Hidden History in the Great Swamp

Author: Robert Pawlowskichurch sign

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.

map

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.

waterfall

     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.

mill condo

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.

narrow river

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.

old mill site

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?

worker cottages

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.

fred's deli

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.

cemetery sign

     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.

mary hart

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

CT Paranormal Searchers. www.ctparanormalsearchers.weebly.com cy1171@messiah.edu.

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”

 

Mary Barnes: Last Witch Hanged In Connecticut

Author: Sandra Whitney

On January 6, 1662, Mary Barnes was taken from her home in Farmington CT, more than likely by John Andrews, the local constable/sheriff, and taken to Hartford where she was indicted for witchcraft. She was approximately 32 years old at that time and had four children. There is not a lot written down about Mary Barnes in the historical records.  Who was Mary Barnes?  How did this Farmington goodwife became involved in the witch-hunt that was going on in Hartford in 1662?

Mary Barnes was born circa 1631 in either England or Hartford, Connecticut.  She married Thomas Barnes in 1648. There are no records of their marriage listed in the records. They moved from Hartford to become two of the original settlers of Farmington, CT. They had four children: Sarah, born circa 1649; Benjamin, born 1653; Joseph, born 1655; and Hannah, born 1657.  Hannah died a few months after her mother was hanged.

Farmington at that time was a model Puritan town dominated by the Congregational church.  Thomas Barnes was a member of the church and two of his children were baptized in the church.  Mary Barnes was not a member of the church.  Members of the town, whether or not they were church members, were expected to obey all of the strict moral and legal codes of the time.  Farmington was a small community of a few hundred residents, almost all of whom lived within a 3-square-mile area surrounding the village center.  There was much scrutiny of the colonists’ activities by their neighbors and not much chance of keeping anything secret.  There is much to speculate on Mary’s relationships with her neighbors.

Map of Farmington

Map of Farmington

The Barnes family were not unknown to the Particular Court at the time. Thomas Barnes made a complaint against James Tills, a servant of John Miggs, claiming that Tills stole his scythe and his ox. The outcome of that case was that Tills was severely whipped, put into stocks and forced to apologize publicly to Barnes.  The records of the Particular Court dated May 17th, 1694 state “as also that a like warrant shall be directed to the constable for apprending and bring upp to particular court Mary Barnes of their town.”    This refers to a mention of a previous charge of adultery brought up in a different case against someone else.  There are no records of any follow-up on this warrant and there is also nothing about what the charges might be.  In any case, charges were never filed.

Mary Barnes would have been familiar with the cases of witchcraft which were being prosecuted at that time.  She testified in 1655 in the case against Nicholas Bayley and his wife of Farmington.  She spoke of conversations she had with Mrs. Bayley and the fact that Mrs. Bayley had quarrels with Thomas Barnes concerning ducks and pork. Mr. and Mrs. Bayley fled to Rhode Island.  Mary Barnes would have known Rebecca Greensmith long before Mrs. Greensmith accused her of witchcraft in 1662. Mary’ own indictment, trial and execution occurred during a very short period of time.  Her indictment and trial were on January 3rd and she was hanged, along with Nathaniel and Rebecca Greensmith, on January 25, 1663.  According to the records on the Particular Court of Connecticut, her indictment reads, “Mary Barnes thou are here Indited by ye name of Mary Barnes for not haveing the fear of God before thyne eyes.  Thou hast entertained familiarity with Satan the great enemy of God and mankind and by his help has acted things in a preternaturally way beyond ye ordinary Course of nature for which according to ye Law of God and ye established Laws of this colony thou deserved to die.

“The Prisoner pleaded not guilty and referd her self for trial by ye Jury

“The Jury returned that they find ye Prisoners Guilty of ye Inditement.“

The magistrates involved were Matthew Allen, Daniel Clark, Richard Treat, Henry Wolcott, Samuel Wyllys and Lt. John Allyn. The jury was Samuel Boreman, John Coles, Lt. Walter Fyler, John Gilbert, Samuel Hale. Captain Samuel Marshal, Ensign John Olmstead, William Wadsworth, Robert Webster, Gregory Winterton and Nathaniel Willett. There is no record of Mary Barnes saying anything in her defense.  What was unusual about Mary Barnes’ indictment was that she was not identified as the wife of Thomas Barnes nor was Thomas Barnes indicted separately. There is no record of Thomas Barnes ever coming to the defense of his wife. It is not known if he even attended the trial.

The timing of Mary Barnes’ trial was unfortunate.  Governor John Winthrop, Jr. had sailed to England in 1661 on government business to deal with the issue of a royal charter.  Governor Winthrop had a deep interest in alchemy, a tolerance of religious matters and political acumen.  No one was hanged for witchcraft from the time he was elected in 1657.  The witch-hunt in Hartford did not begin until 1662. It is likely that he would have stopped the trials if he were not away in England during this time.

Rebecca Greensmith, Nathaniel Greensmith and Mary Barnes were taken by oxcart to a wooden scaffold set up at Gallows Hill near the cow pasture in Hartford.  Crowds gathered, because executions were public events and were treated both as a warning and as a time for merriment.  Mary’s children were  ages 16 through age 6. It is not recorded if they attended the hanging or who took care of them during this time.  It is also not recorded if Thomas Barnes attended the hanging.  What is recorded is that Thomas Barnes paid the jail keeper the fee of 21 shillings for keeping Mary in the jail for the three weeks between her trial and her execution.  According to tradition, the Greensmiths were executed first and then Mary Barnes was executed.  Mary Barnes thus is the last person hanged in Connecticut for witchcraft.

Thomas Barnes did not leave Farmington after his wife’s death, even though he did have the connections and the assets to do so.  On March 3, 1662, three months later, he signed a marriage contract with his neighbor John Andrews for the hand of his daughter Mary Andrews. As part of the marriage contract, Barnes agreed to “put out all of his children excepting his son Benjamin Barnes; however, if the aforesaid Barnes, together with the desire of his wife, shall see it comfortable for himself and his wife and child, he hath liberty to keep his daughter Sarah at home with him, to be serviceable to him unit she shall depart from her natural life or unit God shall dispose of her in marriage.” Mary Andrews was only 20 at the time and Thomas Barnes was 48.   Thomas Barnes wrote his will on June 9th, 1668.  In this will, he left his estate to Mary Andrews Barnes and their two sons. His children by his first wife are mentioned in the following manner “to my children which are already gone from me and disposed in marriage I have formerly given according to my Ability, and which I expect they shall aquiesse.”

