THE hamlet of East Plymouth, two miles north of Terryville, Connecticut, and more commonly known as "East Church," was brought into existence about 1792, by the building of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church by a clan of Tories. These Tories, or, if you so prefer, loyal members of the Church of England-for they could not conscientiously be loyal to the head of the church without bearing the name of Tory-lived in the farmhouses scattered along the hillsides where the boundaries of the present towns of Bristol, Plymouth and Harwinton now meet. With Chippeny Hill in the town of Bristol, or Chippin's Hill as it is commonly called now, as a centre, they had gathered together, unshaken by the stress of the times as the stone ledges north of them, united by family bonds, and by the persecutions of marauding Sons of Liberty, under the leadership of that "designing church clergyman," the Rev. James Nichols. It is certainly time that some memorial of their lives is placed upon paper. Their loyalty to their beliefs, though perhaps not guided by prudence, is certainly to be admired, and that they were hunted, robbed, flogged, and driven to the ledges for refuge, because of this loyalty, deserves not to be forgotten. They were noble men, some of them, and courageous, yet there remains little to remember them by save here and there a family tradition. In this attempt to weld together a collection of facts directly and indirectly concerning the life of that Tory clan, the writer is greatly indebted to the research and assistance of Rev. X. A. Welton, of Redlands, California, who is unashamed of his Tory ancestry, and he is also indebted to Mr. James Shepard, of New Britain.
THE place where the churchmen first came together was Chippeny Hill, within the confines of New Cambridge, the present Bristol. From the time of its settlement by white men, the history of the Hill has been connected with the growth of the Church of England in New Cambridge. The Brooks and the Matthew's families settled there between the years 17,12 and 1747, and were soon joined by others of the Church of England. It was in July, 1747, that a group of the members of the meeting house at New Cambridge revolted, owing to the Calvinistic doctrines of the new minister, Rev. Samuel Newell, and "publicly declared themselves of the Church of England and under the Bishop of England." Those who seceded, most of them influential members of the Society which they were leaving, were Caleb Matthew's and Stephen Brooks, patriarchs of the families that bore their name, John Hickox, Caleb Abernathy, Abner Matthew's, Abel Royce, Daniel Roe, and Simon Tuttle. Caleb Matthew's was a captain of militia, and he was also the chairman of the Society's committee and of the building committee which was then making plans for a meeting house. Both he and Simon Tuttle were spared to live until the Revolution. Abner Matthews was also a member of the building committee. John Hickox had been the Society's treasurer.
Nehemiah Royce, a younger man, within a few weeks followed the original eight in joining the new congregation, and he was followed in October, 1748, by Benjamin and Stephen Brooks, Jr., and Joseph Gaylord. It is the opinion of Mr. James Shepard that the dissenters were inclined to worship according to the Church of England even before they were settled at New Cambridge. The Brooks family , the Matthews family, the Gaylords, the Rices, and the Tuttles came from Wallingford, where Church of England services had been held as early as 1740.
The selection of the Calvinist, Rev. Samuel Newell, came after a strong factional conflict within the walls of the meeting house. The orthodox wished to call him as early as 1744, but the liberals refused to accept him, and after a few years of preaching by various candidates, among whom were Ichabod Camp and Christopher Newton, both of whom later became Church of England clergymen, the orthodox faction became the ruling majority and obtained the man they desired. The new church naturally found itself in conflict with the old Society, which was the legal municipal corporation of New Cambridge, and it was several years before the matter of taxation was satisfactorily readjusted. At the time of the Revolution, the largest part of the Church of England residents in New Cambridge had chosen Chippeny Hill as their dwelling place.
It is a tract of land which was well worth recognition, both as farming land and because of its sightly situation. North of it lie the Ledges, a section of rocky woodland; west of it are seen the hills of Litchfield county. The Hill itself is one of those long ranges, running north and south, that are peculiar to that part of the country, and although it escapes by a few rods from being within Litchfield county, it may truly be called the easternmost member of that north-stretching fraternity of hills. Below it, on the east, stretches the valley of the Farmington, with the houses of Bristol visible at the south, and the distant church spires of Farmington visible at the north. It was from this valley that Cochipiance, the Indian, came, from the band of Tunxis Indians that encamped there. He found the Hill in New Cambridge a good place, and claimed it and the surrounding region as his hunting preserve, making his home there by a good spring on the eastern slope. Afterward the white men bought it f from him. Two highways, half a mile apart, run northward along the hill until they are lost in the woods and ledges. The western one of the two has long been known as Hill street. A cross road at South Chippeny Hill is called Shumway from the name of an Indian, Shum, whose trail it was. By the year 1774 the hill was cleared and fertile land.
Why it was that the farmers of this section were mostly Church of England men, it is hard to say. Whether their long open hill life bred an independence that rebelled against the Calvinistic tenets of the established church or whether the bright sun that causes the strawberries to ripen there warmed the hearts of those that ate them, we may not know. Certain it is that by 1774, they were a colony of churchmen.
On Sundays, they rode down the Hill to their church at New Cambridge, which was east of the meeting house, across the training ground, near where the north wing of Federal Hill schoolhouse now stands. There a missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts conducted the services for them. First, Rev. William Gibbs of Simsbury, then for a time the converted dissenters, Rev. Ichabod Camp and Rev. Christopher Newton; after them, Rev. Richard Mansfield of Derby: then for a number of years until 1773, Rev. James Scovil of Waterbury, and, finally, Rev. James Nichols. Their friends and cousins alighted at the block in front of the meeting house; but they entered the church and joined in the litany, and the choristers led them in the chant. Then they rode back to the Hill.
Meeting house little boys doubtless twitted church little boys that they were not as good as they, yet, methinks, the meeting house little boys wished sometimes that they might climb up on the pinion and ride away to Chippeny Hill. Life was not so stern there. There were good things to eat Sabbath afternoons on Chippeny Hill and there was time to play. And there were good things to eat at other times, too. When the Christmas time came, Chippeny Hill boys had puddings with raisins in them. And there were Christmas trees, trees inside the house, with candles on them. And that was the time when the Yule log was put on the fire and the stories were told and the songs were sung. Of course it was wicked. Parson Newell would say that such things were an abomination of heathendom and the ruination of souls; but what fun it must have been. And girls, and boys too, actually had playthings given to them. The customs of merry old England, which the Puritans despised, were certainly cherished there.
Yet there was work to be done on the Hill. There was corn to plant and wood to cut. In the winter the long flames went roaring up the chimney, and the winds that rise in Goshen swept down upon them. It was not England. No churches with their long choirs had these people seen, nor cathedrals, where the organ bellowed gloriously. Yet they had heard of them from the missionaries of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. And they loved their home, England. Not that they expected ever to see it, but they liked to read of it, those who could read, and all of them delighted to hear of it; the great cathedral at Canterbury where the archbishop lived; and St. James Palace, where Prince Charles was brought up as a boy and later returned to his own again; and the King, the head of the Church, and, by the grace of God, Defender of the Faith. They liked to hear what play had been presented before him, what noble he bad knighted, what hospital he had founded, what sculptor, poet, or artist had received favor at his hands. They prayed for him as their sovereign lord and king,-not lukewarmly, my friends, as you repeat the Lord's prayer day after day, but affectionately,-for a living prince, that he might ever incline to the Heavenly will, that the King of Kings might endue him with heavenly gifts, grant him to live long in health and wealth, strengthening him that he might vanquish and overcome all his enemies, and finally after this life that he might attain everlasting joy and felicity.
The troubles of 1775 were a great shock to these loyal people. The Boston port bill had thrown the Puritans into agitation. It seemed as if they were demented.They blasphemed the name of the king, and in the streets of New York they defaced his statue. "If you pray for the king," said the meeting house men, "then we will kill..you." So the members of the church in New Cambridge closed its doors in silence.
THE principle of loyalty to the king, which was the guiding light of the Chippeny Hill band, was installed in great measure by Rev. James Nichols. In the words of the public records of Connecticut, concerning seventeen of his parishioners, they were "much under the influence of one Nichols, a designing church clergyman who instilled into them principles opposite to the good of the States" and "under the influence of such principles they pursued a course of conduct tending to the ruin of the country and highly displeasing to those who are friends to the freedom and independence of the United States."
Rev. James Nichols*, ------
*Rev. James Nichols was an only son; grandson of Joseph and Elizabeth (Wood) Nichols of Waterbury. His mother was Anna, daughter of Daniel and Deborah (Holcomb) Porter and widow of Thomas Judd. Daniel Porter was a physician. The Nichols family owned much land in Waterbury.
born in December, 1748, the son of James Nichols of Waterbury, was graduated from Yale College in 1771. The churchmen of New Cambridge, at a vestry meeting held August 2, 1773, voted to have him for their minister, and appointed a committee to confer with him. They then owned a small building at New Cambridge near the training ground, where Rev. James Scovil occasionally held services but as he also cared for other parishes, they desired a permanent minister of their own, and united with the parish of Northbury (now Plymouth) to procure one. In the report of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts read at the annual meeting, February, 1774, before the distinguished assemblage of its patrons, at the parish church--the Church of St. Mary Le Bow, the church of the Bow-bells, in Cheapside, which Sir Christopher Wren had built after the great fire,--the portion treating of the field in Connecticut says: "The two parishes most distant from Waterbury, viz., Northbury and New Cambridge, consisting each of about fort families, have voluntarily engaged to support their own minister. Sixty pounds sterling and a glebe of very good land are to be his maintenance. The Rev. James Nichols, a gentleman well recommended, hath lately been ordained to those Parishes; and the Society, in consideration of his receiving no salary and of the commendable zeal of the people, have presented him with a gratuity of twenty pounds." The people of New Cambridge had already, at a vestry held August 30, 1773, voted forty pounds yearly for their part of his stated salary and "voted to raise twenty-five pounds to carry him home." He was the last man from Connecticut to take holy orders from "home" before the Revolution. The statement that Nichols was "well recommended" is worthy of notice. Nine particulars are named in the reports of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, of which the Society required those who recommended a clergyman to testify, and of these, number eight is "His affection for the present government."
