TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES
COLLECTED BY ADELINE BARTLETT ALLYN
GRANDDAUCHTER OF COL. CH.vK'.ES URISWOLD
Cornell University Library
Black Hall traditions and reminiscences.
3 1924 029 842 089
Ill Cornell University
The original of this book is in
the Cornell University Library.
There are no known copyright restrictions in
the United States on the use of the text.
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES
Adeline Bartlett Allyn
Granddaughter of Col. Charles Griswold
The Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company
by Adeline Bartlett Allyn.
(Co tbc Mematv of Ms ancestor*.
I wish to express my sincere thanks to all my cousins
for their kindness in furnishing material for these collections.
A. B. A.
"People out of the Past. Have we caught them at last?
They elude us so fast; will they answer our call?"
Charles Wagner has said, " Remembrance
of the Past is a great moral and social force."
Surely there are few subjects of more vivid
interest than the study of our ancestors.
This has been ably undertaken by eminent
scholars, in our own family, but we feel the
need of a small familiar volume, within the
means of all, easy to hold and to read, which
may fill a want which large and valuable books
of reference do not quite seem to supply.
I make no pretensions to historic value and
authenticity. I simply tell the tales as they
were told to me, and hope to keep in mind the
people who used to be familiar figures in my
own youth, and tell the stories they told.
Having access to some writings prepared by
loved hands, and some tales told by dear lips,
now silent, I hope to link the future with the
past, and to hand down to our posterity these
6 BLACK HALL
memories and traditions so precious, and once
so familiar to us.
Again, we cannot doubt that there are few
subjects more worthy of our vivid interest than
the study of the noble deeds of our ancestors;
few more inspiring to ourselves to live worthily
that we may transmit to those coming after us
such memories and the example of the Past.
Indeed there is no work of imagination which
can be so full of romantic delight as the true
tales of the loves and quaint romances of the
lives of these same ancestors.
The once familiar figures have all passed on
to a better world but it is beyond the veil, and
they can no longer tell us anything. But as
yet there are some still with us who can remem-
ber some of the traditions, and we have access
to some precious writings copied from the an-
cient papers; and it becomes us to seize at once
all we have left, and render it as familiar and
accessible as we can.
Our children and grandchildren will like to
know the meaning of these historic names which
some of them will continue to bear, and they
will say, " Who were these people? " "What
did they do?" We tell them that they lived
on the very spots which we all know so well;
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 7
that they were daring, true, and loving; that
they laughed, loved, suffered, and dared, even
as people do now. They worshiped the same
God; they have left to us a precious heritage
of integrity, honor and scholarly taste, more
precious than any material legacy; and thus
have conferred on us the obligation not to dis-
grace our noble lineage, and surely while there
is yet time not to allow them to pass into ob-
On the next page you may see the map of
Black Hall; the location of the present houses
which we all know so well, and the indication
of the sites of those which have now passed
out of existence.
The very first edifice built in Black Hall was
the log hut which you see on the cover. This
picture is the work of the late C. C. Griswold
Lane, copied from a pen and ink drawing by
him, and it forms a memorial to one whom we
all loved for his sweet and sunny nature, and
whom we shall never cease to mourn since he
was taken from us in the bloom of his beautiful
youth, to leave us only to be thankful that we
had known him, and that he had passed on into
a better world " in all his spirit's lightness."
This log hut was built by Matthew Gris-
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 9
wold, 1st, for a negro, who used to occupy it,
before any white man dared to pass the night
on this side of the river, for fear of the Indians.
I understand that these dusky sons of the forest,
while they hated and feared the " pale-faces,"
had no enmity toward negroes of a darker
hue than themselves, and would never disturb
This hut was called Black's Hall, and from
this, Black Hall.
There are several other stories to account
for the name. One is as follows: According
to Rees' Encyclopedia, there was a monastery
of Black Friars near Kenilworth, England, and
the lands were Abbey Lands. It is possible that
the name Black Hall may have been suggested
by Black Friars Hall. The story of the Black's
Hall, though generally accepted in the family,
is not entirely satisfactory. It is more natural
to suppose that the name was taken from some
English association, as was customary among
our early settlers.
Still another story is that in the parish of
Sevenoaks, in the county of Kent, England,
there is a place called " Black Hall Farm," and
that may be the origin of the name.
However, it is " Black Hall," and always has
IO BLACK HALL
been such, since the memory of white men in
Connecticut. And has always belonged to the
Griswold family, either in name or in blood.
To return to the map.
i. The first house was built by Matthew
Griswold, ist, near the residence of Mrs. W. G.
Lane, a little south of it. This is evidenced
by the existence at the present time of the old
well, bearing the date of 1640. This is re-
corded by James Griswold from the remi-
niscences of Judge Matthew Griswold.
2. From the same source we also learn that
a house was built by Gov. Matthew Griswold
for his son, John, when the latter married Sarah
Johnson, and this is the house torn down by
C. C. Griswold when (in 1842) he built the
house now standing on same foundation.
3. The Leffingwell house.
This house stood on the knoll north of Lef-
fingwell's Pond. It was a small house, possibly
only a squatter's hut. The cellar was plainly to
be seen in James Griswold's day, and in the
memory of some of the family now living.
The writer believed that this house, what-
ever it was, was built by the original Thomas
Leffingwell, and I think I have proof of this.
I have seen and can produce the copy of a deed
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES II
conveying land on both sides of the Connecticut
River from Thomas Leffingwell to Matthew
Griswold; also records of the births of several
children, taken from the Saybrook records, with
dates — the place is not named, but if they are
recorded in Saybrook, and Saybrook was then
both sides of the river, may they not have been
born at Black Hall? There is no veil of ob-
scurity over the figure of Thomas Leffingwell.
He stands in the white light of authentic his-
There was an Indian burying ground near
the sound, south of the house built by Gov.
Roger Griswold. Many of the graves could
be seen previous to the September gale of 1815.
By that gale, of which we give a full account
later, much of the ground was washed away,
and the bank caved in. There has been since
no trace of the Indian graves remaining.
4. Ensign Thomas Griswold, son of Judge
John, built a house on the site of Roger Gris-
wold's barn. This was called the " Lee Lay
house," as Lee Lay married one of the daugh-
ters of Ensign Thomas. This Lee Lay and
his wife lived to be very old (95) and died
in 18 12 of a fever, which carried off a number
of old persons very suddenly. This house was
12 BLACK HALL
standing until 1822, when it was pulled down
by A. H. Griswold, and some of the timber
was used in repairing his barn. The original
barn, as was told by Ezra M. Champion to
Roger Griswold, was said to have been an old
barn in 1800. We can well see that the erec-
tion of the house itself must have been before
1700, but there is no tradition or record to tell
6. Judge John Griswold, father of Gov-
ernor Matthew, built a house exactly on the
site of the Judge Matthew house. The present
house is said to have been built precisely on the
same plan to gratify Judge Matthew's father,
Governor Matthew, who remembered his fath-
er's house with great affection.
6. To bring the oldest house of the Gris-
wold's in Black Hall down to modern history, we
will say that for two years this house was rented
by Charles Griswold Bartlett, who opened there
the "Black Hall School." This school has
since been moved about a mile and a half
farther north, and has flourished for more than
thirty years in its present situation in the dis-
trict known as " between the rivers."
7. There was a small house behind the
burial ground of Fred Champion's family,
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 1 3
whose cellar could be seen in James Griswold's
day. This was called " the Watrous house,"
but I can find no tradition about this.
8. The " Sears house " stood in what is
still called the "Sears lot;" it was still stand-
ing within the recollection of Judge Matthew,
who describes it to his great nephew, James
Griswold, as a large fronted house with a lean-
to roof behind.
9. The Larrabee house.
This was a small house standing in what was
the garden of Col. Charles Griswold, now be-
longing to Mrs. C. H. Griswold. When
Colonel Charles built his house in 1825, the
cellar was still in existence. In ploughing his
garden, this cellar and all traces of the Larra-
bee possession were obliterated, and near the
spot a pine tree shilling was found, which may
still be seen. I had thought that the veil of
mystery hung over the name of Larrabee, but
after much research, and many questions in dif-
ferent quarters, I find something definite about
In the Salisbury book I read that Phebe
Brown married Thomas Lee, in England, of
the renowned and illustrious family of Legh,
in Warwickshire. They had three children.
14 BLACK HALL
Thomas Lee died of smallpox on the voyage
to America. After her arrival in this country,
we learn that the widow, Mrs. Lee, married
Greenfield Larrabee of Saybrook, whether East
or West Saybrook tradition does not say. By
her second marriage she had five children, i,
Greenfield; 2, John; 3, Elizabeth; 4, Joseph;
5, Sarah. After the death of Larrabee, she
married James Cornish of Norwich and had a
son, James, who settled in Simsbury.
The very oldest house now standing in the
vicinity of Black Hall is the Armstrong house;
this was built by John Dennison, who married
one of the daughters of Matthew Griswold, 2d,
The tradition about this is as follows : The
Dennisons were Tories and as the Griswolds
were ardent patriots, the Dennisons became so
unpopular that John Dennison retired from the
family circle, and built this house, at that time
far distant from the Griswold community in
Black Hall. I learn from the Dennison family
that they have no record of the Tory proclivities
of their ancestor, John Dennison, but they tell
me that his son, Samuel Dennison, was such a
strong Tory that his estates in South Lyme were
taken from him by the government, because of
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 1 5
his disloyalty. I have no dates in regard to
The Griswold family in America.
On account of the malicious conduct of Abra-
ham Brownson, of which we will tell you later,
all authentic records concerning our English de-
scent have been lost to us. However, wishing
to leave no stone unturned which may disclose
a bit of information, I found in the Watkinson
library in Hartford a copy of an old tomb-
stone in Warwickshire, England. The monu-
ment presents the supposed portraits of Thomas
Griswold and his three wives, and bears the
inscription as follows :
" Thomas Greswalde of Solihull in the
county of Warwick, gent, and of Alice, Jane
and Isabel his wives. He died 1577. Had
issue by Alice his first wife one sonne and seven
daughters. Whom God grant a joyfull resur-
Still older is the monument of Richard Gris-
wold, very quaint indeed. A Latin inscription,
which may be translated, " Pray for the soul of
Ricardi Greswold, armiger," and of his wife.
Which Ricardus died (the date is obscure) ?
