THE OLD STONE MILL AT GEORGETOWN
by Wilbur F. Thompson
Many persons riding on the D. & N. R. R. have seen and admired the old stone mill a short distance below Georgetown, but very few know who built the mill or what it has been used for. It was built over seventy years ago, by John Taylor of Wilton. It was called Taylor’s Woolen Mills or Satinet Factory. He built a dam a short distance above and a canal to convey the water to the mill. He also built the house near the mill and lived there many years. His wife was Miss Hannah Varian, of New York City; one of their children was drowned in the canal. (Levi Taylor, father of John Taylor, many years before the mill was built had a store in Georgetown, a little way below the old Red Mill.)
Farmers in those days kept sheep and brought the wool to the mill to sell or to have dyed and woven into cloth. Broadcloth, flannels, etc., homespun, and a cloth called satinet (part cotton) were woven here. Henry Williams, who lived a short distance below the mill, had charge of the dyeing, carding and spinning department; his wife was one of the weavers. A man named Glover worked there. He afterward ran the mills known as Glover’s Woolen Mill at Sanford’s Station.
Mr. Taylor was in business many years, and after he retired, a Welshman named Evans, from Derby, continued the business. After this, Blackman Bros., from New Milford, ran it for a short time. Later Dr. N. Perry, of Ridgefield, bought it; and fitting it up for a grist mill and to grind spices, called it the Glenburg Chemical Works. He wanted to change the name of Georgetown to Glenburg, but did not succeed. His son, Samuel Perry, had charge of the mill for many years. The famous remedies so well known forty or fifty years ago were made here - composition powders for colds, magnesia powders for indigestion, the No. 9, a pain kilber, demulcient, compounds for coughs, and many others. Spices were ground and all kinds of extracts were made and sold. The country stores all kept the Perry remedies, spices and extracts.
After the death of Samuel Perry, the mill was sold to William J. Gilbert. He leased it to different parties who ran it as a grist mill. It is now owned by Samuel J. Miller. [Today it is no more.] After the death of Samuel Perry, the formulas for the Perry remedies came into the possession of his brother-in-law, Eli Osborn, who made them for many years, at his home in Georgetown.
W. F. T., Danbury
(2,995) The Old Woolen Mills of Georgetown - by Wilbur F. Thompson
Two of the most important products of the farms of long ago were wool and flax. In the summer days flocks of sheep were feeding on the hillsides and waving fields of blue-flowered flax could be seen on almost every farm.
Flax was not harvested the same as grain or hay, but was pulled up by the roots and stacked. Later in the season it was put through a process of sweating or rotting to separate the fibre from the woody part of the stalk. It was then crackled to break the wood or straw of the flax. This was done by beating it with wooden mallets. After this, it was hetcheled or hackled; this was done by drawing the stalks of flax over sharp pointed iron teeth thickly set in a block of wood. This separated the fibre from the woody or straw portion of the flax. The fibre, after hetcheling, was called tow or lint; this was cleaned and spun into linen yarn or thread, and woven on the hand looms into different kinds of linen cloth, and then bleached.
The wool was worked up in a different way. After being sheared from the sheep, it was washed and cleaned. Then it was carded into a light fleecy mass (like the cotton batting of today.) The hand cards were pieces of leather or thin wood thickly set with fine wire points which caught and separated the fibre of the wool. Sometimes the wool was bowed the same as hatters’ fur was in the olden times. This was done with a large how strung with catgut; pulling the string caused it to vibrate in the wool, separating it the same as in carding.
After carding, the wool was formed into rolls, from which it was spun into woolen yarn or warp and then woven into woolen cloth of many kinds, and blankets. A cloth for dresses and skirts was woven, called linsey-woolsey. It had a linen warp and woolen filling; a heavier cloth made of the same materials was called fustian. After washing, the cloth was dyed, fulled. and finished.; oftentimes the warp and filling were dyed before weaving. For many years all this work was done by hand on the farms where the wool and flax were raised. Later little shops and mills were built along the stream where the wool and flax were prepared. for weaving and where the home-made cloth was fulled and finished.
The first mill where the early settlers of Georgetown and Boston district took their wool to be cleaned and carded stood on the east bank of the Saugatuck River, near Nobb’s Crook. In 1746 Abram Fairchild and wife (Sarah Scribner) of Norwalk, moved to what is now Boston district, not far from Nobb’s Crook. He built a small mill on the east bank of the river for cleaning and carding wool, and fulling and finishing cloth. He ran this mill for many years and raised a large family. Six of his sons were in the American army in the war of the Revolution at the same time.
Later he sold the mill to Moses Fox, who lived nearby. Fox was in business for some years. In 1803 he sold the mill to Joel Foster, who lived a short distance north of the mill. Foster was in business until 1812, when the firm of Comstock, Foster & Co. was formed, and a new mill was built a short distance below the old mill. This firm did a large business in weaving woolen goods of all kinds.
Later Foster bought the interests of the other partners and continued the business until 1843 or ‘44 when the mills were burned. The remains of the old foundations of the mill could be seen some years ago on the east side of the river. Isaac Perry, who later lived in Georgetown, worked in the Comstock & Foster Mills. He was an expert weaver as were other members of his family. A son, George Perry, made a specialty of weaving fine woolen blankets or coverlids, which met with a ready sale at $15 a pair. Many of these were woven in Georgetown years ago.
(3407) THE OLD MULBERRY TREES GEORGETOWN
A few years ago, there could be seen along the highways and in the thickets of Georgetown and vicinity many specimens of the white mulberry tree (Morus Alba). Ask any old resident what these trees were used for, and they would answer ‘to feed silk worms.” These trees represented all that was left of an industry that flourished in the rural communities of our state 75 or more years ago. It was called “sericulture,” or the rearing of silk worms. It was first introduced into New England by French colonists, some of whom settled in New Rochelle. In 1783, the General Assembly of our state offered bounties and rewards for the rearing of silk worms. and many were engaged in the industry. In 1838 there was a revival in sericulture, causing a great demand for the Mulberry tree, which could not be supplied. Trees of one year’s growth were sold for $1 each. Georgetown, in common with other rural sections, had the silk worm craze, and hundreds of trees were set out (some of these are still living.) [I was unable to determine whether there are any living today - I. Baldwin, 1965] The industry gave employment to many women and children. The childron gathered the leaves of the mulberry tree, and. the women took care of the silk worms. The rearing houses or feeding sheds where the worms were fed had to be well-lighted and ventilated, and kept at an even temperature. The eggs (called graine) of the silk worm were hatched out by artificial heat. After hatching, the worms were placed in shallow trays, which slid, into frames, one over another. The bottoms of the trays were coarse muslin, which gave required ventilation. The trays were filled with chopped mulberry leaves for the worms to feed on. They were great eaters and grew rapidly. Persons who can remember back 70 years say that when the worms were feeding, the noise could be heard 20 feet or more away from the feeding sheds.
After feeding a number of days, the silk worm matured and ceased eating. At this time, small branches and twigs of trees were placed near the trays, the worms crawling up into them, commenced to spin their cocoon, always finishing them in three or four days. The cocoons, which were a light yellow color, were collected. Some of the best were saved to furnish eggs for the next season’s silk worms. The others were pricked to kill the pupa and prevent further growth. These were placed in hot water to loosen the gum on the surface. The silk was unwound onto reels or swifts and formed into hanks or skeins. It was then spun into thread or warp and woven into silk fabrics on the hand looms of the Olmsteads, Perrys, Bennetts, Battersons, Osborns, Wakemans, etc.