The young priest of twenty-five had a bitter time of it in his parish. He administered baptism at New Cambridge in May, 1774. The following day, May 9th, is the date of the last vestry meeting recorded as held in the church, for the wave of insurrection was sweeping over the country, rendering public allegiance to the king dangerous, and the church only followed the example of the other churches throughout New England when it ceased its public services. For the ten years thereafter of his pastorate, he held meetings in farm houses, and the people were practically without a church. His parish, as reported by Rev. Mr. Scovil in 1773, consisted of thirty-three families and forty-seven communicants in New Cambridge, and forty-five families and sixty-three communicants in Northbury and in the bounds of Harwinton. He was the recognized instigator of the strong love for England that imbued his flock, and the patriots hunted for him high and low. When they found him hiding in a cellar near Cyrus Gaylord's home in East Plymouth, they tarred and feathered him and dragged him in the neighboring brook. He is also said to have been shot at several times. He baptised his son, Charles Nichols, January 21, 1776. November 22, 1776, he sold a farm of seventy acres to Jonathan Pond. With Moses Dunbar, he was tried by the Superior Court in Hartford, January 27, 1777, for treasonable practices against the United States, but was acquitted. May 22, 1777, seventeen Tory prisoners from New Cambridge were examined at the house of Mr. David Bull at Hartford by a committee of the General Assembly, and were found to be "much under the influence of one Nichols, a designing church clergyman." He received his ministerial taxes in 1778, at Salisbury, and in 1779 and in 1780 at Litchfield. It is probable that Salisbury was familiar ground to him for his father's residence was there in 1756. The receipts for the taxes, as they appear upon the records of the New Cambridge society, are as follows:
"To the Collector of Minister Rate in Farmington. This may certify that the People of ye Town belonging to the Episcopal church have paid ye Minister Rate to me for the year 1777 and this may discharge the same. Salisbury, March 7, 1778.-James Nichols, Missionary."
"Litchfield, February 9.7, 1779, this may certify the Collector of minister Rate for the parish of New Cambridge that the people of the Episcopal Church of said Parish under my care have paid their rates to me and I hereby discharg the Colector said Rate is on. Test. James Nichols, Clerk."
"Litchfield, Dec. 29, 1780, this may certify the Colector of minister Rate for the parish of New Cambridge that the people of the Episcopal Church under my care have paid their Rate to me and I hereby discharge the colector is on list. James Nichols, Minister."
Receipts like the foregoing were customarily accepted by the collectors of the "Standing Order" from Church of England clergymen, but the law did not authorize the acceptance of theim except from a resident clergyman. Nichols was not of course a resident at New Cambridge while living as a fugitive at Litchfield. Consequently we read that, "At a meeting of the inhabitants of the Parish of New Cambridge holden at the Meeting House on the 17th of February, 1779, it was voted that our Collector shall collect the Rates of the People of the Church of England."
Nichols took his nephew with him to Litchfield as a valet, and there the boy found the girl wlio afterward became his wife. From Litchfield, the young minister made occasional visits to his former parishioners at New Cambridge. He administered baptism once in 1777, and not after that until 1780. At a vestry held at Joseph Gaylord's in March, 1782, it was voted that he give one-third of his time to West Britain, now Burlington, and provision -was made for the collection of his ministerial rate by subscription; Nathaniel Matthews beirig chosen to receive the subscriptions. At a vestry meeting held at Joel Tuttle's, in 1783, William Gaylord and Samuel Smith, jr., were elected to make up and collect Mr. Nichol's rates. The last baptism at New Cambridge performed by him was March 21, 1784. It was on January 30, 1780, that he baptised among others, a daughter of Stephen Graves, whether at the Graves home or at some other farmhouse it is not recorded.
The snow came and there was famine in the American camp in New Jersey. Two days later, Long Island Sound was almost frozen over in the widest part so that persons crossed the ice from Staten Island, an undertaking never before possible since the first settlement of the country. With Long Island Sound almost frozen over, Harwinton and Litchfield were certainly cold places, and Parson Nichols, I wot, was glad when hs pastoral visit was over, and hs valet led the horses to the stables in Litchfield and he could seat himself once more by the warm fireside.
"Respected for his pleasing manners and eloquent preaching,"
he became Rector of St. Michael's Church at Litchfield in May, 1780. This church had been deprived of the services of a minister from 1774 to 1780 owing to the lack of the usual support from the old country, but had been held together by Captain Daniel Landon and other loyal souls who met regularly despite the fact that the church windows were the favorite targets of hoodlums. London's granddaughter remembered that when General Washington passed through Litchfield, the soldiers, to evince their attachment for him, threw a shower of stones at the church He reproved them saying, "I am a Churchman and wish not to see the church dishonored and desolated in this manner."
Nichols "collected a respectable congregation," wrote Truman Marsh, who became rector in 1799, "and did much to remove prejudice and to raise the church from its low and depressed state." He resigned May, 1784, about the same time that be left New Cambridge and Northbury. In 1785 he drafted an "Address of Thanks" to the Legislature for incorporating the church society..
The historians of Litchfield knew little about Nichols. Statements that be came from Salem, Mass., are incorrect. There was a church clergyman by the name of Nichols at that place, and mentioned in the letters to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, but his name was Robert Boucher Nichols and he was a native of the Barbadoes and a graduate of Oxford. James Nichols, though ordained by the Society, was not one of their regular missionaries, which partly accounts for the scant mention of him in their reports.
Certain correspondence with Jonathan Pond, who lived at the foot of Fall Mountain, within what is now the town of Plymouth, throws light on his later career. On August 23, 1784, in a business letter to Jonathan Pond, he wrote from Arlington, Vermont, "Your agent was not sufficiently impowered to make a settlement on any conditions but payment of money which was not in my power. I expect to be down at Litchfield in about a fortnight, but of this I am not certain. My business is such I cannot assign time and place to meet you, but I shall be hereabouts until the latter part of September. The gentleman Mr. Andrews will inform you I am willing to submit the matter to men &c other matters of conversation he can relate to you which would be tedious to write." Before this, November 19, 1789., be had written to Jonathan Pond, the place from which he wrote being unknown, "I am desirous of leaving our matter to men Mr. Graves has nominated, Mr. Prindle, Capt. Phelps, & Lieutenant Cook of Harwinton. I am fully agreed to those gentlemen and I hereby impower my friend Mr. Stephen Graves to sign instructions with Lieut. Thomas Brooks in my behalf." In December, 1785, Jonathan Pond recovered judgment in the Litchfield county court against Nichols as an absent and absconded debtor for a debt of two hundred and fifteen pounds, as a result of which judgment Judah Barnes, constable, levied execution upon two pieces of land belonging to the debtor, in Bristol, appraised at about one hundred and sixty pounds. His last letter to Pond was as follows:
"Arlington, February 12th, 1787.
"Sir-Upon Mr. Tuttle's request and also my own earnest desire of an amicable settlement between us I have come to this resolve. I will meet you and him at any time after the 15th of March at Williams Town bay state where if we do not settle I will pay you a reasonable price for coming and I hereby declare I will not give you any trouble in Law on any account in your journey and this writing shall be sufficient to assure you of the same. My meaning is I will not commence any action whatever against you in the bay or Vermont State until after the first day of May next.
"Sir-I have an earnest desire to see you but as Mr. Tuttle will inform you necessary business will prevent my coming to Connecticut until next summer when matters might be better settled, but they are now in such a situation that it seems necessary and a saving of costs to accommodate matters soon.
"Sir, Wishing you and your family well,
"I remane, Yrs.
It is difficult to say whether the Pond correspondence is of any material importance in judging Nichol's character, but it has been given for what it may be worth. The controversy was evidently over the title to the Pond homestead which Jonathan Pond purchased of James Nichols. Where Nichols obtained his title was a mystery that baffled Jonathan Pond and he was compelled eventually to purchase the farm a second time from Charles Ward Aptlhorpe, a Tory of New York. According to a little old scrap of paper among the Pond documents, apparently an unsigned abstract of title, Nichols obtained the farm from certain-named individuals, who, it was surmised, were heirs of the parties to whom it had been mortgaged. The mortgagees, according to the paper, had previously given a warrantee deed of it "to Charles Ward Apthorp of the City of New York who (sd Apthorp) has joined the Enemy and forfeited his estate." The fact that Apthorpe had forfeited his estate is emphasized by an exclamation point. It is true that Charles Ward Apthorpe joined the enemy. He had been a patron of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel since 1758, his name appearing in the reports in company with that of Rev. East Apthorp, D.D., the rector of the parish church of the Society, St. Mary Le Bow, and he was the second assistant manager of the Court of Police in New York established by General Howe's proclamation of May 1, 1777, drawing a salary of two hundred pounds therefor. Of him Judge Jones in his scathing criticisms of his fellow Tories says: "This gentleman never attended; the appointment was designed as a sinecure." He was a wealthy purchaser of mortgages in Waterbury and about Connecticut, a member of His Majesty's Council governing New York, and was indicted because of the latter fact for high treason by a rebel grand jury of New York. His estate, according to Jones, was confiscated together with those of the other members of the royal council--but, alas for the title of Jonathan Pond, his estate in Connecticut was not forfeited. He laid claim to it through his attorney, the honorable James Hillhouse, in 1792, and, in response to repeated demands from Hillhouse, who was attending Congress at Philadelphia, Jonathan Pond, honest old blacksmith with a family of eight children on his hands, raised the cash and paid for the farm a second time.
Having considered Nichols' life in Connecticut, let us see how he fared in Vermont.
The little community of Arlington, in Vermont, was a Church of England town chartered in 1761 by people mostly from Litchfield, Connecticut, and later settled by emigrants from Newtown and New Milford, Connecticut. In 1784 the inhabitants resolved to install a minister and build a church. "The Rev. James Nichols, a clergyman from Connecticut, of more than ordinary parts, was employed, and the services of the church which for some time had been very irregular were resumed at private houses." It was about 1786 that Nichols was called and the church edifice was commenced. Owing to the poverty of the inhabitants the building was not completed until 1803, but it had been furnished with temporary seats and was used for public worship about 1787, and was, in fact, the first church in the State. The name of the parish was St. James, and the salary of Mr. Nichols--its first rector--was twenty. pounds a year, raised by assessment upon "the grand list." On June 4, 1788, "the Rev. James Nichols, having by his intemperate habits lost the respect of his
people, was dismissed." Sandgate, a place not far from Arlington, proved to be a more permanent field of labor for this gentleman from Connecticut. It was while he was here that he and the Rev. Daniel Barber of Manchester organized the first annual convention of the Episcopal Church in Vermont, which was held at Arlington in September, 1790. One of its purposes was to take action to preserve to the church the lands which had belonged to it before the war. Nichols and Barber were the only clergymen who attended. Barber read the prayers and Nichols preached the sermon. Nichols also preached the sermon at the next recorded convention in 1792.
In 1793, the Rev. Bethuel Chittenden and the Rev. J. C. Ogden, men of a more spiritual type, increased the number of clerical members of the convention to four, and the Rev. Dr. Edward Bass of Newburyport, Massachusetts, was at that time elected bishop.
A special convention two months later at Manchester elected the Rev. Samuel Peters, D.D., bishop, and dispatched a messenger post haste to the Archbishop of Canterbury to have him consecrated. Peters was a notorious refugee from Connecticut and was an enemy of Dr. Bass. Nichols and Barber were evidently in favor of Peters, for they signed a letter of recommendation to the archbishop, and there was considerable correspondence between Nichols and Peters. Chittenden and Ogden protested vainly for Dr. Bass.
