Early Town History of Thompson, Connecticut

In 1727 the non-resident land owners in the colony land north of Killingly, together with Samuel Morris, made another earnest attempt to procure town privileges. Desiring “to have each one enjoy his purchase because it is inhabitants that do make a town, and a great part of the remaining land is rough and broken and but little more fit to be inhabited,” they felt that all interests demanded ” that a new town may be made there, so that we may know what town we are in.” But the forcible pleas and representations of Killingly’s foremost citizens-Joseph Leavens and Joseph Cady-decided the case against them, and it was decreed that a religious society or precinct should be erected instead of the desired township. By act of assembly, May. 1728, a society was formally set off and incorporated, known at first as the Second or -North society of Killingly, and soon after as Thompson` parish. Its southern bound was a line near the present residence of Mr. William Converse, of Putnam, extending west to the Quinebaug and east to Rhode Island. Organization was effected July 9th, 1728. By warrant from justice Joseph. Leavens, the inhabitants of the new precinct met on Quinnatisset hill, at the dwelling house of Hezekiah Sabin. Jonathan Hough was chosen moderator. ” They then voted and chose Sampson Howe clerk for said society; the same, with Hezekiah Sabin and Benjamin Bixby, were chosen committee of the society.” As the first object of their organization, they then voted, ” To hire a minister to preach the gospel in said society, and to begin with us to preach the first Lord’s day in August next ensuing; also, that Mr. \\Tales should be invited to preach the gospel to us and to continue with us for the space of six months.” The place for public worship was not specified, but it was probably in Sabin’s tavern house, as the most accessible from all parts of the society.

At the second society meeting it was proposed. To vote in the peculiars,” meaning the residents west of the Quinebaug. A somewhat singular vote was passed August 13th, viz.: “Whether every man that hath a house and land of his own belonging to this society, shall have liberty to vote and act with us in all affairs relating to the settling the worship of God in said society,” and it passed in the negative. September 9th it was put to a vote, whether the society would ever build a meeting house, and it passed in the affirmative. Feeling their way carefully, item by item, it was agreed that the meeting house should be fifty feet long, forty feet wide and twenty-four feet stud, and that John Comings should be improved to be master workman in hewing and framing-having five shillings a day and his victuals. September 20th, the very important question, where to set the meeting house, vas in order, and it was voted-” That it be set south side and near to the road that leads from John Cooper’s to Benjamin Bixby’s, right before the door of the house of Hezeekiah Sabin, near where was an old wigwam “-a site near the center of the present common. An acre of land for a meeting house was given to the society by Mr. Sabin. ” The affare of building our meeting house ” was entrusted to Nathaniel Merrill, John Wiley, Uriah and Jaazaniah Hosmer, Hezekiah Sabin and Benjamin Bixby as a committee. It was also voted, “To give every man that works about the meeting house three shillings per day, he finding himself; that every man allowed to hew timber shall have three and sixpence; that the oxen that shall go to work about the meeting house shall be allowed eighteen pence per day; a horse that draweth, one shilling; for a cart, one shilling.”

Further legislation in October gave the new society additional territory and powers. The ” Peculiar,” west of the Quinebaug, was formally annexed to the North society of Killingly. A yearly tax of ten shillings upon every hundred acres of land within its bounds was granted for four years, and the society committee empowered to use the money thus raised in building a meeting house and settling an orthodox minister. For preventing law suits and accommodating differences, the tract of land between the old and new north boundary lines, excepting what had been confirmed to original grantees, and needful equivalents, was now made over to Killingly.

Thus organized and equipped, the North society began its career, and joyfully entered upon the task of collecting and preparing timber for the much-desired meeting house. Deprived for so many years of ordinary religious and civil privileges, this happy settlement and hopeful prospect was a matter of great rejoicing. In no other precinct or town within the county was this meeting house work carried on with such alacrity and harmony. ” The people’s hearts were stirred up and they willingly offered themselves.” The little word ” our ” prefixed to all meeting house votes pleasantly indicates a personal sense of proprietorship. All over the large parish men and teams were busily at work. Giant oaks were levelled, hewn and hauled over the rough ways to the appointed site. So earnest and vigorous were the workers. that by November 15th, the society was called to consider how and in what method we shall proceed in order for making preparation for the raising our meeting house.” The method adopted was, ” That every man in said society shall have liberty to bring in provisions and drink what may be thought his proportion.” John Dwight, Benjamin Bixby. Hezekiah Sabin, Edward Converse, Jonathan Clough and Sampson Howe were appointed a committee to take care to provide for the raising. Under such auspices the work was triumphantly accomplished -the first great gathering assembled on Thompson hill.

