One of the beautiful towns of this beautiful rural county is the town of Hampton. The territory covers about four miles in width from east to west and about seven miles in length from north to south… It lies in the southwest central part of the county, with Eastford and Pomfret on the north; Pomfret, Brooklyn and Canterbury on the east; Scotland on the south, and Chaplin on the west. The surface in most parts is hilly, in many places elevations rising in curious, majestic and commanding forms, giving ever changing scenes of quiet rural landscape to entrance the beholder who may for the first time be spell-bound upon their inviting summits. No village of any considerable magnitude exists in the town, but the central village on Hampton Hill makes up in the surpassing attractiveness of its scenery for any lack of busy life that it may show. The New York & New England railroad passes diagonally through the town, entering near the southwest corner and leaving near the northeast corner. Goshen, or Clark’s Corners, and Hampton Station are the two depots on that line within this town. A line of high hills runs through nearly the central line of the town from north to south. Between and along the eastern foot of these hills Little river runs the length of the town, furnishing on its course water power for two or three mills, which are, however, mostly falling into disuse. Some farming is pursued in the town, but in a business point of view it maybe said that the town is declining. But it cannot be that a section of country possessing such loveliness of scenery and health inspiring properties can long remain in obscure decay. Already the tide has turned in the direction of the coming uses. Whilst the old methods of farming must decline, the new methods and the summer delights which are here offered to the overheated and weary citizen of the great centers of population and business, are laying the foundations of a new system of culture, improvement and profitable use.
The territory of this town was once included in the bounds of Windham. The good quality of its soil and the cheapness of land in this neighborhood induced settlement in the early years of the history of this county. By a land distribution in 1712, Hampton Hill was opened to purchasers. Nathaniel Hovey bought land in this vicinity in 1713, and soon settled upon it. A hundred acres were soon after sold to Timothy Pearl, by one Jennings. The locality was known by the Indian name of Appaquage hill. Another lot, with land on Little river were purchased by John Durkee of Gloucester, in 1715. Other settlers on or near this hill were Abiel and Robert Holt of Andover; Nathaniel Kingsbury of Massachusetts; Thomas Fuller, John Button, George Allen and others. The settlement here was then known as Windham Village. A few sons of old Windham families like Ebenezer Abbe and Stephen Howard, joined in the settlement, but the greater part of the settlers were new-comers from Massachusetts.
In December, 1716, the town, in answer to a petition of the people, consented ” that the northeast part be a parish,” receiving one-fourth part of John Cates’ legacy, and having two hundred pounds returned to them as rebate on what they had paid toward the new meeting house at Windham. The town then petitioned the general assembly to grant a charter to the new parish. This petition was dated May 9th, 1717.. The petition was at once granted and the new society described in boundaries as follows: 11 Beginning at Canterbury line, to run westerly in the south line of Thomas Lasell’s lot, and so in direct course to Merrick’s brook, and then the said brook to be the line until it intersects the present road that leads from said town to the Burnt Cedar swamp, and from thence a straight line to the brook that empties itself into Nauchaug river about the middle of SixMile Meadow, at the place where Mansfield line crosseth the said brook.” The new parish comprised all of Windham that lay north of this line. The name given to it was Canada parish, from the name of David Canada, who, it is believed, built the first house in this section and kept the first tavern. As his name does not appear on early records it is supposed that he died comparatively young. David and Isaac Canada, whose names appear among the inhabitants at a later date, were probably his sons.
After surviving the trials of its infancy this parish became thriving and prosperous, many families settling in the village and along the adjacent valleys. Thomas Marsh, Benjamin Chaplin and Samuel Kimball, of the south part of Pomfret, were annexed to this society. A new road laid out from Windham Village to. Pomfret in 1730, facilitated communication between these settlements. In 1723 a trio of neighbors from Ipswich, Mass., one Grow, one Fuller and Samuel Kimball settled on three hills in the northern part of the society. Each gave name to the hill on which he located, and those names are still preserved. Among the descendants of the Grow family was the Hon. Galusha Grow, of national fame, who was born here, on Grow hill, but at an early age removed to Pennsylvania where he rose to prominence in the councils of the nation. ` The Kimball place still remains in the family of the original settler. From Samuel Kimball it descended to his son Daniel, then to his son Asa, from whom it passed to his son Asa, who, with his son George, still occupies the ancestral homestead. This is now located on what is known as the Turnpike, once a part of the great thoroughfare between New York and Boston. The house, which is large, was formerly used as a tavern, and many are the scenes of life and festivity which have been witnessed here. The house was built about the year 1764.