Years ago (and perhaps now) there were many families who had carefully laid away silk dresses, waist coats, neckerchiefs, etc., which had been woven on the hand looms in Georgetown and vicinity, from silk that had been unwound from cocoons that had been spun by worms, fed on the leaves of the old Mulberry trees.
Of the many feeding sheds, there were two large ones. One was owned by Silas Olmstead, in Chicken Street; the other by Matthew Gregory, in Georgetown.
WILBUR F. THOMPSON - Danbury, Connecticut
“Multicolis,” a species of improved and mammoth-leaved Mulberry. These were propogated from cuttings which brought such fabulous prices, bearing much larger leaves than the common mulberry. Wilton had the craze and enthusiasts in the enterprise claimed this new departure would produce fabric so cheaply that even farmers would wear silk clothes instead of linens, because of its cheapness. Some
took on this as a business of raising trees for the cuttings. The Betts family plowed up nice fields and. planted these with cuttings and trees for their leaves to feed their worms with and fitted up south, warm, sunny rooms for the worm culture.
When the craze faded out, these planted lands had grown full trees and then trouble began to remove them, for they had taken such strong hold, great force was needed to pull them out. The writer has one of these trees growing on one of these fields by the fence side, now bearing nice mulberries.
Some lost fortunes in the enterprise. As Mr. Thompson says, the cocoons were placed in hot water which loosened the gum, and were stirred with a stick which would catch the end to reel the silk off. - Editor
[Unfortunately, the Editor’s note gave no information which would help identify his newspaper. I. Baldwin, 1965]
(David H. Van Hoosier of Hurlbutt Street in Wilton wrote for the Norwalk Hour.
- C. Russell, Wilton Historical Society.)
(2851) The Old Silver Mine by Wilbur F. Thompson
Halfway between Georgetown and Cannondale, a short distance east of the old Danbury and Norwalk turnpike (just below Steep Pitch,) a great ledge of rock stands out from the hillside facing the west. Along the face of this ledge can be seen particles of lead ore in small veins. This was well known to the early settlers of Georgetown and Pimpewaug (Cannondale.) They broke out the rock containing the ore, crushed and smelted it in a primitive way, extracted the lead and moulded it into bullets. Some years later an Englishman who had worked in the mines of Cornwall, England found that there was silver with lead in the ore. Several persons became interested, and a stock company was formed to get out the ore. The land the mineral was found on was owned by Alexander Resseguie, of Norwalk (what is now the town of Wilton was to that period part of the town of Norwalk.) It was about 40 acres in extent, and bounded on the north by lands of John Belden, east by lands of Ezekial Wood, south by lands of Ezekial Wood and Solomon Wood’s heirs, and west by the Danbury and Norwalk highway. A lease of the land was given by the owner, Alexander Resseguie, to run 100 years from May 17, 1765. It was very comprehensive; it gave permission to dig pits, trenches, sink shafts and tunnels; to take out copper, tin, lead, or any other mineral found on the property; to build retorts, smelting houses for the reduction of the ore; to use the timber, stone, sand or any other substance found on the premises. The following are the names of the stockholders: Samuel Betts, Nathan Hubbell, Matthew Mead, James Olmstead Jr., Silas Olmstead, Jessie Ogden, Joseph Rockwell, Matthew Merwin, all of Norwalk, and. Mather Fountain of the town of Bedford, Province of New York. Alexander Resseguie
and his heirs and assigns were to receive one-eighth of all ore and bullion taken from the land.
Work was commenced at the base of the ledge and continued until a large vein of ore was found. A shaft was sunk and the ore taken out. The work was done by English miners. There was no way of separating the silver from the lead at that time in this country. So the ore was sent to England for reduction into bullion.
There are many traditions about the working of the mine; one is that it was worked until the War of the Revolution, when the miners, who were English, went back to England. Another is that the mine was operated until a large amount of ore was taken out and the manager went down to Norwalk to see that the ore was loaded onto the ship, and did not come back. This left the stockholders minus.
It is said the mine was worked for the lead during the War of the Revolution and this seems probable, as lead was very scarce at that time and everything that could be melted was run into bullets, including pewter plates, teapots, and even the statue of King George that stood in Bowling Green, New York City, parts of which were found in Wilton years ago.
After the war was over, some of the English miners who had worked in the mine when it was first opened., came back and began operations again. (The land was now owned by Azor Belden.) They put up a small building and a furnace for smelting the ore. After working for some time, they left taking with them a large quantity of silver and five barrels of ore. Years passed on, the timbers and windlass at the mouth of the shaft fell and made it unsafe for the cattle and sheep grazing nearby, and Azor Belden had the mine filled up even with the surface.
Fifty or more years ago, there were many stories told of the old mine. The older people who had known of the working of the mine were gone, but the stories had been handed down to their children and grandchildren. One of the traditions was that the mine shaft was over 160 feet in depth and tunnels ran back from it under the ledge. During the Civil War when silver coin was but a memory of the past, and the circulating medium was shin plasters and postage stamps, the boys from Georgetown school would go down to the mine and break out from the ledge what they thought to be pieces of silver ore, proudly boasting of the silver they owned. Aaron Lee (who ran the Glenburg Mills for Samuel Perry) took some of the ore, smelted it over a blacksmith’s fire and got enough lead to mould into bullets.
(2,857) The Old Silver Mine Continued
In the summer of 1875, Mr. Tiffany of New York City came to Georgetown. (He was a connection of Tiffany Bros., Jewelers.) He boarded with Edmund 0. Hurlbutt and heard the story of the old mine and became interested. (The land the mine was on now belonged to Mr. Hurlbutt.) Mr. Tiffany had investments in silver mines in Nevada. He went down to the mine with Wesley Barrett of Georgetown, and had him blast out some ore from the face of the ledge, sending it to New York to have it assayed. It was found to contain silver and. lead. He thought it would be a paying proposition to reopen the mine; it was easy to find where the old mine shaft was, as the ground was always wet there. After obtaining permission from Mr. Hurlbutt, he commenced. operations. Wesley Barrett had charge of the work. After a windlass was erected and a hand pump set up, several men were employed.
After three weeks of hard work the shaft was cleared of stones and water, and the bottom reached by splicing long ladders together. It was a great curiosity to hundreds of people who visited the spot. All the stories of the mine were retold. In the bottom of the shaft were found broken drills, miner’s hammers (I have one of the old hammers,) picks, parts of ore buckets, bones of some animal that had fallen in before the shaft was filled up, and pieces of oak timber; the arsenic in the water had turned the wood a dark green color. Samuel Main took some of the oak and had some canes made of it, giving them to his friends.
The mine shaft was found to be six or eight feet in diameter and 75 or 80 feet deep. About ten feet down the shaft, a lateral or tunnel was found, about six feet in diameter running back under the ledge; this probably was opened up when the mine was first worked, following a vein of ore. It was about 20 feet in depth. Mr. Tiffany had some samples taken from the bottom and sides of the shaft and had it assayed. It was found to be rich in silver. He made plans to work the mine. In looking over the record, it was found the old lease had run out in 1865, and that the mine reverted back to the heirs of the original owners. Finding that the expense of searching out the heirs and obtaining a lease would be too great, he gave up the idea of working the mine.