The coat of arms is carved on this tomb, and
contains the two greyhounds on the upper left
1 6 BLACK HALL
hand corner, combined with some other em-
blems in other quarters of the shield. In an old
church in London is found a tomb with this
inscription: "Near to this monument lyeth
buried the Body of Dorothy Greswolde, 1610,
the only daughter of Roger Greswolde, citizen
and Merchant Taylor of London. Which
Roger was the third son of Richerd Greswolde
of Solyhull in the county of Warwick, Esqr."
Thus we see a younger son of a country gentle-
man took up commercial life in the capital and
The deposition of George Griswold.
" George Griswold, aged about 67 years,
testifieth as followeth. In his youthful years
he lived with his father in England, in a town
called Kellingsworth or Killingsworth in War-
wickshire. He did severall times here (hear)
his father Edward say that the house in which
they then lived and lands belonging thereto
belonged to his brother Matthew Griswold
George Griswold made oath to this in Hart-
ford, May 9, 1700, before an attorney.
Joseph Curtis, Clerk.
Judge Lane of Ohio, in his genealogy of the
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 1 7
family, states that Matthew had brothers as
1. Thomas, remained in England.
2. Edward, lived in Killingworth, Conn.
3. Francis or ff ranee Grissell, lived in
4. George, in Simsbury and Windsor, Conn.
James Griswold says : " I do not know his
authority for this statement, but have supposed
that the Norwich Griswold was of the second
generation, a son of the Saybrook or Killing-
worth Griswold. There is a family of Gris-
wolds in Killingworth (now Clinton), Conn.
There was an Episcopal minister, Rev. George
Griswold, who used to come and hold service
in the Black Hall mission."
Francis Griswold was an early proprietor of
land in Bride Plain, removed from there 1659-
60 to Norwich.
From a record in the State Library of Con-
necticut, at the Capitol in Hartford, I find a
record as follows:
" George Griswold of Kenilworth, England,
had five sons born in England.
"1. Thomas remained in England.
"2. Michael b. 1597, settled in Wethers-
I 8 BLACK HALL
"3. Edward b. 1607, settled in Windsor
" 4. Francis, settled in Cambridge Mass.
"5. Matthew b. 1620 settled in Windsor,
Saybrook and Lyme Conn." This is Matthew,
The record found in the family Bible of
Judge Matthew Griswold is as follows:
" Matthew Griswold, the first of the name,
came to America in 1636. Afterwards his
three brothers came. Thomas who settled at
Windsor, John at Wethersfield and George at
From these three are descended all the Gris-
wolds in this country.
MATTHEW, 1ST, THE PIONEER.
I. Matthew, 1st, went to Windsor, mar-
ried Annah (or Hannah) Wolcott, daughter of
the first Henry Wolcott. He was a lawyer by
profession, though by trade a stone-cutter. He
made a stone table over the grave of his father-
in-law, and a note in the State Library states
that Matthew Griswold thus commemorated
the graves of many of the early settlers, but
unfortunately there is no monument over his
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 1 9
own last resting place in the cemetery at Say-
Griswold was the first commissioner and jus-
tice of the peace in Saybrook, from which we
may be assured that he was a lawyer, though
he had the trade of a stone-cutter. It was cus-
tomary for the early settlers of this country to
possess some handicraft of practical use in the
new country. Also Burke, in his great speech
on conciliation, tells the British Parliament that
the Americans were well versed in the science
Before Major Fenwick left Saybrook to re-
turn to England, he committed all his public
as well as his private affairs to Matthew Gris-
wold. The town of Saybrook formerly com-
prised all the land now included in Lyme and
East Lyme. Soon after the settlement of the
affairs of Fenwick, Matthew Griswold removed
to Black Hall, on the east side of the river, in
the town of Lyme.
Matthew Griswold, 1st, married Annah Wol-
cott, and had children as follows:
1. Sarah, married George Colton of Spring-
2. Matthew, married Phebe Hyde.
3. John, died young.
20 BLACK HALL
4. Elizabeth, married John Rogers.
5. Martha, married Lieut. Abraham
Before leaving Matthew, 1st, and passing on
to his children, of whom there are many tales
to tell, I wish to tell one thing about him,
which shows his advanced and liberal views in
regard to women's rights in property. I have
always understood that in former days a mar-
ried woman could hold nothing in her own
right. It was only through the agitations of
the nineteenth century that these rights were
But our ancestor, Matthew Griswold, was
quite beyond his age in this respect, for there
is an ancient deed of which this is a copy :
"April 23, 1663, Hannah (or Annah) Gris-
wold wife of Matthew Griswold has a portion
of meadow land in Windsor Great Meadows.
Twelve akers more or less this comes
to her as part of the portion that fell to her by
the last will of her brother Christopher Wol-
cott Diseased out of his estate which was to be
divided among his Relations, and this parcell
of meadow is allowed by her husband Matthew
Griswold to be recorded and made over to
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 21
Annah his wife to remain to her and to her
children and their Dispose forever."
MATTHEW GRISWOLD, 2D, THE CHAMPION.
II. Matthew Griswold, 2d, the champion,
was born, probably at Black Hall, in 1652. He
built a house of eight rooms east of his father's,
which house stood until it was blown down in
the gale of 18 15.
He was a man of large size and of great
strength, which characteristics have descended
to his remote posterity.
Lyme was bounded on the east by the lands
of the Niantic Indians; by New London and
Niantic Bay. A territory of four miles in
width, which belonged to neither, lay between
A petition was made to the legislature to
have it divided squarely to each town, stating
it should be two miles to each. The petition
was granted, the parties met to make the divi-
sion, but could not agree. Each claimed for
itself three miles, and to give the other but
After some heat they agreed to " leave it to
the Lord," and put an end to the dispute.
Each town should appoint two champions,
2 2 BLACK HALL
and they should meet on the contested ground
and fight it out in a boxing match, and to whom-
soever the Lord should give the victory should
divide the land, and the other should be bound
New London selected Mr. Hempstead and
Mr. Chapman; and Lyme, Matthew Griswold
and William Ely. They met and fought, and
in both cases the Lyme champions won the con-
test, and the land was divided accordingly.
This was indeed a truly medieval method of
deciding a matter.
Matthew, 2d, married Phebe Hyde, who
must have been extremely pretty. I wish we
had a portrait or even a description of her
charm. Surely only a beauty would have dared
to be so coquettish and to play fast and loose
with so doughty a champion as Matthew Gris-
Let me tell you a story of their loves in Mat-
thew's own words.
There were found among the papers of
Judge Matthew Griswold, the fifth of the
name, some ancient papers. His affairs were
arranged after his death, and that of his
widow, by James Griswold, his great nephew,
a rising young lawyer at the time. These
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 23
papers were carefully copied by James, who ap-
preciated their value. To these I have access,
and from them I make the following copy. As
many words are obliterated owing to their great
age, you will have to pardon the occasional
blanks. The following is a letter from Mat-
thew to Mr. Burchard of Norwich, the guardian
of Phebe Hyde.
" Mr. Burchard
" Respects kindly presented to yourself and
Mrs. Burchard and thankful remem-
brances of all your former kindnesses
these may inform you that we are in a comfort-
able state of bodily health I perceive by
him that the hearts and heads of all good peo-
ple there, are full of trouble ;. not knowing how
soon we may de deprived of our priceless liber-
ties, which we have so long enjoyed and
bodily injured. I inclose a letter to P. H. if
you would stand my friend that I may have
it is a great deal to ask if I am
decided. If any other man doe interfere. Lett
me playnly know it, and if the thing should
go on, lett me nott afterward heare her say
that if it had nott been for the persuasion of
friends, or out of pity for me, she might have
24 BLACK HALL
married otherwise or better. Though I have
suffered much for her Sake since I saw your
face, not only on account of trouble from my
own Spirit, but alsoe from opposition which I
mette with from some friends who wish me
well notwithstanding if she can see it
her way to proceed and God give her a
heart to if any In her place I
doubt nott that she will be well beloved by
all my friends. Sir J. (Rev. John Higginson
the minister) designs favorably in this so mighty
a concern. If conscience and doe not
bind her and encourage her to
proceed with me in marriage, but that all the
love which she hath hitherto showed be but
fayned, lett mee know it. Sir, I speak not of
any of these things to hinder the proceedings.
But being I would write my minde unto
yourself, as to a faithful friend nott
but I the Lord give mee
a heart Less to mind these things which con-
cern the outward manne ; and earnestly to seek
the one thing needful.
" I take leave and remain ever your devoted
friend and serv't.
"March 15, 1683."
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 25
Then followed a quantity of poetry, mostly
Here are a few of the most nearly perfect
" And grant me this
Token of bliss
Some lynes to pen with speed
That may to mee
You doe me choose in very deed
And if with freedom thou canst find
We may proceed to marriage bonds.
And bee right welcome from thy hande
" And mee
That I doe neglect
With prayer been my defense
But I have heard he said
Which in a measure I find true
That which the eye doth not behold
The heart soe sorely doth not rue.
" So art present farewell my deare
Who art of my joye the Life
And life's joy, Why should I feare
If once you were my wedded wife."
Thus we perceive that these verses, lame as
they are, and incorporated in the letter to her
guardian are directly to the fair maid herself.
The next letter is addressed to Phebe.
" Dear Heart
" Tender of my most unfayned and Intyre
love to you, hoping that you are in good health,
26 BLACK HALL
etc. Although my present abilities of body and
mind will not allow me to write largely unto
you, as I should be glad to do; yet having this
opportunity I am desirous to remind you of the
unexpected unheard of which I
have mett with; In the arrangement, the mo-
tion of marriage, made by me unto yourself;
soe very strange that I am att a great Loss of
mind to think what the good pleasure of the
Lord can be as a finall issue.