Thomas Stedman, of Brookline, purchased a hundred and fifty acres of Nathaniel Kingsbury, and settled in Windham Village in 1732. Ebenezer Griffin of Newton, in 1733 settled a mile northwest of the meeting .house, on land bought of William Durkee. The first store in this neighborhood is believed to have been kept by Benjamin Bidlack. Nathaniel Hovey kept an early tavern, and a full military company was formed here in 1730, with Nathaniel Kingsbury for captain and James Utley for lieutenant.
In the years that followed the first settlement Canada parish kept pace with other sections of the town in thrift and activity, and Windham Village, on its fair hill top, was hardly less a power than Windham Green in the southwest corner. Captain James Stedman owned much land and carried on extensive farming operations. His brother Thomas was a skillful builder of meeting houses. Ebenezer Griffin, John Howard, Jacob Simmonds and others were actively engaged in business and public affairs. Jeremiah, the fifth son of John Clark, was a trader as well as a farmer, and bought up such produce as he could take to . Newport or Providence on horseback to dispose of. Thus a tide of prosperity flowed into them for a long term of years.
In 1767 an effort was made to secure greater privileges to the society without becoming a distinct town. This plan failing, the society appointed Captain Jonathan Kingsbury to apply to the general assembly for a grant to allow them the rights of a distinct town. This effort was for the time also fruitless. And in this condition things remained until the end of the revolution, which of course absorbed the attention of the people to the exclusion of all minor topics. But in 1785 the people again urged their case, and the town voting by a majority of one “not to oppose the memorial,” the general assembly passed the act, October 2d, 1786, ” That the inhabitants of the Second Society of Windham, and those of Pomfret, Brooklyn, Canterbury, Mansfield and First Society in Windham be constituted a town by the name of Hampton. The bounds prescribed are identical with the present north, east and south bounds of the town, but on the west it extended to the Natchaug river, taking in a section now included in the town of Chaplin. About twelve hundred acres were taken from Brooklyn, a generous slice from Mansfield, and narrow strips from Canterbury and Pomfret. The first town meeting of the new town was held November 13th, 1786, at which Captain ‘James Stedman acted as moderator. Officers were chosen as follows: Thomas Stedman, clerk; Captain Stedman, Deacon Bennet, Jeduthan Rogers, selectmen; Andrew Durkee, Joseph Fuller and William Martin, Jr., constables; and a committee was also appointed to view and adjust the proportion of bridges belonging to the old town that should fall to the new. This important committee consisted of Philip Pearl, Ebenezer Hovey, Josiah Kingsley, Silas Cleveland, Andrew Durkee, Amos Utley, Thomas Fuller and Colonel Moseley.
In 1790 the census showed that Hampton had a population of 1,332 whites and one slave. The greater part of its inhabitants were engaged in agriculture. Colonel Moseley after the war opened a store and engaged successfully in various business enterprises and public affairs. Captain James Howard was early. interested in manufactures, running grist, saw and fulling mills in the valley that bore his name.
The settlement of the question in regard to several bridges was a matter of much concern between Hampton and the mother town of Windham. The committee appointed at the first town meeting was joined by a committee from the old town in appealing to the general assembly, which body appointed a commission to investigate the matter. This commission met at Widow Cary’s at Windham Green, in May, 1787, and after hearing testimony decided that Hampton should pay X10 a year toward the maintenance of the three bridges which Windham had to keep in repair over the Shetucket. Hampton now replied that it had to maintain two bridges over the Natchaug, and in consideration of this fact the assembly reduced the award to 65 a year toward the Shetucket bridges.
One of the first achievements of the town was a pound, which was ordered to be built with a stone wall for foundation, six feet high, four feet thick at the bottom and two feet at the top. Three feet from the ground it was bound by a tier of flat stones, and it had a similar tier upon the top, and was finished by four sticks of hewed timber ten inches thick, linked together, with. a good gate four feet wide. The erection of this structure was awarded to Amos Utley, who accomplished the work in a most workmanlike and satisfactory manner.
