupied at the opening of the century by Rev. Walter KING, Capt. Solomon INGRAHAM, and Thomas COIT (afterwards by Jabez HUNTINGTON). Here also were the L'HOMMEDIEU house and ropewalk, and the twin houses of Hezekiah PERKINS and Capt. Z. P. BURNHAM. This row of buildings had the high granite ridge that projects into the centre of Chelsea in their front. The triangular plot between the roads, now inclosed as the Little Park, was formerly called the Everett lot. It belonged to Col. LEFFINGWELL, and after his death was purchased jointly by Hezekiah PERKINS and Jabez HUNTINGTON, and in 1811 presented by them to the city, on condition that it should be inclosed and used only as a part.
The residence of Thomas MUMFORD, embowered by large trees, with a spacious garden and several vacant lots on the south and east, comprising in all eight acres, occupied the plot at the head of Union Street. Mr. MUMFORD died Aug. 30, 1799, and the place passed into the possession of Levi HUNTINGTON. The street forming the continuation of Broadway was opened in 1800 by Christopher LEFFINGWELL and the heirs of MUMFORD.
The house which was for over sixty year the residence of Joseph WILLIAMS, Esq., was built before 1800 by Capt. Samuel FREEMAN, and sold six years later to Mr. WILLIAMS.
On leaving the plain and turning the steep pitch of the hill, in the lower part of Union Street, were the dwellings of Jeremiah WILBER, Lemuel WARREN, Israel EVERIT, and Christopher VAILL.
These comprise all the householders that have been traced in this part of the town, at or near the beginning of the century. From that time forward improvements ceased for many years. The next houses built in this quarter were those of Maj. Joseph PERKINS and Russell HUBBARD. The former, a solid stone mansion, was completed in 1825, Mr. HUBBARD's the succeeding year.
A costly dwelling-house, combining various elements of beauty in structure, situation, and prospect, was erected by Charles ROCKWELL in 1833, on the height between Broadway and Washington Streets. This was one of the first experiments in grading and cultivating this rugged woodland ridge. Many other beautiful sears, with choice gardens and groves, have risen since that period to adorn this part of the town.
A considerable portion of Washington Street was originally opened through land belonging to Col. Simon LATHROP, and here on the river side of the street a house was built in 1790 by Elijah LATHROP.
In 1795, Samuel WOODBRIDGE purchased one of the LATHROP lots, and erected a dwelling-house in what was then considered a wild and secluded spot, but exceedingly beautiful in situation. A contemporary notice speaks of it as "an excellent place for rural retirement." This property was purchase din 1811 by Richard ADAMS, Esq., a gentleman from Essequibo.
The next house that made it appearance in this part of Washington Street was erected by Theodore BARRELL, and Englishman, who had been in business at Barbadoes, and had several times visited Norwich for commercial purposes. He brought his family to the place in 1808, purchased a lot of the heirs of Rufus LATHROP, built upon it, and continued his inhabitancy till 1824, when he sold his house and ground to William P. GREENE and removed to New London.
In the year 1809 the LATHROP house (built in 1780) was purchased by Mr. John VERNETT, who had it removed to a position lower down the same street, where it now stands. On the site left vacant by the removed building Mr. VERNETT caused a new dwelling-house to be erected, at a cost and in a style of elegance beyond what had been previously exhibited in Norwich. The area purchased by him consisted of twenty-five acres, comprising six or eight choice building-lots. The land bordering on the Yantic in this vicinity still retains its native luxuriance, its varied surface and woodland beauty. A scientific or collegiate institution might here have found a well-adapted and beautiful site.
Mr. VERNETT was a native of Sarsbourg, on the Rhine. Having acquired a handsome fortune by trade at St. Pierre, he designed to withdraw from business and spend the remainder of his life in retired leisure at Norwich. Scarcely were his family settled in their new residence when he met with sudden embarrassments and losses which entirely deranged his plans, and he sold the place in 1811 to Benjamin LEE, of Cambridge.
