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Full text of "Farmington two hundred years ago : an historical address delivered at the annual meeting of the Village Library Company of Farmington, Connecticut ..."

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-- Co ' ^<j^><^"^^^^^^-^ 



Farmington Two Hundred Years Ago 




AN 



HISTORICAL ADDRESS 



5 




DELIVERED AT THE 



annual flbeeting 



The Village Library Company 

OF 

Farmington, Connedicut 

September 14, 1904 



»f California 

Regional 

Facility 



By JULIUS GAY 



The Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company 
1904 



Farmington Two Hundred Years Ago 



AN 

HISTORICAL ADDRESS 

DELIVERED AT THE 

Hnnual HDeeting 

OF 

The Village Library Company 

OF 

Farmington, Connecticut 

September 14, 1904 



By JULIUS GAY 



■fcartforD press: 

The Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company 
1904 



Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive 

in 2007 witii funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 



littp://www.arcliive.org/details/farmingtontwohunOOgayjialc 



ADDRESS. 



Ladies and Gentlemen of the Village Library Company of 
Farmington : 

Two hundred years ago, that is, on the 14th day of Sep- 
tember, 1704, this town had existed sixty- four years. Its 
polity, whether civil, ecclesiastical, or social, had become firmly 
settled. Its inhabitants were loyal subjects of good Queen 
Anne, voted every year for Major-General Fitz-John Win- 
throp for governor, and for John Hooker, Esq., and the 
" Worshipful Captain John Hart " for deputies, stood stoutly 
to their own opinions in matters ecclesiastical, and lived the 
lives of prosperous farmers. 

Geographically considered, the town was a rectangle fifteen 
miles long from north to south, and eleven broad from east 
to west, the Round Hill being the starting point for measure- 
ments. With the exception of the main street and a locality 
next to Simsbury known as Hart's Farm the whole region 
was the lawful hunting ground of the Tunxis Indians and 
the home of wild beasts. Wolves were numerous, as were 
also animals of the wild cat variety, magnified of record into 
lions and panthers. The reward for their destruction, along 
with crows, blackbirds, and other objectionable animals, was 
a fruitful source of revenue to the adventurous youths of the 
village. Scattered here and there were lands known as " Sol- 
dier Lots," given those who had served against the Pequot, 
together with many broad acres granted the minister, and 
lesser holdings bestowed upon those who had deserved well 
of their fellows. The owners were allowed to locate their 
grants anywhere outside of the village subject to the approval 



20135^i^5 



of a committee, provided they did not trespass on highways 
or previous grants. These grants, known as " pitches," were 
much in the way when the surveying out of rectangular lots 
began in 1721, and made an oldtime map much resemble the 
so-called crazy quilt. A fence or a combination of fence and 
ditch ran from Nod on the east side of the river south to the 
Eighty Acre meadow, and another along the north bank of 
the river west to Crane Hall. The three principal openings 
through this fence were closed by the North and South 
Meadow gates and by the Eighty Acre bars. Every spring 
the Proprietors of Common Fields voted when the meadows 
should be cleared of all sorts of cattle, and every fall when 
they could again be used for pasturage. Woe to the sluggard 
who left his corn and beans unharvested a day too long! 
Before knocking off the fetters by which they had been re- 
strained, and turning neat cattle, sheep, and swine into the 
meadows, each owner marked the ears of his animals for future 
identification. Their private forms of mutilation, by the crop, 
the half-penny, the slit, and the swallow tail, were duly re- 
corded by the town clerk and were the inviolable property of 
each owner. Thomas Gridley used " a half-penny on ye upper 
side of ye left ear " ; Thomas Judd, Sen., " a half-penny on 
ye under side of ye left ear " ; John Cowles " a crop cut upon 
the left ear and a half-penny cut on each side of ye right ear " ; 
and so on down the list. 

