Articles by our Town Historian
Plymouth Historical Society
572 Main Street
Plymouth, CT 06782
Town Historian, writer, and researcher Judith Giguere, life-time Terryville resident, writes articles for this web site about Plymouth's history during different time periods. Articles are posted as submitted below. Many thanks to her for presenting these special articles. All photos were taken by Judith Giguere unless otherwise indicated.
The years of 1550 to about 1750 were called “The Little Ice Age, caused by cooling of the earth’s temperatures. Collective
Main Street, March 5-6, 1920 record keeping didn’t begin until much later, but early settlers frequently kept diaries to tell the tale of the harshness of New England winters. By 1820, reports of weather conditions were sent to the Smithsonian Institute. The reports could be disseminated to the public through newspapers and telegraph.
An early notable storm was the Great Snow of 1717. It was preceded by very mild temperatures up to mid-February. Some settlers even began planting beans and other early crops. The Great Snow deposited between five and ten feet of snow through a series of close storms. Severe cold began the winter of 1740-1741 followed by two weeks of rain causing major flooding. Other record years were 1786, 1821 and 1855-1856 when the Connecticut River remained frozen into April.
Stories of the Blizzard of 1888 are not exaggerated. It arrived in early March with artic temperatures, high winds and heavy snow along the East Coast. More than two hundred ships sunk and over one hundred seamen perished as well. Cheshire recorded a snow drift of thirty-eight feet!
Travel and commerce have always been impacted by snows. Early transportation was on foot, horse, or wagon. Wagons could be fitted with runners to glide over the snows. Sleigh rides were very popular. Snow removal was another matter, however. Early snow removal involved city/town dwellers shoveling snow to level the drifts for sleigh travel. In the 1840s, the first patents were issued for snow plows but the idea did not catch on until much later. Horse-drawn plows were first attached to carts, and later plows were attached to steam trains and eventually trucks. Attempts were made to put plows on electric trolley cars, but it was unsuccessful. Salt was used in a few cities but residents complained the salt damaged their clothing and also created unfavorable conditions for sleighing.
Main St. The Terryville Institute formerly sat on what is now
Veteran's Monument at Baldwin Park.
It wasn’t long before residents and merchants complained that snow inhibited commerce and snow removal became a municipal problem. Initially, snow removal meant removing snow from the road, but not the sidewalks. Residents were required to clear their own sidewalks and store owners bemoaned the huge piles obstructing store fronts. Crews were hired to remove snow piles and snow loaded onto carts to be moved to other locations. Plymouth and Terryville were no exception. In the 1920’s, the town continued to hire crews to remove snow and clear the roads. Eventually, motorized equipment followed for clearing of the roads.
Two of Plymouth's hometown boys responded when called after the first shots were fired in Lexington to start the Revolutionary War. David Bartholomew and Elnathan Ives joined thousands to face off against the British when the "shot heard round the world" was loosed against the colonials in the royalist's efforts to collect taxes.
Tensions had been rising between the British home rule and the colonists. Tea was seized and burned in New London and dumped in the ocean in Boston by colonists as a response to the imposition of a tax. The British then closed the port of Boston and closed provincial government bodies.
The colonists, alarmed by the Crown’s determination to assert its authority over the colonies, planned a meeting of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress for April 19, 1775. The British, upon hearing of the illegal meeting, marched to Boston to quell the disturbance and capture the treasonous troublemakers: John Hancock and Samuel Adams. The result was not what the British intended.
Tensions had been rising between the British home rule and the colonists. Tea was seized and burned in New London and dumped in the ocean in Boston by colonists as a response to the imposition of a tax. The British then closed the port of Boston and closed provincial government bodies. The colonists, alarmed by the Crown’s determination to assert its authority over the colonies, planned a meeting of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress for April 19, 1775. The British, upon hearing of the illegal meeting, marched to Boston to quell the disturbance and capture the treasonous troublemakers: John Hancock and Samuel Adams. The result was not what the British intended.
Citizens of Massachusetts were killed by British soldiers, dubbed the Boston Massacre by Paul Revere, and the rebellion had begun. Within hours, riders spread the word throughout the countryside and into other states to meet on Lexington Green. Connecticut raised nearly 4,000 minutemen who promptly set off to Massachusetts in response to the “Lexington Alarm.” Two men from Plymouth are recorded as responding to the Lexington Alarm, Elnathan Ives and Daniel Bartholomew.
Elnathan was the son of Elnathan Ives and Mary Royce. Elnathan and Mary raised their family at the home known as the Terry homestead. Elnathan Sr. and Mary are buried in Down Cemetery in Bristol. Young Elnathan responded to the call for minutemen to Lexington Green and was a soldier in the Tenth Company, Tenth regiment, in 1777. He also served under Lieutenant Lazarus Ives of Captain Barnes' company. After the war, Elnathan and his wife lived in Plymouth and are buried in the Old Plymouth Burying Ground.
Daniel Bartholomew also responded to the Lexington Alarm. Daniel was the son of Dr. Isaac Bartholomew, a physician, and Martha Barnes. Isaac died when Daniel was an infant. Martha, shortly after Isaac died, became the fourth wife of Deacon David Dutton. Daniel grew up in Plymouth at the farm of his uncle, Nathaniel Barnes. Daniel was married to Hannah Sutliff on July 4, 1771. He served in Colonel Huntington’s Regiment under Captain Percival. Daniel served in the Battle of Long Island and was reported missing on August 27, 1776. The British victory at Long Island was won with substantial colonial losses and Daniel may have been taken prisoner by the British at that time. Daniel eventually returned home, lived the remainder of his days in Plymouth with his wife, Hannah. The couple are buried in the Old Plymouth Burying Ground.
Elnathan, Daniel and his brother Isaac Bartholomew signed the incorporation papers for the Town of Plymouth.
By Judy Giguere
Plymouth Town Historian
The name has been so often repeated as to become clique. There was a time when it really had meaning, when it was an active place, not just the stuff of myth, ghost stories and legends. It was in the early days of our nation, when some, known as “Tories”, were still loyal to England, yet others were anxious to form a new, independent nation.