The “liberty to bring in provisions and drink” had been so bountifully improved, that John Wiley and John Dwight were ordered to take particular account of what each man brought and give him credit for it, “the overplush to pay the ‘rerages of hiring ministers.” The rates allowed for provision were-pork, six pence a pound; beef, four pence; mutton, four pence: suet, eight pence; sugar, twelve pence; butter, one shilling; turnips, one and six pence per bushel; wheat, eight shillings, rye, six shillings; Indian corn, four shillings; cabbages, three pence per head. No stated minister was yet procured, but services were kept up through the winter at Sabin’s tavern. January 20th, 1729, Ensign Green, Jonathan Eaton, Joseph Cady, John Dwight and Edward Converse were deputized “to agree with workmen to finish all the outside work belonging to our meeting house,” and further instructed ” to make Woodstock meeting house their pattern to go by, excepting what said committee shall judge superfluous in said house.” Also voted, “That for the future every man that shall cart one thousand of boards from Green’s mill to the meeting house shall have ten shillings money for the same.” During the following summer the work went on so rapidly that on August 1st a society meeting was held in the new building. Such honest work had been expended upon its massive frame, that after one hundred and sixty years of faithful service, it stands to-day erect and in good condition, the residence of Thompson’s faithful clerk and treasurer. A minister was soon provided for the meeting house. October 16th, it was voted to extend a call to Marston Cabot, of Salem. This call was accepted after due consideration, provided the society fulfilled three articles:

1. Their offer of £200 settlement.

2. That they always keep up the credit of the proposed salary, viz., £80 a year, adding £5 yearly till it reached £100.

3. That they bring him a sufficiency of cord-wood for his own use in the season of it.

Preparations were at once made for church organization and ordination. Platform, pulpit and deacon’s seats were provided, neighboring ministers visited and consulted. January 28th, 1730 (O. S.), was kept as a day of fasting and prayer. Services were held morning and afternoon, conducted by Reverend John Fisk of Killingly, Reverend Ebenezer Williams of Pomfret. Reverend Amos Throop, Woodstock, and before the large assembly was dismissed, “We were incorporated and formed into a distinct church by having the church covenant read and owning our consent to it.” The constituent members of the church in Thompson parish, known as the Second church of Killingly, were: Marston Cabot, .pastor elect, Samuel Converse, James Wilson, John Wiley, Benjamin Bixby, Israel Joslin, Sampson Howe, John Russel, Jonathan Clough, Nathaniel Merrill, Hezekiah Sabin, Edward Converse, Nathaniel Johnson, Ivory Upham, Robert Plank, John Bowers, Ephraim Guile, Henry Green, Benjamin Pudney, Comfort Starr, John Barrett, Richard Bloss, Jonathan Eaton, David Shapley, Thomas Whittemore, Jr., Thomas Converse, Eleazer Green, Samuel Narramore. February 25th the same honored ministers, together with Reverend Messrs. Coit of Plainfield, and Hale of Ashford, assisted in the ordination of Mr. Cabot. Jonathan Eaton and Benjamin Bixby were soon after elected deacons.

Divine worship ” and ordinances being then happily established, various secular affairs claimed the attention of the society. In May, 1730, a military company was organized, with Sampson Howe for captain, Hezekiah Sabin, lieutenant, and John Dwight, ensign. The utter lack of schooling for children was a grievance much in need of abatement. January 15th, 1731, this matter was considered, when it was agreed, ” That there should be four schools kept in this parish, and the school master to be removed into four quarters of this parish.” Four honored citizens, one from each quarter, viz., Jonathan Clough, Joseph Cady, Penuel Child and John Wiley, were straightway empowered “to divide this parish into four parts in order for the benefit, and advantig of having their children educated each quarter in reading and wrighting and sifering.” Spelling in those days was a quite superfluous accomplishment. The ordained “quarters ” differed greatly in size according to the distribution of inhabitants. The Southeast, afterward “The South Neighborhood,” was much the least, being far the most populous; next in size was the Southwest, taking in Cady’s, Eaton’s and other first families, while the great, irregular, sparsely settled ‘Northeast and Northwest seemed almost like separate townships. Committees were chosen for each quarter, to warn the inhabitants to meet together to agree where to set their school houses, viz.: Southeast, Thomas Whitmore and Henry Green; Southwest, James Cady and Samuel Cutler; Northwest, Christopher Peak and Isaac Jewett; Northwest, Comfort Starr and Nathaniel Brown. A schoolmaster eras hired for the year, serving three months in each quarter, the school money being equally divided between each school, according to the number of families that sent their children. to school.”

