Pomfret, Windham County, Connecticut History

The town of Pomfret is one of the central towns of Windham county, lying a little north of the geographical center. It is surrounded by its sister towns, Woodstock on the north, Putnam and Killingly on the east, Brooklyn on the south, Hampton on the southwest, and Eastford on the west. Its original territory has been diminished by contributions toward Brooklyn on the south, Hampton on the southwest, and Putnam on the northeast. Its present dimensions are about six miles square, with irregular excesses of a mile in the southeast part, and a mile and a half upon the northwest corner of Brooklyn. Its area is about forty square miles. The surface of the town is hilly and rolling, but a large part of it presents a good soil and is well adapted for profitable culture. The Quinebaug river, which flows along the southern half of the eastern boundary, receives the Mashamoquet, which drains a large part of the surface of this town. The New York and New England railroad crosses the town diagonally from southwest to northeast, affording stations at Elliotts, Abington and Pomfret Centre. Each of these localities has a post office and the town contains other post offices, Pomfret and Pomfret Landing. The main village, known as Pomfret Street, is. located on a beautifully commanding hill in the northern part of the town. The wide old street, lined with majestic shade trees and borders of the richest verdure, is filled with homes that speak from their neatness and luxurious furnishings, of peaceful, refreshing, health giving rest and enjoyments which they must afford to those whom fortune has favored with a resting place within them.

Agriculture is the chief support of this town. In later years its attractions have been discovered by city people who have adopted the habit of coming hither for a breathing spell in the heated season of the year. Manufacturing has never gained a foothold to any extent within the present limits of the town. Its beginnings at the northeast corner of the town, which were later included in the town of Putnam, will be noticed elsewhere. Its streams afford many sites for mills, and these have been utilized for grinding grain and sawing timber. Saw mills are operated by Joshua Angell, Joseph H. Bacon, William H. Braman, Lucien N. Holmes, Samuel Lynn and Horace Sabin. Grist mills run by Fremont Bruce, William Brayton and G. H. Sessions.

The population of Pomfret at different periods has been : in 1756, 1,727; in 1775, 2,306; in 1800, 1,802; in 1820, 2,042; in 1840, 1,868; in 1870,1,488; in 1880, 1,470. The grand list showed : in 1723, X5,588; in 1777.5,;6,27,711; in 1800, $55,154; in 1845, $30,751; in 185 7, $32,820; in 1887, $801,711.

The territory occupied by Pomfret was included in the Wabbaquasset country, and came into the possession of Major Fitch in 1684. A number of Roxbury men having heard favorable reports of the land lying southward in Connecticut, opened negotiations with ‘Major Fitch, and purchased 15,100 acres to be located by their choice in the Wabbaquasset country near the line of the Nipmuck country. The deed of this sale bore date May 1st, 16S6, and the grantees named in it were Samuel Ruggles, Sr., John Chandler, Sr., Benjamin Sabin, John Grosvenor, Samuel Ruggles, Jr., and Joseph Griffin. A stipulation of the transfer deed was that within three years the ground should be chosen and that it should be owned in fourteen equal shares, twelve of which should be held by the grantees and two by Major Fitch. May 30th the deed was confirmed by the consent and signature of Owaneco and Josiah, his eldest son and heir. Six other proprietors who were admitted to make the required twelve were John Pierpont, John White, John Ruggles, John Gore, Samuel Gore and Thomas Mowry. These twelve were then residents of Roxbury, Mass.

During the summer of 1686 the tract was located on the Mashamoquet river, and the name of that river was applied to the tract. A patent for a township, including this purchase and land adjacent, was granted by the Governor and Company of Connecticut, July 8th, 1686, to John Blackwell, James Fitch, Samuel Craft, Nathaniel Wilson and their associates for this new plantation in the Wabbaquasset country.

