THE IRON TRAIL THROUGH GEORGETOWN
In two preceding articles in this column, the story was told of the methods of communication in the early days between Danbury and Norwalk. First the “Old Indian Trail,” [unfortunately, this article has not been located] over which the eight families from Norwalk traveled. in 1684 into the wilderness to found the new settlement of Danbury. This trail, widened into a cart path, was for many years the only traveled way between the two towns. Later the “old Danbury and Norwalk Turnpike” was opened up, passing through Bethel, down over the Umpawaug hills, through what is now the village of Georgetown, through Pimpewaug (Cannondale) to Norwalk. Many years later another road was opened up. This was known as the “Sugar Hollow Turnpike,” starting at Belden’s Bridge, Norwalk (now in Wilton) on the west side of the Norwalk River, up through Georgetown and the Sugar Hollow Valley, along the course of the river, through the town of Ridgefield, into the western side of Danbury. This is now [Route 7] the state road from Danbury to Norwalk.
As thc towns grew and the intervening section became thickly settled, the “Old Turnpike” became a congested thoroughfare. The writer’s grandfather, Aaron Bennett, b. 1810, said, in his boyhood days (1818) there was an unending procession of great canvas-topped freight wagons, stage coaches, slow-moving ox carts. Travelers on horseback and on “Shanks Mares” (pedestrians) passing both ways night and day. At about this date the Sugar Hollow Turnpike was opened up.
Soon the demand for a better means of transportation began to make itself felt. In 1825 a survey was made for a canal from Danbury to tidewater at Westport. From Danbury, through Bethel to the Saugatuck River in Redding, following the course of the stream [through Weston] to tidewater. This project was given up when it was found that Danbury was 350 feet above sea level. In 1835 there were two surveys made for a railroad from Danbury to Tidewater. One followed the old canal survey to Westport. The other survey was along the line of the present D. & N. R. R. In 1835 it was found that over 8,000 tons of freight was carried in freight wagons at $5 per ton, and 10,000 passengers were carried by stage coaches to and from Danbury. The fare was 75 cents to Norwalk and 1,000 passengers from the section between Danbury and Norwalk, fare charged was 50 cents. This was the traffic to and from Danbury for the year 1834. The first estimate was for a horse railway, between the rails there was to be a plank roadway or horse path. But nothing was done until 1850, when the contract was let to Beard, Church & Co. to build and equip a steam railroad. John Beard was a resident of Danbury. These contractors sublet sections of the work to other firms. The section between what is now Cannondale and Topstone was known as the Georgetown section. The first work done in this section was in the deep rock cut known as “Couches Cut” between Branchville and Topstone. Cannon & Fields was one of the firms who had a contract to do the grading on the Georgetown section; Charles Cannon of Wilton and Frank Fields of Croton Fall, N. Y. Fields had finished a contract on the Harlem R. R. and came equipped to do the work. The surveyors for the Georgetown section were Aaron B. Whitlock of Croton Falls, N. Y., and Jcbediah I. Wanzer of Pawling, N. Y. They were assisted by a young man, John W. Bacon, who later became superintendent of the D. & N. R. R. They boarded with Aaron Bennett, who lived in the old house still standing, east of Connery’s coal yard in Georgetown. The boarding house for the men employed on the section stood north of the Methodist Protestant Church (now Miller’s Hall) [gone now.]
Following are names of some of the men employed on the section; Foreman, Austin Walbridge, who later was engineer on the road for many years; Blacksmith, Turney Stevens; Bridgebuilders, William Bedient, Steven Bedient, John Campbell; Stone Workers, William Avaunt, Waterman Bates, Alexander McDougal, Harden Knapp. Knapp was foreman of the stone gang. The Norwalk end of the road was finished first, and a train ran over that section carrying rails and supplies as far as the road was built. The engineer was George Tucker.
Work on the road progressed and, on March 1, 1852, the first train from Norwalk to Danbury went through. George Tucker was engineer and Harvey Smith conductor. Above Redding Station the ties and rails were placed on frozen ground. The equipment of the new road was three engines, four first-class and two second-class passenger cars, eight box and sixteen platforms cars, and three hand cars. Two trains were run each way daily after the road was completed.
The first station agent in Georgetown was Silliman Godfrey, who was also Postmaster. The next agent was Dr. Lloyd Seeley, later Burr Bennett, and for many years James Corcoran. The old Railway station was burned many years ago. It was a two-story building. In the first story was the Railway Station, Post Office and store kept by Silliman Godfrey. On the second floor was a large hall used for various purposes. In 1853 it was the lodge room of Fraternal Division, No. 79, Sons of Temperance. In the later f ifties, it was occupied by Fanton’s shirt factory. In 1862 it was the Armory of Co. E, 23rd Regiment, Connecticut Voluntecrs, who were mustered into service in the Fall of 1862. Later it was used by the Gilbert & Bennett Co. for a sieve shop.