Captain John Wilson was a natural leader and the leader of the Harwinton band of the Sons of Liberty. The Sons of Liberty patrolled the vicinity and those with any inkling of loyalty to Great Britain were favorite targets. Captain Wilson is described in many accounts as “dreadful full of zeal” for the American cause, much to the woe of the Tories. The women of the Tory families were the watchers as their sons, brothers, uncles and husbands worked the fields. When Captain Wilson and the Sons were about, an alarm was sounded by the tin horn of Mrs. Ebenezer Johnson or the conch shell of Mrs. Steven Graves. The menfolk quickly scurried to the Tory Den or other hiding places in the dense woods.
The Tory Den was well hidden among the Ledges of the Old Marsh region. Imagine how dense the foliage and trees were over 240 years ago! The Tory Den remained hidden and mysterious until the 1830’s, long after the Revolutionary War, partially due to the density of the woods as well as the lack of settlement in the area. The Glacial Age left many rock formations. One of these rock formations created the Tory Den. It is basically large rocks leaning against each other forming a hollow beneath. The gap beneath the stones was large enough for two lines of seven men to sit facing each other in the stillness of the wilderness waiting for the “storm” to pass. I asked how so many could fit within the Den and was reminded that much mud and earth has filled in the space over the passing of time as well as a wry comment that people were much smaller then. Whatever the reason, it is remains a local legend.
Some say it’s haunted by those that spent many nights in hiding. Their spirits unable to move on or possibly still protecting their farms and families. Legends tell of Tory gold that may have been hidden there. In reality, no one on either side was wealthy. Fear and real danger existed, instead of hiding their treasure wouldn’t they would have used it to protect themselves or further the cause they believed in? Joel Tuttle escaped a near tragedy and hid in the Den until it was safe to go back home. Daniel Tuttle was openly loyal to England. His lands, homestead and property were confiscated and sold at auction. Moses Dunbar another Loyalist, executed for treason in 1977, no doubt spent many nights hiding from Captain Wilson and the very active Sons of Liberty.
Plymouth has a very definite history in the early beginnings of this nation, on both sides of the issue. Tempers were short and ideals strong. There are many stories, legends and history in our town. This is the first in a series of Plymouth History focusing on Plymouth’s contributions in the Revolutionary War.
By Judy Giguere, Plymouth Town Historian
The Legacy of Rev. Samuel Todd
By Judy Giguere
Plymouth Town Historian
May, 2014 - Rev. Samuel Todd was the first minister to come to Northbury, as Plymouth was known in the early days. His grandfather, Christopher, was born in Yorkshire, England. Christopher’s father, William, was killed in a duel when Christopher was an infant. Christopher married Grace Middlebrook in 1636. The new couple sailed for Boston on the ship HECTOR, arriving June 26, 1637. They wintered in the Boston area and in spring set out for New Haven. Christopher, as a farmer, miller and baker, first rented and later owned New Haven’s first grist mill. The mill was later owned by Eli Whitney and used a firearms factory. Christopher Todd was tenacious and became very successful. His tenacity was passed down to his children and future generations.
The little congregation at first met in the homes of church members; Caleb Weed’s at the top of Humaston Hill (later Plymouth Hill) part of the year and in the hollow the other part of the year. They used a schoolhouse that was originally located approximately on the site of the present gazebo in Thomaston center. Crossing the Naugatuck River in the early days was treacherous. A bridge was not built until 1747. The trails were subject to major flooding and repeated washouts. Other streams and pasture lands had to be navigated, including opening and closing many pasture gates. Church attendance was serious business. Church attendance was expected because it also served a social function and was a form of local government, but the travel was very hard.
Rev. Todd began his ministry as a serious Calvinist, but after learning the New Light teachings of George Whitefield, Joseph Bellamy, and Jonathan Edwards, he changed. Calvinism is very strict, known for “Hellfire and Brimstone” doctrines. The New Light doctrine was a much kinder, gentler, hopeful theology. Rev. Todd joined in the religious revival, began preaching in New Light format, and establishing prayer meetings. This new philosophy displeased much of the congregation. A majority were unwilling to accept the change. Of the nineteen families of his congregation, eleven joined the Episcopal Church partly due to the New Light change in philosophy and partly due to disputes over the location of a church building. Some preferred the church to be located in the valley, others at the top of the hill; the crossing of the Naugatuck River was a major consideration.
The Northbury community could not accept the New Light philosophy. New Englanders found change difficult, perhaps stemming from their early trials establishing life in the new world. Rev. Todd was a young man, but did his best to resolve the difficulties. He struggled with his congregation through the 1749-1750 epidemic that claimed nearly one third of the population. He tried to resolve conflicts over the location for the church meeting, during later construction and relocation of the church structure and the building of the minister’s house as well as during quarrels over numerous other issues. He finally asked to be dismissed from his post, which was formally accepted by the Council in August 1764.
After leaving Northbury, he moved to Lanesboro, then East Hoosac, Massachusetts, which after the British surrender at Saratoga was incorporated as Adams, Massachusetts. Rev. Todd was one of the first proprietors of Adams, where he established a church. He remained there until he was dismissed in 1778. He served the Continental Army as a Chaplin for a short time, then retired to Orford, New Hampshire. Rev. and Mrs. Todd joined the church there on June 4, 1782. Mrs. Todd died shortly thereafter.
Rev. and Mrs. Todd had nine children. Three of their daughters died very young while in Northbury: Alathea died in a drowning accident in 1741, Lucy was 11 months old and died 1752; lastly, of the twin girls, Lucy and Chloe, born August 7, 1756, Lucy died January 9, 1757. The cause of their death is not known. The records of early ministers were the property of the minister. It appears that Rev. Todd took his records with him when he left Northbury. No trace of his small flock or information on his congregation during his tenure is left except what is recorded on the stones in the Old Burying Ground. As yet, the original records are still missing.
The Todd’s daughter Mary was born September 11, 1742. She married Obed Foote who died September 21, 1797 from an injury received in a barn raising. Mary then married Rev. Jonathan Leavitt of Heath, Massachusetts, also a Yale graduate. Rev Leavitt died 1802 and Mary died in 1815.
Another daughter, Irene, was born 1744 and married William Southmayd who died in 1777. She then married Mr. Wells of Northfield, Massachusetts. The Todd’s son, Eliel Todd, was born 1747, served as a Lieutenant in the Revolutionary War and became the first physician in Pawlet, Vermont. He was married to Anna Sanford. Eliel died in 1793 of accidental poisoning.