Continued friction between the non-resident proprietors and Killingly officials resulted in a thorough investigation and settlement, through the agency of Roger Wolcott and other wise counsellors. The farms so early purchased and laid out were solemnly confirmed and Killingly precluded from farther intermeddling by having her own rights allowed to her. The North society, which during the squabble had petitioned to be erected into a township, was pacified and reconfirmed, the assembly at the same date, 1730, changing its name to that of her most distinguished non-resident, Thompson. This family had always manifested a special interest in their Nipmuck purchase; paid without grumbling the tax imposed by the society, and soon after date had the tract laid out into farms and seven substantial English ” tenement housen ” erected. The Dudleys also peaceably fulfilled their legal requirements. ” Esquire Wolcott,” as he was called, sold his farm to sundry purchasers. With Mr. Samuel Morris relations were less amicable. That gentleman indeed paid off-hand the heavy land-tax, but when he found himself enrolled as a stated member of Thompson parish, and bound by law to pay his share of minister’s salary and all other charges, he demurred. The section in which he lived was long supposed to belong to Massachusetts, and all his interests, civil and ecclesiastic, were with that colony, and before the erection of the new parish he had attended church and supported religious worship in Woodstock. At his time of life, and after all his public services, to be compelled to leave the church of his . fathers and attend a new service at so great a distance seemed to him an absurdity, and equally unjust to pay for preaching which he had not heard.

But the ecclesiastic laws of Connecticut were not to be condemned, even by so great a man as ” Governor Morris.” The appointed collector came upon him for lawful dues, and when he refused to pay, took forcible possession of sufficient goods. Mr. Morris indignantly appealed to the assembly, showing, ” that he lived seven miles from Thompson meeting house; never attended service there and never should; lived some miles nearer Woodstock, and had attended there till last winter, when he and others obtained a young gentleman to preach with them, and cheerfully assumed the great charge thereof, that so our families might have the benefit of Christian instruction, and not live like heathens; that he had paid a full tax to help build meeting house in Thompson, and prayed to be excused from paying anything more.” This request was refused on the ground that Thompson had not been properly notified, whereupon Mr. Morris further represented, October, 1731, ” that he could not even in summer, attend worship in Thompson with any tolerable convenience, nor in the winter without extreme peril, because of mountains and rocks to go over and miry swamps to go through; that he had a great regard for the minister at Thompson, and would like to sit under his ministry, but should count it a less evil to stay at home and read good books than to go through so much difficulty and hazard to attend at Thompson parish; that to be obliged to go there would have a tendency to discourage religious inclinations, besides causing a great part of holy time to be spent in very servile labor both to man and beast.”

But none of these arguments, though reiterated year after year with much force and cogency, prevailed against the enforcement of a legal church tax, though a slight abatement was allowed and afterward a half-rate. The cost of collection must have been more than the sum at issue. Again and again the society was called together “to consider how to proceed in our difficulties with Samuel Morris.” Every year committees had to be sent to general assembly to answer these indignant memorials. Legal authorities had to be consulted and paid, while the duty of collecting this disputed tax became so repugnant that many of the best men in the society refused to serve as collector, necessitating the enactment, that every person chosen collector and refusing to serve should be prosecuted in the law. Even as late as 1742, of ter Mr. Morris had helped establish public worship in his own neighborhood at Dudley, and insisted ” that Thompson -was more able to maintain their own minister than he was to help maintain two, and for him to pay so much money to Thompson for nothing, was more than God does, or more than men can reasonably require of their fellow creatures,” he was only released “one-half of all parish taxes.”

In all other respects Thompson enjoyed remarkable harmony. By slow degrees various improvements were effected. The pound so necessary in those days of free commons was constructed in 1735 “a good substantial pound,” thirty feet square, with good white oak posts, and a good cap on top of them, a good gate well hanged with good iron hinges, a good lock and key and good staple and hasp – Hezekiah Sabin, pound keeper. ” A piece of land ” near the French river was given by David Shapley ” for a burying place for said society.” One of the earliest inscriptions to be found in it is that of a near resident, “Mr. Samuel Davis, who died August, 1727, in the 37th year of his age.”

