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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

Windham’s First Century:

By Thomas Snell Weaver.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen:
In briefly sketching the progress of Old Windham during the First Century of its existence, it will be necessary to go very lightly over the surface of events, otherwise your patience would be wearied, so full of rich detail were those eventful hundred years. There can but be, however, in a gathering like this for the express purpose of studying history, more than a passing interest in the general movement of the past, as it affects a locality full of tradition and deep interest, like the one where we are now met. Before entering upon the work, however, a single personal allusion will be pardoned. To the indefatigable research of my honored father, the late William L. Weaver, carried on under discouragements of an invalid life, with all matter at arms length from his table, and painstakingly and carefully pursued for more than six consecutive year, I am indebted for the greater amount of the data which will be used. I but feebly represent his undaunted historical spirit, his energy and his love for Old Windham, the town of his birth.
To begin at once then, Joshua Attawanhood, son of Uncas, the great Redskin of Eastern Connecticut, being sick in body but able and of disposing mind, February 29, 1675, by will granted to sixteen Norwich gentlemen of whom John Mason was chief, a tract about eight miles square, the northeastern boundary of which was at Appaquogue Pond near the northeastern corner of the now town of Hampton, and disposed to the westward and southward to the Willimantic and Shetucket rivers. He died while his father, the greater chieftain was yet living, and the proprietors of the tract came into possession of their grant May 27, 1676. The Nipmuck Indians, not a very powerful branch of the Mohegans, occupied the land in sparse numbers, probably coming to the rivers in the spring when the fishing was good, for they had some of the latter day instincts, and some of them remaining to plant and raise corn in the opens which were near the rivers. The greater portion of the tract was wooded and the path which the Nipmucks travelled in their journeyings to and from Uncas’s headquarters near Norwich is now your Main street, according to the best tradition. No steps were taken to open up the tract to settlement immediately, as King Philip was making a great deal of trouble across the northern border and there was a continual movement of Indians over the tract for some years until that plucky redskin was fully cared for. Even then there was reluctance about settling here because of the possible trouble over Indian titles, which had been boldly disputed by Sir Edmund Andross, the colonial governor, who regarded them as no better than the scratch of a bear’s paw. Andross, however, had his opinions very much modified by one Wadsworth. He was the man who thought to steal the charter of Connecticut colony. He changed his mind on that also.
The sixteen Norwich gentlemen were Captain John Mason, Daniel Mason and Samuel Mason, sons of Major John Mason, the famous Indian fighter, whose expedition against the Pequots was the most noted of all the events in the history of early eastern Connecticut, and who afterwards settled Norwich; Rev. James Fitch, Major James Fitch his son, John Birchard, Lieut. Thomas Tracy, Thomas Adgate, Simon Huntington, Lieut. Thomas Leffingwell, John Olmsted, physician, William Hyde, William Backus, Hugh Calkins, Captain George Denison and Daniel Wetherwell. None of these settled in this town. They were mainly elderly men, who had been pioneers in the settlement of Norwich, and left for their sons and immediate descendants the work of building up this plantation.
An agreement to settle was made February 7, 1682, and each man signed, promising to content himself with the place where God’s providence should determine by lot, to fix his particular tract of land,--a trustful faith in such matters quite in distinction from modern estate transactions. It was also agreed that only such wholesome inhabitants as the company shall see fit to admit shall purchase, so that the town in its beginning was select and aristocratic to a degree, and not a little of that flavor is said to exist even now.
John Mason had died and his brother Samuel had disposed of his interest, and John Post had purchased the right of John Olmsted, so that only fourteen proprietors signed this agreement, thirteen only of whom were grantees under the will of Attawanhood. These gentlemen, however, were all well-known pioneers in Eastern Connecticut filled with the spirit of breaking open the new country, with perhaps a little vein of speculation running through that. At all events when the settlement was actually made, those enterprising real estate dealers, the Masons and Fitches, had more than half the 60,000 acres of the tract in their possession, and there is a record to show that they sold even to those sons of those of whom they had bought. To offset this, however, they had the charge of Abimelech Sachem, for one third of his keep, his father’s generosity in land to the white having made him a pauper, a veritable “Lo, the poor Indian.”