Samuel, named for his father, was born 1752. He first married Mary Dudley of Wallingford who died in 1841. Samuel then married Jane Rosecrans. Samuel was a private in Captain Joseph Allyn Wright’s company. He served in the battle of Germantown and wintered at Valley Forge. He was present at the battle of Monmouth, Stony Point and camped with the army at White Plains. His troop wintered with the Continental Army at Redding 1778-79, at the Morristown Huts in 1779-80, and at the Connecticut Camp near West Point in 1780-81.
Rev. Todd’s uncle Edmond resided in Todd Hollow. Rev. Todd’s career spanned more than 40 years. He established two churches and contributed his talent to several others. His tenacity created the foundation for a church that still functions today. It is because of the legacy of Rev. Samuel Todd that the Plymouth Congregational Church is celebrating its 275th Anniversary on May 17, 2014.
January, 2014 - Mortality was an ever present issue for the early settlers of Northbury. Diseases like Diphtheria, Smallpox, Measles, and Consumption (Tuberculosis) were all too common and the vaccines and antibiotics we have today didn’t exist in early times. In the Old Plymouth Burying Ground, of approximately 600 recorded graves dating from 1740 to 1870; 102 graves were that of children under the age of 5 years. The infant mortality was so great, names were often re-used, making research of families very difficult. Women frequently died in childbirth, or the consequences of childbirth. The statistics of female deaths for the ages of 18-45 were about 98, yet in comparison, male deaths in the same category, which included soldiers, only 58. In spite of these statistics, longevity for both men and women of early Northbury was quite high. The numbers of those living to age 60 or more totaled 218. It is the frequency of child and female mortality that give the appearance of a short life span for early settlers.
Reverend Samuel Todd was the first minister to Northbury and married, Mercy, the daughter of Reverend Peter Evans of Northfield, Massachusetts on August 31, 1739. Reverend Todd graduated from Yale College in 1734 was ordained May 7, 1740, as the first minister of the Northbury Parish (Northbury later became Plymouth). Due to changes in church doctrine and religious philosophies Reverend Todd was dismissed in August 1764 and the Todd’s left Northbury. He and his family settled in Adams, Massachusetts, near their daughter Alathea who had married Deacon Israel Jones, Jr. Reverend Todd organized a Church there of which he was pastor until 1776. He served for a brief time as a Chaplin in the Continental Army. The Todds moved to Orford, New Hampshire about 1782. Reverend Todd died June 10, 1789. Mrs. Todd seems to have disappeared off the records. It is believed that Reverend Todd took his original records with him when he left Northbury. So far, the original records have not been found leaving, The Old Plymouth Burying Ground with many unmarked and at present, unconfirmed graves.
Reverend Samuel Todd’s family was no exception to the early death statistics. According to the newly found gravestone, Lucy the daughter of Reverend and Mrs. Todd died in 1752 at 11 months old. An earlier loss was discovered in researching the Todd family. Little Alathea was born December 7, 1740 and drowned in a spring located on Reverend Todd’s Town Hill property which is in the vicinity of Terryville Fairgrounds. It is speculated by the Francis Atwater in his History of Plymouth published 1895 that Alathea is buried next to Lucy. Reverend E. B. Hillard, a later minister to Plymouth (1869-1889), also speculated that the unmarked grave next to Lucy was that of little Alathea. Another child named Lucy, a twin to Chloe, was born August 7, 1756 and died January 9, 1757. It is assumed that she buried next to her sisters.
Other members of the Todd family also settled, lived and died here. Hannah Tuttle married Reverend Samuel’s brother Edmond. The couple made their home in Todd Hollow. Oliver Todd, the uncle of Reverend Todd, married Abigail Warner and settled in Northbury. Reverend Todd’s sister, Susannah, married Caleb Humaston and also made their home in Northbury. Oliver and Abigail Todd’s daughter, Miranda was two years old when she died and is buried in the Old Plymouth Burying Ground. Families came, worked, succeeded and some failed, but they came and contributed to making Plymouth a town worthy of recognition. Ambitious, ingenious individuals such as Eli Terry and members of the Terry family as well as Silas Hoadley, the Sheltons and others settled and built homes and thriving industries. The immigrants to the new United States, worked in their factories and made their place and their contributions in Plymouth as well. Their successes are recorded in Plymouth history, their losses, their mortality, and their heartbreaks, recorded in our graveyards.
By Judith Giguere, Town Historian
October, 2013 - The Witch of Fall Mountain claimed she could, in the dark of night, put a bridle on her aunt and ride her to meetings of the Witches Circle in Albany. At the same time, members of the community complained of invisible hands tormenting them with burning coals and hot needles. The Witch of Fall Mountain was blamed. The year was 1768 and the belief in unseen forces was still active and punishable. A few records state the witch was ordered to be tried by water. The theory, which dates back to ancient times, is the belief that if the water rejects the “witch” it is proof that the person is a witch. If the person sinks, they were innocent because the water accepted them. Hopefully the person was retrieved before it was too late.
The Witch of Fall Mountain must have seen the proverbial writing on the wall as she disappears from all records. Her fate is unknown. It is not usual for records of witch trials to be lost. Guilty consciences? Possibly, but most likely it was just ineffective record keeping followed by confusing local gossip. Whatever the reason, it makes history very difficult and positive conclusions nearly impossible.
Her crime or whatever she did to be labeled a witch is unknown. It could have been as simple as a squabble between neighbors. Maybe our witch was indigent, or poor, possibly her mind was confused or maybe she was fond of telling stories. It could be she just did not fit the stereotypes of the day. It took very little for the dreaded accusation of “witch” to take hold and one would be arrested. Witch trials took place throughout New England but the most famous were in Salem, Massachusetts.
Witches were punishable by laws as old as Hammurabi of 2250 BC in the Babylonian Empire. The Inquisition tried and condemned the accused by the hundreds. England, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, (1558-1603) enacted laws defining witchcraft and its penalties. The Pilgrims, many of that generation, came here with belief in serious penalties for convicted witches. Connecticut witch trials were primarily held in the mid 1600’s. Could the accusations have come from the fears of the new settlers in their world of hardship, epidemics, unknown populations of cultures they did not understand and creatures never seen before and had no basis of knowledge to comprehend in this new place?
