History of Woodstock, Connecticut 1705-1730

The opening of Aspinock and Mashamoquet added to the importance of Woodstock, the mother town, with established institutions. These “borderers ” attended service at her meeting house, improved her grist mill, traded at the Corbins’ shop, and participated in the festivities of training and election days. The mill privilege had now fallen into the hands of James Hosmer, whose family retained it for many years. John Holmes added a fulling mill to his accommodations, and was also chosen and desired to make coffins “as there may be occasion.” William Lyon, grandson of William Lyon, Sr.. accepted the office of grave digger. Public matters now received attention. Attempts were made “to bridge the great rivers between us and Mendon.” Selectmen of Woodstock initiated a movement for a new road to Providence, with a bridge over the Quinebaug. The road was laid out as at present, crossing the river below the High Falls (now in Putnam), but no bridge was achieved for a number of years.

In 1710 two new school houses were constructed, one near John Child’s corner, the other near Joseph Bacon’s, north end of Plaine hill; Samuel Perrin, Smith Johnson, William Lyon, John Morse, building committee. Thomas Lyon taught for two months in the north school house; Stephen Sabin at the south; the town stipulating ” that they require not above nine shillings a week.”

In 1710 a new division of land was surveyed and laid out by Captain John Chandler; eighty acres for a twenty acre right, and other rights in proportion were allowed to each holder of original lots, each proprietor drawing in turn his allotment. It was voted, “That the lands still undivided on the east end of the town shall abide as common land forever or till the town dispose of them.” Another division was also made in Roxbury’s half, ” all conformable ” to the previous laying out of John Butcher in parallel ranges, with highways between. This division was not completed and distributed till September, 1715, at which date Roxbury’s right in Woodstock passed into the hands of individual owners. During this year the western part of the south half was laid out in four ranges, running from north to south, and distributed among the proprietors. Massachusetts’ southern boundary, which had caused so much contention and trouble, was now rectified, but by the terms of the agreement she was allowed to retain jurisdiction over the towns she had settled. Woodstock, although within Connecticut’s patent lines, was thus left appended to the Bay colony.

The division and transfer of land in the north part of Woodstock facilitated settlement. Sons of Roxbury owners gladly availed themselves of this opportunity to found homes in this popular and growing town. Among the first of these north-half settlers were the sons of Benjamin Child, whose brother John had been for some time a resident in the eastward vale, or ” the town,” as it was then called. His oldest son, Ephraim, married Priscilla Harris in 1710, and with his young wife soon removed to one of the ample lots in the vicinity of Muddy brook, held by his father. He was soon followed by several gay young bachelors, viz., his brother Benjamin, John May, Ichabod Holmes and Joseph Lyon, who also took up allotments and went busily to work, breaking up land, getting out stumps, fencing, planting and building rude houses, making ready for the prospective brides. The great Cedar Swamp, ” left distinct and excepted ” for the public use, furnished suitable material for building, though the watch and care needful to prevent pillage was an additional burden to the few inhabitants. The wild land in the west part of the town also furnished shelter for many wolves and other troublesome neighbors. A journal fortunately kept by John May gives a pleasant picture of these stalwart pioneers. now toiling alone for days over some refractory field, and then all joining together in a cheerful ” bee ” at the final log hauling, carting and planting, helping each other with ” team;” implements and friendly service. On stormy days they ” sort their nails ” and potter about house, or visit the several families of kindred in the south half, and recreate with these older residents at public fasts, trainings and town meetings.

The old Child House ” with its Centennial Elm, and the ” old May House,” (now Lippitt’s) stand upon or near the sites of the first rude houses built by Ephraim Child and John May. The homestead of Benjamin Child was on the brook in the heart of the present East Woodstock village. ” Old Mr. Maturin Allard,” Thomas Gould, tanner, and Deacon Joseph Lyon, were also among the early inhabitants of the north half. Their first recognition in town meeting was in 1715, when they had liberty to mend their own highways. Maturin Allard was the first man chosen to hold town office. Wolf hunting was apparently greatly stimulated by settlement in this previously waste country, as the town was called to pay many wolf bounties, at twenty shillings a head. Thomas Lyon, Jr., and Jonathan Payson were very active in this service. John May showed much versatility, helping build chimneys and houses, having charge of the Cedar Swamp, and assisting Lieutenant Samuel Morris in placing the first bridge over the Quinebaug river.

These northern settlers attended divine worship in the town meeting house and bore their share of minister’s rate and other town expenses. The question of building a new meeting house excited much discussion and wrangling. In 1717, an experienced committee reported ” that it would be most profitable as well as most accommodable to build a new house.” The town accepted this opinion with thanks, but was slow in deciding upon the site. A letter was written to the residents of the north half relating to moving the meeting house more northerly, but no return was made to it. After long delay and many reversals of decision, Mr. Dwight was sent for ” to pray with the town.” All previous action was then annulled and the site referred to three men from out of town. Samuel Paine, Smith Johnson and Benjamin Griggs from South Woodstock, and William Lyon, James Corbin and Jonathan Payson from Plaine hill, were appointed. ” to remonstrate to the committee from abroad the circumstances of the town, and the arguments they have to offer as to which place they think best, and to write to such committee, provide for and pay them.”