The survey of the lots was made by Lieutenant Thomas Leffingwell, Sergeant Richard Bushnell and Simon Huntington and the tradition is that they made their first night’s camp east of the Natchaug river just below the Horse Shoe Bend, about opposite what is now the Willimantic Fair grounds. Whether this be true or not, tradition picked out a most lovely and beautiful clearing for these pioneers to sleep in beneath the May sky of 1685.
The lots were laid out in three sections, one at Hither Place, one at Willimantuck and one at the Pondes, or what is now Mansfield Center. The first occupant of the lands was John Cates, an individual about whom there has been some mystery, more than has ever been satisfactorily explained. He came in 1689 and with his negro, Joe Ginne, erected a rude shelter which was afterwards converted into a dwelling with the assistance of Jonathan Ginnings, who was the first white man with a family in the town and to whom the first white child was born. Whatever Cates might have been before he came to Windham, he was a respectable citizen here, took some part, though never officially, in town affairs and was well thought of. His will gave some portion of his estate to the church and the town and his memory might well remain undisturbed by any futile attempts to discover whether he was a regicide, as some suggest, or merely an adventurer, who for personal reasons did not care to have his affairs in England known. After Cates, the settlers came in rapidly and in 1691 the inhabitants petitioned the General Court for a town grant, Joshua Ripley, John Cates, Jonathan Crane, Joseph Huntington, William Backus, Jeremiah Ripley, Jonathan Ginnings, Richard Hendee, John Backus and John Larabee being signers to the petition. The names have been familiar to the inhabitants of the town to this day. These petitioners were all residents of the Center.
Ponde Towne or Mansfield was settled almost contemporaneously with the Center, and for a few years the two sections lived together comfortably and with religious peace, but trouble over the church-going and ministerial privileges arose and in 1701 Mansfield went her own way as a separate town. The details of the steps that resulted in this division have been recently published and there is no time to go over them here. The incorporation of the town of Windham was May 12, 1692, and the first town meeting was held here June 11 of the same year, two hundred years from Saturday of this week.
At that meeting provision was made for the support of the gospel, and Mr. Samuel Whiting, son of Rev. John Whiting, pastor of the First church in Hartford, was c chosen pastor and served the people in the capacity of spiritual and general advisor until his death in 1725, thirty-three years after. He was a man of uncommon fervor in the pulpit, who mingled greatly with the people in their everyday transactions and who had large interests in real estate, his name appearing with great frequency in the early transfers of property in the town. His wife was Elizabeth Adams, whose mother Alice Bradford, grandaughter of Governor Bradford of the Mayflower, and her children, transmitted a goodly strain of Mayflower blood to many descendants of Windham families. Her oldest daughter married Joseph Fitch and Colonel Eleazer Fitch was their son, the handsomest man in the American army, who served at the head of the Fourth Connecticut troops in the French and Indian war and whose send of honor, having been once a soldier of the king, did not allow him to take a prominent part in the revolution. Elizabeth Whiting married William Gager, William Whitting, a son, was Lieutenant Colonel at the siege of Louisburg, and at Lake George under Sir William Johnson, John Whiting was a colonel in the French and Indian war, and Mary, the ninth child, married Rev. Thomas Clap who succeeded her father in the Windham pulpit and was afterwards president of Yale college. Samuel, the twelfth child, was also a colonel in the French and Indian war and the thirteenth child, a daughter, married into the Saltonstall family, and a grandaughter was the wife of General Wooster of New Haven, a revolutionary soldier whose descendants were prominent in that town for years. The family of Samuel Whiting was one of the religious militant families of the early town. Its members could pray or fight as occasion demanded and whatever they did they did well. No family of eastern Connecticut put better blood into its descendants nor allowed itself to commingle with any better blood. It was very blue, but it was tinged with the red blood of courage which sent the Mayflower across the sea.