There was a tradition that silver had been found farther north on the same ridge of land that the old mine was on. Mr. Tiffany sent for an expert miner to look for the silver-bearing rock along this ridge. Mr. Chollar, a miner of fifty years’ experience, came to Georgetown. He was an Englishman 80 years old (but looked 15 years younger.) He was the discoverer of the famous Chollar lode in Nevada (40 years ago this was a rich silver mine.) Chollar followed the ridge north through Georgetown and Boston district. He found indications of silver in various places, but not rich enough to warrant the expense of opening up a mine, so the project was abandoned.
I heard Mr. Chollar tell many interesting stories of his life as a miner. One incident he related was about the old silver mine. He said that when he was a young man he overheard two very old men talking about a mine they had worked many years before. It was about 50 miles from New York, and the ore was taken out and shipped from Norwalk and sent to England for reduction. The two old miners had worked in the mine before and after the War of the Revolution. Mr. Chollar had forgotten about the incident.
When Mr. Tiffany sent for him to look over the old mine, and search for the mineral bearing lode farther north, he recalled what the old timers had told, him 60 years before about the old mine.
The mine shaft is now filled with water. Some time it may be reopened and worked again.
WILBUR F. THOMPSON, Danbury, Conn.
(Alexander Resseguie lived near the noted Split Rock of Egypt, or North Cannondale, of today. He was the ancestor of the wife of the writer. The name of Matthew Merwin, if spelled as above, was better known as Matthew Marvin, although we have seen Marvin spelled as Merwin, but wrongly, I think - Editor.) [David H. Van Hoosier]
THE OLD COAL MINE, GEORGETOWN - By Wilbur F. Thompson, Danbury
In these days of high prices for coal and other necessities of life, what a boon it would be if coal could. be found and mined in our state. In almost every town there are traditions of minaral wealth beneath the surface. And in many places excavations, shafts and tunnels show that thousands of dollars have been spent in the endeavor to find the minerals supposed to be hidden in the earth.
In all the search for minerals very little has been said about coal. 80 years ago there was a blacksmith shop in Boston district, Redding, owned by Elias Andrews. In those days there was no mineral coal used in the rural sections. Every blacksmith had a charcoal pit for making coal. One day a man came into the shop and told Andrews he could get a black stone that would make a hotter fire than charcoal. He was told to get some. He went into what is known as Seventy Acres (a great tract of woods on the west of Boston district) and returned with a bag of black stone. It was placed on the forge - it burned with an intense heat. He would never tell where he found it, and. many have looked for it but never have found it.
In 1848, a coal miner named Chambers, from Carbondale, Pennsylvania, came to Georgetown to visit friends. He heard the story of the lost coal mine and tried to find it, but was not successful. In his search he noticed that the formations of rock in many places was the same as in coal regions. He started to dig in many places up the valley into Boston district. At last he found what he thought to be good indications of coal, and commenced to dig in earnest. He hired local help, paying them $1.00 per day from sunrise to sunset. The shaft or tunnel was cut through solid rock about six feet in diameter running back on the level under the hill. It is said that he found small veins of coal but was looking for a large vein.
After weeks of hard work the tunnel was dug under the hill about 50 feet. One Saturday night some of the young men who worked for Chambers in the mine drove down to Norwalk and secured some large lumps of coal. This they placed in the back end of the mine and covered with rock. The first stroke of the pick in the morning uncovered the coal. Chambers was happy, thc long sought-for coal was found. He soon found that he had been fooled. This disappointment, with the lack of funds, put an end to his mining. It is possible if he had kept on he would have found coal enough to pay him to mine it.
This old mine is about 250 feet south of the house long owned by Aaron Osborn (now owned by Mrs. Leroy Sturges) and was on his land. It was long known as “Chamber’s Coal mine.” Fifty years ago Aaron Osborn used the old coal mine in the summer as a cooler for milk, eggs, butter, etc. The water, icy cold, dripping from the roof and sides of the mine drained off into the Boston brook that flowed by the entrance of the mine. The writer, with many other boys of 50 years ago, had many a drink of ice cold milk, that had been put in the old mine to cool.
Thc entrance to the mine has been closed for many years by the debris that has fallen from the hill above.
Wilbur F. Thompson, Danbury, March 10, 1922.
(2923) The First Settlement of Georgetown and the Schools its Children have Attended
The first settlement of what is now the busy growinc burg of Georgetown was made 190 or more years ago [in about 1726] along the high ridge of land then known as Barnham’s Ridge (now the Hog Ridge.) This ridge of land extends from the Norwalk (now Wilton) line to Nobb’s Crook. [This ridge follows the line of Route 107 from Georgetown to Redding Glen] with all the land in what is now the village of Georgetown in the towns of Redding and Weston. It was the time of the first settlement in the northern part of the town of Fairfield. The old north boundary line of Fairfield was on or near where the highways now run from Redding Ridge to Redding Center and from there west to the Ridgefield line about two and one-half miles above the boundary rock in the Norwalk River now in Georgetown. The upper half of the town of Fairfield was surveyed into what was known as the Fairfield long lots. These lots were surveyed or laid out on what was known as the eleven oclock line. They were of different widths, but were narrow when compared with their depth, which was eight or ten miles. They were owned. by the early settlers of Fairfield near the tidewater, or were granted to persons for services rendered the colony or town in civil or military life; and were known by the names of the owners. What was known as the Osborn long lot was granted to Richard Osborn (an ancestor of William E. Osborn of Westport) for military service in the Pequot Indian War. The long lots we are interested in are those that comprised the land now in the village of Georgetown in the towns of Redding and. Weston and also what is the Boston district in Redding. Some of these lots were settled on by the original owners - others were settled on by persons who bought of the first owners.
The first long lot in what is now the village of Georgetown in the south was known as the Osborn long lot. This was bounded on the west and northwest by the Norwalk (now Wilton) line and came to the boundary rock in the Norwalk River. The next lot was known as the Applegate long lot, the next the Drake long lot, and so on up through Boston district to Nobb’s Crook. The Osborn, Applegate and. Drake lots comprised a large part of what is now Georgetown and Boston district.
In 1721 Robert Rumsey of Fairfield bought of John Applegate a large tract of land known as the Applegate long lots. In 1724 he willed it to his three sons Robert, Benjamin, and. Isaac, who built homes on the tract. Isaac built on the hill in front of where the Aaron Osborn house [see Map II] now stands (Isaac married Abigail, daughter of Noah St. John the first.)
Robert Rumsey built near where the home of Mrs. Nathan Perry now stands. Sixty years ago [about 1856] when Samuel Main was building the house Mrs. Nathan Perry now owns, he started to dig a well. Uncle Timothy Wakeman (who owned the house later owned by Edson Smith) asked Mr. Main what he was doing. On being told, Uncle Timothy took an iron bar, striking through the sod, and found a stone slab saying there is the old Rumsey well dug in 1726. Mr. Main uncovered and cleaned. out the well and used it as long as he lived in Georgetown.
Above the Rumseys other settlers built. The Perrys, Mallorys, Morgans, Hulls, Lees, Darlings, Coleys, Bradleys, settled along this ridge, and later the Sherwoods, Battersons and Parsons.
That part of Georgetown in the town of Weston was settled about the same time, or later. It has been said that Richard Osborn built on the Osborn long lot at an early date but this has not been proven. The first settler we have record of who built on this section was William Osborn, who built a log house in 1734 on or near where the Gregory Osborn house now stands. (This house is now owned by William E. Osborn of Westport, a direct descendant of Richard Osborn, the first owner of the land.) Later members of the Osborn family built here, giving it the name of Osborntown. This section is in the Weston part of Georgetown.
