Organization of Thompson, Connecticut

Town organization was secured with less than customary controversy. In many respects the parish had enjoyed unusual privileges, and its local interests were quite distinct from those of the mother town. In 1761 the vote was carried ” that Thompson Parish be set off as a town-Jacob Dresser, Esq., agent for preferring a memorial; ” but in the threatening condition of public affairs division was deemed inexpedient. In 1782 it was again voted in Killingly town meeting, ” That said town be divided and Thompson Parish be a distinct town,” and division again refused by the general assembly. Renewed petition May, 1785, carried the day. The ‘North society of Killingly and its inhabitants were constituted a distinct town by the name of Thompson, said town to be responsible for its share of state taxes, pay one-half the debts and share one-half the credit and stock of the former town, and support the poor belonging within its limits.

In compliance with this act and lawful warning, Thompson held its first town meeting June 21st, 1785, ” at the Rev. -Mr. Russel’s meeting house,” on Thompson hill. Deacon Simon Larned, oldest justice and most honored citizen of the new town, was appointed by assembly to preside at the meeting and lead its inhabitants to the choice of moderator and clerk. Jason Phipps, Esq., from the northwest section, was chosen moderator, and Jacob Dresser town clerk. The freeman’s oath was then administered to seventy-eight persons. They then voted and chose Thomas Dike, Esq., Captain Pain Converse, Simon Larned, Esq., Jason Phipps, Esq., Mr. Stephen Brown, selectmen; Jacob Dresser, town treasurer; Simon Davis, Peleg Corbin, constables: Jason Phipps, Samuel Barrett, Jacob Converse, Ebenezer Prince John Bates, John Jacobs, Deacon William Richards, highway surveyors and collectors; Amos Carrol, William Richards, fence viewers; Henry Larned, Jonathan Ellis, Samuel Palmer, William Richards, listers; Simon Davis, Peleg Corbin, town collectors; John Wilson, leather sealer; Ebenezer Cooper and Jeremiah Hopkins, grand jurymen; Nathan Bixby, Peter Jacobs, Edward Paull, tithing men; Amos Carrol, sealer of weights and measures; Joseph Watson, key keeper. Captains Daniel Larned and Pain Converse, and Thomas Dike, Esq., were chosen to join with such gentlemen as Killingly should appoint to settle all debts and charges, and divide debts and credits as directed. Jacob Dresser was authorized to purchase books for the town records.

At the annual town meeting, December 12th, some of these officers were replaced by Alpheus Converse, Ensign Joseph Brown, Daniel Russel, Roger Elliott, Captain Jonathan Nichols, Edward Joslin, William Smith, Asa Barstow, James Paull, Joseph Gay, Captain Simon Goodell, John Carrol, James Hosmer, Ephraim Ellingwood, Peter Stockwell, Elijah Bates, John Wilson, providing for a more equable distribution of town offices among all classes and sections. Jacob Dresser was retained many years as town clerk and treasurer. Accounts between the two towns were settled with promptness and harmony, the “credits” allowed to Thompson out-balancing the debts by some twenty-five pounds. By an arrangement with the ecclesiastic society the meeting house continued to be used for town meetings and other public purposes. Jason Phipps was sent as Thompson’s first representative to the general assembly. Others sent during these early years were: Obadiah Clough, Jonathan Nichols, Pain Converse, William. Dwight, Israel Smith, Thaddeus, Henry , George and Daniel Larned, Simon Davis, Joseph Gay, John Jacobs, Jr., Noadiah Russel, Wyman Carrol, Isaac Davis.

Major Daniel. Larned was elected in special town meeting, November 5th, 1787, to represent the town as delegate to the state convention called to ratify the federal constitution. A committee was soon sent to consult with committees from other northern towns with regard to obtaining a new county or half-shire, and upon receiving its report the town voted to instruct ” our deputies to join with Pomfret deputies with regard to making Pomfret a half-shire, with this proviso, that we may be free of cost of court house and jail.” The young town looked carefully at the cost of any expenditure, and managed its affairs with much shrewdness and economy. Amount due for ordinary expenses, allowed January, 1795, including payment of listers, £53; balance in treasurer’s hands, £65; debts allowed by town, January, 1796, 16s.; paying bounty for crows’ heads, at 8d. a head, agreeable to a rate of the town, 7s., 4d.; whole amount, including abatements, £58, 12s.; balance due from treasurer, £170, 17s., lid.

School and highway repairs were managed mainly district wise, with reference to the town in doubtful cases. In military matters there was much enthusiasm, stimulated by the appointment of Daniel Larned to the generalship of the Fifth brigade, the only citizen of Thompson ever attaining to that honor. The several companies included in the Eleventh regiment were filled with willing recruits, and the grenadier and infantry companies equally alert and ready for parade and action. The frequent training and musters on Thompson common were observed with delight by all participants and spectators. The general training held at Thompson hill-during the administration of General Larned was unfortunately discommoded by a very severe rain storm, but the spirits of the dripping soldiers were kept up by the bountiful supply of free liquor, furnished gratuitously by the general and his predecessor in office, General McClellan.