Among those who were employed in building the Georgetown section of the D. & N. R. R. there were many who settled in that vicinity. William Avaunt, Waterman Bates, John Bates, George Gould, Thomas Granville, Richard Higgins, Patrick Maloney, Larry Fox, Alexander McDougal, Thomas Pryor, John Rady, Billy Spain, George Tilly, Frank Welch, Charles Vaughn, Michael Vaughn and others. Edson Smith ran a stage coach from Ridgefield station (Branchville) to Ridgefield. Later he was for many years conductor of the D. & N. Rail Road.
The “Old Indian Trail,” “The Old Danbury Turnpike,” and “The Iron Trail” tell of the progress in the methods of transportation between Danbury and Norwalk. And now the state road is the up-to-date method for quickness and dispatch, and is taking care of the ever-increasing traffic.
THE OLD POST RIDER.
by Wilbur F. Thompson
Years ago, long before the advent of railways, and other modes of quick communication, when most of the wheeled vehicles were ox carts, and many of the roads were cart paths, the Post Rider was a man of importance in our rural communities, keeping them in touch with the larger towns of our State, traveling on horseback, with saddle bags well filled and often with one or two pack horses loaded with the smaller products of the farms - butter, cheese, honey, beeswax, homespun woolen and linen cloth, yarn, flax, wool, etc., taking them to the larger towns - selling them, bringing back dyestuffs, calicos, needles, pins and other articles used in the rural homes of that day. Delivering the weekly newspaper and letters. The few post offices were in the larger towns, and the Post Rider carried and posted the few letters sent on those early days. People in those days did not have as much to write about as we do.
Elias Bennett 2nd, the subject of this sketch, was born in Fairfield, Dec. 25, 1778. His parents, Elias and Anna (Crossman) Bennnett, were descendants of the early settlers of Fairfield. His father, a soldier in the War of the Revolution, was in the Battle of Ridgefield and later in thc siege of N. Y. City.
Young Elias attended the schools of his day, fitting himself to become a teacher. The first school he taught was the Cross Highway School, Fairfield, now in the town of Westport. After teaching there he went to Georgetown and in 1800 commenced to teach in the Boston district school. While teaching there he married Mary, the daughter of Thaddeus Perry, who lived on the road south of what is now called Goodsell’s Hill. Soon after, he built a home west of the Perry house. Here his five sons were born: Sturges (who years later was one of the founders of the Gilbert & Bennett Co. of Georgetown,) Aaron, Burr, William, and Samuel, and a daughter, Mary. He taught the Boston school for twelve years. While teaching there, his health failed. In looking around for some other employment, he learned that Turney Foot, Post Rider, who supplied the people with the weekly newspapers, wanted to sell out his route. He purchased it, and in 1812 entered on his duties as Post Rider.
The war between Great Britain and this country created a great demand for the weekly paper, and the Post Rider’s arrival was looked forward to with great interest. For over 33 years, he supp1ied the people of Redding, Weston, Georgetown and parts of Westport and Wilton with the weekly paper. Through heat and cold, rain and snow, he went over his route fifty miles every week, until his business grew so that his sons had to help him - one after another as they grew old enough, took part of his route until all of his sons had grown to manhood and had chosen other occupations, and old age compelled him to give up the business. The most popular paper in the early days of his post riding was the Bridgeport Farmer, published by Stiles Nichols. Next, the Norwalk Gazette, published by Nichols & Price, and the Bridgeport Advertiscr, published by Hezekiah Ripley, and later the Bridgeport Standard. Of the 800 patrons he supplied with the weekly paper, over 400 took the Bridgeport Farmer. In looking over an old account book of the Post Rider, I find entries of many articles he furnished his customers. One charge to Joel Foster, who had a woolen mill at Nobbs Crook, Boston district in 1820, is for 3 pounds Guatemala indigo, 2 pounds Bengal indigo, 5 pounds oil vitrol and 5 pounds madder, and many other charges of the same nature, showing that he must have done quite a commission business.
I also find that the people of those good old days did not pay their bills any better than we do today. In one bill made out (but not sent) to a prominent resident of Wilton 85 years ago, for two years and one quarter of Norwalk Gazettes, he adds “Sir - Please send me what you owe me. I have a broken leg and need the money.” When he gave up the business he had over $2,OOO on his books that people owed him. This was never collected. He often carried large sums of money and articles of value, always delivering to the owners in safety.
No doubt some of the residents of Georgetown and Weston remember the Post Rider known to many as Post Bennett. He was an upright Christian, but a man of few words. Years ago the Methodists held meetings at the homes of the Church members. These were called class meetings and everyone attending was expected. to speak. One night the meeting was held at the home of Sturges Bennett. The old Post Rider was there, the leader asking those present to give their testimony, turned to him and said “Brother Bennett, can you tell us what the Lord has done for you?” He arose to his feet and said “I cdo not want to be quizzed.” Thus closed the meeting.
Wilbur F. Thompson, Danbury, Connecticut
THE OLD POST RIDER
One hundred. years ago there was in almost every house a loom for weaving cloth. The women of the homes wove the woolen and linen cloth used in those days. One day Post Bennett brought home from Bridgeport a quantity of what he called cotton yarn. He asked his wife if she could put a warp of it on her loom and weave him cloth for shirts. She wove the cloth and made it up into shirts and other articles of clothing. This was the first cotton cloth ever woven in this state.
