ASCH CALL FOR PAPERS & POSTERS
“LAND OF STEADY INNOVATION: CONNECTICUT AND THE NEW”
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2016
The Association for the Study of Connecticut History (ASCH) and the History Department of Southern Connecticut State University are co-sponsoring a one-day conference on facets of Connecticut history that belie the “steady habits” tag: the rich record of Connecticut people creating, trying out, and accepting new things in the arts, education, business, social services, and other walks of life. Our aim is to highlight not just transformative breakthroughs but a wide readiness to innovate and take risks. Topics pertaining to the whole span of Connecticut history, from colonial to contemporary, will be welcome.
The conference to be held at Southern Connecticut State University will feature presentations in formats old and new, with plenary as well as small-group concurrent sessions.
Members and staff of historical societies, museum professionals, secondary school and college and university educators, and independent scholars are all invited to propose presentations.
ASCH especially invites students to propose posters for presentation at students-only poster sessions — an innovation the Association hopes to incorporate in many of its future conferences.
For consideration, please submit a paper title, abstract, and a short c.v. Application deadline is August 1, 2016. Proposals should be sent to conference co-chairs: Nancy H. Steenburg, 493 Pequot Avenue, Mystic, CT 06355 or Karla Ekquest-Lechner at Naugatuck Valley Community College, Waterbury, CT or e-mailed (in MSWord format) to firstname.lastname@example.org, or Karla Ekquest-Lechner, Naugatuck Valley Community College KEkquistemail@example.com.
As part of background, the Society does not own the building. It is leased from the CT Department of the Military because the last family to live in it (not Derrins) were the caretakers of the First Co. Governor’s Horse Guards which is located across the street. We have had the lease since 1996 and there has been a large team of volunteers who have worked tirelessly over the past 20 years restoring the house with grants, private donations and lots and lots of donated materials. The lease requires the Society to carry insurance, which we do. But, as you can image, no amount of insurance can replace what was lost. So we are seeking donations to help this process move forward. We will be updating the Society’s website tomorrow with more details, but the GoFundMe page has photos and explanation of what happened.
Author: Garrett Coady
Farmington, Connecticut had been a New England hub for evangelical abolition during the decade of 1835 and 1845. Farmington had established an anti-slavery society in 1836 that was initiated around abolitionist reform and evangelical revival. One of the Farmington Anti-Slavery Society’s founding members had been Horace Cowles. Horace and his wife, Mary Anne Steele Smith Cowles had a large family. Among their ten children was their daughter Charlotte Cowles.
During the heart of the Farmington abolitionist movement, Charlotte Cowles had written her brother Samuel Cowles a large volume of letters that highlighted the unique and volatile Farmington environment between 1835 and 1845. Charlotte’s letters expound upon past on goings in Farmington, Connecticut and often on the inner workings of the Farmington Anti-Slavery Society.
Much of what Charlotte had written to her brother Samuel was about Farmington’s staunch evangelical abolitionist following, but Charlotte’s letters also help shape her personal persona. Charlotte comes across as an intelligent, caring, thought-provoking, and loyal abolitionist who saw the anti-slavery movement as a means to improving humanity through Christianity. The Charlotte Cowles Letters are treasure-troves of nineteenth century Farmington history. These letters are archived and available for public viewing at The Connecticut Historical Society. What follows is just a small snippet of the invaluable information that Charlotte Cowles scribed.
The Cowles family was one of Farmington’s prominent families of the nineteenth century. Charlotte may have been influenced by the temporal, benevolent and abolitionist work of her father Horace who was energetic throughout Connecticut as a member of multiple Christian reform programs.
From a young age Charlotte’s letters highlight her as an active member of the local abolitionist community in Farmington. Charlotte had written her brother Samuel often of her displeasure with anyone who did not believe abolition was for the betterment of humanity. Some of Charlotte’s earliest letters to her brother feature the daily proceedings of local anti-slavery meetings, like the selling of anti-slavery handkerchiefs to raise money for the movement in Farmington.
Outside of her activity within the Farmington Anti-Slavery Society, Charlotte may have been a teacher at Ms. Sarah Porter’s Farmington Female Seminary. In a letter dated in February 1840, Charlotte had written Samuel detailing that she had received an application from Miss Sarah Porter to teach immediately at her school, which would have paid her $150 for the ten months of service. In the same letter Charlotte had written that she felt “Latin is sadly neglected in schools.” The statement was missing additional context, but it begs the question whether or not Charlotte was trained in the classical language. In her letters to Samuel, Charlotte comes across as an intuitive woman, so it seems reasonable to think that she may have known how to speak and read foreign languages.