Whatever the reason, the Witch of Fall Mountain is now of legend. Was she subjected to the infamous trial by water? Was she accepted by it—is that how she disappeared from history? Or was she one of the quick-thinking ones who left and moved elsewhere rather than face an uncertain fate? Without new evidence, we will never know. If you happen to see a shadow across the moon with human forms, you may have just seen the Witch of Fall Mountain and her aunt on the way to the next Witches Circle.
By Judith Giguere, Town Historian
October, 2013 - At the northeastern corner of Plymouth Green lies a monument in remembrance of the early years of St. Peter’s Church which once stood on that site. The Episcopal Church, a branch of the Church of England, was established during the infancy of Plymouth, then known as “Northbury,” The year was 1740. The St. Peter’s Church was organized by eleven families that broke away from Reverend Samuel Todd’s early Congregational Church of eighteen families. The separation came partially over a dispute about the location of the Church and partially over doctrine. The families located below “The Hill” wanted the Church to be built in the vicinity of Thomaston center, yet families living easterly wanted the Church to be located at the top of the hill. The great difficulty was the necessity of travelling through numerous fields, gates to be opened and closed, streams to be forded and crossing of the “Great River” as the Naugatuck River was then called. A cart bridge was not built until 1747. Travel was lengthy, precarious at best and often dangerous in times of heaving rains and flooding.
Other difficulties arose as many missed the Church of England with holiday celebrations, puddings with raisins, Christmas Trees with candles and gifts for the children, the holiday yule log celebration with songs and stories as well as the familiar rituals which were not part of the Congregational Church. St. Peter’s Parish built a little church near the center of Thomaston, until it became too small. St. Peter’s Parish experienced the difficulties during the time of the Revolutionary War when everything and anything even remotely English was determined to be treasonous. Its members were considered to be much under the influence of Rev. James Nichols, an ardent loyalist, who swayed membership in favor of England. Tensions ran high. Rev. Nichols was captured by local Sons of Liberty and tarred and feathered. Rev. Nichols was tried for treason in Hartford Superior Court in January 1777 but acquitted, after which he went into hiding. Later, broken by his experiences during Revolutionary War times, he retreated to Arlington, Vermont was installed as a minister there but dismissed in 1788 for intemperate habits.
After the Revolutionary War, the Church again divided, a small parish settled in Northfield and one in East Plymouth called St. Matthews. A new St. Peter’s Church was built on Plymouth Green. The Church was consecrated in 1796 by Bishop Jarvis and first sermon was given in November of that year. In 1809, membership again declined as the rush for western settlements began. A contingent of Plymouth people made a settlement in Ohio creating another St. Matthew’s Church (1813). They named their community named for their former home, “East Plymouth.” A St. Peter’s Church was established in Ashtabula, Ohio in 1817.
Meanwhile the little Church on the Green recovered and began to grow. A bell was added to the belfry in 1823 and significant renovations to the building in 1831. In 1838, a pipe organ, recorded as costing $700.00 was installed. The 1880’s moved the pipe organ downstairs, furnaces were added and other improvements were made. But February 27, 1915 brought tragedy to St. Peter’s Church. It was a Saturday afternoon when the building caught fire. Fire engines from Thomaston and Terryville did their best, but the nearest water was too far. The entire structure was destroyed in a very short time. It is believed that the chimney was blocked by soot causing the ignition of the fire.
The sad community quickly rallied. Other churches offered space for services and local people assisted church members in fund raising for a new structure. Construction began almost immediately on North Street on a new site at the opposite end Plymouth Green. Church members and local citizens generously donated local stone to rebuild. Many a stone wall was sacrificed to provide stones of the best size, color and shape for the new structure. Ard Welton is credited as the stone mason, assisted by Fred Roselle, Andrew Consetti and Ammi Tomlinson. The result is a charming structure built by a generous, civic-minded community of various faiths working toward a common goal of helping each other.
The boulder at the northeast corner of Plymouth Green honors the former structure that stood on that site until that inauspicious night in 1915.
A History of An Old Hill-Town Parish. St. Peter’s Plymouth, CT by Elizabeth Welton Lumpkin
A History of Plymouth Connecticut by Francis Atwater, published 1895
By Judith Giguere, Town Historian
June, 2013 - The pilgrims landed in 1620, but it didn’t take long before wanderlust overcame the settlers. As early as 1634 and 1635, incursions were made into the lands of the Connecticut River and settlements began in Wethersfield, Windsor and Hartford. Soon after the conclusion of the Pequot War of 1637-8, additional small groups settled New Haven, Milford and Guilford. Farmington initiated its settlement about 1640. Other settlements were initiated away from navigable waters where the only transportation was by ox cart, horse or on foot which made communication between settlements far more difficult. Connecticut was untamed wilderness, a few minor roads, trails and broken paths and largely unexplored. John Steel, William Lewis and Samuel Steel recorded the first deed given by the Native Americans to land in 1657 for a portion of the Naugatuck Valley granting the right to mine black lead. Mr. Steele and his fellow explorers claimed to have located a fabulous lead mine. The infamous lead mine, to this day, has never been located and remains part of local mythology. Other deeds signed by Native Americans were recorded surrendering title to the lands that later made up the State of Connecticut.
A committee was appointed by the General Court to view a place for a new plantation in the Naugatuck Valley. In light of the favorable report received, application was made in the fall of 1673 by Thomas Bull, Nicholas Olmstead and Robert Webster requesting that lands might be granted for a plantation at Mattatuck. Additional lands were added in 1674. Articles of Association and Agreement were created to establish the rules for homesteaders. Some of the requirements for homesteaders included that each inhabitant would have 8 acres for a house lot, agree to pay all rates and taxes, build a house of at least 18 feet in length and 16 feet wide with a good chimney within four years of settling and remaining on the land. Allotments would be forfeited by anyone not meeting the committee’s requirements.
The allotments were not without complications. Eight acres for a home lot was not always as nice as it sounded. Much of the land was rocky and of moderate productiveness. The Great River, later knows as the Naugatuck** River, frequently flooded. Floods, and sickness related to flooded lands and standing water remained a constant source of danger. It had been assumed that the alluvial lands around the river would be good farmland, but the danger of flooding soon diminished that expectation. Still settlers came, stayed and formed the community of Waterbury and later various other settlements, including Plymouth, became their own communities.