The Perry family were all weavers - the first wire cloth made in this country was woven in Isaac Perry’s shop (he was a brother-in-law of Post Bennett,) for Gilbert & Bennet Co. in 1836, on a cloth loom. Isaac Perry and his son George were both weavers. The shop stood back of his house now owned by Louis Miller [see Map II.] This was the beginning of the great wire cloth industry of the Gilbert & Bennett Mfg. Co. of Georgetown.
In the year 1816, known as the year without a summer, the Post Rider wore his great coat all summer. The Perry and Bennett homes stood on the south slope of what was known as Zion’s Hill, now known as Goodsell’s Hill. Their land was originally part of the Drake and Applegatc long lots. It is now part of the Gilbert Agricultural School Farm.
[In 1906 Edwin Gilbert, a Gcorgetown philanthropist-industrialist, left to Storrs College (forerunner of University of Connecticut) his spacious farm lands of more than three hundred acres on the top of the hill overlooking the town (the eastern part of Georgetown). With it, he also left all his live stock, farm implements and tools. His will provided that this agricultural experimental station should be maintained and supported from the shares of capital stock of the Gilbert & Bennett Co., which he headed at the time of his death. Unfortunately, the distance from Storrs made the operation of the farm by the college impractical, and it was only operated as a school of instruction until 1909. The trustees of Storrs, Connecticut College, and University of Connecticut, successively, have found the property to be a white elephant on their hands. Steps were eventually taken in the l930s to dissolve the trust. Today the state farm property is still intact, although the buildings have fallen into disrepair. I. Baldwin, 1965]
South of this was a great tract of woodland now known as the Den Woods. 100 years ago this was a wild. section of country. Wild animals roamed through these woods. An Indian Trail or path ran through the woods, coming out onto what is now Godfrey Street, Weston. The Indians of long ago used this trail to go to Compo for seafood, and later it was used by the early settlcrs in that section. Post Rider Bennett often used this trail to go to Westport. One morning as he was riding through the woods, he felt something drop on the horse’s back. Looking around he saw it was a panther (in olden times called a painter.) The horse gave a sudden start and the animal dropped off and slunk back into the woods.
The old Post Rider lived to see the stage coach and post riding replaced by railways. He lived to see his sons grow to manhood, honored and respected. He saw the infant industry of the Gilbert & Bennett Co., of which his son Sturges, was one of the founders, outgrow the little Red Shop by the toll gate, the Red Mill by the riverside and the large stone factory built in 1850, the site of which is now covered by the great buildings of the Gilbert & Bennett Mfg. Co. Living through three of his country’s wars and well into the fourth, he passed away at the home of his son, Sturges Bennett, in 1863, 85 years old. He was laid away to rest in the old cemetery on Umpawaug Hill, which overlooks the hills and valleys he travelled over so many years.
Many incidents in this article were related by my mother, who is a granddaughter of Elias Bennett, the Post Rider. She remembers how he looked as he rode by on his white horse with well-filled. saddle bags, leaving the weekly paper along his route.
WILBUR F. THOMPSON, Danbury, Connecticut
GEORGETOWN, CT., IN THE CIVIL WAR TIMES
by Wilbur F. Thompson
The purpose of this article is to let the younger generations know what part the people of Georgetown and vicinity (in 1861) had in the Great Civil War of long ago, on the Battle Front and at Home. Very few are living who took part in the war, and before many years elapse, none will be left to tell the story. By “vicinity” we mean Zion’s Hill (Cannondale) and Nod in Wilton, Upper Parish in Weston, Boston and Diamond Hill in Redding, Ridgefield station (Branchville) in Ridgefield.
The Lincoln campaign in the fall of 1860 had been an exciting one for the residents of Georgetown and vicinity. A company of 65 men had been formed, called the Lincoln Guards, or “Wide Awakes.” The uniform was a blue glazed military cape and cap. The equipment was a swing torch for burning oil. The company was drilled by David H. Miller, a veteran of a famous New York regiment. The drill room was the hall over the old railroad station. The officers were: Captain, David H. Miller; 1st Lieutenant, Samuel Perry; 2nd. Lieutenant, John W. Mead; orderly sergeant, John N. Main. The company had a fine drum corps. The members were Samuel Bennett, Charles Jennings, Lewis Bedient, Morris (“Moss”) Jennings, Direll Chapman. In the torchlight parades in Norwalk, Danbury and other places, the fine marching and evolutions of the Georgetown company was noticeable. The campaign wound up with a grand torchlight parade in Georgetown. The houses were all brightly illuminated (with candles) and a great bonfire of tar barrels was built on the hill south of the Methodist church.
After the election of Lincoln, the community settled back into its usual quiet. In the spring of 1861, with the firing on and capture of Fort Sumpter, all was excitement again, and with Lincoln’s first call for troops, several of Georgetown’s young men enlisted. The first man to enlist was Andrew Nichols. He was a carpenter and learned the trade and worked with St. John Brothers. On the 19th of April, 1861, he enlisted in the Wooster Guards of Danbury and went to the front with the First Connecticut Regiment. He re-enlisted and served through the war; was killed in the battle of Dury’s Bluff, May 15, 1864. He was engaged to be married to one of Georgetown’s young women.