Before introducing to you the ancient denizens of the 
village, let us consider a moment the streets which their daily 
steps brought into existence and along which their houses 
arose. The main street ran much as now. Starting from near 
Cronk Swamp, named from the Indian Coxcronnock, on the 
south, the first considerable branch we find ran westVard 
through the South Meadow gate where now runs the road to 
the railroad station. A little to the north a road ran east- 
ward between the present holdings of Messrs. Vorce and 
Porter to the old mill. Just before reaching the meeting- 



5 

house the Little Back Lane? so called, ran south and also to 
the mill. A few rods further on we reach the mill lane, which 
ran westward to the new mill on the river and along the 
present north line of the Deming property. Next we, come 
upon the " Road up the ]\Iountain," now leading to New 
Britain. Arriving at the north end of the main street we find 
one branch turning sharply to the east towards Hartford and 
one westward to the North Meadow gate. A noble, broad 
highway gave an uninterrupted prospect from Airs. Barney's 
west to the river. The town had not then allowed Deacon 
Richards to encumber it with his shop, nor had the subsequent 
owners sought to fortify their possession with a building of 
brick too huge, in their estimation, ever to be removed. Just 
before reaching the river, a path along the river bank, often 
impassable by reason of floods, conducted northward to Nod. 
If any desire on this 14th day of September, 1704, to cross 
the river, and their business in the wilderness beyond, or per- 
chance with far-off Albany, admits of delay, it may be well 
to know that in February, 1705, the town will vote to "be 
at the charge of providing and keeping in repair a canoe with 
ropes convenient for passing and repassing over the river at 
the landing-place." The subsequent history of this river cross- 
ing is beyond the scope of this paper, but I can hardly forbear 
stating that in December, 1722, the town " granted to Samuel 
Thomson, son of John, for the charge he hath been at in 
recovering the canoe that was driven down to Simsbury, five 
shillings." In 1728 a vote was passed to " sell the boat, that 
at present lies useless." The subsequent history of sundry 
bridges and of the war between the high bridge and the 
low bridge parties, with the frequent " I told you so " of 
the high bridge men, are interesting. As for the highways 
to the west of the canoe place, the town in 1736 took down 
the testimony of- " John Steele, aged about 89 years, and of 
William Lewis, aged about 82 years," concerning the roads 
they remembered as running in their boyhood from the North 



Meadow gate to the south side of Round Hill, to Crane Hall 
and to divers other places, all which information is open to 
the perusal of the curious. The branch known first as the 
road to Hartford, and then, as it entered the forest, simply 
as the Hartford Path, crossed Poke Brook as now, and, 
climbing Bird's Hill, passed localities whose obsolete names 
were once household words. The traveler soon reached the 
Rock Chair, corruptly known as the Devil's Rocking Chair, 
on his left, and a few rods beyond came to the Mile Tree, near 
the present remains of the stone-crusher, and opposite the 
Mile Swamp or Round Swamp, of bad repute as engulfing 
stray animals in its treacherous depths. Then, leaving Prat- 
tling Pond on his left and the Wolf-Pit path on his right, 
his course lay along the Old Road to Hartford, the favorite 
route sixty years ago. A branch, known of record as the 
" Road to Durty Hole," ran north from Poke Brook to con- 
nect with " Clatter Valley Road," and a highway running 
south, recently named by the wisdom of our borough fathers 
High Street, and laid out in 1673, was long known as Back 
Lane. 

■ Three buildings of public utility were ranged along these 
streets: the meeting-house, the schoolhouse, and the mill. 
The meeting-house, the first of three houses for public wor- 
ship, was built before 1672, and after frequent repairs was 
fast failing to meet the needs of the worshipers. There were 
doors on the east and south. Negroes were required to " sit 
upon the bench that is at the north end of the meeting-house 
below." Liberty to build private pews was granted, one in 
1697 " over the short girt at the easterly end of the gallery " ; 
one the next year " at the south end of the meeting-house at 
the left as they go in at the door"; one in 1702 over the 
south door " to continue until the town find it obstructive in 
their building a gallery " ; and one in 1707 over the east door. 
With these as the only hints I can give, a lively imagination 
can easily reconstruct the building after the manner of ar- 
chaeologists. 



A mill was built by John Bronson on what was long known 
as Mill Brook, until our more sentimental age named the 
locality Diamond Glen. It was sold to Deacon Stephen Hart 
before 1650, and there is reason to believe he erected a grist 
mill in addition to the well-known sawmill before 1673, for 
on the i6th of February, 1673, he paid Deacon Bull for 
sharpening his mill bills. Of course they may have been for 
use at his mill on the river, which was built some time before 
1701. 

