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]
BACKUS.1 - Little is known of the history of William BACKUS, Sr. He is supposed to have lived in Saybrook as early as 1637. In the settlement of the estate of John CHARLES, who died at Branford in 1673, the children of William BACKUS received a share in the right of their deceased mother, who was his daughter. From this fact it is ascertained that the first wife of William BACKUS was Sarah, daughter of John CHARLES.
Before removing to Norwich he married Mrs. Anne BINGHAM, and brought with him to the new settlement three daughters, two sons, and his wife's son, Thomas BINGHAM. The three young men were of mature age, or near maturity, and are all usually reckoned as first proprietors. The daughters were subsequently united in marriage to John REYNOLDS, Benjamin CRANE, and John BAYLEY. The house-lots of the younger William and of Stephen BACKUS are both recorded as laid out in 1659; bu the latter was the allotment of his father, who dying at an early period after the settlement, and the land records being made at a later date, it was registered in Stephen's name, who had receive dit by request form his father. Hence William BACKUS, Sr., does not appear on the town records as a landholder.
His will, dated June 12, 1661, and witnessed by Thomas TRACY and John ROTH, is recorded at New London, and indorsed as allowed by a court held in that place June 21, 1665.
It is interesting to observe how rapidly the settlement advanced in property and comfort. This family and others in the course of a single generation grew strong and luxuriant, throwing out buds and branches of rich and noble growth.
The death of Mrs. BACKUS is registered with the BINGHAM family.
Mrs. Anne BACKUS, mother of Thomas BINGHAM, Sr., died in May, 1670.
STEPHEN BACKUS.-The rights and privileges of William BACKUS, Sr., were transferred so soon after the settlement to his son Stephen that the latter is accounted the original proprietor. The house-lot was entered in his name, as to a first purchaser. It lay upon the pent highway by the Yantic, between the town green and the allotment of Thomas BLISS, bounded by the BLISS homestead on the east and Hammer Brook on the west, and descended by gift or purchase to the LEFFINGWELLS, who were connected by marriage. Thomas LEFFINGWELL married Mary BACKUS, who left eight children, and Lucy BACKUS, daughter of Samuel BACKUS, married Benajah BUSHNELL, 1764, and had born seven children; from them descended the LEFFINGWELLs. Of this home-lot of Stephen BACKUS, the house now occupied by Benjamin HUNTINGTON, late deceased, and the stores and buildings nearly to the brook called Hammer Brook, and from the tradition that Stephen BACKUS had a hammer and shop carried by water.
Stephen BACKUS was married in December, 1666, to Sarah SPENCER. After a residence of over thirty years in Norwich, he removed with his family, about the year 1692, to Canterbury, and there died, 1695. His sons, Stephen and Timothy, are counted among the early settlers of that town, from whence have sprung Deacon Timothy BACKUS, Dr. Sylvanus BACKUS, Lieutenant-Governor Thomas BACKUS, and many others.
William BACKUS, Jr., the second William BACKUS, married Elizabeth, daughter of Lieut. William PRATT, of Saybrook. She was born Feb. 1, 1641.
William BACKS (2) is found on record with the successive titles of sergeant, ensign, and lieutenant.
William BACKUS (3), son of the above, sold is accumulations in Norwich to his father in 1692 and removed to "the nameless new town lying about ten miles northwest of Norwich." His brother John emigrated to the same place, afterwards named Windham, and both are recorded among the early proprietors of that town. The present Windham Green was part of the original home-lot of William BACKUS.
Joseph and Nathaniel, the youngest sons of William BACKUS (2), remained in Norwich. Joseph married Elizabeth HUNTINGTON, and Nathaniel married Elizabeth TRACY, daughters of the proprietors Simon HUNTINGTON and John TRACY. Joseph and Simon BACKUS, the first two graduates of Yale College of the name, were sons of Joseph. The former graduated in 1768m and some eight or ten years later was styled by his contemporaries Law BACKUS of Norwich. It was a saying the BACKUSES always settled, if possible, near a stream of water or near some pond; they made use of the power for some mechanical service.
Elizabeth BACKUS, daughter of Capt. Samuel BACKUS, and granddaughter of Joseph BACKUS, married Jabez HUNTINGTON, Esq., Jan. 20, 1742.2 Their children were Jedediah HUNTINGTON, born July, 1754; Andrew HUNTINGTON, born June, 1745, father of the late Ch. P. HUNTINGTON. [2 She died July 1, and Mr. HUNTINGTON Oct. 5, 1786.] Jedediah, a general and a distinguished officer in the American army during the Revolution, afterwards treasurer of the State of Connecticut and collector of the customs for the port of New London, succeeding Elijah BACKUS, Jr.