Nathan Couch and A. Byington went out with the First Conn. in 1861. On May 23, 1861, George W. Gould, Hiram Cobleigh, Eli Lobdell, Lewis Bedient and John N. Main went to the front with the Third Conn. Regiment. On Sept. 12, 1861, Edward Lahey enlisted in the Eighth Connecticut, with Charles M. Platt (Boston District.) On Nov. 12, 1861, George Lover enlisted. in the 12th Connecticut Regiment. In 1862 a large number of men from Georgetown and vicinity enlisted in the 17th Connecticut Regiment. Leroy G. Osborn (son of Aaron,) was visiting in Ohio and enlisted in the 67th Ohio Regiment. Charles H. Albin enlisted in the 12th Connecticut Regiment and William F. Scribncr in the 13th. Those who served in the 17th Connecticut were Charles A. Jennings, Waterman Bates, Francis Strong, Morris Jennings, David Bartram, George U. Banks, William Avaunt, Sylvester Albin, Augustus Pelham, Henry Albin, Silas Hull, Oscar Byington. Among those who enlisted in other regiments at later periods were Burr Mills, Nathan Perry, Eugene Parkerton, Henry Brown, Wesley Banks, Thomas Bedient, Sylvester Barrett. . . Early in 1862, a company was formed in Georgetown, known as the “Home Guards,” for service in the state. The drill room and armory was in the hall over the old railroad station. Feb. 4th, 1862, a meeting was held to elect officers for the new company, known as Co. E, 8th Regiment, Home Guards. Following is the roster of the company: Captain, David H. Miller; 1st Lieutenant, Hiram St. John, 2nd. Lieutenant, George M. Godfrey; sergeants, John N. Main, James Corcoran, Lewis Northrop, David S. Bartram, Aaron O. Scribner; corporals, William D. Gilbert, Aaron H. Davis, Alonzo Dickson, Jeremiah Miller, Edward Thompson, Seth P. Bates, George U. Gould, Albert D. Sturges; privates, John W. Mead, Moses Comstock, James Lobdell, James F. Jellif f, Joseph Lockwood, Hezekiah B. Osborn, Henry Parsons, William H. Canfield., Henry Lee, Edward Banks, Minot Partrick, Charles A. Jennings, Edwin Gilbert, David E. Smith, Hiram Cobliegh, Samuel Main, Anton Stommel, George L. Dann, Charles Olmstead., Charles Albin, Fred D. Chapman, Henry Hohman, William B. Smith, Wi1liam E. Brothwell, Azariah C. Meeker, Charles S. Gregory, Charles D. Meeker, Charles H. Downs, William Coley, Lorenzo Jones, Henry F. Burr, Obadiah Coleman, Charles H. Canfield, John L. Godfrey, Sylvester Albin. Some of these men had been in the service in 1861 and were looked on as veterans. The youngest men in the company were Hezekiah B. Osborn (18,) John W. Mead (19.) The oldest men were Hiram St. John (40,) Charles Olmstead (40,) Jonathan Betts (40,) Edward Thompson (42,) James Corcoran (40,) William Coley (40.) The company drilled until August 8, 1862, when Lincoln called for 300,000 men to serve 9 months. The Georgetown company volunteered and was accepted. The company was recruited up to 108 men, and reported for duty at Camp Terry, New Haven. Some members were rejected on account of disability. Those passing examination were mustered in as Co. E, 23rd. Regiment, Conn. Volunteers, in September, 1862. At this time, Captain David. H. Miller was appointed major of the 23rd. Regiment, and Lieut. George M. Godfrey was elected Captain of Co. E. Some of the members of Co. E had. enlisted in the 17th Regiment.
As many of the families of those going into service were left in straitened circumstances, town meetings were held in Wilton, Weston and Redding, to vote bounties to men who had enlisted. On Aug. 23, 1862, a town meeting was called in Redding. The following voters from Georgetown were present: Edwin Gilbert, Sturges Bennett, Matthew Gregory, Edmund Hurlbutt, Eli G. Bennett, David H. Miller, Samuel Main Sr., Samuel Main Jr., John N. Main, William J. Gilbert, John O. St. John, William B. Smith, Burr Bennett, George and Charles Albin, George Coley, George Perry, Granville Perry and others. It was voted to pay a bounty of $100 to members of Co. E who lived in the town of Redding, and to those who enlisted later. There was much opposition, one prominent resident of Redding (Lemuel Sanford) remarking that “There wasn’t one of the men that would ever smell gunpowder.” He was mistaken, as they were all at the front.
On August 23, 1862, a call was issued for a town meeting to be held in Wilton. Among those who signed the call were: George M. Godfrey, Aaron Bennett, Aaron H. Davis, George I. Hubbell, Wilkie Batterson, Charles Olmstead, Henry Olmstead, George I. Batterson, Azor Batterson, Elijah Parkerton, James Corcoran, Aaron Lee, Eli B. Godfrey, Andrew Partrick, George G. Nichols, John Olmstead, Edwin Burchard, Lewis Hurlbutt, living in Georgetown and vicinity. It was voted to pay a bounty of $100 to all members of Co. E living in the town of Wilton.