On the 27th of December, 1687, the town " voted that they 
would have a town house to keep school in built this year, of 
eighteen foot square besides the chimney space, with a suitable 
height for that service." Votes about finishing the school- 
house were passed in 1689, 1690, and 1691. Let our present 
committee take courage. 

A fourth building, the inn, with its swinging sign, offering 
entertainment for man and beast, may have existed. Colonial 
law ordered each town to provide one sufficient inhabitant to 
keep an ordinary for the occasional entertainment of strangers 
in a comfortable manner, and Joseph Root, at the south end 
of the village, was appointed by the town to attend to this 
duty. The inn, however, was for the stranger, not for the 
townsman. Anything like hotel or club life was frowned 
upon. Every resident was expected to be a member of some 
family. In 1692 the town " by vote gave to Joseph Scott a 
liberty to dwell alone provided he do faithfully improve his 
time and behave himself peaceably towards his neighbors and 
their creatures and constantly attend the public worship of 
God, and that he do give an account how he spends his time 
unto the townsmen when it shall be demanded by them of 
him." 

Of the style and age of the private houses standing in 
1704 extremely little is known. It is not impossible to trace 
back the ownership of any house lot to the first settler, but 
which of its successive owners built any particular house or 



8 

when it was built can rarely be told. The definite ages boldly- 
assigned of late to several old houses admit neither of proof 
or disproof. The best description of the form of the earlier 
houses which I have seen occurs in the appraisal of the estate 
of Samuel Gridley in 1712 and can be found in my paper on 
the " Early Industries of Farmington," On either side of a 
central hall were the parlor and kitchen, and back of all the 
leanto. In front was a porch with a chamber over it. The 
porch with two stories was peculiar to the early house. That 
of Rev. Thomas Hooker in Hartford had one, and the room 
above was his study. A house with a porch projecting five 
feet was built for the first minister of Springfield and a house 
" with a porch convenient for a study " for the second min- 
ister. On the east side of High Street not long ago stood 
three houses of the same style of architecture. The middle 
one now remaining, commonly known as the Whitman house, 
has been considerably altered in form by recent additions. 
The overhanging upper story with the conspicuous pendants 
below were the characteristic features of the three houses. 
They have often been described. The northern of the three 
houses, pulled down in 1880, stood on land conveyed by John 
Clark to his son Matthew, April 8, 1702, " with the new end 
of a house upon it." It is hard to see how the age of the 
Clark house can be carried back beyond that of the new house 
of 1702. Houses of so peculiar construction usually mark the 
fashion of some limited period. As for the age of the so-called 
Whitman house, John Stanley, Sen., sold to his son Thomas 
on the 23d of May, 1700, the land on which the house now 
stands together with " my house that I now dwell in and do 
reserve the new end of the said house and leanto adjoining 
to it." This is not absolute proof that the house began to be 
built in 1700, but this, for other reasons, seems to me likely. 
The southern of these peculiarly constructed houses, with 
pendants and projecting upper stories, stood on the four-acre 
wood lot of Robert Porter and his descendants, at the north- 



east corner of High Street and the road to New Britain, 
which lot passed from Thomas to WilHam Porter in 171 1 
with no mention of any house thereon. The house, whenever 
built, faced south, and was for many years the tavern of 
Captain Joseph Porter. I have his tavern sign, which bears 
a picture of a house on one side and on the reverse that of a 
goddess armed with helmet, spear, and shield, in apparel better 
befitting the heat of summer than the blasts of winter. She 
was doubtless the first goddess to bear on her shield the three 
grapevines of Connecticut. 