Thomas Hancock is listed as the original owner of a “fine meadow” of about twelve to fifteen acres which included a small island where he eventually made his home. He was one of the first to sign the Mattatuck Articles but later nearly forfeited his rights to his Mattatuck land. His house was almost completely clapboarded but had no chimney. He was gone most of the time, presumably in pursuit of Miss Rachel Leonard, of Springfield. Miss Leonard keeps him waiting for three years before consenting to live at Mattatuck as Mrs. Hancock. Eventually the Hancock family did stay long enough to gain full title to the land which included building a home according to the requirements. Mr. Hancock’s full and title rights were restored in 1683. Although it wasn’t long before he left his homestead and fine meadows, possibly because wilderness life did not suit the Hancocks. Mr. Hancock became keeper of the prison in Hartford. Though his meadowlands changed hands many times, it still retains his name. To this day the exceptional meadowlands and brook he was granted by the Mattatuck Articles, retain his name.
Presently, Hancock Meadows have been transformed as part of a series of seven flood control reservoirs built by the US Army Corps of Engineers along the Naugatuck River Watershed. The US Army Corps of Engineers maintains five of the seven sites, two are maintained by CT Deep. Hancock Brook Lake has 721 acres of undeveloped public land set aside for flood control and open space, non-invasive recreation, such as fishing and hiking and as a natural area set-aside for wildlife habitat. It has 438 acres of woodlands, a 40 acre lake and over two miles of brooks and streams which make for excellent fishing. Assorted wildlife, waterfowl, non-game birds and mammals make their homes in this protected site. I do believe Mr. Hancock would be proud!
By Judith Giguere, Town Historian
*My thanks to the US Army Corps of Engineers for their assistance with this article.
** Notes: The name “Naugatuck” came from an Indian word, “Naukotunk” meaning one large tree which was formerly in the vicinity of Seymour. Early records use the spelling of “Hancox” and later, the spelling is used as “Hancock”, I have used the later for the sake of consistency.
February, 2013 - What’s in a name? Can it tell what a place is known for, where a place is located or other definitive factors relating to a place? Early records relating to place names in Plymouth differ in the most intriguing ways. Many local areas were Indian names which were shortened or changed in order to suit the new settlers. For example, “Cochipianee” was later shortened to “Chippeny”, or “Chippen’s Hill”, reflecting title to the original owner of the land. Chief Cochipianee was of the Farmington area Tunxis Indians. Cochipianee may have been a member of the chief’s council as the “pianes” portion of his name reflects such status. Our friend, Chief Cochipianee had a great fondness for apple cider. He would spend many days gathering apples to bring to Farmington to be pressed at the mill. After his treasure was ready, he would roll the barrel to his home on Chippen’s Hill to be shared with his counterparts.
On the other hand, Poland Brook and Poland River had a much more complex origin. One early record shows a portion of land called, “Poole Land” named for land with water in the vicinity of the Plymouth/Harwinton town line. A 1721 map of New Cambridge, later Bristol, lists two Indians living in that area on land specifically set aside for their use. Their names were, “Poland” and “Bohemia.” It has also been suggested that the name Poland Brook was a reflection of the early Polish settlers who came to Plymouth and surrounding areas to work in the factories. This is inaccurate as the influx of immigration was not until the late 1880’s into the early 1920’s. Well past the time when Poland Brook was identified as such.
Another source calls the northerly section of Plymouth along Poland River, “Pole Land”. It is described as a major source of “hoop poles.” Hoop poles were made from various saplings and used in barrel making. Barrels were the most common early form of storage. Barrels did not break as easily as ceramic containers. The best hoops were made from hickory trees. These were used for apple, pork, vinegar, and beef storage. Oak hoops were used to strap packing boxes together for transportation. Mountain ash was used as strapping strips for butter tubs, sugar and flour barrels. Chestnut saplings were used to bind powder kegs. Possibly the reference to hoops came from the Indian long houses which existed in this area. Could the hoops or saplings have been used to create the curved framework of the long houses?
Fall Mountain is another interesting name. Some early sources state it was named for another Indian resident whose unpronounceable name was changed to “Fall” by the settlers. Another source uses “falls” in reference to any pond or lake. Indian Heaven adjoining Fall Mountain is recorded as a favorite Indian hunting area for its excellent source of game and its beautiful location, but could it be named “Heaven” for its high elevation?
Whatever the origin of the name, Plymouth is fortunate to have some of the most beautiful river land in the state! We will never know for sure the absolute truth of the name origins but it is fun to speculate!
By Judith Giguere, Town Historian
November 2012 - Fledgling America may have triumphed in the Revolutionary War, but still had to prove her worthiness on the world stage. Great Britain and France continued in yet another war finding new and ingenious ways to harm each other and the brand-new American nation. America had yet to earn respect on the world stage.
James Madison was a short, scholarly, determined man, and one of the framers of the American Constitution; a man of character and our forth president. The English Orders in Council lead to an embargo and the Berlin and Milan Decrees of Napoleon put the new nation in harm’s way. Attempts had been made to get Great Britain and France to respect the trade rights of America to no avail. Both nations continued to impose trade restrictions on any nation consorting with the other, seizing ships, goods and sailors. Great Britain claimed the sailors were British citizens; therefore impressments were an acceptable method to return them to British ships. In reality, very few were really British citizens. On June 18, 1812, Madison and Congress declared war on Great Britain.
Angry New England threatened secession fearing loss of trade and economic disaster. New England blamed Madison for financial losses caused by “Mr. Madison’s War. The attempt of the Americans to annex Canada was a major failure. Yet the tiny American Navy serving on Lake Erie engaged the superior British Navy. An American ship, the Lawrence was under the command of Captain Oliver H. Perry. When Captain Perry’s ship was demolished by the British cannons, Perry and his remaining sailors abandoned the Lawrence and took a rowboat to another ship. Perry, from his rowboat, flagrantly displayed a banner to his remaining fleet, “Don’t Give Up The Ship.” The American Navy primarily privateers, manned by non-press gang crews proved formidable. Perry, using ships made from local trees and iron scavenged from barn doors successfully defeated the British squadron. Captain Perry sent General William Henry Harrison, who later became our ninth president, the much desired message, “We have met the enemy, and they are ours!”