Rev. Thomas Clap was 23 years of age when he took charge of the church here, but he impressed himself upon the community by his scholarly accomplishments, his force of character and his indomitable will. He ruled with a rod of iron and his people endured it, although it was remarked that when in 1739 he accepted the presidency of Yale college they acted like boys let out of school. The educational influence of Mr. Clap, however, is not to be underrated. He inspired a love for study in the young men, as the list of graduates of Yale college from Windham bear evident witness. Benjamin and William Throop, both preachers, Nathaniel, Enoch, Joseph, and Jabez Hungington, Joshua, Vine and John Elderkin, Daniel Welsh, the noted preacher of Mansfield, Ebenezer Dyer, Perez, John, James and Elijah Fitch, Asa Spaulding, Samuel Cary, Ephrai Starkweather, Ebenezer Devotion, son of the Scotland preacher, John Ellery, Zephaniah Leonard, Dyer Throop, Hezekiah Bissewll, Colonel Ebenezer Gray, Hezekiah Ripley, Bela Elderkin, all graduated from Yale before the revolution and all were more or less connected with the activities of the town.
Before leaving the religious movement of this early part of the history of the town, a word for Rev. Stephen White, whose term in the pastorate was over fifty years, and whose influence was of great benefit to the town. He was not of so aggressive a temperament as either of his predecessors, but he was a preacher of conscientious painstaking and a man of mild and sweet temper. The closing years of his term were beclouded with ill health and by a great deal of uneasiness in the parish, the influx of worldliness which had come in with the largely-increased population giving him a great deal of anxiety. His plaint in his half-century sermon has a very modern sound, when he speaks of profane swearing, disregard of the Sabbath, unrighteousness and intemperance, which had no place when his pastorate began. He passed away in a discouraged state of mind, but the town itself was marvelously prosperous at the time.
Another remarkable man in the religious life of the town was Rev. Ebenezer Devotion, who was the first pastor of the church in Scotland parish. He was a man of great force and unexampled dignity, and while he took great delight in being a farmer and working with his own hands and his own strength, which was marvelous, week days, and was on common terms with his people, on Sundays it is said of him that he entered the church between two files of the worshippers who took off their hats that he might receive the respect due him. His service was from 1735 to 1771 and his work was for the great good of that section of the town. He served also in the general assembly and was an active force in all intellectual effort. His epitaph is a lofty specimen of that older and better tribute of dignified English which we seldom see in latter-day cemeteries.
The religious movement of the century was disturbed by the Separatist agitation, which is of itself worthy of special study, but for which there is now no time. And Mr. Clap says of an attempt of Israel Fulsome and his wife that they called into their house an Episcopal teacher and held disorganizing meetings, which like the pleasures of sin, were only for a season.
These four men had so much to do with the early religious and social life of the town that it has seemed impossible to pass by without this allusion. Seldom, if ever, even in Connecticut, have four such noble men been given to a town in its first century, have served it so long and so faithfully. To them much of the influence of the town had in public affairs can be directly traced.
The geographical lines of the original tract and of the subdivisions made during the first century are worth a passing notice. Our neighbor to the south, Lebanon, held a tract very near to the rivers which were the southern boundary of Windham, but not quite. There was a strip of no-man’s land which was in dispute between the towns, and settlers having purchased it, it was decided by the General Court that they could be better accommodated if the tract was given to Windham to govern rather than to Lebanon. In this Lebanon readily acquiesced as she foresaw the bridging of the rivers. Windham, with a speculative eye thought of the fisheries and took the land for the shad, taking both the shad and the bridge while Lebanon had neither. She made a miss that time.
Mansfield was set off in 1701 and Hampton or Canada parish went its own way in 1786 after having for many years been a contributory parish of great value having maintained a church of its own; for since 1723 the parish was called Canada or “Kennedy” parish from David Canada or Kennedy its first settler. Isaac Magoon, the first settler in Scotland, gave the name to that parish as he was a Scotchman.