The finishing of the meeting house was delayed for some years. John Wiley and Sampson Howe ” were the men to lay the floor,” Jacob Bixby furnishing for that purpose for .3 per thousand, 500 pitch pine boards that are good. Simon Bryant, Henry Green and John Wiley had charge of constructing ” a body of seats” after the form of those in Woodstock meeting house, using for “stuff,” good sound oak timber. Henry Green, Jr., was employed “to provide plank for seats for our meeting house at 7s. per hundred, and the slit work for the seats at 4s. 6d. per hundred, and plank for the heads at 9s. per hundred, of good white oak timber.” This body of seats occupied the floor center, reserving room for seventeen large square pews against the walls of the house, to be built and owned by such members as were able to bear the expense and were thought worthy of such honor. The delicate duty of selecting these seventeen pew holders was assigned to Captain Howe, Simon Bryant and John Wiley, as a committee of nomination, who presented the subjoined list, which was confirmed by a society vote upon each nominee in succession, viz.: Henry Green, Simon Bryant, David Shapley, John Russel, Captain Howe, Lieutenant Sabin, Joseph Cady, Comfort Starr, Nathaniel Wight. James Wilson, Urian Hosmer, John Younglove, John Wiley, Mrs. Dresser, and her son Jacob, Mr. Dwight and his son John. A space on the north side of the house adjoining the minister’s ” stayrs ” was reserved for a ministerial pew, and the deacons were allowed to build a pew “for their wives and families to sett in.” Mrs. Dresser was the widow of the first settler, Richard Dresser, who had died just before the organization of the society. She held a high place among the “honorable women ” of the day, and her son Jacob was one of the most substantial men in town and society.

Reverend Josiah Dwight was a retired minister, who after a stormy pastorate in Woodstock found a peaceful haven for his old age on the “wild land west of the Quinebaug.” His pew joined the Reverend Mr. Cabot’s, out of respect for his office as. well as family connection, his daughter Mary having married the Thompson minister. It was then enacted by the Society” that each person that hath a pew granted him shall take it for his seat, and shall take in as many of their family as can conveniently sit therein; also, that each person shall finish the meeting house up to the lower girth, and maintain the glass belonging to his pew.” Hezekiah Goffe, a famous builder of the day, was employed to build two pair of framed stairs and lay the gallery floor, and face the fore seats round with good, handsome panel work, all to be done workman-like. Still another committee was required to build seats in the gallery after the form of those in their respected model. So much time was consumed in erecting the elaborate pews and in all the various items, that it was not till March 18th, 1735, that “our meeting house ” was sufficiently near completion to require a formal seating. This onerous task was assigned to Joseph Cady, Jr., Henry Green, Simon Bryant and Urian Hosmer, whose “rule to go by” was ” computing all the charge of settling the gospel in said Society, having respect also unto age.” It was then, after seven years spent in perfecting this much prized sanctuary, that the builders as one man insisted upon worthier ” ways” of reaching it.

Thus happily settled, Thompson parish pursued its way peacefully and prosperously. Its parochial affairs were well administered, and it bore a fair part of town burdens.’ Simon Bryant, John Dwight, Hezekiah Sabin, Jonathan Clough, Joseph Cady, Jedidiah and L Urian Hosmer and Penuel Child were sent successively as deputies to the general assembly. Jacob Dresser was elected town clerk of Killingly in 1744. William Larned managed so well as treasurer of the town that he was voted a special payment for his services. Samuel Morris, in consideration of his maintaining roads and bridges, was exempt for life from town and country taxes. As the fathers passed away they were succeeded by their sons or competent new settlers. Sampson Howe died in 1736, and was succeeded as clerk and captain by Joseph Cady, the richest man in the vicinity. In 1742 Jacob Dresser was chosen society clerk, and John Dwight captain of the company. Jonathan Clough and William Larned succeeded in office Deacons Eaton and Bixby. Penuel Child was appointed in 1742 to serve in the new office of ” querister.” The Reverend Mr. Cabot, after a faithful and successful pastorate, died in charge in 1816, stricken with apoplexy in his own pulpit while preaching.

He was succeeded the following year by Noadiah Russel of Middletown, another popular and faithful pastor. Among new families connected with the society during Mr. Cabot’s ministry were those of James and David Barrett, Isaac Stone, Nathaniel Child, John Atwell, Lusher Gay, Samuel Barrows, James Fuller, James Dike, William Alton, Samuel Porter, Jeremiah Barstow, Joseph Town, Josiah Mills, John Holmes, John Flint, Robert. Prince, Ebenezer Howard, Francis Carrol, Francis and Joseph Elliot, Samuel Watson, Thomas Ormsbey, who took place among. the substantial inhabitants, settling in various sections. The old quarters ” for school purposes were still maintained. In 1752 Samuel Barrows, William Whittemore, Nathaniel Child and John and Samuel Younglove were allowed the privilege of a school among themselves and their own proportion of school money. Five years later other petitioners were allowed a separate school in the northeast corner, ” line to begin at Ezekiel Green’s, thence east to Rhode Island and north to Massachusetts.”