Charlotte conquered with the sentiments of Mr. Phelps that “the architects and inhabitants of this town are in the form of abolitionists.” Charlotte stressed almost all people of nobility and high standing joined the anti-slavery movement. If Charlotte had viewed Farmington Anti-Slavery Society members as people of the highest order, presumably Charlotte would have regarded ones acceptance of colonization as the polar opposite. Charlotte had questioned this anti-slavery practice many times in her writings to Samuel and could not understand the allure. Charlotte had attended an anti-slavery lecture with the agenda dealing with colonization, writing that, “when I returned from the lecture, I was able to see the absurdities of colonization more clearly and read it…with more clarity than ever before!”
One of Charlotte’s more fascinating letters was dated March 24, 1841, recounting the stay of the Amistad “Mendi” Africans in Farmington after their release from prison. This letter not only presented Charlotte’s tolerance of the Mendi, but also showed her as a compassionate young woman. Charlotte stated that a young Mendi girl named Kan-ne had been staying with her family, Dr. Noah Porter housed Ta-ne, and the last Mendi child was at Timothy’s. Charlotte was astounded by how smart Kan-ne had been, the “cheerful spirit” the little girl possessed, and was stunned with the writing skills of the Mendi.
In her letter’s, Charlotte features a substantial group of mindful and forthright abolitionists in Farmington, Connecticut during the decade of 1835 to 1845. Not all of Farmington saw abolition as a means to eradicating slavery, but a strong portion of town shared an anti-slavery mindset like Charlotte Cowles. The Charlotte Cowles Letters are a peak into an evangelical belief system, which felt the institution of slavery could be abolished peacefully through Christianizing the world. Charlotte had written her brother Samuel a great deal more than what has been presented here. A visit to the Connecticut Historical Society to read more of Charlotte’s riveting letters on Farmington’s local history is strongly recommended!
Author: Chelsea Farrell
The history of opium evokes images of wars and imperialism across the globe. This large history often overshadows the prevalence of opium in America. Even before medical morphine was first extracted, opium and its derivatives were used medically and mixed in tonics. Opium, though, causes severe withdrawal, which makes it a highly addictive substance. Early nineteenth-century Simsbury, Connecticut, residents were fully aware of the dangers of opium, especially when the Congregational Church buried Mary Woodbridge, an unmarried woman who committed suicide via laudanum.
From 1806 to 1861, Reverend Allen MClean served as minister of the Congregation Church in Simsbury, Connecticut. In town history, he was remembered fondly for his generosity, benevolence, and temperance advocacy. He left a journal record of all of the people he eulogized while serving in Simsbury. On October 28, 1831 he noted a particularly tragic death. MClean wrote “In a state of derangement [Mary Woodbridge] put an end to her present existence by taking laudanum. She was naturally a very sensible and serious minded woman.” Mary’s laudanum use begged the question: How popular and available was opium?
Laudanum was an opium derivative that was prescribed by doctors but also commonly prepared by laymen. The Compleat Housewife (1742), a woman’s domestic manual, taught the reader how to prepare laudanum and recommended it for a variety of aliments, ranging from stomach inflammation to a child’s insomnia. Medical journals recommended laudanum and other opium derivatives to treat pain. As a popular medication, one can assume that most residents of nineteenth-century Simsbury had access to opium and relied on it regularly, as further evidenced by the early temperance movement in Simsbury.
While there were not any professional studies done of opium addiction in the early nineteenth century, temperance manuals and societies discussed the effects of opium dependency. Temperance manuals warned against laudanum abuse alongside spirit abuse. In Simsbury, the first temperance society was the Aquatics Society, formed in 1805 by Benjamin Ely. Temperance societies often formed as a reaction to a problem. A temperance society was not necessary if there was not alcohol or opium dependency. By forming one of Connecticut’s first temperance societies, Simsbury residents exposed addiction and dependency issues. At the same time, the residents identified negative effects of addiction and sought to eradicate it.
One force the Aquatics Society needed to fight was the romantic notions of opiate use in popular literature. Popular literature mentioned opium and even glorified laudanum use. In 1800, Thomas De Quincey published Confessions of an English Opium Eater about his opium and laudanum addiction. While he acknowledged the destructive implications of drug use, De Quincey seductively described the effects of laudanum. His alluring descriptions sparked readers’ curiosities about drug use and how it effected people’s mindset. Opium “with respect to the temper and moral feelings in general, gives simple that sort of vital warmth which is approved by the judgement.” When he used opium, he felt he gained acceptance.
Reverend MClean’s eulogy contrasted the term “derangement” against Mary’s regular “sensible” temperament. This suggested that when Mary consumed laudanum, she acted out of character. But Mary needed “vital warmth” to help herself cope with her own personal tragedies. Mary Woodbridge was descended from one of Simsbury’s first congregational ministers, Dudley Woodbridge. As a girl, she attended Hopmeadow School, and her father Haines Woodbridge was respected and served on the School District Committee. But Mary’s life began to unravel in 1818, when her mother died and ten years later, her father drowned himself in the Farmington River. In letters from her brother in Middletown, he worried about her distraught feelings. With her brother away, her parents dead, and her unmarried status, Mary felt isolated with no one close to confide in. This led her to rely on laudanum. Mary lived in a world where she was under strict moral and temperamental limitations. As she consumed laudanum, the pressures of being a virtuous woman and the tragedies of losing her parents disappeared and were replaced with acceptance. The Aquatics Society’s potentially presence in town forced Mary to “conceal [her] opiate using” to avoid judgement.