While the religious movement of the century was fraught with the greatest benefit to the educational and social life of the town, the secular and commercial side of the town was not neglected. Religious liberty was abundant, from the point of view of the colonists, and they soon branched out into those industries which became a part of the new settlement. The timber was cleared and saw mills were erected on Merrick’s brook, the Shetucket and Willimantic rivers, and grist mills for the grinding of the grain raised on the plantation. The raising of cattle and sheep, carding and spinning wool and weaving it into the cloths necessary for the comfort of the settler, all were carried forward with energy and the push consequent upon the condition of a rapidly growing community. While the earliest settlers came here from Norwich, and were descendants, many of them of the original proprietors, the bulk of the settlers coming in during the first half of the century were from the colonial towns on Massachusetts Bay. Salem, Rehoboth, Cambridge, Charlestown, Newton and other places contributed to the energy of the new population and the families were of a sterling and vigorous type. The Abbes, Larabees, Cranes, Backuses, Durkees, Huntingtons, Flints, Snells, Jenningses, Allens, Binghams, Browns, Bibbinses, Badgers, Babcocks, Basses, Billingses, of whom the Hampton minister was a noble man and true, Carys, Elderkins, Fitches, Dyers, Clevelands, Clarks, Dingleys, Dimmocks, Denisons, Frinks, Follets, Grays, Hebards, Hunts, Kennedys, Kingsburys, Lincolns, Lathrops, Mannings, Martins, Murdocks, Millards, Moultons, Orsbys, Palmers, Perkinses, Reeds, Ripleys, Robbinses, Robinsons, Rudds, Skiffs, Spafforda, Smiths, Spencers, Sawyers, Simonses, Stanifords, Southworths, Tracys, Taintors, Webbs, Waleses, Waldens, Warners, Woodwards, Welches, Whites, Whitings, Waldos, were all typical families, many of them having furnished men of great distinction and of service to the state and to the country. In 1700 the first meeting-house was built on the home lot of William Backus which had been purchased for the purpose by Mr. Whiting and Ensign Jonathan Crane. This fixed the location of Windham Green where we are today, and during the century which followed it became historic ground. Here were all the public gatherings, the training days, here the courts were held after their establishment, and here the great men of the time stopped on their way from Hartford to Providence or Norwich. Many of the revolutionary heroes were here, and it is not at all unlikely that Washington often visited here when on his calls to Brother Jonathan Trumbull in Lebanon. There are many traditions as to this fact but no record that I am aware of.
Connecticut was unusually prosperous and the happiest of all the colonies in the early part of the century. There was freedom from Indian troubles, the colony was independent, and the conditions were right for peace and the pursuit of the industries which opened for the new settlements. The utility of the Sliding Fall at Willimantic was early seen and an iron works established there, the ore being dug in Mansfield. This industry was prosecuted with varying degrees of ill luck until, after its abandonment, it was swept away by a flood. But little attention was paid to that particular section of the town after this, until in the ‘seventies, but the hay from the meadows as regularly housed by the farmers on the Green to help winter their stock, of which they had become large raisers. Benjamin Millard, who lived near the crotch of the rivers at the Horse Shoe bend, was allowed to set up a tannery in 1700, and Jonathan Crane was licensed by the General Court at Hartford to keep a victualling house for the entertainment of strangers and travellers and the retailing of strong drink. He was the first landlord of the first hotel and his license came, as will be seen, from headquarters. It was before the days of county commissioners. There was a rigid line of conduct in regard to common rights. The town granted and allowed what rights should be used on the rivers, and when Jonathan Bingham fenced in a spring for his own private use he was prosecuted and fined. Schools at the beginning were not much thought of, but Thomas Snell was allowed to keep one in his house, which was the first of the school privileges in town. In1713 two schoolhouses were ordered; one to be set on the Green and one in the east of the town, Scotland. Highways received unusual attention and the town frequently called upon this or that delinquent to assist in keeping his share of the highway in good repair. Arrangements were also made with towns near by for the maintenance of sections of road which had become great public thoroughfares. In 1713 the meeting house, never a good one, was enlarged and a committee was appointed to seat the attendants upon worship according, first, to the place or station they are in, second, to the age they bear, and third, to the estate they enjoy. What became of those who had neither station nor estate is not quite clear.