August 1814, the British landed 6,000 troops in the Chesapeake Bay and headed toward Washington and “The Yankee Palace” as the British called the White House. Dolly Madison, the wife of President James Madison, is credited with saving the portrait of George Washington and other national treasures as the White House was evacuated from the ensuing British. The White House was decimated by British troops. The British Fleet headed for Fort McHenry where a vicious battle took place. Francis Scott Key, detained on a British ship, anxiously waited for dawn to see if the American flag on Fort McHenry still existed. The smoke and the bombs prevented any view of the flag, symbol of the new nation, until daylight. This battle inspired Mr. Key to write a poem entitled “The Star Spangled Banner” which was later set to music and became our national anthem. Andrew Jackson, our seventh president, won fame for his infamous successes when the British attempted to gain control of New Orleans and the Mississippi waterway. The war itself continued until February 1815 when the Treaty of Ghent was ratified by Congress. President Madison formally declared the war was over.
Nationally, the legend of American ingenuity was born. Unanticipated consequences of the War of 1812 were the stimulus of American industry, economic success, patriotism, good feelings and national pride. Goods previously imported were no longer available; therefore Americans prevented economic disaster by innovation. New industries were created. New establishments for the manufacture of cotton goods, woolen cloth, iron, glass, buttons, pottery and a multitude of new discoveries, and inventions grew from the prohibition of trade with the outside community. America again triumphed over the British and America took her place a world power.
Locally, Plymouth proudly claims these soldiers: Jedediah Alcott, Uriah Allen, Jonathan Andrew, Lyman Baldwin, Levi Brown, Leavitt Darrow, Benjamin Fenn, Lyman Jerome, Richard Mansfield, James Mix, Angus Nickelson, Harry Painter, Benjamin Palmer, Miles Smith, David D. and Apollos Warner.
By Judith Giguere, Town Historian
“…but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive,
and the other would accept war rather than let it perish,
and the war came.”
Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address March 4, 1865
June, 2012 - Plymouth responded when President Lincoln called for soldiers. Plymouth’s population, in 1860 was only 3,244 including Thomaston, yet 283 served. One man in his 60’s dyed his hair and beard in order to look younger and enlist. Young men under eighteen would write the number “18” on a piece of paper and place it in their shoes so when asked, they could truthfully answer they were over 18!
The Nineteenth Regiment, one of the Connecticut Volunteer regiments was mustered in 1861 and gathered at Camp Dutton in Litchfield. The camp had been named in honor of Lt. Henry M. Dutton of the Fifth Connecticut Volunteers who was killed at Cedar Mountain only a few days earlier. Henry Dutton was the son of a former Connecticut Governor and had a law practice in Litchfield.
The Nineteenth was ordered to Alexandria, Virginia was under martial law since the war began. The civilians had complained about harsh treatment by the troops, but when the Nineteenth Connecticut Volunteers arrived, it was not long before the residents requested this Regiment should stay. The young soldiers used to home life, found the Virginia climate and water unsuitable, their health declined rapidly. Hospital tents overflowed. Connecticut Governor Buckingham sent Plymouth’s Dr. S. T. Salisbury to check on our soldiers. Dr. Salisbury reported that everything possible was being done for the soldiers. Shortly there after, the Regiment was re-deployed to other areas.
General Erastus Blakeslee was one of Plymouth’s first to answer President Lincoln’s call for volunteers. His record certainly made his hometown proud. He was promoted numerous times and commanded a regiment in Sheridan’s Cavalry. He was wounded at Ashland, Virginia and as soon as he recovered returned to his command. He was eventually commissioned as Brevet Brigadier General of Volunteers. After the war, he was in business for a short time and in 1876 returned to Andover Theological Seminary, to complete his studies in theology. He was welcomed as pastor by several communities.
Augustus Hall Fenn enlisted as a private and left Camp Dutton as a First Lieutenant, yet received a discharge due to illness in 1861. It wasn’t long before he was recalled and commissioned as a major in the 8th Connecticut Volunteers and soon promoted again to Lieutenant Colonel. Augustus Hall Fenn was a participant in General Burnside’s expedition to North Carolina, participant in the capture of Roanoke Island and the Battle of Newberne. At Cedar Creek, he lost his right arm but refused to be mustered out. He served as a judge advocate several times and promoted again and again, finally to Colonel. Cornelius Wade Bull graduated from Yale in 1863; with the Civil War dominating life for both the Union and Confederate citizens, he gave up his studies and joined the U. S. Navy as a paymaster. His post was with the Mississippi Squadron. When the war ended, he returned to Yale to complete his studies in medicine.
George Langdon graduated Yale in 1848. Mr. Langdon held several civic offices and during the Civil War was appointed by Governor Buckingham to enlist colored men into Connecticut regiments. Plymouth was home to several ardent abolitionists and at least two known sites on the Underground Railroad which assisted slaves on the path to Canada and freedom. Samuel Terrell, although deaf, enlisted in Company D and served on the front lines. He was with one of the units to assist in destruction of southern rail lines. He was wounded, but lived a long and productive life.
Plymouth’s record is commendable and her sons were in almost every Connecticut regiment and some served in regiments in other states. Plymouth soldiers served in every major engagement of the Civil War from the beginning to Lee’s surrender. Edward P. Smith of Company I, 1st Artillery was the first Plymouth soldier to be killed in battle. Typhoid, diphtheria, spotted fever and even measles were common causes of death among soldiers on both sides. Plymouth soldiers proudly served in the battles of Opequan or the Third Winchester, Fisher’s Hill, Cedar Creek, and Bull Run or Manassas as it was called by the Confederates, and Cold Harbor. Plymouth soldiers were present at Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Plymouth soldiers were at the front and in the trenches of Petersburg. Matthias Walter was wounded by a sharpshooter, John Grieder suffered a fatal wound from a three inch shell. Dorence Atwater was the young Plymouth soldier known for his detailed record of deaths at the infamous Andersonville Prison. A memorial cannon is set on the hill overlooking Baldwin Park in remembrance of Dorence Atwater. Two Civil War monuments stand in remembrance of Plymouth soldiers. One on Plymouth Green is beautifully carved by local stone cutter, Daniel Mattoon; the other stands quietly in Hillside Cemetery surrounded by graves of Plymouth’s Civil War soldiers.
A few soldiers were missing in action, some were fatally wounded, many suffered wounds, various fevers and some spent the war in rebel prisons, all were mourned by the community, and welcomed home by a grateful community.