The first settlement of that part of Georgetown in the town of Norwalk (now Wilton) was made many years later than that of the other sections, Burnham’s Ridge, etc. The early settlers always chose the high ground first for building their homes, thinking the lowlands unhealthy. Most of the land in this section was owned by John Belden, Solomon Wood and Ezekial Wood. In 1756 Noah St. John 1st bought of Solomon Wood fifty acres of land, and built a home. His son Nehemiah St. John also built on this land. Nehemiah built the Matthew Gregory place today owned by Arthur Clark. The St. John farm remained in the family for many years and was later owned by the Rev. Samuel St. John.
Later the Taylors, Olmsteads, Gregorys, Morgans and other families settled. In 1756 Solomon Wood sold the remainder of his land north of the St. John farm to James Morgan of Redding, who built a house on or near the site of the house built and long owned by Hiram St. John. In 1764, George Abbot came to what is now the village of Georgetown and built a grist mill and was a prominent man in the community for many years.
Soon after the close of the War of the Revolution, the people living on the hillsides and. along the valley of the Norwalk River held a Fourth of July celebration on the top of the hill in front of where the Waterman Bates house now stands [the first house on the river below Connery Bros. office] and having no cannon to fire a salute, bored a hole in the ledge of rocks on the hillside, loaded it with powder and fired the salutes in honor of the day. For many years after it was used for the same purpose, by Matthew Bennett, who lived nearby.
At this time the localities around the valley were called by different names: Osborntown, Honeyhill, Burr’s Hill, St. John’s corners, Sugar Hollow, Jack Street, etc. At this Fourth of July celebration, it was voted to give these localities one name. Someone suggested Georgetown after George Abbott, the popular miller. It was put to vote and Georgetown became the name of the hamlet. That is how the hustling town of today got its name.
The first school the children of the early settlers of what is now the village of Georgetown attended stood on the west bank of the Saugatuck River at the foot of Nobb’s Crook hill a short distance north of where Ferdinand Gorham’s house [this is now Redding Glen] now stands. It was one of three schools established by the parish of Redding, town of Fairfield, in 1737, and was known as the West Redding district school. (The other two were called the Redding Center and the East Redding schools.) It was a small log structure with rude seats made of slabs and a stone fireplace. The district comprised what is now Diamond Hill and Boston districts and. that part of Georgetown in the town of Redding.
In 1767 the parish of Redding became the town of Redding. In 1768 the town was divided into school districts. Boston district No. 5 included that part of Georgetown now in the town of Redding. The school house stood near where the present school house stands in Boston district [the James Driscoll Sr. house.] In the early days of the last century this was a famous school. The ancestors of many who have lived in Georgetown attended school here, as it was the nearest one in the neighborhood. Among the teachers at this time were Elias Bennett, Nathaniel Perry, Walter Bates (who later had a large select school,) William Bennett, Gershom Banks and others.
The first school in Georgetown was started about 1800; the school house
stood near where Walter Perry’s house now stands. Not much is known about this school; it was a small building and some of the teachers who had taught in the Boston school taught here.
School House No. 2 [built in l818] stood on the south end of William Wakeman’ s home lot. This also was a small building; it is not known how long school was held here. In 1824 William Wakeman sold his farm to Benjamin Gilbert and bought the Matthew Bennett place on the road to Weston, years later owned by Jonathan Betts [across from the Swedish Church.] Mr. Wakeman moved the little school house up the hill and attached it to the rear of his new house for a kitchen.
School House No. 3 stood in the hollow [today it is the area at the junction of Routes 7 and 107] back of Wilkie Batterson’s blacksmith shop on the road to Nod [see Map IV.] At this time or later the present school district of Georgetown was formed,16 taking in what is known as Chicken Street, which at that time was a thickly settled section. This schoolhouse was used until the winter of 1850, when it was burned.
A new site was bought on what is now known as School Hill and the erection of a new school was commenced. Until the completion of the new building the school sessions were held in Taylor’s hat shop, which stood at the top of what was known as Aunt Sal Taylor’s hill, on the road to Nod. This shop was later moved and attached to the Taylor home, now owned by William Lockwood [now the Pfhal house] and is part of the house today. The new school house No. 4 was up-to-date, having seats and desks. Something new for Georgetown, the old school houses having benches for seats and a board fastened around the wall for desks.
Among the teachers who taught in the new school were Peter Fayerweather, George Godfrey, Lyman Keeler, Charles Sherwood, Miss Sturges (daughter of Charles Sturges,) Miss Margaret Moore, Luzon Jelliff and many others later than 1876. Among the scholars who attended school here in the early sixties from 1860-1864 were Francis, Eugene, Aaron, Frank G. and. Lydia Albin; Lester, Ezra P. and William R. Bennett; Frederick Brown; Medora and Allie Batterson; Will, James and John Corcoran; Francis de Garmo and sister George; Charles and John Gould; Mary, George, Eva, Will, Lester, Lucius and Luther Godfrey; Frank and Mary Elwell; Emma and Addie Hurlbutt; Rosalie, Will, Gilson and. little Sid Jennings; Charles, Carrie, John, Francis and. Ida Jelliff; Augusta, Rebecca and Ben Lobdell; Addie, Alida and Joe Lockwood; Ida and Will Lee; Samuel J. and Mary Miller; Huldah, Eli G. and Nettie Main; Ed, Julia and Annie Mills; David, William E., Edmund, Isadora, George, Nettie and William H. Osborn; Charles and Dell Olmstead; Ellza Prior; Jennie Luick; Alice, Lizzie, Ida, Stell and Eddie St. John; Wilbur F. and Herbert Thompson; Frank, Mary and Dan Welsh; Henry Willams; Charlie Wells, and others whose names are forgotten.
The old school house on the hill has been enlarged many times to accomodate the growing school population. Many persons of mature years have pleasant memories of the old school house, surrounded. by its fine grove of trees. And many friendships begun there have lasted through the long years that have passed since we were boys and girls attending school.
But the old school house on the hill has outlived its day and generation, and School House No. 5 has taken its place. This fine up-to-date building17 is a model for every school building committee to follow, and is a fitting memorial to those who have the best interests of Georgetown at heart. And here again, after a lapse of 100 years, the children of Georgetown and Boston districts attend the same school.
It is a far cry from the little log school house on the banks of the Saugatuck River (and the rude little school houses of later days) to the beautiful building that is the school house of the children of Georgetown and vicinity. They and the coming generations of children will appreciate (with the parents) the facilities afforded for a better education.18
WILBUR F. THOMPSON
October 20, 1916
THE OLD BOSTON DISTRICT SCHOOL, REDDING
On a hill in Old New England
Stands a schoolhouse old and gray,
The Schoolhouse of my boyhood.
Many years have passed away.
The sale of the Boston district schoolhouse to M. Connery of Georgetown forms the closing chapter in the history of a school that had had an existence of over 150 years.19
In 1767 the town of Bedding was organized and in 1768 was divided into school districts. Boston district No. 5 took in the section now known as Georgetown in Redding. The schoolhouse stood on the site of the building recently sold. It was for many years a famous school. Elias Bennett, later known as Pest Rider Bennett, was teacher from 1800 to 1815. Nathaniel Perry, Walter Bates, Aaron B. Hull, Gershom Banks, Oliver Dudley and William Bennett taught in the old schoolhouse later.