The disposition of the poor of the town was another perplexing question which arose between the new town and the old. It was, however, amicably adjusted. Hampton then decided to farm out its poor to those who would keep them for the lowest price. A single man was accordingly “bid off” by Jonathan Hovey at five shillings nine pence a week, an ‘aged couple by Amos Utley at five shillings, and a widow woman by another bidder at two shillings. The town was particularly careful to avoid, as far as lay in their power to do, the possibilities of incurring needless burdens in dependent persons. Transient persons were looked upon with a jealous eye, and about 1792 Philip Pearl was appointed an agent to prosecute those who harbored transient persons. In 1788 the town voted that those who took the poor to keep at a certain price should keep them whether in sickness or in health, and should furnish them with all necessary spirits, and on the other hand should be entitled to the benefit of whatever work they were able to do. As these poor people were mostly aged or ailing, the small price at which they were bid off ” was often found too small to pay their doctor’s bills, and so a special sum was allowed for that purpose. Medical attendance for the poor was thus ” bid off ” in the same manner as their support. The prices ranged from ,2, 16s. to X22. The bidder in some cases was to employ what doctor he pleased, and in other cases the poor were gratified with their choice of a physician.
It is evident that in its corporate capacity this little town was decidedly ,ambitious, both as to its standing among other towns of the county and in regard to its own internal dignity. It took active part in general deliberations, and for many years about the close of the last century strongly urged its claim to the distinction of the county seat. The regulations for the orderly conduct of town meetings, passed by the town meeting September 15th, 1800, are so unique that we must be pardoned for inserting them here. They are as follows
1. Choose a moderator.
2. Annual meeting to be opened by prayer.
3. Every member be seated with his hat on, and no member to leave his seat unnecessarily, and if necessary, to do it with as little noise as possible.
5. Members while speaking shall address the moderator and him only, and speak with the hat off.
6. No member to speak more than twice upon one subject without leave of the meeting, and but once until each member has had opportunity to speak.
7. As soon as a member has done speaking he will take his seat and not speak after he is seated.
8. Every member must speak directly to the question before the meeting.
10. No persons have any right to do private business in any part of the house.
The patriotic spirit of this town has been a subject of common remark. The days of the revolution witnessed it. Even among the women, it was fired to the height of heroic devotion. Elsewhere in this volume the reader is told of the resolute spirit with which the women of this town carried forward with their own hands the erection of a building, when the able bodied men of the town were all away in their country’s service. After the war, the military spirit that had so characterized the residents of this vicinity was not suffered to decline. Hampton took especial pride in her company of grenadiers, which was formed soon after the close of the war and sustained with great spirit for many years. The roster of this company contained the names of many revolutionary veterans. Strength and large size were essential qualifications for admission to this honored band, and many of them were worthy of a place in Frederick William’s Tall Regiment. It played an important part on many public occasions, and took the first and highest places in the great regimental musterings for which Hampton hill was especially famous. Successive captains of it were Thomas Stedman, Jr., Thomas Williams, who had removed from Plainfield to Hampton, Roger Clark and Philip Pearl, Jr. The militia companies of the town were also well sustained. Ebenezer Moseley was appointed colonel of the Fifth regiment in 1789; Elijah Simons served several years as its lieutenant-colonel, and Lemuel Dorrance, one of Hampton’s young physicians, as its surgeon.
For many years this interest in military matters was kept up. Its regular trainings and occasional musters were observed as gala days by the whole population. One of the great days of this kind, long remembered by those who witnessed it, was the semi-centennial celebration of the declaration of independence, which was duly commemorated here July 4th, 1826. Hampton’s celebration of this auspicious day was almost as preternaturally impressive as the ” Midnight Review ” of Napoleon’s grand army, portrayed by an imaginative poet. Not the phantoms here, but the material, living men themselves, who had marched to Lexington and braved the carnage of many battles, to the number of forty-two gray-haired veterans, appeared in their old-time costume and marched up and down the length of the village street to the music and the drums of 1`76.” At their head was their old leader, Abijah Fuller, and Nathaniel Farnham as drummajor, and Joseph Foster and Lucius Faville as fifers. Other military companies present did homage to the veteran band, who were treated by their admiring fellow citizens to a free dinner, and throughout the day they were the most conspicuous objects of attention. At that time Samuel Moseley served as lieutenant colonel of the Fifth regiment, and Chauncey F. Cleveland was captain of the Hampton company. The military bearing of the latter, together with his affable manner, gave him great popularity as an officer, and he was rapidly promoted, rising from the ranks to the highest military office in the state.