" Though this I must say, if I thought you
had not reall love and affection for mee I should
then think it rather my duty to desist than to
proceed, but as yet I am nott, nor cannot be
convinced that Itt is so (or as God and thy
owne conscience knows very well) when I had
fully come to a conclusion in my owne minde
never to give myself nor you any farder trouble
in this matter yourself were pleased to tell me
that unexpected (though welcome) news that
you could not bear the thoughts of a finall sep-
aration, and since when you were last at our
side of the River you told me the same thing;
beside many things which you have in dis-
course told diverse of your own best freyndes,
which gave them grounds to conclude that you
had special Love for my person; If I had
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 27
thought that these things had been false, I
must have judged of according to the
which would have commanded a period
to all proceedings of this nature; but constant
I believed thee, and accordingly concluded that
hee which had Inkindled this Love in thee
would Increase it and in good time bring us to-
gether in the relation of man and wife. And
hereupon gave my affections full scope, conclud-
ing that not only I mite, but that it was my
duty to Love her intensely for whose Sake I
should forsake Father and Mother. And as I
told you when I last spoke with you, I shall
not, at this time Release any promise (and you
to me I should not suffer at this time for your
own sake) which has past between us; though
I cannot desyre that you should joyne yourself
to mee in marriage on account of pitie ; I desire
to look to God who is able to give mee
to all his gracious promises, which
would be a matter of comfort (for so they are)
I would desyre you not forget how willing
I have been according to my capacity and op-
portunities: so then in kindness and in way of
requital favor mee with some lynes. I shall
not enlarge at present, but desiring that the
good Lord would graciously guide us to that
2 8 BLACK HALL
which may tend to his glory and our own ever-
lasting peace I take leave and remain
thine and thine only in the bonds of Intyre af-
" M. G."
Then another lot of poetics. Cannot de-
cipher the first stanza. And I must say that
while Matthew's letter does express sincere,
manly, reverent affection; and when analysed
shows him to be a man worthy the love and con-
fidence of any maiden, however fair she may
have been, yet surely as a poet he cannot com-
mand the admiration of the fastidious critic of
the twentieth century, but we must put it all in.
It surely gives reality to these shadowy figures
from the Past.
" Deceit is loathsome, though in matters small
And quite in things that are most triviale
But when the case amounts to such a height
To be of such concernment and such might
Those that will then intentionally deceive
Shall sure a curse as their reward receive
My dearest dear, think nott that I
Then find it true, and nott a lie
He's thy best friend that speaks out playne
My dear take heed
And make great speed
That thou give God no great offense
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 29
Then for my part
A loving heart
From thee shall be large recompense
For why should I.
Let not deceipt
Cause me to wait
But show thyself most intimate
To him that will
With all his skill
Unto thy love retaliate "
Matthew was right. Phebe Hyde did love
him sincerely, and we have reason to believe
that the marriage was a happy one. Later in
life he pays tribute to her character, as he styled
her a " Godly mother " of a wayward son.
THE MYSTERY OF ABRAHAM BROWNSON.
We have told, in enumerating the children of
Matthew Griswold, 1st, and Annah Wolcott,
that their youngest daughter, Martha, married
Lieut. Abraham Brownson, or Bronson. Now
we will relate the story of how he conferred a
great and irreparable injury to the family of
Griswold, and deprived us of our rights in
England, and all proofs of the English con-
nections and origin.
We give the copy of an affidavit before Wil-
liam Ely, justice of the peace, Nov. 15, 1699,
by Henry Mervin, " that Bronson told him
30 BLACK HALL
that he had a trunk of writings that were his
father-in-law's which he said would vex his
brother Matthew Griswold very much. I told
him I had heard so — and I told him that I be-
lieved that there were some weighty concerns in
those papers for money, either in this country
or in England; he answered that there were
some great concerns in them, and there were
some papers that Griswold never knew of, and
This concealment of title deeds to property
was complained of to the General Court by
Matthew Griswold in 1700.
Had these papers been found and recorded
they would undoubtedly have thrown some
light on the English ancestry of the Griswolds.
Matthew Griswold's loss of deeds was fatal
to his claims in England. Hence, owing to the
blind malice of Abraham Bronson, the English
property was irretrievably lost, and with it all
the family history connected with the transmis-
It is a mystery which has never been solved,
nor can any clue be found to it. What was the
character of Bronson? What angered him
against his brother-in-law, his wife's eldest
brother and the head of the family? How the
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 3 1
family papers came into his possession no one
knows and probably no one ever will, in this
I remember that James Griswold used to
walk up from his brother's house in Black Hall
to Lyme village over the " Meeting House
Hills " and visit the ancient burying ground
near the site of the old church. Here is situ-
ated the grave of Abraham Bronson; and he
(James) would sit on the grave of Bronson at
midnight and try to call up his ghost to make
him tell where he had hidden the chest contain-
ing these priceless papers. But the old ghost
never came, and James Griswold, greatly be-
loved and mourned by us all, has passed on to
where perhaps he has learned everything.
There is hope, however, that in the later
times, when psychical research is occupying so
deeply the minds of scientific men, some one
may find out that which we have so long sought
in vain and either this generation or the next be
able to consult our forbears, verifying our Eng-
lish descent and claim the estates. I doubt not,
however, that could this be done, our claims
would be found as worthless as those of Colonel
Pyncheon, hidden by the Wizard Maule behind
the colonel's old portrait.
32 BLACK HALL
THE TRUE AND TRAGICAL STORY OF MATTHEW
GRISWOLD, 3D, AS TOLD BY HIS FATHER.
Matthew, the third of the name, was a rather
wild boy. He ran away to sea, underwent
great hardships, and finally returned home to
die under his father's roof, in the odor of
His whole story is told in the following
letter written by his father to the Rev. Cotton
Mather shortly after the young man's death:
" Dear Sir
" Though I am an utter stranger to you, yet
considering that it ought to be the chief and
continual care of Every man to glorify God, I
thought it my Duty humbly to present to you
the following narrative, desiring you to im-
prove on it as God shall direct.
" This last October 'tis five years since, my
eldest son, having a vehement desire to go to
sea, and concluding that I would not consent
to it, took an opportunity to make his escape
when I was attending the General Court. I
used my utmost endeavors to recover him, but
he got off from Piscataqua, leaving me sorrow-
fully to think what the Event might prove, of
a Child's wilful forsaking the Duty of his Re-
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 33
lations and the means of Grace, and ingulphing
himself into the temptations of a Wicked
World. And I was the more concerned because
he had been but a very weakly Lad. They had
not been long at sea before they were surprised
by a dreadful Storm, in the height whereof the
Captain ordered my Son to one of the Yard-
Arms, there to Rectify something which was
amiss, which whilst he was performing, he fully
lost his Hold; but catching hold on a loose
Rope, he was preserved. This proved a very
Awakening Providence, and he looked upon
the Mercy as greatly Enhanced by reason of his
Disorderly Departure. Arriving at Jamaica,
he was soon pressed on board a Man of War,
from whence, after diverse months of Hard
Service, he obtained a Release, tho with the
Loss of all the Little he had. He then fell in
with a Privateer on board of which he was Ex-
posed into Eminent hazard of his Life in a
hot Engagement, wherein many were killed and
the man who stood next him was by a Chain-
Shot cut all to pieces. At the time of this Fight
God caused him to take up Solemn Resolutions
to Reform his Life; which Resolutions he was
enabled through Grace to observe. And he
then Resolved to return as soon as might be to
34 BLACK HALL
his Father's House. After a Skirmish or two
more he was cast away. Then he was taken by
the French and turned ashore at the Bay of
Honduras, where he and fifteen more were
taken by a party of Spanish Indians, led by
a Spaniard. Having their hands now tied
behind them, and Ropes around their necks,
they were in that manner led to a place called
Paten six hundred miles from the place where
they were taken and very far within the Land,
having no food but water and the cabbage which
grows upon the Trees. My son had at that
time the Fever and Ague very bad, so that
many times every step seemed as though it
have been his last.
" Yet God marvellously preserved him, while
Three men much more likely than himself per-
ished upon the Road. Upon their Arrival to
the End of their journey they were fast chained
two by two ; and so continued eight months con-
fined, and Languishing in Exquisite Miseries.
" My son was visited with the Small Pox
while he was in these Wretched circumstances.
" At this time two Godly Ministers came to
see my Family, and One of them then putting
up a fervent Prayer with us on behalf of my
Absent Child, he was directed into such Expres-
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 35
sions that I was persuaded that the Prayer was
not lost, but that my Poor Son was then in
some Remarkable Distress.
" Noting down the time when this Prayer
was made. My Son was in irons, and had the
Small Pox upon him.
" I observed some other Things of this Na-
ture, which Modesty directs to leave unmen-
" Innumerable Endeavors were used in this
time by the Father Confessors to persuade them
to turn Papists. Sometimes promising them
Great Rewards, at other times threatening them
with the Mines and with Hell. Some of these
Miserable men became Roman Catholics.
Hereupon the man who took them Petitioned
the Viceroy for a Liberty to sell them into the
Mines; which was very likely to have been
granted. But there happening an Irreconcila-
ble Difference between the Governor of the
place and him, the Governor then wrote to the
Viceroy that they were honest men taken by
the French and turned ashore, having no ill will
and Intention against the Spaniards. The Vice-
roy then sent a special Warrant that they should
all be Released and care taken to send them
down to the Seaside, there to be put aboard
2,6 BLACK HALL
some Spanish Ship and sent to Old Spain, there
to be delivered unto the English Consul. The
New Proselytes hearing of this took to their
heels, met them on the Road, went with them to
Old Spain, leaving their New Religion behind
them, together with a wife which one of them
had married; and became as Good Protestants
(to a trifle if I mistake not) as they were before.
They were put aboard Spanish Ships, and car-
ried prisoners to Campecha, and several other
places in the Spanish Indies, waiting until the
Plate-fleet went home. My Son with some of
his Companions were put on board one of the
galleons. In the Voyage to Spain he was seized
with a Dreadful Fever. The Doctor having
used his best means for him a considerable time
at last pronounced him past recovery. How-
ever he let him Blood, and afterward the vein
opened of itself and bled so long that all his
Blood seemed to be gone, and he lay for Dead.
The Bleeding stopped and so he Quickly Re-
covered. The Captain of the Galeon told him
that he had no Child, and if he would Embrace
the Catholick Faith, and be baptized into it,
and Partake of the Mass, he would immediately
give him Three Hundred Pounds, and put him
into as good a way to Live as he could wish for.
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 37
" Then the Pious Instructions of a Godly
Mother long since gone to a better World were
of Precious use to him. For though he was
then lame (and not long after in danger of
losing his leg) he was Enabled to sleight all
these Temptations, and put his Trust in the
Providence of God. I wish that such Experi-
ances as these might stir up Parents to be more
careful in catechising their children, and that
you or some Powerful Person would move the
Authority that, if it be possible some more Ef-
fectual Course may be taken for the Instructing
of Youth. My Son was Landed at Cadiz.