Drug use and dependency remain a tremendous problem today. Thinking about the history and patterns of drug use and care can instruct us and give new perspectives on how to behave towards today’s problems, as there are so many similarities. The Aquatics Society formed to promote temperance in Simsbury but may have further isolated Mary Woodbridge to avoid judgement. But, at the same time, Mary Woodbridge’s death showed how residents in nineteenth-century Simsbury treated suicide with compassion. Although Mary committed suicide, she was not ostracized. Mary was respectfully given a funeral and buried in the town cemetery.
For further information:
Morgan, Howard Wayne. Drugs in America: A Social History, 1800-1980. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1981.
About women in the 19th century:
Kerber, Linda K. Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980.
Norton, Mary Beth. Liberty’s Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996.
Author: Brianna Dunlap
When conjuring the image of a quintessential New England town, the mind’s eye visualizes an ancient town center with colonial homes surrounded by rolling hills and fields peppered with herds of cattle. The town Simsbury, which was developed during the first two hundred years of its existence by the simple necessities of colonial settlers, is the quintessential New England town. The town selectmen required regions for homes to be built, a common center district for shared use, and ample land for farming.
Founding men of colonial settlements wrote and held deeds that eventually created the spaces needed for homes and farmland. Land deeds, covenants and leases were crucial, because for them, “the life of a colonial community was…wrapped up in the ownership of land and where the fruit of the land and wealth of the forest and river and mine was necessary to the prosperity of their generations and their future generations.” The Simsbury forefathers’ mindset drove them to establish land titles and boundaries that were reflective of their social and legal standards. John Case, among other fellow settlers to the region in 1669, made sure the deeds to his lands were secure and recorded by the General Court.
In the early days of the town’s history the Case family, the descendants of founder and constable John Case, held and purchased land in greater proportions than other families in the town. It is possible that the land covenants by the founders of Simsbury established a legacy of land obsession and therefore created a tradition of land ownership expansion in the Case name that followed descendants. The Case family of colonial Simsbury, and the later surrounding towns of West Simsbury and Canton, kept land in the family from the pre-Revolutionary era through the Jacksonian era by intermarrying and by acquiring more land at regular intervals.
An interesting example of the seriousness with which the Case family undertook dealing with land began with an 1840 land lease from a son to his father and witnessed by Justin Case and Newtown Case. In 1842 attorney William Sally wrote a letter, enclosed with a lease, to Jeffery Phelps (Case) in the hope of nullifying a land deal from only a few years prior in which Jesse Case Jr. had deeded land to his father, Jesse Case and his lovely wife Lydia, for use for the rest of their lives. Yet, when Jesse Case passed away leaving behind his widow, the tables turned.
Dear Sir, Enclosed I forward a lease from Jesse G. (Jr.) Case to Jesse Case. You will perceive that the lease is to Jesse Case and not to his wife. She consequently cannot hold any more than his support. I also learn that the deed of Jesse G. to Jesse deters the widow from holding her thirds on the same if Jesse G. neglects his support of the property…”
The attorney explained that Jesse Jr. claimed that the lease was only to his father for the rest of his natural life but not for the widow. Although the widow previously had been described in the deed with glowing terms, she was being removed from the property by her step-son. The letter went on to call for discretion from one professional to another as they work out what action to take. The author even mentioned that attention should be given to the additional counter claim that the widow’s daughter, Fanny Church, should receive eighteen dollars to settle account books debts that her late step-father left. The discretion was needed since Mrs. Fanny had been visited by the local Commissioner who was pretending to want further information on the situation from her.
The dramatic ejection of the widow and her daughter was not settled in the letter, but it surely opened the subject of land control in the Case family. What was it that triggered the claim and counterclaim? Perhaps there were poor sentiments between Jesse Jr. and his father’s second wife. One possibility was that the family feared the widow or her daughter would marry outside the Case family and take the land with them. Jesse Case Senior was a Case with a bloodline of descent from Joseph Case and lived out his final years in West Simsbury, where the claim centered around, but Jesse Jr. had remained on the paternal homestead in the “Farms District” until his death. For over a century, Cases had married Cases, keeping land in the family.
The land spat between Jesse Case Jr. and his father’s widow may have been deeply personal, but it is realistic that hindering a woman’s power of control over land ownership was not uncommon in in the Case family. The nineteenth-century land dispute was not the first; since before the Revolution, Cases had been vigorous in fighting for their land.