In the early years of the present century business was quite active, and various enterprises were prosecuted with vigor. Shubael Simons obtained liberty to erect a dam on Little river for the benefit of a grist mill, and potash works were carried on in the same vicinity. Edmond Hughes made and repaired clocks and watches. Colonel Simons engaged in trade. Roger and Solomon Taintor, who removed to Hampton about 1804, engaged extensively in exchanging domestic produce for foreign goods. In town affairs Colonel Ebenezer Moseley succeeded Thomas Stedman as town clerk in 1797, and retained the office many years. He was often sent as deputy to the general assembly. Other deputies during the successive years of that period were Deacon Isaac Bennett, Philip Pearl, Jonathan Kingsbury, Doctor John Brewster and William Huntington. The justices about that time were Colonel Moseley, Deacon Bennett, James Burnett and Philip Pearl. A public library was instituted in the town in 1807, which soon contained over a hundred volumes. In the census year 1800 Hampton had a population of one thousand three hundred and seventy-nine, and its grand list then footed up to $38,231.01.
During the second decade of the present century some attention was given to manufacturing projects, though this town has never been aroused to conspicuous movements in that direction. The introduction of carding machines so stimulated domestic industry that three fulling machines were kept busily at work in dressing and dyeing the woven fabrics. After the war of 1812, which by the way had but little effect on this town, a flourishing hat manufactory was established here by Luther D. Leach. During this period the men who were conspicuous in town affairs, holding different offices of honor and responsibility, were Doctor Brewster, who succeeded Colonel Moseley as town clerk; Colonel Simons, Roger Clark, John Tweedy, Daniel Searls and John Loomis, serving as selectmen; Philip Pearl, James Burnett, Ebenezer Griffin and Joseph Prentice, as justices; Luther Burnett as constable; James Utley and Jonathan Clark, as collectors; Colonel Moseley, Ebenezer Griffin, Roger and Solomon Taintor, William Burnett and Joseph Prentice, as representatives. Mason Cleveland was chosen town clerk in 1825. William Durkee, Edmond Badger and Hezekiah Hammond were then selectmen, and N. F. Martin, C. Moulton, C. F. Cleveland. Roger Taintor, Daniel Searls and Jonathan Clark, justices of the peace. Later conspicuous men in town offices were Elijah and Lucius Greenslit, William Brown, Harvey Fuller, William Durkee, Alonzo . Martin, Charles Griffin; Charles C. Button and William Bennett. Hampton was made a distinct probate district in 1836, and its first probate judge was Edward S. Moseley.
When the era of railroads opened upon the country Hampton was for many years left in the background, other towns more advantageously situated attracting population from towns remotely situated as this town was. By this means it suffered a decline in business and population. But it was at last brought back again to a favorable standing in the world of modern activity through the agency of a railroad thoroughfare, the New York & New England, for which auspicious turn in the tide of destiny the town is largely indebted to the untiring energies of its distinguished and influential citizen, Governor Cleveland. This has been the means of giving to the people a business of some importance in the entertainment of summer boarders from the cities. Vicinity to a great railroad which communicates directly with two of the great cities of, the country, brings each year a larger number to enjoy the fine air and outlook of Hampton hill, and cordial hospitality of its many agreeable residents.
As early as 1763 a committee was appointed to divide the society into school districts. Though this body was slow in fulfilling its mission, yet in the course of two years the work was done. The First, or Central district, very properly began by ” taking in the Reverend Mr. Moseley and ranging so as to take in Mr. Joseph Sessions, and from thence west to, Burnt Cedar swamp, and then following the main stream of Cedar Swamp brook till it comes to the road below Benjamin Burgess’, and from thence to said Moseley’s.” Number Two extended “from old Mr. John Perkins’ to Mr. Joseph Burnham’s, and all east and south of Cedar Swamp brook.” Number Three ran ” from Jonathan Holt’s, taking in Holt’s house, and north, taking in all the inhabitants situated on the road to Mr. Joseph Marsh’s, taking in said Marsh’s house, and from thence taking in Mr. William Alworth’s and James Alworth’s house, and ranging north to the easternmost extent of the society.” Number Four took in Mr. Stephen Clark’s house, and then south all the inhabitants west of Cedar swamp, and so far as to take in Mr. Jonathan Fish’s and Mr. David Canada’s houses, and so south and west to the extent of the society.” School house sites were affixed by William Osgood and Seth Paine of Pomfret, and Benajah Cary of Windham, viz., one in the northeast district near Deacon Griffin’s house, and two in the northwest or Fourth district, one nine rods south of William Holt’s, another eight rods west of John Fuller’s. ” Eleven months schooling by a master, to be kept in each district according to its list,” was thought sufficient for the whole society, and this was supplemented by ” school dames ” in the summer time for the instruction of the smaller children. A fifth district was set off in 1774 in the northeast section, known as Appaquage. The number of districts was afterward still further increased, so that by 1790 there were eight districts in the town.