In the ‘50’s the present schoolhouse was built. It was a great improvement on the old school, where the seats had no backs, and a wide board fastened to the wall on three sides of the room formed the desks, with an open fireplace to heat the room in winter. In the new school were desks, and seats with backs, and a box stove standing in the center of the room to heat the school in winter. In the winter of 1864 the writer was a pupil in the Boston school. The ages of the pupils ranged. from six to twenty years. Many were men and women grown. Teachers in those days had to be men of muscle as well as of brains. David L. Rowland of Weston
was teacher for the fall and winter term of l864.
In those days the teachers boarded with the parents of the children who attended school -i t was called “boarding around the district.” The schools were not free schools as they are today, and the burden was heavy on many parents who had large families. Following are names of the pupils who attended the winter term of 1864, giving the father’s name also: Orrin Adams’ children - Leroy, Imogene, Julia; William Albin’s children - Frank, Lydia, Warson, Albert; Burr Bennett’s children - William, Polly, Mary, Elmer; Gershom Banks’ children - George, Jane, Will; Zalmon Fillow’s child - Effie; Aaron Fillow’s child - Fred; Joseph Goodsell’s child - George B.; William Gorham’s child - Ferdinand; Richard Higgins’ children - Richard, John and Ellen; Moses Hill’s children - Gcrshom, Deborah, Ebenezer, Mary, Samantha; Bradley Hill’s children - Arthur B. and Albert; Burr Hill’s children - Helen, Celia, Nathaniel; Edmund Lee’s children - John, Margaret, Thornton and Jessie; Henry Lee’s child - Frank; Ashur Marchant’s children - Joel and Arthur; Aaron Olmstead’s children - Hawley, Sarah, Samuel, Eva; Granville Perry’s children - Georganna, Eva, Timothy; Parson’s grandchild - Hattie; John Rady’s children - John, James and Ellen; Peter Smith’s children - Ed.die and Ruth; Dimon Sturges’ children - Oscar and Ida; Edward Thompson’s children - Wilbur F. and Herbert B.; Francis Welch’s children - Mary and Daniel.
Fifty-seven years have passed by and many of the pupils of the old school term of 1864 and ‘65 are dead, and few of those alive are living in the old district. But their descendants are scattered all over this state. The children in Boston district, Redding, are now pupils in the Gilbert & Bennett School, Georgetown. Following are the names of the teachers in the Boston listrict school from 1864 to 1872: winter terms; David L. Rowland, Seth Platt Bates, John Belden
Hurlbutt, Ambrose Platt, Arthur B. Hill; summer terms, Sarah Hill and Emma Olmstead.
Smooth and hollow are its doorsteps,
Worn and thin its ancient sill,
By the many feet that entered
In the schoolhouse on the hill.
WILBUR F. THOMPSON
February 22, 1922
Brief Historical Sketches of
the Churches in Georgetown Today
by Irene Baldwin
Before continuing with Wilbur Thompson’s article “The Old Pipe Organ,” it is appropriate to introduce some historical sketches of the churches which exist in Georgetown today. His anecdotes about the Methodist Church will be more meaningful if the reader has some background.
The Methodist Church of Georgetown
The first circuit organized in New England. by Jesse Lee was called the “Fairfield Circuit.” It included roughly the area from Norwalk, east to Stratford and Milford, then north and west to Danbury and. Redding, and south again to Norwalk. The Georgetown class was formed in 1790. For many years this group met at various homes, for it had no regular place of worship.
In 1830, a small plain building was erected, and served for nearly thirty years as the Society increased in numbers. However, on March 15, 1857, it was voted, and pledges were made, to build a new house of worship. This building now stands, and with some alterations, houses the church today. By 1861, the Georgetown Charge had increased in prestige with its new church, and was taken out of the circuit and put in the New York East Annual Conference.
This church has been called the Methodist Episcopal, and it is to this group that Wilbur Thompson’s articles about the Old Pipe Organ and the Christmas Service relate. In 1820, a Reverend William Stillwell organized another Methodist group in Georgetown. This followed a small schism in the New York Conference. This group adopted the name Methodist Protestant when it met in convention in 1829. Information about these Methodists is available in Todd’s History of Redding, Connecticut. This group was the forerunner of the present Congregational Church in Georgetown.
The present Methodist Church has a fine record and history to be proud of. Its membership today is ministered to by the Rev. Mr. Worley, who followed Rev. Marsland. The membership is active and contributes their full quota for World Service and Benevolence, as well as the Home for the Aged in Danbury.
Georgetown Bible Church (formerly Gilbert Memorial Church)
This lovely stone church facing the Gilbert & Bennett office building, was donated to the Georgetown Congregational Church by Edwin Gilbert. The cornerstone was laid October 1901, and it was formally dedicated. the following year.
Until 1867, when the name Congregational was adopted, this group had been the Methodist Protestant Meeting. Started in 1820 as a separatist group from the Methodist Episcopal Church in Georgetown, this congregation grew and joined the Society of Wilton Circuit in 1839. In its early years it shared a meeting house with the Baptists and a Mission Sunday School of the Wilton Congregational Church, which was organized in Georgetown in 1826.
The early church property was crossed by the Danbury & Norwalk R. R. The group sold the Railroad a right of way for $150 in 1851. In 1867 the members voted to change their denominational preference to Congregational. In July 1944 they withdrew from the Fairfield County Congregational Association and Ministerial Society. The church used the name “Gilbert Memorial Church” until April 7, 1965, when it was changed to the “Georgetown Bible Church.” At the present time, it is administered by the Rev. Mr. Seely.
Sacred Heart Church
With the completion of the Norwalk & Danbury R. R., Catholics began to move in and settle about the halfway mark known as Georgetoen. The spiritual needs of these families were taken care of by priests from both St. Mary’s Church, Norwalk, and St. Peter’s Church, Danbury. Holy Mass was celebrated in private homes both in Georgetown and Branchville. By the late seventies, the number of Catholics had increased considerably, so the use of Bennett’s Hall, located over the now Connery Brotherss store, was secured for servlces. The Rev. Thaddeus P. Walsh was appointed first pastor of Georgetown, with Ridgefield and Redding Ridge as missions. He took up his residence in Georgetown in 1880. The Catholics of Georgetown had already made plans for a church and the present grounds were purchased and transferred to Father Walsh shortly after his coming. He immediately began the erection of a church which was soon completed. It was so1emnly dedicated in the late summer of the same year by the Most Rev. Lawrence S. McMahon, under the protection of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A special train was run from Danbury on that occasion to accommodate all who wanted to take part in the ceremony.
Father Walsh later moved his residence from Georgetown to Ridgefield, but continued to minister to the needs of the Catholics of Gecrgetown until his death in 1886. He was buried from Sacred Heart Church, Georgetown.
The Rev. Patrick Byrne succeeded Father Walsh; for the next six years he was pastor of both Georgetown and. Ridgofield Cathdie Churches. Father Byrne was in turn succeeded by the Rev. Joseph O’Keefe, who labored in spite of ill health till the coming of the Rev. Richard E. Shortell, May 13, 1893.
Under the direction of Father Shortell, the original church building was greatly enlarged, the interior relocorated, the marble altar, the marble sanctuary and a new organ installed, making it one of the best mission churches in the diocese. Father Shortell continued as pastor of Sacred Heart Church until his death Oct. 4, 1934.