A peculiarity of early New England houses, wooden chim- 
neys lined with clay, is suggested in a vote of the town passed 
in 1656 " that every householder shall provide a sufficient 
ladder standing at his house side, reaching to the ridge of 
his house or within two feet, by his chimney." Certain town 
officers, known as " chimney viewers," were to examine the 
chimneys and ladders once in six weeks in winter and once 
a quarter in summer. Almost precisely the same vote was 
passed in Hartford in 1640. Wooden chimneys and thatched 
roofs, familiar to the settlers in the old English villages whence 
they came, made necessary these safeguards against fire. Brick 
chimneys were found in the houses of the wealthy, but wooden 
chimneys lined with clay, known as " catted chimneys," were 
common. In Hartford in 1640 " it is ordered that Jo Gening 
shall sweep all the chimneys and have 6*^ for brick and 3*^ 
for clay." Salem in 1638 signs an agreement for the building 
of a meeting-house with " one catted chimney 4 feet in height 
above the top of the building, the back whereof is to be of 
brick or stone." In Cambridge, whence our ancestors came 
to Hartford, it was ordered in 163 1 "that no man shall build 
his chimney with wood, or cover his house with thatch." This 
town elected chimney viewers annually until 17 12. 

A Hst of all the householders of 1704 from Bird's Hill on 
the north down to Eighty Acre on the south, with the sites 
of their houses, would doubtless be about as interesting read- 



10 

ing as the pages of a modern city directory. Let us make a 
few selections. On the 31st of March, 1704, on news of the 
Indian atrocities at Deerfield a month previous, the town voted 
to have seven houses fortified, those of Thomas Orton, Wil- 
liam Lewis, Howkins Hart, James Wadsworth, Lieut. John 
Hart, John Wadsworth, and Ensign Samuel Wadsworth, in 
which were to be lodged the town stock of powder, lead, bul- 
lets, flints, and half-pikes. The Orton house stood on the 
Frederick Andrus corner opposite the present house of Mrs. 
Barney, and it is an interesting question, not easily answered, 
whether the old house whose fast disappearing clapboards 
disclose a red brick lining be not the old fortified house. Early 
New England houses with timber frames filled in with brick 
were not uncommon. The William Lewis house stood on the 
site of the Elm Tree Inn, and tradition claims that some of 
its ancient beams form a part of the modern structure. The 
Howkins Hart house stood on the site of my own house. That 
of James Wadsworth on that of the late Miss Sadie Gruman ; 
that of Lieut. John Hart on or near that of the present post- 
office;, that of John Wadsworth a little south of the house of 
Judge Deming; and that of Ensign Samuel Wadsworth at 
the top of the hill on the right as you look down towards the 
old mill brook where for many years lived Deacon Sidney 
Wadsworth. They were all on Main Street. There had been 
some attempts at fortification before this. After the destruction 
of Schenectady by the French and Indians in 1690, and six 
days after the massacre at Salmon Falls in New Hampshire, 
the town had appointed a committee about fortifying houses, 
but no result therefrom is recorded. In 1674 Deacon Bull 
markes a charge for " a gist [joist] to y^ fortt gatte off y^ 
church." In 1675 for " a gist to the eyrons off y^ fortt gatte," 
and in 1676 a " sixpence to y^ eyron off y^ fortt gatte." Illus- 
trations of ancient New England meeting-houses sometimes 
represent the house surrounded with a palisade with a for- 
midable gate. Some such affair may have been our fort at 
the meeting-house. 



II 

Without further consideration of the ancient fortifications 
of 'the village and its public buildings, let us call at a few 
houses and learn what the people busied themselves about in 
the intervals of farm labor. If the good people of 1704 de- 
sired to build themselves a new hovise or repair an old one 
they would probably have engaged the services of Joseph Bird 
or of his son Samuel, who might have been found on the 
present site of the house of Mrs. S. E. Barney, or they could 
call on Deacon Isaac More, nearly opposite where I now live, 
or upon Lieut. John Steele. The latter might have been found 
where the house recently of Mrs. Samuel S. Cowles, now of 
Mr. Lewis C. Root, stands. His tools, as they came to Deacon 
Bull from time to time for repair, illustrate the rude mechanical 
appliances of the day, — his broad axe, breast wimbel, augers, 
gouge, tennant saw, fore plane, creasing plane, and snipebills. 
He was also the land surveyor of the village. In April, 1673, 
Deacon Bull mends " his staff to measure land," and in 1676 
makes an iron point to said staff. This must have been the 
" Jacob Staff " which all very old surveyors will remember. 
The lieutenant was certainly reasonable in his charges. In 
1674 Deacon Bull paid him one shilling for running a line. 
In Hartford they did not submit to any extortion. Every man 
was his own surveyor. The Rev. William S. Porter, quoting 
from the ancient records, says : " The town kept a surveyor's 
chain for the use of the inhabitants, subject to the following 
regulation: It is ordered that whosoever borrows the town 
chain shall pay two pence a day for every day they keep the 
same, and pay for mending it, if it be broken in their use." 
Another industry soon came into being. When the beer of 
old England began to give place to cider and New England 
rum, a very large number of barrels were needed. If the 
goodman desired two or three dozen for his winter's supply 
they might be obtained of the two coopers, John Stedman 
and Samuel Bronson, nearly opposite where Esquire Egbert 
Cowles afterward lived. Weaving, besides what was done in 