When Canada parish was first invested with society privileges it was stipulated that the people of this section should raise a tax among themselves for the support of the ministry of the town equal to the rate of taxation for that purpose in other parts of the town, until they should have a minister of their own. Great difficulty was experienced in enforcing the stipulation, and the subject was repeatedly brought by petitions before the general assembly. As soon as it became practicable a minister was secured, and religious services were held for a time in private houses, until the erection of a meeting house could be consummated. In 1722 the services of Reverend William Billings were obtained. He came from Preston, and was a graduate of Yale two years previous. He was formally ordained and installed in June, 1723. A meeting house had been begun and was at this time probably completed sufficiently to be used for public gatherings.
An episode in the ecclesiastical history of this town during the pastorate of Mr. Billings furnishes an example of the importance which the people of that day attached to the rampages of the tongue. In 1729 the minister made complaint to the County Association that one of his parishioners had made slighting remarks about his preaching.. A committee was accordingly appointed, and after successive and various action extending through two or three years the following confession was duly published before the congregation over the signature of .the offender
“I acknowledge before God and this church yt my saying. ‘I had rather hear my dog bark than Mr. Billings preach,’ was a vile and scandalous expression, tending to ye dishonor of our Lord Jesus Christ and his ambassadors, as also of religion in general. I do hereby declare before God and. ye church my sorrow and repentance for it, humbly asking your forgiveness, and resolve to have a greater watch and guard over my tongue.”
Similar confessions were often required of those who had been “overtaken with strong drink,” though no censure appears to have been visited upon those old church members who sold or supplied the intoxicants by which the weaker victims were overtaken.”
The pastorate of Mr. Billings closed with his death, May 20th, 1733. One hundred and seventy-two persons had been admitted to the church during his ten years term of service. His successor was Samuel Moseley, of Dorchester, a graduate of Harvard in 1729, ordained here May 15th, 1734. Mr. Moseley was an able and earnest preacher, dignified in manner and strict in doctrine and discipline. He was a member of the Windham County Association, though it appears evident that he was not at this time in full sympathy with the ecclesiastical constitution of Connecticut. When the great revival swept over the county about 1742, he was very active in promoting the work, laboring with great earnestness at home and abroad, and receiving no less than one hundred and twenty-five persons into full communion with his church. He opposed the authority of Consociation and declared to the brethren that their church was not under Saybrook Platform and otherwise favored the Separatists’ sentiments, but when he foresaw the disastrous consequences which might result from the action of the extreme leaders he became more conservative in policy, and by such a course doubtless maintained a greater degree of harmony and prosperity in his church than might have been felt had he opposed the revival at first, or kept pace with the extremists in the later stages. The secession from the church toward the Separate churches was much less than in many others. There were, however, a few. Its excellent deacon, Thomas Marsh, who for more than twenty years had served the Lord’s table, John Hovey and some other prominent members were unable to remain in its fellowship and united with the Separate church of Mansfield, which was organized by the Separatists of that town and Windham and vicinity.