It seems as if Mary Barnes was resigned to the inevitability of her fate.  However, the why of what happens is a mystery which may never be solved.  Her memory has not been lost in history.   Her name keeps appearing alongside the names of the other men and women who suffered similar fates during the colonial period.  There is a continued interest in the history of witches and witchcraft which exists up to the current day.  In 2013, the Stanley-Whitman House held a symposium on colonial New England history of witchcraft.  There was a witchcraft trial exhibit and various panel discussions.  Also included on that day was a performance of a play written by Virginia Wolf entitled “In a Preternatural Way: The Witchcraft Trial of Mary Barnes.” It is hoped, by various people, that the State of Connecticut will someday pass a law to exonerate the memory of Mary Barnes.

Map of colonial Hartford

Map of colonial Hartford

Recommended Reading:

Butler, Joanne.  Witches vs. Winthrops. October 2013. Accessed March 27, 2016. http://rebelpuritan.blogspot.com/2013/10/witches-vs-winthrop_31.html.

Karlsen, Carol F. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.

Taylor, John M. The Witchcraft Delusion In Colonia Connecticust . New York : Grafton Press, 1908.

Telian, Bernice Mabel Grafton.  My Grandmother Mary was Hanged. Delhi, NY: Privately Published, 2013.

Wolf,  Virginia.  In a Preternatural Way: The Witchcraft Trial of Mar Barnes. Stanley-Whitman House, Farmington, 2009.

 

 

Selah Hart: Saint and Sinner

The Hart Quarter of Farmington.

The Hart Quarter of Farmington.

Author: Christopher Menapace

In 1777, Selah Hart was sitting in prison, captured by British forces in battle, while at the same time his slave Pharaoh was attacking General Howe’s British forces in Germantown, Pennsylvania. These two men were fighting for America’s freedom, yet only one of them was free.  Born in Farmington, Connecticut in 1732 to Nathaniel Hart and Abigail Hooker, Selah Hart was raised in a wealthy and prominent family.  The Harts were influential members of their community, so much so that early maps of Farmington show the southwestern end of town being labeled as the “Hart Quarter.”  Their family was one of the first settlers in 1635 purchasing land from the Tunxis Indians, and Steven Hart, who was the grandfather of Selah, was selected as the town’s first deacon.  In his own time, Selah became a leader of Farmington and was commonly referred to in later texts as a “Patron Saint of Connecticut.”  Selah even has a monument to him located in Farmington describing him as an officer of the Revolution.  That is what most information about Selah Hart will say, that he was a godly man who fought for freedom and liberty in the Revolution, and while his deeds in that fight cannot be denied, that is not all Selah Hart should be known for.  Despite fighting for the freedom of the colonies, Selah Hart kept freedom from others through slavery, and did not free his slaves until provided with economic compensation.

Tombstone to Selah Hart, no longer extant.

Tombstone to Selah Hart, no longer extant.

At the time of the Revolution, Selah Hart owned at least two slaves, they were named Jack and Pharoah Hart.  Yet the information on these two slave men is almost non-existent, especially when it comes to their early lives. It is unclear how Selah Hart obtained these two slaves, although it is possible that he purchased them, because his father’s Will has no mention of “slaves” or “servants” in the inventory.  Slave ownership was more common in Farmington than most people would think, and the Hart family was no different.  Members of Selah’s family like his Uncle John, Thomas, or on his mother’s side, Samuel Hooker, owned slaves.  Many elites in Farmington owned slaves at some point even during the time of the Revolution when these same people fought for freedom and liberty, just like Selah Hart.

Promotion of Selah Hart to Brigadier-General

Promotion of Selah Hart to Brigadier-General

Not only was Selah an elite citizen of Farmington, during his life, Selah was a magistrate, a constable, a deacon, a brigadier-general, a treasurer, and many other useful positions in town.  He owned a large farm that was quite profitable, using the labor of his two slaves to yield plentiful crops.  Selah continued to contribute to the wealth his family had created over the generations in Farmington, but it was the Revolution that propelled Selah into sainthood within the town.  Selah’s military career began before the Revolution, entering as ensign in 1762, he quickly shot up the ranks to lieutenant in 1763, and captain in 1764.  It was then in 1776 when Selah joined the Revolution’s cause, being appointed to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and shortly after to the rank of Colonel of the Fifteenth Regiment Militia of Connecticut.  His forces were sent to defend New York, and it was during a skirmish that Selah was cut off and captured by British forces on August 27th, 1776.  Selah was later freed in an officer’s exchange and in 1779 was appointed Brigadier-General of the Sixth Brigade of Militia for Connecticut.  After the war, Selah was sent as a delegate to the State Convention for the adoption of the Constitution in 1788, and continued to be an influential citizen in Connecticut.

Monument to Selah Hart in Farmington.

Monument to Selah Hart in Farmington.

During this time, Selah’s slave Pharoah was also fighting in the Revolution and was involved in the battles of Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1777, and Monmouth, New Jersey in 1778.  Selah was to grant Pharoah his freedom for three years’ service in the Continental Army, while Selah received a portion of Pharoah’s wages as compensation for the economic hardship that freeing Pharoah would cause Selah.  When Pharoah’s term was up, Selah demanded not just a portion of his wages, but the entirety of them.  Even though it put Pharoah in considerable economic hardship to do this, having put his life on the line for the freedom of others; a freedom he had never experiences, Pharoah had no choice but to give up all his wages to Selah.  The source of Selah’s insistence on obtaining the entirety of Pharoah’s wages most likely was because Selah’s imprisonment had put him into debt, for he did not receive his army wages while imprisoned by the British, on top of that, his slave Pharoah was no longer working the fields and making him money.

For a man claiming that he held these truths to be self-evident, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” why then did he keep these freedoms from Jack and Pharoah? Both eventually became free, and it is said that Jack did not have to pay for his freedom, but this was not the case for Pharoah.  Selah Hart believed in freedom and liberty for all men, and risked his life in pursuit of that goal, but that goal took a back seat to his own economic benefit.  Selah was one of many slave-owners in Farmington during the Revolution, and not all of these people freed their slaves, some fought tooth and nail to keep them.  It was not the purpose of this writing to decry Selah Hart as a monster, but merely to put him into context of the era he lived in, to provide a second side to Selah, for he was both a hero of the Revolution, and a slave-owner.

Recommended for further reading:

Bickford, Christopher. Farmington in Connecticut. Farmington: Phoenix Pub, 1982.

Camp, David N. History of New Britain with Sketches of Farmington and Berlin, Connecticut. New Britain, CT: Thomas & Company, 1889.

Gay, Julius. Farmington Papers. Hartford: The Case, Lockwood & Brainard co, 1929.

 

Hiking to Connecticut’s Historic Hermit Havens

Plaque on rocks near entrance of Will Warren's Den

 

Author: Jennifer Lawton Schloat

Connecticut is an ideal destination for day hikers.  There are many blazed trails through rocky areas on hills and mountains with many caves. These caves have sheltered people throughout history. Some Connecticut towns are home to hidden historic sites, deep in the woods, secluded locations. These were already off-the-beaten-path in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Several havens of early American hermits and outcasts have survived the centuries, untouched by the population expansion and modernization of the last two centuries. Farmington is no exception.

