The Quinebaug Petition

The peace and comfort of the town was suddenly broken in 1849 by a movement to dissever the southern part of the territory, that it might be incorporated into a new valley town to be called Quinebaug. The village of Rhodesville now embraced a large manufacturing interest, adding much to the tax list and population of the town. This village, and that favorite section known as the South Neighborhood, were to be taken from Thompson and swallowed up in the new town. Thompson’s population then numbered nearly five thousand, and it stood very high on the grand list of the state, closely following the cities and large county or manufacturing towns. Apart from considerations of sentiment, to be thus summarily thrust from her high position into comparative nothingness, to sink from thirteenth on the list ” into the rank of perhaps thirtieth or fortieth, was not to be thought of or endured, and all parties and sects agreed in earnest opposition to such a scheme. The town had taken just pride in this thriving village and great pains to satisfy its exorbitant demands for roads and bridges. When called upon to take action upon the petition, Jonathan Nichols was appointed agent to oppose the same, with full power to employ counsel if needful. ” Also, resolved, That we, the citizens of Thompson, in town meeting assembled, consider that the division of this town as contemplated by the inhabitants of Pomfretville would be highly injurious to the interests of the town at large, and consequently as highly inexpedient, and that our representatives in the general assembly be and they are hereby requested to oppose in every honorable manner the establishment of said division.”

The very urgent opposition of the four towns interested in the matter procured the prompt rejection. of the Quinebaug petition. but after taking breath for a season they returned to the charge with increased ardor. Thompson reiterated and confirmed her former resolution and circulated a forcible remonstrance, signed by a large number of citizens. Thomas E. Graves, Esq., was now appointed agent to oppose the petition; which service he accomplished with his accustomed energy and adroitness. In 1852 Talcott Crosby, Benjamin F. Hutchins and William H. Chandler were chosen ” to consult and advise ” with Esquire Graves in opposing the petition. In 1854 the situation became so alarming, the new town favorers assuming with the name a double portion of the spirit and persistency of Windham county’s most famous hero-Putnam-that Thompson was constrained to send a most imposing delegation, viz., Thomas E. Graves, Talcott Crosby, William Fisher, Jesse Ormsbey, Frederic Hovey, Benjamin F. Hutchins, Jeremiah Olney, Silas N. Aldrich and Hosea Munyan, “to oppose the petition for a new torn to be called Putnam.” Once more the petitioners were defeated and Thompson’s delegation returned in triumph. In 1855 William H. Chandler was appointed as sole agent for the town in opposing division. it was becoming manifest that farther opposition was useless; that nothing could withstand the march of progress and fiat of manifest destiny.” The treacherous motion “to send no agent to oppose division ” was lost by only a meagre majority of fortythree. Tidings of the inevitable result were received with mournful resignation, and -while Putnam joyfully celebrated her victory and independence, Thompson meekly grounded her arms and prepared to die decently. The line between the towns was run by Joseph M. Perrin and William Lester, surveyors. Division of town funds and other needful settlements were accomplished by Adams White and William Dyer, esquires, the referees appointed by the legislature-the charge of two ” paupers ” and some $2,500 being made over by Thompson. The running expenses of the town during this costly and protracted contest reached the unprecedented amount of nearly $4,000 yearly. Erastus Knight and Jeremiah Olney served successively as town clerk and treasurer during this period.

Thompson had so far recovered from this loss and heavy charges as to bear her part in the civil war with becoming loyalty and public spirit. At a special town meeting, called April 29th, 1861, the town voted to appropriate five thousand dollars for extra payment. to enlisters, support of their families during their absence, their clothing, equipment and other needful outlay. Messrs. Jeremiah Olney, Lucius Briggs and Hezekiah S. Ramsdell were appointed a committee to carry these votes into effect. At the county mass meeting held in Brooklyn, April 22d, Messrs. Chandler and Olney served on the committee on resolutions, and Mr. Chandler headed the subscription list pledged for the support of government. The popular physician, Doctor John McGregor, went to the front as surgeon of the Connecticut Third, and was taken prisoner while caring for the wounded at the disastrous stampede at Bull Run. His return after fourteen months’ wearisome captivity, his earnest and affecting representations and pleas had much influence in quickening enlistment and deepening public sentiment. Many of Thompson’s sterling men enlisted in the Eighteenth Connecticut, mustered in August, 1862, with Munroe Nichols, lieutenant colonel, and Doctor Lowell Holbrook, later, as surgeon. George Davis served as quartermaster of the Eleventh regiment. Lieutenant Emmons E. Graves enlisted a company in the Thirteenth. Every requisition made upon the town was promptly fulfilled, her soldiers serving in many regiments; her agent, Mr. Olney, and the selectmen looking carefully after the needs of their families; her women enrolled in numerous Soldiers’ Aid Societies, busily engaged in furnishing clothing and supplies. The great additional expense, bringing its annual outlay to more than nine thousand dollars, was cheerfully met by taxpayers. True to its early principle and habit of eschewing debt, it paid its bills every year. In August, 1865, a very large bill was brought against it, incurred the last year of the war in connection with raising colored soldiers. A town meeting was called, which promptly voted to raise a special tax of 81- mills on the dollar by September 20th. A proposition was afterward made to provide for paying the debt by installments, and a meeting called to see if they would rescind the previous vote. It was a warm day in August and work pressing, but the town turned out en masse and voted unanimously not to rescind the vote passed August 5th, and paid the extra tax without grumbling.

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

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