^ 12 

a small way in almost every household, occupied the atten- 
tion of several professional weavers. Samuel Smith lived on 
the site of the park given to the village by Miss Porter. John 
Root from Northampton also had his loom somewhere in the 
village. Other weavers were John North, a little east of the 
cottage of Mr. Newton Barney on the road to Hartford, John 
Clark, a little south of Mrs. S. E. Barney's in the northern 
of the three ancient houses previously mentioned, Deacon 
Thomas Porter, Jr., near the present site of the house of Judge 
Deming, and Joseph Bird. Bird and Porter charged sixpence 
a yard for weaving, and this in a great number of instances 
was the established rate. Joseph Bird was also a shoemaker. 
Other shoemakers were Samuel Orvis, on the west side of 
Main Street a little north of the house of Gustavus Cowles, 
Daniel Andrews, on the site of the house of Dr. Wheeler, John 
Newell, on or near the house of the late Elijah L. Lewis, 
James Gridley, on the south side of the road to Hartford just 
east of Poke Brook, and Samuel Woodruff, known mostly, 
after the English fashion, as Samuel Woodruff, cordwainer. 
As for the price of their products I can only say that Deacon 
Thomas Bull sold Daniel Andrews on the 12th day of January, 
1674, four acres of land for three pairs of shoes, two for him- 
self and one for his son John Bull. You can co-mpute the 
price of shoes at your leisure. 

To use all the products of numerous looms I find but one 
professional tailor, Thomas Porter, son of the first Robert. 
He continued the business of his brother John, who had died 
young. Let not the society ladies of today suppose that they 
alone have worn tailor-made garments. In 1677 Obadiah 
Richards made for Elizabeth Clark a waistcoat at a cost of 
two shillings. Probably her father, John Clark, wove and 
furnished the cloth. Obadiah gave up his lucrative business 
and removed to Waterbury, where he died before 1704. 
Thomas Gridley was the blacksmith of the village, and lived 
on the southwest corner of the present home lot of Mrs. A. 



13 

D. Vorce on the road to the old mill. Deacon Thomas Bull, 
blacksmith, town clerk, and man of affairs, was now dead, 
leaving an account book which is a mine of knowledge for 
the student of the early life of the village. Of professional 
men the Rev. Samuel Hooker had finished a life of much 
usefulness, and Dr. Samuel Porter was at least the most ac- 
cessible physician, living on what is now the vacant lot next 
south of the post-office. He was son of the famous Dr. Daniel 
Porter, bonesetter. Thomas Thomson, Jr., the other doctor, 
lievd on the west side of the Mountain Spring road beyond 
the house of Mr. Henry C. Rice, in what must have been a 
quiet neighborhood. 

Having now taken a hasty survey of the dwellers here, their 
streets, houses, and occupations, let us consider what matters of 
public concern they had most in mind in this year of 1704. 
First and foremost, they would themselves have placed the at- 
tempt to install a worthy successor in the vacant pulpit of the 
lamented Hooker. In my paper of last year you will find all 
the particulars of the unfortunate controversy you will prob- 
ably care for. The attempt to settle by popular vote what 
scarcely two persons thought alike about and concerning which 
all felt most keenly was an utter failure. The opinions of these 
good people about each other, expressed with great vigor in 
town and church meetings and set down at length in the testi- 
mony preserved in the state archives, show human nature much 
as in later days, only more outspoken. 