Sign for Will Warren's Den

A local legend dating back to the late eighteenth century reveals the location of a cave, the home of Will Warren the Hermit of Rattlesnake Mountain. Today hikers can park their cars in a small lot suited for about a dozen motor vehicles near Pinnacle Road at 159 U.S. 6 (Colt Highway) in Farmington. Connected to this lot is an entrance to a cleared, blazed trail which leads to a section of the Metacomet Trail, beautifully maintained by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association. From there the hike is an uphill journey of approximately 1.2 miles. Will Warren’s cave entrance is marked with a brass plaque attached to the rock with the words “Will Warren’s Den. Given to the Town of Farmington by William Steele Wadsworth Lifetime Resident of Farmington June 1987.”

The curious hiker will want to know more about who lived in this beautiful locale so many years ago. The legend has been revamped and manipulated over the last two centuries.  Some versions claim that he was either an African American or a Native American or a combination of both.  The tale usually begins with Will Warren breaking the Sabbath by fishing in the Farmington River on a Sunday. For this offense, he was tied to the Farmington whipping post and scourged.  In retaliation, Warren set fire to a barn and then fled the scene headed towards New Britain. The men of Farmington pursued him, assisted by bloodhounds. As night fell, Will Warren became lost in the woods and ended-up running in circles.  With the rising of the sun, he found himself on a high hill, looking down on the village of Farmington. He saw the angry citizens gathered below. Next Will heard the howl of the dogs. As he fled the dogs and Congregationalists he met two “squaws”. He told these Indian women his story. “One of the squaws seized him in her arms and ran, and never stopped until she had deposited him in his cave.” Thus the bloodhounds came to a standstill where Warren’s scent was lost. The men gave-up their search and allowed Will Warren to live-out the remainder of his life on Rattlesnake Mountain as a hermit, possibly with a Native American wife. For years after Warren fled his hunters, the citizens of the town would say, “blame it on Will Warren,” whenever sheep were lost in Farmington. The reason for Warren’s presence in Farmington is still shrouded in mystery.

The hiker can proceed from Will Warren’s Den to another cave in neighboring city, Bristol.  This cave was the home of a legendary man named Jack. Like Will Warren, he has been described as both a cave-dwelling black man and as a Native American. Jack’s legend also includes an Indian woman, possibly a Tunxis person, who may have been Jack’s spouse.

Another colonial Connecticutian, who eschewed established Puritan society was Mary Barber or Barbour, born in 1714, daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Wethersfield. Against her father’s wishes, she married (circa 1740) a vagabond Native American man, a Narragansett, named James Chaugham. James and Mary left Wethersfield, escaped into the Connecticut wilderness where they settled close to the Massachusetts border, on the side of Ragged Mountain near the Farmington River. James and Mary had eight children, six of whom remained in the forest, married and had children of their own. Some of the Chaugham children and grandchildren married the descendants of freed black slaves, others married Indians. Thus, Mary and James founded a village of mixed-race outcasts.

Traveling south to North Haven the hiker can visit the site of Connecticut hermit, Peter Brockett.  According to legend, Peter Brockett decided to live in seclusion, after suffering a crippling spinal cord injury during the Revolutionary War. The location selected by Brockett had been called “Indian Rock” during colonial times. Sometime around 1783, Peter Brockett assumed residence at the northern base of the mountain in a hut which he constructed for himself. The Brocketts were a prosperous family in the area. Thus it is difficult to imagine the circumstances that would lead to allowing Peter to live in such a reduced condition. Perhaps Peter was a black man, formerly enslaved by the Brocketts. All five of these people, William Warren, Jack of Bristol, Peter Brockett, Mary Barber and James Chaugham were self-exiles, people who made the deliberate decision to separate themselves physically from settled, white society in Connecticut.

Long before 1492, Europeans fairytales revealed a fascination with thrilling ideas about the deep, dark, wild forest as the hidden secretive domain of frightening, magical figures such as witches, monsters, hermits and ogres. After Europeans began settling in North America, these woodland tropes became associated with myths regarding Native Americans. As a result, when people of European ancestry decided to live apart from settled white society in New England they were often described as Native Americans.

Recommended Reading:

Barbara Donahue. Speaking for Ourselves: African American Life in Farmington, Connecticut.   Farmington: Farmington Historical Society, 1998.

Kai T Erikson. Wayward Puritans: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1966.

Kenneth L. Feder, A Village of Outcasts: Historical Archeology and Documentary Research at the Lighthouse Site, Mountain View: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1994.

 

 

 

In a Secret and Clandestine Manner: 18th-Century Thieves in Farmington

Author: Amanda Keenan

Colonial Farmington residents were not immune to crime. They faced property loss at the hands of their neighbors, visitors, and vagabonds. It is difficult to understand the frequency of burglary in the 1700s as individual towns kept separate court records and these documents have since been lost or archived in repositories spread across the state. Thankfully, Farmington’s Solomon Whitman’s papers still exist at the Connecticut State Library. Thus his judgments for twelve accused thieves during his tenure as Justice of the Peace in the town from 1763-1769 are accessible and provide a deeper look at life for colonists and their experiences with the lower courts.

Beginning in 1735, Connecticut legislature sought to further refine the prosecution and punishment revolving around stealing property. In this first legislation they laid out escalating reprimands for first, second, and third offenses. The law defined petty theft as fewer than 20 shillings with the first crime being punished by any combination of: fined three times cost of the theft, branding, whipped fifteen stripes, and to have the right ear cropped. With a second theft conviction a person could be whipped twenty five times and have the left ear cut off. Finally, the third time a court found a burglar guilty the punishment was death. Yet although these crimes could be violently punished judges in Connecticut did not choose to frequently brand, crop, or kill offenders.

Detail from the cover from A Brief Account of the Life and the Abominable Thefts of the Notorious Isaac Frasier

Detail from the cover from A Brief Account of the Life and the Abominable Thefts of the Notorious Isaac Frasier

Connecticut courts convicted several thieves three or more times, but only one faced the death penalty: Isaac Frasier. Frasier continually escaped authorities and burglarized his way across New England in the 1760s and Farmington hosted this infamous burglar during a brief respite from crime in the Spring in 1761. In his biography he stated that he “went to Farmington, in Connecticut, where I inlisted (sic) under Capt. King, but at the marching of the company being out of health (small pox), was left behind.” Frasier tried to work as a laborer in Newtown, but quickly returned to his wicked ways. He became a notorious burglar throughout Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts until his execution in Fairfield on September 7, 1768.

