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Windham County Connecticut
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"Windham's Bi-Centennial, 1692-1892; A Memorial Volume of the Bi-Centennial Celebration of the Town of Windham, Connecticut, containing the historical addresses, poems, and a description of events connected with the observance of the two hundreth anniversary of the incorporation of the town, as held in the year 1892." Published by the Committee, Hartford, CT, 1893.


On Windham Green:

The celebration on Windham Green occurred as planned, on Wednesday, June 8, 1892. It was thoroughly “Windhamese” in all respects, every feature of the programme having significance as to Windham and the towns that have sprung from her, and all the speakers being of Windham birth or connections. The Willimantic Journal of June 10, made substantially the following report of the proceedings:--
A modest and altogether appropriate celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of the incorporation of the town of Windham, was that held on Windham Green, Wednesday, the entire day being passed in the study of the grand history of the town from its earliest, down through colonial, revolutionary and the later times. To begin with the citizens of the Green had made their dwellings and surroundings brilliant with the stars and stripes, while the skies were dimmed just the slightest to shield the sun’s glare, and the trees in their early leaf of tender green, swayed as if in kindly benison upon the gathering. In every direction from the tastefully decorated speakers’ stand, (which was erected on the Green, almost directly across the road from the church parlors) historical landmarks, appropriately recognized, and the beautiful arrangements of bunting, pleased the eye. Prominent among the decorations were those upon and about the Colonel Dyer mansion, where General Washington stopped on his visit to the town. Bunting was tastefully displayed, a goddess of liberty stood upon the lawn, while a huge frog stood a non-croaking sentinel at the gateway. The house is now the property of L.J. Hammond, and here the speakers and distinguished guests were received and entertained by Mrs. Ann Johnson, as hostess, and Arthur S. Winchester as chairman of the reception committee. It was a beautiful spot wherein to pass an hour, conjuring up visions of what had passed beneath its roof in the trying days of those grand men who had so much to do with carrying forward the revolutionary war in New England. Near by was the Colonel Elderkin mansion, fittingly draped by its present occupant, William Swift, while down the Nipmunk path, the Joshua Elderkin house, the old Webb place, the Abbe house and others were hung with bunting. The old tavern, now kept by George Challenger, was properly decorated and the residences of John Perkins and Charlotte Lathrop, Willard Beckwith, Chauncey Wilson, Rufus Rood, Dr. Guild, and others were tastefully trimmed. At the Willimantic entrance to the Green was flung a beautiful arch of red, white and blue, with the legends “May, 1692—Welcome—May, 1862.” Up on a branch of an elm tree in front of the old Staniford tavern, sat the little fat image of Bacchus, so nearly as could be in the location where he sat for so many years, until the old tree blew down, and that insatiable relic hunter, A.E. Brooks, captured him. Mr. Brooks gave the little fellow a car ride from Hartford on the early train that he might once again feast his eyes on familiar Windham Green. Down in the old cemetery John Cates, the first settler, slept beneath the stars and stripes, and if he was a fugitive, because of offenses to the crown of England, his spirit must have looked down with kindness upon the emblem which restless men, like he, had, years after his death, placed as an insignia of religious and political freedom.
At sunrise the booming of cannon and the ringing of the churchbells announced the opening of the day, and shortly after 8 o’clock the Nathan Hale drum corps of Coventry, with their continental uniforms, woke the echoes of the Green as they have not been since the regimental training days of General Baldwin. Hopkins and Allen’s band of Norwich was soon in tune, with Charley Hatch of Hartford as leader, a Windham boy showing his Windham friends what good out-of-door music should be. Shortly after 10 o’clock the band led the procession of speakers and guests from the Colonel Dyer mansion to the speaking stand, where after a brief concert by the band, Guilford Smith, chairman of the day, rapped to order, and the exercises began. Rev. S.J. Horton, D.D., of Cheshire, formerly of Windham, read a brief selection from an old version of the Scripture, printed in 1589, before the King James translation, which had been preserved by the Devotion family and is now the property of Mrs. Lee Lathrop of this city. Following are the passages which he read from Hebrews i., 10, 11, 12, xiii., 1. 2.
And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning haft laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands.
They shall perifh, but thou remaineft; and they all fhall wax old as doth a garment:
And as a vefture fhalt thou fold them up and they fhall be changed; but thy years fhall not fail.
Let brotherly love continue.
Be not forgetful to entertain ftrangers: for therby fome have entertained angels unawares.
Mr. Horton then offered an appropriate prayer, after which Chairman Smith made a cordial address of welcome to the sons of old Windham, who had gathered for this celebration, and to the friends from other towns, who had come to look upon and gather lessons from the day. He then introduced Thomas Snell Weaver, and paid a compliment to his father, the late William L. Weaver, to whom the town owed so much for its knowledge of the past. Mr. Weaver reviewed the principal events of the first century of the town’s history. A short selection by the band followed Mr. Weaver’s paper after which a poem, “At Home,” composed by Miss Josephine M. Robbins of Chaplin, was read by Miss Nellie M. Griggs of Chaplin. [Note from “Corrections and Additions” at the back of the book. “It should be understood that the poem of Miss Robbins was contributed to represent at the Bi-Centennial gathering the town of Chaplin, which sprang from Windham.”]