A large number of the BACKUS family have acquired distinction in the various walks of life. Elijah BACKUS, grandson of Joseph, whose iron-works at Yantic were so serviceable to the country in the Revolutionary war, was a grandson of Joseph. He married Lucy GRISWOLD, of Lyme. His three sons and his son-in-law, Dudley WOODBRIDGE, were among the first emigrants to the banks of the Ohio. James BACKUS, the youngest son, as agent of the Ohio Company, made the first surveys of Marietta, and is said to have built the first regular house in the town at the point of the junction of the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers, afterwards owned and occupied by his brother-in-law, Judge Dudley WOODBRIDGE, it being the first house in Ohio, at that time Northwest Territory. He afterwards returned to Norwich, and died there at the family residence, Sept. 29, 1816. The second Elijah BACKUS, an older brother of James, and the oldest son of Elijah BACKUS, Esq., graduated at Yale College in 1777, and for several years held the office of collector of customs in New London, being succeeded by Gen. Jedediah HUNTINGTON. His first wife was Lucretia, daughter of Russell HUBBARD, who died in New London, 1787.
He afterwards married Hannah RICHARDS, daughter of Guy RICHARDS, and removed with his family to Marietta, Ohio. He died in Kaskaskia, whither he went as receiver in the United States land department. He owned and operated the first printing-press west of the mountains, and printed a newspaper called the Northeast News-Letter. The second printing-press was owned and run in Cincinnati the next year. He was a lawyer by profession, and a man of large attainments, and left a large estate to his two children, Thomas and Lucretia, their mother being HUBBARD.
His daughter Lucretia, born at New London in 1787, married Nathaniel POPE, of Illinois, delegate in Congress form Illinois in 1816, and judge of the United States District Court. Maj.-Gen. John POPE, United States army, is their son, born March 12, 1823. His mother, Mrs. Lucretia POPE, in remembrance of the place of her father's nativity and of her own early associations, came from her Western home to attend the bi-centennial jubilee at Norwich in September, 1859, and carried from the old home of her father a chest of papers and other articles relative to her father, Elijah BACKUS, Jr.
Among the descendants of William BACKUS who were natives of Norwich the following clergymen are of note: 1. Simon BACKUS, son of Joseph, born at Norwich, Feb. 11, 1701, graduated at Yale College in 1724, and was ordained pastor of the church at Newington in 1727. He attended the expedition to Cape Breton as chaplain of the Connecticut troops, and died while on duty at that place in May, 1746. His wife was a sister of President EDWARDS, of New Jersey College.
2. Rev. Simon BACKUS, son of the above, was pastor in Granby, Mass., and died in 1828, aged eighty-seven.
3. Rev. Charles BACKUS, D.D., of Somers, Conn. He had a high reputation as an acute and able theologian, and prepared many young men for the sacred office. Dr. DWIGHT said of him, "I have not known a wiser man." 4. Rev. Azel BACKUS, D.D., born Oct. 13, 1765, was a nephew of Rev. Charles BACKUS, of Somers. His father died when he was a youth and left him a farm, which, he said, "I wisely exchanged for an education in college." He settled in Bethel, Conn., as the successor of Dr. BELLAMY, but in 1812 was chosen the first president of Hamilton College.
5. Rev. Isaac BACKUS, A.M., of Middleborough, Mass., was born at Norwich, within the limits of the old town plot, Jan. 8, 1724, and died Nov. 29, 1806. Our account of the family in which the childhood and youth of Isaac BACKUS were spent may be fitly closed from an imperfect sketch of his life, written by himself when more than eighty years old: "My mother sprang from the family of Mr. WINSLOW, who came over to Plymouth in 1620, and my father from one of the first planters in Norwich, Conn., in 1660. Both my father and mother and their parents were members of the first church in Norwich, and trained up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I was born there and was well educated in the Christian religion, and also in the principals of civil liberty." Isaac BACKUS traveled thousands of miles, when traveling was more difficult than the present time in New England, the Middle States, and in the South, preaching the gospel and advocating the principle of civil and religious liberty. He was a most prolific writer. The BACKUS Historical Society of Massachusetts, the Rev. Frederick DENISON, and the Rev. Alvah HOVEY, D.D., compiled a memoir of the life and times of Rev. Isaac BACKUS, A., in 1858. No one in the country did more service.