During this same time Connecticut colonists became part of the larger booming consumer market that flooded their homes with manufactured goods, providing easy fodder for burglars. Previously, the General Assembly of Connecticut heard cases from Farmington regarding theft involved livestock, food, or farming equipment. This changed after 1750 as the American colonial market for imported English goods rose 120 percent. By the end of the 1760s, burglars in Farmington commonly stole clothing, handkerchiefs, and other sundry house goods.

The home of Justice of the Peace Solomon Whitman is now a museum.

The home of Justice of the Peace Solomon Whitman is now a museum.

The horrific physical punishments inflicted on convicted thieves escalated as higher valued goods became easier to steal. In Solomon Whitman’s time he never disciplined a thief with branding or ear cropping and only sentenced two of them, Zophar Andrews and John Lewis, to be whipped. Other justices were not so lenient and took a harsher approach to criminal behavior. When authorities published information regarding the thief Isaac Frasier, they pointed to his many obvious markings as a repeatedly punished thief that he acquired after leaving Farmington. Newspapers printed that he had, “both his Ears cropt, and branded twice on his Forehead with the Capital Letter B.” Physical scars, brands, and cropped ears haunted criminals well after their crimes had been committed.

Punishment for theft had a monetary component, often charging thieves with fines, damages, and fees to repay their victims for what they stole. In 1767 a new law reaffirmed the previous punishments and that thieves who stole over forty shillings could be sold into servitude to repay their damages and fees. Solomon Whitman had already begun this practice in 1766, so perhaps it was a solution practiced by the lower courts that eventually became formalized into law. The total debt and length of time of their servitude illustrated how these communities valued gender, age, and race when concerning payment through labor terms. Whitman sentenced three thieves to varying indentured terms to reimburse their plaintiffs. Transient John Hackenbottom, who stole a Holland shirt, silk handkerchief, and other goods from Moses Hills was sentenced to four months service. Whitman assigned mixed race African transient Syntha Bells who stole household goods from both Daniel Newell and to work for them for a year. Zophar Andrews of Farmington also received a term of servitude to New Haven resident Theophilos Goodger for a year after stealing money from him.

Dividing their total debt by the months Whitman sentenced them; it reveals a clearer picture of the value the community placed on these individuals. Hackenbottom owed £2-17-0, which Whitman judged could be repaid with four months servitude, which amounted to fourteen shillings and three pence per month. Meanwhile, Bells owed £2-18-6 for her crimes and Andrews had fees amounting to £7-10-11. They were both sentenced to a year, making her monthly worth approximately four shillings and ten pence a month, while Andrews’ repaid his damages at twelve shillings and seventeen pence per month. Andrews and Hackenbottom’s monthly worth as white males were remarkably similar. Compared to these men, Bells, a transient African woman, had her labor valued at a third. Regardless of the fact that they were both vagrants with no communal attachments, Hackenbottom worked for four months to repay what took Bells a full year.

Isaac Bidwell’s gravestone at the Memento Mori Cemetery, Farmington. Syntha Bells stole household goods from Bidwell and Daniel Newell in October 1766.

Isaac Bidwell’s gravestone at the Memento Mori Cemetery, Farmington. Syntha Bells stole household goods from Bidwell and Daniel Newell in October 1766.

In the mid-18th century, Farmington residents brought more material wealth into their homes and saw theft in their community. Instead of inflicting physical harm on convicts, Whitman frequently chose to have them pay with money or labor for their damages. As a result of being unable to pay their fees this allowed three burglars to live in the communities where they had committed crimes and local officials like Whitman quantified the contributions these criminals could provide to their communities and judged how long it would take them to repay their victims.

 

Further Reading:

Daniels, Bruce C. The Connecticut Town: Growth and Development, 1635 – 1790. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1979.

Frasier, Isaac. A Brife (sic) Account of the Life and Abominable Thefts of the Notorious Isaac Frasier. (New Haven, CT: T.&S. Green, 1768. Early American Imprints. Series 1. Evans 41823.

Gaskins, Richard. “Changes in the Criminal Law in Eighteenth-Century Connecticut.” The American Journal of Legal History 25, no. 4 (1981): 309–42. doi:10.2307/845276.

Piersen, William Dillon. Black Yankees: The Development of an Afro-American Subculture in Eighteenth-Century New England. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988.

Miss Sarah Porter: The Beginnings of Women’s Advanced Education in Farmington

Author: Marisa Ferretti

One day in 1843, as Mr. Noah Porter and his daughter pulled away in their carriage from their Farmington home, an idea he had for quite some time found its way into his daughter Sarah’s consideration. Taking on the responsibility of running her own school did not seem too outrageous, given her teaching experience. Their conversation on a casual afternoon was the beginning was what would become Miss Sarah Porter’s legacy.

Miss Sarah Porter was born and raised in Farmington, Connecticut. As the daughter of an affluent reverend, wealth brought her more opportunities than most other women of her time. Though she was primarily self-educated in pedagogy, she studied under Dr. E. A. Andrews of Yale College. Her prior teaching experience came from teaching positions in Springfield, Philadelphia and Buffalo. Despite these excellent opportunities, she always longed to be home in Farmington, with her family and all the things that brought her happiness. Soon enough, Sarah migrated home where she was to be presented with an opportunity that would define her future.

After her father introduced his idea to her, plans for the project were made up and set into action. The school got its start when Miss Porter and her family recruited children from Farmington as well as a few from outside the county to attend her daily classes. Those who lived too far to travel daily resided in Miss Porter’s house under her supervision. Sarah Porter taught her students in a rented upstairs room of the historic “stone store,” at 96 Main Street. She worked there alongside two other historic figures from Farmington: John Hooker, a lawyer, and Joseph Hawley who, so influenced by Hooker, began studying law, passed the bar and went on to serve as a Civil War General, as well as both Governor and Senator of the state of Connecticut.

In 1847, Miss Porter relocated to the schoolhouse that was built by the Farmington Female Seminary Association. Soon enough, the word of Miss Porter’s educational sessions spread throughout the county, and interest in the school grew. She purchased what used to be a hotel for those that were traveling up and down the Farmington River, and transformed it into the main house for her girls. The former hotel still stands today and has continued to be used by Miss Porter’s School. It sits at 60 Main Street, right down the road from the previously used, “stone store.”

Miss Porter's School

Miss Porter’s School

By 1854, the school was all the rage of the region. Families fought to get their girls into Miss Porter’s, as the openings were limited. This was partly due to the amount of housing they had for the girls. At this point girls were residing in the main building with Miss Porter. Though the number of applicants per year was growing rapidly, a second dormitory wouldn’t be acquired until some 40 years later. Her family’s influence throughout New England was what got the ball rolling however, the success of Miss Porter’s pupils were the true reason why her school took off. The curriculum she implemented was intensive, compelling the girls to go above and beyond.

Theodate Pope, Alice Hamilton, and a student believed to be Agnes Hamilton, 1888. Courtesy of Miss Porter’s School.