A town meeting was held in Weston on or near the same date, for the same purpose. Those living in Georgetown who voted in Weston were: Edward Thompson, Jonathan Betts, William Albin, Lewis Northrop, Samuel Osborn, Gregory Osborn, Ezra Brown, Aaron Jelliff Sr., Aaron Jelliff Jr., Henry Hohman, Albert Lockwood, Edward Lahey. None of the men mentioned who voted in the three towns at that time, are living today.
(3158) GEORGETOWN IN CIVIL WAR TIMES (Continued).
Following are the names and ages of those who were in the 23rd Regiment, from Georgetown and vicinity: Major D. H. Miller, 31; Captain George M. Godfrey, 36; 1st Lieut. Hiram St. John, 40; 2nd Lieut. John N. Main, 21; 1st Sergt. Lewis Northrop, 28; Sergts. Seth P. Bates, 29; Aaron O. Scribner, 23; William D. Gilbert, 23; Aaron H. Davis, 28; Corporals Jerry R. Miller, 27; George W. Gould, 33; Albert D. Sturges, 21; Azariah E. Meeker, 24; Joseph R. Lockwood, 33; Hezekiah B. Osborn, 18; Charles E. Downs, 22; Elijah Betts, 22; Musicians Frederick Chapman, 22; Samuel A. Main, 23; Wagoner Henry H. Lee, 24; Privates Andrew G. Armstrong, 22; Charles Albin, 34; William Allington, 18; Elias S. Andrews, 38; Edward Banks, 40; Henry W. Bates, 34; Chas. H. Bates, 28; Smith Bates, 29; Frederick Beers, 28; William P. Beers, 19; Rufus Beers, 32; William Beers, 39; Jonathan Betts, 40; Lemuel B. Benedict, 21; Peter W. Birdsall, 20; William E. Brothwell, 30; Daniel Brown, 26; William E. Brown, 18; Henry F. Burr, 38; Marcus V. Burr, 36; Aaron Burr, 18; William H. Canfield, 21; Ammi Carter, 24; Isaac Chak, 24; Hiram Cobleigh, 28; William Coley, 40; George H. Cole, 20; Moses Comstock, 24; George L. Dann, 26; Levi Dann, 22; James O’Donnell, 28: Benedict Eastwood., 25; William H. Fanton, 22; Charles A. Field, 21; Enoch Gilbert, 32; John L. Godfrey, 21; Samuel Gray, 26; Theodore Hamilton, 20; Henry Hohman, 30; James F. Jelliff, 31; George Jennings, 30; Lorenzo Jones, 35; James Lobdell, 37; Albert Lockwood, 39; CharIes Lockwood, 26; Charles D. Meeker, 20; Charles S. Meeker, 35; John M. Mead, 19; Charles Olmstead, 40; Elihu Osborn, 23; John Osborn, 21; William H. Perry, 22; Henry Parsons, 37; Henry B. Platt, 22; Sanford Platt, 20; Henry A. Raymond, 29; James Ryder, 20; Rufus K. Rowland, 18; John N. Seeley, 34; David E. Smith, 29; William B. Smith, 39; George E. Smith, 19; Anton Stommel, 33; Jacob St. John, 28; Isaac Thorp, l9; Albert N. Whitlock, 19; Augustus Winkler, 38.
Of these men, 43 were married and 44 unmarried. (After the rejection of some for disability and the enlistment of some into other regiments, the company numbered 86 men): Andrew Armstrong, William Allington, Elias Andrews, Elijah Betts, Henry W. Bates, Charles H. Bates, Smith Bates, Fred Beers, Rufus Beers, Wm. Beers, William P. Beers, Lemuel Benedict, Peter Birdsall, Dan. Brown, Wm. Brown, Henry F. Burr, Martin Burr, Aaron Burr, Ammi Carter, Isaac Chase, Levi Dann, James O’Donnell, Benedict Eastwood, Wm. H. Fanton, Charles A. Field, Enoch H. Gilbert, Samuel Gray, Theodore Hamilton, George Jennings, Charles Lockwood, Elihu Osborn, John Osborn, Henry A. Raymond, Henry Platt, Sanford Platt, Rufus K. Rowland, John Seely, George E. Smith, Jacob St. John, Isaac Thorpe, Albert Whitlook, Agustus Winkler.
Of the 86 men who passed examination, 26 were from the town of Wilton, 36 from Redding, 20 from Weston, 2 from Ridgefield, 1 from Danbury and 1 from Norwalk. The occupations of the men were: farmers, 50; carpenters, 12; shoemakers, 5; Hatters, 2; wire weavers, 3; hair workers, 3; masons, 2; carriage makers, 2; painters, 2; teachers, 2; mechanics, 2; blacksmiths, 1 (H. B. Osborn).
The regiment remained at Camp Terry until Nov., 1862, when they were ordered. to Camp Buckingham, Centreville, Long Island. On Nov. 14th, 1862, the regiment was mustered into the U. S. Service, and on Nov. 30th, Companies B, C, D, E, F, G, J and K sailed on the steamer “Che Kiang” for New Orleans. After a tempestuous voyage, arrived in safety.