Tradition says the BACKUSES came from Norwich, county of Norfolk, England, and in deference to the ancestor, who was the oldest man of the party from Saybrook, and the first Englishman who died in Norwich, the matter of the name of the new town was submitted to him, who called it Norwich after his native place. The emigration of the BACKUSES has been constant, some to New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Ohio, and elsewhere; a great exodus about 1781. From Windham County the emigration has not be so extensive.
James BACKUS, the youngest of the sons of Elijah, returned from the Northwest Territory at the earnest request of his father, and remained, greatly against his wishes, to help and assist his father, who was possessed of a large estate, and had been the most successful mechanic in this vicinity. His son James was a man of great ability, both physically and mentally. He commenced and carried on a large business. The grist-mill, which was the first erection on the premises, and supposed to have been built by Joseph or his son Samuel, was the cause of their removal from the home-lot near the Landing, and by grants of land from the town for that express purpose, followed by the erection of the iron-works. The grist-mill was supposed to have been the second one, the first one built at the falls of the Yantic by the LATHROPS. The grist-mill was for the accommodation of the farmers, who raised their bread by the sweat of the brow; no labor-saving machine in that day.
The iron-works was of more varied and expensive character, supposed to have been commenced by Samuel BACKUS, but enlarged by his son Elijah, and was of great service both before and after the war. They made a variety of work, from a horseshoe to great anchors for the privateers and merchantmen.
The saw-mill was built by James BACKUS, who in later days built and ran two carding machines for carding wool for the farmers, hatters, and others, about 1812. James BACKUS built a merchant's store, and also manufactured potash and pearlash; also a provision-store for the purpose of packing beef and pork, and kept salt. James BACKUS carried on the whole, together with a large farm.
During the life of Elijah, Mr. Joseph OTIS was connected by the firm of BACKUS & OTIS, Mr. Otis being a worker of iron (his son afterwards founded the Otis Library, and it is believed was born at the house built by his father in Yantic). This connection of BACKUS & OTIS was not of long duration.
James Backus brought all the interest of his brothers and sisters, and owned and conducted the whole. The iron manufacture began to change its complexion and assume new and more varied shapes. Bar iron, instead of being hammered out, was rolled out; nails, instead of being hammered out, were cut out; and so all the former practices, new and quicker and cheaper practices supplied the market and vastly extended its use. Finally the manufacture of iron in the old way ceased, and the site gave place to other enterprises. The store did a large business for many years until James BACKUS died, in 1816.
William W. BACKUS, the son of James BACKUS and Dorothy Church CHANDLER, of Woodstock was the sixth of a family of seven children, and at the time of his father's death was but thirteen years of age.
His whole life has been spent in Norwich, except part of a year passed in Marietta, Ohio, in the mercantile establishments of his kinsman, Dudley WOODBRIDGE, Jr., the judge, his father, being then alive, 1819.
From ill health he was necessitated to return to Norwich. Since 1819 he has resided in Norwich, at the house of his ancestors, completing seven generations. His time has been spent mainly in farm operations, causing the old farm, with large additions, to bud and blossom, raising large corps of Indian corn (in some instances more than one hundred bushels of shelled corn per acre), rye, potatoes, grass, turnips, keeping a large stock, annually fattening about one hundred, and buying and selling many more. Supposed to have owned a great number of horned cattle than any one owner in New London County during a period of fifty years or more. His losses have been heavy, amounting to fifty thousand dollars. Some gains and some losses all the time. An eager student, worked days, studied nights after going to bed, by candlelight, sometimes to the small hours, or as long as fatigue would permit; still follows the habit as far as possible.
Chauncey Knight BUSHNELL, son of Adonijah BUSHNELL and Hannah TRACY, was born in Lisbon on the 25th day of February, 1805. He has a younger brother, Lyndes E. BUSHNELL, now living in the town of Sturbridge, Mass. Chauncey worked on his father's farm summers, attending a small district school for about four months winters, taught by some inexperienced youngster at six to eight dollars per month and board, until he was eighteen, when he commenced teaching the same school with twenty-one scholars at six dollars per month. Continued teaching winters in Lisbon and Norwich, working on the farm summers, until March, 1828, when he went to New York and taught through the summer at Brooklyn, L. I. contracting the ague and fever, returned and commenced teaching again in Lisbon.
On the 5th day of July, 1829, united with the Rev. Levi NELSON's Congregational Church, and on the 29th of September entered the "Oneida Institute," at Whitesboro', Oneida Co., N. Y. On leaving the Institute taught again in Norwich and New York, and on the 23d day of April, 1832, was married to Mary Eliza FULLER, born July 13, 1809, only daughter of Luther FULLER, Esq., of Lisbon.