Complete Roster of the soldiers enlisting from or belonging to Plymouth
Source of article and above Roster:
Compiled and Published by
Francis Atwater 1895
By Judith Giguere, Town Historian
January, 2012 - The Old Burying Ground is located next to the First Congregational Church of Plymouth and Plymouth Green, all are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Plymouth Green was created in 1747 of approximately four acres of land transferred through Caleb Humaston to the Society of Northbury by the Town of Waterbury to be used as a Parade and Burial Ground. The first recorded burial is Lettice Curtis. Mrs. Curtis was one of the many deaths from the Epidemic of 1749. It is believed that as many as 30 and possibly more deaths that were not recorded occurred that year in our fledgling community. The Old Plymouth Burying Ground contains approximately 600 markers and it is the final resting place of thirty-eight Plymouth Revolutionary War soldiers as well as three veterans of the French and Indian War, and two veterans of the War of 1812. It is the final resting place of many signers of Plymouth’s incorporation papers, judges, lawyers, doctors, ministers, wives, children and infants. Little Emily Bronson, daughter of Noah and Betsey is one of the
burials. Emily died tragically on November 14th, 1800 at age two. Sherman Bronson was born just a few weeks prior to Emily’s death. Shortly thereafter, Noah and Betsey, together with their remaining children gathered up what they could and walked to the Ohio territory where Noah and Betsey became a successful and respected farming family. Emily’s headstone, pictured above, includes a heart breaking inscription near the bottom which reads:
Father and My Mother
Tell my fate to my dear brother
Flaming elements of fire
Hath robbed you of your great desire.
Daniel Potter was a Connecticut soldier in the French and Indian War, instrumental in the settling of our new community and a signer of Plymouth’s incorporation papers.
Beneath this stone
Lies deacon Daniel
Potter who in a
Of one day rising
To a glorius immor
Tality fell asleepe
October 29, 1773
In the 55th year
Of his life.
Wife of Daniel Potter
Having walked with God
Triumph’d over Death 13th
July 1770 ae 54 years
Mortals behold your fate
And lend a listening ear
Think on your final fate
For Christ will soon appear
Lake, the son of Daniel and Martha was born August 13, 1759 while Daniel was a soldier in the French and Indian War serving at Lake George. The child was named “Lake” in honor of this service. Lake George was named after King George III of England. England was falling out of favor with the thirteen colonies, therefore the child was named “Lake.” Daniel was an incorporator of the Town of Plymouth and representative to the state legislature several times. Lake Potter was a Plymouth soldier in the Revolutionary War.
Lucy Todd’s grave is presently unmarked. It is believed the original stone was made of gray schist and lost over the years, possibly discarded as an ordinary rock. Lucy was the daughter of Rev. Samuel & Mercy Todd. Rev Todd was the first minister to the Northbury community. Lucy was eleven months old when she died in 1752.
Amos Bronson, also interred in the Old Burying Ground, is referred to as “Dr. Bronson” in some sources; Mr. Bronson was a soldier in the French and Indian War serving in Captain Downs Company. Mr. Bronson died September 2, 1819 at age 88. He was one of the incorporators of the Town of Plymouth and the great-grandfather of Louisa May Alcott, celebrated author. Amos Bronson was also the grandfather of little Emily Bronson.
Ozias Tyler was an incorporator of the Town of Plymouth. This stone is near the entrance of the Old Burying Ground and has eroded considerably.
In Memory of
Consort to Mr.
April 8, 1790
On what a moment of time
Hang Everlasting things.
In memory of
Wife of Mr.
Who died with her
Born December 14th
1773 in her 24th
A small brown stone is in memory of three infant children of the Welton family. It speaks of the tragedy of infant mortality of early America.
In Memory of
3 children of Eli & Mrs
Nov 22d 1798
Ae 7 wks
Aaron Sanford died
Nov 29th 1808
Ae 1 year
April 21 1809
Ae 18 months
May 31, 1772 – Dec 15, 1839
“Mother of all the Terrys”
Eunice Warner Terry was born May 31, 1772 and died December 15, 1839. Mrs. Terry was the first wife of noted clockmaker, Eli Terry. Eli and Eunice were married March 12, 1795. Eli and Eunice had nine children. The Terry family contributed to clock making industries and initiated other industries in the Terryville section of Plymouth. After the death of Eunice, Eli married the Widow Harriet Ann (Pond) Peck in 1840.
The Old Plymouth Burying Ground Restoration Project began in the fall of 2011. The project includes restoration of the grounds, signage, clean-up, and installation of period style fencing in the front of the cemetery with appropriate landscaping, grading and drainage. Volunteers are working on detailed transcription and photographing of the gravestones for preservation and for future generations. Tax deductible donations can be made to Plymouth Land Trust c/o Jerry Milne, 204 Keegan Road, Plymouth, CT 06782; please clearly state funds are intended for the “Old Plymouth Burying Ground Restoration.” Donations of $50 or more qualify for an engraved brick to be installed at the entrance to the Burying Ground for a lasting tribute. Engraved bricks have a maximum of three lines, sixteen spaces per line. Please indicate what you would like engraved with your donation by April 1, 2012.
Visitors are welcome to the site, to see the project and walk through the lives of our forefathers and Plymouth’s early history.
By Judith Giguere, Town Historian
October, 2011 - Hoadleyville, the section of Plymouth once known as Ireland because of its largely Irish population, and later commonly referred to as Greystone is located near Hancock Dam. It is a hidden treasure of Plymouth. This section originated as part of Hancox meadows as the first arrivals passed through in search of the elusive lead mine. In 1700 the brothers Amos and Abraham Hickox established a sawmill. Later, circa 1750 Calvin Hoadley ran a Grist Mill and the Terry, Thomas and Hoadley Clock Factory found a home on Hancock Brook.
Eli Terry hired Silas Hoadley and the young Seth Thomas to help him build clocks. The three established the firm of Terry, Thomas and Hoadley. It was here Eli Terry fulfilled his famous Porter Contract for production of 4,000 clock movements—an incredible accomplishment in 1806! The three genius partners designed a system that used water power to run their machinery as well as standardization and interchangeable mechanical working of their clocks. Later, Eli Terry and Seth Thomas sold their interests to create their own companies.