From thence by the Good Providence of God
he got a Passage to Portugal; from thence to
New-foundland; from thence to Nantucket.
And a Cure for his leg. Here I may not omit
my Thankful Acknowledgement of the Kind-
ness of some Good Peoples whose Hearts God
stirred up to have Compassion on my Child in
his Low Estate. There was a Gentleman from
Boston who had some Lameness in his knees
(whose name I have forgot) : He was in the
Voyage from New-foundland to Nantucket
supplied him with Money and was very kind to
him. At Nantucket several were exceedingly
kind to him. Entertained him at their houses
38 BLACK HALL
and gave him Monies and Garments. When
I revolve the Charity of these Good People,
it often makes me think of what we read in
Mark xiv;8o- (there is no such verse, he has
made a mistake) but I have not yet had an
opportunity to retaliate their Kindness. My
Son coming from Rhode Island got a Passage
from thence home by water. This after Four
Years were near expired. I received my Son,
the truest Penitent that ever my Eyes beheld!
He took diverse Opportunity to discourse with
me privately. Once he told me that he verily
believed that he had little time to live. Said he,
' Tho' I am in perfect health I believe I have
little time remaining, and Since God has been
Exceedingly Merciful to me, I greatly desire to
spend the rest of my Time very much to his
Glory.' In farther Discourse he told me that a
man whom he named had done him Great
Wrong and that he had formerly often resolved
to revenge himself. Said he ' I now freely for-
give him.' And another man ' to whom I have
not behaved respectfully, I wish to ask his
pardon.' He now quickly fell sick, and he now
said to me. ' My business home was to make
my peace with you, and to Dy.'
" His whole conversation during the eight
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 39
weeks which elapsed after his return was Ex-
ceedingly Exemplary. Respectfully your ob't
Matthew Griswold "
CHILDREN OF MATTHEW, 2D, AND PHEBE HYDE.
i. Phebe, born August 13, 1684, died
2. Elizabeth, born Nov. 19, 1685; died,
3. Sarah, born May 19, 1687; died, single,
Her tombstone may still be seen in the ceme-
tery near Duck River, bearing this inscription,
" Sarah Griswold — single woman."
4. Matthew, born Sept. 15, 1688; died,
single, 17 1 2 (the prodigal son).
5. John, born December, 1690; married
Hannah Lee; died March, 1773.
6. George, born Aug. 13, 1692; married
1st, Hannah Lynde; 2d, Elizabeth Lee. Rev.
George Griswold of Giant's Neck.
7. Mary, married Edmond Dorr.
8. Deborah, married Col. Robert Denni-
9. Patience, married John Denison.
10. Samuel, born 1697; died, 1727, aged
40 BLACK HALL
ii. Thomas, born 1699; died July, 1716,
aged 16 years.
The first and second children of Matthew,
2d, and Phebe Hyde were as we see two daugh-
ters who died young. Phebe, the eldest, died at
the age of nineteen years from quinsy, con-
tracted from sleeping in damp sheets. Eliza-
beth, the second child, died at the age of three
years from sleeping in the same bed. From
this we gather that our illustrious grandmother,
Phebe Hyde, though probably a beauty, and un-
questionably " Godly," was a careless house-
keeper, as she did not air her sheets sufficiently,
and thus lost two lovely daughters, one in the
bloom of youth and the other in infancy, from
the same cause.
To continue the course of the family in the
third generation. We have told all about Mat-
thew, 3d, and we have seen that the fifth child
was John, born in 1690. He was for a long
time justice of the peace, and has always been
referred to in the family as "Judge John."
He married Hannah Lee and had children as
1. Matthew, 4th, married Ursula Wolcott.
2. Phebe, married Rev. Jonathan Parsons.
3. Thomas, married Susannah Lynde.
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 4 1
4. Hannah, married Benaja Bushnell.
5. Lucia, married Elijah Backus.
6. Sarah, married Judge William Hill-
7. Clarissa, died in infancy.
8. Clarissa, married Nathan Elliot.
9. Deborah, married Nathan Jewett.
10. Lydia, married Samuel Louden.
Concerning Judge John Griswold we select
the following eulogy from a funeral sermon :
" He was not only a gentleman of great wealth,
but much esteemed by his townsmen and ac-
quaintances for his superior wisdom and in-
He built a house where now stands the Judge
Matthew house. This present house was built
by Judge Matthew on the exact spot, and pre-
cisely like his grandfather's house to gratify his
own father, Governor Matthew, who had ten-
der associations with his father's house.
THE STORY OF MATTHEW GRISWOLD, 4TH, HIS
LOVES, HIS HONORS, AND HIS SUCCESSES
IN POLITICAL LIFE.
Matthew Griswold, the fourth of the name,
was the son of Judge John and Hannah Lee.
He was born in Black Hall in 17 14. He held
42 BLACK HALL
the offices of king's attorney, assistant judge
of the Supreme Court, for thirteen years lieu-
tenant governor; also for the same term chief
judge of the Superior Court, and one year
governor of the state. There are many stories
told of this Matthew. During the Revolu-
tion he was ever an ardent patriot, and the
tradition is that when pursued by a band of
British soldiers he had to run. He ran up
"Whip-poor-will Lane," and when he reached
the Marvin house (now that of Isaac Peck-
ham) he found Hetty Marvin sprinkling the
homespun linen spread on the grass to bleach.
He hid under the linen and told the lit-
tle girl not to let the soldiers know that he
was there. Up came the British soldiers in
their red coats. " Did you see Griswold pass
this way my child?" "No," answered the
brave little maid, which was strictly true, as he
had not passed. So the pursuers went on and
Griswold was not taken.
The love affairs of this same Matthew Gris-
wold form a charming romance, and as we have
all so often heard the story told I have only to
refer to personal reminiscences to tell it as I
find it also in all the narratives. He was at first
interested in a lady at Durham, Conn. She was
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 43
undecided and tradition hath it that she thought
she could do better and marry a doctor, as it
then seemed that Griswold was only a farmer.
When he came for her final answer she hesi-
tated and said: "I would like more time to
consider the matter." Whereupon Matthew re-
plied: " Madam you may have your lifetime."
And she did, for we learn that she never mar-
ried. Why this was so, whether the doctor
failed to come forward, or she repented too late,
tradition saith not.
This unfortunate experience had the effect of
making Matthew Griswold silent and backward
about declaring his love a second time, we
know not how, but he did not " wear the wil-
low." He had a bright, pretty cousin, Ursula
Wolcott of Windsor, daughter of Gov. Roger
Wolcott. She appreciated the worth and dig-
nity of his character, and determined, before
she ever saw him, that she would marry him.
She was visiting at his home in Black Hall, and,
becoming convinced in her own mind of his love
for her, she decided that she must take the
initiative, and as she met him from time to time
around the house she would say, " What did you
say, Cousin Matthew? " As he at first made no
definite response, she still would not give up
44 BLACK HALL
the quest. At length meeting him on the steep,
narrow, winding staircase, she said again
brightly and encouragingly, " What did you
say, Cousin Matthew?" "Oh, nothing," re-
plied the bashful swain. " Well it is time you
did," insisted the spirited maiden. Whereupon
he spoke definitely, was accepted, and they
" lived happily ever after."
Just here it may not be out of place to insert
something about the Wolcott family which it
his been my good fortune to find. I read that
the first Henry Wolcott was the son and heir of
Sir John Wolcott of Golden Manor, England,
which is still standing. Also a personal descrip-
tion of Gov. Roger Wolcott by a South Wind-
sor woman. " Several times a week he rode out
on horseback, and always in full dress. He
wore a suit of scarlet broadcloth. His coat
was made long with wide skirts, and trimmed
down the whole length with gilt buttons and
broad gilt vellum buttonholes two or three
inches in length. The cuffs were large and
deep reaching nearly to the elbows, and were
ornamented like the sides of the coat, also the
pocket-lids with gilt vellum buttonholes and
gilt buttons. The waist coat had skirts, and
was richly embroidered. Ruffles at the bosom
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 45
and over the hands were of lace. He wore a
flowing wig, and a three cornered hat with a
cockade, and rode slowly and stately a large
black horse." Such was the appearance of Gov.
Roger Wolcott, the father of our cherished
grandmother, Ursula. Gorgeous old gentle-
man our ancestor! How I wish we had a por-
trait of him !
The family circle of Ursula Wolcott was
most distinguished. Her father, brother, and
nephew were governors of the state. Also her
husband, and her son, and her cousin, Governor
Pitkin. Six governors in her immediate kin-
dred, besides many judges in various states of
the Union. From her posterity we may find
others, not mentioned here. She herself is said
to have been a woman of great beauty, energy,
and amiability, and I have always heard it said
in the family that the infusion of the Pitkin-
Wolcott lineage into the Griswold integrity
brought in a strain of quickness, brilliance, and
spirit which combined well with the more solid,
sterling qualities native to the Griswold's. We
have always believed this to be true.
I will quote from a sermon of the time : " His
Excellency Matthew Griswold Esqr. descended
from a respectable family was born at Lyme
46 BLACK HALL
March 25 17 14. He was not favored with a
liberal education but was gifted with fine natural
abilities and great natural powers of mind. At
about twenty years of age, he commenced the
study of Law without an instructor and acquired
such thorough acquaintance with the profession
that he was admitted to the bar."
He died of a cancer at his home in Black
Hall, April 28, 1799. His wife, Ursula, died
in 1788, in the 64th year of her age.
V. The children of Matthew, 4th, and
Ursula Wolcott were :
1. John, "Deacon John," married Sarah
2. Matthew, Judge Matthew, married
3. Roger, Governor Roger, married Fanny
4. Ursula, died in infancy.
5. Hannah, died in childhood.
6. Marian, married, 1st, Charles Church
Chandler; 2d, Judge Ebenezer Lane; 3d, Jus-
7. Ursula, married Lynde McCurdy.
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 47
ANOTHER STORY OF GOVERNOR MATTHEW.
During the war he rarely came home for
the house was directly on the shore, and the
British longed to take him as a hostage. He
was governor of the state and one of the Com-
mittee of Safety. One day he was at home —
the cry went up — " The British are coming
over the fields." He jumped into a meal chest
and they threw the bags over him. His wife,
Ursula, met the soldiers. " Search the house,
gentlemen." But the meal bags were not dis-
THE STORY OF THE BREAD AND THE PATRIOT
One of the Griswold's — I think it was
Marian, daughter of Governor Matthew and
Ursula. She had married three times, and at
one time lived on the Post Road along which
the first of our soldiers were to pass on the way
to Boston. She and her servants lighted the
great brick oven, made and baked bread all
night, and gave the loaves to the tired and
hungry men, who could not stop to eat but
took them as they passed.