This convention was a packed one and but nine out of twenty-four parishes were represented. Colonel Jarvis of Toronto, Canada, a son-in-law of Dr. Peters, was very active in securing a majority of votes for Dr. Peters and Colonel John A. Graham of Rutland, a relative, placed his name in nomination.
Dr. Peters was at this time in England, living upon a pension from the government, and was a Tory of the objectionable kind. He had been driven from his home in Hebron, Conn., because of rabid loyalty and in retaliation wrote his "General History of Connecticut," which contains the famous Blue Laws spun from his brain that have since been associated with the name of that State. He hated Dr. Bass as the devil hates holy water, for that able and good clergyman of Newburyport had reluctantly yielded to the stress of the Revolution and peaceably held services without mention of the king and royal family. This cost him the withdrawal of financial support by the home society, due partly to the enmity of Dr. Peters, but he was reinstated and finally became Bishop of Massachusetts. Dr. Samuel Peters was a brilliant but eccentric man. His ruling passion was ambition. He loved kings, admired the British government, revered the hierarchy, and possessed strong influence in England. His pension was forfeited by a quarrel with Pitt but be maintained some sort of a living from fictitious land sales and charity, until his death in New York in 1826 at ninety-one years of age.
The church had owned valuable lands in Vermont, and Peters had hoped, as did Nichols no doubt, and, in fact, all the church people more or less, that it might retain its ancient possessions. It was almost vital to the existence of the church in Vermont that this be allowed. A contemporary wrote that there were "no Episcopal churches in the State, but a few church people and only two or three strolling ministers who cannot get a decent support." One reason in favor of Dr. Bass was that he could continue to live at Newburyport and thereby save expense.
The Rev. Daniel Barber, Nichols' friend, clung to his glebe land when the town of Manchester brought a suit of ejectment against him and won out, but the State immediately legislated glebe lands away from the church and the struggle was for naught. The contest for a bishop was abandoned. Peters could not secure consecration from either the Archbishop of Canterbury or from the American bishops, and the consecration of Dr. Bass was not effected at this time. This contest, however was the means of drawing a line between the spiritual leaders like the Rev. Bethuel Chittenden and Mr. Ogden and those more materialistically inclined like Nichols and Barber, and fortunately for Vermont the better class prevailed. Barber, who, according to Peters, was "expelled from Vermont by starvation," gamely kept up his struggle for land at Claremont, New Hampshire, where he formed a convention of churches detrimental to the Vermont organization. In advanced years, wearied with domestic trials, he gave up the struggle and in 1815 entered the Roman Catholic priesthood, being deposed from the Episcopal church in 1818.
The Rev. James Nichols was the only clergyman present at the Vermont convention in 1795, at which Colonel Graham made report of his unsuccessful trip to England to procure the consecration of Samuel Peters. The convention passed a resolution of thanks for Colonel Graham and a resolution of thanks and regret for Dr. Peters.
In 1796, 1797, and 1798, Nichols did not appear at the annual conventions- It is supposed that he continued at Sandgate although there is mention at one time of his being minister at Manchester. In the convention of 1799 a letter from William Smith, secretary of the Convention of the Diocese of Connecticut, written by the order of the Bishop and Clergy of that Diocese to the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Vermont, respecting the Rev. James Nichols, was read and ordered to lie on the table for consideration. When the letter was taken up, it was voted "That the Convention do disapprove of the conduct of the Rev. James Nichols and that they do recommend to the several churches in the State not to employ him as a Clergyman until he procures a Certificate from the Standing Committe that he has reformed his conduct and that he will do honor to his profession."
"Rev, James Nichols," reports Bishop Griswold, "having by his letter dated at Manchester, Vermont, July 2, 1819, declared his resolution to renounce the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church and in future not to exercise any of its functions, and in consequence, agreeable to the provisions of the 2nd canon of the General Convention of 1817, he the said James Nichols, on the 2nd day of September, 1819, in the presence of Rev. Mr. Crocker and other clergymen, was declared to be, and is, suspended from his grade of the ministry." The Rev. Carlton Chase, D. D., in Thompson's History of Vermont writes thus: "The writer is constrained though with sorrow to mention the names of two other individuals who for a time bore no inconsiderable part among the friends of the Church--the Rev. James Nichols, who resided at Sandgate, and the Rev. Russell Catlin who resided at Hartland. The former was a man of talent and eloquence; the latter possessed neither. It is painful to think of, and better not to describe, the latter days of either."
It was not until June 17, 1829, that the "designing church clergyman" of Chippeny Hill "died miserably" at the home of one of his two sons at Stafford, Genesee County, New York, aged eighty and one-half years.
WHATEVER may have been the degree of goodness or of evil existing in that "designing church clergyman," the Rev. James Nichols, it is certain that the principles he taught were the principles which governed the Chippeny Hill folk. How deeply they had studied them is a matter of controversy. The report of the committee at Hartford that examined the seventeen prisoners from New Cambridge states that "they were indeed grossly ignorant of the true grounds of the present war with Great Britain." Yet there were educated men among them just as there were among the other Tories throughout the country, and it is unfair to assume that their actions were based simply on their love for their church and antipathy to its opponents, or that they were more ignorant of the grounds of the war than some of their Puritan neighbors. Moses Dunbar, in His life on Long Island, had had an opportunity to become acquainted with the thoughts and feelings of the Tories in New York. Rev. James Nichols at Litchfield had also been able to keep in touch with events. It was at Litchfield, by the way, that Governor Franklin of New Jersey, son of Benjamin Franklin, but a royalist governor, was kept in honorable confinement. There were many Tories in Western Connecticut, and especially about Stratford, who were in constant communication with those of Long Island and New York, and the churchmen of Connecticut were all closely allied by family ties. Bishop Seabury, as he became later, was one of the leaders of the Tories near the New York State line. It is, perhaps, well to consider why these were Tories.
There were, as there are and ever will be, men who uphold government and detest lawlessness. A rebellion that succeeds is a rare thing. It is called a revolution, and he who rebels without success, or at least without good reason, is justly stamped a rebel. Ultimate success, single-handed, against Great Britain was, from a practical point of view, a mere dream. The possibility that some other nation, in warfare against the great enemy, might set up the American colonies as a weapon of offense was only a hope and did not change the conditions. Granting success, were the reasons sufficient? Inefficiency in the home government and taxation without representation were the reasons given for the rebellion. Were they good ones, good enough to justify civil war? - Men like Seabury and Governor Franklin thought not. There was no great suffering wrong hanging upon the necks of the American colonists. They were eating, sleeping, and living in a well governed country, and civil war is a horrid thing. Rottenness and inefficiency in administration might exist, but there were other ways of curing it than by bloodshed.
There was also more than one side to the taxation question. Great Britain had been fighting a combination of the most powerful civilized nations- One of these, France, had sought to seize the American colonies. England came to their defense and did what they could
not have done: saved them from a ruler of foreign tongue and detested religion. Who should pay the expense of this war if not the colonists? England was not a wealthy land, and the colonies had received the benefit. Yet when a nominal tax was imposed, the colonists became enraged, and exclaimed against "Taxation without representation!" They did not petition for representatives in Parliament. They did not offer to tax themselves. There was reason to suspect that taxation with representation would be as distasteful to the disgruntled ones as taxation without representation. The taxation reason for desiring independence did not seem important in the eyes of the loyalists.
Three thousand miles of intervening water,--that was a good reason for independence; difference in religious belief,--that was a good reason for independence; lack of sympathy with English life in general was a good reason for independence. But to the true churchman these reasons did not exist. England was the religious center and place of pilgrimage; it was home. The mere technicality of a few cents on tea could not sever their attachment to the home government.
A good example of loyalism is the following speech delivered in September, 1776, before a large body of the inhabitants of Long Island, a speech which Moses Dunbar himself may have beard:
"Gentlemen, Friends, and Countrymen:--Being appointed by His Excellency, General Howe, to raise a corps of Provincials for his Majesty's service, I readily engage in the attempt from principle, and in consequence of the fullest conviction that there are yet very many among us who still retain the most unshaken loyalty to our gracious sovereign, and zealous attachment to the blessings of the British constitution. Now is the time to exert our endeavors if we wish to rescue ourselves from the evils of Republican tyranny, or our country from ruin. The misrule and persecutions of committees, conventions, and Congresses are no longer to be endured; they have become insupportable--they are too enormous for description. There are none of us but what have already seen or felt the cruelty and oppression of their Republican despotism. Without affecting one salutary purpose, those self-created bodies have violated all the sacred ties of civil society, prostrated all law and government, and arbitrarily usurped an absolute control over the natural rights, the reason, and the consciences of their fellow subjects. Instead of supporting constitutional liberty, and redressing public grievances, the special purposes of their original associations, they have denied their fellow citizens the greatest and most valuable of all possible privileges: those of personal liberty and freedom of speech. Instead of endeavoring, by dutiful representations in a constitutional method, for a reconcillation with the parent state, and thereby restoring to us the innumerable benefits and advantages of the former happy union between Great Britain and the colonies, they have most unjustifiably and perversely erected the standard of independency. That is not all. They have increased and multiplied the distresses of poverty and want among our poor. They have moreover deliberately involved their country in all the turbulence of faction, in all the evils of monarchy and licentiousness; and to complete the transcendent enormity of their crimes against the interest and prosperity of America, they have disregarded the liberal and benevolent declaration of his Majesty's commissioners of peace, and with the most obdurate and unfeeling dispositions for the distresses of their countrymen, obstinately and wickedly precipitated the whole British continent of America into all the guilt of rebellion, and all the horrors and calamities of a civil war. In a few words, gentlemen, they have deluded the populace, they have betrayed their trust, they have forfeited the confidence of the public, they have ruined our country. Not to oppose them and their measures were criminal. Not to join and assist the King's forces at this time would be at once unwise, unmanly, and ungrateful. Your loyalty to your King, your duty to your country, your regard for your wives and children, the cause of violated justice and of injured majesty, all call aloud for your strenuous and united endeavors in assisting the royal army and navy in re-establishing the authority of His Majesty's government in the colonies, and with it a return to America of those happier days we all have seen, when the voice of peace and plenty was heard in our land, and we experienced, under the protection and benignity of the British State, the tranquil enjoyment of such constitutional and established liberties and privileges as were equal to our wishes, and known only to British subjects."