Joel Case, who lived on Case farm from 1746 until his death in 1780, gave to his wife, Chloe, half of his entire land and homestead in his will. The stipulation for such land control was that she had to remain as Joel’s widow for the rest of her life and never remarry. Such a requirement varies from the complete removal of land from Lydia Case, but indicates land ownership was taken so seriously that measure were taken to keep the line of ownership directly in the Case family.
Legal means were certainly not the only way that the Case family held on to the founder’s concept of land and power. While the land deed records do not exist for Amos Case, who moved to West Simsbury in 1740, it is known that he lived on East Hill and the house he built belonged to a direct descendant of his, Myron Case, by 1856. The only two daughters of Amos Case went on to each marry two brothers, the sons of Richard Case. This mattered because Richard Case was a grandson of the family progenitor, the original John Case.
The legacy of land ownership stayed with the Case family because of the colonial founder’s legacy. By no means was the family working as one unit in all decisions to acquire or hoard property, but the various related branches certainly had similar goals of land acquisition. More likely, this was due to a tradition carried on based on a pattern of marriage and behavior handed down through two hundred years of collective memory and practice.
To explore the Case family or the colonial era of Simsbury, Connecticut learn more here:
Genealogical history, with short sketches and family records, of the early settlers of West Simsbury, now Canton, Connecticut by Abiel Brown. https://archive.org/details/genealogicalhist00browiala
Simsbury; being a brief historical sketch of ancient and modern Simsbury, 1642-1935 by John Ellsworth. https://archive.org/details/simsburybeingbri00ells
And, certainly visit the Simsbury Historical Society’s archive where they have entire boxes set aside for the Case family documents. http://www.simsburyhistory.org/
Author: Regan Miner
Charlotte Cowles (1821-1866) lived in Farmington, Connecticut during an extremely polarizing time. During the 1830s, Farmington was grappling with the divisive issue of abolitionism; many people in town were either indifferent to or opposed to changes to the current gradual emancipation legislation. There was a significant minority of influential and wealthy citizens who favored abolitionism. Many abolitionists in Farmington were members of the same social and familial networks. Numerous members of Charlotte’s extended family were abolitionists, such as her cousin-in-law, Austin F. Williams, her uncle Timothy Cowles, her cousin Chauncey Cowles and her brother, Samuel S. Cowles, who opened an abolitionist newspaper in Hartford. Charlotte was a staunch abolitionist and the modern day researcher can delve into her thoughts thanks to the numerous letters she wrote to her brother, Samuel S. Cowles, currently housed at the Connecticut Historical Society. Charlotte’s letters reveal a strong willed woman who discussed everyday life in Farmington, abolitionist activities and her true feelings on slavery.
Samuel and Charlotte’s parents were Horace and Mary Anne Cowles; of 10 children, only Samuel, Charlotte and another sister, Mary Ann, survived to adulthood. Their father, Horace Cowles, was a merchant active in the temperance and abolitionist movements. Charlotte and Samuel Cowles’ 94 letter correspondence, 91 letters from Charlotte and 3 letters from Samuel, spans from 1833 to 1841, and a single letter was penned in 1846. Charlotte’s letters are historically significant, because it is very rare to have a women’s first person perspective on a significant issue such as abolition. In addition, Charlotte wrote these letters between the ages of 13 and 25, which shows her intelligence and maturity about controversial issues at such a young age. Many of Charlotte’s letters detail the activities of various members of the Cowles family and she provides amusing updates about her life, such as her dinner plans and she described an episode where she went “sleighing.” Furthermore, Charlotte discussed births, marriages and deaths of family members and bemoaned the unpleasant winter weather. She constantly asked her brother when he would visit and if he could pick up certain items for her in Hartford. Charlotte’s charming prose and detailed descriptions offer a remarkable glance into everyday life in Farmington in the 1830s.
Charlotte’s letters give unique insight into the lives of the Amistad Africans, while they stayed in Farmington for roughly nine months before they returned to Africa. She described the Mendi as “beautiful” and “elegant” and even admitted that she was embarrassed by her lavish praise of one of the Mendi named Banyeh. Charlotte befriended many of the Mendi and listened to stories of their “adventure” from Africa to Farmington. The Mendi helped Charlotte understand the true horrors of slavery; she stated, “we read and we talk about these things [slavery], but as long as we do not see the victims, we know nothing of them.” The Cowles’ family housed one of the Mendi girls, Ka-me or Kagne, and she seemed “very contented, so far as we can judge from her happy looks and cheerful words.” Charlotte goes into detail about the Mendi’s appearance, impressive work ethic and their adaptation of white culture; “they looked very neat and orderly, and behaved as if they had been to church all their lives.
