TOWN OF WOLCOTT
FROM 1731 TO 1874,
WITH AN ACCOUNT OF THE
CENTENARY MEETING, SEPTEMBER IOTH AND IITH, 1873
AND WITH THE GENEALOGIES OF THE FAMILIES
OF THE TOWN.
BY REV. SAMUEL ORCUTT.
PRESS OF THE AMERICAN PRINTING COMPANY.
TO THE FAMILIES
ANCIENT PARISH OF FARMINGBURY.
AND THEIR DESCENDANTS AT HOME AND ABROAD,
1&l)t0 Work le Jn0crtbcl>,
WITH SINCERE RESPECT AND ESTEEM,
BY THE AUTHOR.
My acquaintance with the Town of Wolcott began in
May, 1872. After preaching there a few Sabbaths, with
no expectation of continuing in the place, I became in-
terested in the history of the church by discovering that
its Centenary would occur in 1873. I soon after accept-
ed an invitation to supply the pulpit for one year. After
a few months' labor in the parish, the idea of writing a
brief history of the Congregational Church and Society
was entertained, and the work was commenced with the
expectation that it would not exceed two hundred pages.
From that beginning the present volume has grown, and
is, therefore, a little different in plan and style from what
it would have been if the original design had included so
large a field.
The work necessary to the making of this book has
been performed with the greatest pleasure, though pros-
ecuted, much of the time, under circumstances of disad-
vantage and discouragement. Now that it is done, I
have no apologies to offer ; nor have I any regrets to ex-
press, save that the people who form the subject of the
volume have not received from my pen as high com-
mendation as they deserve.
The labor has been performed within the space of two
years, and has rather aided than hindered parish duties.
In the commencement, it was as the Spring-time, full of
buds and blossoms of hope ; but in the closing it has
seemed as Autumn. A shade of sadness has touched my
mind as I have taken leave of one and another, individu-
als and families, when they passed from study and re-
search ; for, after so much thought expended upon them,
it seemed as if they were friends and neighbors among
whom I had spent my days, and I was at last attending
their funeral services. The summing up of life, for each
one of them, has seemed written in great characters be-
fore the mind, in the proverbial expression : " Born, lived,
and died." And wherever the mind looks in review of the
past, the epitome of history seems recorded in the repe-
tition of this form. Yet in remembering the good of the
past (and in fulfilling the responsive feelings of the heart),
it is a comfort, if nothing more can be said, to repeat
this form, and in it cherish the memory of those who have
completed the routine of its unchangeable decrees :
" Born, lived, and died."
The style of the work is without ornament, because the
times and the character of the persons forming the sub-
ject-matter of the history are better represented thus
than otherwise. Of the times and circumstances through
which the early settlers passed, there can be but one
opinion : they were rigorously hard. Although the num-
ber who lived to be over three score and ten is large, yet
to most of them, life meant hard work with many priva-
tions, plain food with scanty allowance at times, little
clothing, and that of the plainest kind, restricted to the
fashion of two seasons. Of the character of these ances-
tors, a good summary, in a few words, is given by Dr.
Henry Bronson, in his History of Waterbury : " Individ-
ually, our Puritan ancestors were very much such men as
we are ; little better, no worse. They were bred in a rig-
orous age, and were exposed to peculiar hardships, dan-
gers, and temptations, Yet, on the whole, they, like us,
were average men."* In one thing, however, it seems to
me they have the pre-eminence, namely, in faithfulness
to moral and religious convictions. Modesty, honesty,
and integrity in the profession of the Christian religion,
might have been written over nearly every man's door,
to be read by all the world.
It will be observed that the genealogy of a few families
is wanting. The cause of this, in every case, is the want
of sufficient information to make a respectable represen-
tation of the family. The Blakeslee family was among the
first in the parish, but no records could be obtained until
it was too late to introduce them in their proper order.
I have hope of including them in the history of another
town where their number is larger than in Wolcott. The
Ponds and the Baileys were influential and leading fami-
lies for some years. They are all now gone from the
town, and no records have been obtained of them. A
few families early in the parish, disappeared so soon that
no connected account of them could be obtained. Also,
a few came in about 1800, tarried a few years, then joined
the grand army which for two or three generations has
been steadily marching Westward.
The limited number of subscribers, and hence of copies
printed, has compelled the laying aside of all illustrations,
after considerable preparation had been made for their
publication. This has been to myself and others a source
of great regret.