These were the first noted houses of Washington Street. They sprang up after a prosperous period of trade, to which the war with Great Britain in 1812 gave a crushing blow, and no others were built for twenty years. The next that appeared was that of William C. GILMAN, completed in 1831.
Washington Street is now skirted on either side with elegant and even princely mansions of more recent origin, exceedingly varied in position and style of architecture, but all indicative of taste, wealth, and home comfort.
The BREED family residence, near the corner of Washington, Main, and Church Streets, is probably the most ancient house now remaining in Chelsea. It was built by Gershom BREED about the year 1760.
Church Street was at first known as Upper or Third Street. It was laid out along the steep side-hill, with the whole rocky height-the elephantine granite back of Chelsea, crowned with woods-towering in its rear. In 1800 the principal residents on this street were Shubael BREED (collector of the United States revenue during the administration of the first President ADAMS), Nathaniel PEABODY, Rev. John TYLER, and Dr. Lemuel BOSWELL. Capt. Benajah LEFFINGWELL occupied the three-story house opposite BREED's corner, and there died, Sept. 27, 1804. The next house to the westward was that of Capt. Oliver FITCH.
The principal householders in West Chelsea were Elijah HERRICK, Jedediah WILLET, Dewey BROMLEY, Thomas GAVITT, Stepimus CLARK, Stephen STORY, and Luther EDGERTON. These men were all engaged in ship-building, or in some of the crafts connected with that business. A rope-walk, established by the HOWLANDS in 1797, was for nearly seventy years a conspicuous object upon the hillside.
The Baptist meeting-house was raised in 1801.
The low brick building at the corner of Main and Union Streets has the reputation of being the first brick edifice constructed in Norwich. It is not known when or by whom it was built. According to current tradition, it was occupied as a public-house before the Revolutionary war, and at one time had the honor of entertaining and lodging Gen. WASHINGTON and several officers of his staff. This was probably the night of the 30th of June, 1775,1 at which time WASHINGTON was on his way to assume the command of the American army in the neighborhood of Boston. He arrived at Cambridge July 2d. [1 It is probable that to this particular night spent at Norwich, Elisha AYERS, the wandering schoolmaster from Preston, referred in a brief interview that he had with WASHINGTON at Mount Vernon in 1788. The general was standing by his horse, prepared to ride to another part of his estate, when the traveler arrived. The details of the interview are given by the latter with amusing simplicity: "he inquired my name and what part of Connecticut I was from. I told him about seven miles east of Norwich City and near Preston Village. I know where Norwich is, he said. I told him that I remembered the time when he and his aide stayed a night at Norwich, when was on his way to the American army at Boston, and the next morning he went east to Preston village. At Preston village you were joined by Col. Samuel MOTT, a man that helped to conquer Canada from France, and there were two young recruiting captains for the Revolutionary war; one was Capt. Nathan PETERS, and the other was Capt. Jeremiah HALSEY. These went with you several miles on your journey to Boston. The general said, I remember something about it. I told him he went in sight of my father's house, two miles north of Preston village. Very likely, he said. The general asked if I had been to breakfast," etc.]
Another old hotel stood in Water Street, nearly in the rear of the Merchants' Bank, with its upper story on a level with Main Street. Reuben WILLOUGHBY left the stand in 1804 for a new hotel in Shetucket Street, since called the American House. Ralph BOLLES was his successor in Water Street, but removed in 1809 to the house built by Mr. Levi HUNTINGTON, after the fire of 1793, which he opened as the Chelsea Coffee-house. This hotel was then situated in a breezy plot, open to the water, a sloping lawn in front graced with a row of poplars, and a garden enriched with fruit-trees.
The Merchants' Hotel was built in 1797 by an association of business men, and in style and accommodation was far superior to any previous hotel in Norwich. Newcomb KINNEY, one of the proprietors, was for many years the well-known and popular and landlord.