Charlotte Cowles referenced many nationally known abolitionists such as Alvan Stewart, John Anthony Copeland, Jr. and a “Mr. Burt” who lectured about abolitionism in Farmington. Charlotte’s depth of knowledge about scholarly literature and abolitionist newspapers was quite impressive as was her command of different political ideologies and politicians. For example, Charlotte discussed a speech given by past Governor of Liberia, Rev. John Pinney, who advocated for colonization, or the transportation of African Americans back to Africa, which was a concept Charlotte thoroughly refuted. In addition, she highlighted the fierce anti-abolition sentiment in town who held their own anti-abolition meetings in protest; “it was a high day for the rioters…who came in throngs.” In her letters, Charlotte described activities of Farmington’s abolitionists such as attending anti-slavery lectures, writing the constitution for the Anti-Slavery Society and hiding fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad. Charlotte told her brother about a fugitive slave hiding in their family home; “I think the man who is with us now, (we call him Thomas) is the noblest specimen of the ‘Southerners’ I have ever seen. We are all very much attached to him indeed.” Charlotte revealed her intimate feelings of slavery in her letters; “I hardly know when slavery seems most accursed; when we see a man reduced by it almost to a brute, — or when we think that there among its victims such men as Thomas, who are still noble, dignified and unsubdued, notwithstanding all they have suffered.” Charlotte’s views on slavery reflects the opinions of a national group of individuals who endeavored to end slavery in the United States.
Charlotte Cowles’ letters are a fascinating insight into an abolitionist’s mind and daily life in Farmington during the 1830s. Her letters are an incredible repository of information about Farmington’s abolitionist activity and her first hand observations of the Mendi are instrumental for understanding the ramifications the Amistad had on the abolitionist movement. Thanks to the Connecticut Historical Society, Charlotte’s delightful prose and historic points of view will be preserved for future generations of scholars.
For further reading:
“List of Sites.” Connecticut Freedom Trail. 2016. http://ctfreedomtrail.org/trail/amistad.
Bickford, Christopher. Farmington in Connecticut. Canaan, NH: Phoenix Publishing,1982.
Cowles, Charlotte. Charlotte Cowles to Samuel S. Cowles. Cowles and Samuel Cowles correspondence, 1833-1841, 1846. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, Connecticut.
Cowles, Charlotte. Charlotte Cowles and Samuel Cowles correspondence, 1833-1841, 1846. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, Connecticut.
Author: Kevin Simon
When the founders came to Farmington they looked to create a pious paradise on Earth. With diligence and hard work they created a community in their own image, righteous, and upright. But not everything was as perfect as the first families intended. Some dark traits came with them to the new world. By the turn of the seventeenth century some alarming events took place that would challenge their idyllic world.
A Two Sides of a Coin: What drives a Mother to Kill, and a Wife to Murder?
In the quiet little hamlet of Farmington there were two murders. One was a crime of necessity; the other, an act of passion. Amy Munn murdered her child on the night of March 11, 1698. As an unwed mother and a servant in the home of Samuel Wadsworth she was in no position to raise a child. Beyond the financial responsibility of raising a child Amy knew she would be convicted of fornication, fined and whipped before the community. Infanticide was a capital crime, but Munn was not executed. She was convicted of notorious negligence. Her charges were reduced for a lack of witnesses, though the circumstantial evidence was damning. What pushed a mother to such an extreme? We will never know, but there were pressures on young people at this time to remain chaste. Each small New England town had an interest in preventing illegitimate births, concerned that these new children to become a financial burden on the community.
Abigail Thomson was quite another matter. Described by her neighbors as quarrelsome and termagant she berated and abused her husband regularly. On December 17, 1705, matters came to a head when in a fit of rage she flung a pair of tailoring shears at her husband, piercing his skull. Poor Thomas clung to life for nearly twenty days, suffering from his wound, before he passed away.
During the depositions, Abigail’s harsh nature was exposed. She was known to threaten her husband and say she would be the death of him. A neighbor, Joseph North, recalled on multiple occasions she chased him from the house and threw rocks at him. At first Abigail denied throwing the shears in anger, but then when that story was not believed she claimed he had beaten her with a broom, and she struck him in self defense. Not a single deposition was made in her defense. The court was not moved.
Abigail was sentenced to death, but received a stay when she claimed pregnancy. Hopefully, Abigail named her daughter Mercy delivered in 1706. Mercy went into the care of her uncle who lived in Wallingford, but Abigail would not get a reprieve. She was believed to be executed in May of 1708. These women demonstrated rare instances of violence in a quiet community, but they were actors in their own right, however the final case was a victim of her circumstances.
A Person Before the Law: The Sad Case of Hannah Norton
When Hannah Norton came to court things did not go well for her. Her legal entanglements diminished her standing in her community and before the law. Hannah Norton married Samuel North and started an uneventful life in Farmington. Her quiet life unraveled after her husband died in 1683. The widow North stayed with her neighbors, the Ortons, for several days, then returned home. A few weeks later Thomas Hancox accused her of unclean acts with John Orton. Hancox was her jilted suitor.