These wise men decided “in favor of burying-place spot,” the site now occupied by the Congregational church edifice on Woodstock hill. William. Lyon, Eliphalet Carpenter and John Chandler, Jr., served as building committee. The house was raised with due solemnities and rejoicing in April, 1720, and the work of building carried on with unwonted celerity. Much attention was given to style and ornament. A body of seats occupied the floor. A pew for the minister was built east of the pulpit. Sixteen other worthies were allowed the privilege of building wall-pews for themselves, the minister’s serving for a standard. The leading citizen of the town, Captain John Chandler, was allowed to build next to the pulpit stairs. Following him in order were Samuel Morris, John Chandler, Jr., Samuel Perrin, Jabez Corbin, John Marcy, Deacon Edward Morris, Deacon John Johnson, James Corbin, Eliphalet Carpenter, Jonathan Payson, Joseph Bartholomew, Edmond Chamberlain, Joseph Lyon, Zachariah Richardson and John Morse.

The cost of this house proved so great a burden to the town that an effort was made to procure a tax upon the land owned by Roxbury non-residents, which called forth a most indignant remonstrance from the citizens of the mother town, and a prompt rejection by the general court. The new house was occupied before completion, the materials of the previous house being used in its construction. Its formal “seating ” was not accomplished till 1725, when it was referred to Colonel Chandler and the two deacons, ” rules to be observed-age, charge, usefulness.” Suitable and desirable young people were allowed to build pews in the hind part of the galleries.

In the following year Woodstock parted with its first minister. The pleasant relations of early years had been succeeded by prolonged uneasiness and wrangling. With many good points, Mr. Dwight was erratic and headstrong. His small salary was poorly paid, and in attempting to eke it out by land jobbing and great strokes of husbandry,” he incurred much censure. Difficulties at length reached such a point that a ministerial council was convened, which opined that while there were articles in Mr. Dwight’s conduct which were exceptionable and justly grievous to the people, there was nothing that might not be accommodated by suitable methods in a Christian spirit. Mr. Dwight in a long, peculiar and pathetic ” declaration ” the following Sabbath, left his “staying or going off ” for his people to determine, expressing, however, his choice “to finish life and labors together in this place.” A town meeting was at once called to consider the question-” Whether it be the opinion of the town that it will be for the glory of God, the interest of religion, and the peace and comfort of the town, that the labors of Mr. Dwight should be continued further among us.” To the astonishment of all, and more especially of the pastor, the town voted in the negative, ” sixty against one, and one was neutral.” Surprised and disheartened by unexpected opposition and alienation, Mr. Dwight at once resigned his ministerial office in Woodstock, the town voting his “total, immediate dismission.”

The lack of formal church co-operation and ministerial concurrence in this dismission prolonged the controversy for a number of years.

The succeeding pastorate of Reverend Amos Throop, ordained May 24th, 1727, was as harmonious as that of Mr. Dwight had been stormy. Various secular matters were now under consideration. As early as 1720 Colonel John Chandler had presented a petition to the general court for the erection of a new county in the south of Massachusetts, to be called Worcester. A bill was presented, ordered to be considered, and then indefinitely deferred. Renewed Indian hostilities gave much annoyance. Colonel John Chandler and his son William were much occupied in military affairs, the latter having charge of a frontier guard for many months. Woodstock households were again gathered into garrisons, and exposed to perils and anxieties. A rumored invasion of Worcester, in 1724, called out a most urgent appeal from that feeble settlement to Colonel Chandler, “having an expectation that he would be a father to it.”

In 1724 a final division of the remaining land in the south half was ordered. Some fifty odd pieces scattered about the tract were surveyed and numbered. The commons at Plaine hill and South Woodstock and some other pieces were reserved for public uses; the remaining forty-five pieces of land, amounting, to 1,681 acres, were divided among the representatives of the original proprietors. A number of rights were bought by John Chandler, Jr., which were laid out to him in one strip of two hundred acres. Of the first settlers none were living but John Chandler, Joseph Bugbee and Jonathan Peake. Henry Bowen, John Marcy and Benjamin Griggs had recently deceased. The shares were distributed to thirty-six proprietors. The selectmen at this date were John Chandler, Smith Johnson, Edmond Chamberlain, Jonathan Payson and Samuel Paine; assessors, Samuel Perrin, Payson and Chamberlain; constables, Ephraim Child and John Holmes; highway surveyors, Samuel Lilly, Ebenezer Morris, David Holmes and Maturin Allard; tithing-men, Lieutenant Jabez Corbin and Daniel Abbot; fence viewers, John Child and Edward Morris, Jr.; hog-reeves, Zachariah Richardson, Joseph Wright, Joseph Lyon, Isaac Johnson and Henry Bowen; leather sealer, Stephen Fay. Eliphalet Carpenter and Jonathan Payson served as licensed inn-keepers; John Chandler as retailer.

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

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