Theodate Pope, Alice Hamilton, and a student believed to be Agnes Hamilton, 1888. Courtesy of Miss Porter’s School.

The girls at Miss Porter’s School were given a special schedule per day. Each student was given an individual itinerary for classes however the school as a whole allotted time during the day to go on walks and eat lunch. Miss Porter was adamant that her students had a life outside of the classroom. She believed that activities such as athletics and theatre were was in which the girls could gain self-esteem and become more confident. Despite her efforts to get the girls out of the classroom, Miss Porter was still very strict when it came to their studies. Every day, the students were given time for study hall, in order to complete the work that they had received in class. Miss Porter monitored the girls closely at this time as she strived for them to perform to the best of their ability. Every night Miss Porter would lead the girls in prayer as well, as it was an important way to end their day.

As the number of girls at the school increased, so did the importance of learning womanly duties. Porter viewed her school as a stepping-stone toward the girl’s ultimate goal of becoming a wife, taking responsibility of a household including a husband and children. She taught the girls to be wives and mothers as that was their ultimate job in adulthood. Miss Porter’s school was a transition for these girls from their childhood home to running a home of their own.

Miss Porter’s work in Farmington is, to this day, unparalleled. She ran the school up until her death in 1900, when it was put under the supervision of her close family. Upon her passing, the students enrolled in Miss Porter’s School at the time worked to establish a memorial in her honor. The First Church of Christ gratefully allowed the construction of a building in the name of Miss Sarah Porter on their property, a way for the girls to show admiration for their beloved headmistress. The building now sits at 75 Main Street in Farmington, where it can be seen by all the traffic passing through town. Miss Sarah Porter’s legacy will live on in Farmington indefinitely.

Recommended for Further Reading:

Connecticut Historical Commission, Historic Resources Inventory Building and Structures: Site 202, Parsonage, Farmington, CT, 1875. Farmington, CT: State Doc. 1973. http://farmingtonlibraries.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/96-Main-Street.pdf

Howe, J. Olin. “Sarah Porter of Farmington.” Boston Evening Transcript, October 15, 1913. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2249&dat=19131015&id=-RonAAAAIBAJ&sjid=cgMGAAAAIBAJ&pg=5923,3065498&hl=en.

“Sarah Porter Memorial.” First Church 1652: First Church of Christ, Congregational. http://www.firstchurch1652.org/Porter-Memorial-Hall.

Sloane, William M. “Sarah Porter: Her Unique Educational Work.” Century Illustrated Magazine (1881-1906) LX, no. 3 (07, 1900): 344. http://0-search.proquest.com.www.consuls.org/docview/125508798?accountid=9970.

Stevenson, Louise L. “Sarah Porter Educates Useful Ladies, 1847-1900.” Winterthur Portfolio 18, no. 1 (Spring 1983): 39-59. America: History & Life, EBSCOhost (accessed October 28, 2015). http://0-search.ebscohost.com.www.consuls.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ahl&AN=37011224&site=ehost-live&scope=site

 

The Derrin Farmhouses of Avon, Connecticut

 

Author: Janet M. Conner, Avon Historical Society

The Avon Historical Society has leased the Derrin farmhouse, located at 249 West Avon Road, and one acre of land on which it is situated from the State since 1996. It is open for tours during the summer months at no charge.

A history of the house is detailed in a 2014 Historic Resources Inventory. A deed for the house, dated September 24, 1766, conveying the property to Lucy Page, says that “39 acres of land in the Town of Farmington together with 1/3 part of the house and barn thereon standing….part of a farm of land containing 103 acres owned by me [John Page of Branford] and the said Stephen Darin [husband of Lucy Page, John Page’s father] and is undivided and lies on the West side of the River, against Nod.” The earliest section of the Derrin farmhouse predates 1766. Experts were consulted to examine the construction of the house, including support beams in the basement and the foundation, and have dated the additions to the house as c. 1810.

According to the Town of Avon 1997 Architectural Survey, “…the house appears to date from the period 1830-1860, when the gable-end-to-the-road orientation and Greek Revival detailing were prevalent. If the date refers to the present house in whole or in part, an earlier house must have been substantially remodeled or else incorporated into a later 19th century dwelling…” The house remained in the Derrin family throughout the nineteenth century.Slide1The house is also listed in the Historic Buildings of Connecticut.  “The house is located in Horse Guard State Park and is owned by the State of Connecticut Military Department for the First Company Governor’s Horse Guard, which is based across the street. The house is currently being restored by the Avon Historical Society.”

The Derrin family is an old one in Connecticut. According to the The New England Historical and Genealogical Register: “Ephraim Darwin was admitted a planter at Guilford, Dec. 11, 1672 and had his portion of land out of the third division, according to his list of estate. The rocks at the head of Fair Street, Guilford, were long called Ephraim’s Rocks, after him.” [Ephraim’s son Daniel Darwin was the father of the Stephen Darwin (Darin) who married Lucy Page in the 1766 deed mentioned above.]

The Derrin family history illustrates well the varied occupations of Connecticut residents and their connections to other places. In a letter to their parents written in 1841, Dan Derrin and Ammi Derrin detail their adventures to Arkansas and the Cherokee Nation. They were selling clocks and surviving by their wits. But they also looked forward to returning home to Avon and building or adding on to houses. “We have been thinking if you see cause to make some addition to the old house or build a new one, we will help you along with it when we get home. The reason why we write is that if you should all be well, you can be making some arrangements for the same as it takes time to build to advantage such as getting timber for joists, studs &c. & for the frame. There is nothing like having everything ready when a job is to be completed. When commencing the plan, you can adopt as you please for your own convenience. Brother Ammi has drawn a plan up. He puts it in [the letter so you] can see what his views is. But I think some other plan would be as convenient & less expensive – or at least not as long as he has drew the plan.” Trading in horse flesh and eating squirrels and wild turkeys had perhaps run its course.

The widow of Ammi G. Derrin, Sarah (nee Woodford) (d. 1872) lived in the house up to her death. It is unclear if ownership passed on to one of their sons, but no one occupied it thereafter. In the mid-1950s, the farmhouse and property were owned by the Governor’s Horse Guard and it became the caretaker’s house.

The Avon Historical Society, by securing grant money and with the use of volunteer labor, has worked these many years to refurbish the old farmhouse including a new roof, partial electrical, and heating system. The house is furnished sparsely to represent the early farming days in the town’s history.

Recently, a 30 foot deep stone well was found under the oldest section of the house. This may yield some interesting information to add to our knowledge base. Also, in 1995 the State Archaeologist at the time, Nicholas Bellantoni, conducted a one day dig around the foundation of the house and recovered 635 artifacts. Some of these are actually items once owned by the Derrins over many generations. It was the opinion of the archaeologist, based on the finding of quartz and flint, that Native Americans may have lived on the property thousands of years ago.