There is a factor in war time more powerful even than reason and that is feeling. The intensity of feeling among the loyalists was kept at a white heat by the continual persecutions by the patriot bands. Every loyalist knew how the famous printing house of their trenchant writer, James Rivington of New York, bad been ruthlessly entered and the valuable type and other property carried away into Connecticut or destroyed. Such acts were resented. The following items are examples of what made the ears of the loyalists ring:
"In November a parcel of rebels in the dead of night passed the North river from the Jersey shore, landed at Bloomingdale, the seat of General DeLancey, about seven miles from the city of New York, surprised and made prisoners a guard at the landing place, broke into the house and plundered it, abused and insulted the General's lady in a most infamous manner, struck Miss Charlotte DeLancey, a young lady of about sixteen, several times with a musket, set fire to the house, and one of the wretches attempted to wrap up Miss Elizabeth Floyd (an intimate acquaintance of Miss DeLancey's, about the same age, and the daughter of Col. Richard Floyd) in a sheet all in flames, and as she ran down the stairs to avoid the fire, the brute threw it after her. (In consequence of this transaction Miss DeLancey was rewarded by the government with a pension of $200 per autumn.) One of the party below of more humanity than the rest advised the young ladies to make their escape. Miss DeLancey and Miss Floyd made their flight through several fields until they reached a swamp into which they entered and there continued until eight o'clock the next morning without either shoes or stockings and nothing upon therm except such thin clothes as ladies use to sleep in, when they were discovered and carried to the house of Charles Ward Apthorpe, Esq., a gentleman who lived in the neighborhood and an intimate acquaintance of General DeLancey This was in the middle of the night in the month of November when the weather is very cold in this part of America. Miss DeLancey took with her in her flight, her brother's child, an infant in arms, and held it safely in her lap the whole time. Miss Floyd's feet and legs were so torn and lacerated by the briers, brambles, and hedges that she passed, as to render her unable to walk for three weeks."
"Some days ago, the daughter of Mrs. Jonathan Kniffen, of Rye in Connecticut*,
*The author of this quotation apparently meant "Rye in New York."
was murdered by a party of rebels near or upon Budd's Neck. She was carrying some clothes to her father in company of two man who had the charge of a herd of cattle. They were fired upon by the rebels from behind a stone wall. The men escaped unhurt. They plundered her dead body of its clothes, cut one of her fingers almost off in order to take a ring, and left the corpse most indecently exposed in the highway. Such are the advocates of this cursed rebellion!"
"The following odd affair happened at Stratford in Connecticut, a few days ago:--A child of Mr. Edwards, of that place, was baptized by the Rev. Mr. --- of Norwalk, and named Thomas Gage. This alarmed the neighborhood, and one hundred and seventy young ladies formed themselves into a batallion and with solemn ceremony appointed a general and the other officers to lead them on. The petticoat army then marched in the greatest good order to pay their compliments to Thomas Gage, and present his mother with a suit of tar and feathers; but Thomas's sire having intelligence of their expedition, vi et armis kept them from entering the house."
News of such character travelled fast among the Tories of western Connecticut, the last two accounts being published in newspapers having a circulation about New York, and it is reasonable to suppose that these or similar stories were recited eventually at Chippeny Hill firesides. To a man at all ready set in his convictions against Puritanism, in those days when men were "sot," such accounts as these would not tend to alleviate his state of rigidity.
There was a funny side to the American rebellion which could not but appeal to the descendants of cavaliers, and at the risk of forever losing my right to become a member of the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, I beg leave to close this chapter with the following extract from a loyalist paper:
"Thirteen is a number peculiarly belonging to the rebels. A party of naval prisoners lately returned from New Jersey say that the rations among the rebels are thirteen dried clams per day, that the titular Lord Stirling takes thirteen glasses of grog every morning has thirteen enormous rum-bunches on His nose, and that (when duly impregnated) he always makes thirteen attempts before he can walk; that Mr. Washington has thirteen toes on his feet (the extra ones having grown since the Declaration of Independence), and the same number of teeth in each jaw; that the Sachem Schuyler has a top knot of thirteen stiff hairs, which erect themselves on the crown of his head when lie grows mad; that Old Putnam had thirteen pounds of his posteriors bit off in an encounter with a Connecticut bear ('twas then that he lost the balance of his mind); that it takes thirteen Congress paper dollars to equal one penny sterling; that Mrs. Washington had a mottled tom-cat (which she calls in a complimentary way "Hamilton"), with thirteen yellow rings around his tail, and that his flaunting it suggested to the Congress the adoption of the same number of stripes for the rebel flag."
WERE a stranger to ask me the way to the Tory Den I should tell him to seek out someone who had been there before and go with him. He could not find it alone. One hundred and thirty years ago, the patriots tried to find it and although they scoured the woods in bands, they failed utterly. So would you today, for the cave is a favored spot, open only to its friends. Those who were its friends then, always found it welcoming them, and so, I trust, may you learn to find it.
It lies in the Ledges, and is backed by a tall cliff, facing southeast toward Chippeny Hill, which an agile climber can scale in less than a minute. Ferns, and briers, and sweet smelling things that you will fail to recall the names of, grow over the entrance. Within, the impression is that of considerable length. Two lines of seven men could sit facing each other beneath the roofs of rock; three could stand upright where the rocks are highest. The quickest way for them to escape would be for the two southernmost men to turn to the south and, stooping, walk out; and for the one northernmost man to turn to the north and crawl out. The floor of the cave is dirt which washed down from the neighboring cliff.
Those who came to this haven of refuge and what they did beneath the rocks and ferns will never be known to history. There is no record nor sign. It is a tradition that Ruth Graves' oldest child was born there, but while it is possible that the father, Stephen Graves, was hiding there at the time of the child's birth, it is improbable that the cave was ever the refuge of women. As foot tracks would show in the snow, it is doubtful if it was occupied in the winter, and it is also doubtful if a fire built there even in the day time, as the smoke might be seen by the Sons of Liberty. When the cave was in use, both entrances were so carefully hidden that it was never discovered, in spite of most careful search of the ledge above. The late Mr. John J. Welton thought there must have been an entrance partly under-ground, but nothing of the kind is now known.
The den was discovered on Thanksgiving day in the year 1838 by X. A. Welton, a grandson of Stephen Graves, and Bela A. Welton, boys of fourteen, who after hunting all day accidentally came upon the south and larger entrance.
Come! oh, rocks of the Ledges, 'and tell me who of the Tory clan came oftenest to the den. First of all there was Stephen Graves of Harwinton; and many a time did he run from his log cabin to hide himself beneath its moss grown roof. And many a time, doubtless, did the secret meeting of men that he was harboring adjourn thither post haste. His home was nearer to it than were any of the Chippany Hill farmhouses, and therefore it is possible that it was he who discovered it in the first place. It was Ruth Graves, his young wife, who fed the men in the den. She carried the food from the the edge of the woods, for she dared not risk betrayal by going nearer.
I wonder if there was anyone in the cave the night Joel Tuttle crawled into the entrance. The day before he hung by the neck from an oak tree on the Federal Hill Green at New Cambridge. Captain Thomas Hungerford, a patriot neighbor whose name later appears as a fellow churchman, cut him down, and he lay at the foot of the tree insensible until sometime in the night, when he so far revived as to be able to make his way to the cave in the Ledges, about four miles distant.
I wonder how many of the Tuttle family saw the inside of the cave. There was Simon Tuttle, an old man, and Daniel, his son. Daniel went openly over to the Tory forces, and his land and homestead were confiscated by the State of Connecticut and sold at public vendue. Ebenezer had a son born in January 1775, who was given the name Constant Loyal Tuttle. And there were the Carringtons, Lemuel and Riverius. The Carringtons always loved the old and delighted in saying so. Lemuel afterward kept a tavern on the Hill, and Lois, his sister, once heated a great kettle of water for the purpose of giving the patriot raiders a warm reception; but they did not come. That was almost too bad, for if she was a true Carrington she certainly would have thrown the water, and she lived to a ripe old age to tell about it. Then there was Captain Nathaniel Jones, an elderly sea captain who lived on the very summit of the Hill. He had a son, a captain of marines, in the home service, or rather thought he had, for he did not know that his son lay dead and buried, killed in his first battle for the preservation of the Union. It was the grand niece of Captain Jones who testified that the Tory hunters used to go about visiting cellars and pantries and destroying provisions, and doing what they could to starve the women and children-
And there were the Mathewses, good folk of whom any community might be proud, who loved the church and were leaders in its services. I wonder if they were driven to the Ledges too. And the Jeromes--but they would enjoy such life more than the Mathewses.
Ruth Graves was a Jerome. She and her brothers, Zerubbabel Jr. and Chauncey, were the loyalist members of this adventuresome family. Chauncey was a young man and lived on Fall Mountain which rises far off on the southern horizon, as you look from the cliff. The den was a long way from his home, and had it not been for Jonathan Pond, his brother-in-law, he would once have suffered severely for that very free tongue of his. They caught him on the mountain and led him to an apple tree, with his shirt up over his head, then strung him up by his thumbs to a limb, his feet barely touching the ground. They selected a strong hickory rod and struck a terrific blow. Tradition says that a scar was left on the tree, where the rod came down Athletic Chauncey Jerome had torn from his bonds with a leap, leaving his shirt hanging on the tree, and in his small clothes he ran like a deer down the mountain. He sought refuge in the house of Jonathan Pond, who stood gun in hand at the door and commanded the pursuers not to enter. Chauncey Jerome finally went to Nova Scotia to live until the war was over, and he outlived most of his contemporaries and always bore the name of Jerome the Tory - He was often to be seen in his old age walking toward Chippeny Hill, dignified, erect, and with a determined step, his strong, intelligent face surrounded with long white locks, cordial to those that he knew but turning quickly with a startled glance at the step of a stranger.
Another inmate of the den, maybe, was the man--name unknown--who lived in the first house east of the Waterbury line on the old road from what is now East Plymouth to New Cambridge. A band of Tory hunters stopped at His house once with a number of bound prisoners, of which he was one. When the only armed man of the squad, in order to get a drink at the well, left His gun leaning against the house, the housewife seized it, and, cutting the bonds of her husband, placed it in his hands. Then under his protection she released the bonds of the other prisoners. The most distinguished visitor to the den was Rev. James Nichols.
THERE were no more patriotic men in Litchfield county when Lexington rang with the sound of musket shots than the men of Harwinton- The older of them had known the encompasing hills when all was a wilderness where wolves howled at night. Now homes were scattered here and there; roads had been built, there was a busy mill, and a blacksmith shop, fertile fields lay where formerly forests had thrived, and law and order prevailed everywhere. No king in England or his nobles could have accomplished this. It is the work of the man of energy that reaps the laurels in a land such as this.
Captain John Wilson was such a man. He had come into the wilderness as one of five settlers, a Caleb in Israel, who had wandered into the land to possess it and remained, hale and hearty, to judge therein. Deacon, captain, selectman, and deputy in the General Assembly, during the stirring days that followed the battle of Lexington, he was a moving spirit, although he was then sixty-four years old. So was Daniel Catlin, Justice of the Peace. When it was in the mind of the town that the mode of taxation be altered and a committee was selected to confer with a committee at Litchfield on the subject, it was Captain John Wilson and Daniel Catlin, Esq. who where chosen. Catlin was the judicial authority; but when it came to the executive it was Captain John Wilson. I suspect that the Captain was a member of the secret debating club session of the legislature, called by Governor Trumbull at about the commencement of the disagreement with the home country, when six of the ablest jurists of the State were appointed to debate the right of parliament to tax the colonies--three affirmatives and three negative--when every one went home, after two or three days' argument, convinced to the marrow of the justice of the American cause.