The turning point in the great prosperity and success of Windham, was in the erection of Windham county and its selection as the shire town. This gave unwonted stimulus to all kinds of activity and at once made it the seat of public affairs, created a new impetus in its life and really was the making of the town. The necessity for concerted action on the part of the towns was made manifest by the rival claimants to their county government. Woodstock was claimed by Suffolk county, Massachusetts, Windham and Ashford by Windham and Hartford, and New London county claimed the rest. The inconvenience was great, and after an agitation lasting nearly eight years the county was organized and Windham made the county seat. It was the largest of the towns and really the most accessible, as the county contained towns to the west and south, Coventry and Lebanon. Windham was not, however, at the time, the wealthiest, Lebanon’s ratable property being some 3,000 [English pounds] greater. The property in Windham was largely in the hands of the few, the early comers having the best of the land, while the mass of the people were in hard straits. Money was scarce and the poorer people could barely subsist on what they could raise. There were no industries other than those of farming. The social condition at this time is known but little of, but the religious state of the town was at its highest. There had been a great revival under the ministrations of Mr. Whiting and the settlement had been thoroughly aroused. There were a great many poor but pious parents, and the families were large, frequently going into the ‘teens in numbers. The habitations were by no means grand, but they were reasonably comfortable for first dwellings. The first court held was that of common pleas, June 26, 1726, Timothy Pierce of Plainfield, presiding, having been raised from judge of probate to judge of the county court. Joshua Ripley of Windham, Thomas Huntington of Mansfield, Joseph Adams of Canterbury, and Ebenezer West of Lebanon, were justices of the quorum; Richard Abbe of this town was treasurer of the county and Eleazer Cary, Jonathan Crane, Joshua Ripley, jr., Joseph Huntington, Thomas Root and Nathaniel Rust were jurymen. Forty-six cases were tried and from that time litigation was abundant. Jabez Huntington of Windham was the first sheriff. Mr. Abbe’s back room in his dwelling was ordered to be a common jail until a new one should be built, which was very soon, however, and Mr. Abbe’s back room was relegated to its original uses. In 1729 the county court house was planned and built in the succeeding year, the land being deeded by Thomas Snell, who at the time was a prosperous merchant. Soon after this Richard Abbe opened his mansion, by far the finest in town, as a place of public entertainment and for years it was the central point in the town. Business and trade centered, tanning was carried on by Nehemiah Ripley and Joseph Jennings. This state of prosperity continued until nearly the middle of the century, when there was a temporary check. Many of the prominent settlers and leading men died, there appeared no one to take their places, and there was an interim of dullness until after the close of the French war. Just previous to this, in 1740 and 1746, two young men, graduates of Yale College, were admitted to the bar and settled in Windham, their native town, and their public services in the great branches of public life, judicial and military, added lustre to the town. They were, by their long and distinguished services, until they died in the town, more than fifty years after, the most illustrious of the citizens: Colonel Eliphalet Dyer and Colonel Jedediah Elderkin. In 1745 the first execution in the county occurred in this town, that of Betty Shaw for the crime of infanticide. Roger Wolcott was chief judge, and the trial attracted great attention. The hanging was on Gallows Hill, and there was a great concourse on that coldest of cold days, December 18, 1745. Tradition has it that the hands and feet of the officers of the law were frozen, and that the victim’s fingers rattled like icicles against the coffin upon which she sat on her way from the jail to the gallows. Alas, for poor, simple minded, much-sinned-against Betty Shaw. Those were days of wrath and not of sympathy. Her story is worthy the pen of Hawthrone, but it rests a charge against the unforgiving spirit and severe judgements of our ancestors.
And now for the event which has made Windham known more than almost any other in its history, and which has afforded amusement and speculation ever since it is alleged to have happened, that great Batrachian Battle that occurred on a murky night in 1754, about a mile east, at the frog pond. This has been celebrated in song and told of in story and just what the facts are no one exactly knows. There was undoubtedly some unusual disturbance among the frogs, and there was curiosity, if not alarm, on the part of the inhabitants. Peters, who for good reasons was not fond of Connecticut, says the frogs went in search of water to the Shetucket river, and that they filled a road forty rods wide, five miles long. Surely such an enfilading of frogs was ne’er writ about before, and if true it may be fair to presume that the frogs had heard that some of the settlers in Scotland were French Huguenots and ran away from their traditional enemies, the French. It is likely however that, the pond having been drawn off, the frogs suffered for water and made a large amount of noise about it before they died. There might have been a pitched battle and if so we shall have to accredit the frogs with assimilating the militant spirit of the settlers, who were in arms for the advance of the French and Indians, and fought it out one night instead of taking all summer.
At all events the occurrence has found its way into traditional literature, and Windham’s descendants the world over are likely to be confronted with a bullfrog at almost any unexpected turn.