On Dec. 1, 1934, the Rev. Walter F. Kenny came to Georgetown as resident pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, which was new separated from Ridgefield. He immediately began the building of a rectory, and the filling and grading of the parish grounds. As the property is about an acre and three-quarters in extent, it proved quite a task. Most of the labor was voluntary and completed on a pay-as-you-go basis.20
Since that time, the parish has continued to grow and has prospered not only materially but spiritually. In Nov. of 1951, Msgr. Joseph Cleary arrived. He has seen a great growth spurt and the church is now “bursting at the seams.” He is well-loved by all his parishioners, and is very much a part of the community life of Georgetown.
Covenant Congregational Church
This church, located on the old Weston Road21 in Georgetown, was founded in March 1889 by Swedish immigrants. The building was erected in 1891 with a parsonage on Map1e Street. In March of 1964, they celebrated their 75th anniversary. One charter member, Mrs. Gustaf Wahlquist, still survives. She is about 97 years old and lives near the church on Old Weston Road. The church has its roots in the Lutheran State Church of Sweden and the great spiritual awakening in Sweden in the 19th century. The members use the Congregatonal name because they were assisted in getting started by the American Congregational Church. The church is associated with the Evangelical Covenant Church, with headquarters in Chicago, and with the East Coast Conference of Covenant Churches, with headquarters in Worcester, Mass.
There was a wave of emigration to America from Sweden during the 1880s. “America Fever” almost threatened to depopulate Sweden. Many of these emigrants were added to the population of Georgetown22 and their culture considerably enriched the community life of Georgetown.
The church was the agency by which the immigrant was best able to preserve his identity, and in a few years the Swedes, working through their churches and with the help of friendly neighbors, had established schools, colleges, Old Folks’ Homes, Orphanages and hospitals in their new land.
In Georgetown the Lutheran community soon grew large enough to support another church, and the Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church was formed.
Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church
As early as 1900 pastors from the Seamen’s Mission in Brooklyn, N. Y. were visiting Georgetown, and by January 1908, a Seamen’s Mission Society was formed to gather Lutherans in Georgetowm for religious services and mission work. The group rented space in Mrs. Edda Peterson’s house for meetings. Within a few months they decided to organize a Lutheran congregation and affiliate with the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church. On July 7, 1908, the Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Georgetown was born.
It has been a source of pride to Lutherans, and one the community must share, that so much good will existed that when the subscription drive started for a building, non-members contributed so generously that the building could be completed and dedicated before the end of the year. It was dedicated on Sunday, Nov. 29, 1908.
Since then, the congregation and building have grown, and both are in excellent condition today. In.1958 the church celebrated its Golden Jubilee, and at that time received a letter from one of its former pastors, now residing in Ahus, Sweden. Samuel Swensen said in his letter, “...I...a very young and inexperienced pastor some 43 years ago...remember most vividly and with great gratitude how willing and steadfastly the pioneers co-operated with me, striving for the maintenance and upbuilding of Lutheran faith within the boundaries set by the Swedish language and church tradition from the old country. I alse recall my impression from my visit some years ago of how that spirit still lingered...”23
Many of the clergy who assisted through the years were from Upsala College, and warm ties exist between the Georgetown church and that college. At the present time, the congregation expects a new pastor soon, having lost Rev. Mr. Elmer L. Olsen last year. He had served since Oct. 3, 1955 and seen the membership grow, as did the building under his faithful leadership.
THE OLD CHURCHES OF GEORGETOWN
by Wilbur F. Thompson
The first settlers of our state were members of the Congregational Church, and for many years there were no churches of other beliefs. Proof of this is to be found in the history of every town in the state. As the years passed on, settlers of other religious denominations came into the state and organized their own churches. What is now the town of Redding was settled in 1712 by members of the Congregational Church in Fairfield. It was known as the Parish of Redding, Town of Fairfield.
In 1729 the Congregational Church of Redding parish was organized, and in 1730 the first church built. The first settlers of what is now the village of Georgetown were members of the Redding church. The record of the Redding Congregational Church - of marriages, births and deaths - shows the names of well-known families who settled in what is now the village of Georgetown - Batterson, Bennett, Banks, Byington, Bates, Coley, Darling, Gray, Godfrey, Hull, Hill, Lee, Meeker, Morgan, Mallory, Osborn, Olmstead, St. John, Rumsey - showing they were members or attendants of the Redding church.
The first church organization in what is now the village of Georgetown was known as the Baptist society in Redding. The exact date of its formation is not known. In the records of the Conregational Church in Redding is found this entry: “Dec. 9, 1785, Deacon John Lee gives certificates to Michael Wood, John Couch, Micah Starr, Jabez Wakeman, to the Baptist Church in Redding.” The older records of the Baptist Church have been lost, and only those dating from 1833 to 1849 are in existence and in possession of the Baptist Church of Danbury, and form very interesting reading. In them we find that on Jan. 28, 1833, a society meeting was held at the home of Timothy Wakeman; voted to adjourn to our meeting house,” showing that the Baptist Church in Georgetown had been built long before that late. The church record gives the names of members from 1833 to 1849: “Male members - Elias Andrews, Perry Andrews, William B. Beers, Sherman Beers, Harry Beers, Elezer Beers, Jonathan Betts, Mathew Bennett, Steven Buttery, Riley Buttery, George Grumman, Stephen Jones, Lorenzo Jones, Nathan Jones, Lewis Lobdell, Jasper Olmstead, Walter Olmstead, Sanford Olmstead, David Rowland, Edward Sherwood, Timothy Wakeman, Levi Wakeman, William Wakeman; Female members - Mary Andrews, Eunice Bennett, Mary Bennett, Mary Beers, Delia Beers, Ann Beers, Rebecca Beers, Felecia Buttery, Betsy Coley, Sarah Coley, Eunice Coley, Eliza Dykman, Polly Edmunds, Esther Edmunds, Susan Godfrey, Anna Hawley, Anna Hull, Ruth Hull, Abigail Hodges, Mirinda Jelliff, Mary Jones, Mirah Jones, Ruth Morehouse, Esther Olmstead, Caroline Olmstead, Harriet Olmstead, Ellen Parsons, Mabel Rowland, Ellen Wakeman, Sarah Wakeman, Pelina Wakeman.”
For many years it was a strong society, having the only church edifice in the village. Following are the names of the pastors: 1833, Elder S. Ambler was in charge; in 1834, Elder Steven Bray; in 1838, Rev. William Bower; in 1841, Rev. John Noyes; in 1843, Rev. George B. Crocker; in 1844, Rev. David Pease. The salary paid was $150 a year. From 1845 to 1849 there was no settled pastor. The Baptist church was for many years the only meeting place the villagers had, anl in it lectures on temperance and anti-slavery were given. At this period many in the north were in favor of slavery and the pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions had many a debate. Georgetown was strongly anti-slavery and it is a historical fact that the first anti-slavery socicty in Connecticut was started in Georgetown in Oct. 1838. Dr. Erasmus Hudson and Rev. Nathaniel Colver were appointed by the Anti-Slavery Society of Connecticut to lecture on slavery.
On Nov. 16, 1838, a call was issued for an anti-slavery convention to be held in the Baptist Church in Gccrgtown. On Nov. 26, 1838 Messrs. Colver and Hulson addressed the meeting. But the opposition was so strong the meeting was adjourned until Nov. 27th. That evening the enemies of the movement broke up the meeting, and on the 28th of November the Baptist Church was blown up with gunpowder. A keg of gunpowder was placed under the pulpit. [So we see, church bombings are not new to our generation.]