The Sons of Liberty were the "Klux Klan", of Harwinton, and Captain Wilson was their natural leader. The freemen in town meeting volunteered to supply thirty-six men for the war and guaranteed their pay, sent four men to assist in guarding the sea-coast at Horse Neck, and directed that cattle should be collected for the soldiers at the front. Committees appointed by them provided shoes, stockings, shirts, and other "loathing" for the soldiers, and cared for their families. Daniel Catlin, Esq. swore in all who took the oath of fidelity, and kept a record of their names. Militia men who refused to serve when called on were fined. All these things were done under the law and with the sanction of the authorities.
Captain Wilson and his "Sons" knew no authority. They defied authority. Independence had been the characteristic of the Sons of Liberty, ever since the first society was started in Connecticut in 1765 for the purpose of preventing the enforcement of the stamp act. By actively defying law they caused the rebellion, and they did not hesitate to break the law, if by so doing they could forward the success of their cause. They did many services for their country, however, which no law could do. They patrolled the towns in which they lived and rode those, who believed as they did not, on a rail. Tar and feathers, a peculiarly American mode of punishment, was the product of their ingenuity; and they were no respecters of persons. The churchmen, who were also worshipers of the king, were their special prey, and any sign of sympathy with the government of Great Britain set them in immediate action.
The reason that we have to do with the Harwinton Sons is because the southeast corner of Harwinton town reaches down almost to Chippeny Hill, and Stephen Graves, the loyalist, lived in that corner, and the impression made by the Harwinton Sons upon Stephen Graves was so strong that it was handed down and preserved by his descendants. There were patriots in Farmington in which town New Cambridge and Chippeny Hill lay; and there were patriots in Waterbury, in which town North bury lay, and they were active; but the Harwinton Sons were the most active, for they had Captain Wilson. There was only one Captain Wilson, and he watched all Harwinton. The churchmen in the corner did not escape him although his home was in the further northwest section, almost in sight of where Torrington now -stands. A characteristic of a Harwinton Wilson, according to a typical living member of that family, is that he is dreadfully full o' zeal." Captain Wilson was dreadfully full of zeal. There were miles of hills, rough paths, and mud for the elderly man, but rough paths were a mere incident to the Captain. By night and day, in season and out of season, he swooped down upon the loyalists to their discomfort and terror. The men fled at his approach, and the women watched over the long northern hills for his men. They saw violence there and force; a deacon and a gentleman, who stood in the doorway, hat in hand, but with an armed force at his back, demanding admittance. He was hunting for men that he might take them and tie them to a tree and bare their backs and flog them until the blood ran. For Connecticut must be free, and shame would it be for the goodfolk of Harwinton that traitors should dwell in their midst.
The loyalists united and worked their fields together in bands for protection. The housewife kept watch, and, at the first sight of a prowling patriot, blew a blast on the dinner horn. Other women, listening in distant farm houses, blew the warning farther over the hills, giving the men opportunity to escape to the den or to a place of safety. Mrs. Ebenezer Johnson, who of the loyalists was the nearest to Harwinton center, one. day espied one or more of Wilson's raiders, and blew her tin horn. Thy searched the house for it without success. Waiting until they were fairly outside, she untied the horn from her garter and blew a defiant "toot! toot!" They returned -and searched the premises thoroughly but again without success.
There is another story of Harwinton that is worth telling before we pass on to the life of Stephen Graves. Once upon a time two Whigs, each by himself, went Tory hunting- One was a leading citizen of Harwinton, later commonly known as "Squire Brace", who discovered something or somebody on or near the Graves farm. The man also discovered him and made for him, supposing him to be a Tory. Brace, less courageous, turned and fled, closely followed by his pursuer, until he finally fell down exhausted- What was said by each to the other has not been recorded in the chronicles of Whig and Tory, but tradition says that the prostrate runner was never allowed to forget that race for life. Brace was later a strong Federalist, and became Mayor of Hartford, State's Attorney for Hartford county, and a member of Congress. Asa Smith, once a teamster in the latest French war and who died about 1828, aged ninety, was thus remembered in rhyme by his son Miles, who lived not far north of the Graves place, and, like most of the conservatives of the Revolution, was a Republican.
As for Uncle Ase,
He thinks it no disgrace
To vote for federal Brace,
Fall down and skin his face.
An echo, probably, of town meeting day.
STEPHEN GRAVES, whose family has left the most complete story of those stirring days of the loyalists, was the particular object of Captain Wilson's raids. His home was a storm center, because it was a rendezvous for the loyalists.
Graves was a modest young man, and loved the ways of peace. His father, who lived in Northbury, owned nearly two hundred acres of land in the southeastern corner of Harwinton; and when young Graves decided to marry, be built his cabin there. On the same site, he later built -another house which is now the summer home of Professor John C. Griggs. From the hill-top looking toward the northwest were the hills of Harwinton; away toward the southeast was Chippeny Hill, and close on the north and east lay the Ledges, which to this day is a wild and rocky region. Stephen Graves brought his bride from Chippeny Hill to this place in December,of 1778, and there they made their home.
It was probably a number of years after the war commenced when the Sons of Liberty decided that Stephen Graves was a person needing their attention. Whatever opinions he may have had, he seems to have kept them to himself for some time. In 1778, with other good men of Harwinton, he -appeared before Daniel Catlin, Esq. and took the oath of fidelity and the freeman's oath. The original oath of fidelity, as he took it, was drastic and compelled a conscientious denial of the king's power; but the one afterward adopted and used was little more than swearing fidelity to the State of Connecticut as an independent state and promising to do one's duty as a good subject to support its rights and privileges. It is a family tradition that Graves was drafted for -service in the American army, hired a substitute, and, according to his daughter's statement, "starved his family to pay the wages of his substitute." While this man was still in the field, Stephen Graves was drafted a second time. It is related that Samuel Alcott, the grandfather of Mr. James Shepard, of New Britain, voluntarily enlisted, and upon his return home was three times drafted and served out his period each time. Jonathan Pond also hired a substitute in September, 1777, and was obliged to engage another three months later.
But Stephen Graves vowed that he would neither fight nor continue to pay a substitute. His sympathy with the King thus being made known, the Sons of Liberty undertook to break it. They didn't. Stephen Graves was a quiet man but he was as independent as the rest of Harwinton people. His sympathy for his Church and King was natural. His father was a member of St. Peter's church in Northbury, and the Graves name appeared prominently among the missionaries of the church in New England. Rev. James Nichols was his close friend, so much so that after the war he appointed him his agent in a business matter in which he was interested.
Every attempt to break his loyalism only increased it. A mob once seized him and carried him to a fork of the roads on the northern line of Waterbury town, a half mile south of his house. There was a cherry tree there, and they tied him to it and scourged him with hickory rods. He told his daughter years afterwards that while that stump remained he should remember his whipping. Yet the whipping did not change his mind. Once, while on a visit to Saybrook, the home of his grandfather, he was arrested and brought back to Harwinton, his captors accusing him of desertion. They rode while he walked, and they required him to pay all the tavern bills. Finding that he made no attempt to escape, they relaxed their vigilance and sometimes when climbing a hill allowed him to get some distance ahead. Such were their relative positions one day at dusk, coming up Pine Hollow Hill from New Cambridge, about three miles from home, when he stepped up the steep bank, bade them good evening, and disappeared in the woods. Being well acquainted with the region thereabout, he reached home and lay on a flat rock within hearing of the colloquy that took place between the pursuers, who arrived later, and Mrs. Graves who affirmed that he was not at home but had been absent some weeks at Saybrook. At another time, he escaped capture by climbing a pine tree'
He had an unusual disposition. He was non-combative and peaceful, but almost devoid of fear. He used to tell his children that he had never been ,alarmed but twice and then when he was a small boy. Once he had climbed a tree to rob a woodpecker's nest, and, putting his hand into the hole, a black snake had thrust its
head out. The next instant he found himself on the ground. He was an honorable man and leader, before his death had held office as selectman of Harwinton and was looked upon as a respected citizen despite his reputation as a Tory. A grandson, Carlos Welton of Thomaston, according to family tradition, strongly resembles him in personal appearance and in temperament.
The wife of Graves was a resourceful woman. She was Ruth Jerome of Chippeny Hill and as a bride of eighteen came to live in the house in the woods. She was a timid woman, of whom her daughter is recorded as saying that she used to tremble with fear when she heard at night the "ooah! ooah!" of the bears in the neighboring wood. He who fishes on the Old Marsh now after dark knows how lonely the Ledges are; but in those days there were loons in the Marsh, and a forest covered the hills.
One day Mrs. Graves, who had just blown her warning conch shell, was surprised by the entrance of Captain Wilson just as she was stooping to hide the shell between the straw bed and the feather bed. With quick wit she took something from under the bed, hid it under her apron, and walked out of doors. The Captain, -supposing she was going out to hide the shell which he was quite anxious to capture, closely followed. When he was well outside, she suddenly turned and threw the contents of the vessel in his face. Thus roughly assaulted, the Captain in his wrath threatened the life of Mrs. Graves' young girl companion, with a pistol at her head, until she showed where the conch was concealed. Many years afterwards, when Mrs. Graves heard of Captain Wilson's death, she exclaimed: "I'm glad on't." Her husband reminded her of the Christian duty of forgiveness. She replied that she could not forgive him, for he had not brought back her conch shell that he had stolen.
Stephen Graves could afford to own only one cow, so he was forced to borrow a second from a neighbor. As the Sons were in the act of driving off Graves' animal, Ruth appeared and warned them not to take what was simply a loan. The Sons therefore thought they had made a mistake and were taking the wrong property, so they returned the Graves' cow to her stable and drove off the other. As soon as the sun set, the Graves' household drove their cow down to Chippeny Hill and had it butchered rather than have it fall into the hands of the Sons. What the owner of the pilfered bovine said is not recorded.
This young girl was surely a helpmeet to the goodman Graves. And I venture that she had ideas of her own, even if the ooah! of the bears in the neighboring wood did frighten her. Her aged father, Zerubbabel Jerome and a brother shouldered their guns and marched to the aid of Boston. Another brother fought the British in New York, and one who lived in Wyoming died fighting for Washington in New Jersey. Two of her brothers were loyalists like herself and were not afraid to say so. Captain Wilson found her a typical Jerome. What a striking figure she must have made that day when she turned about in the back yard and soused the Captain! A poor log cabin, one cow, and the simple life of an old time farm! I wish I could have seen the wrathy Captain and the drippings from his aged locks. No wonder that his eyes snapped at the laughing woman. But when be was gone and the excitement was over, there was nothing for her to do but to throw herself down on the bed where her precious shell had been kept. She had not realized how much the shell had meant to her, until she could feel it no longer in its place. How, well she remembered -when she first put her lips to it and could not blow it. And how proud she was when after trying again and again for the first time the sound came forth and her husband praised her for it. She could hear it now, resounding through the air, she could see the birds among the trees scatter at the noise, and the cows, feeding over on the hill, raise their beads. She wondered where her friends, who always listened for it, were then. She always heard, whenever the women gathered together, how this one stopped the loom to listen, and how that one was picking berries miles away. Then she was proud to blow until her face was red, standing right there where she had faced the Captain. Now she could blow it no more. She hated the Captain,--old meeting house deacon! Poor girl, how could she know that the rebellion was sacred!