At the close of the French and Indian war there was a renewed wave of prosperity sweeping over the town. James Flint, Ebenezer Backus and Ebenezer Dvotion, Jr. established an extensive trade, buying up the products of the town and exchanging them for West India goods. Wool growing, cattle raising, tobacco raising to some extent, and hemp culture were engaged in, and wheat was grown for exportation. The trade with West India stimulated all enterprises and saltpeter, leather and even silk manufacture was begun, Jedediah Elderkin planting a mulberry orchard in South Windham and making a coarse silk which was used for handkerchiefs. In 1760 there were twelve places in the town where liquor was licensed to be sold, and Mercy Fitch of the Green kept one of them. In such a state of prosperity and accompanying cheer the life of the town was lively indeed, and the place was noted for the lavishness of its hospitality and for general jollity. Parson White’s efforts in the pulpit to check this state of levity and worldliness were of little avail. Old Windham was hardened to a season of enjoyment. In 1760 the Susquehanna company, which had organized just before the outbreak of the French and Indian war for the purpose of taking up the land in the beautiful Wyoming valley, was reinvigorated, and Colonel Eliphalet Dyer went to England to get the approval of the crown of the purchase made of the Six Nations, the land in question being included in the charter of the state according to Connecticut belief. His mission was unsuccessful, but after calling together of the company at Windham it was agreed to enter in and occupy, the King’s command to the contrary. The state government had no desire to enter into any relations with the scheme as Pennsylvania also claimed the land. In ’69 however some forty pioneers went to the valley and began the struggle for its possession. Of the forty, Captain John Durkee, Thomas Dyer, Vine Elderkin, Nathaniel Wales and Nathan Denison, were of Windham. No amicable agreement could be made with Pennsylvania although Colonel Dyer and Major Elderkin made an attempt at one. The Connecticut men, however, managed to keep their grip, and after reverses in which Fort Durkee was captured and lost and captured again, the settlement was made and the Windhamites held the ground, many emigrants going from their rocky surrounds to that most beautiful of the middle state valleys. All was prosperity there for a time until during the revolution of 1778 that base act of barbarity designed by the British, aided by the Indians, the Wyoming massacre, occurred. The story of that foul blot of the conduct of the war with the colonies would be sufficient for a volume by itself. Women and children were murdered in their homes and the men in the fields, and when it was over the remnant made their way homeward to Connecticut, a party of a few hundred women and children with only one man to lead. The sufferings of that journey were participated in by the ancestors of some who are in this audience, without doubt. The Wyoming tract was afterwards added to Pennsylvania and Connecticut received the Ohio reservation from which the state school fund was largely made up. Thus Windham’s enterprise fixed itself for good upon one of the institutions of which the state had long been proud. After the Revolution, there was again a tide of prosperity and at the close of it the first newspaper, “The Phoenix,” or Windham “Hewrald,” was founded, leaving a record behind of the transactions and life of the town.
The military spirit which pervaded the town has been purposes ignored in consideration, thus far, that it might make a fitting close to this incomplete review. Early in the century when there was danger of an Indian outbreak, a training company was organized. John Fitch was elected captain and Jonathan Crane lieutenant. From that time on there were regular training days and the usual development of colonels, majors, captains, etc. But show military display was not all that was to be had of old Windham. When the French and Indian war broke out a number of Windham men joined the regiment raised in eastern Connecticut to assist in the reduction of Crown Point under the command of Sir William Johnson. Eliphalet Dyer was lieutenant colonel, Captain Eleazer Fitch commanded one of its companies, raised almost entirely from Windham. Colonel Dyer was afterwards in command in the regiment with full rank. The services of Windham’s soldiers in that war were notable, and many of them suffered the hardship of capture and torture by the Indians. Three of the sons of Minister Samuel Whiting, Nathan, Samuel and William, were colonels in that war, and Colonel Nathan Whiting and Colonel Eleazer Fitch were present at the surrender of Montreal to Lord Amherst.