In 1762 a number of the younger men of the society entered their dissent against the society’s proceedings in regard to schools. Michael Adams, Pain Converse, Squier Hascall, James Dike and William Alton were appointed to ” vewe the districts and see if they thought best to make alterations.” They advised the setting off ten school districts and selected a suitable site in each for a school house. Each district was designated by the name of some central or prominent resident, viz.: 1. Landlord Converse’s, including Thompson hill and vicinity, “school house to stand betwixt Landlord Converse’s and the Widow Flint’s, at the end of the lane where Samuel Converse comes out into the country rhoad,” which lane ” is the present ” Mountain road “; 2. Captain Adam’s district, South Neighborhood; 3. Captain Green’s district, Quadic and vicinity; 4. Nathan Bixby’s district, the present Brandy hill and vicinity; .i. Samuel Stone’s district, Northeast corner, from Joseph Munyan’s to Rhode Island line; 6. Joseph Brown’s district, present ” Little Pond district “; 7. Squier Hascall’s district, corresponded with the present Wilsonville, extending north to Massachusetts line, school house on the present site, ” near where the said Hascall crosses the mill-rhoad in coming to meeting “; S. Nathaniel Crosby’s district, embraced both sides French river, from Nathaniel Mills’ to Ebenezer Prince’s, corresponding with the present Grosvenor Dale; 9. John Hewlet’s, occupied the Northwest quarter, school house to stand where it is; 10. Esquire Dresser’s district, in the Southwest quarter of the society, covering so much ground that to have the school “in the senter” would not accommodate the district, and two schools would be needful. The report was accepted as in the main satisfactory. A pitiful petition was soon, however, presented from inhabitants of Hewlet’s district, complaining that they had been overlooked by the committee, ” who supposed that no one lived northwest of a certain great hill but Clement Corbin, whereas there were twelve families there so remote from the school house that they could not send their children there to school, and had little or no benefit (the most none at all) of the school kept there, and never had any of the loan money, and not so much of the tax money as they did pay.” These families-ere immediately set off as District No. 11, Captain Corbin’s. After some delay and difficulty Dresser’s district was also divided, and the north part set off as No. 12, Perrin’s district.

Though debarred from special town privileges, the citizens of Thompson parish were awake to public affairs, and bore as active a part in town administration as was practicable under their circumstances. At the annual town meeting in Killingly, 1760, Pain Converse and James Dike were elected selectmen; John Jacobs, John Whitmore, Benjamin Joslin, Daniel Alton, John Corbin, Francis Carrol, highway surveyors; David Barrett, grand juror; Samuel Watson, Richard Child, listers; Ensign Edward Converse, horse brander. In military affairs it was always active. A second military company was formed, taking in the northern residents, in 1754.

A number of Thompson men served in the French and Indian war-Samuel Larned as captain; Diah Johnson, ensign; Isaac Stone, Benjamin Joslin, Zebediah Sabin, Nathaniel Ellithorpe, Luke Upham, Joseph Town, Joseph Newell, Nathan Bixby, Thomas Shapley, Noah and John Barrows, as privates-many of them suffering severely through imprisonment and loss of health. In 1761 Edward Converse was appointed captain of the first Thompson company, then Company 7, 11th Regiment; John Alton, lieutenant; Joseph Elliott, ensign.

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

2 thoughts on “Early Town History of Thompson, Connecticut”

  1. What a find for me. I’m tracing my family back through the Child family, and possibly the Dwight family on my mother’s side. Here’s something it took me a minute to pick up on Dennis, I might be a distant, distant, cousin of yours. There is a woman named Partridge married to a Dwight in my tree. Their daughter married Capt. Penuel Child. Their daughter married a Hibbard. Three generations later you have my great grandmother Mary Hibbard who married Wm. H. Patterson. I’m early in the process, still more to find.

    Russ Patterson
    Kerrville, TX

    1. Connecticut Genealogy

      Hi Russ,

      The Partridge family connected to the Dwight family resided in Hatfield and Hadley, Massachusetts. My Partridge family resided in Medfield, Massachusetts. The two Partridge branches have not been genealogically connected.

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