There was another matter of vital public importance which 
must have engaged their attention. On the 29th of February, 
1704, in the dead of winter, when most men felt secure, Deer- 
field was burned and the inhabitants either killed or taken cap- 
tive to Quebec by Indian savages set on by the French governor 
of Canada. The most familiar account of the disaster is that 
of the Rev. John Williams in his " Redeemed Captive," but a 
more circvunstantial and exhaustive account may be fovmd in 
the " History of Deerfield," by the aged and learned Sheldon. 



In preparation for similar dangers onr citizens had long been 
drilled in the military exercises of the day, with the rude appli- 
ances then known to the art of war. Besides the flint-lock 
mnsket of Queen Anne's day, long known as the Queen's Arm, 
a certain number of the privates were armed with pikes. Pike 
heads were made by Blacksmith Bull for Goodman Lanckton, 
John Steele, James Bird, and Sergeant Stanley at three shil- 
lings each. The weapon was in use in England until super- 
seded by the bayonet, between 1690 and 1705, in France in 
1703. In Markham's " Soldier's . Accidence " we are in- 
structed that the pikemen " shall have strong, straight, yet 
nimble pikes of Ash wood, well headed with steel . . . and 
the full size or length of every pike shall be fifteen foot be- 
sides the head." Another writer of the day speaks of the 
pikemen " as a bewtiful sight in the battell and a great terrour 
to the enemies. Such men in the fronte of battailes in ould 
tymes weare called men at armes." The pikemen were well 
drilled, according to the manual, to order your pike, to shoulder 
your pike, to port your pike, to charge your pike, to trail your 
pike, to recover your pike, and so on, in all twenty-seven 
orders. 

Deacon Bull was the principal armorer of the village. For 
John North Senior he made a new sword costing seven shil- 
lings and sixpence. Other swords he repaired. For Robert 
Porter he made a halberd at an expense of three shillings. The 
halberd was the distinguishing arm of the sergeant, and con- 
sisted of three parts : the spear to thrust or charge in battle, the 
hatchet for cutting, and the hook for pulling down fascines. 
They are still used in the ornamental display of the Swiss Papal 
Guards. Fortunately our valiant soldiers had no real fighting 
to do against Indians or Frenchmen with musket, pike, hal- 
berd, or sword. 

Besides the matter of the halberd, Robert Porter pays the 
deacon five shillings for " two dayes absente from training." 
In the next line but one of the old account book we read his 



15 

receipt of five shillings for schooling John Bull, son of the 
deacon, in February, 1676. Three years later he received four 
shillings more for the similar service. Whether Robert Porter, 
ancestor of the president of Yale and of the founder of a 
famous school, himself taught school or some member of his 
family taught a dame's school, I cannot say. The first known 
schoolmaster here was the Rev. John James, and the second 
was Luke Hayes, concerning whom see my paper of 1892. 
Prominent among the educators of that day born in this vil- 
lage was John Hart, son of Captain Thomas and grandson of 
Deacon Stephen. He was now, 1704, a tutor at Yale College, 
and w^as soon to be the minister of Killingworth. He was 
the first student who received the Bachelor's degree at Yale. 
The habits and customs of the village, so far as they con- 
formed to those of other towns, we have no time to consider. 
Early New England life in general you will find depicted with 
great care and vigor in the several books of Mrs. Alice Morse 
Earle. We have time only for the happenings in our own 
midst. These, so far as they come to our knowledge from 
court records, are apt to disclose rather the errors than the vir- 
tues of our ancestors, and must not be thought a fair picture of 
the land of steady habits. Minor trangressions, thus brought 
to light, the guardians of the village sought to correct, not by 
fining parties who had not a penny to pay with, or by boarding 
them in jail at the town's expense. They had a more eflFectual 
remedy and a cheaper, the stocks. The offender was ordered 
" set on a few minutes before the Thursday afternoon lecture 
began and kept on until a little after the close of the service." 
Our ancestors were wise in their day and generation, and their 
Thursday afternoon meetings were well attended. For hard- 
ened offenders the time was sometimes changed to training- 
day, with its ruder gatherings. Thomas , the one black 