In acknowledging my obligations to the very kind
* Page 323.
friends who have rendered special aid in this work, it is
pleasant to say that -all have cheerfully contributed infor-
mation and encouragement as they were able, and have
urged that the book be made as perfect as possible, even
though the price of it should be increased. In fulfilling
this last desire its publication has been delayed nearly six
I am specially indebted to Rev. Joseph Anderson, pas-
tor of the First Congregational Church of Waterbury,
who has taken much interest in the work from the first,
and has rendered very valuable assistance. Also, to
Frederick B. Dakin, Esq., of the Waterbury American, a
practical book-maker, under whose supervision the vol-
ume was printed. The following persons have also ren-
dered special service to the work : Messrs. A. Bronson
Alcott, Frank B. Sanborn, and William Ellery Channing,
of Concord, Mass. ; Judge William E. Curtiss, of New
York ; Hon. Leman W. Cutler, of Watertown ; Hon.
Birdsey G. Northrop, of New Haven ; E. Bronson Cook,
Esq., Editor of the Waterbury American ; Hon. Elihu
Burritt, of New Britain ; Rev. William H. Moore, of Ber-
lin ; Rev. Heman R. Timlow, and Messrs. Gad Andrews,
Simeon H. Norton, and Isaac Burritt, of Southington ;
Rev. William R. Eastman, of Plantsville ; the late Ralph
L. Smith, Esq., of Guilford ; Mr. Aaron G. Atkins, of
Chenango County, N. Y. ; Mr. Lucas C. Hotchkiss, of
Meriden ; Mrs. Lucina Holmes and Mrs. Lucina Lindsley,
WATERBURY, November loth, 1874.
FIRST SOCIETY IN WOLCOTT.
First Settlers Formation of the First Society Assembly Act Warn-
ings First Meeting Adjourned Meetings.
BUILDING A MEETING HOUSE.
Committee to Stick the Stake Notification Order of the Court The
Deed The House Built Officers Chosen in 1770, 1771, 1772, 1773,
OBTAINING A PASTOR.
Grant of a Tax First Call, Mr. Jackson -/Second Call, Mr. Gillet Or-
ganization of the Church Declarations First Members The Ordi-
nation of Mr. Gillet.
/MR. GILLET'S MINISTRY.
Graduate of Yale His Father A Library Church Discipline Revi-
val Results, Repairs on Meeting House, Singing, Additions Mr. Gil-
let at Home His Salary He closes his Labors Doings of the Coun-
MR. WOODWARD'S MINISTRY.
The Call Letter of Acceptance Subscription His Labors Comple-
tion of the Meeting House Dedication Mr. Woodward's Salary
Rate Bill His Death.
REV. MR. HART'S AND REV. MR. KEYS' MINISTRY.
The Call His Ordination The Ball His Labors His Death Mr.
Keys Urgent Invitations The Council Dr. Beecher's Sermon
Sunday School Efficiency of the Church Mr. Keys' Resignation and
WITHOUT A PASTOR.
The Meeting House full Payment of Debts Improvement in Singing
Deacon Isaac Bronson His Gratuitous Labors Five Years Journal
of Rev. Erastus Scranton The Revival Dr. Win. A. Alcott Sun-
day School Procuring a Bell Subscription Improvement of the
Meeting House Rev. Nathan Shaw Rev. Seth Sacket Rev. W. F.
Vail Pew-holders according to Age.
MINISTRY OF REVDS. J. D. CHAPMAN AND AARON C. BEACH.
Anti-slavery Burning of the Meeting House Second Society Organized
Efforts to Rebuild the Church A Council Called, its Findings Mr.
Chapman Dismissed Difficulties Settled Rev. Zephaniah Swift
Rev. A. C. Beach His Settlement His Labors His Dismissal.
REVDS. STEPHEN ROGERS, LENT S. HOUGH, W. C. FISKE.
Mr. Rogers' Settlement His Illness He Resigns Rev. Lent S,
Hough Letter of Commendation A Communion Service Revised
Articles of Faith Mr. Hough Closes his Labors Rev. Mr. Fiske
He Resigns after Three Years Rev. S. Orcuit The Home Missionary
OFFICERS AND MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH.
The List of Ministers List of Deacons Clerks of the Church Moder-
ators Clerks of the Society Treasurers Prudential Committees
School Committes Members of the Church.