After the death of Governor Roger, his fam-
ily felt the keen pinch of poverty. One winter
48 BLACK HALL
the girls had no warmer dresses than blue and
white checked cotton, but three of the girls mar-
ried lawyers and two went into the wilds of
Ohio, where there were Indians. One of my
great aunts, Mrs. Lane, used to tell me a story of
sitting alone in her little house at twilight, when
her husband was absent on circuit, the door
opened and a tall Indian came in. He showed
no violence at all. She smiled bravely up at him,
and after a little stay he passed on.
Deacon John Griswold was born in Lyme (or
Black. Hall), April 2, 1752. He was a man of
great size and immense strength. Tradition
says of him that he once knocked down a horse
with a single blow of his fist. Also that his
weight was so tremendous that he broke the
back of a horse on which he rode. He married
Sarah Johnson, and thus came into the Gris-
wold family the Diodati connection, which is as
follows: The Diodati family in America is
first represented by William Diodati, who came
over about 17 17, and bought land in New Ha-
ven, April 23, 17 17. He married, February 6,
172 1, Sarah Dunbar, daughter of John Dunbar.
His only surviving child, Elizabeth Diodati,
married Rev. Stephen Johnson. Her daughter
married John Griswold, as above.
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 49
The children of Deacon John Griswold and
Sarah Johnson were as follows :
1. Diodati Johnson, married Sarah Colt.
2. Ursula, married Richard McCurdy.
3. Elizabeth, married Jacob Barker Gurley.
4. Sarah, married John Lyon Gardiner, 7th
Lord of the Manor of Gardiner's Island, the
only entailed estate in America.
5. John, married, 1st, Mary Elizabeth
Huntington; 2d, Louisa Wilson.
6. Mary Ann, married Levi H. Clark.
7. Charles Chandler, married Elizabeth
Griswold of Giant's Neck.
THE STORY OF GOV. ROGER GRISWOLD, THE
Roger Griswold was born in Black Hall,
1762; we suppose in the house that was blown
down in the gale of 18 15, but we have no
knowledge of that. He entered Yale at the age
of fourteen years; graduated, 1780; studied
law in his father's office, and began the practice
of the profession in Norwich. He married
Fanny Rogers, daughter of Col. Zabdiel
Rogers, and of very illustrious lineage, of which
we will tell more later on. Roger Griswold
5<D BLACK HALL
was elected to Congress five times, from 1795-
1805. In 1798 he had a violent personal en-
counter with Matthew Lyon, the famous Ver-
mont politician. Lyon was undoubtedly the ag-
gressor, but an attempt to expel him from the
House was unsuccessful.
President Adams offered Griswold the posi-
tion of secretary of war in his cabinet, but he
declined the office, preferring, we may suppose,
the practice of law in his native state. He was
chosen a judge of the Supreme Court, and re-
mained on the bench for two years. He was a
presidential elector in 1809, when he voted for
Pinkney and King — the Federalist candidate.
In 181 1 he received the degree of LL.D. from
Harvard University, and in 18 12 from Yale.
Unfortunately there was no portrait ever
painted of either of the Governor Griswolds,
therefore, the State Library does not contain
a likeness of any of our blood, except that of
Gov. Oliver Wolcott.
Governor Roger Griswold is thus described
by a contemporary: " he was a very handsome
man, with large flashing eyes, a commanding
figure, and majestic mien, he seemed by his out-
ward presence, born to rule."
In 1 8 1 1 he was elected governor, and served
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 5 1
but a year and a half. During his administra-
tion President Madison made a requisition on
the state for four companies of troops for gar-
rison duty, but the governor declined to furnish
them on the ground that " they were not needed
to repel invasion."
Dying in office, his native state erected a
monument to him, now standing in the little
family cemetery at Black Hall. This bears the
following inscription :
" He was respected in the university as an
elegant classical scholar. Quick discernment,
sound reasoning, legal science, manly eloquence
raised him to the first eminence at the bar. Dis-
tinguished in the national council, among the
illustrious statesmen of his age, revered for his
inflexible integrity and pre-eminent talents, his
political course was highly honorable — his
fame and honor were the just rewards of noble
action, and of a life devoted to his country —
His memory is embalmed in the hearts of sur-
viving relatives and of a grateful people.
When this monument shall have decayed his
name will be enrolled with honor among the
great, the wise, and the good."
52 BLACK HALL
THE STORY OF FANNY ROGERS.
(Mostly from the notes of Miss L. S. W.
I have told that Gov. Roger Griswold mar-
ried Fanny Rogers, daughter of Col. Zabdiel
Rogers of Norwich. Hers was a most illus-
trious lineage. On her father's side she was
directly descended from John Rogers, dean of
the Church of England, eminent scholar, and
assistant translator of the Bible with Tyndale
and Miles Coverdale. First martyr to the
Protestant faith in the reign of Queen Mary.
Also Col. Zabdiel Rogers married Elizabeth
Tracy, and her lineage runs back through va-
rious illustrious Tracys, through Baldwin,
Count of Flanders, to the Emperor Charle-
magne; through Saxon kings to Alfred the
Great and his grandfather, Egbert, king of
the West Saxons.
Lofty descent this, both for heaven and earth;
but we must now confine our attention to Ameri-
can history. Fanny Rogers was born away
back in the eighteenth century, about 1769.
She remembered at Norwich the dashing past
of the horseman who brought the tidings of
Lexington and Concord, her father was Colonel
Rogers, in the thick of preparation.
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 53
She had curious and vague remembrance of
going to a house, where they pulled up a trap
door. This woman went down into the cellar
and she saw ladies drinking something out of
cups. She always supposed them to be guilty
and unpatriotic persons drinking tea. Fanny
Rogers was invited by her step-grandfather,
Parson Snow of Providence, to " entertain the
fine gentleman." This was Count Custine.
In November, 1782, the officers of the French
army were quartered on the principal citizens
of Providence, and Count Custine fell to the
share of Parson Snow as a guest. Annals of
the period in a Providence paper have the fol-
lowing notices : "Nov. 18. The French army
commanded by his Excellency Count Rocham-
beau arrived here from the westward. Nov.
23. A very splendid ball was given by his Exc.
Count Rochambeau to the ladies and gentle-
men of the town. Dec. 16. A public dinner
was given by his Exc. the Governor and the
Hon. Council to the General and Field officers
of the French army, now in town, The Mar-
quis de Vaudreuil and principal officers of the
fleet." Count Custine seems to have been full of
charm. When the day came for the army to
leave town, he asked Fanny Rogers to stand
54 BLACK HALL
on the stoop that he might have a last look at
her. As they passed her Custine saluted her,
bowing low : officers and soldiers followed suit,
while pretty blushing young Fanny made cour-
tesy after courtesy. She always ended this story
in a sad tone, " And my dear his head was taken
off in the French Revolution," raising her hand
to her throat.
THE STORY OF COUNT CUSTINE AS TOLD BY
" Adam Phillippe de Custine, who had served
in America with Lafayette, welcomed the Revo-
lution in France. He had fought battles in its
cause, and won them across the Rhine. He
was arrested on account of the loss of Mayence
on the 22nd July 1793, was removed on the
30th to Conciergerie and on the 17th August
he was brought to trial. Condemned on the
27th, he was condemned and guillotined on the
following morning. His son's wife, Louise
Melanie Delphine de Sabran wrote to implore
him to die as a good Catholic; he had already
resolved on doing so, had received absolution
from the Abbe Sothringer chaplain of the Con-
ciergerie who though a ' constitutional priest '
was entitled to administer the sacraments. The
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 55
good Abbe accompanied the compte to the scaf-
fold reading prayers and giving him the crucifix
to kiss. The Jacobins were incensed at this
pious and happy end, and arrested both the
priest and the daughter-in-law. Later the priest
was set free, but the daughter was imprisoned.
She escaped in the dress of the jailor's daugh-
ter, and being threatened by a turbulent mob,
an unknown woman lent her infant as a pro-
tection. After escaping the mob, Delphine
handed the child back to the mother and got
away. They had not exchanged a word. Her
husband had been guillotined, but she lived un-
My friend and cousin, Miss Perkins, who has
given me these notes, can remember a little high-
heeled shoe, long since disappeared, which Fanny
Rogers wore in her youth at the French balls.
She said that she had to walk down hill back-
wards when she had it on. The thin dresses
they wore in those days in great, draughty
rooms, heated only by wood fires in open fire-
places, seem suicidal to us. Thin French or
India muslins and a little gossamer scarf over
the shoulders, no real undergarments, a linen
slip and a petticoat. And thus they rode on
horseback many miles often.
56 BLACK HALL
There is a tradition in the family that Fanny
was such a coquettish and captivating person
that Governor Roger did not like to leave her
behind unprotected amid the gayeties of Nor-
wich, when he was in Congress. So he took,
her behind him on a pillion to the old home,
built the house now standing and installed her
as mistress. The story is told that when dull
and lonely, Governor Roger would take his
violin, play a minuet, and he and Fanny would
dance up and down the long kitchen. Later on
the children came, and there was enough to fill
their hearts and heads. I am sorry I cannot
remember this bright grandmother, except as
blind and very infirm. But others have been
kind to recall and tell me these stories. They
can remember how she used to sing old songs
and ballads in a clear, high, sweet voice, and
how all the family used to sing together in parts
around the fire, singing catches and glees
brought from England by Cap. Augustus
Now I must bring my family reminiscences
down to the children of Gov. Roger Griswold
and Fanny Rogers.
Matthew Griswold, the sixth of the name,
was born in Norwich, and lived there until his
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 57
father's death. He was beginning the study of
medicine, and full of interest and ambition in
his studies. But the premature death of his
father left his mother and the younger children
without a protector; so he gave up his plans,
came home to take charge of the farm and de-
voted his life to duty. But it never quenched
his spirit — he never knew an aged moment. I
remember him well — tall, thin, active as a boy
of twenty years, full of a genial wit, and a fine
story teller. He had a way when making some
specially delightful point of giving a light,
quick stamp that gave poignancy to the joke
or bright story. A brave, gallant man he was,
and a noble son. He was an extensive and suc-
cessful proprietor of shad fisheries in the mouth
of the river, where he used to go out with his
boats and nets to a pier and catch large quanti-
ties of the favorite Connecticut River shad. I
have been told that whenever a thousand shad
were caught at one haul, they used to fire a
gun from the pier to announce the fact.