sheep of an honorable family, " for his night walking . , . 
is adjudged to sit in the stocks one hour and a half the next 
training-day." Three scamps, too large a number to be ac- 



i6 

commodated in one set of stocks, " for their agreeing to rob 
Richard Smith of his watermelons and steaHng five of them 
in a boastful manner, bragging of the same, are sentenced to 
go to prison and there continue during the pleasure of the 
court." Another man concerned in the watermelon raid was 
complained of for speaking " reproachfully of the Worshipful 
Thomas Wells Esq. now at rest," and for a still worse ofifense 
is adjudged to suffer imprisonment . . . until the next 
Lecture at Hartford and to sit in the stocks during the time of 
the lecture." The lecture sermons were none of the shortest. 
Currency, whether gold, silver, or paper, was practically un- 
known. When a man died and his estate was inventoried, a 
few shillings were sometimes found hoarded up. Business 
was done by barter, wheat at four shillings the bushel being 
the basis. It corresponded to our gold standard. Lower 
prices were charged with the proviso that payment should be 
in wheat. Indian corn was two and one-half shillings per 
bushel, pork three pence the pound, beef 2^, bacon 8, venison 
i^, cheese 5, sugar (probably maple) 5, flax 12, wool 18, and 
candles 9. A whole salmon sold for one shilling. Instead of 
tallow candles a cheaper substitute was largely used. In 1696 
the town voted that no inhabitant should be prohibited from 
felling pine trees in our sequestered lands for candle wood. 
The same right was again granted in 1703. The Rev. Francis 
Higginson, in his " New England's Plantation," written in the 
year 1629, writes : " Yea our pine-trees that are the most 
plentiful of all wood, doth allow us plenty of candles which are 
very useful in a house : and they are such candles as the Indians 
use, having no other, and they are nothing else but the wood of 
the pine tree cloven into little slices, something thin, which are 
so full of the moisture of turpentine and pitch, that they burn 
as clear as a torch." 

. And now with this illumination, bright enough doubtless, 
but smoking like yEtna, when the day's work was done, and the 
great spinning-wheel was giving out its drowsy hum, what 



17 

literature had the good man with which to while away the 
evening hours, if his taste lay in that direction? For books 
he had probably something theological by Increase Mather, 
and perchance some of the earlier works of Cotton Mather. 
Let us hope all the young ones were safe in bed while the lurid 
pictures of devils, witches, and ghosts in the " Wonders of the 
Invisible World " were the theme. You can learn more of this 
literature in my account of the library of a village blacksmith 
if you desire. The " New England Primer," another book 
doubtless on his shelves, has been so much written about of 
late that you will hardly care to know more of it, and per- 
chance some of the older members of the audience may re- 
member sufficiently their own experience. 

Next to the Bible the book most frequently in use was the 
almanac. In this the good man noted at the proper dates in- 
formation concerning his crops, his animals, and the vital sta- 
tistics of his family. Each month was introduced by a couplet 
in doggerel verse, not altogether uninteresting. Much pro- 
verbial wisdom was scattered through it ; but the main purpose 
of the work was to reveal the future. The farmer, from the 
changes of the moon and the countless maxims of the weather- 
wise, learned when to sow or reap, or he could find the weather 
already foretold with the usual precision of " about these days 
expect rain." He had the choice among four almanacs in the 
year 1704, two English and two printed in Boston. The 
English almanacs, of which that of the famous Partridge was 
the favorite, still printed the astrological diagram of the twelve 
houses of heaven and the positions of the twelve signs of the 
zodiac, and of the seven planets, — the melancholy Saturn, the 
benevolent Jupiter, the quarrelsome IMars, the amorous Venus, 
etc., deducing therefrom the events of the coming year. Part- 
ridge, from the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in Aries, 
says, " I do predict a war " ; a very safe prediction so long as 
Louis XIV. remained on the throne of France. The favorite 
almanac was that of Clough, published in Boston. Knowing 