PART II. THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH.
ORGANIZATION OF THE SOCIETY.
Episcopalians Early in Wolcott Withdrawal from the First Society
Call for the First Meeting Minutes of the First Meeting Officers
Building a House of Worship A Site Given by the Town The
ORGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH.
Early Records A List of Ministers Clerks Society Committees
Wardens Vestry Men.
PART III. CIVIL HISTORY.
THE TOWN INCORPORATED.
Votes of the Society A Memorial Act of the Assembly The Poor
First Town Meeting Hills of Wolcott Streams in Wolcott.
THE FIRST SETTLERS.
Farmington Part Waterbury Part Wolcott Center in 1800 The
Public Green The Will Place Atkins' Will Woodtick Hotels
The Districts Expenses Will of Addin Lewis Whipping Post Law
Small Pox Burying Grounds Yankee Peddlers Taxes.
ROLL OF HONOR.
List of Freemen Town Officers State Officers Revolutionary Sol-
diers Soldiers in the Late War.
PART IV. BIOGRAPHY.
John Alcock, .
Capt. John Alcox,
A. Bronson Alcott, .
Dr. Wm. A. Alcott.
Rev. Wm. P. Alcott.
Joseph Atkins, Senr..
Dea. Joseph Atkins,
Rev. A. C. Beach,
Rev. J. W. Beach, .
Dea. Isaac Bronson,
2 7 3
Timothy Bradley, . . 298
Rev. James D. Chapman, 300
Rev. W. C. Fiske, . 302
Judah Frisbie, 33
/Rev. Alexander Gillet, . 313
, Rev. Timothy Gillet, . 322
Dea. Aaron Harrison, . 326
Rev. Lucas Hart, . . 33
Lucas C. Hotchkiss, . 332
Rev. Lent S. Hough, . 336
Capt. Heman Hall,
Dr. Ambrose Ives,
Rev. John Keys,
Simeon H. Norton,
Dr. John Potter,
Rev. Nathan Shaw,
Seth Thomas, .
Rev. Benoni Upson, D. D.,
Rev. Henry E. L. Upson,
Rev. Israel B. Woodward,
PART V. THE CENTENARY MEETING.
Opening of the Meeting, ........ 377
Remarks by Rev. A. C. Beach, . 378
" " A. Bronson Alcott, 379
" " Editor E. B. Cook, 3?>i
" " Hon. B. G. Northrop, 383
" Rev. W. H. Moore 386
" " Simeon H. Norton 389
List of Aged Persons, ........ 396
The Centenary Poem, ......... 399
\Volcott People removed to Meriden, ..... 403
Isaac Burritt's remarks, ......... 404
Hon. Elihu Burritt's remarks, ....... 410
Antiquities, ........... 414
Judge W. E. Curtiss' remarks, ....... 415
George W. Seward's ' ... ..... 416
Dea. Samuel Holmes' " .... ... 417
Rev. Mr. Hillard's " . .418
PART VI. GENEALOGIES OF FAMI I.I/.S.
1 1 arnson.
Amidst the rugged hills in the northernmost corner of
New Haven County, just on the edge of the extensive
granitic district which spreads through the western part
of Connecticut, lies the town of Wolcott. It covers an
area measuring six miles from north to south, by about
three from east to west, and contains within its limits
higher ground than any that lies south of it in the State.
In its external features it is a good representative of
those rural towns of New England which have failed, for
whatever reason, to keep abreast of the age in its
rapid onward movement. On the plateau at the center
of the town stand two churches of that nondescript style
of architecture so often seen amidst New England hills ;
one of them in good repair, through the kindness of out-
side friends, the other closed and going to decay. The
Green which lies between these edifices is skirted by
dwelling-houses, which have the look of having seen bet-
ter times, amongst these the remains of a flourishing
country store, and of an equally flourishing tavern. There
is the same look of incipient decay upon many of the
houses of the town, some of which are still waiting for
their first coat of paint. To one who wanders up and
down these hills, on a sunless Autumn afternoon, the ef-
fect is monotonous and depressing, and even in the pleas-
antest Summer days there is but little that is interesting
in these remnants of a farm life which must, at its best,
have been unusually prosaic and dreary.