Settled in Norwich, continuing his school on Norwich Green till the decease of his wife on the 26th of December, 1833.
Their daughter, Mary Witter, born the 23d of July, 1833, died Aug. 30, 1854. He continued teaching public and private schools until he went West, and the 1st of June, 1836, entered the office of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society, in Cincinnati, as the publishing agent of the Philanthropist, edited by the Hon. James G. BIRNEY and Dr. Gamaliel BAILEY. Remained there through the mobs, saw the destruction of the press and the re-establishment of another, then went, on the last of November, 1837, to Alton, Ill., and heard the funeral sermon of the murdered Rev. Elijah P. LOVEJOY; thence to Knox County, and taught the first school in Galesburg. He returned to Norwich, and was married on the 29th of March, 1840, to Mary Abby POST, born 31st of March, 1818, daughter of Elisha POST, of Bozrah, and again settled down at Norwich Town.
On the 29th of April, 1841, engaged as teacher in the Norwich Town High School. His father died the 19th of June, 1843, aged sixty-five. He continued teaching until the death of his mother, the 17th of February, 1848, aged sixty-eight.
Having lost two little sons in infancy, on the 10th of March, 1846, adopted George Lovice GARDNER (BUSHNELL), born on the 14th of July, 1843, youngest son of his wife's sister, who died on the 14th of February.
George L. G. graduated at the Norwich Free Academy the 19th of July, 1862, taking the Perkins' Greek medal and two diplomas. After serving as book-keeper and cashier four years for Richardson, Boynton & Co., of New York, and clerk of the South Congregational Church in Brooklyn, he came home and died with the consumption, Nov. 15, 1868.
Since 1848, Mr. BUSHNELL has practiced surveying and civil engineering, making deeds, wills, and various legal documents, teaching several terms at intervals till 1858, when he gave up the profession, having taught about thirty years. Having united with the Central Baptist Church in 1851, he served the society as collector for twenty years, also filling various minor offices in town and State, as justice of the peace and notary public, etc., to the present time (1881). He is in his seventy-seventh year.
He has always been a true Republican, never casting a vote for Democracy, slavery, or rum, and never seeking or desiring office of any kind.
[Transcriber's Note: There is a picture Mr. BUSHNELL in the book.]
Capt. William SMITH, son of John SMITH and Hannah BROWN, was born in Norwich, April 3, 1797. John SMITH came from England when a boy, and came to Norwich and engaged in the manufacture of ropes, in which business he continued till his death at the age of fifty-five.
He married Hannah BROWN, a native of this county, and had the following children, viz: William, the subject of this sketch, James, and Mary, who married Augustus JILLSON, a native of Norwich. He was noted as the great pin manufacturer, of the firm of SLOCUM & JILLSON.
William SMITH received a common-school education. At an early age in 1813 he began to learn the manufacture of cotton, and more especially to spin, of one John GRAY, with whom he remained two years. When he had served his apprenticeship he commenced working by the day, and thus continued till 1828, when he became assistant manager for the "Thames Manufacturing Company," in which position he remained six years. In the fall of 1835 he went to Bozrah, and continued in the employ of the same company a short time, but that company failing Mr. SMITH at once entered into partnership with Messrs. James BOWMAN and William COLGATE, of New York, in the manufacture of cotton goods. He was the superintendent and general manager of the manufacturing till 1880.
He has owned a small farm near Bozrahville, but lived in the village.
Mr. SMITH was always much interested in military affairs. He has held all the different positions from private to captain of light artillery. A personal friend and very prominent man says of him that he made one of the best officers in the regiment, and took pride in parades.
In politics he was a Whig till the Republican party was organized in 1856, since which time he has been a stanch Republican.
He has been selectman and magistrate in Bozrah several terms, and was a member of the Legislature in 1871, serving on the committee for new towns.
He has been twice married, first to Rebecca STERRY, daughter of John STERRY, the first Baptist minister in Norwich, and Rebecca BROMLEY, his wife, and to them were born Rebecca S., died at sixteen in 1833; Eliza A., married Parris WALKER; William Hl., living at Mystic Bridge; George S., residing at New Hartford, Conn.; Harriet W., married Samuel Wells HAUGHTON, of Bozrah; Daniel W. (deceased); and C. Louise, married William H. FITCH, of Bozrah.
Mrs. SMITH was a member of the Congregational Church, a faithful wife and devoted mother; died May 25, 1870. Capt SMITH married his second wife, Harriet L. PALMER, widow of Richard PALMER, and daughter of Harvey LATHROP, of Lebanon, May 1, 1873. Mrs. SMITH has two children by her first husband, viz.: Hattie L., who married a Charles R. BUTTS, and Minnie, unmarried.