i8 

his readers well he shrewdly warns the pious against all this 
astrology, " forasmuch as the practice thereof has not been 
usual in this country and the lawfulness of it is doubted by 
many divines . . . but take more heed to that sure word of 
prophecy as the Apostle Peter says." The rival almanac was 
the " New England Kalendar," by a Lover of Astronomy. 
Clough and the unknown compiler of the latter amused them- 
selves with unpleasant criticisms of each other, which the 
modern critic would strongly suspect were written for adver- 
tising purposes by the same pen, as their works were printed 
from the same type at the same shop. Another English alma- 
nac, dealing with astrology, that of Colson, appears in an in- 
ventory of a Boston bookseller in 1700. 

One other source of information about the outside world 
had just been given the intelligent readers of the village. 
On the 17th of April of this year the Boston News-Letter, the 
earliest newspaper published on this continent that had a con- 
tinuous existence, began its career of seventy-two years. Copies 
must have reached our village and been passed from hand to 
hand by all eager for news from lands beyond the sea, and 
will tell us what the men of 1704 were thinking about and 
talking of in their wilderness home. Tlie first number tells 
principally of the French attempts to place the pretender on 
the English throne, and of the brilliant successes of American 
over French privateers. The next week we have letters sup- 
posed to have been written from all parts of the habitable 
world, revealing the secret intentions of sundry kings and 
potentates. A fortnight later we have much royal correspond- 
ence about the Spanish succession, the crowding of 400 per- 
sons into the dungeons of the Inquisition, and Indian atrocities 
in Maine. On May 22d comes the news of a violent storm 
in London, — church spires blown down and London Bridge 
stopped up with the wreck of vessels. Number 9, on the 
1 2th of June, announces a fast proclaimed by the Queen in 
reference to the heavy judgment of the Almighty in the ter- 



19 

rible and dreadful storm of November 26th; also of the cap- 
ture of privateers, a frequent event. Number 10 gives a letter 
dated October 30th from Constantinople, announcing the pub- 
lic entry of the Grand Signior with great solemnity and " with 
all the ceremonies used on the like occasions," such as the be- 
heading of the eldest son of the late Mufti. At home we have 
sentence of death passed on seventeen pirates, advertisements 
for lost goods, including one for the return of Penelope, " a 
well set, middle sized Madagascar Negro woman," with a 
flowered damask gown; also the last dying speeches of six 
pirates and the exhortations and prayers of the ministers at 
great length. In Number 11 we have several new shocks of 
an earthquake, and a letter to the Pope from "Adrian Saghed, 
by the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, Emperor of Ethiopia, 
Nubia, Sheba and all the confines of Arabia &c, of Glorious 
Race, descending from Queen Sheba, humbling his Enemies, 
and defending such who have recourse to him ; The Pillar of 
the Christian Faith, &c. King of Soldiers and Armies never 
subdued, Lord in power and words, with unexpressible modera- 
tion. Full Moon of his Kingdom, without any Eclipse," etc. 
He asked for missionaries. On the loth of July we have more 
particulars of the ways of the Inquisition and an order of 
Queen Anne " to the master of our revels and to both com- 
panies of Comedians Acting in Drury-Lane and Lincolns-Inn- 
Field, to take special care that nothing be acted in either of the 
Theatres contrary to Religion or good manners . . . that 
no woman be allowed to presume to wear a visard Mask in 
either of the Theatres." Number 14, July 17th, contains a 
long and circumstantial account of the destruction of Minas, 
the land of Longfellow's " Evangeline." On July 31st we 
have more successes of Yankee privateers and further particu- 
lars of the utter wiping out of Minas. On July 24th and 31st 
we hear more of privateers and of the destruction of Minas. 
On the 7th of September, 1704, the date of our account, the 
news of the great event of the vear was on its three-months' 



20 

journey to Boston, and had not yet reached the happy ears of 
the villagers. The battle of Blenheim was on the 2d of 
August, O. S., shattering the power of Louis XIV. and making 
religious freedom possible. With this account of Farmington 
in 1704, its men, their homes, occupations, and customs, and 
of the light from the outside world just breaking upon them, 
we must bid them a long farewell. 



A 000 444 740 5 



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