Not alone in its external appearance, but also in its
history, is Wolcott a fair specimen of the rural towns of
Connecticut. There are the same noteworthy features in
its earlier period ; there is the same steady growth up to
a certain point ; and then, after the transition from agri-
culture to manufactures has fully set in in the State at
large, there is the same gradual decline. The hills of
Wolcott, although lying midway between Farmington
and the ManJian or Meadows of the Naugatuck, received
scarcely a passing thought from the pioneers who settled
Waterbury, and whose chief attraction in this quarter
consisted in the open meadow-land which they had here
discovered stretching along both sides of the river. The
first permanent settlement by the Farmington colonists
was made in the valley, and it was only by slow degrees
that the population spread backward from the central
basin, and extended up the hills. In course of time,
however, as more land for farming purposes was required,
the hill country came to be occupied, and the territory
lying between Farmington and Waterbury (and there-
fore called Farming-bury, according to the old Connecti-
cut method of constructing place-names), naturally took
the precedence in this respect. As early as 1731, there
were residents within the limits of what is now called
Wolcott, but it was not until eighty-two years after the
First Church in Waterbury was organized that a separate
church was established in Farmingbury ; and not until
1796 was Farmingbury incorporated as a town, and named
Wolcott (after the Lieutenant-Governor, who, as Speaker
of the Assembly, gave it the benefit of his casting vote).
Attaining to the dignity of a separate existence so
shortly before the great transition which has been referred
to began, the period during which Wolcott could be con-
sidered a flourishing town was necessarily brief. As ap-
pears from several statements in the following pages, it
attained its highest prosperity during the first decade of the
present century. The parish \vas then one of the strong-
est in the county ; the Society had over two hundred tax-
payers on its list, and the attendance at public worship
was so large that the meeting-house was habitually
crowded. But the population of the town, which num-
bered nine hundred and fifty-two in 1810, diminished
steadily from decade to decade, until, in 1870, it num-
bered only four hundred and ninety-one ; so that at the
last census Wolcott was in respect of population one of
the three smallest towns in Connecticut. The population
of Waterbury, on the other hand, which in 1800 numbered
3256, but which in 1810 had been reduced to 2784, or less
than three times that of Wolcott, received within the next
ten years a fresh impulse from the development of new
industries within the limits of the town, and has continued
to increase from year to year, until it now numbers over
fifteen thousand, and is therefore thirty times as great
as that of Wolcott. In comparison, then, with its sister
town, not only, but in comparison with most of the towns
in the State, Wolcott seems, even to its own inhabitants,
insignificant, so much so that the author of this volume
was, in the course of his inquiries, frequently greeted with
the remark, "What can you find here of which to make
a history? What can you say of Wolcott the last
place on earth that will interest anybody ?" It was dif-
ficult, indeed, to make people feel that such a place could
have a history which any practical person would care to
hear about. But this goodly volume, with its varied con-
tents, proves not only that the old town upon the hills,
now in its decadence, has a history, but that its history is
of great interest and value, partly because of the exam-
pie its people have set of quiet, heroic living, and partly
because of the impress it has made on the character and
career of the nation by the men it has sent forth into
other parts of the land.
In view of this last-mentioned fact, it is eminently
proper that so large a part of this volume should be occu-
pied with biographical sketches of men born and reared
on the Wolcott hills. These sketches constitute one of
the most interesting and valuable portions of the book.
In the biographies of such men as the Rev. Messrs. Gillet
and Woodward, Deacons Aaron Harrison and Isaac Bron-
son, Dr. Ambrose Ives, Seth Thomas, Judah Frisbie a
soldier of the Revolution and, especially, Dr. William
A. Alcott and Mr. A. Bronson Alcott, we find represent-
ed the utmost diversity of experiences and the most
varied types of character. Some of these were remark-
able for their intellectual ability, others for their enter-
prise, others for their philanthropic spirit or their piety ;
but, in the case of most of them, their broad and fruitful
lives were in striking contrast with the sterile country
and the contracted sphere in which they had their birth
and training. In none of these men is the contrast more
marked than in him whose biography fills the largest
space in the following pages, but who still lingers
amongst us, Mr. Bronson Alcott of Concord. It is a
strange transformation, that by which the farmer boy of
Spindle Hill, having served his time as a peddler of Yan-
kee notions in eastern Virginia, becomes the father of ed-
ucational reform in America, a leader of the Transcend-
ental school of New England philosophers, the intimate