Former Derrin House located at 289 West Avon Road, Avon, Connecticut

The current owners of the home at 289 West Avon Road, John and Chrissie D’Esopo, who began its restoration in 1985, believe that the oldest section of their home dates to c. 1760. This section, which still has its original hearth for cooking and heating, is located in the center of the dwelling. In the historic records from the Marian M. Hunter History Room at the Avon Free Public Library [credit: Betty Morton and Herbert Buttles, Nov. 1978, Land Records III] the owner at that time Mr. Laird (1978) “….understands that the ell of the house was moved from an academy and attached to this house. [This is believed to have been the Avon Academy located on the corner of Country Club and West Avon Roads today].

Slide1

According to the Town of Avon 1997 Architectural Survey: “This house is one of the best-preserved examples of Greek revival architecture in Avon, highly unusual for completely retaining appropriate sash, exterior siding, brick chimney, and all its characteristic Greek Revival features.” “…[The features] are all typical of the way that rural house carpenters sought to make a farmhouse convey the sense of an ancient Greek temple.”

“According to the old maps [1855, 1869], the house was the home of Daniel Derrin, a farmer and one-time Whig representative to the State legislature. Derrin reported owning 149 acres in the 1880s.” During his time in the legislature Daniel Derrin was interested in educational policy, a priority of the Whig Party in the state.

Genealogy: Daniel D. Derrin was the brother of Ammi G. Derrin (249 West Avon Road farmhouse) and was born about 1816. They were the sons of Timothy and Polly Goodrich Derrin. Daniel married Mary L. Jacobs and they had two children: Lizzie C. born 1861, and Winfield Scott, born 1863. Winfield was the last Derrin owner listed in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census. Like his father, Winfield was interested in education, and he served on the Board of Education for the State of Connecticut.

 299 West Avon Road, Derrin farmhouse (no longer extant)

The file record at the Marian M. Hunter History Room at the Avon Free Public Library [credit: Betty Morton, The Avon Story, Land Records Group III] contains two old maps, an 1855 map marked Wd. Derrin [Winfield Scott Derrin] and an 1869 map marked J. H. Derrin (Jairus). This house was reputed to have burned down and was located South of today’s 299 West Avon Rd.

According to the federal census of 1850, Jairus H. Derrin, the son of Stephen (1759) and Mabel Dorman, was born in 1813.  He died on December 5, 1872 at the age of 59. He is buried West Avon Cemetery, Avon, CT in a separate grave from the Derrin obelisk.

Further reading:

Bickford, Christopher. Farmington in Connecticut. Phoenix Publishing, 1982.

Howard, Nora Oakes. Catch’d on Fire: The Journals of Rufus Hawley, Avon, Connecticut. The History Press, 2011 (from the journals of a prominent minister who lived in the early nineteenth century).

MacKie, Mary Frances. Avon, Connecticut: An Historical Story. Phoenix Publishing, 1988.

‘Spared and Shared’ – Old Letters Spared from Obscurity: https://sparedandshared.wordpress.com/

*Pen and Ink rendition of the Derrin Farmhouse credit: Deb Key Imagery

 

 

The Impressive Isabella Beecher Hooker

 

 

 

Author: Meghan Buchanan

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Farmington, CT is the quintessential picturesque New England town. Though many have not heard its name, this little town nestled in the Farmington Valley has a rich and fascinating history. But even more interestingly, this little town had Isabella Beecher Hooker.

Born in Litchfield in 1822, Isabella Beecher Hooker was a fascinating woman. The daughter of well-known preacher, Lyman Beecher, Isabella grew up in a family full of powerful and influential people. Her father, Lyman Beecher, was a distinguished minister who preached throughout country about the perils of intemperance. Her eldest sister, Catharine Beecher, pioneered early women’s education. And her older sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, was an abolitionist and author of the famous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

beech2.jpg

Growing up the youngest daughter of such a profound family instilled within Isabella the desires for education, self-determination, and ultimately the desire for the right to vote. Isabella Beecher Hooker was a proud suffragette who campaigned for years for the right to vote. Her husband, John Hooker, played a major role in inspiring her in her pursuit of this goal. One night, John and Isabella stumbled upon a passage pertaining to a married woman’s status under the law. According to the law, a married woman and man were considered one person. Therefore, a woman had no legal rights separate from her husband. This both shocked and troubled Isabella greatly. It was at that moment she decided to dedicate her life to the suffrage movement.

After her marriage to John Hooker in 1841, Isabella resided in the Edward Hooker House, High Street in Farmington where she lived for over 10 years.

Hooker

Though she spent the majority of her time raising her three children, she became increasingly involved within the suffrage movement. Isabella was especially supportive of a bill that would allow women the right to vote on issues regarding the sale of liquor. She argued that the issue of temperance affected women more strongly than men and that because of that, women should have the right to vote on it. Isabella knew that women were dependent on their husbands for their livelihood. Therefore, if a woman’s husband squandered money on liquor, her own wellbeing—and that of her children’s— was at stake.

After moving to Nook Farm in Hartford in the early 1850s, Isabella sought to form a suffrage organization. In 1869 she succeeded and founded the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association. After forming her association, she began to spend more of her time traveling, speaking at conventions, and addressing Congress. What brought Isabella to suffrage initially, the idea that a woman had no legal rights separate from her husband, is what spurred her in her first goal – to pass a bill that would allow women to own property. In 1877, after fighting to have it passed for seven years, Isabella was finally successful. With the help of her husband, who helped write it, a bill was passed by the state legislature that allowed married women the right to own property.

Mrs. Hooker became very well know for her work regarding suffrage not just throughout Connecticut, but throughout the country as well. During her lifetime, she worked with prominent women within the movement such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. In her own right, Isabella was just as influential as these prominent well-known women. She worked tirelessly in her efforts and never wavered in her belief that women deserved the right to vote.

 

Sources:

 

Anthony, Susan B., and Isabella Beecher Hooker and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Memorial of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Isabella Beecher Hooker, Elizabeth L. Bladen, Olympia Brown, Susan B. Anthony, and Josephine L. Griffing, to the Congress of the United States, and the Arguments Thereon Before the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Senate. Chronicle Publishing Company, 1872.

 

Campbell, Susan. Tempest Tossed, The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University press, 2014

Hooker, John. “WOMAN SUFFRAGE.” Hartford Daily Courant (1840-1887), Mar 06, 1879.

“The Senate And Woman Suffrage.” New York Times (1857-1922), Feb 23, 1878.

White, Barbara A. The Beecher Sisters. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003.

 

 

 

Joseph Johnson and the Farmington Indian School (ca. 1772/3)

Author: Katherine Cotuc

It was a usual busy day on January 22, 1776 for Joseph Johnson. Back in Mohegan, Johnson was living on a farm and spending most of his time completing everyday chores. He looked over his horses, worked on construction around the house, cut wood, and questioned the state of his immortal soul.