Hon. Edward S. Cleveland of Hartford, senator from the first Connecticut district, a native of Hampton, and of good Windham stock, made a characteristic address. He felt most highly complimented in being invited to be present and whatever inspiration he had for what he might say had been gathered from contemplation of the events outlined in the historical address to which he had listened. He paid tribute to the patriotism of the town that had been so full of heroic spirit, that had helped to maintain the rights of the people and uphold the flag in all the wars. He closed with an eloquent apostrophe to the nation’s flag—“And now let us with town, state and national pride, praise with songs of pride our ancestors who guarded that flag from the foeman’s steel.”
Led by the band the audience joined in “America” and an hour’s recess was had for dinner and a social gathering. There was abundant preparations for feeding the 2,000 or more people who were present. The speakers and guests were entertained in the chapel of the Congregational church, where the ladies served a banquet that would have done honor to the king of all caterers, whoever he may be. Grace was said by Rev. George Stearns, son of a former pastor of the Congregational church of Windham. During the intermission there were a great many hand shakings, cordial greetings and meetings of friends long since separated. It was a profitable hour for renewing acquaintanceships and for brief expressions of pride in the record of Old Windham.
The afternoon services began with the reading of a review of the history of the second century of Windham, by Allen Bennett Lincoln, editor of The New England Home of Hartford, and son of the late Allen Lincoln.
Then followed a poem appropriate to the occasion, written and delivered by the Rev. Theron Brown of the editorial staff of The Youths’ Companion, a son of John A. Brown of Mt. Hope, and who was born in Willimantic. [Note: in “Corrections and Additions” in the back of the book, it stated “Rev. Theron Brown, author of the “Epic of Windham,” is a brother, not the son of John A. Brown of Mt. Hope. Their father was the late Eliphalet Brown.”]
At the close of Mr. Brown’s poem, Edwin B. Gager, son of Lewis Gager of Scotland, but now of Birmingham, and judge of the Derby town court, spoke on behalf of Scotland.
Amos L. Hathaway, Esq., of Boston, son of A. Morris Hatheway, and maternal grandson of the Rev. Cornelius B. Everest, pastor of the Windham Congregational church in 1815-27, spoke of the significance of the life and character of the old New England town.
Charles Smith Abbe of Boston, a son of Windham and an actor in the Boston Museum company, gave a most felicitous bit of humor in an imaginary walk and conversation with John Cates, the first settler, in which were conjured up many things which kept the audience in splendid humor. It was a delightfully conceived fantasy, quaint, original and very funny, making a jovial ending to a day in which the eloquence of fact and eloquence of sentiment had vied with each other for the glory of two hundred years old Windham.
The historical addresses of Messrs. Weaver and Lincoln, the poems of Miss Robbins and the Rev. Mr. Brown, and the addresses of Messrs. Gager, Hatheway and Abbe, are given in full in the following pages. There is also printed in full the poem of Miss Jane Gay Fuller of Scotland, which was written for the occasion but by some misunderstanding did not reach the committee’s hands in time to be read at the celebration. The Journal thus summarized the impromptu addresses of the other speakers of the day:--
Rowland Swift president of the American National bank of Hartford and a native of “Ponde Towne,” spoke briefly of the close relationships which were found in the old colonial times, and told the story of the Windham girl who held the candle while her father shod the horses of Luzan’s cavalrymen in the Revolutionary war, and to whom was presented the little flag of tri-color which was buried with her more than four score years after.
Dr. George Austin Bowen of Woodstock, master of the Connecticut State Grange, spoke of the agricultural interests which were the pride of the town of Windham, and of the great force and power the early farming community had.
The Old Windham Bank Building, with the legend “site of the Windham County Court House” over the doorway, and with another legend near by “site of the public whipping post,” was converted into a museum of relics, to which many of the families of the town contributed largely. There were antique portraits, books, newspapers, “samplers” and a thousand and one things that space does not allow of chronicling here. It was visited all day long by crowds, many times it being almost impossible to move about, because of the number of interested persons examining the many curious and historical articles of value. Further reference to the relics exhibited will be found elsewhere.
There were many invited guests, mainly those who were from Windham originally, or were interested in historical matters. Among them were Miss Ellen F. Larned, author of the History of Windham County, Jonathan Flint Morris of Hartford, treasurer of the Connecticut Historical Society, Rowland Swift, E.S. Cleveland, P.H. Woodward, J.G. Rathbun, Chester Burnham, John M. Ney, Hart Talcott, Andrew F. Gates, Ward W. Jacobs, Nathan Starkweather and many others from Hartford; Henry Allen, Hon. and Mrs. Lucius Brown, Reuben S. Bartlett, S.T. Holbrook, Wm. C. Lamnon, Arthur B. Webb, James P. Lathrop and others from Norwich; Mr. and Mrs. H. C. Starkweather of New York, granddaughter of Zephaniah Swift of the Windham county court and minister to France; Mrs. E.H. Williams, widow of Judge Williams of Grand Meadow, Ia., Mrs. Emeline L. Perkins wife of Judge George Perkins of Fond du Lac, Wis., both sisters of Henry and Charles Larrabee of Windham; J.R. Cogswell of Putnam, a son of Windham; Rev. Horace Winslow of Simsbury a former pastor of the Willimantic Congregational church.


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