By North’s account she was assaulted. Orton’s story was different. He testified that she took his hand and gave him rum. Even Orton’s wife supported her husband, saying the widow North, “loved his company.” Both Orton and the North were fined, twenty pounds and seven pounds respectively. In what must have been an excruciating letter North begged for forgiveness from God and the court for her unclean acts, but did not budge from her claim of assault.
But this was not the end of the widow North. Just three years later another controversy arose. Hannah’s new husband, John Rew, accused Matthew Woodruff of fathering her child. Woodruff was an associate of her first husband Samuel. Both Woodruff and Hannah denied this and so did the Court of assistance, dismissing the charges and Rew’s appeal. One can only imagine how Hannah’s reputation must have suffered having a husband who publicly questioned the paternity of his child.
The new Mrs. Rew was not finished in court, though this final case omitted her name. When John Rew came home one night in October of 1719, he was in for one big surprise. His home had been completely cleared out. The impressive inventory stolen included warming pans, a dresser, and cookware. Rew, found his cupboards bare, and exclaimed they left him “not so much as a rag to wipe my fingers” During the night Roger Orvis and Samuel Warner cleaned out his house, and divvied up the goods hiding them under the floor boards of their homes.
When the men were hauled in front of the judge they claimed Rew’s wife, Hannah, had given them permission to take the items. The argument John Rew made to get back his goods was a final blow to his wife, whom he claimed could not settle his debts, “for she is not a person in law.” He argued that when bound to a man she did not have to power to dispense with his goods, even those brought as dowry. The sad case of Hannah Norton, assaulted by her neighbor, disgraced by her husband, whose husband questioned her legal identity, is a story of both women’s oppression and women’s resistance. One can only hope Hannah’s story had more happiness than the courts revealed.
Moving left to right, point 1 is the location of Thomas Thomson’s home where he was killed. Point 2 is the location of the alleged assault on Hannah North. The last point is the location of Samuel Wadsworth’s home, where Amy Munn lived.
Recommended Readings about Women and Crime in New England
- Dayton, Cornelia Hughes. Women Before the Bar: Gender, Law, and Society in Connecticut, 1639-1789. 3rd ed. edition. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1995.
- Hearn, Daniel Allen. Legal Executions in New England: A Comprehensive Reference, 1623-1960. McFarland, 1999.
- Hull, N. E. H. Female Felons: Women and Serious Crime in Colonial Massachusetts. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.
- Karlsen, Carol F. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1998.
- Mann, Bruce H. Neighbors and Strangers: Law and Community in Early Connecticut. 1st New edition edition. The University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
- Roth, Randolph. “Child Murder in New England.” Social Science History 25, no. 1 (2001): 101–47.
- Salmon, Marylynn. “The Legal Status of Women in Early America: A Reappraisal.” Law and History Review 1, no. 1 (1983): 129–51. doi:10.2307/744005.
Author: Anthony Vinci
In Farmington, Connecticut, the Wampey family was considered one of the most prominent families. Elijah Wampey, the father of eight children, played a crucial role in advancing Christianity beyond Connecticut and to both New York and Massachusetts. He became interested in advancing Native Americans’ knowledge of English law and individual land ownership, a common characteristic among Puritans. This increased confidence among the local Indians helped them to send letters to the Connecticut General Assembly, which assisted in their move to Oneida, New York and West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where they acquired individual land. While at Farmington, in Wampey’s house, Joseph Johnson was offered the schoolteacher job in 1772 and the residence was often used for Christian meetings. Wampey’s children, Wampey Jr. and Hannah Wampey also frequently came in contact with Johnson who was their schoolteacher, preacher, and community leader.
Along with Johnson, Wampey played a critical role in ensuring New England Natives received individual land in Oneida. On December 23, 1773, Johnson wrote a circular letter to the seven towns of New England, urging each one to send a representative to the Oneida conference. The letter was signed by some of the most prestigious Tunxis Tribe members that included: Solomon Mossuck, Daniel Mossuck, Andrew Corcomp, Solomon Adams, David Robin, and Elijah Wampey. As a result of Johnson’s request, four representatives on the first week of January 1774, set out to meet at Kanawarohare. Joseph Johnson represented Mohegan, Elijah Wampey for Farmington, Jacob Fowler went for Montauk and Groton, and Samuel Tobias for Charlestown, Rhode Island.
On May 25, 1774, Wampey wrote to the Connecticut General Assembly to receive an English law book. In this memorial, Wampey asked the General Assembly to help the Tunxis tribe become more proficient with English literature and the laws of Connecticut, by giving them a law book. This information would help the Natives uphold the regulations set forth by the officials of the Connecticut colony. Leaders of the Tunxis tribe, including Wampey, Mossuck, Samuel Adams, and Thomas Moses, made the disclaimer that the Christian Natives had been instructed in writing and reading English with the help of the Bible. A better understanding of colonial jurisdiction allowed Christian Natives to become more accustomed to English culture.