Companies A, H, and I remained. in New York under the command. of Major David H. Miller, until Dec. 30, when they sailed on the steamer “Planter,” which was wrecked on the Bahama Islands, Jan. 14, 1863. All on board. were saved, and later the three companies joined their comrades in New Orleans.
Many members of Co. E and some of those who had enlisted in other companies had been members of the old “Wide-Awake’ company in the Lincoln campaign of 1860. Many of these men became officers in different commands.
Among those who enlisted in different regiments in addition to those whose names have been given, there were Cyrus Gilbert (father of Ex-Mayor Gilbert of Danbury,) Henry Supple, Andrew Couch, Benjamin Banks, John Lockwood, Burr Lockwood, John DeForest, William Nichols, Charles O. Morgan, Edmund Godfrey. These names, with others that have been given, comprise most if not all of those who enlisted from Georgetown and the outlying districts. Company E was distinctively a home company, as every member but two lived in the section mentioned. The taking of 100 or more men from a popu1ation of not over 1,000 people did not leave many men of military ago behind.
Leaving the soldiers on the battle front for a while, it will be interesting to learn what the folks at home were doing in those trying days.
In 1861 the women of Georgetown and vicinity organized what was known as the Soldiers’ Relief and Aid Society of Georgetown. It was a branch of the Norwalk Society and was the means of helping many soldiers at the front and needy families at home during the war. Mrs. Edwin Gilbert was president; Miss Hattie W. Bennett, secretary; Miss Annah St. John, treasurer. The Society met in the hall over Burr Bennett’s store (years later the home of Cyrus Thomas) to plan and do work.
As almost every women could knit in those days, this was an important feature of the work done, and hundreds of pairs of woolen socks, comforters, shirts, etc., were knit and sent to the boys at the front. Grandmother Olmstead of Nod, when in her 100th year, knit a pair of heavy woolen socks for General Winfield Scott. Mrs. Edwin Gilbert went to New York and presented them to the old general, receiving his thanks for the gift.
A few names are given of those living in Georgetown (in 1862) who were on various committees: Mrs. Edwin Gilbert, Mrs. Sturges Bennett, Mrs. Samuel Main Sr., Mrs. David H. Miller, Mrs. Jane Berry, Mrs. William B. Smith, Mrs. Burr Bennett, Mrs. Hiram St. John, Mrs. John O. St. John, Miss Annah St. John, Mrs. George Hubbell, Mrs. Gregory Osborn, Mrs. Aaron Osborn, Mrs. Aaron H. Davis, Mrs. Edward Thompson, Mrs. Aaron Bennett, Mrs. Jonathan Betts, Mrs. Lewis Northrop, Mrs. James Lobdell, Miss Sarah Coley, Mrs. George Albin, Mrs. Charles Albin, and. many others.
Many of the young women were active in the work: Emma Hurlbutt, Mary Jane Griffiths, Alice St. John, Ida St. John, Dell Olmstead, Medora Batterson, Malvina Osborn, Mary Godfrey, Augusta Lobdell, Jennie Quick (Mrs. D. H. Van Hoosear,) Cornelia Main, Huldah Main, Rosalia Jennings, Ruth Jennings, Frances Jelliff, Adele Bennett, Hattie Bennett, Bertha Bennett, Jane Canfield, and others.
In 1862 the boys of Georgetown formed a company of Home Guards. The captain was Will Corcoran. The wooden guns were made by Aaron Osborn, and the bayonets were made out of sheet-iron by James Corcoran.
One of the first flags raised in Georgetown after the fall of Fort Sumpter floated from a pole in Samuel Main’s front yard (now owned by Mrs. Nathan Perry.) The flag was home-made, the handiwork of Mrs. Kate Main and Mrs. Mary Thompson. As material was scarce and high, a calico dress was used to make the red stripes and a sheet the white ones. The blue field was dyed with indigo, and the stars sewed on one side. It attracted a great deal of attention, and was stolen some weeks later.
On the 29th or 30th of August, 1862, a large flag was raised on the bell tower of the stone factory of the Gilbert & Bennett Co. This building had a flat roof, with a railing around it. Here the people assembled to take part in the ceremony. As Company E had gone to New Haven, there were very few men present. Dr. Lloyd Seeley made the address and there was speaking by Edwin Gilbert, Sturges Bennett and Sam-uel Main Sr. Prayer was offered by the Rev. Samuel Keeler, Pastor of the Methodist Church. Charles Jennings of the 17th Regiment, who was home on a furlough, played patriotic airs on his accordian. Sidney Jennings, the “Infant Drummer Boy,” was present with his snare drum. The flag floated over the old stone factory for many years and wass taken care of by Mrs. Sturges Bennett.
(A previous statement corrected - Andrew B. Nichols, the first man to enlist from Georgetown, married a resident of Weston.)