He married Phebe Ely of North Lyme, who
survived him and lived to be over a hundred
years old and died a very few years since. Be-
fore her death there were living in the collateral
line five generations. To paraphrase the old
58 BLACK HALL
saying, she might have said, " Rise niece and
go to thy daughter, for they daughter's daugh-
ter hath got a daughter." Her niece had two
great granddaughters. We consider this a very
rare fact. This great aunt was of a rare spirit,
remarkably strong, serene, and gentle, a poised
character. She had much to endure, for in her
early married life housekeeping on a farm was
a strenuous calling. She carried it on with a
calm, unruffled temper and great ability. She
brought up a grand family of daughters, noble,
dignified, and accomplished gentlewomen, who
cared for her last years with entire devotion,
and now live in the old home of Gov. Roger
Griswold. Her one son is the Hon. Matthew
Griswold of Erie, Penn., several years member
of Congress from his district.
But I must not omit to tell about Ensign
Thomas Griswold and the " Black Hall boys, '
for these were among the amusing stories which
used to be told. Ensign Thomas was one of
the sons of Judge John and Hannah Lee. He
married Susannah Lynde, and built a house
where now stands Roger Griswold's barn, which
we mentioned on the map.
Ensign Thomas had six daughters, who were
called the " Pleiades " on account of their
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 59
great beauty, and the " Black Hall boys " be-
cause they were fond of and skilled in athletic
sports. Such was the flow of their spirits that
they were full of pranks. Their names were
1. Phebe, born 1743; married Col. Dyer
Throop, and received from her father the
" Throop lot," whether or not he built a house
for her tradition saith not, but the field has
always retained the name.
2. Lucy, born 1745; married Richard
3. Lois, born 1747; married Samuel
4. Sarah, born 1749; married Col. David ,
5. Lovisa, born 1754; married Lee Lay.
6. Anne, born 1757; died 1760.
These maidens attracted many suitors, who
were not frightened away by their larks, as we
see every one married except the youngest,
Anne, who died in infancy. We will tell of
some of their tricks. One suitor left his horse
fastened near the door while he paid his court
to the young beauty of his choice. Meanwhile
her mischievous sisters unbuckled the saddle
girths, and when the enamoured youth mounted
60 BLACK HALL
his horse to return home, he found himself left
sitting on the saddle on the ground while the
steed careered away. Another trick was to lean
from an upper window and, with a fish-hook,
catch off the hat of a young man, as with a
beating heart he raised the knocker to announce
his arrival to his beloved. One of these girls
was so capricious that after giving her promise
to her lover, preparing her trousseau, the wed-
ding guests were assembled, even the parson
was in the house. The bride ran away and
hid in the cornfield. The young man and all her
family followed her into the obscurity of the
corn and used all their persuasions to induce
her to carry out her promise. At first she was
obdurate, but at length the arguments and
pleadings overcame her reluctance and she re-
turned to the house, following the now delighted
bridegroom, who ran on crying to the minister,
"Hurry up! she says she will; she says she
will." And she did, though tradition does not
say which one this was.
THE STORY OF DIODATE GRISWOLD.
There were some unique characters in Black
Hall before my day, but I heard so many
stories about Diodate Griswold that I felt he
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 6 1
was one of whom I must find out his story and
He was a very handsome man, who grad-
uated at Yale in 1793, and had a brilliant gift
in oratory and conversation, an elegant and
courtly manner. His love of dress was mag-
nificent beyond that of Oliver Goldsmith, of
whom the story is told that he went to his
bishop to apply for ordination wearing a pair
of scarlet breeches. The bishop was so offended
at this breech of propriety that he sent Gold-
smith away to try his fortunes in another pro-
fession. However, the subject of this sketch
displayed his love for gorgeous costume in a
more appropriate sphere. We are told that
at a ball in New Haven, where he had shown
himself as the gayest and most admired of the
beaux, he appeared first in a black satin costume
and later in the evening, after a brief absence,
he again showed his elegant figure and hand-
some face in one of peach color. We hear that
later in life, arrested for debt by his tailor, his
brothers were obliged to pay up his debts, and
that by his convivial habits he so wasted his
patrimony that in his latter years he was en-
tirely dependent on his brothers, and ended his
life in an insane asylum in Hartford.
62 BLACK HALL
Sally Colt was a very beautiful girl, of a
warm heart and high spirit. I have heard her
story told by her friend, Fanny Leffingwell of
Hartford. She gave her heart and promised
her hand to a young gentleman of good family
and dignity of character. Diodate Griswold
was attracted to her and made ardent love to
her, but she refused him and made ready for
her marriage with the suitor of her choice.
The wedding day was fixed; and, bidding her
a tender farewell, her lover was obliged to
leave her to attend to some important business
in central or western New York, hoping soon to
return to claim his happy bride. But he, alas,
was taken suddenly ill with a fever, became de-
lirious, so that he could not even tell his own
name, surely not that of his fiancee, nor the fact
of his immediate marriage. Meanwhile the
lovely, high-spirited girl was so mortified and
angered by his apparent neglect that she was
beside herself with injured pride and disap-
pointment. Now was the chance for the wily
tongue and brilliant persuasive powers of the
lover whom she had refused; and he used them
all with signal ability. He fed the flame of her
anger and touched her pride, telling her all
manner of stories to account for the absence of
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 63
the expected and missing bridegroom; with
vast tact and skill bringing her to contrast his
devotion and tender worship with the desertion
of the absent one, until at length she consented
to marry him, and did so hastily. When too
late to retract, her chosen lover returned and,
after a full explanation, she learned how she
hed been deceived, how misunderstanding and
deceit had wrecked two lives. She soon learned
that she was irrevocably bound to one whom
she had never loved and found was entirely un-
worthy of trust and respect. It was not long
before they were separated and she went away
to pass the remainder of her saddened life far
from the scenes and friends of her youth. She
lived long among strangers, but made many
friends who learned to love and respect her;
but all joy was blighted, her life was one of
sadness and disappointment, begun so full of
hope and promise.
Judge Matthew Griswold married Lydia Ely
of Lyme, Mount Archer, in the north part of
the town, since divided.
Matthew Griswold, the fifth of the name, re-
sided in Black Hall, a large portion of which
he owned and cultivated. He had excellent
judgment and a thorough knowledge of the law,
64 BLACK HALL
and would have been eminent in his profession
but for the defect of stammering in his speech,
which hindered his speaking in public. He had
such a fine reputation for his legal knowledge
that a number of distinguished men studied un-
der his instruction, among whom I can mention
Judge Ebenezer Lane of Ohio; Judge Henry
M. Waite of Connecticut, father of the late
chief justice of the United States; his nephews,
Roger Griswold of Ashtabula, Ohio, and
Charles of New London and Lyme, Conn.
In order to explain fully the individuals con-
cerning whom some confusion has arisen, I will
specify that there were two Charles Chandler
Griswolds. I do not feel sure which of these
was the older, but will mention first the son of
He went to New York and engaged in mer-
cantile pursuits with great success. He married
Elizabeth Griswold of the Giant's Neck branch
of the family. After accumulating a handsome
fortune, he retired, settled in Black Hall and,
in 1842, built the new and beautiful house, now
the residence of Mrs. W. G. Lane. This was
built precisely on the site of the one built and
occupied by his father. He lived to a good old
age, and was a familiar figure in my childhood
at Black Hall.
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 6$
We have said that " Cousin Charles C." mar-
ried Elizabeth Griswold of Giant's Neck, the
descendant of Rev. George Griswold. I wish
to insert some personal recollections of this
lady. She was, even in age, a handsome
woman, slender, straight as an arrow, fine, well
chiselled features and sparkling black eyes.
And so neat! I have been in Holland, a place
which is said to be the cleanest in the world;
but it did not astonish me, who had passed the
early years of my life next door to Cousin
Elizabeth! Not only her house, but her lawn,
the green in front, her barn indeed showed
never a cobweb or speck of dust. Her entire
place was so clean as to be truly awe-inspiring
to the neighbors' children, who, conscious of
the imperfection of little dusty shoes, trod " deli-
cately," like Agag in the Bible, when sent to
carry the mail or some message over the spot-
less flag-stones. I remember a wonderful cup-
board which was sometimes opened to show
beautiful china, and sometimes, if I had been
very good, or had brought some especially wel-
come letters, or perhaps " Godey's Lady's
Book " or the " New Lork Ledger," from out
that cupboard would be taken an orange, or
some rare and delicious candy from New York,
66 BLACK HALL
and I was bidden to put it in my pocket (we
had pockets in those days). Also I remember
when ill with the measles or some kindred dis-
order, there came over a delicate bowl, covered
by an equally exquisite saucer, containing some
most delicious custard or jelly for the little sick
Again I remember one very red-letter day
when Mrs. Ethelinda Griswold of Giant's
Neck, Cousin Elizabeth's mother, invited the
Black Hall relatives to pass the afternoon and
take tea at Giant's Neck. No one can imagine
from the present appearance of that degen-
erated spot how beautiful it was in my child-
hood, though there are still some who can
remember. The little gambrel roofed house
nestling among the rocks looking out upon the
bay, surrounded by lilac bushes and lovely old
fashioned flowers, with the blue blue bay in
front, and the little islands dotting the sea, all
radiant in the June sunshine. It seemed the most
beautiful and romantic spot I could ever imagine.
And such a tea ! We never meet such " loaf
cake " and raised biscuits, such amber and crim-
son preserves;, only in Mrs. Whitney's tales are
such toothsome delicacies. After tea we sat in
the twilight on the fragrant porch, and I
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 6j
listened to reminiscences of Cousin Elizabeth's
youth. And she told me of a riding party when
my mother was young, when she and my father
rode out with some other young people; and,
after such a tea as we had just enjoyed, riding
home in the moonlight they became engaged.
How pleasant it all was ! and how lovely was
" Giant's Neck! " For many years I could not
pass on the train without a pang of regret at
seeing this charming spot turned into a manu-
factory of fish fertilizers. The loathsome odor
of fish pumice pervading the air once fragrant
with the sweet breath of the sea and of the
sweet garden flowers.