In 1775, Wampey temporarily lived in Oneida but retained ties to the land in Farmington. He received Native land on the west side of the Pequabuck River in Farmington in 1777. Initially, Wampey supported Johnson but broke off relations with him in 1776. He was a trustee at Brotherton until the residents became upset about the start of the Revolutionary War. He then moved from Oneida land to West Stockbridge.
One of Wampey’s most famous contributions came on October 13, 1780, when former Tunxis tribe members wrote from West Stockbridge, Massachusetts to the Connecticut Assembly in order to fund the spread of Christian education. Elijah Wampey, who once lived in Farmington, was a community leader in West Stockbridge, where he moved to seek a better life. Wampey and the West Stockbridge council asked Daniel Simon of the Narragansett tribe to donate to the continued education of Christian Natives. Samuel Kirkland, a community member in West Stockbridge, endorsed the charity of Christian education for Native tribes. George Wyllys, a Connecticut native, gave thirty pounds to the West Stockbridge public treasury that would be used by Kirkland to promote the spread of Christian education. State support helped fund the West Stockbridge School and indicated that Christian education was important to those from the Tunxis tribe. After Wampey’s time in West Stockbridge, he returned to Brotherton to endorse Native Americans renting land to American settlers. Until his death in 1802, Wampey lived on lot 117 in Brotherton.
Before Wampey broke ties with Joseph Johnson, his children often interacted with him through school related activities. On December 17, 1772, Johnson disciplined three scholars for acting out inappropriately; the three students were Luke Mossock, Lucy Mossock, and Elijah Wampey Jr. Initially, Johnson threatened the students, which made them behave temporarily. Afterwards, Johnson was informed that the students continued to act out and as a result he “made them a Sad Example of Disobeying the School Orders.” Johnson appeared distraught and hoped it would be the last occurrence of inappropriate student behavior while at Farmington. He expected more from the children of two of the most prominent families in Farmington, the Wampeys and Mossucks. Additionally, a couple of weeks after the school incident, Johnson could not attend the singing meetings he implemented twice per week, due to personal injuries. On December 29, 1772, Johnson hurt his leg and was later advised to go to Hannah Wampey’s house, who nursed him back to health.
Due to Wampey’s leadership qualities, nearly all of the Tunxis Natives respected him. Along with other leaders of the Farmington community, Wampey helped advance English customs like law and individual land ownership to help Christian Natives progress in English society. Wampey was a leader in the Christian Native American movement that Johnson and many Tunxis tribe members embraced. Throughout the move from Oneida to West Stockbridge, Wampey maintained ties in Connecticut and readily supported endeavors to advance Christian Native teachings. Due to Wampey’s status as a community leader at Farmington, his children often interacted with school teacher, Joseph Johnson. Wampey Jr. was a student of Johnson and Hannah helped nurse the schoolteacher back to health. The expectation level associated with the Wampey name, allowed Elijah Sr. to flourish as a community leader in Farmington, Oneida and West Stockbridge. In every community he lived, Wampey played a crucial role in advancing Native Americans awareness of English law, individual land, and Christian education.
Johnson, Joseph. To Do Good to My Indian Brethren the Writings of Joseph Johnson. 1751-1776, ed., Laura J. Murray. Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.
Love, W. Deloss. Samson Occom and The Christian Indians of New England, Syracuse. NY, Syracuse University Press, 2000.
Occom, Samson. The Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan: Literature and Leadership in Eighteenth-Century Native America. ed., Joanna Brooks. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2006.
Wampey, Elijah, “Memorial of Connecticut Indians at West Stockbridge.” Yale.edu, findit.library.yale.edu/yipp/catalog/digcoll:2664.
Wampey, Elijah, “Memorial of the Tunxis with regard to Obtaining a Law Book.” Yale.edu, findit.library.yale.edu/catalog/digcoll:2600.
Wampey, Elijah, “Wampey, Elijah, 1734-1802.” Yale.edu, http://yipp.yale.edu/bio/bibliography/wampey-elijah-1734-1802.
There are sometimes problems taking history outside the classroom. You can do it the easy way, or you can do it the hard way. Let me explain. The easy way is that you go to a beautifully preserved colonial village like Farmington. You can amble comfortably along a Main Street lined with perfectly preserved eighteenth-century treasures. You have an informative brochure to show you the way.
Or you can head out to the Great Swamp Society’s 1712, now hidden, settlement in Berlin, and “build your own,” as they say. This is our version of “hidden history.” It’s history the hard way.