Mohegan meetinghouse, 1831

Mohegan meetinghouse, 1831

Johnson was born and raised in Mohegan, Connecticut as a Christian Indian. He was baptized in a Christian church and sent to Eleazar Wheelock’s Charity School in Lebanon, Connecticut, commonly known as Moor’s Charity School (named for the donor of the land). During the eighteenth century many colonists were investing their time and money in creating Indian schools where they could assimilate Native Americans into European culture. While at Moor’s Charity School, Johnson learned English, Greek, and Latin, and studied the Bible. Johnson also participated in chores around the school and worked in the fields or washed dishes. His time at the Charity School was rough. He constantly found himself feeling alone and confused about the kind of person he was. His teacher, Eleazar Wheelock, constantly made him feel inferior because of his Native American roots. In many of Johnson’s letters to Wheelock he closes them by referring to himself as his “poor good for nothing Black Indian.” With doubt filling his mind, Johnson constantly wondered what his purpose in life was. He questioned his faith and whether he would ever be able to amount to anything, like his teacher Wheelock.

During 1769, Johnson began his travels throughout the colonies. Stepping into different towns and encountering new tribes, Johnson realized how distant he felt from his Native American roots. Finished with collecting money for the Charity school, Johnson wanted to do something for himself. Later in the year he signed onto a whaling ship as a sailor and was able to travel without the expectations to preach or teach. With the sea and whole world at his feet, Johnson could not stop thinking about God. He constantly found himself questioning whether God would be able to forgive him for his sins and whether he would be able to fully accept God and His plan. Late in 1771, after his personal battles, Johnson decided to return back to Mohegan where he had an epiphany about his true identity.

In Mohegan, Johnson kept various diaries describing his every day activities and thoughts. Even though he grew up in Mohegan and viewed himself as an Indian, it was tough to identify with the community. Wheelock’s teachings about Native Americans instilled in his mind that the traditional Native American lifestyle was demonic. Wheelock’s teaching made Johnson believe he was a savage. Even with his internal doubts, he kept attending church and practiced Wheelock’s teachings. He had always managed to keep his faith in God even though he knew that he rebelled against Him many times. Throughout his writings he constantly called for God to give him an answer on how he could be saved.

On May 24, 1772, Johnson declared his dedication to God. Throughout his whole life Johnson had wondered whether he would ever be worthy to accept God. He questioned if he was ready to take on the responsibility of preaching and truly place his life in God’s hand. Knowing that he is not perfect and will never reach perfection, he believed that with constant help from God one day he will be able to go to heaven and live in peace. This epiphany made him realize that it is not about being perfect or a certain race, it was about being ready to change into a holy person. Johnson was ready to embark on a whole new phase in his life, and he did so in Farmington, Connecticut.

The Tunxis Indians, who were indigenous to the Farmington area, sold their land in 1640 to the governor of the Connecticut Colony. The Tunxis’ relationship with the English settlers was uneasy. They found it difficult to keep their identity and customs as they constantly found themselves in disputes with neighboring tribes. Local farmers eventually bought the land they owned in Indian Neck and they lost their livelihood. Since conversion was a goal for many settlers, in 1706 the General Assembly of Connecticut prepared a plan to assimilate the Tunxis Indians. In 1727 it was ordered that all Tunxis Indians parents had to teach their children how to read in English and catechize them.

Throughout the years the relationship between the Tunxis and the settlers of Farmington did get better. With the help of assimilation they were able to communicate and work out their differences. The settlers stated, “…the greater part of Indians, descendants of s[ai]d tribe that now continue in said Farmington are persons duly taught the use of letters and are well instructed in economy and are well able to bargain and contract for themselves.” Joseph Johnson visited Farmington in 1772 and was accepted by both the white population and Native Americans. After Johnson gave a sermon, written by Christian Indian Samson Occom, on the execution of Moses Paul, a Native American who was tried for murder, he was offered a teaching position in the local Indian school. The entire town was inspired by the sermon’s explanation of sin eventually led to death. Johnson was given work at a school in Farmington and kept a diary about his experiences both in the school and his time in Farmington.

As the colonists began to create Indian schools, they each had a specific goal in mind. Depending on where the schools were located, the goals were different. For example in New England many of the Indian schools focused on spreading Christianity because of the Puritan population. In the south they were more focused on teaching Native Americans about trade and business. Margaret Szasz, a historian of Native American education, found three common major criteria to the success in most Indian schools. First, each organization focused on, “the need to Christianize and civilize the natives.” Second, a colonist advertised the importance of Indian schools and willing to visit different Native American tribes to retrieve students. Finally, the most important aspect of success for an Indian school was the support and involvement of a Native American student. Having a Native American who had extensive knowledge in European culture, language, literature, and Christianity was vital. It created a middle ground between the colonists and Native Americans. Being able to relate to an instructor created a safer environment where students showed willingness to participate and learn. Joseph Johnson became a middleman between the two cultures and showed the benefits of assimilating into European culture.

During Johnson’s time at Farmington he taught at the Indian school in the west end, near a bend in the Farmington River, in a classroom that started off with nine students.

Currently a public school district, this area was once home to Joseph Johnson's Indian School.

Currently a public school district, this area was once home to Joseph Johnson’s Indian School.

Johnson opened and closed the school day with prayer, making Christianity the core of all lessons. He also prepared songbooks for his students because enjoyed music. He held practices where his students prepared for upcoming performances. His students performed for several people around Farmington and by the end of ten weeks he had sixteen students in total. Johnson’s experience at the Farmington school set forth his final mission.

Johnson noticed that Native Americans had the chance to advance in the changing world around them. He began to communicate with Samson Occom about opportunities for Christianized Indians. He believed that a new settlement composed of Christianized Indian could succeed using European laws and regulations. Occom did not see a place for Christianized Indians in European settlements. He believed that even though they successfully acquired knowledge from their teachers and were fluent in English and dedicated Christians, the settlers still viewed them in a negative light because of their heritage. Occom believed that Christianized Indians were capable of doing more than farming or taking orders from settlers. Both Johnson and Occom decided to use their relationship with the Native Americans from Oneida to acquire land and start the new settlement of Brothertown in New York. In 1797, 14,662 acres were bought for Brothertown.

Current Oneida Indian Reservation was the eastern border of Brothertown; the Falls were the western border.

Current Oneida Indian Reservation was the eastern border of Brothertown; the Falls were the western border.

Almost all of the Tunxis Indians followed Johnson in his new mission and moved to Brothertown. Brothertown’s government closely mirrored the Connecticut Colony. Brothertown was not successful in their attempts of creating a new settlement and Johnson died in 1776 before being able to name the settlement. Yet he inspired several Native Americans, not only with Brothertown but also with teaching and preaching. At Occom’s funeral, over 300 Native Americans from different tribes attended. Even with the failed mission, it motivated other Christianized Indians to find a voice of their own.