About 1826, Capt. SMITH united with the Congregational Church in Norwich, and has been a worthy member of the same for more than fifty-five years. His wife is also a member.
He has always taken deep interest in Sunday-school work, and for more than thirty-five years was superintendent at Bozrahville, and seldom was away save a visit to different parts of the country.
He has ever been a faithful and constant attendant on all the prayer and social meetings of the church, and in all ways had tried to advance the cause of Christ.
He has been and is now (1881) a strong temperance man. He is now in his eighty-fifty year, hale and hearty for one so aged. He has been a good father and husband, a true patriot and citizen.
[Transcriber's Note: There is a picture of Capt. SMITH in the book.]
Rev. Alvan BOND, D.D.1 Rev. Dr. BOND was born in Sutton, Mass., April 27, 1793. He was educated at Brown University, graduating in 1815. He studied theology at Andover, Mass., and remained there nearly a year beyond the completion of the regular course. Nov. 18, 1819, he was ordained pastor of the Congregational Church in Sturbridge, Mass. After about ten years of labor in that pastorate he became Professor of Sacred Literature in the theological seminary at Bangor, Maine. He found the climate of that region too severe for his health, and in 1835 he came to Norwich and entered upon the pastorate of the Second Congregational Church of that city. He was installed in May, Rev. Dr. HOWE, of Hartford, preaching the sermon. He found this church, then the only Congregational Church of this city, rejoicing in the rich fruitage of two preceding pastorates, that of Mr. MITCHELL for seventeen years, and that of Mr. DICKINSON for thirty months. The resident membership numbered about three hundred and twenty five. There were three hundred and sixty names on the roll, and only about one hundred and thirty families, including some six hundred persons in all belonging to the parish. More than fifty per cent, of the entire number were profession Christians. There was little room for enlargement. It was the chief work of the new pastor to "keep the measure full." This he soon found a very unsatisfactory work. Numbers were added from year to year, but they came mainly by letter. After seven years of such toil ninety-eight of the most active members, including such as the last Governor William A. BUCKINGHAM, went out to form the Broadway Church. Room was thus made for indefinite expansion. The pastor, then in the midst of his years, girded himself for his great life-work. He summoned his people to most earnest endeavor. The gloom which forty vacant pews spread over the assembly was quickly dispelled. The people caught their pastor's enthusiasm, and "had a mind to work." At the very next sale of pews every slip was taken. For twenty-eight years Dr. BOND supplied the pulpit an average of fifty Sabbaths a year. Only in a single instance in all that time was he absent from a communion service. His work was not only constant, it was eminently successful. He kept his church in the vanguard of efficient workers for the worthiest ends. They were generous contributors to the various benevolent enterprises of the day. Numbers of them gave liberally to found the Norwich Free Academy. One of the office-bearers of his church, by his advice, founded the Otis Library, the only public library in the city. Dr. BOND was tireless in his endeavors to improve the public schools of the place. To his persistent efforts, in connection with Dr. GULLIVER, the pastor of the Broadway Church, the present generation of Norwich are deeply indebted for an excellent system of public instruction. [1 Contributed by Rev. W. S. PALMER.] He was outspoken upon the great questions of public interest so multiplied during the period of his pastorate. The cause of temperance and the interests of the oppressed, in whatever way, found in him an earnest advocate; yet so singularly judicious was he in all his utterances, both public and private, that he rarely provoked animosity, and uniformly promoted peace.
At the breaking out of the civil war, and in all that terrible struggle, his church, stimulated by his leadership and his example, was in the very forefront of the conflict. She was behind none in giving her sympathy, her service, or her sons. Her silver and gold poured out like water. Towards a single contribution in aid of Norwich soldiers no less than twelve of his people give freely from two hundred to a thousand dollars apiece.
At the first great "war-meeting" in Breed Hall, that Saturday evening before the memorable "Battle Sunday," his voice was heard invoking the name of Jehovah, and inciting the people to trust in an Almighty Helper. That wonderful Sunday which followed, while the women of the city made garments for the company to depart on the morrow, he preached to the men of his congregation upon "The overwhelming catastrophe and the need of girding the loins for intensest endeavor." His sermon was boldly prophetic. Upon invitation, received during the intermission, it was repeated that afternoon at the Broadway Church, in exchange with its pastor. A full year before that time, during the popular excitement about the fugitive slave BURNS, Dr. BOND had fired the patriotism of his people by a sermon in which he pictures "The spirit of Liberty spiked to the pavement by the bayonets of government troops." Dec. 28, 1864, at his own urgent request, he was dismissed from the pastorate he had so long and so faithfully held. For nearly ten years afterwards he preached in various pulpits, and at intervals in that of the Second church. The last time his voice as heard in public he bore part with the present pastor at a communion service for that church, and uttered words of fervent appeal which will long linger in the memory of those who were to fortunate as to hear them.
