Civil History of Thompson, Connecticut

The early politics of the town were strongly federal and conservative, and it was not till 1803 that sixteen votes were cast for the republican or administration party; but so rapid was its growth, enhanced by Methodist and Baptist votes, that in 1806 it cast 96 votes, only 13 less than the federalists. The first Fourth of July celebration on Thompson hill was held by the Jeffersonian republicans the same year-Doctor Knight (postmaster), Captain Jonathan Converse and Joseph Joslin, committee. A bower was put up on the treeless common, a band of music procured, and appropriate toasts prepared. Joseph Wheaton served as president of the day, Elder John Nichols read the declaration of independence and offered prayer, and there was a good entertainment and a good oration, delivered by Elder Amos WW% ells, of Woodstock,” a Baptist minister. The approaching troubles with England checked the growth of this party, Thompson sharing with the majority of Connecticut towns in its dislike of the war of 1812. Unlike many other towns, she made no formal record of hostility, and promptly fulfilled every requisition of government -a number of her citizens performing military service in New London.

A victory of peace was won in 1811, the town consenting after long urging to provide for “the inoculation of the Kine pox among the inhabitants.” A committee was appointed to agree with Doctor Fanchear upon terms and a committee of two in each school district to see that it was faithfully carried out. The persons serving were, in No. 1, George Larned, Eleazer Keith; 2, James Wheaton, Daniel Perrin; 3, Jonathan Nichols, Jr., John Elliott, Jr.; 4, Noadiah Russel, James Webb; 5, John Barrett, Ebenezer Green; 6, Josiah Comins, Marshall Keith; 7, James Bates, Elijah Nichols, Jr.; 8, William Lamson, Jesse Ormsbey; 9, Thomas Chaffee, Isaac Upham; 10, Timothy Sheffield, Elijah Converse; 11, Abel Jacobs, John Keith; 12, Samuel Porter, Jesse Joslin; 13, Dolphus Phipps, Jonathan Waters.

John Nichols was chosen clerk and treasurer in 1814. It having been decided in 1816 by the ecclesiastic society to build a new meeting house on the site of the old one, the town defrayed the expense of removing the old church edifice across the street and fitting up a hall for permanent town purposes. The first page of a new book of town records now ordered by the town chronicled an important change-the inhabitants were notified to meet at the town house July 4th, 1818, to choose delegates to attend a convention to be holden at the state house in Hartford in August for the purpose of forming a constitution of civil government. George Larned and Jonathan Nichols, Jr., were then chosen to represent the town and took part in that weighty public service. October 5th, the freemen were again summoned to give their votes for or against a ratification of the constitution as submitted to their judgment and decision; one hundred and seventy-four voted for ratification, ninety-three against it.

At the annual town meeting following the adoption of the new constitution November 30th, 1815, Benjamin Arnold was chosen moderator; Stephen Crosby, Jesse Ormsbey. Joseph Joslin, James Wheaton, John Bates, selectmen; John Nichols, Jr., town clerk and treasurer; Stephen E. Tefft, constable; for’ highway surveyors by districts-No. 1, Simon Davis; 2, James Wheaton; 3, John Elliott, Jr.; 4, Hezekiah Olney; 5, John Burrell, Jr.; 6, Isaac Davis; 7, Smith Bruce; 8, Alpheus Corbin; 9, Lyman Upham; 10, Ezra Jacobs; 11, Joseph Benson; 12, Rufus Brown; 13, Peter Rickard; 14, Darius Starr; David Munyan, Alpheus Russel, Eseck Aldrich, fence viewers; John Nichols, Jr., Simon Davis, Jr., Stephen Holmes, James Bates, Harvey Lamson, listers; Stephen E. Tefft, collector of rates; Smith Bruce, Amos Green, John Brown, Joel Taylor, Elijah Nichols, grand jurors; Asa Hutchins, Joel Taylor, Archelaus Upham, Millard Bowen, haywards; Rufus Coburn, sealer of weights and measures; Darius Dwight, key keeper of the pound; Josiah Sessions, Amos Green, Jonathan Nichols, Asa Jacobs, Charles Sharpe, tithing men.

Town expenses for the year reported-$1.609.45. Seven hundred and fifty dollars was cheerfully voted by the town the following year as their reasonable proportion of the sum needed for the removal of court house and jail. from Windham to Brooklyn.

Under the new regime of state and county Thompson moved steadily onward, its wealth and population increasing more rapidly than any other town in the county, its thriving manufacturing villages offering remunerative labor and home market. Gradually various improvements were affected; its poor were no longer trundled about town to the lowest bidder, but installed in a comfortable home in the east of the town, with a responsible family to take proper care of them. The upper room of the old town house proving insufficient and inconvenient, a special town building was ordered in 1841. William H. Mason, Faxon Nichols, Talcott Crosby and William Fisher were appointed to fix upon a plan for the proposed building and make a statement of all the expenses. Their report was accepted, the town’s right and interest in the old building sold to Messrs. Erastus Knight and Edward Shaw- Talcott Crosby, Jonathan Nichols and Hezekiah S. Ramsdell appointed a committee for building. In case a town meeting should be needed while the new building was in progress, it was voted to hold the same on the piazza in front of the house of Captain Vernon Stiles, and when the new town house shall have been completed, that it shall be the lawful place for holding town and other public meetings.