After the arrival of the 23rd regiment in New Orleans, it was under the command of General Banks and divided into battalions, guarding railroads, levees and supplies. Companies B of Danbury and E of Georgetown were sent to Camp Weitzel, La Fourche Crossing, an important point. While there, Captain George M. Godfrey was taken sick and died. April 23, 1863. Lieutenant Lewis Northrop was appointed Captain of Co. E. Learning that the rebel forces were approaching Camp Weitzel, Major D. H. Miller sent for reinforcements. On June 20 the camp was attacked by the rebels, under General Dick Taylor. A sharp engagement ensued and the rebels were defeated. Several of our men were wounded and Captain Frederick Starr of Co. B was killed. Hiram Cobleigh of Co. E was wounded. George Smith, a drummer boy in Co. B, killed a rebel officer with a stick of wood. This was witnessed by many of the Company E men.
Friendships formed at this time between the men of Companies E and B have lasted throughout the many years that have elapsed since the Civil War. The engagement was called the Battle of La Fourche Crossing. While Co. E was at Camp Weitzel, Aaron O. Scribner, a member of the company, was taken sick and died. The 23rd Regiment was in several skirmishes and on July 20 was ordered to New Orleans, and on Aug. 7 started for home going by steamer up the Mississippi River to Cairo, Ill., arriving in New Haven Aug. 28, 1863, having been away from home one year.
The Regiment was mustered out Sept. 1, 1863. Great preparations had been made to welcome the Georgetown, Danbury and Bethel companies home at the Redding camp meeting grounds. Long tables were loaded with good things to eat, but few of the soldiers were there to enjoy them. Bailey’s History of Danbury states that “only a few of the soldiers were present, as most of them were at New Haven waiting to get their pay and discharge papers, until late in the afternoon of that day.” Charles Albin was the only member of Co. E present. But the good things intended for the soldiers were all eaten by those who had “never smelled gunpowder.”
The train from New Haven carrying the soldiers did not get into South Norwalk until late that evening, and the train going to Danbury ran off the track below Norwalk Bridge. No one was hurt, but the soldiers were tired and hungry and many were sick. Major D. H. Miller sent to Danbury for another engine, and treated the men to hot coffee and sandwiches. Elias Osborn, of Co. B, Danbury, telling of the incident, says that the hot coffee put new life into the men, and they got busy and lifted the cars back onto the track. They never forgot the Major with his hot coffee and sandwiches. An engine was sent down from Danbury by Engineer E. Craig (now living in Danbury) and they left Norwa1k about daylight next morning. There were many anxious people in Georgetown that night waiting for their loved ones to come home. Early in the morning the engine whistle sounded in the cut below Georgetown station, and. everyone was waiting for the train to get in.
Those who are still living who saw the soldiers on the train that morning will never forget the sight - bearded, ragged and bronzed men, some shaking with fever and ague, others weak from sickness. The company formed and marched up the street past the old armory. Captain Lewis Northrop was in command. Wives were marching with husbands; sons and daughters were carrying fathers’ knapsacks and muskets. At the head of the company marched two great negroes, George Washington and Ed Lewis (who had come from the south with the soldiers,) loaded down with knapsacks and muskets of men who were too weak to carry them. This was the home-coming of Company E.
Many of the men were sick for a long time with fever and ague or dysentery, while others seemed to be in the best of health and spirits. One man (Henry Parsons,) would never sleep in a bed after he got home, preferring the floor.
But not all of those who went to the front returned home to their families. Following are the names of those who were killed or died from wounds or sickness, wounded, or captured: Charles H. Wells (lived with Elijah Parkerton,) Co. I, l2th Regiment, wounded, died Feb. 23, 1862; William F. Scribner, Co. H, 13th Regiment, wounded, died. Feb. 23, 1862; Andrew Couch, Co. G, 17th Regiment, killed, May 2, 1863; William Avaunt, died April 23, 1863; Captain George N. Godfrey, Co. E, 23rd. Regiment, died April 23, 1863; Aaron O. Scribner, Co. E, 23rd Regiment, died June 12, 1863; Frederick Sturges, Co. B, 13th Regiment, died Dec. 12, 1863; Andrew B. Nichols, Co. D, 7th Regiment, killed May 6, 1864; Wesley Banks, Co. E, 14th Regiment, wounded, died Feb. 12th, 1864; Sylvester Barrett, 2nd. Regiment, Artillery, died July 22, 1864.
Wounded: Charles A. Jennings, Co. G, 17th Regiment, wounded May 2, 1863; Hirarm Cobleigh, Co. E, 23rd Regiment, wounded June 20, 1863; Nathan Perry, 2nd Regiment, Artillery, wounded June 10, 1864.
Captured: Charles A. Jennings, Co. G, 17th Regiment, May 2, 1863; David Bartram, Co. G, 17th Regiment, July 3, 1863; Henry Albin, Co. H, 17th Regiment, Aug. 10, 1864; Sylvester Albin, Co. H, 17th Regiment, Aug. 10, 1864.
Additional names of men who lived in Georgetown and. vicinity and enlisted: Frederick Sturges, William Edgar Albin, Elisha Parkerton, James Gardner.
How the boys of fifty years ago would listen to the stories told by the returned soldiers. Waterman Bates, a sharpshooter in the Battle of Gettysburg, was the favorite of the boys. He would say: “The Cappen said, ‘Boys, don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.’ And then we let the Johnny Rebs have it.” Or listening to the stories of the voyage of the steamship “Che Kiang” where men prayed who never prayed before - never expecting to see land again. And many other interesting incidents. Peace was declared and Georgetown and vicinity settled back into the usual quiet life.