October 9th, 1745. Soon after this the erection of a new meeting house received attention, and while it was under consideration the assembly annexed several families, who by location and choice belonged in this connection, to Abington. Vigorous remonstrances and petitions prevailed with the assembly, however, and twenty-six families thus situated within the bounds of neighboring societies, but in more convenient proximity to this church, were allowed to join with Hampton Society in erecting a meeting house, and be exempted from taxation for similar objects in the societies with which they were legally associated. Thus strengthened, the society was able to. complete its meeting house in 1754. It was a substantial structure, fitted to abide for many generations. It was furnished with one of those ornaments peculiar to that time, a “sounding board,” upon which was inscribed the motto, ” Holiness unto the Lord.” The seating of this meeting house a few years later gave rise to considerable disturbance. The seating committee had unwisely ordered six persons to sit in one pew, which was regarded as great compressing of the corporal properties and consequent personal dignity of church attendants. The committee had also offended in allowing ” men of little or no estate to sit very forward and in high pews,” while others of good estate and high in public esteem were compelled to take lower seats. Complaint was also made that the galleries were so given over to light minded youth that the tithing men were obliged to leave their seats below to preserve order in the galleries. Dissatisfaction existed until 1762, when it was voted to sell the pews at public vendue, and this vote, though stoutly opposed by many, was carried out. Twentyfive pews on the floor of the house were sold to the following persons at prices ranging from three up to fourteen pounds Jeremiah Utley, John Fuller, Hezekiah Hammond, Stephen Durkee, Timothy Pearl, Zebediah Farnham, Ebenezer Hovey, Captain John Howard, Deacon Ebenezer Griffin, Henry Durkee, Daniel Farnham, Thomas Stedman, Jr., Isaac Bennett, Jephthah Utley, William Farnham, Joseph Burnham, John Hammond, Benjamin Cheddle, Stephen Arnold, John Sessions, Jonathan Clark, Samuel Fuller, John Smith, Gideon Martin, Isaac Clark. Notwithstanding the fact that many of these men were the leading, solid men of the community, a storm of opposition was aroused, subsequent meetings were held and the matter was finally appealed to the general assembly, and by that body the sale of pews was declared null and void. The society now resumed possession of its pews, and a committee was appointed to seat the congregation therein with requisite order and formality. Some degree of harmony seems to have been restored by this action. Repairs were made on the building in 1768, and it was determined to keep pace with the times by giving the building a coat of paint. A committee composed of Captain Kingsbury, Abiel Abbott and Thomas Fuller, was appointed to attend to the business, and they were ordered to ” color the same something like the color of Pomfret meeting house.”
In 1769 a strong division of opinion arose between Mr. Moseley and his parishioners, resulting from his exercise of a dictatorial power ;over the church which he claimed by authority of the Saybrook platform. This platform was not in accord with the general sentiment of the society, but so ingeniously and effectually did Mr. Moseley exercise the powers in hand as moderator of all meetings that he defeated the purpose of the church to have a body of ruling elders elected to exercise some of the functions of government. In the contest which followed between pastor and people much bitterness was aroused, and much unchristian and discourteous language indulged in. In 1779 a church court before whom the matters were brought gave its verdict of advice, which seems to have been at least outwardly regarded” never more to revive, nor suffer to be revived, any of those matters of difficulty which have been under the consideration of the council, but to bury this long unhappy contention in everlasting oblivion.” After this the pastor gained somewhat in the affections of his people, and continued here to the end of life, though for several years he was confined to his bed by rheumatism and paralysis. He died July 26th, 1791, in the eighty-third year of his age and the fifty-eighth year of his pastorate. He left two sons and six daughters. During the long period of his incapacity to occupy the pulpit, his place had been often filled by his son-in-law, Reverend Joseph Steward, whose health, however, would not allow him to be inducted as colleague pastor. Other young ministers who had assisted during this period were Hendrick Dow, of Ashford, and Ebenezer Fitch, of Canterbury. After the death of Mr. Moseley, a call was extended to Reverend Ludovicus Weld, of Braintree, and he was accordingly ordained October 17th, 1792. The compliment was paid him that he was ” especially noted for his skill in composing sermons.” In 1796 a bell was procured, through the instrumentality of Colonel Moseley, a son of the late pastor. It was ordered that the bell should be rung at noon every day, at nine o’clock every night, at eight o’clock on Saturday nights, and to be tolled for evening meetings and lectures, and to give the day of the month every evening. The deacons at this time were Isaac Bennett and Abijah Fuller, of revolutionary fame. Infirmities brought on by close application and sedentary habits compelled Mr. Weld to seek a dismissal from his charge in 1824. The church almost immediately united in a call to Reverend Daniel G. Sprague, of Killingly, who was installed May 26th of the same year. The interest which Mr. Sprague took in the reform questions which then agitated the public mind made him a valued acquisition to the county ministry. Through his influence a temperance society was promptly formed and efficiently maintained, although impeded in its growth by the convivialities for which the town had long been noted. In 1837 the meeting house needed rebuilding or repairing, and the question as to which should be done was in agitation for a long time, but it was decided at last to repair the old house. It was moved to a new site, remodeled and refurnished, and this being done it was dedicated anew May 9th, 1840.