John W. STEDMAN.-One of the men worthy of being honored in his generation, well known throughout the State, and especially familiar to the people of Eastern Connecticut, forms the subject of this brief sketch.
John W. STEDMAN was born in Enfield, Conn., April 14, 1820, whence, in his infancy, the family removed to Hartford. When twelve years old, having lost his father by death, he left school to earn his own livelihood, and at the age of thirteen entered the printing-office of P. CANFIELD, and when, four years later, the office was consolidated with that of Case, Tiffany & Burnham, went with them, and remained till August, 1844. That year he removed to Norwich, having purchased the office of The Norwich Aurora, and here for thirty years he remained in the printing and publishing business, a longer time than any other person was ever engaged in the same business in the county.
Coming equipped with an experience of eleven years with the best masters of the printing art in the State, with habits of continuous and untiring diligence, and a mind already well stored with the knowledge and culture to be derived from books, --having been an assiduous reader, and to-day the owner of one of the finest private libraries in the State, --it is not surprising that the old organ of the Democracy of Eastern Connecticut should at once have given signs of rejuvenescence, that its business interests should have revived, its credit been restored, and the young editor, with a character for personal rectitude and business integrity established, should have acceptably placed himself at the head of the party in this section, prepared for the earnest and sometimes heated political campaigns that were to ensue. Contemporaneous with The Aurora at this time was the venerable Federal and Whig organ, The Courier, then published by the Hon. John DUNHAM, and on these two weeklies the community round about depended chiefly for their knowledge of what was going on abroad, as well as for their local intelligence, until the abundance of dailies and the rush of newspapers changed all that.
Here then was seen "a man diligent in his business," trustworthy, of courteous manners, fit to stand before the highest, repeating in himself the lesson every present to the self-respecting man of every walk of life. The first public recognition of his sterling qualities was his appointment in 1850, by Governor SEYMOUR, as a bank commissioner of the State. In 1852 he was elected to the same office by the General Assembly. This was rapidly followed by other public distinctions. In 1852 he was a member of the Baltimore convention that nominated Gen. PIERCE for the Presidency. In 1853 he was appointed postmaster of the city of Norwich, and reappointed to the same office in 1857 without opposition. His local popularity was further shown by his being for many years a member of the Board of Education of the city, and its president, and also over several years a member of the Common Council of the city. In 1873 he was appointed to the Legislature a member of a special commission to investigate and report upon the savings-banks of the State, a duty well performed, the report pointing out essential reforms to be made by some of those institutions, while the sound condition of the savings-banks, as a class, was established to the satisfaction of the community. His last important appointment from the State was that of insurance commissioner in 1874, to which office he was reappointed in 1877. The rigid investigations to which the affairs of a few of those institutions were subjected by this faithful officer, his legal complications with and final triumph over a corrupt New Haven coterie in regard to The American Life and Trust Company of that city, and the measures adopted during his administration (for he was in constant intercourse with the Legislature during its sessions) for the better management and security of the vast life and fire insurance interests committed to his charge, in its relations to the State and individuals, are matter of fresh remembrance. Before the expiration of his last term as insurance commissioner Mr. STEDMAN was elected treasurer of the State Savings-Bank of Hartford, which necessitated his removal from Norwich to Hartford, where, among the friends of his early days, he expects to live to the end.
We have but a word to add. There are things eulogistic that had better be said after a man's death, but we must proceed to the close. The proverb has it that "a man that hath friends must show himself friendly;" or, what seems to the writer an equally proper rendering, one to have friends must show himself friendly. In either sense the truth here suggested is eminently applicable to the subject of this sketch. He is peculiarly a friendly man, in heart and manner. His advice and aid were constantly being sought and freely given to the anxious and necessitous while a resident of Norwich, and their blessings go with him now he has left them. He secretly delivered the poor in their distress, was a shield to the weak, and a liberal contributor to every call of benevolence. All this in accord with a noble nature, the dictates of the religion he believed in, and the teachings of the humane and eminent order of which he is a distinguished member.
[Transcriber's Note: There is a picture Mr. STEDMAN in the book.]