THERE was one man who drew to Chippeny Hill the critical eyes of the entire State. He was Moses Dunbar, who was captured on or near Chippeny Hill, and who was the only person executed as a traitor as a result of trial by law in Connecticut during the Revolution. It was a tragedy meet for a poet's pen.
The best account is that given by Moses Dunbar himself in his short biography, and by some of the contemporary records of the day. I will give them here as they are given, asking that in reading the unadorned written records you forget not the green hills near the Ledges and the loyal farmhouses that loved him well.
Dunbar's biography is as follows:
"I was born at Wallingford in Connecticut, the 14th of June, A.D. 1746, being the second of sixteen children, all born to my Father by one Mother. My Father, John Dunbar, was born at Wallingford, and married Temperance Hall of the same place, about the year 1743. I was educated in the business of husbandry. About the year 1760, my father removed himself and family to Waterbury* where, May ye 30th, I was
----- *The Waterbury Land Records show that on March 21, 1775, Moses Dunbar bought, for ten pounds, of Thankful Bachelor, eighty rods of land in Waterbury, with a dwelling house thereon. The same premises were bought by Bachelor from Ebenezer Cook, being taken off the west side of Cook's farm in Northbury parish, the land lying across the Great Brook.
married to Phebe Jearman of Farmington [i. e. Phebe Jerome of Chippeny Hill] , by whom I had seven children, four of whom are now living. The first year of our marriage my wife and I, upon what we thought sufficient and rational motives, declared ourselves for the Church of England, the Rev. Mr. Scovill being then missionary at Waterbury. May 20th, my honored mother departed this life. She was a woman of much virtue and good reputation, whom I remember with the most honor and gratitude for the good care and affection she continually showed me. My joining myself to the Church occasioned a sorrowful breach between my father and myself, which was the cause of his never assisting me but very little in gaining a livelihood, likewise it caused him to treat me very harshly in many instances, for which I heartily forgive him, as I hope pardon from my God and my Saviour for my own offences. I likewise earnestly pray God to forgive them through Christ." [Dunbar's father later oftered to furnish the hemp for a halter to hang him with.]
"From the time that the present unhappy misunderstanding between Great Britain and the Colonies began, I freely confess I never could reconcile my opinion to the necessity or lawfulness of taking up arms against Great Britain. Having spoken somewhat freely on the subject, I was attacked by a mob of about forty men, very much abused, my life threatened and nearly taken away, by which mob I was obliged to sign a paper containing many falsehoods. May 20, 1776, my wife deceased in full hope of future happiness. The winter preceding this trial had been a time of distress with us.* ... I had now concluded to live peacable and give no offence, neither by word nor deed. I had thought of entering into a voluntary confinement within the limits of my farm, and of making proposals of that nature, when I was carried before the Committee and by them ordered to suffer imprisonment during their pleasure not exceeding five months. When I had remained there about fourteen days, the authority of New Haven dismissed me. [Waterbury was in New Haven County.] Finding my life uneasy, and, as I had reason to apprehend, in great danger, I thought it my safest method to flee to Long Island, which I accordingly did".
"But having a desire to see my friends and children, and being under engagement of marriage with her [Esther Adams] who is my wife, the banns of marriage having been before published, I returned, and was married. Having a mind to remove my wife and family to Long Island, as a place of safety, I went there the second time, to prepare matters accordingly. When there, I accepted a captain's warrant for the King's service in Colonel Fanning's regiment
"I returned to Connecticut, when I was taken and betrayed by Joseph Smith, and was brought before the authority of Waterbury. They refused to have anything to do with the
--- *According to the Northbury parish records, a child of Moses Dunbar died early in the year, 1776.
On July 17, 1776, "Moses Dunbar sold to Ebenezer Cook, for five pounds, the same half acre that he bought of Thankful Bachelor, for ten pounds. On June 25, he sold 30 acres, also in Waterbury - Waterbury Land Records.
Act of Conn. General Assembly, Session lasting from Oct. 10th to Nov. 7, 1776. "If any person, shall knowingly aid an enemy at open war against this State, by joining their armies, or by enlisting, or procuring, or persuading others to enlist for that purpose, etc., every person so offending, and being thereof convicted shall suffer death."
matter. I was carried before Justice Strong and Justice Whitman of Farmington, and by them committed to Hartford, where the Superior Court was then sitting. I was tried on Thursday, 23d of January, 1777, for High Treason against the State of Connecticut, by an act passed in October last, for enlisting men for General Howe, and for having a captain's commission for that purpose. I was adjudged guilty and on the Saturday following was brought to the bar of the court and received sentence of death. The time of my suffering was afterward fixed to be the 19th day of March, 1777.
The indictment of Dunbar in abbreviated form was as follows:
"The jurors for the Governor and Company of the State of Connecticut present that one Moses Dunbar of Farmington, not having the fear of God before his eyes and being seduced by the instigation of the Devil, on or about the 10th day of November last past, and also on or about the 1st day of January, instant, did go from said Farmington to the city of New York to hold traitorous correspondence with the British troops and navy, and did join himself to the British Army and cater their service and pay, and did engage to levy war against this State, and did procure and persuade one John Adams [Dunbar's second wife's name was Adams] of said Farmington and divers others to enlist for the purpose of levying war against this State etc."
The Connecticut Courant of Jan. 27, 1777, published the following:
"At the adjourned Superior Court held in this place last week, Moses Dunbar of Waterbury was convicted of having a captain's commission from General Howe and of enlisting men to serve in the ministerial army. Sentenced to suffer death but the time of his execution is not fixed upon. At the same time Rev. Mr- Nichols of Waterbury was tried for treasonable practice against the United States and was acquitted."
And on Monday, March 17 of the same year:
"Thursday last the Superior Court ended their sessions in this place. During the session the infamous Elisha Wadsworth was convicted of treasonable practices against the State for attempting to rescue Moses Dunbar, under sentence of death; said Wadsworth was ordered to pay a fine of forty pounds, to suffer one year's imprisonment, and pay costs of prosecution. [With the aid of a knife brought by Wadsworth, Dunbar cleared himself of his irons, knocked down the guard, and escaped from the jail, but was recaptured.] Next Wednesday is the day appointed for the execution of Moses Dunbar- A sermon will be preached at the Gaol to the prisoner by Rev. Mr. Jarvis of Middletown. A sermon will also be preached in the North Meeting House to the spectators by Rev. Mr. Strong of this town."
Dunbar's biography continues:
"Which tremendous and awful day now draws near, when I must appear before the Searcher of hearts to give an account of all the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil. I shall soon be delivered from all the pains and troubles of this wicked mortal state, and shall be answerable to All-Seeing God, who is infinitely just, and knoweth all things as they are. I am fully persuaded that I depart in a state of peace with God and my own conscience. I have but little doubt of my future happiness, through the merits of Jesus Christ. I have sincerely repented of all my sins, examined my heart, prayed earnestly to God for mercy, for the gracious pardon of my manifold and heinous sins, I resign myself wholly to the disposal of my Heavenly Father, submitting to His Divine Will. From the bottom of my heart I forgive all enemies and earnestly pray God to forgive them all. Some part of Th___ S___'s evidence was false, but I heartily forgive him, and likewise earnestly beg forgiveness of all persons whom I have injured or offended. Since my sentence I have been visited by sundry worthy ministers of the gospel, who have discoursed and prayed with me, among whom were the Rev. William Short of Hartford. The Rev. William Viets of Simsbury, my fellow prisoner on account of preaching in favor of the British government, has been indefatigable in affording every possible assistance to prepare me for my terrible exit. He administered the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to me the Sunday before I was put to death. To those gentlemen, as well as all others who have shewed me kindness I give my most sincere thanks. I die in the profession and communion of the Church of England. Of my political sentence I leave the readers of these lines to judge. Perhaps it is neither reasonable nor proper that I should declare them in my present situation. I cannot take the last farewell of my countrymen without desiring them to show kindness to my poor widow and children, not reflecting on them the manner of my death. Now I have given you a narrative of all things material concerning my life with that veracity which you are to expect from one who is going to leave the world and appear before the God of truth. My last advice to you is that you, above all others, confess your sins and prepare yourselves, with, God's assistance, for your future and Eternal state. You will all shortly be as near Eternity as I now am, and will view both worlds in the light which I do now view them. You will then view all wordly things to be but shadows and vapours and vanity of vanities, and the things of the Spiritual world to be of importance beyond all description. You will then be sensible that the pleasures of a good conscience, and the happiness of the near prospect of Heaven, will outweigh all the pleasures and honours of this wicked world.
"God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on me, and receive my spirit.
"Amen and Amen.
"Hartford, March 18th, A. D., 1777."
The Rev. Dr. Strong's discourse, with the Dunbar tragedy as its theme, is in part as follows:
"The occasion of our being collected here to worship God is one of the most solemn that can be conceived. This day is appointed to close the life of an unhappy person who is condemmed for conspiring against his country and all its privileges. He hath been judged by men in righteousness, the sentence of death pronounced, the day of execution come; an event indeed awful and affecting to every mind of humanity or religion. Though justice to our country and reverence for its laws forbids anything that would impede a full execution of them, there is room for prayer to Almighty God that this day's business may be blessed for our good, and that the unhappy criminal may receive the forgiveness of his sins from God, though he cannot have forgiveness from the State, consistent with public safety.
"For reasons, we must in charity hope, honest to himself, he refuses to be present at this solemnity; my discourse therefore will not be calculated, , as hath been usual on such occasions, for a dying creature who is to appear immediately before the Great Judge: but to assist my hearers in making an improvement of the event for their own benefit. ...I will conclude with some observations suggested by the occasion of the day.
"First. It learns us to love and revere our country, to obey its laws, to devote ourselves to its service, and abhor every practice which hath any tendancy to increase the public calamities. Had the unhappy person who is soon to be executed done this, he might now have been prosperous, beloved, and respected. Now he is covered with infamy, bound in chains, surrounded with the instruments of horror and death. From his fate let us learn the danger of encouraging a traitorous disposition, and secretly attempting practices against our country: the mercy of men cannot pardon them, for darkness will not cover them, bell will not hide them.