Meanwhile Reverend Daniel G. Sprague was dismissed in 1838, and his successor was called. This was Reverend Daniel C. Frost, who served the church from 1840 to 1841. Reverend William Barnes, the sixth pastor of the church, was installed in 1842 and dismissed in 1847. After that date Reverend Richard Woodruff supplied the church for several years. In 1853 Reverend George Soule was engaged as a supply, and in 1855 he was installed as pastor. During the war he was absent one year as chaplain of the Eleventh Connecticut volunteers, but being discharged on account of ill health he returned to his charge here and died in the pastorate in 1867. The eighth pastor was Reverend G. J. Tillotson, who was installed in 1873 and dismissed in 1875. Reverend Daniel Denison, a son of this church, began labors here as a supply in August, 1885, and continues at the present time. Two other ministers have grown up from the pale of this church, and are now preaching. They are Reverends A. C. Denison, of Middlefield, Conn., and Sherrod Soule, of Beverly, Mass. Although the loss to the church by removal and death has been very great, yet its activity and usefulness are remarkably well preserved, as though indeed it was a branch of the true vine of God’s own planting.
Several other churches have had more or less of a foothold in this town in past years. In June, 1776, a Baptist church was organized on the border between this town and Abington. One of their number, William Grow, was ordained as their pastor. This church for a time gained in numbers and influence until it included some forty families among its resident attendants. A great scandal is said to have involved its first pastor to such an extent that he was obliged to resign his office and remove to Vermont. Jordan Dodge, Dyer Hebard, and other exhorters, were in the habit of preaching to this flock. Abel Palmer, a brilliant young Baptist of Colchester, supplied the pulpit for a time with satisfaction to the people. In 1794 Peter Rogers was called and settled, and remained in charge for a number of years. The patriarch of this church was its worthy deacon, Thomas Grow, whose name was affixed to the meeting house on Grow hill, built mainly by his efforts. In later years it suffered decline from the lack of stated preaching and the uprising of another religious order in its vicinity. It was, however, much strengthened by the coming of a son of Abington, Elder John Paine, to its pastorate. He was ordained here October 28th, 1819, and at the same time Asahel Elliott and Gurdon Robinson were made deacons. Elder Paine continued in charge until 1827. After his dismissal the church lost ground rapidly, and became extinct about 1844.
The religious order which seemed to be making advance upon the Baptist church near the close of the last century were known’ as Abbe-ites. They were led by one Joshua Abbe. They were represented as a sect of Baptists, but having no association with any other churches of that name. Their meetings were said to be loud with disorder, men and women speaking two or three or more at the same time, while to complete the confusion, sobs, sighs and groans were thrown in without stint. After a few years this sect gradually gave place to another sect of Christian reformers under the leadership of Elders Smith and Varnum, who obtained a strong foothold here for a time. They at first followed in the footsteps of the previous Abbe-ites, washing each other’s feet and rolling on the floor to express their humility and lowliness; but after the removal of Varnum and his more ardent proselytes to Ohio, they renounced these excesses and adopted ordinary forms of worship. Elder Roger Bingham was ordained as a Christian minister (the sect being known by that peculiar hyphenated form of a common word), and officiated in the Goshen and Burnham meeting houses, which. had been erected for the accommodation of this sect of worshippers. William Burnham served as deacon of the church in his neighborhood. Worship was for several years regularly maintained in these houses, but they met their period of decadence and were obliged to give place to others. The Christian church at Howard’s Valley, an outgrowth of those just mentioned, was built in 1844. Reverend Isaac Coe, now of New Bedford, Mass., was very active in establishing it, and was the first minister. There have generally been stated services there, though but a small number of worshippers. Not long ago they had a gift of a bell from Gordon W. Burnham, late of New York city, whose parents belonged here. They have also been presented with a cabinet organ by David Clark, of Hartford, whose parents were of the Goshen district. The present pastor of the church is Reverend R. H. Nichols.