The Providence and West India trade, instituted before the revolution by Larned & Jason, was carried on with much spirit until the sudden death of the senior partner, in 1797. His funeral was made the occasion of the greatest military and Masonic display ever witnessed on Thompson hill. The New London Gazette reports: ” General Larned was buried under arms. His corpse was attended by the brethren of Moriah Lodge to the meeting house, where a sermon was preached by the Rev. Daniel Dow; a Masonic address and prayer followed by the Worshipful Master of Moriah Lodge. A procession was then formed and moved to the grave in the following order: Military; Masons, clothed with the badges of their order; Clergy; Pall (corpse) bearers; Mourners and Strangers.” After an elaborate eulogium pronounced by Mr. Daniel Putnam, the ceremonies were closed by a Masonic prayer by the worshipful master and a sprig of cassia deposited on the coffin.

The privilege of ordering and making her own highways was joyfully assumed by Thompson, ever painfully conscious of early privation in this regard. ” A road from Thompson to Muddy Brook Line by the way of Mr. David Jewett’s,” and another from Child’s mills (now Wilsonville) to Dudley line leading to Dudley meeting house, were at once allowed; also a special road for the accommodation of Larned & Mason, running east of Fort hill through “the Thompson Land,” considerably shortening the distance to Boston. Travelers over this road were accommodated at the new tavern opened by Mr. James Dike. New roads were laid out in various sections, and many old ones rectified. The project of establishing turnpike roads with stage coaches and mails running regularly over them was hailed with enthusiasm. Captain Jonathan Nichols, Israel Smith and Jacob Dresser were commissioned by the town ” to wait upon the committee appointed by the General Assembly to view and lay out a stage road from Hartford to Massachusetts or Rhode Island Line.” Captain Nichols and his associates were incorporated in 1797 as `’The Boston Turnpike Company,” and to him was entrusted the oversight of constructing the road. The work consisted mainly in straightening and widening roads previously existing, viz., the north and south road through the town, and the old road to West Thompson. A change was made in the road over Thompson hill which previously ran considerably west of the present lay out. A new bridge was built over the French river, formidable gates and toll houses erected, milestones lettered and set up, and the Boston and Hartford turnpike opened for public accommodation, bringing in the stage coach, daily mails and nineteenth century civilization.

Business was made much more lively but town expenses proportionately increased. The proposal to lay cut another turnpike from Rhode Island line to Dudley, east and west through the town, met with strong opposition from reluctant tax-payers. A committee was appointed to lay out such road-Captain Jonathan Nichols, Simon Davis and Roger Elliott to wait upon them. The town rejected their report and refused liberty to begin the road. After some years’ effort the town refrained from opposing petition. Elijah Crosby, Joseph Watson, Nathaniel Jacobs, Peleg Corbin, Thomas Chaffee, Noadiah Russel, John Nichols, and associates were thereupon incorporated as ” The Thompson Turnpike Company,” in 1803, and a second turnpike was soon opened, becoming a main thoroughfare of travel between Providence and Springfield, intersecting the Boston turnpike on Thompson hill. Stages were run daily over both lines, and a vast amount of travel and teaming passed over • them. A third turnpike was at about the same date constructed in the south part of the town, known as the Woodstock and Thompson turnpike, furnishing another route to Providence, and connecting westward with Somers. These enterprises brought heavy bills of expense upon the town, increasing the annual outlay from seven or eight hundred dollars to over two thousand; but by care and larger assessments all debts were paid, and in 1810 and 1811 expenses had dropped down to less than a thousand dollars, with a balance in the treasury. Nathaniel Mills succeeded as town clerk and treasurer in 1798, serving faithfully many years.

Increased business and growth in all parts of the town more than counter balanced the outlay. Thompson hill enjoyed a special boom with its stages and new inhabitants. Its first store was opened in 1796, by Daniel Wickham, in a new building east of the common, now the rear of Doctor Holbrook’s residence. A new tavern house was built on the site southward by George Keith, especially for the entertainment of stages and their passengers, which after many years of service has been recently demolished. The present “Watson House ” was built by Mr. Joseph Watson in 1798. Several other houses were built on the Providence turnpike. Enterprising young men from various parts of the town were drawn to the growing village. John Nichols, 2d, and Theodore Dwight entered into partnership, erecting a store at the intersection of the turnpikes, on the site now occupied by Mr. Scarborough’s residence. The only house north of this was that now occupied by judge Rawson, built by Mr. Samuel Watson in 1767, and long the residence of his venerable widow.

The new business impulse quickened all parts of the town. Labor came into demand and land increased in value. The farms east of Fort hill, owned by the English Thompsons, were now brought into market, Thaddeus and Daniel Larned procured a quit claim deed from the agent of the family in 1803, for fourteen thousand dollars, and soon sold out the farms to lessees and other purchasers. The last of these substantial ” tenement houses ” has been taken down within a few years. Manufacturing interests were now coming to the front. “The various saw mills on the different streams were busily at work. Josiah Perry and Elijah Child carried on grinding, sawing and dyeing on the French river, in the extreme north of the town. Rufus Coburn and Alpheus Corbin engaged in clothiery and potash works on the Quinebaug, at the present ‘New Boston. Stephen Crosby was equally active in similar works on the site of the present Grosvenor Dale, and talk of new discoveries in cotton spinning was already in the air. In the extreme northeast Joseph Joslin was running mills, making potash and helping open Buck hill to civilization, himself carrying through the first cart road over that benighted section. A sometime resident of Rhode Island, and, believer in state rights, he was one of the early leaders in organizing the Jeffersonian party in Thompson.

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

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