At the first dawning of the revolution, the town of Windham enlisted in the cause of the country and thenceforward continued to serve it with energy and patriotic zeal. She was among the first to enter and the last to retire from the conflict. The blood of her sons was poured out on every battlefield of that great struggle from Bunker Hill to Yorktown. The passage of the stamp act in 1765 aroused an active resistance and the people of Windham were of those who determined that no stamps should be sold in the state; and some two hundred men from this and New London county mounted on horseback, proceeded to Hartford and Wethersfield, and compelled Jared Ingersoll, the stamp collector, to resign. Windham had a large contingent in that company and on its return from Hartford it halted for a night on Windham Green and enjoyed an evening of great hilarity, burning Ingersoll in effigy among other things. That was undoubtedly one of the liveliest nights ever seen on this spot of ground.
In 1768 a non-consumption ordinance was passed, and liberty meetings where the greatest enthusiasm was manifested were frequent. In June, 1774, a remarkable town meeting was held and a long and patriotic address was adopted. The appeal was this:
“Let us, dear fellow Americans, for a few years at least, abandon the narrow, contracted principle of self love which is a source of every vice; let our hearts expand, and dilate with the noble and generous sentiments of benevolence, though attended by the severe virtue of self denial. The blessings of heaven attending, America is saved. Children yet unborn will rise and call you blessed. The present generation will be extolled and celebrated to the latest period of American glory, as the happy instruments under God of delivering millions from thraldom and slavery, and security permanent freedom and liberty to America.”
And those old Windham men meant what they said. When the news of Lexington spread through the New England towns, Windham sent four companies of 150 men to Bunker Hill in Colonel Elderkin’s regiment, and more followed. Some of these first recruits sleep at the foot of Bunker Hill monument in Charlestown, and, among the graves in Windham cemetery, there is one tombstone which reads, “The grave of Joel Webb, a soldier of the revolution who fought at Bunker Hill.” He was 26 years of age when he left this Green for the scene of battle.
There are good reasons for believing that during the war more than 1,000 soldiers went from this town, and at one time there were 300 in the field. On one occasion Washington complimented a contingent from Windham as thoroughly reliable, and gave them a special commission of a hazardous nature. Time fails to give account of the officers and men and their heroic deeds. They fought and starved and took the hazard of fortune which came to those brave continental soldiers, and the world has seen no better stuff behind muskets.
Incidental to the war, Elderkin and Wales manufactured a good share of the powder used by the continental troops, at the mills in Willimantic, while Hezekiah Huntington, who had a major’s commission in the army, remained at home, repairing and manufacturing arms at the old iron works in the same locality. The United States government early had this location in view as a proper site for the United States armory which was afterwards built in Springfield, Massachusetts; but the latter state had a stronger “pull” than Connecticut, or Willimantic would have made muskets and rifles to-day, instead of thread and cotton cloth, and silk. Eliphalet Dyer, Nathaniel Wales jr. and Joshua Elderkin were members of the committee of safety and doubtless often met with Jonathan Trumbull and Washington in the Lebanon war office.
The conspicuous Windham men of the century were:
First and foremost Samuel Huntington, signer of the Declaration of Independence, for a brief time president of the Continental Congress, succeeding John Jay, and for ten years governor of Connecticut. He was also a chief justice of the superior court. He was a man of great ability, a devoted and sincere Christian who served his generation with judgment and faithfulness. He is one of the immortals whose signature to that old parchment of July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, should give a tinge of pride to every true-born Windham son.
Colonel Elphalet Dyer was a man of great energy, a member of the Continental Congress from 1774, and a military man of high ability.He was respected more than any man who spent his life in the town. He lived to the good age of 87 years and in all the various dignified stations he had occupied, both civil and military, he was distinguished for his highly useful talents and the faithful and honorable discharge of his important duties.
Rev. Eleazer Wheelock, D.D. who established the famous Indian charity school at Lebanon, was a native of Windham and his long march to New Hampshire to found Dartmouth college, is one of the educational facts of importance to New England.
Colonel Jedediah Elderkin, Colonel Ebenezer Gray, and others, there is no time to mention in detail.
I have thus briefly reviewed the principal movements of Windham, the religious, secular, commercial and military, during the first century of its history, Much has been omitted, much has but feebly been outlined. Enough, however, has been done to show to this, a later generation, that their ancestry and that of the town is something in which we may well have a patriotic pride. There have been lessons of self-denial, courage and persistence brought to our view. No one can look upon the history of that eventful century, as Windham, a typical colonial town, reveals it, without a feeling of warmth and reverence for those who founded and carried on its activities. How can we help loving old Windham?

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