After holding several meetings during the summer on the piazza of Captain Stiles’s popular tavern, the town met in its new hall, October 3d, 1842. Jonathan Nichols, Esq., who for twelve years had served as town clerk, was now superseded by Talcott Crosby; George Nichols was chosen moderator; Faxon Nichols, Nelson S. Eddy, Winthrop H. Ballard, James Johnson and Amos Goodell, assessors; John Tourtellotte, Stephen Crosby, Thomas Davis, board of relief; Edward Lippitt, David Wilson, Joseph Tourtellotte, selectmen; Edwin May, constable; Amos Goodell, Silas Bowen, Welcome Bates. Leonard Bugbee. Silas N. Aldrich, grand jurors; George Town, George M. Day, Elijah Carpenter, John Shumway, Pearson C. Tourtellotte, Samuel E. Joy, tithing men; Jeremiah Olney, sealer of weights and measures; Hezekiah Olney, pound keeper; Thomas Davis, Josiah Comins, Joseph Tourtellotte, fence viewers; Talcott Crosby, Jesse Ormsbey, Hezekiah Olney, committee for adjusting town accounts. Expenses were reported as $1,540. Voted, to allow the school visitors one dollar per day each for time actually spent in visiting schools. Petitioners received liberty to hold their singing school in the town house the ensuing season, under such regulations as should be made with the selectmen, as soon as insurance could be effected on the house. At a later meeting voted, ” That the town house be opened for all such meetings as the selectmen shall judge proper, and on such .terms as they may prescribe.” One of the first public meetings held in this house was in the autumn of 1843, when the children of all the public schools in town, having been recently enrolled in temperance societies, were brought together there, to be confirmed and strengthened in temperance sentiment by the thrilling eloquence of a young orator then lately discovered in Worcester-John B. Gough.

As a temperance town Thompson has a fair record. As public opinion became enlightened upon the question, it declined to license the sale of liquor, and when the local option law was promulgated a large majority voted against license. Finding that the law was in many cases evaded, it was voted in 1873 to appropriate a sum of money to suppress the sale of intoxicating liquors; also to appoint Judge Perry an agent to prosecute, with power to employ counsel to carry on said business. As the foreign element has increased in town, attempts have been made to open the question of licensing the sale of liquor, but it has been invariably refused by a large majority.

Within the last ten years a very great change has been made in the expenditures of the town, Thompson proving itself not only alive but fully up to the times in its views of what is demanded by the civilization of the present age. The clumsy wooden bridges of past generations are fast being replaced all over the town by graceful structures of iron, more costly, indeed, but it is hoped far more enduring. The old district highway system, under which every citizen had liberty to leisurely ” work out his own tax ” has been superseded by more modern methods, more effective, indeed, but costing the town annually, perhaps, more than double its whole running expenditures of former years. A far greater number of outside poor are helped, doubling expenses in that quarter. School expenses, formerly hardly worth noting, have become under new laws and administrative theories a very formidable item. The price paid for labor and the salaries of town officers are much augmented. Many improvements have been made of permanent value. Money has been allowed for the improvement and care of the town burying grounds. A very beautiful and complete index of the record books of the town was made by the late Mr. Jerome F. Crosby. The town house has been comfortably fitted up with accommodations for the probate records and for town business.

The expenses of the town for the year ending September 15th, 1888, amounted to the incredible sum of over $26,000. Schools cost $6,579.37; bridges, $5,445.89; roads, $4,441.36; poor house and farm, $1,157.70; outside poor, $1,909.69; officers’ salaries, $993.45; snow bills (blizzard), $905.41; vital statistics, $50.50; state and military tax, $2,715.77. The population in 1880 was 5,051, but has probably increased some hundred; children between four and sixteen years of age, 1,415: grand list, $1,713,420. The present town clerk, registrar and treasurer, James N. Kingsbury, has held the office nearly twenty years. Present selectmen, Oscar Tourtellotte, Thomas G. Steere, George A. Hawkins; assessors, Hiram Arnold, Luther M. Child, Jerome Nichols; board of relief, George Flint, Oscar Robinson; grand jurors, Thomas Wilber, Barton Jacobs, Thomas Ryan, A. E. Jones. Nathaniel Child; constables, William M. Babbitt, William N. Bates, John Tradeau, George A. Putney; school visitors, Stephen Ballard, E. H. Cortiss, E. F. Thompson. Reverend N. J. Pinkham had previously served many years in this office.

A Probate court was constituted in Thompson in 1832, John Nichols, judge. Previous to that date it had been included in Pomfret probate district. The office of judge has been administered by Talcott Crosby, Jonathan Nichols, Alanson Rawson, George Flint, and by others for very brief periods. Judge Flint entered upon service July 4th, 1873.

Source: History of Windham County, Connecticut, Bayles, Richard M.; New York: W.W. Preston, 1889

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