On Dec. 4, 1838, the Georgetown Anti-Slavery Society was formed. President, Eben Hill; Secretary, William Wakeman; Treasurer, John C. St. John. Among those who were members of this Society were Sturges Bennett, Aaron Bennett, William Bennett, Sauruch Bennctt, Jonathan Betts, Alonzo Byington, Edwin Burchard, Walter Bates, Ezra Brown, Charles Cole, Benjamin Gilbert, William Gilbert, Matthew Gregory, Bradley Hill, Edmund Hurlbutt, John B. Hurlbutt, Aaron Jelliff, William Jelliff, Aaron Osborn, Gregory Osborn, Timothy Parsons, William Wakeman, Timothy Wakeman, and many others who years later became Republicans and voted for Abraham Lincoln.
In the old church record we find the following statements: “Nov. 26, 1838, the Rev. Nathaniel Colver lectured in our meeting house on slavery, and was disturbed by unruly persons: Nov. 27, 1836, another lecture, disturbed as before; Nov. 28, 1838, our meeting house blown up but not entirely destroyed; Nov. 30, 1838, plan to collect money to repair our meeting house; Dec. 8, 1838, Society meeting held at the house of Brother Timothy Wakeman; Deacon Elezer Beers was appointed to ferret out and prosecute any and all those who have been engaged in blowing up and damaging our meeting house.”
[The census statistics of the United States show that slavery had dwindled in Connecticut at this time (1838). In 1790 there were 2,764 slaves in Connecticut, in 1840 there were 17, and by 1850 none.]
The record does not show that anyone was found out and prosecuted.. There is a tradition that the blowing up of the church was done by some of its members who opposed the anti-slavery movement. In the thirties, the Methodist Episcopal and the Methodist Protestant societies built churches, and many who had been members and attendants of the Baptist church joined the other churches. This was a death blow to the old church. In the church record we find that on Sept. 11, 1847, “Church meeting was called and it was voted to disband, members free to join any church without certificates.” A committee was appointed to hold meetings and Elias Androws, William Wakeman and William S. Clmstead were the committee.
On Nov. 6, 1848, a church meeting was called and the old Baptist Church was reorganized, with the following male members: Elias Andrews, Perry Andrews, Elezer Beers, Wi1liam B. Beers, Sherman Beers, Harry Beers, Sanford Olmstead, Nathan Jones, Timothy Wakeman, William Wakeman, Edward Sherwood; Brother Gardner was asked to preach once a month for $50 per year.
On Oct. 11, 1849, a society meeting was held and the officers for the coming year were appointed: Clerk, Sherman Beers; Treasurer, W. S. Olmstead; Collecter, Perry Andrews; Trustees, Elezer Beers, Timothy Wakeman, William B. Beers.” This is the last entry in the old record as the church was disbanded in 1849.
The old church was a one-story edifice, clapboarded and unpainted; it was lighted by six windows glazed with 6x8 glass. There were two entrances on the east end of the building. The singers sat on a raised platform in the rear of the pulpit. In the evening services the room was lighted with candles and on the pulpit was a whale oil lamp. The church was heated in winter by a Franklin box stove standing in the center of the room. New members who were received into the church were immersed in Timothy Wakeman’s mill pond, which was a short distance from the church. The only person now living who was a member of the old Baptist church in 1840 is Miss Sarah Coley, b. 1828, who lives in the old Coley homestead on the Danbury Road, Georgetown.
In 1848, a select school for young ladies was held in the old church. The school was taught by Miss Celestine Chambers. Her father came from Carbondale, Penn., to dig for coal in Georgetown. He was not successful. After opening up what was long known as the “Old Coal Mine” he returned to Carbondale. Among the pupils of the school were: Mary Bennett, Lucy Bennett, Adele Bassett, Eliza Gilbert, Mary A. Godfrey, Josephine Godfrey, Mary E. Taylor, Jane Taylor, Mary E. Scribner, Evelyn Weed, Isabelle Weed, and others. The tuition fee was 25 cents per week.
In 1849 the Gilbert & Bennett Co., intending to build a factory, bought of Timothy Wakeman his sawmill, with the mill rights and land, building a large factory. They also bought the old church, remodeling it into a dwelling. In 1875, the old church was torn down to make room for new buildings. The writer of this article assisted in the work. Some of the timbers were found to be shattered by the explosion of 1838.
The old Gilbert & Bennett Mfg. Co. office stands on the site of the old church, and great factory buildings cover the old church lot. The busy hum of machinery is now heard in place of the hymns and prayers of the villagers of long years ago. Many descendants of the members of the Old Baptist Church live in Norwalk, Wilton, Weston, Redding and Georgetown, and may be interested in the story of the old church. The story of the other two churches in Old Georgetown will be told later.
WILBUR F. THOMPSON, March 1, 1923, Danbury, Connecticut
(3467) The Old Pipe Organ of Georgetown by Wilbur F. Thompson
In the choir gallery of the Methodist Church, Georgetown, there is a quaint old pipe organ. Its mahogany case is scratched and marred. Its gilded frontal pipes have lost their lustre. Its solid ivory keys, worn by the touch of many players’ fingers, are silent. This old organ standing silent and alone awaiting the “touch of a vanished hand” has a history which may be of interest to many readers of The Hour.
Three-quarters of a century ago [about l840] Georgetown was a quiet little hamlet of some 200 persons, all of whom were descended from the ‘old stock” who settled our state. The coming of anyone from outside our state was an unusual occurrence. And when it was known that Daniel Wakeman had sold his homestead to a Scotchman named Alexander McDougall, there was great curiosity to know what the “furriner” looked like. The Daniel Wakeman house stood (and is still standing) on the west side of the Danbury and Norwalk Turnpike, at the top of the long hill that was known as Burr’s Hill. (It is the hill north of the home of Mrs. Nathan Perry.) In due time the household goods of the McDougalls arrived, brought from New York to Norwalk by boat and from Norwalk to the new home by teams. On one of the loads of goods was a great piece of furniture carefully boxed. The villagers thought it was a “highboy.”
The goods were soon unloaded and Alexander McDougall and wife were settled in their new home. Soon after persons passing the house heard strains of sweet music, the like of which was never heard in Georgetown before. Then it became known that the great box contained a pipe organ, a new kind of instrument. The only instruments of music in the village at that time were fifes, drums, and fiddles. Edwin Gilbert and John 0. St. John each had a bass viol, which they played in the Methodist Protestant choir.
McDougall was a fine organist, and on pleasant summer evenings the passers-by stopped to listen as he played old.Scotch airs - “Scots Whom Bruce Had Often Led,” “Annie Laurie,” “Come O’er the Heather,” etc. Later the singers of the village were invited to the McDougall home to have a “sing.” This was the first musicale ever held in Georgetown, but not the last, for the village has always been noted for its good singers. Following are the names of many of the singers among the residents at that time: Sturges Bennett and wife Charlotte, Aaron Bennett and wife Mary, known as the “sweet singer” (the writer’s grandparents,) Samuel Main and wife Marriette, John Taylor and wife Hannah, Aaron Lockwood, Joseph Lockwood, James Lobdell, Eiwin Gilbert, John 0. St. John, Hiram St. John, Aaron Jelliff,Sr., Silas Hull, Orrin Jennings, William and George Nichols, William and James Cargill, Sarah Morgan, Eliza Hull, Polly Osborn, Harriet Nichols, Sally Ann Nichols, Mary Gregory (married Aaron Osborn.) One who remembers back 75 years says that when the singers met at the McDougall home, the roadway and dooryard were filled with eager listeners.