"Secondly. The melancholy spectacle which is soon to be exhibited hath drawn together a vast concourse of people who are doubtless influenced by various motives to be spectators of so awful a scene. Some by true seriousness, and many to gratify a vain curiosity. Curiosity is but a poor motive for collecting on such an occasion. Such awful exhibitions are designed that others may see and fear. Death is there! justice and judgment are there, the power of government, displayed in its most awful form is there.
"One reason why it is necessary the unhappy person should thus die is that others may be fortified against temptation by the spectacle of horror and the bitter consequences of transgression.
"Above all things, learn that we must die. Realize the importance of being prepared to leave the world --how it feels to be within a few minutes of eternity! of the bar of God! of the solemn sentence which determines a state of happiness or misery forever.
"With regard to the dying criminal, while you acquiesce in the necessity of his fate, give him your prayers. Though public safety forbids him pardon from the state, be may be pardoned by God Almighty. . . . God grant that the awful scene may do us good--confirm us in holiness and virtue, in the love of God and our country--that it may guard us against temptation, and make us careful to live in all good conscience towards God and men--that we may finally lay down these tabernacles of flesh in peace, trusting in the Savior's merits, and be received to the holy presence of God.
"To Him who rules all things according to His own pleasure and wisdom, who saves the world by his blood, and sanctifies the ungodly, be praise, glory, and dominion, forever and ever, Amen."
Dunbar's parting words of affection and guidance for his children are worthy of quotation:
"MY CHILDREN. Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. Learn your Creed, the Lord's prayer, and the ten commandments and catechism, and go to church as often as you can, and prepare yourselves as soon as you are of a proper age to worthily partake of the Lord's Supper. I charge you all, never to leave the Church. Read the Bible. Love the Saviour wherever you may be. I am now in Hartford jail condemned to death for high treason against the State of Connecticut. I was thirty years last June, the 14th. God bless you. Remember your Father and Mother and be dutiful to your present mother."
The following incident is a curious one and noteworthy from a psychic standpoint.
"I see," said Isaiah Dunbar, in his home on Town Hill in Northbury parish, "I see--," (yet he saw not, for the eyes had been dark many a long day.) "I see a sky and a man there. It is Moses Dunbar hanging!" His brothers laughed and Said, "It is not so." But they inquired even as to the hour, and it was so, as he had said.
The excerpts which follow give some slight idea of the difference of opinion upon the Dunbar matter.
From the Connecticut Courant, Monday, March 21:
"Last Wednesday Moses Dunbar, who for some time had been under the sentence of death in this place for High Treason, was executed agreeable to the sentence. A prodigious concourse of people were spectators on the occasion."
From Jones' History of New York during the Revolutionary War, written between 1783 and 1788. Vol. 1, page 175.
"Early in 1777 a Captain Dunbar was taken up at Hartford in Connecticut, for enlisting men in his Majestie's service; his commission and orders from General Howe were in his pocket. He was confined in prison. There happened to be no existing law in the Colony which made such an offence punishable with death. A law was therefore made on purpose; upon which ex post facto law he was indicted and tried for treason condemned, and ordered for execution.
"No less than four expresses, at four different times, were sent to General Howe between the condemnation and the execution, to each of which the most faithful promises were made, that an application of such a serious nature should be made to the Governor of Connecticut as should insure his discharge.
"No application was ever made and while the General, was lolling in the arms of his mistress and sporting his cash at the faro bank, the poor unhappy Loyalist was executed. This is a fact and the- General knows it. His word, his honor, and his humanity were all sported away in this affair. Dunbar had a young wife, big with child.
On the day of execution the High Sheriff (by orders no doubt) compelled her to ride in the cart and attend the execution of her husband. This over she left Hartford, and went to Middletown, about sixteen miles down the river, where a number of Loyalists lived and where several British subjects were living on parole. Her case being stated, a subscription was undertaken for her comfort and relief.
No sooner was this hospitable act known to the Committee at Middletown than they sent for the poor woman and ordered her out of the town; declaring at the same time that if she should thereafter be found in that town she should be sent instantly to jail.
"(Note. The chairman of the Committee at this time was Titus Hosmer, Esq., a lawyer of note, one of the Council of the State, a rigid presbyterian, a zealous republican, and a flaming rebel. He was afterwards a delegate in Congress, and commissioned by them as Judge of the Admiralty for the four New England Colonies).
"The unhappy wretch was obliged to leave the town in consequence of this inhuman order, and had it not been for the hospitality of a worthy loyal family who kindly took her under their roof, she would in all probability have been delivered in the open fields. A striking instance this of American lenity, which the rebels during the war proclaimed to the world with so much eclat."
This advertisement appeared in the Connecticut Courant for May 5, 12, 19, 26, and June 2, 1777.
The most advertised pamphlet printed during the year. Just published, and to be sold by the printer hereof,
Price One Shilling
The Reasons and Designs of public Punishments;
Delivered before the People who were collected to the
Who was condemned for HIGH TREASON against the State of Connecticut, and executed March 19th, A. D. 1777.
By NATHAN STRONG
Pastor of the first Church in Hartford.
Bloody and deceitful -Men shall not live out half their Days.
The execution caused a great gloom among the Chippeny Hill folk. They had with them the infant Moses, who was baptised at New Cambridge after the father's death. They had also the wife and the orphaned children left in her keeping. Impulsive Chauncey Jerome, he of the athletic frame who tore himself away from the mob and the apple tree on Fall Mountain, and who was a brother of the first wife, married the widow and took her to Nova Scotia until after the war.
Years afterward she pointed out the spot on Gallows Hill near which Trinity College now stands, where her husband was hung- The story of the arch-traitor swept throughout the State and was told and retold for many years by the family fireside. In one family on Town Hill, Plymouth, where the Dunbar brothers lived, children were afraid at night to pass the cupboard in which Dr. Strong's pamphlet was known to rest and this was only sixty years ago!
I have failed to find any of the old inhabitants of Plymouth, either Dunbars or their friends, who have aught to say of Moses Dunbar, or remember him, other than as one that should not be remembered.
THE execution of Moses Dunbar in March 1777, did much to dampen the ardor of the loyalist cause in Connecticut. But the raid on Danbury and the drunken debauch of Tryon's men, followed by the consignment of the town to flames, in April of the same year, injured it still more, and, in fact, hastened a crisis. Dr. Strong's sermon had been published and very widely read. Washington had withdrawn from New York and was encamped for the winter at Morristown, New Jersey, and while the best men of Connecticut were away with the army, the Tories guided the British to Danbury; but escaped the destruction that followed, by marking a white cross upon their doors; and they remained comfortable in their houses, while old men and women, and children gathering what scanty clothing they could, and shunning the soldiers, ran, crawled, or were carried upon their beds, into lonely lanes, damp pastures and leafless woods. Feeling ran to fever heat. Sympathizers of England were arrested on the spot.
The excitement was not long in making itself felt on Chippeny Hill. "Last Friday," says a volunteer correspondent to the Connecticut Courant, "fifteen prisoners taken to Danbury were brought to this town and delivered to the care of the Committee. Same day seventeen Tories belonging to New Cambridge, a society in Farmington, were taken up and committed to gaol in this place. The are a pack of fellows who were connected with the late Moses Dunbar, whose infamous end is well known; some of them had actually engaged to serve under him in the ministerial army. The gentlemen, by whose authority they were apprehended, gave them free liberty to go over to the enemy, but they rather chose to accept of their present confinement, where they remain for trial at the next Superior Court for High Treason against the State."
What thoughts our seventeen friends of the Hill must have had as they awaited their fate at Hartford, we can not say. There is a poem, which, in view of later events, I surmise may have expressed their ideas. It is a parody entitled:
"The Pausing American Loyalist."
"To sign or not to sign? That is the question,
Whether 'twere better for an honest man
To sign, and so be safe; or to resolve,
Betide whatt will, against associations,
And, by retreating, shun them. To fly--I reck
Not where; and by that flight, t'escape
Feathers and tar, and thousand other ills
That loyalty is heir to: 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To fly-- to want--
To want? Perchance to starve -- Ay, there's the rub!
For in that chance of want, what ills may come
To patriot rage, when I have left my all
Must give me pause:--There's the respect
That makes us trim, and bow to men we hate.
Who would bend to fools,
And truckle thus to mad, mob-chosen upstarts,
But that the dread of something after flight
(In that blest country, where, yet, no moneyless
Poor wight can live) puzzles the will,
And makes ten thousands rather sign--and eat
Than fly--to starve on loyalty--
Thus dread of want makes rebels of us all."
The following quotation from the public records of Connecticut continues the history of the seventeen men from New Cambridge-
"On report of the committee appointed by this Assembly to take into consideration the subject matter of the Memorial of Nathl Jones, SiMon Tuttle, Joel Tuttle, Nathaniel Matthews, John MattHews, Riverius Carrington, Lemuel Carrington, Zerubbabel Jerom junr, Chauncey Jerom, Ezra Dormer, Nehmiah Royce, George Beckwith, Abel Frisbee, Levi Frisbey, Jared Peck, and Abraham Waters, all of Farmington, shewing that they are imprisoned on suspicion of their being inimical to America; that they are ready and willing to join with their country and to do their utmost for its defense; and praying to be examined and set at liberty, as per said memorial on file, reporting that the said committee caused the authority &c of Farmington to be duly notifyed, that they convened the memorialists before them at the house of Mr. David Bull on the 22nd of May, instant, and examined them separately touching their unfriendliness to the American States, and heard the evidences produced by the parties; that they found said persons were committed for being Highly inimical to the United States, and for refusing to assist in the defence of the country ; that on examination it appeared that they had been much under the influence of one Nichols*, a designing church clergyman who has instilled into them principles opposite to the good of the States ; that under the influence of such principles they had pursued a course of conduct tending to the ruin of the country and highly displeasing to those who are friends to the freedom and independence of the United States ; that under various pretences they had refused to go in the expedition to Danbury; that said Nathaniel Jones and Simon Tuttle have as they suppose each of them a son gone over to the enemy; that there was, however, no particular positive fact that sufficiently appeared to have been committed by them of an atrocious nature against the States, and that they were indeed grossly ignorant of the true grounds of the present war with Great Britain; that they appeared to be penitent of their former conduct, professed themselves convinced since the Danbury alarm that there was no such thing as remaining neuters; that the destruction made by the tories was a matter of conviction to them; that since their imprisonment upon serious reflection they are convinced that the States are right in their claim, and that it is their duty to submit to authority, and that they will to the utmost of their power defend the country against the British army ; and that the said committee think it advisable that the said persons be liberated from their imprison-ment on their taking an oath of fidelity to the United States: RESOLVED by this Assembly, that the said persons be liberated from their said imprisonment on their taking an oath of fidelity to this State and paying costs, at £22 7 10; and that the keeper of the gaol in Hartford is hereby directed to liberate said persons accordingly."