A large and handsome Roman Catholic church occupies a commanding position on the crown of the ” Hill.” It was built in the fall of 1877, and finished in the following spring. An acre of ground was given them for its site by Hon. E. S. Cleveland. The cost of the building was about $4,000. At the time the church was built there were thirty-four families belonging to it. They have lost six families by removals to localities more favorable to the employment of younger members in factories. For a time there was a resident priest, but services are now conducted on alternate Sundays by the priest from Danielsonville. No cemetery has as yet been established here by the sect.
The Hampton Library was begun in 1827. After about three years it was given up and the books were sold. In 1856 an effort was made to revive it, and the books were bought back and a new association was formed. This has continued in tolerably healthy existence until the present time. The library now contains eleven hundred volumes, the greater part of which are valuable and solid books history, biography, science and a healthy mixture of poetry and romance.
Little River Grange, No. 36, was organized at the house of Mr. George M. Holt, in Hampton, December 29th, 1886, with twenty-two charter members. The following officers were chosen at that time: George M. Holt, master; James A. Burnham, overseer; Mrs. Joseph W. Clark, lecturer; Chester B. Jewett, steward; George H. Kimball, assistant steward; Joseph W. Clark, chaplain; Nathan J. Holt, treasurer; David P. Weaver, secretary; Jirah F. Hyde, gate keeper; Mrs. Allen Jewett, Pomona; Miss Louise Jewett, Flora; Miss May A. Weaver, Ceres: Miss Iola M. Clark, lady assistant. The office of master has been held by George M. Holt, 1886 and 18,87; William H. Hammond for 1888; and Nathan J. Holt for 1889. The grange has a membership of fifty-four, and holds fortnightly meetings in the town hall, with a good attendance. The membership embraces some of the best farmers of the town and their families. The meetings are interesting and their numbers increasing. The present officers are: Nathan J. Holt, master; Austin E. Pearl, overseer; Mrs. N. C. Cleveland, lecturer; Everett 0. Elliott, steward; Jirah F. Hyde, assistant steward; Albert E. Guild, chaplain; Horatio Martin, treasurer; Henry Clapp, secretary; Elmer Jewett, gatekeeper; Mrs. William H. Hammond, Pomona; Mrs. George R. Burroughs, Flora; Mrs. D. P. Weaver, Ceres; Mrs. Leroy Pearl, lady assistant.
Little river in its course through this town has for many generations afforded power for saw mills and other works of moderate capacity. Some of these it may be interesting to notice. The saw mill owned by Mr. Andrew M. Litchfield was formerly owned by. Mr. Ebenezer Stedman, then by Deacon Thomas Williams, from whom it was purchased by the present owner in 1825. It is located in the Bigelow district. Three men are employed much of the time. About 30,000 feet of lumber are sawed per year. Shingles, shuttles, boards, plank and all kinds of building timber are produced. A grist mill in connection grinds about 1,200 bushels a year. In 1835 a clover mill was also built, in which about 4,000 pounds of seed per annum were hulled and cleaned. This clover mill was carried away by the great freshet of 1877. The business at the present time appears to be in a condition of decline, and the above remarks in regard to its capacity and business apply rather to the past than to the present. Below this mill, near the south line of the town, stood a satinet factory which was run by Moseley & Rocking. The mill was burned several years since, and the site is now
occupied by Theodore L. Fuller with a grist mill and cider mill. Further up the stream, and before we get to Litchfield’s mill site, once stood a cotton factory and a saw mill and a grist mill. These were owned by Samuel and Lodowick Wolcott, and were burned several years since, the site then being abandoned. Above Litchfield’s mills we come to the former site of a bark mill, a grist mill and a tannery. This was known as Rockwell’s mills. The grist mill is still running, but the other enterprises were destroyed by fire some years since. The next enterprise on the stream above was a combination of shingle mill, clover mill, pin manufactory and manufactory of German silver spoons. A freshet, probably that of 1877, swept the whole concern away and it has not since been rebuilt. Another saw mill stood next in order up the stream, but has been abandoned. Farther still was once the site of a clover mill owned by Walter Lyon, but that has long since passed away. Another saw mill stands in the south part of the town on Cedar Swamp brook. It is owned by Mr. Joseph Clark.
Source: History of Windham County, Connecticut, Bayles, Richard M.; New York: W.W. Preston, 1889