Years passed on and the old organist sold the homestead to Aaron Osborn and built a home on the mountain east of the Ridgefield Station (Branchville) where he lived in the early sixties. His widow, wishing to dispose of the old organ, asked a friend, John Fayerweather, to find a buyer. It was sold to Sherman Fitch of Wilton, who placed it in his home.
Fifty-five years ago [1860-1865] very few of the churches had muscial instruments, depending altogether on vocal music in the church services. The Methodist Church, Georgetown, had a good choir led by James Lobdell until he went to the front in 1862 with the 23rd Regiment. John Fayerwcather was the next leader. In those days the leader with a “pitch pipe” or “tuning fork” would give the key saying “Do, me, sol, la - sing.” This was called “raising the pitch of key.” The singers did not always get the key.
The members of the choir at this time were Charles Albin, William Bennett and wife Caroline, Aaron H. Davis and wife Lucy, Cornelia Beers, Mary Thompson, Bertha Bennett, Hattie Bennett, Rosalie Jennings, Mary Esther Jennings, Charles Jennings Sr., John Fayerweather, Stanley Mead, John Mead, Lewis Mead, Lottie Moore, Loie Fuller, Julia Fuller, Medora Batterson, Francis Jelliff. About this time a small melodian belonging to Bertha Bennett was placed in the choir gallery to “help out the singing.” Miss Bennett was the musician. There was strong opposition to instrumental music by some of the older members of the church and the pastor had hard. work to still the troubled waters.
(3453). THE OLD PIPE ORGAN OF GEORGETOWN (Cont.)
In 1864, Ephraim Fitch asked John Fayerweather to sell the organ for him he had bought of Widow McDougall. Fayerweather, thinking it would be a good chance for the Methodists to secure an organ, spoke to members of the choir, who favored buying it. As there was still strong opposition to instrumental music by some of the church members, it was not thought best for the church society to buy the organ, but to let individual members secure it. The price to be paid was $190. This amount was divided into five and ten dollar shares, which were taken by members and friends of the church. That is the way the organ was bought.
Aaron H. Davis, Charles Albin, Lewis Northrop, Jonathan Betts, Stanley Mead (the only one living) with one of the Gilbert & Bennett Co.’s teams, brought the organ from Wilton to the church doors and prepared to unload. it. Two members of the church (who had opposed instrumental music) with arms extended stood in the church doors, saying “that music box shall not come in here.”
Aaron H. Davis had. the organ taken to his house where it remained for some time. The Rev. George L. Fuller, who was pastor at this time, called a church meeting, and it was voted to place the organ in the church, which was done; some of the members who had opposed it before, now voting in favor.
It was soon found out that the organ was a great help in public worship and the choir became one of the best in the conference. Following are the names of the musicians who played the old organ: Loie Fuller, daughter of Rev. George L. Fuller; Bertha Bennett, Lottie Moore, Hattie W. Bennett, John Fayerweather, Ezra P. Bennett, Dora G. Albin, William R. Bennett, Frederick Foster, Edith Davis Foster.
In 1896, a larger organ was bought and placed in the chancel of the church, which is still in use. This is the story of the “old organ,”150 years old, that has stood in the choir gallery of the Methodist Church over 54 years.24 Of those who listened to its sweet, mellow tones 75 years ago, when “Uncle McDougall” played the music of the homeland he loved so well, only four are living. And of the choir of twenty voices, who in 1864 sang accompanied by the organ, only six are left.
WILBUR F. THOMPSON, Sept. 16, 1918, Danbury, Connecticut
CHRISTMAS IN OLD GEORGETOWN, 1862
by Wilbur F. Thompson
Fifty-five years ago, our country was in the midst of a great war, not with foreign nations, as we are today, but with people of our own blood and kindred. From homes all over the Northland., men had gone forth to battle for freedom. Georgetown (with other communities of our State) was learning of the hardships of war. In 1861, many men of the village had enlisted and gone to the front, and on Nov. 14, 1862, Co. E, 23rd Regiment, had been mustered into service and was on its way to the south with the Regiment.
The fall and early winter were days of anxious waiting and. suspense. The 25th of November had not been a day of Thanksgiving, for in many homes the chair at the head of the table had been vacant. This fact, with the scarcity of money and the high cost of living, made the outlook for a merry Christmas very doubtful.
It had been the custom of the two churches of the village, Methodist Episcopal and Methodist Protestant, to hold Christmas services for the Sunday Schools connected with the churches. Some of the members of the churches thought it would be well to dispense with the Christmas services, while others did not want to give up the time-honored custom. It was voted to hold a union service for the children, in the Methodist Episcopal church. Great preparations were made. The woods were searched for ground pine and other evergreens, to trim the church. A great spruce tree was placed. in one corner of the church, and a platform built out over the pulpit rail. The young people and children were rehearsed in the parts they were to take in the great event of the year.
On the evening of Dec. 24, the church was crowded with children and friends. The Christmas tree was brilliantly lit up with many candles and loaded with Christmas presents, cornucopias filled with candy, bags of popcorn, nuts and raisins. After prayer by the Rev. Samuel Keeler, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the exercises of the evening commenced. Let us look over the old program and see if there are any names of those we knew long years ago on it.
The Georgetown Sunday Schools
In the M. E. Church
Dec. 24th, 1862
-Programme - Part First
1 - Prayer
2 - Singing: We Come with Songs to Greet You - By the Schools
3 - Address: The Advent of Christ - Master C. Lester Bennett
4 - Chorus - When the Day with Rosy Light - By the Schools
5 - Dialogue: Dress and. Devotion - Misses Sarah Jane Quick, Malvina B. Osborn, Rosalie N. Jennings.
6 - Solo and Chorus: Miss Alice St. John and the Young Ladies’ Chorus
7 - Dialogue: Joseph and. His Brethren
Joseph - Oscar Davey
Ruben - Ezra P. Bennett
Simeon - Charles Jelliff
Levi - C. Lester Bennett
Judah - Edmund S. Osborn
Issachar - George W. Webb
Zebulon - Eli G. Main
Dan - Charles Lewis
Napthali - Wilbur Jennings
Gad - George Godfrey
Ashur - Charles Gedney
Potipher - LeRoy Adams
Attendants -Willie E. Csborn, Willie R. Bennett, Willie H. Osborn
8 - Song: Monitor and. Merrimac - Sidney A. Jennings, The Infant Drummer
9 - Dialogue: Cold Water and Fire Water - Masters C. Lester Bennett and Charles Jelliff
10 - Song: The Blue Birds’ Temperance Song - Misses Nettie Main and Alice Batterson
11 - Recitation: A Child’s Thoughts on God - Miss Allie Batterson
12 - Song: I Want to Be an Angel - by the infant classes
13 - Recitation: The Rose - Miss Susie Webb
14 - Recitation: The Hope of our Country, Master Charles Nichols
15 - Recitation: The Child’s Lament fr his Mother -Master Willie R. Bennett
16 - Recitation: A Visit from St. Nicholas - Master Clarence Keeler