I have said that there were two Charles
Chandler Griswolds, and have told you about
Cousin Charles C. The other one was the son
of Governor Roger Griswold and my own
grandfather. He died years before I was born,
but my mother and grandmother have given
me a full description of him, and I have read
his journal and his letters, so I can tell about
him. He studied law under the instruction of
his uncle, Judge Matthew Griswold, and was
admitted to the bar. He married Ellen Eliza-
beth Perkins, youngest child of Judge Elias
Perkins of New London. He at first practiced
68 BLACK HALL
law in New London, but after a few years came
to Black Hall and built the brick house, in
1822, now the residence of Mrs. Charles H.
Griswold, and her son or his grandson, John
After these two cousins, bearing the same
identical name, returned to live as near neigh-
bors in the old home confusion was trouble-
some; therefore, my grandfather dropped en-
tirely the use of his middle name, and as he had
officiated as governor's aid to his father, Gov.
Roger Griswold, he was thenceforth known as
" Col. Charles " Griswold.
The latter was a man, as I have been told,
of a tall, slender form, fine features, beautiful
dark blue eyes, which have been hereditary in
his family, shown in all his children and in some
of his great-grandchildren. He was of a quiet,
reserved temper, of scholarly tastes and acquire-
ments. He went to England again and again;
and his journal shows the impressions on a culti-
vated mind made by the scenes and historic ob-
jects in the mother land, clothed in correct and
While in England during one of his visits
he learned of the destruction by fire of the old
church on the " Meeting House Hills," and he
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 69
took pains to make designs from one of the
churches near London (St. Michael's, I be-
lieve), made or planned by Sir Christopher
Wren, and brought these to Lyme.
After these designs was made the beautiful
edifice which was destroyed on the night of
July 3, 1907. This church has always been
considered unique in its classic and beautiful
proportions, and sincerely loved and treasured
by us all. It is gone, but fortunately there are
preserved many beautiful paintings of it done
by the skillful hand of several of the gifted
artists who of recent years have made their
home in Lyme, attracted here by the pic-
turesque scenery of the vicinity.
Col. Charles Griswold also planted the
avenue of elms which give such a charm to the
entrance to Black Hall, and other noble trees
about his house. The trees around the church
were also planted by him. Only a few years
since three majestic trees, the finest of all in the
row behind C. H. Griswold's house, were blown
down by a cyclone. It was deeply impressive
to stand and mourn the loss of those old friends
of my childhood, like fallen heroes. The
family, aided by other friends, have searched
in vain for the original plans of the church,
70 BLACK HALL
for they cannot be found. There is no doubt,
however, of the fact that Colonel Charles
brought them, and that the church was built
after these designs. It has always been spoken
of in the family, and though there is now no
one left who can remember the building of the
church (in 18 17) , all the older people who re-
member being told, by eye witnesses, know of
the truth of this statement. Col. Charles Gris-
wold was the first person to organize a Sunday
School in Lyme.
I have said that Col. Charles Griswold mar-
ried Miss Ellen E. Perkins, daughter of Judge
Elias Perkins of New London. She was a lady
of cultured tastes, wide reading, and acute
literary judgment. Of her may be quoted the
rather trite saying, " to know her was a liberal
education." Her influence was such as to raise
the standard of thought all about her. She was
a sincere Christian, though a woman of un-
trammelled thought; a sincere lover of the
Bible, and a conscientious observer of the sanc-
tity of the Sabbath. On this day she always
required a study of the " Assembly's Cate-
chism," and that only " Sunday books " should
be read. This was no privation, as she had a
store of delightful books which were included
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 7 1
under this head. First, a large, illustrated
Bible, from which the wondrous lore of the
Old Testament became familiar to us as a
pleasure not surpassed by the "Arabian
Nights." Also the beautiful story of "Pil-
grim's Progress," which great allegory was
read by us as a romance second only to Ivanhoe.
She always allowed for Sunday reading the
works of Mrs. Sherwood. " The Lady of the
Manor," delightful details of eighteenth cen-
tury life in England, France, and India. I
rarely see, among the floods of modern histori-
cal romance, anything which equals these. On
other days she used to entrance us from the
stores of her wonderful memory. She knew
by heart Scott's " Lady of the Lake " entire.
When I was a tiny child I can remember sitting
on her knee before the fire in the long room
listening entranced to her recital of this delight-
ful poem. My memory always recalls her
voice ringing out with enthusiasm in the Bat-
tle of Beal-au-Dune or melting in tenderness
in the parting of Ellen and her father. One
of my first memories is of standing at her knee
and following her knitting needles over the
words of the 125th Psalm in a large print
72 BLACK HALL
There is a sweet miniature of her, in the pos-
session of her first great-granddaughter, show-
ing a piquant profile, bright hazel eyes, a skin
so fair that the painter said that the ivory
needed no tint to depict it. A little plump face,
lovely fair curls drawn up from the neck behind
and falling over her head and face. In age she
was a tiny figure, delicate extremities, small fea-
tures, the same sparkling eyes ; wearing in front
of a delicate lace cap, either black or white, ac-
cording to the occasion, little silvery curls.
Despite her diminutive aspect she had a
large and noble spirit. Family discipline was
maintained in perfection and the many bereave-
ments of her life were borne with strong resig-
nation and lofty faith. She suffered many
griefs : her husband was taken from her in the
prime of life; her father, brother, and sister;
her three lovely little ones in infancy; her
favorite, Joseph, in youth, the sweetest gentle-
man I ever knew; and, amid the strife of war,
her poet, scholar, and hero, John. But her
faith was strong through all, and though she
taught in words the theology of Calvin, she
based her life on the love of the Divine Father
and was thus sustained.
Among the neighbors, outside of the family
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 73
circle, she was spoken of as " Miss Ellen " or
the " Widder Ellen."
THE CENTENNIAL OF THE BLACK HALL DIS-
On the first day of December, 1806, the
citizens of Black Hall decided that a school-
house was needed in that vicinity, and on the
4th of July, 1906, the centennial anniversary
was celebrated with great distinction. A fine
paper was read by Mr. Moss, sent by the Hon.
Matthew Griswold of Erie, Penn., who had re-
ceived his earliest instruction at this little, old
schoolhouse. This was a most enjoyable paper,
full of interesting reminiscences, which he was
so well qualified to give as he had entered this
schoolhouse at the early age of three and a half
and later had taught there. A very witty piece
of poetry was also read on this occasion. The
original subscription paper was produced, and
of this I will here give a copy:
" We, the subscribers agree to build a school-
house for the eighth school district in the first
Society of Lyme, of the following discription
viz. to be seventeen feet in length, and fourteen
feet width in the clear, and to be seven and a
half feet between joints, to be covered with pine
74 BLACK HALL
boards as high as the desks, and plastered with
lime mortar above and overhead, to have three
windows, and the outside door to open into an
entry by the side of the chimney, and a closet
on the other side of the chimney. The house
to be placed on the parade where the two roads
meet in the District. And we agree to defray
the expense of the house in the proportion an-
nexed to our names respectively.
" In witness whereof we have hereunto set
our names, this first day of December 1806.
"Lee Lay one eighth
"Matthew Griswold — one quarter
" Roger Griswold — one third
" Diodate J. Griswold — one eighth."
And since then the old school-house has been
devoted to the purpose for which it was de-
signed so long ago, by those men long since
passed away. And to quote the words of the
Hon. Matthew Griswold, " Of the scholars of
my time I can say but little, they are mostly
if not all gone — There were pleasant fellows
and pretty girls among them, who have lived
unselfish lives and so far as I recall were good
citizens. No doubt the time spent in the old
school house had its influence for good, and did
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 75
its share in forming character that helped them
to stand for the right."
THE SEPTEMBER GALE OF 1815.
We have referred to this tremendous gale
before as obliterating all traces of the ancient
Indian burying ground and as destroying the
house of eight rooms built by Matthew Gris-
The following account was copied from the
journal of Col. Charles Griswold, who was an
eye witness :
"Saturday, Sept. 23, 18 15.
" This day occurred the most violent tornado
and the highest Flood-tide ever known since
the settlement of this State. It commenced
about seven A.M. and continued until twelve
M. The gale was from the S. E. The conse-
quence was that the waters of the Sound were
heaped up, and thrown with immense fury on
the shores. Such a swell of waters, tide and
surf no inhabitant had ever witnessed. It came
on rolling over all our high banks and inun-
dating our fields in a manner that was perfectly
terrific. The salt spray was scattered all over —
the country and vegetation for miles from the
76 BLACK HALL
sea became salted — The tide was about five
feet higher than usual. The Gale prostrated
vast quantities of forest and fruit trees; the
face of the country is essentially altered and
denuded. Great numbers of buildings are also
demolished by the fury of the wind. Pro-
digious damage is sustained on the Sea Coast
from New York to Portland."
Tradition tells us that window panes as far
as Salem, Conn., were so incrusted with salt as
to be entirely obscured.
We have spoken of Capt. Augustus Henry
Griswold, who was for many years commander
of some of the fine sailing vessels, carrying
goods and passengers from New York to Eng-
land and sometimes to China. He also has
left journals telling of his adventures. Through
the kindness of his granddaughter, Miss Lilian
Griswold, I have been permitted to read a thril-
ling account of a shipwreck. While he was a
supercargo he suffered a shipwreck on the At-
lantic Ocean. The vessel was lost ; the captain
and sixteen men were crowded in an open boat,
and after enduring terrible privations for many
days, they were at last landed at Fayal, on the
Azores Islands. There they met with hospi-
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 77
tality from the American consul, Mr. John A.
Dabney, who treated them kindly, gave them
food, clothes, and shelter, and at length ar-
ranged for their return home. Capt. A. H.
Griswold married Miss Elizabeth Lansdale,
who was a very pretty English girl ; he built the
picturesque stone cottage, behind the hill, look-
ing towards the sea. He was much interested in
the cause of temperance in the early days of
temperance reform, and used to give able ad-
dresses for this cause. There is still standing
a cairn, erected on the top of the hill between
his house and the road, and it was always called
" the top of Mt. Temperance." He brought
home some fine prints of Raphael's cartoons on
scriptural subjects, still in the possession of his
grandson and granddaughter, Edward and
Lilian Griswold. The stone cottage is still stand-
ing, but the grandchildren have made copious
additions which have rendered the old house
much more convenient and commodious.