Land south of the Mashamoquet purchase was sold by Major Fitch to Captain Blackwell, of England a noted Puritan and a friend of the commonwealth, son-in-law of General Lambert, treasurer of Cromwell’s army and member of parliament during his administration. In 1685, the general court of Massachusetts granted him a tract of land eight miles square, ” in behalf of himself and several other worthy gentlemen of England,” and also a share in the new township of Oxford, but he decided to settle his colony within the wilds of Connecticut and secured from Major Fitch, May 28th, 1686, a deed of five thousand seven hundred and fifty acres of land, “containing the Newichewanna hills and other lands adjoining, lying west of the Quinebaug and south of Tamonquas, alias Mashamoquet river.” This land was confirmed to him 11 after he made his choice,” November 11th, 1686, by Major Fitch, Owaneco and Josiah, in presence of Hez. Usher, William Blackwell, Thomas Hooker and John Hubbard -the Mashamoquet proprietors and other patentees of the newly granted townships, agreeing ” That Blackwell’s part of 5,750 acres, situated in the southeast angle thereof, shall be accounted a separate tract by and of itself, to hold to him his heirs and assigns, so that neither the rest of the purchasers nor their survivors or heirs shall challenge to have, hold or enjoy any joynt or separate interest, title, power or jurisdiction or privilege of a township, or otherwise, howsoever, within the same from henceforth for ever.” But even this provision for the independence of his projected colony did not satisfy Captain Blackwell, and October 19th, 1687, he secured from the general court of Connecticut, confirmation of his purchase, and also a patent for a separate township including it, to be laid out south of Mashamoquet brook, six miles from east to west and seven miles from north to south–the five thousand acre tract to be an entire town, called Mortlake. This name was given by Captain Blackwell in memory of the village of Mortlake in Surrey, England, the residence of General Lambert and a favorite resort of Cromwell’s followers.

The purchasers of these tracts were desirous to enter upon immediate possession. The Mashamoquet proprietors were first in the field, and on March 9th, 1687, met together to consult upon the settlement of their purchase. Public affairs were then very threatening; a revolution was imminent and delay was apprehended to be of dangerous consequence. Half the land was to be at once laid out; Major Fitch had already received 1,080 acres, east side of the purchase, and each of the purchasers were now to have each 540 -acres laid out to him, and the remainder to be equally divided among the twelve proprietors and Major Fitch.

Before this division was effected, Andross assumed the government of Connecticut, and attempts to appropriate the purchase were deferred till some years after his deposition. May 30th, 1693, the proprietors again met to make arrangements for distribution. Some changes and additions were found needful. The original south bound of the purchase was a line run due west from the mouth of the Mashamoquet, but as Captain Blackwell had been allowed that river, with all its meerings and veerings, for his northern boundary, they were obliged to conform to it, and thus lost a portion of their territory. It was voted, ” That a line be run west side of the tract, to take in as much land as Captain Blackwell has taken out of the southeast corner, and that two or three of the best parcels be taken up and sub-divided so that each may have one-half his dues, being five hundred and forty acres.” The survey and divisions were accomplished during the winter, and on March 27th, 1694, nearly eight years after the date of purchase, the several proprietors received their allotments in the following order: 1, Esther Grosvenor; 2, Thomas Mowry; 3, John Ruggles: 4, John Gore; 5, Samuel Gore’s heirs; 6, Samuel Ruggles; 7, John Chandler; 8, Jacob, Benjamin and Daniel Dana; 9, Benjamin Sabin; 10, Thomas and Elizabeth Ruggles; 11, John White; 12, Joseph Griffin.

The purchase, as then laid out, extended from Woodstock line on the north through the center of the granted township. Its eastern bound ran through Bark meadow, east of the base of Prospect hill. Its western bound was not defined at this period. The Mashamoquet purchase was thus ready for occupation, but the Indian war still delayed its settlement. The Wabbaquassets, scattered by King Philip’s war, had returned after the settlement of Woodstock to their native haunts upon the Quinebaug and Mashamoquet, and though in the main friendly and peaceable, were sometimes persuaded to join with the savage Mohawks in bloody forays and incursions. It was in the time of this terrible peril and panic, when the Woodstock settlers were huddled together in garrison, and none of the Mashamoquet proprietors dared to take possession of their property, that one man had the courage to cross the line and establish himself in the northeast corner of Connecticut, within the limits of the granted township.

Captain John Sabin, the first known settler of the township of Pomfret, was a native of Rehoboth, and either brother or cousin to Benjamin Sabin of Woodstock. One hundred acres of land, ” bounded north by Woodstock, west by Purchase, east by land between it and the Quinebaug River, south by land belonging to James Fitch,” were conveyed by Fitch to Sabin for nine pounds, June 22d, 1691. How soon Captain Sabin took possession of this land is not indicated, but prior to the disturbances of 1696 he had built himself a house with fortifications, and gained much influence over the Indians. During the Indian war he rendered much service to the inhabitants of Woodstock, and also to the governments of Massachusetts and Connecticut, “by standing his ground,” protecting the frontier and engaging his Indian neighbors in the service of the English.

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

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