Here are some of the rules of thumb, axioms, methodologies and techniques you’ll need to be successful. First, “hidden history” comes in pieces. It’s not in one place, not on one path, or in one era. It makes you think hard. It always starts with a church and ends with a cemetery. There are always brooks or small rivers with dams in between that connect them. There are always old mill buildings converted to trendy condos along the way. There is usually a train station and generic retail nearby. Last, what you learned in history class always applies, but in ways you never imagined.
We’ve suggested a little reading and provided a simple map. Don’t gorge yourself on names and locations. They interfere with “hidden history.” Just bring your creativity, common sense, sangfroid, and good humor.
To whet your appetite though, you should know that the Great Swamp Society was a rare and incredible community. In 1712, its founders broke away the First Society of Farmington who established the First Church. Independent of their ancestors, they built a fort, a church and incredibly successful microeconomy. Between 1725 and the Revolutionary War they ran huge farms, built more that twenty mills, taverns and tanneries along the dozens of swamp streams, roads and rivers. They traded timber and horses for molasses, sugar and probably salves, with the West Indies. They distilled rum and drank lots of it. They had lots of children – 16 or 17 in some cases. Just about all of them, had slaves, too. And they did it all in the Great Swamp.
Take the Christian Lane exit off Route 9, south. Head right over to the Second Church at 312 Percival Avenue. (If you’ve been alert enough to this point, you have a GPS and a tablet to get you there and some basics on the church). The most interesting thing about the church besides its classic Puritan architecture and impeccable wooden construction may be its message sign. The message reads: “Truce is Better Than Friction.” What hidden historical irony. If only they got it about three hundred years ago they could have resolved the bitter dispute that drove half of their congregation to build their own meeting house on the other side of town.
The mill building itself is late 19th century vintage. And, like a lot of them that have survived, it has been turned into trendy condos. Before we ponder the why, how and who (hidden history) questions that may apply to it, lets get to the water. A relatively small river, the Mattabasset, cascades off a high dam that makes Paper Goods Pond behind it and flows between a deep embankment along the rear edge of the property. It’s clear from the height of the falls and the angle of the first sluiceway there, thats how the stream gets squeezed into a narrow channel, before it widens again, that there were at least two to three very early mills here. You notice that there are old concrete foundations here and there along the river. Pilgrims, as you know, didn’t do concrete. Think Samuel Brownson, saw mills, grist mills. Think hydropower turbines. Think paper cups.
The trendy condo factory is asking us some tough questions. The main one is, of course, “How much do these trendy condos cost?” We can figure that out fast, using a “hidden history” version of prosopography called condography. We do it here by reading the parking lot. How many parking spaces are there? What kind of cars? Equals average income per unit estimate. Multiply by 2.5. You don’t need a spreadsheet. It’s basically common sense. You can also ask at the sales office. There are three similar, humble single-family houses looking at you from across the street. They are identical, but disguised. How? Who lived there originally? When were they built?
Next, stop at Fred’s Deli, a small old store, with a hand painted sign, with customers from the small houses around it. How much do Fred’s grinders cost? More or less than the average for the Berlin area? Well, they cost about the same, but are much bigger. A solid “rule of thumb” is that people in small houses eat bigger grinders. To test the thesis, get the Pastrami Bomb.
Ahead, our last look at the Mattabasset shows you how transportation systems, rivers, roads and rails often follow the same routes with villages and towns clustered nearby.
Then over to the Christian Lane Cemetery, a marvelous place. They are always connected by water at the opposite end of the path from the church. At the church water means life, baptism, youth, hope and sermons. In between the water offers power and fishing. They put cemeteries near worn out streams because they know it is peaceful. And, because the land around them is cheap. Why? Right. It’s swampy.
But what happened to the Great Swamp Society? No trace of it here but these glued and bandaged gravestones rotting in this forsaken lot. Mary Hart’s marker is knocked over, lying in a bed of freshly dug dirt. She was Gen. Selah Hart’s wife dead over 250 years ago. No distinguished Colonials or Puritan churches here to commemorate the Great Swamp Society’s incredible community. Why is Christian Lane lined with junk car lots, recycling plants, Budget Rental trucks, animal control operations and small manufacturers that spread out all over the beautiful flat land and defile the Mattabasset? Did the Society do something terribly wrong? And, where did Mary Hart go? Cemeteries are always a dead end. Usually.
There is just one last question, maybe the most important one. The CT Paranormal Searchers, a group that has studied this cemetery, wonders: “Do the spirits of early settlers still remain at this place?” Do you think maybe that’s the answer?
For Further Reading:
Berlin Historical Society. “The History of Berlin” www.berlincthistorical.org
North, Catharine M. History of Berlin, Connecticut. New Haven: The Tuttle Morehouse & Taylor Company, 1916.
Pawlowski, Robert E. “The Great Swamp Society, The Role of Land, Location and Slave Labor in the Evolution of a Mid-18th Century Farmington Microeconomy”