Henry BILL.-Few of the sons of New London County have made a more lasting impress upon its material and moral interests than the subject of this notice.
He was born in that part of the old town of Groton now Ledyard, on the 18th of May, 1824, the second-born of the large family of Burdon and Lucy BILL. At the early age of fifteen he entered the office of the New London Gazette as an apprentice, but soon afterwards returned to his native town, and the following winter engaged as a teacher in the Broadbrook district in Preston. In order to qualify himself for the profession of teacher he afterwards entered the academy in Plainfield, then one of the most celebrated schools in the country. From this time till the age of twenty he taught in the schools of Plainfield and Groton n the winter and helped his father on his farm in summer, interspersing his occupations with a brief period of trade in New London. At the age of twenty he purchased of his father his remaining year of minority, and soon after entered upon a business which was destined to occupy the remainder of his active life, and in the prosecution of which he achieved all the objects of his highest ambition. A near kinsman, the Hon. James A. BILL, of Lyme, was then engaged in book publishing in the city of Philadelphia. Into his service he entered, and for three years he traveled for him through the Western States. At the end of that time, in the fall of 1847, he returned to his native county and engaged in book publishing on his own account, locating in the city of Norwich. He was encouraged to do this by the elder Harper Bros., of New York, who instinctively saw the material for success there was in him, and who gave him unlimited credit and remained his warmest friends during their lives. Here for more than twenty-five years he pursued his profession of a book publisher with ceaseless energy and with uniform success. Rewarded with the possession of an ample fortune, and failing in health, he then formed his large business into a joint-stock corporation, which still flourishes under the title of the Henry Bill Publishing Company, and personally retired, as the world expresses it, from active life. But in temperaments like his there is no period of a man's life more active than that which succeeds a retirement from the occupation by which he is best known among men.
A list of the works which he has published and distributed by hundreds of thousands all over the United States by agents would include Stephens' Travels in Yucatan, Maunder's History of the World, Murray's Encyclopedia of All Nations, Kitto's Bible Histories, and Abbott's History of the Civil War.
Among the many works which have distinguished his life may be mentioned of his founding of Laurel Hill, now one of the most thrifty and beautiful of the suburbs of the city of Norwich,--the reclaiming of this rugged hillside and meadow was emphatically his work; the establishment of the Bill Library in his native town of Ledyard, a work purely for the benefit of the people of the town, and which, in connection with his gift of a parsonage, has cost him at least twelve thousand dollars; and the donation of a public park on Laurel Hill to the city of Norwich, valued at eight thousand dollars. He has been deeply interested in the education of many colored young men in the Southern States since the war, one of whom is now a professor in the Richmond University in Virginia, and one an editor of a paper in Georgia.
In early life Mr. BILL's political affiliations were with the Democratic party, as his father's were before him, and as a Democrat he represented the Norwich district in the State Senate in 1853, receiving in the election a large portion of the votes of his opponents; but in the split in that party in 1856 he cast his lot with the anti-slavery sentiment, and has been from its formation an active an uncompromising member of the Republican party. During the civil war he was greatly relied upon by the Connecticut's war Governor, BUCKINGHAM, and was his devoted friend. His time and means were always at the service of the State. Mr. BILL from early life has been a member of the Congregational Church, and since his residence in Norwich has been connected with the Broadway Society. He was married on the 10th of February, 1847, to Miss Julia O. CHAPMAN, of Groton. Seven children have been born to them, of whom two daughters and a son are living.
Mr. BILL has always had great faith in the future of his adopted city. His investments have been almost wholly there in real estate. In its care and management he finds ample occupation, without that anxiety for its safety which those have whose fortunes are at the mercy of others. In this, as in all the leading traits of his life, his example is valued and safe guide, and when the roll of the sons of New London County who have made themselves an honored name is called his will be found among the first.
Gurdon CHAPMAN was born in North Stonington in 1792. He went to Norwich in early life and engaged in trade, which subsequently developed into a large grain business, which he prosecuted during the remainder of his life with great financial success. He died in 1862, aged seventy-two years.
During his life he was a marked character in the public affairs of the city. Overcoming the obstacles presented by a lack of early education, so common among the country boys of his day, by dint of study and close observation, aided by strong, native, common sense and a remarkably retentive memory, he qualified himself for a leader among his fellow-men and for the high positions of trust which they conferred upon him. For many years he was a member in turn of both branches of the city government, and from 1843 to 1845 was mayor of the city. He was also frequently called to responsible positions in the affairs of the town. He was a clear thinker, a forcible and fluent public speaker, and in all his public and private relations was highly respected and esteemed for his integrity, the kindness of his heart, and the soundness of is judgment as an advisor.