Silas Hoadley continued making clocks until 1849. He then rented his clock factory to Hancock Valley Manufacturing, which existed into the early 20th century. Silas Hoadley was elected to the State assembly three times and held a term as a Connecticut Senator. The pond and waterfall created for waterpower still exist in a beautiful setting on a dead end road near Hancock Dam. The pond is visible from the road, but the waterfall is on private property. Please do not trespass.
By Judith Giguere, Town Historian
July, 2011 - In the early part of the last century, trains were one of the dominant modes of transportation and freight hauling. In the Plymouth area, the hills and steep grades made hauling heavy freight difficult even for trains. It was not uncommon to see two or three engines on a train pulling load and sometimes another engine at the end of the train to push. The decision was made to build a tunnel and correct the grade.
To fulfill the construction of the tunnel, it was necessary to cut through the rock ledges with the deepest, most difficult cuts at the southern end of South Eagle Street. Lowlands were filled to level the grade. The Pequabuck Tunnel, also known as the Mile Long Tunnel is slightly less than a mile at 3,850 feet with a width of 32 feet and height of 26 feet. Most of the construction was done by hand. Construction began in 1906 and was completed in 1910. The tunnel was built under the farm known as Sylvan Hill owned and operated by Charles Allen and family for whom Allen Street was named. Land was not purchased for the tunnel site, but instead, a right-of-way under the Allen farm and pond was acquired. The course of the Pequabuck River known as Devil’s Backbone was modified. Construction required no less than two hundred workers, most residing in small buildings along the site which were built for the use of the workers.
Construction temporarily stopped in the fall of 1907 due to the instability of the financial market. In July 1908, work had not yet resumed when a cave-in occurred at the tunnel site. The cave-in was caused by heavy rains compromising the loosened rocks at the top of the tunnel. The project engineer, assistant
superintendent and roadmaster as well as a special train of workers were immediately dispatched to the site to secure the tunnel.
The tunnel digging process created a large debris pile where one resident is reported to have discovered such mineralogical treasures as calcite, beryl, tourmaline, marcasite, azurite, malachite and even a few gem quality garnets. A substantial amount of Native American arrowheads and artifacts were also discovered at the dig site.
The first passenger train went from the new Terryville Station at Pequabuck through the tunnel on January 27, 1911 marking the opening of the tunnel for regular use. The new tunnel and improved grading, elimination of severe curves between Hartford and Waterbury shortened the time between stations and made travel much safer.
By Judith Giguere, Town Historian
October, 2010 - As summer winds down and autumn is imminent, it’s fun to see how much times have changed. Below are some interesting excerpts from the 1928 Plymouth Annual Report.
To set the stage, 1928 was the last boom year of the Roaring Twenties before the 1929 stock market crash. Penicillin was discovered as the first effective antibiotic—saving millions! The first regular schedule of television programs began in Schenectady, New York and of course, Flappers. Flappers were the unconventional young women with bobbed hair, flaunting cigarettes, heavy make-up and short skirts, dancing to the Charleston—very uncharacteristic of the social norms of the times. The 1920’s were also known as the Jazz Age and the post World War I economic boom. It was the era of Prohibition, the laws prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages, Speak-Easy’s, and Elliott Ness.
In Plymouth, several school districts existed throughout the town. Two districts had one room school houses with as many as eighty students and one teacher with a mix of grade levels in a single classroom. Parents were required to take their turn boarding the teacher for a specified number of days and provide their share of fire wood to heat the school. The two one room school houses were East Plymouth and Holt District named for the former owner of the farm that encompassed much of that land by North Harwinton Avenue, Milo Holt. The Holt district school closed in 1957. It was the last remaining one room school house in use in Connecticut.
Elimination of district schools began as early as 1875 as the town expanded it focused on the centralized areas. Industries grew creating new, more compact neighborhoods. It became necessary to create larger schools and combine resources to improve education. Prospect Street School opened in 1906 as a high school. In approximately 1912, a temporary expansion facility added to Prospect Street School was quaintly referred to as the “Chicken Coop” by locals, much to the chagrin of the good intentions of school officials.
The annual school budget in 1928 was $83,498.59. Twenty-two students graduated high school and 62 graduated the eighth grade. The Plymouth grand list totaled $156,062.99. The First Selectman’s salary was $2,000 annually and the only patrolman was paid $1,500.00. The Town Hall budget included $4.00 for piano tuning. Average income was approximately $6,000.00 annually and the population in 1900 was 2,828.
Other 1928 expenses were the maintenance of watering troughs at $6.00 per year as horses and oxen were not yet replaced by motorized vehicles. Street lighting totaled $4,193.72 and bridge repairs came to $648.85 that year. Hiring of teams of horses and oxen were an expense of $1,138.19 for the year of 1928. The Terryville Library was heated by the furnace across the street at the Town Hall. The cost was $859.21 for heating both buildings in 1928. It appears to have been considered satisfactory.
Perhaps, in retrospect, someone from our future might find the current budget equally charming.
By Judith Giguere, Town Historian
July 2010 - The sixteen acre pond was originally one of the holdings of the Eagle Lock Company of Terryville, but in the 1920’s the pond became the property of Walter Zeiner. It is located off Seymour Road on one side and Holt Street and Harwinton Avenue on the other.
In the late 1930’s, traumatic events in Europe were casting a foreboding shadow. The United States and the world were moving ever closer to the coming crisis of World War II. In the midst of the pending gloom, Zeiner’s Pond offered a safe place to leave the ominous news behind.
Summer days revolved Zeiner’s Pond. A series of cabins were once located on both sides of the lake. The shore was lined with grass, with a small beach area and large shade trees. Although the lake could become murky in August, it was a favorite summer haven for cabin renters and local residents. Small motor and row boats for fisherman, or just for fun, were commonly seen casually cruising the pond on summer days and sometimes at night for bullhead fishing. The pond was known for perch, bass and pickerel fishing. Swimmers enjoyed the quiet, bucolic setting. Sun bathers would gather on the beach using an old-time mixture of vinegar and baby oil for suntan lotion. Summer evenings were also for first dates and romantic walks about the lake. The moon reflecting on the peaceful waters inspired many couples that later married. Today, Zeiner’s Pond is known as Lake Winfield. It offers trout fishing. Although not accessible for swimming; it still offers a beautiful setting. A lovely path encompasses the lake offering a pleasant walk about the lake. It has changed over the last century, but has not lost it charm.
By Judith Giguere, Town Historian