78 BLACK HALL
PAGES FROM THE NOTE-BOOK OF MISS L. S. W.
PERKINS OF CONCORD, MASS. CHILDISH
REMINISCENCES OF HER GRANDMOTHER,
FANNY ROGERS, WIFE OF GOV. ROGER GRIS-
" The great delight of these child-days was
the coming of Grandmother Griswold, one of
the gayest and brightest of old ladies.
" My very first remembrance is her teaching
me grand manners. It was suggested that when
I was old enough I was to go to Mme.
Chegary's school in New York (my good fairy
interfered and I went to Miss Green's).
" Grandmother used to go through elaborate
ceremonies in connection with my presentation
to the French dame. She would sit solemnly in
a chair and I would enter the room and make a
courtesy and otherwise comport myself in a so-
ciety manner. Then I was put in the chair, and
Grandmother would come in and make the dear
old world courtesy and so we would play hour
after hour. Or she would sing in a high clear
sweet voice old fashioned songs, Mother join-
ing in with her fine contralto. Mother used to
tell me that when the big family of her brothers
and sisters was at home, they would sit about
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 79
the big wood fire in Black Hall and sing catches
and glees and old English songs. One of the
brothers, Uncle Henry, used to bring them
from England, as well as new books. He
brought Ivanhoe and Waverly, when all the
world was reading and wondering who wrote
them. Mother would ask ' anything new by the
Great Unknown?' (Her mother was Marian
Griswold, daughter of Gov. Roger, who mar-
ried Thomas Perkins, and the great Aunt of
the collectors of these memories, A. B. A.)
" Grandmother was in these days about sev-
enty years old. (She died in '63, aged ninety-
four.) During the twenty years of her bright
old age, she was full of abundant life. A bril-
liant talker, full of stories of earlier times. I
can quite believe what they said that as a young
woman she was such a captivating person. My
mother told the story of her father's funeral.
He was beautiful in death. A faint color in
the cheeks as in life, robbed Death of its terror
to her childish mind. (We have told else-
where that Gov. Roger Griswold was a very
handsome man.) Miss Perkins goes on to say
that one of the older generation said that
Uncle Robert bore a startling likeness to him.
That same uncle is in another picture.
80 BLACK HALL
" I was a little girl, he came in to see
Mother. He was a tall handsome courteous
gentleman, dressed in the last English style,
light trousers strapped to the well made boot,
not quite unconscious of his own perfections.
There was a tradition in the family, that Grand-
father had been painted by Rembrandt Peale and
that the portrait was destroyed by fire.
" Grandmother was passionately fond of
reading, or after she had lost her sight, of being
read aloud to — Anything, Everything I She
simply adored Cecilia, on which she could stand
close examination. Pamela, Romance of the
Forest — ' Turn Angelina ever dear ' she
would recite with delight, and an old poem
about a miller. In her bookcase she had Rol-
lins' Ancient History, many weary pages of
which I used to read to her, Russell's Modern
Europe, Hume's England, Cowper's Task,
which I have. But her love for the book of
Job was beyond all. I would sit on a little
bench at her feet, reading chapter after chap-
ter, sometimes her voice murmuring an accom-
paniment of well remembered verses.
" Grandmother would tell of the old Meet-
ing House on the Hill, unheated, save for the
little foot stoves which the ladies carried with
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 8 1
them. She said the cold was bitter and the
sermons long. In this connection I must tell
the story of a Methodist minister, whose ser-
mon was so long that when an ungodly neigh-
bor planted his garden on Sunday morning and
then went into church, while the sermon went
on the beans sprouted, came up, and when the
people came out of church, the beans showed
above the ground.
" Grandmother's story of one misadventure
at the old meeting house was delightfully told.
On a chill windy Sunday she emerged from the
meeting house door, proud and gallant in a new
red ' top-coat ' tightly buttoned down to the
bottom of the skirt. A great gust of wind took
her off her feet. She could not recover herself
and rolled rapidly down the steep hill, until
some one caught her floating cape, and arrested
her mad progress.
" I was also told of the evenings beside the
big hearth during Grandfather's short visits
from Washington. The eagerness of all to
hear the latest news. The minister who had
ambled down on his steady nag, Uncle Judge —
perhaps the Doctor, all listening and discussing,
and often in the chimney corner, a poor lazy
Indian also with his mug of Flip."
82 BLACK HALL
BLACK HALL IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY,
MISS L. S. W. PERKINS' REMINISCENCES.
"All our enjoyments were without money,
for we none of us seemed to have much. We
rode the same horses that trotted discreetly on
"We had one good sail boat, called 'The
Walk Spanish.' We would go to Saybrook,
sailing down the Black Hall River, across the
mouth of the broad Connecticut, buying crackers
and cheese at a sort of Marine Supply shop,
and washing them down with warm root beer.
I wonder did ever young people have a sweeter
and wholesomer time? I have never been able
to recall an unkindness or ungentleness or coarse
" We would sing, I playing the accompani-
ment, or Jim would accompany me on the violin
which he played well. He told me, once in that
Caifornia experience, when he had used up all
his money and was waiting for supplies from
home, he played many a time for his dinner.
He was among the Argonauts going immedi-
ately after graduating from Yale. The love of
adventure took him, not the love of gold, to
which he was always consistently and curiously
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 83
" During those summers, none could be hap-
pier than we. Our ages from sixteen to twenty,
life before us beckoning with every bright
promise. Each house having some girl or
young man visitor giving plenty of partners for
the impromptu dances. We used to dance
through long afternoons, Aunt Helen playing
the piano, or one of the boys with a fiddle ; and
one evening we danced to the music of the hum-
ble Jew's harp ! We rode, drove, walked,
rowed or sailed. Scoured the pastures for
flowers and berries, examined the rocks with
our geological hammers.
" In looking back I remember one Thanks-
giving, the happiest I ever knew, for I was too
late for the wonderful ones at Grandfather's.
This was in 1857. Mother and I took dinner
at Uncle Mart's. Everything that could be was
off his own land, and how good everything was
with Aunt Phebe's delicate touch at the helm.
I remember we younger ones, rose from the
table when the pies came on and ran around
the house in the fresh open air to freshen up our
"Then in the evening we all went to Aunt
Ellen's, talked, chattered and danced by the fire-
light, making even little, old white-haired, blind
84 BLACK HALL
Grandmother, foot it down the center with the
rest of us.
" Aunt Ellen's ghost story was a very real
one to me. It seemed removed from the vision
theory, as there was another witness.
" Aunt was sleeping in a room alone, one of
her children occupied a small one opening from
hers, but with no other exit. A friend Mrs.
was living in Ohio, at last accounts well
and happy. Auntie had no more reason to
think of her than usual. She was waked from
sleep by the sight of her friend passing through
her room into the one where the child slept.
In a moment the child screamed ' there is some
one in my room " — They knew afterward that
the friend was dead, but how things corre-
sponded I never knew. Things like this were
not examined into in those old days. Aunt
Ellen was her own Psychical Society. She was a
strange compound of the old and the new. She
had read and thought all her life and seemed
to forget nothing. She read everything she
could lay her hand on, Rees' Encyclopedia when
there was nothing else. She was especially
fond of the Bible.
" She would sit at a window overlooking the
Sea, with her large Bible on the broad window
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 85
seat, reading, reading, hour after hour, while
dust fell untouched, dinner unprovided for, un-
less she had a capable Bridget. I do not know
whether Aunt was perplexed or questioning.
She accepted modern theories (they were geo-
logical then) with ease, everything fitting into
her scheme of the universe. There must have
been some theological free thinking, for one
night very late, midnight perhaps, we were
sitting alone in the long parlor, close to the fire
place, for it was winter. We must have been
talking of the doctrine of the Atonement from
the connection, but I remember only this one
thing, ' you may call it what you will, right or
wrong but it was not Justice that He should
suffer for our Sins.'
" Those familiar visits to Black Hall, and
the intimate relations with Aunt Ellen were
very dear to me, and must have had an immense
influence on my mental development. And
morals, as well, for her standard of honor and
truth was the good old Puritan one, just missing
asceticism. Her house ran itself. Often, when
I have gone out for a visit, she would say, ' My
dear, I have had a large loaf of fruit cake
made, it is in the cellar closet, whenever you
are hungry, take a piece.' We would often
86 BLACK HALL
talk on, forgetting that dinner was to be thought
of, then Charley would fry a large dish of po-
" ' Thorndale,' she completely lost herself in.
It seems strange that I cannot remember more
of these talks, for they went on for years, and
were on every subject, except things and peo-
ple around us. No scandal and no gossip.
" The house was full of books, Uncle
Charles' library with solid books and old his-
tory; and the modern books the boys brought
home from College, Emerson, Thoreau, Lowell.
" And a delightful cupboard in the attic
crammed with novels. I too read through all,
thick and thin, which was safe, as I suppose
everything had been taken away that could hurt
us young people.
" Those years before the terrible strain of
war times were full of blameless beauty."
BLACK HALL AT THE PRESENT TIME.
Still, as in the time of the settlement by the
first Matthew Griswold, Black Hall sustains
its ancient natural beauties. The ripple of the
waves can still be heard on the beach; the soft
skies hang over the charming scene; the radiant
sunsets delight the eye with the marvelous after-
TRADITIONS AND REMINISCENCES 87
glow, which is rarely seen further inland; the
moonlight shimmers on the silvery waves as it
did when the stalwart Matthew and the lovely
Phebe Hyde walked, smiled, and loved there
so long ago. The scene is not the same;, the
unbroken forests are all gone, none of the
oldest houses are here now, but in those yet
remaining lingers yet the sweet spirit of hos-
pitality, family affection, and a lofty standard
of intelligence. May we continue to prize and
remember our inheritance and may we and our
remotest posterity feel the inspiration of the
past, as it lingers in this beloved spot, to keep
before us the ideals of all these brave, noble,
and courteous gentlefolks from whom we are
so fortunate as to derive our lineage. May all
we undertake be done " bravely and swiftly '"
like the greyhounds in our family arms.
Before closing I must tender my grateful
acknowledgment especially to Mrs. C. H. Gris-
wold and her son, John Hubert, for their kind-
ness in furnishing me with the best and oldest
records which have made possible this collection.
A. B. A.