In the early part of the century East Chelsea, or Swallow-all, was noted as the hive of sea-captains. There was then no road to the river, nor to the present Greeneville; all the land in that direction lay in rough pasturage. East Main Street was narrow and crooked. Wells, fences, gardens, shops, and dwelling-houses projected far into the present street. The whole district was rugged with rocks and water-courses, frowned on by circumjacent hills and washed by frequent floods. Franklin Street was the road to Lisbon. Here were the dwellings of Capts. Christopher CULVER, Charles ROCKWELL, James N. BROWN, John SANGAR, and Seth HARDING,--the latter usually called Commodore HARDING. Other inhabitants were Jonathan FRISBIE, Seabury BREWSTER, Judah HART, Ezra BACKUS, Joseph POWERS, and Timothy FILLMORE.
In 1830 a great improvement was effected in East Chelsea by the opening of Franklin Square. In connection with this enterprise, the road was widened and graded, steeps were leveled, hollows filled up, fences and buildings removed. From this time onward the march of improvement has never paused.
Commerce.-From a very early date the commerce of Norwich has been an important feature and contributed largely to the prosperity of the city. As early as 1753 there were sloops and freight boats and occasionally a schooner plying on the river. Among the first crafts were the sloop "Defiance," Obadiah AYER, master; the sloop "Ann," Stephen CALKIN, master; the London packet, Ebenezer FITCH, master; the Norwich packet, Capt. Thomas FANNING; the brig "Two Brothers," Capt. Asa WATERMAN; sloop "Betsey," Capt. William BILLINGS; the "Nancy," Capt. Uriah ROGERS; the "Charming Sally," Capt. Matthew PARKINS, etc.
The West Indian trade which sprung up soon after the close of the Revolution was very beneficial to Norwich, many of her citizens engaging in the enterprise with rich rewards. Live-stock, provisions, and lumber were the principal exports, and rum, molasses, sugar, etc., were the principal imports. Two voyages a year was the maximum of success.
The following is a table of the exports and imports of Norwich from Jan. 1, 1788, to March 4, 1789:
£ s. d. £ s. d.
549 horses, value
12 0 0 6,588 0 0
205 horned cattle,
1,903 bbls. beef,
25,000 lbs. butter,
4 1,535 6 8
5 137 10
16,000 bush. grain,
2 6 2,200
174 M hoops,
160 M staves,
14,600 lbs. hayseed,
586 bbls. potash,
25,000 yds. homemade cloth,
631 hhds. Flaxseed,
276 tons pressed hay,
4 bbls. gingerbread,
£34,218 6 8
European goods, value
3,900 0 0
7,675 bush. salt,
1 8 638 11 8
112,625 gals. molasses,
1 4 7,540
2 6 2,287 10
1,271 lbs. bohea tea,
£24,793 3 8
Shipping belonging to the port at this time:
Twenty sloops 940 tons.
Five schooners 325
Five brigs 545
One ship 200
The following is a list of shipping belonging to the port of Norwich, Oct. 12, 1795:
Ship Mercury 280 tons. Schooner Shetucket 70 tons.
Columbus 200 Robinson Crusoe 120
Modesty 240 Schooner Beaver 60
Young Eagle 200 Jenny 70
George 364 Sloop Farmer 85
Portland 220 Crisis 72
Charlotte 80 Honor 65
Brig Union 130 William 70
Endeavor 120 Prosperity 90
Friendship 120 Polly 80
Betsey 130 Negotiator 90
Charlestown 60 Friendship 90
Polly 180 Bud 35
Sally 180 2/3 Betsey 45
Brig ½ Sally 60 Mary 45
Betsey 90 Hercules 70
Schooner Polly 90 Juno 55
Allen 85 Hunter 45
Elizabeth 75 Patty 35
Chloe 75 Nancy 70
Washington 65 --- 65
Total, seven ships, nine brigs, nine schooners, seventeen sloops-forty-two. Total, 4312 tons, of which only 210 tons is owned in the old parish, and 4102 is owned in the port or what is called Chelsea. The above does not include a number of river packets, or four New York packets.