Whatever were the feelings of those on Chippeny Hill, outward manifestations of their loyalty were peremptorily checked.
"Thus dread of want makes rebels of us all."
DESPITE the submission in affairs political that followed the Danbury raid, the Church of England or, as Joseph Roberts wrote it, "the Chruch of Englon," lived on. Poor Joseph Roberts was not as learned as his fellows, but he was not afraid to stand up for his religion and his King. In the latter days of the Revolution, when the church record book at New Cambridge was devoid of entries, he inscribed in it this sentence.
"I, Joseph Robarts Now make a Prefesion of the Chruch of Englon". The complete church record, aside from the baptisms, from the time of the last vestry meeting which was held at the Church, May 9, 1774, until his entry in 1781, was as follows:
1776, Feb. 6. Jered Peck profest himself a member of the Church of England.
1777, April 1. Jude Leaming declared his conformity to the Church of England.
1778, April 6. Ethan Curtis profest himself a member of the Church of England.
1781, Jan. 19. I, Joseph Robarts Now make a Prefesion of the Chruch of Englon.
Later in 1781, there was recorded a vestry meeting held at Jesse Bunnell's.
With the success of the American arms, signs of toleration became evident. "There is reason to believe from general reports," says the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in the report for 1781, "that the condition of the missionaries in New England is much better than it bas been, and they live more quietly, tHough their churches are still shut up."
It was not, however, until November 17, 1784, that the members of the Episcopal church at New Cambridge formed themselves into a legal church society, and voted to repair the church house- Voting to repair the church house, however, was easier than repairing it. In fact it could not be repaired. It "had lain desolate on account of the persecution of the times," and although meetings were held in the old building, a new church was a necessity. Where it should be located was the question. Few if any churchmen were now living at New Cambridge. The church center had moved westward, into Northbury, and the churchmen of that place and Harwinton were clamoring for recognition. There were fifteen Episcopal families in northeastern Northbury near the Hill, and five miles of rough and uneven road lay between them and St. Peter's Church at Northbury. At least ten Harwinton families must travel four and a half miles over a most intolerably rough mountainous road to go to church at Harwinton center. A union was the logical solution of the situation. It was voted by the New Cambridge people, in 1790, "that we was desirous of having the east part of Northbury and the south part of Harwinton to join us in making up a society." The petition for the establishment of the new society was prepared by the clerk, signed by the inhabitants of Northbury and Harwinton, and was granted by the General Assembly.
Thus was formed the parish of St. Matthew, or, as it was originally called, the Second Episcopal Society in Northbury. The first vestry meeting was held, with Captain. Nathaniel Jones in the chair as moderator, at Ensign Ozias Tyler's new house in Northbury, April 4, 1791. The church edifice, East Church, was built in pursuance of a vote taken December 1, 1791, was ready for use in 1794, and was consecrated by Bishop Seabury, October 21, 1795, the same year that the town of Plymouth was born. The people were indeed happy when their well beloved bishop, who had been consecrated at Aberdeen, Scotland, preached to them. The ordination of their priest and the consecration of their church were the last official acts recorded in his register before death claimed him. How fond their descendants have been of the church all these years is evidenced by the fact that no other sect has been known to hold a service within its walls. The changes that have been made have been made reverently and little has been done to break the lines as they were originally laid out.
I can almost see them now, filing into their stiff backed pews, with all the pride which only the farmers of their faith could have. There were Capt. Nathaniel Jones, the sea captain, and Capt. Zebulon Frisbee. They were members of the committee that called Nichols to New Cambridge, and, with Capt. Abel Matthews, they were the ones who took steps to form the legal society after the war. The Matthews family was there, you could depend upon it; Caleb Matthews the clerk, Nathaniel Matthews and the rest of them. The Gaylord family was there, and the Carringtons. There also sat Ira Dodge of Northbury who deeded to the society the land upon which the church was built, and Ensign Ozias Tyler of Northbury whose new house was the pride of the community that was growing up about the church, and who was the first delegate to the State Convention in 1792. And then there were Robert Jearum, the chorister, also of Northbury, Stephen Graves and Calvin Woodin, Jabez Gilbert who fought the French at Ticonderoga in 1759, all of Harwinton, Uncle Asa, too, that good old soul Uncle Asa Smith who "felt it no disgrace, to vote for federal Brace, fall down and skin his face," with Capt. Thohas Hungerford the Whig who saved Joel Tuttle's neck on Federal Hill Green, and Joseph Smith whose father betrayed Dunbar, and Obadiah Munson, Samuel Hawley, Jesse Bunnell, and many others; some living close by the church but many driving thither from the Hill or elsewhere.
The list of pew holders would not be complete without mention of the leader who was the "flower of them a' ",and it is worth while taking a good look at him. Isaac Welles Shelton used to sit in the front pew at the right until he was buried in the churchyard nearby. A short man he was, dressed in knee breeches and pumps, with a round face and dimpled chin and grey prominent eyes,-"bullet eyes" they called them. He was the wealthiest landowner on Chippeny Hill, with four or five slaves at his call, was a gentleman and the son of a gentleman, the great grandson of Governor Welles, and a member of the wealthy Shelton family of Stratford, who were extensive land owners. He also drove about in a gig, at a time when gigs were a rarity, and his son Harry rode a high-spirited horse. When Isaac Shelton was ill for seven years with softening of the brain he hired a man to stay with him, as he was afraid to be alone. Gossip said that in his younger days he lived in New Haven, his land surrounded by a high board fence, and that he never went out in the evening without an attendant. Some hinted that his money was not procured in an honorable way. But when he died, all paid homage to the man who had come to spend his best days on the Hill; and they laid away his body with loving pride, for he was a gentleman.
But go back a little and consider the records of his native town of Stratford, July 29, 1779:
"Resolved that Isaac Welles Shelton shall not reside in this town. Resolved that no inimical person now with the enemy shall return and reside in this town, unless they have the approbation of the town in their meeting. "
And then read in Sabine's "Loyalists of the American Revolution": "He joined the British on Long Island, and conducted the party that burned Danbury. Guilty of other treasonable conduct, he was arrested and convicted and ordered to confine himself to the county of Hartford."
And finally this letter from one of his descendants:
"When the War cloud arose, he joined the home country, expecting to fight the British, but could not suffer the humiliating treatment of his superior, an inferior officer of the company, resisted punishment, struck the officer, and fled. For safety's sake he spent some time with the British."
HE CONDUCTED THE PARTY THAT BURNED DANBURY! Chippeny Hill did not know that, and does not know it to this day. That was in his younger days before he came to the Hill, and when he did he came to visit his cousin, the wife of Capt. Jones, he fell in love with her niece, married her in 1780, and became a resident. He had a brother David, who lived in Northbury parish.
When Mr. Nichols left in 1784, it was Shelton who was appointed to collect the tax for the purpose of hiring preachers, and when the petition for the formation of the new society was drawn, he was chosen to act as the society's agent and, as their most influential representative, to appear before the General Assembly. With Capt. Hungerford and Lemuel Carrington he was authorised to sell the old church edifice at New Cambridge; with Ensign Tyler, Samuel Hawley, and Stephen Graves, he set the stake where the church was to stand and built it. He was the recognised man of prominence in the new society, and yet he had conducted the party that burned Danbury; and Moses Dunbar died the Traitor!
The days of Isaac Shelton were the days of the prosperity of East Plymouth and of the building of the homesteads which still stand, faithful to the memories of the old families that are gone. They were the days of well kept farms and an industrious people. Ensign Ozias Tyler's new house led to the erection by Stephen Graves of a better one, and Graves' new dwelling led Calvin Woodin to build still better across the valley. Each vied with the other, no longer in fleetness of foot, in craft, and in courage of the Ledges, but in more fruitful and harmonious rivalries. And as James Nichols, priest in the wilderness, led them in war, so Alexander Viets Griswold, first rector of the sanctuary, led them in peace.
He was a gentleman, was Mr. Griswold, yet one of the best day laborers in town. His family lived in Cyrus Gaylord's house and Gaylord boarded with him and knew him well, for they worked together in harvest time. His manner of living was so plain that the boarder at times wearied of it, and he was so polite that when a negro came asking for charity, he sat down and ate with him lest he feel slighted. He was so strong that when word was brought to him that a boy was being borne away by a freshet into the mill pond near the church, he ran at top speed, plunged into the swollen torrent and rescued the child from the flood. He saw a group of men about a rock tugging at it without success, so he sprang from his horse, leaped the fence, and although in his best dress, he seized the stone, and with the exercise of almost herculean strength, helped them heave it out from its bed. Mr. Griswold's home was in St. Matthew's parish and it was well for him that he was not afraid of the elements, for Harwinton and Northfield were also parishes of his, and each was six or eight miles distant from the others, the country between was hilly and the roads bad, and it was his duty to visit the members of his flock, attend funerals, and hold services weekdays and Sundays. Much of his time was spent on horseback, for carriages in that region were then scarce thought of. Cold and stormy, one Sunday, it was his duty to preach at Harwinton. He arose before his family and saddled his horse without breakfast in order to arrive at the service in time. The snow came and drifted and he baffled with the tempest until he reached Harwinton at noon. As the parishioners had already held a morning service, he held an afternoon service and then turned his horse toward home. It was midnight before his horse was put out and he crawled into bed without supper. One time he returned to a farmhouse, wet to the waist, from fishing. He was urged to change his clothes. "Oh, no," he said, "it may as well dry on me," and so be passed on.
This man was a Tory, a nephew of Rev. Mr. Viets of Simsbury, who was in prison with Moses Dunbar and ministered to the doomed man. When his uncle left this country after the war to go to Digby, Nova Scotia, he, too, was prepared to go, but he did not. He had a wife who was but seventeen and her people wished to keep her; so he became a farmer and worked his farm for ten years. Then he became a clergyman; and when three calls were extended to him at the same time, he passed by the parishes at Redding and at Waterbury and took up the post of labor among the Litchfield county hills- He was ordained a priest by Bishop Seabury, October 21, 1795, when the church of St. Matthew was consecrated, and was the builder of that parish. His parishes gradually increased; and, when he left, there were 220 communicants, most of whom had come to the Lord's table under his ministry.
He "found the people mostly religious and comparatively free from vice. No years of his life were more happy than those spent here in his first parish." He died honored among men, ecclesiastical ruler of all of New England, save Connecticut, Right Reverend Alexander Viets Griswold, Bishop of the Eastern Diocese.
Bishop Griswold had occasion once to depose a man from the church. This man had left his first parish in Connecticut an absconded debtor, and later for intemperance was excluded from the churches in Vermont, in 1799. His name was James Nichols. Thus lived two men who loved the Past and taught it to their people, and both were devoted to the cause which had been lost. One drowned his sorrow in the cups; and the other labored on a New England farm. The one who worked became a man of the Future. They call such men Americans.