In 1875 a wave of patriotism again swept over the community. The young men of the village, learning that the Connecticut National Guard were going to the Philadelphia Exposition in 1876, were seized with a desire to fight for their country, and enlisted in (Captain Gilbert’s) Co. A, 4th Regiment. The following enlisted: Lester Bennett, Ezra P. Bennett, William R. Bennett, Abram Cole, William E. Godfrey, Gilson W. Jennings, John Kearns, Theodore Flood, Samuel J. Miller, William H. Osborn, William E. Osborn, Henry Taylor, Wilbur F. Thompson. The enlistment was for five years. As it was quite a task to go to Bethel every week to drill, permission was obtained to have a squad drill in Georgetown twice a month. Bennett’s Hall was hired and Major D. H. Miller put the boys through the manuel of arms, marching, etc., and soon they were as well drilled as the other members of the company. On Sept. 1st, 1876, the boys went to the Exposition, staying ten days, enjoying every minute, and returned home without the loss of a man.
Those days, with the annual encampments, were always remembered by the Georgetown boys. In 1877 John Hohman, Aaron Lockwood, and William Phillips enlisted in the company.
In 1879, the veterans of Co. E invited the 23rd Regiment to hold its annual reunion in Georgetown. The invitation was accepted. Great preparations were made to receive the veterans. A great tent was secured and. erected on the lot where the Catholic Church now stands. Long tables were built and. stoves set up. The ladies of Georgetown, Wilton, Weston and Redding cooked and baked the good. things (for the veterans to eat) with which the tables in the great tent were loaded on Sept. 11, 1879, the day of the reunion. The houses and other buildings were finely decorated with flags and bunting, and everyone waited the coming of the veterans. Co. A, 4th Regiment, 66 men, Captain Frederick Cole, acted as escort and the Bethel Cornet Band furnished music.
On the arrival of the veterans, the procession was formed and marched to the Methodist Church. Charles Jennings of Georgetown was Marshal. The business meeting and speaking was in the Methodist Church, Captain James H. Jenkins presiding. The officers of the regiment present were Colonel Charles E. Holmes, Major David. H. Miller, Adjutant Samuel Gregory and Captains of the companies. Number of men present: Co. A, 1; Co. B, 28; Co. C, 3; Co. D, 9; Co. E, 47; Co. F, 3; Co. G, 10; Co. H, 0; Co. I, 1; Co. K, 17; total, 119 men. Deaths during the year in Co. E were James Lobdell and Elijah Betts (who was killed. on the steamer “Adelphi.”)
After the meeting the veterans adjourned to the tent, and partook of the fine repast awaiting them. There were about 2,000 persons on the grounds, and over 1,500 persons
were served with a fine dinner.
The great success of the reunion was due to the untiring energy and hard work of Major D. H. Miller and the members of Co. E, assisted by everyone in Georgetown and vicinity. The Bethel Cornet Band gave a fine concert and the boys of Co. A, 4th Regiment, showed the veterans some fine marching, firing by platoon, etc. Among the invited guests were Stephen Olmstead, of Redding, a veteran of the war of 1812, and Abram Dreamer, a veteran of the Mexican war. The day passed with no accident to mar it, and the reunion was long remembered by those who were present.
Very few of the veterans of 1863 are left. Four of those who were in the Georgetown squad in 1876 are dead. Some of the Georgetown boys of 1917 may wear Uncle Sam’s uniform before long.
(The next article will be “The Old School House in the Hollow, Georgetown.”)26
I wish to thank the Redding Historical Society for the original idea for the paper. It was from a sheaf of photostats of old newspaper clippings that this paper grew. The photostats belong to M. T. McDonald (the present owner of the house that used to be Darling’s Tavern at Boston Corners,) and the Historical Society had requested aid in getting them identified, classified, and converted to a more readable condition.
I wish also to thank Mrs. Margaret Malloy for lending her scrapbook of clippings from which the photostats were made, and the members of the Connery family who helped with suggestions in the search for the original clippings.
Mrs. Helen Anderson, Mrs. Bess Taylor and Mrs. Lucy Connery all helped me to orient myself in “old” Georgetown. The old maps came from the Connery family, as did many old newspaper clippings. Mr. John Moore of Weston owms a scrapbook which contains typed copies of many old news articles from the Danbury News-Times, the Georgetown Star, and the Wilton Bulletin. Mr. Moore is Georgetown’s unofficial historian, and was kind enough to supply me with background. information.
There are many other residents who gave me time and information, for which I am grateful. These include Mr. Arthur Carlson, former State Representative; Mr. J. Bartlett Sanford, First Selectman for the Town of Redding; Miss Ebba Anderson of the Town Clerk’s Office; the Rev. Messrs. W. E. Worley, Seely, Clarence Peterson and Joseph Cleary.
It was a rewarding experience to assemble all this information, and in so doing, meet so many of my neighbors. Georgetown was a favorite place to visit when I was a child, and now it is a wonderful place to live.
May 31, 1965