Early Business Men.-Among the early business men, and some of the later date, are mentioned the following: Thomas MUMFORD, Joseph HOWLAND, Capt. John HOWLAND, Gen. Ebenezer HUNTINGTON, Gen. Jedediah HUNTINGTON, Thomas COIT, Jacob and John DEWITT, Peter LANMAN, father and son; the BREEDS, father, son, and grandson; Samuel TYLER, Joseph WILLIAMS, Lynde McCURDY, Hezekiah PERKINS, Andrew and Joseph PERKINS, Farewell and Benjamin COIT, Erastus COIT, WOODBRIDGE & SNOW, Samuel RUDD, Henry GORDON, DEVOTION & STORRS, Felix A. HUNTINGTON & Co., RAYMOND & DODGE, PLINEY, BREWER & Co., (the "company" being Joseph OTIS), G. BUCKINGHAM & Co., D. N. BENTLEY, William WILLIAMS, Benjamin DYER, Dwight RIGLEY, Calvin TYLER, Joseph BACKUS, Henry B. NORTON, Col. George L. PERKINS, Thomas ROBINSON, Gordon A. JONES, Capt. William W. COIT, Benj. BUCKINGHAM, Amos W. PRENTICE, etc.
The First Druggist.-Dr. Daniel LATHROP, of honored memory, was the first druggist in Norwich, and probably the first in Connecticut who kept a general assortment of medicines. His store was on Main Street.
Miss CAULKINS says,--
"Dr. LATHROP furnished a part of the surgical stores to the Northern Army in the French war. He often received orders from New York. His drugs were always of the best kind, well prepared, packed and forwarded in the neatest manner. This was the only apothecary's establishment on the route from New York to Boston, and of course Dr. LATHROP had a great run of custom, often filling orders sent from the distance of a hundred miles in various directions. It is related that in 1749, when a malignant epidemic was prevailing in several of the western towns of the colony, the Rev. Mar, LEAVENWORTH, pastor of the church in Waterbury, incited by the suffering condition of many of his people for want of suitable medicines to arrest the distemper, came to Norwich on horseback to obtain a supply, performing the journey hither and back in three days. This fact alone is sufficient to show that no drug-store then existed either in New Haven or Hartford, and corroborates the statement often made by aged people in Norwich, that Dr. LATHROP's was the first establishment of the kind in the colony.
"Joshua LATHROP, a younger brother of Dr. Daniel, after graduating at Yale in 1743, became connected with him in business, and no mercantile firm in this vicinity had a more solid reputation than the brothers LATHROP. They imported not only medicines, but fruits, wines, European and India goods directly from England; one of the firm, or a skillful agent, often crossing the ocean to select the stock. After a few years they relinquished the trade in miscellaneous merchandise and confined themselves in a great measure to the drug business.
"Benedict ARNOLD, Jr., and Solomon SMITH were apprentices to Dr. LATHROP at the same period. ARNOLD subsequently set up the business in New Haven. SMITH went to Hartford and established a drug-store in connection with Dr. LATHROP, who furnished the first stock. This was in 1757.
"The following is one of their advertisements:
"'Just imported from London in the last ship, via New York, and to be sold by LATHROP & SMITH, at their store in King st. Hartford, Ct.-A large and universal assortment of medicines, genuine and of the best kind; together with complete sets of Surgeons' Capital and Pocket instruments; very neat instruments for drawing teeth; metal mortars, small scales and weights; all sorts of spice and choice Turkey figs; a variety of painters' colours and ay other articles.'
"In 1776 the firm in Norwich was changed from Daniel & Joshua LATHROP to LATHROPS & COIT, their nephew, Joseph COIT, Jr., having been associated with them in business. The younger partner died in 1779, in the thirtieth year of his age, and the former title was resumed."