William C. GILMAN was a native of Exeter, N. H., and was first initiated into mercantile pursuits in Boston, but nearly thirty years of the most active and energetic portion of his life were spent in Norwich.
As a man of business he was acute in perceiving capabilities and ardent in the presentation of them to others, always prompt and persevering in promoting plans and pursuits calculated to develop the resources or advance the moral and religious interests of the community.
The period of Mr. GILMAN's residence in Norwich was marked not only by the stimulus given to manufactures at the Falls and on the Shetucket, and in the increase of business in general, but by fresh interest in the cause of temperance, improvements in churches, and the establishment of Sabbath-schools. All these undertakings were deeply indebted not only to his forecast, but to his advocacy and personal service.
Mr. GILMAN was also a man of taste and research, one who delighted in collecting memorials of the past, exploring the antiquities of the country, and commemorating the old heroic red men of the land.
The failure of the large manufacturing companies with which he had been connected led the way to his removal from Norwich about the year 1845. The later years of his life were spent in New York, where he died, June 6, 1863. His remains were brought to Norwich for interment. He was mayor of Norwich in 1839.
John BREED was a son of the second mayor of the city. For more than half a century he has been known as a prominent merchant of Norwich, engaged chiefly in the hardware line, but often entering into other departments of business. The sign of "John BREED & Co.," representing the partnership of John BREED and his brother Simeon, was first displayed upon the store in Water Street, where is father and grandfather had transacted business, the day that war was declared against Great Britain, June 19, 1812. Mr. BREED entered into several subsequent partnerships, but whether the firm was TRUMBULL & BREED, John & James BREED, or BREED, PRENTICE & Co., the old sign of John BREED & Co. has been displayed, in conjunction with its successor, for more than fifty-three years, until it is regarded as one of the antiquities of the place.
Mr. BREED had himself become so identified with the city that he seemed a part of it,--always present at its public meetings, always interested in the passing discussion, and always firm and downright in his positions. He was a man of strong peculiarities and of impulsive character, with great originality and independence, carrying much of the vivacity of youth into the decline of life. Tall, with white locks, and wearing a white hat, every child knew him, and no face or form was more familiar to the inhabitants at large.
His name is commemorated in BREED Hall, which was erected by him with the design of furnishing a convenient hall for lectures, concerts, and other large assemblies, and thus supplying a desideratum which the interests of the city required. This building was completed in February, 1860. Mr. BREED died suddenly, Dec. 3, 1865, in his seventy-fifth year.
Lydia HUNTLEY SIGOURNEY was born at Norwich, Sept. 1, 1791, and died at Hartford, June 10, 1865. The writings of this lady, beginning with her first volume of "Moral Pieces, in Prose and Verse," published in 1815, have been for fifty years quietly diffusing an influence in favor of the true, and good, and the beautiful in literature, morals, and religion. To the young especially they have been incalculable benefit. The large number of Mrs. SIGOURNEY's works, their high moral tone, and the good they have accomplished have gained for her a name and reputation that will long endure.
William P. GREENE was a native of Boston, but an inhabitant of Norwich for more than forty years. He was the second son of Gardiner and Elizabeth (HUBBARD) GREENE, and born Sept. 7, 1795. He graduated at Harvard College in 1814, and afterwards studied law, but his health not being equal to the requirements of the legal profession, he removed in 1824 to Norwich, and engaged at once in business as a partner and agent of the Thames Manufacturing Company, which had invested a large capital in the purchase of mill privileges at the Falls.
In this city he soon acquired, and retained during life, the esteem and respect of the community. He was an energetic and a large-hearted man, literary in his tastes, but with profound sagacity in financial and business concerns. These qualities were united with a pure life and an entire absence of ostentation. As a beautiful result of his unobtrusive life and liberal disposition, he seemed to have no enemies. Slander never made him its mark, and his name was never mentioned with disrespect.
He was never possessed of robust health, and therefore seldom able to give his personal services in aid of public measures, but all charitable and noble undertakings, having for their object the welfare of man and the honor of God, were sure of his liberal aid and cordial sympathy.
In 1825 he was chosen the first president of the Thames Bank, and held the office for sixteen years. With this exception, and that of the single year in which he was mayor of the city, he steadfastly declined, on account of his health, all appointments to public office.
He died June 18, 1864, aged sixty-eight. Seldom has the death of a citizen of Norwich excited in the place so deep an interest and such profound regret. It was a loss that was felt in the circles of business and of public improvement, and in the departments of education and philanthropy.