Recommended Reading:

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.

Johnson, Joseph. “Joseph Johnson’s Diary: Manuscripts Related to Samson Occom and Eleazar Wheelock’s Early Indian Students.” October 9, 1771. http://libarchive.dartmouth.edu/cdm/ref/collection/occom/id/3271.

Samson Occom, “Sermon Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul, an Indian.” Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1800, http://0-docs.newsbank.com.www.consuls.org/openurl?ctx_ver=z39.88-2004&rft_id=info:sid/iw.newsbank.com:EAIX
&rft_val_format=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:ctx&rft_dat=0F2FD3921A869A88&svc_dat=Evans:eaidoc&req_dat=C540BE2B4CF341FCAA4733EAEC27E0C6.

Ava Chamberlain, “The Execution of Moses Paul: A Story of Crime and Contact in Eighteenth-Century Connecticut,” New England Quarterly 77, no. 3 (2004): 414.

Julius Gay, Farmington Papers. Salem, Massachusetts: Lockwood and Brainard Co., 1997.

Lopenzina, Drew. “‘The Whole Wilderness Shall Blossom as the Rose:’ Samson Occom, Joseph Johnson, and the Question of Native Settlement on Cooper’s Frontier.” American Quarterly 58, no. 4 (2006): 1119-1145.

For more information about Native American literacy:

“On the Education of Indian Youth,” The Theological Magazine, or, Synopsis of Modern Religious Sentiment. American Periodicals, http://0-search.proquest.com.www.consuls.org/docview/88878433?accountid=9970

Wyss, Hilary E. “Mary Occom and Sarah Simon: Gender and Native Literacy in Colonial New England.” New England Quarterly 79, no. 3 (2006): 387-412.

Wyss, Hilary E. English Letters and Indian Literacies: Reading, Writing, and New England Missionary Schools, 1750-1830. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.

Taverns of Colonial Farmington

Author: Alex Tremblay

There was no place more necessary to early American life than the tavern. For travelers it was a much needed place for rest and food, and for locals, a place of fun and respite from daily life. Yet taverns were a constant thorn in the side of those trying to keep civil order or lead a religiously upright life.

In a meeting of the General Court of Connecticut on June 3, 1644, representatives passed a law requiring all towns in the colony to have at least one ordinary with the abilities to house, feed, and entertain any traveler. These laws were revised periodically in an effort to control what happened in them. Ordinary was the term that was originally given to all public houses such as inns, taverns, and alehouses. Even moreso than in England, taverns served as meeting places, libraries, and post offices, in addition to being places of recreation and drinking. Especially during the winter, church services were sometimes held in them.

One situation unique to the New World was whether taverns ought to entertain Indians. In Connecticut, Indians could and did legally visit taverns. Yet there were laws banning the sale of alcohol to Indians. In a letter to the editor printed in the Boston Evening-Post, the writer discussed how, even with the ban in place, people were still giving and selling alcohol to Indians, knowing full well that they became violent when intoxicated. The writer was saddened by the practice, because he saw it as corrupting an otherwise good and peaceful people, breaking both their bodies and souls. Despite the strong feelings of fear and concern about giving Indians alcohol, there was a popular belief that it was more wrong to “deprive the Indians of any lawful comfort which God alloweth to all men.” Connecticut lawmakers struggled over the dilemma.

Taverns were located along main routes of travel to make it easier for travelers to find them, though the travelers never fully knew what to expect upon arriving at one. The requirements were to be able to house any horses safely, have food for the travelers, and put them in a bed during their stay. Lodgings could range from a room not unlike the shed where the horses were tied up for the night with bread and water for a meal and some mats to sleep on, to a room and services that were more like the equivalent of a modern bed and breakfast.

Between 1741 and 1789 Farmington had at least 39 new registered taverns and inns open their doors. To register a tavern or inn, a person had to be chosen by the people of the town and then approved by two magistrates from the state (later from the county). That did not keep others from opening up unlicensed establishments. The main reason for the licensing of a tavern or inn was to regulate the sale of alcohol, required to be in standard measures so the excise (tax) man could collect his due.

The Elm Tree Inn, 785 Farmington Avenue

The Elm Tree Inn, 785 Farmington Avenue

Both the Elm Tree Inn (ca. 1760-1800), run by Capt. Phineas Lewis as a tavern in Farmington, and the Fuller Tavern (1769-1846), now in a part of Farmington known as Berlin, were well-known stops along a travel route from New York to Springfield, Boston, or Providence. They are also noted as having the distinction of entertaining General George Washington on two separate occasions when he was traveling through Connecticut. Rochambeau’s map of his camp in Farmington prominently shows the location of a tavern.

Barnes' Tavern. Rochambeau's Farmington camp, 1782.

Barnes’ Tavern. Rochambeau’s Farmington camp, 1782.

Established taverns on well traveled routes had staying power. Cook’s Tavern started operation as a tavern in 1769 in a part of Farmington that is now Plainville. This tavern has the rare distinction of never fully ending its business, just transforming itself into a restaurant in 1934. The ownership changed hands from the Cooks to its current owners, who now run it as the restaurant J. Timothy’s Taverne.

Sources:

“Historic Buildings of Connecticut » Blog Archive » Elm Tree Inn (1655).” Accessed May 11, 2015. http://historicbuildingsct.com/?p=1938.

“Historic Buildings of Connecticut » Blog Archive » Fuller’s Tavern (1769).” Accessed May 11, 2015. http://historicbuildingsct.com/?p=15141.

“History.” J Timothy’s Taverne. Accessed May 11, 2015. http://www.jtimothys.com/our-story/history/.

Hammond (James Hammond) Trumbull, ed. The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, April 1636 – April 1665. Vol. 1. Hartford, Ct: Brown & Parsons, 1850.

Lanning, Anne Digan. “Women Tavern-Keepers in the Connecticut River Valley, 1750-1810.” New England Celebrates: Spectacle, Commemoration, and Festivity, The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife Annual Proceedings 2000, 25 (2000): 202–14.

Lathrop, Elise. Early American Inns and Taverns. New York: Tudor Publishing Company, 1935.

“Ordinary, N.” OED Online. Oxford University Press. Accessed May 6, 2015. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/132360.

Sismondo, Christine. America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2011.

Recommended Reading:

Brennan, Thomas E., David Hancock, and Michelle McDonald, eds. Public Drinking in the Early Modern World: Voices From the Tavern, 1500-1800. Vol. 4. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011.

Conroy, David W. “Puritans in Taverns: Law and Popular Culture in Colonial Massachusetts.” In Drinking: Behavior and Belief in Modern History, edited by Susanna Barrows and Robin Room. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1991.

Daniels, Bruce C. Puritans at Play: Leisure and Recreation in Colonial New England. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1995.